Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Big Families

For the past couple of years, we've had the bare minimum of channels on our TV - a.k.a. Dish Network's Family Plan. Brad and Madison were really missing their football games, so Brad has temporarily upgraded our channel plan to include the ESPN channels. Along with this upgrade, we got a couple of channels back that I enjoy watching - HGTV and TLC. I especially like Monday nights on TLC. I don't know if this is their regular schedule but for the past two weeks, they've shown a program called Children by the Dozen. A few Sundays ago, they had an all-day marathon of these shows. I love watching these large families and how they interact with each other and "get it all done." Last night they aired an episode of a family with 13 children (evidently not finished yet) with 11 still at home. (BTW, their grocery bill on average is $150/week. Wow. Ours averages $120/week, so I would love to know how she does that.)

There seemed to be a "big family" theme going on last night. I'm usually in bed by 10:00, but last night at that time they were showing the Duggar Family in NYC. They are a fun and interesting family to watch, so I stayed up past my bedtime to see the two episodes that documented their stay there and also their time on the Today Show. What a lovely family.

Why do I enjoy watching these families so much? I think I can relate it to something I read the other day by Doug Phillips in a Vision Forum e-mail. It was "excerpted from the chapter “The Art of Home School Opera: The Blessing of Family Eccentricities,” from The Little Boy Down the Road: Short Stories and Essays on the Beauty of Family Life, by Douglas W. Phillips, to be released from Vision Forum, October, 2008." The message began with the problem of "sound pollution" and how everyday there are "thousands of sounds competing for the attention of fathers." Here's what he went on to say ---
We live in a world of sound pollution — too much sound, all the time. We spend so much time listening to indiscriminate sounds that we often fail to hear the music of life. We need to reduce the pollution and start listening to the most important music — the sounds that make a Christian household a Christian household.
There is music in the sound of a family worshipping the Lord together. There is music in the sound of babies laughing, of children studying at the family table, of sisters preparing meals for their family, and of moms reading bedtime stories to little ones. When these sounds truly reflect hearts that long to please their Heavenly Father, they make up the aroma of a life well-lived before the Lord.
Of course, the most beautiful music to a father’s ear are any sounds which allow him to experience the blessing of watching his children walking in truth. On this point, Jesus Christ, the author of Holy Scripture, wrote, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (3 John 1:4).
I am persuaded that the sounds of a household are a window into the soul of the family.
For most American families today, the sounds being projected are filled with the noise pollution of the television or even with the discordant shouts of family turmoil. In other cases, the modern household is an empty tomb — a shadow of what family life was meant to be. In these households, there is little sound because there are no children. Or perhaps the silence stems from years of family fragmentation in which mother, father, and children each have their own individualized lives largely lived out far from home.
The Christian household is meant to be different. It is a place of love and living
And that means noise. It means houses filled with the glorious echoes of babies crying, of children playing, of mothers teaching, of fathers training, and even a few animals chirping, meowing, or woofing. It means life — with all of its glory, sadness, and joy. It means happy homes of highly eccentric families, each with their own unique vision, style, personality traits, and expressions.
These homes are not museums. That means they are rarely immaculate. Gloriously organized chaos is sometimes a more apt description. They are homes made up of grateful and forgiven sinners who recognize that there is no greater joy than to daily experience the nobility of the commonplace, from the simple disciplines of Christian life — prayer, studies, work — to the thrill of watching fathers eating the fruit of their labors, of moms who radiate the glory of being fruitful vines, and of brothers and sisters who gather around the family table like precious olive plants (Psalm 128).
Look for these households. For their number is growing. They are part of a great spiritual work where the hearts of parents are turning to their children and children to their parents (Malachi 4:6). And when you find them, listen.

Hmmm......Yes, I like the sound of that........

Monday, September 29, 2008

My Grocery Experiment

A couple of weeks ago, I tried something new at the grocery store. (Note that for the previous three months I had been couponing the "Coupon Mom" way, and I had finally realized that was not for me. After several days of clipping here and there, I had all my coupons clipped and organized in the coupon box and was ready to make up for the savings I had been missing out on!)

I went to our local new Ingles - which is fabulous, not to mention they offer double coupons up to $.50 - and I took my coupon box with me. I've never done that before as I had a fear of dropping the thing and a million coupons being scattered everywhere, but I decided to take a chance. I also went without a list or a menu plan - something I've done maybe two or three times in the 16 years we've been married.

My plan was to buy only what was on sale, hopefully also accompanied by a coupon. This really worked out well, and I ended up with a LOT of groceries. I then went home - actually I think I did this in the doctor's office while waiting to be seen - and after considering what I purchased, I made out our menu plan for the week. I ended up needing a few more things to complete the menu plan, so I stopped by Wal-Mart on the way home and picked up those few things. I still came up $15 under budget and had much more than usual.

