Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Whew!!

What a crazy week and a half. Sean has been home from school working hard and making progress on the book. I've been squeezing in bits of school here and there. We've all been loving the extra time with family and friends. Sometimes it's just fun to play together. But now reality is here- 2010 is a few days away. January promises to be a very busy month with 16 basketball games and Sean traveling out of state seven days. I'd really like to get the budget set, filing done and some decluttering accomplished before he returns to work on Monday. We'll see.

As for the diet- we march onward. Gluten was introduced first with a variety of reactions. Miriam developed a new patch of eczema on her forehead (she's never had any on her face before). Lydia had a headache the first day, dizziness and brain fog the second day and huge lymph nodes with a diagnosed ear infection by the fourth day. She's now on antibiotics and we are awaiting her full recovery before we move forward. It was noticeable in others dark circles under the eyes, swollen eyes and generally moodiness the day after gluten. We decided to remain gluten free as a family for the remainder of the diet mostly for moral support. But I think it would benefit us all as we try to sort things out.

We did go ahead and introduce nightshades a few days ago out of desperation. The morale was LOW and the kids were just generally in a funk needing something to change. I chose nightshades simply because they are all whole foods and I don't suspect that there will be any problems. Everyone did great with these (thankfully). So now we have potatoes, tomatoes and peppers back in our lives. They've enjoyed mashed potatoes made with broth and kettle chips. What a treat!

How much longer? We have 9 more groups to introduce. The reality of it is that it's going to likely be at least another six weeks, if not longer. I'm thinking it will be more like 10 weeks. I'm hoping we can get it done by Spring Break.

Though it's getting easier in some ways, and more challenging in others, the benefits are clear to Sean and I. Everyone is feeling so much better in general. Sleep is restoring. There's no mid day slump in energy. Complexions and eyes are bright and clear. There is much less grumpiness from the little kids. Math fact are being learned and they are sticking. Sean and I have lost around 12 pounds combined without exercise. Seeing these small changes along the way are so encouraging.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Elimination Diet: The Numbers

We have made it through three weeks! Wow that is hard to believe, because frankly it's kept me so busy it seems like no time has passed at all. Tomorrow there will be a gluten ( not to be confused with gluttonous) fest here at our house. We will experience gluten for one day and one day only. Then we'll wait and watch to see if there are any reactions. I get asked a lot about what kind of reactions we expect. Initially, we will record our pulse before, 15 minutes after consumption and then again at 30 minutes. Other than that, there is a huge checklist of possibilities. I'm praying that any true reactions will be quite obvious.

Being the frugal gal that I am, I've found shopping for whole foods to be quite expensive. I think there are two things that come into play. First, there aren't sales, markdowns or coupons. Second, since we are not full of junk we simply want more volume of the real stuff. Also of note is that I'm having to travel about a half hour or more to get to Trader Joe's or Whole Foods to purchase things that just can't be found anywhere else.

I feel in many ways I'm starting from scratch here. My mind automatically knows what the best price is on processed foods, but venturing into natural foods is a whole different scene for me. So I've been going to the store ALOT more than I'd like, but I have been able to compile a list of price comparisons which will help me (and the budget) through the rest of this process.

I may not be able to cut costs tremendously, but I have found some great stock up deals each week. The first week it was 100% apple juice at Meijer for $1.00 and large cartons organic chicken stock for. $1.00 at Kroger. The next week Kroger was clearing out all of their brown rice cereal for $1.50 (they usually go for $3-4 a box). Last week it was 100% orange juice 1/2 gallons for $1.25 at Kroger. I've also found coconut oil for $1.99 marked down from $6.00. So there are deals to be had, but not guaranteed.

I haven't actually run the numbers on what's been spent in these three weeks. Honestly, I'm kind of afraid to do so. Perhaps I'll just start with this new found knowledge and be a little more intention in my planning this next month.

