Monday, July 31, 2006

Cool Summer Treats

One of our favorite treats lately has been homemade jello, made without sugar. I tweaked it from the recipe on the back of the Knox gelatin box.

1 big bottle white grape cherry juice
6 pk knox gelatin
2 cans fruit cocktail in juice (no sugar added)
2 ripe bananas

Measure 2 cups juice; add gelatin. Heat the rest of the juice to boiling, remove from heat, and add gelatin mixture. In 2 bowls, put *drained* fruit. Divide juice/gelatin mixture between the bowls, and refrigerate. Sets up in about 3 hours (barely) so I usually put one in the freezer for an hour and a half or so, and it sets up really fast. I've never forgotten it so far, so I don't know what would happen if it froze completely! The kids love this.


Another favorite treat for summer is smoothies. I actually haven't done this much this year, but it's so good.

1 to 1 1/2 ripe bananas
big glob peanut butter
1 t. vanilla (opt.)
big spoonful carob powder (opt.)
1 c. ice
1/2 c. milk, dairy or non-dairy

Blend in blender till creamy. Serve in a tall glass and drink with a straw. Yum!

As Promised...

Here's my Monday report about how my lifestyle change has gone this week.

I met my goals for exercise and drinking water. I did pretty well on eating--although I probably nibbled too much, I didn't blow it on any given day. My (new) scale is on the blink. Maybe that has something to do with the fact that the bathroom flooded about 3 times this week in kid-related catastrophes. Anyway, I don't know if/how much I lost, but my jeans and skirts are a smidge looser now than they were a week or two ago, so I'm counting this week as success. Billy told me to stop weighing obsessively every day because that contributes to an emotional roller coaster. I know he's right, so assuming I get the scale working again, I'll only weigh once a week. And if I don't get the scale working again, then I'll just go on my merry way and find out later how much I've lost--because scale or no scale, I'm going to keep on the same path.

Saturday, July 29, 2006


Just thought I'd issue a little disclaimer about my blog roll. Unlike the blog rolls of most people I read, there's not much of a common thread among those I have listed. I have Quakers, Catholics, Anglicans, happy Baptists, disillusioned Baptists, Emergents, Presbyterians, and generic Evangelicals, non-Christian earth mamas, missionaries, missional, married, single, parents, empty nesters, liberals, conservatives, free spirits, and ladies against feminism, unschoolers, classical schoolers, private schoolers, and public schoolers.

I guess the common denominator among all these is that I enjoy their writing and each one contributes something particular that I benefit from. I'm a big fan of the "chew and spit" method of consuming information. Whatever I read, I try to mentally chew up the meat (good stuff) and spit out the bones (not so good stuff). The blogosphere has been an amazing tool in my life to help me see outside my Baptist bubble. However, just because any one person is on my blog roll isn't meant as a complete endorsement of his or her blog. Hopefully the diversity and downright incongruity of some of the side-by-side choices make this clear.

But if not--to my friends who are conservative in every way, don't worry, I'm not headed into Liberalville. And to my more liberal friends, don't worry, I'm not edging toward the Land of Legalism. My prayer is that I'll blog with grace and read with discernment and an open heart.

Friday, July 28, 2006

First Grade Curriculum

This closely follows the recommendations in The Well-Trained Mind, with some variation to meet our needs.


We’ll continue with The Ordinary Parents’ Guide for Teaching Your Child to Read, as well as the Bible (New Living Translation) and McGuffey Readers.


Copywork from the Bible and great literature, as well as writing pen pals and relatives, and practice sheets for correct letter formation.


Singapore Math, which is supposed to teach children how to think mathematically rather than rote memory of concepts and facts. We’ll also be using addition and subtraction songs for reinforcement.


Spelling Workout, which is phonics-based.


First Language Lessons, which corresponds to The Ordinary Parents’ Guide for Teaching Your Child to Read. This employs a variety of exercises, from narration to memorization, as well as others.

History and Geography

Truthquest History, which follows a chronological approach after fourth grade. However, the younger grades simply learn American History. Billy and I were more comfortable with this than the strictly chronological approach typically used in Classical education, mainly because we aren’t comfortable with our impressionable and ungrounded little ones studying pagan religions and cultures in depth. We’d prefer for that kind of study to take place later when their tools of discernment are more sharply honed.

Insofar as I understand, Truthquest uses a combination of text and living books, which in my opinion is probably one of the most effective ways to get a lasting picture of what history was really like.

We’ll also use Geography Songs and Maps, as well as supplement with the Kingfisher History Encyclopedia.


We’ll be doing a unit on local fish and their habitat, as well as studies of animals from the Kingfisher First Animal Encyclopedia, the human body from the Kingfisher First Human Body Encyclopedia, and plants, from Green Thumbs. We’ll also be doing various fun experiments from the book 730 Easy Science Experiments With Everyday Materials.

Art and Music

Elizabeth has started violin lessons from the Suzuki teacher down the street. We’ll listen to classical music, and become familiar with various composers. For art, we’ll have picture study of the work of various famous artists from books I plan to pick up for a few dollars at our local Borders Outlet, as well as keeping a nature journal and painting with watercolors (just fun!). I also want to continue to teach Elizabeth to sew and knit.


