Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Looking for Advice!

Or thoughts.  Or suggestions.  Or opinions.

The Bits is 15 months old.  And cute as she can be.  And naughty as she can be.  She still is not talking.  I'm not worrying about this, but I want to make sure not to miss something that would be an easier fix if we caught in younger. 

Here are the facts:

~She can make the MaMa and DaDa sounds, but she does not use them specifically to us.

~She can sign and say "more" and she uses it for a lot of purposes.  She uses them appropriately at the table.  She also uses it if she needs more attention from someone.  I feel that, overall, it's all accurate communication.

~She can sign "milk."  She doesn't use this one as consistently as "more", but it is new for her.

~She nods for yes.

~Sometimes when I say night-night, she waves goodbye to everyone.  She'll also lay her head down on me.

~Socially, she seems fine.  She LOVES to interact with her siblings, especially Chloe.  She also likes to perform for whoever is on skype.

~I haven't noticed eye contact, but I haven't noticed that she doesn't do it.

~The pediatrician saw her at 13 months and said all looked fine.  She wants her hearing evaluated in October if we don't make any progress.

~Her nanny (on Thursday mornings) and the church nursery workers only speak Spanish to her.  (We moved here at 10 months.)

~She's beginning to get frustrated with us because we don't know what she wants.

So, what do y'all think???

Wednesday's Praises!

~Carson's basketball game went fairly well.  He's too little, but he's not too bad to play.  Tony and I both were pleased with his quarter of play.  Lots of rooms for improvement, but he didn't embarrass himself.

~I was able to attend a Bible study on Thursday.  It was much different than anything I've attended before, but I enjoyed myself, and the other ladies were very welcoming.

~Chloe's outlook on school is greatly improved from last Thursday.  She came home Friday convinced her Spanish teacher hated her but had gotten along well with the other kids.  I considered that a great victory!  The weekend went well, and all is resolved with her Spanish teacher- who never hated her!

~Each of the three "big" kids earned last week's star.  They enjoyed dessert on the couch (a double treat!) and extra bedtime.  This chart thing seems to be working!!

~It's the last day of August!  I'm so ready for this month to be done.  Bring on September!

~I made homemade chicken and dumplings that were yummy!  (I know I've mentioned this other places, but I'm still so tickled that they were good.  And that Carson had 5 servings!  Double yay!)

~Coralynn now consistently weighs over 22 pounds.  She isn't consistently to 23, but we spend a lot of time at 22.5.  We still cheer when the Bits puts on weight!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Sitting around on a Tuesday afternoon

There isn't a whole lot going on here right now.  Currently, the Bits is napping, the helper is mopping, the other helper is cooking, and I'm fighting a nervous stomach.  It's the calm before the storm. 

Today is Carson's first basketball game.  Last night we got word that he had "made" the team.  I didn't realize there were cuts, and I guess, there weren't supposed to be.  But too many kids wanted to play so they divided up the kids in to two groups.  The team and the practice squad. Carson made the team.

Part of me is thrilled.  I want him to succeed.  Carson loves playing basketball so I'm glad he is doing well in practice, but there's a big but in all of this.  Carson made the sub12 team.  It's for all kids 12 and under.  12 year olds are in 7th grade.  Carson, who's 7, is going to be playing against middle schoolers.  For those of you who haven't seen us in a few months- or years- Carson hasn't grown since you last saw us.  He's on the little side.  (Especially next to 7th graders)

He's completely comfortable with not playing very much, but the rules of this league state that everyone has to play a quarter.  I'm not sure how long that is- 6 minutes maybe- but he hasn't ever played that long.  He's never played full-court ball.  This, my friends, is NOT the friendly confines of UPWARD basketball.  This is for real.  And another mom already informed me that our team always loses and the other teams always play dirty.

Why did I sign my 7-year-old up for this?

For his part, Carson is confident (really, it's pure ego) that all is going to be great.  He explained to me (like I was a girl) how his role on the team is dribble defeater.  The theory goes that the tall kids are going to dribble the ball high enough that my son, AKA Little Scrapper Man, is going to steal their dribble.  Tony confidently assures me (it's pure ego here, too) that Carson is well built and skilled for this position.  Did I mention he's playing middle schoolers?

