Christmas

I couldn’t think of any clever titles for this post. :) Can you tell??!

I wanted to share some things – not because I want pity but because I feel like there are more people struggling with things this year, similar to us, and maybe they feel a little embarrassed (like I did). I am praying that other moms and dads that need to see this DO see this and understand they aren’t alone.

We have no Christmas budget this year. No, it isn’t because we’re filthy rich and can spend whatever on whomever.

It is because we had NO extra money to set aside for Christmas and have NO money to spend on anyone.

I have been embarrassed about this for the past two months. I mean, who doesn’t set aside at least a little money for Christmas gifts?? Who doesn’t plan ahead and get their kids something for Christmas?

Well….we don’t.

This year has been extremely difficult financially. EXTREMELY. Things we planned for and set aside money for got set to the back burner because unexpected, unplanned, big events (or, in some cases, several small events all at once) kept happening. Things with our old house. Things with our current house. And, just yesterday, things with our cars.

Our cars are six and seven years old. We know they won’t last forever, but we have been incredibly blessed with NEVER having anything wrong with them. We have never had to have major work done on them. Ever. Yesterday we found out my husband’s car badly needed the transmission flushed and it cost us our last bit of “extra” money we had. Money that I had planned to buy Christmas gifts with. Money we enjoyed having as a cushion (I know, a $150 cushion isn’t really a cushion…). So, the quick and cheap oil change we hoped to have done turned into 4 times as much money.

Our old house is in foreclosure – we received the court’s decision just two weeks ago. Unless you have gone through it, I don’t think you understand the embarrassment of saying you have a home in foreclosure. No, we don’t make a habit of not paying our debt. In fact, we had excellent credit up until this time. Because of this foreclosure and all the money we’ve had to put into it, we have let our credit card balance stay higher than we normally would…..and then the credit card company got wind of the foreclosure and lowered our credit limit….to just above what we owe on the card. So, that other cushion for any emergencies that we could use the credit card for has been removed. Our savings was also depleted in the midst of this stupid house thing.

So, we went from having a couple of options for any emergencies to having NO options.

Did I mention it is embarrassing??

Black Friday ads came out and everyone was mapping out their shopping strategies. Cyber Monday’s deals popped up and people were making their online wish lists.

Me? I was making a list of yarn I needed to crochet everyone’s gifts. Telling myself “Christmas is about Jesus not gifts” and “the kids will be better off with handmade gifts and don’t need more toys.” I just kept repeating to myself that we need to enjoy the people in our lives and not the gifts.

Aaaaaand, I was not buying any of it.

I want the toys for my kids. I want to see their eyes light up when they get that one big gift they’ve been asking about for months. I want them to be excited to open tons of gifts on Christmas day from Dad and Mom. I want to see the stacks of new things they received, knowing we provided it all for them.

But it isn’t happening. Those silly visions in my head aren’t going to play out. My kids are getting 2 wrapped things from us and 1 gift from Santa. AND I HATE IT!

I just started Christmas shopping this week – and it was for underwear and socks. My hands have been busy crocheting and making homemade items. I enjoy it, but I also kind of feel like I am cheating people out of gifts. If I wasn’t in this situation, would I feel cheated? – I keep asking myself that.

No, we aren’t poor. We have a new house and clothing and food every meal. Compared to most of the nation, I am sure we do not qualify as poor. Shoot, we don’t even qualify for government aid. We didn’t qualify for a short sale on the home.  Nevermind the 7 mouths he feeds with one income. Nevermind the fact that we tried to play it safe the past (almost) 10 years together – paying off credit card balances, paying off the cars, not buying stuff we couldn’t afford. Then the rental company cheats us on the income they “guaranteed” at the old house and here we are losing that house. We naively trusted an attorney, who had us paying an expensive monthly retainer even though we couldn’t afford the home he was helping us try to sell via short sale. And we went along with it – trusting him because my husband had helped bury his father. We finally had to just give up on that because it cost too much.

I am angry. Angry mostly at myself for buying into the sinful world’s message that Christmas MUST be about gifts. We HAVE TO buy our kids something huge or expensive or electronic. Because who wants a crochet scarf as their gift? As their only gift? No one. That’s who.