Here's the breakdown of cost comparisons for what it's worth:)

TJ=Trader Joe's
WM= WalMart
K=Kroger
S=Sam's
M=Meijer

Rice Milk (64oz) $2.99 TJ/$3.24 WM/$3.39 M

Rice Milk (1/2 gallon refrigerated) $2.98 WM/$3.59 K

Almond Milk (32oz) $1.60 TJ/

Brown Jasmine Rice $3.29 TJ/

Wild Rice $3.47 WM/

Brown Rice (2lbs) $1.87 WM/ (1 lb) $1.25-2.20

Organic Brown Rice (2lbs) $2.97 WM/ $3.99 M

Brown Rice Flour $2.92 WM/ $2.99-3.29 K/ $4.24 Amazon/$4.99 M

Cream of Rice Cereal $3.86 WM/ $4.44 Amazon/

Dried Cranberries $.28/oz WM, $.42/oz K, $.17/oz S

Brown Rice Pasta $2.87-3.22 WM/ $1.99 TJ/ Amazon $3.31/$2.69-$3.39 M

Lentils (16 oz) $.98 WM/ $1.45-1.65 K/$1.69 M

Black Beans (16 oz) $1.12 WM/ $1.49 K

Agave Nectar (23.5 oz) $6.37 WM/ (11.75 oz) $4.22-$4.89 K/$2.99, (23.5) $5.17 Amazon- must buy 6+shipping

Truvia (80 pack) $6.99 K/ $5.86 WM

Coconut Milk $1.99-2.29 K/ $1.25 WM/ $1.99 M

Rice Noodles 16oz $4.13 K/ $1.39 TJ

Texmati Brown Rice (2lbs) $5.58 WM/ $5.97-6.55 K

Cashews $4.99 (1lb) M

Almonds $10.98 (4 lbs) S

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Snapshots

It's definitely winter. It's not only cold, but the children feeling (and acting) a bit pent up these days. It seems that the days are VERY long, yet the sunlight VERY short. Nonetheless, we are trying to stay warm and occupied. This won't be too hard once basketball season goes into full gear in a couple of weeks. But until then....

First Snowmen of Winter 2009



Watching a show online when chores are done at the end of the day.

Field trip downtown to the Rhythm! Discovery Center


The knitting needles have made a comeback


The newest game around here. Wall-eopoly.

Enjoying a quiet Lord's Day.


Monday, December 14, 2009

Elimination Diet: What's been on the table?

All I can say at this point is that cooking completely from scratch is exhausting. My hat is off to all of you out there who do this from absolute necessity. I'm thinking of missionaries, who on top of living in sometimes adverse conditions with loads of responsibilities must spend time shopping and cooking and cleaning to this degree.

I have to admit that we've gone twice to Chipolte in these two weeks. They are very allergen friendly requiring the entire staff to change their gloves and utensils when filling our order. That was appreciated. We are able to order a bowl with rice, beans, chicken and lettuce. I could have so made this at home, but a break was much in order. Perhaps not the best use of money, but I'd like to think that my sanity is worth something.

With that being said, I'm happy to report that we are fairly settled in to our new routine. Everyone has found at least a few things that they like and now I feel like I can just cycle through the rotation. Hopefully, as I cook through these meals a second time I'll be able to put a few things in the freezer for the future or have leftovers for lunch.

Here's some samples from our first two weeks of a gluten, dairy, soy, corn, peanut, egg, nightshades, red meat, caffeine, alcohol and sugar free life.

Rice Noodles with Cashew sauce and Stir Fry Veggies (picking around the corn and peppers)


Baked Apples with cinnamon and apple juice


Blueberry pancakes


Mini turkey burgers with sweet potato fries and fruit salad


LOTS of smoothies and fruit drinks


Warmed apple cider with orange slices and cinnamon sticks


Pumpkin cake


Brown Rice pasta with Mushroom Nomato sauce and green beans


Coconut Breaded fish with sauted veggies, baked sweet potato and bread

We've also enjoyed: Black beans and Fajita Chicken with Lime/Cilantro rice
Salmon Cakes and Roasted Cauliflower
Banana Muffins
Chicken Soup
White Chili
Hummus and Fresh Vegetables


One wonderful thing about this diet is that there is not a speck of food wasted. We all seem to have a real appetite when we sit down and walk away from the table satisfied (most of the time). It is a challenge to keep up on the snacks, though. I'm finding that the kids need at least two snacks a day which usually ends up being trail mix (almonds/cashews/raisins/dehydrated bananas) or some sort of fruit. Last week they consumed 40 pounds of bananas and almost and entire box of oranges. The people at the grocery probably think I have monkeys living at my house!!

