Thursday, February 24, 2011

How does your garden grow?

One of the things our family does to help us save for our Nolen and now the girls is plant a garden.  We have three raised garden beds in the backyard.  I read an article that said the average garden cost $80 to plant and yields arounds $800 in produce.  Not bad.  I don't know if ours saves us that much but it definitely helps us eat better for less.  I grow many vegetables in the garden and freeze or can them so they last the year.  The things we grow and therefore don't purchase include potatoes, onions,cucumbers, garlic, zucchini, squash, tomatoes, peppers, okra, watermelon, corn, pumpkins, carrots, broccoli, spinach, artichokes, and strawberries.  We are also fortunate that our home came with established fruit trees such as apple, peach, cherry, and raspberry bushes.  Most of the fruit is used to make jams and jellies.

I like to refer to my garden as mommy's time out.

Friday, February 18, 2011

God is in the Dishwasher Business

As Chad and I are entering another adoption it is more important than ever for us to remember just how God took care of us on the journey to get our Nolen.  During the process to adopt Nolen we moved homes.  The new home, according to our home inspection, had all the appliances in working order.  Once we moved in we quickly realized that the dishwasher was not working properly.  The only thing the dishwasher was good for was use as a drying rack.  Because of this we spent much time washing dishes by hand.  At the time I thought this was awful.  A few months later while in Russia we realized that Russians don't have dishwashers.  We Americans are so spoiled and don't even know it.  Anyways, I thought washing dishes by hand was "roughing it."  Due to our upcoming adoption Chad and I chose to not purchase a new appliance.  We knew we would need this money to go and bring our Nolen home.  One evening while out running errands we drove pass a house that had a dishwasher put on the curb.  It looked great, new in fact.  It was a stainless steel Whirpool.  Why would anybody put that on the curb?  Like most people we just drove by and continued with our errands.  On the way back Chad decided to get out and take a look.  At this point the homeowner came out to speak to Chad.  I was a bit embarrassed to be caught looking at another mans trash.  After speaking with the homeowner we realized it wasn't trash, to us it was a treasure.  The man owned a handyman company and was employed by a couple who just purchased a house in the area.  The couple had him replace the builders grade appliances in their new home with more professional grade ones.  They also wanted the handyman to dispose of the dishwasher.  He did not know anyone to give it to and did not want to throw it away.  He just put it on the curb and that is the story of how God gave us a dishwasher.  I think I will have a hard time replacing it when the time comes.  Almost every time I unload that dishwasher I am reminded of what a gift it was.   It is kinda cool how God uses such simple everyday things to help us remember Him.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

What Now?

Over the last few days our family has been asked more questions than I can answer about the journey we are about to embark on.  I apologize if I have not been able to directly respond and answer each individual question.  Things have been a bit busy.  We are trying to complete about 4 months worth of paperwork in two weeks.  This has been made easier by the fact that we already had some of it leftover from Nolen's adoption.  One of the questions that we are getting is "Whats the rush?"  The rush on bringing the girls home is because everyday it takes me to complete paperwork is a day my daughters live in an orphanage.  It is a day they go without a hug and without an I love you.  One of my prayers everyday is that God would give them a hug today and let them know that they are loved.
The process for this adoption is much different than when we went to Russia.  When we went to get Nolen we knew nothing.  This time we know a little bit about the girls and are waiting impatiently everyday on the mailman to deliver a photograph.  I can't share much of this information with you but I can tell you they are 1.5 years old and are identical twins.  We are expecting to travel to Uganda sometime in the next 3 to 6 months.  Our best estimate is May or June.  We will be gone for four to six weeks.  Because we will be gone for so long we are planning on taking Sadie and Nolen.  We are also very grateful that Chad's mother, Nancy will also be accompanying us.  This will be quite the adventure.  The trip back from Africa with 4 toddlers should be especially memorable (bring on the benadryl).
What do we need?  The main thing we need right now is prayer warriors.  This process is one riddled with unknowns and we need every prayer you can send.  Over the next few weeks we will be compiling a list of things we will need to take with us traveling and things needed once we get home.  I will then be able to better tell you what would be the best help for us, I just can't process this information right now.  For those of you who know me, I am not an organized person.  All the paperwork we have acquired in the last week is definitely testing my organizing skills.
I know this leaves a lot of questions unanswered.  We just don't know much more.  We are flying by Faith on this one.  Our family has faith that our God will provide for us during this time.  The book of James has been where I have been studying lately.  It is where Chad and I searched when faced with this decision.  Throughout this we will be sharing with you the verses that are guiding us.
James 2:17-18: "In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.”

