Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Holidays are fast approaching!

It's almost officially November, and I'm so excited! We have a bit of a busy month ahead of us, but I'm looking forward to it. We've been going strong with our school work for several weeks now, so we decided to take this week off from school and have Holiday Cleaning Week. We have a few things taking place at our home this month, so I wanted to go ahead and get the deep cleaning out of the way. (When I say deep cleaning, I mean dusting ceiling fans and things you normally can't see, washing cabinets, etc. )

What do we have going on? Well, tomorrow we're having a Manners Meal at our home for our homeschool group. We're going to enjoy a meal together and talk about proper table manners. We've done this before and had a lot of fun. I also think it's a good idea to do it just before Thanksgiving so they can practice what they have learned when they're with family around the Thanksgiving table. Next, I'm hosting a baby shower for one of my best friends that I went to school with, and everyone is going to bring their family. I'm looking forward to that. Lastly, my parents and sister and brother-in-law are coming here for Thanksgiving. It's been a couple of years since I've fixed Thanksgiving dinner, but I always enjoy it. I think my girls will enjoy helping this year also.

We have a few more projects to check off the list today, and Holiday Cleaning Week should officially be coming to an end. Then we can relax and enjoy the holidays! This is absolutely my favorite time of year!!!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A Simpler Life

Amy's husband over at Amy's Humble Musings had an excellent article last Friday on living a simpler life. http://www.humblemusings.com/ Regarding Christians embracing simplicity, he says "The Christian must be guided by a more substantial and all-encompassing reason for doing everything he does. Thus, the greatest motive for pursuing simplicity is not doing good to others, not being good stewards of God’s creation, or avoiding the bad of the world. The greatest motive is embracing the purpose for which God made us and reflecting the image in which He made us." I thought that was an excellent comment. The simple life for the Christian is not an exact science. Each one of us is different, and God has a different purpose for each of our lives. What brings a simpler life to me may not bring a simpler life for you. My idea of simple may stress you out if that's not God's plan for you! I can't help but wonder though if the path to a simpler life for everyone begins with one simple word. Contentment. It's taken me quite a while to arrive at this place, and it can still be a struggle at times. In the past, we found ourselves consumed with working towards that perfect, bigger home and driving that perfect vehicle. Those things just don't matter now. Yes, I would like for us to eventually move somewhere with more privacy and land for animals and gardening. That is part of my idea of having a simpler life. But God is not allowing that for us right now, and I'm okay with that. He may never allow it, but I know that He knows what is best for us. It's our job to be happy where we're at and make the best of whatever situation we're in. You can't wait on the simpler life to just arrive. You have to live it right where you are. How do we become content and "embrace the purpose for which God made us and reflect the image in which He made us?" First of all, we have to let go of things of this world - the things we want and are spending countless hours working for and maybe even neglecting our families in the process. If there is anything that is coming between us and God, we have to get it out of the way. If you have a problem wanting everything you see on TV and in magazines, quit watching TV and reading the magazines. A few years ago, I would receive mail order clothing catalogs and want everything on every page. This would lead me to either feel bad that I couldn't have everything or I would order things that I didn't really need. I wasn't being content. Now the catalogs go directly from the mailbox to the trash. It's not a problem anymore.

What about our children? We worry that they won't be happy unless they have this toy or that toy. After some inspiration from Camilla Anderson (she has many excellent articles on her blog) http://www.homeschoolblogger.com/camillaanderson/ , I began cleaning out the toy boxes a few months ago. I've been doing it little by little. I clean them out and get rid of a few things. (They never even notice.) A few weeks later, I do it again. We're down to two toy boxes in our basement play room and a couple of boxes upstairs. They still rarely play with what is left. When they play, they use their imagination. For example, they set up a doctor's office and pretend they're the front-office staff. They use real things around the house. Or they do things like this.... I took down Amelia's baby bed over the weekend, and the mattress was in the dining room. They got the idea to slide down the basement steps on it, and we've had our own Six Flags around here for the past two days. We shouldn't fall for the lie that our children need all those "things" to be happy. Haven't you always heard they would rather just play with the box anyway?? All these things do is clutter up our home and take away from our contentment! (I'm certainly not saying we'll never buy our children anything again or do away with Christmas and birthday presents. It's just important to be careful in this area and not overdo. If they can learn to be content at a young age, it will make their adult life much easier.)

I could come up with many more examples, but bottom line, if there is any "thing" keeping you from seeing God fully in your life, get rid of it (or the idea of it). That is the first step to being content. I think you need to be content to be able to hear everything God wants to say to you. I'm not all the way there yet, but that is definitely what I am working towards. It is absolutely freeing!

I Timothy 6:6-8 - But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.

Monday, October 29, 2007

They're Back!



