Friday, January 11, 2013

Little Blessings

January 11, 2013    

      I'm trying REALLY hard to be disciplined in my spending.  In October I put myself on a pretty strict budget for our consumable items. $125 a week for grocery/household purchases. $80 a week for gas for our two vehicles and $20 spending money on whatever (this usually spills over into grocery spending or going out to eat.) When people hear this they usually gasp in disbelief.  Is it easy? Not always, but it is possible.
      I have become quite proficient at being able time the manager's specials at our local Kroger: Monday-Bread, Wednesday- Meat, Friday- produce, dairy and dry goods. I only go to the store once a week, so I try to alternate the days so I can stock up and those $.25/ loaf breads or those 40% off packages of meat and stick them in the freezer for the following month.
      I've also started using coupons again. It's by far a tedious task that I often assign to my children to organize, but it really is worth it in the end, especially on toiletries and household goods. Since I'm not at all brand loyal, coupons make all the difference. I've been tracking my coupon saving for a while and usually save $50 a month using them. Worth the time? Maybe not, but that is 10% of my monthly budget, so I'll take it. I hope to get more proficient this year with coupons, but only have limited time to devote to them.
     Perhaps my favorite way to save is by shopping at a scratch and dent grocery downtown. They have a large variety of items that changes regularly.  The large majority of it is organic and all natural grocery items. They also carry gluten free convenience foods and mixes for a fraction of the regular cost.  It's a half an hour drive and I inevitably get lost every single time, but I always come home two hours later thankful for the blessing of such a valuable resource for our family.
    Just to show you the value.  Today I took the kids and purchased all these items for $94:

  • Three boxes of all natural fishy crackers (12 indiviually wrapped packages in each)
  • 2 gluten free pancake mixes
  • 6 boxes of gluten free mini chocolate chip cookies
  • 20 small lunch sized bags of kettle chips
  • 20 frozen Bosco breadsticks
  • 12 frozen ball park microwave bun/hotdogs
  • 1 huge can of organic diced tomatoes
  • 2 bags of pumpkin granola
  • 3 boxes of kashi instant oatmeal
  • 2 bags of huge chipotle sandwich wraps
  • 4 bags of small soft tortilla shells
  • 6 boxes of organic chicken broth
  • 3 boxes of Little Debbie Snack Cakes
  • 6 pounds of organic no salt butter
  • 2 bags of candy
  • 2 boxes of wine crackers
  • 2 boxes of Glutino crackers
  • 2 boxes of Hodgkin's Mills organic 
  • 2 boxes of tea
  • 4 boxes of Starbucks mini vanilla scones
  • 3 bags of organic corn tortilla chips
  • 2 bags of gluten free soft tortilla
   Yes, a lot of these are convenience foods, but they are saving me a bundle.  We pack around 20 lunches a week.  I figure that if I would go and buy all this at regular price I would spend well over $500.  I thank God for little blessing such as these that continually remind me of His provisions for our every day lives. 
   If you live in the Indy area check out Angelo's.  Trust me, it's worth the trip. 

Friday, January 4, 2013

Be all there

January 2, 2013

I spent a few hours this morning at a Starbucks talking with a friend about the challenges of homeschooling, training, chores, various curriculum, special needs, expectations, challenges....  I'm often drawn into these conversations and remember clearly the years when I would wake up in a sweat and seriously question whether or not I was doing the best for my children in homeschooling. After trying not to hyperventilate, I would attempt to fall asleep praying, but not often having even the right words to express my heart.

I'd like to assure you that it's going to be alright. A child which is provided with one-on-one instruction every day for school in their elementary years and allowed to read to their heart's content is going to get what they need to succeed. Being by their side, you are going to see the missing gaps of understanding. You are going to have plenty of time for them to master what they need to know. You are forming and shaping their character by daily living it out before them even though you don't have the hour you had hoped to focus on that character building lesson or read three chapters of the Bible.   They are watching. They are learning.  They are getting it, even though you don't see the end product right now.  

What's the key?
Be there. Be all there.
Not on your phone.
Not paying bills.
Not cooking dinner.
Not reading facebook.
Not sending texts.
Not watching the clock.
Not serving the curriculum's schedule or demands.
Not checking boxes.

This is easier said than done. Life is hectic and overwhelming. Without multitasking how is it all ever going to get done? I'm guilty of doing each of these things (well, not the texting, I still haven't taken the leap there) and done a great disservice to children in doing so. When school time is focused on me, then they suffer. 

More than that, there are countless opportunities each day when the books are closed that growth and development are in full swing. No, I never had the time to go through a character development curriculum with them despite all good intentions. I never had the ability to take the kids to the craft classes at the library.  I used to feel major guilt and remorse about this until the day I realized that each moment at home is that opportunity. Embrace these moments before they pass.

What's the key?
Let them follow you around.
Let them ask "why?"
Let them try to do something hard or beyond their years, even if it's not perfect.
Let them hear about how you are not perfect, mistakes you've made. 
Let them get their hands dirty and make a mess.
Let them listen to you tell stories.
Let them see you listening to their stories. Stop what you're doing and look them in the eye.
Let them hear "yes" (especially when it involves making a mess)
Let them pretend and take the leading role once in a while.
Let them talk.  Ask them questions about themselves. Then ask them more questions until they run out of words to say. 
Let them follow through with an idea, even if it's an inconvenience. 

Certainly each child has their quirks and very unique challenges to learning and life.  Some are quite evident and others not so much.  I couldn't speak wisdom into much of what my friend was sharing, but one thing was clear. This mom was passionate about her son.  She's going to figure this out and he's going to thrive under her loving care. The amazing thing is that God has specifically given each child to each mom to teach, mold and shape in only the way she can.   Mom and kids- we were made for each other.