Saturday, July 6, 2013

Amazing Amazima: the ministry of Katie Davis and the best book you'll ever read.

I just read a book that changed my heart and hopefully my life. It's about this young woman and the ministry God led her to begin in Uganda, Africa - Amazima Ministries (Amazima is the Ugandan word for "Truth"). She felt God calling her to follow Him, really follow Him by leaving everything behind to "love the least of these".  What started out as a 3 week trip to an orphanage led to a one year stay which led to a new home and life in Uganda. At just 19 years old, this single young woman had adopted 6 young Ugandan girls who had no hope of family; by the following year she was the young mother of 14. She also feeds and clothes and gives educational and medical help to HUNDREDS of other children each week and travels daily to other nearby towns offering medical assistance, food, and most importantly, the love and truth of Jesus. This young woman has taken Jesus at His word and is living life as His hands and feet to these precious people. Read about her story, her children, and the many, many lives she is touching in Uganda, in her book, Kisses from Katie.


Add it to your summer reading list. You won't be disappointed. You may never be the same.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

First-Aid Kit in a Bottle



I've had this little bottle of Tea Tree Oil (Melaleuca Altemifolia) up in my medicine cabinet for years. I cannot even remember what I originally purchased it for, or even what I've used it for in the past, but the other night, when I was literally dying from a terrible, horrible, ginormous mosquito bite that I had found on the outside of my left knee that I could not stop scratching and while ransacking the bathroom looking for anything I could find that might provide some sort of relief, there it was staring at me from that thin, top shelf. Since I couldn't find any sort of anti-itch cream (not that those ever seem to actually do anything, but I needed something if even just for my mental well-being, you know, the good ol' placebo effect) and knowing Tea Tree Oil has a strong medicinal smell and comes in that magical, thick brown glass apothecary jar and therefore must have some medicinal uses as well (seemed a logical assumption to me!) I decided to grab it and read the label. To my delightful surprise I found these lovely words on the back: "First-aid kit in a bottle. Dab on cuts, stings, burns, and abrasions..."  I wasn't super hopeful that it meant it would do anything for my white, angry bug bite, but I figured it wouldn't hurt. So after I took a long, hot bath to take my mind off the itch, I grabbed the bottle and applied two drops directly to the bite. And do you know what? It stopped itching. And not only did it stop itching, but the next morning when I woke up, the bite - which had been puffy and swollen and about the size of a dime - was almost completely GONE. I could NOT believe it. I have always had terrible reactions to mosquito bites and they seem to last for days (and get bigger from me scratching them incessantly). This one was gone the very next day. I was so ecstatic about the results I did a little more research and found out that Tea Tree Oil has antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and antiseptic qualities and can pretty much be used (with fantastic results!) on any sort of skin ailment including (but not limited to): cuts, scrapes, burns, bug bites, pimples, and even other dermatological conditions such as psoriasis. It really is like a magical little first-aid kit in a bottle which means not only is it a better natural alternative than chemicals and steroids and other harsh medications used to treat common skin ailments, but now instead of buying a different product for each problem (think Neosporin, Hydracortisone Cream, or other -expensive- prescription creams and drugs) you can just keep a little bottle of Tea Tree Oil (TTO) handy...and use it on everything! I had no idea it worked so well and I am so excited to now be privy to this great secret! And having four little ones around who are constantly getting scraped up, I'm sure this little bottle that has sat unused for several years, will now be used up in a jiffy! 