Note: I'm too lazy to link all these books tonight, so if you want to know more about them, you'll have to Google! :)

On Homeschooling

Lindafay has an encouraging post up on why a Charlotte Mason/Classical approach works and produces well-educated children. Lindsey tells about her plans for her first grader. I enjoy both these blogs because these ladies seem to use an approach similar to the one Billy and I are interested in pursuing. (Another one I love for this reason is School@Home.) Elizabeth is starting first grade, and while I’m a tad apprehensive (Can I do a good enough job?), I’m also excited and encouraged by the many parents who have gone before me.

Elizabeth learned to read during her kindergarten year, but it was still a laborious process. At the end of the year, she had made amazing progress, but still wasn’t fluent enough to really enjoy reading. Each word required a great deal of concentration.

I was a little discouraged, but I decided to take a summer break and just let her rest completely from academics. After our vacation in March, she made a huge leap forward, and my hope was that another break would render the same result. I read to her some, but didn’t push her reading at all.

As the summer has gone on, I’ve started working with her a little bit again, but not pushing too hard. She still complained that she didn’t like reading; it was still a struggle. I began to play some little games with her. “If you read three sentences straight through without stopping, I’ll give you a surprise.” “You can go outside after you read me one short story.” I guess they were more incentives than games. I still tried not to stretch her to the point of frustration.

Finally, when I was about to give up, what I hoped for has happened. She has started reading (or trying to read) everything in sight—signs, books, my email (!). She’s also begun writing—inventively—but writing nonetheless. Whereas before she just strung together unrelated letters, now she is trying to sound words out and spell them phonetically. Some of them are hilarious. (Did you know that Happy Birthday could be spelled Hpe Bsda?) Since then she has become more concerned with spelling words correctly. She will guess at the spelling and then ask me if it’s right. With the pressure off for a short time, she has begun to blossom. She wants to read and write, and it’s become fun for her.

I’m not delusional enough to think that if I just leave her alone she will totally self-educate. I understand that structure and discipline are necessary and sometimes I’ll have to push her to do things she doesn’t really enjoy. But I’m also learning that—as I’ve heard from dozens of experienced homeschoolers—when a child is struggling, sometimes it’s best to back off a bit and try again a short time later.

I’m ordering her schoolbooks, and I can hardly wait to begin this year. I’m especially inspired by the idea of a Classical approach with Charlotte Mason elements, which is academically rigorous, yet not dry or uncreative. I’ll be refreshing myself on these concepts over the next few weeks while I wait for our books to come.

I know I have a lot to learn about homeschooling and education in general. I’m also not so arrogant as to believe that I’ll never change ideas or approaches. But for now this direction seems like a good fit for us. I’ll report periodically on how it’s going!

In the next post I’ll share what curriculum we plan to use this year.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Selfish Mothers

Can somebody enlighten me as to why in the world this woman had children?

"Of course I love my children as much as any mother..."


Single Income Families: Frugal Entertainment

Entertainment can add up. Fortunately there are many, many ways to have just as much fun for little or nothing. Here are a few ideas. I’m sure this list is far from exhaustive!

Movie Night at Home

Most expensive way to watch a movie: theater
Second most expensive: rent (assuming it’s something you’ll want to watch again)
Third most expensive: buy new (if it’s something you’ll watch again)
Fourth most expensive: buy used at movie rental places, garage sales, pawn shops
Cheapest: borrow from the library

At the very least, wait till that movie you’ve been dying to see has come out on dvd, and then rent it (if you aren’t sure it’s one you want to purchase) or buy it (if it’s one you know you’ll want). If you are really patient, wait a couple years till it’s $5 at Wal-Mart, or you can find it used.

Read Aloud

This is one of the most fun and educational family habits you can develop. My family read literally hundreds of books together, from the time we were little all the way through high school

Make Music

You don’t have to be a great musician to make music together as a family. Play an instrument (if you can) or sing hymns or folk songs a capella. It might feel silly at first, but ultimately you’ll have lots of fun. Plus it will develop a love of music in your kids.


Bible stories, historical figures, favorite movies, literary characters—all make for fun charade themes.

Board and Card Games

Scrabble is my favorite. Other good ones are Sorry, Uno, Dutch Blitz, Pictionary, Scattergories, Chess, Checkers, Boggle, Balderdash, or The Worst Case Scenario Survival Game, and for little ones, Chutes and Ladders, Candy Land, or Go Fish. Those are just a few ideas to get you started.


I’m not a puzzle person, but puzzles are great if you enjoy them.


It’s both fun and fulfilling to make something beautiful or useful with your hands.

Books on Tape or Old Radio Shows

While you work puzzles, or craft, you can listen to books on tape, radio programs, or old radio shows on CD like Amos & Andy or Fibber McGee and Molly.

Family Walk or Bike Ride

Take a nature walk or ride together through your neighborhood.


Instead of going out to eat with friends, have them over for an inexpensive dinner like soup and bread. Or have several families over for pot luck. Have games available for the kids, and let the parents enjoy visiting with each other.


Pack a picnic for the back yard or a nearby park.


