Sunday, November 13, 2011

Christian in a Post-Christian USA

Oh, politics. I've always detested political science (my worst class in college) and government (my worst in high school). Not that the subjects are hard, not at all. I simply find them difficult to study because nothing in the system seems to work quite as properly as it should once people are added to it. When alleged Christian politicians are being recorded making horrific, personal statements against people in authority, that's just wrong.

Titus 3:1-2 Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing humility to all.
Professionally pointing out documented flaws (in that particular party's belief system) in another politician's actions, I can handle. The verbal backstabbing and poison darts, not so much. It's immature, unnecessary, and embarrassing on an international scale.

Furthermore, it seems that every year I get farther and farther away from each of the political parties. There is nobody to represent me properly, and I balk at voting for someone just for the sake of "not wasting my vote". It's not really being wasted if the politician isn't going to represent me anyway.

The problem has been on my mind for awhile: what exactly do I want from my political representative? There's the [major] rub. I want a Christian who doesn't run on a Christian platform. When did the Republican party become the "Christian" party? Doesn't anyone realize doing so is folly, especially when they get tangled up in sordid affairs after being elected? And what about the separation of church and state? Good heavens, part of the reason the colonists revolted against England because we were tired of being told what, who, and how to believe in something. I love Jesus, I really do. Because of Him, I will never run for any public office. I just don't want to go there. But if a Christian feels compelled to run for office, I really don't want to hear about it. Let your Christianity be seen by your lifestyle, not your campaign promises. Ostracizing 50% or more of the electorate is not a good idea in this post-Christian nation. How can your electorate trust you to truly represent them and not yourself?

As far as the "issues" go, I have nowhere to turn.

1. Abortion. I don't believe in using abortion as a birth control method. According to Planned Parenthood, 1 in 3 women has had an abortion by the age of 45, and "more than half of abortions are obtained by women under 25 years of age. In fact, 35 percent of pregnant teenagers have an abortion, according to the National Abortion Federation" ( So a lot of women have abortions for a myriad of reasons. But if a majority of abortions are going to happen under the age of 25, then why not make it possible for females of child-bearing age to have access to free or very reduced-price birth control? Why not make it a requirement for single women accepting any kind of government support (welfare, military, etc.)? Single mothers work hard, and they often don't have the opportunity to "get ahead" because they chose to keep their child. Preventing pregnancy is far better than the possible risk and guilt associated with ending a pregnancy.

That being said, abortions could still be available, but their use would probably be dramatically reduced on the pregnancy prevention plan.

2. Taxes. When Warren Buffett is complaining that he's not paying his fair share of taxes (he paid 17.4% on his taxable income last year), there's something going on. There's no reason average and below-average Joes and Janes should be paying 25-28% of their incomes. Make it fair, folks! Get rid of loopholes. Incentives are okay (e.g., charity, having kids), but I draw the line at the home mortgage interest deduction. That thing is costing our government a whole lot of money! Every should have a home, yes, but not everyone needs to own a home.

3. Social activities. I support helping people in need. However, there should be limits on the amount of time a person gets support. I know families who are on their fourth generation of folks on welfare. I understand that if you're poor, it's hard to break out of the system. However, there has to be an incentive to get out of it! So many people I know on welfare refuse to go to school or work because they make more money by simply hanging out at home. That's ridiculous.

Additionally, this whole unemployment paycheck for 99 weeks is insane. Two years' worth of unemployment pay does not provide anyone incentive to find a job. There are some people who genuinely need the help, of course, but there needs to be a tiered system and extra requirements for folks who are going to be drawing unemployment for that long.

In order to qualify for government assistance of any kind, there should be very rigid requirements. Drug testing (for welfare or educational assistance) and proof of actions (depending on the assistance) are two ways to get people moving toward supporting themselves. My brother's solution to welfare is simple: If after X years, adults are still on welfare, then they should be sent to work as harvesters, much like migrant workers. When did Americans get "too good" for outside work, anyway?

4. Environment. Why do you have to be a Democrat if you care about the environment? Every Christian should be clamoring for better environmental controls. Man's first job was to name the animals (Gen. 2: 19) and was even created, in part, to till the ground (Gen. 2:5). God even gave Moses laws on how to protect wild game (Deut. 22:6-7). I don't want to drill more, I want viable green options. I want the government to pour money into making green energy feasible instead of just supporting the corn industry. I want our nation to be mindful of the toxicity of our everyday objects, processes, and habits. We need local governments to provide incentives for their local businesses to change their dirty practices.

Those are my four "big" issues. The only person who could represent me properly right now is my husband, and he's tied down in his current job. Who in the world would vote for someone on that platform anyway? Christians would call us a bunch of traitors. Democrats would call us unhinged social terrorists. Republicans would call us anti-capitalist terrorists. And so next year brings me another year in which I will be misrepresented by whoever is chosen to speak on my behalf. Grrr.

The only thing to do is act right based on my beliefs and be the change I want to see, right? Because the Bible clearly says that I need to be obedient to my authorities, and if I want them to see things my way, I need to be nice about it...which is hard for me. I'm not the nicest of people.

Challenge: If you're frustrated with your current representative's views and can find a viable alternative, then vote for the other person. If not, then start making your own changes. Research the topics you're passionate about and start writing letters to your representatives, making environmental changes, talking to people about XYZ. It's easier to find a representative if the representative knows what it is that you want.

Domestic Goddess out.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Old Mine Ranch

The Domestic God was on leave today, so he treated the family out on a date. After McD's Big Breakfasts (with pancakes!), we went to Old Mine Ranch in Dumfries, VA. Sadly, I forgot our camera AND my phone, so we have no proof that we were actually there. Despite that slight setback, we had a fantastic time.

The ranch is down a windy road just off of Route 1 here in NoVA. To me, it's not really a ranch (disclaimer: I come from Texas and have driven past King Ranch too many times to count). That's more of a marketing ploy to draw people in. Whatever, it's fun!

You enter through a little farm store, where you pay for your tickets ($8/child and $6/adult) and get tempted to buy farm goodies. Once through, you enter a ginormous kids' playground. This year, there's a bouncy slide. It's only for kids 3-10, so Thing #3 stood on the edge, guarded by us, while the other two slid their hearts out.

Then there are the slides built into a (tiny) hill and made out of huge tubes. They're big enough for adults under 6' to slide through comfortably and lots of fun. We spent about 30 minutes running up that little hill and sliding down. Fun, fun, fun.

Our kids didn't really dig the maze, but I credit it that to not being able to see above the barriers, and I know exactly how that feels. It's why I don't like to go wandering about in woods looking for GPS coordinates. I don't like not being able to see above around puts a damper on fun.

This year, the train ride, pony ride, hay ride, and animal feed are all included in the kids' tickets. It's a really great deal. The girls got a kick out of the train ride because they didn't have to ride in car seats or even with us. They got a little car all to themselves, and they sang at the top of their lungs the entire lap around the "track". They also waved like Queen Elizabeth at all the passers-by.

Things #1 and 2 got a great kick out of the pony ride. It's just a small tour around the pony's pen, but that's long enough for a kid. A ranch hand stays next to the kid and guides the pony around, so it's completely supervised and quite safe. I was surprised Thing #2 was so enthusiastic because she normally shies away from animals larger than her. The pony was so sweet and docile that she had no problem and had a great time. Another thing that surprised me was how the girls kind of instinctively (or maybe I've just lectured them about animals that many times) remained quiet and still around the pony. At any rate, a 3- and 4-y/o handled the experience quite well.

