Getting through Christmas without greed

This post sat in my drafts for 3 years! It still applies today though, we stuck to the 3 gift Christmas so I decided to post since it did, in fact, work out. 

 

I waited until after Christmas to post this to see if it would actually work out (I don’t like being a hypocrite if I can help it).

This year, we decided to try the 3 Gift Christmas. I can’t remember which blog I read about it on last year, but it was intriguing.

For me and my husband, Christmas memories were always of a tree sitting on top of a mountain of colorful packages. It was exciting! It was wonderful! And it was slightly greedy. Nothing on our Christmas morning was about the birth of Jesus. Nothing was about the reason for the season. It was all about us and the stuff we were getting.

I recall unwrapping boxes and boxes and while everything was super exciting to “get”- as the days inched on, we only ended up playing with or using maybe 1/3 of the gifts we got. Out of all the things my parents spent their money on, there would be maybe 3 things actually stuck around long enough to get their money’s worth out of it.

But it is not just about the money  that was wasted.

My 6 year old is “privileged”. She honestly thinks that every.single.time she goes with her Grammy, that she is entitled to a trip to Target to buy a toy or two. It could be that her love language is Gift getting (Lord help me if it is). Or it could be that Grammy buys her stuff when she is with her, so the assumption has been taught.

Either way, I do not want to train up kids that have the “gimmies”. I don’t want to go into debt to satisfy their need for colorful boxes, and I do not want their love bought. I want them to know that happiness does not come from stuff and they can’t take those made in China toys to heaven with them.

When I discovered the 3 Gift Christmas, it was the Lord giving us an answer to the present present problem.

The idea behind it is that Jesus only got 3 gifts (that are really mentioned) so why should we get more? The 3 gifts represent Gold, which is the item they really really want, Frankincense, which is something that connects them to family and God, and Myrrh, which is a personal item for beauty or health.

For my 6 year old, she got a pair of 100% real sterling and tanzinite earrings, a beginner children’s bible and a scooter for her beloved doll.

The 3 year old got a Veggie tales book set, her very first doll, and a set of pans for her kitchen

The 2 year old boy got a Tonka truck, Duplo blocks and a Fire truck.

We also got them a “together” gift which was a 24 pack of play-doh and filled their stockings with small items, natural candy, headbands,play silks, toothbrushes and replacement things for some of their other toys.

And you know what, they have been playing with every item they got. Because they did not get overwhelmed with stuff and we got them things that they actually wanted, we did not waste money on things just to wrap them, and they did not toss things aside just to play with the 2 things they wanted.

We talked about the 3 gift Christmas beforehand and they were in agreement (at 6 and 3 you don’t really have a choice anyway). They knew that it was only a rule in our household and that they were still going to get items from all the Grandparents anyway, which is another reason for limiting what we gave them.

To make Christmas about fellowshipping, love, and family we once again did the Advent Calendar so each day we did something together.

My kids were more than blessed this year and will continue to be for years to come and we can do that with only 3 things under the tree for each of them.

In the words of The Grinch, “Christmas, it seems is so much more”.

Would you ever consider having a 3 gift Christmas?

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A Mothers’ Day story

This is used with permission from my friend and our Troop Leader at Frontier Girls troop 205, Tami Larsen. She sent this email out to a number of us moms and I thought it so inspiring, I asked her if I could share it with you! 

I just love writing something for my mom friends for Mothers Day.  Most years, God lays something on my heart early in the week before Mothers Day, and I just can’t stop writing until I have it down.  But this week, I have felt pretty empty.  

 

Until today. 

 

Today, I yelled at another mom.

 

But not in the way you think.

 

I didn’t yell at her for how she was treating her children, or for cutting me off in traffic, or for being ugly to my kids. 

 

I was driving thru the HEB parking lot. It was pouring down rain outside – I mean POURING. I saw a mom holding two toddlers on her back as she tried to run through the rain into the store. Besides being very wet, she looked tired and defeated. She seemed to be slowing down.  Something came over me – almost instinctive.  Without even thinking about it, I rolled down the window and yelled through the rain as loud as I could, “Keep going! You can do it!” 

 

At first, she looked at me in much the same way YOU might look at someone who was suddenly cheering you on…in the rain…in the grocery store parking lot!  She was baffled, trying to figure out if she knew me (which she did not).  Then suddenly, she realized we were complete strangers…and she smiled. I mean a HUGE smile…filled with relief and understanding.  The weariness seemed to melt away.  A new resolve seemed to build within her as she ran the rest of the way across the parking lot, actually laughing with her young children.

