Making Progress~ Baby Step 1 complete!

So after starting Financial Peace University at home in the beginning of December we have met our $1000.00 emergency fund! Woot Woot! Time to cancel all those credit cards! Wait already done~ well except 1 card, hubby needs to call that one in. Either way, the cards are still gone.  It is sooooo freeing to not even have the temptation anymore. Buh-Bye Mastercard….you will not be my master anymore!

On the debt front we are working on baby step #2 The Debt Snowball. I paid off 2 medical bills today (high-five!) and we’re working on the next one. We started off with a total of 7 creditors and $45k in debt. This is credit card, student loans, and medical. We are now down to 5 creditors 🙂 Yippee! The goal is to by the end of January be down to 4 and by tax return time be down to 3.

Littlest Fruit

However there is a slight glitch in the plan…..littlest fruit has to go see a neurologist soon. She has been recently having a few issues caused by something that happened at birth. It is no big deal as far as her health goes. Everything will be fine and the problem should be treat-able. Now we are staring down another medical bill that we didn’t know was coming. Her umbilical cord was too tight against her spine as she came out  which we were told could cause a pinched nerve. It doesn’t always happen and just to keep an eye on her. A few days before Christmas we started noticing a few of the signs that they told us to watch for. Unfortunately hubby’s medical insurance has a LARGE deductible that has to be met before they will pay even 80%. Given that he also just got a smallish raise, we have decided to have that amount put into our HSA pre-tax to help cover any new medical expenses.

This is disheartening on so many levels. I want my baby to be healthy and whole. We were relieved as she was hitting developmental milestones without a problem and even a few early. I am so thankful that we caught this problem right away and that it shouldn’t (other than financially) be a problem to correct. It is also frustrating on another level to feel like we are getting somewhere with this debt only to have more future bills that are going to delay our goals. Don’t get me wrong I will pay ANYTHING to help my baby or any of my other kids. My top priority is their health, education, and happiness. I also recognize that this is also our fault for not putting more into our HSA to begin with. My mentality is that in general we have a very healthy family so what was being put in the account would have been sufficient. Aside from the occasional ear infection, we don’t need to go to the doctor unless I’m pregnant. We have been praying asking the Lord to show us things we can sell or ways to make extra money so we can stay on track with our goals and  be able to pay off the new medical bills is full when we receive them. Our God is faithful and I believe that since we are acting in accordance to His will, in regards to paying our debt, that He will provide a way! We would appreciate prayers in this as well!

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Household Purging

Ok so I could list all the Bible verses about material things. I could expound upon Jesus speaking to the rich young man….but I’m not. Who would I be kidding? I like stuff just as much as the next person! I’m not going to act all holier than thou because I’ve purged our basement and have enough stuff to fill up the back of my mini-van with the seats down. Why? Well to be honest purging things that I may need in the future or are sentimental is hard for me. So how did I manage to get rid of that much stuff? It’s no secret….my nesting instincts kicked in full force! So here are some tips that I figured out while I was working on it.

1. Is it stained or broken? If it is stained, can it be treated and removed? If not and you won’t wear it, consider if it can be repurposed. If it is a large piece of clothing, can you cut it down to make something else out of it? Blocks for a quilt, clothes for a small child or doll? If the answer is no, then look to see if it is a good type of material to work as rags. I found a lot of stained t-shirts in my stash that I cut up into much-needed rags. I did this last year, but as messy as my kids are, we were still always running out. Now our drawer is crammed full, and it is getting a lot of use. If your item is broken, examine if it can be repaired or repurposed. If it can’t then it needs to be pitched.

2. When is the last time I used this? If you haven’t used it in the last 6-12 months, chances are you won’t. Now there obviously exceptions to this like…baby gear and sentimental items. I saved my baby gear after having our daughter because I knew I wanted to have another baby….but it happened in God’s timing and our son was born 4 years later. I also saved it after him because again I wanted another baby. Had I been a little more vigilant I would have known that our car seat system (which was taking up a lot of space) would expire before baby #3 was born. Sigh, live and learn…we discovered this a couple of weeks before it expired…so out it went! We also had a play gym that was stored and the batteries corroded all over it, couldn’t be washed (because of the electrical parts) so out it went too. Lesson learned: make sure to store all items properly and remove all batteries. I’ll cover sentimental items in the next point.

