Monday, May 06, 2013
I'll admit I'm just not in the majority here. But I really don't like dishwashers. We moved to our current apartment 4 months ago, and for the first time in our marriage we have a dishwasher. I used the dishwasher for the first time a few days ago. We have guests for the week, and I decided that with 6 people in the house, it might be worth finally using that large machine in my kitchen that's taking up room. After a 2 1/2 day affair. . . nope. Can. not. stand. There's a reason I'd been avoiding it for 4 months.
Dishwashers always seem rather inconvenient to me, unless you're dealing with enough people to quickly fill up a dishwasher (i.e., more than 6, and definitely more than 4), and even then. . .
It is beyond annoying to have to wait 2 or 3 meals to run a dishwasher, meanwhile finding that you have run out of some types of dishes and need to hand wash them anyway, and then when you DO run the machine, you have to wait for the long wash cycle, the dry cycle, only to find that the dishes aren't actually DRY after all that heat generated (that steams up your kitchen). . . and if you run the load at night, you wake up to cold wet dishes in the machine, instead of dry dishes on your counter. I honestly spend more time drying dishes with a dishwasher than I do with hand-washed dishes. And with hand-washed dishes, they're available in a more timely fashion (whenever you want, especially if you keep on them, so they air dry between meals!), and generate a lot less heat.
And let's face it, every dishwasher I've ever used does a pretty pathetic job washing any dish with a remote amount of food caked on it, so I often spend as much time PRE-washing the dishes before placing them in the dishwasher as I would have if I'd just hand washed them. . . then some of them still don't get clean in the machine. This seems counter-productive and a waste of energy to me (energy in the electric and human-generated kind, both). The dishes that the dishwasher cleans well are the ones that are super-easy to hand wash already. . . the ones that I don't like doing and actually take effort? Well, those are the caked-on baking pans and pots that I'm going to have to hand wash anyway.
So there's my rant. Does anyone else feel as I do, or am I just the odd ball out?
Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Yep, I definitely compromise sometimes. And the occasional junk food reward for the kiddos for extra-notable achievements is one of them. This week is one of those times.
I started Hans on the Hooked on Phonics program in early October (easy to date, as we started the same day I had my first prenatal appointment for this pregnancy, but I digress with random memories. . . ) after he was showing readiness to sound out basic words like "cat" and "dog," and after he looked super-excited about the idea. Well of course enthusiasm goes through some ebbs and flows, but there was enough flow in enthusiasm the past 4 months that he finished the Kindergarten phonics set. . . and the 1st grade set. . . and the 2nd grade set. Yowzer! That means we're done with phonics as of today, and I have a reader! How did that happen???
A very proud little boy is going to be heading to the store up the street with Daddy in the next day or two, to pick out a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos. He's been looking forward to those :-). He also got the same reward after finishing the K and 1st phonics sets. After he finished the Kindergarten box he proudly told me "Now I'm done with kindergarten"! Um, not really, Bub ;-). He also asked me a few months ago, "Mommy, when I finish phonics, will I be done with school?" Nope, plenty more to learn ;-). Ha!
I still stand by my "early reading is optional and young kids need activity and imaginative play more than formal instruction," but when your kid keeps asking for more phonics. . . it's a good idea to take the idea and run with it. One of the reasons I was interested in at least trying reading this year (besides that he seemed interested) was I was hoping it would make our Sunday worship services more meaningful to Hans, and easier to follow. The last month or so, as he's realized just how many of the bulletin words he can read (of course, he can't read all of them!), has supported that notion, and he is loving being able to read most of each hymn we sing. And he was pretty tickled to recognize the Lord's Prayer in the bulletin too, and read it in a whisper to himself with a grin. Too fun.
Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Warning: This is long and rambling. I wrote this up for my own fun, but I hope some of you fellow moms can find it useful. But mainly it was just fun for me to type it up. I always love reading what others are doing for preschool activities for their kids, but that doesn't mean this will hold deep interest for others.
I started to try to do some very low-key preschool activities with Hans last year, the fall he was 3. Nope. Epic fail. He saw right through my attempt to disguise any "book work" as fun. That kid is way too crafty (mind-wise, not folded-paper-and-glue-wise).
Hans' thought process: "Hmm, okay. I'll let Mom dictate the directions here, but let's see how she deals with my mad stalling skills. I can act clueless and in need of help with the best of them."
Um, no. Not cool. Not worth it. The kid was 3, after all. It's not like I had a stubborn 6 year old on my hand. The kid wanted fresh air! Exercise! Anything but pencil or crayon and paper (I'm an evil Mom and have banned kid markers in this house). Besides, although we plan to school our kids classically, which calls for academic rigor among other things, the fact is that classical education really isn't distinct until 2nd grade or so, and for early learners I have some mild leanings towards Montessori and Charlotte Mason, the former of which packages learning as play and the latter of which doesn't even believe in formal schooling until age 6. So meanwhile we hyper-disguised learning as play, working on number and letter concepts, patterns, etc. But mainly played and built a lot of things.
This summer Hans started talking about the starting sound of words all. the. time. "Mommy, tall starts with a 't'." And he was coming up on 4 years old, so I started thinking, hmm, maybe some "real" school this fall? He'd known all his letter sounds for a year and a half or so, but never showed the least aptitude to stringing those letter sounds into words.
Me: "Look, Hans! B-E-N. Buh, eh, nuh. Ben! Like Uncle Ben."
Hans, without skipping a beat: "Yeah! And Uncle Ben has a motorcycle!"
Then he would move right on to his next train of thought, never having a "click" moment that the letters actually spelled out the word. To him, the important thing he remembered from that encounter was a discussion of Uncle Ben having a motorcycle :-). So I decided to gingerly attempt some K-4 activities, but keep it low-key and short unless he showed interest.
I really had little clue what sorts of things a "typical" 4 year old preschooler needs to learn to prep for kindergarten, and decided it would be a fun and useful option to purchase this K4 curriculum from Confessions of a Homeschooler. $10 for dozens of files and suggested weekly and daily lesson plans? Very helpful for this type-A mother. I know some moms would find it not helpful and like to just wing it, but I like having a nice base plan, and THEN winging it (and believe me - I wing a lot!). Then I at least have a starting point from which to wing.
I actually purchased her Letter of the Week curriculum first, since I hadn't done much formal work with Hans (Does counting while playing "Hide and Seek" count?) and didn't feel he was ready for a lesson set described as designed for 4-5 year olds that are "kindergarten ready". He was barely 4 and schoolwork-skeptical.
The Letter of the Week curriculum is. . . a lot of busy work. And a LOT of paper waste, in my opinion. I think a lot of my opinion just comes from my dislike of busy work and over-complicating early education. I think that it would be a great option for a mom who likes lots of activities for letters and for a kid who thrives on that sort of thing. Since I already have the curriculum, and since Gretchen does have a much higher tolerance for and in fact relish of seat work, I will probably use ideas from it for her for next year or the year after. There are some great ideas in it; it's just a bit overkill, in my opinion. For Hans, singing about letters and sounds, and using some basic letter manipulatives did the job just as well, perhaps better, because we could do it while playing blocks or riding his tricycle outside.