And don't let Carson's cool egotistical demeanor fool you.  He's still nervous.  When I got up this morning to make their lunches, I asked Carson if he had his uniform ready to go. 

CD:  (looking at me like I'm stupid)  Umm, ya Mom.  I'm wearing it.
Me:  (looking at him like he's not paying attention)  Carson, not your PE uniform.  Your basketball uniform.

(Slight smirk from Tony who's quietly making sandwiches)

CD:   (now over dealing with me)  Mom, I HAVE my uniform on.
Me:  (finally waking up enough to realize he does look a little poofy)  Carson, you can't wear your basketball jersey UNDER your PE uniform!
CD:  Don't worry about it, Mom.  I have the shorts on, too.

(Quick glance at Tony who is chuckling and making sandwiches.)

Me:  You have on two pairs of shorts!?!
CD:  (Now confident I'm stupid)  Yes, Mom.

(Death glare at my husband who is still making sandwiches.)

Me:  You said he could wear both uniforms at the same time.
Tony:  He didn't want to not be ready.

(Jocks.  What a nightmare.)

Me:  Carson, go take off your basketball uniform and put it in your backpack.  They'll give you a chance to change before the game.  When you get to school, ask JD (a middle schooler!!) when you change.

(Carson exits in a humph.)

Me:  Is Carson wearing his Star Wars sneakers to play?
Tony:  Yes.  He probably should get real shoes.

How in the world can this child be ready to play against middle schoolers?  He's still wearing shoes with Velcro!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Money Monday!

First up- the grocery budget.  I'm not talking about it.  Here's hoping that the wisdom gained in August will allow for a smoother September.  (and if I never eat pb&j again...)

As August creeps to a close (Could this month have been any longer?), it's time to update the house savings.  As some of you may remember, we are working to save 100% toward our next house.  This month, we were able, in spite of the evil grocery budget, to save 120% of our monthly goal.  I would be more pleased about that number had I not known where we started the month and the potential savings.  Oh well, better luck next month.  But there's a problem.  I'm not sure I want to do this anymore.  I'm just not sure what I want anymore.  Pass the syrup, people, I'm waffling!

Yes, I'm a waffle.  Money and waffles are a constant for me.  Tony laughs that I'll only be happy either living in Bel Air or in the Kenyan Bush.  There's no middle ground with me, but this house-savings plan is really bringing out a new twist for me.  And I still haven't found my footing.  Let's go over what I know for sure:

1.  I HATE debt.  I really really hate continual payments for stuff that I already have.
2.  Financial responsibility runs through my veins.  I can't just blow it all in Vegas.  I'm genetically incapable of that.
3.  I truly BELIEVE that everything we/I have is from the Lord.  It's all His to do whatever He wants.
4.  Money doesn't do it for me.  I'm not impressed by money.  I'm not motivated by money.  I don't want or need more money.  No part of me would be fulfilled with just a little bit more.

Now some truths about me that aren't related to money, but suddenly are relevant to this conversation:

1.  I'm a big picture person.  The little details of life often get lost behind the big picture.
2.  My big picture is not long term.
3.  I have a deep sense of my limited time on this earth.   

Kind of a strange combination of views from within me, I know, but here's what has been screaming in my brain:

Why am I saving so much money for a future goal when I haven't been promised an earthly future?

I have no promise that I am going to live to see a new house.  I have no guarantee that my children are going to be alive when I will be purchasing my mortgage-free house. Dave Ramsey has a saying that goes something like "Live like no one else today, so that later you can live like no one else."  I get the wisdom in that.  I understand why he says to save and pinch today so you'll later have financial peace.  I see exactly where he's coming from, and we have done all of his baby steps and even some more grown-up steps.   But the thing is we are not promised a later.  And if you knew you- or your child- only had x amount of time left, how would that change your money thoughts for today?  And how would you spend your time?    (Don't be confused or naive.  We each only have so much time left.)

I don't have an answer for everyone on that. I don't claim that anything I'm saying is for anyone but me to read. I'm not even sure I have "the" answer for me and my family. What I do know is that my family, thanks to the mercy of the Lord, is in a solid financial place.   I also know that I do not want to leave Panama in three years with nothing but money in the bank.  (See Money Rule #4 above)  I'd rather have to take out a small mortgage because we chose to live a little. Or a LOT.  I'd rather have a mortgage because we chose to give a little.  Or a LOT.

