Friday, May 24, 2013

An Example of My Garage Sale Deals

I love to check out yard sales and discount stores before going to a "real" store when I need something. This spring I have found two snow shovels from two different sales from people who were moving out of state. I've also found a rake, all sorts of gift wrap, and an easel for my preschool room. These are all great finds, but today I'm really excited about the finds I found for my son's birthday. Oh! I love a great deal!!! Remember I only buy things that are new looking and that I need anyway. Even then, my rule is that when I get home, I have to lose the same amount of stuff I found. :) :) :) :) :) :) :)
 Jauco's birthday presents looked so cute! All garage sale wrappings. too. And you know what? They were all in the boxes marked as free. (Okay, I know, the tall gift is too Christmassy, and I didn't notice until after the picture.)
This large stuffed frog, with tags, was one dollar! Jauco loves stuffed animals. He wasn't allowed to sleep with them in the orphanage, so he makes up for it here.

This craft kit was a nickel. Since Jauco loves crafts and dogs, I thought he'd like it. When he opened it, he said, "Why do I need a doll?!" A doll? Okay, a bit of a bomb-gift, but it was cute. ;)

I paid $2.00 for this brand new looking game. All of us loved it so much, Jauco finally took it away so it wouldn't get broken, which was disappointing to me because I loved it! :)

We also ventured to a REAL store and got the large dart gun for him he had asked for. He LOVED it! He loved everything, except the "doll." I loved having a nice birthday for under $30!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

A Letter from Our Son


"Dear Mom and Dad
Thank-you for adopting me. I had a wonderfull time with you. You're great parents and wonderfull people. Thank-you for keeping me safe. And trying to keep me happy. Thanks a lot.
your son

PhotoI can't begin to tell you what this letter meant to Gary and me. It came about a year and a half after we brought our three children home from Ukraine. Those days have been filled with incredible ups and downs that only parents who have adopted older children from that part of the world can even imagine. The dynamics of our lives have changed dramatically, and I would never go back to how life was "before" this adventure started. I look at each of my children at different times and can't imagine life without any of them. I don't WANT to imagine life without them! Each person brings their own challenges with them; they also bring their own unique gifts to build and strengthen our family as a whole.

One day as I was having a  particularly difficult day with Alex, I felt so strongly that I was experiencing this specific time for my benefit, not his. This was a time for me to learn, grow, and develop. It is a kind Father in Heaven who brings people together to benefit from one another. I am not here to "save" Alex, only our Savior Jesus Christ can do that. I am here to help him, and he is here to help me. That's what being a family is all about.

It's wonderful to be part of a family, no matter how it was brought together.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Grocery Shopping at Half Price!!!

Oooo! I love a great deal. I've done so well this week, too, so I've got to share.

I like to do one large shopping trip each month, and do a lot of freezing. I break things into smaller sizes and freeze things like bread, butter, cheese, and smoothie supplies (bananas, strawberries, and spinach). I've tried to freeze milk, but I never remember to pull it out in time. I've also tried freezing cream cheese and yogurt. Umm....... not recommended, although I had a friend who did it, and was somehow successful at it.  

Gary and I saved 50% on our large run for groceries this week. Fifty percent to some people is not a whole lot, but to a family our size, that's huge! Like over $300 huge. We did it by using a website that gives all the sales for the week, and then we go to Walmart and price match. (When someone pops up in line behind me, I like to warn them before they stand there too long.) There are many different sites out there. The one we use is We pay $4.95 a month to use it, and we have to sign saying we won't pass any deals along, but since the deal is past I will give you an example. We got seven cucumbers for $.99. Not bad. It takes quite a bit of time, mind you, but $300? That's cool!

Christmas Shopping in May (on a Tight Budget)

I've been Christmas shopping this week. Yes, I know, it's May, but there are some super-duper deals out there right now. This one may put me in the loony category, but I like to start my Christmas shopping at garage sales. That's right. Another person's junk is my child's new treasure. I love it when I hit the end of a yard sale (between 1:00 and 3:00) because people are anxious to get rid of their stuff for cheap, cheap, cheap. I spent $33 on Saturday and I got eleven gifts, plus some supplies for my preschool, other supplies for helping my young boys practice their English, and some shoes for Tina.

No worries, these aren't lame gifts. I am VERY particular. I make sure they look new; I look for tags, and I look for things my children and hubby would really like. This week I even got two gifts, still in the box, for my grandbaby's birthday. I also got a baby gift, still in the box, for my pregnant friend's baby. She'll think I spent quite a bit of money on this cute little infant toy, but the truth is, it cost me $2.00.