We have five days until Christmas, and we still have 4 people to buy something for…because I cannot think of anything to crochet for them. I have several crochet items to make for some others. And we have $0 to put toward gifts.

Secretly, I had hoped for a bonus from my husband’s employer. Almost every year he has received one. This year he did not. And I was angry about that.

I know in my heart it isn’t about gifts. I know deep down people understand. It is just so hard to know that the big gift my girls have been asking for…for over two years….will not come from us. They will get joy in receiving the gift from their grandparents. And it hurts. I want to be able to give them that gift.

And then this morning I read a blog post about hitting rock bottom and finding God there. Not wanting to be at rock bottom but understanding that maybe that is where God wants to be with us. That maybe we need to be at rock bottom for a while in order to be with God.

I get it. I really do. We aren’t at rock bottom. But we are out of MY comfort zone. I like to act as though things are ok. I can usually scrape together a few bucks to get a gift or do something extra. But right now I can’t. We are having to FULLY trust God to provide. It is a bit painful because it means sharing that we don’t have loads of money, we don’t get to buy our kids lots of gifts, we can’t go out to eat or go out with friends, I have to decline a girls’ night out, and so on.

If I am disappointed Christmas morning with my kids’ reactions to our gifts versus their reactions to gifts from others….that is my fault and my problem. I should just enjoy being with them!

Christmas is about Jesus. This Christmas, though, for ME….it is more about Jesus’ forgiveness and providence than about His birth. Not to downplay the awesomeness of His birth. Of course, we focus on the miraculous birth of our Savior. But, this year, I have more focus on His forgiveness for my disgusting attitude about stupid presents. And His provision every day for us for the things we need.

My God has definitely supplied our needs. He has gone above and beyond our needs. I just have not been seeing things through His eyes. And I have wasted almost the whole month of December COMPLETELY missing out on that joy.

Philippians 4:19 (NLT) – “And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.

Matthew 6:19-20 (NLT) – “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.”

That verse in Matthew stings a bit. I wasted my time being angry about not buying Christmas gifts and ignoring the fact that I should help my children make a difference for eternity. So, in essence, I gave them absolutely nothing this season. But, I kept telling myself that we were doing a simple Christmas. That we were making our gifts and only giving things they needed. Telling myself we are just doing three gifts: one handmade, one they need and one toy. I had my pious little attitude in front of others, that I was being all spiritual about gift-giving. In reality, I was angry that I had to do that. I wanted to give them a bunch of “stuff” and couldn’t, so I twisted it to seem like a spiritual thing. I missed the point completely!!

So, I am sharing this with you. I wanted to come clean about my awful attitude the last two months. The anger and jealousy and bitterness I had because I couldn’t make Christmas about the gifts like I wanted. The fact that I made it seem like I was being godly about it. The fact that I was being completely ungodly about it.

I don’t want to be some kind of martyr over stupid money and gifts. I truly want my kids to have a heart for Jesus. I want them to see Jesus in me….genuinely. I do not want them to obsess about toys and gifts. I want them to value relationships and the miracle of Christ’s birth.

I have five days left to accomplish this. :) Best place to start??….at the Throne of Grace.

“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
Hebrews 4:16 (NIV)

 

 

 

Menu Plan: December 15 – 31

We are STILL battling Influenza A here. :( The fourth kiddo to have a fever had a pretty high one last night – 104 degrees! We sat in the bathroom while she sat in the tub to cool her body down for about 30 minutes at 12:30 AM last night. Poor girl – I am really hoping that was the peak of the fever for her and that she is winding down now. She has moved into the congestion/cough phase, too, which makes me think the fever is almost done. This is how it was for two of the other kids.

I made up our two-week menu plan over the weekend, with hopes of being fever free through the night and make it to the store. The midnight fever kinda killed that idea. So, we are home (again!) today. Not sure when I will get groceries done or how much I will have to adjust this menu, but here is what I planned out:

Breakfast

Eggs and Ham

Eggs (fried, scrambled) x 3

Pancakes x 3

Biscuits and Gravy, bacon

Cereal x 4 (yes I am buying cereal again. there are some decent deals on organic ones.)