And, of course, they had a great time. I'll post a couple of pictures from their trip. The first was a picture taken at a stop in Dublin, Texas. We stopped there last year also. The have bottled Dr. Pepper that is the best Dr. Pepper you'll ever have. They make it with sugar cane instead of high fructose corn syrup. The other picture was taken of Madison just before the game. It was a squeaker, but the Longhorns did win 28-25.


I'm so thankful that God answered my prayers and kept them perfectly safe while they were gone and then brought them back home safely. I actually didn't even worry that much. It was such a peaceful feeling to know that He was watching over them - just like He does every day!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Am I ready for this?

My husband and 11-year-old daughter are officially in Texas right now. My other two daughters (8 and 2 years) and I are still here in Georgia. How did this happen???? My husband grew up close to Ft. Worth Texas and moved here when he was 18. His parents still live there. Every year, he and his dad still go to Austin to watch a University of Texas football game. It has always been a father-son deal, but then this happened. We were coming home from church several weeks ago, and my husband asks, "who wants to go with me to the UT game this year?" Madison (11) and Cari (8) immediately said they wanted to go. (The 2-year old, Amelia, said she wanted to go too, but she always wants to go - anywhere, anytime.) Cari eventually changed her mind since she is really not much of a football fan at this time. Madison never wavered, and she has been so excited about going. I haven't really [been excited], but I tried not to let it show. I didn't want her to feel guilty about going, and I believe she and her dad will have a great time together this weekend.

They just called from the airport, and they are safely in the hands of his parents. (His mother is going with them to Austin, but she could care less about the football game. )

This is a "new" thing for me, as Madison has never been away from me for this long, but I'm sure we'll all make it just fine, and the younger girls and I have several activities planned to occupy our time while they're gone. They'll be back Sunday afternoon, so I guess you really can't call it "long." Next year, this will be a family trip. Five plane tickets were out of the question, but if we plan ahead of time, Brad can take a week off, and we can drive there. We did this last year and made a field trip out of it by going hiking and visiting parts of Texas we had not seen before. It was a lot of fun, so hopefully we can do that again next year. We had too many other things planned this year, so a week in October was not available.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

My CVS deals for w/o 10/22



In case you're wondering why I'm posting my CVS deals, it has sort of become the thing to do. It's one of the reasons I wanted to start blogging! I used to dread going shopping for necessities, grocery shopping, etc., but not now. It has become fun! Crystal over at Biblical Womanhood (http://www.biblicalwomanhood.com/) and Money Saving Mom (http://www.moneysavingmom.com/) has been instructing her readers (including me) on how to save money, use coupons, and shop at CVS and other stores for the best deals possible. I also purchased her online program Supermarket Savings 101 for further instruction on how to save money through couponing, etc. I've learned so much in the last couple of months, and I am really enjoying this! Each week, readers get to post a picture of their purchases for the week and post a link to it over at Crystal's blog. The above picture shows what I got this week. The total before coupons was $54. After using multiple CVS coupons, manufacturers coupons, and Extra Bucks, I paid $7.46 out of pocket - and I got $8 back in Extra Bucks! If you're wondering how this works, I recommend you visit Crystal's web site at Money Saving Mom. She gives a very thorough explanation of how to do this.


I learned an important fact about coupons this week. I used to think that if an item was "free", you couldn't use a coupon. For example, CVS had Revlon products this week Buy 1 Get 1 Free. I had two $2 off coupons. I purchased mascara for $6.99 and eyeshadow for $5.99. After B1G1 and my two $2 off coupons, I paid $2.99 for mascara and eye shadow! Here's another example from this week. CVS had Bic Soleil razors on sale for $4.99. I had a $2 off coupon. I also had a coupon for a free 4-pack of blades with purchase of a razor. Before, I would have only used the free coupon for the 4-pack of blades. This week, I used both coupons and purchased the razor and blades for $2.99! Even the nice lady at CVS was having fun deducting all my coupons. She was laughing and said, "let's see how low you can go!"


This is a great way to save money at the grocery store also, so I'm excited about this new discovery. I like to shop at Ingles since they have double coupons up to $.50. They have lots of things this week that I'll be able to make similar deals like those above with the B1G1 and using two coupons.


