Thursday, August 26, 2010

Welcome, Webinar Friends!

I want to say a big "welcome" to those of you who may be visiting my blog for the first time as a result of today's HomeschoolBlogger webinar.  I'm so glad you are here, and I hope you will be blessed by your time here.

Since I talked about my battle with depression today, and since I had many comments and questions about depression, medication, etc., I wanted to direct you to this post that I wrote almost three years ago.  It goes more in-depth in regards to my battle with depression, and I hope it may answer some of the questions some of you had.

I will review the chat log from the webinar and do a few Q&A posts to address some of the other questions that were brought up during our time together.  Feel free to leave comments or questions here as well, and I'll do my best to address them!

Blessings to all of you!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Upcoming Webinar

If you are a homeschool mom (or any other mom, for that matter!) feel free to join us Thursday for another webinar sponsored by HomeschoolBlogger.com.  You can go here to get all the information and to register.  I will be doing the preshow presentation--Who's Going to Take Care of Mom?--for the webinar entitled "Think Biblically, Live Godly, and Serve Practically."

It's free, so please join us!!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Q & A

After speaking during the homeschool webinar Tuesday, I know there were some questions that went unanswered.  I have looked over the chat log from the class, and I'm going to take some time over the next few posts to answer some of those questions.  Some of the questions I answered during the webinar, but I'd like to expand on them a bit, too.  I'd love to hear comments from you guys about these topics as well!

1.  How do you handle the pressures of people at church wanting you to volunteer during the school year?

What exactly makes people think that because we homeschool, then we must have all this extra time on our hands?  Because, after all, we are at home all day!  I don't know why that misconception exists, but it is exactly that--a misconception with a capital M!

There are some lessons in life that take me longer to learn than others--and this is one of them.  Being the preacher's wife, combined with my natural inclincation to want to please people makes this difficult for me.  But I have finally come to a point in life where I am very much at peace over Who it is I serve and live life for.  If I make decisions prayerfully, based on what I feel God calling me to do, then I let the other pressures roll off my back.  It is the Lord Jesus Christ whom I serve and will have to answer to someday.  If I say "yes" to every volunteer opportunity that comes my way, then I will have to say to the Lord, yes, I did neglect my children in order to serve in the church.  I don't think that is what God has in mind for us as moms.

After following the authority of God and then our husbands, I believe our calling as a mom is the next most important thing in our lives.  Carrying that calling out may look differently in all of our lives, but it still remains the most important.  And if I am being asked to head up this committee or teach this Sunday School class, and it leads to the detriment of my children, my answer needs to be "NO."  I don't need to feel bad about saying no, because by saying no to that opportunity, I am saying yes to my children.  That doesn't mean everyone in the church will understand.  But at the end of the day, I need to lay my head on my pillow in peace, and if my decisions have been made based on what I perceive as God's will for my life, then I can feel good about that.

I'm sure you've all heard the quote that if the Devil can't make you bad, he'll make you busy.  I truly believe that is one of Satan's strategies for getting us off course.  If we have said yes too many times, and we are running every which way but loose, something is desperately out of order and we will not be effective in any of the areas we are attempting to juggle.

I believe we also have to keep in mind that we go through different seasons in life, and there may come a season when we CAN say yes to more of those opportunities that come our way.

2.  Do you limit how many extra activities each child participates in?

Absolutely, YES!  This is one area that can really get me going.  I can't tell you how many times I heard this from parents this summer:  "I thought things would slow down since it's summer, but it's only gotten busier!"  Then to hear them tell of all they have going and how many activities each of their children is enrolled in for summer makes me utterly exhausted!  I had to bite my tongue many times to not say, "It's your own fault for being that busy!!"