Fishing is inexpensive and fun. Buy poles used or use inexpensive cane poles.

Outdoor Games With Family and Friends

You don’t have to be involved in organized sports to enjoy the game. Basketball, volleyball, baseball, soccer, flag football, and other active games are fun to play with a large family or group of friends. Plus, it’s good exercise!


The possibilities for cheap entertainment are limitless. If you have any more ideas, tell us about them in a comment!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


I’ve always loved the stories in the Bible of persistent people, like the desperate mother who hounded Jesus until he healed her daughter. They give me hope.

This week I’ve seen the fruits of real-life persistence in action. A dear friend wrote me this morning to tell about the amazing changes taking place in her family. She has prayed for one family member for 25 years, since she was 4 years old, and for another (newer) family member for 12 years. All this time, it has seemed very unlikely that any change would take place. Yet now, after so many, many years of prayer, God has brought pressures to bear in the lives of her family members that have caused them to begin a journey back toward God.

I have people in my life I pray for, and I wonder if anything will ever happen. Sometimes it seems like God must not hear, or if He hears he doesn’t care, because we don’t see results in days, months, or even years. Don’t lose heart. He’s listening. Keep pounding on heaven’s door until it opens. I don’t fully understand why it sometimes takes so long to see results; that topic is too big for me. I do know that I can never give up, and that one day light will break through and the answer will come.

No Words

One of my favorite English novels is The Scent of Water by Elizabeth Goudge. In this story, a woman named Mary moves into a cottage she inherited from a crazy old cousin. She discovers her cousin’s journals, which tell of her life with mental illness.

In one journal, her cousin tells a story of a time when she was coming out of a particular hellish episode. An old man, a priest or vicar I think, visits her in her garden and gives her advice to which she clings for the rest of her life.

When the sickness comes, he tells her, when the nights are black, when God seems far away and there are no words, just remember these three prayers of three words each.

God have mercy.

Thee I adore.

Into Thy hands.

It’s been a long time since I’ve read the book (unfortunately I don’t have a copy of my own), but I remember those prayers. Whether explicit in the story, or implicit in my heart I’m not sure, but the truth I carried away is that God hears us when we have no words to pray. Those three tiny prayers embody so much of what we need to say to God, and whatever our prayers lack, the Holy Spirit fills in for us, so to speak. Romans 8:26 puts it like this: “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” Romans 8: 34 says, “Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.”

It’s sweet comfort to know that although our prayers seem so small and inadequate sometimes, Jesus and the Holy Spirit intercede for us before the Father. And many times on those dark days when I’ve had no words of my own, I’ve clung to those three small prayers. God have mercy. Thee I adore. Into Thy hands. And trusted my Intercessor to make them perfect.

Disheartened But Resolute

Two weeks ago I started exercising and watching my eating in earnest. I was so excited because I lost about 3 pounds. Last week was a bust for several reasons. I felt bad and overslept, consequently didn’t exercise most days, and ate too much…And gained all the 3 pounds back. Sigh.

Well, this week is a new beginning. I absolutely have to lost 15 pounds in the next few months, for several reasons. I hoped to have it done by mid-August but that’s not happening, barring a hunger strike. *L* I know I’ll lose it slowly because I don’t diet. I’ve slid into bad lifestyle habits after several years of practicing good ones, and so my goal is not to diet per se as much as it is to regain a healthful lifestyle. I know I’ve posted about it before, but I’m serious this time.

As proof of seriousness, I’m going to post updates here…Not because I think any of you give a rip, but for the accountability. If I have to tell the world how I’ve done each week, maybe it will be more of an incentive to keep on the straight and narrow. Each Monday I’ll just post a general update on whether I’ve met my goals or not. The goals being, exercise 5X, drink at least 2 quarts of water daily, eat only when I’m hungry and only till I’m full, and major on fresh raw fruits and veggies. I’m not going to be legalistic, I just want to generally stay within those guidelines as I develop good habits again.

If anyone cares to join me, leave a comment!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Friday, July 21, 2006

Learning Styles Quiz for Kids

Elizabeth's results:

What Is Your Learning Style? Quiz for Kids

You are a Kinesthetic Learner. You like to move. You feel blindfolded when you have to sit still at a table for hours. Anyone who calls you hyperactive, just doesnt understand that moving your large muscle groups helps your brain to process information. (Some people may have thought that you have a learning disability, but you probably just need extra time and space to move around and digest the facts.) You can learn best immediately after running laps around the backyard, doing chin-ups, or jumping rope, etc. because then your brain is fully activated and ready to receive information. Visit my Blog: Guilt-Free Homeschooling
Take this quiz!

Quizilla |

| Make A Quiz | More Quizzes | Grab Code

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Pray for Missionaries

Let's not forget to pray for missionaries around the world. A missionary's life can be tough...Living in a foreign culture away from family and what's familiar is a great sacrifice. Don't forget to encourage the missionaries you know!

Here are a few missionary blogs I read.

