Category Archives: Family

Your Guide to Easy Summer Entertaining

Summer is an ideal season for entertaining. Many people have a lighter work schedule and are in a festive vacation mood. The weather usually allows for outdoor gatherings and throwing a dinner party is a great way to take advantage of long, relaxing summer evenings. It’s a perfect time to plan casual parties, skipping the fancy tables and heavy comfort food of winter in favor of simple, seasonal dishes and a comfortable atmosphere. Here are several tips to help you throw an amazing summer dinner party.

Cool and Casual

One key to an enjoyable summer party is a laid back atmosphere. While it can be fun to dress up and have a glitzy party, most people prefer comfort and relaxation in the hot summer months. Invite your guests to dress casually and hold your party outdoors if possible. Play upbeat or nostalgic music and include some lawn games if you have enough space. You can also encourage a casual feeling by serving dinner buffet style or even making the meal potluck so everyone feels involved.

Refreshing Sips

Be sure to have a good variety of delicious drinks to keep your guests cool and hydrated. Of course, ice water is a must, and adding cucumber or lemon can help it taste even more refreshing. Instead of using a more formal bar setup, place soda and beer in a cooler and let your guests choose their own drinks. You can even mix up a couple cocktails in single-serving mason jars as an alternative to beer. Make sure you have at least two non-alcoholic options for underage guests or those who choose not to consume alcohol.

Minimalist Decor

Having a themed party or a formal table with handwritten menus and place cards can be enjoyable, but for a summer party, it’s better to decorate sparingly especially if you’re entertaining outdoors. You could go completely casual with paper plates and plastic utensils. Another option is plain white tableware with stemless glasses and casual silverware. For centerpieces, small arrangements of fresh flowers (local wildflowers if you can find them) are nice, or a few floating candles in shallow bowls. Butcher’s twine is a great way to tie a napkin and utensil set together, and is especially convenient for a buffet-style meal.

No Bugs Allowed

If you live in an area with mosquitos or other pests, make sure you take precautions to prevent them from ruining your night. Use citronella candles to repel mosquitos and make sure there are covers for the serving dishes to keep flies away. It’s also nice to offer insect repellent spray to your guests.

Healthy Dishes

Many people try to follow a healthy diet during the summertime. Honor your guests by serving dishes that forego heavy sauces and rich ingredients in favor of fresh vegetables and smaller portion sizes. Salads are a great option for a summer meal since there are so many seasonal ingredients easily available. Healthy, affordable dressings from Hampton Creek are the perfect addition to any salad. There are several flavors to choose from and all are made with a small list of real ingredients so you can feel confident you’re serving high-quality food.

Engaging and Fun

For a relaxed atmosphere, encourage your guests to participate. You could ask each guest to bring a favorite local beer and do a “tasting” or ask everyone to contribute an appetizer or dessert. You could choose a menu that allows your guests to help. For example, set a couple guests to work mixing guacamole or arranging a veggie platter. If you have a firepit, make s’mores for dessert so everyone can get in on the fun of roasting marshmallows. Allowing your guests to participate in the food preparation help create a family atmosphere, perfect for a casual party.
Summer is a great time to host a laid back gathering for your family and friends. If you have the space to entertain outdoors, it’s a great way to enjoy the warm weather and long evenings, especially if you keep the bugs away. Plus, you can have some lawn games for your guests to enjoy and it’s a great opportunity to utilize a firepit if you have one.

Serve a variety of refreshing drinks and light, healthy dishes. It’s also fun to encourage your guests to really participate, either by helping to cook or bringing something to the party. Choose casual, minimalist decor and make sure you take the time yourself to sit back, grab a drink and enjoy the party.

Do kids get financial education at an early enough age?

In a new report from prepaid credit card provider icount indicated that the majority of adults (in the UK) think that children should be taught the value and responsibility of money from the age of 5 – however – the official lessons on personal finance starts at age 11.

The importance of financial education

Financial education is now part of the curriculum for all high schools in the UK. This means that kids get a dedicated syllabus, focused on finance and personal financial management.

From learning about interest rates, credit cards and the dangers of debt – to mortgages and loans, kids are becoming better equipped to manage their own finances from age 11.

The main aim of teaching children about money at school is to ensure they are able to make smart financial decisions when it becomes important later in life.

Learning the value of money in a ‘cashless’ society

There are so many financial service products on the market, which means that it is becoming increasingly harder for young people to understand which is best for the.

