September 2008

The day I didn’t think I’d see for about 8 more years has come….I must say goodbye to my Prius.

Sean and I have been doing some work on our finances, trying to ensure we are being good stewards. Due to our expanding family, we purchased a minivan after we moved. We rarely drive the van at this point, however, little A is almost ready to move into a bigger carseat. Once that happens, we can’t fit all 3 carseats into the back of our car. You know, it is really amazing that the car will very comfortably seat 3 adults in that back seat, but carseats are made so incredibly wide, that I can’t fit 3 small children back there! I digress. Anyway, we decided that we really only need one vehicle, and that’s how we have lived for several years. Although gas is much cheaper in the Prius, I think what we save in insurance and annual maintenance will pay for the difference in gas. So we spent today cleaning, washing, and shining it all up. I think JR is having a harder time with it then I am. I didn’t know a kid could attach to a car, but I guess it’s the only car he has ever known. We are tired now and should sleep well tonight.

I have to tell what happened though….we were praying about whether to sell, and decided maybe we would advertise and just see what happens. The next day, God allowed something to happen that we have been hoping for. We both felt as though it was God saying, “you are following my will and you won’t regret it!” It served as a reminder and really gave us a sense of peace that God is involved in everything!

As many of you know, S is an avid biker (as in bicycle). His bike is his primary form of transportation. He rides a bike to work everyday–despite the fact that he leaves for work before dawn. Weather is typically not a factor. About the only time he rides in a car is on Sunday when we go to church as a family–although he has tried desperately to find a way to haul the three kids so he could bike there too (but I convinced him that biking in heels and a dress didn’t sound too appealing to me!) LOL. Anyway, many of you also know he is frugal and practical. As a result, his main bike (road bike) is a old Schwinn, estimated to be around 20 years old. He has pieced it together, made repairs, duct taped it, patched it, you name it, anything to keep the old thing running. He LOVES that bike. And, of course, “if it still works, there is no need for a new one!” You should have seen this bike! The gears were basically non-functioning, so he had rigged it to keep the cables out of his way, there were reflectors duct taped to each side (safety first!), the white grips on his handle bars were black from grime, the hand-brake covers were barely hanging on, there was rust and grime in every joint, nook, and cranny, the chain popped off frequently……you get the idea. Well, the “teeth” on a piece had worn down to nubs, so he took it to a local bike shop to get a replacement. Of course, they no longer make them, and he decided not to “waste” money on a new version. Shortly after his return, I found my dear hubby sitting out on the back patio with a metal file, filing this little thing in an attempt to create new teeth. That was the final straw. I slyly hung around until he reassembled the bike, then I walked over and I took it! He wanted to know what I was doing, and I simply responded with, “do you want to hang it on the bike rack on the car, or do you want to trust me to?” Nervously, he strapped the bike on (I think he was concerned about the car’s paint job!). I got in the car and drove away.

I took the bike to a shop he likes and talked to the manager about how to fix it up a bit. This was on Saturday. S has been using his mountain bike this week. Today, I was able to pick up his road bike. I can’t believe what a great job they did! The bike was in such terrible shape, I think they thought we were really poor. Instead of replacing the broken derailer with a new one as I had expected, they searched for, found, and refurbished a model similiar to what he had so I could get a lower price, and then decided to just give us some really good reflective tape to replace some of his old stuff (no complaints here!). They also cleaned the bike thoroughly, made the chrome shine, replaced the hand-brakes, covers, bar wraps, derailer, cables, adjusted the tension on the gear levers, cleaned and adjusted the chain, and replaced a tire tube. They even added some extra reflectors. I brought the bike in, and S was shocked. I think he was very pleased, though. He took it for a spin, and returned with a big grin on his face. He said, “Man, I did not know the gears could work that smoothly!” I guess he approves.
But he will probably never repair anything where I can see him again!

This is the after pic. If I’d known it would look so much better,
I would have taken a before pic! Sorry.

For those of you who were with us as we went through our adoption journey, I figured I would give you a little update….

