Devotional, Uncategorized

Waiting on God- A Short Devotional

Waiting on God
Waiting on God

Waiting on God’s Timing

I wanted to share this devotional specifically for the one who is waiting for children. This is actually my testimony and honestly one of my prized possessions because it’s my proof of God’s unfailing love for me. Whether you are husbands or wives, waiting on children is especially difficult. We were in that same season of waiting for twelve years.

Let me preface this by saying what I’m about to tell you doesn’t mean you’ll definitely have children. The lesson I want to share with you that took me twelve years to learn is that God’s plan is good. Whatever it is.

Click to read more…

Children, Family, Uncategorized

She Takes Her Job Very Seriously

takes her job seriouslyRecently, girl child got to be a flower girl in a family wedding. Not only would she be a flower girl, but this would be her first ever wedding! She was asked about six months ago by the bride and it’s been a frequent topic of conversation in our household ever since! This is a very important job and she has had every intention of taking her job very seriously. 

As the big day grew closer and closer, our conversations became more frequent and detailed. We talked about what her dress would look like, how she would gently toss flower petals as she walked down the aisle before the bride. How she would stand at the front with the best view in the house. We talked about how the bride would kiss the groom at the end and we giggled with glee at the thought of it! 

takes her job seriouslyCountless drawings appeared all over the house of child-drawn brides and grooms, brides kissing grooms, flower girls, bouquets, wedding cakes, etc. The big day even made it onto a hand-made calendar hung on the refrigerator door so that no one would forget!

And when girl child’s flower girl dress arrived, she could hardly contain her excitement. Being a flower girl suddenly became real! It wasn’t just something people said. She was actually going to BE a flower girl. My stars!!

Finally, oh finally the big day arrived. And suddenly…it hit her. 

As we were curling girl child’s hair into little ringlets, she began to breathe heavily and start to cry and complain of a stomach ache. I feared she was sick and wondered how I would nurse her back to health enough to make it down the aisle when she tearfully said, “I’m not nervous!” And this told me she was very nervous, which is unusual for her.

So we stopped everything. 

I sat her down on the toilet (seat cover) and told her to breathe like me…slowly in….slowly out. Slowly in…slowly out. I wiped her little tears and we talked quietly about how wonderful today is. And how good a job girl child did in rehearsal the evening before. We talked about the people who would be watching and how those same people saw her yesterday.  Then we talked about how it’s the bride who should be really nervous…and that girl child is leading the way for the bride to walk down the isle to marry her love. 

Then we remembered how they would kiss at the end! And how giggly that would make us (her)! It was after this little conversation that girl child whispered, “You know, Momma, I really did feel nervous and scared but I feel good now.”

takes her job seriouslyWe clamored into the car and drove to the wedding venue at which point I told girl child that her job for today had begun. She was to be helpful in all things where she could and then she would be the best flower girl in the whole world! Girl child did her job well. She was a helper. And she was friendly to all. She introduced herself to any guest she didn’t recognize and also talking with those she did know. 

She mingled, she helped, she delivered messages between the bride and groom. Whatever was asked of her, she happily obliged, bless her. This responsibility was so important to her and my buttons were bursting as I watched her be the flower girl as best as she could. 

When the time came, she got into line and waited until it was her turn to walk down the aisle. She made sure her little basket was ready. Her bouquet tucked into the side of the wicker of her basket and all her little loose flower petals ready to mark the path for the bride.

One deep breath and away she went…delicately walking, lightly dropping flower petals. Smiling. Thinking. Stepping. Dropping petals. That’s a lot to remember all at once. But it kept that fast-thinking brain occupied enough that it kept the worrying at bay. She did it. And she did her job well. 

At the end, I asked her what she thought of the day. She said, “Momma, I’m tired…but it sure was beautiful!”

It surely was!

takes her job seriously

Children, Family, Uncategorized

One Day She Will Roll Her Eyes At Me

one day she will roll her eyes at meWhen our first child was born, I remember looking down at her, in awe of her newness and so in love with this warm, wiggly little being. And I remember thinking that this beautiful gift from God would one day roll her eyes at me in frustration. I knew that day would come. Because she would grow and learn and develop her own opinions and thoughts about things.

And occasionally her thoughts would be in direct opposition to my thoughts. She would grow to want to be independent and the struggle between parents holding on and children wanting to let go would rage on, like a dance with all the delicacy of a bull in a china shop.

Fast forward to today. Girl child really likes to do things by herself. Not like baby girl does…spilling the cereal all over the table because she wanted to pour it herself but does not yet possess the fine motor skills to maintain accuracy when aiming for her cereal bowl. Girl child likes responsibility. She likes to do things that confirm she’s growing up. Like emptying the dishwasher herself, including the knives. She knows what’s been off limits to her until she’s old enough. And she wants to be old enough!

So, as she gains more and more independence, I wonder where I will fit in to her world. When she was fresh from God, I was completely in charge of everything for her. Now I reach into my pockets and hand over yet another thing I managed that she now can do for herself. Lord help me when she’s old enough to drive.

That’s kind of scary. Because at some point in her life, I won’t know where she is or what she’s doing. She’ll call me and check in (she better if she knows what’s good for her!). We will chat and catch up on all the stuff she’s been into. Maybe she’ll share heartbreak with me, but who knows. Maybe not. And then, she’ll hang up and go on with her life. Without me.