Sarah was with me this week. As excited as she was with my preschool scissors and baby gifts (ha), she was thrilled when she got a whole bag of clothes for $5.00. In the bag she put a new looking dress, a few shirts, and a pair of summer shorts. She had extra room so she let me add a few of my own treasures, one that will be a Christmas shirt for my husband. It's just his size and style. It didn't have tags, but it still had the "I'm new" creases in it. Yes, all these things come from another home. They probably sat around for quite a long time, but they are great deals!

Some might worry that my children won't get what they want for Christmas. I remember a friend of mine being so surprised when she heard my children write Christmas lists for me. She had never heard of such a thing. I was actually embarrassed as I thought about it. I was inviting my child to be greedy, self-satisfying, and mightily disappointed. Many of the things on their lists, especially as they get older, are things that are no-no's in our home. Not even Santa breaks our "ridiculous house rules." I realized when I buy things and check them off from their "I want" lists, I find absolutely no satisfaction in giving at all. These aren't gifts; they are presents. Quite a difference. They still write their lists; it's tradition in our house, and I really will save some budget money for one thing they really want. I'm not a total scrooge. ;) I just love a great deal for my great kiddies!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Kind of Mom I'm Really Not

With the passing of Mother's Day, my mind has been immersed in memories of the kind of mom I was going to be- the kind of mom I was before I had children. I watched my mother do it, so I knew how to do it- and perfectly, too.

However, I should've known my mom was something extra special because of the awe in the praise I would hear from those who knew her. It was not uncommon for me to be asked, "How does she do it?" I would just shrug my shoulders and think, "Ah, that's what moms do." It never dawned on me that if I looked down the row of the other families at church, their eight girls would not be in matching homemade dresses and their three sons would not all have pressed white shirts and nice double-breasted suits. And they certainly would not all be sitting still (except for the occasional shoulder shakes we would get when we couldn't get rid of the giggles). It didn't occur to me that their moms hadn't just finished building a triple bunk bed or a new front porch. Their moms didn't make bread every single day, either, just to help keep the many bellies in the house full.

When I was pregnant with my first child, I had a great fear come over me. I hadn't turned into my mother. I wasn't yet twenty years old and I was still the same na├»ve, uneducated and very unskilled person I always had been. I had little sewing, cooking, managerial, or homemaking knowledge. I couldn't help but wonder at the daunting task that lay ahead of me. My biggest fear, though, was when I thought of the many nights my mom had stayed up into the wee hours of the morning sewing my prom dress, baking me a cake I needed for school the next day (because I was in tears after my three failed attempts), or finishing a decorating project she wanted finished before my dad would return from his business trip. I knew I just didn't have it in me to stay up all night. I required too much sleep. I just wasn't that giving of a person, either. I really didn't think I could love quite that much.

Then Rebecca was born. Oh! My precious baby! Never had I known a feeling like that. I absolutely knew there was not as much love in any other heart in all the world as there was in mine. It felt absolutely impossible. And then she taught me. That very night Rebecca cried until 4:00 in the morning. I couldn't get out of bed, but I wouldn't let the nurses help out and take her from my room. Her dad and I stayed up the whole night doing what we could to care for her. The next night was similar to her first, and so were many nights thereafter.

I was tired. I was sore from delivery and the other care an infant needs. I felt guilty that I didn't know how to care for her in such a way to keep her calm. But the one thing I didn't feel was the fear that I couldn't love enough. I knew on that first night I would have enough love in my little heart to care for her on that night and every night forevermore.

I'm really not the kind of mom I thought I would be. Circumstance has not allowed it. I don't make bread every day, and I certainly don't do construction work. I hardly even decorate. But do you know what? I don't sleep either. One child after another has come into my life needing my care, and I'm so grateful a kind Father in Heaven has filled my mother-heart with enough love for our own late night talks, snuggles after the nightmares, cleaning up a sick child, and you know what else? There was even a night when my dear Sarah was in tears after several attempts at sewing, and I stayed up into the wee hours of the morning finishing her jacket for the beautiful prom dress we made together. :)

Monday, May 13, 2013

Smile Through the Pain

Mom, thanks. 

As I was thinking of the single most important thing you taught me, I kept thinking of the way you taught me to smile through the pain. You taught me this mostly by your example, but sometimes you used words, although I really don't know that you had specific intentions of teaching me at the time. You were just being you.