Since financial education became part of the national curriculum in September 2014, the government hope that children have a much clearer idea of how to handle their finances.

Each child from September 2014 will have received some form of money lessons.

Teaching very young children about money

The icount research demonstrates that just one in ten parents agree that age 11 is early enough to learn the value of money.

Financial education starts at home

If you feel it is important, there are some great ways to teach kids about money at home – before they even get to school age.

One easy way to help them learn about budgeting is to give them a calculator during the weekly food shop, and everything that goes into the basket must be accounted for. Give them a maximum budget and if it goes over that, tell them to let you know.

For older children, another great way is a prepaid card. The majority of accounts some with a debit card, so you can load money onto the cards and let them figure their budget out.

10 keys to choose flower for your wedding

The choice of flowers for a wedding is a very personal matter. You can delve into the meaning of each flower, its recommended uses, and the combination that best harmonizes with every place … but at the very end, the important thing is to be comfortable in one of the most memorable events of your life. Those responsible for the hotel can help.

To guide you previously, we’ll offer some tips to advice on the flowers that will decorate and attract your wedding. You must ensure best flowers sydney collection to you use it in your wedding.

  1. If we talk about flowers at a wedding, the first and foremost thing that comes to mind is the bride bouquet and incidentally, also carrying flower boutonniere groom.There are many types of classes as styles of brides.Defines the style of bride (depending on your dress or clothing groom) and it will be easier design for a bouquet, a bouquet of wildflowers, classic and elegant roses … Of course, there are many colors as images.
  2. The bride may not be the only branch of the ceremony.You can choose whether your bridesmaids carry one. You can combine the color of yours with the ladies, for a beautiful set of shades.
  3. The place of the link should dress emblazoned equally the bride and groom.Therefore, hydrangeas, roses or camellias are successful for traditional weddings; and orchids, lilies and tulips, for modern.
  4. When the couple have given the expected “yes I do”, comes the turn of the reception of the newlyweds at the gates.Besides the traditional rice it has become fashionable trend of throwing flower petals .Tradition says that throwing things to the new couple means sharing the happiness with your guests.
  5. The banquet decoration is very important.It involves the decoration of the place where all your guests spend most of the celebration.You must find the right measure to avoid overloading the area.
  6. Do not place large center pieces that prevent your guests can talk quietly?
  7. the most successful is to choose own flowers of the season, so they will look its best.
  8. All details count, so you can choose to pick a flower, as part of your bridal headdress. They can further enhance your look: there are from daring to minimalist or rustic…
  9. Note that the flowers are not only a decorative element, but also stimulates smell.The jasmine give off a fragrance.
  10. Finally, remember how important is choosing the right flower as its color.For example,yellow roses signify jealousy, so avoid them at your wedding .

Flowers are a natural, simple and very original element to complement the perfect wedding. Choose the right, with time and patience.

Help your teen regain his self-esteem and keep life on a positive path

The teenage years are rarely smooth and easy. Teens are going through a transition from childhood to adulthood, and this transition can be difficult for even the most well-adjusted kids. Between the changes in their bodies, pressure from peers and ever-increasing school workloads, teens can become troubled and act out. Therapeutic treatment schools can help your teen regain his self-esteem and keep life on a positive path.

Why Boarding Schools?

There are many reasons that boarding programs are often the best answer to troubled teen behavior. These programs employ trained specialists who are fully equipped to address the unique needs of troubled teens. They can help your teen work through issues of self-esteem, peer pressure, depression and anger. These trained professionals can also give them the tools they need to cope with changing hormones and outside pressures that teens often face.

Sending your son to a program like Wood Creek Academy will allow him to bond with other teens in a safe and supportive therapeutic environment. These programs teach living skills, wilderness training and self-discipline and will help your teen discover his own strength. These programs will take him away from the outside influences—other troubled teens, drugs, alcohol—that are causing him to stray off course.

What many people don’t realize is that a teen’s sense of self has a large bearing on his academic success. Many programs for troubled youth offer an academic component that allows them to focus on learning without the negative influences that can hinder school success. These programs will help him to get the high grades he needs to succeed in high school and beyond. These accredited programs allow your teen to earn a high school diploma or transition back to the public school setting to continue his coursework.

When it comes to dealing with troubled teens, even the most loving parents can find the task overwhelming. Getting your teen through this time in their lives is often an uphill battle, and many teens make bad choices that can affect their entire lives. In many cases, it takes an intervention and immediate action to save a teen. By sending them to a boot camp wilderness program, they will not only learn to make better choices, but learn valuable skills and meet positive friends along the way.

