Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Pursuing a hobby...

I'm an amateur photographer.  I suppose I could turn it into a business, but I'm not sure if I want to yet.  My primary job is to teach my children and I need to focus on them.  I've been pondering this a lot lately.  And I've come to a few conclusions...

1) I don't need to be good enough to I get noticed on the web.  I just need to do the best I can with my photography skills that God has given me and is developing in me.  There is this idea that pervades our culture that tries to creep into my thinking.  It is the idea that what I do is valuable only if another (or rather many) people value it.  This is one of the problems I see with social media surrounding our lives and seeing what other people do all the time.  It's hard to escape comparing ourselves to others and placing too much value on the opinions of others.

2) Every photographer has their own "bent"--what they see or are looking for in a picture.  I don't like the family pictures where everyone is wearing the same exact colors.  What I love more is when a group wear's similar colors, but clothes that express their own personalities.  I love what these pictures say about the bonds of family and diversity in every single family.  Here's a post I found with some good advice.

3) It is worth doing something we enjoy even if we aren't good at it?  Have you considered the artist or musician that simply loves to "do" their craft, but can't carry a tune or paint a recognizable picture?  Is what they've done worthless?  No.  I don't think so.  The gift of enjoying doing something is a gift from the Lord, I think.  

4) Live.  Enjoy.  Do.  Don't give up.  It takes time to develop skill.  Perhaps even longer when we pick up something new as adults!  Maybe you're like me and you expect to be able to do something right the first time.  I know that's the way my children are wired.  I see it in myself sometimes.  I look back now and I can't tell if my pictures are better than they were two years ago, but I hope so.  I've learned a lot about composition and I understand my camera now--which I didn't two years ago!  


Stinky Washing Machine

We've been in our new home for two years and I still miss my old washing machine.  I loved it.  It was a top loading washing machine.  When not in use, I left the top open and I never had an issue with a smell.  It got my clothes so clean!  Less water and less energy.  

In our new home, the laundry is stacked and is placed in our now tv room.  It used to be my son's room.  We can't move it to the basement, so it has to stay where it is.  

I have been battling this washing machine and the smell in it for two years.  I had to keep the door shut because the door opens into the machine and I didn't want to break the swinging door (it has a huge plexiglass or glass panel in the center of it).  Sometimes I'd leave it open anyways, but worry about the door.
Unfortunately, the swinging door is also always shut and so it traps moisture in the room.  

I've tried Tide's washing machine cleaner repeatedly, but the smell would come back within a day or two.  

Finally, this week, I thought of placing something tall enough to block the door from swinging wide open (but staying open) to let the air in.  We also have had a room dehumidifier in the room for three months now that I was so grateful to find brand new at a garage sale for $4!  What a blessing!  I paid full price for the identical one that we have in our bedroom.  The only downside of this dehumidifier is that the lid on the bottom part of the water container doesn't come out, so I can't clean it if needed.
The smell is finally, finally gone!  That's the thing I've found about high efficiency washers--the lids need to stay open in order to dry out.  I don't know why they're different than the old ones, but I'm sure there's a reason that has to do with the way they work.  I'm just thankful.  Propping the door is easy enough.  I just needed to think about it!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Price Matching This Christmas

My kids, like most kids their age, love legos and my girls have been getting into Lego Friends.  I learned something interesting today that I wanted to pass on!  Last winter there were no sales on Lego Friends.  This line was always excluded.  But, this year they are being included!  Yay! 

This week, in particular, the sales are better than they have been the past two weeks on Legos (on both Lego City and Lego Friends).  My girls had some birthday money and wanted to purchase a set together, so I looked around online and found a set for $37 at Toys 'R Us online.  I had discovered two weeks ago that the online price, though, is often different than the in store price.  You can however, purchase online and pick up at the store (!) with Toys R Us.  I didn't think we'd run into an issue, so I didn't order it online and just went to Toys R Us in person.

We went to Toys 'R Us and found the set out of stock.  So, we tried the nearby Target--again, out of stock.  I told them we may just have to order it online...  Anyways, I went without them to return something else this evening and checked to see if it was at a store closer to us (which is the store we always go to).  It was in stock.  I didn't know what the price match policy was, so I went up to the front counter.  The gal at the counter had a tablet and said that she could match Target's online price--if it is in stock.  It wasn't.  So, I told her the price was at Toys 'R Us and she found it there in stock so she was able to price match it!  Yay!  The instore price of the set at Target was $47.  So, it was a big difference.  I was also able to use the $5 off Lego coupon that you can find on the Target site.  And my 5% off coupon from my pharmacy rewards :)  

So, this is what I learned.  Even if you don't have a smart phone (like me) the folks at Target have tablets at the Customer Service Counter.  They will price match to their site, Walmart.com, or Toys R Us.com.  I think you have to know where to ask them to check when you go in, but I was so glad to know that they will do it!   I know a lot of people have smart phones and can show the price on their phones and I was worried the store wouldn't be able to help me.  But, they were after all!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Stretching So You Can Spend When You Need To...

Last Sunday, I was talking with a friend of mine who I always enjoy talking to.  She gives me much food for thought.  Her daughter is two years older than my oldest daughter.  She's just a step ahead of me.  We often talk about clothing our families and the challenges we find in this task... and what we do/where we go to tackle this task.  I have another friend that I also regularly ask about this often difficult task when I see her.  

The jist of our conversation on Sunday was that clothes for tween and teenage girls cost as much as adult clothing today.  So, what do you do?  We talked about how we save where we can so that we can spend where we need to.

