Thursday, November 6, 2014

Remembering Fort Hood - Repost from November 2009

Tragedy at Fort Hood

I have been struggling with what to post...whether or not to post. We live on post here at Fort Hood. We were home last Thursday when the events unfolded at the SRP building, just over a mile away. Normally on Thursdays, we are usually off post for a homeschool co-op, but co-op had ended just the week before and we were home. Our plans for last Thursday included an afternoon playdate and dinner out with the girls. At approximately 2:20PM, as we were loading up the mini-van with meals for pregnant friends, returns to the department store and kids and their jackets, the emergency sirens here on post began to go off. I looked at my watch and thought...that's strange, they ususally test the system on Wednesdays at 12:00 Noon. The announcement that followed the sirens was " Seek shelter immediately, stay away from doors and windows". I looked up at the sky and thought, I don't know why they are saying that, it's a bright and sunny day, I don't see any storms let alone a possible tornado. A neighbor across the way yelled out her front door, "get inside and lock your doors." So I attempted to take my kids out of their car they kicked and screamed, wanting to get in the car and go to their friends house to play. As I reached the front door, my oldest handed me the phone. It was a friend who lived in a nearby town, asking if I had heard the news...there was a shooting on Fort Hood at the Readiness Center, seven people had been killed. We finished the phone call, got everyone into the house and closed and locked all the doors and shut the curtains and blinds. As I turned on the TV, it was all over the news. There was so much speculation going around, I didn't know what was truth and what was rumor. Was there another gunman out there?

As we tried to occupy ourselves in our quiet dark home, I prayed for the safety of my family. Phone calls, emails, text messages and facebook comments kept popping up and coming in. For the next five hours, until lockdown was lifted, I learned to trust in the protection of the Lord. People prayed with me on the phone and prayers were lifted up for us by friends far away. The days prior to and including Thursday, my quiet time with the Lord, included a devotional book titled, "Faith Deployed; Daily Encouragment for Military Wives". I had just read a devotion entitled, Already Written. A quote from that devotional says, "Whether they are home or abroad, God's plan for us is already written; we cannot do anything to change it!" The next day's devotional was on "The Sting of Death". How timely were these devotions in my quiet time last week. I had no idea for what the Lord was preparing me. I did not lose anyone in the attack that took place on Fort Hood on November 5th, but many people did or they knew someone who was there. I need to be ready to respond to those who are lost and hurting, with a meal, a hug, a kind word. We are called to bring hope to the hopeless. I want to always be ready to meet the need that I am confronted with, no matter what that need may be.

My husband's unit lost a soldier in the tragic shooting last week. I had never met her but Angel knew her. He described her as "a wonderful and delightful person." Please continue to pray for my husband's unit as they mourn the loss of one of their own here at home.

I need to remember that we live in a fallen and sinful world. Without Christ, people are lost. I pray that in the midst of this tragedy, that those who are hurting find comfort and hope...that they find healing for their hurts. That they find a relationship with the true God.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Dating your Spouse

A friend of mine and my husband from college asked us to review his ebook last week before he published it.  It's called "Take Your Marriage from Good to Great One Date at a Time".  Here is the review I wrote for Amazon.

When my husband and I met over 20 years ago, we spent a lot of time getting to know each other, hanging out and going on dates. After we married and started having children, our dates became fewer and less frequent. Now with five children, busy schedules, military training and/or deployment, we don't date as much as we could to enhance our marriage. Our life has become about the kids and their needs while putting ours on hold.

This book came at a good time. It's a quick and easy read with lots of great practical information. It takes you back to the basics and the things most married couples did once upon a time. It is filled with creative ideas that don’t have to cost lots of money but will enhance and encourage your relationship with your spouse. I can’t wait to implement these ideas and start moving our good marriage to a great one.

This is a great book and it's FREE today!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

End of No Spend January

Whew, January was a long month!  I am so grateful that it is over.  Our family did really well at the beginning of the month.  I was determined to stay within the $150.00 grocery budget for our family of 7.  By mid month, we were holding on with only having spent about $70.00.  Not bad... less than half our budget at the half way point.  But things got really hard during the last week of the month.

