Sunday, July 27, 2008

Being Neighborly

Our neighbor, Mike, is an avid and accomplished woodworker. He's also the grandfatherly type, and loves our kids. This past weekend, Cory and I hosted a yard sale in our front yard, and Mike put several items in to sell himself: a beautiful wall clock (that he made), an amazing rocking chair (that he made), some tools, and this plane (that he made) - pretty cool, isn't it? 

Since Mike didn't sell the plane in the sale, he decided to give it to Joey. I suppose I don't even need to tell you that Joey is thrilled. He told Mike that he was going to, "get on my plane and fly away!" 

Most of our neighbors are great folks. Mike is retired, and sits on his porch for much of the day, watching the comings and goings in our neighborhood. (That's a great thing to have - if you ever need to know what's going on on our street, just ask Mike.) He also knows the best places to get your car fixed or find a good deal on mechanical items. Vaughn & Cindy, our neighbors to the south, regularly offer us surplus from their garden, and invite our family to swim in their pool. This weekend, they gave me some jeans that they were going to take to Goodwill, so I could use them in my scrap quilt. A neighbor down the street has gifted me with bags of clothes her daughter has outgrown. Another neighbor gave us a case (that's 20 boxes) of granola bars that he got for free. We try to reciprocate, offering our garden extras (right now, cucumbers!), coupons, and grass-cutting when someone's out of town. 

Its a wonderful blessing, having a little community of people around that look out for each other, and offer help when they can. Maybe we're fortunate that most of our neighbors are a generation ahead of us, so they know how to be neighborly. I hope that it's not something that will be lost, as people of our generation sequester themselves in their homes with internet, iPod, and satellite TV. (Not to mention air conditioning - it's darn hot in my neighborhood today.) 

Friday, July 25, 2008


Here is the start of my stockpile. I had just started to build a stockpile when Cory lost his job. Now I'm so glad that I started, because we're really using it! 

I got the idea from the folks over at Hot Coupon World; it was a reminder of something I had read in The Tightwad Gazette. (LOVE that book!) In The Tightwad Gazette, the author frequently shares that she & her husband wait for an item to hit the lowest possible price, and then they stock up on the item. She gives ideas for finding unused space to store bulk purchases of great deals. (She asks readers if they'd consider renting out the space under their bed for $75 a month, and then asserts that this is what she saves by storing peanut butter under her bed.) In my head, I had limited that strategy to food: we have a chest freezer where I store meat, bread, frozen veggies and cheese that I find on sale. I had also started bulk-buying canned goods when I found a good price. The folks at HCW expanded my thinking to health & beauty items. If a buyer is careful, she can find most health & beauty products for nearly free. 

It's hard to see in my picture, but I have a little box of toothbrushes (about 6 months worth) and toothpaste, contact lens solution, mouthwash, about 4 spare deodorants, two free light bulbs, hair styling products, shampoo & conditioner, 4 jars of salsa, and some canned green beans from my mom's garden. Keep in mind that I had only started stockpiling about 3 weeks before Cory's job loss, and I haven't added to it for 2 weeks. In fact, I've used some things. I'm stockpiling on a couple of small shelves in our basement. I can't store dry goods down there (like cereal or flour), because I don't want to tempt any mice or bugs (ew ew ew) to move in. So this is what I have, so far. 

When I practice stockpiling, I get to pick the price I'm willing to pay for an item. When it hits that price, I stock up. It puts me in control of my budget. I don't have to buy more than I know I'll use. An added bonus is that I can use my stockpile to help others - if I've got a lot of a certain product, and I know our parish food pantry is running low, I can help out. What a blessing that can be! (I haven't exactly gotten to that, yet. Job loss and all.) 

Again, it's about thrift. It's about thinking ahead. And thankfully, it's about saving your resources for a rainy day! 

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Random pictures

Here are just a few little things. Not enough for a whole post in themselves, but together they tell a story.

Here is a picture of the boys having a sack race at Vacation Bible School last week. I think Joey's bag is bigger than he is! 

Here are some almost-lovely bagels that I made using a recipe from Tammy's Recipes. They were yummy, though they're not too pretty. I learned that if you put ugly bagels in the water to boil, you get ugly bagels out of the water. Live and learn! They were much tastier and much cheaper than store-bought bagels. Try them! 

This is why you don't give a two-year-old Oreos. 

Since Grace has finally stopped chewing on her feet, I decided to paint her toes! So cute! (And no, I didn't make that quilt, though it's my very very favorite.) 

And this is what Joey's toes look like after a hard day of play. Summer's not all bad, eh? 

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

My clothesline

And now for my long-awaited clothesline post! 

Here it is, in all its glory, my beloved clothesline. This summer, I have managed to discipline myself enough to use my clothesline full time. I only use my dryer to dry diaper inserts and to fluff my towels before taking them to the line. My electric bill is $30 lower this month than the same month last year, so I think my diligence is paying off. 

