Monday, November 19, 2012

Thanksgiving Journal

     Since 2004, our family has kept a Thanksgiving journal.  Each of us goes around and tells what we are thankful for after our Thanksgiving meal while one of us records our responses in a journal.  If we have company, we invite them to join us in being thankful.  Last year, we read through our Thanksgiving journal, going back several years.  When we read through mine, I had said that I was thankful "for a car that works" every year.  We thought that was hilarious.  I worded it the exact same way every time.  I was also thankful for chocolate and coffee, my husband and boys.  No surprises there.

     Our boys have been thankful for things like "dry diapers" (when my youngest was 2 we filled in what we thought he would be thankful for!), Sunday School teachers, friends, Legos, a fish named Redeye, Mommy's yeast rolls, candy, Jesus dying on the cross and rising again, penguins, cute little puppy dogs, clean water, and "losing my teeth."  
     What are you thankful for this year?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Jenny's Pumpkin Bread

     I'm allergic to nutmeg so I have to modify lots of pumpkin recipes.  Here is a recipe that I came up with a few years ago.  I like to combine the features of several recipes to come up with my own.  This pumpkin bread is yummy -- and you can substitute sweet potatoes (mashed).  Very tasty -- and no nutmeg.

Jenny’s Pumpkin Bread

2 ¼ cups flour
1 tblsp. all-spice
¼ tsp. Cinnamon
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
2 eggs
2 cups sugar
1¾ cups mashed pumpkin (15 oz can) or cooked, mashed sweet potatoes
½ cup vegetable oil
½ cranberries (optional) 
½ cup walnuts or pecans, chopped (optional)
cinnamon/sugar mixture to sprinkle on top

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine flour, all-spice, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.  Mix well.  In a separate bowl, mix eggs, sugar, pumpkin or sweet potato, and oil.  Mix well.  Stir dry ingredients into wet ingredients.  Add cranberries if desired and mix thoroughly.  Spoon into 2 greased and floured 8x4x2 (or 9x5x2) inch loaf pans.  Sprinkle top with chopped walnuts or pecans and then cinnamon/sugar.  Bake at 350 degrees for 55 mins or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool 10- 20 mins.  Remove and let cool completely on rack.  Wrap with plastic wrap.  

How to Save Money at the Grocery Store

     I've had people ask me how I save money by using coupons.  There are a million sites on how to use coupons, but I am going to attempt to explain my personal system.  It's not that hard, but it takes practice.
     First, you need to know a few things.

1.  Know how much stuff costs.  You can't know if something is a good deal if you don't know what it normally costs.  Years ago, I made a notebook of what our most common purchases cost at different stores.  Now, it's all in my head.

2.  Shop loss leaders.  Now that you know what things cost, you know what a good deal is.  Almost every grocery store flier has items that are loss leaders.  Loss leaders are items sold at cost or below cost to get you in the store, hoping to suck you into buying lots of other things.

3.  Stock up when things go on sale.  Don't buy things you don't need, and pay attention to expiration dates. When things you use a lot go on sale for really cheap, stock up.  Don't go all "extreme couponing," but buy enough to last you a while.  For example, I always keep 2 laundry detergents.  When one gets low, I start looking for sales on another.  This past week, All detergent was $2.99, and I had a coupon for "buy 2 get $1.00 off," so I got two.  I never ever pay full price for something like detergent, deodorant, soap, or toothpaste.

4.  Know when things go on sale.  Baking supplies, cream soups, canned soups,  broth, etc. go on sale from November until  Christmas.  Hot dogs, condiments, etc. go on sale around Memorial Day, the 4th of July, and Labor Day.  Here in Texas, we have items such as Spam that go on sale at the start of hurricane season.

5.  Meal plan around sales.  

6.  Buy the Sunday paper with the coupons.  I have it delivered at my home for $1 a week.

7.  Sign up your Kroger card online.  They will send you their coupons in the mail, or coupons to your e-mail box.  Yesterday, I got a "digital" coupon offer in my box for buy $5 off produce, get $2 off.  

     This is what I did Monday, November 5th.  I find that Kroger has the best overall prices and deals, so I mainly shop there.

1.  I looked at Kroger's sales flier and circled all items that were a great deal.  They were having a "buy 10 participating items, save $5 at the checkout" sale.

2.  I went to, logged in, clicked on "Grocery Deals by State," clicked on the Kroger icon, and clicked "Texas Deals" on the right.  Current Kroger Deals popped up.  I clicked on the left hand side anything that looks like a good deal and that we use.  Then at the bottom, click "Display Selected Deals."  Print.  I also took the time to print out any online coupons that were listed. 

3.  I went to Kroger's website and loaded some of their digital coupons onto my card.  Didn't use them.

4.  Coupon clipping.  I used my deals from to find the coupons in my coupon fliers/booklets.  I write the date on the front of each coupon flier.  Then I use the "code" on the side of the print-out to find the coupon I need -- rather than cut out all the coupons.  So, the print-out looks like this:

10-28 RPDiGiorno Pizza 12.6-34.2 oz
Qualifies for Buy 10 Get $5 Off at checkout, final price after promo savings


The coupon I need for the DiGiorno Pizza is in the 10-28 packet of Red Plum coupons.  I get that packet of coupons out of my folder, find the Digiorno coupon, and clip it.  You'll also get SmartSource and other coupons.  (I do not have time to cut out and organize every coupon.  This way works for me.)