But her K4 curriculum is great! I think it was really well put together. I discovered, by the way, that "challenging preschool curriculum" and "kindergarten ready" has more to do with a kid's aptness for picking up things than it does any prerequisites a kid has covered. I mean, come on, pre-K4 and kindergarten really don't have prerequisites except shapes and basic letter/number recognition. We had those bases covered. So despite my initial hesitation, it did end up being a great fit for Hans' abilities. The K4 curriculum still has what many would consider to be "busy work," but a more focused busy work that I think works well for an active 4 year old mind :-). Kids like things that are fun so I'm all about fun! But 12 activities on "A is for Apple" is not something Hans is going to tolerate. . .
(Side note: most of the Letter of the Week and K4 activities are on her website for free download, but purchasing the curriculum does two things which I was more than willing to pay a small fee to obtain: (1) it organizes all the activities into weekly and daily lessons and sets a nice pace for the school work and also suggests additional supplementary activities, and (2) quite frankly, with all the work she's put into the stuff, I was more than happy to give her a small compensation to say "thank you." I'm all about getting things for free, but I also like giving credit where credit is due, and $10 for each gigantic set of files = totally worth it.)
Given our less than glamorous attempt at preschool the previous year and given Hans' continued skepticism/resistance of anything that looked like school, I determined a few things before embarking on school with him this fall:
(1) I will keep my voice a normal volume and pleasant tone. He WILL not be able to see that he is frustrating me if he dawdles or plays ignorant, no matter how much I want to scream. He will not win that battle! (I can't say this has been perfectly kept, but I have made significant effort to keep this, and was 100% successful during the first several key weeks, when the tone for our school time was set.)
(2) He is 4 years old. I will remember this. If he truly is not mature enough for school, big fat deal. We move on with life and try again at a much later date. He needs physical activity more than mental stretching right now.
(3) We will start "school" first thing after breakfast every. single. week day. He had to see it was a pattern. And he had to see it was a priority. And I had to recognize it was a priority and not think "I'll just do one more chore, and then we'll start," which could easily become 11:30am, with cranky hungry children. He is happy, fed, and alert after breakfast. Take advantage.
(4) We will make "school" extremely short until or unless we establish a pattern of fun and interest, and he latches onto the idea. Our first week was approximately 10-15 minutes each day, that's it. Enough to whet his appetite, give him a sense of accomplishment, and show him it really was fun, not just thinly-disguised work (more like thickly-disguised work).
And guess what? He loved it! It totally blew my socks off (proverbial, since I boycott socks from March-November every year, and we started school in August). Was he skeptical? Yes. Did he try to stall and act dumb? Yes. Did he quickly realize that this thing called school was actually fun and a great way to get undivided Mommy attention first thing every morning? Yes.
So what all are we doing? Well, we started out heavily following (with definite modifications) the K4 curriculum I purchased. It was a great start for us, but as the weeks progressed, I've deviated from it more and more, though we still use some activities from it. She has some really great ideas that supplement well with other activities we're doing.
At first I deviated because the beginning phonics moved way too quickly through concepts - on week 7, I think, they were sounding out words with -ain and then similar special letter groupings. I wanted Hans to get a solid grip on sounding out words before doing special digraphs like that. I had bought a K-2 set of Hooked on Phonics on clearance a year or two ago, and so we started that and he loves it! He sped through the kindergarten program in 5 weeks flat, so we're on the 1st grade program now. The Hooked on Phonics program is awesome, and it hasn't done -ain yet ;-). The K program is all about getting a solid grasp on basic sounding out of words, with a hefty number of sight words thrown in the mix. We're getting a lot more letter combos in the 1st grade book now.
The other reason I started deviating from the K4 curriculum is because the math was too easy for Hans. I do not think this is the fault of the curriculum. Every kid learns at different rates. But for Hans, after a few weeks of "missing numbers worksheets," I knew we had to move on before he stagnated and started to hate the repetition. Hans does not like doing things he already knows how to do - after a repetition or two, he starts to gets suspicious and bored. So I bought the Essential Mathematics Singapore Math books (their no-frills K math option - they have another more-exciting option) and he loves it. The first part is really easy (as is every K math book, since they start with no prerequisites) so we're flying through it right now (almost half-way done), but I know we'll slow down when we get past stuff he already knows.
We're still heavily depending on the K4 handwriting options, and they are great. I'm also supplementing by creating sheets from this site, which is fabulous. And I'm still using her sight word activities, because they're fabulous and complement the Hooked on Phonics great, and Hans loves doing them. Also, some of the K4 math activities have been great to supplement Singapore. Those are the biggies for us right now - phonics, math, handwriting.
Handwriting is definitely Hans' weakness of the three, but he's coming along nicely and is finally starting to be willing to form letters without the dashes :-). I'm also supplementing with mazes, dot-to-dots, and other stealth-handwriting-development options ;-). Making cards for friends is a fabulous way to get him to practice handwriting without him realizing it :-). And we have a 100 chart that we're using to reinforce counting to 100 (which Hans can finally do!) And we're doing a lot of addition and subtraction with poker chips (don't judge). And counting during hide-and-seek, frontwards as well as backwards (only backwards from 20-0, mind you). I also found a few Kumon books at a rummage sale - Let's Cut Paper and Let's Sticker and Paste. The latter is really too easy for Hans (I'll save for Gretchen), but the Cut Paper one has been phenomenal for Hans, in getting him over his fear of cutting (his fear was not of the scissors, but in not cutting perfectly - he has a major perfection complex like his mom!). I can't say I would have spent the full price on the book ($6), but it was totally worth getting used.
We do some crafts also, but the problem with crafts is that Hans wants to save every one, and supplies can get pricey, in addition to the added clutter of keeping projects. So those are more like once-a-week, which works out great.
Our plans for the future? More of the same. We're doing approximately an hour of school each week day now, and often stop because *I* say it's time. I usually give Hans the option of stopping or continuing with a new activity when we get past 45 minutes, and he very often asks to continue. But if his attention span is wavering, we stop. He's 4 and I don't expect him to act older. It also helps to start with the "tougher" stuff, and save the more palatable options for last, so he wants to keep going :-D. His attention span is also way better on weeks where we get outside to play more. . . which is harder with the recent cold weather :-P.
We will keep on keeping on with phonics and math and handwriting. We're leaning towards continuing with Singapore Math, but supplementing with more drill, as that is the weakness of Singapore. But we'll see what we choose. We're covered in phonics for a while, as he still has 3 more workbooks after he finishes the ones he's doing (5 total workbooks for the program). I've purchased Rod and Staff's 1st grade handwriting program, which we will start at some point, but not anytime soon. We're not there yet. And next fall we'll do some life science (I'm using a lot of Well Trained Mind's suggestions for science books - I had very mixed feelings about that book and loved some of it, strongly disagreed with other aspects, but her science suggestions have seemed good), but keeping it low-key. I'm also planning on doing basic geography with Hans next fall, using this resource, as well as the essential maps and globe - legally reproducible with worksheets? Yes, please! I might start Shurley Grammar 1 next fall, if I feel Hans is ready, but I'm leaning towards delaying a bit. I'm just not sure he will be ready from a cognition standpoint, though the only real prerequisite is "able to read very basic sentences," which he can already do. But comprehension v. basic reading are two very different things.
One other thing to note: doing school with Hans has really improved our relationship. Hans can be really stubborn. And he can try to get attention in the wrong ways :-P. Preschool together has done two wonderful things for our relationship: first, it has given him nearly-undivided (see below paragraph) Mommy-time first thing in the morning, and second, it gives him a sense of accomplishment as he sees very tangibly his accomplishments in learning. He is the kind of kid who hesitates to try anything because he's afraid of failure, but when he does try and succeed, it's a huge boost for him. So school has been great for him in this :-).