 

It made me feel so…convicted.  It made me wonder…why don’t I do this more often??  There are moms I see every day…from the closest friends to the most remote strangers…and all they need to hear is, “Keep going! You can do it!”  It could be with my words or with my actions.  It could be a smile, a pat on the back, or a hug at just the right time.  But all too often the moment just passes by.  Maybe sometimes I am just too busy.  Or maybe I am just not sure of whether to say something or not, or how to say it.  Sometimes I probably just don’t pay attention.

 

But think of the way the world would be impacted if all the moms in the world became cheerleaders—for each other!  We would all feel so renewed and lifted up.  We would be filled with a new sense of our ability to fulfill this amazing privilege given to us as moms.  The weariness wouldn’t be such a big deal any more…because someone out there understands…and is willing to cheer us on when we need it.

 

So, today I am here to tell you this.  I know you’re tired.  I know motherhood can be challenging.  I know you are dealing with more stuff than you ever imagined.    But I also know that Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  (John 16:33)

 

Keep going, mama!  You can do this!  God has you in the palm of His hand…and He’s not letting go.  Keep running.  Stay focused on the reason why you do what you do. 

 

And while you’re at it…be another mom’s cheerleader today.  It is hard to focus on your own struggles when you are cheering for someone else.  And maybe you can start a cycle of encouragement you never dreamed possible.

 

I know it’s raining mama, I know the load is heavy…but keep going.  You can do it.

 

“I can do all this through him who gives me strength”.

Philippians 4:13

We don’t “do” April Fools.

Funny-April-Fools-Day

As my kids were  turning the calendar in their morning notebooks, my daughter noticed on the calendar “April Fools” notated and questioned me about it.

No one really knows where the exact origin of April Fools came from. Some say it was from the swapping of the calendar from Julian to Gregorian because those that did not get the memo were celebrating the turn of the year in April and did not realize it had been already the new year for a few months.

You can read about some of that history here.

I explained to her that it is a day when people all over play tricks on each other, making them feel foolish, and that we would not be participating or celebrating it.

(I also told her that just because someone printed it on the calendar did not mean it was something we had to follow.)

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Eph. 4:29

Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. Rom. 14:19

Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm. Prov. 13:20

 

When I was a kid, we loved this day. We played jokes from fake spiders and scorpions on the wall, to my best friend telling me she was moving away.

When I first lived on my own, we took it to EXTREMES. A friend and I staged an elaborate hoax that I was a German assassin sent to target officials. We set up a whole ruse and even got the Apartment security guard to bust in the room to “apprehend” me. While in the moment it seemed fun and games- our friends were seriously shaken up during all of it, and I can only imagine the neighbors that saw us brandishing a fake gun and shouting at each other in the parking lot were scared and pretty close to calling the police on us.

And then my friends were so mad they retaliated by stealing my keys and moving my truck, leading me to believe it had been stolen.

I know what people are probably thinking, “what’s the harm in a little bit of practical joking?”

Some of you may be thinking that sounds like a really good joke. And at the time, and for years after, I agreed!

But as I got closer to God, I realized the harm and danger in a bit of “lying”.  I think back on what that “fun and games retaliation” could have led to and the trouble it could have caused.

I think of the boy who cried wolf for one; no one believed him when he was in actual danger.

Then I think of the seed of doubt that can be placed in the hearts and minds of people that are the ones at the butt end of these jokes.

And I think of how it feels to be called a fool.

I spent my life arguing until the other person gave up because I did not like to be wrong. I did not like to look like a fool or to look like I was an idiot, for lack of a better term. So I argued my case, stood firm and refused to let anyone tell me I was wrong. I did not put myself in positions to be made a fool. I became a skeptic of everything and everyone.

WHY then, would I choose to make someone else feel that way for the sake of a marking on a calendar and for a one-sided laugh?
Why would I want to create skepticism?

Our church ministry is founded on pillars we call the 5 E’s and 3 Cs.

One of those Es is Edification or Edifying.

Edifying is defined as :

the instruction or improvement of a person morally or intellectually.
“the idea that art’s main purpose is to supply moral uplift and edification”
But it is also to lift each other up, to encourage the body of Christ.
And the complete opposite of that would be to make someone look foolish, or tear them down and make them laughed at.
I did not write this post to take the joy and laughter out of people.
God LOVES laughter. He loves joy and cheer. He loves when people smile…TOGETHER. In unity and wholesomeness.
 A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. Prov. 17:22

I love my friends and family too much to make fun of them or play pranks on them that would leave them irritated, feeling foolish or naive.