As we move further away from dependence, I try to remind her how family always sticks together. How we always look out for each other, no matter what. That her brother and sister are now and will forever be her closest and best friends. She will still roll her eyes every now and then but I’m trying to plant the seeds now so that later, when she needs the tree of support and faithful love and encouragement, she’ll find us all there.

 

 

 

Children, Family, parenting, Uncategorized

Don’t Cross The Line

Cross the lineEach child is uniquely different, with different personalities and different triggers to action. So what happens when your child is willfully disobedient or unruly? When they knowingly cross the line?

You’ll Break Your Tailbone!

helicopter parentRecently my little kids got roller skates! I discovered three pairs of skates at a thrift store that perfectly fit each kid. And they were the grow-with-me skates. All for the price of $9!! So I put the skates on the kids…8, 7 and 4 years old. I also made them wear their bike helmets. I never wore mine when skating, but I think the Earth’s gravitational pull is stronger now so the odds of the kids falling and busting their heads is significantly greater than when I was a kid.

Anyway…it became obvious really quickly that these kids were not good at skating. If you ever were unsure if you were a helicopter parent, put skates on your kids. You’ll find out where you stand really quickly! So, I established boundaries for skating. The kids couldn’t pass the first line in the driveway until they had become a little more proficient in not falling all over the place. Our driveway slopes upward so I was not about to let them up that hill until they showed me some skill.

Of course soon enough, girl child was a skating “pro” (not really…but she’s waaay better than she was) and boy child was completely out of control but for some reason never fell. Like ever. I’m not sure what was happening but it was almost like he couldn’t fall if he wanted to. He was a straight up mess of flailing arms and wildly kicking, rolling feet but his grin was huge and he always made it to his intended destination (the other side of the driveway into the grass). So I relaxed the rule a bit for them.

Baby girl? That was another story. She is not good at all with skating. Partly because she’s four and how good can you actually be at that age? Partly because she kept sitting down, goofing off, taking one skate off and just not getting any real practice time in. But as soon as she saw girl child and boy child crossing “the line” she wanted to cross the line as well.

Oh heck no, darling. No way in all of heck am I going to let you past that line. Are you kidding me? Have you seen yourself skate? She was not pleased that she couldn’t cross the line. So do you know what she spent the rest of skate time doing? Getting herself right up to the line and looking back at me with a sparkly eye while saying, “I’m gonna cwoss da line, Momma!”

Why would she do this? Why would she knowingly disobey me and why is she wanting to cross the line? Well, if you’ve met baby girl, you’ll know the force is strong in that one. She’s got a strong will that makes me wonder what we are going to do with her because all of our tried and true manipulation tactics do not work on this child.

So here’s the thing..and believe me when I say I’ve failed at this. Miserably. Yelling at a child like this will not make her want to change whatever she’s doing and do what it is that you want her to do. In fact, it thus becomes her mission to never do that thing you want her to do. Or conversely, she will try come hell or high water to do the thing you’ve yelled at her not to do. And this may or may not include skating past the line.

Manipulation- The Puppeetering of Childhood

We may have stumbled upon some things that work pretty good for this kind of child. I don’t claim to guarantee these will always work and maybe these are unique to baby girl. But here’s some things that we found to be effective:

  1. A distinct choice Not a crappy choice…she smells a bad deal a mile away. A good choice. Baby girl falls apart if she doesn’t get to sit next to Momma at a restaurant. Like big, loud, long-lasting fall apart. So…a trip to the bathroom to discuss options is in order. I squat down to her eye level and I ask her to quiet her cry. Then I ask her to take a breath…fill her lungs (she obliges). I tell her “here are your two options:” and I make sure to put up two fingers so she “sees” her options. “#1, you sit across from Momma now and it’ll be your turn to sit by me the next restaurant we go to. I’ll write it down. #2, we go home right now and you spend the rest of the afternoon in your room while girl child and boy child skate.” She gets to choose her fate. Now she’ll try to negotiate and I again list her two options. She’ll try to wind up her fit and I tell her the choices are gone, it’s time to go home. At this point in her young life, she can’t call my bluff so she starts yelling “No, Momma!” and I start the process over again. I give her the two choices. Once she resigns herself to choosing option 1, I tell her how proud I am of her and I ask her for a hug, which she really wants. While I hug her I tell her I’m so happy she will be across from me because I can look at her beautiful eyes when we talk. She suddenly likes this idea.
  2. “I need you to…OK?” I used to think asking a child “OK?” after I gave an instruction was a sign of weakness. But now I see it, at least for baby girl, as a way to empower her to be a part of what she’s about to do. Obviously I still manipulate the situation to produce the desired result, but she gets to actually agree “all by herself”. “Baby girl, I need you to help me set the table, ok?” or “Baby girl, I need you to pick up your books, ok?”. She usually responds favorably to this kind of request. But in the instances where she may balk, I sprinkle the request with a compliment: “Baby girl, You are always so good at helping out, I need you to help me set the table, ok?” Compliments go far with her…really far. She wants to do good. She wants to be noticed for doing what she is supposed to do. If she’s doing something she knows is good and we are a little slow to notice her, she’ll say, “Momma aren’t you so very pwoud of me?” This is the part that impresses me. She really does want to do the right thing. We’ve just got to convince her of what it is sometimes.
  3. Logic At least with Baby girl, she gets logic. She really understands it. The key is to keep it simple and attainable. So don’t threaten her with tossing all her clothes in the trash if she doesn’t put them away. That’s obviously not going to happen and it’ll reduce the credibility of your future logic arguments. Logic to baby girl looks like this: “Baby girl, I need you to put all of your markers away because I’m worried that puppy dog will get a hold of them and start chewing on them. I don’t want a marker to get stuck in her belly because she will get very sick!” Baby girl is loyal to her dog. That dog isn’t going down on her watch, no sir. That appeal to logic (or really emotion) sets baby girl in motion quickly.