I think the hay ride was a bit of a let-down for me, but that's just because I've been on some pretty cool (and long!) ones. It's a nice little tour around the ranch. The ride is slightly longer than the train ride, but it's still only a few minutes long. The kids enjoyed it, especially Thing #3. She especially liked the wind on her face and the hay to play with.

The highlight was, of course, the petting area. Our Solo cup of feed went a long way. Horses, ponies, goats, sheep, and alpacas happily gobbled the food up from our kids' hands. Again, Thing #2 surprised me because she generally wants nothing to do with anything that's going to dirty her hands. This time, though, she very happily fed everyone except the horse. He kept snuffing and making loud noises, which she's not fond of. Thing #3 likes animals, but she doesn't like to touch them unless they're smaller than her...which means she only touched the rabbits. It seemed like enough of a thrill for her, though. :) Thing #1 was all over the place, making sure everyone got enough food. She liked touching the rams' horns the best. "They're smooth and bumpy at the same time," she said. Good observation.

For all the parents wondering about common sense stuff like bathrooms, hand washing, and food, never fear. There's not really food for sale, so you don't have to worry about kids whining for stuff. A hand washing station is located just outside the end of the petting/animal area, so you don't have to pack tons of hand sanitizer. It's a fun station because it looks like a trough and has about eight spigots, so everyone can wash at once. Watching the water start up and run through each spout was particularly interesting for our Things. And finally, there are two outdoor restrooms. Two "real" toilets that flush are housed inside of an "outhouse" provide privacy and are very clean, even with two school buses' worth of children present. You can bring your own snack or lunch if you want. About six picnic tables are scattered around, some shaded, some not, for visitors to use. Management just requests that you clean up your area so the wandering animals (mainly small goats) don't eat anything that can make them sick. Trash cans are cleverly positioned close (but not too close) to the tables.

All in all, it was a great date. The girls left their pumpkin decorating for the end of the trip, and they were all pretty worn out. Thing #3 was swept to bed immediately upon returning to the house. Thing #2 went down for a nap without conversation about 30 minutes later. Thing #1 is probably telling her preschool class all about the adventure. The Domestic God and I are just chilling now and marveling about how great the morning was. If you go, please remember to take your camera!

Challenge: Find a local pumpkin patch or farm (there are tons in the NoVA area!), take some time off of work, and get yourself away to some fresh air for a morning or an afternoon.

-Domestic Goddess out.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Abby's Lane

I have met some really fabulous people here in Prince William County. First and foremost is Kristina of PWC Moms. Not only is she a native of the area (which is a rarity here in NoVA), she's got the most beautiful heart in any person I know besides my immediate family. I'm so blessed to have her as a friend!

As it would turn out, Kristina introduced me to Cate*, a fellow mom in our kids' preschool. Cate subsequently introduced me to Abby's Lane. I have used Kelly's Closet exclusively for the purchase of our entire cloth diaper stash, so I kind of put off visiting the Abby's Lane website. However, when Cate started working at the local Abby's Lane store in Manassas, I knew I'd have to find a reason to visit. That came in the form of another friend, Keira*, who is expecting her first baby. She's a motivated mama who's doing all her research on cloth diapering and planning ahead (wish I had been that motivated before the arrival of Thing #1!). When Keira expressed an interest in visiting the shop, I happily volunteered to drive her out there.

The drive to downtown Manassas from the south is pretty. I love that Abby's Lane is SO close to the train station parking lot. All we had to do was cross the train tracks and turn right. Easy! Even I couldn't get lost (yes, the DG has some serious navigation issues...even with a GPS).

The store is NOT what I expected. I was MUCH, much more. I was in a cloth diaper nirvana of sorts. Every diaper I'd ever heard of, plus many more that I hadn't, was stacked neatly in shelf upon shelf, ordered by diaper type, size, and print. Choruses of happy birdies started chirping wildly in my head. Sadly, I was too far gone to even think of taking pictures.

A great bonus was the child-friendliness. There's a HUGE play area for kids to play, read, or chill in. Nobody fussed when Thing #3 upset a display of BabyLegs or when Thing #2 got tangled in the various baby-wearing slings. They just smiled and waved it off as though they've seen it all before...which they probably have.

The absolute best store feature is the attendants. Keira and I spoke to three different ladies who gave us the complete low-down on nearly every diaper in the shop. I learned a lot about "old school" diapering and how to properly use a tri-fold. I've been using my new techniques ever since and thus expanding the period between washings.

In addition to diapers, there were training pants, spray mechanisms to attach to your toilet, cloth diaper safe laundry detergent, Planet Wise reusable snack bags, wet bags, CJ's BUTTer products, wooden toys, and much, much more.

Visiting Abby's Lane was a real treat. If you have any desire to know anything about cloth diapers, I highly recommend a visit. If that's not possible, email or call. They are extremely responsive. They've got a great rewards program for mailing list members. They always save at least 5%, whether in store or online. Give them a try!

Challenge: Go to a store that sells stuff you've always wanted to examine. You'll have fun!

*I changed these people's names because I didn't have their permission beforehand to publish their names. Yes, I'm a bit OCD about privacy and security.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Things I Will NEVER Understand

If King Solomon wrote things he'd never understand, I guess I can as well...

-Why the best game in the world is to run around the dining table for half an hour
-Why things right in front of them are invisible yet things right in front of me are plain as day to them
-Why dirty diapers or serious bathroom breaks are necessary three minutes before leaving the house
-Why they refuse to eat their meals but get hungry as soon as we leave the house
-Why boxes full of toys are ignored until it's time to give them away

-Why a messy house has no effect on their mood (I really wish I could do the same!)
-Why they can't hear more than one thing at a time
-Why a sparkling house (that required hours of attention and elbow grease) escapes their notice until two days later

-Why we don't get our mood swings but our husbands have them scheduled
-Why we have to eat at a certain hour or we turn into she-bears
-Why we doubt my homemaker/mothering skills when our children are obviously fabulous and our houses aren't breeding colonies of rodents
-Why we crave silence when we have houses full of children

Get over it! We're just not destined to understand some things, and it's okay. Deal with the things you do get, learn something cool (or easier) instead, and have fun!

Domestic Goddess out.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Summer Summary

Yes, another season! I am loving this fall already, and it's only just begun. I had the opportunity to turn my a/c off for an entire week, which is a HUGE novelty for anyone from the Gulf of Mexico area of the U.S.

I am so sorry it's been two months since my last blog. I've been all over the place lately. At the end of August/beginning of September, my parents came to visit us here in Virginia, and we had an absolutely fabulous time hanging out together. We all went to Boston, Massachusetts for a few days and then headed to Lancaster, Pennsylvania for a few more. It was a FANTASTIC vacation.

Boston was fun. We kind of kept to ourselves and followed the historic walk through downtown. Naturally, we ate clam chowder, drove through the Harvard area, and got lost a few times. Other than that, it wasn't a hugely impressive time. It was a chill out, get reacquainted with Grandma and Grandpa time. Let's just say that was VERY successful. Thing #3 definitely got "Gamma" down in no time at all. Grandpa ended up just being "Dada" with a finger pointing at the proper one. :)

It was Lancaster that we had the best time. Probably because we were staying a lovely bed and breakfast instead of the cheapest hotel I could find on I managed our budget to make that B&B possible, and boy am I glad I did! We stayed at Stumptown Manor, hosted by Carl and Sharon. They were SO wonderful. We discovered that Lancaster has a lot of hipness as well as old-schoolness to it. It was cool to explore and observe the Amish lifestyle during the day and hang out at the downtown arts and crafts night out in the evening.

