Saturday, January 28, 2012

Movies we have been watching lately

We have been blessed to see some wonderful movies lately.

The Moore family has 3 movies that we have really enjoyed lately.

Vision Forum always has wonderful movies but the 3 we have been watching lately are Agenda, Divided, and Indoctrination.  We are finding that documentaries are a powerful tool.

We also watched Courageous.  And if you haven't seen it, please do.

A lot of conservative families like ours do away with the TV completely, but we are so thankful for the encouragement and education we receive from quality movies!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Life is a Winding Road

I am thinking today about the way life twists you around.  One day you are certain you are going one direction and then life happens and all of a sudden you are going somewhere completely different.  Daniel and I will be married 7 years in April.  We met in June of 2003.  I was 14, he was 17.  I wanted to be "the first honest journalist" and he wanted to be an actor.  Those who actually know us now might find that a little surprising.

In the beginning, of course, we didn't talk too much about where we wanted to be in the future, how many children we wanted, etc.  We were certainly too young to be discussing things like that.  In March (I think) of 2004, Daniel wrote me a letter telling me about a vision he had for the future.  "A big brick house on a hill, with a barn, and a pond, and a white picket fence, and a yard full of kids."  I still didn't want any children...wouldn't they get in the way of a career?  Life happened and love happened.

 Daniel graduated at the beginning of June and made plans to move to Florida to pursue an acting career.  I was devastated.  Then at the same time I found out I was pregnant.  Daniel still left.  For over 2 months, I split my time between throwing up and trying to figure out what to make of our relationship.  Then hurricane Charlie hit the area where Daniel was staying with a vengeance.  He still says that God had to use something really big to get his attention.  Soon afterward, he was helping with the clean-up efforts and ended up at a church being held in a movie theater.  He was talking with someone when they mentioned what a blessing children are.  A few days later, he was home.

Life was still very difficult for us.  I didn't know if I could ever trust him again and neither of us were sure we were ready to grow up.  My mom owned a house in Oldtown, Maryland and we could live there, so Daniel started looking for work in Cumberland.  I started making wedding plans and worked on completing high school through a correspondence homeschool program.  Daniel got a job at Lowe's making a little over $6 an hour.

Alexander was born on March 4, almost exactly a year after that letter had been written, and we were married 6 weeks later.  I am still so thankful for the "real" wedding my parents gave me even though nothing in our situation was real.  Everyone knows that marriage is hard and that was definitely the case for us.  I was 16 and Daniel was 19, he worked crazy hours, I didn't have a driver's license, and we had a newborn.  I am so in awe of the fact that we are still together today.  Slowly, life happened.

We shared our hearts and argued like crazy over the future.  I was the one now who wanted a yard full of kids....Daniel said we were done.  I wanted to homeschool....he worried about socialization and sports.  But God had begun to get a hold of our hearts right before we were married and the longer we were married, the more we fell in love with God and each other and things fell in to place.  We made the decision to do things God's way.  We diligently studied the Bible and even though we knew we were going to be viewed as extremists, we knew we had to change some things.  We decided to let the Lord fill our quiver in His time with as many arrows as he desired to give us and that we would truly be the ones training up our children by homeschooling them.  A host of other decision followed.

That job at Lowe's only lasted a year because we hadn't yet learned the importance of diligence and Daniel missed days on a whim frequently.  Next he worked at Fibred (a soy fiber processing plant) for a year until he was laid off.  During that lay-off, he was a camp counselor and worked for UPS.  Soon, I was pregnant with Elizabeth, and he found a temporary to full time job at a factory that made hydraulic oil filters.  That job lasted a year (until right before I got pregnant with Aaron) and then he was back at Fibred.  Since then he has gotten laid off several times, the longest time being this past summer (right before Emma was born).  During that lay-off a dear friend of ours let Daniel work for him cutting firewood for his business and offered to train Daniel to do his dream a truck.  In this case it is a tri-axle dump truck.  But for now the work isn't steady because of the time of year.  So he has been working at Fibred and driving dump truck on his days off.

Today Daniel called home to tell me that he is getting laid off again, starting next Friday.