Obviously, there’s much to consider with a determined child…this is just a sampling of what works for ours. We often think of how much of a challenge baby girl is, where it comes from, and how to dismantle it without breaking her spirit. There’s no one way to tackle this and it’s a moving target. The key is to adapt and adjust. I’ll reiterate what I said earlier…I have failed at all of this. But I’ve also had success. And it’s those successes that you build on.

Children, Family, Uncategorized

It’s Picture Day- I Must Paint My Face

Picture DayIt’s picture day. The day you clean your kids up, brush their hair, and press their clothes. You make it seem on print like they are cherubs who don’t break things, scrape knees, get dirty, or otherwise have kid fun whenever possible. Everyone knows this is true. And yet everyone does the same thing.

If you think about it, how often are your kids as clean and orderly as they are in the portrait hanging in your main hallway of your house? At least for us…it’s kind of never? Maybe Sunday for a few hours during church time.

Picture day should be letting kids do the very thing they were designed to to…kid things. Clean, dirty or whatever. Then when they’ve really gotten into their fun for the day, plop them on a little stool sitting in the middle of the very “creativity” they have made (read: mess) and take a really good quality portrait.

Slap it up on the wall, baby! That’s a memory. That’s the true essence of childhood.

Picture dayAnd yet here I am, thinking about the time ticking down before my kids’ scheduled picture day. I’m both impressed and mortified that baby girl decided this morning, of all days, to “play with make-up”. She smeared stamping ink all over her face. Today, of all days. It’s like her DNA code tells her that paint must be applied to her face because the energy of the universe indicates that a picture will be taken today.

I scrub baby girl’s face to the point where I can’t tell if I’m scrubbing off pink ink or irritating her skin. I make the kids brush their teeth for obvious reasons. Like quality brushing…the kind you make your kids do before their dentist appointment. You hope to fool the hygienist into believing that your kids brushed their teeth every single day like they’re supposed to. I don’t want to see last night’s pizza oregano nestled in between the two front big teeth of girl child.

Now I’ll brush their hair so it doesn’t look like the sweaty, stringy heap it does every other warm, sunny afternoon. I wipe their faces as if they don’t shove food into their mouths with such accuracy that the gooey sides of food don’t smear all over their cheeks. I save the clean clothes for the very last moment. And then bark out orders to quickly change clothes and for the love of Pete, don’t get into any messes!

We tip-toe to the car, not touching anything on the way. Don’t pick anything up, don’t run anywhere, don’t do anything. Just get into the car.

I try to manage all attitudes and interactions such that no one feels offended or slighted or anything else that causes one or all to burst into tears due to some obviously important injustice. You know, like the sun shining too much. Or the seat belt being too gray. And dear heavens do not let anyone fall asleep on the way to the picture studio.

Yes, picture day represents a completely accurate vision of childhood. It’s not at all a fictional version of my kids at any point in their little lives. If nothing else, it shows everyone what my kids look like under all their fun.

 

 

Children, Family, Holidays, Uncategorized

Top Ten Fall Activities for Families with Young Children

Fall is in the air! And you know what that means, right? It’s time to spend time together as a family. Making memories. Enjoying each other’s company…as a family. Together. All together. So, without further ado, here are our Top Ten Fall Activities for Families with Young Children!!

1. Go Apple-Picking

Top Ten Fall Activities for families with young childrenThis is such a fun activity, especially if you have children in the 3-5 year old bracket. Because you know apple trees are taller than your kids at this age. And you also know that they must do everything (EVERYTHING) themselves, right? So, be prepared to bust your back lifting your little kid into the air to get an apple from the tree. And also know they are not strong enough to pull the apple off themselves. So be prepared to then hold the child up in the air with one hand while being sneaky enough to pull the apple into the child’s hand without them knowing you actually picked the apple. Bonus points for getting mud or questionable poop-like material smeared on your shirt and pants from your kid’s shoes.

Top Ten Fall Activities for families with young children2. Play in a Pile of Leaves

Yes! A chore someone actually managed to turn into a “makin’ memories” thing. I think dads like this one the best. Because now dads have to get the rake out and start working up a sweat to bring enough leaves into a pile worthy of his kids jumping into it and literally undoing everything he’s just done. What’s even more special is when that awesome 3-5 year old age bracket wants in on the action and says, let’s all say it together, “I wanna do it myself!”. Hand over the oversized raked to the child and just pray you aren’t close enough to the window for the butt end of it to smash through as the child halfway maintains control while flinging the rake around and “raking leaves”. Bonus points for those of you who have two kids who want to do it themselves and only one rake.

Top Ten Fall Activities for families with young children3. Go to a Pumpkin Patch

These pumpkin patches are popping up everywhere these days. So to get this straight, I have to pay to walk around your garden to pick out my own pumpkin. Then I have to cut it from the vine and lug it all the way back to the “pumpkin hut” to pay top dollar for said pumpkin. (I know you’re over-charging me and I know it’s all part of the experience). Please know that kids only have to go to the bathroom after you are carrying a pumpkin under each arm. Bonus points for any bee stings that may occur in this activity (parents included) because bees just don’t care about your fall memories.