Anyhow, that's about it for the "official" vacation. Here in NoVA, we took my history buff dad to the Manassas battlefields and visited various siblings of his a few times (Things #1 and 2 LOVE their "huge" family). The big girls got back in the swing of school, and Mama and I visited the cafe at the Tysons Corner American Girl. Pricey, but YUM! :)

Two weeks after their departure, Thing #3 still wakes up and goes to the guest room looking for Gamma and Dada. It breaks my heart, especially when she's upset about something and looking for Gamma. She really enjoys video chat with her grandparents. Thank God for technology!!!

Challenge: Call or video chat with special family members this week.

-Domestic Goddess out.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Advice for First Time Mamas

I just met a wonderful gal at a fellowship dinner. She's just moved to the area and isn't going to get a "replacement" job, and she's pregnant. We had such a fabulous time talking, finding stuff in common, and just enjoying each other's company. As we chatted, I started thinking about all the things I should have done during my first pregnancy-the "if I'd only known" syndrome, I suppose. So here're the Domestic Goddess' advice at the low, low rate of free. :)

1. Chill out! Not in the "chill pill" way, that is. Just relax. Take a deep breath and enjoy it. If you work, then take advantage of any time you have with your spouse. Take this time to truly get to know him and enjoy your alone time. Trust me, childcare for date nights can be tough (and expensive) to finagle! If you're an at-home spouse, then don't worry so much about the state of the house or daily "stuff". Take some time to devour your reading list, do your nails, and soak in the tub.

2. Don't buy anything unless you absolutely have to, and even then, try to get it second-hand. Gosh, I would have saved sooooo much this way. All those fabulous gift cards could have been used to buy formula after I discovered I couldn't breast-feed. The toys our baby "just had to have" were great, but babies change so much and so quickly that the only way we'd get our worth is to have about six kids and then pass them on to a friend who would have to have six kids of her own. Impractical.
Example: A play mat I paid full retail of $40 would have cost $7 at a kid's consignment sale or shop. Find friends who are done with their baby-producing stage and ask if you can take the stuff off their hands. Trust me, it was so nice to find out my college roommate was expecting right around the time we were packing. She took all that good stuff off my hands for free! Great deal on both sides. Of course, check for recalls on anything before buying it.
What You Really Need:
Car seat (buy a new one that will last until your baby is at least 40 pounds),
Jogging stroller with a swivel front wheel and tires you can inflate at the gas station (but don't jog with baby until 6 months),
BPA-free bottles if using formula or pumping, lots of onesies (at least 10 will last a week),
A couple of weather appropriate pieces (Cold weather: jeans/pants, jacket, hat, leggings, socks. Hot weather: shorts/skirt, hat, swim diaper, socks.),
Sturdy diaper bag,
Diapers (about 20-25 if you're using cloth),
Free and Clear detergent.

3. Eat right. I gained 85 pounds with Thing #1, and I'm still struggling with the last ten. She is four years old! I was totally depending on breast-feeding to help me lose weight. Naughty me. I should have known better than to depend on something unpredictable. Sure, you can give into a craving here or there, but moderation is KEY. It helped me with Thing #2 and Thing #3 to think of cravings as a budget. I could splurge occasionally instead of making it a lifestyle like I did with Thing #1.

4. Exercise! Gosh, it made a world of difference in my post-partum attitude. I had knee surgery nine months after Thing #1 was born. Thing #2 arrived nine months after that, so I didn't really have a great opportunity to get back into a good work out program. I truly believe that's why I had such a bad case of the baby blues after Thing #2 arrived. Even if exercise doesn't prevent post-partum depression, it will help keep you and the baby healthy (besides working off those occasional craving splurges!).

5. Cloth diapers. I discovered these with Thing #2, and even though I only used them from her 8-12 month stage, they sure did help with potty training. Thing #2 potty trained herself the week before her second birthday. The cost? Five training panties, three of which doubled as evening soakers. Pricey, yes, but I'm reusing them on Thing #3. Thing #1 didn't really get proficient with the toilet until she was nearly three (switch from diapers to disposable training pants around 2 y/o) and then didn't figure out night training until she was 3.5. In fact, Thing #2 was done night training about a month after Thing #1.
Potty training for Thing #1 cost waaaay more than it did for Thing #2 and even more than Thing #3 even though we've subsequently bought three more training pants. Thing #3 is only 14 months old and has a very solid interest in the potty. I strongly believe it's the cloth diaper because she can feel the wetness.
Resources: Diaper Swapper (if you're okay with second-hand diapers). Kelly's Closet (for new diapers).

6. Read Shepherding a Child's Heart by Ted Tripp. I read that after the arrival of Thing #3 and vehemently wished I'd discovered it during my pregnancy. It's a Christian-based philosophy on child raising and disciplining. I loved it. I started implementing several of Tripp's ideas, and within weeks, I could see the change in my kids' perspectives on how they viewed their actions.

7. (Not so much for pregnant contemplation...more for when you've already got your babycakes in hand.) Get reusable stuff or find ways to reuse stuff you buy.
Buy Reusable Stuff: Each of the kids has a Nalgene Grip 'n Gulp cup in their assigned color. Not only are these things super durable, Nalgene will send a replacement if anything goes wrong with the cup. We also like reusable snack bags from Planet Wise. Baggies have been reduced to puzzle storage. I feel so much less wasteful now whenever we pack snacks or picnics.
Reuse Stuff You've Got:This is my favorite mommy aha! If you're going to buy jarred baby food, keep the glass jars so you can store snacks in there later. You can keep baby cereal in there for on-the-go and then just add water when you're ready to use it. My 14 month old loves to eat her Cheerios and goldfish out of there. They are just the right size for a little one. The jars are surprisingly durable, and the lids screw on, so you don't have to worry about an unmixed cereal mess in your diaper bag or snack pack.

So there you have it. If this list is useful to at least one person, then I'm happy.

Challenge: To spend less than $100 on baby prep items (not including the car seat-I am a firm believer in buying those new).

-Domestic Goddess out.

Sunday, July 3, 2011


I just discovered Glee. I know, I know. I'm two years late. It's okay. I watch about four movies in theater per year and don't have cable, so yes, I watch everything two years after the fact. Netflix has Glee available right now, and after hearing my cousins rave about it, I decided to give it a whirl. Naturally, I love it. I think the story line is a little beyond believable, but hey, it's TV. I love the singing, though. Those guys are really talented! Anyhow, early in Season 1, there's an episode called Hairography. In it, the Glee folks watch a group of girls from an opposing team. There's a lot of hair tossing and booty shaking as they dance to Beyonce's Bootylicious. The director feels threatened by them and introduces a hair tossing routine into their repertoire. Rachel, a Glee member, insists that it's a mistake for the team. She defines hairography as "all the whizzing of their hair around just to distract from the fact that they're not really good dancers and their vocals are just so-so." The director ignores the advice and goes on to have his team perform Crazy in Love, also by Beyonce.

Personally, I find this hilarious. It seems the writers for Glee find Beyonce to be all hair and no real talent. Sure, Beyonce has a great voice and some really good songs, but sheesh! All the fuss about her is ridiculous. I've seen lots of prettier girls just walking around the mall, and I've heard lots of equally talented girls at church and at my former schools. Whatever the case, hairology seems to make a lot of good money, so if any of you have lovely tresses, go ahead and learn how to whip it.