Friday, June 14, 2013

To Abigail on Her First Birthday


June 14th, 2013
Sweet Abigail Jane,

I haven't even written my first thought down yet and the tears are already starting to flow. You are our greatest blessing. Although the world would have had us think that having triplets already was "enough" - God knew better. He knew we needed you in ways we could not have known. And He sent you to us in His perfect timing; to bring comfort and joy and endless happy, drooly baby smiles. The day of your birth makes me giddy every time I remember it. It was perfect in every single way; everything we had ever dreamed of - a healing balm after the long, scary road we faced with your big brother and sisters. God fulfilled our every hearts' desire the day you were born  and although giving birth naturally was something I had always excitedly feared, it turned out to be an experience I will always be so deeply thankful for. You were placed on my breast just seconds after you entered this world and you really have not left that place for more than a few minutes at a time since that lovely day. It has been pure joy being able to nourish you with my body; being able to protect and care for you in ways I was unable to with my other babies. And because of that, I haven't wanted to let you go. When you fell asleep on me that first night at home, both of us happily exhausted from your birth, and we sort of "accidentally" began our co-sleeping journey, I realized that even while sleeping I wanted you right there with me. My skin warming yours and your skin warming mine. Both of us breathing and dreaming and waking in unison. Your small knees and feet tucked softly against my bare stomach. Your soft little hands lightly sweeping across my naked chest. Although I expected to be sleep deprived, I slept better than I had in years. Rather than waking for bottles or pumping or babies crying out from the other room, we fell into a beautiful routine of "dream-feedings"; you and I both rousing slightly from sleep to nurse and then both falling back into blissful slumber, cuddled close, you secure in mama's arms, me breathing in and savoring your sweet baby smells and touching your soft, downy head. As I write this you are lying on top of my tummy nursing in your sleep; one arm wrapped around my side, your head resting on my breast like a pillow. Oh, Abigail, you are the sweetest little baby. So happy. So content. So darling. I love the way you're always trying to stick your little hands in my water glass and how you just hold them there, submerged, grinning ear to ear when I let you. I love the way you scrunch your little nose up and say "Ohhh" and lean in to kiss me, your daddy, your brother and sisters. I love waking up in the mornings and feeling your soft little body against mine and having your sweet, sleepy face be the first thing I see. I love how you love to take baths; with me, with your siblings, by yourself. I love how you reach your little arms up so I will hold you. How I'm always holding you. How I've been given the gift of holding you nearly every minute of every day for the past year. I love how you just discovered this past week that you can grab my shirt and pull it up for "self-serve" nursing. I love the way you clap your hands; methodically and high so you end up clapping them right in your face. I love the way you refuse to lie still long enough for me to change your diapers and how you think it's hilarious if you can roll over and get away before I get one snapped on. Or the way you fling yourself into Grace's tent and try to hide from me. I love the way you love Oliver and how you're always looking for him. I love that your first steps were to Audrey followed by big hugs and kisses. I love being your mama, and most of all, I love you. 

Happy 1st Birthday, sweet Abigaily Janey.
Love,
Mama

"Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it." Proverbs 4:23 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Instagram



I feel like a whole new world has been opened up to me. I have been using the Instagram app to display/edit my iphone photos for well over a year now, but I was basically just using it one-sidedly; posting and editing my own photos (usually to re-post on Facebook) but not really exploring other people's photography. Sure, I clicked on the "popular" tab a few times (although most of those photos are pretty lame...) and I saw all of my Facebook friends' photos (as Facebook is linked to Instagram, and often those photos would be posted both places allowing me to see them twice:)) but just this past week I discovered something so wonderful and amazing that I've hardly been able to stop myself from checking Instagram constantly - and have almost completely forgotten about that other social media thingy...what was it called...Bookface?! You see, Instagram is JUST.PHOTOS. No ads, no rants, no silly status updates, or constant political bombardment. It's photojournaling at its finest and I can absolutely lose myself in other people's lovely photos of nature, food, knitting projects, farm living, and barefoot, breastfeeding children. There are a few blogs I've been following because I absolutely love their lifestyle photography: The Road is HomeBeauty That Moves, and A Holy Experience. So when I found that these bloggers had Instagram accounts (more photos - yay!) I was super excited. And that excitement grew one-thousand-fold when I realized I could see who they were following on Instagram - which led me to find dozens and dozens of other Instagrammers with similar photography styles! And then I could see who those people are following on Instagram...and you get the "picture" (pun totally intended). So now I'm following all of these lovely people who take pictures of lovely things and it's just absolutely lovely.

Some of my favorites that I've started following on Instagram this week:









I am just loving Instagram. Did I say that already?! It's like I get to be around all of these beautiful things all day long; flowers, farms, artsy food, interior design, knitted sweaters, lovely forests, happy children, beautiful fabrics, etc., just by tapping the Instagram app on my phone and scrolling through the most recent photos. And when you're following all of these people with a certain style you like - it's like flipping through the best magazine you could ever imagine...that never ends!!!

Seeing all of these other people's lovely photos has really inspired me in my own photographic attempts this week. I've always loved to take pictures, but I've been trying to really make my photos more artistic and pleasing to the eye now that I have so many wonderful sources of visual inspiration. I also found a really great photo-editing app this week to edit my photos before I post them to Instagram (yes, it's an app for an app) called Afterlight. I really like these filters because they give my photos that kind of muted, romantic, vintagey look. 

Here are a few of the photos I posted on Instagram this week (all taken on my iPhone 4S and edited with the Afterlight app):





To see all of my photos, you can follow me on Instagram at http://instagram.com/oregonmama
Now excuse me while I wrap up this blog post so I can go drool over more photos on Instagram... :) 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Let's Talk About Giving

Yesterday was Compassion Sunday and I had the privilege of speaking in front of our church congregation about our experience of sponsoring a child through Compassion International. We began sponsoring our first Compassion child two years ago; a 7 year old little girl named Estella living in Ghana, Africa. The theme of Compassion Sunday this year was how we can be "story changers" in the young lives of these children; most of them living in poverty and in areas at high risk for AIDS, Malaria, and other life-threatening illnesses. Yet as I stood there sharing our own sponsorship experience, I realized that sponsoring Estella has also been a "story changer" for our family.