So what does Gretchen do while Hans and I do school? Don't hate me. She just sits there and pleasantly colors and cuts up paper or affixes stickers to paper scraps. Or looks at letter manipulatives (Confessions of a Homeschooler has some great ideas for creating letter manipulatives). Or other basic activities (puzzles, peg board, etc.). Sometimes she asks to sit on my lap. The end. I have it made. Yes I realize that. Easiestchildever.
Thursday, November 01, 2012
The Christian life is a life of trust, and pregnancy is no exception. Every woman is aware that loss is a possibility in pregnancy, but I don't think it really comes home until you've experienced it yourself. Hypothetical and real are two different things. And when loss becomes real instead of hypothetical - I've lost two babies in utero, including most recently this past spring - it makes each future pregnancy even more a matter of trust than it was before you experienced loss.
Trust that God has given this life for a reason.
Trust that all things work together for good for those who love Him.
Trust that the good each small life will work (however long or short our paths cross) will be the conforming of my sinful self into the image of His Son. No matter the outcome. Period.
Trust that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Trust that God holds the future in His hand.
Trust that God is all-good and all-powerful.
Notice I didn't say "trust that God will protect my baby's life," or "trust that God won't put me through that trial again." God doesn't promise a smooth passage, but He promises to be with us through life's storms and sunny sailing, both.
I've looked in the Bible for absolute promises to specific circumstances in my life, including pregnancy and the life of my children - they're not in there. It's not because He didn't get around to it. It's because part of the "being conformed to the image of His Son" happens when we have to hold loosely our desires, our expectations, our hopes, and dreams. It's when our hopes and dreams are reborn in His likeness that we find real peace and real joy. This is trust in God. This isn't hypothetical read-about-in-books type of thing; this is where the rubber hits the road.
So we begin this journey again. Welcoming a new life, thanking God for another baby to love and cherish, but holding our hopes and dreams loosely. Looking to eternity, not just to the temporal. Praying that God will let us meet this little one next June, but trusting that God is good, no matter His plan.
Monday, April 16, 2012
Silent bud in sheath of green,
Waits in dark for bloom of spring.
Early frost steals promised flow'r;
Early wilt, untimely hour.
Knitted life in vessel dark.
Tiny form with Maker's mark.
Frame in view from Him above.
Treasured here, welcomed in love.
Life's ev'ry day written, planned
By the Master's gentle hand.
What if days were short, life brief?
Early frost - a lifeless leaf.
Eyes are dimmed ere light has shone;
Silent cry, no time to tone.
Shepherd is no helpless man;
All is in His 'ternal plan.
He gently hugs weeping lambs,
Wipes the tears, comforts rams.
Whispers promises, holds close
His little child, grieving rose.
Time long-past, another place,
God's only Son, tears on face,
Pleads release from task ahead -
Nail-pierced hands, wounded head.
Willingly on lonely hill,
God in flesh is lifeless, still.
Death conquered through death toll chime;
Promise sealed for better time.
Perished Lamb lives in glory,
Happy end to saddest story.
Every tear is wiped away
On that joyful final day.
So now weeping, grieving one,
Recollect God's only Son.
For those of faith, light has dawned -
Eternal sun, life beyond.
- S.G.K. April 2012
In memory of two loves lost, 12/2009 and 3/2012
Monday, November 07, 2011
Round 2 for major storms this fall in Hartford. (Round 1 was Irene a few months ago.) Last week we got hit with a weird and totally out-of-the-ordinary snowstorm in October (29th and 30th). Only about 6 inches "stuck" but more fell and melted before and after the main storm. The problem was the leaves still on the trees, the moist trees from previous rainfall, some winds, and a partridge in the pear tree. . . all combined to make heavy branches and therefore lots of limb falls.
Unreal amounts of tree limbs all around. Driving through parts of the area, it's like a forest curbside, with people piling all the fallen branches along the road for the city to pick up. Some of the trees in our apartment complex have more bulk on the ground than still on the tree. Results were widespread power outages, and lengthy ones at that. Most of our friends were out of power for close to a week - 6 days for us, longer for others.
Our basement has drainage issues, so heavy rains (or melting snow) always mean a small puddle in corners, but we have a basement sump pump which does its job. . . unless there's no power. *ahem* With Irene and heavy rainfall, we lost power for 2 days or so, and our neighbor got a hold of a generator after a day, to pump out water. This time around, no generators to be had, so our basement sat in 1" of water for 6 solid days. The humidity was amazing down there (in a bad way ;-D). The problem was that our snow quickly melted because of the fluctuating temperatures in the low-to-mid 30's throughout the week, and the melted snow congregated in our basement ;-).
So anyway, rotten week, right? Nah. Adrian and I truly felt uplifted and blessed by God's provision for us. Great is His faithfulness:
- Dear friends from church took us into their home for 6 nights in a row, while we were without power. They truly have the gift of hospitality.
- The above dear friends are empty-nesters and also grandparents - perfect combo, with extra space in their home and all the "gadgets" (high chair, toys, crib, etc.) to make hosting a young family easy.
- I survived power outage #2 while staying on the GAPS diet.
- A gracious hostess who allowed me to partake of food or decline, depending on my own dietary needs.
- Most of our freezer/fridge food was saved, transferred in time to a friend's fridge/freezer.
- My kefir grains and sourdough starter appear to have survived :-D.
- Nothing of intrinsic value was lost in our basement water-log. Yes, we took some losses, but nothing we can't live without.
- Grace to thank God for the losses and see them as freeing, not a bad thing. Forced purging can be good!
- Outside of a handful of non-important books, the rest of the books all survived, without water damage.
- Friends willing to watch the kiddos for a few hours while Adrian and I raced against the humidity to bring up the belongings we wanted to save, when the basement flooded.
- A friend's large basement play area for expending 3 year old energy on cold days last week.
- Warmth and heat at our host home!
- Underground power lines that made electricity in our friends' home possible :-)
- A week without internet. Yes, this was definitely a good thing.
- The kiddos doing remarkably well with the upheaval of the past week. (Usually Hans' attitude rapidly digresses with major changes like visitors or vacation.)
- Our church and Christian fellowship. It was so neat to see the body of Christ help each other, those who did have power (definitely the minority!) open their homes for bed, food, or laundry.
- Warm days this week (to spend out doors!) while back home with no elbow room indoors yet (as we ready the basement for re-habitation of the items currently invading our living/dining room).
- Friends who immediately and cheerfully drove 30 minutes south to pick up me + kiddos, when we got a flat tire the day we finally make it home. . . these the same friends who just hosted us for 6 days!
- A dedicated hubby who spent most of Saturday hauling soggy items to the dumpster and then spent Sunday afternoon and evening "de-oxing" our ditch, scrubbing down the basement with an anti-mold solution.
- DRY air in the basement this morning(!)
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
The past year (since mid-way in Gretchen's pregnancy) I've really been more keenly aware of God's day-to-day blessings. Not for a major life-changing reason (we weren't miraculously saved from a life-threatening situation a year ago, to my conscious knowledge), but God brought me out of a period of a few months of discontent, when I saw fault with everything and everyone. And since then I've been a bit more in tune to God's blessings in the little things.