Leah and Stephen (Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota)

Joy and Dave (Indonesia)

Phyllis and Will (Russia)

Mary and family (France)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Single Income Families: Frugal Clothing

This week my kids and I went shopping for clothes, since they seem to have sprouted up and nothing fits anymore. We ended up with probably 30 outfits among the three of them—overalls, dresses, pajamas, some lovely boutique outfits. And we didn’t spend a penny. You see, we went shopping in our stash of hand-me-downs, most of which I didn’t spend a penny on to start with.

I know a lot of people say it’s not worth it to hang onto clothes because they take up too much space, yada yada, but in our case keeping clothes has been a lifesaver. I can honestly count on one hand the number of times I have bought clothes for my kids, and even fewer times that I’ve payed full price.

Unless you have special clothing needs (like special dress clothes or work attire), with careful planning, I believe that a family of six should be able to outfit the troops for less than $500 per year. And I don’t mean that they should look like they came out of the rag bag.

Here are a few tips for saving money on clothing.


I learned this lesson one day when I almost absently breathed a sentence prayer, “God, Elizabeth sure needs some new shirts.” Actually I planned to go buy her some…But by the end of the day, someone had given us a big bag of hand-me-downs that included a bunch of shirts in Elizabeth’s size. Now when we have a clothing need I pray *first*!

Have Faith

Another time, when Elizabeth was a baby, we were on a trip to visit family and she had outgrown all but two of her outfits. I asked Billy if we could stop at Wal-Mart on the way and pick up some clothes. As we got closer to our planned stop, he said, “I just don’t have a peace about doing that.” I kind of inwardly rolled my eyes and thought, so what do you expect this child to wear? Well, when we got to my mom’s house—you guessed it—there was a big box of hand-me-down baby clothes from an old family friend. Guess God showed me!

Always Accept Hand-me-downs

Don’t be too proud to accept hand-me-downs. People ask me frequently, “Would you be offended if I offered you some hand-me-downs?” This question just blows my mind. I always say, “No way! We love hand-me-downs at our house!” I don’t feel obligated to keep them all. I sort through them, keep what’s appropriate (or what I like), store what they might grow into, and donate the rest to Goodwill, or pass them on to someone else who can use them.

Of course, you have to have at least a few friends and acquaintances in order for people to offer you clothing. This is one of the very practical reasons it’s beautiful to be part of a community of faith. God uses us to meet each others’ practical needs. And honestly, the hand-me-down clothes I’ve gotten are usually way nicer than what I’d be able to afford if I were buying clothes from the store. Sarah and Elizabeth frequently wear dresses and outfits that would cost $50 to $80 new, and in many cases I wonder if they’ve ever been worn before.

Shop Thrift and Consignment

You have to pick through things at thrift stores, and some stores are better than others, but you can find amazing deals there. Just be choosy. You can find up-to-date styles, brand names, and even clothes with tags still on. One of my brothers got an expensive navy blazer to wear to my wedding at Goodwill for 99 cents. I hear that you can really find good stuff if you shop thrift and consignment shops near upscale neighborhoods. I don’t thrift as much as I should, but it’s something I may do in the future.

Learn to Sew

Anyone can learn to sew simple clothing. Especially if you buy fabric on sale, you can make garments at very low cost. Wal-Mart usually has a dollar-a-yard table with pretty cotton prints. If you bought a couple yards and made a knee length cotton skirt (so nice and cool for summer), you’d have it for less than $3. Add an inexpensive or thrift store shirt and a pair of cheapo flip-flops, and you have a stylish everyday outfit for a little of nothing. Plus, by choosing styles carefully, you can imitate a much more expensive look.

Shop Clearance Racks

Learn to shop off-season. Soon summer clothes will be going on clearance. Wait till they hit rock bottom prices (late August, I’m guessing) and then buy pieces for next spring and summer. Same goes for winter clothes. It’s usually not too hard to guess what size a child will be the next year, so sometimes you can do this for kids too. I have a nice shirt I got on clearance for $3 about 6 years ago, that’s still one of my favorites.

Stick to a Classic Look

It gets expensive to buy trendy clothes only to have them looking dated by the next season. Make classic pieces the foundation of your wardrobe, and then add inexpensive trendy accessories if that’s the look you like. That way you aren’t out much on transient styles. Buy classic shoes in neutral shades that will go with everything.

Be Content

Be happy when someone gives you hand-me-downs even if they are not the exact styles you might have chosen. Don’t fall prey to the “must-have” mentality. Keep your wardrobe simple and let go of the clothing habit, if you have one. A small wardrobe is much easier to maintain anyway.

More Frugal Food

I haven't forgotten about my single income family series, I've just had a hectic week.

I thought of a few more tips for frugal food.

Don't Waste Food

Give children (and yourself) small portions so that no food is left on the plate to be thrown away.

Eat leftovers until they are gone, even if it's not particularly what you feel like that day. Don't let them sit in the fridge till they become science experiments. (Speaking to myself here!!!!!!!)

Make Food Last

When I was still at home and we had to pinch pennies, my mom would buy, say, two bags of chips, and that would have to last until the next scheduled grocery day. She discouraged mindless munching and doled them out to make them last. Same with cookies and other groceries.

Use Less

Be satisfied with less meat or peanut butter on your sandwich, less meat in your soup, less cheese in a dish, less butter on your bread, or whatever.