Cinnamon Rolls

PB & Chocolate Chip Oatmeal

Waffles x 2

Lunch

Leftovers x 6

PB & J x 5

Christmas Lunch (probably just snack-type items)

Out of Town at my parents’ home

Taquitos

Egg Salad x 2

Dinner (‘meatless’ means I am not buying a meat specifically for that meal)

Ham, Potatoes, Green Beans

Ham and Bean Soup, Cornbread

Baked Potato Bar

Cheesy Broccoli Soup (meatless)

Pizza x 2 (meatless)

Chicken Taco Casserole

Lentil Soup (meatless)

Chicken Barley Soup

@ my parents’ house (meatless)

Christmas Eve – my in-laws are bringing the main course (meatless)

Christmas Day – leftovers or snack foods or whatever we scrounge up :)  (meatless)

Pasta Bake with meat sauce

Creamy Veggie Bake (meatless)

Pork Stuffing Casserole

 

When Life Goes A Little Different Than Planned

We made it through Thanksgiving with no illness! It was wonderful – we visited with my sister from out-of-state, we had snuggles with our new niece, the kids played with all their cousins on my side, we ate so much delicious homemade food. Such a great weekend!

Then came last week. Iris was complaining her throat still hurt when she yawned (a symptom she had the week BEFORE Thanksgiving, which led to antibiotics for what the Urgent Care doctor thought would be strep but never returned a positive result). I was starting to worry that she did for sure have strep but that it never went away. I called our family doctor’s nurse and spoke with her about whether or not to make an appointment. Our doctor was packed with appointments but another doctor in the practice (that we really like) was available. So, we went in that afternoon; she checked Iris over and said she wanted to re-test for Strep and Mono. I was more worried about the Mono! But, she came back negative for that. She came back positive for Strep! Ugh. I thought we were done with this. :( So, she started on a 10 day round of antibiotics last Wednesday. She had to miss her Bible quiz practice as well as her AWANA club that night at church. Iris was very bummed. The nice doctor said if anyone else develops any symptoms, just schedule a nurse visit to swab for Strep rather than set up a whole appointment to meet with the doctor; she really understood the struggle getting five kids in and waiting to see the doctor!

On Friday, Ethan had a fever. I immediately called and set up a nurse visit. He was swabbed but was negative on the rapid test for Strep. I noticed he had some swollen gums, and I assumed it was just teething. (The 48 hour culture, we found out Monday, did indeed say negative. So, definitely not Strep.) But he seemed very out of sorts, too.

Sunday morning, Lily had a little bit of a tummy ache. She felt warm, but no fever or any other symptoms. She sat with me in church, while the other kids went to their Sunday School classes. When we got home….her temperature was 101. She didn’t have any more tummy issues and no new complaints. I gave her some fever meds and had her rest. That night was to be the Christmas celebration for Lily, Addy, and Buddy in their AWANA groups. Buddy was so excited to shake the jingle bells and sing songs. I had to call and say we wouldn’t be there (I am one of the leaders, and my husband was working late.). The kids were so bummed they were missing their Christmas party!! We did drop Iris off (now symptom-free and on meds for 4 days) for her choir practice; she was able to deliver our Christmas gifts to kids/teachers in AWANA.

Next, on Monday morning, Lily continued to have a fever. Then I noticed Buddy’s eyes were a little glassy. Sure enough…he had a fever too. Their fevers came down with medicine but creeped back up to 101-102 in between doses. I was starting to worry they caught Iris’ strep. But they had no other symptoms, so I let it go. Wednesday, they still had fevers on and off. So, we made a doctor appointment. She looked them over and saw one of Buddy’s ears was red inside – he might have an ear infection, she said. She prescribed an antibiotic. Lily’s ears were fine but her one tonsil seemed quite red. She might have strep, but the rapid test in the office screwed up and was “inconclusive.” So, she swabbed again for the 48 hour culture. Knowing Iris was finishing up her meds, she prescribed Lily some too to get started.