I want my kids to see Panama.  I want them to see all of the world.  I want them to give.  I want them to see the good God's money can do when God's people give it and themselves freely.  I want them to grow up knowing the world is bigger than the tri-county, or tri-country, region.  I want them to grow up having learned and lived together.  I want the reality of God's vast creation to affect them.  To change them.  I want to pick up in the middle of the week and fly 2000 miles away to serve with missionaries who have asked for help.  I want to give school supplies to the entire second-grade class of Curundu- a poverty stricken area of Panama.  I want to tell the kids, and myself, "no" to more stuff so that we can say "yes" for giving more to others. I want them to see that wise stewardship has very little to do with a great deal, or budget, or goal. And I don't want my savings goals to stop it.

I don't need any more money.  I don't need more time.  I need to use my money and my time more freely, without constraining it with my temporal goals.  Debt free feels great.  It feels free.  But freedom comes at a cost.  Sending a mortgage check to the bank because I gave and lived too much to afford a debt-free home?  There might be eternal wisdom in that.  I'm not sure.  I'm still waffling.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Life Verse

Do you have a life verse?  A piece of Scripture that guides your waking moments.  Or instead of Scripture, maybe a wise quotation that plays in the back of your mind.  A sort of mantra.  For me, the life verse changes.  As I go through struggles, trials, victories, and seasons, my guiding words change to wisdom that gets me through the next wave or storm life tosses at me.  So it is for Chloe.

I'm not big on name meanings, but it was important to me that the kids have a verse for their life.  I often talked about having those verses painted on the walls behind their beds.  I struggled to come up with verses for Carson and Camilla.  But Chloe's verse?  I've always known Chloe's verse.  And for those who have ever known Chloe, they know the verse is hers.  It feels written directly to her.  For her.  And where else would you find this verse, but in the Beatitudes.  Matthew 5:8

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

I'm not going to pretend to understand the depth of theology of those simple words, but I know that Chloe has a pure heart.  And I know she seeks after God.  And she sees Him.  Those words are a promise of eternity, but I believe them to be a truth for today.  She's 9 years old, and those words have always been my guide in raising her, training her, and believing in her.  The pure in heart will see God.

But now we've hit a crossroad.  (Quite literally, ironically enough.)  She's being teased at school.  Why?  Because the pure of heart are easy targets.  She's quick to react.  To feel.  To hurt.  This blessing of a pure heart comes with it vulnerability.  Her easy willingness to love you makes it easy for you to hurt her.

As she has comes home crying, a verse has been in my head.  First softly, and then deafeningly, the words of the verse have rung in my brain.  But not the whole verse.  Just pieces.  Love.  Despise.  Pray.  Hurt.  I know I know this verse, but I can't place it.  Can't figure out where it is.  Can't come up with the context or even the entirety of the verse.  I finally look it up online.  And it stares back at me.  And I stop breathing for a moment.  And I sob.

Not only because this has become my 9 year old's new verse.  Although it seems too much for someone so young.  But also because of where this verse is found.  It's in the same book.  The same Chapter.  Jesus hasn't even taken a pause from "her" verse when he says her "new" verse.  It's all the same passage.  The same thought.  The same heart.  The same Word.   Matthew 5:44-45a

44But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
 45That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven

It feels too much of a call for a child.  I struggle to love the people I love, but now Chloe has to love, to bless, to benefit, and to pray for these girls that are causing her so much pain.  I want to know how.  How can He honestly expect this out of someone so young?  Someone who is hurting so much?  How was she able get up this morning, and cheerfully pray for these girls when I want to do anything but pray for them?  How?

Because He already equipped her.  Chloe is the pure of heart.  She shall see God.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Everyone has an issue...

Or is obession a better word?

These are all Camilla's dresses that currently fit.  (All smooshed together so they would fit it one picture.)  The grand total.....45.

So, what's your "thing"?  The irresitible-money-draining-can't-say-no-gotta-have-it thing?  Or that "thing" that you have to have?  The splurge you choose to make?   And everyone has one!