Top Ten Fall Activities for families with young children4. Pick out Halloween Costumes

Never mind the thousands of conversations with your kids that starts out with them saying, “You know what I’m gonna be for Halloween?”. And never mind that you must retain all the answers over the course of the prior six months when these conversations started. At last we are close enough to Halloween that you can reasonably assume that the costume your child wants now is the one he will want come October 31st. When you realize at the store that there are no more of his desired costumes, you must make a decision. Tell him and risk a meltdown or trek across town to another store and pray that the costume is there! Bonus points for the parent who buys the costume and whose child still manages to meltdown before exiting the store.

5. Visit a Fall Festival

Ah fall festivals…the crisp air, the jaunt into the country, the smell of cinnamon and pumpkin. The miles of traffic from similar-minded parents looking to etch memories into their kids’ heads if it kills them in the process. There’s nothing quite like underestimating the ability of your umbrella stroller on a gravel road that leads to a rocky path not built for strollers. Unless you’re trying to also hang an over-packed diaper bag from the handles completely not designed to hold a diaper bag. Bonus points for kids who have to go potty real bad but refuse to use a porta-potty.

6. Take a Walk on a Nature Trail

Top Ten Fall Activities for families with young childrenWhat a lovely way to take in autumn in all it’s splendor. Who are we kidding? Take a walk anywhere with little kids and it will result in a pile of “found things” that better all be present during inventory counting at the car. So the idea is to enjoy the nature walk…maybe see a deer or pretty birds? No, you’re going to carry one of your kids back to the car because she skinned her knee and it’s bleeding down her leg and onto your fall-inspired flannel shirt. Bonus points for the parent who has to retrace steps because somewhere along the way your child’s shoe fell off.

Top Ten Fall Activities for families with young children7. Make a Pie

Oh good grief…this is a mess. A hot mess. And someone will most likely get burned. Between “Let me do it!” and cracking an egg, be surprised if you end up with a pie at all. Little kid pies are like mystery prizes. There will be egg shells and a piece of sand or two, maybe some lint. Who knows. Upside is that the house will smell good because spices know their job and they always perform well. Bonus point to the parents who eat the pie.

8. Go for a Drive to See the Changing Leaves

Top Ten Fall Activities for families with young childrenNow this is a great excursion. The kids are contained and you can put some relaxing music on and just enjoy the scenery. Don’t worry, once you’re out on the windy roads and far away from civilization. It’ll hit you. The beauty of the changing leaves will overwhelm you. If not, the smell of the diaper from the back seat will do it. There’s nothing like the feeling of hopelessness when you realize the poop has leaked onto the carseat itself so that smell? It ain’t going anywhere any time soon. Bonus points to the kid who arrives back in town wearing a diaper and nothing else because Mom and Dad forgot to put new “emergency clothes” in the diaper bag after the last explosion.

Top Ten Fall Activities for families with young children9. Visit a Petting Zoo

A lot of petting zoos have fall activities that are perfect for little kids. Things like coloring contests, face painting and cotton candy. Plus all the adorable, fluffy animals that your kid is deathly afraid of and wants nothing to do with. I smell a photo-op!! One day we’ll all look back and laugh at the picture of junior sitting on dad’s lap literally scared to death at the helpless rabbit sitting on junior’s lap. Bonus point for dad laughing his tail off instead of consoling junior. Because that’s also in the picture!

10. Take the Kids to Grandma’s House and then Go To A Movie

Now here’s a fall activity I can really get my arms around. Parents, this is realistic. This is the activity that’s going to make everyone happy. Grandma can do a fall craft with the kids and they can make those memories while Mom and Dad go relax in the cool, dark movie theatre. Go ahead and get that large popcorn and enjoy yourself. When the kids are a little older and more self sufficient, you can make those memories with them. For now, build up your energy. Because you’re gonna need it when you get the kids from Grandma’s house. You know she’s going to stuff them with “yummy sweet fall treats”, right?

 

Children, Family, Uncategorized

Evening Tea

evening tea 8A few nights ago, our little girls wanted to have evening tea. They wanted some “girl time”. So I took it upon myself to use this precious occasion to blackmail them into baths that didn’t take forever to get started, drag on incessantly and leave the bathroom floor a wet mess.

Yes I did.

Now I know what you’re thinking. “Why in the world would you have the girls get cleaned up with baths and then give them spillable tea?!” I do not know. Really…I do not know what I was thinking other than I took an opportunity to forego a wet bathroom floor and a frustrating overall bath time by using good old fashioned blackmail.

Evening Tea2 Evening Tea3 evening tea 9

So after a splendid and efficient bath time, I held up my end of the bargain and prepared the girls’ tea time. The girls were so excited and started talking to each other about proper tea drinking technique. Like raising your pinky finger and sipping slowly. Putting the cup down gently and saying “that’s just lovely” and stuff like that. The water finished boiling and the girls picked out their tea flavor…they both chose peach tea. They started steeping their tea bags and I added some sugar to their cups. If I left it to them, there would be so much sugar that you’d be able to eat the tea instead of drink it!

Evening tea 10At that point, I left the girls to their “girl time” at the kitchen island. The girls started chatting about little girl things, pretty things, fancy things, etc. And they were giggling a bit, just enjoying each other’s company. And then…things started going south. Because what starts out as a cute, sweet moment with little giggles often turns into excessive silliness and little kid disgusting jokes. My sweet girls…making each other laugh by making farting noises and picking their noses.