When we first signed up to sponsor Estella for $38 a month, I remember we both felt a little uneasy about such a long-term financial commitment (you are encouraged to sponsor the same child until they graduate from the program around age 18). Not that $38 a month is a huge amount, but we always had other ways we could spend that money! But sponsoring Estella opened a door in our hearts regarding the concept of giving; not just being able to satisfactorily check off a box on our spiritual "to-do" list, but a complete heart change in the area of our finances.

Last year Robert stumbled upon a book our pastor in Eugene had given us when he married us over 7 years ago. It's a thin, tiny little book called The Treasure Principle by Randy Alcorn, but the message within its pages is goliath. The book is revolutionary. It has the potential to change your life - and not just your life here and now - but the life you will live for eternity When Robert started reading from it I cannot describe to you how my eyes were opened regarding money. If there is one book I could persuade, encourage, entice you to read, it is this one. I am going to share with you a few of the quotes that I highlighted, but know that the book is RICH in truth, each page brimming with good teaching, and biblical truth that the church has lost sight of. Sponsoring a child like Estella - which amazingly can do so much good in a life for such a small cost - should be just the tip of the iceberg in how we give! And Christ wants us to give cheerfully, obediently, and generously. Be a story changer - in your life and in the lives of many, many others.

"But when Jesus warns us not to store up treasures on earth, it's not just because wealth might be lost; it's because wealth will always be lost. Either it leaves us while we live, or we leave it when we die. No exceptions." The Treasure Principle, 13

"Whatever treasures we store up on earth will be left behind when we leave. Whatever treasures we store up in heaven will be waiting for us when we arrive...Every day is an opportunity to buy up more shares in His kingdom. You can't take it with you, but you can send it on ahead." The Treasure Principle, 18-19

"By telling us that our hearts follow our treasure, Jesus is saying, 'Show me your checkbook, your VISA statement, and your receipts, and I'll show you where your heart is." The Treasure Principle, 42

"[In] the raging current of our culture - and often our churches - it's considered "normal" to keep far more than we give. But I'm convinced that the greatest deterrent to our giving is this: the illusion that earth is our home..."Our citizenship is in heaven" (Philippians 3:20). Where we choose to store our treasures depends largely on where we think our home is." The Treasure Principle, 44-45

"He does not exist for me. I exist for Him. God's money has a higher purpose than my affluence." The Treasure Principle, 57

"Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. But you ask, 'How do we rob you?' In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse - the whole nation of you - because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house." Malachi 3:8-10

"The meaning of the word tithe is "a tenth part." Ten percent was to be given back to God. There were freewill offerings, too, but the 10 percent was mandatory...Nearly every study indicates that American Christians give on average between 2 and 3 percent of their income..." The Treasure Principle, 60-61

"Every New Testament example of giving goes far beyond the tithe. However, none falls short of it. 'God, do you really expect less of me - who has Your Holy Spirit within and lives in the wealthiest society in human history - than you demanded of the poorest Israelite?" The Treasure Principle, 60-61

"Whatever we're teaching about giving today either it's not true to Scripture, the message isn't getting through, or we're being disobedient. Tithing isn't the ceiling of giving; it's the floor." The Treasure Principle, 62

"Certainly the affluent should never "check off the box," as if giving 10 percent automatically fulfills their obligation. The 90 percent belongs to God, too. He doesn't look at just what we give. He also looks at what we keep." The Treasure Principle, 63

"Ironically, many people can't afford to give precisely because they're not giving (Haggai 1:9-11). If we pay our debt to God first, then we will incur His blessing to help us pay our debts to men. But when we rob God to pay men, we rob ourselves of God's blessing. No wonder we don't have enough. It's a vicious cycle, and it takes obedient faith to break out of it." The Treasure Principle, 64


"You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion." 2 Corinthians 9:11

"God prospers me not to raise my standard of living, but to raise my standard of giving." The Treasure Principle, 73

"Why does God give some of His children more than they need and others less than they need? So that He may use His children to help one another...Abundance isn't God's provision for me to live in luxury. It's His provision for me to help others live. God entrusts me with this money not to build my kingdom on earth, but to build His kingdom in heaven." The Treasure Principle, 75


Imagine the work God could be doing through us in this world - in our very nation - if we were faithfully giving not only the bare minimum (ten percent of all we earn/receive), but giving in abundance?! How do you think He intends to care for the poor, the widows, and orphans? He intends to use us! Are you sharing God's money with others or robbing God to use it all on yourself? This isn't a popular topic these days, but that doesn't mean it isn't important to God or that we won't be held accountable for how we manage our God's money. There are stories in this book of people who went from neglecting to tithe a true ten percent, who are now giving 50 - 95% of their income away!!! God wants to bless us as we bless others...maybe not with an earthly reward, but with a reward much greater that will last for all of eternity. 