3. Really examine all sentimental items This I believe is the hardest thing for most people. I know it is for me. I had over 20 porcelain dolls stored in our basement that I had collected as a child. I held onto them because not only were they pretty, but because of the people who gave them to me. Finally I had to decide…do I really want to keep all of these? I picked out a few of the prettiest to put in my daughter’s room and then donated the rest to goodwill. They aren’t doing anything for me sitting the basement. I only remember them when I go to move something and find them. So take pictures, put them in a scrap-book, and find them a new home. Most of the other items that are sentimental to me, I purpose to use at least 1 time a year. Like the Royal Dalton Tea set that I gave my mother. She loved it very much and was so excited to own something made by Royal Dalton. Last year in her remembrance I hosted a Mother’s Day brunch and used that tea set to help serve 🙂 It was a great way to honor her on that day and I am so glad that I kept it.

4. Kids toys This is another hard one for people….but I am going to tell you the unvarnished truth. Your kids will be as happy with a card board box, crayons, and scissors as they would be if you never gave them that DS or leapstart for Christmas! I think that the marketplace is over loaded with so many cool toys that adults just love to buy for kids. The marketing of those cool toys is also done very well, with well-timed ads so your kids see it when they are watching their favorite tv shows. Remember the more stuff you have, the more stuff to get broken, and the more stuff to clean up. I don’t know about you, but I hate spending 30+ minute cleaning up after the kids, or harping on them to keep cleaning. They hate cleaning up as much as I do. If there was less to clean, there is less to fight over! Kids have wonderful imaginations and over running them with toys, games, and movies is doing them a disservice. The more stuff they have, the less they have to use their imaginations, or invent things. I use to spend hours outside playing with nothing more than a swing, a bike, and a wagon. I had a wonderful time, because I used my imagination!

The jist of the whole post is, more is generally just that more. It will take up more of your time, not save you time. So prayerfully ask God what you have in your home and your life that is unnecessary, I think you might just be surprised!

Asian Noodle Soup

So my church is currently on the Daniel fast and everyone is trying to find recipes. I don’t typically do meatless meals as my body personally does not function well on that type of diet. I’ve been wracking my brain to figure out recipes that I can share. I don’t like recommending things that I have never tried, so now my goal is to adapt recipes that taste great to fit the need. Here is a take on my Asian Noodle soup that is Daniel Fast friendly 🙂 As you can tell the only changes that have been made is substituting the chicken stock for vegetable and omitting the chicken all together. You still get the great flavor, just slightly different 🙂

Ingredients:
1 Tb sesame oil
1 medium onion,diced
2 cloves of garlic, finely diced
6 c vegetable broth
1/2 c hoisin sauce
1/4 c soy sauce
crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground mustard
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp salt
16 oz frozen bag of asian vegetable medley (defrosted)
8 oz soba noodles (make sure they are made of wheat or rice)
3 green onions sliced thinly both white and green parts.

1. In a stock pot heat oil over medium heat. Add onion garlic cloves, cook until soft. About 5 minutes, stir as necessary.

2. Add the following : broth, hoisin, soy sauce, pinch of pepper flakes, coriander, mustard, ginger, pepper, and salt. Allow this to heat to a simmer.

3. Add vegetables, cooking until soft. About 8-10 minutes.

4. Allow soup to simmer until you are about 15 minutes away from serving. Bring soup to a boil, then add the soba noodles and cook for about 6-8 minutes or according to the package’s directions. Throw in green onions a few minutes before the noodles are cooked through.

* Salt and pepper can be adjusted to taste. If you desire more heat, just add more red pepper flakes. Enjoy!