Don’t struggle alone with your troubled teen. Take action now and enroll him in a therapeutic wilderness treatment school today.

My kids think I’m a bitch, and I don’t care

Several months ago in this post, I discussed how we had started what we call the Family Economy. For the most part, this had been going very well. But, for whatever reason, after a couple weeks off over Christmas, the whole thing had pretty much fallen apart.

Another thing that seems to have happened after our Christmas school break, is that internet usage has gotten completely out of control by not only the older boys but by the younger ones as well. I hadn’t realized how much they were asking to play on the computer or my phone until I said no, and I was witness to the ensuing fit.

I partly blame myself for this. I became pretty lazy about checking to make sure the boys were doing what they said they were, and there were a few cases of cheating the system by the kids which resulted in them losing pay for periods of time as a result. But as I said, after Christmas, this became much more pronounced and a lot worse.

I also blame myself for the internet usage, especially with the younger boys. Of course it’s easy to say yes when a kid wants to amuse himself with something, but shouldn’t I be more picky with what that something is? I realized this yesterday when both my 6 and 11 year olds said they had nothing to do, even though they have a room stocked with legos, kinex, and other toys.

So today, when I saw that again the stairs hadn’t been vacuumed, the entryway cleaned up, shoes kicked off against the wall leaving a muddy trail, leaves all over the basement floor from the back entrance (we live in a raised ranch so there’s one of those handy/not easy to keep clean stairwells in the back), the 6 year old asked me to play on my phone the minute he woke up, and my 15 year old hadn’t pulled himself away from his computer for the last week, well, let’s just say I’d had enough.

As far as the chores are concerned, the Family Economy is pretty serious stuff to me. My kids get tired of hearing me say it, but by the time I was my 11 year old’s age (he’ll be 12 in a couple of months), I was working very long, full time days for my parents every summer, over school breaks, and after school (when we were needed) until I was 20. It wasn’t easy work either. I remind them that their uncle was 9 and turned 10 shortly after we started working. To me, the Family Economy is the best way to teach them that a good job and work = payment and shirking work and responsibility leads to no pay and no extras.

I find it ridiculous that kids are trusted driving thousands of pounds of cars and trucks (in Iowa a child can get a school permit at 14.5 years old-yes to drive to school without supervision) but the government feels it isn’t a good idea for them to work before they’re 16. But, that’s another rant for another day.

So back to me being a bitch. I called a family meeting with the kids today and informed them of the following:

  • Their lack of follow-through with their jobs hadn’t gone unnoticed and because I hadn’t made any notes on exactly what hadn’t been done, they would all be receiving half pay for the week.
  • From here on out, if their chores were not completed, there would be no pay, but the boys older than 12 would still be responsible for half of their shoes and clothing as was the original deal. They’d have to figure out how that was going to work.
  • The one son who’s making payments for his computer (we fronted him some money to purchase it) will have to cash in his CD to repay the loan immediately if he stops getting paid or he will forfeit his computer as was the agreement.
  • Internet usage is being cut immediately. The children will be allowed two hours of internet in the morning to complete their schooling. After their chores are completed, they will be granted one more hour to be used on the computer or their phones.
  • Playstation time during the week will be awarded for extra work done without payment and will be allowed on the weekends at our discretion.
  • Computers and phones will be left upstairs and their usage will be monitored.

I was surprised at the reaction I received from one of my sons. Actual tears were shed over the internet being limited. He argued that he doesn’t have any friends here, which has been a constant struggle for all of us since we moved (even when the boys were in public school). For whatever reason, we just don’t seem to fit in very well.

My solution to that was to challenge the boys with finding a group, club, or class that they could be involved in outside the home. One has said he’d like to join 4-H, one has said he’d like to take swimming lessons, and one wants a class at the Y.

I also asked them each to list 3 things that they’d like to improve on, and was surprised to receive well thought out responses.

Regardless of the positive spin of improvement and community involvement I tried to place on our family meeting, I did get the ‘You’re a bitch.’ look from two of my kids.

I constantly tell my kids that I’m their biggest fan, but even their biggest fan will make rules that they won’t like and won’t agree with. There will be times they’re convinced they hate me.

My job as their parent is to raise 4 well-mannered, intelligent, compassionate, disciplined, responsible, and hard working men…not to coddle them the entire time they’re under our roof. I see too many children reaching adulthood without a clue as to what responsibility means not to mention how to be independent..