For Tony, it is drawstring trash bags.  I will never forget the moment I discovered that.  We were living in Illinois, and I was hardcore cutting our spending.  I purchased the twist-tie trash bags at ALDI.  I wondered if it would be a problem, but Tony is seriously laid back so I wasn't that concerned.  About two nights later, I was sitting at the dining room table.  I hear him come up the back stairs, through the kitchen, to the dining room.  It was loud enough that I looked up.  In his hand was the box of trash bags.  With no emotion, he said, "I make entirely too much money to deal with these."  Drops the box on the table.  And out he walked. 

I never bought another box of twist-tie trash bags again.   :)

So, what's yours?? 

Weekly 7!!

~It's Wednesday.  We are halfway through the week!

~Chloe's teacher.  Any other teacher and I think I would have already pulled her from school.  I can't praise this woman enough!

~Coralynn Mae.  My Bits is sitting quietly on the floor next to me organizing crayons.  She's been at it for at least 35 minutes!

~Carson David.  To say he is thriving in the school setting would be a colossal understatement.  This is no surprise, but it is still a praise.

~I'm getting slightly more confident in my Spanish.  I still am deathly afraid to talk to people, but I did manage to squeak out a conversation with the helper yesterday.  My language trainer was proud of me.

~Panama.  I do really like this place.  There are times I long for the ease of Georgia living, but the difficulty of life here forces me to focus on the important things.

~Loyalty.  This week Tony and I discovered the depth of the kids' loyalty to one another.  We had no idea how deep it ran, and I'm so thankful for it.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Organized and Rewarded

This transition to traditional schooling has been p.a.i.n.f.u.l. to say the very least.  I had no idea we were going to be so busy, so tired, and so separated from one another.  On Mondays, Chloe and Carson spend over 10 hours away from home.  That's more time away from us in one day than they would in a week of homeschooling!  And I hate it.

I really hate how are lives are so separated.  The close second for top reasons I homeschooled was to allow us the freedom to live our lives with our own schedule.  To be gone when we needed to be gone.  To dictate our lives.  Unfortunately, there isn't anything I can do to change this school schedule.  So, I began working on what I could control- their time here.  Nicer mothers would have taken over the kids' chores because they are too busy.  I'm not that nice.  Or I'm too lazy.  Tomato.  ToMAHto.  Instead of removing their chores, I decided that we needed to get organized.  The goal:  To have all school, chores, showering, and readying done before Dad gets home at 6:30 each night.  The Ultimate goal:  To allow our family to reign over school.  Mission Impossible?  I have no choice but to make this succeed.

Last Friday, I set about to create chore charts that apply to our family.  Apparently, I've been married long enough that Tony's need for an Excel spreadsheet has begun to take over my brain.  I sat down with Excel and got started.  I'm thrilled with the results.  I created three separate, yet similar, charts for the kids.  Each one has a list of jobs that must be completed, and signed, before the next can be done.  Ultimately, when all chores are signed off, the kids have the freedom to play the rest of the day.

Chloe's chart during day 1!

While I was creating the chore charts, I decided they needed reward charts, too.  I'm not one for a reward.  My theory is that you do what you are supposed to because you are supposed to do it.  Your reward?  Not being in trouble for disobedience.  (Maybe Mean Mom is more accurate?)  This time I decided to institute a difficult-to-earn reward system to motivate cooperation.

Because I'm wholly incapable of figuring out rewards, I did what all stumped mommas do- I posted my needs on Facebook.  Several people responded.  And then my life-truth echoed in my brain:  These are your kids living in your life.  I always forget that.  Other people can only help so much- and I did appreciate the help, but ultimately, I decided that my kids' rewards would be determined by the experts.  My kids!

I created a neat reward chart.  (This time I used Word.  A shout out to my liberal arts degree!)  It combines my need for working because you are told to and the kids' need for rewards for a job well done.

They earn a star after a week's worth of completed boxes.  Yes, a week's worth of chore completion.  You have a bad Tuesday.  You don't get a star.  Period.  (See Mean Mom comments above.)  The small yellow stars earn them nothing other than the applause of Mom and Dad and a feeling of satisfaction.  The big gold stars are the Rewards Stars.  When they earn these stars, they get a reward.  Of their choosing.  Within my parameters.  Star Number 1 earns you something minor.  Star 5 is a bigger prize.  Star 9 is the "greatest" reward.

