Thursday, July 31, 2008

Spare and Earn

"Spare and Earn." I learned that phrase many years ago in a book by one of my favorite authors, Elizabeth Prentiss. In her novel The Little Preacher, she mentions that so-and-so character was now "old enough to spare and earn" and thus help the family. I often ponder how I, a SAHM, can spare and earn in my own family.
For the "earning" part, I try to remember what Sue Jakes says in Heart of the Home: "What do you have in your house?" (from 2 Kings 4:2, the widow who had nothing except a little oil - great story...go read it!) Anyway, "what do you have in your house?" I have many times in the past participated in consignment sales and sold used books.

But the truth is, as a SAHM who is also homeschooling, it's the "sparing" that I am able to focus on. In the last two years, since the birth of K, our #5, I have become very lax about the budget. Shopping without a list and a plan; takeout when life gets busy. But several things have occurred together that have given us a budget wake-up call:

-gas prices through the roof - our family car is a guzzling tank ... but we can't exactly fit into a camry, now, can we?
-food prices on the rise for various reasons
-one teen boy, and another right on his heels; 4 chicken breast halves used to feed our whole family at dinner - those days are gone!
-K (2) eats nearly the same amount of food at dinner as her older sister. No more getting by on just eating off of Mommy and Daddy's plates

So - it's back to more diligent planning, shopping, and cooking for me! This means taking time to read weekly store ads, stocking up on sale items or things at wholesale clubs, and planning ahead so that there is no 5 o'clock crunch on a busy day that sends us running to a drive-thru. We've also tried to cut back on our use of paper products, relying instead on towels and cloth napkins. (not only frugal, but green) Instead of money, now I'm investing time!

It has made me ponder our grandmothers and how hard they worked to feed their families healthy meals during the depression and WWII rationing. We have become so spoiled!

I found this MSN article very interesting. It's about trying to feed a family of four on $100/week. She mentions the USDA chart guidelines for grocery spending per family. Curious, I looked at the chart and here's what I found:

-for our family of 7 at the "moderate" level - $362.80 per week (yikes! can you imagine?); the "low-cost" plan for our family size was $292.50 per week; the "thrifty" plan was $223.00.

I'm assuming that the chart is food only and doesn't include diapers, paper products, cleaning products, and pet supplies. My budget does. With very careful planning, no eating out, and homemade everything, we struggle to keep it under $225. (Don't even get me started on the high cost of fresh produce, meat and dairy - let alone organic!) This has not been easy, but I feel a little less guilty about the times I've gone a little over when I see what the average family spends on just food.

I used to visit the miserlymoms website several years ago ... maybe it's time I pop back in for some frugal encouragement.

How does your family come in under budget?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Golden Wish List

While at B & N on our date last night, I went batty over this book:

Divine Proportion: Phi in Art, Nature, and Science by Priya Hemenway.

Ahh, the Golden Ratio. Found in the Parthenon, the pyramids, the works of great artists (including Da Vinci,) and all over nature. (C (11) tried his best to use the ratio when building his model Parthenon.) It can be found in the intervals of classic musical masterpieces. It's what makes the lovely spirals in nature so appealing. Consider this fiddle head fern we spotted on a nature hike in the spring:

Before you think I'm going all Da Vinci code on ya... consider this: All truth is God's Truth. God is a God of order and not chaos. Creation is full of examples of the beauty of His order. And we, as image-bearers reflect that with an inclination toward this orderly beauty.

As this book suggests, throughout history people have been drawn to this ratio and consider its proportions beautiful. Since one of my goals in educating my children is to nourish their love of truth, beauty, and goodness, this book is going on my wish list!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Slowly but Surely

I'm trying to gear up for school. Where has the summer gone? I thought I'd have much more accomplished by this point. But who am I kidding??? I have five kids! Two under age 4! Most of my time is spent making sure everyone has 3 square meals (plus snacks - let's not forget the all-important snacks!), wading through piles and piles of laundry, keeping the bathroom floor clean of pee and the kitchen floor clear of cheeto crumbs...

