Budgeting…Again!



I’ve blogged about this oh-so-delightful subject before. And yet…here I am again! Budget seems to be a more and more common word among Americans since the collapse of the economy. I have seen many people close to me affected by more financial challenges than ever before. And usually, when you are financially challenged (sounds like a disorder!), you find yourself budgeting. Dirty word.

We first started budgeting back in 2006. Our first 3 years of marriage, we just bought what we wanted, when we needed it. Of course, that was back when we ate frozen pizza and ice cream 3 times a week. True story.

We slowly changed our eating habits and in 2006, after completing our first year of school here, we realized that we desperately needed to change our ways and stop making so many last minute trips to our very expensive neighborhood grocery store!

Well, here we are 8 years later….still budgeting! I’m for seeing this being a lifetime habit of ours. The only problem is that budgeting needs to be changed from year to year with ever-growing prices and budgeting can often evoke feelings of guilt!

Go do a little research on the web and you’ll find some really ambitious people out there in the world of blogging who feed their families of 4 or more on $250 a month. Crazy! Read the finer print and you will come to find that they also grow gardens, have their own chickens who lay eggs and can a bunch of produce for the winter.

So what do you do when you don’t have your own yard for a garden, don’t want to own dirty chickens and live in a higher cost area?

I tend to feel a lot of guilt when I read about these women who achieve the impossible! But then again, if I examine our finances closely, there really isn’t too much to feel guilty about.

If you read over the top ideas for budgeting, we hit them all, pretty much, which leaves me with little help!

Cut down on buying processed foods? Check. And I’m really trying to do it more and more.

Cut down on eating out? Check. We have an eating out budget of $35 a month. That equals one eating out experience a month for our whole family. Or two smaller outings of a treat or something. Compared to most American standards, I don’t think that’s much….

Cut out excess expenses like cable? Check. We’ve never ever had cable until now. (more on that in a sec.) I know, right? How do we survive???? We absolutely loathe reality TV and current TV shows so we do a lot of movie renting from the library! We are very blessed to have really great libraries all around us with great movie collections! We occasionally do a Redbox movie, if there is something good out. And whenever I get offered a free month of Netflix, we take it. Now, about the cable. You can’t miss what you never had! Actually, I call our local internet provider periodically and fight to get lower promotions for our internet. They have new promotions ALL THE TIME! If they say they don’t, they are lying! I actually got our internet bill lowered this week by $7 a month, by adding basic cable. It just happened to be one of their newest promotions. It’s basically all the channels we had with our antennae plus a few extras. The promotion lasts for six months. So guess what I’ll do then? Call:)

Cut down on extra spending like haircuts, manicures, pedicures, lattes? Um. Check. I get my haircut once a year….if that.  And the rest of the time, I trim it myself. Okay, that might be why I look a little on the frumpy side……:) I totally get that people have different hair and need cuts more often! (no judgements here!) I just really hate to spend the money on something like that and plus where we lived the first 5 years here in Chicago, no one cut white hair (true) so I had to wait until trips home to OH to find a good hair stylist. Guess I just got in the habit of not going!! I never get manicures and pedicures and lattes. Maybe I’m boring but when you don’t have the money, you don’t even think about things like this!!

Menu Plan? Check! I started doing this several years ago and have tried to improve on it ever since. It most DEFINITELY cuts down on spending by helping you avoid those pesky “last minute” trips to the store.  And it saves me from standing in the kitchen for endless minutes at dinner time saying to myself, “What should I make tonight??” Now, I have been worse about menu planning lately for a few reasons and I often find myself dreading dinnertime. I think the reason I have been dreading the whole process is a vicious cycle for me. I have been feeling a lot of guilt for not being able to stick completely within our grocery/household budget because things are so much more expensive and our growing children are eating more! So when I feel guilty, I don’t want to buy things and then I don’t buy enough, then we don’t have enough to make full meals, then I dread making meals, etc. See the vicious cycle? Something needs to change!!

Coupons? Now here is something I rarely do! I think most coupons are for junk food or processed food and the stores where I shop don’t accept coupons anyways. Oh well!

Trust me, none of this is to brag about my awesome budgeting skills. The opposite is true!! I am mostly resigned to it but sometimes I do find it frustrating not to just be able to splurge every once in awhile and be free! I struggle with guilt over not being a perfect budget-er and struggle with the whole comparison thing when I hear about these thrifty people eating for like .47 cents a week. I’m not planning on living on a farm anytime soon and raising chickens!