This week I'm going to attempt to make my own Nomato sauce. It was given to us by a friend to try and it is surprisingly just like tomato sauce!! However, it is quite expensive for just a jar that contains just two servings. Having that would open up a a lot of recipes for us.

I'm also going to try some grilled flatbread (if the weather stays clear). I think this would taste great with hummus. There is a coconut milk ice cream recipe that looks delicious, but, alas I have no ice cream maker. That one will have to wait.

I have some new grains on hand, so I might bake some more bread and muffins as well.

Hopefully, less time planning meals will mean more blogging this week. I have finally compiled my price list and have a lot of recipes to post over at the Full Table.








Thursday, December 10, 2009

Perspective

Today was one of those days. One of those days that everyone seemed so needy and yet dissatisfied. One of those days when the same question is asked again and again to the point I thought I might explode. One of those days that I couldn't push back that overwhelmed feeling inside. One of those days when I honestly questioned if I'm making any impact at all. One of those days in which the inconvenient seemed to rule.

Just as we sat down to dinner I whispered to Sean, "I'm done. I seriously can't take anymore today."

Then the phone rang with tragic news from far away. Sean's cousin's baby girl died today unexpectedly at 36 weeks. Thinking of her and all that she has endured and picturing her husband receiving this tragic news in Afghanistan made my heart break. We prayed at the table asking that the Lord would somehow bring comfort and choked back tears while trying to swallow our food.

Today was one of those days I wish I could do over again. To listen a bit more patiently instead of interrupting. To hold my children a bit longer instead letting go to do my "work". To give a soft answer that instructed instead of accusing word. To respond to the inconveniences with a laugh instead of a heavy sigh.

Perspective.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Finding Results

There are a few particular results that we are looking for with this Elimination Diet. None of us have ever been diagnosed with any specific food allergies, but there are some physical symptoms/behaviors that we hope will respond positively to this change. Here's the rundown:

1) Eczema- terribly uncomfortable, itchy, inflamed and infected. It has not responded to creams, environmental changes. It's just gotten worse. If steroids don't have to be used, that would be ideal.

2) Sensory Issues- one daughter has NEVER been able to tolerate certain types of materials and clothing. This really isn't a rebellion issue, but a sensory one that has impeded concentration and learning at times.

3) Inability to concentrate- My kids are not ADHD by any means, but more consistently lately have had problems with focusing and recall.

4) Chronic Ear Infections/Fluid- this translates into antibiotics several times a year and often missing intructions/ meanings in conversations and constant discomfort.

5) Irrational food cravings- sneaking foods and never satisfied

6) Bloating/Stomach Aches several times a week

7) Inability to loose weight


I'm happy to report these things after the first 7 days!

1) Only one stomach ache

2) Sensory child CHOSE to wear jeans three times this week. I even asked her if I could cut the tags out for her if they bothered her too much. She said she didn't even feel them.

3) The eczema improved initially, but then flared up terribly last night and today after exercise.

4) Everyone is more alert and then appropriately tired at the end of the day.

We are also tracking everyone's basal (morning) temperature and have found a steady increase across the board by about a degree. Initially, everyone was in the 96's and now we are in the 97's.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Elimination Diet: Week One

Thank you all for your encouraging words and interest. It really has helped considerably this past week.

I would be lying if I didn't admit that this first week hasn't been hard. It's true that much of our family life revolves around food and the comfort it brings. A jolting change has taken it's toll in different ways. I think for the most part the older members of the family have become acclimated to our current diet, while the little ones are just now realizing that things aren't going back to "normal' any time soon.

Last night at church was a particular challenge. We had our monthly fellowship meal after the evening service. I brought food that our family could eat, realizing that there was likely nothing else that would be available. As I was helping them through the line, poor Joseph stood in front of the brownies with big tears dropping. It was really hard for me to resist his pleas.

On the way home, we asked everyone to talk about how hard the situation was for them to say "no" to such yummy food on a scale from one to ten. The answers ranged from 3-9.5 (Joseph). He later recanted and changed his number to a "10".