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matthew 6:19-21




Monday, April 15, 2013

Call the Midwife

Thank you, BBC, for yet another gripping, quality series! Call the Midwife is absolutely my new favorite show. It's set in east London in the 1950's and follows a group of nuns and midwives as they nurse, befriend, and deliver the babies of poor women all over the city. You'll be instantly captivated by the musical score, the setting, and the quirky, lovable cast of characters. Each episode has had me either laughing, crying, or hyperventilating - often all three, and occasionally all three at once. I'm so glad a few dear mama-friends of mine passed this little secret on to me. It's the best drama on TV in my opinion! You can watch episodes from Season One and Two right now on pbs.org






Saturday, March 30, 2013

Signs of Spring


It poured the other day. You may think that typical of Oregon weather, but for us high desert Central Oregonians, rain is rare. In fact our little town boasts "300 days of sunshine" each year. We joke that we really have two seasons: Winter (snow and lots of sun) and Summer. If we get a week or two of Spring and a week or two of Fall we count ourselves blessed. So when it started to rain, we just had to play outside. And it was glorious. The earth dark and damp with tender, green shoots. The air smelling of fresh rain and perfumed with wet juniper. The kids rode their bikes giggling and splashing in puddles. Oliver grabbed the snow shovel and began "shoveling" the water that was beginning to flood our front garden bed where the water was coming down in torrents from the rain gutter. Rain play was followed by hot baths and a hearty meal. I love the rain. It was heartwarming to see my kids loving it, too. 



Then today, in preparation for Easter, we made some lovely colored eggs. Dad hardboiled them, and right after naptime we set to work. It was the first time the kids had done this, so they were of course fascinated with the colored water and kept trying to poke their tiny fingers into the bright pigments. We used a very simple recipe and the eggs are absolutely beautiful. The hardest part was waiting those 5 minutes for the eggs to soak. Oh, and of course having to wait until tomorrow to eat them:)




Simple Colored Eggs:
(recipe measurements from Real Simple magazine online)

Hardboiled eggs
Mason Jars (one per color)
Hot Water (1/2 Cup per color)
Food Coloring (about 20-30 drops per color)
White Vinegar (1 tsp. per color)

Simply fill each mason jar with 1/2 Cup boiling water, 20-30 drops of food coloring, and 1 tsp of white vinegar. Gently place hardboiled egg in jar and let "soak" for 1-5 minutes (depending on depth of pigment desired). Carefully remove colored egg with a spoon and let dry (we used the egg crate for drying).




Thursday, March 21, 2013

Thriftin' on the Cheap

It's been about 3 months since Robert and I made the decision to really overhaul our spending habits with the intention to spend less and give more (this little gem of a book was a big factor in that decision). The hardest part for me has been the change in my personal spending habits: I was used to spending what I wanted, when I wanted, where I wanted. Not that I was a "big spender" by any means, but when you really sit down and look at all those little charges - they really do add up. $40 for a haircut, $30 at TJ Maxx one week, $40 at World Market the next...by the end of each month I was regularly spending $100-$200 on "miscellaneous shopping" easily, and most likely, more. My new "fun money" budget is $40 for the whole month. Yup. That's it. And it's really puttin' a cramp in my style, just kidding (sort of). Thankfully, I've always enjoyed bargain shopping. Now I get to do it out of necessity instead of leisure, but that's okay; I've been honing my skills for the past 29 years...bring it. So what to do when I've blown through $35 of my precious $40 by the 7th day of the month and I have a paltry $5 left in my pocket?! Hit the sale rack at the thrift shop! That's right - I've discovered the joy of the DOLLAR TABLE. Goodwill has colored tag sales - Starburst Family Thrift (my new favorite store on earth) has a dollar table. It's piled high, and everything on that bad boy is ONE DOLLA'. My friend Lindsey and I discovered it last week when we stopped in for a quick fix. I literally had $5 to spend and wanted to make it last. And you would not BELIEVE what I found! Five incredible items for $1 a piece. I was pretty darn pleased with myself and raced right home to make Robert sit and ooh and ahh over my treasures with me. I plan to make shopping the dollar table a regular occurence - next month that is...when I have another $40.

Here are three of my $1 items. I also got two long skirts for myself; trust me, they're cute too. 
Grand total...$5

Super cute canvas tote/purse. It's reversible with a floral pattern on the inside. Robert commented that now when I get bored I can just turn it inside out instead of buying yet another purse.


Strawberry skirt for a "sweet" girl I know. That huge strawberry is a pocket. I love it.