It’s funny, you picture these Norman Rockwell moments with your kids. Then they go and act like regular kids and completely pop that bubble of perfection in a way that only little kids can do. Sometimes we want perfection and that’s just not how kids are made. They are made to be silly and funny. They certainly are made to remind us cranky adults to stop and enjoy little things for what they are…a bunch of farting, nose-picking silly girls just enjoying some evening tea. What’s not to love about that?!

 

Family Finances, Personal Finance, Uncategorized

Spend or Save?

money bagThe age-old question…to spend or save? It’s so hard to save and so easy to spend! But what do you do when you have over-spent yourself into debt? What do you do if you aren’t finance-minded and you aren’t good with numbers? Is there a way to manage your money so that you can be responsible and prepared even though numbers just aren’t your thing? I think the answer is yes! (NOTE: This post may contain affiliate links)

Before we get started, be sure you know that I am not a financial counselor! I am a mom and a wife with twenty+ years experience managing my money. I found something that works for me so I’m sharing it with you. So take a read and see if it sounds like something you’re interested in trying.

Where to start?

save money houseSo, your finances aren’t looking all that pretty and you just want the madness to stop but you don’t know where to begin. First, you have to take inventory. This isn’t pretty and it hurts to put it all down on a piece of paper in front of you. But you have to do it. It’s ugly but it’s necessary. Make a list of all of your necessary expenses. By “necessary” at this point I mean that these are the bills that are due every month. These are all the vendors to whom you owe money:

  • Mortgage or rent
  • Electric, water, cable, phone, etc
  • Credit card(s)
  • Student loan
  • Car payment
  • Insurance, etc

What you owe other people. Get all of this written down on a list…an ugly list- the names and the monthly amounts due.

Now, for the really hard part…you need to look at your bank statement and any credit cards that you actively use over the course of a month and write down your expenses along with the general category those expenses would fall under. So, things like:

  • Groceries
  • Eating out
  • Gasoline
  • Clothing
  • Entertainment, etc.

If you pay a vendor from your first list with one of these accounts, don’t list that expense because you already did earlier. This list is for all the “extra” stuff you pay. The things you buy, the things you enjoy, the things that you eat.

In front of you should be all the things that bleed you dry each month. It’s not pretty, but it’s reality. Now, how do you get control over this?

Assess the damage

debt credit cardsLet’s leave the first list alone for now and look at the second list. There’s lots to talk about here, isn’t there? All that eating out, coffee in the morning, that new pretty dress? None of it’s necessary. Going out for lunch every work day? Nope…not necessary. Beautifully manicured nails? Unless you’re a hand model, nope. It’s not necessary. This list is a great opportunity to change. But you have to really want to do this or it just won’t work. You’ve got to cross out every unnecessary item from this list and only buy things that are planned.

Now, let’s head back to that first list. This might sting a bit…but bear with me. Cable? You know it’s not necessary, right? Sorry. Your cell phone plan? You don’t need a huge data plan. You really don’t. Your electric bill…you don’t need to keep your house at 70F…you can bump it up to 73F. Really take a look at those mandatory expenses because there’s places to trim.

Like I said, it’s going to be tough but it can be done. We’ve been without cable for close to five years now. We use an Amazon Fire (if you buy it using this link, I’ll get a little payment but don’t worry…your price doesn’t go up. Help me out!) along with a Hulu and a Netflix subscription. Even better, we purchased the Amazon Fire using American Express points we had collected.

We use our American Express card for all budgeted purchases (groceries, gas, etc.) so that we can get the points for those purchases. This card is paid in full every single month so there’s no debt carry-over. (It’s a method that takes a huge amount of discipline and even still, we fall short at times so beware if you are considering using a credit card to carry all of your monthly expenses.)

Search through all of your expenses to find ways to eliminate payments you have to make.You’ll need to make some tough decisions, but once you take the plunge on swapping the expensive comforts in your life with more economical ones you’ll adjust quickly. You’ll probably even feel better about how you are spending your time, too!

Take the next step toward controlling your money

Now that you’ve faced the ugly that’s been lurking in your checkbook, let’s get down to business on organizing your finances. You need a way to watch your money but you aren’t into budgeting, you aren’t a numbers person, etc. That’s fine. You still need to meet your obligations and you also need to start saving as well as paying down debt. This is the biggest area where people fail in their money management. It’s the failure to see that even though you have money right now, that it’s not necessarily “spendable”. You’ve got obligations down the road that you need to consider before you spend that extra money now.

So how do you do it? You’ve got to find something that works for you, first and foremost. The biggest issue I see with folks I’ve helped over the years is that I can throw solutions their way all day long. But if the method doesn’t click with them, they will not succeed in managing their money. So you have to find something that works for you. It can be an app, a help guru or old fashioned pencil and paper. You can even use the tried and true envelope system!

What we’ve done (I’ll preface this part by saying I’m a huge numbers girl!) is utilize Microsoft Excel to show us how our money moves through a dynamic budget. That means a budget that’s constantly responding to current changes in our spending. So we can see a year from now what our money is doing, what we need, what we can safely pay off, etc. We can see how an expense now affects our goals in the future. Whatever method you choose, it has to be something you’re comfortable using and one that you’ll stick with.

Save or pay off debt?

I think most financial counselors will say the same thing. Manage your debt until you have successfully saved $1,000 as an emergency fund. Then go after debt, smallest first and snowball into bigger debt. What that means is once you’ve paid off the first debt, use the money you used to pay each month to the debt that’s no longer there and add it to the next debt you’re starting to work on. The snowball effect is that you’ll have more money to throw at each bigger debt as you pay off the smaller ones. It’s tough work, it requires a ton of patience and discipline but it’s completely possible to accomplish.