I will say that I did go over the $150.00 budget.  I am not exactly sure how much we went over but that last week really got me. I probably spent just over $200.00 on groceries for the month.  One of the reasons for going over the budget is that I ended up having to buy baby food.  I just assumed that the baby would eat regular foods and many of them she would not.  I probably spent about $25.00 alone on baby food.  I didn't realize how much it cost and that she would be eating so much.  But at 53 cents a jar, and 3 to 4 jars a day, it adds up. 

While we went over our projected food budget, I am happy to say that we did NOT spend money on eating out or on anything else that was not a fixed expense (such as rent, utilities, insurances).

Until this challenge, I never realized how easy it was for me to just buy something because I wanted it or it was there.  If I wanted to purchase something to do a project or organize an area of the house, I would just buy it.  If someone needed something such as new socks or underwear, I'd go to the store and get it. While some of those things may have been needed, they were not emergencies that needed to be purchased right away and could wait.

I'll admit that I really do LOVE a good sale and the after Christmas sales were really hard for me because by the time January rolled around, Christmas clearance was over 75% at most places.  One of the pitfalls of watching people post on Facebook is knowing what I was missing. 

For me to stay true to my No Spend January, I need to avoid going any place that I might be tempted to spend money.  I did not make any unnecessary trips to stores and even sent my husband to do some shopping for me.

I am blessed beyond measure and this month of no spending reminded me how blessed I am. 

Some of you have asked if it was worth it....YES!!! And I think I will do it again another month this year!.  Sometimes when we deprive ourselves, we realize that we didn't really need that item anyway or that we can take what we would normally buy ourselves and bless someone else.   This happened to me in January too! While I won't go into detail, I was able to use the money I didn't spend on myself to help someone else.

Was it hard?  YES!!  It took discipline not to eat out, run to the Dollar Tree for a measly little item or throw extra stuff in the shopping cart that I didn't NEED. F you remember my starting post, I have quite a stocked pantry as it is.   I learned that I can live without some things. I can spend less and still have my basic needs met. I can give and bless others instead of filing my pockets with more.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

No Spend January UPDATE

My sister and I have committed to no spending in the month of January.  If you want to see what this includes, check out my previous post here.  Today I'm giving an update on how this is going so far for our family.

I didn't realize how many times in a week I just buy something when I want it or see something that our family might be able to use.  This past week my daughter asked me to take her to Hobby Lobby to get a frame for her poster she got for Christmas.  She was using her own money, so I thought it would be no big deal going to the store.  Boy, was I wrong.  I walked in the store and immediately was drawn to what was on sale.  I had to tell myself to walk away.  I went to the back of the store where the poster frames are located and low and behold, the clearance section is right next to it.  UGH, another temptation.  That is why I sent my husband to the grocery store the other week.  I can proudly say that I left Hobby Lobby with only one poster frame for my daughter and nothing for me.

Since my husband was in the field, I had to take my teens to their activities this week.  On Saturday,  Marissa had her last Driver's Ed course and near the school is a thrift store I like to pop into when I get a chance.  I was excited to see what they might have on sale.  Then I remembered my commitment...NO SPENDING!  This has become a challenge for me this week.  It's so much easier when I just stay in the house and don't go anywhere because then I am not tempted.

But, we needed milk again.  Did I tell you that we go through about 3 gallons of milk in a week?  So with my list of fruits, veggies and diary, I headed to the Commissary the other day.  I must say that while I did great at Hobby Lobby and resisting the thrift store, I failed at the Commissary.  I did not completely stay within the scope of my list.  When I am stressed, I tend to drink...soda that is and going to the store when you are hungry is not wise, I should have known better.  I ended up buying a 2 liter of Pepsi, a frozen pumpkin pie that was on sale for $.99 and a box of ice cream bars.  I should have just resisted those isles altogether, but I didn't.  I also forgot that I needed some baby food since Olivia won't eat banana and I need a fruit to go with her cereal besides applesauce everyday.

My previous spending for the month was $20.35 and this trip cost me $56.89, so my total spending to date is $77.24.  With my budget for the month for groceries being $150.00, I have $72.76 for the rest of the month. 

I now know, not to go to the store hungry and take someone with me to help keep me accountable. 