So, life twists around yet again.  Now we are the parents of 4 children and pray that the Lord will see fit to bless us again and trusting that He will supply all that we need.  It isn't easy but the rewards are so very worth it.  The fact that even though Daniel will be laid off he will still have another job to go to is evidence of that very thing.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Portfolio Review

Today was our mid-year home school portfolio review.  I always get nervous, but this time it was better.  I always worry that we aren't doing everything they think we should be doing.  Alex really struggles with reading, but excels in math.  All around me, though, it seems there are first graders reading at college level (okay that might be stretching it a bit).  I was thankful that my reviewer seemed very comfortable with the level of reading he is doing and reassured me by telling me that no one likes math and reading.  All kids like one or the other and most children don't enjoy math to the extent that he does.  It is always good to hear that you are doing a good job...even if the opinion of the public school system usually doesn't matter to me in the least.  Now I am feeling a renewed zeal to get back to school tomorrow!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Clothing the Family part 5


Have you ever heard a child asking you where his shoes are exactly two seconds before you need to leave for an appointment?  Well, ours ask no longer.

Almost two years ago, I told Daniel that I would like him to build me something to keep all the coats and shoes organized, but he's pretty creative and so he outsourced it!

Now we have a set of four school-type lockers in our...umm...front-porch-sunroom-playroom-thing.  Yeah, you heard me. (Once again, the small-ness of the room is the reason for the weird angles).  This is just to the left of the door into the living room.

The children pile all their shoes in the bottom (the downfall is squashed dress shoes occasionally).  Their coats get hung on the hooks inside.

To the right of the living room door, I keep a reusable grocery bag with all of the hats and gloves.  Elizabeth's dress coat is hanging there, too, because it's not an option for every day use.

Mama and Daddy keep our shoes in stack-able bins just inside the front door and our coats on a wall-mounted coat rack behind the living room door.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Photos from The Wild Side

Clothing the Family part 4


Now, there is a word to make every mama of a larger than average size family run in terror.  Not the MOUNTAIN!  I can usually keep from being completely buried by laundry mountain.  I have tried all sorts of different schedules, routines, etc.  But I am trying to simplify my life, so this is when I do laundry...when it needs done.  Shocking, I know.  One thing (which my mother hates) that I have found to make laundry so much easier is that I quit sorting our laundry.  I can hear you gasping for breath now!  No organized piles of towels, whites, darks, and lights?  Nope...Not most of the time, anyway.  I have gotten pretty used to less than perfectly white socks.  I don't wear socks and most of the time you can't see anyone else's socks.  It might be a  big problem for your family if you all like the grandpa look of shorts and tube socks.  I do like to take some time every once in a while (when I have the time) to sort laundry like a bona-fide June Cleaver.  But between regular laundry for all of us and cloth diapers, I've got bigger fish to fry than gray undies.  I try to do a load of laundry in the morning and hang it on the line over our woodstove in the winter or outside in the summer.  If there is a lot of laundry to do, I'll do one more mid-day.  If not, then in the evening I hang up another load and let it dry till I am up and ready to hang out the first load in the morning.  Diapers get done every other day unless we've had a particularly stinky day, then it gets done the same day.  I try to have all my laundry caught up on Saturday, so that I don't have to mess with it on Sundays.  (Didn't happen this week, by the way.)  At least once a day I put laundry away because that is a job I hate to do and if I let 4-5 loads of laundry pile up, it takes forever!  How do you take care of laundry at your house?

P.s.  We make our own laundry soap and don't use fabric softener.  Next: Outerwear.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

A Fun Day and What We Learned from the Wealthy

I do want to touch on a few other topics regarding clothing the family before I move on to some other practical household things, but for now there is something else I want to share.

Yesterday Daniel ended up staying home because I woke with a terrible migraine.  Thankfully, after a couple of hours more sleep it was all but gone and we decided to spend the day doing something fun.  After checking out the options online, we decided to hit up The Wild Side at Nemacolin Woodlands.  It was to open at 1 and we arrived at 2:30 with the doors still locked.  Up we drove to the 5 Star resort to see what was going on.  The valet informed us that regardless of what the sign on the door and the website said, they didn't open The Wild Side until 4 in the winter.  So we had an hour and a half to wait.  The valet said he would be happy to park our car so that we could walk through the resort and check out the shops inside, the restaurants, ice cream parlors, massive fish tanks, etc.  I balked at the idea because it was just plain embarrassing.  It's one thing to spend an afternoon bowling and eating pizza, but being in such a high-class establishment just made me queasy!  Daniel and the kids thought it was a wonderful idea, though, so with our van being safely parked among the BMWs and Cadillacs, we wandered through the huge resort.  I was feeling so self-conscious and was tempted to feel sorry for myself that the way of life there was nothing like what I have.  Then, Aaron (who had been holding my hand) spotted his daddy up ahead of him.  "Da da!" he cried and ran for Daniel.  Dan picked up his boy and turned to look at me.  "We're richer than anyone else here," he said.  And he was right.