Sign-up To Access Free Budget Tool!

budget tool mainCreating an elaborate budget can be kind of complicated for someone who’s not all that into Excel and formulas, so I thought I would create a little tool to help you manage your month- just one paycheck at a time. In essence, you’re living paycheck to paycheck but this little tool also shows you when you can and when you shouldn’t move money to savings. The key for this to work for you is to be honest and complete with your answers. You can subscribe here and once you’ve confirmed your subscription, you can work through this mini-lesson called ‘The Little Budget Tool That Could’ on budgeting using the tool (you’ll need to have MS Excel in order to use it since it is a spreadsheet).

Basically this will take you through a quick set-up of your month. Then it’ll give you a place to put what actually happens in the course of a month next to what you planned, so you can see how you did compared to your budgeted amounts by category. At the end of your pay period (if you entered your information correctly) it will tell you if you can move some money into savings and if so, how much you can safely move.

The tool will also tell you how much you need to hold on to so you can be prepared for the rest of the month. So if you have some money left over in one pay check but you have a lot of expenses due in the next pay check, the tool will not tell you to move money into savings since you’ll need it to help you pay the next pay period’s expenses.

It’s a simplistic approach to living within your paycheck and your month while still allowing you to start saving. Once you have your goal amount in savings, you can then start working on paying down your debt using the snowball effect I mentioned above.

If you’re ready to get serious about your finances, give this mini-lesson a try and use the budget tool. You may find that you’re able to make headway toward financial stability.

Good luck to you on your financial journey!

 

Children, Family, Uncategorized

Spiritual Conversation Prompts with Your Kids

Heaven's GatesIt’s an interesting thing to have a conversation with kids about spirituality. Sometimes we put our over-thinking onto our kids when they don’t have that issue. Younger kids take things at face value. They aren’t puzzled by unexplainable things to the extent that older kids and grown ups are. I have conversations with my kids as they show interest in a topic and only take it as far as their curiosity does. That is, give them information until they are satisfied and then leave the topic until another questions arises. So, I’ve put together some of our spiritual conversation prompts that really get the kids’ thinking juices bubbling:

1. What do you think Heaven looks like?

This is a great conversation and we’ve had many creative ideas of what Heaven looks like. I usually pause to allow my kids to envision the best, prettiest, most perfect place they can imagine. We talk about how there’s no tears in Heaven, how it’ll always be happy and beautiful. That we’ll see God and that we’ll get to talk to Jesus. The possibilities are endless. Outside of keeping the ideas aligned with perfection, I just let them imagine and describe what they imagine. I can’t say for sure if they’re right or wrong and I tell them I don’t know. And that’s OK to not know. The kids don’t seem to mind at all.

Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. Revelation 21:2.

2. How are God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit Three and also One?

This is such an interesting question as an adult, let alone as a child. All through this conversation with the kids, at the end of the day, we don’t know for absolutely sure how this is possible. What I like to put out there for the kids to think about is that somethings of God are so outside of our ability to think through. And that’s ok. We’ll find out for sure when we get to Heaven. In the meantime, how I explain the trinity to my young kids is that the three operate as one- God. God the Father…always been, always is and always will be. God the Son- Jesus, who died for us and is our defender. He’s our filter. God looks at us through Jesus. And God the Holy Spirit- the Holy Spirit is the “mover”. He’s the action of God. So- distinctly three and yet one. And it’s ok if you can’t get your mind around it.

Yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live. 1 Corinthians 8:6

3. How does God hear all of our prayers?

This is a good question that really causes us to realize how powerful God really is. When you start to dissect the impossibility of it (in the realm of humans), that’s when the awe sets in. God never sleeps, He hears every prayer. How is this possible?! How many people are there on Earth? And how many prayers are being prayed at any given time? The Bible tells us that God hears every prayer:

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers of the people offered in this place. (II Chronicles 7:14-15)

Hearing a prayer is not the same as answering a prayer. And sometimes the answer is not the one that we want.  Now, this is a good segue into the next question.

4. Why does God sometimes not answer our prayer the way we want?

This is kind of tough question and it’s a great opportunity to teach the kids that God is not a genie waiting to grant them their every wish. God won’t give you a million dollars because you ask for it. The Bible says “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.- James 4:3”.

So the motive to just have money is the wrong motive. Asking God to help you find resources to further His Kingdom would be a more appropriate prayer. And even then, the answer God gives is one that is perfect in His plan, though it might not be the answer we want or expect. And that’s OK!!

5. Why do bad things happen to good people?

This question is a really difficult one and it’s one that grown-ups have trouble understanding. When I talk to my kids about this, I want them to understand that God isn’t behind the bad things happening to good people, Satan is. We live in a fractured creation (I love this description!) and because of the sin of the world, perfection isn’t here. Thinking of how big God is and how small we actually are, I remind my children that in the end God wins. God wins! Time in God’s realm is so much bigger than our time here on Earth. A day to Him is a thousand years to us. So, His plan isn’t finished yet. The bad things that happen aren’t the end. God’s plan isn’t finished yet. Until the day that God rights things, we have to live with sin and choose every single day to look toward God and to choose Him! His plan for us is secure far beyond the things of Earth.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11

6. How did God make everything in six days?

Easy!! He’s God! This is a fun topic that doesn’t require too much technicality because kids’ imaginations allow them to see the “impossibility” as almost magical. And that’s ok. God made man out of the dust of the Earth. So he can literally do anything. And yes, in six days. Six mornings and six evenings. As we talk about the fantastical aspects of this, we move easily into how detailed God was in every single thing he created. How each thing is necessary to the other thing. Everything on Earth is connected and God created it that way.

