Monday, December 1, 2014

The Perfect Christmas Card

I saw a really cute Christmas card idea on Pintrest.  The only problem I had was, how was I going to recreate this?  My fancy camera is not working, I didn't really want to pay to take the kids somewhere, but I wanted an awesome card.  I stumbled across this really cool app.  Krome Retouch (second row, second app)

The app is really simple.  You take a picture that you like, you send it to the professional editors at Krome, you tell them what you want changed, and they send it back to you edited with in 24 hours.

This was the idea I had gotten from pintrest.  Super cute, right?  And totally fits my oldest sons personality.  I sent this in to Krome and said that I wanted the color fixed and it to look like they were in an Elf toy shop, or some kind of Christmas back ground.

I was very impressed and happy with the final picture.  Krome charges $8.99 per edit, which is much cheaper than a professional photo and they offer a free "preview" when you install the app.  Once you get the preview, they give you credit for certain things you do.  You get so much credit for sharing on facebook, twitter, etc.  I think it was a max of $6.00 so this ended up costing me $3.00, and yes I would use it again on a picture that I wanted edited.  They can do so many cool things.  Check them out CLICK HERE.

This is our final Christmas card picture.  I added "Slient Night" and I sent it off to shutterfly.

From our family to yours, Merry Christmas.

**Krome emailed and asked if they could use our picture on their web site, but as of yet has not.  This was not a paid advertisement, I just love the service and wanted to pass on the information

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Is it Possible To Feed A Family Of 5 On $400 A Month?

When I took on the challenge of feeding my family of five on $400 dollars a month, I knew that planning would be key.  Our normal budget was $600.00 a month and we would eat out occasionally (in addition to the $600).  With my busy schedule I was having a hard time finding the time to meal plan and to grocery shop.

What I Did First
I talked to my husband and got him on board. I explained that the more you go to the store, the more you spend.  All of the time we ran because "french bread would go great with this meal"  we were adding not only the french bread, but most likely an unplanned purchase.  
Planning took me three days.  (Not three solid days, but this took place over a weekend)
First I planned my menu.  I found a lot of good advice HERE, on Money Saving Mom.  This was the menu that my husband and I agreed would work for our family.  

We decided that we could eat the same thing twice a week, but not back to back.  This idea, actually makes it easy for me.  For example, if its chili  I can cook a 4 portions Monday at lunch.  The kids and I will eat it for lunch that day, as a family we will eat it for dinner, my husband will take it for lunch Tuesday, and the rest will be saved for Thursday (or another day in the same week).  So come Thursday, I just have to warm it up and make fresh corn bread.

I really like the idea of shopping once a month.  I agree that it would save money.  Since I am referring to this as my "soft start" the period of grace I have allowed my self to work out all the kinks, I decided to shop for two weeks, then perhaps try monthly shopping in December.  The second thing I did was clean out my pantry, so I could make my shopping list.  We raise our own meat and eggs, so this is going to effect how my shopping list looks compared to how your may look.  After cleaning out my pantry, I found that I needed very little for the next two weeks.

Shopping list:
potatoes (15lbs)
grated cheese
hotdogs (2)
buns (2)
bread (1 loaf)
rice (25 lbs)
nacho cheese (2cans)
chili (1 can )
pioneer mix
laundry soap
paper plates
plastic cups
paper towels
spaghetti sauce
cream of mushroom
cream of celery
cream of chicken
chili seasoning
peanut oil (Thanksgiving turkey)
60W lights

I spent $53.35 at Aldi and $95.33 at Kroger's.  If I had not needed the peanut oil, I would have been at $110.68 for two weeks.  Overall I was very proud of myself.

Look for my follow up post on how our first two weeks went. (Coming soon)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Are You Tired?

Friend, are you tired?  
I am too.  The past two years have been exhausting for my family.  Job loss, death of my grandfather, moving, life style changes, death of a parent (my husbands mother), marital problems (from grief of a parent), a car wreck, learning difficulties (dyslexia & language delay), and in addition to all of this I still had to do my responsibility as a mom, wife and home educator.
Have you been here?  Are you here now?  You're exhausted.  In God's perfect time I attended a bible study on Psalm 23.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.  He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,  for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.  You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
 (emphasis mine)

The emphasis of the class I attended was focused on verses two and three:

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. 

I was so desperately, wanting, needing my soul to be refreshed.  I did not realize how tired I was.  God placed on my heart to begin forty days of rest and allow him to lead me beside still waters.  The idea of forty days of rest came to me from 1 Kings 19.  Elijah tells God that he is so tired that he wants to die, then he falls asleep.  God cares for him and then Elijah travels for forty days and nights.  At the end of the forty days and nights God appears to Elijah in a whisper.  