** If you are allowing fish on the diet, you can add 1-2 TBSP of fish sauce to the recipe for more flavor, just taste before adding in the tsp of salt so that the soup doesn’t become too salty!

Quiet

This time of year encourages reflection and study. God is on the move among His people, and Heaven has never felt so close before. Dear one this is a time of equipping and showing God’s love. Dig in deeper to His truths. He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. In a time when the world is in an upheaval God hasn’t changed. He loves all of us, we are all His creation. Don’t forget that when you see the sinner on the street. Christ came in ultimate love, what right do you have to look down your nose at someone else? Remember you are a sinner as well, saved only by His grace! Instead seek the Holy Spirit at all times, ask Him to allow you to see people the way God does, to love them the way God does. Ask God what plans He has for your life, and ask Him for His will to be done. Take all thoughts captive and remember:

Philippians 4:8- The Message (MSG)
Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.

The Message (MSG)
Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson
http://www.biblegateway.com

Reflections of 2011, Goals for 2012

Looking back at this past year we have made some great strides. We doubled the size of our garden, and the produce picked at the peak of freshness has been carrying us through the fall and winter months. We purchased a large deep freeze for this purpose and to put our purchase of a 1/8 of a cow to good use. We have started purging items we don’t need, selling them to make some extra $$ and organizing the rest. We were blessed to be able to purchase a mini van in great condition for cash, so no car payments!! Praise God!

Andrew learned to walk, climb, and get into almost everything! His vocabulary is expanding and he is speaking in short sentences. Vivian is now reading and has completed level 1 of Hooked on Phonics. She also can count to 100, count by 10’s, and do basic addition. Her handwriting is improving tremendously, and is using her memory verses as copy work. I am so proud of both my children, growing and learning new things! I feel so blessed that I am able to stay at home and watch them grow in knowledge and stature.

Dan started working at a new job around the time Andrew turned one. I feel so happy and blessed that my husband is working in a new job that he loves. He works fairly regular hours compared to his previous job, and the new one has a lot less stress involved. If any one has been in that situation where you or your spouse were in a stressful job situation you understand how much of a relief it is to get out from under it! God has been faithful every step of the way and we are trusting in Him. We aren’t perfect and still stress out about things, but I hope at least that we are getting better. There are still times that we look back where we didn’t see Him in the situation, but once we were through His hands were visible all over it. Thank You Lord for being so good, faithful, and true!!!

Of course the biggest change that happened this year, and will carry over to the next, is we are expecting a new baby! I am currently 17.5 weeks as I am typing this 🙂 I have been starting to feel kicks and twists a little more frequently as the days go by. It is such a blessing to feel the new little one moving inside me! The recent urge to purge and organize has started with this little one. It seems that I go through this with every baby I have sometime in the 2nd trimester. That way I can focus on cleaning, cooking, and last-minute details in the 3rd. This week we have been organizing and packing up the kids old clothes.

We have purged our least favorite outfits, and ones that are stained. The worst will be turned into rags, and then we will donate or sell the rest. Since Vivian is so much older than this baby we are only saving our favorites and classic style clothes. If this baby turns out to be a girl, a lot of the clothes will not be in style when she is old enough to wear them. In my defense we do try to buy mainly classic clothes for this very purpose, but I won’t deny her a few trendy items. Thankfully with boys their clothes don’t go out of style very quickly so we have saved the majority of those. We are very blessed to have the space to store these items because in the long run it will save us money! Soon we will be focusing on purging and organizing toys.

Dan and I have started on our goals for this new year. Not surprisingly it mainly has to do with the baby and saving money. Dan wants to make an effort to not eat out as much, and to cut back on his junk food. I am very proud of my husband for making this a priority! We are also discussing how to more efficiently plant our garden for optimal use. I won’t have as much time this summer with a newborn, but I don’t want the land to lie unused. Even with the baby coming we need the produce that Lord can provide to help with groceries! We are cutting out the pumpkins and squash this year. They take up a lot of room, and we didn’t use them as much as we thought. In their place we will try fruit: strawberries, honeydew melon, and possibly huckleberries.

