Thursday, March 26, 2009

What's Next

It's almost 1:30. I will have to start picking up kids in about an hour. There are so many things I could be doing. So many things I should be doing, but I find myself sitting here contemplating what to do next. I don't mean what I should be doing right at this moment, Lord knows there is no shortage of things to be dusted, vacuumed, scrubbed or hosed down. I am talking about in my life in general, in the big picture. Where do I go from here and how do I get there?

I love to volunteer. It makes my heart happy to be helpful to other people. Since my kids started school 9+ years ago, I have pretty much devoted all of my 'free' time to volunteering. I enjoy all of it, but here is one thing I have learned. If I say yes to something without praying about it first or if I ignore the doubtful feelings I get about something after I have prayed about it, then God will not bless my efforts. I will find myself stressed and resentful of the duties that should be filling me with joy. That is kind of where I am at right now. I took on something that I wasn't being called to do and now I am feeling the sting of disappointment as I look over the last year and a half and examine my failure. Sure, it could have been worse, but oh, how it could have been better if I had allowed God to guide me. This is why I am carefully contemplating my next move.

I have a few ideas bouncing around my head. There are a multitude of things I want to do with the blocks of time, not to mention the area of my brain, that will be freed up when my current commitments are finished. I want to make sure I get it right this time though.

It would be so much easier if there were just a magic formula that would tell me beforehand whether a decision were right or not. I would not have to go back and forth in my mind. Unfortunately that is not how God works. He doesn't give those clear signs like he did in the Old Testament. Somehow I don't think he is going to speak to me through a burning bush as he did to Moses. Then again, Moses didn't always get the message and obey, so I don't know that clear signs from God are a recipe for human success.

I will do my best to be discerning and listen carefully so that my efforts will be blessed whatever it is that I choose to do next.

Ephesians 5:15-17 (New International Version)

15Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is.

James 1:5 (New International Version)

5If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

How to Make Money While Sitting On Your Butt

As a stay to home mom for the last 14 years, I have learned how to be frugal. As my kids get older, their needs get greater and their wants get even greater still. With the economy on the skids as it is, coupled with my kids ever increasing desires, not to mention appetites, I have had to find new ways to save money on everyday items and still be able to have the luxury of staying home. I thought it might be nice to share a few of my tips with everyone. I am sure there a lot of you who live even more frugally that I and could teach me a thing or two, but these are my offerings for today.

When I first started staying home, the internet was not what it is today. I got a set of books called The Tightwad Gazette and I learned so much about saving money and living on less when I read them. I highly recommend that you invest in these books (or check to see if they have them at your local library). They pay for themselves in no time. There are also myriad websites and blogs devoted to living on the cheap. Have fun exploring all the possibilities.

I have in my possession today $120 worth of 'free money'. This is how I go it. First of all I upgraded my Costco membership from the regular $50 membership to the $100 Gold Card membership. When I upgraded, my purchases started accruing a 2% rebate (up to $500). I didn't sign up until about 2 months after my initial membership date, so I didn't quite make back my $100 investment, but I did make $85. This not only allows me to save money on Costco's great warehouse prices, but also to shop without really paying for the membership.

I also have a check for $35 from This is an on-line clearing house where hundreds of e-stores participate in a percentage off discount program. For every purchase you make, the stores have set percentages that they rebate to you. At the end of each quarter, Ebates sends you a check. They also have special promotions on certain days where there are no shipping charges, or double rebates, etc. You can get a notification right in your in-box of these special offers. There are no sign up charges or hidden fees, as a matter of fact, if you point others to the site and they mention you, you get an extra $5 added to your account.

Not only am I frugal, I am also very environmentally conscious. My husband was not very happy with me when I suddenly switched to Green Mountain Energy as our electricity provider. While I was happy with the fact that I was buying credits for wind energy, he was not thrilled with the 17.7 cents per kwh that they were charging us. I called them up and I was able to get a much better rate of 13.4 cents per kwh instead, if I signed a one year contract. This way we are both happy, I with buying wind credits, he with his wallet. They also send an e-newsletter ever month with tips on how to save energy (and money) in your home, which is a bonus.

My newest adventure is with freebies. Who doesn't love a freebie, right? It takes all the fun out of a freebie though, if there are special purchases, spam or hidden charges associated with it. I found a great website that boasts being the best at rooting out the legitimate freebies. They are also endorsed by Consumer Reports, which I think is great. It is called They have everything categorized for you, so it is easy to click on what you want and get your free stuff sent directly to you.

I have also received free stuff from Cafemom. I have been given water, spaghetti sauce and cereal. My family enjoyed them all and I hope to be chosen again some time ;). I have friends who have received toys, gift cards and food just for being part of Cafemom. How cool is that?

