November 2009


My family and I just returned from an amazing event that hopefully touched hundreds, if not thousands of lives. 

For several years now, we have desired to serve on Thanksgiving, as a true reminder of all that we have to be thankful for.  In the past, though, for one reason or another, it just never worked out.  One of the big reasons is that few places would allow us to serve with the children in tow, yet we desired to serve as a family on this wonderful holiday.   This year, though, about two weeks ago, we found out about an amazing event in our city. 

A local church had gathered the resources to provide every material and service item a person-in-need could want, and invited the public in.  Basically, a guest (most were homeless, while others just needed a hot meal) would come in, be greeted by a host, then get to go to any “station” room they wanted within the building.  Stations held clothing, a daycare, a nail salon, a barber/beautician, a dental office, a medical office, a shower and hygiene station, a social services booth, a lawyer, a cafeteria, a photo/phone/computer room, a prayer booth, and more.  It was quite impressive to see how nearly 2000 volunteers from around the city came together to make this happen.  EVERYTHING was donated or paid for by donated money, and all the professional “staff” had volunteered their time and services for the day.  We were thrilled to find out that we would be allowed to serve as a family.  Although the men and the women of the family got split up during parts, we didn’t have to put our children with a sitter and serve alone.  They were able to share in the volunteer experience first-hand.  So, with me wearing N in a borrowed Ergo carrier, S wearing A in our Ergo, and JR and M tagging along, we all set out on our first big Thanksgiving service adventure.

We were originally signed up as a “guide host” and were supposed to welcome a new guest in and guide them to the station of their choosing.  This is where we were divided.  Me (wearing N) and M, had to go with the women to guide women, and S and the other 2 boys went with the men hosts to guide men.  However, there wound up being an abundance of guide hosts, so we were re-assigned to be “table hosts.”  This new job involved sitting at a cafeteria table, welcoming the guests, notifying the servers, ensuring the guests had what they needed, and engaging in conversations.  This is where God first showed His presence to us–by allowing us to truly serve as a family.  You see, when we were assigned as guide hosts, S and I were completely split up.  We couldn’t even see each other.  But, unbeknownst to the other at the time, we both wound up being reassigned as table hosts, and even better, we were assigned to neighboring tables. 

I won’t bore you with details, but I can say it was a rewarding day.  Although it didn’t turn out exactly as I had thought it would, we had a lovely time serving others, meeting new folks, and trying to demonstrate Christ’s love to those who truly needed to know they were loved.  It was such a blessing to me, as a mother, to see my little 3-year-old daughter take a salad and hand it to a hungry guest.  Or to listen to her excitedly chat about farm animals with the guest who was confined to a wheelchair, with HIV and hepatitis C.  Disease meant nothing to her, rather he was just another human willing to listen to her dreams.  Of the guests at my table, not a single one was a native of this area, and no two originated from the same state.  I had women from as far away as Korea, and others came from all over the U.S.  Each came here for a different reason.  Some had families, others were alone.  God used our younger children to overcome potential racial barriers.  Despite their differences, all shared a common ground in that they had fallen on hard times, and needed a friend and a hot meal on this Thanksgiving.

Now, as I sit here in my cozy home, sipping a cup of hot cocoa, I can’t help but reflect on this day.  I heard personal stories, saw the pride a woman felt in having her hair trimmed and cleaned, or how a man walked a little straighter because he had a new suit to wear.  Although I had a very tiny part in this whole event, and I don’t know how much the children will remember about it, I look forward to what traditions it may help us establish for the future. 

And I am extra thankful for all that God has blessed us with!

“And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.  Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.  Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  –1 Thessalonians 5:14-18

I’ve finally checked off another project from my list of “things to learn.”  This morning, I ran out of my store-bought laundry detergent, and actually mixed up my homemade recipe I’ve had waiting.  It was so much easier than I anticipated, and was much faster than I thought it would be!  Best of all, as best I can calculate (which isn’t necessarily very well, mind you!), I will now do my laundry at a cost of about $.04 cents a load, rather than the original $.20 or so per load.  That’s a big savings over time!

Here is how I did it:

Step 1:  Find the ingredients.  You will need Fels-Naptha Laundry soap bar, borax powder, and arm and hammer washing soda.  In my area of the country, Fels-Naptha soap is impossible to find, so I had to order it online. 

Step 2: Make the detergent:

Grate Fels-Naptha soap bar

Measure out desired amount of borax and washing soda (see recipe)

Heat 1 qt water in large pan while dissolving soaps and powder in another pan.

Pour soap mixture into hot water and stir. Add hot water until you have desired amount of soap mixture (see recipe).

Pour mixture into desired storage containers and label.