My dad has told me, “No one said being a parent was going to be easy,” and of course he’s right. And that’s why, today, my kids think I’m a bitch and I’m okay with it. Sometimes parenting is a really sucky job, but someone has to do it.

I’m game.

What to consider before a SAHM goes back to work

When a SAHM goes back to work, the pros and cons aren’t completely black and white. What then are some of the things that should be considered? And why am I even talking about this?

Well, even though I’ve LOVED my time as a SAHM for the last 6+ years, and even though I’ve defended my decision to be a SAHM (I’m a SAHM and No, We’re Not Rich), that ship is sailing. I never really planned on going back to work, but things here are changing.

What-to-consider-when-a-SAHM-goes-back-300x300

The kids are all going to public school next year, we just acquired a significant debt when purchasing our house, and although I can’t speak for my husband, the thought of living on an even tighter budget makes me feel a little sick inside. Not to mention we’re not exactly spring chickens, and the thought of not ‘owning’ our home until our 70s makes me feel even sicker.

The only logical solution for us was for me to go back to work.

There is so much to consider when job hunting. Just thinking of all the variables makes my head spin.

What I finally did was to write a list of all the things I had to consider when looking for a job.

  • Full-time or part-time
  • What are the hours?
  • Benefits
  • How would this affect my family?
  • Is this a short-term or long-term gig?
  • If it’s full-time, is there room for advancement?
  • What’s the pay? Is it salary or hourly?
  • What is the commute time?

These are the typical questions that people normally ask, but then there are the ones that aren’t often considered:

  • Is there mandatory overtime?
  • How much will the commute cost in terms of fuel and higher insurance?
  • Will I need to purchase a new wardrobe? How often will I have to purchase new clothing/shoes?
  • Will I need daycare and what will the cost be?
  • What happens when one of the kids is sick?
  • Will I have the support I need at home?
  • Are there any hidden costs (more meals out due to less time to cook)?
  • What are the tax ramifications?
  • How does this position make me feel? (Is it something I can excel at?)
  • Is this just a job or is it a career?
  • Do I want a job or do I want a career?

I’m sure there are even more questions that could be asked, but these are the main ones that concerned me.

These questions could make or break the viability of a job. For instance, there was a posting for a position as a bank teller for $10.14/hour for 25-30 hours per week. This position was 26 miles from my home with 3 out of 4 Saturdays a month required. The hours would vary, but would most likely be 3-4 days a week with hours between 8:30 am to 5:30 pm.

So, when I first looked at this, it looked pretty good. In today’s world, $10.14/hour doesn’t go that far, but I really wasn’t expecting that much after having been out of the job market for so long. But then I broke it down and analyzed it more.

  • $10.14 X 27.5 hours (average of 25-30 hours)= $275.20 gross
  • $29.99 in state and federal taxes would be taken out each week with FICA (Social Security and Medicare) is an additional 7.65% total for $21.05 for a total of $51.04. The new take home is now $224.16.
  • I know my truck gets an average of 18 miles per gallon and a round trip to this branch would be 52 miles. At 4 days a week, that’s 208 miles divided by 18 miles which equals 11.6 gallons of gas a week. Iowa’s gas right now is running about $3.50/gallon so $3.50 x 12 gallons (throw a little extra in there) is $42. The new take home is $182.16.
  • There’s also the added expense of more frequent oil changes and tire wear. Tires for my truck are $200 each plus mounting and road hazard so the total will be approximately $1000. I’ll need a new set every four years at the most making that about $5 a week I’ll need to put aside for tires and $10 a month for oil changes. Take home = $167.16
  • I also have to consider that my insurance may be raised too since the mileage to work and home will be 10,816 miles per year putting it into a higher mileage category as well as faster depreciation due to the higher mileage accumulated.
  • I will have to find some sort of after school program for Peanut and most likely Sweet Pea for the days that I have to work late since J doesn’t get home until at least 5:30 pm on the days he isn’t closing the store. The older boys will be in sports after school. Also, I’ll have to find a program for those school days that I have to work and the kids don’t have school and for breaks when the older boys go to their dad’s and Peanut is with us solo. The YMCA program costs $30 per week for after school care. Take home = $137.16
  • Lastly there is the issue of clothing. I have none that would be acceptable to work in a bank. Clothes could be thrifted for around $100 and shoes I buy new. That would be about another $100. Over the course of a year, that comes out to $3.85/week. Take home = $133.31 ($533.24 per month)

In the end, taking that job would have COST me $141.89 a week or $567.56 a month (including taxes)! That’s more than I would have been bringing home.