Yes, I do all these same things during the school year, and manage to cram in some school time. I think what happened to summer is that I replaced school with "enrichment." We've visited the library every week, had lots of fun at the pool, gone to free movies, entertained family, and escaped to the mountains. All very wonderful, but I forgot to leave myself any time to clean, organize, and prepare!

So now it's time to get down to the nitty gritty. Today the Big 3 are purging their "cubbies" - the catch all baskets that hold everything from last year's math tests to nature journals to old birthday cards. I'm taking inventory of our school supplies so that I can have a list ready for next week's sales tax holiday. I'm also praying over and planning out the last details of our curriculum for this year. I've been following a hybrid of The Well Trained Mind and Charlotte Mason for years now, but every new school year brings doubt and worry that we're not covering all the bases. (Thus my current books in the sidebar - need that little pep rally to wash away the doubt.)

A (3) is already excited about school. He'll be turning four in August and I plan to do lots of K-4 activities with him this year - he's ready to learn to read and soaks everything up like a sponge. It will be so fun to watch his mind grow this year. Today while we were organizing in the playroom/schoolroom he found his preschool number cards. I couldn't talk him into waiting, so we did some math:I had him help me put the number cards in order. Then he placed the "dot" cards under the proper number. Then he made race car "trains" to equal the numbers on the cards. He had a blast. (Reminds me of those "more bars in more places" cell phone commercials, LOL) He had just as much fun driving the cars over the number line to clean up...


Sunday, July 13, 2008

Happy Thought

Thanks to the recommendation of Jon, our Sunday School teacher, I've spent this evening browsing a website called, a collection of Puritan wisdom.

I found a quote on marriage that warmed my heart. One of the things I love about the Mitford books by Jan Karon is the affectionate relationship between Father Tim and his wife, Cynthia. Many times their words and actions, though mere characters in a book, have spurred me to greater affection toward my own husband. When I found this quote, by John Angell James, I thought Father Tim would approve:

The purest happiness of an earthly nature, is that which springs up in a comfortable home, where there is a loving union of hearts between man and wife. The tender sympathies, the delicate affections, the minute attentions, the watchful solicitudes, the ceaseless kindnesses of marital love,--are the sweetest ingredients in the cup of life,and contribute a thousand times more to earthly enjoyment, than all the possessions of wealth, and all the blandishments of rank, station, and fashion.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

It was just too quiet...

I was busy giving the Big 3 a "mini-lecture" on taking ownership of their own behavior and responsibility for their chores. I wrapped up my speech and went to find A and K. It was very quiet. A was supposed to be unloading the silverware from the dishwasher, but the kitchen was abandoned, drawers open, silverware basket perched on the counter. Ok, now I was worried. Did he let himself out of the house without permission?

I peeked into the garage, to see if the outside door was open. When I did, I saw this:
Of course I laughed to myself. And being the good blogger that I am, before scolding him for opening a door without permission, I grabbed my camera to capture the moment. He, of course saw me at that point and came running over so I could snap this picture:
He's saying, "mwah-ha-ha-haaa" in a very menacing voice! He and K continued to march around the garage, chanting "ha-ha-haaaa" like some kind of masked pirates. These two are quite a pair - remember when they went tribal? They're always up to something, which is why, on so many, many days like this, I can only "do the next thing." That's all I have time for in between their antics!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Going green - and not in a good way

As I was listening to NPR today, I heard the latest news in the Beijing Olympic saga: an algae bloom that threatens to spoil sailing events. Apparently the tiny little plants have formed quite a forest off the coast of Qingdao, the city where the sailing events are scheduled to take place. Though I'm sure the Chinese government and Olympic officials aren't laughing, it struck me as kind of funny. Click here for a striking photo of the algae-smothered coastline and the full story.