We eventually did get to the Wild Side and had a great time.  But my favorite memory by far is the look of a love-struck daddy holding a little boy who looked at him like he hung the moon.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Clothing the Family part 3

The Family Closet

We've had a family closet for about a year now and I love it!  Now, when I say family closet, please don't get visions of the Duggars' ultra-organized, all-matching closet.  I don't have my own TV show (nor do I want one) or an abundance of money.  What I did have was a little bit of unused space.  We call the family closet "the back porch".  It is a small addition that was built to house our propane powered hot water heater, a propane powered dryer and a few shelves of food when my grandparents owned the house.  It opens off our kitchen out the original back door.

The space is tiny.  I took a few photos, but because the room is so small, the angles are kind of odd.

Like I said, it may not be beautiful, but it works.  This room also ends up sharing space with many other things.  Notice the coloring books, 50 lb bag of potatoes (this room is always cool, so it's a perfect spot for those), and Big Daddy pizza box! The big black buffet also houses school supplies and the space on the floor under it has come in handy for a plethora of things, from clothing in transition to or from the garage to extra toilet paper.  On the end of the room that I didn't photograph is our water heater, a few storage boxes, mops, and an upright freezer.

For me, this was really the only way our house could "work" efficiently.  There isn't enough space in the bedrooms for dressers (and our room is the only one with a closet).  Besides that, when does a busy mom have time to put away clean clothes except when little ones are asleep...and if they are asleep, the last thing a busy mom wants to do is to wake them up putting away clothing in their rooms!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Clothing the Family part 2

Know your shops

It is important to know which shops to look at for which items and as you spend time in them, this becomes apparent quickly.  In Cumberland (the nearest town, about 15 miles away) there is only an over-priced kids' resale shop and a Goodwill.  The kids resale shop is good for big items as a last resort, shoes, and their clearance section.  They also offer 20% off if you bring in their reusable shopping bag to bag your purchases.  The Goodwill is really only good for books.  Most of the clothing there isn't in very good repair, although there are always exceptions to the rule.  I also don't like to pay what they ask.  Not that it isn't cheap, but it just isn't cheap enough for me.

LaVale also has a Goodwill, but the selection isn't really any better than the one in Cumberland.

Grantsville (about 30-40 miles away) has a kids resale shop that is ridiculously over-priced, but that offers new toys at reduced prices (think EBay prices).  They also have a community run thrift shop with reasonable prices (and a 50% off sale the first weekend of October) and a Goodwill that always has a decent amount of conservative ladies and girls clothing because of the large population of conservative Christians in the area.

Occasionally, we go to the interfaith coalition thrift shop in Hancock because their daily specials are a good deal.  Last time we were there, men's dress shirt were $5 a bag.  We have also found some large items there and a wide variety of household items.  But, they are over an hour away.  It's also close to a nice Goodwill.

Our favorite thrift shop in in Romney, WV (approximately 30-35 minutes away). We always come away with good deals there.  The single most expensive thing I've bought there was a crib for $5.  Most clothing items are 25 cents to $3.  Books, games, shoes, housewares, etc usually don't top $1.  The staff there is also extremely helpful.  They will negotiate prices with you and offer advice (like to shop Tuesday mornings during yard sale season for the best selection of baby and kids items).  The Goodwill there is pretty good there, too.

I know that some Salvation Army stores offer 50% off on Wednesdays.

As you endeavor to save money while clothing your family, you will learn the best way to shop the stores near you.  Next time...The Family Closet.

Clothing the Family part 1

Resale shopping-Before you go

The single most important preparatory thing before you set out on a used clothing shopping trip is to make a list!

I keep my list in the back of my planner.  I keep items categorized by household, baby, or the person the item is needed for.  These are not just immediate needs, but things that my family is going to need in several months and sometimes even in a year or two in the case of winter coats and items of that sort.  The only way that we can effectively be good stewards of what we are given is to plan ahead and to know what we already have.  All of the kids clothing that is not being used right now is stored in our garage and every couple months I go out and put things away and make notes on my list according to what I have purchased.

A quick tip:  If you are a skirt wearing family, you probably know the frustration of purchasing a skirt or dress for your daughter that looked plenty long enough in the store and getting it home only to find out that it's way too short.  For this reason, I make a note on my list as to the minimum length a skirt can be from waist to hem or a dress from shoulder seam to hem and take my cloth measuring tape with me.  That way, I can avoid buying things that Elizabeth won't be able to wear.  (Emma has to minimum length right now-that will come once she is walking.)