Now that I’ve bored you to death with my facts and figures, I want to throw this in there. There was also a job for barn help just 3 miles down the road from me. It paid $9 an hour. Sure the physical work would have been harder, and there wasn’t anywhere to be promoted to, but for the hours and the commuting time (or lack there of), I would have absolutely taken that job over a fancy office job any day.

What are your thoughts on these figures? Did anything shock you as to what the actual cost was (other than my tires…I know. Should have looked at that before I bought my truck)? Are there any other hidden costs I didn’t take into consideration?

Stockpile is the Word

Everybody’s talking about stockpiles…stockpile your groceries, stockpile your necessities, stockpile, stockpile, stockpile.

I’d been discussing this with my husband for a while. Money always seemed too lean to put much towards extra things though.

Then I came across the show Extreme Couponers or whatever it’s called. Dang! Those people STOCKPILE…some to the point of hoarding imho. I mean for realz…what’s a 19 year old guy doing with 10 cases of diapers and 40 boxes of tampons? That’s just weird.

Their savings intrigued me though. Could I possibly begin my own little stockpile of products that would then take those things out of the budget for a while? We live on a pretty tight food budget, and all our household supplies (paper, hygiene, medication, etc) comes out of that line item. Being able to insure that those things wouldn’t have to be purchased for quite some time sure would take a little pressure off.

I began my research in the most obvious place…blogs! I’ve got some kick ass blogger couponer/stockpiler friends.

And then it happened…through my blog reading, I discovered the honey hole of savings that is CVS.

Oh CVS, where have you been all my life? CVS offers these things called extrabucks® (ECBs) on certain items each week. Basically, it’s like an in-house rebate coupon that you can use on your next purchase. [Here’s a quick side-note: It’s important that you keep track of these (and their equivalent–Balance Rewards at Walgreens) because they are NOT put on your card. You need the actual register receipt coupon.]

With five males living in my home, you can only imagine how much soap and deodorant we go through (that is of course if I can get the boys to take baths/showers. What is it with getting them to bathe?? Gross.), so I felt that was a good place to start.

Please spare me the details of how I’d save even more money making my own. They won’t use coconut oil/baking soda or milk of magnesia on their armpits (What? It’s a real thing. Check it out.), and the last time I attempted to make homemade soap, it molded. Compromises, people. We all have to do it sometime.

First, I got on CVS.com. I have an ExtraCare ® card from years ago, so I created an account with that. They post not only their current ad online, but also a sneak preview of the next week’s ad. I strongly recommend activating an account because you’ll receive special coupons in your email (like the $2 off coupon I received this week) as well as personalized offers (like the $2 off when I spent $8 on deodorant).

Next I visited several coupon websites to see what was available. I printed out anything that would be good for the next month so I would have a good selection but not have a huge coupon inventory. We’re not really brand-loyal people which is a good thing. It makes it easier to catch the good prices.

Then it was time to match the extracare® deals and manufacturer coupons. This is where the magic happens.

Using this week for example, CVS had Right Guard Antiperspirant on sale for 2/$8. I’m certainly not going to pay $4 for pit stick. So, I dug out a $1/2 Right Guard products coupon, a percentage off CVS email coupon, and a $2 off deodorant CVS web account coupon resulting in two Right Guard sticks for $3.54 including tax.

Now do you want to know what the BEST thing about that was?? After it was all said and done, I came out AHEAD on the deal because I also got $4 ECBs!

Here’s a helpful hint: Bring your ECB coupons with you! Here’s another one: Don’t wait until the last day of the sale to shop. The branch I normally shop at was out of several of the things on my list, so I made another quick run after lunch to finish up my errands and stop at another CVS in our town. There I purchased 2 body washes (2/$4), 2 shampoos (2/$5.50), 2 conditioners (2/$5.50) , a pack of M&Ms for Jeremy ($.75), and a 4 count package of razor cartridges ($16.79).

After using manufacturer coupons for each of the items purchased except for one shampoo (that would have saved me another $1 and I messed up not taking all my coupons with me so I could grab another one), the 20% off email coupon, and the $18 ECBs from my previous purchases, I paid $10.06. I also received $4.75 ECBs back.

