Reviving Motherhood

Learning on the Journey


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10 Ways to Help Your Kids During Times of Stress

Speaking to myself as much as anyone here, dear moms.  I pray that all of you Gulf Coast ladies are safely away with your families.

1. Model trust in God. When our children see that we are not afraid because we believe with all our hearts that God is in control, they will be more at peace. It will help their faith grow.

2. Give them spiritual encouragement. Read and memorize scripture together. Psalm 23 and Psalm 91 are great places to start. Pray for and with them.

3. Keep a peaceful atmosphere. Play calming music and minimize chaos and excessive noise.

4. Don’t take your stress out on them. It’s easy to become testy or withdrawn when we feel tense or concerned. Our kids need us to be even-tempered and approachable during times of stress more than ever.

5. Spend time together. Talk, read aloud, play games, go for a walk. This helps our kids feel secure.

6. Reassure. Encourage your children with your words, but also give lots and lots of hugs.

7. Establish some sort of routine. As a crisis drags out, it’s comforting to have a routine and a general plan for each day, as much as possible.

8. Feed them healthfully. Make sure they get a balanced diet, not too many weird or new foods, and not too much sugar. Keep them hydrated with plenty of water.

9. Make sure they get adequate rest. Not only do they need a usual amount of sleep, they may need an extra nap or early bedtime. Stress is exhausting.

10. Turn off the TV! In times of natural disaster, viewing destruction will only make your children feel powerless and afraid, especially if they know it’s where their homes, friends and family are. They don’t have the emotional filters we adults have, and it’s detrimental to allow devastating images to play in front of them over and over.


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Frugal Entertainment

Entertainment can add up. Fortunately there are many, many ways to have just as much fun for little or nothing. Here are a few ideas. I’m sure this list is far from exhaustive!

Movie Night at Home

Most expensive way to watch a movie: theater
Second most expensive: rent (assuming it’s something you’ll want to watch again)
Third most expensive: buy new (if it’s something you’ll watch again)
Fourth most expensive: buy used at movie rental places, garage sales, pawn shops
Cheapest: borrow from the library

At the very least, wait till that movie you’ve been dying to see has come out on dvd, and then rent it (if you aren’t sure it’s one you want to purchase) or buy it (if it’s one you know you’ll want). If you are really patient, wait a couple years till it’s $5 at Wal-Mart, or you can find it used.

Read Aloud

This is one of the most fun and educational family habits you can develop. My family read literally hundreds of books together, from the time we were little all the way through high school

Make Music

You don’t have to be a great musician to make music together as a family. Play an instrument (if you can) or sing hymns or folk songs a capella. It might feel silly at first, but ultimately you’ll have lots of fun. Plus it will develop a love of music in your kids.

Charades

Bible stories, historical figures, favorite movies, literary characters—all make for fun charade themes.

Board and Card Games

Scrabble is my favorite. Other good ones are Sorry, Uno, Dutch Blitz, Pictionary, Scattergories, Chess, Checkers, Boggle, Balderdash, or The Worst Case Scenario Survival Game, and for little ones, Chutes and Ladders, Candy Land, or Go Fish. Those are just a few ideas to get you started.

Puzzles

I’m not a puzzle person, but puzzles are great if you enjoy them.

Crafts

It’s both fun and fulfilling to make something beautiful or useful with your hands.

Books on Tape or Old Radio Shows

While you work puzzles, or craft, you can listen to books on tape, radio programs, or old radio shows on CD like Amos & Andy or Fibber McGee and Molly.

Family Walk or Bike Ride

Take a nature walk or ride together through your neighborhood.

Hospitality

Instead of going out to eat with friends, have them over for an inexpensive dinner like soup and bread. Or have several families over for pot luck. Have games available for the kids, and let the parents enjoy visiting with each other.

Picnic

Pack a picnic for the back yard or a nearby park.

Fishing

Fishing is inexpensive and fun. Buy poles used or use inexpensive cane poles.

Outdoor Games With Family and Friends

You don’t have to be involved in organized sports to enjoy the game. Many games are fun to play with a large family or group of friends. Plus, it’s good exercise!

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The possibilities for cheap entertainment are limitless. If you have any more ideas, tell us about them in a comment!


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Girlie Stuff

Well, this will not have any great recommendations like my post about boys, just a couple fluffy ones for girls. I’ve been making these simple headbands for my girls. (Don’t look too closely, there are some loose threads and other imperfections, not to mention that the picture’s dark.) You can download the free pattern here, and it’s simple if you have even rudimentary sewing skills. And actually much cuter than my picture.