5.  I went through coupons I got from Kroger in the mail and pulled out ones I could use.  They usually send ones that correspond with the sales.

     All this took me about 40 minutes.  I took my list and my youngest son and headed to the store.  As I purchased items from the "Buy 10 get $5 off" sale, I put a tally mark on my list.  I bought 60 of those items.  I spent $94.61.  I saved $86.57 or 47%.  I only used $8.30 in manufacturers coupons -- mostly I took advantage of the loss leaders in the Kroger flier.  Campbells cream of Mushroom and chicken are on sale for 50 cents.  I use this a lot so I bought 10.  Land O' Lakes butter was $1.99 -- I bought 4.  I got a free tube of toothpaste and a free toothbrush.  I put those in our Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts.
     This will take you longer than 40 minutes to start out, but it gets easier.  I think 40 minutes of work to save $86 is not so bad!


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Waging a War Against a False Sense of Entitlement

    Our society lives and breathes a false sense of entitlement.  It's false because it's not true.  It goes something like this:  I want it so I deserve it and someone will get it for me.  No need to earn it.  No need to work hard.  No need to wait on the Lord.  So how do we fight against a false sense of entitlement?

 1.  Don't make it so easy.
     I remember when the Atari came out.  Oh my goodness!  We thought that was the coolest thing ever.  My three sisters and I wanted one.  We wanted one bad.  My dad got one of those cans with the plastic lid, cut a hole in the top of the plastic lid to make it look like a bank, and told us that we could buy it when we'd saved up for it.  We saved and saved and saved and saved.  I can't remember exactly the cost, but I remember it took us about a year to save up the money.  Then we bought it, and we loved it.  I played Pac-Man until I had a blister on the inside of my thumb from the joystick.  The Atari was the greatest invention ever.
     A few years ago, my boys wanted a Wii.  My husband got one of those cans with the plastic lid, cut a hole in the top of the plastic lid to make it look like a bank, and told them that we could buy it when we'd saved up for it.  (Yep, he knew the Atari-story.)  It took us about nine months, and the day we bought it, the boys were so happy.  The waiting and the family effort of working and saving for something was fun and taught the boys the discipline of saving for something they wanted, even if it took a really long time.
     The point of this long story:  Don't make it so easy for your kids to have all those things they really, really want.  There is something good about saving and waiting -- and waiting and waiting.

2.  Don't be afraid to say no.
     Sometimes your kids don't need that stuff at all.  They don't have to go to every activity.  They are not entitled to play computer games all day.  Say no.  

3.  Make them do chores.
     Teach your children to do chores because they are members of your family.  Things need to be done, and they need to help.

4.  Don't make excuses for their bad behavior.
     Adam said it was Eve's fault.  Eve said it was the snake's fault.  Since the beginning of history, humans do not want to take responsibility for their bad behavior.  Don't enable that.

5.  Don't bail them out all the time.
     Sometimes they will make mistakes that cost time, energy, and grades.  Don't bail them out all the time.  It's ok to fail.  Painful for the parent, but ok.  

6.  Teach them the value of money.
     When young, teach them the value of money in terms they will understand.  "I can buy three bags of Kroger brand of pretzels or one of this brand for the same amount of money.  Which is a better deal?"  Last week, I took my youngest to the grocery store and he wanted some Little Debbie's Christmas cakes that were on sale for 3 for $5.  The Christmas tree shapes had 5 in the package.  The same cakes in a six-sided shape had 10 in a package.  He went with the 10 after I pointed out he could get way more for the same amount of money!
     When they are older, make them save up for stuff they want -- even if it takes a long time.  I am surprised by the number of teenagers who have no concept of what things cost.

7.  Get over the guilt.
     Who cares if everyone else is doing it or that everyone else has one.  You need to stand firm and be the parent.  It's ok.  They will not die if they don't get everything they want.  It's good for them.  Don't feel guilty.  

8.  Encourage ministry to those less fortunate.
     Do an Operation Christmas Child shoebox every Christmas.  Help a needy family through your church.  Take them to a food pantry or a soup kitchen to volunteer.  Help them see that they are truly blessed.
     So what do you want your kids to learn about money and stuff.  Think through what you want them to know and believe, remembering that a sense of entitlement can strangle the Holy Spirit.  Then go from there.  We know stuff doesn't make us happy and true happiness comes from trusting in God -- let's live that out and train our kids to do the same.

