Thursday, January 30, 2014

Finances On Friday...A Day Early

Rebecca over at Renaissance (her lovely blog is in my sidebar)  has inspired me to link up to her Financial Fridays. The whole idea of writing, thinking, and being accountable with one's finances can be rather daunting. I's personal. Most of us don't like to be "out there" with our money for fear that people will either think we have too much or too little...they may judge how we use it or think that we are "holier than thou" because of extreme couponing or what have you. I never suffer from any of these worries...(no, just ALL of them and then some.)
 Let me start at the beginning.
 Zac and I use to be completely debt free. Neither of us think that people are "less than" or not wise with their money IF they are in debt - but we have always wanted to be even if that meant being really super duper uber frugal. We just wanted the freedom of not owing - of not losing money in interest on credit cards.
 Then life happened...poverty happened (DIAPERS)...medical bills happened...bed bugs happened...autism happened...moving happened. Lots happened - and we got into debt without a way to get out. I guess compared to the national average of debt we are at the bottom...or so they say - but it's still too much for my brain. I can't STAND making credit card payments - it makes me feel like I'm not doing what I could be sponsoring more children or giving my kids piano lessons or saving for a down payment on a house or supporting more missionaries. I just feel restrained by debt.
 This year our goal is to pay of the last half of our credit card. We have no car payments at present, we are that just leaves the last bit on our card from moving cross country and paying for Tristan's evaluation last year. We have all or our medical bills paid of finally (knock on wood.)
 In order to pay off our debt...this year we are going to try our best to tighten our belts and never lay down the Credit card - just use our debit cards. Along with this, we are going to try to not spend. When we do, we are going to attempt to get the best deal possible on whatever it is we need. We want to be thrifty buying gifts, enjoying eating out when we have a coupon or an excellent deal - but splurging.

For us, what use to be our way of life has now become a novelty. What?! Not use our card when we get such excellent rewards?!!!! Yes. This is why. Sometimes I buy things intending to pay them off with the next pay check, and it doesn't happen because unexpected things come up and we aren't able to pay the $40 bucks or the $100.00 bucks or whatever amount it is. If we can't pay for it, we shouldn't have it.
 But Alyssa, you are just putting guilt on yourselves. There is nothing wrong with a little bit of debt. God understands that we live in a world of needing good credit and you can't have good credit if you don't have a credit score...and you need credit cards and loans to get a good credit score. God doesn't care about your money. Christians don't need to be THAT serious about the whole money's such a small issue.
 Well, actually .... I'm not sure how many people are aware of this...but in the Bible there are 500 verses on prayer, 500 on faith, and....wait for it....

verses on money.

That tells me this is real...this is we handle our money (no matter how little or how much we have) is important. Handling money wise.

So, here's how we do finances on Fridays. Basically it's just a blog post of different ways we have saved during the week...goals...whatever we want to say but it's about us and our money and our habits.
You may wonder what the fruit pictures have to do with this. It's simply, my habit. My expensive habit - I'm a juicer. My first goal for the month of February is to cut our grocery bill by 20 dollars a week. This may seem small...but it's a good starting place for me. I already don't spend very much for a family of 6 - I could do a little better I think if I would start planning our all of my week's menu again - and if I would just stick with carrot/apples/kale for the juicer. I have gotten back into couponing but I'm not compromising my personal convictions on what it is that I want to feed my family. I could have bought 5 frozen pizzas for my family for under 10 bucks today with coupons...I didn't buy any. We are not going to eat crap. I would rather give up something else then to give up healthy foods.
 So....with all that we go: Our Finances on Friday (well...Thursday)

- I have been wanting to decorate the boys room FINALLY after living here for a year and a half. I found some cute stuff on etsy and was rather tempted to purchase some prints - but then realized that would be spending MONEY so I drew and painted the pictures myself with paper, pencils, paints, and a canvas I already had on hand. They aren't perfect and not what my perfectionist brain would LIKE to have in the boy's room...but they are cute and they work and they were basically free.

- found a green frame at Ikea for $2.50 .... that was the total cost out of pocket for 3 pieces of art.

 - We have also been wanting to make Trin's room a little more "big girlish" - I just switched stuff around in the house to meet the need. I let her have my black and white pillow, our old white duvet, I painted her an aspen tree painting for her wall...and we bought a set of pillowcases with fairies on them at the thrift store for .79 . We are looking for a desk...I think I've been to every thrift store around, searched Craigslist and the clearance sections of ALL stores - no luck. We will keep looking - my budget for the desk is $20.00 so when I find it...I find it. When I don't, she goes without. No biggie.
- I printed and used at least $30.00 bucks in coupons this week (all of the coupons I used were for things on my list.)
- I did an online survey that I found on my grocery receipt and it entered me into a sweepstakes and I got extra fuel points credited to my rewards card
- bought two loaves of organic bread in the close out section
- free redbox rental
- made the kids snacks this week instead of buying boxed items
- had our kids eat what we were eating (a novelty idea for a family with sensory issues and autism but somehow it worked and there were no tears
- skipped the weekly trip to the dollar tree