A few of my friends have been blogging through 1000 gifts, and it's been fun to see them chronicle some of God's blessings in their own lives week-to-week. With Gretchen's birth and newborn-hood I mentally created a list of blessings (there were a lot of them!), but never got around to posting. Life can be very distracting with 2 littles ;-).
This past week Connecticut prepared for a visit from Hurricane Irene and we spent some time preparing, rearranging the basement, insuring adequate supply of shelf-stable foods, etc. The past few days I've been mentally composing a list of God's mercies related to Irene, and I thought I'd actually *gasp* post it, instead of just think it :-).
- God's protection over our life and property.
- Only 33 hours without power. The original prediction was close to 3 days, and many are still without power, possibly for a week or more.
- The wind and rain was less than originally predicted. (Irene was a tropical storm rather than the original Category 2 they predicted.)
- No damage of belongings in the basement, despite some standing water and some original problems with the pump.
- A handyman husband who figured out how to get the pump up and running (the apartment complex had poorly installed it on multiple levels - it was pumping water INTO our washing machine).
- The bulk of the rain happened before we lost power, so our pump could keep the water to a low level in the basement.
- Our neighbor offering to let us use her generator the next day, to run our pump and shop vac for a while to drain the remaining water from our basement while we waited for power to return.
- Beautiful weather - neither too hot or too cold.
- Clean water, albeit not heated.
- Still being able to stick 100% to my dietary restrictions, even without electricity and a means to cook.
- Losing less than $10 worth of food due to loss of electricity (mainly condiments). On Thursday when the storm was predicted, we had 7 dozen eggs on hand and 3 gallons of cultured dairy (yogurt and kefir). None of that went to waste due to careful planning and a lot of egg consumption! And our deep freeze stayed frozen!
- My kefir grains survived :-).
Thursday, June 02, 2011
I'm not an Emily Post type, but I see the wisdom in certain social graces. I don't worry whether my napkins are correctly sculptured on the table for company (or if we use paper instead!). I believe that thank you notes are a wonderful gesture of gratitude, but my ability to procrastinate means they don't always arrive promptly. My house has a high probability of not being dusted when you visit, but if your visit is scheduled ahead, it will almost certainly be vacuumed. My point in this paragraph is that I feel I'm pretty relaxed in the area of Emily-Post-esque conventions.
That being said. . . the societal conventions regarding what to call people have always amused and confused me to no end. I've waxed eloquent(?) on similar things before, though today's ramble has a different thought process.
I've heard that it used to be a minor insult to call a lady who was a stranger "Miss," assuming she was unmarried. But now ladies prefer being assumed "Miss" over "Ma'am", because "Ma'am" apparently sounds ancient. This could be because of our culture's obsession with youth (very antithetical to the Biblical view of youth and age) or a result of the feminist revolution. Since the middle 1900's we've thoroughly confused "Miss," "Ms.," "Ma'am," and "Mrs.," to the point where people mispronounce and misuse them all the time. . . "Mrs." should have TWO syllables, people!
Now whatever. I don't care that much. But it amuses me when I go to stores and observe what the cashiers call me. "Ma'am" should be a "duh" option, but recently I've been called "Miss" a few times. I don't care except without fail, when I shop I have two children in tow who look remarkably like myself (ie, my PROGENY). So my question to our modern society is this? Is it less of an insult to assume I'm a single mother than *gasp* an old married woman??? Our society is weird.
Am I knocking single mothers? Of course not. I have friends who are single mothers. They do a fabulous job and have more guts than I ever will. Some of them are in that situation because of circumstances totally outside their control, while others are prodigals "come home" so to speak. May God bless their sacrifice, and may I focus more on the plank in my own eye. (I have many planks.)
But my point is that never, ever in a previous society (as far as I can tell) has single motherhood been considered less of a shame or less desirable than being considered "old." (Or even considered to be "normative" in society.) What is so alluring about youth? What's so wrong about growing old? Maybe it's because I'm naive and 27 or something, but good grief. It's not like I'm quaking about turning 30. And I'm really looking forward to 50. The only thing I'm not looking forward to regarding old age is deteriorating health. But increased wisdom and experience? That is worth some creaking joints.
With the ancient is wisdom; and in length of days understanding. Job 12:12
Saturday, October 09, 2010
I should be sleeping because it's before 6:00 a.m. and my baby is passed out in the crib next to me, but the biological need for food is competing with my biological need for sleep, and the lure of the food service in the hospital opening in 10 minutes is definitely deciding the winner ;-). Hungry! Feeding another human being takes a lot of calories.
I woke up Thursday morning (October 7th) at 2:00 a.m. from dreams of having contractions to find that I was. . . having contractions ;-). I was 4 days "past due". The contractions were really mild, though, so I didn't get super-excited, but instead emptied my bladder to see if they would keep up. Yep, and pretty steadily 8 or 9 minutes apart.
I tried to go back to sleep, but yeah right. I gave up around 3:30 a.m. and headed downstairs to putter around, to see if movement would increase or decrease the intensity/duration/happening. Adrian came downstairs around 4:00 a.m. to see if I was in labor, to which I shrugged and said "I think maybe." He started timing them for me (he said there was no way he was going to be able to go back to sleep!), and they were now closer to 5 minutes apart, but very mild and only 20-30 seconds long, so I had no intention of rushing to the hospital right then. My labor with Hans didn't have a clearly established contraction pattern, but I was also worried this time about getting to the hospital in time, as Hans' labor was fast once it picked up, and with this pregnancy I was Group B strep positive, so I was supposed to get 2 doses of antibiotics by i.v. in me before giving birth. . . 4 hours apart, so I needed a 4 hour lead gap from when I got my first dose to when I delivered. But I also didn't want to get to the hospital prematurely :-P.
The contractions slowed down some on the drive, to about 7 or 8 minutes apart on the drive. . . ugh. Then first thing they wanted before I could labor freely was a 20 minute fetal monitor strip, which I was fine with, but after closer to 45 minutes (Gretchen wasn't performing for them with enough heart rate accelerations at first, until I downed some cranberry juice. . . bleh), I'd only had about 3 contractions, 5 total since getting out of the car at the hospital an hour+ before. Hmm. The midwife checked me at 9:00 a.m., when I got off the monitor, and I was between a 3 and 4 (90% effaced) and the few contractions I was now having were very mild. Dilemmas, dilemmas. I did not want to be stuck here forever with a putsy labor!
We opted to walk around the hospital campus to see if we could get my labor moving, and this definitely did the job. We came back to the room about an hour later when the contractions starting spiking in intensity and getting closer. . . but still no established pattern. Although I was hesitant to declare "yes, this is it," I did opt to order the antibiotics at that point, because I knew we were up against the 4-hour window, and I knew I went fast with Hans once contractions got established. It was 10:00 a.m. when I ordered the antibiotics, but it took a while for them to actually get there -around 11:00 when I actually got them in me. By this time the contractions were definitely more intense, but still doable. I wasn't quite ready for the tub, as I didn't want my labor to slow down, and I'd made it to 8 cm without needing it with Hans.