 So why on earth would I want to make my own detergent?  Because I’m a nut job, why else?  Ok, seriously, as if the cost savings wasn’t enough, I have also eliminated many harsh chemicals from my laundry now.  The mildness of this solution has been shown to increase the time your clothing lasts.  It also eliminates the laundry chemicals were constantly on the children’s skin.  I have already used it in my laundry today, and just for the record, it worked fine in my front-loader.  I noticed afterward that, while the laundry smelled fresh and clean, it had no “scent” or perfume in it.  You can add herbal scents to the recipe though, if desired.

In case you are interested, I am including 2 recipes below.  The only difference is the quantity you wind up with.

Homemade Laundry Detergent 1

  • 3 pints hot water
  • 1/3 bar Fels-Naptha, grated
  • 1/2 cup Arm and Hammer Washing Soda
  • 1/2 cup Borax
  • 2 gallon bucket/pan
  • 1 quart hot water
  • 5.5 quarts hot water

In saucepan, dissolve Fels-Naptha in 3 pints water over low heat.  Stir in soda and borax until completely dissolved. In the mean time, heat 1 quart of water in bucket/pan.  Pour soap mixture into bucket, and stir well.  Fill bucket with remaining 5.5 quarts of water, and mix.  Pour into desired storage containers, and let sit about 24 hours to thicken. 

OR

Homemade Laundry Detergent II

  • 2 quarts of water
  • 1 bar Fels-Naptha, grated
  • 1 cup Arm and Hammer washing soda
  • 1 cup borax
  • 5 gallon bucket
  • 4.5 gallons hot water

In saucepan, dissolve Fels-Naptha in 2 quarts water over low heat.  Stir in soda and borax until completely dissolved. In the mean time, heat 4.5 gallons of water in bucket.  Pour soap mixture into bucket, and stir well.  Fill bucket with remaining 5.5 quarts of water, and mix.  Pour into desired storage containers, and let sit about 24 hours to thicken. 

Whichever recipe you use, the soap can be used immediately, but will be runny.  It will thicken as it cools. 

Use 1/2 cup per load.

Congratulations to “Rachel!”  My son enjoyed being the one to choose the winner from a random assortment of entries!  I will contact you for information and get it in the mail soon.

JR counting money

JR has been doing surprisingly well in his homeschooling this year.  I am so thankful I made the choice regarding his curriculum this year.  Although he was reading quite well over the summer, we basically stopped his “reading lessons,” just encouraging occasional reading of signs or what-not in day-to-day life.  Instead, we focused on his new curriculum.  He knew most of the material in the beginning, so we got way ahead by doing 2-3 lessons a day in the beginning.  About 2 weeks ago, the material finally got challenging enough that we backed off to 1 lesson a day.  We have really been able to take a leisurely pace because we were so far ahead.   It has been nice, though, seeing the “holes” in his understanding be filled in by this curriculum, and his learning and conceptualizing improve by leaps and bounds.  Now that the lessons have us starting up his reading again, he is picking the concepts right up. 

He is also doing exceptionally well in math.  He seems to be getting the hang of basic addition and subtraction pretty quickly.  One of his favorite exercises is to “play with” a pile of coins.  We can do all kinds of things with coins….sort by type of coin, sort into groups of 2, 5, 10 items, sort into amounts like 5, 10, or 20 cents, and we can do many other non-money related exercise where he just needs a visual.  He loves word problems, so sometimes I will give him a problem such as, “Jack had 4 eggs (JR will put 4 pennies to the side).  Then Rob gave Jack 3 more eggs (JR will add 3 more pennies to the pile).  How many eggs does Jack have?”  The visuals have tremendously helped him visualize the answers at other times.  For example, it just thrills me when we sit around the dinner table and his daddy quizzes him just for fun.  With no aids to help him, JR will spout off answers to basic addition problems with no trouble. 

We are at lesson 92 out of 170 at this point, so I think we are doing pretty well.  While we are taking a relaxed pace, I am also trying to knock out at least 5 lessons a week in preparation for next spring and summer–sure to be a very busy time for our family!

For a while now, we have been trying to decide what kind of apple trees we want to plant in our orchard on the farm.  The only problem is, we had not tried many other then the “Delicious” varieties sold in stores.  I kept joking to S how I wished we could go somewhere and have “apple tasting” like they do Wine-tasting. 