Shop Infrequently, But Schedule Your Shopping Trips

My mom got groceries every two weeks. We almost never "ran to the store" in between. If we ran out of something, we made do and waited until the next grocery trip. We knew exactly when we would be going.

Finally, here's an article on eating healthfully on a budget.

(Hat tip: Crunchy Con)

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Public Speaking Tips

This weekend I was asked to speak at our local homeschool group's new homeschoolers meeting. I was scared silly since I've never spoken in public before. Here's a link that provided some great tips...Combined with my preacher husband's coaching and a big dose of God, it went well. More on this later.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Modesty in Balance

Two great articles.

On Midriffs, Modesty, and Moralism

Graceful Modesty

Public Service Announcement

You’re going to get these every now and again because it’s something I’m so passionate about. If I can help anyone else avoid the grief we’ve been through, it will be worth the occasional post.

Last year, Billy got sick. He was cold all the time and had mental fog, exhaustion, constant severe muscle pain, emotional stress, weight gain, and a host of other symptoms. The thing is that these symptoms were vague enough or common enough that they might have been caused by any number of things. All he knew is that something was very, very wrong. When he went to the doctor, he discovered that he suffered from hypothyroidism. Three different medications and seven dosages later, he was a changed guy.

Unfortunately, his thyroid issues caused an even bigger problem that took more serious measures to remedy. All the motrin he’d taken for the pain had perforated his colon (who knew that could happen?) and he ended up with emergency surgery and six days in the hospital, plus months of recovery. Afterward I realized how close I came to losing him. Hypothyroidism literally almost took his life.

My memory has been bad ever since I got pregnant with Elizabeth, and I’ve had low energy since then too. I was excessively emotional. I chalked it up to mommy brain and being up with babies several times a night. That’s what my doctor said too. Billy kept telling me that I had thyroid problems, so I had my thyroid tested, but it came back “normal”. He said something was wrong. I said he was crazy.

Then last winter it got insane, or maybe I got insane. I felt like I was losing my mind—literally, not figuratively. Through the fog I wondered it this was what it felt like to be mentally ill. I couldn’t think. I read thoughtful writing by other people and cried, because once upon a time I could write those things too, and now I could barely get through the day, much less articulate a meaningful sentence.

Since I’d had my thyroid tested already, I felt sure it wasn’t that. It had to be post-partum depression that I just hadn’t dealt with. I was scared to talk to my doctor because I figured he’d just want to put me on Prozac. That’s exactly what he said. I declined.

Billy finally made me go to the doctor in January. A friend recommended a woman doctor. Although she was all business, she was willing to listen to me and consider my family history along with my symptoms. Only out of submission to my husband (whom I still thought was wrong, wrong, wrong) I asked if I could try a small dose of natural Armour if my blood work came in even close to borderline. She said yes, and she kept her word.

Oh. My. Life hasn’t been this good in a very, very long time. I’ve eaten a lot of humble pie because my husband was RIGHT. I can think again. We actually have a relationship of equals instead one that feels like a parent/child relationship—because now I can think clearly and communicate effectively. Plus Billy does not always have to check behind me, second guess me , and worry when I leave the house that my cloudy brain will prevent me from using good judgment. I’m functioning as an adult, probably for the first time ever. I feel like I’m actually a help to him in ministry rather than a hindrance.

It’s still not perfect, but I see improvement weekly. It took us a long time to get to the point we were in our health, and consequently we fell behind in every area. It’s taking awhile to dig out, both physically and in our day-to-day existence. But I’m so excited that finally I can get up at a normal hour for days at a time, function with less than 9 hours’ sleep, exercise (because I have the time and energy), write (because I have the time and mental wherewithal), have a meaningful conversation with my husband, and take care of my babies without dissolving into a puddle of tears. I told Billy the other day that he and I will be younger for the next ten years than we’ve been for the last ten (which is saying a lot when you’re talking about a couple youngsters like ourselves).

It might seem coincidental that two married people end up with the same malady. Actually, hypothyroidism is epidemic in our country, and massively under-diagnosed. No one knows for sure why, but it seems to have something to do with environmental exposure to things like fluoride and soy.

If you even remotely suspect that you could have thyroid issues, don’t delay in getting it checked out. Billy and I recommend Mary Shomon’s book Living Well With Hypothyroidism . Get it, read it, learn it. You have to be your own advocate. Shop for doctors until you find one who will listen to you. Be armed with the facts and don’t let up until you get answers. It’s not worth losing your health and your mind.

Modesty Buzz

Seems everybody’s talking about modesty lately:

Blogging buddy and cuz-in-law Windy



Barbara Curtis

My kids really liked the film clip linked on MommyLife. My three-year-old, Silas said, “Mama, we want to see the modest girls again!”

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Single Income Families: Frugal Food

Here are ways to cut costs on the grocery budget. I’m writing to myself as much as anyone else on this one.

Eat Simple

Contentment is key here. Save fancy, rich, expensive foods, or meals with great variety, for special occasions and holidays.

Drink Water

Not only is it a whole lot cheaper, it’s healthier. For special occasions, try fruity herbal teas.

Don’t Eat Out

Add up how much you spend on eating out for one month. You’ll probably be shocked.

