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I’m so excited to share another great photo book deal with you all! It is only good until Tuesday, August 26th, so get those photos organized!

MyPublisher, Inc.

Click here to get a FREE Classic hardcover photo book, a $29.99 value! Limited time only! Offer Valid thru 8/26

 

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“Hey Mama, How Do You Find Time to Blog?”

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The loose schedule we enjoyed this summer has come to an end. We began school this week. They look happy in their pictures above, but I know they’re missing the abundance of free time from the summer months. I miss it too.

But the structure that school offers is good for all of us, especially for me. I knew that with homeschool back in full swing, I had to take a good hard look at where all this blogging was going to fit in or if I had to give it up altogether.

What I love about blogging

  • I love the creative outlet that it has given me.
  • I love growing and improving in my writing.
  • I love the new friends that I have made through this.
  • I love the opportunity to help someone by sharing the things that I’ve learned in this life.

But even though this has been a great experience so far, there are things about taking on this additional role of blogger that I don’t like so much.

What I don’t like about blogging

  • I don’t like how much time it takes.
  • I don’t like feeling distracted.
  • I don’t like losing my time in checking social media and comments.
  • I don’t like not giving my children my undivided attention because of all of the above.

Can you really be a good mom and a good mommy blogger at the same time?

I had to get a better perspective. I won’t always be a mommy blogger. I suspect that one day, this will all end. But, I will always be a mom. Even when these kids are grown, I will still be their Mommy.

So, when I was drafting our household schedule, I had to include time for blogging in there. I wanted to be purposeful, attending to my main blogging duties during the early morning or evening hours when the children are in bed. If I didn’t include it in the schedule, I would be prone to “blog” throughout the day. And that just can’t happen when I’m trying to homeschool.

Consider this quote from Kevin DeYoung’s book, Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem.

“I’ve often had to ask myself, ‘Why am I blogging? Why am I tweeting? Is it for my name and my fame?’ It doesn’t matter how big or small our following; we can turn Facebook and Twitter into outposts for our glory. Or–and this is more my struggle–we can fear what others will think if we don’t show up for hours, days, or weeks. We don’t want to disappoint hundreds or thousands of people we’ve never met, so we work all night and ruin the evening of the few people who depend on us every day.”

If you are a blogger, you may not blog about every moment of your life. But, with or without a blog post to follow, you can live each moment to the fullest without regret.

What does blogging or social media distract you from?

 

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How a Simple Gift Can Brighten Someone’s Day

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After a nice dinner date to celebrate our wedding anniversary, my husband and I made our way to our parents’ house to pick up the kids. When we arrived, our daughter, self-appointed messenger of all things, told us the big news of the night. “There was a fire here!”

Wait, what? A fire? Was this a game that they were playing? But, one look inside the kitchen confirmed that this wasn’t a game. There was indeed a fire.

It happened while my mother-in-law stepped out of the kitchen briefly to change my son’s diaper. But, in that short amount of time, whatever was on the stove caught fire. Here’s the crazy thing. The smoke detector didn’t even work! (Check your smoke detectors and make sure they have fresh batteries … this is your public service message.)

Well, in the providence of God, a neighbor was walking by outside the house and noticed the flames through the window. This neighbor quickly ran to the front door to alert my parents. Thank God the damage wasn’t too bad and that no one was hurt!

But because of this small kitchen fire, my parents were without a stove for over a month, and the insurance company removed a number of items that were damaged by the smoke. Even as I write this, they are still waiting to have their cabinets replaced.

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My mom has been a trooper throughout all this. I never heard her complain once about not being able to have full use of her kitchen. This is the heart of her home, where we gather to pray before every family get-together, where we congregate around the table to talk and discuss life, where there’s always food on the counter ready to be eaten (I always gain a few pounds when I’m there), and where the kids know about all the cabinets where Grandma keeps the treats.

And for a time, this part of her home was closed.

When someone goes through a difficulty or an unexpected change like this, a simple gift is often enough to lift up their spirits. To them, that gift represents the fact that someone was thinking of them. And when that gift is personalized, like with an engraving or an inscription, it can mean so much more.

I want to introduce you to a great company that does just that. They take many different items and personalize it, so you’re not just giving a mug, but a mug with a meaningful quote or a bible verse. Maybe you’ve come across a store that sells products like these, but the vast selection and prices that Gifts For You offers is unlike anything that you’ll find at your local mall kiosk.

So, for the grand re-opening of my mom’s kitchen, Gifts For You provided the perfect present.

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When we gave it to her, she noticed right away that her name was on it. It doesn’t matter how old you are, but there’s just a cool factor when you see your own name on something, like it was made especially for you. She laughed when she read the rest of it, and before we left, she was already walking around the kitchen with it, trying to find the perfect spot for her new sign.