Next time:  Knowing your stores.

For more large family clothing inspiration check out what the 4 moms are talking about...

How much did I spend?

How much did I spend?  Well, all 9 pairs are from Payless and the original retail price would have come to $166.32 including tax.  I spent...$41.34.  Right now, Payless is having their BOGO 1/2 off sale.  If you hit that sale on the first day, there are some deals to be had.  It is becoming increasingly difficult to find quality shoes resale and so I am resorting to this.  That comes to $4.59 per pair.  When I go to Kids Korner for shoes like I did last week, I usually spend from $3-$5 a pair.  So this is a wise investment for our family.

Friday, January 13, 2012

January Grocery Shopping

On Wednesday, I loaded up all 4 children in the rain and we went shopping.  This is what we came home with...

2 dozen eggs
3 gallons milk
5 qt bucket of ice cream
romaine lettuce
2 cucumbers
2 lb mini cut carrots
1 lb hot dogs
2 cans refrigerated biscuits
1 can refrigerated crescent rolls
(2) 32 oz containers yogurt
15 oz ricotta
1 lb hot pepper cheese
4 lb shredded cheddar
3.5 lb deli lunch meat
12 tomatoes
2 lb margarine
1 lb shredded mozzarella
2 big bunches bananas
3 loaves of bread
3 bags salad mix
baby cereal
saltine crackers
2 lb frozen hash browns
50 lb potatoes
2 lb brown sugar
4 pkg taco seasoning
2 pkg fajita seasoning
1 huge box vanilla wafers
potato chips
8 jars baby food
1 pt peach butter
40 kitchen size trash bags
economy dish soap
cheese sandwich snack crackers
imitation vanilla
4 cans mandarin oranges
3 cans crushed pineapple
2 cans cream of celery soup
chocolate syrup
Parmesan cheese
64 oz juice
2 boxes cereal
tortilla chips
6 lb pasta
paper towels
baby wipes
2 bars soap
2 cans spaghetti sauce
bulk unflavored gelatin
1 can pizza sauce
2 cans evaporated milk
1 pt cherry butter
bulk peach gelatin
bulk lemon gelatin
2 bags bulk italian dressing mix
bulk baking powder
2 huge boxes of diapers
3 juice boxes
1 pt chocolate milk
and an RC Cola (16 oz)

...For a grand total of $209!

Of course, we'll still have milk, bananas, etc to purchase throughout the month, but that's the majority.  I have meals planned through about February 12th.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

I'm Guilty

I am guilty of not always using the resources I have at hand with wisdom and discretion.  I am guilty of not always giving what is required of me.  I am guilty of feeling justified in foolishness.  But I am on a mission to change that.  I kept track of our spending for the past three months (and I will continue to do so) and I have found some things that I need to change.  Probably the biggest thing is that I have not been wise with my grocery budget.  I think I have spent roughly double what I need to.  So, my new goal is to spend about $75 per week.  I already have a freezer and pantry filled with pork, beef, chicken, fruit slush, applesauce, green beans, green peppers, tomatoes, corn, peaches, pears, apples juice, cherries, cherry juice concentrate and strawberries.  There is no reason I should spend more than $75 per week when I am really only supplementing the basics which are already stockpiled.  However, I like to do most of my grocery shopping for a month at one time, so in the next couple of days I am on a mission to spend no more than $300 for the coming month and I am hoping to come in under budget.  That amount will have to include household items as well, but I use cloth diapers most of the time, clean with baking soda and vinegar, and don't wash my hair every day, so those things should be minimal.

The other issue that I have found is that I am way behind in stocking up on clothing for my growing brood.  I too often only buy what I think will fit them in the next six months or so.  Recently there have been many times that they have grown into a new size "all of a sudden" and I am without what we need.  So, I end up spending more money than necessary at the last minute.  So, I am going to hit a couple of the best thrift shops in the next couple of weeks and begin to remedy that problem as well.

I have been pleasantly surprised in other areas, though.  I have seen improvement in the amount of money we spend on snacks and drinks when we stop to buy gas.  There has also been improvement in the amount that we shell out for meals away from home (even though the last couple of weeks would show otherwise).  So this experiment has proved very valuable.  Now, if you'll excuse me....I'm off to figure out the budget for the next two weeks.  IF we can get through them without any cars breaking down (which would be a MIRACLE) we should be okay...Lord Willing!