Friday, June 29, 2012

Things I'm Thankful for Friday

So happy to have a little girl that loves to learn...

When she's not being silly that is...

She was sticking out her tongue.  Silly!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Worthwhile Wednesday- Being a good stewart, giving away our excess

I've been wanting write this post for awhile, but I've been afraid I'll offend someone.

So please note this post is about my family's choices, if it's not right for you that's ok. It is not my intent to change everyone with one blog post.  This is my opinion and my suggestions that are not meant to offend anyone.

That said, in my opinion our culture and the current interpretation of the American dream is very much centered around getting more...buying more...having more stuff....a bigger house...more and more focus on money,

...and as much as I love my country, I'm afraid our focus is in the wrong place.

The bible tells us in 1 John 2:15-17,

"Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever." 

And recently, my own church family has placed a focus on responsible stewardship.  In several sermons, our Reverend has reminded how privileged we are to live in such a wonderful country of abundance.  But as she reminded us, it is our call from God to give our excess to those who need and to take care of what bounty God has given us.

In a letter to the Corinthians, Paul reminds the Corinthian church that while it is important for the Christian worker to earn and keep their wages, it is also extremely important to give to others from our abundance.  He further reminds them of the church in Macedonia that while extremely poor, freely gave to the Christians in Jerusalem that were being persecuted. 

The Macedonia church truly embodies the spirit of the Lord.  Freely giving, even begging to help others...always a spirit of love and compassion.

That's the kind of person I would like to be...

It's also the kind of people that I hope my girls grow up to be...

But it means focusing on responsible management of our money and shifting our love of money to a love of all people.   In this culture, that can be difficult because our society says, you need more must have more to be have to have it all.

It is something I struggle with to this day...but all it takes is one look at the children in Africa that need a simple mosquito net to save their lives.

Or seeing a village that could use a goat, chicken, or even just clean water to survive.

In our own neighborhood, we drive by the homeless or hungry that struggle everyday.

Or knowing that we need to care for our world, so that we leave future generations with a sustainable landscape.

It doesn't matter what choices or mistakes they or we have made, it is up to us to help them and our world.  It is what God calls us to do.

"If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth." 1 John 3:17-18 

So with a need pressed to my heart to help, we've been making changes at our home for the past year.  Here are some I'm sharing, and if you are of the same mind, I hope it helps you too.

1. We're eliminating a lot of our going out to eat. At the end of the month, the money we save from eating at home we're going to donate to two different charities. This benefits our health too as we eat better at home with homemade whole foods. Taking care of ourselves and others with a simple change.

One of our favorites, Quiche.
2. We are living more frugally and with less environmental impact. So far we've eliminated a lot of processed food and commercial soaps & cleaners. Less toxins = better for the whole world. Plus saving money = better for our budget, which means more to share. My next goal is to eliminate more of our paper and plastic consumption.  That means the sewing machine and I will be spending more time together. ;)

3. We try to keep our money local to help those around us. That means buying from local stores, farmer's markets, and from our local farmers directly.  A healthier community means a better area for us all.
Tomatoes from our farmer's market last year

4. Our oldest, who is only four, has two jars on her shelf.  One with a picture of a bed with a net and another of clean water. We allowed her to pick two things she wanted to support and those were the two she picked.  We give her change from time to time for chores etc.  She is now saving all her change for little children.  As she says, "we'll get them new beds with no mosquitoes, and lots of good water and food."  She is so excited that there will be "no more malaria" for the kids she helps.

So happy with her jars

5. This Christmas, we are going to limit our "stuff". Each year my hubby and I go overboard with "stuff" for our girls, stuff they don't even use. So this year we are practicing a new idea. The girls will get three gifts just like the gifts the wise men brought Jesus. These will consist of a need (like new pjs), a want (a toy), and something to focus on Christ (last year Elizabeth got her own bible).

6. We don't over extend ourselves. That means a reasonable house payment, and no major purchases without cash. Debt is something of a dirty word in our house, and we're trying to eliminate all of ours with extra payments to our mortgage etc.  For us this also includes saving as much money as we can for our girls education funds.  Since Elizabeth has been born she's had a 529 plan.  We'll be switching both girls to IRA's soon, as the 529 plan doesn't give the tax benefits that it once did (the state we now live in has no income tax).

7. As I mentioned above we are trying to be frugal. That means that we also grow a lot of our own food, reuse items rather than buy new, make our own when possible, and fix what we have. I sew, Mark made our chicken coup from items we already had, I crochet hats and scarfs, we buy clothes at consignment, and we have a huge garden.

Peas from our garden

8. Give away our abundance- literally. The girls and I have been setting aside extra toys etc they don't play with. They'll be going with a friend of ours who has a charity helping orphanages in Africa. Elizabeth is all for it, she seems to have a soft spot for helping other little kids, and I'm super proud of her for that.

9. Every year at Christmas, we put together boxes for Operation Christmas Child.  Elizabeth loves shopping for the kids and personally picks out the toys.