For more:  
Entitlement -- Strangling the Holy Spirit
Entitlement Vs. Waiting on and Trusting in the Lord

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Entitlement vs. Waiting On and Trusting in the Lord

Entitlement: belief that one is deserving of or entitled to certain privileges

     For a few months now, the subject of entitlement has been wandering around slowly in my head.  The subject keeps making appearances in my psyche, and I've been trying to put my random thoughts into some sort of order.  On Sunday, I heard Joanne Kraft discuss entitlement and how the attitude robs our children and strangles the Holy Spirit.  I keep turning this over in my mind, and it seems to me that entitlement seems to go hand-in-hand with not wanting to wait and a lack of trust.

     I ended my last blog post by saying, "it seems, the enemy has done more to harm us through this suburban-lifestyle-entitlement-stuff than we can imagine.  I'm pondering all this, but I think it has to do with waiting.  Waiting for stuff.  Waiting on the Lord.  Waiting."

     We are always in a hurry, but entitlement is the "belief that one is deserving of or entitled to certain privileges" -- not only that we are entitled to privileges and things, but we are entitled to them now, not later.  We expect what we want when we want it.  I think texting and e-mailing and googling has added fuel to this fire of needing, wanting, demanding everything now and fast.  It used to be that if someone called you and you called back in a day or two, that was ok.  Now, we're like, "She didn't call me back for 2 days!"  We expect that we will get a text response immediately, or we're being ignored.  We expect stuff now.  Right now.  Life seems urgent, hurried.

     I was going to say that this attitude of entitlement is a kid-thing, but I think it's a people-thing.  No one wants to wait anymore for anything ever.  How does entitlement strangle the Holy Spirit?

     God doesn't work on our time table.  He's not in a hurry. The more time goes on and technology makes life "easier," the harder it is to wait for anything, and waiting on the Lord and His timing becomes harder and harder and harder.  I think, when we don't have time to wait, we don't have time to trust, and then we strangle the Holy Spirit because He doesn't work as fast as we want Him to.  He's not fast enough, and we try to speed things up and get ourselves in all sorts of trouble.

          Therefore, when God isn't fast enough, we lose trust.  If we believe we are entitled to things when we want them, then we get angry at God if we don't get them when we are ready to have them.  We don't trust that He knows what He is doing and that waiting might be good for us -- or that thing or job or relationship might not be what we really need at all.  Eventually, the entitlement attitude in our kids will translate to a lack of trust in the Lord as they become adults.

     So maybe a lesson we need to teach our children in this society is how to wait.  How to slow down.  Maybe we all need to practice waiting. 
     Waiting.... for stuff.  Waiting on the Lord.  Waiting.

Noah waited for rain while people mocked him every day.
Abraham waited for his son, Isaac.
David waited to be king on God's timetable while Saul tried to kill him over and over.
Jesus waited to begin His ministry until 30 years old.
Paul was prohibited to preach the word in Asia even though he really wanted to.

Isaiah 40:31  but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

     How do we teach our kids to wait?  How do we teach them to trust in the Lord NOW for the little things so they are not afraid of waiting for big things later?   

     More later.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Entitlement -- Strangling the Holy Spirit

Entitlement: belief that one is deserving of or entitled to certain privileges

     Last night, I was listening to Family Life on the radio, and I heard an interview with Joanne Kraft about her book Just Too Busy:  Taking Your Family on a Radical Sabbatical.  The book sounds interesting, but what caught my attention was a short tangent from discussing the book. 
     Some friends of the family asked her son if he could come to Australia and be a jackeroo on their 3,000 acre sheep ranch.  The son figured he needed $1200 to go and asked his dad to pay.  His dad responded, “You know what, son, I can pay for that, but I’m not going to pay for that. That’s between you and the Lord.”  The son was shocked and replied, “But Dad, I’m only 15! How am I going to earn money to go?”  Well, with hard work and faith that God could provide, her son earned the money for the trip. At the end of the story, Joanne Kraft said this:

"I tell this story, when I share with parents at conferences or at women’s conferences, about entitlement and how we are robbing from our children....We’re stealing opportunities. We’re really strangling the Holy Spirit. How do we expect to raise independent, God-honoring, hard-working children if we don’t allow them those opportunities? We can’t expect our kids to want to lean on God if they’re not doing it now....We do, we steal from our kids."

     Stealing from our kids.  

     I've been tossing the idea of entitlement around in my head for a couple of weeks now.  I've heard parents tell stories of kids who beg for a toy and then play with it for a day and then they're done.  I've heard parents say they are afraid to say no to their teenagers.  I've heard of teenagers who have no idea how much their car insurance costs their parents.  In my gut, it seems that all this is unhealthy, bad for our kids like eating too much candy or drinking too much soda, but it's much worse than I thought.

     Strangling the Holy Spirit.

     Beyond fostering ingratitude and unhealthy attitudes about stuff and life and work and responsibility, we are "strangling the Holy Spirit" when we give in to and encourage, however indirectly and unintentionally, attitudes of entitlement in our children.  

     Interesting.  So, it seems, the enemy has done more to harm us through this suburban-lifestyle-entitlement-stuff than we can imagine.  I'm pondering all this, but I think it has to do with waiting.  Waiting for stuff.  Waiting on the Lord.  Waiting.  

    More later.