That being said, how much of what we see and buy into is real and what is hairology? What do we believe is true talent, quality, or necessity? What is actually smoke and mirrors? We have to remember who creates the drive within to be like someone or purchase a product. It's marketers who want us to buy into these beliefs. I urge you to please look past the smoke and mirrors and make intelligent, informed decisions about who you want to emulate, what you want to buy, and how you want to live your life.

Challenge: Analyze your weekly purchases and choices. Determine who or what you're buying into before you make any decisions.

-Domestic Goddess out.

Friday, July 1, 2011

A Sense of Accomplishment

Wow, June has come and gone! I kept meaning to write a second blog for the month, but I kept distracting myself. With what?

Well, we moved into our new house on May 24. Our housewarming party was June 11, so that gave me three weeks to get everything unpacked and arranged. Plus, I had to get rid of all our used boxes. Thankfully, we were able to find them a new home.

Then we had a big trip at the end of the which the three littles and I went to NC without Mr. DG. Naturally, we ALL got sick on the trip. Thankfully, I didn't have "plain" cloth dipes. G Diapers and their disposable liners saved my sanity!!! :)

So that leaves about two weeks unaccounted for. I'm sure I was doing something, but who knows what that was??? I know I definitely read and watched Pride and Prejudice. I also watched Jane Eyre. I'm on one of my romantic kicks again, I suppose. I'm currently in the midst of Mansfield Park.

At any rate, June was a fun month. We had several trips to the pool, some walks around the neighborhood, and a LOT of park time. The heat let up for a while, and we really enjoyed the cool(ish) weather.

I'm excited for July and even more so for August. My parents come visit us at the end of the summer!

Challenge: Find lots of fun free stuff to do in your area.

-Domestic Goddess out.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Renaissance Faire Fun

Many thanks to the fabulous Kristina of PWC Moms for sending our family to the Virginia Renaissance Faire! It was a lovely day in the Lake Anna region of Virginia, so we ended up staying from 10:30-2:00 (the event runs from 10:00-5:00 each day). Each weekend the faire is open has a theme, and this weekend featured Celtic Heritage. I'm not sure what exactly was more Celtic yesterday than any other day, but we saw a lot of kilts.

The fair grounds are rather large and could have easily accommodated crowds larger than the ones we visited with. A word to the wise though: take a jogging or all-terrain stroller. The "paths" are gravelly, and the grass is uneven. Pushing our umbrella stroller around was difficult once we were having to push a larger kid while juggling the little one.

The first "thing" that happened was that our older kids (4 and 2) decided they were going to be terrified of all the Renaissance actors. It took them about an hour and/or the queen's arrival to make them enjoy interacting with the characters. My 2 y/o never really loosened up enough to talk with anyone though she did inspect their clothes closely. The actors all remained solidly in character, and by the time we left, I'd begun returning their "Good morrows" and mentally referring to the crowd as gentles instead of people.

My husband and our friends were then recruited to march in the Queen's parade. They got some basic training on how to carry their "lances" and how to march. It was pretty cool. While they did that, the kids and I listened to a bard spin tales, watched the cooks create meals in an outdoor stone oven, and enjoyed the minstrels create improvisational songs.

We watched a few skits held in the Queen's honor, and I was happily impressed that all the topics were pretty clean. No flaming lewdness or cursing. The worst subject was that of pirate drunkenness, and even then, it was poking fun at pirates, not praising them. Other acts we watched included another improv singer, a magician, and the Fool. The Fool was my favorite. He did lots of fantastic acrobatic tricks while juggling. The best one was balancing on a board on top of a rolling barrel while tossing knives around. My kids liked him hula hooping with a flaming hoop best. There was a complimentary wine tasting of the Lake Anna Winery's samples for adults. Yum! Among the things we missed were an equestrian/jousting show, an archery exhibition, and a knighting (or ordaining as a lady) of the children.

Things we enjoyed seeing but not participating in were the petting zoo (baby alpacas, goats, and sheep), watching a weaving demonstration, watching gentles try to throw axes, watching gentles try archery, and playing in the kids area. There were also tons of vendors. It was very easy to get tempted to want a fun costume item, but so many of the costume pieces for sale were uber-expensive, so the temptation passed quickly. Other vendors had jewelry, chain mail pieces, weaponry, old-fashioned wooden toys, soaps, tobacco, and alpaca wool skeins.

And finally...the food! I've only been to one other (smaller) Renaissance Faire, and the food was pretty much the same. I saw frozen chocolate covered cheesecake on a stick (drool), funnel cakes, Scottish eggs, turkey legs, ginormous sausages on a stick, and sweet potato fries as well as standard American fare of hot dogs, burgers, and Frito pies (num!). We enjoyed a turkey leg and two hot dogs for $13. While it was not nearly enough for a family of five, I had packed a very hefty lunch bag with snacks, juices, and extra waters. My husband and I finished off our 1L bottle, the kids finished their 0.5L bottles, and the baby polished her 8 oz. cup of water pretty quickly, and the weather was in the mid 80s. Drinks, of course, are where you really pay a premium. Bottled 16 oz. waters ranged from $1.00-$1.50, 12 oz. sodas were about $2.50, and lemonades were $5.00 for a largish plastic cup ($2.00 for refills).

We went to the car to snack, but I don't think there would have been a problem if we had brought the food in. When we walked back into the Faire, the kids had their apples in hand, and nobody remarked on them.

Overall, the Renaissance Faire was a great event, and I am so glad our family had the opportunity to attend. Next year, we'll take advantage of the Military History weekend over Memorial Day and get in gratis.

-Great chances for the kids senses to be stimulated (touching the weapons and looms, listening to the music, watching the shows, tasting the food, and smelling the animals) to learn about history.
-Lots of space-we weren't constantly running over feet with our stroller or losing our kids in the crowd.
-Plenty of shady spots to take a break or change a diaper in.
-The ability to go and come back in (hand stamp return method).
-Plenty of FREE parking spaces!
-FREE wine tasting!

-The actors were a little scary to the kids at first.
-Some gentles visiting the Faire felt the need to dress like serving wenches and show more skin than I wanted to see...and I am by no means a big conservative when it comes to dressing.
-If you get there after 11:30, you're probably going to be hiking to and from your car.

-It's easy to get dehydrated and over-exposed in the sun despite the lovely temperature and slight cloud cover. I was thankful I had a stash of hats in the car and sunscreen in the diaper bag. Bring lots of water and sun protection.
-Bring an all-terrain stroller so you have an easy time of pushing your tots around.
-Be aware that some female costumes will be overly revealing.

Recommendation: A great family outing. Definitely do your best to get out and support this event!

Friday, June 3, 2011

New Home, New Outlook

In my two years of me being out of the military, our family has lived in two houses. This past week and a half found us moving into our third one. For some reason, I decided today was the perfect day to give it its first scrub down.

Typically, cleaning days are grumpy days for me. I don't like cleaning. At all. My mother has this superpower that inspires dust to literally run away from her. I'm more like Pig-Pen in that I attract the stuff. Bleh. So I was rather surprised when I found myself enjoying cleaning this house. I mean, I'm the mother who never went through the nesting phase during pregnancy, so it was truly shocking. At any rate, it was nice.