The next hour was rather a blur. The contractions escalated to very intense so quickly, and much quicker than I expected I started getting that light-headed "I'm going to faint" feel that I got just before transition with Hans, that was only relieved by the tub. Before I even had time to act on the desire for a tub I was now having a hard time talking even between contractions. Then I had a super-intense contraction, and gasped "I'm having a premature urge to push! Get Mary (the midwife). And I want the tub." So they started filling up the tub and Mary came in to check me, but it was a few more contractions (slightly milder, no urge to push) before she could check me, just because moving anywhere was slow work and a lot of effort with the very intense contractions. My water broke as I finally got on the bed to be checked, and I got another urge to push, which I fought. Mary said she couldn't feel any cervix, so I could push whenever I felt like it. I was a complete 10! I really wanted to make it to the tub, though!
Thankfully, the tub was right across the hall, but I still needed a wheelchair just to get there. Thankfully the contractions did slow at this point a tad, allowing me to get in the tub just fine. The warm water felt SO good. My only complaint with this tub versus the one I birthed Hans in was that the water was much more shallow (very different style tub!), but I also did like the seat in this one, which was good for positioning options.
I was totally in my own zone at this point, just focusing, and not terribly aware of who was around me most of the time. I was pretty out of it ;-). Just like with Hans, I really didn't have any desire to pop this baby out super-fast, so I went with urges to push, but didn't bear down super-hard, wanting to ease her out to minimize tearing. I've never understood when women say that pushing is almost a relief from the contractions, because they get to channel their anger/momentum into pushing. I just don't find pushing fun AT ALL. Gretchen was born at 12:29 p.m., screaming and hollering and NOT liking this whole outside-world thing ;-). She was 7 lb. 1 oz. with a very rounded head from such a quick delivery, golden fuzz for hair just like her brother. . . and in most other ways looking like a miniature Hans!
With only 1 1/2 hours between the antibiotics (and only one dose, at that!) to delivery, we are held 48 hours at the hospital (just for precaution), rather then my original hope of an early discharge at 24 hours. But thankfully Gretchen's vitals have been great and her blood labs came back clear, with no signs of GBS complications, for which we are very thankful!
Adrian and I laughed after delivery that we didn't even have time to think about getting out all the birth music we'd brought. Ah well. Anonymous 4 (beautiful medieval chants!) still sounds nice post-delivery ;-).
Praise God for such a safe and quick delivery, and for a healthy little one!
There are many more pictures posted to my photo blog.
Monday, April 05, 2010
Hans is growing and SO much fun. He's busy trying to repeat lots and lots of words and catching on quickly to pronunciation. Still hasn't tried the novelty of sentences, though. He wants to spend every possible moment outside, and thinks it's downright cruel of me to say "no" on rainy days. He'll be 2 in 2 months. *sniff* My baby is growing up!
I spent most of last year trying to fix some health problems I was having, as I mentioned briefly in a post back last spring. I ended up on a restrictive diet for about 6 months, as I tested intolerant for about 40 food items. It turns out that the antibiotics I was flushed through with in labor with Hans (since my water broke early) had pretty much depleted my good bacteria from my intestines -very necessary for digestion! My intestinal problems were causing a psoriasis-like rash that wasn't itchy, but just annoying, because I didn't want it to get worse, and because I knew it signaled a deeper problem. After 2 naturopaths and a lot of reading, I finally cultured some sauerkraut and ate that 3x/day for a few months, and felt much better! Sauerkraut is awesome that way, even if I'm still not a taste fan :-P. I do have some deeper issues that I will have to eventually solve along the same lines, but my worst issues were fixed with the sauerkraut. So yay! I will definitely not be accepting more prophylactic antibiotics for a very weak reason next labor :-P. (It's not like I'd had my water broken for days or anything!)
We also became debt free last fall! Yay! We'd been working to paying off a student loan since we got married, and we finally were able to, by God's grace. Let me tell you, that is an awesome feeling. We are hoping to keep that status until we buy a house at some point down the road, but we'll take what the Lord throws our way :-). We probably won't buy a house for several more years, until Adrian goes into teaching (which is a while off), for various reasons that make good sense but I won't expend your time on here ;-). So now with no more debt, we're focusing more on saving for a hefty downpayment and such.
I had an early miscarriage in December, the week of Christmas. My hormones were not registering as strong to begin with, so I was prepared and was really fine with it, though of course with a little sadness. We had a fabulous time in Minnesota for a week following Christmas, and it was really a great time of family and celebration.
Then we got pregnant again in January! Everything is looking good so far with this pregnancy. I'm 14 weeks along now, and we've heard the heartbeat twice. I'm finally over the hump of nausea, just some occasional flare-ups, but mild. Actually my nausea/exhaustion this pregnancy has definitely been better than with Hans' pregnancy, for which I'm grateful. And Adrian was awesome and took over the cooking and dishes for me while I felt really bad :-). I'd prepared and frozen lots of cooked and cut-up meat, which helped a lot. We hardly had to look at raw meat for 2 solid months!
I have my mid-pregnancy ultrasound scheduled for 3 weeks from now, and we're hoping everything is moving along fine :-). I'm due the beginning of October, Lord willing. I'm actually going out-of-state for care this time. There is a CNM group just north of us in MA that is closer than my previous midwife group, so I'm going to try out their practice this time around. It would be so nice to someday be under the care of midwives less than half an hour away, but for now. . . ah well ;-). I'd rather drive and be comfortable with the care :-). I'm excited to be due within a few days of 3 other friends! Fun times :-)
Saturday, January 02, 2010
I thought I would jot down some of the things I found along the way, that helped us with our budget. I can't promise anything amazingly innovative; these are just things that worked for me.
Important: I'm not saying that everyone has to follow all the things I suggest, or that you're somehow a wiser financial steward if you do them. These are suggestions, not ultimatums. You are responsible for your budget and I am not. I make purchases that some would consider frivolous, and I scrimp in areas where others would think I am crazy. That's okay.
Some background. When we first got married, I was staying at home throwing up all day and trying to stand for more than 3 minutes at a time (aka happily pregnant) and Adrian was working a low wage job. We were scraping to make ends meet. We had a student loan to pay off, a birth to save up for, an impending move, a job search, and a partridge in a pear tree. Oh yeah, and after we moved, we still had to pay rent for our previous apartment for a few months. Can you say tight? But God provided for every expense, and then some. Sometimes I didn't know how.
Adrian has a salaried job now, that uses his educational training more thoroughly. Now we're just tight because we can be, and because we realize that our financial goals will never be met unless we budget and cut expenses. Our initial major financial goal was to become debt free. By God's grace, we met that goal last fall. Our major financial goal while we are still living in Connecticut on an engineer salary (hopefully for 6-7 more years, but we'll see what God has in store for us) is to have 3-6 months living expenses in savings and save up at least 20% down for a future house purchase.
Our long-term goal is to be dirt poor while raising a zillion kids on a private schoolteacher's salary. Everyone laugh now ;-). No, but seriously, that's our goal. And that goal is impossible from a realistic standpoint. But we see the vision we believe God has placed in our hearts (realizing that He may alter the plans we have) and we see how He provided for us when we were on a small wage salary. But we also know that such a crazy financial goal cannot be met unless we buckle down and get serious. We only have one kid now and Adrian makes a decent salary. So we pinch and save. We save for the day when we may have many more kids, private school tuition to think about, and very little salary to go around. So yep, we're weird :-).