A couple of other things I've learned is that you really need to acquire a good stash of coupons before you start seeing significant savings. I saved a little money over the first couple of weeks of beginning to use coupons, but now I'm really seeing a difference as I have about two months' worth of coupons. I've noticed that some of the deals I'm going to make at Ingles this week are with coupons that are just about to expire. Another money saving tip at the grocery store that I've discovered is shopping early in the day. I like to go on Saturday morning about 15 to 30 minutes after the store opens. When I get there, they've marked down the items that are about to expire that are left from the previous day. This past week, I got a gallon of milk for $1.99. I often am able to get organic milk for $1.49 half-gallon. The 2% or less milk seems to go sour a little less quickly than the whole milk, so I haven't had a problem purchasing milk that is close to expiration. One time they had organic butter for $.99 a box. Another day I got organic turkey bacon for $.99 a pack. It's usually $4 or more! They were marking the chicken down this past Saturday, and I got boneless thighs for $1.29 a pack and chicken wings for $.99 a pack. They often have produce marked down also. There may be other times throughout the day when they mark items down, but early in the morning is the time that I have noticed around here. I do wonder if they begin this process in the evening though?


I still have a lot to learn, but like I said, I'm having fun in the process. The best piece of advice that I think Crystal has given is praying before you go in to shop. Pray for wisdom to buy what your family needs and to make the best deals possible. I'm amazed at how God has answered that prayer over the past few weeks. For our family of five, I was spending around $130 to $140 a week in groceries. This past week, I spent $105! The funny thing is I'm spending less but getting more!




Monday, October 22, 2007

The Computer is Well

After my last post, I went and started scanning the yellow pages planning on finding the nearest computer repair shop to take my laptop to on Saturday. I finally found one that was open, and they wanted a minimum of $40 and that was for one hour. Any parts, labor, and time over the hour would be extra, so they actually had no idea how much it would end up costing. My husband and I discussed it and decided to hold off on taking it to the repair shop. While we are on this "path to simplicity," one of our current goals is getting out of debt. An important part of getting out of debt is evaluating where your money is going and how necessary it is to spend it at any given time. We evaluated this particular situation. We have a new desktop computer in our downstairs playroom/school room that is for the children to use with their school work. We determined that I could use this in the meantime for my transcription work and that we didn't have to be in any rush to get it fixed. No, I wouldn't be able to sit on my comfy couch with my laptop actually sitting on my lap as usual, but I could adjust. After this decision, I started thinking that we needed to find out what the problem was so we could have an idea of what was wrong and how much it was actually going to cost. Dell has an online wizard where you can go and troubleshoot your computer through a series of questions. This is obviously a BIG need for them since their computers have so many problems. (My motherboard went out on my Dell laptop in May, but thankfully it was under warranty at that time. This will be my last Dell.) I went through the series of questions and finally ended up attaching an external monitor to my laptop and was able to get an error code on that screen. I then went to several online forums and discovered there was a possibility that my LCD screen was unplugged. After reading further, I found out how to remove the screen to check if this was the case. Not figuring we could hurt it any worse, hubby and I began dismantling the screen (along with my two-year-old who kept asking if we needed any help). Sure enough, it was unplugged!! We plugged it back in and turned on the computer before putting everything back together, and thankfully it was working fine! That was such a wonderful feeling to know that we had saved that money and had actually fixed it ourselves. A few months ago, we would have taken it in for repair without thinking about it, but I'm thankful that God is changing our attitude in this area. My husband and I both firmly agree that God has a plan for us to get out of debt, and we believe we know the reason for that - but more about that at another time. Now excuse me while I go take apart the refrigerator. The icemaker isn't working.....

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Where did that title come from?

Okay, I guess today is the first day of the rest of my blog life. I've been thinking about blogging for a while - for various reasons - but for other various reasons, I was hesitant to start. One of the reasons was a problem coming up with a title for a blog. I was having a hard time sleeping last night after my laptop computer and I had a serious fight. It ended with the laptop in critical condition (we'll be heading to the laptop ER hopefully sometime today). I was worried about all the things I would lose if it can't be recovered, not being able to do my transcription work, etc., and I was slowly getting more anxious about the situation when I realized, "what am I worrying about?" I decided it was best to leave the whole situation in God's hands, and that was the only way to get the peace I needed to go to sleep. If I lose my transcription job, I'm sure He has a reason for that. If I lose all those pictures, we'll make more, and most of them are on my husband's computer anyway. All those email addresses in my address book? Hopefully those people will email me again someday, and I'll add them to a new address book. It's going to be okay. Anyway, back to the title. After all that was cleared from my mind, I started thinking about blogging. Just before dozing off, I remember thinking also about how I long for a simpler lifestyle, and how my family is working toward that goal. Then the title hit me. The Path to Simplicity. I hope this blog will document our journey as we strive to live a simpler life where we can see more of Christ in our lives, home, and family, and so much less of this world and all its stuff! We may never end up in that farm house in the middle of nowhere with cows, chickens, and goats, but we can do our best to get as close to that in this little subdivision in North Georgia - excluding the cows, chickens, and goats of course as that would be against the rules! It's so important to remember that if you're not content where you are, then you'll never be content where you think you want to go.