Sunday, November 23, 2008

A Letter to My Grandma

November 23, 2008
Colorado Springs, Colorado

Dear Grandma,
The last time I saw you was so bittersweet. You are dearly missed here, though it would be selfish to wish you back to this world of pain and suffering. This week it was hard not to receive the annual letter you would always send full of news which you would always wrap up with love, encouragement and affirmation. These letters have meant so much to me, especially in recent years.

I want you to know what a blessing you were to me and although I expressed this to you in your living years, I wish I would have mentioned it more often. I am so thankful for the privilege of growing up just one mile away from you, less if we walked through the corn field. I'm thankful for your amazing example of faith in God alone, of diligence, consistency and hard work, of living sensibly and resourcefully, of always having time to serve and support your family. I remember days spent at your home, in the house helping you in the kitchen while listening to Focus on the Family or Chuck Swindoll, and outside working on your many flowers or in your productive garden. I also remember once not wanting to do dishes or some other kitchen task at your house and having you tell me "A job's half done once it's begun." It is funny the things which stick in my memory, though that phrase has served me well. Some days I still don't want to do the dishes. :)Too, I remember being at your home in the evening and cuddling up with you and Grandpa along with my sister and brothers on the couch eating apples and oranges and popcorn. And staying overnight in your home and feeling that that was a special time. I remember you being a listener for Awana and wanting to make you proud by reciting my verses well. I remember getting to sit with you in church sometimes and Grandpa sharing his Certs with me. But most of all, I just remember you always being there.

You were such a good grandma, never spoiling (that I remember, but you probably did) but always showing that we were important to you and that we were loved, not because of the stuff you gave us, but because of the love in action and encouragement and wise instruction. Thank you for the letters you sent every year for my birthday. I enjoyed them so much as you told the happenings there like it was with a little opinion thrown in sometimes for good measure. I've saved most of those letters and will treasure them. I was so proud to be your granddaughter as your eulogy was given. Many of those stories from your younger days I had not heard. There are so many from your life which went untold, but that isn't surprising since I never heard you say a boastful word. It wasn't like you to bring attention to yourself. And yet that day in August I learned from you, even though you had departed. Your resourcefulness and your steadfast and pioneering spirit inspire me. I wish I would have asked you to tell those stories more. I wish I would have lived near you in my adult years and learned your secrets of growing delicious and prolific tomatoes and asked you deeper questions about your faith in your 80 years of life and asked you for advice in rearing children in the ways of the Lord. I wish...

What I really wish, albeit selfishly, is that you would be sitting with us around the table this week as we gather to reflect on God's goodness and give Him the praise and thanks. I'm so glad I could see you on your two final days on this earth and that I had the opportunity to say good-bye, but this grief is not easy. It comes in waves and is triggered out of the blue...when I hear the song Jenn sang at your funeral on the radio, when I received a birthday card from another grandma with something written that you would have written to me and in similar handwriting to yours, when my two older children talk about you being in Heaven, and when they express that they want to put flowers on your grave when we head out next, and countless other things. It is very hard, because you are so dearly loved and because I knew you into adulthood, which is something I certainly don't take for granted.

My life was forever changed because of you! I love you, Grandma! God is always good and He ordained the number of your days, and I find comfort in that. I'll see you in Heaven, where there is no more pain, no more suffering, no more crying, no more grieving.

Much love,

Friday, November 14, 2008

We Love These Little Shoes!

We have loved putting our children in little Robeez shoes. Thanks, Grandma, for sharing that Canadian product with us! They are such sweet and comfy shoes that it is a sad day when their Robeez no longer fit.

When I saw on Mom Advice's Freebie Friday post today that Robeez was making a donation for each eCard sent, I was glad to do it. The donation made by Robeez will helps kids around the world in needy and distressed situations. Go here to send your own eCard!

Have a great weekend!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Overheard Today

From the lips of my six-year-old to his little sister, "The economy is going bad. People are spending too much money." Hmmm...where is he getting this information? Maybe he's on to something.

Really, in all seriousness, we have spoken with our kids about this, but sometimes it is hard to know what and how much to say. They are still children, after all. There is also danger in giving them some information which they then undoubtedly spin into a completely different thought. Active imaginations and attentive ears, I tell ya!

Baby, Baby

No, we're not having one at present, though we seem to be in the middle of a baby boom with our friends and families. With Christmas coming soon there aren't many extra funds to divert to baby gifts so I did the best with what I had around and came up with some cute, unique gifts that I hope they will like.

This is a set of two burp cloths, fleece hat and on-the-go pouch which is just big enough for a few diapers, a small wipes case and maybe an outfit or receiving blanket. The pouch was made from a clearanced placemat, a spare button and some twill tape recycled from a gift wrapping. You can't see it in the picture, but the twill tape goes around the pouch creating a handle at the very top of the back. The stiff nature of the placemat makes for a nice sturdy bag.

The second set is made up of two burp cloths, a fleece hat and a clearanced onsie. One burp cloth is flannel and fleece and one is knit and fleece. The knit came from an unused A-shirt that was in the bin of items to be donated. This set is 3 embroidered fleece and cotton mini-check burpcloths and an on-the-go bag made of cotton with a nylon webbing handle. With a caribiner clip the bag would be easy to attach to a stroller to keep bare necessities at hand.