I am going to try really hard though to curb in the budget some more, especially in our grocery/household area. I am going to set a new goal and probably blog about that soon so reader, beware! We are going to have to be more careful than ever now that we have debt payments to add into our life and no dream job looming. Ah, the joys of life! Ever wish money grew on trees?!


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This afternoon, the kiddos and I finally got to do something fun! We’ve had a pretty quiet week. First we were hanging around letting Zakkai recover and we haven’t had the car a couple of days either. So this afternoon, after Baby C went home for his nap, we piled in the car and headed to Ikea to browse:) It doesn’t take much to entertain us!

We spent some time sitting on the different couches and dreaming of buying a new one and picking out our future new table and chairs and then we headed to the kid’s section to hang out for a little while.

Funny guy:)

Eliana had fun playing in the play kitchen and rocking on this red moose!

And then she and Samuel climbed through the tunnels…

Eliana spotted some cute little toddler beds across the way and before I knew it, had climbed in one to show me she fit in it! Ha:) Ben called me while we were winding our way to the end and we sat in the outdoor furniture section for a few minutes so I could say hi to him. The boys were taking turns rocking in a hammock and Samuel had just put the extra material material over himself (not sure what he was doing!) when a lady strolled by casually with her cart and stopped to check the hammock out. She reached out to unfold the flap at the same time Samuel was opening it and he scared the heck out of her! She yelped and then laughed so hard she could hardly stand up. It was SO funny! Samuel sat up and had the funniest look on his face! He told me later he was going to tell her he was sorry because he didn’t know she was there and hadn’t meant to scare her but she walked away before he could. It gave us a good laugh!


And of course Miss “I never sleep” fell sound asleep within 10 minutes and snoozed peacefully all the way home! It was a nice way to spend our afternoon!

Spring Break

 Spring is fighting to make it’s presence known here in the good old Midwest! It hasn’t been too warm for spring break but today we finally reached 40 and that was good enough for all the neighborhood kids to come out and play!

Monday it was sunny and we spent a little time outside, too.

Eliana begs to go outside like a puppy! I really wish we had a nice backyard so it would be easier than hanging out on the sidewalk!

She was so happy with her bike and can peddle very well now:)

Samuel was “helping” her for a few minutes. Good old big brother torture:)

The boss giving me directions!

Little Miss Boss also organized some races:) She saw the big kid races and she wanted to take part, too! She waited until everyone was lined up…

Then she would take off and they would pretend they couldn’t catch her! So cute..

Poor Z just wasn’t feeling up to racing. It’s taken him a long time to get over this virus. He is doing much better today and played outside for a long time, which I was happy to see!

But not so much on Monday. He still needed some rest and early bedtimes.

He also does NOT cooperate with pictures these days. Grrr!

Finally got a little shot of that cute face! His cough kept Samuel awake the past few nights so he would go to sleep in our room and then we’d carry him back into his room when we went to bed. Tonight’s the first night we haven’t had to do that!

Missy Magician!

She doesn’t know any tricks but she’s pretty cute:)

She saw I was taking pictures and ripped off the hat but I snuck in a picture just in time! I hope she doesn’t start taking after her brothers and refuse to take pictures!

The boys have really been into Legos this week, especially Samuel! I’ve barely been able to get S to come down for dinner because he is so involved in building his creations. Samuel is a stick to the directions kind of builder 90% of the time and Zakkai is the opposite, mostly an inventive builder! Today Samuel said, “Mommy, I think that Legos are even better toys than matchbox cars.” I said, “Yeah, you’re right, Samuel. They are actually some of my very favorite toys!” He then wanted to know if I played with them when I was little, too:) He was a little surprised to find out there weren’t pink Legos back then!

Things have changed a lot since I was little, that’s for sure!

Thirsty.

As I am writing, the aroma of baking pizza is filling the air. Not a bad smell! We have been trying to branch out with our tastes and try new things now that we have our awesome pizza stone, which Ben adores. It improved our crust so much! Tonight we are trying Roasted Garlic Chicken Pizza with a white sauce and spinach. It is as delicious as it looks! mmmm. Definitely a keeper.

Zakkai is doing much better, except for a worsening cough. He was still pretty sick yesterday morning and threw up 2 more times but after sleeping for awhile, his fever broke around mid-morning. Yea! He perked up a lot and was able to eat a little soup by lunchtime.