 - filed our tax return and was rather shocked how much less we get this year now that we don't have food stamps or any type of medicaid. Let me tell you, Zac makes more then he ever has but since we don't actually get any government assistance anymore and he pays union dues...the only difference in our standard of living is that we pay all of our bills with our own income. There isn't more "spending" money ...and we get less back in our tax return even though we pay more taxes. wonders....
 I'm thankful for the help we had when we couldn't make ends meet...but I also am not a fan of the middle class being almost, ummmm, punished or something for paying more taxes.
- thankful we can pay our own bills

- found an awesome CLEAN and firm chair that SPINS (great for the boys sensory/stimulation needs) at the thrift store for 12 dollars (it was half off Saturday at goodwill)
- saved $50.00 this week in our savings account (every bit helps)
- gave to our sponsored children and pulled out ones to have in our car for the many homeless people
- went to target to get one last little gift for Zac's birthday and found two other cute items on clearance...put them back last minute realizing they weren't life and death.
- got my ingredients to make another batch of homemade laundry detergent

- drank the teas we had on hand instead of picking up a new flavor....shopped at one store instead of driving 10 miles to save .50 on something...made sesame tofu instead of ordering take out.

 That's about it. I'm not sure if I feel relieved or dumb writing all of this out but either way...I'm linked up now so I gotta do it. Bear with me. :)

oops...forgot to add that we canceled Netflix since we found out with my Amazon prime account we can already access a TON of shows and movies through our Xbox

Sunday, January 26, 2014


Tonight was Boxcar Movie Night ...and , no, not at my house. I could never come up with something as creative as that (well...maybe not.) The Awanas program at our church has pretty much saved my proverbial "motherhood bacon" this year. Every week I have to become creative in a way that I just, generally, would not. In the past I have used a lot of excuses to not do certain projects with my kids. You know..."I don't have the time" and "that would be messy" or my personal favorite... "we don't have the money." Well, I have no more excuses anymore. I mean, I could decide not do the projects, or do them half way...but only about 50 people would know. That's about 50 too many for my liking. Oh yes, bring accountability into the picture and I'm all over "white on rice" as they say. 

Brady wanted an airplane and thanks to Zac and his awesome duct tape abilities...the dream became a reality. The cost? Two dollars for the green shiny paper (dollar tree) and about 4 hours of grinding grueling cardboard cutting and tape sticking and feeling like the project would last forever. Zac did swell and Brady was pleased. 

The best for more passengers. :) That's pretty important around here. 
On the side of his plane we wrote the verse :

"You lift me up to the wind and cause me to ride; 
 And You dissolve me in a storm 
Job 30:22 (NASB) 

Rather fitting 

I took on Trinity's project ... I'm sure it isn't obvious in the least that I was involved... 

Well, maybe a little bit. The fact that it exudes "lets run through the woods barefoot and eat only berries for four months" or "heal the land with herbs and roots" and "let love fly" ... nope, not one bit of earth mama influence here. 

Isn't the dream catcher smashing?! Once again...the cost was minimum. A roll of brown paper from the dollar tree and I found the dream catcher at a thrift store for 3 bucks. I guess my "it's too expensive to create things" excuse is gonna have be thrown in the bag, and smashed up and then burned....and then buried...and then have a seed planted and a flower grow. 

Trinity wanted to add the "God is Love" and the art work is purely hers. We did add a verse banner to the canoe and some multicolored ribbons last minute. The verse she picked out for the banner is of my very favorites...

'For behold, the winter is past, 
The rain is over and gone. 
 'The flowers have already appeared in the land; 
The time has arrived for pruning the vines, 
And the voice of the turtledove has been heard in our land. 
Song of Solomon 2:11-12

I was thinking she might like something more along the "still waters" line but she liked this one...I'm sure the words "flowers" and "turtledoves" had nothing to do with it. 

As for this little Trinity Sky girl, she won. 

Friday, January 24, 2014


A few years back, when Trinity was about 3 or 4, her Great Aunt Robin sent her a lovely sky blue book The Complete Works of Beatrix Potter. It was so gorgeous and heavy and "real" that I put it aside for when the kids were a bit older for fear they would rip the pages or not completely "appreciate" the works of a true artist and author. Then, a couple days ago I saw that my Amazon Prime account had added the new (well, "newish") movie Miss Potter , and I thought of Trinity and the lovely book and how far she has come in her reading and knew she would love the film.
 So we sat , tea in hand, snuggled under my great grandmother's quilt,  and laughed and cried our way through the story together. Trinity was completely delighted with the movie and loved how talented Beatrix was with her watercolors...

