Thursday, December 27, 2012

what's the value of x

when i was a kid, i can remember Christmases as a time of serious magic and anticipation.
i know i had to make lists, but i don't really remember any of them specifically. i remember spending Christmas eve at my papaw's house (crowded and overflowing with family that didn't leave until well after dark) and getting updates from my uncle John on whether Santa was close to our street (whenever he went outside to smoke).
i remember wanting to go home quickly on Christmas eve so we could get to bed so Christmas morning would show up much quicker.
i think, but I'm not sure...the biggest thing we (my brother and i) ever asked for was a TV or a gaming system (Sega genesis- i miss you)
and those things lasted. we played Sega (sonic, *sigh*) until our hands would be sore. Jesse- probably played madden or some other football game, sonic was pretty much strictly my domain.
so, after Christmas this year, i was reflecting on my childhood Christmas memories and watching my children and i realized that so far, we have dodged the "big" gifts.
Lily typically doesn't ask for a whole lot...and what she does ask for isn't outrageous and normally stays within her age range.
Amelia and Cain aren't old enough yet to ask for "things".
I've watched on facebook as friends and family have posted pictures and lists of things they or their children received. I've read or looked at some with mild embarrassment.

let me say this, we are beyond blessed with family that seem to hit the nail on the head with the gifts they buy for our kids. seriously, they LOVE everything they received. they are thankful and very happy with everything. thank you, everyone, for the thoughtfulness that you all put into their presents. it means the world to me and to them.

it seems anymore, as the years have passed, and i have grown up...that kids have upped the anty on what they require for Christmas. it's no longer all about bikes or dollhouses. it's about iphones at age 6...tablets, ipads, ipods, and kindles. super high dollar, easily breakable, and high responsibility items.

as a parent, that scares me.

we've made the decision that our kids wont receive these as gifts. that means if Lily wants a kindle or a tablet, then she will earn money and pay for it herself...and then she will only use it at allotted times. as far as a phone or an ipod? nope, sorry. it wont happen. seeing kids walking around everywhere with headphones perpetually in their ears? it hits a nerve with me. you have to have music on constantly? why??

aren't we 'connected' enough already? do we really need to separate ourselves more from each other? I'd rather Lily ride her bike outside. I'd rather her read a real book..or ask one of us to play real checkers with her. am i old fashioned? absolutely. judgemental? a little bit--but i try not to be. but when i see a young child 100% engrossed in a cellphone game...or ignoring everyone around them with their's just rude. there has to be limits. there needs to be some respect taught to our kids. if you can do that while they have these high end items, go you.

i just want to make sure my kids know the real value of money.
we haven't made the smartest decisions when it comes to money and i definitely don't want my children to make the same mistakes that we have. in my mind there needs to be a shut off. where when a child asks for something outlandish, you should be allowed to say no...and explain why.

if Lily wants something that's costly, then she can work and earn money to pay for it herself...and if it requires data, she can only use wifi or she can help pay for a data plan. these things don't pay for themselves. they require constant feed of prepaid cards or additional money on a monthly plan. they require insurance in case they get dropped in a tub...dropped on a floor and cracked...or simply left somewhere and forgotten. these things happen to responsible adults...and we're giving them to kids. i don't know about yours, but mine has a hard time keeping track of the clothes she had on yesterday...and Amelia's and Cain's binkies? we're constantly losing them! imagine if their binkie cost $400+. we've gone through 6 with Amelia alone. and no lie- Lily has a pair of pj's that we CANNOT find. she literally lost them. they've vanished.

so, if you're reading this and you're a parent who has bought your child or children high ticket items this Christmas, don't get your feathers all ruffled. it's okay with me if you do...i just don't get it. what happens if next year, the bigger-better comes out? will you one up yourself and get that one next year and discard last year's? and what about the year after that? they're always getting better with technology. will your child still appreciate a thoughtful handwritten letter as a gift? or will they look for more?

I'll be honest- that was my wake up call. several years ago, lily was opening gifts and when they ran out, she seemed sullen and asked, "is that all?" and i realized we were doing it wrong.

since then, we've tried like heck to instill a value to all things...and showed that some things, like love, are invaluable. we've tried to teach that things are just that...they're things. you cant take them with you when you die.
we've also shown her that a gift is a GIFT, and you should treat it as such by taking care of it and treating it in a way that would make the gift giver proud and happy to have given it to you.

so today, while working ahead in math, we were working to find the value of x, Lily stopped me and asked, "in math, is there ever an x that you cant put value on?"

and i had to stop and write this.