I love hanging clothes out on the line. I love the way they smell, I love being out in the fresh air, I love saving money! I wish I had more outside clothesline space, but I have a postage-stamp for a backyard, so this little line will have to do. Why don't you have a clothesline? Let me guess... you don't like that it makes your clothes "crunchy," you do too much laundry, you have no space outside, and you don't have the time, right? Ha! Wrong! Read on, spendthrift!

The clothesline makes my clothes too crunchy and stiff
There a few ways around this. Shake your clothes *vigorously* before you put them on the line, and hang on a windy day. Take them down as soon as they're dry, if it's not a humid day. Honestly, the stiffness is something you don't even notice after about a week. The one exception is towels - for towels, I fluff them in the dryer for 10 minutes, then they go on the line to finish. They come out just fine. You may have to experiment a bit to see what works best for you. I actually prefer line-dried jeans. 

I do too much laundry to line-dry
Puh-leez! I have four children. Four, SMALL, children. (read: I wash lots of clothes.)  I can dry four loads a day on my little line. And if I run out of space, then I just use hangers and hang clothes from the tree! 

I have no space outside
Then put a line or two inside. You don't hang out in every room of your house all day, right? How often do you hang out in your bedroom during the day? Put a retractible line in there! I have three lines in my basement for rainy days and winter. (Having a winter line helps humidify the dry indoor air, too. Bonus!) 

I don't have time to hang up laundry
Did I mention I have four small children? Having a line means that I don't have to be a slave to the dryer. You know how it goes: you're knee-deep in some task that can't be interrupted when the darn dryer buzzer goes off. You know that if you don't get to that laundry soon, it's going to be a wrinkled mess. No such problems with the clothesline. It can hang there, dry, all day. Who cares? I'm not listening for the dryer all day. Freeeeeeedooooommmm!!! 

There are, of course, other benefits to having a clothesline. A lower electric bill, from not running the dryer. (Not to mention the dryer isn't generating heat, counteracting the a/c.) It's easier on your clothes, since the heat of the dryer destroys fibers. Less garbage - I don't have to empty the lint trap on my clothesline! And my favorite - it's so much better for the environment! I really, truly like hanging clothes out on the line. It gives me time to think, to pray. It gets me outside, which makes me slow down, and it reminds me to get the boys outside to play. Hanging the clothes creates order. And it looks pretty. It's one of my very favorite things. 

Thursday, July 17, 2008


The older 2 boys are going to Vacation Bible School this week. Here's the hat Adam made during craft time: 
He's a pretty cool eight-year-old. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Yesterday was a busy, busy day. The older boys had Vacation Bible School in the morning, and in the afternoon we had several friends over to visit. I had a total of eight children under eight years old in my house - and six of them were boys. 

My toilet will never be the same! : 0

Really. I would take a picture and post it, but that's just, well, gross. Let's just leave it at this: most boys don't aim well, especially when they've got better things to do (like get back to the lightsabre fight in the backyard.) 

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Garden's Coming Along!

Here's my garden! (Ignore the clothesline. I'll talk about that later.)

It doesn't look like much, but for a black thumb like me, it's quite an accomplishment. I've got tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, chives, green peppers, cukes, and watermelon. There's something satisfying about planting little seeds in May, and pulling honest-to-goodness food from vines in July. 

See my cucumbers? 

And my (still green) tomatoes? 

Yes, there is weed tarp over the whole garden. It's an experiment. I don't like the way it looks, but I do like the time it saves me - there's very little weeding required in our garden. 

We've also tried our hand at composting this summer. The kids are surprisingly into composting, especially Adam. And Joey loves to water and turn the compost. Luke just likes to throw worms in the compost pile. Cory likes that we have less trash to take out (read: less work for him.) And me? I'm glad that I'm not creating more waste for the landfill, and that I'm saving money (by using fewer trash bags), and I'm being ecologically conscious by nourishing the soil with something natural, not Miracle Grow. (What's in that stuff, anyway? Creepy!) 

Thursday, July 10, 2008


So, today was Adam's 8th birthday.

And Cory lost his job today.

I'm striving to keep this in perspective, to quiet the panic that's gnawing at the corner of me. Cory and I have been through worse, much worse, before. We can do this. We will do this. We have savings, we have family who will help us. We have a pantry full of groceries, we have two working cars, we have a comfortable (though modest) home, we are healthy, as are our wonderful, beautiful children.

Thank You, God, for our "rich people" problems. Thank You for the fortune of our birth - that we live here, in a country with resources, so we can pick ourselves back up, dust off, and get back on our feet. We don't live in a war zone, we're not in danger of going hungry, and we're all together, under one roof. There are resources out there to help us.

I'm thankful for the extra time we'll get to spend together as a family. I'm grateful for the privilege of being a mother for eight years. We're lucky to have all these wonderful people in our lives: friends and family who've offered help - job leads, dinner, and an ear to listen. And I'm so relieved that we have a small "stash" of savings, so that we're not desperate (yet).

I'm thankful. I don't want to whine, and I don't want to be bitter. I choose to be grateful.