You alone are the LORD You have made the heavens, The heaven of heavens with all their host, The earth and all that is on it, The seas and all that is in them You give life to all of them And the heavenly host bows down before You.- Nehemiah 9:6

7. What will it look like when Jesus comes back?

Sometimes I’ll ask my kids this question when we see a remarkably beautiful sunset. You know what I’m talking about. The sunset with the humongous fluffy white clouds and the sun majestically outlining the clouds with fiery yellow. Sun rays beaming across the sky. This must be what it’ll look like when Jesus comes back! It’s a good starter for talking about what the kids imagine Jesus return will look like. And it usually leads to other conversation about how no one knows when he’ll return, about how we should always be ready for Him, and about how beautiful he will look when he comes to get us. My kids always think of this return as joyous and exciting. It’ll be unmistakable…it’ll be loud and everyone will see it!

Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him. Revelation 1:7

8. How come I can’t hear God?

God wants us to get to know Him and we can do that through the Bible. His spoken word is in the Bible and though we can’t hear Him audibly right now, we can hear Him through His word. The scripture- parables, instructions, lessons and testimonies- all have the voice of God. We can “hear” God, but we have to listen differently than with our ears. As we study God’s Word, we will get to know Him. Keep studying and keep learning.

God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son . . . Hebrews 1:1-2

Family Finances, Personal Finance, Uncategorized

Top Ten Money Saving Ideas

top ten money saving ideas(This post may contain affiliate links.) So you’re on the way to managing your money but maybe you just need some extra cash. Or you’re still kind of struggling a bit and need to pay your rent with money you don’t seem to have.

No judgment here…for those times when you need to wring out some extra money from your budget, here are a few ways to find some extra money. In fact, it’s our top ten money saving ideas!

1. Buy store brand instead of name brand

Some people seem to think store brand stuff is nasty or maybe they’re just loyal to the brands they grew up on. Not this gal…show me a low price and I will show you the way to my grocery cart. And with store brand, there’s often a 10 for $10 deal, buy 1 get 2 free or something similar. (Side note…10 for $10 doesn’t mean you have to buy 10 to get the deal. You can buy 3 for $3.) So yes, as a matter of fact I will buy you, store brand items and all your little friends who qualify to jump in the cart for free!

2. Buy meat from the grocery store in bulk, then portion and package it for the freezer

top ten savingWhile we’re hanging out at the grocery store, let’s head on over to the meat section. Sometimes there’s big piles of meat or fish that’s discounted because it’s almost at it’s freshness date or sell-by date. I’m looking at you, big long piece of sockeye salmon!! Sell by tomorrow? Ha! By this time tomorrow, you’ll be cut up into serving sizes encased in a freezer burn-safe, vacuum sealed bag thanks to my FoodSaver (which you can buy by clicking here…if you do, I’ll get a little payment but don’t worry, your price doesn’t go up!) This works great for hamburger meat, fish, chicken…whatever. Get a deal, cut it up, vacuum seal it and freeze it!

3. Consignment shops for kids clothes (also try selling kids clothes and gear you don’t use anymore!)

save money clothingI can’t say enough about consignment shops…whether they be year-round stores or pop-up spots like at a church, consignment shopping is the way to go. Imagine paying about $2.99 for a shirt instead of $7 for a child who, let’s face it, is going to smear spaghetti down the front of it. Plus, it’s only going to fit for maybe a single season? Yes, consignment shops…YES!!! Plus, your kid won’t look exactly like everyone else because everyone else shops at all the same places. How many times do I see a little girl wearing a pink shirt with a print of a dog wearing smart glasses and that says “Smarty Pants” across the top?

Consignment shops are also a good place to offload the crap your kids don’t fit or use anymore. Strollers? High Chairs? Bouncy things? Clothing (if it doesn’t look like it’s been through a disaster area)? Those adorable shoes you bought but your kid refuses to wear because they don’t have enough blue on them? Sell it!! You’ll get on average 1/4 of the value of similar items but that’s 1/4 more than you had before you sold it. Bonus: you get extra space in your house!!

4. Can I get that at the Dollar Store??

That’s right…the Dollar Store. A mecca of random crap that, if you plan right, can help you shave money off your grocery bill, your birthday party budget, or your organization attempt spending in general. They always have gift wrap, little kids party paper supplies, goodie bag items, decorations, gift boxes, fake flowers, craft supplies…if you can dream a party, Dollar Store can probably (mostly) make it happen for you. Most of my decorations for my daughter’s recent Tea Party birthday party  came from Dollar Store.

You can also get things like Halloween candy and supplies, dish towels, seasonal items, Christmas decorations, kids puzzles, coloring books, school supplies…the list is endless. Don’t forget about Dollar Store when you’re about to buy stuff. Always ask yourself, “Can I get that at the Dollar Store?” Make it your mantra. Save some cash!

5. Eat at home…use a meal plan and stick to it.

save money eat at homeI cannot stress this enough. Write out what you’re gonna eat for every meal for the week. This helps in several ways, actually. First, you’ve got a game plan that keeps you from saying, “I have no idea what to make for dinner. Eh…let’s just go out to eat.” This is a money suck. You know this. If you have a menu planned and you find yourself saying, “I have no idea what to make for dinner. Eh…let’s just go out to eat.”, you’ll be able to say, “Oh wait, let me look at my handy-dandy menu plan and see what’s for dinner.”