Not that I love torturing my kids, but I'm seeing more value in the Elimination Diet then just nutritional/health. We know many people with food sensitivities that for a lifetime have to do what we did last night. We've seen people on the street walking past a restaurant with just the shirt on their backs looking in the window at the warm plates of food. It's a good thing in an all-you-can-eat world to just say "no" sometimes. Though it's hard now, I pray that these lessons will stick with them (and me).

We hit a low point on day four when my friend Jennie graciously called. She not only offered to have us over for dinner, but to teach us how to make bread. You would have thought that the National Guard had come in and swept us off our rooftop! Jennie's children have autism with food allergies, so she is well accustomed to cooking in this manner. It was a great encouragement and comfort to us.

We celebrated Lydia's birthday Friday night and I did my best to make it extra special. We ate coconut breaded fish, sweet potatoes, mushrooms/zuchinni, bread and applesauce cake. The cake didn't turn out as I had hoped, but they gobbled it down anyway. It tasted like warm apple pie.

We've been keeping a chart on the physical changes that have occurred in the past week. Stay tuned for those tomorrow. Also, throughout the week I'll be sharing some of our recipes and price comparisions that I've gathered from various stores.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Day 3: We're still alive

It's been a long few days. Running headfirst into the Elimination Diet has been no small task. Leaving behind what seems like all major food groups and embracing the "all natural" has been disruptive to both physically and emotionally to everyone on some level.

Physically, the younger kids have been more whiny and loud than usual. Most of us have had headaches throughout the day. The bathroom has had a workout (I'll spare you the details.) One of the girls has terrible canker sores now. I think lethargic would be the word to best describe our crew this week. I'm looking forward to the time when we turn the corner, that's for sure.

Emotionally, there have been some tears when having to turn down sweets from a neighbor. That was sad. I think that bread is missed above all else. One of the kids thought the other was eating bread and was so excited. It was just a banana:(

On the upside, no one is having trouble sleeping at night. There's not much that can keep me up past 10 it seems. Also, we are already seeing improvements in the eczema. The scaly rash is still there, but the redness is gone and there is no seeping.

Personally, I'd LOVE to have a Diet Coke right now. Driving down the road today, I think every single billboard was a McDonald's sign with a $1 Diet Coke advertised. That's just cruel. But, I am drinking water as I should and actually didn't mind it's nonflavorness so much today.

Being the cook right now has been interesting. I'm not used to fixing food that my family doesn't like. I was just about in tears tonight serving them dinner and being just sure that they were all going to gag. But to my surprise, they said it was their favorite yet. It reminded them of Chipolte.

Either they are getting really hungry, or they are feeling very sorry for me.


Brown Rice and Lentils with Cilantro Lime Chutney

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Elimination Diet Begins

I'd like to think that we eat fairly healthy meals here in our home. We do eat at home around the table most of the time. We tend to avoid prepackaged meals as much as possible. More than anything, this has to do with cost. I've learned that it's not as hard as it seems to make something from scratch. There is a lot of cost that goes into those grocery store packages, preservatives and transportation costs. But, nonetheless, even though I assemble our meals, most of our foods are well processed, especially our snacks.

Over time it's become more apparent that not all foods are agreeing with all the people in this house. Three of the kids have regular bloating and stomach aches. Two have eczema. The youngest two have extremely dry skin and the beginnings of what will be much worse eczema if allowed to continue. Two have recurrent fluid in the ears and infections. I have a crazy thyroid cyst and Sean teeters on the edge of high cholesterol. I've also noticed some of the kids really struggling some days with retention and concentration in school. They say it feels like they are in a fog or that their brain feels "fuzzy".

As this whole scene has unfolded in the past few months, it has sent me on a reading frenzy. Some of the books I've read have been:

Understanding Childhood Eczema

Discover your hidden food allergies and lose weight

Food Allergies and Food Intolerance

Allergy Exclusion Diet


The End of Overeating

When I learned that my friends from church, Heidi and Michelle, had done the elimination diet with great results, we began to consider if this would be a viable option for our family. (Let me know if you want the specific information and I'll send it your way.)

In short, we will be eliminating 11 groups of food completely from our diet for three weeks. These groups are: gluten grains, dairy, soy, corn, peanuts, eggs, nightshades, red meats, caffeine, alcohol and sugar.

