Points to Ponder

My Thoughts on Turning 40

I’m not 40 yet, but soon and very soon I will be! Oh yes, that milestone birthday has crept up and will be here in a few short weeks. How do I feel about it? Well, I’m really not quite sure. I don’t feel almost-40, whatever that is supposed to feel like. No mid-life crisis here yet or anything, but it does make me think about life and what I’ve learned in these almost 4 decades.

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So buckle up, here are my random streams of consciousness and things I’d tell those in their 20’s-30’s about life at 40:

Family is precious. They might drive you crazy at times, but they are such a wonderful gift. Don’t take a single one of them for granted because they might not always be around. That goes for your parents, spouse, kiddos, and so on.

You know who you are…for the most part at least. All the pretty sides of you and the not-so-pretty ones that surface sometimes (or often). By 40 you have a decent handle on what you’re good at, what you’re terrible at, what you will forever need to work on, spiritual gifts you have, sins that trip you up, etc. Things have come to my attention in my 30’s that I probably wouldn’t have been able to totally pinpoint 10 or 20 years ago.

You can’t eat just anything you want. Well, you can, but in your later 30’s there begin to be repercussions for eating whatever the heck you want, whether it be heartburn or digestive issues or jeans that suddenly seem smaller. I’m not sure about men, but for women (or at least ones I’ve talked to), the metabolism starts to not be quite so hot in the mid to later 30’s. (Unless you have a seriously active job or are a workout fiend.) Sad but true, my friends! Sad but true…

I value real, genuine people. I have developed a low tolerance for flakiness and fakey-ness. Instead I definitely take a shine to those who are just flat-out real and genuine with me and aren’t putting on a false front. I love down-to-earth folks and hope to heavens that I am that way. Feel free to slap me if I’m not! While I’m on the subject of personal pet peeves, I also can’t stand the whole entitlement mentality that seems rampant these days.

Experiences totally trump stuff. By this point I would much, much rather travel to somewhere new or experience something cool than buy a new wardrobe or drive a fancy car. I’d also rather my kids get experience gifts than junk. Things that we get to experience as a family are the very best of all.

Keep on learning new things. Just because you’re out of college or have a houseful of kids vying for your attention doesn’t mean you can’t keep learning. Check out things that interest you and go for it. I had a hankering to learn how to sew and bought myself a sewing machine for my 30th birthday. Since then I’ve learned how to use it, but I’ve also taught myself lots of other skills just in the past decade. I don’t plan on stopping either!

You hopefully have gained more wisdom by this point. By 40 most of us have had a whole host of ups and downs in every aspect of our lives–and hopefully we’ve learned a thing or two from those ups and downs that we can apply to future stuff! By the way, this is not to say that 20 or 30 year olds can’t be wise–I know plenty that are, I just believe it can increase with age and experiences.

Be content. Easy to say, sometimes hard to truly do.

You’re never going to please everyone. Trust me. I know this one well. Just do your absolute best and focus on pleasing the Lord, not so-and-so.

It’s okay to not check everything off your to-do list. I am an avid list person and make myself one of these pretty much every day. I have given myself permission to not complete the whole thing and leave one or two things undone. They usually get carried over until the next day.

Every day is a gift. Don’t squander it. It’s easy to take our health for granted when we’re young, but you never know when that could be taken away from you. My husband was a vibrant 37 year old when he had a stroke. I could have easily died from a rare and severe pregnancy complication when I was barely 23, fresh out of college, and delivering my firstborn child 6 weeks early. Praise God we are all healthy and fine, but it might have gone the other way. Those experiences definitely put things in perspective for me.

And the most important one I saved for last:

God is always faithful. Always. Don’t ever forget it, no matter what may be happening in your life. Trust Him. He loves you more than you could ever imagine!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Points to Ponder

This Week’s Frugal Accomplishments

Today I am launching a new set of *hopefully* regular posts entitled “Frugal Accomplishments.”

If you know me in real life, you may have picked up on the fact that I like to live fairly frugally. I don’t think I was always this way, but as our family grew, I have learned to run this house in a frugal and practical way. Sure, I think we live modestly as far as the “big things” are concerned–we both drive older vehicles, our house is not big and fancy, etc, etc. However, I like to think that saving and living simply with the “small things” do add up in the long run. I am very inspired by other people who make things work by raising families on a modest income and LOVE to hear the little ways they save. So, in turn, hopefully I can perhaps inspire you in some small way by sharing what I do on a weekly basis to save us some cash.

