Thursday, August 20, 2009

Budget vs. Life

We get paid for my husband's hard work.
We give what we feel is right to give.
We pay the mortgage.
We pay utilities and car insurance and budget for gasoline.
We budget a small sum for groceries and a little for dining out (to keep the cook of the house from feeling too deprived).
What little is left gets divided between all other needs and wants, from shoes for the kids to birthday gifts, to a part for a vehicle, to things we need to maintain our home properly.

And nothing is left. I guess that is the goal of zero-based budgeting, spending every dime on paper before you ever really spend it. But we're missing out on some important things. Things like family vacations with our kids, getaways as a couple, date nights, flowers that will fade away but add beauty for a time, day trips to mountains or local points of interest, church community events that would require us to afford childcare, and things of this nature. What we're lacking in one word: fun. Yes, I know there are a million ways to have fun without spending money, but so many experiences do come with a tangible price tag, be it ever so small. And sometimes when you take something free to do and then have to add all the work it takes to prepare one or more meals to take with you or a very long day to avoid paying for a night of lodging it suddenly loses some of the fun for me.

A budget is a tool to bring boundaries and freedom within those boundaries to use the resources you have. But what do you do when it just feels like that budget is covering the necessities only and nothing simply for the sake of enjoyment? If you know me, I'm not saying I want to throw lots of money away on temporary pleasures, just a little on some life-enriching, memory-making experiences.

And then, oh the guilt of even having this pity party in the first place! Don't you know you already live better than 90% of the world! Um, yeah, I remember that. Indeed, we are very blessed. But I still live in these United States and see what others around me are able to spend money on, and more importantly, experience. And I grow tired of saying "no" to our kids for even good and wholesome things they request whether something at the grocery store or a $2 carousel ride.

So maybe it is time to go back to the drawing board to find a better balance between financial responsibility and actually living life to the full.

Lord, give me a contented heart.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Family 4th of July

We traveled east to see my parents and my siblings and their families over July 4th. It has been been a roller coaster year for our family, but we had a great time nonetheless. The kids splashed in Nana & Papa's backyard, we went to a huge extended family picnic at a lake, we celebrated Smiley's birthday (again), we had a second memorial walk/run to honor my grandmother, we celebrated 10 years of marriage and a whole lot more! It was certainly a jam-packed few days.

A fun nephew joined us for a family picture

A full crowd ready to embark on the memorial walk/run. I'm so thankful for this big family!

10 year anniversary photo....yikes, we've aged! A lot!

Smiley pondering this oh-so-good gift. For some strange reason our kids love to watch our recycling and garbage being picked up and he loves this truck!

Huddling to stay warm while eating homemade ice cream on a chilly July 4th evening

Good times!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Garden Goodness!

zucchini bigger than a 5-year-old's arm

...or maybe just "Oh, goodness, what are we gonna do with all that zucchini?!"

It seems we are having a bumper crop of zucchini, even though some have fallen victim to what this novice thinks is blossom end rot. Regardless, we've had plenty to consume here and several rounds to share with friends and neighbors. I know I let the ones in the picture get waaay too big, but they were overlooked for a couple days under the huge leaves and the tangle of vines. I should be sending out my gardening assistant to pick any reasonable ones each day, which she would be game to do. Please do send ideas of what to do with it all!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Camping with Young Children - Craziness or Courage?

We recently went camping for a weekend at a state park nearby with some good friends and their two kids. It was great to get away into God's creation, but "roughing it" comes with some challenges for all of us...less sleep than normal, more fresh air and tiredness, the long process it is to cook anything for a meal. But we came away with some great memories and are hopefully training our kids to handle these situations with more grace each time we go. We especially enjoyed a great family-friendly hike and the kids loved the craft time made possible by my friend who had the foresight to bring along some craft supplies for the kids to enjoy. Oh, and of course the s'mores.

Some Things Just Make Life Brighter these huge sunflowers in our backyard. Some were planted on purpose and some were the work of children in unexpected places. Either way, they are welcome additions to the landscape.