Just Wait, It’ll Change!

People have told us repeatedly that if you do not like the weather here in west Texas, “just wait, it will change”. Well, it is true! On Wednesday, we had 60+ degree weather and the children were wanting to wear shorts. On Thursday, well, see for yourself…

Back to the Dark Ages!

old fashioned telephone

Technology: cell phones vs voice over internet.

Well, I did it!  I catapulted us back into the dark ages and it only took one phone call and about 10 minutes!

What did I do? I took my own advice from the Frugal Living Tips post and disconnected our cell phones. I really do not feel as isolated as I thought I might and our children have taken it very well.

After not hearing anything from the couple interested in buying our Alabama house, I took another look at our budget. The couple actually looked at the house three times and cancelled an appointment to make an offer on the house. So, it was very disappointing. But, after all, at least we had some interest and maybe the  right buyers are just around the corner:)

Analyzing our expenses, one of the few places left to cut were the cell phones. I found that if we went with high speed wireless internet and  a landline, we could cut phone expenses in half! We had been using my cell phone as the modem for internet access and although effective, it was still dial-up and slow.

Further savings were realized by scrapping the landline and going with voice over internet which was 1/3 the price of a landline!  I (my husband actually) shopped online to find Phone Power which for our area was by far the least expensive. For less than $10/mth we could get unlimited local, long distance and even 60 minutes of international calling! We got this price by paying for 2 years in advance. So, now we have high speed wireless internet and voice over internet phone service for less than half the price of two cell phones with internet connection. Shop around if you are interested. If you decide on Phone Power, please use our username: usoswalds. With their refer a friend program, we will receive a $10 credit!

Our cell phone contract was up and yesterday was the last day of our billing cycle – So the timing was perfect!

Photo Credit: © Depositphotos.com/tshooter

Blowing Wind = Dirt!

When we moved from southern Alabama, one thing I was not sad to leave behind were the hurricanes. Witnessing their destructive capabilities and having lived through the  howling winds as one made its way over head, I gladly said goodbye to them!

While not to be compared to the life threatening possibilities hurricanes possess, west Texas certainly has wind! Last week we had two days of “strong wind” (50mph) and one day of “lighter winds” (20mph). The pictures show that when the winds blow, our neighbors’ fields are deposited at our doorstep! From milking boots to bicycles, it all gets covered.

Not only that, but it comes in the windows – they do not seal well in our rental house, so we are forever dusting – or should be at least! When our house in Alabama does sell and we build here, we are going to have good windows. I hate dusting:)

Teen Rebellion – Does It Have to Be?

Teen Rebellion – normal? Do you expect your child to pilot the space shuttle without training? How about something more realistic. When your child reaches 16 yrs of age, you don’t just hand over the keys to your brand new Lexus, do you? If so, chances are, you’ll have a wrecked Lexus! Nor should you expect them as teenagers to act like anything but children, that is, if you haven’t spent time training and teaching. You reap today from that which you sowed yesterday. Or, like with a retirement fund, you do not reach 65 and it miraculously appears, you have to make  investments. What other analogy can I call upon to make this point?

So, with your children you absolutely have to invest in them starting from the earliest years building a relationship of openness, trust, increasing responsibility, accountability and independence. It takes lots of time and real commitment.

With teen rebellion, as with the terrible two’s, you get what you expect. But now, it is not just a 25 lb child that you can discipline, it is a 100+ lb person who might equal or exceed your weight, size and vocabulary. The myth of teen rebellion is propagated by parents who didn’t/don’t take time to train and discipline for various reasons (ie the up-bringing they experienced, ignorance or selfishness). Maybe we could treat the first two a little less severely, but selfishness is really the main culprit and there is no excuse for it. Church activities, work, shopping and time with friends are necessary, but often used to excess, as a cover for just not wanting to be with your family. Other obvious examples of selfishness to the exclusion of family time are hunting, fishing, the gym, mom’s morning out and girls night out. Just about any valid activity can be used as an escape from the responsibilities that we undertook in our marriage vows and parenthood. Here some may claim that they didn’t “want” to be parents, it was “_____’s fault”. This is just another example of selfishness, wanting the the pleasures of life without the concurrent responsibilities.

Children are mirrors of us as parents. I am not just speaking of teen rebellion here, but when our children are having attitude problems, I look at my own attitudes. More times than not, their bad attitudes are a reflection of my own! When my attitudes are straightened out, theirs seem to follow. Our children see how we talk on the phone, the things we look at, the efforts we go to attain a “look” and what we value. Our priorities are demonstrated every day by how we keep our word and what displaces the so-called “important” things of family life.

Teen rebellion is just one example of the fact that children of all ages are crying out for attention, acceptance and praise. This cry unheeded often turns into a display of rebellion just to get some reaction out of their parents. They desire the parent’s time and praise but when they consistently don’t receive any, they will look elsewhere. Initially, this “elsewhere” is usually at an extreme (friends, activities, behavior), as an attempt to grab their parents attention. If ignored and unchecked, the extreme becomes their norm and they learn to substitute it for the lacking parental relationship.