There are tons of other ways I save money. Going to the Library instead of the book store, cutting my sons' hair myself, shopping at resale shops, going meatless a few days a week, reusing and re-purposing things, making my own cleaning and laundry supplies, taking all hand-me-downs that are given to me, drinking water instead of sodas, resisting the urge to eat out, etc, etc. A lot of these tips can be learned about without leaving your chair, but most of them can't actually be implemented while sitting on your butt; this post was 'how to make money while sitting on your butt', so I'll leave the rest for another day.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Don't Be Fooled

Don't be fooled by the cute little baby on the left. It is all a ruse to draw you in - to catch you with your guard down - to play on your emotions. Then once he has spun you into his little web and you are hopelessly trapped and besotted with him - WHAMO! You wake up and he is eleven!

Eleven is a particularly *ahem* wonderful year full of fun and adventure, from which you may never recover. They try your patience, ask impertinent questions, emit noxious fumes, emote obnoxious sounds and just down right test the limits of the saintliest parent. I think what helps you to get through it with some of your sanity intact is to remember him as that angelic little babe who lit up a room with his gorgeous smile.

When you are hanging on by a fingernail it helps to recall how he used to pull at your hair with his chubby, grubby little paws as he reached up to kiss you on the cheek. When he says "Mom, don't come up to the school today, okay?", remember how ecstatic you were the day he learned to talk and you swore right then and there that there was no sweeter sound in the whole world. Call to mind that exaltation also when he is running through the house making random noises for no apparent reason other than to hear the sound of his own voice.

Whenever he complains about how his life stinks because he is not allowed to do everything his older sister and bother do, it is helpful to remember the determination that was evident on his face, when he got up on those two wobbly little legs at 9 months old and stepped out with the tenacity only a baby can have; he wanted to keep up with the big guys.

Just when you are frustrated beyond all rationality at his very presence, recall a time when you would go in his room at night just to watch him sleep; you would smooth his blond head and gaze at him with rapture, knowing that no matter what, you would never grow tired of drinking him in. Hold fast to that thought. Eleven is a bumpy ride.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

My No-Poo Shampoo Experience

I am always looking for ways to not only us less chemicals in my personal life, but also to have less impact on the environment. To that end, I looked high and low for chemical free hair care products. I was always disappointed in the results of the products - they dried out my hair, didn't clean very well and left it flat.

 Not only did they not work, these specialty products were more expensive than their chemical laden counterparts; I wracked up quite a bill for all the discarded bottles that litter my bathroom cabinet. I always gave up and went back to my Garnier Nutrisse products.

I had also developed quite the case of flaky scalp that I needed to deal with. I had tried various lotions and potions on this itchy, unsightly condition - to no avail. Maybe there was something that would not only get rid of my scalp problem, but also be chemical free and environmentally friendly? Sounds like a pipe dream. Then I heard about the no-poo method of washing the hair and scalp.

I was reluctant to try it because it didn't sound very appealing to me; I was very skeptical. I have a really good friend who tried it, so I decided that if she were brave enough to try it I could give it a go, too. I gathered my supplies for my mission. Baking soda, apple cider vinegar and a couple of essential oils. Check, check and check. I already had these ingredients on hand. I guess if these things can clean my tub and my teeth, they might be able to clean my hair too.

Here's what I did: I took 4 tbsp of baking soda and put it in a jar with a lid. Once I was in the shower and had wet my hair I filled the (about 4 oz) jar with water and shook it up. I then worked this through my hair and scalp. After rinsing that out I then applied the conditioning rinse I had mixed up before I got in the shower - 1 oz of apple cider vinegar measured into an 8 oz squirt bottle. To that I added 2 drops each of tea tree, lavender, lemon and thyme essential oil. One I was in the shower and ready to apply it, I filled the bottle up with warm water. I started with my scalp and massaged it all in and worked it down to the ends of my hair. I let it sit on my hair for a few minutes and then I rinsed it all out.

The first week I was not that impressed with the results, but I had heard that there was a transition period that takes place when you go no-poo, so I persevered. Week two got a bit better. Week three came around and I decided to put an olive/almond oil conditioning treatment on my hair before I washed it. I put the oil on my hair and let it sit for about an hour and then washed it with baking soda and vinegar. This was a massive fail. The oil did not wash out and my hair looked greasy and stringy wet all day long.

The next day I applied dry baking soda directly to my scalp and scrubbed it around; then I let it sit on my hair for about and hour. I then did the usual wash and rinse with vinegar. Ahhh...much better.

My hair is long and naturally wavy/curly. It now needs no anti-frizz serum or curl defining gel. I use a bit of natural aloe vera gel and an alcohol free hair spray and it looks great. My scalp is also healing. The flakes have diminished greatly and the itching had gotten much better. I hope after a couple of more weeks I will be flake free as well as poo free. We'll see.