Starting off with grocery budget suggestions, since that's what everyone seems to like:
See if you have a discount grocery store near you. I have a Price Rite next door to our apartment complex. I get 99% of our groceries there. For those in the South, a Price Rite is like an Aldi's, only with a much better selection. They are both discount, no-frills grocery stores, where you can get a lot of food for your money, if you don't mind things like bringing your own grocery bags and depositing a quarter for using their carts (given back on return of cart). When we moved from Virginia to Connecticut, our grocery bill actually *lowered* because of Price Rite. The cost of groceries in CT on average is much more expensive than VA, but shopping at a discount store offset this. Another discount store along the same vein is Dollar General Market. Not a really large selection, but they have really good prices, and I enjoyed shopping there in VA. If you can buy most of your staples at a discount store like this, the savings will really add up!
I don't like grocery shopping. I love saving money, but I'm not partial to store-hopping 5 different stores a week to save money. Especially now that I have to buckle and unbuckle a little guy from a carseat for each store I visit :-). One thing I started doing right away when we got married was to read grocery store ads (they come in our Thursday or Friday mail) and pinpoint good sales. Because I have a Price Rite near me, I already get pretty good prices for most items, so I almost exclusively read the ads to look at really good meat deals. The best grocery store sales usually beat Price Rite, plus they have more cuts of meat. I will make a separate grocery store trip maybe twice a month (usually not that often), and only if I can save a decent amount of money by doing it.
I have approximate target prices for meat. I look for ground beef under $2/pound, whole chickens under $1/pound, and chicken breasts under $2/pound as target sale prices. This would obviously vary some per area, but I found this to be a good target in GA and VA as well. I also look for pork picnics and ham (butt portions - shank is not enough meat for your money) for under $1/pound - usually around 80 cents/pound. My target price for boneless pork is under $2/pound.
If I find a good deal, I stock up! I don't go and buy just one pound of meat on sale (the good prices are for the larger packages anyway). What a waste of time, energy, and a good sale. I buy 2 5# packages of ground beef at once, divide the meat into 1# portions, and freeze. If you freeze a whole large package, it will probably sit in your freezer forever. Freeze it in meal size portions, and it will be easy to thaw and use. And it takes about 5 minutes of your time! Same with chicken. Freeze 2-4 chicken breasts together, splitting a larger package. This way you get the better deal of the larger meat packages, while still only cooking for 2 people. If I have the time and the inclination (I usually do), I also cook up some of the meat before freezing. So I might cook 5 of the 10 pounds of ground beef, so I would have 5 individual frozen pounds of cooked ground beef and 5 individual frozen pounds of uncooked ground beef.
I found very quickly after we got married that a whole lot of our grocery budget was eaten up by meat! I had no idea how that was happening until I started looking at the meals I was making. Most of them were meals that I now call "hunk 'o meat" meals. I love meat, and I think meat is very good for you (contrary to popular opinion). Animal protein = good and animal fat = really good. But it's expensive! And most of the meals I was cooking had large portions of meat off to the side. I'd make mashed potatoes and green beans with breaded chicken fingers, and watch piles of chicken fingers disappear before my very eyes. We would sometimes average over a pound of meat per person per meal that way! That's really expensive.
So I started saving "hunk 'o meat meals" (chicken breasts off to the side, roast, hamburgers, etc.) for once or twice a week or so, and focused on a lot of creative ways to stretch meat. This only works if your husband is not a must-have-large-quantities-of-meat-at-every-meal guy. My husband requested meat at every meal when we first married (he's now fine with an occasional complete protein, beans-and-rice type of dish), so I didn't argue the point. Submission, et al ;-). But he was just fine if his meat appeared in casseroles. I'd make sure we had enough protein in the meal, but without consuming large quantities of meat. Two cups of chopped up, cooked chicken is plenty for a good chicken and rice casserole that will yield 4-6 servings. A beef or chicken stir fry with lots of vegetables and good seasonings can make a tasty supper, while not requiring more than a pound or two of meat for 4-6 servings. This tip single-handedly lowered our grocery budget dramatically. I didn't announce "Honey, we're eating less meat." I just did it gradually, and Adrian didn't complain. I later pointed out the change to him, and he was fine with that. While pregnant, I still was able to average 75-100 grams of protein per day.
Don't buy lunches at work. Pack a lunch! If you are making food for 2 people (yourself and your husband, for example), make 4 servings for each dinner. Before you put your supper away in the fridge, portion the remaining two servings into single-size containers to quickly grab as you head out the door the next day for work or school. Plan ahead and you're not caught in the last-minute rush in the morning. They're ready to go. I found that not planning ahead is almost always what introduced unexpected items (like lunches at a fast food place) into our budget.
Don't be afraid to say "no" to meals out with friends. Be real and up-front about your budget limitations. Chances are, one of them will appreciate someone else taking the lead in encouraging fun-but-not-pricey get-togethers. Or save those meals out for very special occasions. It's okay to treat yourself, just budget it, and make it a rarity, not a regular occurrence. Invite your friends over to your house for a meal instead of going out!
Don't sacrifice health to save money. Ramen noodles is a very short-term savings plan - NOT WORTH IT. What you eat has direct consequences for your health, sometimes short term, sometimes long term. Make sure the food you eat provides nutrition, not just filling calories to pad your wallet. I keep a relatively strict grocery budget, but I have my no-compromise areas. We eat almost exclusively real food, not the fake yuck like margarine, fake cheese, spam, etc. Our health is worth it, and our medical budget thanks us.
Substitute more economical ingredients. You don't have to follow a recipe to a "T." If a recipe calls for a particular brand or flavor of a tomato sauce, and you have a cheap off-brand, put that in instead! See if you can approximate the flavorings from the original sauce with some of the spices you have on hand. If a cookie recipe calls for nuts, consider omitting them, if they aren't a vital part of the recipe.
Speaking of nuts, ingredients like nuts tend to go on sale at Christmas time. Consider setting aside a little extra grocery money to buy a pound or two of nuts, real vanilla extract, sugar and flour, and other things that are really cheap before Christmas, to last you through the rest of the year.
Anticipate large purchases. On weeks when you don't purchase meat (because you have enough saved up from a large purchase), make sure you save some of that week's grocery money in case meat is really cheap the following week, and you can then purchase a few week's worth at once.
Ditch or reduce the disposables. I was shocked at how many paper napkins I went through when we were first married. Sure, they're really cheap, but a few packages a month can really add up long-term. I would grab napkins or paper towels for just about any little chore. I finally stopped buying paper towels (they were so expensive!) and limited my paper napkin use by keeping the napkins in a not-so-immediately-convenient location. If you want to go hard-core, use cloth napkins ;-). They work way better, are no trouble to clean (I do not iron mine!), and save lots of money in the long run. And those old-fashioned rags work great in place of paper towels ;-). Just ask your grandmother if that was considered “hard-core” when she was growing up ;-).
Use Tupperware instead of Ziploc. Or reuse your Ziplocs. I freeze a lot of meat, and I can go through Ziplocs like nobody's business, so it's not economical for me to treat Ziplocs as one-use items. I either wash and reuse Ziplocs, or I try to use Tupperware-type plastic containers instead. I purchased several economical plastic containers from Wal-mart that I use to freeze meat in, and I can reuse these over and over again.
You don't need lots of specialized kitchen appliances, matching furniture, and lots of matching dishes. Seriously, start basic. You can build things up. Save up for that Kitchen Aid mixer or that nicer set of pots and pans, or buy some now and some when you can afford it. I remember having dinner with some newlyweds some years ago. They had a nice house and some nice things, but they knew where to set limits. Their dining room was empty. They simply couldn't afford to buy a nice dining room set at the time, so they waited. We had a total of 7 people at dinner that night in their kitchen, but their nicer dish set only accommodated 6 people, so one of us ate off another type of plate. That was okay. They've been married for a while now, and I bet they have a dining room set and more than 6 matching plates, with no permanent psychological damage from all that deprivation ;-).