That being said, I must give a shout out to Sally Hansen right now. I'm wearing the Salon Effects nail polish strips in "Fly With Me" and I haven't chipped my "manicure" at all despite scrubbing, scratching up gunky stuff from the floor, washing the dishes, or doing any other cleaning thing. I was very pleased, especially since the manicure in a box only cost about $7 (with coupon!). My salon manicure of $25 got ruined just three days into our move. Grrr.

Back to the house thing. I really love this house. This is a "true" house with a (small) fenced in backyard, detached garage, and (gasp!) utility room. Even though there's a little too much space in here, I like having all the openness. The kids are living it up. After two townhouses in which you could reach the long end of the house in twelve four-year-old strides, this is a real treat for them. :)

I'm very happy to report there are no more boxes left to open downstairs. All the bedrooms are done except for the bunk bed. The guest room is really the only room to go, and it's going to be a bear. That's where all of my husband's gear, our photo albums, and miscellaneous office stuff we don't want downstairs will be stored. I hope there's enough room for the futon!

So, I'd like to thank my fellow taxpayers for supporting the military so well. I know this house is not mine; it is the American people's. I will endeavor to take very good care of it to prevent taxpayer money from being wasted on frivolity. I will enjoy it to the maximum of my abilities because I know it's a blessing to have a home provided. Thanks, everyone!

Challenge: Pretend someone else is paying for the house you're currently living in. Would you take better care of it or have the "don't be gentle, it's a rental" mentality? Why?

-Domestic Goddess out.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Learning to Coupon

I love saving money when I shop. I've been toying the idea of "super couponing" for years. When Kingdom First Mom's Alyssa advertised a 50% off special for Grocery University's couponing tutorial, I went ahead and bought it. Around the same time, I become really good friends with PWC Moms' Kristina, who offered a few choice tips of her own. She also steered me over to Southern Savers, which makes fancy couponing VERY simple! For about the past month, I've been using better grocery shopping tactics, and I am really enjoying it.

First, I must confess: I have no idea how much we've saved. I'll continue to have no idea until we've moved (was supposed to happen 5/2, but there was a major failure to communicate, to say the least, and so the date is now at the end of this month). Since I was expecting to move on 5/2, I had everything except the kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, and closet necessities packed. That mean all my receipts for Quicken are in a box...somewhere. However, I do know that I've gotten more bang for my buck. In April, we spent just a little less than our normal budget, but we got more for it. How do I know? Well, I stocked up on enough groceries to last us until last Monday, 5/9, so I didn't make my first real grocery trip of the month until Tues., 5/10.

There have been some challenges to learning to coupon. First is meal planning. I like sitting down with my cookbooks and spending about an hour deciding what we're going to eat for a week. I had to change that. Instead, I go through the circulars of the stores I like (read: those that double $0.99 and below coupons on a daily basis) and try to think of ways to throw their sales together. I'm sure I could speed the process up if I used one of those nifty online things that lets me punch in three items and spits out fifteen different recipes, but I haven't yet. Why? Because I just thought of it! :)

Next is strategy. I used to clip coupons only on things that our family needs.
Now, I clip anything I think we'll need or that I think I can get for dirt cheap (read: $0.10 or less). Southern Savers has been really useful because of the way deals are laid out. The item is listed with its current price, all coupons you can use (with links to them, if applicable), a recommendation on which coupon will get you the most savings, and the final price after coupon. Here's a sample of what I'm talking about here. It's wonderful! No need to whip out the calculator (packed) or use a lot of time thumbing through your coupons. The background work is done for you. Lovely!!!

Acquiring coupons is an obvious step I haven't discussed yet. There are three ways I get coupons: printing, newspaper clipping, and in-store.
I used to print coupons, but that drives me crazy because the printer is attached to my husband's computer, and my computer is ornery and won't accept a networked printer. Ugh! Printing coupons for the Web is great but not my primary coupon source.
I get a majority of mine from the Washington Post. I got a fabulous Living Social deal for the Post a few months ago, and the Post allowed me to renew the subscription at the same low price, so I'm still getting a Sunday paper for $0.42. Since I typically save at least $15.00 per shopping trip, I figure the subscription is worth it. Plus, the paper is totally reusable: we occasionally read it, the kids paint on it, we started our seedlings in cups made out of paper, etc.
In-store coupons are great. There are two kinds: blinkies and Catalinas.
Blinkies, dubbed by my eldest, are those coupon dispensers with the blinking lights. I like to grab a few (strictly one per person shopping with me so I don't get too greedy), stuff them in my coupon book, and keep going. Easy!
Catalinas are the coupons the clerk hands you along with your receipt. They're typically high dollar coupons, which is great, but the products are usually higher end (read: more expensive). I save those on really good sales, especially on brands like Seventh Generation. Those coupons turn expensive brand prices into store brand prices. Nice!

Learning your store is another really important step. Some stores simply do you the favor of accepting coupons (e.g., HEB in Texas). Great. Others double your coupons up to a certain amount. Typically, this is $0.50 (Loew's, if I remember correctly), but I have two fantastic stores (Harris Teeter and Wegman's) in the area that go up to $0.99. FREE TIP: Harris Teeter is having TRIPLE coupons starting Wednesday. Yes! Another thing some stores allow is using multiple coupons. The only one I know of in the area that does this is Target, which accepts a manufacturers coupon and a Target coupon for the same item. Some stores have limits on how many coupons you can use. There are lots of "things" to figure out about couponing , so check online or call your store's customer service line if you have a coupon question.

Finally, stashing your coupons. There is no wrong way to do this.
Research a few methods, try them out, and find something that works for you. Trust me, you'll want to figure out some form of organization, or you'll defeat yourself before you start. Having everything at hand is great. Carrie Isaac of Grocery University offers a good idea in her video. My friend Kristina organizes her coupon binder by shopping aisle at her favorite store. Another friend puts her coupons in a plastic organizer accordion while another uses a large envelope. I use the binder with baseball card protectors method. When I'm ready to shop, I pull out the coupons I'm going to use and stick them in an envelope with my shopping list.

Call me nerdy, but I get a thrill out of seeing my Harris Teeter receipts. It's nice to see all those minuses at the bottom and getting 46% savings just by using naptime as strategy time.

Challenge: Experiment with couponing for a month. See how it affects your grocery budget.

-Domestic Goddess out.

"I Love Saving Money" photo by

Gaga for the Guppy Gala

It all started with a BuyWithMe daily save offer: 50% annual membership to the National Zoo as well as 50% off tickets to the Guppy Gala. After much deliberation (read: is it cheaper to ride the Metro to the zoo or have free parking with the membership), I decided to go ahead and purchase the membership and tickets for the family.

The Guppy Gala, which I had never heard of and did minimal research on, turned out to be WELL WORTH the $10 (discounted) tickets. Even at the full price of $20/person, it was a great deal. Each ticket includes free parking and dinner.

The gala is one of the zoo's annual fundraisers, and it's a great family event. I took my three kids and was accompanied by my neighbor and her little one. Despite the crowds, double stroller and single stroller manipulation wasn't bad, and we were able to stay together pretty well.

First off, let's talk swag. Subway provided veggie, cold cut, and turkey 6" sandwiches, Utz chips, and Coca-Cola drinks for each paid customer (though my two 2 y/o and under scored sandwiches as well). The dining area was a little field with picnic benches set up. Free tip #1: If you get there early, take one of the benches as far away from the drinks area as possible. It allows for a quick get-away and faster access to the (very clean) Port-a-Johns. As we walked through the gala, we received food of every sort: hot dogs, chicken nuggets, Minute Maid juice boxes, Honest Tea drink pouches, soft pretzels, funnel cakes, brownies, and doughnuts. The was also a HUGE Stoneyfield yogurt area that had all sorts of samples and coupons (super score!). I saw lots of people walking around with foods that we didn't see, so free tip #2 is come with an appetite and/or after a good, hard workout.