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

No Greater Act of Worship than to Obey

Before I get to the goods I am going to tell you how we got to them (I hope this helps with ease you into the shock).  A few months ago I began to feel God call our family toward the adoption process again.  I felt like sometime in the next couple of years God would bless our family with more adopted children.  When I first brought this up to Chad he said he knew we would adopt again but had a few concerns to be addressed before starting the process.  One of his main concerns was finances.  I began to pray that God would show Chad not to worry about financing an adoption.  I prayed for God to show him how adoption was the plan and it was possible.  About a month later God eased these concerns.  Chad said that he thought this happened because God was telling us it was time to start to do our research.  We intended on adding to our family sometime in the next 12 to 18 months.  Since international adoption is not known to be a quick process we wanted to go ahead and get on the "list."  We began to research countries.  Much to our disappointment it became obvious to us that we were not going to be able to return to Russia.  Russia has had a drastic slow down in adoptions since the lady returned her son to Moscow last year.  We narrowed our country list down to 2: Uganda and Ethiopia.  Both of these countries are great places to adopt but each came with pros and cons.  On a Friday afternoon we sat down to discuss our findings about the different adoption processes for each country.  The decision was not clear and we decided not to decide.  We knew this was something that God was going to show us.  We prayed for guidance on the matter and went to bed.  On Saturday morning we awoke to a message from the adoption agency saying that they had twin girls in Uganda, do we want to adopt them?  I immediately yelled at Chad to come into the room and read the message.  Did God just answer our prayer?  Is this God telling us the path he has laid for us?  We had a day filled with prayers, tears, thoughts of happiness, and at times the thought of it was just scary.  After much prayer and scripture reading we believe that YES God has given us twin daughters.  They currently live in Uganda and we are frantically working on bringing them home.
I know this sounds crazy to you and trust us it is even crazier to us.  In fact I think it is one of the craziest things our family has done.  This is not the plan that we had for our lives but God has much bigger plans.  We are going to be the parents to four children under the age of four.  Our family is going to become the definition of multicultural.  How are we going to handle this? ( All of our family wants to know the answer to this question)  We don't know but what we do know is that God will guide us.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Is Your Laundry on the Line?

Mine is!  A common site around our house is seeing the laundry hung out to dry.  I used to try to hide it or put it away before people would drop by to visit.  Now, I just let it be.  If you see my pajamas flapping in the breeze when you visit who cares.  Hanging our laundry out to dry is one of those money saving tips that has become part of our lifestyle.  It takes a bit of extra time and effort but it is worth it.  It cost an average of $0.30 to $0.40 to dry a load of clothes.  This is not too much but in my family every penny counts.  There are some other bonuses to hanging your clothing out to dry.  You will find that your clothing last longer.  Now days so many fabrics have lycra in them which breaks down at extreme heat.  Line drying helps prevent this.  You will also notice less shrinking in your clothing.  Those jeans won't be too tight when you first put them on.  During the summer months using a clothes dryer can add extra heat to your home, you don't need this during southern summer dyas.  I also like the way they smell.  Towels are one thing I would recommend using your dryer for.  If you run them through a short 15 minute cycle in your dryer with a dryer sheet before you line dry them they will be much softer.

Many of you may remember seeing this photo from our trip to Russia.  What you didn't know is that it is often what you will see in our backyard.  If you don't have a clothesline you can get creative.  I find that hanging clothing over the chair backs of my patio furniture works great.  Using this method to dry your clothes can be very entertaining.  However, you never know when a sudden wind storm will blow up.  Resulting in you and the kids having a nice little game of pick up the clothes in the backyard.  Occasionally I even have to deal with mother natures extra rinse cycles (not my favorite).