A is now 5 months old. We finalized his adoption via a teleconference at the end of July. He is doing beautifully, finally eating well, learning to sit up, and loves to pull hair (mine, his brother or sister’s, or the animals–he really doesn’t care!). He is a bigtime sleeper, sleeping about 17-18 hours a day, which makes running a house much easier! We are currently having some major issues with constant spitting up–I’m talking like every 5 minutes at times. It makes him difficult to hold and cuddle, so I had gotten into the routine of letting him play in his exersaucer or on his little floor mat. I guess he decided he’s had enough independence though, as here recently, he decided to start fussing whenever he is alone. He wants to be held, carried, jostled, entertained, you get the picture. So now I am trying to learn to do that without getting puked on constantly. (So far I haven’t figured it out!)
This is how I put my folded laundry away the other day.
I just kept hoping he didn’t spit up again before I finished!
I suspect he is also a little fussy due to the fact that he has 6! tooth buds lined up and just waiting to pop out! He also doesn’t care one bit for solids. I tried for about 2 weeks, but he is totally not interested. So we are taking a little break from that. I rarely hear from his birthmom anymore–maybe once every 5-6 weeks or so. I want to mention, too, that this child grows hair and nails like my lawn grows weeds! He just turned 5 months and has already had 2 haircuts to control the fuzz. Here are some pics of our recent style:

During….(I couldn’t resist!)

I think I cut that much last month too!

After…. Ain’t he cute?!

I have a favor to ask of all you readers. There is legislation in the process right now to approve a bill for raw milk sales in the state of CA. It has just passed the Senate floor and is now moving up the chain. The bill contains recommendations for very stringent safety tests directly for bad bacteria (pathogens), allowing sales of the safest raw milk so far. It is a great bill. You can get more info about it online. It is called SB 201. Ok, so a bill being passed in CA may not directly benefit you, so why be concerned? Well, my thought process is that current legislation allows the sales of cigarrettes and tobacco products. We know for a fact these cause illness and death, and in large numbers. Yet, they have taken our right to choose what we want to drink with no scientific evidence that raw milk is truly more dangerous than conventional. This bill is a first step toward getting that right back. If CA approves this bill, other states could then follow their example. It would also provide study subjects that will provide more accurate results than the few biased studies that have been done to date. It is a very good step in the right direction.

Call Gov. Schwarzenegger’s office at 916-445-2841 and follow the prompts to “voice your opinion.” I told them I was not a CA resident, and they said I could voice anyway. Just tell them you support bill SB 201 for Raw Milk. You don’t have to give any personal info, but the Gov. can then see how many people think this could be a good thing and make a more educated decision. Thanks so much and pray that it passes. It would be wonderful to have the freedom to choose to buy and drink natural milk created by God’s design!!

I spent the majority of yesterday afternoon going over our finances and budget (this is a peridioc necessity for organic eating!! LOL). This seems to be a major issue for a majority of our society today. When I got married, I was as financially sound as the Jones’ (aka I was in pretty good debt!). Fortunately, God sent me a very responsible, plan-ahead kind of guy who rescued me from impending financial doom. Since we married, God has used my husband, a little conviction, and some real-life examples to really open my eyes to the Biblical principles of financial stewardship. In addition, we recently had our credit card number stolen. Apparently, someone used a “skimmer”, which is a small, handheld machine that someone (in our case, probably a restaurant staff person) scans your card with and it stores the information. They can later use that information to create a fake copy of your card, that is readable by some machines. In our case, the fake card was then sold to someone in another state who used it to make a series of purchases before our credit card company notified us. This lesson taught us to be as careful as possible with our money. Since I worked primarily on our budget last night, I thought I would share some tips I have learned for starting a budget and protecting your hard-earned money.

  1. Create a spreadsheet with designated categories for your life expenditures. A terrific one for getting started is
  2. Use any records you have (receipts, credit card and bank statements, bills, pay stubs, etc.) to fill in the blanks. If you don’t keep good records, you should begin for a minimum of 1 month. It is difficult to create a budget if you don’t know where your money is going to begin with. You can get a better idea of your debt with this form:
  3. Now calculate the percentage of your monthly income that is currently going into each category. Compare your results with this recommendation for a family of 4 (additional versions can be found on the crown website):
  4. Once you have an accurate estimate as to where your money is going each month, start playing with the numbers. Figure out what your take home pay is each month. If you are a believer in tithing to a church, deduct your tithe from that amount. Then play with the numbers in each category until you find a budget that can work for you and your family. If you are severely in debt, or unable to get close to the recommended category percentages, you may have to consider making some lifestyle changes or decide where you want to sacrifice things.
  5. When your Income is equal to or greater than your allocated category totals, CONGRATULATIONS, you have a monthly budget plan. Now try it out! After trying it out this year, I highly recommend using the “Cash method” via the “envelope system.” In other words, total up your expenditures each month, and deduct the needed amount from each paycheck so you have cash on hand. Get a pile of envelopes and label them according to the categories on your budget spreadsheet. Divide the cash into the envelopes accordingly. Then, when you need to spend, take the appropriate envelope with you. For example, if you are going grocery shopping, take the “Grocery” envelope and pay for your groceries with that cash. This method also prevents people from stealing your credit card number like they did ours.
  6. If you run out of money in one envelope before the end of the month, you have to decide whether to sacrifice from another category, or just not buy any more from the category you ran short for the rest of the month.
  7. In addition to the given categories, I also created 2 additional envelopes. One is called “credit card reimbursement” and the other is “Carryover.” The first I use when I have to use a credit card for something and then “pay it back” through the envelope. For example, I prefer to used a cc at the gas pump. Then when I get home, I can take the cash out of the “gas” envelope and put into cc reimbursement. I use this money to pay off the cc bill at the end of the month. The second “carryover” envelope is where I put cash leftover at the end of the month. We can then use that money to do something special, invest, pay off something, whatever. It is like getting a bonus at the end of the month.