We all sat down at dinner Friday night, and I went over the charts with the whole family.  The kids were thrilled.  Carson, in particular, was super excited.  I couldn't initially figure out why.  The answer is two-fold.  First, he has issues with authority.  (I'll give you one guess where he gets that.  Sometime remind me to tell you the alarm clock and Lisa story.)  He is good with obeying authority as long as it isn't up in his face.  This chart is a nice way of knowing what needs to be done without having to be told.  Perfect for him.  Secondly, it gives him the opportunity to beat Chloe at something.  Super perfect for him!

We spent a fair amount of time coming up with the rewards.  They decided that Star One was going to equal: dessert, 5-10 minutes of later bedtime, or game choice on Family Game Night.  Star 5 earns them hot lunch from school.  (Think KFC or Pizza Hut- not mystery meat and plastic trays.)  I was very amused that they were so unanimously decided on that reward.  Star 9 is the big prize.  They are trying to decide if they want a trip to the toy store or lunch with just the child and Dad.  It's a close call.  They really would like just Dad to take them to the toy store.  We'll see...

Monday morning, we began the chart system.  All things being equal, it went pretty well.  Camilla cried because she couldn't read her chores, and we discovered, again!, that Carson has legalistic tendencies.  Overall, we were all quite pleased with how it all went.   I look forward to seeing who earns Star 1 this week!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Money Monday!

Folks, I can honestly say that I had no idea how difficult that $550 number was going to be.  I promise I am used to be very good at keeping a low grocery budget.  Apparently, Panama pricing + school lunches + growing kids = a grocery budget that's much higher than I anticipated.  We have now upped that budget from the optimistic $550 to the more realistic, but still difficult $650.  Tony and I are stunned by this whole process.  $650.  Wowzers.  That's a lot more than we want to be spending.
There are some encouraging points here that must be highlighted:

~We have not thrown away any wasted food.  (I did have a mishap cooking some fish, but that wasn't us wasting food.  That was me watching too much Chopped on Food Network.)  So, although the budget is higher than I want, the food IS being consumed.

~We did figure out that we are spending much less on dining which is upping our grocery budget some.  (Eating at home is almost always cheaper.  Big dining budgets will never save your grocery budget.  Ever.)

~The Lord has been patient with our efforts.  We've been able to pull funds from some other budget categories - that we really shouldn't have been able to- which has allowed the overall August budget to remain intact.  As always, heavenly math astounds me.

~Having a tight budget has kept us from lots of unnecessary spending.  I'm never going to blow the budget on a big purchase.  I'm always a nickel and dime kind of person.  Knowing that the grocery budget was impossibly low kept my eyes on the prize.  Imagine my own surprise when I put back a $3 item just because it wasn't a NEED. 

Here's the take home for those in Readerville who are new to budgeting or struggling with money stuff:  Your budget isn't written on stone tablets.  That's the 10 Commandments.  Anything else can be changed, finessed, and worked.  Budgets will not work for you if you don't work on them.  I can't spend as much as I have in other categories (dining, for instance) if I'm over in groceries.  The math on that is simple, but the lesson is frustrating and potentially painful.  (for me, too, and I've been doing this a good long time!)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Asking for a favor

I've heard that people are having trouble getting blogger to let them leave comments on the blog. 

I changed the settings so now a seperate window should open and allow comments.

Would you mind just leaving me a comment to let me know if they work?   If you are unable to get it to work, send me an email ( or my real email if you have it.) 


Friday, August 19, 2011

Funsy Friday- Home Movies

She can finally walk.  She still doesn't talk.  But the girl can climb.


(and, yes, she needs a new diaper.)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Weekly Wednesday 7!

~The kids continue to enjoy school.  (Far more than I enjoy them attending school- we're working on my attitude still.)

~My kids are healthy.  The reality of that blessing was brought home BIGTIME last week: rare brain cancer, diabetes, miscarriage.  Thank you, Lord, for these healthy kids.

~Double dates on skype. 

~The walls are painted.  (two aren't but who cares about those walls!?!)  Tony is my hero for staying up until nearly 3 a.m. two nights in a row to get it done in two days!!  I love the gray!

~Today, I received an invitation for a luncheon.  I can't go, but I was thrilled to be thought of!

~We discovered a neat ceramics studio.  (Chloe was invited to a birthday party there- another praise!)  All 5 of us agreed that we definitely wanted to try it out as a family!