Second, let's talk activities. My kids learned a few zookeeper duties, like how to scoop poop, catch snakes, and train animals in receiving touch. They also totally dug the ginormous inflatable slides. The walking animals (Po the Kung Fu Panda, Mrs. Elephant, Mr. Wolf, and someone else that I didn't photograph so I can't remember) were a little suspect at first, but they eventually started giving them lots of love.

There was an Arcade Alley sort of space that would have been great for kids older than mine (my oldest is 4). Another play area had a bike course, climbing wall, and a couple of other really good energy burning activities that were just a little too advanced for us.

Third, let's talk shows. There were cheerleaders (but we didn't watch them because no child that young should be wearing shorts that short in public) doing their fly through the air routines and clappers tapping their hearts out. Roaming jugglers and stilt walkers fascinated my kids over and over again. My two elder kids got a kick out of the dancing animal characters, especially the tree frog. It was nice to have a break from the walking.

Finally, let's talk animals. Surprisingly, we didn't really get to see very many. My neighbor and I commented that the gala seemed like a giant advertisement (although the only items for sale were wine, beer, and ice gelati). The animals we did get to see were pretty cool. The lion cubs were out and playing a few of the lionesses. The barn was open, and the kids got to get one-on-one with a few cows, alpacas, donkeys, and goats. My little 1 y/o was terrified after the cows started lowing at her, but the older two and our friend's little one had fun. There was a zookeeper on hand to talk about the animals and another to distribute fish food for the koi. That was a huge highlight of the evening.

Overall, the Guppy Gala was a really great event. On the way out, the sponsors were giving away their wares rather liberally, and I got enough healthy snack food for preschool snack bags for the next three weeks! Free tip #3: Bring a recyclable grocery bag with you for all the goodies you score. There were some being given away this year, and we each scored one, but bring one in case there aren't any next year. Free tip #4: If you plan on staying 'til the bitter end, bring an extra of those bags to put all the extra goodies in. This way, you can have a "dry" bag for the coloring pages, pencils, crayons, posters, etc. and a "wet" bag for all the food and juices. Makes it a lot easier! I am already looking forward to next year's gala! Kudos to the National Zoo for putting on such a great event.

-Free parking
-Close to the Metro if the thought of driving in DC stresses you out
-LOTS of free food
-TONS of activities for kids of all ages

-Pushing tired kids uphill in a stroller
-Just a smidgen too many things to do; I felt like we had to keep go, go, going so we wouldn't miss out on anything. As it was, our kids didn't do even a fraction of the activities, yet we barely managed to cover the whole festival.
-The $20/person over 2 y/o might be a turn off for some folks. We can only hope there's another BuyWithMe (or like company) special next year! I really do think everyone got their full money's worth at the event, though.

-For all ages
-If you've got small kids or kids who aren't used to walking much, then you MUST bring a stroller (or rent one).

Find a fabulous deal on a social coupon site and enjoy it with your family.

-Domestic Goddess out.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

To Give or Not to Give

In these tight economic times, charities from around the world are feeling the pinch of people tightening up their wallets. Charities are failing to raise enough money to accomplish all their goals. As we receive weekly letters from charities asking for more money, I have begun wondering why we support anybody at all. Does what we give do enough good to "bother" doing it? Is there truly any joy in giving? What gives (bad pun, I couldn't help it)?

First off, my husband and I are Christians, so we put a lot of stock in what the Bible says. Since God and Jesus mention giving/supporting each other pretty regularly throughout the Old and New Testaments, we feel we have a responsibility to give. Our money is not our own, but God's, and God calls us to give to Him and to give to others. So we do. At first, it wasn't cheerful giving, as called for in 2 Corinthians 9:7, but as we "got used to it", we began looking forward to other opportunities to give: to support visiting missionaries, to buy groceries to keep in the car and hand out to people begging on the street, to help fund a youth scholarship, etc. It makes us happy to be able to be a part of extending God's kingdom.

Learning to budget for giving was a little hard at first. We created a "test" budget when we went through pre-marital counseling and added tithing as a permanent portion of our budget. It was a little difficult (what isn't at the beginning of a marriage?), but after a few months, we were completely used to it. We started with the recommended church tithe of 10% but have been trying to expand our giving in the past few years. We've realized that we should give above and beyond the 10%, and we do our absolute best to exceed it. Currently, we have automatic payments set up to give to a variety of different Christian charities, and we support our church regularly. Then the fun part of giving comes in: We try to find different ways to help locally (as exemplified above). It feels so wonderful to be able to give when God opens our eyes to a need, much like in Brandon Heath's song "Give Me Your Eyes".

Brandon Heath - Give Me Your Eyes from Brandon Heath on Vimeo.

A few years ago, my husband became very strongly convicted about getting our family out of debt. He examined our finances, and within a year and a half, the only thing we owed anyone else was house payments. So now, we have some wiggle room in our budget. Every month, we do our best to be disciplined and stick to our financial plan. When the opportunity to financially help someone arises, we take it. I am firmly convinced that we would not be able to do so if we still had our former debts dictating our financial habits. It is good to be out of debt so we can give!

Give more, save more, spend less (on ourselves). This is our financial tenet. We aim to please God with it. He blesses us richly when we trust Him to provide, and He has always given us more than enough to fulfill us. God is good, and obeying Him is the best way we can show Him how much we want to return His love.

Challenge: Find new ways to give (in addition to any giving you're already doing).

-Domestic Goddess out.

Image by: Mr. Kris

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

College Loans: Good, Bad, or Just Plain Ugly?

I've had education on my mind for the past few weeks. We are moving very soon, and I'm torn whether I want to put my eldest in the new location's free public pre-school program or drive to my current location and keep on with our current, private pre-school. I've been reading up on local public and private schools in both locations, examining statistics and curriculum (when possible). It's dizzying.

Naturally, this all leads me down that long, dark road called College Drive. (Yes, it's obnoxious, as my kids are all under five, but hey, it's never to early to start planning, right?) Will I encourage my kids to go to college and take out tons of loans to pay for their educations? What about encouraging my kids to go to a technical school where they can learn highly valuable skills that are always in demand (e.g., mechanic of any sort, health technician of any sort, cosmetology, etc.)? Although these jobs probably won't allow my kids to become millionaires in seven years, they will all but guaranteed a job in most economies.

The New York Times just published "Burden of College Loans on Graduates Grows". This article depressed me even further regarding College Drive. The author, Tamar Lewin, tries very hard to present the good and bad side of college loans, but in the end, I only saw the ugly. Case in point: the Obamas had at least $120,000 in student loans when they got married. It took them nearly NINE years to pay off this sum, and it only happened that quickly because Mr. Obama earned quite a lot in royalties from his bestselling books. How many college graduates end up with high-paying careers like the Obamas' and then write a hugely popular book on top of that to supplement their income? Not many, folks!