 (The dress, not the girl) 
She loves her "pretty dresses"; I think she makes the dresses pretty:)

Friday, March 15, 2013

Cloth Diapering Made Simple




Cloth diapering used to mean safety pins, stiff plastic covers, and murky water-filled diaper pails, but today it’s all about cute patterns, Velcro (or snaps), and the ingenious hanging wet/dry bag. And it isn’t nearly as complicated, labor intensive, or messy as you might think! In fact, it’s as simple as tossing your dirty diapers in a bag and then washing them later! And if you’re like me and enjoy clean, warm garments straight from the dryer, the ritual of washing, drying, and stuffing, culminating in a colorful stack of clean (warm!) diapers, can actually be quite soul satisfying. With the help of a few key tools along with the right cleaning routine, cloth diapering is not only simple, but also less wasteful, and much, much cheaper than disposables! Plus, who doesn’t love to see a cute baby crawling around with a colorful, oversized, cloth diaper booty? Here’s a quick and easy “how to” to get you started...

The rest of this article has been published online at True North Parenting Magazine. Please click here to read this post in its entirety or go to: http://truenorthparenting.com/cloth-diapering-made-simple/

Friday, March 8, 2013

What Homeschooling Looks Like For Us Today.

So we've made the decision to homeschool, but since the triplets aren't even four yet, we hadn't really felt like we could officially call ourselves "homeschoolers" since I haven't committed to a fancy curriculum, I still feel really new to the whole process, and because our formal learning is limited to about two 10 minute teaching sessions each day at this point anyhow. But then it dawned on me: we are homeschooling! It's just so engrained in our everyday lives that I hadn't even thought to call it that! I'm a teacher by nature (and by trade) and I've been teaching our kids things since the day they could open their tiny eyes and stare back at me. When I cook, I explain to them what I'm doing. When I clean, I show them how to help. When we go out for errands, I assign them tasks and practically narrate every single thing I do - even things about driving that they won't need for quite a few more years (I'll have you know, my three year old son adamantly reminds me to put my hands on the steering wheel at "10 and 2" should I ever drop them down into a more relaxed position!).  Instead of going through life just "doing", I try to explain and teach them about everything...as I do it! And their little memories are incredible! Before they were two they could sing the doxology and recite the entire Lord's prayer. At three, they know some Spanish and French, can do simple math, know mama's phone number by heart in case of emergency, and have about 25 Bible verses memorized - and that number grows by the day! They may still be "pre" school-aged but that apparently has nothing to do with learning! They've recently shown signs of readiness for a more "formal" schooling approach, so as I've been out and about I've picked up a few (used and/or cheap) materials to aid us in our first mastery tasks: reading and math. I found a few age level workbooks at the dollar store and my kids are whizzing through the Kindergarten/1st grade book already. Then, just yesterday I found a pack of math puzzle flashcards at a local thrift store for $2.50 and a phonics kit with a few short stories and sight word flashcards for $3 to help us get started! When they woke up from their nap, I had the math puzzle spread out on the rug and told them we were going to play a game. They caught on ever so quickly adding the objects on each side of the "+" sign to find the total sum - and begged me to play it again today! 


When we were at Costco the other evening for our big weekly shopping trip the triplets were skipping up and down the aisles singing "Do Re Mi" from The Sound of Music at the top of their lungs. We got a lot of smiles and comments, but one in particular stood out to me. An older man (his appearance a bit reminiscent of Santa Claus), after complimenting the triplets adorable singing abilities, asked if singing was something we did a lot together at home. I told him it was and that we all thoroughly enjoyed music and then he asked me: "Do you homeschool?" At first I almost said no (again, feeling like we haven't started officially) - but then I stopped myself, smiled, and answered with an enthusiastic "Yes!". He smiled back and said he'd thought so. And who am I to argue with Santa? ;)


Monday, March 4, 2013

Ashland



Mary and I meet in the middle. Twice a year. Little ones in tow. Each year usually with a new baby on the hip or breast. This time we each just brought one boy and one girl. It was warm, sunny, and we stayed at a lovely old farmhouse on 5 acres with cows. The boys played in the mud, followed the kind old woman who owns the property around asking her questions, helping her with her chores, and telling her she was pretty. The girls stayed closer to their mamas, touching grass, picking up rocks, sharing a dolly, napping and nursing. It was the perfect blend of outings downtown and rest at the farm. The crisp, fresh air, hot coffee together each morning, meals around the table, our young boys playing make believe upstairs and watching our very own children making their own memories and becoming friends. Three days together is never long enough, but oh, how it refreshes the soul.












Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Managing Medical Bills - The Bullet Point Version

I was going to post a pretty lengthy exposé on how we handled our mounting stack of medical bills that accumulated those first months and years after the triplets were born, but my husband told me that the subject matter was pretty boring (you can write it well, but there's still only so much lipstick you can put on a pig...), so I won't. But because I still feel like I need to share a few things I learned from my experience dealing with numerous medical providers and dual (more like dueling) insurance companies, I'll give you the extremely condensed version and hope my dry, lackluster post helps at least one person wade through the stress and despair that comes with each of those crisp, white, Self Addressed (un)Stamped Envelopes...