To me this looks like rest.  In that 40 days all we see is that Elijah traveled.  Nothing else happened to him.  That's what I was so desperately wanting.  Rest.

To prepare for rest I had to do somethings on my end.  God could be wanting to take us to a place of rest, but if our schedule is so busy, he cant.

How I Prepared:
I cleared my calendar of stressful things
I cleared my calendar of stressful people (to the best of my capability)
I allowed my self time to accomplish what I HAVE to do (no over booking)
I am spending time with God
I gave myself permission to rest, permission to take care of myself.
I meditated on the 23rd Psalm.  

Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.  - James 4:8

I do feel like God has taken me to a place of rest, this is day 12 of day 40.  
If you are searching for rest and you are tired, my suggestion is to start with Psalm 23.  
Say it over and over, meditate on Gods word day and night.  
God refreshes your soul.  
Meet him there

If you are interested in further reading you may like:
The Shepard Psalm - William Evans
The Practice of the Presence of God - Brother Lawrence
Finding Spiritual White Space - Bonnie Gray
I would like to state that while I find the Shepard Psalm to be a very good book, the story that countless pastors use about a Shepard breaking a sheep's leg himself to then care for the sheep.  To the best of my research, this is a Christian urban legend.  And its not a picture of God that we get from the bible.   The God of the bible allows us to be tested, and then he cares for us.  Although he is allowing the pain, he is not causing it.   I understand trying to tie it to "He makes me lie down"  but he dose not break our legs, and to the best of my research, no Shepard has either.  Especially not a GOOD SHEPARD. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

When Normal Does Not Come Easy

In the fall of 2011, when my oldest son was starting the first grade, we made the decision to home school.  I felt that I could challenge him more at home and he quickly skipped a grade level.  I expected my other children to advance at similar rates when they were challenged and provided a one on one education.

In February of 2014 at my youngest sons two year old check up, his doctor recommended that he be evaluated by Early Childhood Intervention (ECI), for a speech delay.  We met with ECI in March and at that time he had a three month speech delay, which did not translate to a 33% delay (the qualifying percentage).  In September a dear friend brought to my attention that at this point she felt the delay was quite substantial, so I took him back to the pediatrician who diagnosed him with language delay disorder and recommended that he be re-evaluated.   He is able to qualify with ECI until the day before his third birthday, which at that point, he can try the public school program.  When ECI came back out in November he showed a six month delay (meaning he has only made a 2 month improvement from when they saw him 8 months ago).  This six month delay translates in to being 18% behind.  Again, not qualifying for the program, as the only area he is behind in is verbal.  Most areas he is ahead.

Have you been here?  A place where options seem limited and you are angry that you can not get your child the help they need.  When I checked speech therapy the places I called did not accept my insurance.  The non insurance price seems to be a $200 evaluation and then $100 a session.  So the first month would be $500 and $400 for subsequent months.  By now you have seen my budget and that kind of money is just not there.

What can I do?  Or what can you do if I am describing your situation?  The first thing is to take a deep breath.  Your going to get through this.  Second, don't give up.  Its not hopeless.  About a month ago I stumbled on to Teach Me To Talk.  I highly recommend this page and resources.  I started by reading her free information and then I purchased some items.  I recommend THIS video (bubbles) to start with.  Once I received a positive response from my child, I purchased materials.  I shared with the ECI speech therapist that I was spending one hour a day with him following the steps from Teach Me To Talk and that we were working on exclamations (Oh boy! Oh no! etc.)  She had heard of Teach Me To Talk and encouraged me to continue working with him.

Although I would like to do more, I feel validated that this is a good program that other speech therapist have heard of.  In my opinion, it is much better than doing nothing.  I will continue to do one hour sessions with him until his birthday and then have him evaluated by the public school.  At that time we will re-access the situation and see where to go next.

Did you have a delayed talker?  What did you do?

The Time We Ran A Duck Spa

Do you find yourself doing things that you never thought you would do?  As I get older I do more of these things.  One of which was, I never thought I would give a duck a ten minuet Epson salt foot soak every day for fourteen days.

One of our Peking ducks, Pearl, began limping and after examination of her foot, I decided that she had bumble foot.  Bumble foot is basically a foot infection that if not treated could possible cause death.  You can read more about it HERE.  Her infection had not reached the severity of the link I posted and surgery was not a route that I wanted to go.

I secluded daisy in a dog kennel.  She had food, water & shelter.  The best part of Pearl's stay was when she came in the house for a 10 minute Epson salt foot soak.
Now, if I never thought that I would have a duck in my bath tub, you can imagine that my husband never thought he would have a duck in his bath tub.  After two weeks the area that I thought was bumble foot had healed and Pearl returned to her friends.  Unfortunately Pearl seems to be predisposition to foot problems.  Several months later she started limping again.  This time I saw nothing on the bottom of her foot.  So this I put her in the kennel with food and water for a few days (to restrict her walking) and when I let her out she was fine, no limping.  So was this bumble foot? I don't know for sure, but I DO know that Pearl enjoyed her time at duck spa.

