Saturday, January 31, 2009

Leaving Excess in January

Leaving Excess is cataloging the ways that we saved money, minimized, or went without each month. I love this idea, so I'm joining in.

In January:

  • I did some serious de-junking of the kids clothes (and even some of my own clothes). Some toys too (shhh!). Here's the load of stuff that we donated to the local mission. Six large bags!

    I wish I could say that it actually feels like less around here.

  • I packaged up a load of stuff to a friend that is expecting a baby soon -- there's clothes, a diaper bag, socks, and such. It's all stuff that I had too much of, and I'm so glad that I know someone I can share with!

  • I switched to a cheaper internet server. This involved being without service for a week. I discovered, through that, that my quality of life is better without internet anyway. So I'm setting up new limits for my time online.

  • I ate potatoes. There seems to be something with potatoes recently, where the grocery stores are throwing them away like crazy. We're getting 20+ pounds a week from food net, and I'm, quite honestly, tired of eating them. We currently have 30 pounds in our kitchen, and have been giving 10-lb bags to Chester's parents every couple of weeks. But we're still eating them. I know, quit whining.

  • Birthday presents. Last year, I had the brilliant to make pretty much everyone the same thing for their birthdays -- monster hoodies. After a lot of searching, I think I came up with a suitable, similar idea for this year. I have two weeks to make the first three, so I'll share pictures of them next month!

  • Bought a (used) new car. This was hard. We totaled our van on December 27th, and spent a bit over two weeks scouring the internet for a good deal on a replacement. After lots of thought and prayer, we decided to invest in a newer model, for a lot higher price, because it would last us a long time and not require a lot of maintenance while we're in school yet. Chester drove down to Dallas one weekend to look at a van, and ended up not liking the seller. So he saved money there. The next weekend, he drove to Indiana, and actually bought that van -- a 2006 Odyssey with 39k miles. I hope it lasts a long time :)
That's as many as I can think of off the top of my head. I look forward to seeing what other people did!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Birthday interview with Josephine

After the older two got interviewed, Josephine just couldn't be left out. For days, she would ask over and over "Mom, ask me questions!". Each time, I would ask her some of the same questions I'd asked the older ones.

Today she turns three. So I thought it appropriate to post her answers.

Favorite foods: macaroni.
Favorite vegetable: peas and the other green things (beans) and those orange things (carrots) and corn.
Favorite toy: my baby dolls.
Favorite game: Horse.
Favorite book: Kitties.
Favorite holiday: Christmas
Favorite animal: Kitties
Favorite song: the butterfly song (If I were a butterfly).
What she wants for her birthday: A kitty that walks. (She didn't get it, but she loves the stuffed animal kitty that Nani and Papa got her).

If you could change your name, what would you choose? Sarah

What do you want to be when you grow up? A mommy. Why? Cause.

Who are your friends? Sarah, Abbie at church, Nani (Grandma), Mommy

What is something you like about Mom? Playing with you.
What is something you like about Dad? Playing with him.
What is something you like about Nathan? Playing with him.
What is something you like about Toby? Playing with him.
What is something you like about Bennet? Playing with him.
What in something you like about Lisel? Playing dress-up with her.
What is something you like about Matt? Playing with him.
(Hmm.. do we have any themes?)

What is something that you would like to do this year? Play with Lisel and dress-up clothes (yes, she was listening during Lisel's interview).

She requested a kitty cake for her birthday. I didn't have much ambition since I was out of town for the week (business trip to Mexico). Here's my attempt though -- it's "Hello Kitty".

Friday, January 23, 2009

Over at Keeper of the Home...

Today, I'm honored to guest-post at Keeper of the Home. It was really intimidating for me to write the article, because it's a blog I admire so much, and I really don't think I can add much to the great information there. But I wrote anyway, and I'm glad that I did. Maybe next time I do a guest-post, I won't be so intimidated!
kid art

So, in celebration of that post, I wanted to highlight a few of my posts that are along the natural-frugal-living lines of Keeper of the Home.

Natural Medicine
How to make your own medicine part 1
How to make your own medicine part 2
Natural cold and flu remedies

Frugal living
88 Frugal Dates
Handmade gifts series

Homeschooling young'uns
Our kindergarten objectives
How were doing on said objectives
Nature walking 1
Nature activities
Thinking outside the box

Thursday, January 22, 2009

My adventuresome husband

Yesterday, Chester decided that it was time he cut his hair.