Don't expect to have the same standard of living that you grew up with. Your parents spent years working to get where they are. They probably started with very little too. Ask them. They probably had less furniture and a lower paying job than you have as newlyweds. Ask them what they had to go without. You may be surprised. Our parents' generation thought budget sacrifices meant not owning a car; our generation thinks budget sacrifices mean not owning two cars or having to share a cell phone.
You don't need a large place to live for starters. Consider renting for a few years until you can afford to buy. Remember, you don't have the same standard of living as your parents. They probably started cramped, and they probably spent a while saving for a downpayment on a house. You know, back before banks handed out mortgages and caused major bank crises as a result (but I digress). Even if you "qualify" for a mortgage, it doesn't mean it's necessarily a wise option at the time. Building equity is not worth putting yourself in a house larger than you can afford or locking yourself into a really high interest rate because you have little-or-no down payment. We are currently living in a 2-bedroom townhouse with 3 people (me, hubby, and 18-month old son), and we do not regret this choice. We think it's well worth it to save up at least 20% down towards a house before buying. The interest rates drop dramatically at that point. Yes, it's cramped, but that's more because we have addictions to book buying and fabric buying :-). We figure we'll only end up with more stuff and more kids (we hope!) over the years, and now is the best time to live small and save big.
Along those lines. . . use the "Was this necessary 50 years ago?" rule. This helps me consider whether a budget item is necessary or a luxury. It's okay to have luxuries, if you can afford them. Most budgets, even tight ones, can squeeze in a few luxuries. You just have to decide which ones will go and which will stay. To do this you have to first decide which ones can go. Consider the possibility of eliminating: a second car (public transit an option?), a cell phone (or at least a second cell phone!), cable TV, magazine/newspaper subscriptions, eating out regularly, etc. These are luxuries! They were not considered necessities 50 years ago, but luxuries. Choose your luxuries wisely and savor them :-).
Piggybacking off the previous tip, enjoy your luxuries. That's right, pick a few luxuries and enjoy them. It's okay to enjoy that carefully-chosen magazine subscription, or that occasional night at a nice restaurant. Decide what you can afford, and then enjoy with abandon. This motivates you to stay on track with the rest of your budget.
Use the "How much will this cost me per year?" rule. A $4 cup of Starbuck's coffee isn't that expensive on occasion. But if you imbibe frequently, consider the long term costs. Twice a week works out to be $416/year. Once a day works out to be $1460/year. Ouch! That could make or break your budget. If you can't kick the habit, consider cutting back. We also work this for monthly expenses. $45/month for a cell phone isn't too bad (though my frugal heart still beats rapidly at the thought), but that works out to over $500/year! We downgraded to a basic, $25/month plan on cell phone, and that saves us $240/year!
Look into downgrading plans. We thought we were pretty serious budgeters and had squeezed unneeded services out of our budget (except “splurge” money), but then we started looking seriously at some of our monthly expenses. We were paying $100/month for combination internet and home phone service ($50 for each service). I called our service provider to see if they had any downgrade options (they often don't advertise them, but will tell you if you ask). It turns out that for half the price of the phone service, the only “damage” we incurred was no unlimited long distance calling and no voicemail (we added back in voicemail for $5/month). With a bit of long distance on our cell plan, this wasn't a problem. That was an easy $25/month less for phone service, working out to be $300/year at very little inconvenience. And for half the price of the internet, our upload speed could be lowered (our download speed remained the same). We haven't noticed a difference at all. Another $300/year at no pain, just because we thought to ask. That's $600 less we have to pay our phone provider per year!
Dave Ramsey (my favorite financial advisor) likes to say Act your wage. If you don't have the money, don't buy it. If you make $30,000 per year, don't act like you make $70,000. Realize that maybe that European vacation will have to wait several years, and your dream home, too. Gourmet food items or designer drapes may be beyond your standard of living (at least as a regular budget item). Work with what you've got, and don't be ashamed.
Dave Ramsey also says to spend every dollar. Nope, that doesn't mean to empty your bank account every pay cycle (stop getting excited!). It means to plan where each dollar will go. If you don't have a plan for each dollar, those extra dollars from each paycheck will get magically frittered away. Trust me! Budget, budget, budget! Create a budget and stick to it. Determine where any extra money for a paycheck will go. For us, we started right away to use any extra money (even if it's just $20) to put in savings. It starts building really fast!
And continuing with that train of thought. . . Save! Money problems usually happen because of either over-spending or because of poor planning, or both. Unexpected large expenses will come up. Your car will break down, you will break your arm, or your kitchen table will break on you. You need an action plan to deal with this. Have an emergency fund. $1000 will cover most unexpected expenses that aren't catastrophic. Build this up as soon as possible and work to keep it there.
Read Dave Ramsey's Baby Steps. Seriously. Having an emergency fund is step #1. But you need to read them all. They have been very useful in keeping us on track with our financial goals. We know we aren't just socking away money for no reason. We have outlined a list of our incremental financial goals, and we can work towards them systematically. Better yet, read some of Dave Ramsey's books, like Total Money Makeover (I've followed him casually online, but I hear his books are fabulous).
Don't forget major budget items! I was a bit naive in the budget department when we got married. I'd never been required to regularly pay a whole household of bills, or keeping track of major budget items. When we set out to create our first budget, we forgot some major columns. Like clothes. And gifts. You know, minor things ;-). Just as a general idea of the types of columns that are helpful, our main budget columns are rent, phone/internet, cell phone, gasoline, grocery, tithe, natural gas heating, electricity, AAA (a real money-saver with two used cars!), car insurance, life insurance, renter's insurance, World magazine, "splurge" money (for things like buying books or eating out or buying books or buying books), travel, household needs, car (repairs, maintenance, etc.), clothing, gifts, and ROTH account. After we set aside money for each of these, all other money gets put right into savings, so as not to tempt us.
Budget for yearly expenses by saving a little from each paycheck. Notice for our budget columns, I list several items that do not come due every month. AAA is a yearly expense and car insurance is twice-a-year. But we set aside money from each paycheck so it doesn't come as a surprise each time. So for AAA, we take the yearly fee and divide it by 26, since we get paid every two weeks (26x/year), and that's how much we set aside from each paycheck. It works beautifully, trust me. Then you don't have a last minute panic attack when you realize oh-my-goodness-the-several-hundred-dollar-car-insurance-is-due-in-two-weeks.
Budget for one-time purchases. It's okay to deviate from the standard budget on occasion for special, one-time purchases. After we paid off our student loan, we knew we really wanted to get a piano. After all, Adrian is a fabulous piano player and he'd been content to live without a piano for over 2 years! We want Hans to grow up with a piano available for listening and playing. A nice digital costs $1000 or a little more. We have that money in our savings, but we wanted to save up slowly, as we built up our 6 months expenses (once again, refer to Dave Ramsey's Baby Steps), so we've been setting aside a little from each paycheck. Delayed gratification is not a bad thing, and it makes the reward all the sweeter. After several months, we hope to finally purchase a piano in the next few months, and it has been worth the wait! We can make this purchase without jeopardizing our emergency savings or going into debt and while staying on a budget.