This may seam scary to some of you, to others it is all too true. But it doesn’t have to be. We all can choose to do the right thing even though it cost us (time, money, effort and continued acceptance by our so-called friends). My husband and I are not perfect nor are we blessed with perfect children. We often have called our first son our “test child” because we didn’t have an exact path to follow. There is no exact path, but there is a common goal: to raise up responsible adults. Many have defaulted for a substitute goal (ie to get the child out of the house, to get them an education, to get them married). But the default answer (goal) is usually wrong or, at the least, not the best – because it is easy. Anything of value requires effort and sacrifice to achieve.

So (for those of you still reading) … How do you avoid teen rebellion?

  • Have a unified front – parentS. If you are divided – be reconciled (from what is allowable for your child to the entire aspect of your marriage). Your children will see the lack of consistency as lack of authority.
  • Start today (with your 2-19 year old) and be consistent.
  • Find something to praise. They do have some good qualities. Look for them!
  • Don’t ignore their undesirable behavior. Nor let your correction of it be the definition of your interaction.
  • Actively pursue communication. Trivial stuff at least. But, this will allow a you an in for the more important matters as they arise.
  • Be honest with them. Let them know (confess) that you are not perfect. If they are teenagers, they already know. When you share your own mistakes and what you now know would have been the better choice, you make yourself real. And you give them the possibility of learning from your mistakes rather than having to attend the school of hard knocks.
  • You are the #1 influence in your child’s life. Is it the best? It is said that the iniquities of father’s are past on to the 3rd and 4th generation. I believe that these are not sins, but rather the propensity to sin. They are learned by experience, watching and listening.
  • Spend time with them – quantity, quality and make use of the teachable moment.
  • Parenting is an unbelievable privilege – Be Responsible!

For further reading: Teen Rebellion Part 2 continues with laying the basis to avoid teen rebellion.

Making Money from Plastic

credit cards Credit cards – do you use them? Friends are often surprised to find out that I use credit cards. Not only do I use them, but I make money on them! They are just another tool and the key is being responsible. You have to follow the same basic rules – live within your means and don’t lose sight of your goals. You continue to buy your normal items, except now, use credit cards. Like coupons, credit cards are not intrinsically evil. Rather, they are  a hook designed by people to take money from your pocket and put it into theirs (actually, that’s what every “for profit” business does). Perks are offered by certain credit card companies knowing that the majority of people will overspend, carry  a monthly balance, and thus accrue high interest charges and service fees (your pocket to their pocket). Some will say that we are taking profit from the stores. Yes, the businesses that accept credit cards have to pay 1.5-3.5% of the sale to the credit company (and card processing company) but it is another hook they are using to ease your money into their pocket.  When we had a small retail business, we initially accepted most credit cards to help people buy our products (Polish pottery and other imports from Europe), but it was our choice to accept the credit card usage terms or not. (My husband used to joke with customers telling them that their “Sky Miles” went to his account.

I use credit cards for the majority of my purchases and receive at least 1% cash back. That may not seem like much, but over the year, it adds up! Currently, I am using an American Express card which has no annual fee but for the first year gives me:

  • 5% back on gas purchases (up to the first $150 purchased per month)
  • 5% back on grocery purchases (up to the first $250 per month)
  • 5% back on dining out (up to the first $250 per month)

While we seldom eat out and our groceries don’t cost more than $250/mth, I do try to optimize how we spend our money for gas. Our normal monthly gas purchases do not exceed the $150 maximum on the AMEX. But sometimes, like this past December, we went to work on our house in Alabama and visit family in Georgia, and we did use more gas. For those situations, I have a Discover card as back-up which gives 2% back on gas purchases, up to the first $100 per month! After my first year is up, these AMEX perks will cease and I’ll cancel the card and look for the next best deal available. I have been doing this for years and there has always been another deal – I’ve NEVER paid an annual fee for a credit card.

How, you might ask, do I keep it all straight? I made small adhesive labels for each card stating what the card is used for and the maximum amount. Then, in our van (our family car is a 15 passenger van), I have a index card on which we write all our gas purchases and the corresponding credit card. When the limit on the card is reached, we simply switch to using the back-up for the remainder of the month. I am not an organization fanatic – the index card is often dirty, tattered and coffee stained by month’s end – it would never make it two months!

This may seem like too much trouble, but for 2008 I made over $500 on one card! For other large purchases (i.e. the vines for our vineyard), we use a Visa card through LL Bean. The “bean points” accrued have been used on many LL Bean clearance items, from winter milking coats to summer tank tops. (I accidentally tried to use them at LandsEnd but as nice as the operator was, she couldn’t accept them :). That brings many a laugh in our family.)