Totally unrelated, Elizabeth saved all last summer for and American Girl doll and has really enjoyed their web site. I am super-duper-very-much NOT a fan of computer games for kids and rarely allow mine access to the internet, but I will even let her play the American Girl games every now and then for a treat. They are exceptionally wholesome and play pleasant music, which is a huge plus for me. The only slightly objectionable thing I’ve found on their web site is the occasional mention of green this and green that, which I simply steer to a conversation about stewarding well what God has blessed us with (including creation), rather than radically saving the earth by human effort. But that’s just me.

Anyway, if you have a little girl and need a safe place for her to go online, I highly recommend the American Girl site.

A side note: If you allow your children on the internet at all, make sure you keep the computer in a common area of the house and I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to use a filter!!!


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Time Together

Heather’s comment on this post was so good that I thought it needed some front page time of its own. This is why I love to hear your thoughts! Great stuff! Thank you, Heather!

I always focus on quality time with my four children rather than giving them things. We are a one-income family and my husband is a police-officer, therefore, outside of Birthdays and Christmas, which I save and budget for, we can’t afford a lot of extras. We enjoy playing and having a picnic at a local park (when it’s not this hot!), and playing at home together. Also, we take advantage of our local library. Every month they offer story times and craft classes, and best of all- it’s free. We always participate in the summer reading club. The prizes received for reading books allowed the children to have things like pizza night and free ice cream at Scarlet Scoop. My son also enjoys the free kids building workshops at Home depot and Lowes. My girls love to cook with me and I try to bake with them at least once week. With one income, you have to get creative if you are on a strict budget. However, I know that my children are a lot better off having my time and enjoying things together as a family. It’s much better than doing something highly priced and without family interaction.


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Frugal Food, Part 2

A few more ideas!
Don’t Waste Food

Give children (and yourself) small portions so that no food is left on the plate to be thrown away.

Eat leftovers until they are gone, even if it’s not particularly what you feel like that day. Don’t let them sit in the fridge till they become science experiments. (Speaking to myself here!!!!!!!)

Make Food Last

When I was still at home and we had to pinch pennies, my mom would buy, say, two bags of chips, and that would have to last until the next scheduled grocery day. She discouraged mindless munching and doled them out to make them last. Same with cookies and other groceries.

Use Less

Be satisfied with less meat or peanut butter on your sandwich, less meat in your soup, less cheese in a dish, less butter on your bread, or whatever.

Shop Infrequently, But Schedule Your Shopping Trips

My mom got groceries every two weeks. We almost never “ran to the store” in between. If we ran out of something, we made do and waited until the next grocery trip. We knew exactly when we would be going. I try to shop weekly. I have a friend who shops for staples and household items only every six months, and just buys produce, dairy, etc. in between!

Coming up in the Frugal series: clothes, decorating, and entertainment!

(Picture: The Kitchen by Carl Larsson)


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Frugal Food, Part 1

Everyone has been impacted by the skyrocketing cost of food lately. Here are ways to cut costs on the grocery budget. I’m writing to myself as much as anyone else on this one!

Eat Simple

Contentment is key here. Save fancy, rich, expensive foods, or meals with great variety, for special occasions and holidays.

Drink Water

Not only is it a whole lot cheaper, it’s healthier. For special occasions, try fruity herbal teas.

Don’t Eat Out

Add up how much you spend on eating out for one month. You’ll probably be shocked.

Go Meatless

Meat is expensive. Contrary to popular opinion, you won’t succumb to a terrible malady if you don’t have meat every day (although teenaged boys and men seem to have a genuine physical need for meat more often than the rest of us). Try non-meat protein alternatives like beans and rice, eggs, and moderate amounts of cheese. When you do eat meat, go for inexpensive things like chicken. Have red meat once a week or on special occasions.

Have a Bean Day

When I still lived at home with my parents and my family was having to pinch pennies every way we could, we instituted Saturday Bean Day. We cooked a huge stock pot of pinto beans with onion and chili powder. Sometimes we added some cheese or browned ground beef at the end. We served it with homemade cornbread. Then we ate leftovers through the week as burritos, nachos, or just plain beans. Our Saturday friends ate a lot of beans with us! Monday is often bean day at our house now, but I cook red beans and rice.

Cook From Scratch

Prepackaged foods cost an arm and a leg. Compare the price between, say, homemade chicken salad and deli sandwich meat. Or homemade vegetable soup and Campbell’s chunky from the can. Or homemade bread and store bought. The homemade versions usually taste a lot better too.