This came when he realized that it was long enough for Matt to pull and for Josephine to try to put in a pony tail.

So he decided to let our two budding salon stylists have at it.

It turned out just fine (after a touch-up from Mom).

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Living Large in Small Spaces

Living Simply Saturday struck a chord with me today (Thanks for the post, Kate, I'd love to pick your brain!).

The guest post opens with "Our family lives in a 1000-square foot house. We have 4 children whom we homeschool. Do you see the problem?".


We live in a 912 sq. ft. house -- 8 of us (4 adults, 4 kids). And all of our stuff.

Normally it's fine, (and happy too), but I've been behind the past couple of months on keeping up with things like decluttering. And WOW, is it a pit. I feel buried.

Now, the above statement (about the space in our house) is an exaggeration. It's 912 finished square feet. We have a basement, which isn't included in that number, and Chester's two brothers sleep and keep their stuff down there. The basement also houses a lot of storage and laundry, a freezer and a garage. So we really should fit quite comfortably.

But we don't.

At first glance, it would appear that I have a shopping problem -- the amount of "new" stuff that comes into our house is astronomical. But the truth is, that if you don't count one hour of Christmas shopping, I haven't shopped for anything other than food since September. No, we get stuff given to us: 30-gallon bags of clothes, rubbermaid totes of toys, freezers full of meat, etc. This is all WONDERFUL! (We almost never have to buy anything!)

But it requires that I keep on top of the dejunking really agressively.

And I haven't been.

So my bedroom has a huge mountain of clothes that were given to me, that I have yet to go through to decide if I'll wear. My kids clothes don't fit in their dresser drawers. There's so many toys in the toy room that no one can keep it picked up. (All four kids sleep in one room so that the toys and school supplies can have their own space. I know, we're weird).

Life is less happy as a result of all the stuff. The other day I read Luke 12. Verses 32-35 read: "Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning; and you yourselves be like men who wait for their master, when he will return from the wedding, that when he comes and knocks they may open to him immediately."

I want to be someone that is not encumbered by too much stuff, but is ready and eagerly waiting for the return of my Savior.

I've already started -- I have four large trash bags (the big black ones that go in real trash cans, not the kitchen sized ones) of stuff for the mission. I'd guess that I'm not half-way through yet.

So I'll start taking before and after pictures as I clean. I'm hoping that it really will be From Clutter to Clarity.

Friday, January 16, 2009

New Year's interview with Lisel

Lisel is four, and is absolutely 100% girly-girl. She loves shoes, clothes, pink, purple, princesses, ballerinas and everything girl. She can often be found playing in her own little world with the dolls and dollhouse, or looking through a book (or staring off into space). She's the most absent-minded of our children, and in that, reminds me of myself as a kid.

This is her "New Year's" interview.

Favorite foods: macaroni and cheese.
Favorite vegetable: cucumber.
Favorite toy: my pink stuffed monkey that velcos it's hands around my neck and screams.
Favorite game: "Fern" (from "Charlotte's web" - it's "pretend play").
Favorite book: Christmas Ginger Bread men.
Favorite holiday: Easter. ("Because I like getting all that candy")
Favorite animal: Flying Unicorn

If you could change your name, what would you choose? Abby

What do you want to be when you grow up? I want to go to the ice cream store. No, what do you want to BE when you grow up? Umm. . . a princess.

What is something that you like to cook? Pancakes.

Who are your friends? Abbie at church, Jenna, Ruby, Makenna

What is something you like about Mom? Helping cooking something.
What is something you like about Dad? Playing with him.
What is something you like about Nathan? Playing with the building toys.
What is something you like about Toby? Picking up toys.
What is something you like about Bennet? That we can work at the playout together.
What in something you like about Jo? Playing with dress-up clothes.
What is something you like about Matt? Playing with him.

What is something that you would like to do this year? Play with dress-up clothes with Josephine.

Draw a picture of something you like to do.

"This is the dress-up clothes bin! I like to dress up!"