Go Meatless

Meat is expensive. Contrary to popular opinion, you won’t succumb to a terrible malady if you don’t have meat every day (although teenaged boys and men seem to have a genuine physical need for meat more often than the rest of us). Try non-meat protein alternatives like beans and rice, eggs, and moderate amounts of cheese. When you do eat meat, go for inexpensive things like chicken. Have red meat once a week or on special occasions.

Have a Bean Day

When my family was having to pinch pennies every way we could, we instituted Saturday Bean Day. We cooked a huge stock pot of pinto beans with onion and chili powder. Sometimes we added some cheese or browned ground beef at the end. We served it with homemade cornbread. Then we ate leftovers through the week as burritos, nachos, or just plain beans. Our Saturday friends ate a lot of beans with us! Monday is usually bean day at our house now, but I cook Cajun red beans and rice.

Cook From Scratch

Prepackaged foods cost an arm and a leg. Compare the price between, say, homemade chicken salad and deli sandwich meat. Or homemade vegetable soup and Campbell’s chunky from the can. Or homemade bread and store bought. The homemade versions usually taste a lot better too.

Make Your Own Snacks

Make cookies, don’t buy them. Muffins, granola, and popcorn are all good, inexpensive snacks you can make at home.

Buy in Bulk

Find a whole foods co-op or shop at Sam’s Club. Be careful though, bulk isn’t always cheaper.

Use Store Brands

Except for things that really taste that much better, use the store brand. It’s sometimes half the price.

Compare Prices

I don’t do this as much as I should, but if something is drastically cheaper at one store than another, sometimes it’s worth the extra stop. These days we have to factor in gas prices too, though.

Shop Sales

Self-explanatory. I don’t do this as much as I should either.


If you have the time and man power, a garden can save lots of cash. I hope that a big garden will be part of our food source one day. Right now that’s not possible, but as our kids get bigger it will be a more practical option.

Monday, July 10, 2006

More Frugal Baby: Do I Really Have to Have That?

Do we really need wipey warmers and vibrating bouncy seats? I’ve used both those things, and actually they are helpful and convenient. But guess what, they are not essential! Neither are a lot of things we think of as must-have baby items. Here are a few things baby doesn’t have to have if you want to pinch pennies.


Baby can sleep in mom and dad’s room (which supports the breastfeeding relationship) or in a port-a-crib in the living room or hallway. It’s nice to have a separate room for baby, but he won’t be warped if times don’t allow for that. Nurseries are quite the modern invention anyway.


A port-a-crib or a safe co-sleeping arrangement works fine. Baby doesn’t care, and in some cases may be better off. Heck, a lot of babies have slept in dresser drawers and not sustained any emotional damage. ;)

High chair

Again, convenient, but if you can’t afford one, don’t sweat it. My first didn’t have a high chair for a long time and I assure you that she doesn’t feel deprived because she ate her first food while sitting in my lap.

Sippy cups

Help them drink from a regular cup. I’m actually a fan of sippies, but babies lived without them for a long time.

Baby-Sized Utensils, Plates, etc.

Nice, but baby will learn to use grown-up sized pieces eventually. Little ones usually eat with their fingers most of the time anyway.


If there are any grandparents or friends in the picture, your baby probably has plenty of toys. If not, he’ll be just as entertained playing with a set of plastic measuring cups from the kitchen drawer or banging on a pot with a spoon. Besides, that noise is preferable to a lot of noise-making baby toys.


I love a swing and it makes life easier at times, but baby will survive without one, I promise.

Themed décor

Someone once posted on my local Freecycle loop, “In desperate need of Classic Pooh baby décor.” “Desperate need” and “décor” don’t belong in the same sentence. There’s nothing wrong with having beautifully decorated room for your sweet one, but expensive themed materials won’t make him any happier if you can’t afford them.

Baby Einstein

Baby will benefit far more from interacting with mom than sitting in front of the tube learning TV habits early.

Single Income Families: Frugal Baby

Babies can be expensive—but they don’t have to be nearly as expensive as we think. There are a multitude of ways to cut costs on baby expenses. Here are some. I don’t do all these things, but all are good ways to save money on little ones, starting at birth, literally.

Home Birth

OK, I haven’t done this. But a lot of people I know have. Years ago, everyone had their babies at home. Now many people are doing it again, including celebrities like Cindy Crawford, Demi Moore, and a host of others. Just asking around, it seems that the average cost for prenatal care and home delivery is about $2,000. This is drastically less than prenatal doctor care and a hospital birth, especially if you don’t have insurance. Home birth isn’t an option for everyone, but it’s a beautiful and safe way to deliver for a lot of women who are at low risk of complications and live where it’s legal. Home births are non-invasive AND cheap.


Formula for one baby for one year will cost between $1,000 and $2,300 depending on whether you use the powdered version or ready-to-pour. That’s if your baby even tolerates regular formula and doesn’t have to have a special (and specially expensive) kind. I don’t look down on women who don’t breastfeed, but I have to admit that I’m baffled as to why anyone would buy formula when God has provided baby’s perfect food absolutely free, from mom. What’s more, research shows (and most pediatricians will testify) that breastfed babies are sick far less than formula fed babies, so that eliminates a lot of dollars going out for doctor visits and medicine. I’m sold (literally) on breastfeeding for many reasons, not the least of which is money saved.

