Controversy Remix.

You might recall this post I wrote over a year ago (which I thought I wrote just a few months ago, btw.)  Okay, probably only about three of you recall that post, but I needed to reference it to get this party started.

Party?  What party?  I'm going to talk about how to save money/live simply/etc.  This may not qualify as a party.

ANYWAY, I have had a request to re-post this because more and more moms I know are trying to figure out how to spend more time with their kiddos.  Whether you're trying to figure out how to stay home full time or part time, I think it's world-changing when mamas understand how important their job is and want to do it well.  If you don't have kids, you can skip this.  ALTHOUGH, I think that, even if you're single, we can all benefit from advice on how to save money/live simply...right?  Please feel free to leave your tips in the comments.  I love hearing how other people do it!

**Before I add any new advice, I'd like to say that the most radical and efficient thing we've done to save money is the number one item on my previous list:  owning one car.  We currently have two cars, for which I feel truly blessed.  But, at this time last year, we only had one.  We did that so that we would have one car payment, (and one car on our insurance bill) We could pay down some debt (think about how many hundreds of dollars that frees up per month!!) and we could save to pay cash for a second car, which we did.  I think it was the hardest one for me to give up, but if you have a husband who works an 8-5 job in the same town that you live, it wouldn't be so bad.  My thought was always that if we could work it out so that I had the car 2-3 days/week, that was enough for me to not get cabin fever.

I also want to reiterate how important it is to have a husband who is not only on board with this idea but who is driving this whole operation.  I can't say enough about how amazing Joe is and how thankful I am that he has made it his priority for me to be at home.  It would not be possible if he wasn't working hard to make it happen.  Having one person at home requires sacrifice from everyone involved.  (But it's oh so worth it!)

Oh, so worth it. 

I wish I could say that there's some magic formula here or that there's just one key thing you need to get figured out to be able to stay home, but sadly, it's not that simple.  Obviously there are a million factors.  But, I really think just having a very specific why really drives the how.  Not just "I want to stay home" - but why do you want to?  For me, I have a few very important and specific reasons for staying home. 
1.  The littles are only little for so long...and it is SO fleeting!
2.  If there's one thing I want my kids to learn before they leave my home it's how to know, love, and serve the Lord.  I think that I'm the best person to teach them that.  Not because I'm awesome, but because that's the God-given purpose of a parent.
3.  I'm the primary educator of my child (just as you are yours - regardless of whether or not you're home full time) and so if it's possible, it seems like the natural thing to do.
Keep your eyes on your why!  As long as you can focus on the why - you'll figure out the how.

