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Sunday, July 25, 2010

Double Trouble!

Being the gluttons for punishment we are, we didn't get one, but TWO Chihuahuas! A friend of ours lives near a park, and I guess a lot of dogs are abandoned there. These two little girls were dumped there about 10 days ago. Animal Control said if they took them, they'd most likely be put to sleep as they are so overwhelmed with animals right now due to the economy. So, they found a home right here with us!

I was a little concerned at first, as I read that this breed of dog isn't very good with children, but as you can see by the above picture, that doesn't seem to be a problem at all!

This one is "Pixie." She's the more out going one of the two.

This one is "Tiny." She is a little more shy but VERY affectionate! She also doesn't seem to realize she is a little dog. She constantly is challenging our big dogs. We call her Tiny But Mighty. She does sound a bit intimidating!

We weren't looking for another dog, but alone two, and we certainly NEVER would have gone looking for Chihuahuas! But, we're glad they're here and we are really enjoying them. They fit right in, it feels like they've been here forever!

Facebook: Friend or Foe?

I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. On one hand it is an excellent way to stay in touch with people, keep up to date on their lives and vise versa. It's a wonderful way to let lots of people know all at once about things going on in your life.

It can also be quite addicting and suck up alot of valuable time! I hate to admit that at 40 something years old I am as addicted to the site as many teens I know. I find myself constantly checking in to see the latest updates or see who responded to an update of mine and it just sucks up far too much valuable time out of my homeschooling day. That's probably my own issue as I know many who exercise great self control when it comes to Facebook and Internet usage in general.

While it's a great way to stay in touch with others, like email where you can't see someones facial expressions or hear the tone of their voice, things can easily be misunderstood. I have personally experienced this at least once. You can also end up learning far more about friends or family than you ever really wanted to know. Many post things on there that may surprise you, and perhaps make you think differently of a person than you previously had.

Also, as we recently discovered, you may find out what people think of YOU! I guess not knowing we had mutual friends, some friends of the family had posted some things on another friends Facebook page saying very different things about the choices our son made to join the military than what they had said just days before to our very faces. Needless to say this led to some seriously hurt feelings and even anger.

So, I sit here pondering my existence on the site. I doubt I will delete my account, there are too many advantages, such as a quick easy way to send out a prayer request or life update quickly to several people at once, or an easy way to stay in touch with adult children living out of state and other friends and family members. I do suppose that I will slowly start to frequent it less and less often though.

The time I allow it to suck is a big issue, but so is the fact that I feel it keeps me from developing real relationships with people. Perhaps if I had spent half as much time in real life, in person with some of my Facebook "friends" I would have known their true thoughts and feelings and not have had to find out in the hurtful way I did on a public forum.

Many have hundreds and hundreds of friends on Facebook. It's like a trophy I guess to collect lots of friends, but how many of them would you really want to spend time with in the real world? How much of what you share on Facebook would you stand up in church and announce or in any other public place?

Like any other form of technology, Facebook can be a valuable tool if respected for what it is, just that, a tool. When it starts to consume too much of your time and even your thoughts when your away from it for a period of time, you know it's time to re-evaluate it a bit. I think it's about that time for me!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Worth The Cost

We are always looking for ways to save a few pennies and when our Costco membership fees became due again, we thought we'd save a few bucks and just not renew. We love Costco, but rarely buy anything beyond basic food items(and batteries!).

After just two shopping trips without going to Costco, we see we really do save there.

I often see posts on the web or articles in magazines or money saving books on how memberships in such clubs are often not as good a deal as they seem. I have to disagree 100%. I am sure it depends on what you're buying, but here is what we often buy, that is close to half the price of regular stores. Yes the amounts are large, but we are feeding three growing boys(two of them teens or nearing teen hood!) and a hard working husband, so the portions are good for us.

Cheese- all kinds
batteries-seriously can't find a better deal anywhere else
cream cheese
sour cream
turkey bacon
ground turkey
quality bread(we actually don't buy this much, we make our own, but if you do buy bread, this is a good deal. Could do better with an outlet if you have one nearby, which we don't)
printer ink-again something we don't buy here much as with our current printer(a Kodak) the ink is inexpensive anywhere. With past printers, this was a HUGE savings!
cooking oil
small bottled water- our well water isn't drinkable, so we buy alot of this!
peanut butter

As you can see, we don't buy a large amount of items, so we really thought we didn't need to renew our membership. WRONG! Just two of our bi-weekly shopping trips shows that the savings are big enough that just 2-4 trips the card would pay for itself($50.00)

They do have an executive membership that is $100.00, and at the end of the year you get a refund check based on the amount of purchases you made. When we were just buying whatever we wanted, like movies and books, clothing and such(these are all VERY good deals here, just not things we can afford to regularly buy anymore) we got checks for $100+ dollars. More than paid for the cost of membership plus some extra. Now that we shop a bit more frugally, the cost is not justifiable at all for us.

Whether a membership to a club like Sam's or Costco is worth it for you and your family, really depends on what you buy on a regular basis. For us with the purchases mentioned above, it is very much worth it. I have learned that I will always make sure I have my membership fees set aside each year for now on. I have already spent half of those in just two trips of shopping elsewhere.

The only warning I have is to have a set plan of what you intend to buy and you have to be strong to be able to pass up some of the other great deals on items you may find but don't really need. If not, you will not be saving anything at all.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Plugged In or Tuned Out?

I LOVE technology! With my oldest son on the other side of the United States and soon possibly the other side of the world, I depend on technology to stay in contact with him. Skype has got to be about the coolest thing around! We can not only talk (for FREE!) we can SEE each other too! This really helps us both to feel more connected. I think I really would have hated to be a Navy Mom even 20 years ago before the dawn of easily accessible Internet for all, cells and Skype. I would have been a nervous wreck having to wait for letters or a once a week phone call!