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Kindergarten Roundup

Kindergarten is sort-of half way through -- except that we're planning to do "all-year" school, so I sort-of have until August to finish. However, I'd like to do different stuff during the summer (so that it feels like a summer vacation), so it is half-way through the "normal" year. Anyway, I feel like it's time to revisit my objectives for the year, since I don't feel like I'm progressing much at all.

I'll be honest with you, we're hardly doing anything that I would consider "school", and I find myself worrying whether we'll have learned anything at all. Sure, lots of our activities actually contribute to the objectives of kindergarten in some round-about way. Yesterday, for example, Chester and Bennet took apart an old radio together and noticed all the parts and what they did. Hardly in the curriculum (whatever that is), but definitely educational. But at the same time, I wrote up these objectives so that I'd be able to feel like we were doing something concrete, and they're not even on my radar hardly ever. I guess I'm not sure how to measure progress of "school" when we don't do hardly anything formal.

Anyway, from my objectives list that I wrote up in the fall, here's how we're doing.

Language Arts:
  • We're still using "Teach your child to read in 100 easy lessons". We've started supplementing with a Primer McGuffey reader and a Sonlight book too. His progress is slow, but reasonably steady, and he's gaining both skill and confidence.
  • Bennet can print pretty well, and copy anything he wishes. We decided to start learning cursive as part of school. So far he knows "c", and "a". Today we'll learn "d".
  • We haven't even started learning Chinese.
  • From the park, yes, I think Bennet knows North, East, South and West. Not from very many other places.
  • He knows all the nearby landmarks, and even some that we rarely drive past.
  • He knows the walks to the park, mailbox and store.
  • He knows our backyard, and what he can see. And he knows the yard of one set of grandparents. I'm not sure about the other.
  • We're not doing much of a nature journal yet. But we did collect leaves this fall. We also collect "colors" (something red, something blue, etc), frequently from nature. But now that it's frigid, we're not outside much.
  • He can identify nearby wildlife -- possums, squirrels, rabbits, a few types of birds. Today he saw a black squirrel.
  • We've killed three caterpillars so far. Last year we raised one, if we don't get one to work this year, I think he can still describe what happened.
  • To add numbers up to ten. Nope, can't do this yet (except for +1).
Social Studies:
  • He knows six songs (not really hymns, but oh well)
  • He can recite the words to six other songs, at least
  • We're learning Psalm 23 (instead of Psalm 1). We learn a verse every week.
  • He can tell several Bible stories, but I don't think he readily knows any of the parables yet.
  • He knows the names of all the major body parts.
  • He can keep himself clean, to the extent that is expected of a young boy.
  • He plays within the boundaries of our yard very consistently.
  • He sort of knows our address (with prompting), but not our phone number yet. He knows 911 and when to call it.
So, perhaps we're closer to half-way through than I was thinking. We need to work a bit more on math, learn our contact info, and really need to get in gear with the foreign language. But those are the only two majorly lacking areas. I'm encouraged by this exercise!

How do you define progress for your child - either in school or out? Do you set objectives to try to meet, or do you track progress by keeping a record of their work, or do you do something else?

Monday, January 12, 2009

New Year's interview with Ben

Ben is six. He is in kindergarten homeschool and learning to read. He likes to make things, especially if that involves tools. In 2008, he learned to do chores, and has become quite proficient at sweeping the floor. He keeps his bed neat as a pin (and whines about having to cover up with his blankets, because that means unfolding them so he bed isn't as neat -- note, he did not get this gene from either Chester or me!). He prefers pieces of duck tape to stickers or even pennies as rewards for his extra jobs done (what a boy!). He spends as much time as possible (which isn't much since it's so cold right now) outside.

This is his "New Year's" interview.

Favorite foods: cereal with popcorn, cereal with ice cream, cereal with vegetables (he has not, to my knowledge tried any of these combinations, but that's what he said when I asked).
Favorite vegetable: corn.
Favorite toy: a disk launcher that he got for Christmas from his Grandparents.
Favorite game: the "penguin snow" computer game.
Favorite book: "Pirates at the Park".
Favorite holiday: Easter. ("Because" was the answer to "Why". I suspect because it's the next big holiday?)
Favorite animal: Turkey

If you could change your name, what would you choose? Jed.

What do you want to be when you grow up? A dad. Why? So I can ride bikes in the spring.