I suspect it won’t be long before Emma’s Kitchen will be fully open for business!

What gift would you give to brighten someone’s day?

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How to Survive Without Cable TV

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I was 5 months pregnant and a week away from my last day at work when my husband told me the shocking news. “Honey, I cancelled the cable!”

Back then, there weren’t many cheaper alternatives. We eventually got used to being without cable, but when we got tired of watching the same DVDs again and again, we explored some of the many options that are now available today.

Video Streaming

The subscription cost for services, like Netflix, is reasonable, and you get a good selection of programs for everyone in the family. The problem is trying to agree on one thing!

Most of these companies also offer a free trial period so you can see which one fits your tastes. We did the free trials, and at first, we were excited to have “TV” again. I’ll be honest with you though. After being without cable for many years, this was just TV overload for us.

Antenna

In my college apartment, we had an old TV and some rabbit ears antenna that was wrapped in aluminum foil. My roommates and I would watch fuzzy reruns of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (I know I’m dating myself) when we didn’t want to study. I was hoping to have moved on from those days, so the thought of getting an antenna was not very appealing until we saw this ….

A flat antenna

It’s thin, matches our walls, and best of all, didn’t need foil to get good reception. We tried it, but unfortunately, this just didn’t work for us because of where we live. We only got a few channels and not any we cared to watch. However, this might be a good solution for you, depending on your location.

Streaming Players

Players, like Roku, use your home’s internet to bring entertainment to your TV. I wasn’t really into getting anything like this because it seemed only useful if you had a Netflix subscription.

But one day, my husband came home with a Roku Streaming Stick. He took advantage of a store program, where you can trade in a used cell phone for store credit, so he didn’t pay a thing. Looks like I’m not the only bargain shopper in the family! We’re not subscribed to any streaming services, but we still get a number of free channels through Roku. If you’re willing to pay the upfront cost of this nifty little gadget, it may be a worthwhile investment.

The Internet

The major TV networks make most of the current episodes available on the internet for free. Sometimes, you have to wait a few days after the original air date, so just excuse yourself when your friends start talking about what happened in the season finale. This really works for us because we’re more intentional about how we use TV. Instead of mindlessly surfing through all the channels, we plan for TV time.

The Public Library

Children's DVDs.

Older DVDs at the library tend to be scratched up but I found ways to avoid this. Our library has a “new releases” shelf, where you can check out those movies for a shorter period of time. These are usually in better condition. See if your library has something like this.

Also, libraries often allow you to put items on hold through their website and will contact you when it comes in. Before a movie is released on DVD, our library will sometimes order it and create a record for that item in their database. So, even before they receive it, I can already request a hold on it through their system.

And the best part: it’s free!

Have you explored other alternatives to cable TV?

 

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What If You Could Save More on Groceries?

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In my last post, I shared about a great product that will help you get your grocery budget under control.

Grocery University

I already started listening to this comprehensive audio course, and there are so many helpful tips to saving money that goes beyond clipping coupons. Rather than presenting a method, this course encourages you to adopt a mindset that will help you in becoming a smart shopper. Even if you hate to clip coupons or need to buy certain foods because of dietary restrictions, this course will help you learn to make the most of what you have.

Tomorrow, August 19th, Grocery University will be kicking off a huge one-day-only sale. I wanted to give you the details now so you can be ready for it!

The sale will begin at 5 a.m. (CT) when the price of this package drops to only $2.99. That’s a 70% savings!

 
Every 3 hours, the price goes up, so the earlier you purchase, the more you save! It’s your first lesson on saving money!

So, here’s the complete price schedule.  
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After August 19th, the course will go back to the regular price of $9.97. Don’t miss out on this great deal!

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Do You Want to Lower Your Grocery Expenses?

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One of the first things that my husband and I did after getting married was work on a budget. We were both working, but our goal was for me to eventually stay home. We kept cutting expense after expense so we could learn to live on one income.

The Big Variable

Grocery spending was one of those big variables. Certain bills, like utilities, we didn’t have too much control over, but the amount we spent at the store is a direct result of our own decisions. But, for some reason, I could not get a good handle on this. I don’t really splurge on a lot of things, and I always try to be mindful of sales. But, every month, I was going over the budgeted amount that we had set for groceries.

We weren’t in dire straits, and my husband was always open to changing our allocation for groceries. But I wasn’t convinced that I had brought our spending as low as it could go. I knew I was missing something.

Me? A Coupon Lady?

When a few of my friends started couponing, I wasn’t interested. I don’t want to be the lady that holds up the line, holding a stack of coupons, that would only save me a few cents.