Mark and I are very much in agreement that our children do not need to be involved in every extracurricular activity under the sun.  We believe our time together as a family is more important than how many activities they attend each week.  Our son is extremely athletic, but we still have not enrolled him in any kind of organized sport and don't plan to anytime soon--simply because we don't think it's necessary, especially this early in the game (no pun intended!).  Our family eats lunch AND dinner together 98% of the time, and I want to keep it that way.  Statistics prove an abundance of benefits simply from your family eating dinner together every night.  The more extracurricular activities you involve yourselves in, the more you are eating away at your time together (wow, I'm on a roll with these puns--and they are truly not intended!  They just keep coming out!).

You ask about pressure from others?  This is the area I get it in more than any other area.  There is a member of our church that I come in contact with frequently because of this person's occupation.  It has almost become comical (when it's not making me angry!) the comments I receive EVERY TIME I am in contact with this person when my children are present.  There is always some kind of comment about what sport is Benjamin playing (none, outside of the front yard with his Daddy), or just how long do you plan to homeschool (forever, thank you), or don't you know homeschoolers are in for a rude awakening when they go off to college (are you kidding me???), etc. etc. etc.  I have to laugh or else it makes me angry and makes me not want to be around this particular person.  But once again, we feel we are following God's calling in the life of our family, and we are 100% at peace with the decisions we are making for our children--regardless of how unpopular those decisions may be with others.  No, we don't do what "everyone else is doing", but God doesn't call us to make popular decisions or to follow the crowd for the sake of following the crowd.

More Q&A to follow!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

HomeschoolBlogger.com Webinar

I was extremely blessed to be a presenter this afternoon for a webinar hosted by HomeschoolBlogger.com.  For those of you who were a part of the webinar today, here are the scriptures and quotes I used throughout my presentation:

John F. Kennedy:  "There are risks and costs to a program of action, but they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable in-action."

Psalm 33.11:  "But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations."

Proverbs 19.21:  "Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails."

Proverbs 16.3:  "Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed."

Kathy Peel (Desperate Households):  "If you knew you had only a year to live, how would you spend your time and what would you change about the way you run your home and life?"

Proverbs 13.4:  "The sluggard craves and gets nothing, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied."

Ralph Waldo Emerson:  "Finish every day and be done with it.  You have done what you could.  Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can.  Tomorrow is a new day."

Colossians 3.23:  "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men."

2 Timothy 1.7:  "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline."

Henri J.M. Nouwen:  "We move through life in such a distracted way that we do not even take the time and rest to wonder if any of the things we think, say or do are worth thinking, saying or doing."

James 1.5:  "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him."

Isaiah 42.16:  "I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth.  These are the things I will do;  I will not forsake them."

As I promised during the presentation, I will also be posting some sample lists of life skills for you to review.  I am also going to go through the chat box script as soon as I can and answer questions that I was not able to answer during the presentation.  Give me a few days, but be sure and check back soon!  Thanks for being a part of today's webinar--it was a joy for me to be a part of it!  Aren't The Old Schoolhouse and the HomschoolBlogger amazing??

Friday, August 13, 2010

Are You in the Coupon Camp?

I am.  Not everyone "coupons."  But I do.  Why, you may ask?

1.  Last week I saved $18 using coupons during my weekly trip to the grocery store.
2.  This week, I saved $38 using coupons and taking advantage of "Buy One, Get One Free" specials in the meat department during my weekly trip to the grocery store.  $38!!!

If you have held the opinion in the past that couponing isn't worth it, I think those two facts will prove that it is!

You may be saying, "Well, if you buy enough, sure you can eventually save that much."  My weekly budget (for our family of four) for the grocery store is $170, and that amount includes toiletries, cleaning supplies, and other household goods--basically, everything we need is taken care of in this one trip.  We live in a small town (less than 8,000 people), and other than the grocery store, we have no shopping options, like Wal Mart or Walgreens--only a small Alco that normally cannot compete with the prices at the grocery store.  My $170 budget is a little higher than some other budgets I've seen for similarly-sized families who attempt to live frugally, and we can get by on less, but I allow a small cushion in there to give me the ability to stockpile, or buy extras, of items that are on a really good sale.  This saves me money in the long run because I am purchasing them at their lowest price. 