Oh, and another thing about budgeting. Remember how I said to save some? That means you don't create a budget that uses every last penny on anticipated expenses :-). Assume you will have unexpected needs like the hot water heater breaking (which would hopefully come out of your emergency fund, but expect the unexpected). And also remember, your gross income is not the amount you will receive. If your income is $40,000/year, do not expect to be able to actually spend all of that ;-). You will probably never see 10-20% of that. Pesky things like worker's compensation, unemployment, social security, health premiums, etc. will insure that your salary is shared with others ;-). Account for this when you budget. If you don't know what your take-home paycheck will be, assume 80% of your quoted salary, and you can always be happy if it's more than that :-).
Don't be ashamed of hand-outs. Don't go begging for them and mooching off other people, but if a kind couple approaches you because they remember how hard it was for them when they started out, gratefully except their old washer and dryer or that faded-but-still-usable coffee table or loveseat.
Oh, and speaking of hand-outs, sign up for Freecycle and haunt Craig's List. Seriously, you can get a lot of great stuff for free on Freecycle, if you're willing to sort through all the e-mails. And Craig's List can have some great bargains and a free section. Thrift stores can have some great tide-us-over-until-we-can-afford-nicer-stuff furniture.
Most importantly when you're creating that budget, remember that the money isn't yours in the first place. Thank God for giving you use of it, and remember to tithe off your gross salary (tithe is by definition 10% of your firstfruits) as an act of gratefulness, obedience, and trust. God does provide, and He can most definitely provide for you on 90% of your salary if you trust Him at His Word. Test Him and see if He does not open up the floodgates of heaven with blessings.
And remember, God blesses you that you might bless others. Don't be afraid to give. If you see someone in need, and you have the money, be willing to “splurge” a little for the sake of showing Christ's love to someone else. Perhaps that means helping out a friend who is unemployed, or an extra offering (above your regular tithe) to support a mission trip or a food pantry. Give with abandon because Christ gave with abandon.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Thursday, December 10, 2009
So I suited him up and he looked like the stereotypical poor kid in a movie who can't move and has his arms sticking out from all the padding and extra clothes. He just stood there looking pathetic, and when he tried to walk he fell down because he wasn't used to his boots. He just sort of laid there in a half-sit/half-lay, not sure what to do, afraid to move, but in a very uncomfortable position. It was so hilarious. If I was a sympathetic mother, I would have cried with him, but I couldn't help myself and started laughing. It was SO funny. Poor guy. He's over the emotional trauma. I think.
So I took him outside. Just in time for it to start raining. Yep, the snow turned to rain. Lovely. So he sat in the snow with raindrops falling, not sure what to do with this funny white stuff. He didn't want to move, definitely didn't want to walk. *sigh* Poor guy.
Sooooo. . . this morning we practiced walking in boots, in normal clothes, inside the house. Hans was still petrified, but with some coaxing he finally got it, and then he strutted around the house in his boots, all proud of himself for figuring it out. Yay, Hans! Then we suited back up, went back outside, and re-tried this whole snow thing.
He was very intrigued this time. It was still a little hard for him to walk in the snow with the boots, but he sure tried! And he succeeded some of the time. He also killed the small, pathetic snowman I made. My son, the murderer. He squatted on the ground and hacked away at it forever. Hmm. Maybe it's a psychological reaction to his mother laughing at his misery yesterday :-/.
Friday, March 20, 2009
I *finally* got his new carseat installed. Carrying around a 9 month boy in an infant carrier seat was getting heavy. On the bright side, I think I have more arm muscles than I used to have :-). But I digress. . .
Anyway, the carseat came in a gigantic box (it was already assembled so required mucho cardboardo), and I emptied it and put it on its side in the living room, thinking that Hans would think it fun to climb into. I mean, *every* pastor I've ever sat under has used the children-enjoy-the-box-more-than-the-gift analogy at *least* 5 times per year. He ignored the box. All morning. All afternoon. Finally come evening he decided to use it to hoist himself up into a standing position and then just whacked it with his hands a few times. That was it. *sigh* My son, the theological dunce.
Friday, March 06, 2009
I stumbled upon a crochet and knit book that I bought years ago at a used book sale. Most of the patterns in it were clothing, but in the back they had some fun figures to make for play toys. I need to make a Mrs. to go with the lonely farmer, don't you think?
Thursday, March 05, 2009
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Original recipe was the following banana bread recipe (bananas are a no-no on this diet):
2/3 cup oil or butter
1 cup honey
5 ripe, mashed bananas
3 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 t baking soda
1 t salt
Then I did some tweaking and tried this instead:
Eggless, Milk-less, Soy-less, Butter-less, Sugar-less, Yeast-less, Refined-Flour-less Pumpkin Bread
2/3 cup olive oil (I'm not allowed butter, and I try to stay away from soy - hence most/all vegetable oils - because of some concerns as to the effects of consuming a lot of it)
1 cup maple syrup (I'm not allowed any sweetener - even honey - except 100% pure maple syrup)
1/4 c flaxseed, ground and then whipped up in blender with 3/4 c water (I'm not allowed eggs, so this is the best substitute)
1 large can (3 - 3 1/2 cups) pumpkin
3 1/2 c whole wheat flour (Only whole grains allowed)
2 1/4 t baking soda (No yeast allowed)
1 t salt
1 t cinnamon
1/4 t allspice
Whip together oil and syrup; add flaxseed stuff, and blend. Mix in pumpkin. Whisk together dry ingredients and add slowly to batter. Spoon batter into 2 large loaf pans. Bake for 50ish minutes at 350 degrees.
Overall, not bad considering the restrictions I had on ingredients. Not spectacular either, but wow, did it taste good considering I was craving bread! I'll take what I can get :-). It was sort of dense, but not brick-like. It was moist enough, at least in its almost-fresh-from-the-oven state, but it definitely wasn't extremely sweet. But um, when the sweetener is $4/cup, I'm not exactly going to be using it in abundance :-P. Overall, not bad if you ever find yourself in the same situation. I even was able to resist all the voices in my head telling me to slather butter all over the bread I was eating. It was hard, but I did it :-).
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Unfortunately, I can't make it for myself for the next 4 weeks :-(. *sigh* I've had a rash on my elbows and knees (and a bit on my shoulders/back) for 5 months or so, and I finally was able to see someone about it. Basically, the suggestion is that I do an elimination diet for 4 weeks, eliminating basically every food I enjoy (all the common allergens - dairy, CHOCOLATE *whimper*, sugar - all types except pure maple syrup, peanuts, corn and corn derivatives, eggs, oranges, etc. - just pick one of my favorite foods, and it's probably on the list). Let's just say it's going to be a long 4 weeks. I predict I (accidentally) lose at least 5 pounds.
I just got back from Trader Joe's where I bought some goat's milk, goat cheese, almond butter, and a few other products. I even have to find alternative vitamins, because mine all contain corn startch.
After 4 weeks I slowly add back in foods by category, in the hopes that some light will be shed. We'll see. The challenge is to still get enough calories (still exclusively breastfeeding) and fats in. No butter! I live on butter. Olive oil, here I come. . .
Thursday, February 19, 2009
I was reading back through it after I got the link, and it really made me SO grateful again for the great prenatal, labor and delivery, and postnatal care I received! Seriously, I <3 my midwives! They have all the knowledge and skill a birth might require, but didn't feel like they had to use it on every birth ;-).