1. Make Sure The Claims Have Been Submitted Properly
Does it show that your insurance company paid their portion? If you're dually covered, did both companies pay? If not, call your medical provider's billing department to make sure they have all of your correct insurance information.

2. If Your Insurance Hasn't Paid Yet - DON'T PAY ANYTHING
After getting everything sorted out with that nice person from your doctor's billing department, they will resubmit your claim to your insurance company/companies and wait for payment (from them). At this point, do not pay your bill. Wait for insurance to process the new claim and wait for a new bill.


3. Ask About Financial Assistance
Believe it or not, some medical providers will discount fees if you ask. Others offer financial assistance if you can prove financial hardship. Hospitals actually have social workers available to help you sort all of that out. Ask to speak with one.


4. Set Up a Payment Plan
When you finally know the exact amount you owe on your bill, either pay the bill in full or call the billing department (again) to set up a payment plan. Most doctor's offices and hospitals offer interest-free payment plans as long as you can commit to paying a specified amount each month. This makes it way easier to budget for your monthly medical expenses, and any future bills from them can simply be called in and added to your account (like a running tab).

See what can be learned from spending countless hours on the phone with doctors offices and insurance companies while also trying to deal with three newborns?!

Happy bill paying :)




Saturday, February 23, 2013

Love Note for the Weekend

My children have discovered the Sound of Music and are smitten with it all: the music, the lovely Maria, and all those kids! We now have our very own little Von Trapps traipsing around our house singing "My Favorite Things" and  "Do Re Mi" with surprisingly accurate intonation and lyrics. We downloaded the soundtrack from iTunes and have listened to it in our car about a bajillion times over the past few weeks.  And while it's fun to belt out the more familiar songs, there's a beautiful little section of verse at the beginning of the "Sixteen Going On Seventeen" Reprise that has caused me to pause and take note this week. Rather than heralding love as this tangible occurrence or feeling (of which we tend to focus on our role as recipient), let us all try to love more actively this weekend - finding our joy and solace in the space vacated by all we've given away...

A bell is no bell till you ring it

A song is no song till you sing it

And love in your heart wasn't put there to stay

Love isn't love till you give it away



Enjoy the weekend, everyone 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Sorry, Tom: This Mama's Saving Some Serious Dough!


I like Toms. They're cute, they're comfy, and of course it makes me feel good to know that a kid who desperately needs shoes will benefit from my purchase with Tom's One-for-One promise (you buy a pair, Toms sends a second pair to a child in need). But they come with a hefty price tag. My current favorite style, Brown Metallic Herringbone, is listed online for $54! 


Well, today I found myself at Rite Aid (and I never go to Rite Aid, unless I'm like sick and on vacation and it's the only store for 200 miles...me, I'm a Target girl through and through). But I was needing to pick up some final materials for a little crafting project I'm starting (and will hopefully be blogging about soon) and needed a few "granny-ish" items like nylons and flesh colored socks...so I figured Rite Aid was my place (and Target was on the other side of town...) Amazingly, they didn't have what I was looking for (seriously?! I was pretty sure that store would be crawling in granny trouser socks and undergarments!) but I found myself on their "shoe aisle" and behold...knockoff Toms. Now I usually would have just balked at their cheap attempt to mock such a noble shoe, but these things were actually nice, I mean really nice and almost identical to my Toms, from the plaid interior print to the faux fleece lining. They even had some of my all-time favorite patterns like purple corduroy, slate grey, sage green, and what do you know: brown metallic herringbone. I just saw the real ones at Whole Foods last week  (for $54) and literally shed a tear as my inner toddler attempted mutiny with silent threats of certain imminent (fashion) death without them. Rite Aid's version were priced at just $14.99...and marked down 75%...to $3.74. 

THREE DOLLARS AND SEVENTY FOUR CENTS!!! 


Good thing I only had a $5 bill in my pocket (we're trying really hard not to use our debit cards anymore - for impulse purchases such as this) or I would have gone absolutely nuts and bought a pair in every single color...and probably a few pairs for friends too! But I didn't. I just walked up to that register all cool and collected -with one of my three year olds pulling toys off shelves and a baby trying to nurse through my shirt- and I bought my one pair of Brown Tweed Bahama Bays for exactly $3.74. 

Okay, so they aren't Toms, and unfortunately a child won't get a free pair of shoes from my purchase but it seemed like a really great -and cheap!- way to get one more stylish pair of super cute and comfy shoes into my line-up and something that actually fit into our new cash-based budget that felt like a totally luxurious splurge for just a fraction of the cost! And honestly, a big part of why we've restricted our budget so much is so we can start giving a much bigger portion of our money back to God through things like our church, Compassion International, and by supporting some dear friends of ours doing long-term missionary work through New Tribes Mission, (we were super convicted and motivated by Randy Alcorn's book The Treasure Principle  - a great, quick read) so I'm hopeful that the $50.26 I saved by not buying real Toms will actually go further than an extra pair of shoes and touch not only feet, but tummies, minds, and hearts as well! Did you know that just $38 provides a child with food, water, medical assistance, educational resources, and exposure to the truth and love of Jesus Christ for an entire MONTH through Compassion International-? 