I hope someone can find this system useful. I highly recommend it, and find it actually makes life a lot less stressful and less money-focused, interestingly enough. If I have money left over, I can go make a “convenience” purchase without feeling guilty now. Let me know if you try it or if you have any questions. I would be happy to try to answer based on my limited experience.

Due to a direct request for a sample of my monthly dinner schedule, I have uploaded it below. If you decide to try this type of organizing, just replace my dinners with your favorites. I don’t always follow precisely day to day, but I generally stick with having the scheduled meals at some point during the scheduled week. This allows me some flexibility if, for example, I have some produce about to go bad, I can use it in a recipe or if we eat out one evening. I can’t tell how much it helps, though, having a plan, even if you can’t stick to it completely! “FREE” nights are generally for cleaning up leftovers or experimenting with new recipes. If there are any dinners on my sheet that you would like recipes for, just ask, and I will post them when I can!

To see a larger format, just click on the picture. Enjoy!

A blog reader recently asked for basic instruction for going as organic as possible, as cheaply as possible. Based on our experience going more and more organic, here are my suggestions:

–Don’t change everything right away
–For 1-2 weeks, just read the ingredient label on every packaged item you purchase or eat. Notice words ending in “-glyceride,” “,-ose,” “-flavoring,” “-color,” and other words like “high fructose corn syrup,” “added for freshness,” and ANYTHING you can’t easily pronounce. These items are typically created in a lab somewhere and added as filler because it makes the food less expensive to produce, thereby making it more profitable (but more toxic to your body!) Also, notice the serving size and sugar content of nutrition labels. You will begin to notice a pattern.
–After you become more aware of what you are eating, began noticing labels on the front of food packages like “conventionally grown,” “100% natural,” “all natural,” “organic,” and “USDA organic.” Unfortunately none of these guarantee totally natural foods, as there are loop holes in all legislation. But as a general rule, “conventional” is grown according to current standards in the name of profit, “natural” means there are no preservative chemicals added to the finished product before packaging, and organic (specifically USDA organic) means the food was grown in an environment with no pesticides, chemicals, antibiotics, etc. It is the safest item produced and sold in commercial stores.
–Start shopping. Do some price comparisons at different stores, as there are significant differences for the same item. Eating healthy is, unfortunately, somewhat expensive. I have found the least expensive method to be as follows:

–Buy any produce that you peel (bananas, avacados, onions) conventional
–Buy any produce you eat without peeling (apples, squash) organic. If money is really tight, get this conventional as well. It will contain some pesticide residue, and perhaps some genetic altering, but at least in can be washed thoroughly and doesn’t contain toxic preservatives.
–Any canned foods should be purchased “organic.” It is generally only slightly more expensive, and can usually be easily found on the shelves right beside the conventional version.
–Buy as few packaged foods as possible. ANY packaged item (crackers, cereal, pasta, etc.) should be bought natural or organic (check the ingredient label to make sure there are no preservatives and that it contains only ingredients that you know! You’d be surprised what they can legally call natural!).
–Several items can be found at bulk discount stores.
–Buy milk raw if possible, organic if not (the brand Organic Valley is a very good one!) Likewise, other dairy should state something like “made from milk from cows not treated with….” Avoid processed cheeses (American, Velveeta, etc), as they are not naturally produced.
–You can cut out a lot of expense by eating less meat, but when you do eat meat, I recommend looking for organic if possible, natural if not. Make sure the label says something like “from cows not treated with ….” Avoid any pork product that says something like “……added for freshness.” If you have storage space, it is least expensive to find a local natural or organic farmer (or call your local butcher) and buy 1/4 or 1/2 cow or pig. This cuts the per pound price almost in half–even cheaper than regular meat! If you can find meat that has been “pasture fed”, even better! When buying seafood, look for the term “wild-caught.” This is generally the healthiest. In colored seafood (shrimp, salmon, lobster, crab) avoid anything that says “…added for color.” It is another chemical. The good salmon is often called “COHO,” and this term is often used instead of “wild-caught.”
–Home-make whatever you can. Breads, pastas, rolls, cookies, cakes, etc. can all be homemade quite easily. If you can’t, try to buy it organic. I don’t trust most “natural” versions of these. I LOVE the website You can find a recipe for almost anything, complete with reviews by people who have tried to make it.