 Then , when she found out we HAVE the book with many of the prints and ALL of the stories from Miss Potter herself...squirrel almost came unglued (in a very, very good way.) She held the book so carefully and would flip the pages and recognize the pictures from the movie and "ooh" and "ah" and giggle over the funny names of the characters.

  What surprised me most is that for the rest of the day I would find her alone, sitting...READING out loud, and she could make out almost all of the words in the book. I loved the fact that she could understand the stories even though the style of writing is quite strange in comparison to more modern children's tales.
 As for me, I was quite inspired to try watercolors. I love the softness of the painting...almost as if each picture is covered with a cloud.

 Trinity has a lot in common with Beatrix Potter. She loves life and sees life in everything...she talks to trees, makes dolls out of clothespins, is constantly writing and drawing...she loves being outside even if by herself - fairies are real to her and flowers have lives...she is full of wonder and light. She is full of stories of her own...she is an artist in her own way.

“Believe there is a great power silently working all things for good, behave yourself and never mind the rest.” 
― Beatrix Potter

“Thank goodness I was never sent to school; it would have rubbed off some of the originality.” 
― Beatrix Potter

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

When Life Gives You Apples...

When life gives you apples...

Make mini apple pies...

...then enjoy the crumbly crust smiles. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Bananas and Peanut Butter

  What does sprouted sourdough bread, natural peanut butter....

and BANANAS have in common? 

You'll never guess...

why...the KING of course :)

  My kids have been on a sandwich binge as of late. I'm not a huge fan of eating bread...but I did come across a sale at Sprouts for some sprouted sourdough - it looked too good to pass up. This afternoon I surprised the kids with grilled banana peanut butter sandwiches (Elvis Presley's favorite comfort food)  and a short "history" lesson on the King of Rock 'n' Roll (thank you tube.)

Kids feasted while we watched the music video Jailhouse Rock from 1957. Something that impresses me about music videos from way back when is how beautiful they are. They are simple yet artistic without a lot of "flash" ... Brayden was enchanted with the set and simple costumes ...Trinity liked the dancing and Elvis' handsome face. I liked everything. 

And, I may or may not have laid aside my normal fruit and salad lunch for one of these nutty numbers. They are truly delicious and nutritious and Elvis knew what he was on to. Move over grilled cheese. 

 I love being able to have my mornings as "mornings", cleaning, playing - and then our learning time more around lunch and mid afternoon. It's nice being able to get done what we want to get done first (well, kids didn't enjoy cleaning toilets much this morning or scrubbing my baseboards, but hey?! why have a small army if you can't use your men?!) and then on too our learning. I feel less rushed this way, and I think our kids do well getting out their energy first, then focusing on books and lessons when they feel calm.
 Now, to try and coerce Trinity to snarl her lip and say "You ain't nothin' but a hound dog baby" one more time...

Monday, January 20, 2014

For The Sake of Trees...and Learning

“Education is a system of imposed ignorance.” 
― Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media

  Koala and Bug, my littlest littles are not so little anymore. Finn will be three in 4 months and I will be officially without a baby (or a toddler for that matter.) The more time that passes in this school year the more happy I am with our decision to homeschool. I didn't really believe I would feel this way - I thought I would be ready to pull my hair out and to throw in the towel. Me? Capable of actually teaching children to read and write and add and subtract...and learn about planets and plants and stars and volcanoes and kangaroos and the government?! Well, looks like I can because's a secret...they kind of teach themselves. Yep...that's my secret. Shocker. Being relaxed seems to be working for now ... and really, everyday in life there are opportunities to learn - it doesn't have to come from a book.

For Instance....

 Finding a man up in a tree with a chainsaw. As if North Aurora had too many trees or something - ,yah, they took it down. No, they didn't just trim off the dead branches. Just one less blooming tree in spring, less shade in summer, no more orange leaves across from my back porch in fall - one less tree.
    Now, I'm not a tree expert but I have done my fair share in helping to load firewood...which included going with my entire family into the woods, my dad with chainsaw in hand....and he would walk around until he found a dead tree...timber!!!!...and we would all help load up the logs in the back of the truck. This tree they cut down was not dead. So... a lovely lesson in why we needs trees, why we love trees...why the city may have felt that the tree was unsafe (we've been having pretty strong winds today) and then, alas, why if we're going to climb that high up in a tree, why we should be harnessed with a helmet on. I'll save the chainsaw lessons for another day - currently we are just learning how to properly hold a knife. :)

“I suppose it is because nearly all children go to school nowadays and have things arranged for them that they seem so forlornly unable to produce their own ideas.” 
― Agatha ChristieAn Autobiography

 Watching my kids climbing in the backyard today, playing tag ... having them "help" me with chores, making our beds together, sitting at the table and enjoying our lunch and good conversation made me feel so blessed to have the opportunity to be a stay at home mom. It's not always perfect, I often feel isolated and when I give into self pity instead of thankfulness...I feel just a smidge "unimportant" in the grand scheme of the things. But, really, what a wonderful gift that I get to watch my kids be kids, that they truly need me and want me ... and teach me on a daily basis.