And seriously, don't my $3 Rite Aid shoes look good?! They're über comfy, too! Not sure how long the sale lasts, so get over to that hip (replacement) store known as Rite Aid and get your very own knockoffs today! 




Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Breastfeeding Diaries

Good morning! Today I'm guest blogging over at my adorable friend Julie's blog The Girl In The Red Shoes and writing about my experience with pumping and breastfeeding my four wee ones for her super entertaining and insightful series: The Breastfeeding Diaries.  Grab your coffee and milk (careful which milk you grab out of the fridge for that - wink wink!), click on the photo below, and come on over to read my post! Probably more than you ever wanted to know about pumps and boobs...but it'll be fun:)


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Because It Don't Get Much Crunchier Than Soap Nuts!


(I do hope you read the above grammatically incorrect title aloud with your best mountain woman twang...)

Have you heard of Soap Nuts?!



I'd heard the term before, but I guess I was just never quite curious enough to see what all the fuss was about. In fact, I didn't even really know what "soap nuts" was referring to. A cute, eco-friendly detergent name, maybe? Soap scraps used to make your own homemade detergent? I don't know! Or that is, I didn't know until I stumbled across this lovely post over at Stacy Makes Cents.  Soap Nuts are actually nuts - well, more like dried berry shells - that release saponin in hot water which suds up to clean your clothes...completely naturally! And you can reuse them! And they're super cheap! And you just toss them in your (warm or hot water) wash in a little muslin bag! And as if making your own laundry detergent wasn't easy enough (and some of you may still find that to be the more preferred "happy medium" between traditional detergent and oh, let's say, washing your clothes with berry sap), it takes away that one extra little chore of grating a bar of soap into your homemade detergent...and you can order them online! I'm seriously so excited to try these - right after I get through my huge batch of homemade detergent I made last weekend. But don't worry, I have four small children, a husband, and a mountain of cloth diapers to help me out with that. So head right on over to Stacy Makes Cents and read all about Soap Nuts - where to get 'em, and how to use 'em - today!

And suddenly I feel like climbing a tree and pecking at a bird feeder...

Monday, February 18, 2013

Sunshine and Strawberries


You know when you get in your car after it has been sitting in the sun and it's about 20 degrees warmer inside than outside? And it feels soooo good? Well, that's what Bend has felt like this past week. Warm and gooood. I know it's February, and winter, and that these warm, sunny days will mean nothing short of snow on the 4th of July, but for right now, man it feels good. We've been trying to sit outside at least an hour or so each day. The kids riding their tricycles up and down the sidewalk. Baby exploring the still brown and half-dead grass (it's okay, she's not disappointed - she doesn't even know green grass exists yet:)).  Mama soaking up the warmth, iphone out, ready to capture all the memories. 





We went to Costco and bought strawberries on Friday. Two big boxes of sweet, red strawberries. Our kids eat a LOT of fruit. I have to set limits or they'd eat berries until they burst. And tonight I wanted to transform those ruby beauties into something even better than fruit...fruit drowned in smooth, creamy chocolate (can't you just hear the low, slow voice from the 80's Twix commercial in your head: "Oh yeah...OH YEAH"?!) I didn't have any dipping chocolate, and I sure wasn't going to take four kids to the store for just that (See  this post) so I did what all good lazy frugal mamas do...I decided to Google it, look at a few recipes, and make my own. A few chocolate chips, some Crisco I found in the (way way) back of my cupboard from about 5 years ago (it's okay, you know a can of that stuff will outlast us all), a little hot water and BAM! 20 minutes later we've got chocolate dipped strawberries and three chocolate dipped kids. Super easy to make. Totally decadent. (...trust me. I've been "testing" them out all night.)



DIY Chocolate Dipping Sauce 
1.5 cups chocolate chips
2 tablespoons Crisco

Find two medium sized bowls (one slightly smaller than the other). Rinse strawberries and pat dry with paper towel. Put your chocolate chips and Crisco in the smaller bowl. Fill the slightly larger bowl about halfway with the hottest water you can get from your sink. Carefully set the smaller bowl inside the bowl filled with hot water (don't let it tip! You don't want any water getting inside your chocolate sauce!) Let small bowl of chocolate "float" for about a minute in hot water bath. Remove small bowl and start to mix the chocolate chips and Crisco (I tried "mixing" with my small bowl still in the water bowl and accidentally got water in it. Just take the bowl out to mix). Put bowl back into hot water bowl, let sit another minute, take out, mix chocolate again. Dump hot water out and fill with fresh hot water. Continue to do this until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth. It can take about 10-15 minutes. Once smooth and melted, grab your strawberry, pull all the greenery away from the berry, hold the greenery like a handle and dip! Set on baking sheet lined with wax paper and repeat. This batch of chocolate will dip about 20 strawberries. If your chocolate starts to harden, just set in hot water bowl again for another minute and re-stir. Let dipped strawberries cool and store in air-tight container (do not refrigerate). 
