(I totally copied this idea from The Prudent Homemaker, who does this as a weekly post. I love reading what she does for her family.)

Here’s a few things that I did last week:

*With some nice sunny days I was able to line dry many loads of laundry and not run our dryer.

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(Weird but true fact about me: I rather enjoy doing laundry and love hanging it out to dry. It makes my heart happy.)

*I sold a few items on Ebay. An old Michael Jordan jersey, which I found in a bag of free-to-us boy clothes, brought way more than I expected. Sweet!!

*I went to a couple of yard sales on Friday. I scored a pair of kid snow pants for next year, a dressy shirt for Andrew, and a hooded sweatshirt for Heidi for a couple bucks. I also got a pair of knitting needles and some vintage quilt squares for free. I was just asking what the price was and the lady very much insisted that I just take them!

*Though it wasn’t directly for my own kids, I was able to easily alter a couple dresses for my brother’s girls so they can wear them this summer.

*Instead of doing a store run, I hit up my closet “gift stash” to provide a birthday gift for a party my daughter attended.

*We watched a few things on Netflix.

*With some coupon dollars, I was able to save a whopping $20 on a new backpack for my latest birthday boy. We have always bought LL Bean brand packs and they hold up for MANY years. He has had the same one all through elementary school and is now in 6th grade. This is the one he picked out–here’s to hoping it lasts through the next 6 years!!

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*We planted part of our garden on Saturday. That day we did 3 types of potatoes, green beans, and a little bit of sweet corn. Peas, onions, and a couple of other things had already been planted.

*I cut some early spring flowers from our beds outside the house and used them for decoration inside. There’s just something about fresh flowers!

Well, that was a sampling of some of the things I do. Stay tuned for more!

Have a blessed week.

Rachel

Parenting Tales, Points to Ponder

Weird, Wild, or Wonderful Things from 2014

Hey y’all. To wrap up my 2014, I’m reflecting on the good, bad, funny, or just plain random things that happened to either me or my family this year. Hope you enjoy!

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Snow, snow, ice…and yet more snow. This was what the first several months of the year looked like for me and most others from my neck of the woods. Lots of snow. Very cold. Ice storms and many, many days off school for my kids. A tough winter overall, but we made do!

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I taught my first ever grown-up Bible study to a group of ladies from my church this past Spring. Though I am pretty comfortable and experienced in teaching kids Bible lessons, I had never led a group of adults. I would highly recommend this study, and not just to females! Through it I learned a lot, but the thing I most took away from it was that I needed to work on building the “walls” that have been placed closest to me.

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This Spring my Mom signed her and I up for a one day rug braiding class. She knows how I love anything hands-on and that I enjoy learning new skills. It was a fun day of learning an old-time craft and getting to know some other ladies we had never met. (Surprise, surprise: I was the youngest person there.) I took the circle she made and turned it into a cool braided wool basket.

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All five of my children attended some kind of camp this past summer. This is a photo of one of my littlest guys taken by a camp staff member. (For the little guys it was a “mini-week,” a 3 day, 2 night intro to camp.) They all LOVED camp, so we’re already planning on it for this coming year.

We celebrated our oldest son’s 13th birthday.  Though it was back in June, I still feel really weird typing that. Can’t believe I am the Mom of a teenager.(This pic is him at maybe 6-7 months old?) In a few more years we will have five teenagers at one time. Lord help us is all I can say.

We celebrated 15 lovely years of marriage together. Many ups, plenty of downs, and more blessings than we could ever count. So, so thankful for this guy and glad he puts up with me! I appreciate him more and more every year.

A major highlight is that our garden totally rocked this year. We put away tons of fruits and veggies, whether frozen, canned, jammed, etc. Our kids are getting to be excellent helpers with it all.

While browsing the clearance racks at Wal Mart one day, I happened upon THIS awesome tank. I once shared that I had a childhood aspiration of being Wonder Woman, so you know I had to scoop this baby up and wear it! You have no idea how happy it made me that day. Love this shirt. (If you see me sporting the gold headband, a lasso, and gold cuff bracelets along with it, feel free to tell me to tone it down;))

This picture represents one of the Best Pranks Ever in my household. My dear, dear husband is the one behind this freak-o-rilla. He was planning to borrow this costume to be a mascot for a fundraiser at my kids’ school. I didn’t know he had acquired it yet, so he came home from work and parked down the road so we wouldn’t see or hear him. Then he proceeded to put on this thing and creep up to our back sliding door, which was open. I heard a kid scream from my kitchen, came around the corner to investigate, and had the you-know-what scared out of me. He scared every single one of us with this thing. Priceless.