He woke up with a ton more energy today but still has a sore throat and his cough sounds absolutely terrible right now. I really hope he won’t go into bronchitis or something:( So far, everyone else is holding strong!

Samuel just told Zakkai that he sounds like barking seal. I nipped that one in the bud because it brought back bad memories of my family (okay, my sisters) making fun of me for my terrible cough when I had pneumonia in middle school. It was a horrible cough and took forever to go away. I really hated being told it was a “man cough.” It makes me shudder in sympathy to hear my poor boy!

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I am listening to Ben share his heart with our boys. They read a Bible story together while the pizza was cooking and talked about “real food.” Not just pizza or food for the body but food for the soul. With all of these things we have been through and struggled through (and are struggling through), we will have so much to teach our children. We will have real ways to prepare them for life at our finger tips. How to hang on, how to cling to Jesus when everything else is falling part.

When YOU are falling apart. Because chances are, it will happen. Sometimes God chooses to allow us to be brought to the brink. The place where you have absolutely nothing to depend on, nowhere to turn, no one to call out to…but Him. It’s an absolutely horrible place to be, especially when you’re in it. But at the same time, I reluctantly suppose, there is a raw, painful beauty in your desperate need to cry out to your Savior. Your saving grace.

There is thirst. And thirst makes you search for water; living water. So, I guess that’s where we are now. Thirsty. There are some verses that I found about a year ago that really spoke to us.
Jeremiah 13:7-8
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and whose trust is the Lord. 8“For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes. It’s leaves will be green; it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit.”

That’s what we would really like to be. And haven’t been. We haven’t been able not to fear or be anxious or yield fruit in our year(s) of drought. And we recognize that and long to change. We are thirsty. Thirsty for life again. And God is answering those prayers little by little and we believe He will continue to. Even though it doesn’t look anything like we hoped it would.

We will trust that it will be better than we hoped for because our Father knows what is best for us. And He sees the whole picture, not just the little 2 dimensional slice that we have in front of us. We just have to be thirsty enough to run to Him and cling to Him while we wait.

Thirsty.

A few sweet moments and sickness

Eliana is our little snuggle bug! She rarely refuses an opportunity to sit next to us or get picked up and receive hugs and kisses. The other day I caught this cute picture of her watching Curious George so intently after she climbed up next to me:) Love that sweet, soft face!

We had a couple of days of nice, sunny weather this week! Eliana begs to go outside like a puppy, starved with spring fever! She found our neighbors’ skateboard and decided to go for a little ride:)

Smauel got out his skateboard and both boys had their scooters. I told Z, soon it will be time for rollerblades! We just needed some of the mud and puddles to dry up.

The other day, Samuel did a funny little trick that my uncle taught me in childhood: he “cleaned” his eyeball! He showed Eliana and then she tried to do it herself. It was SO funny! I had her do it again for the video. It was funnier the first time but still, so cute!

Our poor little Z-man is one sick little dude:( He must’ve been susceptible to germs since he was just sick a couple of weeks ago. He woke up yesterday with a low-grade fever, sore throat, headache and stomach ache. He was pretty tired and even took a nap, which is weird! He started to really droop in the late afternoon/evening and was in bed and asleep by 6:45pm. I made him a dr’s appointment since he was recently exposed to strep at school and he had a white spot in his throat.

I woke him up this morning around 7:15am and could tell he wasn’t doing very well. He couldn’t talk for awhile (no voice) and his face was flushed from fever. He let me try to see into his throat and then fell back asleep for about a half an hour. He made it downstairs before I took S to school and watched about 15 minutes of a cartoon, drank some OJ and promptly fell asleep. He slept ALL morning and got hotter and hotter. He finally woke up a little at 11am and felt so bad, all he could do was cry:(

I got some Tylenol in him and then he rested awhile before it was time to take him to the Dr. He threw up on the way to the car. His fever was almost 102 even on meds:( They tested him for strep and it was surprisingly negative so I guess he just has a nasty old virus! I was so sure it was going to be strep because it is rampant in the school right now. The school nurse told me that she has sent the strep notice (“Your child has been exposed…”) to every single class in the school except one in the past month or so.