So today, I will not be participating in April Fool’s Day.

Only fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.” Psa. 14:1

I am no fool.

You are no fool.

You are beautifully and wonderfully made.

 

Inversion Method review (free way to grow your hair)

In April 2013 I had the great idea to do a “real pixie cut”.

 I chopped off all of my hair as close as  I could just to see if I could get away with it. 

And immediately started growing it all out again. 

I do not look good with a pixie and I felt like a boy. I just do not have the cute face for it and as I started reading on modesty and becoming more feminine as God made me , I realized that it is a beautiful thing for women to have lovely long flowing locks. 

IMG_0367

See, a pink shirt and I still look like Peter Pan. This was April or May 2013

After looking into all natural ways to grow out my hair since I have stopped coloring it (the top pixie pic is henna and the bottom recent pics are my natural hair which is still holding a red-tint even though I am a blonde. I think I need more sunlight! 

My sister sent me a link to the  1 week Inversion Challenge and I was instantly intrigued.  

The basis behind it is to massage a warmed oil into your scalp for 4 minutes while you invert your head, and let the blood flow to your roots. You do this once a day for 7 days and the results have been anywhere from 1/2″ to 1.5″ of new growth in that time frame. *You can only do this once every 3 weeks and need to give your hair a rest or it stops working*.

I started with a lemon and honey hair mask to lighten my hair anyway and figured I could add some oil before washing it out. I used half castor and half coconut. 

That was WAY too oily for my hair. Our water softener was out of salt so my hair looked greasy and wet for 48 hours. 
I decided to go every other day with the oil, but still inverted every night.

 

THE RESULTS:

Starting Photo: Jan 9

Final Photo: Jan 17

I did not measure my hair before and after, I just used my handy hair length tee and from what I can tell, I got around 3/4″. 
That is pretty amazing because if I add it to the normal 1/2″ of growth in a month, I will get 1 1/4″ of growth this month, so if I do it again next month, I will have added 3″ onto my hair before Disney. 

unnamed IMG_3545

My goal length is to my waist because the last time it was that long I was 6 years old. (You can’t see, but I marked that length with a *star* on my shirt. 

I will keep using this method for a few reasons

a) it makes me pay attention to my hair once a month

b) the coconut oil and the scalp massages made my hair so soft and shiny

c) it worked!

 

This is yet another amazing use for coconut oil.

I think the next time, I will do the coconut oil every day, sleeping on it and washing out in the morning so I don’t have to worry about grease head when I am trying to take my kid to Co-op or get groceries.

 

Have you ever tried the Inversion Method? 

Give it a shot and tell me if it worked for you! 

Sloppy Papa Joes (THM S)

When I was 8 or so, I remember a visit where my Papa Joe made his version of sloppy joes.
1 lb ground beef browned
1 can cream of mushroom soup
Half bottle of mustard.
Mix it up and serve it between hamburger buns.

My brother of course hated it, vehemently claiming to be allergic to mustard but it was amazing to me because I have never liked sloppy joes- too sweet or something.

Over the years I have tweaked it, adding whole wheat bread, then making my own cream of mushroom, then the transition to grass fed beef.

I now present-

TRIM HEALTHY MAMA SLOPPY PAPA JOES -S

Sloppy Papa Joes

 

1.5 lb organic ground beef (4.99 lb at Costco)
1/2 cup sour cream (watch the carbs)
1/2 cream
Half bottle gulden’s spicy brown mustard
1/4 cup water
1/8-1/4 tsp gluccie
1 tsp turmeric
Salt and pepper
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup diced onion
Splash of liquid aminos

*I NEVER use measurements so the above is a guess. I scoop, squirt and taste*

Brown the beef with salt and onion and garlic.
Stir in sour cream, heavy cream, water and mustard and simmer. (I add mustard when my kids are not looking so they won’t question it) Wisk in the gluccie as needed to make it thicker and tweak to taste with salt, pepper and a splash of aminos.
For my husband and I, I serve this over buttered spaghetti squash with either a side salad or cheesy broccoli and add cracked pepper on top.
For my kids, I add in some carbs with peas and soaked brown rice.

 

DIY (thrifty) Disney Shirts with Freezer Paper

I know I have not updated much of anything on our Disney Vacation plans and that is becasue we are still in the planning process. Yes- I know, we have 51 days left and I am still planning things out.

 

We REALLY wanted to get a pop-up camper and stay at Fort Wilderness but our vehicle is not reliable enough to drive that far, much less towing a trailer so we will be staying at POP Century!