This process should clear out the system of any current food sensitivities. Then it will be a systematic introduction of each group with a tracking of any allergic/sensitive responses such as increased pulse, temperature, hives, upset stomach, irritability.....

We've been anticipating this now for over a month and for the most part everyone is on board. Today we cleaned out the pantry, fridge and freezer making those foods inaccessible. We stocked the shelves with our new staples so that all is ready for Monday morning. I'll be updating this blog on our progress, recipes, price/product comparisons and results.

As one would imagine, we've thoroughly enjoyed Thanksgiving. For our last day of "normal" eating, calzones and omelets have been unanimously requested.

Before.


After


Saying good bye for now.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

50% Safe

I've been on a cleaning spree lately. The kids keep reminding me that it's Fall, not Spring. "All the more reason to move the furniture and get rid of stuff", I say.

Today I was working diligently upstairs and after about an hour wondered what the children might be doing so quietly and independently. They were happily playing in the garage.

Later, Besty came and asked if I would like to see the "game" they made up. "It's 100% safe, Mom." Joseph interrupted, "Well, it's about 50% safe."

In case you can't tell, this is John and Rebekah on a sled on top of the chest freezer being pulled down onto a pile of winter coats and snowsuits. No worries, though, because Joseph is the "lifeguard." Besides, Rebekah tells John, "Trust God."
video

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thanksgiving thoughts

This is by far my favorite time of year. Perhaps it is because I'm introspective, but I truly enjoy contemplating and remembering in thankfulness the past year. There is something beautiful about coming around the same table again with the same loved ones and realizing how much we have experienced, grown and changed. Sometimes it's in the face of hardship. Other times it is the result of pure joy.


One of my favorite verses is found in 1 Timothy 6:6, "Godliness with contentment is great gain." It comes to my mind often, especially when I'm grumbling in my heart or uncertain about what the future holds. It reminds me that true contentment is directly from the heart of God. I can't "make" myself satisfied by pretending it or thinking it or filling myself up with the stuff of this world.

And when contentment like this is realized, then the gratitude abounds. To me that is a picture of what Thanksgiving is about. It's recognizing that all is from the hand of God and ,therefore, we must give thanks. It's declaring, "Lord, in you I need nothing else."

Monday, November 16, 2009

Coming of Age

Wow, has this past week been about the most fun ever! Hannah turned 13 on Wednesday, the day that Sean and I were scheduled to leave town. He was speaking in Fort Lauderdale on Thursday and I had purchased my ticket months ago in anticipation of joining.

Secretly, we planned to take Hannah along with us as a surprise birthday present. It's been hard knowing for months and not sharing the excitement. We even had her pack her bags for her friend's house. Once all of the other kids were dropped off, we pulled the van over and got out so that she could open her gift. It was her plane ticket and letters from Sean and I. She was shocked, to say the least. We made it to the airport just in time to board. So fun!!

Hannah's first flight. Playing Pass the Pigs.

While Sean was working at the Conference, Hannah and I worked through Passport to Purity. We giggled a lot, as well as had some deep, honest conversations. The Lord was good to provide us with such a special get-away to have these conversations. No pressures, no interruptions, no time constraints. It was perfect.

Florida sunset.


More than anything, we wanted Hannah to know how much we love and trust her. It's been our privilege to see her growing into the young woman that God has called her to be. We talked a lot about what life was like when it was just the three of us in our little apartment. Her daddy couldn't wait to get home to see her every afternoon. And I could not have asked for a better companion to pass the days.

At the completion of Passport to Purity, we met up with Sean for dinner at an Italian restaurant where he presented her with a pearl ring. *sniff*





The last two days we spent sightseeing around Fort Lauderdale and enjoying the incredible weather. I kept having to pinch myself.


The largest cruise ship in the world came to dock while we were there. We could see it from our hotel balcony.


This was the hotel pool. This is the kind of hotel that corporations pay to have people stay in- a far cry from our usual Residence Inn.


Hannah and I took this water taxi around and saw some insanely large yahts and homes owned by famous people.

At the beach.



Our last lunch by the ocean.


I could not have asked for a better way to celebrate coming into the teenage years. It's new territory for all of us. I don't doubt that we will have some bumps along the way, but I'm certain that God's Word will guide us through as well as a mutual respect and love for one another.