What questions or story's would you like to hear about our home stead?

Monday, November 17, 2014

Is it possible to cut my budget by $25K a year?

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While browsing Pintrest I came across this question.  Is it possible to live off of $25K a year post on mommy savers.  It is a great discussion and I recommend checking it out.  So is it?  Well of course, I am sure that someone, somewhere lives on $25,000 a year, but to make it more personal.  Is is possible for MY family to live on $25,000 a year?  My family lives on roughly $50,000 a year, if we were able to live on 25,000 a year, that means we could SAVE $25,000 a year, which is very appealing to me.  First I had to take a look at our budget.

Current Monthly Budget:
Personal Loan - $850
Phone - $200
Electricity - $157
Water & Sewer - $40
Waste removal - $103
Pest - $70
Vehicle Payment $320
Insurance - $144
Fuel - $240
Home Insurance - $318
Life Insurance -  $46
Groceries - $600
Farm Animal Feed - $400
Medical - $208
Massage Envey - $60
Hair Color - $15
Proactive - $30
Netflix - $9
Dance Class - $100
HSLDA - $10
Credit Card - $100
Taxes - $159
Tithe - $400
Dues - $35

Total - $4614 (Monthly) $55,368 yearly.

This total is actually OVER $172 monthly, from what we bring in. That translates to $2,064 a year, and doesn't include the times we would eat out when we really shouldn't.  WHOA!  How did this happen?  When I sat down and really looked at the WHOLE budget, I was surprised how many things we did not have written down that added up VERY quickly.  We had about $600 worth of  things that were not written down.

Obviously somethings need to be cut.  The first thing I did was look at the areas that I can cut.

Fuel - This bill is currently $60.00 a week or $240 a month.  Our goal is to cut this in HALF to $120 a month, or $30.00 a week.  This will require me to cut down on my driving, which will be difficult.
Groceries - This bill is currently $600 a month or $150 a week.  The goal is to cut this back by $200 and feed a family of 5 for $400 a month or $100 a week.
Medical - We have a $2,500 deductible.  So to avoid a pinch, we should set aside $208 a month, so the full $2,500 is there when we need it.  While this is very important, we will have to temporarily cut this while we work our debt snowball, which will free up the money to allow a medical emergency fund.
Massage - I am a member at a massage envy. I pay roughly $60 a month, this was my special treat & will be cut to $0.  I am not in contract currently so this will be an easy one to cut.
Dance Class - Our son takes a hip hop class, is is $100 a month, there will be a post that goes in to greater detail on on decision on this, but this is an area where we have some wiggle room.
Credit Card - We currently have a credit card payment of $100 a month, our goal is to cut this to $0.
Tithe - We have decided to tithe on the amount we are living off of.

So is it possible for MY family to live off of $25,000 a year?  No, not currently.  I think with time and a lot of work it could be possible.  But it is possible for my family to cut our bills by $13,056.

Here is our Budget Goal for January:
Personal Loan - $850
Phone - $200
Electricity - $157
Water & Sewer - $40
Waste removal - $103
Pest - $70
Vehicle Payment $320
Insurance - $144
Fuel - $120
Home Insurance - $318
Life Insurance -  $46
Groceries - $400
Farm Animal Feed - $200
Hair Color - $15
Proactive - $30
Netflix - $9
Dance Class - $100
HSLDA - $10
Taxes - $159
Tithe - $300
Dues - $35

Total - $3,626
Why not start in December?
We decided to do a "soft start" in December.  In December we will be asking our self the following questions:
Can we cut our driving in half, thus cutting our gas bill in half?
Can I cut the animal feed bill in half?
Can we really eat on $400 a month?

Join in.  Are you interested in cutting your annual budget, or have you?  I would love to hear in the comments.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Family Vacation

 The time has finally come!  It's cruise time!  I consulted several packing list to make sure that we had every thing we would need for the trip.  Below is what worked for my family, and the questionable things I will note how we used them.

     Travel Documents:
  • Child passports
  • pediatrician name & phone number
  • current pictures of children

Of course the passports were a must have, the current picture and the doctors information was not hard to get together and it gave me peace of mind.  If I were to need it. 