Iris was all good to go to her Christmas celebration at her AWANA club that night, so we picked up meds and dropped her off. I picked her up afterward, and she was so happy to have gone. We took two of her girlfriends home, and she chatted and giggled all the way home.

THE NEXT MORNING (yesterday), Iris came into our room crying that her head hurt so bad. She couldn’t lie down or sit up or close her eyes without it pounding. It was about 4:30 AM; Arthur was out running without his phone. I had Ethan in bed with me because he decided 4:00 was a good time to get up. I JUST WANTED TO SLEEP! Poor Iris was miserable, though. Got her some ibuprofen for the headache but worried, as usual. (I hate hearing that kids have headaches; it really freaks me out that something is wrong.)

Dad came home and Iris’ stomach was now hurting, too. She was crying and in pain. So, at 5:30 AM, Dad took Iris to Urgent Care. I had a suspicion of what it was, but I was REALLY hoping I was wrong. But….my worries were confirmed. She tested positive for Influenza A. :(

Yes, we got our flu shots. No, I don’t want to argue about their effectiveness or their poison. I do it because we have two little boys that struggle when they have respiratory illnesses, and I want to avoid the harshness of the flu on their respiratory systems.

THANKFULLY, Iris’ symptoms were mild. Headache and tummy ache. No problem. Got her in bed. Got her some water and her Kindle. She was all set to stay quarantined for the day. No fever or cough or chills or body aches or stuffiness……until a few hours later. Her body hurt, she was freezing, she was to cover up with a million blankets. She developed a fever and a stuffy nose out of nowhere. Then she had a runny nose. The nurse said this would happen and that she would be contagious as long as she had the fever, sneezing, or a cough.

Addy started getting a fever before lunch, too. I decided to put the girls on their beds with something to do/play and keep the boys far from them. Then I started to wonder….could we have had this Flu last week and not even known? Online it says that sometimes ear infections in kids are a symptom or side effect of the flu. Could Buddy have had it?

Did Lily have it on Sunday and we didn’t know? They didn’t swab her for the flu on Wednesday, so she could have been walking around with it infecting other people! I started to feel really bad that we might have given this to others.

Then, we realized….Iris’ big Christmas Concert for choir is on Sunday, with a practice on Saturday. She was going to have to miss it all. :( Another thing we are missing. Another Christmas celebration we cannot attend.

I admit, I was getting pretty aggravated yesterday. Yes, I am so thankful we had Thanksgiving with my family. But, we have missed AWANA Christmas celebrations, Buddy missed his singing for the moms and dads, Iris is missing her big Christmas program for choir. We cannot even attend to see the orchestra or adult choir. We don’t get to see our Grandmas and Grandpas that planned to come watch Iris. We cannot go anywhere or do anything. And the kids are frustrated with the fevers and being so cold but not being able to cover up.

I wanted to be so much more involved with church, but it seems like everything we want to do gets shot down! Christmas Caroling is next Wednesday at church, but I am afraid to even want to plan to go….because we might have picked up some other illness by then!

I had big plans to work on my Melaleuca business the first half of this month (I mean, the membership is only $1!!! I wanted to be making calls and planning appointments to let people know!), but that got shot down because kids are crying or needing meds or not sleeping or fighting. I can’t meet with anyone because who knows what I’m carrying!

There are a lot of I‘s at the beginning of those sentences above. I realize that. This is not about me….I have realized that. These poor kids’ bodies are fighting illnesses. We are trying to be smart about the meds – not filling the Tamiflu prescription because we didn’t feel it did much last year for us and didn’t want unnecessary meds ruining our immune system more. I am pumping these kids full of vitamins and fresh foods and smoothies with homemade yogurt (great probiotic to counteract the antibiotics’ effects on the gut!). We are drinking lots of water and broth. We are sanitizing with Melaleuca’s Sol-U-Guard (as effective as Lysol in killing influenza on surfaces…but without the toxins).

Just feeling a little defeated here with all our December plans and nothing really working out. :(

I did not get yesterday’s post up for the Organized Home series. My plans to schedule that post were ruined also (not that the posts are all that important compared to my kids’ health and comfort). I am missing a cookie exchange tonight in the neighborhood, too!