I walked away from this weekend more in love with Hannah than ever. She is a beautiful, determined, independent and Godly young woman. I'm truly blessed to be her mom.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Catching Up

Time is just ticking along. It's hard to believe that Thanksgiving is just two weeks away. Here's just a snapshot of what's going on in our house these days:

- We are in the process of celebrating Hannah's 13th birthday- a sleepover with friends last Friday, a dessert open house on Saturday, and an open house with the Indianapolis Fever tomorrow night. But, the best is still yet to come! That's all I can say about that:) Stay tuned.

- God is doing amazing things in our childrens' hearts! It seems each day lately has been filled with a new realization of God's forgiveness and new questions about what it means to be a Christian. I'm in awe at the Lord's individual work in their lives. He's calling out to them one by one. They are responding and growing.

- Our homeschool group has ended for the semester. It will be nice to have some more concentrated time at home, yet the friends will be missed.

- I'm loving the local library which offers homeschool classes on a regular basis. It helps that one of the librarians is a homeschool mom herself. The oldest three just took a class on giving a powerpoint presentation. I was impressed with what the produced and presented.

- I have been going to the chiropractor and rehab since the beginning of the semester. Thankfully, I've gotten much relief and now have moved on to the final phase. Apart from my ice skating mishap on Friday, it's wonderful to not be in continual discomfort.

- I'm doing a few projects around the house. My favorite is repainting the baseboard and doors which currently have flat paint that just smears the dirt when being washed. I'm trying to do a bit each night after the kids are in bed. It's rewarding to finally fix what has been annoying me for a long time.

-I'm preparing our pantry for the Elimination Diet that we will all be starting after Thanksgiving. This has entailed making a lot of unsweetened applesauce, as well as creatively using what's in the pantry. We are hoping to get to the bottom of some consistent reactions the kids have been having with eczema and digestive problems.

So, what's been going on in your world?

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Frugal living these days

Many people have been asking me recently if I'm still bargain shopping and freezer cooking. I have to admit that I did get a bit burnt out after months and months of buckling down. Now that the debt is gone, the pressure isn't quite the same. That doesn't meant that I like spending our hard earned money on retail priced items when it could be put to better use.

So, I'm back at these days, but am looking for more balance. I simply can't keep up with the individual deals that I read on blogs here and there or run into the store at a moment's notice. And I refuse to clip every coupon that crosses my path. There's just no way.

I've found a some new-to-me websites that are quite helpful to this end. I like these because they are simple, give me the bottom line (how much am I actually saving) and then allow me to print off a list of only the deals that I actually want. I can even get a total for what I will spend.

Coupon Mom and Inexpensively are now on my list of favorite sites.

What's working for me is printing my lists from these two sites and sifting through my coupons twice a week while I'm waiting in the car during speech therapy. I keep my coupons in their original inserts with the date boldly written on the front. These are then placed in chronological order so they are easy to navigate. I keep these on a clipboard in the van. Then sometime during the week I'll steal away by myself and run into each store just for the items I have planned. That usually entails a stop by CVS, Walgreens, Kroger and Meijer. If an item is 80% off or less and I can stock up, it's worth the trip to me. I total, I'd say I'm spending about 30-40 minutes planning and an hours driving/shopping. I'm saving around 60-70% in the end or about $50 a week.

I'm also doing my best to stock up on seasonal produce when it hits its lowest price of the season. Of course, buying that much produce requires some diligence in preserving it for the future, but it beats paying a premium price later. Pumpkins and apples seem to be the theme. This week it was 3lb bags of apples for $.99. Needless to say, I'm up to my eyeballs in applesauce right now!!

When restaurant.com ran their 9/9/09 special, we decided to purchase a few certificates at 90% and give them a try. I was a bit skeptical at first. But amazingly, it worked wonderfully. We were able to enjoy a delicious Cajun meal which totaled for $35 for about $18 (tip included) as well as treat my in-laws to a big barbecue meal for their birthdays. I'm looking forward to using this site particularly when we are traveling and tend to eat out a lot. Most of these restaurants are local fare instead of chains. Bonus.