My friends think I live at the school and the kids think I work there. Hmmm, I wonder why?  The life of a PTA president.

One of my greatest joys AND challenges has been stepping up to the role of President of our PTO at school. Our one and only fundraiser for the year is little over a month after the school year starts, so my fall was consumed with this job. I am usually pretty organized and had good people to help along the way, but I definitely had some challenging moments to deal with. However, I think we’ve done some pretty neat things and I am glad to serve the kids/parents/teachers in this capacity.

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This is just a random “weird but cool” tidbit that I wanted to share. A gift given to us from my best friend’s family, this “game” has been a hit with my gang. Made by Jelly Belly, you spin a spinner that points to a certain jellybean you have to eat. It is either really good or really gross, but they look exactly the same. For example, a black one that is either licorice flavor or skunk spray. Juicy pear or booger flavor. Chocolate pudding or canned dog food. You don’t know until you put it in your mouth. I had to eat one that ended up being rotten egg and spit it out! I only had one kid dry heave on me, so I guess that’s not too bad;) Fun times my friend, fun times.

Well, I could bore or perhaps amuse you with many more random things from our year, but I’ll stop there.

Thanks for tuning in, and I hope you have an extra special New Year.

—-Rachel

Parenting Tales, Points to Ponder, Uncategorized

Parenting a Teen

We hit a landmark moment in our household next week. Well, you can sort of say it is a landmark.

Next Tuesday we will be the official parents of a teenager.

Frightening, I know.

You can pray for us right now because I can say that when it comes to parenting a teen, I am completely out of my realm. Give me a baby, a toddler, or a preschooler and I would like to think that I know what I’m doing by now. Heck, give me an elementary aged child and I feel like I’ve hit my groove.

But give me a teenager to parent? And parent successfully? Lord help us.

I had a wake-up call one day a couple months ago when we sat down at the dinner table to pray. Normally we all hold hands, but my oldest usually doesn’t sit next to me. For some reason this particular day he did. The hand that reached out and grabbed mine did not belong to a little boy anymore. It most definitely belonged to a young man and I was shocked at how much that hand that I could once enclose in mine had grown.

Fast forward to a couple weeks later and my son was walking around the yard. I happened to catch a quick glimpse of him out the window as he passed by and for a second I thought his dad had gotten home from work early. I couldn’t help but be downright startled again at how much he had grown over the last 13 years.

Yes, that tiny baby that entered the world fighting six weeks too early quickly grew into a fussy little toddler.

While praising God for the gift of his life, we prayed for things like healthy growth and extra doses of patience on our part.

In a flash this little guy became a preschooler, a big brother to 4 additional siblings, then my first to go to kindergarten.

The miniature hand that I once cradled in mine I now held to walk to the bus every day. We now prayed for spiritual growth and things like safety while at school.

Soon enough he was joined by one sibling after another at that bus stop and was excelling in school. At the same time our Daniel, aptly named after the Old Testament Daniel, became quite a little missionary and made no bones about what he believed and Who he believed in.

That same little hand had grown and now held things like chapter books, pocket knives, and army men.

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Fast forward to now. My boy is now a man-child and I no longer have to look down to talk to him. He’s had a full year at middle school and absolutely loves it. The little boy voice that I was so familiar with now creaks and cracks with the changes of adolescence. He rarely ever holds my hand, but I do get some great bear hugs (when his peers aren’t looking, of course) on occasion.

I don’t know much about raising teens, but I do know how to unconditionally love my child.

For all the areas I’m sure I will absolutely flounder on, there’s other things that I plan on (hopefully) doing okay at:

*Pray, pray, pray. Any child of any age needs covered in prayer and so do their parents! As my boy gets more independent and will be more and more exposed to the world at large, I just have to entrust him to God. I will never forget what another Mom said to me years ago when becoming anxious at the thought of her baby driving a car one day: “As much as we love our kids, we have to remember that God loves them even more.”

*Being available. Yes, I know there will be days that he doesn’t feel like talking much or wants to pull away from us. However, I think it is still important that they know you are THERE for them. At Daniel’s middle school orientation the principal said something that resonated with me. It was something like, “at this age you may think you are no longer needed, but this is the age when they need you more than ever.”