I recommend that, to physically notice the difference in your health, set a goal to go as organic as possible for 2 weeks. During this time, do not eat out at a restaurant and do not grab anything at a snack area, rather eat only what you buy and make. After 2 weeks, you will likely have more energy, and may notice countless other benefits. If you decide to “cheat” you will very likely experience a stomach ache, headache, indigestion, diarrhea, or worse! Our society has become so immune to the chemicals going into our bodies, that it is actually quite interesting to experience what your body does without them, and what they do to a body that has been without them for a while.

Finally, if you are going to spend the extra money, make sure you get the nutritional benefit as much as possible. The best ways to cook most foods is to bake, steam, broil, or grill. Try to avoid microwaving, frying, or boiling, as the process destroys much of the nutrition.

Well, I think I succeeded in making myself sound like a complete fanatic. Maybe after our past health issues, I have become that. I guess we have just grown more confident in the safety of eating ingredients created by God as much as possible, rather than by man. In any case, I hope I have answered any questions, sparked some ideas and thoughts, and if nothing else, made you more conscious about what you are consuming. If you decide to experiment, let me know! I would love to hear how it goes!

This is a recipe I discovered recently and it has quickly become a family favorite! It is quick, easy, healthy, and absolutely delicious!

1 zucchini
1 sm. bell pepper
1 VERY small sweet onion (or a couple of slices of a larger one)
1 carrot
1 cup of broccoli florets
2 cups of shredded cheese (we prefer cojac or monterey and cheddar mixed)
6-8 wheat tortillas
guacamole and other sides if desired

Chop all vegetables as finely as possible. Layer 1/2 a tortilla with cheese, veggies, and more cheese. Fold tortilla. Grill quesadillas, flipping once so both sides are crisp and cheese is melted. Enjoy!

No doubt I am not meeting up to Proverbial woman standards today!! I have a 3 yr old with croup, a 2 yr old who is her normal strong-willed, fussy-when-don’t-get-my-way self, and a 5 month old with a cold and teething. After I couldn’t stand another moment of crankiness, I put them all to bed for nap 15 minutes early. You should have heard the noise coming out of this house–all of us marching up the stairs, the baby in my arms, fussing, JR behind me, screaming as loud as he could, and M behind him, crying because she has no clue what is going on. My husband is due home shortly, the house is a wreck and I should be cleaning, and what am I doing? Seeking a little solace on the computer! Does that make me a complete failure or is a mom occasionally entitled? The fact that I know in my heart that my current fatigue is pure selfishness, which is technically a sin, does not help me feel any better. Boy do I look forward to hubby coming home! He is my solace when he is here, and I always look forward to him walking in the door. On a day like this, it is all the sweeter! Hope all of you are having a much better day!

It is almost ironic that I wrote about the blessing of an extra hour’s sleep last night. JR has had the sniffles for a couple of days now, and wouldn’t you know it hit full force in the middle of the night last night. I heard him coughing and start crying and went in to check on him. There was no doubt he had the croup. If you have ever had a child with the croup, you know what a pitiful sight it is. It usually hits in the middle of the night, and they literally sit there, wheezing, hacking, and trying in vain to catch their breath. Their chest heaves in and out with each breath, and they begin to panic as their airway just gets tighter. The closest thing I can relate it to is an asthma attack, only with croup, they can typically still get enough air. Bless his heart, JR was sitting there just trembling (he shakes uncontrollably when he is nervous about something), crying, and starting to panic. The first time this happened we were on vacation at Red Gate Farm and I had no idea what was happening. It scared us so bad, we immediately bundled him into the car and rushed to the hospital. I learned then that the best treatment is cool, fresh air. So last night, I took him and stood him in front of the open fridge for a while. It helped a little, so I then took him out and just held him outside in the night air, periodically checking his membranes and lips to make sure they weren’t blue. After about 15 minutes, he started to relax and his breaths got easier. My other children have never dealt with this, but he seems to get it at least once a year. Humidifiers can also help, but wouldn’t you know we threw our broken one out when we moved and have yet to replace it. I also realized that I have no idea where the nearest hospital is, in the event of an emergency, so I need to investigate that for future reference. Please keep us in your prayers…that JR heals quickly, and the rest of us don’t catch it.

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