On the baby front, we are investing in more cloth diapers, so that I can cloth diaper exclusively. That will save us hundreds, even thousands of dollars over the course of this baby’s life (until they are potty trained). In addition I will be trying to line dry our clothes to save on energy. It’s also better for the diapers to be in the sun! I’ve been busy sewing cloth wipes, and as soon as I know the sex I will start on burp rags and receiving blankets. We have been blessed to receive the money to purchase a new infant car seat (ours expired), replace the play gym that was ruined, and purchase a bouncy seat! The bouncy seat was the only used item, and the family before hardly used it, so it is like new! We are trusting in God to provide the finances for the double stroller, cloth diapers, high chair, etc. that we still need. He has provided thus far, so I will continue to trust!

I am praying for another good nurser, so that we won’t have to use formula. I know that some people aren’t able to nurse even if they want to. I had this problem with Vivian, no matter what I did, it was too difficult. Even trying to pump I couldn’t get enough milk, and she would take 30 minutes to drink 4 ozs out of a bottle!!! So believe me if you are in that boat, or have been, I understand!! I am so thankful that God answered my prayers with Andrew and we had minimal problems on that front. I am praying and believing for the same for this little one. Not only will it save us a lot of money, but it helps create a special bond between mother and baby.

In addition we have decided to scale down on birthday parties this year. Just cupcakes and ice cream with the family. Each child will get 1 small toy, the rest will be either clothes, books, or handmade items. Some of those things will not be necessarily new, but new to them. My daughter wants baby blankets, cloth wipes, and cloth diapers for her baby doll. So I will be making those for her. Also she has saved up her money from chores and presents to purchase an American girl doll. I am very proud of her because 1/2 that money she actually worked for and the other 1/2 was gifts. So I will test my skills to see if I can make some outfits for it. She needs a few new dresses as she has outgrown the ones she has. As for Andrew and the other people in our life that we love, I will be busy praying about hand-made/ home-made items to give them as well. We are attempting to scale down as much as possible. As Dave Ramsey says, live like you don’t have money! Oh and my other favorite…beans and rice!!

My personal goals is to become more crafty, expand my sewing skills, be more frugal in the kitchen/ home, be organized, and to make an effort to post more to share!!! Hopefully that will start this week, I would like to share our experience in purging/ organizing clothes & toys. The importance behind it and why it will make your life easier! Then my new project will be menu planning to make the best use of my pantry and freezer. God willing I will do better managing my home for Him this year, and I will be able to share my journey!

Big News

So most of my friends (esp on Facebook) know my news, so it isn’t exactly new. We are pregnant again! We had an early miscarriage back in July and my body was not taking it too well. In fact I was told in August that I might not be able to conceive that month due to my issues. But God is bigger than any problem!! I had some prayer warriors praying over me 🙂 Then the following month I went to a women’s retreat. The first day God used 2 different people to tell me I was pregnant. I didn’t want to get my hopes up, but finally trusting God I took the pregnancy test the next morning and it was positive! The women of my church gathered around me, anointed me with oil, and prayed over me and the baby. I am now 9 weeks pregnant and my baby is about the size of a grape. Our family has already seen the baby at 6 weeks, and heard the heartbeat. Other than morning sickness, which I count all as joy, I feel well. I appreciate everyone’s continued prayers for our family.
On another note, my son (who is 18 months) is getting excited. He loves my friends babies, so we’ll see how he does when this one is born. If you ask him where his baby is he points to his belly 🙂 I’ve been working with him so he points now to my belly as well. His new thing is to pat my belly and give “his” baby kisses. Also he has taken a new interest in baby dolls (his sister’s) he puts the doll in the doll stroller and pushes it around. If you ask him about his diaper bag, he grabs one of his sister’s purses. It is so cute!! I think if we can get through any jealousy issues he will be a wonderful big brother.
Vivian on the other hand is a little more reserved. She has been through the 2 miscarriages and so I think she doesn’t want to get too excited. We are past the point where we lost the other 2 babies, but she seems to still be holding back. I know that she is hoping that this baby will be a little sister 🙂 She does think that Andrew is being cute, and likes to ask him where his baby is (she finds it funny that he points to his belly).