There was only one drawback - it took forever! I must have spent 1 to 1.5 hours in Ingles, whereas normally I spend 30 to 45 minutes. I knew of a few deals ahead of time since I had their weekly flyer at home, so I was able to plan ahead for those. But, they often have unadvertised deals, so I would come up on those and then have to search to see if I had a coupon, and that was a little time consuming. Overall, I think it was a good experiment, and even though I rarely have time to spend an afternoon at the grocery store, I'll probably do it again someday.

On the subject of coupons, someone had asked me the other day what coupons I'm able to use since we try to eat healthy most of the time around here, and most coupons seem to be for things that aren't so healthy. Here's an example of some of the items I used coupons for this past week - for a total savings of $15 off the grocery bill:

Kellogg's Shredded Wheat Cereal
Uncle Ben's Rice
Duke's Mayo
Spaghetti Noodles
Whole Wheat Blueberry Muffin Mix
Nestle Chocolate Chips
Fiber One Granola Bars
French's Fried Onions
Yo Plus Yogurt
Coleman All-Natural Hotdogs
Toaster Strudels

I always use coupons for laundry detergent, dish detergent, paper products, soap, baking products, oils, dressings, condiments, cereals, juices, makeup, shampoo, lotion, etc. - pretty much everything. I don't always have a coupon for everything I need, but all in all, it's definitely worth my time and effort to clip those coupons. Although it was a little bit of a slow process determining the best way to make out my grocery list each week regarding best deals, coupons, etc., it's getting easier each time I do it and less time consuming. Like I've said before, eventually I want to be that person that buys $100 worth of groceries without spending virtually anything out of pocket. If only grocery stores had Extra Bucks!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Household Update

I'm currently approaching the 34-week mark in the pregnancy. I absolutely cannot believe how quickly it has gotten here! The baby is reaching the point where he's "running out of room," so it's helping me anticipate the labor and delivery a little more each day. Until now, I've had several thoughts like "I don't think I can do this again." I do understand that I don't have a choice, but I've been really nervous and scared about the whole L&D thing. Some friends have seemed surprised when I make that statement since it is #4, but I guess it's all to deeply embedded in my brain. I've read several books over the past eight months regarding natural, medication-free child birth. While reading the books, I can almost convince myself that I can do it. Within a few days, the confidence begins to dwindle, and it's pretty much gone at this point. Since I've still been visiting the chiropractor every other week, I am curious to find out if an epidural would work this time, so I'm pretty sure I'll end up trying it again, but I am going to try to hold off on the pain medication until I really need it.

We are all very excited to meet this little guy, and I'm hoping he'll make his appearance sooner than later. Madison was my earliest baby - coming three weeks early (6 lbs 13 oz), Cari was two weeks late (9 lbs 1 oz), and Amelia was right on time (7 lbs 7 oz). I much prefer the 7 lbs 7 oz or less, but with the huge appetite I've had, who knows what we'll get! I was much more active with Madison and Amelia during the months before they were born, so I've tried to do that this time also - lots of walking around the neighborhood and continuing with daily activities, not to mention the 50 times a day I go up and down the basement steps during school hours! I was rather lazy with Cari as we were in a rental home while we were building the home we're in now, and there just wasn't much to do. I credit that to her being two weeks late.

Speaking of staying active, we worked in the yards a lot yesterday, and I think I overdid it. My back is not wanting to work this morning. I'm finding myself wishing I had a cane! We still have our house for sale and needed to do some maintenance outside yesterday - plant grass, put away the summer stuff, clean all the persimmons off of the sidewalk!, etc. We recently acquired a new real estate agent and dropped our price. She was recommended on Dave Ramsey's site, and she seems to have had a pretty successful year in comparison to many other agents. We're hopeful that she'll be able to sell it quickly, but we know it's all in God's timing and in His hands. In the meantime, we continue to wait.

I guess that's it for now - time to try to get busy! I hope you all are doing well!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Grandparents Day, September 7, 2008

Cari was looking at our wall calendar this week and had noticed that this Sunday was Grandparents Day. I admit it probably would have passed me by had she not mentioned it. It seems to be one of those days that doesn't seem to get a lot of attention. She immediately said she wanted to get something for her grandparents, and I suggested she make something - like cookies. We visit my parents every Friday, so we spent yesterday afternoon in the kitchen baking cookies so they could be delivered today. She wanted to do them by herself, but Madison wanted to help. In the end, it was decided that Cari would go first and make her cookies, and then Madison would make a different cookie recipe when Cari was finished.

It helped that I made a quick run to CVS yesterday afternoon. I noticed that I had one $5 Extra Buck that was going to expire yesterday, and I wasn't about to let that happen! I ended up getting two tubes of CG Amazemint Lip Gloss for $5.99 each. After using a B1G1 coupon, a $1 coupon, and my $5 EB, these were free. I also received $5.99 in Extra Bucks for my next trip - not to mention $10 in EB that printed from a survey I participated in a few weeks ago! I know that was off the subject, but I had to throw that in. Anyway, we were wanting a little dessert, so I purchased three bags of candy for $1 each while I was there. These helped add to our cookie baking.