SO....here we go:
  • Make your own.  I mentioned that we made our own wipes for a while. Since Silas arrived, I haven't been doing that, but I did like them.  What else can you make that will save you money?  How about laundry detergent?  (that's going to be my next experiment!) Google how to DIY almost anything and you'll find tons of options. How about other cleaning supplies?  Skip the expensive clorox wipes and use vinegar and a washcloth on your counter.  Natural and Cheap.  How about cleaning the shower and toilet with baking soda?  Works better than bleach, in my experience.  Not toxic and, again, cheap.
  • Ask for gifts that keep giving.  Okay, I'm not so much one to ask for specific gifts, but if Grandma and Grandpa are looking for ideas for Christmas, ask for a zoo/science center/pool pass.  Then you have free entertainment for the year instead of a toy that will get boring after a week.
  • I have promised Joe that I will not buy anything just because it is on sale.  This is a hard one, but it's necessary.  Too many people get sucked into the "I'm saving money because it's on sale" trap when, in fact, that is money that absolutely doesn't need to be spent in the first place.
  • Don't ask:  Do I have the money?  Ask:  Is this a wise purchase?  Let's say you have the money to buy something, or even that you've budgeted for it.   That doesn't always make it the right time or the right item or the right price.  Is it wise?
  • Tithing.  I am not proud to tell you this, but we haven't always been the best about tithing.  We seems to go in phases, which is dumb.  It's clearly not optional.  (Malachi 3).  Now, I'm not saying that you should tithe because somehow God is going to make you rich if you do.  Not saying that at all.  I'm saying that it's a command and we should do it because we love Him and we want His kingdom to come, not our own.  When we tithe we remember that He is in control, and that He is our supreme good.  When we tithe we remember that He is enough and that nothing is more important than more of Him in our lives. 
  • Don't compare.  I don't feel like I need a bigger house or a better outfit or a newer car, until I see someone else that has that.  That's so dumb.  Stop it.  If you're going to compare, compare to the majority of the world who lives on just a few dollars a day.
  • Simplify.  Do your kids need lots of toys?  Absolutely not.  Especially if you're at home, the best thing you can give your kids is YOU.  Face time.  And you can come up with plenty of educational and fun activities from the odds and ends around your house.  Again, Google is your best friend.  Do you need vacations?  I would SO love to say yes right now.  But the answer is no.  Do you need...(insert so many other options here)?  It's not that you can never do any of those things again, but what's most important to you?  Can you delay the dream vacay for a few years in order to do what's most important now?
  • Plan ahead.  Think annually and monthly.  Budget accordingly.  If you want to visit the family for Christmas (And yes, yes we do!), we are going to have to have that insurance bill paid, we are going to have to save money for travel, and we'll have to take into account the fact that, for commission-based jobs, the holidays are a slower time.  So, we have to start thinking now about how we'll do all of that.
  • Examine your heart.  Usually when we're talking about money, and how we spend it, we're talking about the following things:  Greed.  Gluttony.  Idolatry.  I know that sounds harsh, but let's be honest.  Most of us live ridiculously abundant lives.  Two-thirds of the world is struggling to find clean water.  We can probably do without another pair of earrings.  I'm not saying that I/we are never going to go shopping again.  Obviously we are.  But, we can sure re-prioritize.  (This is also easier to do when you're at home and would have to haul the  kids into the store to make that self-indulgent purchase!)  It's not that I don't want to, it's that, thankfully, it's kinda hard to try clothes on with three munchkins in tow. 
  • Set a challenge.  I don't remember where I heard this idea, but it's a good one.  Each month, challenge yourselves to one radical task that will save money, and use the money saved to pay down debt (Although we don't agree with all of his advice, See Dave Ramsey "snow ball effect" for how to successfully pay down debt).  I.e.  September:  we give up coffee, October:  we give up eating out.  November:  we give up dessert.  (Do you like how all my examples revolved around food?  What does that say about me?)
  • Speaking of Food... I heard John Piper talk one time about glorifying God in our lives and he said (and I paraphrase) How can we use money to show that God is our supreme good?  That, to us, money is nothing compared to Christ?  How can we use food to show that it is nothing compared with Him?  This is a great question to keep us from being gluttonous and greedy.
  • All of this goes for your husbands too.  Again, Joe is a rock star.  He literally wore his last pair of dress shoes until their was a hole in the bottom.  I'm not sure how many years that was, but I'm so thankful that he's so selfless. 
  •  This final comment is from Joe:  As a Financial Adviser people always ask me how we have managed to have Ruth Ann stay at Home.  My usual response for humorous reasons is that we just got used to being broke!  I truly believe it is easier to have your wife stay at home if you start out on one income and never get used to two incomes.  If you can survive on one and you don't know any different, then staying on one income is easier.  When working with people I can see how going from two incomes down to one is a scary thing.  Typically the two income scenerio provides a lot of luxuries... But in all truth are those luxuries worth it at the expense of qaulity family life?  I truly believe that if you put your faith in God and trust that he won't let you starve (You might be eating Ramen Noodles and Pancakes sometimes but it is still food) he will provide.  We have been in some tight stressful situations and we have been in abundant situations but we are still here making it happen.  The greatest thing about my job is the upward mobility it has provided me.  When we had Roman I was a Financial Adviser which was enough to live off of.  When we had Judah I became a Managing Partner and now run a District Agency which provided more income.  Now that we have had Silas we are again moving up.  Right now discussions are being had about becoming a Regional Director somewhere in the United States.  God is good and makes all things possible!  As we have followed His plan for our lives He has uncovered opportunities to keep us moving forward!  So I would say the real answer to the stay at home question is faith!  I promise you it will be hard!  I promise you will have sleepless nights due to financial stress!  But life isn't about money it is about completing your vocation and if that is marriage that means your role is be the domestic church to your family!  My Dad said it best when he said the primary role of a parent is to get their kids into Heaven.  Take the time to discuss this issue with your spouse and discern what is right for you.  I'm not saying everyone can or should stay at home.  Just take the time to discern and do what is right for your family whatever that may be!  Have faith! 
Now your turn!  Please share your ideas!


dolphin, destructor, and bug boy.