The only time he was awake today was for the dr’s appt and about an hour and a half this afternoon when he watched a little basketball. Later he woke up crying and told me he had a bad dream. I asked him what it was about and he said, “Basketball!” I asked how it was a bad dream and he said through his feverish tears, “I dreamed Tennessee was losing instead of winning.” Kind of funny! You can guess which game he was watching before he fell asleep…

We were supposed to go on a date tonight, our first in a year (I know, right?), but we felt increasingly uncomfortable with leaving him over the course of the day and it turns out our instincts were right since he was still throwing up a couple hours ago and feels miserable enough to just sleep and cry. Poor little guy!

I am really praying no one else gets this! Looks like we’re in for a quiet weekend…..

Clean Teeth and Ken?

Monday comes again! It was an unusually busy weekend for us with a birthday party and our anniversary and also we hosted a small group at our house yesterday, which involved a lot of cleaning!

It was a big step for us to take; to branch out of our isolation and open up to new people. Thankfully, they were all very nice and seem excited to be a part of a Bible study. It will be good for us, I think.

Today, Eliana once again accompanied me to the dentist. We are trying to fit in all of our appointments before Ben’s insurance ends with his job at the end of the month. We put off going to the dentist until the last minute. Because who likes going to the dentist? Not me!

I have to say, though, that this was the most thorough dentist office I have ever been to in my life! They divide your appointment into 2. The first one is for x-rays and checking your bones and gum recession and for cavities, chatting with the dentist and such. The second is the torturous cleaning session.

Ben got to do his all in one 2 1/2 hour swoop, thanks to a cancellation but I had to break mine up. The good news? No cavities for me, continuing my lifelong streak! But apparently, I will wish for cavities by the end says Mr Dentist because I have other issues. More painful issues. I have “delicate gum tissue.”

Know what that means? That means more gum grafting in my future. Boo. That was truly a terrible surgery. The part on the roof of my mouth where they harvested my gum for the grafting still doesn’t have all of the feeling back. And it’s been 4 years!

So I have gums like “the skin on a grandma’s hands” (and I quote!) and I have to brush with an extra soft toothbrush and be super careful. Bummer. Ben may get a few cavities  here and there but he has great gums. Like a rhinoceros or something, darn it!

At least our teeth are clean though! A little battered fand sore rom the torturous cleaning, perhaps, but clean.

I had to take Samuel to the store to get a little birthday gift for his friend and I came across Barbie in the toy department and decided to have a personal flash-back moment. But wait. Wait just a second! What happened to Ken with his awesome plastic hair and shining white teeth? Who the heck is this??

Is this Ken now? He has Justin Beiber hair! Ick! Seriously. Yuck. Why do all the men have to be so feminine these days? Ew. When it comes time for Eliana to play with her Barbie’s more, I just may be searching ebay for the old 80’s cool Ken. I’m not sure I could handle playing with this doll….

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 Thanks for the anniversary wishes! I feel very strongly about what I wrote and I ask, if you know anyone getting married or just starting out, please feel free to share that post with them. I may not be the greatest writer but that post meant a lot to me and I would be thrilled if I thought it could help or touch someone.

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Next up? Me trying to figure out how to survive spring break next week with many children at home…..Yikes!

11 Years.

Today we have been married for 11 years! As I think about what marriage entails and what it looks like now as opposed to 11 years ago, I have some things I’d like to say.

To the young couple, newly married or about to enter into marriage:

I used to feel a little disappointed when older married couples, veterans if you will, would say that the newness would wear off and we wouldn’t always be in the young puppy love stage. It was so hard to believe. I thought we would feel “twitter-pated” like the young animals in Bambi forever!

The truth is, those married veterans were right. The giddiness fades and the newness loses it’s shininess. Your wedding ring might get some little scratches or nicks in it. You will begin to get wrinkles around your eyes and some gray hairs on your head. Your spouse’s lips will become familiar, their hands warm and comforting. Your “I Love You’s” will slip into the routine of the day.


But you know what? It doesn’t have to be disappointing. There is a steadiness in a tried and true love. It is familiar and safe. It is strong and beautiful. As long as you put hard work into it and fight for it!

Young Lovers, I would say to you, fight. Fight for your marriage. Fight with everything in you to keep it strong and healthy. You will not fully understand what commitment means when you say “I Do” (even though you think you do!) but you will understand what it means 11 years later. Or 20 years later. Or 60 years later.