I also live in a rather rural area and don't have many I would call "friend." Our homeschool group which I helped found is somewhat lacking in regards to consistency and participation. So often feeling somewhat secluded the internet and online social groups such as Facebook and homeschooling message boards have really helped me feel "connected" to others who share my interests.

In these ways I'd have to say technology is a blessing. Not just for me and my family, but I am sure many others as well. It can be a helpful tool.

At the same time, it can be a curse, even for my family. I have been observing these past few weeks, that while we are all home together and under the same roof, I am not sure we are spending as much quality time together. I often can be found right here, at my computer, while my 13 year old can be found at his. When Dad isn't working(which is rare!) he can be found in front of the TV, and even my little 3 year old sits on the couch with his Nintendo DS playing Super Mario Bros. The 11 year old would be on the XBox, but for the fact that it recently died.

I don't think my family is that rare as when I go to the theater there are several texting away during the movie! Oh how that really irritates me! First, I am paying ALOT of money to go see a movie, and I am constantly distracted by the flashing lights and vibrating noises coming from dozens of cells. Why even go to the movie if you can't stay off the phone for a whole two hours? Don't even get me started on Cells in church!!

Go to any restaurant and the scenario is about the same. Couples dining together, and rather than sharing a romantic meal they are constantly allowing themselves to be interrupted with calls or texts.

We are in the same room together, but are we really together? Are we tuned into our family and other loved ones, really? Or are we tuned into our electronic devices?

As I said, for my own family technology has in many ways been a HUGE blessing and made my life situations alot more bearable. So, I don't think the answer is to completely ban technology but like everything else in life, moderation is key!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Church, School and Baseball

Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important. ~C.S. Lewis

As my children have gotten older over the years I see a common trend with many of their friends. Around age nine or so, many if not most seem to lose interest in attending church services. I know I did around that age. There are dozens more things many of us at any age would rather do on what is our only day off more many of us. But, like our jobs or school or anything else of extreme importance, we go. Sad, that it equates down to that sometimes, but it does. What I find surprising, almost shocking to me, is that while mom and sometimes dad force themselves to go, they give their young children the choice of whether or not to attend!

I am not speaking here about a family who only recently started to attend church, or forcing a child to take on to a religion that they haven't been brought up on, I am talking about families that from infancy have been bringing their children to church. It's just what they do on Sunday mornings, like other important things in life like school, work, sports, etc...

When I ask my dear friends why they don't insist their child come to church I almost always get the following answer: " I don't want to force them to come, then they will learn to not like church and see it as a chore."

I can almost see the logic in that one, really...BUT...Do you not "force" them to go to school Monday through Friday? Do you not "force" them to stick out their music lessons, sports involvements or other things you as a family find important?

IF you claim to be a Christian, isn't your faith at least as important as these other items you "force" your child to attend to?(really, it should be the MOST important thing if your claiming Christianity as your faith!)

Does "forcing" your dear little child to attend school make them hate school? Well, in my case it sure did, I loathed school with a passion, but you know what? I still went, it was just one of those things I "had" to do and I am appreciative of that fact now as I understand the value of an education. Did I "hate" my parents at the time? Sure I did. Do I hate them today? No, as I just explained I appreciate that I was required or "forced" to attend.

With four boys, we have had plenty of time put in on the Little League field. One thing I often see is little Johnny start to get bored with being on the team or not wanting to attend practice as often as required. I also see very committed and deligent parents "force" Johnny to continue even though he clearly no longer desires to. They go on about "commitment" and responsibility to the team. Yet these are the same parents who profess to be Christians and attend church faithfully, while leaving nine year old Johnny at home because they don't want to "force" him to attend.

Now, I am not saying you can't be a Christian unless you attend church. Looking back over my life, I realize the 2-3 years I was NOT in church was the time of my life I actually felt closest to God. That's when I did the most seeking of him and was most actively involved in reading His Word. Like one of my favorite quotes says "Going to Church Doesn't Make You a Christian Any More Than Standing in a Garage Makes You a Car." But for those families that do put a significance on going to church, yet let their young children stay home, I don't understand why they will force little Johnny to go to a school he hates, continue on a sports team he has no desire to be on, play an instrument that he doesn't appreciate, yet they wont require him to attend church for one hour one day a week!!!!!

I agree that at a certain age, you should give your children some freedom in choosing for themselves if they will take on your faith as their own. As my oldest son reached his late teens, we required he be involved at least once a month in some sort of faith based activity but gave him the freedom to seek out for himself, what and where that would be. By that time though, he was already working and paying most of his own expenses, and had already started the enlistment process of joining the US Navy. I figure if he's old enough for those sorts of responsibilities he's old enough to make the majority of his own choices for his life. Would I let him make any of those choices at nine or ten? NO!!

School IS very important, teaching a child to see a commitment through whether it be sports, or music is important too. These things help shape their character and they type of people they will grow up to be. But if you claim Christianity as your faith, that is of ETERNAL importance! If you're not taking little Johnny to church, are you doing Bible Study at home? Devotions? Anything? If not, you may want to re-examine your priorities.

I know I have several non-Christian friends who feel children shouldn't be forced to attend church or have their parents faith forced upon them, and I can understand that point of view to a certain extent, but again I ask should those same parents force their child to attend school even though the child doesn't see the worth in it? As parents we all have to make choices for our own families, all I am saying, is to check yourself and be sure they are lining up with what you are professing to claim is important in your own life and family.