Here's another jewel:
Susan Dynarski, a professor of education and public policy at the University of Michigan, said student debt could generally be seen as a sensible investment in a lifetime of higher earnings. “When you think about what’s good debt and what’s bad debt, student loans fall into the realm of good debt, like mortgages,” Professor Dynarski said. “It’s an investment that pays off over the whole life cycle.”
Really? Buying a house is a good investment? Let's talk to the average American whose house is possibly only worth 5% more than what he or she initially bought it for. Buying a house is a great idea if you are in a stable job that isn't going to move you or if you really like your area. The tax perks see to that. But as an investment, houses are just as risky as anything else. The market fluctuates, and anyone who doesn't think so should look at all the foreclosures being picked up by the Chinese. Banks are selling homes that cost the initial buyers $450,000 for "only" $200,000. Good investment? I think not! So Prof. Dynarski's comparison falls flat on its face for me, making it less likely that I encourage my kids to take out tons of debt for an education that may not pay itself off.

Besides, doesn't anyone realize that the only job market currently growing is that of service? Restaurants, stores, movie theaters, etc. continue to expand despite the recent recession. Who do you think is filling those jobs? Former executives of large companies? Nope. Recently graduated college students who want to get started on paying off their huge debts. Naturally, that isn't reflected in the statistics that say x% of college students have jobs after graduating. Nobody ever really asks what kind of jobs those are. Let's examine that whole picture carefully!

So what is my plan? Well, my husband and I have 529 accounts for each of our kids, and we contribute rather meager amounts to them monthly. Our kids will be encouraged to work in high school and to save a large percent of their income for college. They will also be encouraged to pay up front with real money up front for college classes, should they desire to pursue an academic route. My brother-in-law worked his way through 4.5 years of college with a loan of only $1,500. If he can do it, I know average Joe or Jane College Student can, too. My b-i-l had drive, passion, and a very real sense of personal responsibility that allowed him to accomplish this. God bless my mother-in-law for teaching it to both of her sons!

College isn't the end-all-be-all, folks. It's a great tool for getting ahead, but there are lots of jobs that need to be filled. As long as my kids are living honest lives, not doing anything illegal or immoral, and contributing positively to society, I am a pretty happy mama, regardless of what their chosen professions might be.

Challenge: Make a plan for your kids' college. If your kids are of age, discuss various options with them. They may come up with something even more creative! Remember the Seven P's: Proper Prior Planning Prevents P!$$ Poor Performance.

-Domestic Goddess out.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Giving it Up

The season of Lent came upon me quickly this year on Wednesday, March 9. I spent most of Mardi Gras thinking about giving stuff up: why do we do it, should I do it (I didn't grow up with this practice), and what should I do? I was gazing deeply into my fridge looking for answers and inspiration for dinner when it came to me-it was time to take the plunge and turn away from meat at least for this season. Once I came to this realization, I felt peaceful and rather excited. But how did a steak-eating Texican come to the point she was ready to give up the moo?

1. My best friend growing up is a Seventh Day Adventist. Her church believes very strongly in the biblical belief of taking care of the body through diet. Although her family didn't 100% adhere to vegetarianism, they did eat a lot more vegetables than mine did, and they were always a lot healthier than we were (minus the South Texas allergies). They did adhere completely to the diet outlined in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 13.

2. I did a Standard Process purification last year during my pregnancy with Baby #3. The first ten days cut meat completely out of the diet. Since I was preggo, I was allowed to have an egg a day for the protein boost, but that was it. Although I was having withdrawals, I felt much better after the first three days and didn't really miss the massive quantities I was used to eating. I lost 10 pounds in three weeks, but Babycakes grew perfectly and is now a healthy little critter. In fact, Thing #3 is supervising as I write and motivating me by clapping and blowing kisses.

3. Alicia Silverstone's The Kind Diet detailed what Food, Inc. did, except with ink (and dead trees, but we won't go there). Although most people are very visual, I have to read things to truly believe them (I think I've been overly jaded by mainstream media, but I digress). Although Ms. Silverstone advocates veganism, I was completely turned to the idea of a veggie-centric diet. I was also turned on more than ever to the plant-your-own dinner and be a responsible Earthling ideas.

And so, here we are, nearly two weeks into Lent, and I'm quite the happy vegetarian. I don't really crave meat, but sometimes I'm when I made the family steaks for dinner. I have a "thing" for raw meat, and it was really hard not to pop a nice, rare bite of steak into my mouth. But I didn't, and I was glad. I haven't really lost much weight (not the primary purpose of the exercise), but I certainly have maintained without much work at all (read: too cheap to spend my $3.50/gallon gas on driving 15 miles to the gym on base). I feel like my thing to give up is not truly in the spirit of Lenten deprivation because it's not been horrendously difficult (like the year I gave up ice cream). So I comfort myself with the thought that although I'm not suffering, I'm being a little more obedient to the original diet prescribed in Genesis.

I originally thought it would be really hard to convert because I got really bored with the vegetarian meals during the purification last year. Thankfully, the library came to my rescue. I'd been using the recipes in The Kind Diet, but when the book was due, I had nothing. As I was dropping the book in the return, I noticed the month's special display: cookbooks for healthy eating, with a number of vegan and vegetarian ones in the mix. Hooray! God came through for me before I even thought to ask Him for some help.

As usual, my attempts at biscuits and pizza dough have been beyond miserable, but everything else has been quite tasty. And since the recipes are all new, they're fun to make and try. Thank God for libraries, let me just say that. Baby #3 and I totally loved barley casserole and farmhouse stew. Num num num.

I don't know if vegetarianism is here to stay, but at the very least, I'll go back to only the Old Testament clean meats. And I don't want to revert to daily meat consumption. It should be more of a treat than anything else. We'll see, huh?

Make at least one vegetarian meal every week. When you've conquered that, go for a weekly meatless day. See how much fun you can have working new recipes into your taste buds!

-Domestic Goddess out.

Monday, March 7, 2011

DG's Got the "I Want" Blues

Ugh. I'm having one of those dreaded days. You know the type. On a normal basis, you're happy to be glad with what you have, admire what you don't, and save for what you want/think you need. On a normal basis, you look for the blessing in everything around you, drawing joy from the simplest of things, like watching your kids grow up and blossom right before your eyes.

Sadly, today (or, rather, just this afternoon) has not been one of those days. I don't know what got into my head. I think it was just me thinking about "things", but I soon found myself in a reprehensible mood and thinking about all the things I want but don't have. Even worse, I found myself grumpy about the things I want but shouldn't. Like a cleaning service. A bigger house (to be cleaned by said cleaning service). Fancy clothes and accessories. Everything organic (food, face wash, etc.). A neighborhood of other SAHMs that I can be friends with and share a cup of coffee with sans the need to plan it two weeks in advance.

Even as I found myself in the downward spiral of "Why don't I have these things? Is it really too much to ask? I don't really want to be frugal-why not just enjoy the money we have now?", I found the rational part of my brain (buried waaaaay down, struggling for air) crying out, "Excuse me, but you've GOT a lot, and you need to get over it." Thank God for reason via the Holy Spirit! Whew! Over the hour it took to get dinner on the table, I hit a valley and then started climbing back out of it.

I have food. Shelter. A/C and heating that work. Nice enough clothes that don't need to be fancy because I get spit up on about two or three times a day anyway. Machines that do a lot of hard work for me (because who really wants to hand wash dirty cloth diapers?). More importantly, I am healthy. I have a great relationship with my husband, who is a saint among men. I have funny kids who are a delightful challenge to raise. My husband has a job that allows me to stay home. And on and on and on. Yes, counting blessings is a very therapeutic exercise. Even if it takes a long while, eventually, you realize you're just being a rotten snit and get over the "I wants" and become thankful for the "I haves." I don't really need my wants at all, and that is a very thankful place to be.