We started working with an AMAZING Disney Agent back in 2012 when we thought about a trip, but with my husband being in school full-time and our income pretty much being halved, we put the trip on hold. (And I am grateful for it because of some random things that happened in 2013 and 2013)

Let me tell you, I have questioned and flip flopped on our plans and Amanda has been so great and answered our questions so fast.

If you are heading to see The Mouse, talk to her FIRST. You can find her on her website
http://www.livingwiththemagic.com/

So, as you know, I like to DIY for a number of reasons, it is personal, custom and thrifty.

Did you know that Disney is crazy expensive? Yeah. Really.

But I don’t want to be lame-o on my kids and make them wear just their normal clothes while we are there. (Mainly because I don’t want to spend $25 on a Minnie Mouse tee shirt that my daughter sees because she is in a plain pink shirt).

My girls have been blessed, I scored 4 shirts on Craigslist for $5 and took two of them in on the sides to make them fit my 4 year old, all three kids got Disney shirts from their Uncle for Christmas and Lily already had a Frozen shirt  and a Fly a Kite shirt she had outgrown. That evened it out to 4 shirts for each girl. My son has 4 cars shirts but I only put one in the Disney box (ie the box in my closet that I am tossing stuff into for our trip so I don’t lose it) and my husband and I only have 1 each.

*My husband’s shirt is from our honeymoon at Disney where he only packed himself a set of nice clothes for dinner, underwear and his overnight bag. He had to go buy shorts and a Mickey Tee in the parks and rotated between that and the clothes he wore on the plane (which was a JUST MARRIED Tee shirt and his clothes from before our wedding)

After a quick trip to our local thrift store on a half off day, I scored 3 shirts for me and 3 for my son and used freezer paper to make stencils.

disney thrifty shirts

 

I traced the images onto freezer paper by printing an image and putting it under the freezer paper (you know, like when you were in 3rd grade) and my amazing husband cut them out with a razor blade.

I then ironed the stencil shiny side down to the shirts and using multi-purpose acrylic and a foam brush, dabbed the paint onto the tee. I used the same rule as painting trim and removed the freezer paper while the image was still damp.

 

They are positively perfect in every way.

DIY disney shirts

The pink striped shirt was one of mine that had a stain on the front. I still have an aqua shirt needing a “Frozen” theme and I am going to do my son’s shirts and my husband’s next. Probably Star Wars, Olaf and a bearded Mickey.

 

My graphic designer husband approves my shirts (as long as he gets to design his own)

 

Have you ever made your own vacation shirts?

Tuna Cakes, Trim Healthy Mama Style (S)

We are at the tail end of our budget and part of one of my posts I started was 

“Trim Healthy Mama on a Teeny Tiny Budget”

I did stick to THM, but did not follow through on tracking my budget. 

We spend between $500 and $600 per month for a family of 5. But I need to reign it in to $500 or LESS per month. 

I started by seeing if I could buy nothing new for 10 days (the time we had left until payday) and make decent meals out of it. We did have to buy some meat during that week and some eggs but we had enough veggies and rice/lentils/quinoa to last long and boy did I have to get creative!

Because I tried to eat down the pantry, my kids and I were left with not much to go on yesterday. No leftovers (they ate the entire pot of lentils!) No meat in the freezer, no rice for fried rice or stir-fry, no soup.

I wanted to make Tuna sandwiches but forgot to make sourdough bread.  I also wanted to try to stick to an on plan meal because I noticed I started gaining again as I have been liberal with my crossovers.

So I made these bad boys! 

THM tuna cakes

2 cans tuna ,drained (I accidentally got the ones in oil so I omitted the coconut oil)

1 egg

1 Tbsp almond flour

1 Tbsp flax meal

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 Tbsp dill

salt and pepper to taste

(I would add 1 Tbs coconut oil if your tuna is in water)

Butter/Coconut oil for frying.

Fry them up in a cast iron pan until puffy and crispy, flipping once. 

They were AWESOME! Because they were so frugal (Less than $5 for all of them!) I wanted to give them a fancy name so I tried calling them Trim Healthy Mama Croquettes, but my kids called them “Tuna Cakes” so it stuck. Call them whatever you want, but they are tasty an frugal, and tasty…right I said that.

I ate mine with  as side of buttery broccoli, and my kids had homemade ketchup and buttery broccoli with theirs to add more carbs. In the future, I will make theirs with soaked brown rice.

What is your favorite “I made this up” meal?