Thursday, February 7, 2013

This Weekend's Homesteading Projects and Why I'll Never Run Three Errands with Four Small Children in One Afternoon Again



Two things I've been wanting to make myself, but just haven't had the supplies (or courage) for, are homemade laundry detergent and yogurt. I've seen post after post about how to make your own laundry detergent on Pinterest, and last year a dear friend of mine even gave me some in a cute little jar with a scoop attached for Christmas (such a great and practical gift!) but whenever the excitement to make my own struck, I always seemed to already have a full bottle of store-bought detergent on hand...so I never got around to it. About a week or so ago, my mom, who works at Ace Hardware down in Orange County, sent me a "recipe" for homemade laundry detergent from her store and it rekindled the unfurling DIYer inside of me. Then, after yesterday's post on How To Cut Your Food Budget In Half many of my Facebook friends gave me even more great ideas on ways to save money and other practical things to make at home for way less than store-bought! One of these great suggestions was homemade yogurt. I knew my good buddy (and beer-making, cheese-making, Kombucha-making friend) Mary made her own yogurt, but the idea of it seemed a little complicated and scary (I know nothing about canning or preserving and find myself flooded with fears that I'll instead make something poisonous and give my children botulism or something). But Mary posted these Instructions for Making Yogurt at home and after reading through them a few times...it actually looks quite simple! And I don't think there's much chance of me accidentally killing my children...yay! She also passed along this recipe for a delicious Overnight, No-Cook Refrigerator Oatmeal as one way to make a quick, yummy breakfast...with the homemade yogurt! So, all of that got me really excited and this morning I made the decision: I'm going to do it. I'm going to go right now to find all the supplies. The one little hang-up? That meant dressing, shoeing, feeding, corralling, and loading four tiny children into the van before we could head out on our - er, my - mission. And let me tell you, I was nearly defeated. Just between the laundry room and garage (said rooms being attached) we had meltdowns, a near potty accident, a crying hungry baby who refused to go in her carseat, and a kid get tangled up IN the straps of her carseat. It was so incredibly stressful I actually made everyone go back in the house for lunch, a debriefing, and a do-over. One fed baby and nearly an hour later, we tried again. First stop, Ace Hardware. There we found 2 out of 3 of our laundry detergent ingredients and some free root beer in the back for the kids (why I thought letting them have that was a good idea, I'll never know). Grace also managed to find the paint-mixing machine the employees use and started pushing buttons before I could get to her. Anyone need a quart of eggshell "green meadows"? We left there and headed to the thrift store hoping to find some cheap mason jars. Success! I found a whole slew of them in both quart and 8oz sizes! And the guy who worked there was so kind (it couldn't have been he just wanted to get my small herd of children out of his store as quickly as possible) that he sold them all to me for half-price! 50 cents each! So back in the car we all went to head across town to the other Ace Hardware to find the third item on our detergent list and some new lids for our mason jars. All said and done, I spent about $8 on 8 yogurt jars and new lids and $13 on detergent supplies - but it looks like I'll be able to make about twice as much detergent as I normally get for that price! And Mary said that once you buy the supplies, the yogurt comes out to be around $1 a QUART (really just the cost of the milk used to make it) which is going to save us a lot of money because we go through at least two quarts a week at our house - and we buy those for $3-$4 dollars each! So. It looks like me, my apron, and my live active cultures will be getting to know each other quite well this weekend. I also learned that taking four children on three errands equates to bucking a child in and out of a carseat 32 times and about a half-dozen temper tantrums. No thank you. Next time the outing limit is either two stops...or two kids :)

Homemade Powdered Laundry Detergent (adapted from AceHardware)
1 bar of soap 
(I'm using Fels Naptha, but you could also use Dr. Bonner's, Zote, Kirk's Castile, etc.)
1 cup borax
1 cup washing soda
A few drops of essential oils

Use a grater to shave the bar of soap into small flakes. Mix well with borax and washing soda until you achieve an even, fine mixture. Add your essential oils and mix well to break up clumps*. Store in labeled, air-tight container. Makes approximately 32oz of detergent. Use 1-2 T per load (depending on load size).

*Here are a few ideas of various oil combinations to make your new laundry detergent smell wonderful! Using Essential Oils in Your Detergent



I'll let you know how it all turns out! What are YOU making/growing/building this weekend?!