“There is no school equal to a decent home and no teacher equal to a virtuous parent.” 
― Mahatma Gandhi

Now..just to own the  "virtuous" part....

Hope your Monday was lovely,

~* Alyssa Spring *~

Sunday, January 19, 2014

My Very Own Nerds

“If you like nerds, raise your hand. If you don't, raise your standards.” 

I know I know... how can one possibly prepare themselves for such cuteness? 

Nerd Night at Awanas ... being surrounded by my bow tie, pen carrying, taped up glasses clad children. It was just too much. Too much adorableness. I mean, who doesn't love a nerd?!

“Be nice to nerds. You may end up working for them. We all could.” 

 “That's the wonderful thing with nerds: they're enthusiasts. Not having a life means you get to love things with a passion and nobody bothers you about it.” 

 “Why is being a nerd bad? Saying I notice you’re a nerd is like saying, ‘Hey, I notice that you’d rather be intelligent than be stupid, that you’d rather be thoughtful than be vapid, that you believe that there are things that matter more than the arrest record of Linsey Lohan. Why is that?” 
― John Green

Saturday, January 18, 2014

December Recap

I missed half of December. Like, LITERALLY, missed it. The flu bug came to call and he stuck around for two weeks - it's mid January and I still have drainage (tmi) - it was nasty. We were hit, bombed...thrown down, hijacked....two days before Brady turned 8. I had big plans for his didn't really happen.  He had fun, there was cake (thanks to a dear friend) and Brady received the gift of his dreams (an ipod for making his many mini movies ....say that ten times fast...) and then we laid around and did absolutely nothing.

 Thankfully Brady was a champ. He didn't mind us picking up take-out (his choice) and doing everything low key. We decorated the table and cake in a Pokemon theme, Brady's obsession at present ...along with Mario and Luigi and now he's been dressing up like Zelda for the last two weeks. I can't keep up, but I do my best.

Amidst (is that a word?)  the fevers and mucous and chills and body aches I somehow managed to do some holiday baking with the kids...

I had a little help this year. :) Trinity is just becoming a full blown BIG GIRL and can do things that I never know she can do...until she does them, and does them perfectly perfect - and then I kind of rub my eyes and can't believe this is reality...and then I feel a deep sense of relief and also nostalgia or something nice but bittersweet. Kind of like "I'm so glad baby stage is almost over but I love babies and WANT babies but I want sleep and potty trained kids and I'm tired and need a bit of relief from time to time...but I love babies...but I love being able to actually have conversations with my children." Yah, this stage of motherhood or womanhood is rather conflicting.

So, Christmas came and so did my parents... we had the bean dip, and the chocolate pretzels...the grandparents helped with gingerbread houses and meals and playing with kids....

And then our flu flew into them and they were struck down full force - Christmas Day.

It still turned out to be a nice Christmas even though I haven't the pictures or really my memory to prove it, just some fuzzy recollections that I don't know if they are reality or not.
It's okay, only 11 months until Christmas....

 Thankfully, the flu was gone and our 10 year anniversary came and Zac and I got a much needed two night get away. The last time we had had two nights alone was on our 5th anniversary when I was pregnant with Tristan. The key word being "pregnant" in that sentence...not a very comfortable trip. This getaway was much cozier in our little A frame cabin amidst the Evergreens and snow and wildlife.

 Ten years. Seems like a lot to people who have been married for 2 years, seems like not very much to those who have been married for 20. For us, it feels like we have always been together. I guess in reality we kind of have. It was a really nice time and it was quite refreshing knowing that we can still talk and have fun and connect.

My favorite part of our weekend was being able to have fire after fire. I miss fire. 

 Seeing him sit by the fire wasn't so bad either. 

Warming our feet by the fire wasn't unpleasant by any means....

 And then we drove back to the ghetto and to our children and our fenced back was perfect.
I loved being away, but I also love my life. I even like my neighborhood and that I definitely don't feel the need to "keep up with the Jones" any means. I like my kids...LOVE my kids...and our rental house still to me doesn't feel like home, but it's comfortable and it's good for now. Home is where your heart is right? I'm not sure where my heart is .... but it's somewhere and someday I will find it. There's time. :)

 And not to be forgotten...we won hat night at Awanas and Brady made quite a show of it. It's nice having a son who isn't afraid to celebrate outwardly, someone who is proud of his accomplishments....'s also nice that hardly anyone knows me so I have a little more time to get "comfortable" with my son's outward celebrations. :) Hey, if you're happy and you know it shake your booty (or so says Brady.) And he does.