Walgreens had a BOGO sale on Right Guard products this week. I used 4 $1/2 Right Guard products coupons to purchase 2 body washes and 6 deodorants and 4 $1/1 coupons for 4 bottles of mouthwash. I paid $24.40 and received $4 Balance Rewards.

Kmart also had a killer sale this week. I shopped there with manufacturer coupons and added almost 600 points to my Shop Your Way Rewards card (available through Kmart and Sears) that I’ll be able to use toward a future purchase. I spent $21.79 there after using coupons in conjunction with sales.

Here’s a rundown of what I purchased for $83.61 over the last two weeks between Walgreens, CVS, and Kmart (and don’t forget I still have $4.75 ECBs and $4 Balance Rewards for next time):

  • 10 body washes
  • 8 deodorants
  • 9 mouthwashes
  • 5 shampoos
  • 5 conditioners
  • 1 lotion
  • 1 Gillette Fusion Proglide razor
  • 1-4 pack of razor cartridges

I’m very pleased with that amount even if it’s no where near those crazy savings of the extreme couponers. Those are things that won’t have to be purchased out of our food budget (all of our household and hygiene supplies come out of the food budget) for the next several months to a year.

And, if we’re ever broke, I know that we’re not going to smell.

Overall, I feel that the better deals are to be had at CVS. I actually paid less out of pocket for the things I purchased at Kmart, but if I take the ECBs I received from CVS into consideration,CVS wins hands down. The benefit of shopping at Walgreens is that they offer store coupons that can be stacked with manufacturer coupons.

As I wrap this up, here’s a word of warning: Shopping CVS is like a game, and it’s very addictive. Even after only two weeks, I found myself pouring over scenarios of how much money I’d have to spend to receive so many ECBs, and on what I’d have to spend that money on.

There’s no savings in spending money on things you don’t need (paper towels and toilet paper in my case) considering I would have had to spend $12 to receive $5 ECBs.

I think too it’s important to know when to stop. I could keep adding these same things to my stockpile every single week for little money, but really…how many bottles of  body wash and mouth wash does a family need? I’ll keep an eye on the adds for something to use my ECBs and Balance Rewards for before they expire, but other than that our hygiene needs are pretty much met at the moment.

In the comments below, tell me how you save money on personal hygiene products. Do you make all your own? Perhaps you only buy the cheapest on the shelf? Do you have any advice for me to save even more money?

I’m a SAHM and No, We’re Not Rich

My name is Missy, and I’m a SAHM. And you wanna know what? We’re not rich, and SAHM life isn’t all designer clothes, luxury cars and bon bons.

Does this sound like an odd opening to you? Because for me and many other SAHMs out there, we hear this over and over again. It’s tedious.

Last week I was talking with my friend Rhonda who’s also a stay at home mom, and we began discussing the many things people say to us when they find out we don’t have 9-5 jobs, but have chosen to stay at home with our kids. I was surprised, pleasantly so, that I wasn’t the only one receiving my share of asinine comments about my husband’s income and our financial well-being.

From a family member, “Well it must be really nice to have your husband take care of you.” Why yes, it is very nice thank you. I love having a sugar daddy who provides for my every want and need. *Cue eye roll*

From a ‘friend’, “Wow. It must be really nice to be able to sit at home all day. Some of us have to work.” This one was a double whammy because I don’t ever recall ‘sitting’ for a whole day other than when I broke my leg and was unable to be on crutches for a couple days before I was up making supper for the family. I know, I’m a total slacker, but the housekeeper and cook were on vacation.

From people who don’t even know me, “Your husband must be really awesome to let you stay at home.” Because he lets me. Whatevs.

On the heels of these comments are the ones that really piss me off, the ‘Well if you can afford to stay at home’ comments: “Well if you can afford to stay home, you should be able to afford a new car.” “Well, if you can afford to stay at home, I don’t see why you can’t drive home more often.” “Well if you can afford to stay at home, why don’t you guys spend some of that money on some new (insert new item here such as clothes, vacation, furniture, blah blah blah).”

And my all time favorite, “You guys have the money.”

Very rarely do I have anyone around my age ‘get’ that I’m a SAHM because we have chosen this for our family, not because I’m ‘taken care of’ or that ‘we can afford it”. Why is this? Is it guilt, jealously, or the inability to understand that our values rank kids being raised by a parent higher than material possessions?