        Medicine & sundries
  • children's prescriptions
  • allergy medication
  • Tylenol, Advil,
  • anti-itch cream
  • anti - diarrhea medication
  • band-aids
  • sunblock
  • sunblock for lips
  • diaper rash ointment
  • anti-bacterial hand cleaner
  • children's insect repellant
  • thermometer
  • deodorant
  • toothbrush, toothpaste
  • brush
  • hair bands

Again, most of this was used, but not all of it.  These are the kinds of tings that when they are needed, they are needed.  

baby (Toddler)
  • diapers & swim diapers
  • baby wipes
  • zip-lock bags
  • dish washing detergent
  • umbrella stroller
  • diaper bag
  • sun hats
  • blankie
  • inflatable swim aids

I did not use the dish soap, I think if you had a younger child and were dealing with bottles you would need it.  But Micah is 2, so this was not really a need for us.  Everything else was used. 

Items for older boys:
  • batteries
  • 2-way radios or walkie talkies
  • children books and magazines
  • sun glasses
  • travel games
  • dvd player & movies
  • disposable camera

Wouldnt you know....I left the DVD player on the kitchen table.  It would have been useful, but alas we did not have it.  The walkie talkies were not really used (they are being used now)  Books were used in waiting to get on the ship and off, sun glasses and we used the camera BUT all CVS & Walgreen's got rid of their wet machines 3 months ago, which means they send off your film to be put on a CD and then send it back to you where you can then print your pictures!!!  WHAT???  The days of film are over.  We will not be buying one of these again. 

    Other helpful Items:
  • Ziplock bags
  • Rain gear
  • small flash light
  • juice boxes
  • snacks
  • duct tape
  • door decorations
  • power strip
  • highlighters
  • post it notes
  • no -mess coloring kits (in carry on bags) 
Ziplock bags were used (wet swim suits, diapers, soaps) 
rain gear was not, however theses were just 99 cent camping ponchos that I had my husband put in his truck.  He may be able to use them with his job.  
The juice boxes and snacks just gave me comfort.  If there was an emergency, I knew I would have something for my kids to eat.  This made me feel better.  It was not used, but is being used now & I would bring it again.  
Flash lights were used.  Room gets really dark, my husband kept it by the bed to see to and from the bathroom at night.
We had the cutest door in the whole place and had lots of complements.  This was fun for the kids.  Not a must do, but we enjoyed it.  And it was easy to spot our door.

I forgot the power strip too, but it would have been used. The duct tape was not used, and I am really not sure what the original person needed it for.  But I thought, "Hey if there's a chance I'm going to need duct tape....I better have it"  I would leave it next time.
Post it notes were used as well as the coloring kits (while waiting)
highlighters are good for marking your daily itinerary

Kids Cruise clothes (2 formal nights & casual nights)
  • 6-7 t-shirts
  • 6-7 pairs of shorts
  • bathing suits
  • cover ups
  • outfits for causal informal nights
  • 2 out fits for formal nights

We had one formal night, so two out fits were not needed, I think they wore all of the clothes I packed them, each had two swim suits which were worn and I could have packed them more T-shirts.  Again, I forgot my cover-up and had to buy one.  So make sure you remember yours!

An Invergorating Bath...

I had been hearing about essential oils for sometime now.  I had a positive experience with the essential oils helping with my seasonal allergies, and I just recently purchased the family physician kit from doTerra.  It arrived right before I left on my cruise so I had not had much time to learn and or experiment with their uses.  I had an idea while I was gone so when I got home, I consulted google and got started with my first real essenical oil experience.

I suffer from what I would call almost chronic shoulder and lower back pain.  I am a member at massage envy.  I do stress releving tecniques.  Its still a big problem.  While I was on my cruise I had a massage at the spa.  The woman giving my massage had a few suggestions for my pain and tried to sell me a few things.  They smelled like pepermint and she suggested I take a nice hot relaxing bath at night with a few cap fuls of this stuff.  Well I didnt buy it, but it got me to wondering about the peppermint essencial oil.  So I consulted the box lid and then google to see if I could add it to my bath water.  The box lid said pepermint "cools and invergorates" The article I found said to add 10 drops to your water for a nice invegorating bath...then it said maybe start with 5 drops and build to 10.

If you know me, at all, I go big or I go home.  So thinking that I am really on to something I get in my nice hot bath, ready to relax and add 10 drops of the peppermint essential oil to my tub. After all, I just found the cure to my chronic pain.  I deserve this.  Settle in for some r-e-l-a-x-a-t-i-o-n.   Deep breath.  Ah the nice smell of why are my legs tingling?  
Why is my who-ha tingling? 
 I think I had a misunderstanding... maybe a misreading.  
 Is this what they meant by invigorating? 
 I can see steam coming off the water and my body is freezing cold. 10 drops was way too many.  Way too many.  
I was definitely felt invigorated and cooled.

I got out and toweled off, fewer drops next time I tell my self.  
In all fairness, I did try it again with less drops (5) and that was the right amount for me.  It also has the cooling sensation with me, which lead me to research that fever reduction is another use.  I think for children I would apply to the bottom of the feet, to avoid possible sensitivity to sensitive areas.