10. This year at Christmas, Mark and I agreed that we'd let the girls pick out something extra to support.  I'm guessing they'll pick a goat, chickens, or a well for a village in need.

These are simple and even obvious ideas, and I realize that the amount of need in this world is overwhelming...but small simple changes from a lot of people can make a huge difference. So pick your favorite charity because together we can change what we see as important, and it's not money or the stuff we can buy with it...

One look at these cuties will tell you that.

This post is part of Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways #33.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Mom Monday- I feel the need...

...the need for speed.

Meet my four wheeling-kitty loving-country girl. All sweetness and ready for adventure, got to love those kiddos.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Worthwhile Wednesday- Nature's bug removal

A little while ago we had some new members added to our family.

Baby Maddy.

Our sweet girls have gotten bigger...

And bigger....

They aren't full grown yet, but they are friendly birds and the girls love playing with them.

Even better, they have finally figured out that they can roam our property, so they are truly free ranging.  I find them every where now and they love to follow me around.
Now that they roam, my "girls" are becoming effective helpers.  The caterpillars and other pests have disappeared and as I weed they follow along the garden waiting for me to throw out "goodies".

I can't say enough good things about them.  They are easy to take care of and great at keeping pests away.  Since they free range, they don't actually eat too terribly much feed and they stay out so much there isn't much to clean up.

Happy Sun Bathing!

Right now, I'm just patiently waiting for our first egg.  Nothing like some great pets, that help you garden and can feed you!

Part of Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways #32 at Frugally Sustainable.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Mom Monday- Exciting week ahead

We've got an exciting week ahead of us. 

In fact, this week we're going to be enjoying Sky VBS! 

Elizabeth is super excited, especially after she saw the experiments we'll be doing. Below is the Fizzy Flyer, let's just say, the kids are going to have an explosive time. Mark and I are teachers this year, and we can't wait to begin.

We're also continuing our Kindermusik classes, which Elizabeth is loving.  Below is a video of her singing the mosquito song.  It's become her favorite.  When she ask me about the itching, I told her how mosquitoes bite and eat blood.  She is now fascinated by what they do, not scared mind you, but fascinated...

My little scientist.  

On tuesday, we're hoping to take some more family pictures.  Last time Evie was out of sorts because of a lack of nap, so I'm hoping a change in time will do better for us.

We'll finish this week with a trip to the farmer's market and some wonderful shopping at the Amish food store.  And of course, lots of family time out in the garden and with the animals. A great week ahead!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Worthwhile Wednesday- Make your own foaming soap

I love foaming soap!  Mainly because foaming soap doesn't leave dried soap all over the sink top for me to clean later.

Can you tell I have kids?

But foaming soaps are primarily water based, so your putting a lot of money down for not much soap.  Not to mention most commercial soap have chemicals in them you don't want (not even really soap, but detergents) or worse antibiotics which are next to worthless and even dangerous.

So why not DIY it?  It's beyond easy and great for your health & wallet!

To begin, you'll need a few things: liquid soap, water, and a foaming soap dispenser.  I use old dispensers from our commercial soaps days.  You may also want some glycerin, this provides some extra moisturizer.  For soap, I like castille and my favorite brand is Dr. Bronner's.  I could go on and on about how great the product and company is, but you can read about that here. Just don't skip the parts about how great they treat their workers, awesome company!

1. Empty foam dispenser:

-Make sure and wash out your empty foam dispenser to get it ready for use. 

2. Fill with water:

-Fill about 4/5 the way full with water (filtered or distilled is best).

3. Add soap

-Add  ~1/5 of soap, you don't want to overfill, but add enough soap to fill the dispenser completely without spilling when you put in your pump.  Also add soap second or it will foam up when you add your water or you'll have a lot of foam and very little water in your container.

4. Add glycerin and/or essential oils (optional).

-If so desired you can add glycerin for extra moisture (to your desired level of moisture, but not much) and essential oils if desired (just a drop or two).  The essential oils really add fragrance unless you use an naturally antiseptic oil (lavender or tea tree oil fall in this category).  I like to use Dr. Bronner's Lavender soap and not add extra oils.

Some extra notes: I also use this as a baby soap for my girls, only I use the Dr. Bronner's baby mild soap instead of lavender.  It works great and castille soap being so versatile (and the girls still so young) I use it for all over, even their hair.  Works great for little ones!

There you have it: so easy, healthy, and frugal!

This post is part of Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways #30.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Mom Monday- Need for Speed Evie

I'm always surprised at how different my two girls are...

Elizabeth has never really cared much for her riding toys.  Tricycles, cars, and wagons aren't really her thing.  Don't get me wrong, she likes them for a little bit, but would much rather play ponies or read. 

Evie though, is a whiz at motor skill toys.  She loves the pink car and wants you to push her until you can't move anymore.  She has already gotten on the tricycle and just recently mastered something else...

Hope you enjoy!!
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