Cari's cookie was a basic chocolate recipe with chopped up Snicker bars added in. Madison made M&M cookies. They were both quite delicious! Amelia enjoyed pitching a few ingredients in the bowl every now and then but mostly had fun taking care of the leftover dough!

Cari spooning out her cookies

Madison and Amelia working on the M&M cookies

Amelia helping "clean up"

My main duty yesterday was cleaning up while the girls cooked. During this time, I had thrown some tuna in the trash that was left over from lunch. Then I threw in some leftover watermelon. When I turned around and looked back in the trash can, the tuna was staring back at me! I just had to take his picture.

Cari and the chocolate Snicker cookies

Madison and the M&M cookies

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Chore List

We're trying to get back on a normal "school" schedule this week. Since we officially started back to school in July and it was still summertime, we did what I called our summer schedule of school. It was a little more laid back, and the girls were allowed to sleep a little later and have extra "play" time after lunch. It worked well, but now that we've added a few activities to our weekly schedule, I'm finding the need to jump into more of a routine.

A few years ago, Mrs. E was kind enough to send me a copy of her children's daily schedules. I thought they were a wonderful idea, and I implemented similar schedules with my children. I had not pulled these out this school year until this week, and I was reminded of how it seems to make life much easier. Instead of constantly saying "did you finish this or do that," all I have to say is "is your chore list complete?" It seems to free me up from having to constantly nag about chores getting done.

The left-hand side of their lists includes their daily school work, and the right-hand side lists their daily required chores.

Some of their chores include:
Madison and Cari - Daily: Clean room, put up clean clothes (I try to have these sitting outside their doors when they wake up each morning), take all dirty clothes to laundry room, straighten closet, empty dishwasher (this is usually waiting for them each morning, and each day they alternate doing top and bottom since they each prefer the top {no silverware!}), and feed Fluffy - the cat (alternating days).

In addition, they have chores that are done once a week on different days of the week, which include: Madison - clean out drawers and under bed, clean deck door window and kitchen mirror, dust TV and shelves in living room, vacuum living room, change bed sheets, and dust and vacuum bedroom. Cari - clean out drawers and under bed, wash outside of refrigerator, and clean and dust living room tables.

The above things are on their chore lists and are to be completed each morning before beginning school.

There are some things they have to do that are not on their chore lists such as bathing the dog and taking him out as needed.

Madison often helps with dinner preparation, and Cari and Amelia participate on occasion. In the evenings after supper, they take turns clearing the table, wiping it down, and sweeping the floor. The other one will dry the dishes after I wash them. I used to do this all myself, but it's wonderful to have helpers as it makes it much easier and quicker to get this dreaded chore accomplished.

Amelia just turned three a couple of months ago, but there are a few things that she can do. She loves to help! I'm working on helping her learn how to put away the silverware out of the dishwasher, and she also enjoys "helping", i.e. play in the bubbles, wash dishes. She also likes to put clothes in the dryer as I hand them to her out of the washing machine. She's also quite good at putting her shoes where they belong and keeping doors, drawers, and cabinets closed (since other older members of the family haven't quite gotten hold of that idea yet!)

They are a great help around here, but believe me, they don't do everything. I still have plenty to do. Later in the year, I will switch some of their chores around so that they can learn new things and be better prepared to be keepers of their own homes someday. I admit I was a little lazy when I was growing up and was rarely made to do anything except clean my room every now and then (which I must add I greatly enjoyed as a child!), and every so often if I was in the mood I would wash some clothes or wash dishes. I did learn a lot by example as my mother took very good care of our home, but that didn't help the laziness factor. I want my children to be better prepared than I was, and "the chore list" is certainly helpful in regards to this goal.

Monday, September 1, 2008

The Rome Braves

Another fun activity we enjoyed last week was going to a Rome Braves game last Thursday evening. They are a minor league team - I think single A. We enjoy these games so much more than the Atlanta Braves. The parking is not nearly as much of a headache, it's much cheaper, and no matter where you sit, it's a good seat. You do have to be careful where you sit because the stadium is rather small, and you never know where those foul balls are going to be hit. That makes me a little nervous, but it's still fun. We've always gone on a Saturday evening, so we were surprised to see that there were not nearly as many people there as usual. We sat a couple of rows behind the Braves dugout, and when we arrived at our seats, I felt like we were definitely in foul ball territory, but thankfully no balls ever even came close. I credit the many prayers I sent up after we sat down and were waiting for the game to start!

The girls had their picture made with Romey and Roxie. I think they made Amelia a little nervous as throughout the game she kept wanting to know where "that boy and girl" were. She would fly into my lap if she saw them getting close.