Then, the other day, I found the solution to this dilemma.  I was in our local Whole Foods market picking up some groceries for the week, and noticed they had many different varieties of apples in the produce section.   I decided to take advantage of this seasonal opportunity, grabbed a bag, and proceeded to take one of each apple and put it in the bag.  You can imagine how the check-out girl loved me, when I told her there was only 1 of each apple in the bag, meaning she had to ring up each one seperately! 

dessert

So after dinner, I told the kids we were having an “apple-fest” (is there such a thing?).  Anyway, I sliced up each apple, and grouped them on two plates.  I put one of the produce label stickers by each group so we could identify them.  Then we began passing out apples, savoring and tasting each one.  We had a total of 10 different varieties, including winesap, ambrosia, cameo, jonagold, gala, honeycrisp, braeburn, rome, a “black” something or other, and I can’t remember the last.  We judged based on crispness, flavor, sweetness, and just our overall “like” of the apple.  I have to say the Honeycrisp was our overall favorite, and we learned which ones to avoid completely! 

It was a great little experiment.  Although there are about 10,000 other varieties out there (ok, so a that’s a bit of an exaggeration), at least we got to taste some very common ones, and have more to go on when it comes to apple descriptions.  Now, to find our trees!

Every week, I resolve to do better and try to post at least once a day, during the kids’ naptime.  However, ever week, after the first day or two, I find that I just get too busy.  Between homeschooling, baking bread and making snacks (a family does have to eat after all!), cleaning house, tending to the children, and handling other things that come up, I just find that blogging is kind of low on the list of priorities.  I figured, however, that the least I could do is tell about the latest project that has been keeping me busy.

We are always looking for new ways decrease our waste, recycle materials, be self-sufficient, and, if it happens to add speed and convenience to my day, so be it!  A while back, I found a website (sorry, I have no idea where) that had suggested using bags to “wrap” presents instead of wrapping paper.  I was intrigued by the idea, and after some discussion, we thought it could be fun to give it a try.

I’m not talking about re-using brown or plastic bags.  I mean actually sewing some bags together, adding a drawstring cord, and viola!  I have only made a few in small sizes, but so far I am loving it!  I tend to do most of our Christmas shopping earlier, before the Christmas season gets here, so I don’t get all caught up in the stress and commercialism of the holidays.  I love being able to take the time to really put thought and effort into our gifts.  The one part I always hated though was wrapping gifts.  Ever since I can remember, I was in charge of wrapping gifts.  Growing up, my parents hated to wrap, and I was the oldest child, so the responsibility fell to me.  Most years, my parents would even put my gifts into an obscure package and make me wrap it!  We laugh now, but I am finally a bit tired of the hours involved in wrapping.

Now, I take a bag, drop in the gift, pull the cord tight, tie a loop, and I’m done.  Now that the Christmas season is getting closer, gifts have started piling up.  I needed a way to hide them, but the kids play in every room (and closet) of our house.  The solution?  Bag it!  Now, I have all the gifts acquired so far bagged up neatly.  Unless they actually pick up the gift, they don’t have a clue what might be inside because of the standard shape of the bag.  Now, I do remember reading on the website that the biggest downside to using bags is that it is very easy for older children (or adults!) to untie the bag, take a peek, and retie, and you have no way of knowing.  Therefore, you may have to keep the bags tucked away until the night before Christmas, which could be a bit more inconvenient.  I guess I finally figured though, that, in our case, I store them for so many months anyway, what’s another 3 weeks? 

My goal now is to make several sizes of bags (sm, med, large, and a few extra large if needed).  For the most part, I am trying to do the bags in distinct colors so maybe I can decipher at a glance which gift belongs to which person.  I am not sure how that will work out in the end though.  We will also keep a roll of wrapping paper on hand for now for gifts being given away, or just any last minute things that don’t have a bag.  Of course, who knows, maybe I can eventually make enough bags that I can give gifts away in them, and introduce others to this concept! 

To start this off, I am going to give away one of these bags!  To participate and try to win, just leave a comment telling me your favorite Christmas tradition (past or present).  I will leave the comments open through Friday, and randomly draw a name from all the comments posted.  Consider it an early Christmas present!

PK101

Crown Ministries ABC's of Money Package

We have seen, experienced, and learned from others, the importance of financial responsibility.  We were strongly convicted shortly after our marriage to never go into debt, and took appropriate steps to get out of debt as soon as possible.  We have never regretted that decision, and to the contrary have been very blessed time and time again.

We were also convicted of the importance of training our children to handle money using Biblical principles, beginning at a very young age.  We decided to introduce it through allowances, beginning at age 3 (which is young, but easier to control early spending more).  We use certain principles to teach the children over time, allowing them to experience different “spending phases” now, in the hopes that they will learn and never have to experience debt, financial slavery, or the stress that is found therein.  It is a lot easier to teach them when they only have $2 to work with, then when they receive their first paycheck of $1000 or more and blow it on a down payment for something bigger that also requires credit!