  • is now 6 and a half months old.  That's half a year, people.  Ridiculous.
  • At his 6 month check up, he weighed 18lb 2 oz.
  • Right around the 6 month mark, he started sitting up alone, crawling, and pulling himself up to a stand.  I know.  This is alarming for a couple of reasons.  One, being the obvious:  that he's a six month old.  (I don't want to sound ungrateful for normal development, because I really, really am).  But, come.on.  I feel a little bit robbed of my baby days. The second reason for alarm is that he doesn't have a whole lot of balance yet, so there is a lot of toppling happening.  And then he does this really crazy ninja-type log roll.  So...scary and yet funny.  
  • Has a little stranger anxiety.
  • Now at 6 and a half months, he has TWO teeth coming in (the bottom middle two), he can wave, clap, and give high fives
  • He likes to climb onto the bottom shelf of the TV stand.  What is it with that?  Every kid is drawn to it like I am drawn to Orange Leaf.  (seriously.  If you haven't been, you need to go.)
  • He also makes this really crazy noise every time I am getting ready to feed him.  It's like the anticipation is too much to handle.  I don't really know how to explain it, but I refer to it as the "angry dolphin".  You can use your imagination.  :)

  • says "gotch" instead of "got ya".  So funny.
  • calls black olives strawberries.  ??  Maybe they are equal in deliciousness?
  • is destructive.  That sounds really negative, but I don't know how else to describe him.  He is constantly in to everything and feels the need to create chaos wherever he is.  I imagine that, in his mind, he passes something that is nicely organized and put away and says to himself:  "What's this I see?  Order?  I'll have to do something about that..."  This thought is followed by tipping something over, spilling contents out of a container,  being loud, sitting on something, breaking something, coloring on something, etc.  He is our wild card.  We can't so much leave him alone for any number of seconds.  He is very difficult to keep up with right now.  But I am so thankful for that little stinker.  He is crazy as all get out but he just brings us so much joy. 
  • he loves to look at pictures of himself and his brothers
  • waves with his palm towards himself.  Makes me laugh every time.
  • loves loves loves to dance. 
  • is getting more and more talkative
  • big blue eyes + shaggy red curls = irresistible. 
  • Roman and I have begun the journey of homeschooling!  We are excited to be using the Five in a Row curriculum this year and we have even joined a co-op in Ames that Roman is very excited about.  He asks me everyday if we're going to preschool, but we only meet once a week.  :)
  • Still loves bugs.  LOVES them.  he will even pretend that his grape halves are bugs at lunch time.  Yesterday he caught a katydid, today a dragonfly.  Also, he talks to his bugs.  ie.  "Are you tired, katydid?" or "Are you having a hard day, Red?"  (Red is the name he gave his dragonfly.  Duh.) 
  • He is just really, genuinely in awe of insects.  He can tell you that insects have 6 legs and a head, thorax, and abdomen.  And he will often say things like "Mom, is that a beautiful wasp?"  Who is this kid??
  • saw a baby catfish at wal-mart the other day and was telling Monica about it..."We saw baby sharks and a kittyfish"...she laughs:  "You mean a catfish?".  R:  "Yeah, a kittyfish".
  • One day I was trying to get Judah to point to different body parts, and I thought if I had Roman do it too, he might think it was more fun.  Then this happened:
                  Me:  "Roman, where are your knees?"
                     R:  "Can't you not see them?"
                  Me:  (laughing) "Yes, I can, but can you point to them?"
                    R:   (still really confused) "Don't you see my knees?"
                                          :)  I guess we're too grown up for that game at the age of four. 
  • One day Judah was really grumpy and I kept asking him if he wanted to eat or go outside or do a puzzle, or anything to cheer him up.  Roman came up to me and said "Mom, you just need to let him do his thing right now". 
  • These next couple are from quite a while ago, but for the sake of me remembering, I have to type them out.  One day, I was teasing Joe about something and he said "I can hear the mockery in your voice".  Roman pipes up "imagine that".
  • When we went swimming at the Y in Boone, Roman asked me "Mom, is this Heaven?"  Ha.
  • Speaking of Heaven, I have a more serious topic that I have to write about now:
A sweet little 7 year old boy from our church, Quinn, passed away a week ago today.  He had a tumor on his brainstem and has been quite the fighter over the last five months.  I have a special place in my heart for Quinn because when he was just one year old, he was in my classroom at the daycare I worked at.  Before I spent my afternoons with Roman, Judah, and Silas, I spent my afternoons with Quinn.  He was just learning how to walk, and had the most adorable little waddle and the hugest, cutest grin you have ever seen.  After I left the daycare, I didn't see most of those kids again, but I loved that Quinn went to our church because I got to see him and his family regularly. 