I think we can all use someone in our lives to keep us on track...  an accountability partner.  Maybe you are trying to be consistent with daily exercise or making sure you get your quiet time in every day.  An accountability partner can help keep you on track by encouraging you to stay strong when the going gets tough.  Find someone in your life who can spur you on to greater things.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Eat from the Pantry/No Spend January

Last month my sister and I had a conversation about going for one month with no spending above the minimal needs of our family.  We each had different reasons for wanting to do this but both of us decided make a commitment for the month of January.  My goal is to only spend $150.00 on groceries for the family, mainly purchasing fresh fruits, vegetables and dairy.  This is not much considering our monthly family grocery budget is about $700.00. 

Eating from the Pantry means that we eat the food that is already in our pantry and freezer, while only purchasing the bare essentials.  No spending means.... no eating out, picking up Starbucks, or buying that cute sweater that only costs $5.00 with a sale and coupon. 

The things that are NOT included in our no spend month are:
  • Rent/Mortgage
  • Utilities
  • Tithe
  • Insurance
  • Gasoline
I mentioned what we are doing on Facebook and a couple of people replied that they would starve, that there is no way that they could eat from their pantry.   I may have an advantage over someone who does not enjoy shopping, cooking or using coupons to save money.  Since my sister and I both have larger families, I have 5 kids and she has 6,  we normally buy things in larger quantities at SAM's Club or even stockpile for our families anyway.  Plus at the end of November and again in December, I happen to come upon sales at the Commissary.  The first sale there was Tyson rep in the store handing out coupons for $1.25 off each package of meat. There was no limit on the number of packages of chicken you bought.  I definitely took advantage of this sale.  Buying the smallest packages gave me more bang for my buck.  The second sale I came across was on Perdue thin sliced boneless breasts at half off. Again, I bought quite a few, while still staying within my weekly grocery budget.

I can't resist a sale, especially if it's on a product I know that my family will use and it's even extra sweet if I have a coupon.  Let me just give you an idea of what I have on hand, so you understand how this is possible.  Like I mentioned earlier, my sister and I shop at SAMs and when I need to purchase something like sugar, flour or rice, the smallest quantity I buy is 7 lbs, but I usually buy at least 25 lbs. at a time.  I keep a cupboard of things we eat in the kitchen and then a pantry in the basement.  I always have an extra one or more of things in my basement pantry.  For example, while I have ketchup, mustard, PB and jelly in my kitchen, I also have at least one more in my basement pantry.  This is just how we roll.  I never want to be stuck without something I might need.

Here is a picture of my basement pantry.

And yes, I have over 20 packages of chicken from the sales I hit at the Commissary last year.  I also keep a small chest freezer stocked as much as possible.  You may be thinking there is no way you can do a month eating mainly what you have in your house.  Let me challenge you to try a week.  If you normally spend $100 on groceries a week, try getting creative with your meals, digging back into your cupboard and using things that you didn't know were there and only spend $25.00 on your groceries.  Also, see how long you can go without buy stuff.  You know what I'm talking about, not needs but wants.   Pepsi at the Dollar Tree...Starbucks coffee...Papa John's pizza....Chinese takeout.  I guess you can see where we like to put our money (though I am not the coffee drinker in our house). 

Today is January 8th.  We have 23 days left in the month.  To date I have spent $20.35.  It is sooo hard for me to have coupons in my binder and not to use them.  When I realized we needed milk, I sent my husband to the store so I would not be tempted to shop and buy things we didn't NEED for the week.  The other day my teens wanted to spend their Christmas money ( I am not forcing them to participate in this challenge with their personal money) so I had my husband take them to the mall.  What girl wants to shop with family or friends and not spend money?

So if you ask me to meet you for lunch in January, I will have to say no, call me next month.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Eleven years and going strong

This year marks our 11th year of homeschooling.  What started off as what one might call a fluke, has progressed to a lifestyle of learning for our family.  In 2001, my oldest daughter was about to turn five years old, but a few weeks to late for the school system in our home state of Pennsylvania.  She had already attended our church's preschool program for the last two years and was a sponge for learning.  Even though I had told myself that I would NEVER homeschool my children because I did not have the patients required,  I did not want my daughter to become bored at home waiting for the year to pass so that she could attend public school the following year. 