I have been so blessed with hand me downs from friends for my girls and son.  I do have two girls, so you'd think they would hand things down from one to the other.  But, NO!  Two years a part and two inches in height still equal the same size clothing and the younger one wears larger shoes!  So, I need double clothing.  I try to often thank my friends who have given me these hand me downs because I am so thankful for them.  
In September, we had to buy 6 pairs of shoes--a pair of casual shoes and tennis shoes for each child.  The bill totaled $180.  I swallowed hard as I paid the bill.  But, we needed to get them in one fell swoop.  I didn't have the time or energy to shop around at multiple shops and find clearance shoes.  I did walk out of the store thankful. My kids all had shoes on their feet without holes.  I hadn't bought any shoes this summer new.  My son wore his shoes from the spring and hand me down sandals.  My girls wore sandals and flip flops that I'd bought at a garage sale (that looked brand new) for $1/pair at a garage sale at the beginning of the summer and $2 flip flops from Kohls that I'd used a $10 off coupon on to make them free.  

Last spring, I asked my other friend where she was shopping now for her daughter who is taller than my daughters, but the same age.  She has started shopping at Crazy 8.  She shops sales online at LLBean when she can.  I think it was she who told me that the quality of Old Navy clothing has gone down a lot.  She used to shop at Carter's, but Carter's only goes up to size 7.  OshKosh does go up to size 12 online.  And their clearance prices are pretty good.  

My friend I spoke with on Sunday likes to check out Goodwill whenever she gets the chance and she has found some great treasures there.  My other friend does go to consignment sales and has been able to clothe her kids for less taking advantage of them.

I have to be honest, I have declined going to consignment sales in the past.  I have received so many hand me downs and I like to pass them on.  As a matter of conscience and heart, I would never consign any clothing that I had been given for my children.  I actually love thinking about the little girls in our church and sorting the clothes we pass down based on their personalities and individual flairs for style and bounce.  My girls have caught hold of this idea and now get excited to go through their clothes at the end of a season and pass things on.  

But, BUT...  I went shopping with my oldest daughter on Monday for the first time.  I was prepared for the cost of clothes by my friend Sunday morning on church.  So, I didn't have a heart attack.  I had never taken her shopping for an outfit before.  She had always been too little or I'd garage saled for her clothes.  WOW!  I had no idea that clothes size 10 could cost so much.  I thought I knew it--sort of.  But, I didn't.  Autumn was patient with me and we figured it out together.  We started at Crazy 8.  Then, we put a few things on hold and checked out Sears (Land's End), GapKids, Justice, and JCPenney.  I was disheartened by the high prices and the garishness of much of the clothing we saw.  We headed back to Crazy 8, which I love.  She found 4 dresses on sale.  Three of the dresses were on clearance for $10 (which I learned from our shopping is a good price).  One holiday dress was 30% off.  She was pleased and so was I.  She stretched the money had given her to spend for her birthday, but explained to me that she wasn't concerned about the clothing's original prices.  She just wanted to purchase what she could afford and make it stretch.  Sometimes my daughter makes me smile without realizing it.  She can be wise beyond her few years.  

If I had to purchase all of my children's clothing, I would definitely go to consignment sales.  I would watch the emails from Crazy 8 and Osh Kosh.  You can return clothing in store and not have to pay a fee.  If you find an item in Crazy 8, but the size isn't in stock, they will ship it to the store for free.  We found one dress in the store for $10, but they didn't have Autumn's size in the store.  It was instock online and they are shipping it.  I paid for it in the store and it's on its way.  I was impressed that they would do this even with a $10 clearance item!

I save on clothing for me.  I shop clearance and never buy anything full price.  I can do this.  I save on my kids' clothing and shoes whenever I can, so that I can afford the more expensive pieces when I need to.  I save so that we can spend what we need to on my husband's clothing which is always a bit more expensive.

As moms, we have many jobs.   Clothing our families is one of them.  It can often be very challenging, but it's one more area in which God continually reminds me that he will always provide for my family.   I am so thankful for how He continually provides.  

Several years ago, I approached several friends and asked for their hand me downs.  It was a little hard to ask, but I am thankful I did.  Several of my friends consign clothing and then use the proceeds to provide for the new clothing their children need.  I know this is a huge blessing to their families and a way God provides for their families.  But, if you have hand me downs and don't need to consign them, would you consider asking someone you know if they need any hand me downs?  My friends and I even hand things down from one to another for each other--not just our children.  That's the thing about being women and giving birth to children--our sizes change over the years.  I found a pair of shoes this summer at a garage sale for $1.  They didn't fit quite right when I got home,  so I gave them to one friend to try out.  They didn't fit her, so she returned them to me.  So, the next week, I passed them on to another friend.  It gives me joy to pass them on.  And my friends smile when they receive them.  The gift is doubled.  I have a pair of jeans that one friend from church gave me.  Honestly, they're my favorite pair.  They fit so well!  And I think of that friend and pray for her family when I wear them.  

I have found that hand me downs are an opportunity to minister to and encourage others.  I approached one of the families on my daughter's soccer team and asked the wife what size pants she wore.  I knew things were tight for them right now and they're dealing with a lot.  I brought her a bag of clothes another friend had passed on to me.  She was very thankful for them.  I have other clothes I'm going to give her for one of her children, because there isn't a child in our church close in age.  I know this may sound strange, but I actually pray and think hard about who I can give things to.  God gives me great joy as I watch people enjoy toys and clothing that we have passed along.  One mom told me when I recently called her that she was just in need of pants for one of her daughters when I called.  That next Sunday, I handed her a bag with six pairs of pants.  What a blessing to be used by the Lord in such a way!