Friday, December 14, 2012

do you ever second guess your prayers?

Have you ever prayed for something and then instantly began worrying about how God might answer that prayer?
We all know God rarely answers prayers with direct responses (I.e praying for patience doesn't mean you wake up one day suddenly with a zen mind; nooo, God will give you "opportunities" to be more patient.)
So when I began praying for better money handling skills, I didn't expect to be blessed with instant knowledge...and while i was nervous about the answer i definitely did not expect the response I received.

For some time, Arnie and I had been praying about life changes and waiting as patiently as we could for answers. (While I also prayed for money management)
Then, one day, all the responses came in one phone call.
We had two weeks and Arnie would be starting his new job in a different state and we would be moving much closer to our families.
The kicker? Packing and moving with 3 kids, 2 of which are under the age of 2. The bigger kicker? Arnie would not receive his first paycheck until mid December (his first day on the new job was November 17th)
This meant an entire month with NO income. None. Zilch. And we had 2 weeks notice for this...and add into that travel and moving expenses...on top of your every day stuff.
Now, most people have an emergency fund for situations similar to these. Ours, however, was depleted thoroughly in late June, early July when the derecho hit and knocked out the power for 7 days. We had to buy disposable diapers (hand washing diapers took a lot of time and patience) and eat out a ton (ugh!) due to losing our well stocked fridge and deep freeze. and gas alone (getting to and from places) was killing us.
So, here we were- all those prayers we had prayed answered in one swoop and I was nervous. Scratch that, I was terrified.
No income for a month AND literally on the heals of Christmas? A holiday that we don't shop for until the weekend before the holiday?!!
Somewhere inside of me a quiet voice said He will provide. But my shouts nearly drowned that out. What about this? What about that? What are we going to do?? How will we survive?

well, today is finally Arnie's first pay check after a month of being super creative and diligent about where any money went. i learned a lot this month, about our spending habits, about necessities, and about what really matters.
i didn't come out of this month a money guru, but i did learn a lot and, again, a prayer was answered.
nothing has made me more humble than not having a paycheck to look forward to for 30+ days.
this Christmas will not be full of gifts (sorry to those we normally buy for), but of smaller things and focused much more on the real meaning of this holiday. 
it's strange because I've caught myself a few times feeling not really into the Christmas spirit. blame it on the warmer weather, blame it on the move..but i blame it on myself. i get so into buying things, wrapping things, and giving gifts and this year, obviously, we're not....
like i said, it is humbling on a different level and it also forces you to stop looking at the commercial and start focusing on why Christmas is here to begin with.
it's not been an easy road, this month...but there's half the month left to make it work...and to see the positives.
it always make me nervous to pray for the big things because you never know how God will answer. i always take refuge in the Bible...because the "big" guys seemed to feel the same way. Jonah ran when God called him. Moses stuttered, but became a great speaker and leader. but they all worked toward the glory of God. i am small, but i know i have a purpose, and everything goes towards shaping me into a better person, the person God made me to be.
one of my favorite sayings is this:
God doesn't always show up when we want Him to, but he is always on time.

Friday, December 7, 2012

ever wonder if you're making a difference?

have you ever had a moment in your life where you just knew God has to be snickering at you?
you know...when you're sitting, surrounded by half unpacked boxes, cheerios stuck to your shirt, spit-up in your hair, STILL carrying around some baby weight..and you mutter to yourself, "this was not what i had planned..."
i can almost hear God struggling with milk shooting out of his nose from that line.
i have to take a step back and remind myself that i KNEW this (moving 'home' after 8 years) wasn't going to be easy. that we came to this decision because the benefits far outweighed the downfalls. *but* that those benefits were "in the long run" benefits, not immediate.
i remind myself of how blessed we are. how incredibly, amazingly, blessed we are.
it's easy to get caught up in the ebb and flow of every day drama: someone's teething, someone's going through a growth spurt, everyone's crying (including me!) someone doesn't care to listen, is something burning in the oven? why is the carpet wet?!

so i take a deep breath and look at what I've accomplished that day. as a a person who struggles with the idea of and the fear of failure, some days, i just need someone to say, "you're kicking some serious butt today, you know that?"
don't we all occasionally need that?

and while my children's behavior is a reflection on me...nothing has made me more proud than yesterday when Lily and I moved into the birth and life of Jesus Christ in her history lesson.