I told myself that I would only homeschool for a year or two and then I would put her in public school.  Well, that year turned into two and then three and then four.  It was around this time that I found out that I was pregnant again (with baby #4) and that the third and fourth children would only be 20 months apart.  There was no way that I could homeschool.  I would be teaching a 1st grader, 4th grader and have two in diapers.  So I decided to enroll the older two girls in public school.

We lived in a conservative area and most of the teachers and even the principal in the new school were Christians.  During this school year, my husband quit his job, which provided housing for us and we had to move.  We could not find reasonable housing in the same school district, so we decided to move to the town I grew up in and the girls attended the same school that I had attended.  It was during this year that my husband joined the military and we moved only 7 months later. 

Since my husband has to go through 4 months of training, we decided to go back to homeschooling again.  Throughout the following years, we have utilized homeschooling, public school and even online Christian school for our older two girls to further their education. 

Again, I said that I would NEVER homeschool for high school, but this fall my daughter starts her junior year.  You would think by now that I would stop saying NEVER, because every time I do, I end up doing what I said I wouldn't do anyway.

So this year, along with having a newborn, I am homeschooling my girls in 2nd, 3rd, 7th and 11th grades.  We started out this homeschool journey with me wanting my daughter to not just sit at home waiting to turn five so she could start kindergarten and now eleven years later are still at it.

We have had our rough patches and our great years, but I wouldn't trade these years with my kids for anything.  In two years, my oldest will graduate and who knows what will happen after that. 

Take the time to love on your kids and invest in them because the future could be right around the corner and much closer than you think!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Change is good!

About this same time last year, I received some news that threatened to turn my world upside down.  We had relocated to Fort Campbell, KY from South Korea and life was good.  I turned forty years old not long after we signed for our housing, was in the process of getting ready to begin our 10th year homeschooling and my youngest child was about to turn six years old.  Even though my husband's unit was set to deploy for nine months, he was chosen to be a part of the Rear D, to take care of the soldier and families left behind.

It couldn't be any better.  And then the news arrived... I was pregnant!!!   I could NOT be pregnant!!.  I was over forty and my youngest child was soon to be six years old.  It rocked my world.  I did not want to be pregnant.  It was totally unplanned.  At first I was in denial.  You see, I had recently told my husband to make an appointment with the urologist to get things taken care of because I was content with our family and ready to move into new things since the kids were getting older.

I not only wrestled with morning sickness, but the fact that I was pregnant.  It took me months before I told anyone except for my family.  It just could not be.  After arguing with God, how could this happen (yes, I really do know how it happens...just not to me at this time), I finally came to grips with the fact that I was going to have another baby. 

If you know me or have read early posts in my blog, you'll remember that I became pregnant in 2010, right after my husband returned from his year long deployment to Iraq.  That pregnancy ended in miscarriage and so did the next pregnancy about 6 months later.  Even though I was in the acceptance stage of this pregnancy, I did not really want to plan for another little one. What if something happened like the last time?

In January, when I was around 5 1/2 months pregnant, I had an ultrasound and found out that we were having another little girl.  OMGosh!  I was going to be a mom to FIVE daughters.  I couldn't believe it.  I think the reality hit when I saw her precious face on the screen. 

Today I am sitting here with Olivia on my lap.  She is a smiley 3 month old who loves the attention of her older sisters.  Even my six year old changes poopy diapers to help out.  I don't know what I would do without her. 

The journey that has brought us to this point seemed very long at times.  It was physically and emotionally exhausting but all worth it.  The Lord worked on my heart and after many months of not wanting another baby, am very grateful for the Lord's blessing in our life.  I still laugh at the fact that my oldest will be sixteen years old in a few weeks and that our youngest is only 14 weeks old. 

I don't know what you are wrestling with right now, but let me encourage you to give it to the Lord.  How ironic that this same lesson was part of my little girls devotions last night.  Learning to trust God when you don't know how things will work out. 

A friend of mine loves a particular line from "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe"... “Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

God is good!  We may go into unexpected places on our journey of life and faith but He is good and will be with us.