Then, my husband told me that he may lose his job. This was the impetus that propelled me into the world of couponing.

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The Learning Curve

My first few tries at it, I totally bombed. I had coupons, but spent more because I ended up buying things I really didn’t need simply because I had a coupon for it. After learning from this and other rookie mistakes, I finally got the hang of it. Not only did I not go over our budget, but I consistently stayed under budget with our groceries, proving what I had originally thought: it is possible to live on less.

A New School Has Opened

If you’ve been in my shoes before, wanting to get your grocery spending under control, there is a great product that I want to share with you.

Grocery University (presented by Money Saving Mom) is basically a crash course on all that you need to know to bring your grocery expenses to an all-time low. The course includes:

  • A 2-hour, 19-minute audio course (great for all you multi-taskers out there!)
  • A workbook with tips, visual aids, and examples
  • The Grocery University Rock Bottom Price Database

You can purchase it now or you can hang in there until next Tuesday (August 19th) for their “Crazy, Can’t Miss” One-Day-Only sale.  Either way, the wealth of information and the future savings that you will reap from the course make this a worthy investment.

Once you purchase, there’s no need to wait for a delivery in the mail. Everything can be downloaded immediately for your use.

I wish I had known about this when I first started out because it would’ve saved me a lot of time researching and trying to figure things out on my own. I’ve been on this frugal road for a couple of years now, but I know I’m far from mastering the trade. I look forward to what else I can glean from this course.

Will I see you in class? I’ll save you a seat!

 

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3 Lessons From an Ugly Backyard

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We live in an old house. Over the past 10+ years that we’ve lived here, we’ve done improvements, but one place that has not seen many changes is our backyard. Before we had children, this wasn’t such a big deal to me, but now, I think about how nice it would be for the kids to have a big place to run around in and just be kids.

This is our backyard.

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It’s just dirt with a somewhat dangerous drop down the hill. The deck (or what’s left of it) is unstable. So, you can see why I don’t let the kids play back there.

As much as I wish we had a nice backyard, its present state has taught me many important life lessons.

A Lesson on Priorities

We have postponed any work on our yard simply because there were other more pressing needs. A yard makeover was going to cost money and time, which we didn’t have to spare for a project like that. We had to be wise with the resources that has been given to us. As I’ve shared before, we really see ourselves more as stewards rather than owners of our earthly goods.

A Lesson on Patience

We’ve been saving money to tackle this home improvement, but that takes a long time when we can only set aside a small amount from each paycheck. Moreover, there were often unexpected expenses that would deplete the savings account, like a major plumbing repair or my husband losing his job. I also had to learn patience by not nagging my husband about the yard when there was really nothing much he could do about it at the time.

A Lesson on Contentment

This was an important lesson for our whole family, including our children. Rather than complaining about what we didn’t have, we need to be thankful and make the most of the blessings that we already have. We have plenty of nice parks nearby, where the kids have more than enough running room. We also have an enclosed front patio that our kids can play in. When they were smaller, they would ride their trikes in a circle, like a carousel. I felt sorry for them at first, but they were actually quite happy.

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We’ve been able to save some money now to do some things to our yard. And, my husband has been putting in whatever little free time he has to fixing it up. I know that it will still take some time, and we will have to continue to draw from those lessons.

But whatever happens, the value of these lessons far surpasses even the most amazing HGTV backyard makeover.

“Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11-13)

What have you learned lately from your present circumstances?

 

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From This Generation to the Next

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I come from a large extended family. My mom is the 2nd oldest of 7 children. More than 15 years separate her and the youngest sibling, my aunt. When I was little, I remember my very cool, young aunt coming to visit us every so often. With me on one side and my younger sister on the other side, we would walk around hand in hand, as she took us shopping, bought us treats, and basically spoiled us for the two weeks that she stayed with us.

Eventually, my aunt got married and had children of her own. I became, to her children, what she was to me. I went on many trips to visit them, and I looked forward to spending time with my much younger cousins, taking them shopping, buying them treats, and spoiling them for the next couple of weeks.

Eventually, I got married and had children of my own. These past two weeks, my aunt and her family have spent their vacation here with us. Her daughters, who I used to take to the mall as my mini-me’s, are now young women: one is in college and the other is a senior in high school. They now have become, to my children, what I was to them.

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Parting was not easy, especially for my daughter. In the few days that they were with us, she had grown very attached to her aunties. I had never seen her cry over the departure of any visitors until now.

What I love about all these relationships, from my aunt to me to my cousins and now to my daughter, is they display a strong bond between people who are many years (even a generation) apart. The reason for such deep relationships is because the older has taken the time to be with the younger.