~My Dad's birthday is today.  (In honor of him, there will be no contractions in this section.)  I will spare you all the mushy daughter stuff, but you must realize that I have one of the world's greatest dads.  I am quite thankful for him in my life.  Love you, Dad!

(As always, share with me how the Lord has blessed you this week.  The less you feel like He has, the more you need to take the time to see the praises!)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Happy 5th Birthday Camilla!!

Yesterday, I was too busy partying like it was 2006 to post anything for our normal Money Monday!  (But I have a few ideas that I'm looking forward to sharing with y'all!)

Camilla Rose turned 5 yesterday.  I'm completely overwhelmed that this child can be that old already.  I'll spare you all the mushy mommy stuff, but know that my sweet Camilla made me different.  The pregnancy, the delivery, nursing her changed who I was.  And I'm thankful for her.  Ever so thankful for her.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Funsy Friday- The 100th Blog Post!

How exciting!  This is my 100th blog post on this blog!!  In honor of this occasion, we are going to have the August birthday and anniversary shout out!!

So, Happy Birthday wishes to...

~nephew Wade
~niece Brooke
~sister-in-law Susan (whose birthday is today!!)
~Grandma G (who turns the big 9-0 on Saturday!!)
~sweetest daughter Camilla Rose (who will have her own post on her actual birthday!)
~Dad Bob
~Uncle Tom
~Aunt Bonnie
~niece Abigail

And Happy Anniversary wishes to...

~Tricia and Mike
~Trina and Jay
~Dad and Mom A.

I hope you all know how loved you are!!  (And I'm sorry I can't devote a post to each of you- too many in this month!)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Time to Praise!

~I've been anxious this week because of a doctor's appointment that was this morning.  (Not the praise)  In spite of this week's anxiety, it’s nothing compared to the stranglehold worry used to hold on me.  (That's the praise.)

~My black pencil skirt from Banana Republic.  I love this skirt.  It instantly makes me feel all pulled together which gives me confidence.  It's old (my parents bought in Los Angeles in 1997), but it's a classic, and I love it.  (And I can still wear a skirt that I bought 5 pregnancies ago- that's a praise, too!)

~My imaginary online friend Erica's son had open heart surgery today.  He is out of surgery and early reports are saying that everything went well!  She would give that a "whoot!"

~The doctor I saw today was super nice and really seemed to know what he was talking about.  He diagnosed my pain- nothing too serious- and we have an action plan.  I love answers!!

~The kids are enjoying school.  I'm much relieved.  (Chloe's teacher seems to be the perfect teacher for her- a blessing!)

~Coralynn Mae is awesome company during the day.  She definitely is my daytime partner, and I'm so thankful to have the opportunity to spend one-on-one time with her!

~We got everything we needed for next weekend's redecorating extravaganza!  Tony and I seem to have the same vision for the room, and I can't wait to show your pictures when we are done.

As always, I love to hear your praises, too.  I am so thankful that y'all are here to praise with me!!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Money Monday!

There is more money in that picture than is left in our grocery budget.  A lot more.  Staying under budget this month is going to take an act of God.  (It has to be an act of God, because an act of Congress and under budget are oxymoronic.  Last political comment of the day.)  The grand total left in the grocery budget is (insert drumroll) ..........$4.62

Now folks, I'm pretty good with making the money stretch, but $4.62 won't buy a gallon of milk in Panama and we have 23 days left.  So, we now have some decisions to make. 

Option One: Make everyone stop eating.  Coralynn and I would do fairly well with this plan.  She takes after my side of the family.  (My brother and I are experts at not eating.  If the food is presented, we will eat it, but we aren't likely to stop in the middle of something to make ourselves food.)  Tony and the other kids, AKA- The Hungry 4, would struggle with the plan.

Option Two:  Stop all menu planning and eat solely through the food on hand.  This would normally be the surefire plan.  Unfortunately, school snacks and lunches (They each need 2 snacks and 1 meal every day at school.  Does that seem like a lot to anyone else??) are a little more difficult to just make up out of the pantry.