Challenge: Next time you're feeling unhappy with your lot in life, take a look at what you have or what you have already accomplished, evaluate whatever you're aiming for (do you really need to get/do that?), make a plan to achieve it (if it's worth doing), and go for it!

-Domestic Goddess out.

Friday, February 25, 2011


There's been a move toward being frugal lately, but this article's title kind of drives me crazy. "How to get groceries for free": MSN uses it to attract attention, of course, but still. Gleaning was originally a way for the poor to have food, not for the average Joe/Jane to lower his/her grocery bill. Grrr.

On the positive note, gleaning is a great thing, and a member of our former church in Raleigh started a gleaning ministry for the community. He had a rough time starting it the first year because he was the only one who'd go pick food and haul it back to church, but he strove on and did great things. After Saturday pickup, he'd bring the stuff to church on Sunday and take donations for the food. Then, on Monday, he'd distribute to the local shelters. The donations were used for one of our church's ministries to feed needy kids in our area. The ministry is growing, and the outreaching is multiplying. That's what gleaning is all about!

So if you have time and are able, look into gleaning for your community. It's a great way to give back!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Make Love, not Debt, This Valentine's Day

Well, it's that time of year again. Valentine's Day. The time when I start to think about falling off my get healthier kick only to face massive amount of candy at every grocery store. When I'm glad I don't have a TV to remind me "Diamonds are forever" or to hawk some celebrity's new perfume to me. When I'm glad I've gotten to the chapter in Annie Leonard's Story of Stuff to dissuade me from wanting any new jewelry.

Valentine's Day is a lot like Christmas, in my opinion. The whole reason for the holiday is completely forgotten. Even if you're going the secular route for Christmas, at least you can tell the story of a man named Nicholas (now popularly known as Saint Nick) who disguised himself when he'd give poor orphans stuff they really needed to survive. How many people know who St. Valentine was or what he did to merit a holiday?

Here's my take on Valentine's-if you insist on buying something for your significant other, then please don't use debt to do it. Have the money in your bank account before you use it. I've pledged to have a Debt Free Valentine's Day. Will you do the same?

I digress. I'm really writing this because of this article and its related charts from the National Retail Federation.

The trends are pretty significant. If we can have a $20-cheaper V-Day in 2009 and 2010 with our relationships intact (based on divorce rates not fluctuating too much between the 2005-2009 period), then why can't we stay frugal?

Check out this quote:
Couples this year will spend an average of $68.98 on their significant other or spouse, up from $63.34 last year...As usual, men will spend the most on Valentine’s Day gifts. The average man plans to shell out more than twice as much ($158.71) as the average woman ($75.79).
Isn't that kind of obnoxious? Men are more or less expected to shell out more on their ladies than vice versa. What kind of equality is that? Poor dudes, especially since they don't know the ecological and inhumane horrors required for the production of the jewelry they will almost certainly feel required to purchase.

On top of that, can anyone really afford to buy such expensive gifts just six or seven weeks after one of the most expensive Christmases on record? I know we're officially out of the recession and all, but our national savings has plummeted while national use of credit is creeping upwards steadily again.

If you used credit to buy Christmas gifts, then you shouldn't consider buying a Valentine's gift. At all. Explain why you're not spending money honestly ("Honey, I want to pay this credit card bill off so we can save money later and do something really special and create a memory that will last forever" should go over pretty well). If you absolutely must give a gift, then get creative. Make something for less than $10. There are tons of frugal sites that have great ideas.

So, DG, what are you doing for Valentine's Day? I have no idea. I refuse to pay local baby-sitters the going rate of $10/hr/kid. That gets really expensive really quickly for three kids! I'll probably swap a night of baby-sitting with one of my girlfriends and celebrate a week or four late. I'd like the hubs and I to DO something together. LivingSocial has a $20 2-hr painting class deal right now. Maybe we can take advantage of that. I'll let you know whenever we get around to celebrating. At the very least, we'll share a glass of white wine and a piece of "nice" chocolate (the "fancy" flavored stuff Aldi is selling right now). Without a doubt, our Valentine's Day will be DEBT FREE.

Challenge: The whole idea of the holiday is LOVE. What does your sig o absolutely love, and how can you do something related to that inexpensively and sincerely? It's a tough one, I know, but you've got a fabulous brain. I know you'll come up with something fabulous!

-Domestic Goddess out.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Financial Lessons from Disney's "The Princess and the Frog"

There are a few things in The Princess and the Frog that get to me in a negative sense, like the voodoo and the stereotypes. But the things I really love about the movie are the financial lessons that can be easily drawn from it.

Tiana, a poor black girl with serious talent in the kitchen, lives in Jazz Age New Orleans and shares her father's dream to open a restaurant. Although Tiana's father dies before they can accomplish this goal, Tiana does everything she can to realize the dream. Her work ethic and willingness to sacrifice to accomplish her dream are commendable. She works two jobs and saves all of her tips/income so she can purchase a suitable building for her restaurant. She doesn't go out with her friends to spend money on a fleeting good time so she can save money for her restaurant. Despite being ridiculed by one of her bosses for working so hard and wanting to open her restaurant, she stays focused and keeps her eyes on the goal. Shortly before she is turned into a frog, Tiana realizes she has finally saved enough money to buy the restaurant and makes arrangements to purchase it. At the end of the movie, we see Tiana's dream realized in the form of a jazzy, fun restaurant crowded with people. Her persistence, dedication, and willingness to sacrifice allowed her to achieve her lifelong goal, and I think it is safe to assume she is fulfilled by the daily requirements to keep her business running.

On the other hand, Dr. Facilier, a voodoo practitioner, accomplishes his magic because he borrows from his "friends on the other side." He takes their power with the promise to give them more in return. In essence, he's got a black magic credit card. Unfortunately for him, he fails to pay the debt when his "friends" come calling. They drag him off to their black magic world as he screams promises to pay them off if he can just have more time.

Could the picture be any clearer? Tiana works hard and saves to accomplish her goals. Dr. Facilier borrows magical power, and when he can't repay off his substantial debt, gets dragged off to some unimaginably horrible place. Tiana gets to live happily ever after because she doesn't owe anyone anything. She is in charge of everything she uses because she paid for them in full immediately. Dr. Facilier didn't know it, but he was owned by those he borrowed from. When they came calling, his life of ease was over. His ending was scary.

Perhaps Americans should take these illustrations to heart. Have a plan, and save to accomplish your goals, like Tiana. You're much more likely to have a happy, fulfilling ending.

If you live on easy credit, beware what will come to get you when you don't repay your debt. Because despite what most Americans think, in the end, our credit card debts really are our fault. We signed the line, indicating we'd read through the terms and conditions. We didn't bargain for a lower interest rate. We indicated we understood we'd be held accountable for repayment according to the lender's terms. Therefore, we need to pay back everything we used. This is not an easy thing to do because most of us spend way more than we should.

While you're learning good lessons from The Princess and the Frog, be sure to teach them to your kids as well. The sooner kids learn fiscal responsibility, the better. Teach them to save well before they hit college and are inundated with credit card offers. Yes, there is a requirement to have parents co-sign, but we all know how easy it is to forge a parent's signature. Don't let easy credit kill your kids' financial future by the age of 22. Teach them now what credit is, how to use a debit card, and how important it is to save. America will be a lot better off because of it.

-Domestic Goddess out.