Cloth diaper

This is something I’ve dreamed of but never really done. Maybe one day. Disposable diapers cost a lot, even when you buy store brands. Depending on what kind of cloth diapers and accessories you buy, there will be some initial investment, plus the cost of detergent and so forth, but the cost will still be drastically less than disposables.

Make your own wipes

Cut up old towels and re-wash them, or make your own wipes from inexpensive paper towels. One mom recommends just keeping a roll of paper towels and a spray bottle of soapy water handy. If you use regular wipes, try cutting them in half for small jobs.

Make your own baby food

The AAP’s most recent breastfeeding recommendations state what a lot of moms have known all along—it’s rarely necessary to introduce solids before 6 months, and sometimes even later. When you do introduce baby to solid food, make your own. There’s no great mystery to this. Some people use the little baby food maker, but I don’t bother. I just mash or blend whatever vegetable or fruit I have on hand. My babies start with things like mashed banana, baked sweet potato, mashed avocado, applesauce, and pureed garden veggies (like squash). Instead of boxed cereal, I just gave them pureed old-fashioned oatmeal and pureed brown rice. And as they got a big bigger, they ate tiny pieces of whatever we ate. Do stay away from high-allergy foods though.

Don’t Buy New Clothes

You don’t have to buy new clothes for your baby. You can outfit him or her for a little of nothing by shopping at garage sales and thrift stores. When they’re little, babies often wear an item only a few times before they outgrow it, and it’s not uncommon to even find clothes with tags still on. I have beautiful name brand children’s clothes that I’ve gotten at garage sales for mere pennies, far nicer things than I would have gotten if I’d bought items new. You’ll probably be offered hand-me-downs as well, which is where most of my kids’ clothes come from.

Try to wait till baby is born before you invest in clothes anyway. Gift clothes often cover clothing needs for the first few months, if not longer.

Shop Dollar Stores

Lotion, shampoo, and lots of other baby supplies cost a fraction of the regular price at a dollar store.

Freecycle and Shop Used

Join your local Freecycle group and be on the lookout for baby items like furniture. Check out Goodwill, junk stores, or other second-hand venues. Just make sure items like cribs meet safety standards.

Be a Stay-at-Home Mom

You won’t have to pay for childcare, as well as food for those hurried mornings when you didn’t have time to fix breakfast or the nights you’re running late and doctor bills from all the illnesses baby picks up at daycare.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

New Words

Sarah is 14 months old. She has three new words.



And chocolate.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Single Income Families: 10 Principles for Success

There are a few principles necessary to make it on one income. Here are some that come to mind.


Yes, you read that right. You can’t out-give God. We shouldn’t give so He’ll bless us, but the bottom line is that when we give, He gives back--abundantly. I speak from personal experience here. Start with a tithe (10% of your income) given to your local church. Beyond that, look for ways to give money, time, possessions, talents, and resources to others. Even if you don’t receive a tangible blessing as a result, know that you’re laying up treasures in Heaven where it really counts.


Obviously our culture is designed for the lifestyles of two-income families. For those of us who have made the choice to be homemakers, it takes a good dose of thriftiness to manage our families with today’s cost of living. We have to learn to be frugal mamas!


In our materialistic culture it’s difficult to differentiate between wants vs. needs. If we are going to successfully live on one income, we must learn to be content with what we have. The Apostle Paul learned this lesson. In Philippians 4:11 he said,…I have learned in whatever state I am to be content.” We don’t truly need that much.


Thankfulness goes hand-in-hand with contentment. When we are grateful for what God has given us, we don’t always feel compelled to have more. Let’s remember that if we have a home and a car we’re richer than 95% of the world. That helps put it in perspective!


Patience saves a lot of money. It’s hard to get past our culture’s must-have-now mentality, but when we do, it’s worth it.


We have to let go of feeling entitled to certain possessions, luxuries, opportunities, and even our own time. We must put the wants and even often the needs of others before our own.


When we are unselfish, sacrifice isn’t so hard. Doing without is easier when we realize that it allows us to fulfill our goals.


When you do without, you have to get creative! Don’t settle for the bare minimum. Find frugal ways to make your life beautiful.

Joy and Laughter

Your family will love having you at home when you are full of joy and make home a fun place to be.


If you make the choice to stay home, the only way you’ll succeed is to be absolutely committed to it. Stay the course, even when it’s hard!


Remember, even if these are qualities you don't have, God can help you develop them...And the discipline of becoming a homemaker may be the catalyst He wants to use!


Here’s a little rhyme that was popular during the Great Depression. It’s a good reminder of how to make a little go a long way.

Use it up, wear it out,
Make it do, or do without.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Frugal Link

Cindy's Porch

Single Income Families in Real Life

I was blessed to grow up with a mother who was committed to being a stay-at-home wife and mom, and a dad who was committed to making that happen. Even during lean times (and we had some very lean times as I got older) the idea of her getting a job outside the home never even came up as an option. We sacrificed in whatever ways we had to in order to live on my dad’s income and stay out of debt. Things got better, much better, in a couple short years, but that time still stands out to me as one when my family's commitments really became reality. Having that consistency, and also pulling together to be frugal and live within our means, gave us a great deal of closeness and stability.