Option Three:  Fire the household helpers.  To say that I am highly conflicted about this would be an understatement.  They cost us $45/week.  But I am not one who likes to clean.  And deep cleaning simply isn't going to happen unless someone else does it.  How's that for bottom-shelf honesty?  Many of you are in horror that I would say that, but why delude myself.  I'm not going to clean 5 bathrooms every week.  Plus mop floors, wash windows, dust, clean the balconies, and work on the baby's Spanish.  That is worth the $30/week it costs me.  The cook is more negotiable.  I love cooking, so I would happily take that back, but my helpers are sisters.  I'm fairly confident I can't bring myself to keep one and not the other. (Yes, that doesn't make good financial sense, but people matter more than money.  ALWAYS.)  The current plan with them is to have the cook start ironing as well.  She would definitely be proving her value to Tony if she ironed.

Option Four:  Up the grocery budget through other budget cuts.  It has to be the winner.  For this month.  We can't make it through with this little left.  Fortunately, Grandpa offered to pay for Camilla's birthday dinner.  (Grandpa's love language is buying meals for people.  We happen to be fluent in this language!)  I had budgeted for that meal so I can transfer those funds to the grocery budget.  Making our new budget total.....$54.62

I am super disappointed that our $550 didn't last us the entire month.  I'm still trying to figure out why.  I can confidently say we didn't buy wasteful splurge items.  My guess, based on early ponderings, is that we bought too much too soon.  Although, I am confident that we bought things we needed because we bought them in large quantities (at the warehouse club) and early in the month, I couldn't make adjustments on the list as the month happened.  Preliminary reports are showing that once a month shopping may not work for us.  The other issue is the fact I had an empty fridge/freezer/pantry when we started the month.  A portion of the budget went to refilling the staples.  Still pondering for next month.  I am not willing to admit failure for the $550/month budget, though.

You'll need to stay tuned and see how the rest of the month goes...

Love her to Bits!

Feeling her new do!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Responding to your requests...

I am still in the process of getting apartment photos up.  We have decided to paint and redecorate so I am going to wait until that is completely finsihed.  In the meantime, some of my imaginary friends and I were discussing how Camilla's name is pronounced with the English and Spanish spelling.   Here she is to teach you...


Thursday, August 4, 2011

Thoughts from Thursday: The First Day of School

(and for the record, not one of us cried.)

(Yes, Chloe is that much taller than Carson.  She's 19 months older than he is.  He's 29 months older than Camilla.  Kind of hard to believe isn't it!)

Well, at 6:05 my life changed.  I am now forced to wake up when I need to instead of when I want to.  My kids are at school.  How weird is that?  For the majority of you, it's not weird at all.  It's just part of life.  But for me, it is very weird. 

As I type this, Coralynn is eating breakfast.  A breakfast I made.  Chloe normally makes breakfast for her.  They usually sit together and discuss life over fruit, bread, and milk  Even Coralynn got that something was different.  I put her on the counter while I made her some breakfast.  She put her hand out (in the where position- you know what I mean.) and said "Co."  (Long "o" sound.)  I've never heard her call Chloe anything, but I guess the magnitude of the moment required speech.

After breakfast, we're going to.......hmm.  I have no idea.  Normally during breakfast, I would shower and the kids would play until lunch or until an errand needed to be run.  I still haven't showered.  Didn't think about doing that while Coralynn was still sleeping.  I guess she'll hang out in the bathroom while I shower.  Then, we'll play?  I don't play well with babies.  That's why I always give my babies siblings for their birthdays.  I haven't been at home alone with a baby in 7 1/2 years. 

Before Carson left, he decided to trash talk me.  He gets that from his father's side of the family.  (I'm totally serious.  Grandma A. can talk some smack with the best of them.  You think I'm kidding.  She and Carson got going during a game of dominoes.  In all fairness, he started it, but she held her own.  He was thrilled!)  He was taunting that now they are at school I'll have to do all the chores.  I'm half tempted to make a huge mess for them when they get home.  That'll show him.  (Totally not serious now.)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Weekly 7!

Since it is Wednesday, it's time for our midweek praise-a-thon!!

~Was able to get a lot of grocery shopping and budgeting done over the weekend!

~It rained all day Saturday.  All day.  We don't need the rain, but I love a rainy day.  I really love a rainy day on a weekend.  It's permission to sit inside and play all day.

~Family Fun Night!  The 6 of us had a great time playing Phase 10 (well, until some of us got a little grumpy because we were losing. We won't say whom because we don't want to embarrass Tony.)

~We were able to buy Coralynn a swing/slide playset.  She loved sliding on the big playsets at the church in Georgia so we thought this would be a nice distraction during the first few days of the siblings being at school.