When Quinn was diagnosed, we immediately started including him in our daily prayers.  I didn't go into too much detail when I talked with Roman about Quinn.  I just told him that Quinn was sick and I would tell him if he was in the hospital or at home.  One day, during prayers Roman stopped and asked me "Mom, is Quinn going to die?"  (This seeemed very strange to me because we have had other friends and family in the hospital that we have prayed for for an extended period of time and he had never said anything about those people dying.)  "Who told you that, Roman?", I asked.  He didn't really answer, so after I calmed down a bit I told him,  "Quinn is very sick, Roman.  But we know that God can do anything and so we need to ask Him to heal Quinn's body and make him all better".  That was the end of that conversation and he never asked me that again.

Well, last Thursday we got an e-mail saying that Quinn was not doing well at all and that his family would all be coming to be with him.  So, Friday we prayed a Chaplet of Divine Mercy for him.  (That was one of our favorite prayers to pray for him, especially if we had learned about any complications in Quinn's quest).  Just a few hours later we learned that Quinn had passed away.  I cried as I stood in the kitchen reading the e-mail. 

Roman heard me and came to ask me why I was crying.  This is the conversation that we had:
Me:  "Roman, I need to tell you something.  Quinn went to Heaven today".
R:  (excitedly)  "And he gets to walk with Jesus now??"*
Me:  "Yeah, isn't that amazing?"
R:   "Yeah!  But why are you sad?"
Me:  "Well, I'm sad because I'm going to miss him, but, you're right, we are so happy that Quinn is with Jesus".
R;  "Yeah!  Because God made him all better!!"

*I thought the word "walk" was very significant for him to choose.  Quinn has been in a wheelchair for several weeks.

Here I was, preparing myself to talk about how God does answer prayers, how God is good,  but...
but sometimes the answer is no and sometimes we can't understand God's plan because we can't see everything the way that he does.  When in fact, I didn't need to say any of that. 

Four year olds don't need to be told that God is good or that he answers prayer.  They know it.  They don't doubt it.  It was very clear to Roman that God did heal Quinn's body.  He did answer our prayer. 

I'm sure that we have talked about the fact that there's no sickness in Heaven at some point, but it hasn't been something we have drilled into him.  Children are so perceptive of spritual matters and I just learn so much from Roman all the time. 

Then yesterday, as I was getting ready for the visitation, I asked Roman to pray for Quinn's family while I was gone.  He said "Okay.  But, dying's not sad, Mom."  I smiled and then asked (because I wanted to hear a child speak profound truth):  "Why isn't dying sad, Roman?"  "Because we get to to go to Heaven and be with Jesus". 


Then he added, "And someday, we'll go to Quinn's house in Heaven and say hi to him". 


I am looking forward to that day. 

Praise God that this is not all there is.

(This song has ministered to Quinn's family over last weeks and months, and was sung at his funeral)  Also, I have been loving it everytime I hear it on the radio, and I don't think it was so much a coincidence that I heard it on my way to the visitation and then it was playing on their slideshow when I walked into the church.

PS - Quinn's funeral was heartbreaking but it was also the most beautiful funeral I've ever been to.  What a blessing that his family has been constantly seeking to honor God in the midst of this tragedy.  He was glorified in a magnificent way over the last 5 months, and especially today. 

Father Jim had this icon displayed at the front of the church today (I hope this is the right one!  It works to talk about his sermon, anyway).  He talked about how icons are to the eyes what scripture is the ears.  He asked us to look at Jesus pulling on Mary's veil in this picture and to remember that we have a Grasping God...who never lets us go and who has used Quinn's life to turn us to Him.   
Romans 8:38-39
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.


love in the home

"If I live in a house of spotless beauty with everything in its place,
but have not love, I am a housekeeper - not a homemaker.

If I have time for waxing, polishing, and decorative achievements,
But have not love for my husband and children, my children learn cleanliness, not godliness.

Love leaves the dust in search of a child's laugh, the dishes for her husband's voice.
Love smiles at the tiny fingerprints on a newly cleaned window.

Love wipes away the tears before it wipes up the spilled milk.
Love picks up the child before it picks up the toys.

Before I became a wife and mother, I took glory in my house of perfection;
but now, I glory in God's perfecting of my family and me.

As a mother, there is much I must teach my child,
but the greatest of all is love."