If we lived in a much larger city where there was more competition and stores available, I have no doubt that I could trim that budgeted amount even more.  Also if we lived in a much larger city, the coupon selection in the Sunday papers would be better as well.  I know this for a fact after a recent trip I took to Houston.  On the way home, during my layover in Dallas, I purchased a Dallas Morning News to take home to my hubby, who loves reading it.  Since it was a Sunday, I got the benefit of having the coupon flyers in that paper.  As I was clipping the coupons from those flyers as well as the flyers in our local paper, I noticed that there were much better coupons available in the Dallas paper.

So, how do I coupon?  For starters, I save the coupon inserts from the Sunday newspaper and clip those coupons that are for items that we will use.  This is key--you can't just clip all coupons and buy any item, thinking you are getting a bargain, if it's not something your family uses anyway.  I also get coupons online from Red Plum, Smart Source, and Coupons.com.  After clipping the coupons I need, I file them by product name in a file box that has AtoZ dividers in it. 

I started this system a few years ago and have found it to be more efficient and effective than using the coupon files that are divided by category.  Different systems work for different people, and the AtoZ dividers work best for me.

Now, I don't just go to the store, buying up all the products that I have coupons for.  I save the coupons until that item is on sale.  By combining a sale price with a coupon, you are getting the most bang for your buck.  I do try to keep an eye on my file box, though, because there are times that the items don't go on sale before the coupon expires, and if the coupon is good enough, it is worth it to go ahead and purchase the item and use the coupon, rather than losing that good coupon discount.

One thing I have learned over the years of trying to trim our spending is that just because an item is in the weekly sale flyer does not mean it is a good sale!  I now keep a small notebook that is again divided into AtoZ categories where I can keep track of the best prices for the items we purchase. 

This may sound very time consuming, but really it is not.  The day the sale flyer comes out in the paper (Wednesdays for us), I grab my notebook and pen and take ten minutes max, and jot down the prices for the items in the flyer that we purchase.  This way I can see which items are really on a good sale and which ones are not.  It's amazing when you start tracking prices how many items are not really on sale that much, even though they are in the sale flyer.  I also note in my notebook the dates that the items are on their best sale price.  Then I can track how often they are at that price, which helps me even further with planning.  You'll also notice that I also do price per ounce on some of the items, which is often necessary to determine what the best buy truly is.

After receiving the weekly sale flyer and noting which items are on sale at the best prices, I then make my menu for the coming week, based on those products.  It is at this time that I pull out all the coupons I can use to combine with the sale prices and put them in the front of my file box.  (Yes, I always take my coupon file box with me to the grocery store.  I also keep my grocery list clipped to a clipboard to make it easier to deal with in the store.  Just call me the "grocery store nerd.")

I am amazed at the comments I get from the checkout personnel at the grocery store when I hand them all my coupons.  Many of them tell me how they love couponers, but how few of them there really are.  The girl who checked me out last week told me she checks out maybe ONE person PER WEEK that uses coupons!!  Really??  I could not believe that few people use coupons!!!  On many instances the checkout person is a young lady, and I really hope I am an example to her of the benefits of using coupons, because I know way too many of those young ladies are single moms living on a very limited budget.

I've heard many people say they don't have time to do coupons.  I usually clip coupons on Sundays after I've read the paper.  It's usually when I'm watching golf or some other sport with Mark, and I can be productive while watching TV.  I can clip and file them in less than 30 minutes (I know I could be more efficient if I weren't watching TV at the same time!  :o)  Then it takes ten minutes or less to jot down the sale prices in my notebook, and then less than that amount to pull out the coupons I need to use for that trip to the store.  So in way less than an hour I can accomplish this.  And to be able to save $18 or $38 each week?  It's way worth it to me.  Do you know what that $18 could buy?  When you stop to think about it, it's a lot!