One day I was telling you about an answer I received to something I had been praying about for nearly six years. The answer was in absolute contradiction to what I had wanted all along. When I told you what a hard time I was having with going forward, you said, "If that's the answer you got, then you don't complain about it, you just do it." Wow, Mom! Your faith is amazing. You understand that part of trusting in God is being cheerful about following His will.

Another time, when you were single, I was having a hard time feeling like I didn't fit in. I remember feeling so very sad. We sat on the edge of your bed as you intently listened to my concerns. When I had said enough, but just wanted to be near you, you pulled out a Sear's catalog and we dreamed of what my room could look like someday. We didn't have the money to buy anything to decorate my room with, but that didn't matter. The problems didn't go away any time soon, but I learned that thinking of happier things helps one feel better. I also felt the power of your love. 

Mostly, I learned to smile through the pain by watching you. No matter what the problem, you could find some way of working through it- mostly by doing just that, working. Your hard work showed me that no problem gets better by whining about it. You would just pull out a shovel and try to fix it. Whether you look at the checkbook and see there is no money left so you choose to babysit 13 children while home-schooling your own and running a business out of your home, or whether you need room for six more people to sleep so you put up walls and build a new bedroom, you find a way with absolutely no complaining.

Mom, this has been of great value to me throughout my life. Being cheerful brings me closer to my family and friends, but also closer to God. I can feel His love for me more as I search for the blessings in my life. I could never thank you enough for teaching me to smile through the pain.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Part of Me by Caleb Ceran

This is Caleb's first song with lyrics. He has dedicated this beautiful song to his angel mother.
Do you know what I love about this video? It's Caleb just being Caleb. He's up in his room on his little piano just acting so natural, no pretense, no fanfare, just simple wonderful Caleb.
BTW, that little $200 piano he writes on is a special piano. It was a Christmas gift for his big brother, Ian, in 2006, for Ian was also a gifted musician. Ian never received the gift, however, due to an accident just before Christmas. It was given to Caleb instead. Caleb treasures it, and has brought honor to his brother by the songs he has written on it.  

Monday, May 6, 2013

Video Game "Logic"

My kiddies think I'm anti-video games. Anti? Humph! That is  such a strong way to say it. To me 'anti' means against, opposed to, maybe even having abhorring feelings towards or hate for something. Anti? Let me think about this one.

I'm no scholar on the subject. I've read a few articles on the effects and seen a few print-ups and reports from doctors asking parents to limit the use of video games and television for their children, but when it comes down to it, all I really have is what I've seen in my own home and in the other children I associate with. Besides that all I have is my own "Mama Bear feelings."

So let's reason together, why do people play video games? Here's a small list of good reasons I've come up with (don't worry, this is not an all inclusive list):

-We play to get away from reality. What's wrong with that? This is life, and it can be hard. We are here to learn, to grow, to progress, to experience. What's wrong with running away from it all?

-We play for entertainment. Entertainment is good. Aren't violence and obscene words and graphics good if they are for the sake of entertainment because that helps us to be cultured. These things have no real or lasting effect on us anyway. Those old sayings about thoughts turning to actions and what we think about is what we become are so old fashioned and outdated. They were certainly said before the invention of the video game!

-Quality time. We love it when our husbands spend so much time with our sons. They choose video games so they can be together. They don't need to talk to each other (in a soft voice anyway). They don't even need to look anyone in the eye. That's always so awkward for young men.

-They are good for hand/eye coordination. That logic is also good for a great laugh!

-They are stimulating.  Never-ending rhythmic patterns are stimulating to any mind. The growth one must be experiencing when they can't think of anything else is intriguing for any parent or teacher who is trying to get a single word of intelligence out of a child.

-They breed habit. We, as parents, want our children to have good habits, so we give them video games. And since these games are made in such a way that people want more and more of them, we are just helping our children form addicting behaviors before they are old enough to know what is happening inside their little brains.

-They are fun. Ever notice that a child who loves video games tends to find reading, playing outside, hiking and camping boring? They are boring. That's because they have been exposed to the most fun a person can possibly have, so anything that requires effort, brain power, or muscles is just plain boring.

Why would my children insist I am anti-video games?!? With all the compelling reasons to allow them to spend their days and nights in front of a screen, large or small, I think the greatest reason I can think of to let them play is that I really don't want to deal with children right now. So kids, stand back. Summer is on its way. Pull out the video games!!!!

(Sorry, children, this really is all too good to be true. We will have shovels, books, and balls in our hands, just like we did last summer and the summer before that and the summer get the picture.)