Make Your Own Snacks

Make cookies, don’t buy them. Muffins, granola, and popcorn are all good, relatively inexpensive snacks you can make at home.

Buy in Bulk

Be careful though, bulk isn’t always cheaper. Compare prices at places like Sam’s Club. I miss the whole foods co-op I was part of in Shreveport. Let me know if you hear of anything like that locally!

Use Store Brands

Except for things that really taste that much better, use the store brand. It’s sometimes half the price.

Compare Prices

I don’t do this as much as I should, but if something is drastically cheaper at one store than another, sometimes it’s worth the extra stop. These days we have to factor in gas prices too, though.

I recently started a pricebook to keep track of what items cost at different stores, but I think a spreadsheet would be more effective. I’ll let you know if it works.

Shop Sales

Self-explanatory. I don’t do this as much as I should either.

Garden

If you have the time and man power, a garden can save lots of cash. I hope that a big garden will be part of our food source one day. Right now that’s not possible, but as our kids get bigger it will be a more practical option.

(picture: Breakfast Under the Apple Tree by Swedish artist Carl Larsson)


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Happy Sunday Morning

Sometimes getting a family to church is hard. Many weeks it feels like there’s a Murphy’s law just for churchgoers—If anything can go wrong on Sunday morning, it will! Satan hates God’s people and he despises seeing them meet to worship and gain strength from each other and God’s Word. He hates to see them challenged to let God make them more like Himself and encouraged to share that life-change with others. I think he delights in throwing roadblocks in our attempts to get to church—and if we get around the road blocks, he wants us to be bent out of shape, yelling at our kids, and in a rotten frame of mind when we get there…Just to get out of the car, paste on a happy face and tell everybody we are GREAT!!!

For a long time, Sunday morning at our house was a disaster. I hated Sunday! What should have been the best day of the week was the very worst. I dreaded it.

But I learned that there are a few things we can do to make Sunday mornings go a lot more smoothly. Some simple preparations can make a good morning great and a rough morning better. I asked some wise mamas and read insights from ladies who once had several children to get ready for church, just as I do. This is what I learned to do to make Sunday morning a happy day. It’s not a cure-all, but it’s helped me a lot. I can truly say that I love Sunday morning!

1. Go to bed early Saturday night.

Saturday is often a night for social occasions, but it’s best for a good Sunday morning if we—and our kids—get adequate rest. So enjoy a social Saturday evening, just don’t stay up too late. Exhaustion makes everyone sluggish and grumpy.

2. Lay out clothes.

Lay out everything for everyone on Saturday night, right down to hair bows, underwear, socks, and shoes. Don’t forget yourself! If you are still in diaper bag days, make sure the bag is packed too.

3. Bathe everyone Saturday night.

Don’t try to bathe everyone on Sunday morning. Put them to bed clean!

4. Plan a simple breakfast.

I ditched oatmeal, which was time-consuming, messy, and usually didn’t get eaten, for cereal bars. They don’t provide the best nutrition in the world, but at least the kids eat before we go and they don’t make too much of a mess. I’ve experimented lately with homemade granola bars too—the bottom line is just to give them something fast, semi-nutritious, and not too messy. Sometimes my kids just eat fruit on Sunday morning.

5. Simple grooming!

Keep clothes and hair simple for everyone. My girls love me to roll their hair, but it’s rare that I do, simply because it’s time consuming. I try to have everyone presentable, but not get too caught up in perfection. Anyone who has had 4 little people to get ready knows that some days we are more successful at the “presentable” thing than others! J

6. Get up early.

Sunday morning isn’t a day to sleep in. You’ll only feel more harried and frustrated. I try to get up around 6:00 on Sunday morning in order to have everyone ready for the 8:30 service. And even then, we have to keep moving.

7. Get ready first.

If I can be up a few minutes before the kids to dress, do my hair and makeup, and grab a bowl of cereal, then I don’t have to worry about me at all. I can focus on getting everyone else ready. It makes a world of difference.

8. Prepare your heart.

I try to take a few seconds to breathe and remember why I’m doing what I’m doing. Some people like to put scripture on the mirror or listen to the Bible on CD or worship music while they get ready. Church isn’t a club or social event, something I do just because it’s socially expected or a good habit. It’s a day that I get to take my family to worship our Savior with others who know Him. It’s worth going to a lot of trouble for that, and it’s worth remembering why!