*Being firm. “Mom can be tough but she’s not mean.” This is an actual quote from my husband, talking to our kids just recently about us and discipline. There are SO many permissive parents out there, it makes me want to shake them!! Yes, I love my kids and want them to be “in this world but not of this world.” However, just because “everyone’s” parents let them do _____________ or have a ________________ doesn’t mean I will allow you to do it or have one! We haven’t had to encounter this much yet with our own kids, but I’m sure the day will come. Thankfully we have some like-minded parents in our community so we can hopefully back each other up.

*Not doing it alone. Thank the Good Lord we don’t have to do this parenting thing alone. I have a loving husband who is an amazing Dad. As our boys get older, he invests lots of time into taking them to do guy things and teach them some manly stuff that I would just make a mess of. We also have awesome parents who love to spend quality time with each of their grandchildren and reinforce what we believe. In addition, we have a solid church family, good teachers, and others who have invested in our kids’ lives. For that we are very blessed and grateful.

So, basically this may be a giant learning curve, but we have a firm foundation on which to rest in.

Please pray for us as we enter this all-new stage of parenting……and if you have any words of wisdom, please let me know!

Recipes

Buttercream Icing

Happy Birthday to me, turning a whopping 35 years old!!

In celebration, I am sharing a recipe for buttercream icing that I use often this time of year. All of my kids and myself have spring birthdays, so I use this one for decorating cupcakes or birthday cakes. I found it in an old Wilton cake decorating booklet and it is always a hit!

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I would recommend actually decorating with it when it’s a little bit chilled. This is from a batch of cupcakes I just did for my daughter’s class (Her birthday is the day after mine).

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These blue frosted ones are from my son Andrew’s 10th birthday party, which was this past weekend.

I may be getting a little birthday-ed out.

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The recipe is fairly simple. Not the healthiest, but extremely tasty!

Buttercream Icing

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup shortening

1 tsp vanilla

1/8 tsp salt

1 lb. (@4 cups) confectioner’s sugar

3 TB milk

Cream butter and shortening together. Add in vanilla and salt. Follow with confectioner’s sugar, adding in 1 cup at a time. Finally, add milk and beat until fluffy. Add food coloring if desired. Store in refrigerator when  not in use. Makes 3 cups of icing.

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Craft/DIY Ideas, Recipes

Camouflage Cupcakes

I can’t believe that my “babies,” my twin boys, are turning 6 this week!!

Right now they are pretty much obsessed with anything related to guns, army, soldiers, etc.

Sooo… I thought they might dig some camouflage cupcakes for their big day.

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And what better way to top off a camo cupcake than with an army guy?

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Pretty cool, right?

I know tons of little (and big!) boys who would love these. No girly or fussy cupcakes for these dudes!

Here’s a little rundown of how I made these….

Start off by mixing a white cake mix in one bowl and a chocolate cake mix in a separate bowl.

Line a bunch of cupcake tins with your paper liners.

Once they’re mixed, set out 2 more empty mixing bowls. Put a spoon in each bowl.

Now, to get the whole swirly, multi-colored camo thing going on, you’ll end up making 4 different colors/variations.

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In one bowl, mix equal parts white and chocolate.

In the second, do white with just a bit of chocolate and add green food coloring.

For the other two, just leave them plain chocolate and plain vanilla.

Now, simply add dollops of each color kind of randomly in your cupcake tins.

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Since I made two complete cake mixes, I had plenty of batter, so I took the rest and did a small cake as well, using the same method.

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Here’s what they look like fresh out of the oven.

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I think they look better with a swirl of icing, and of course, an army man!

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Happy Birthday to my littlest men!

Craft/DIY Ideas

Kids’ Birthday Gift Baskets

Looking for kids birthday gift ideas?

Here’s a quick and easy idea that will work for either a boy or a girl, and can be adapted to any age. We have had loads of birthdays lately, including two kid parties to attend last weekend. This has been my go-to gift for almost any kid. I have been known to give some version of this “snack basket” for the last few years. Let’s face it–most kids we know don’t need a single new toy and usually have plenty of clothing as well. Most parents I know really aren’t crazy about receiving more toys or other such things to clutter up their homes.

Here are examples of what I gave out just last weekend:

The green and blue one was given to a boy and the yellow and red was given to a girl.

Basically I pick out a container of some sort that can be reused. Then I fill it with snack packs, juice boxes, and little treats.

I also sometimes throw in a couple of $1 items from the dollar section of Target, Michael’s, etc. Usually I have a stash of these in our gift supply box.

Easy to put together (even at the last minute!) and easy on the wallet as well.