Simplify

Have you ever seen the commercial where the Dad comes home, looks around and sees everyone is off in their own world. Then he has a brilliant idea! He goes to the basement, flips the breaker box off, effectively shutting off the power. He goes outside and start-up the grill, and his son comes out and asks “Hey Dad what happened?” The Dad replies “Oh the power went out, want a hotdog?” The next scene is everyone sitting around an outdoor table eating, talking, and laughing. Then the boy notices something “Hey, why are the Johnson’s lights still on?” For an add it is an effective one, it portrays what everyone seems to want to achieve but has difficulty doing, quality family time. Not that the hotdogs can provide quality time, but the fact that the father took drastic measures to make it happen.

Now I am not going to go on about how our Heavenly Father does this, cause He does. He puts situations, and yes even allows disaster to occur, to draw us to Him. Think about the book of Job, he was a godly man, loved the Lord, yet God allowed him to be tested. But I digress….

A couple of weeks ago we had a service change done to our house. For those of you who are not familiar with it, they added more electrical capacity to our home. This winter (due to increasing prices) we will be switching from a gas furnace to an electric one. So we were without power for most of the afternoon. I was amazed with how much I was able to get accomplished and even still have free time with the kids! I was sweeping and mopping the floors, cleaning the kitchen, managed to cook lunch for 3 adults and 2 kids, and even picked beans. Then I spent quality time playing with the kids.

So it has got me thinking…..what is keeping me from being able to do this every day? Is it the pull of the tv, computer, or making complicated meals just because I can? What can I cut out to save time and even money? Or is it worth taking extra time to do things to save money, but somehow make it a family effort?

Since I haven’t been milling grain lately I decided to sell all my wheat and mill. That brought in a nice chuck of change in and freed up some space in the house. I’m looking into getting rid of more things, like an extra tv, switching out my high-end Dyson for an old-fashioned vacuum (non-electric kind). I also want to get a clothesline to let the sun dry our clothes 🙂

What I have been told and I think I will find to be true is that ridding your self of material things is freeing. You will feel less burdened and have less to clean/maintain. The plus side?!? You won’t be as tempted (hopefully) to run out and purchase more stuff. Can you say more $$$ 🙂

If you have money, live like you don’t save up that extra moolah for a rainy day or give to those that are in need. After all it is better to give than to receive. If you don’t have a lot of money, budget, budget, budget. Also remember you don’t need a lot of money to have fun. There are lots of places to go that are free and sometimes imagination is the best thing to create memories.

On the Home Front

So I have been very busy lately…and I won’t lie, I don’t know when things will slow down. So please bear with my sporadic posts. My garden is in full swing! We have harvested the carrots, but most of them ended up woody and tough. I have gotten some tips on how to make the soil more conducive to growing them. So I will give it a go one more time, but probably not until the fall. I had my first picking of sugar snap peas this weekend. Which I promptly blanched and froze. As there were so many little ones that will be ready in a few more days (plus many more blossoms) it just made sense. I also did the same with my lovely summer squash as well, and of course it wouldn’t be that time of year without me burning myself while draining the squash! My dear hubby insists that I purchase oven mitts that go up to my elbows since this seems to happen every year 🙂 Next on my agenda it to grate, steam, and freeze zucchini…..hmmm I can already taste the zucchini bread I will be enjoying this winter!! Also the cucumbers are coming in like crazy 🙂 I am excited to make relish and try out a few new pickle recipes as well.

We have been enjoying the lettuce from the garden, eating more salads than normal. It makes for a happy belly and wallet 🙂 The kale is plentiful and I find myself craving this yummy leafy green. There are so many recipes out there to make use of this wonderful veggie, but I have so much of it that I need to start freezing it as well 🙂 The tomato plants are turning out better than I hoped. I can wait until the tomatoes get big enough to ripen. I can almost taste the sauce and salsa that they will make.