What is something that you like to cook? Sauce and noodle cheese!

Who are your friends? Dewey, Jed, Nathan and Toby. (All uncles)

What is something you like about Mom? Giving her hugs and kisses.
What is something you like about Dad? Going places with him.
What is something you like about Nathan? I want to go turkey hunting with him.
What is something you like about Toby? That in the spring, we can make guns and swords together.
What is something you like about Lisel? That we can work at the playout together.
What in something you like about Jo? That she can play outside with me.
What is something you like about Matt? That he and I can play all funny.
(You think his love language is 'doing stuff together'?)

What is something that you would like to do this year? Have a snowball fight.

Draw a picture of something you like to do.

"This is me and Daddy, holding hands and going to the park to play. See we're smiling, our teeth are showing, and sticking out our tongues!"

Monday, January 5, 2009

2009, I may be a bit behind, but I'm coming!

I know, I know, everyone else is doing it... I may as well too.

I'm honestly not sure I want to write down goals/resolutions for the new year. They never work :) I resolve to lose 10 pounds, and I end up pregnant. I resolve to save money, and we buy a house (as an investment), I resolve to keep the house cleaner, or get up early and exercise, or whatever.... And frustration or anger is generally the result.

A friend once defined anger as what we feel when something (or someone) beyond our control intereferes with goals that we have set. Her admonition was that perhaps a young mother should know better than to set goals.

And I've learned a couple of lessons. For example, sudden lifestyle changes don't work for me. Yes, I want to lose weight, but really, I want to incorporate exercise into my lifestyle. Instead of doing this all at once, I'll start with five minutes a day of aerobic activity, working up to 20 minutes a day of aerobic activity in a month (five minutes this week, ten next week, etc). Maybe that will work? maybe by the end of the year, I'll have lost 12 pounds?

And I want to read through the Bible this year. I usually come close to completing this anyway, so it's not a lifestyle change.

I want to increase my compassion for others. Something about sleep-deprivation doesn't make me compassionate. Something about having kids makes some kinds of bad news utterly intolerable for me. So I don't read the news. I want to start reading the Voice of the Martyrs newsletter again. This stuff is really happening. I want to let my heart break over it.

I'd like to read a fiction book for my own enjoyment sometime this year. I haven't made time for fiction since I was in high school. It's a shame. I also want to read some key homeschooling books -- the Charlotte Mason series, and some related books.

I want to get better with stewardship of our money. We spend less than we make, and we make financial decisions carefully, but we don't budget. Maybe this year we'll figure out something along the lines of budgeting that will work.

I want to establish some sort of a morning routine. This will likely include the 5 minutes of exercise above.

I want to introduce 1-2 new healthy eating methods into our family. Two years back, we switched from white flour to grinding our own whole wheat. It's heavenly. I think it's time for a next step. maybe eliminate margarine in favor of butter? Maybe using alternate sweeteners? Maybe using olive and coconut oil? Trying out making my own kefir? Actually maintain the garden that we plant? I don't know yet.

I'll continue weekly dates with my husband. It's a life saver. A babysitter is way cheaper than a broken marriage.

With the kids:

I want to get gradually more disciplined in doing school, and scheduling our days (mostly so that the kids know what to expect from the day).

I want to continue with our Bible verse memory program (which I'll eventually post about here).

I want to play with my kids nearly every day (I already do this, I just want to guard my time to not get too busy for play time).

That's more than enough. I've joined the masses and posted my ideas for what I'd like to change (or stay the same) during the new year.

Friday, January 2, 2009

I'm not gone...

Just tired.

Went to the chiropractor today -- the whole family -- for a check-in after the accident last weekend.

I feel much better afterwards.


The chiropractor (a new one for us, recommended by a friend in another town) is located inside a toy store. Could the kids possibly love it more? I like it too, since it's an all-natural toy store, with all these crazy cool things that I can never afford but like to browse for ideas. Loved it.

I think we may have found a replacement van also (we only have the rental van for a week from the insurance company). My dear (insane?) husband is crazy enough to drive all through the night to look at this van tomorrow (it's 10 hours away), then drive back tomorrow, with or without it, depending on, of course, whether he buys it.

That's why we're the crazydavises. Because we try this sort of thing.