When children are sometimes made to feel dismissed by the grown-ups, my cousins did the exact opposite. They spent time with my children, coloring with them, doing crafts, playing games, going shopping, and talking with them. As a child, when a grown-up takes notice of you, enough to spend time with you, that is truly special.

One day, my daughter will become the young woman, and I pray that she would have the opportunity to be, to a little girl, what my aunt was to me … what I was to my cousins … and what her aunties are to her. I pray she would be willing to give to younger girls and show them just how special they are.

What will you do to invest in the generation to come?

 

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How to Untangle a Doll’s Hair

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When my daughter first received this Rapunzel doll a week ago, she had long, smooth, silky hair. She’s pretty careful about her dolls. She doesn’t take them outside or drag them around in the dirt or drop them from a tree. So how Rapunzel went from flat to frizz is beyond me.

Since this is such a new toy, I was not ready to box her up just yet, so my daughter and I went to work on trying to restore her doll’s smooth golden locks.

After a search on the internet for some solutions, we found a number of methods.

First, we tried the hot water dip …

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… but that did nothing to flatten that puff.

Next, we used a mixture of hot water and dish soap, but alas, Rapunzel continued to live up to her movie name, Tangled.

We also tried liquid hand soap, and still, there was no taming that wild ‘do.

I was close to giving up. There had to be a household product that will work because I’m drawing the line at buying one of those specialty doll hair conditioners. Seriously, if I’m buying cheap hair products for my hair, there’s no way this doll is going to get something that I have to special order.

Our last attempt at untangling this mop was hair conditioner, the cheap one that I use for my hair.

Step one: After getting out most of the tangles with a comb, massage the conditioner into the doll’s hair.

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Step two: Leave the conditioner in the hair for an hour or so.

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Step three: Gently rinse out the conditioner.

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Step four: Pat dry with a towel and leave out to completely air dry.

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Rapunzel was now ready for one last comb through. Out of all the methods that we tried, this was probably the one that had the best results. Unfortunately, we couldn’t bring her hair back to that same glossy shine, but at least it was no longer the nest that we were dealing with in the beginning. 

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She looks pretty good and ready to take on those Ninja Turtles behind her.

If you have a better solution for restoring doll’s hair, please do share! We’ve got a long line of Barbies, Princesses, and My Little Ponies waiting for their makeovers.

 

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How to Make an Overnight Guest Feel at Home

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I’ve stayed in many places that were not my own home, from a small hut in a jungle to a big house in the suburbs. But, no matter the location, my brief stay left the deepest impression when my hosts went out of their way to make me feel at home.

If you are thinking about opening up your home to a weary traveler, here are a few things to do to make their stay a memorable one.

Prepare a Room

Having an enclosed room of their own would allow your guest to relax in a situation where they may not feel relaxed right away. What if you don’t have a guest room? Perhaps there are creative ways to set up a room, like using an office or a family room. If the room isn’t totally enclosed, consider hanging up a curtain, using a tension rod, to create a makeshift door. What we do is “kick out” one of our kids from their room.

I’ve been on a few missions trips in different parts of the world, where we stayed with host families. Their homes were very small, but they gladly offered us their beds while their whole family slept on the hard floor. Now that’s hospitality!

Provide Meals and Other Essentials

Traveling usually means having to eat out all the time, but if your guest is not in a rush to head out the door, feed them with some good home cooking. You don’t have to get all fancy. When I’ve traveled, I would miss the simple dishes that my mom would cook for us.

It’s also nice to provide a few essentials, like a towel and some toiletries. I like to put together a simple toiletry basket, using many of the items that I have received in the mail when signing up for free samples.

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Protect Their Privacy

My daughter was super excited when I told her that her aunties would be coming to visit this week, and she eagerly offered her room. But, I reminded her that for the few days they would be staying with us, her room would be their room, meaning she could not walk in there any time she wanted.

Having an overnight guest is a good way to teach your children hospitality and also how to respect a person’s privacy.

Partake in Some Social Interaction

When a Japanese pastor, who we’ve never met before, stayed with us during a conference in town, we invited him to sit down with us for breakfast every morning. It was awkward at first, but we were blessed with the opportunity to get to know him better. He told us about his church in Japan and showed us pictures of his family. Even my kids soon felt comfortable talking and playing with him.

In the evenings, he and my husband would come home from the conference, and I would have some tea and pastries ready for them, so they could have time to relax and talk before going to bed.

When our guests have left, our house would always feel a little quieter. Though we always wanted to make a good impression on them, they always seemed to leave a lasting impression on us.

What do you do to create an atmosphere of hospitality in your home?

 

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