On the homeschool front, we have finally found a reading program that works for Vivian. Of all things it is Hooked on Phonics. Who knew?!?! I was able to get all 5 levels on Amazon for under $70. Once I teach her to use the cassette portion on our stereo system she will be able to do everything herself and I can just oversee it 🙂

On a more personal level God has been really stretching me out of my comfort zone. I am heading up a MOPS group at our church this fall. MOPS in Mothers of Preschoolers and it is a wonderful program for mothers of infants to ages 5/6. My problem….asking for help. Not that I don’t want it, I do! It’s the asking part, mainly out of fear of rejection. But God is doing amazing things!!! We need at least 1-2 more Moppet volunteers to help with the amount of children we anticipate on having. However we can use as many as possible because the more volunteers we have means the more children, and the more mothers. It’s the 1st Thursday morning of every month from September to May for a few hours. Even if you know you can commit to every month we can fit you into the schedule or use you as a back up! It is a wonderful way to reach moms in that critical time of their life and help support them. The children’s program has become my passion, as God is really teaching me in this. But that it another blog post for when I have time….I’ll share what God has been working in my heart about that subject. It probably won’t get posted until I can do it without ranting but out of love 🙂 So if you would be willing to help out please contact me. Also we are chartering this week, so hopefully we will be able to take registration by the end of the week. If you are interested in joining let me know as well so that I can get a registration form to you 🙂

Urgency

Dear Heavenly Father,
Please let my words be of You. Let the words I share be an accurate reflection of You. My hearts desire is to do Your will. To hear Your voice, and follow the prompting of Your Holy Spirit. In all things that I do, say, and speak I desire to only please You. This is not about me, I do not want this to be about me, I want this to be about You. You are the Alpha, the Omega, the beginning, and the end. Praise You my Father, wonderous is Your love, mighty is Your grace and forgiveness. You are Holy, worthy of all our praises and so much more. I thank You for sending Your Son, Jesus Christ, to die for my sins. Father I confess my sins before You, I have broken all Your commandments. As You say if I have broken one I have broken them all. No matter how good I try to be I never can be perfect, I am only perfect through Your Son, who has washed away my sins. For You have said “Whoever confesses their sins, You are Faithful and Just to forgive us of our unrighteousness.” I feel so unworthy Lord, thank You for all You have done.
Lord I have felt a quickening in my spirit, that can only be of You. An urgency Lord, and I wish to obey it. I no longer want to be ashamed to boldly speak of what You have done. To not feel like I have to worry about who will over hear my conversations. No matter whom they are with. Father I ask for Your forgiveness, earlier this week I was speaking Your truth to my daughter in the parking lot of the gym and a man was behind me. The entire time all I could think of was “what does he think of me talking to my daughter of these things, does he think I’m a fanatic?” I am sorry Lord, if he doesn’t know you, please use my conversation to speak to him, despite my failings. Help me to be bold for You and Your glory. I know that Your word says that You want none to perish but have everlasting life. Yet You also say that No one can come unto the Father but by me (Jesus). Use me Lord, guide me, show me Your will. I will be one of the ones like in Your word that says “Hear am I Lord, send me!” I pray for my brothers and sisters in Christ. I know that You must be quickening their spirits as well, I pray that they hear Your voice, and that You give them the strength to follow. You have jobs for all of us, and they aren’t all the same. Please keep Your people from bickering and putting each other down. For those who are criticized for speaking out what they have been told to do by You (and I am one of them) give us the strength to keep going and the grace to forgive our siblings, for they simply do not understand. In fact Lord, forgive me for getting upset with those that have spoken against me, give me Your grace and love, so that I see them as You do and not just the hurt that I have felt. Lord let me be used of You.
Praise You Father! Praise You Jesus, our soon coming King! Let Your praises ring out through out the world! May Your truth be boldly proclaimed! Forever and Ever! Amen!