i started reading the story of the good Samaritan to her and before i got more than 3 sentences in, Lily was bouncing in her seat, saying, "I know this!" i stopped and let her tell me the story. i didn't have to read it. she passed the history test with flying colors. i know i didn't do this alone, we've had a tribe of wonderful people in our lives helping culture a love of God in her heart; but wow, what a moment to stop and smile and really know that me- as a parent- is doing something right.

there are so many times when you can second guess your abilities as a parent or as a person in general...but when something like this happens, you have to breathe a sigh of relief.

i was second guessing my decision to home school. i was contemplating the idea of sending her to school...not because it got too hard..but because, well, i don't really know what put it in my head to even consider the change but i was...and now, I'm most definitely not.

there are so many benefits to home schooling: flexible learning schedule, learning at your child's pace, choosing to integrate your faith into everyday learning, instilling family values and morals, life lessons can be learned by allowing your school age children to see you every day in life situations (see above list: teething, fussing, crying, etc.)
i believe it's a very big deal for your children to be able to see you in stressful situations so that they will learn how to deal with their own stressful situations.
everything, absolutely everything can be a teaching moment. baking brownies becomes science, mixed with literature and comprehension, mixed with home ec.
i really love that we can pick up and go whenever we want to. i love that school can be done at noon. i love that my younger ones are able to learn by observing.

yes, if you know me, you know my plate is extremely full. don't ever tell me that staying at home is "easy". I've added a lot to my days by choosing certain things over others...but i hope that I'm teaching my children that easier isn't always better, and sometimes a little extra elbow grease is well worth it.

we cloth diaper vs. disposable.
I'm not against disposable. in fact, i typically keep a package in my house for specific situations like what we're going through now with Amelia. her skin is SUPER sensitive. we just recently changed washers and because of my miscalculation, the diapers didn't get rinsed as well and resulted in Amelia getting a chemical burn (think diaper rash, but more painful for her). so while all diapers are getting stripped and thoroughly rinsed, she's in disposables and healing nicely.
cloth diapers= extra loads of laundry...but I'm a stay at home mom, I'm definitely a homebody, so for me, the extra work isn't a big deal.

we don't do baby food.
for me, this seems easier. i just mashed up our food for Amelia when she required it and I'll do the same for Cain when he's old enough.

i do the haircuts.
we save money by getting home trims. Arnie's is easy. I've always done my own, and Lily is a breeze as well. i just gave her another perm last night which she loves. the cost? $5 and change. I've had the rods for a few years and the perm solution was roughly $5. more work? yes. is my neck and back killing me today? yes. does lily love her hair? yes. totally. worth it. :)

we don't do a whole lot of eating out.
yes, this equals more cooking, but in the end, we save lots of money, and eat healthier. we also teach our kids to be creative with food, for instance if i cook chili on day one, day two becomes chili cheese fries or coney dogs, and day three it becomes a dip for chips. also, when we do eat out, it is truly a treat and a fun adventure for the kids.

we recycle older things.
i try to teach Lily that old doesn't equal boring. we take towels that are too ragged to use as towels and use the sewing machine to make new things (attempts at clothes for dolls or diaper inserts for Amelia and Cain). we typically will scan through the clearanced fabrics and buy when things are ridiculously cheap. add that fabric (normally it's fun "seasonal" patterns that didn't sell for that season or holiday) to the old towels and you get fun new things for next to nothing. again, yes, it's more work...but I'm hoping this gives my kids a better foundation especially when today's society is so quick to throw the used and broken in the garbage. (we also use orphaned socks as cleaning rags)

we home school.
i know that you cannot shield your children from every terrible thing, but you can equip your children with the proper tools and knowledge to combat bad things they will encounter.
it is a great deal of work. it takes an enormous amount of may not be for everyone...but the pay out is so very rewarding. and i cant describe how happy i am to be able to spend that time with my be right there when they have their "aha!" moments is priceless.

so, yes, i most definitely have my days where i know God is giggling at my "this was not in my plans!" moments. i have days where i question every decision I've made. i have days when i feel totally insane, and yes, i absolutely have a good cry.
so, if you don't know me well and you read a post or two on facebook from me...please know that I'm not really bragging so much as making an "i cannot believe this day went this well!" statement...because i have plenty of days of nonstop messes, helplessness, and self pity. days where I've yelled at someone for something when no one deserved to be yelled at. days when there are no "meals" rather just snacks and things that can be eaten from a package so as not to dirty yet more dishes.
what i'm working on is this: i try like heck to pray often and remember that I'm being shaped by God. I'm being molded and formed for His glory and not my own. so I'm trying, but not always succeeding, to pray every day that my actions will be more along the lines of something God can be proud of.