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I’ve been thinking about what I wanted to say here for a couple days. Ironically, Murphy’s Law for churchgoers was in full effect this morning at our house. I was up in the middle of the night with 3 of my 4 kids. I overslept by 30 minutes. Before I even got up, I had spit-up in my hair. Morning found 3 sets of dirty sheets and a baby and 3-year-old that needed to be re-bathed. Before I could bathe the baby, the 3-year-old dumped baby’s bathtub all over the floor, soaking herself in the process. The 7-year-old couldn’t find her shoes (the only thing we failed to lay out last night). Finally I got everyone cleaned up and ready to go, sat down to feed baby one last time, and…Well, I had to change her clothes yet again. (At least she missed getting me dirty again, barely.) By this time the objective changed from “getting to church on time” to just “getting to church.” We arrived and discovered that the Snugli wasn’t in the van. We made it inside in the middle opening announcements—not too bad–but there weren’t enough seats left for all of us. This was a morning I’m especially thankful for the wonderful childcare our children’s ministers provide! They always have room for my kids!

I was so glad that I had made a few preparations in advance. They kept me from melting down and giving up. If we hadn’t had a plan in place and had our things ready to go, we certainly wouldn’t have made it to church, and church is something we need. It turned out to be a great day of worship.

What I’ve learned:

Churchgoing has to be a priority, and

you have to plan for it. Otherwise it just won’t happen.

IT’S WORTH IT!!!


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Frugal Baby

Babies can be expensive—but they don’t have to be nearly as expensive as we think. There are a multitude of ways to cut costs on baby expenses. Here are some. I don’t do all these things, but all are good ways to save money on little ones, starting at birth, literally.

Breastfeed

Formula for one baby for one year will cost between $1,000 and $2,300 depending on whether you use the powdered version or ready-to-pour. (That’s if your baby tolerates regular formula and doesn’t have to have a special–and specially expensive–kind). Breastmilk is absolutely free! What’s more, research shows (and most pediatricians will testify) that breastfed babies are sick far less than formula fed babies, so that eliminates a lot of dollars going out for doctor visits and medicine. I’m sold (literally, haha) on breastfeeding for many reasons, not the least of which is money saved.

Cloth diaper

This is something I’ve dreamed of but never really done. Maybe one day. Disposable diapers cost a lot, even when you buy store brands. Depending on what kind of cloth diapers and accessories you buy, there will be some initial investment, plus the cost of detergent and so forth, but the cost will still be drastically less than disposables.

Make your own wipes

Cut up old towels and re-wash them, or make your own wipes from inexpensive paper towels. One mom recommends just keeping a roll of paper towels and a spray bottle of soapy water handy. If you use regular wipes, try cutting them in half for small jobs. You can google “recipes” online too.

Make your own baby food

The AAP’s most recent breastfeeding recommendations state what a lot of moms have known all along—it’s rarely necessary to introduce solids before 6 months, and sometimes even later. When you do introduce baby to solid food, make your own. There’s no great mystery to this. Some people use the little baby food maker, but I don’t bother. I just mash or blend whatever vegetable or fruit I have on hand. My babies start with things like mashed banana, baked sweet potato, mashed avocado, applesauce, and pureed garden veggies (like squash). Instead of boxed cereal, I just gave them pureed old-fashioned oatmeal and pureed brown rice. And as they got a bit bigger, they ate tiny pieces of whatever we ate. Do stay away from high-allergy foods though.

Don’t Buy New Clothes

You don’t have to buy new clothes for your baby. You can outfit him or her for a little of nothing by shopping at garage sales and thrift stores. When they’re little, babies often wear an item only a few times before they outgrow it, and it’s not uncommon to even find clothes with tags still on. I have beautiful name brand children’s clothes that I’ve gotten at garage sales for mere pennies, far nicer things than I would have gotten if I’d bought items new. You’ll probably be offered hand-me-downs as well, which is where a lot of my kids’ clothes come from.

Try to wait till baby is born before you invest in clothes anyway. Gift clothes often cover clothing needs for the first few months, if not longer.

Shop Dollar Stores

Lotion, shampoo, and lots of other baby supplies cost a fraction of the regular price at a dollar store.

Freecycle and Shop Used

Join your local Freecycle group and be on the lookout for baby items like furniture. Check out Goodwill, junk stores, or other second-hand venues. Just make sure items like cribs meet safety standards.
Stay Home

You won’t have to pay for childcare, as well as food for those hurried mornings when you didn’t have time to fix breakfast or the nights you’re running late and doctor bills from all the illnesses baby picks up at daycare.

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