Because here’s our ugly truth about me staying at home with the kids. Some months we struggle. Some months we eat from the freezer because the only money we can move around in the budget to cover unexpected bills is the grocery money. Some months I’ve really wondered how we were going to even pay all our bills.

Some months I feel like we don’t have the proverbial pot to piss in.

My husband and I don’t have a clothing allocation in the budget. There simply isn’t enough money. If we need something, it has to come out of another line item.

Big Daddy gets first dibs on the gas money for the month. If he needs it and there’s not any left, I don’t get gas. He’s the one who has to get to a job. I don’t usually ‘need’ to go anywhere.

If we don’t have the money for something, we don’t get it. We did break this rule for the new-to-us vehicle we just purchased but there was a reason we chose to take on that payment. It is budgeted for, and will be paid off early.

The kids are provided for but they don’t get a lot of extras. They also don’t have a lot of clothes. It helps that with homeschooling they don’t really need many, but even when they were in public school, 2-3 pairs of jeans each was the norm. Rarely do any of them get anything ‘just because’. (And they very rarely complain.)

Thrift stores and freebies from friends are where it’s at. Why on earth would I pay full price for a brand new winter jacket when I found one for $4 that was in great shape at a thrift store? My son would have had those sleeves stained in a month anyway. The previous owner took care of that for him.

My point is that I don’t stay at home with my kids because I ‘can’. I stay at home with my kids because we choose that for our family. I stay at home with my kids because in this season of our lives, my husband needs to know that things at home are taken care of and my kids need to know they have their mama whenever they need her.

I stay at home not because we’re rich or because I’m lazy (which is also another zinger that’s been thrown out there), but because for us the sacrifice necessary to do so is worth it.

Yes, we are fortunate that my husband’s income is such that it’s feasible for me to be a SAHM. I’m so grateful for that.

I’d also be grateful if some people would shut their pie holes about our financial situation which is no business of theirs anyway.

Now if you don’t mind, I think I’ll go sit on the couch with a pint of Ben &Jerry’s Phish Food ice cream and ignore the children for the day while I watch my soap operas…because isn’t that what the rich do?

Mothering Boys: Sometimes I don’t look

This is my 15th year as a mom. What started out as being a mom to one son has compounded to being the mom to four.

Four. Boys.

When you see things like this for example:

it isn’t a clever saying or cutesy sign…

IT’S THE TRUTH!

Boys are the loudest most dirty creatures alive. For months we had no jeans in the house that weren’t stained or ripped in some way. There is no carpet produced that doesn’t weep when one of my kids walks on it.

Blood, mud, tears and stains…all par for the course.

Living with these boys is like living with a whole herd of the Peanuts character Pig Pen. I’m pretty sure on any given day there’s a little dust cloud following these guys around settling on any and all surfaces they come across.

And then there’s the smell. Boys have a specific aroma (you can read about my oldest son here. Smells like Teen Spirit? Uh. Teen Stench.)

Is that to say that I don’t love my boys? Not at all. I so love my children with such a passion that it surprises me.

This of course isn’t cutting daughters down in any way. I’ve just never been a mother to a daughter. I’m a stepmom to one, yes, but it’s not the same.

So on with my story: As the boys were playing Saturday night, and the decibels were rising, I knew I’d hear it sooner or later and as predicted, the boys didn’t disappoint. “MOM!! Come here and look at what Peanut did.”

Of course later this was followed by, “Oh my gosh. You should see their room!” (meaning Sweet Pea’s and Peanut’s).

Now, as a newer mother, I may have just jumped up in a panic and raced to wherever the children were anticipating the worst. Is he bleeding profusely? Did he put a hole in the wall? What’s ruined? Did someone light the carpet on fire?

As one seasoned at mothering boys however, I’ve become smarter…or perhaps better able to keep my stress levels lower with this one simple tactic:

Sometimes (more often than not) I simply don’t look.

Yes, you read that right.

Whatever the boys are up to, if someone isn’t crying then I know no one is seriously injured, if someone else isn’t screaming, then I know that no horrible wrong was done, if I don’t smell smoke then nothing is on fire, if there was no crash, then there’s no chance of a hole in a wall, and the simplest one of all: They’ve already ruined all the nice things we had, so the worst that could happen is that something got ruined-er.

Yes, as a mother of 4 very strong-willed energetic (loud) boys, I’ve had to learn how to pick my battles.

I’ve also had to learn to lock the door behind me to the bathroom and my office, threaten them all, and make it absolutely clear that someone had better be severely bleeding or have lost an appendage in order to make them disturb me, but that’s another blog post (or not).