For these gifts I purchased:
- small package of wipes $1.00
- two fleece blankets clearanced a the grocery store to be used to wrap two of the gifts $2.00
- tank onsie $.75
- two plug-in air fresheners with a clean linen scent (I thought these would be good near the diaper pail) - I think these were free after rebate, but no more than $1.00 each.
So now I have three gifts for under $6.00 out of pocket plus the cost of of fabric I purchased at an earlier time, though I often buy inexpensive remnants for these types of projects. These certainly turned out to be an economical option and will hopefully be well-received.
Now I have a question for anyone who reads here. Do you ever struggle with feeling like a homemade and inexpensive gift is not good enough? I really like the way these sets turned out and think they will be useful gifts, but have trouble shaking the feeling that I should have just ponied up the cash and bought something from the registries. Your thoughts?

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Home Studio

It has been ages since we have taken photographs of the children, so yesterday I decided on a whim to snap a few. The last time we went to Sears for pictures, Sportster was about 2 and Sister was about 6 months and it.was.awful so we decided never to recreate that experience. Every 6 months or so I try to do a little photo shoot at home to capture their stages and personalities. So far we've been happy with this decision and as a side benefit we've saved a lot of money. On the downside, you still have to make time to make it happen and we've neglected this opportunity for far too long. But with Christmas fast-approaching it was high-time to make it happen. Here are some of my favorites. Grandma & Nana, these are coming to you so if you want to be surprised come Christmas, look away now.

Many thanks to our friend who blessed us with a portrait lens many months ago. It seems like the faces turned out more crisp with it. We just took these on our front porch and in our stairway to simplify the experience.

I am really smitten with this one!

I still need to work on getting all three of them to look and smile at the same time, but this was a rather successful attempt.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Cheap Eats: Breakfast for Dinner

One of our go-to meals when we are wanting a simple cheap supper is breakfast for dinner. This comes in many forms: scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, omelets with fillings from the deli drawer and vegetable crisper, egg casseroles using up scraps of bread, cheese and vegetables, french toast made on the skillet or baked, breakfast burritos, fruit in season or from the freezer, pancakes, waffles, muffins, juice, coffee, and any combination of the above items.

A few weeks ago we had breakfast for dinner and put many frugal principles into practice. The menu looked like this.

Baked french toast - In a jelly roll pan sprayed with cooking spray I poured in some (maybe 1/2 cup) homemade peach syrup that was too thin for our liking, slices of homemade whole wheat bread that was a bit stale, a mixture of eggs and milk and vanilla, a sprinkle of brown sugar and cinnamon. This was baked at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes. Frugality at work: use it up so you don't end up throwing it out.

Toppings for french toast - That night we had whipped cream, we used maybe 1/4 of a $1.00 can, and raspberries, frozen from the lowest-price-of-the-year-sale this summer. Buy special items when they are at their lowest price and freeze, if needed. In this case, the toppings really made the meal seem a lot nicer.

Fruit salad - This was a combination of blueberries, raspberries, pears, apples and bananas. Buy in bulk when things are in season and inexpensive and freeze for use throughout the year. We love blueberries and raspberries, but never buy them for 3.99 and up a package whenever we want them. I stock up when raspberries are $1 per package and blueberries are $10 for 5 lbs. Enjoy things in season in abundance. The apples and pears are in season, and also cheap, in the fall so we eat a lot of them. Come December/January we'll be feasting on lots of oranges. Use markdowns and warehouse clubs to your advantage. I only buy bananas when I shop at Sam's or Costco or they are marked down to $.35 per pound at the grocery, then we eat them quick or use them in baking or freeze in chunks for smoothies later.
Milk - I always buy it on a markdown (unless we are totally out and no markdown is available) and we use it freely. When it starts to turn I use it in baking as a buttermilk substitute, or I freeze for later use. By buying markdowns I am able to usually get organic milk at or below the price I would pay for the cheapest conventional milk that is on sale that week. Most of the time we find the milk to be fine for one week past the date stamped on the carton or jug. We shop frequently enough and have a family size that is suitable for using lots of markdowns. Use time to your advantage and get better quality.

Just for fun, the flowers on the table came from our yard, were cut and quickly put into a glass of water. This literally took less than 1 minute and made the meal seem more special.

This was a delicious meal that was rather nutritious and didn't feel "budget" at all. Plus it was super quick to make! There are more ways to eat on a dime than just eating beans and rice. Hooray!

A Bit of Knitting

In the last few months I've taken up knitting again. Knitting is a fun little hobby which I find satisfying, even if I have only basic skills. And I can really appreciate a creative pursuit that doesn't create a mess all over tables and countertops, like sewing and scrapbooking and cardmaking do for me. And I like that knitting is such a portable craft.
I'm glad I finally completed a scarf for my husband which was on the needles for about 2 years, sitting in a dark cupboard. I think it will look great with his winter wool coat. I've also been cranking out quite a few dishcloths, which are not too exciting but functional and I like to give a little homemade something every once in a while.
I thought a case for my needles would be handy and made this one out of two placemats I found on clearance from a home store for about 50 cents each. Since they were already finished, I just cut one down to about 2/3 the height of the original, added some twill tape for ties (recycled from a gift wrapping), sewed the pieces together and sewed vertical lines of varying widths to make the pockets for individual or pairs of needles. I love simple, inexpensive projects!
I am knitting some things for each of my kiddos for Christmas. Two scarfs down, one hat to go.