Finally, I'm planning on taking the last week of the month off from shopping altogether. This will require some planning ahead, but more than that it will force us to be content with what we have, which is always a good thing.

Within a few weeks all this grocery shopping/stocking won't be relevant as we are going a different direction in our diet for a while. After Thanksgiving, we (yes, all nine of us) are going on a little adventure of our own in the world of cuisine. But, I'll save that for another day.

Friday, October 30, 2009

At the end of the week....

I've not been neglecting my blog, but rather trying to catch life as it speeds by. It seems as though my feet hit the floor in the morning (which has been normally around 6am due to chiropractor visits) and I seriously don't sit down to rest until 8pm or so.

Honestly, I'm feeling a bit drained these days. And discouraged.

I was thinking today in the van (choking back tears) about how I viewed life ten years ago. I had two babies, lived in a small apartment waiting for the moment that Sean would walk through the door each evening. I was drained from lack of regular sleep, constant physical care and a good dose of isolation since we only had one car. A blog probably would have been therapeutic back then. The clock ticked so slowly in those days. Some days I really thought might never end.

I never imagined then that my life would be where it is today. There is never enough time to answer all the questions and concerns. I have such willing, helping hands for all the physical tasks which never ceases to bless me. The days of simply kissing away the tears or putting a whiny baby to bed are largely gone. Now it's long discussions with lots of emotions and opinions involved. It's giving attention to ideas and conflicts before the moment passes. It's the nitty gritty work of sanding down the rough edges that become evident in a family.

It's been made clear to me these past few weeks that in all these interactions, I have some rough edges myself. At times it's painful for me to not lash out or become hurtful to those I love. I can feel it just well up inside me. I'm constantly having to seek wisdom to know how to properly respond and react. I want to be the right one. I want them just to follow my marching orders. I want to be just a bit sarcastic to get a word in. I want them to understand me, where I'm coming from and trust that my way is best. That would be so much easier, right?

No. I know the answer is no. Yet, I feel a part of me dying each time I push back what I want. I know that these trials are not really about clothes or insecurities or a argument between siblings. It's about sanctification- for all of us. By God's grace I will do my best to continue to draw the lines carefully and enforce the consequences consistently. I'm so not good at this, but I want to be. I want to please the Lord. I want His Love to be poured out on my children through me. I want them to know that there is no problem too small or too big that He does not care about. I want them to be blessed in their obedience and repentant in their disobedience.


I feel so far from that place myself right now. And discouraged. I'm thankful for the coming Lord's Day- a time to rest, rejoice, reflect and know again what is True.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Funny Stuff

Here's some happenings from this past week that brightened my days:

Recently the kids watched some old Popeye cartoons and thought it was hysterical when they saw his picture on a bag of spinach that I had out for salad.

After laughing like a crazy man, Joseph informed us, "You know, Popeye is both healthy and unhealthy. He's healthy because he eats spinach. He's unhealthy because he smokes. That makes no sense."


Joseph and Betsy have set up shop in our back yard trying to sell their wares. They had their first customer last night.

"Mom, mom....we made some money!"

"What did you sell?"

"Dad bought an old fork from us for $.25!"

Yes, it was a fork that had been left in the sand box all summer and has seen better days. Sean washed it up and straightened it out stating it was the best $.25 he's spent in a while. We never have enough forks around here.


And for the final act.... Elizabeth and Rebekah were told that they couldn't watch a movie and came up with something much more entertaining- an initiation of the contortionist Chinese girls that we saw at the State Fair.


video

Read more funny stories about what kids are saying at Mary's Tiny Talk Tuesday.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

"Let no debt remain outstanding....."

As you may (or may not) remember much of this blog last year was dedicated to our striving and work toward frugal living. We had a No Spend Challenge Month. We collected all our change for a month. We set the goal of $400 month for a grocery budget in 2008. (Follow the sidebar on Frugal Living for details.)

Well, by God's goodness, I am thrilled to report that after 2 1/2 years our family is now DEBT FREE! (expect for our mortgage). We received the title to our van last week in the mail which resulted in much jumping and dancing around by all. The total amount of debt paid off was about $28,000. The majority of this sum was the 15 passenger van we bought in 2007. The remainder was owed for various emergencies that had arisen over time and we had charged to a credit card. Keep in mind that during these past two years there were two surgeries, four car repairs, four appliances replaced, home repairs, a room makeover, xrays, doctors visits, many memorable road trips.... You get the idea. Life doesn't stop just to let us meet our goals. There have been some obstacles along the way, but here we are. Finally. Here we are!