By not policing their every move, mothering boys has been so much easier and less mom-tantrum inducing. The boys have also had to learn how to problem solve amongst themselves (which is a feat in itself considering the almost 10 year span from oldest to youngest).

Do I ever look? Sure I do. I look plenty. Sometimes I do have to step in. Sometimes someone is being  his own special brand of butt that day and needs to be corrected.

And sometimes I mess with them just to keep them on their toes.

What? Like you don’t know that messing with your kids is the best part of being a parent

Busy weekend ahead!

Are you tired of hearing about our ‘homestead’ yet because I’m not tired of talking about it. We’ve had a busy couple of weeks and a busier weekend coming up.

When we first arrived at our house, we discovered that the previous owners had cleaned NOTHING. It was disgusting. The refrigerator smelled like rotten milk and had mold growing between the shelf and frame.

The bathrooms were equally disgusting.

I say with no small measure of pride that I’ve never left a house looking worse or dirtier than when we moved in. I just assumed that all people would work their tails off cleaning walls and floors. But no, not all people do that, and it seems that some people, once they have the money in their hands, run for the hills without a second look (or a single scrub as is the case here).

Busy weekend

The first couple days were filled with vacuuming and scrubbing before the moving truck got here. I should be ashamed to admit that not all the boxes are unpacked yet, but I’m not. There has been so much more to do!

One of my first priorities when moving out here was to get a garden in. We planted our potatoes last week in the existing garden bed, but we still have a whole stack of seeds. So, I spent the better part of a day building two ‘lasagna’ gardens.

I’ve also been pulling weeds in the existing flower bed, dividing some plants that were already here, and simply taking care of my family.

I’m repeatedly struck with a sense of awe when I step outside in the morning only to realize that we actually live here. Although we definitely have our challenges (What?? No internet?!), and country living isn’t for everyone, it’s a dream we’ve held for so long it seemed unreachable.  I’m back to my country roots, and they feel so good.

This is what the rest of the week and weekend looks like:

  • Finish the chicken coop in the corn crib. It’s the best space we have for them right now, and time is short. J has been ripping up rotten flooring and trying to figure out how to patch the hole in the roof above the ‘oat room’ that will be the coop. DONE!
  • Finish the garden beds and add another if we have time. One of our goals is to produce a significant amount of our food, and this garden is a good way to begin doing that immediately. Not only that, but fresh food that you’ve worked so hard to grow yourself tastes so much better.
  • Head to my parents’. The boys and I have dentist appointments early next week and since we still go to the same dental office I went to as a kid, we make the trip for that purpose twice a year.
  • Cry a little over the fact that I now have two teenagers with driver’s permits. Jeremy was able to transfer his over since he’s had an Iowa one previously, and Punkin just passed his permit test this week. DONE!
  • Help Sweet Pea finish the fence around his pumpkin patch. Talk about a go-getter. He’s totally surprised me with his gumption since we’ve gotten here. Wanting to plant a huge breed of pumpkin, S.P. had to break ground in a new place in the yard. I’m proud to say that he not only measured and staked it all out himself, but he’s done a fine job of running our little tiller to break up the sod. Punkin has pitched in to help with his fence.
  • Same with Punkin, but his is a corn patch. He’s got three varieties to plant-sweet corn, an ornamental that can also be ground for corn meal, and a hull-less popcorn variety .
  • Continue to pick and freeze rhubarb. I’m not even sure how to use all of this yet, but it’s free and it’s here so we’ll find something to do with it.
  • Take the youngest two to the doctor for physicals so they can get back into school. DONE!
  • File for our homestead tax exemption. DONE!
  • Plant some flowers in the bed in front of the garage.
  • Take stock of the food we have, plan our meals for the next month, and see what I have to get the next time I go grocery shopping.
  • Wake up each morning in our brand new huge  and deliciously soft bed, in our little old farmhouse with the stunning views,  and be grateful that I get to do that. EVERYDAY! Oh my gosh, you have no idea 
  • Remember to be thankful to all of those who served and were lost this Memorial Day and every day.

Thank you all for sticking with me as my posting has been so erratic and crazy. Hopefully, as I figure out a schedule, I’ll be able to utilize my time a little more wisely by writing my posts at home then using my library internet time to cut, paste, and schedule them out for the week.

What has been going on with all of you? Is your Memorial Day weekend shaping up to be a busy one?