Again, the key is discipline in your purchasing, complete bill payment at the time it is due (nothing carried over to the next billing cycle!) and then maximize the offered perk. Take the time to investigate what perks are available to meet your family’s needs.

Photo Credit: © Depositphotos.com/krysek 

Texas Sunset

On our trip to Alabama a couple of weeks ago, I actually missed Texas! The sunset pictured above is one of the beauties this otherwise flat and treeless landscape holds. God’s palette of colors and the effect He creates are absolutely awesome!

Homemade Mozzarella Cheese

grating mozzarella cheese

Having our own family milk cow means we normally have a lot of wonderful raw milk on hand. Besides drinking it and making kefir or yogurt an easy way to use the milk is the following mozzarella cheese recipe.

Mozzarella is an Italian cheese which is quick, easy and fun to make. We enjoy eating it fresh, as well as on pizza and in lasagna. Be sure to try it on Homemade Wheat Thins! Made fresh, it stores in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks and in the freezer for several months.

Unlike other cheese making processes, the mozzarella cheese recipe calls for heating the curds to 170 F and then stretching it like taffy – who hasn’t heard of an old fashioned taffy pull? Well, I never took part in one but pulling mozzarella cheese reminds me of what they must have been like! This pulling and stretching gives the mozzarella cheese the stringiness it is famous for. Mozzarella cheese is also one of the easiest soft cheeses to make!

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Post Featured!

Dave from PhilFAQS featured a review I wrote on Educator.com today. He had written previously to say that hopefully it would help answer questions from people living in the Phillipines who desire to homeschool their children. I hope it helps!

As the homeschooling mom of 10 (only 8 are still at home), I know homeschooling can be intimidating at first. I can say from personal experience that it has been well worth the challenge. It has helped prepare our children academically for college as well as socially. In my opinion, homeschooling has helped build the wonderful relationships we experience as a family.

Date Your Man: Part 2

red rose

Husband? Date? Why?

I received some very good feedback on my previous post, “Date Your Man”. Several readers desired to know what I have done to keep things fresh with my husband after 10 children and 25 years.  As I thought about the comments, I put together a list of things I have done to date my husband – ideas I have implemented to show him he is my #1, make him feel and show him he is important even after 25 years. As I begin, I assure you this will be G-rated!

1. Get up with him cheerfully in the morning.

2. In the morning, fix your hair and put on your make-up. My husband has worked in the corporate world with career women most of our married life. I did not want him to leave a “dumpy” wife only to be face with “put together” women the rest of the day.

3. Maintain a proper weight.

4. Exercise regularly for muscle tone, weight control,  increased sense of well being (“happy hormones” – endorphins are released with exercise)  and energy. My husband appreciates the fact that I take care of myself not only for better health now, but also, for future health. It is like our salvation, many people put off making the decision about where they will spend eternity until it is too late and time has run out. So with our health. What we are now, is a result of decisions we made years ago. Whether it is salvation, relationships, or your health, choose wisely. Make necessary changes now.

5. Have the house in order before he comes home. I have the children help do a quick pick-up of any toys or clutter.

6. Encourage the children’s excitement of his return home. This reinforces that he is not only important to me as my husband but also to them.

7. Stop and greet your husband. I always stop what I am doing and kiss him when he returns home.

8. Make “date” time with him. This can be as simple as a movie together after the children are put to bed. It can be as ellaborate as planning a night out, complete with babysitter, restaurant plans, movie tickets – use your imagination. I once planned a weekend away and all he knew was that we were going away together. I even packed for him!
The key: You do the planning and surprise him!

9. Create a romantic atmosphere. For example, Light candles when alone , after the children are in bed or while watching a movie together.

10. Have coffee together. As we call it, “Mommy, Daddy time”. Our children are old enough to clean up after meals, so, we take advantage of this opportunity to have “Mommy, Daddy time” with a cup of coffee.

11. Take a walk or bike ride together. We enjoy early morning walks/bike rides together.

Use your imagination. Surprise your husband. Don’t let life get in the way. Take the time now and invest in one of the most important relationships you have!


Photo Credit: © Depositphotos.com/strelok



Encouraging Development!

For those of you who have been reading about our family’s adventure, I have an update. For my new readers, our family (with 8 children still at home) left our secure life in Alabama (with a paycheck) for an exciting life of starting a vineyard in west Texas (no paycheck yet!). This adventure started in Jan. of 2008 and if you would like further background on this adventure, please read “When Our Grapes Come In”.

Now for the update:  Our realtor called on Tuesday (1/12) to say that she was showing the house (near Mobile,  AL). This may not seem like a big deal, but for us it is. We put the house on the market just in time to be too late – right as the housing market crashed! So, there has been little interest and this showing is very encouraging.

After the showing, she called again to let me know that it seemed to go well. The couple was able to visualize placement of their furniture in the house and seemed to really like it. We are praying for a good offer! Hopefully, they will make one, but even if not, the showing is encouraging!

I’ll keep you posted.