I will also say this:  I buy very few convenience and pre-packaged foods.  We eat out very little, so I cook for us almost every day.  I buy lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.  My experience has been overall that the more healthy you try to eat, the more expensive the foods are.  Thus the need for couponing and tracking sale prices.  I've always thought it was such an injustice that the most unhealthy foods in the grocery store are the cheapest.  That is just too bad, especially in this day and age when the economy stinks, people are having to watch their budgets like never before, and obesity is a growing epidemic.  They want to spend as little as possible, but yet those are the foods that the worst for them.

For me, couponing is a fun challenge, almost a game.  I get this crazy excitement inside on Wednesday mornings when I get the paper and pull out the sale flyer for the week.  I know, I'm weird.  But the challenge of seeing how much I can save each week and how many groceries I can come home with and still stay within out budget is fun to me! 

Go ahead, try it!  And be sure and let me know how you do!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Thought to Ponder

This gave me a huge WOW moment when I read it printed on the page of my journal this morning, so I wanted to share it.  Maybe it will give you something to ponder...

"Use what talent you possess--the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those that sang best." 
--Henry Van Dyke

Friday, August 6, 2010

Date with Benjamin

I had such a fun day today.  I had a date with my soon-to-be seven-year-old, Benjamin!  We spent the day shopping for his birthday party, eating lunch at Jason's Deli (by his choice--because you get free ice cream!), and running a few errands.

We are trying really hard to teach both our children how to handle money in a responsible, Biblically-based way.  As has become our normal shopping routine, when we arrived at the party store to buy the decorations and goodies for his party, Benjamin asked me what our budget was.  I told him, and then we were off to the races.  Because we had perused the birthday party themes a few weeks prior, Benjamin knew exactly what he wanted and where it was.  Out came the calculator and we were set.  We first chose the "necessities" (plates, napkins, table cover), and then negotiated for the rest (center piece, invitations, party favors, etc).  The invitations went back on the shelf after I told him I could make some on the computer, which would give him six more dollars to choose the goodies he was really wanting.  Once we reached our allotted amount and he was happy with what we had chosen, it was off to the check-out stand.  I was so proud of him for knowing we needed to stick to a budget and being willing to do so without any arguments or fussing.  He is growing up so quickly, right before my very eyes.

We had a fun lunch together (With his kids' hot dog meal and my turkey wrap and fruit, we both ate at Jason's Deli for $10!  Woo hoo!  And don't forget the free ice cream!), and then continued down our list of errands.  As we were walking into one store, I thought I would do a little check-up on how this mommy is doing on the parenting front.  I didn't know what kind of responses I would receive from Benjamin, but I hoped for some constructive criticism and for a window into his little mind as to what he might be missing from me. 

I first asked Benjamin what was something I did that he really liked or wished that I would do more of.  He replied, "Well, everything you cook is good, so that's something that you do that I like.  And last night, you looked like you were pretty good at grilling (that's usually Mark's territory), so maybe you should do more grilling."  He's such a boy--focused on food!  I thought that was a pretty complimentary answer, and knowing I don't do everything well, I at least felt like there was nothing glaring in his eyes that I was missing out on. 

So then I asked, "What is something that I do that you wished I wouldn't do?"  I expected to hear something like, don't get mad at me so often, or don't be a grump so often, or something of the sort.  Instead he said, "Nothing, Mom!  I like everything you do!"  Yes, my heart melted and it was a sweet reminder of just how forgiving our children can be.

Thank you, God, for the gifts of grace and encouragement that you gave to me
today by way of my sweet little boy.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Beauty


"Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything that is beautiful; for beauty is God's
handwriting--a wayside sacrament.  Welcome it in every fair face, in every fair sky, in every fair flower, and thank God for it as a cup of blessing." 
Ralph Waldo Emerson