This post doesn’t have much of a point. Just typing out my frustrations. I am tired. The kids are bored, feverish, not wanting to do school work. Laundry is starting to pile up because instead of washing clothes yesterday, I washed linens…and linens…and more linens!!

Ok, now that I got all the frustration out….I do have TWO things from yesterday that absolutely made my day:

1. The boys are not ill, so I kept them downstairs with me all day. Buddy and I got all the Christmas decorations up together! (yes, I realize we are very late in doing this…) I don’t think we would have set aside time to decorate at all if we hadn’t been stuck home yesterday. He got so excited finding spots for everything and helping me set up our village! It really was so fun being able to have one-on-one time with him and share in his excitement. We usually have the girls around when we do things together, so he doesn’t get the attention he got yesterday. I think he and I both really loved the bonding!!

2. I have LOTS of crochet time. Because we don’t have appointments or shopping or classes to be at, and the girls are all stuck in bed – I have been able to fill crochet orders! I received 3 more this week to finish up before Christmas, in addition to the 2 orders I had from last week! So, I am extremely thankful for that extra money this month.

I really want to be better about seeing the positive when things don’t go MY way. Sure, we are missing all kinds of Christmas parties and whatnot, but we are together at least. We have wonderful insurance that allows us to just run to Urgent Care at 5AM when we need to. We have access to healthy foods and local foods (been using LOTS of our local honey this week!!) to help boost our immune systems while we are taking medications. No one’s illness has been serious in any way. I know lots of kids struggle with the Influenza symptoms, but we have had it easy. So, I really shouldn’t complain.

Life just doesn’t go as we had planned sometimes. Makes me think of that verse: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11) I know the Lord has bigger plans, and maybe He is trying to teach us to just enjoy being with each other. Or maybe He is keeping us from other, more serious, illnesses by missing out on those parties. Or maybe teaching me not to be so selfish. (nah!) :)

Another thing I thought of is that quote going around on Facebook – “If you knew the size of the blessing coming, you’d understand the magnitude of the battle you’re fighting.” I know our battle isn’t terribly huge, at all. I know there is a blessing here. Just gotta redirect my focus to see it.

Happy Friday everyone! Enjoy your health and your family!!

Recipe: Homemade Yogurt

I posted before about my experimentation with homemade yogurt. I used the recipe from Money Saving Mom’s Crockpot Yogurt. The first time I made the yogurt, it was pretty runny. We used most of it for smoothies. I had used raw milk but had skimmed a lot of the cream off for making butter, so there wasn’t a lot of fat left in the milk for the yogurt. I guess fat is important! :) And I had used regular yogurt from the store as my starter (not greek and not organic). My crockpot is large, and I felt like the 3 hours of cooling actually left my milk too cool when I mixed in the starter. So, the incubation time overnight really didn’t work.

I decided to try it again this past weekend….with several changes.

The milk was FULL fat raw milk. I have my opinion on the raw milk and really feel like to get the best yogurt, you should use raw milk. It has the most vitamins and protein and if you’re going to make your yogurt….why not get the most out of it?

I poured a half-gallon into the large crockpot and set it to LOW for 2 hours, setting the timer to remind myself! After two hours, I turned it off and let it cool for ONLY 1 1/2 hours. The milk was still very warm to the touch at that point. I then removed about 1 cup of the heated milk added in 2 tablespoons of store-bought organic plain greek yogurt. I figured if I am using the raw milk, it would be silly to add in non-organic yogurt full of additives.

I stirred the milk/yogurt mixture back into the milk in the crockpot, put the lid on and wrapped the whole thing with 2 beach towels and 3 kitchen towels. I really wanted that sucker wrapped well! I left it from 8:30pm to about 6:30am.

The result??? AMAZINGLY thick yogurt! It smelled so good! It was much thicker this time when I opened the crockpot lid. To thicken it even more, I strained it right then (saving the whey this time!!) before scooping into glass jars and refrigerating. After refrigerating for a few hours, I took it out and it was even thicker! We made some yummy smoothies yesterday with it and frozen fruit and honey…to help fight the sickness we have here.