While there are no outright rules regarding age or amounts of allowance given, some type of allowance should be provided.  Here are a few of the tips we have found to work well:

  • An allowance should not be “payment” for doing chores, as children should be expected to do chores since they are participating members of the family.  It is just something that is provided to help the child exist.
  • An allowance can, however, be taken away for not doing chores or, more effectively, be “paid” to another family member who did the child’s chores instead.
  • With allowance comes responsibility, and the child needs to understand this.  He must learn to make choices.  If he is getting an allowance, then he will also become responsible for most of his “luxury” purchases, within reason.  For example, JR loves gum (bad habit he learned from me unfortunately!).  However, if he wants gum, it is considered a luxury, and he must pay for it.  This means that he must make a choice to use his money for a silly toy, or to save up for the gum he wants.
  • Proper allocation must be taught.  When we hand out allowances (usually on Saturday night), we help the children divide up their money.  First, they set aside tithe for church the next day, then the remainder is split in half–half goes into their “savings” bank, and the other half into their “spending” bank. 
  • “Spending” money is theirs to use however they choose, with few limits and little guidance.  While we may offer suggestions or thoughts, this is the time they must learn the consequence of their spending choices.  Yes, this can be difficult if I watch my son purchase a large bag of chemical-laiden candy (at least I can limit how much he eats at a time!).  However, it is an incredible learning experience when he later realizes he doesn’t have enough spending money left to purchase a toy he has been wanting for a while. 
  • You cannot be a lending bank.  For example, if JR goes to the store with me and forgets to bring his money, I cannot “lend” him money.  That will introduce him to the short-term thrill of borrowing, and will totally counteract the responsibility I am trying to teach.

Based on our research, we decided to give our children an allowance weekly, at the rate of $1 per year of age.  So, when they start getting an allowance at age 3, they automatically get $3/week.  Once it is divided up, they are left with $.50 in tithe (rounded since we use quarters), $1.25 in savings, and $1.25 in spending.  We have chosen to use quarters for now to keep things simple. 

The are so many great things resulting from this decision to give allowances based on these rules.  The kids are learning to tithe, and they are learning at a time when dropping coins in the plate is something they look forward to.  Our hope is that by instilling this habit now, they will never know any way other than to tithe.  We are also able to teach lessons on giving freely.  For example, if JR takes his money and M forgets her (or doesn’t have enough for what she wants), then we will discuss with JR that he has a choice to purchase for himself, or to share a bit and provide M a gift that will make her happy.  He does not have to give, and has every right to keep the money for himself.  The only rule is that he cannot lend her money, expecting payback.  If he chooses to give, it must be just that–a gift.  Because each child has found themselves in a position of want at some point, we have introduced them to the idea of “treating others as you want to be treated.”  As a result, they generally tend to be very sharing toward each other, and let me tell you, that will make a mother’s heart smile in a hurry!  They are learning to save, to consider others, to share their wealth, to plan ahead for more thoughtful spending, and so much more.  In addition, they are being introduced to the concept of money in its entirety.  They are learning about different coins, about bills and change, about dividing, adding, and subtracting money, about investing money, and more at just the age of 3 and 5.  Furthermore, because they see first-hand how money is exchanged for goods, they are more understanding when I explain that “I don’t have enough money for that item,” or “Let’s find the item that costs the least amount of money so I can save some money.”  We practice these things together when we are in the stores, and the kids really enjoy it.

I was thinking of this topic because I took the kids on an errand with me yesterday evening.  JR had been planning for a while to purchase a certain item.  I assumed the item cost a dollar or two, so when I saw that he had almost $3, I had no reason to suggest he bring more.  Unfortunately, he learned a hard lesson when we arrived.  We discovered his little item cost almost $4.50.  I had not brought spending cash with me, and he didn’t have enough.  Honestly, I am thankful I did not have free cash, as I would have been tempted to purchase it for him.  It was so hard watching his little heart break upon the realization that the item he had patiently waited for for several days cost too much.  He sat there for a minute or two counting and re-counting his quarters to make sure he didn’t have enough.  I confirmed it for him, and explained that he could save up another week and have enough next time.  A few little tears rolled down his precious cheek, then he turned quietly, and we walked out of the store together.  My heart hurt for him, but at the same time, I knew that a valuable lesson had been taught about saving and planning, as well as the fact that we can’t always have everything we want.  He has been fine since then, and I actually gave him a little treat when we arrived home for having had such a good attitude during that tough experience. 

Now, he is trying to decide what to buy with his next allowance…..a new pack of gum, or the item he wanted last night.  And it’s totally his choice!

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