One day when I was talking to a pastor’s daughter, the youngest of six godly children who are all now grown, I asked, “What was the best thing about being in a pastor’s family?” Her answer surprised me, because it was really unrelated to being a pastor’s kid. She said, “The best part of my childhood was knowing that mom would always be home. Even when I got into junior high and high school, I knew that she’d be there waiting for me when I got off the bus, and that meant so much.”

I know a precious single mother who opened a home daycare (maybe there’s a little irony there) and works as a church janitor at night. This has enabled her to be a stay-at-home mom during her childrens’ teenage years. I know things have been tough at times, but her cheerful heart and willingness to live frugally have paid off. She’s raised good, responsible children who are close to her.

As I was thinking about this topic, I did an informal survey of some stay-at-home moms I’m acquainted with online. Although I didn’t ask anyone to share incomes, most of them volunteered that their families lived on less than $50,000 per year, many of them on much, much less. All had at least two children, most four or more. Most had little if any debt, including car notes.

They shared wonderful ideas on how to save money so that their families could live on one income. But the general consensus was that the biggest factor in making it on one income is attitude. They believe that the sacrifices they make are worth it if it enables them to stay home with their children, and they take care to live with joy and contentment and not fall into a poverty mindset. They’re thankful.

I appreciate these ladies who are committed to being keepers at home, and the husbands who allow them to. They’re an inspiration to me, shining examples in their passion for their families and their willingness to live frugally.

I want to mention, too, how very grateful I am for a husband who wants me to stay home and works so hard to support our family. Billy is God's gift to me in so many ways, this being just one. It means more than I can say. I'm blessed.

Single Income Families

There’s been some buzz around the blogosphere on daycare. I don’t really care to enter the fray, but it has gotten me thinking about ways that single income families save money so that Mom can stay home with the babies if she feels compelled to do so. I know that most working moms believe that their families can’t make it on one income—and some truly can’t. But I feel certain that in many cases, maybe even most cases, if one has enough want-to, when you really crunch the numbers, costs can be cut enough for women to be stay-at-home moms.

It will mean swimming upstream from the culture. It will require sacrifice. It will be hard. Some days you may wonder what kind of crazy idea this was, and you might long for the times when you could spend hours at your job without the demands of your needy children. But my guess is that you’ll find that the sacrifices are outweighed by the joy of staying home and mothering those sweet little ones. Anyway, in most cases, where there’s a will there’s a way. And even if it’s not an option now, it’s a goal worth pursuing for the future. You can do it!

I’m going to write a little series on single income families and ways to cut costs that will help families live on one income, even one small income. And hopefully it will also give those of us who already stay home ideas on how to be more frugal than we already are.

This isn’t a slam against people who must use daycare. I know that there are unavoidable situations where moms must work and their babies must go to daycare, and my heart goes out to parents and children in that position. In some areas of life, we all have to make choices sometimes that are less than ideal, and we do the best we can with the circumstances life throws at us. But I’d love to encourage working moms who want to stay home but don’t think they can, to reevaluate whether or not the career and daycare life is really unavoidable.

Monday, July 03, 2006


A couple weeks ago Billy bought me the book Heaven by Randy Alcorn. I already knew Randy Alcorn as the author of Does the Birth Control Pill Cause Abortions?, but I’ve since discovered that he’s a respected author on numerous issues among mainline Christian leaders.

I’ll just be honest, until reading this book, I have never read or heard anything in my Christian life that makes Heaven sound like a place I’d want to go. I’ve felt guilty for not wanting to leave this beautiful life God has given me to go to the hazy eternal church service in the sky, where we sit around and sing Southern Gospel or Charismatic praise songs (depending on who you talk to) while the ages roll. Although I grew up in church and I’ve been a Christian for 15 years, that’s about as far as my theology of Heaven has gone. So in essence, I haven’t had one. And I’ve never heard anyone teach on the New Earth.

The book Heaven has changed that. Randy Alcorn delves into basically every mention of Heaven and the New Earth in the Bible, and tells us what we know it will be like, as well as what we can imagine it will be like. He’s careful to differentiate between what we clearly see in the text and possibilities a particular verse might suggest.

This book is thorough to a fault. In fact, I have a couple chapters left, but I’m pretty sure I know what they’ll say because he makes sure to cover each question about Heaven (just about any you could think of) extensively, and after awhile it becomes almost redundant. Also, he approaches the topic in such a way that it’s helpful regardless of one’s eschatological position, which obviously comes into play when discussing the eternal future of the Church.

Randy Alcorn goes into more detail than I’m prepared to summarize here, but if I had to give one clue about the gist of this book, it would be the word continuity. He describes our lives on earth, life in the intermediate Heaven, and life on the New Earth, and how they tie together based on scripture. After reading (most) of this book, my thoughts about my eternal future have been revolutionized. If you want to know more about Heaven—what it will be like and what it might be like—I highly recommend Heaven.