I would definitely recommend trying the crockpot yogurt! It was very easy and it is very delicious. I don’t really like plain yogurt’s flavor, but I must say….it is pretty dang tasty this way! :)

CROCKPOT YOGURT

1/2 gallon raw whole milk

2 TBSP organic greek yogurt (plain)

1. Pour milk into crockpot and heat on LOW for 2 hours.

2. Turn off crockpot and unplug. Let sit/cool for 1.5 hours.

3. Take out 1 cup of the milk from crockpot and add in the greek yogurt starter. Stir well to combine.

4. Pour milk/yogurt mix back into crockpot and stir with a wooden spoon to incorporate well.

5. Put lid back on and wrap the entire crockpot with towels and let sit 8-12 hours (overnight works because then you aren’t tempted to peek!).

Check yogurt after 8-12 hours. Strain, if desired, for thicker yogurt. Save the whey strained for smoothies, baking, or Ricotta!! Place yogurt into glass jars and refrigerated at least two hours.

DELICIOUSNESS!!!

Bake It Tuesday

Well, last week’s baking plan didn’t actually happen on Tuesday. I did end up making bread and cookie bars, but not until Friday and Saturday! I was so lazy last week. It was awful!

The bread I made Saturday (2 loaves, I should add!) is almost gone, so I will be baking 2 more loaves today. I am always amazed at how our bread eating habits fluctuate. Some weeks, we do not hardly eat any bread. Other weeks….I can’t seem to make it fast enough!

The cookie bars are pretty much gone as well, so i will probably make some granola bars with our local honey. I am considering some peanut butter cookies as well. I have a taste for peanut butter chocolate chips anything right now!

Are you baking this week? Care to share?? :)

Button My Stitches

I don’t remember (and am a little lazy today to check) if I mentioned on here that I changed my Etsy shop name! It is now Button My Stitches. :)

I have been busy with orders – both on Etsy and in person – and just wanted to mention that I will take orders for Christmas up until next Monday, December 15! I want to make sure everyone has their items on time for Christmas, and I think the 15th will give me enough time to finish up any new orders and still give me time to finish up presents I am making for my own family! (because how rude would it be if I make everything for the orders but run out of time for the things I am making for my own kids?! LOL)

Feel free to order through Etsy or contact me here with any questions and get your handmade goodies in time for Christmas!!

Thanks!

Menu Plan Check-In

So glad we menu plan!! Last week, my oldest complained again of pain when she yawned (as she did two weeks ago but ended up being negative for Strep). I took her in on Wednesday and she was positive for Strep. :( New antibiotics for a longer period of time – different kind that seem to be easier on her tummy, thankfully! Unexpected doctor appointments with five children leads to me being flustered and the day just being screwed up! I was very happy to have a menu plan to look at and find an easy, quick dish to make that night for dinner.

THEN, yesterday morning, Lily felt a little warm before church. She sat with me in the service and when we got home, she had a slight fever. Went about our day as usual, for a Sunday, but then Buddy woke up from naps with a slight fever too. Lily’s ever was up to 101, also. We decided to stay home from AWANA last night, which really stunk because it was the Christmas program for  Buddy. And we had a bunch of things to give people! Arthur was working, so I was on my own. I decided to go ahead and drop off Iris for choir practice, and she delivered everything to everyone….and we were able to get our honey from the family at church we buy from!! We were almost completely out, so the honey was definitely needed!

Anyway, it is times like those that it is VERY helpful to have a menu plan. Especially with children, illness can really mess up the “norm” in a home. Menu plans give me a little of my sanity back. :)

Now, I may have to adjust some of our dishes with eggs. Our normal egg lady informed me she has had some problems with eggs freezing overnight, so we were only able to purchase two dozen from her, instead of our normal 4 dozen (for a two-week period). Hoping she texts me today to say her egg count is back up! If not, we may do more oatmeal for breakfasts, so I don’t have to purchase store eggs.

(Have you ever had a farm fresh egg?? It is so incredibly delicious! So much more tasty than store-bought ones…that have been sitting there for who knows how long!)

Did you menu plan for this week? What do your selections look like? It is a one week plan? Two-Week plan? Longer? Please feel free to share!!