~Sunday, I had kind of a yuck morning at church.  The message was great- as always- but I received some negative feedback from a negative person and it kind of brought my day down.  But God, (Tony has an awesome sermon entitled "But God"!) had a sweet plan to boost my spirits.  We went to the mall for lunch, and "friends" from church were there.  Carson invited them to sit with us so we had a nice lunch conversation.  A sweet smile from Heaven!

~I got a haircut.  Tony cut 2 inches off of it, and it looks so much better.

~I now know enough people in Panama that I was able to call on a few of them when I needed some information.  It was nice to not feel helpless.  (Or to feel helpless, but know where to turn)

What do you have to be thankful for??  Leave me a comment, and let me know!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Money Monday!

I wanted to give you an update on the house savings.  We were able to put 100% of our monthly goal aside in July.  I am very pleased about that.  I am not pleased with the savings options for this money.  The experts would say to put the money in very low risk investments, but those offer minimal return.  We're still considering different higher-risk options in the hopes of greater return.  Our goal isn't to live in the biggest house in the city, but we definitely want a house large enough for our family and a house that is suited for whatever ministry God has for us, and it.  I appreciate your prayers in all of this.

With August comes a new budget cycle.  Tony gets paid once a month.  I love this because it allows us to sit down and write out all the bills in one sitting, and I'm able to create the entire budget without having to factor money coming in all throughout the month.    As I was sitting down with August's budget, I was reflecting on our grocery budget.  The first few weeks of Panamanian living saw me spending between $300-$400 a week on groceries.  Umm.  That's absurd.    For August, I decided $550 for the grocery budget.  That number is still high compared to our Georgia numbers, but it is a significant cut here.

In an attempt to stay under budget, I'm trying a new strategy: minimal grocery trips.  This meant that I had to plan out all of my meals for the month in advance.  With the plan in mind, the kids and I loaded up and hit the warehouse store.  (Yes.  Panama has warehouse stores.  Look just like the ones in the States.  Hot dog combo and all.)  I determined we were going to buy everything we needed for the month except fresh fruit and milk.  (I know milk can be frozen, but I have terrible luck thawing it.)  We ended up taking two days to complete the task.  (I came home and slept in between trips.)  When all was said and done, we had spent $458.60 or 83% of our monthly budget.   Also included in all of that was the stuff for the kids' sack lunches, a new expenditure for me. I did forget 2 items, but I can definitely make it for some time without them. 

My initial thoughts about this process:
~ It is really hard to get $400 worth of warehouse products in a cart with Coralynn sitting in it.
~The $2.00 I tipped the young man at the grocery store who unloaded the cart, loaded the cart, and unloaded the groceries into my van was the best money I've spent in years.
~It is so overwhelming to purchase that much in one trip that buying "extras" was impossible- a good thing!
~I am very concerned with so little money left for the month. 

Stay tuned for our success (or failure) as the month continues...

Update concerning the Church's Missions Giving
I told you last week about the church raising money to send a family to the mission field in West Africa.  The mission board had determined that the family needed $4500 a month to live, operate, and minister for 2 years.  (I have no idea how that number was figured, and the point of this blog isn't to evaluate it.  I choose to take them at their word that the amount is accurate.)  Yesterday at church we heard an update about their financial progress.

The very short version?  Pastor asked us to not give any more money to this family because they already had more than they needed.  How many times have you heard that one?  I'm going with never.  I won't bother with the exact numbers, but understand that the church raised more than they needed in monthly support, plus an additional 5-digits in one-time gifts.

My take home from this is twofold.  First of all, I am in awe that a church of roughly 1000 people (that includes babies) raised that amount in 1 day.  God is moving in their hearts, and I'm thrilled that I got to be a part of it.  Secondly, the amount we gave was nothing compared to the total.  And ultimately, the family didn't need it.  God didn't need our money.  He never needs our His money from us, BUT He led us to give it.  Why?  Because He always wants our obedience. 

Canto con gozo al mirar tu poder,
por siempre yo te amare y dire
Incomparables promesas me das

(the end of Shout to the Lord in Spanish- our closing hymn from Sunday)

i sing for joy at the work
of your hands
forever i'll love you
forever i'll stand
nothing compares
to the promise i have
in you