Honesty, we didn't sell all our things, receive an inheritance or follow a secret plan. God has provided extra work for us and we've been working hard. The doors that have opened have been amazing, particularly for Sean. He's now getting compensated for what he loves to do- teach math/physics and encourage others in their instruction of it. This has taken the form of both speaking and writing.

It is though a large weight has been lifted. Romans 13:8 says, "Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law." This verse holds new meaning. Sure, it's a relief to get rid of those monthly payments. But more than that, it's freedom look outside ourselves and the financial pressures. It's the freedom to continue to trust God for whatever the future may hold. It's the freedom to be able to bless others. It's the freedom to serve One Master- the One who meets our every need and every way.

I hesitated to put numbers here on the blog. Debt, no matter how large or small, is a slave master. But I wanted give praise to God for His Provision and work in our lives. I also want to be an encouragement to you where ever you are on your journeys. Persevere, my friends, you can do this- one day at a time.

Our children have been with us on this journey 100%. They've known the goals and seen the budget. I've even made them listen to the Dave Ramsey Show on many an occasion. In fact, whenever they see a 1-800 number on the caller ID they swear that it's Dave Ramsey calling:) I pray that as they read this someday, they will remember these years as ones not of want, but of plenty. It hasn't always been fun, but it's made us who we are today.

And so the work continues and the major savings has now begun. I believe 2010 might be renamed "The Year of the Orthodontist."

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Praying

We have known the Goins family since 1997 when we attended the same church. Sean taught with Mark for several years. Diane selflessly watched my babies for a few years so I could attend a weekly Bible Study. If I had to describe them in a few words, they would be "passionate" and "authentic".

The Goins are the real deal. They love the Lord and His people in practical ways. In recent years, they have followed God's leading to adopt children into their family. They have three children already, but have taken seriously the call of the orphan. They have sacrificed, worked hard and creatively to raise funds for a few years now in order to adopt without debt.

As a family they have been in the Ukraine since early September waiting and bonding with their new son and daughter. Yesterday we received an email from Mark stating that they have just learned that there is 0% chance that the adoption will go through. Mark did not give any details, but only stated it is a matter or pride, personality and prejudice. They will receive some "complimentary" time in front of the judge on Friday. (The Ukraine is seven hours ahead of us).

Won't you pray with me today? Pray that nothing will hinder Friday's court appearance from happening. Pray that God will miraculously turn this judge's heart to grant the Goins' favor. Pray that if this obstacle is bound up in logistics that the details will be worked out before they see the judge. Pray for these children to be adopted into a real family who already love them and who will raise them with the Love of Christ.

According to the powers that be the judgment against them has already been made. We are praying for a miracle.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

They crack me up!


What ever will they come up with next?

Betsy recently asked to wear her glasses again stating the problem as she sees it:

"Mom, I know I need glasses now. Whenever I close my one eye then open it and close my other eye, everything moves just a little bit. Just a tiny little bit."


Joseph inquired for no apparent reason:

"Dad, can a person be allergic to money?"


We went to the Henry Ford Museum where the interpreter told us a story about how Ford disliked cleaning the chicken coup so much as a child that he refused to eat chicken for the entirety of his life to which my children responded:

"That doesn't make sense, because if he would eat the chickens then there would be nothing to clean up after!"


Reviewing a sermon we heard on marriage in the van I asked the kids to each tell me one thing they heard or learned.

Joseph: "If you are married than you are perfect."

Me: "Nope, quite the opposite. Try again."

Joseph: "No one or no thing should replace God in your heart."

Those are words to live by.


And finally because we think just about everything is funny- here's a video I found that the kids had taken themselves.

video


This post can be found at Tiny Talk Tuesday along with lots of other reasons to smile:)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Youth is like spring, an over praised season more remarkable for biting winds than genial breezes. Autumn is the mellower season, and what we lose in flowers we more than gain in fruits.
~Samuel Butler










Michigan, October 2009