It means that there will be days where you are sick or tired; there will be days where there isn’t enough money to cover the bills or maybe the “extras” ; there will be seasons where you won’t have money or babysitters to go on dates; there will be times when you’re angry or disappointed with each other; there will be days when you have to make the choice to love. There maybe times when your spouse is depressed and you have to carry the load. There may be seasons where you can’t see beyond the day you are struggling through. There will be times when you cry tears of grief together. Or even alone.

There will also be days where your eyes meet and no words are needed to express the love you have for each other. There will be inside jokes that only make the two of you laugh. There will be that warm body to snuggle up to on the cold nights or in the morning that makes it hard to get up. There will be cards with written words of love on special occasions or just because. There will be a smile on your face when you see each other at the end of the day. There will be quiet nights where you snuggle and watch movies and just enjoy each other’s presence.

Your very own, custom-made, built-in best friend.

Friends, I know now, 11 years later, what commitment means. And I know what it doesn’t mean. I have watched people close to me give up the fight and walk away, not even realizing all that they have lost or given up. Or people who thought their own happiness and desires were more important than the other person’s. And they chose themselves over selfless love. It’s something we all have to fight against.

I told Ben the other day that one of the most precious gifts we can give our 3 little ones, is a healthy, thriving marriage for them to watch, to learn from and hopefully to want to emulate.

And so, on this day, 11 years after we spoke our solemn vows before our Lord and Savior and wonderful family and friends, I say to you, my dearest Husband,

I promise to spend how many ever years we have left together on this earth fighting for our marriage. I will fight to love you each and every day. To forgive you when you hurt me.  To ask for forgiveness when I hurt you. To lift you up when you fall down. To continue to learn to speak words of peace instead of words that hurt. To keep learning how to think of you over myself. To keep falling in love with you over and over again. I promise to learn from our mistakes and to always be fighting for a future. Our future together. Our legacy that we are even now making and will leave behind for Samuel, Zakkai and Eliana.

I promise to stay true to you. To keep making my Lord first in my heart so I can know how to love you better and better with each passing year. I promise to keep laughing with you.

We have so many precious memories together. We are now fighting through one of the hardest times we have ever been through and yet, here we are. We made it through something that causes many marriages to fail, due to the heavy weight of sacrifice. And we are still holding hands and kissing hello and goodbye, saying “I love you” so many times a day and knowing we really mean it. We have proven ourselves best friends o’er and o’er and will continue to every day for the rest of our lives.

I thank God for each day we’ve had together and the character we’ve built through the perseverance of fighting through life together. And I pray that He will heal our wounds and be our foundation and help us cling to Him and each other for all the rest of our days.

I love you so very much, Ben. Happy Anniversary.

Not So Spring Concert!

Remember those frosted trees I told you about the other day? Here’s a snapshot of a winter wonderland! Well, except none of us think it’s a winter wonderland anymore:) Today was warmer so a lot of snow melted. The sidewalks are a nasty messy mix of mud and huge puddles. The grass that is now showing is also muddy and beyond saturated. The parts of grass that are not exposed yet are covered in snow piles that are a few inches deep to 3-4 feet deep. It will be a LONG time before we dry out!

Eliana got herself all prettied up as a ballerina the other afternoon, with dressy shoes and all:) Amazing how she can prance around in so little clothing on such a cold day!

Last night was the boys’ spring concert! They have been SO excited all week and were practically bouncing off the walls all afternoon. The music teacher said that originally they were hoping that the snow would be gone and our days would be spring-like in time for the concert. Unfortunately, we all know it’s not-so-spring like around here yet! At least it was springy inside. This was the first grade singing. Each grade had a spring theme. First grade’s song themes were “Everything Grows.”

Z is in the left middle. Hard to see in a sea of green!

The second grade theme was “Seasons Change” and third grade was “I Must Do My Part.” The last songs were sung by the 4th and 5th grade chorus and their theme was “You Always Reap What You Sow.” The songs had great messages and all the music and words were written by the music teacher!

This is 3rd grade and Samuel is in the front row, far left.

Starting in 3rd grade, they get to learn the recorder:) We have heard a lot of squeaky notes around here all year! Those are the recorders hanging around their necks:)
 
Here are a few really short clips of the concert. Eliana kept bumping my arm, trying to watch what I was recording so sorry about the lack of steadiness. And the lady’s head in the way:) Only so much you can do from far away with a camera phone!
 
The first clip are the first graders (with Z), the second is the recorder song by the third graders and the 3rd clip are the 3rd graders singing. Cute!

It was a fun little concert. Eliana said they should do it again tonight:) Happy Friday!