Friday, February 4, 2011

As much Faith as a Penny

For this blog I want to share with you my budget saving tips but I also think a bit of our story is important.  This week I was reminded of one of the hardest lessons our family learned during the adoption process.
On Monday we took Sadie and Nolen to get Frostys from Wendys (of course we had free coupons).  One of Nolen's favorite things in the world is a Frosty.  He has this little dance he does while eating one and says he is happy.  We need to video this one sometime.  Anyway, while we were leaving Sadie found a penny on the ground.  I had to overcome my germophobia and let her pick it up.  She picked it up and cherished it the whole way home.  After we arrived home she put it in her piggy bank.  I later asked her what she was saving her money for, she responded "a sister."  Faith like a child.  She has complete faith that the penny in her piggy bank will fund another adoption for a sister (the only thing Sadie wants right now is a sister).  This was very humbling for me because we had failed to have this faith early on in the process of adopting Nolen.

A little history.  Prior to adopting our family lived in Memphis, TN.  Both Chad and myself worked outside the home.  We also worked on the side by flipping houses.  We flipped four houses in the Memphis area in three years.  Life was very busy during this time.  When our daughter Sadie was born I became a stay at home mom.  When we decided to adopt we started to look for things to supplement our income.  Unfortunately this was something we did and not God.  We struggled to see just how "we" were going to pay for this adoption.  The problem was we were focusing on the "we" and not God.  We decided to flip another house.  I am sure most of you know this but the housing market then went to the pits.  Our family was fortunate enough to rent the home out until we were able to sell it.  The house did not sell until after Nolen's adoption was complete and paid for.  God used this to show us that our ideas, no matter how big, would never measure up.  God showed us how to have a debt free adoption while we were losing money on one of "our" ideas.  Without his amazing grace during this we surely would have screwed it up.
I hope we have learned this lesson but I am sure as history shows, Chad and I will never stop learning this one.  If only as adults we could put all our faith in a penny.  Everytime I have seen a penny this week I have focused on the word trust.  I think God put that word on a penny so that when we are having financial difficulties we can look at a penny and be reminded to trust in him.  A penny is my new mustard seed.  I hope those of you trying to fund an adoption will use this as a reminder to pray and commit all things to Him.
Jeremiah 29:11
 "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

How to Make Laundry Detergent

Our family began to find ways to cut cost on household items.  One of the first things we started to do was make our own laundry detergent.  It takes roughly 30 minutes and the savings are great.
 Most of you might think this is crazy and thats okay.  I hope your opinion of that changes when you see the savings a family can have.  The average cost for one load of laundry detergent by leading brands is $0.40 to $0.50 a load.  The average family household does 400 loads a year.  That is a cost between $160 and $200 a year.  The recipe I use makes enough laundry detergent for 680 loads in a front loading washer.  It will last us approximately 18 months.  The best part about this detergent is that one batch of 680 loads cost a whole $2.00.  Most families spend around $240 to $300 for 18 months of laundry detergent; my family spends $2.00.  Store bought laundry detergent is mostly water so why pay so much for it.
I know you must be thinking does it really work?  Is that possible?  Yes, it does.  I hope most of my close family friends will vouch for me on this but we don't smell and our clothes our clean (please feel free to comment if you feel differently.)  It doesn't take a degree in chemistry to make.  I bet if you can make jello you can make your own laundry detergent.

You will need a large 5 gallon bucket to make it in and store.  You will need a dispenser, I have a laundry detergent bottle from a leading brand that has a spout on it.  I keep this full in my laundry room for easy access.
The ingredients are:   1 bar of soap (preferably one without dyes or perfumes; I use Ivory)
                                       1 cup of Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda (don't use any type of substitute, I find this at Kroger)
                                      1/2 cup of Borax
  You are going to grate the bar of soap.  I have been very successful using the grating plate on my food processor.  Add this to a medium size sauce pan filled with water on medium heat, stirring continuously until all the soap is dissolved.  Fill the 5 gallon bucket approximately half full with hot tap water.  Add the melted soap, washing  soda, and borax.  Stir until it is all dissolved.  Then fill the bucket to the top with more hot tap water.  Let this sit undisturbed for 24 hours.  During this time the process of saponification will occur; the process of soap making.  The mixture will turn into a slimy gel.  If you would like you can add  essential oils to scent the detergent at this point, I use a scented fabric softener.  When you get ready to use the soap you will need to give it a good stir or shake before each use.  Fill your dispenser with half water and half soap.  For front loading washers use 1/4 cup.  For top loading machines use 5/8 a cup.