Using a meal plan also gives you a list of what to buy at the grocery store. And this keeps you from buying crap you don’t actually need. Like pumpkin spice snack cakes. So you’re saving money by not going out to eat and you’re saving money by having a game plan when you head to the grocery store. Stick to your meal plan, stick to your budget!

6. Pack your lunch for work.

save money sandwichThat’s right…pack your lunch. You spend anywhere from $8- $15 a day for lunches plus you’re driving your gas-guzzling sport utility to the restaurant and back. A loaf of bread, a package of sliced cheese and a package of deli meat…$9. $9 for the week. Not $75 plus gas money for the week. Heck, you can even dress that sandwich up with mayo, lettuce and tomato. If you’re tight on time, see if you can get one of your kids to make your sandwich. That’s what I do and the kids are happy to “get to make” Momma’s sandwich. That’s right, I’ve somehow stumbled upon making them actually WANT to make my sandwich for me. I know…it’s only a matter of time but I’ll take the help while I can.

Bonus Tip: Make your “morning ride into work” coffee at home. You can even be all organized and crap by setting your coffee pot the night before to start brewing that liquid energy so it’s just waiting for you to pour it into your adorable, REUSABLE (saving money here, too!) coffee travel mug! Look Ma, no hands! I’m being efficient and frugal!!

7. Coupons! Paper and digital. Strategize on sales and BOGO opportunities to stock your pantry (don’t go nuts, though!)

groceriesOk, let me just say I’m not looking for you to be the next extreme guru. But coupons are important in the grocery money-saving strategy. Firstly, it’s just leaving money on the table to not take advantage of coupons for things you normally buy. Secondly, most grocery stores double coupons up to $.50 so there’s even more incentive to try using coupons. Coordinate your coupon usage with store sales to rake in even more discounts and deals on the products you buy. Consider buying more than you need in an effort to stock your pantry. Now, I don’t mean stock your pantry in such as way that you park your car in the driveway because your garage is now your “pantry”. Moderation is key…but having some extra stock on hand is good.

Also, now that we are in the digital era, don’t forget digital coupons! There are some grocery stores that have apps that include their own store-wide coupons that you can load onto your frequent shopper card. Do that! You don’t even need to mess with a newspaper or scissors. Clip coupons while you’re on the potty if you can’t find other time to do it. It’s saved money! Plus, using digital coupons and a frequent shopper card enables the store to see what you like and what you don’t like. Once you move past the invasiveness of this data transfer, you’ll come to realize that the store is now sending you “best customer” coupons and literally every coupon they send is one you can use!

8. If you go out to eat, only do it with a coupon and order water for your drink.

This one’s an interesting one. We started doing this and it really does make a difference! Only go with a coupon. It may be a free cheese dip at your favorite Mexican restaurant. It may be a free combo when you buy a combo. Whatever, it’s saved money. Sometimes you “have to” go out to eat…like with the in-laws, with church friends who want to “after-glow”…sometimes it’s just necessary. At least save while you spend. Use a coupon!

Also…get water. I’m telling you, the biggest restaurant racket is the drink situation. Soda actually only costs like $.10 but that restaurant is charging you $2.99…at least! What the crap?! Get water. It’s free. Our family of five saves almost $15 by drinking the liquid intended for hydrating our bodies. If you want to be a rebel…bring along a water flavor and use that in your FREE water.

9. Turn off the lights, bump up the thermostat, unplug unused appliances

save money houseI can still hear my dad upon coming home from a long day of work. Coming home to literally every light on in the house. “You got the place lit up like a Christmas tree, for crying out loud! Turn some of the lights off!” I can now hear myself saying The.Same.Thing. to my family.

Turn off the lights!!!!! I understand his irritation.

Especially when I am taking trash to the garbage can, which is conveniently located next to the electric meter for the house. I see that little wand spinning and spinning and pinning…Make it stop!! well, you can’t make it stop but you sure can slow it down. Turn off lights when you’re leaving the room. Bump up the thermostat a few degrees. It’s just a few degrees…you can handle it. Unplug appliances you aren’t using…believe it or not, there’s a little bit of juice flowing and just being wasted on those items. Your coffee pot tells time…that’s great. So does the stove top, so does the microwave, so does the phone in your pocket and the watch on your wrist. Unless you’re using the coffee pot for it’s timed brew feature, unplug it.

10. Look at all your existing subscriptions and ditch the ones you don’t use. Hello Barnes and Noble??

Are you using your gym membership? lol probably not. Ditch it! Barnes and Noble? When was the last time you bought an actual book? Does that membership save you enough money to justify having it? Because otherwise it’s just like flushing $25 a year down the toilet. How’s that Netflix membership? You actually using it? If not, let it go. Do you have a monthly subscription to a premium job finding service to help you find that awesome job that you never find? Time to cancel it. $5  here, $7 there…it starts to add up. Really inventory all the money leaks in your budget and patch them up where you can. Keep what you need, ditch the rest. You won’t miss it, I promise.

So, there you go. Some ideas to get your cheapskate juices flowing. Look for money that’s not being spent wisely and take it back. You’ll start to notice it in your budget, the more you find. And the more you find, the more you can keep. Save it! Put it in a safe place and watch it start to grow. You’ll love the feeling of success, no matter how small.

Happy saving!

 

Do you have any smart saving ideas to share? Let us know in the comments!