Friday, December 21, 2012

Trust in God

After a windy night and a snow storm blowing in this morning it has finally calmed down. A half hour of prep time and the kids are out playing in the beautiful snow.  No school today due to the weather. The kids were actually a little disappointed as there were activities they were looking forward to. I, on the other hand was glad to have them home.  After a hard week of sending them to school and praying for their safety I have been longing for Christmas break. Only Friday left now and they will be home for a few weeks.

 I went outside briefly to get a few pictures, wondering if this could be our only snow this year. Then my first grader took me to see her snow Angel, it was beautiful. How amazing to have a beautiful snow for them to play in, they were so excited they hardly ate breakfast.  Despite my awe of the snow I head back inside because I did not spend a half hour dressing so my fingers were freezing.

When I was back inside the feeling I’ve had many times this week comes back. Like many other mothers around the world it will be a long time before my heart doesn’t ache for the families who have lost loved ones last week. Tears fill my eyes for their moments lost, with each one I gain. I didn’t want to write about what happened, it’s Christmas.  I wanted to write about our tree and other final preparations. I don’t feel like I can write anything else, unless I write this first.

Just like the storm that blew through Kansas last night a storm of evil blew through the US last week. It began on Thursday in Topeka with a 2 year old lost after a dog attack, continuing on Friday with one of the worst tragedies I ever knew in a small town Elementary school in Connecticut and the weekend ended with two Topeka Police officers losing their life in the line of duty on Sunday. Not a lot of Christmas spirit to see on the television this past weekend.  I turned it off or changed the station many times because I didn’t want the kids to have to hear it all, and selfishly I didn’t want to hear it.  I am lucky, I can turn it off there are 30 families that cannot. It is a helpless feeling. I will likely never understand why so much evil happens in our world.  So all I can do is pray. Pray for their families, friends, and the individuals lost. Then pray that our world will change so that someday the reports of good outweigh the bad on the nightly news.   

As Christmas approaches I hope we can all find strength in the miracle of Jesus’ birth and what he brought to our world because evil cannot take that away. Trust in God and know Jesus’ was with each one of those children and adults last week.    

For God will hide me in his shelter in time of trouble,
 Will conceal me in the cover of his tent and set me high upon a rock.  Psalm 27:5

Though it may be hard we must be thankful for Christmas because without Jesus we have nothing.

 So when I feel guilty for my moments staring at the tree lights with my 1st grader, I will remember what the celebration is about and just hold her closer. Despite what some say, showing our love WILL make a difference by adding more good to our world.  Jesus’ light will guide the way, just as the light of the Star guided the Wise Men to Jesus after his birth.

Be near me Lord Jesus, I ask thee to stay
Close by me forever, and love me, I pray.
Bless all the dear children in thy tender care,
And fit us for heaven to live with thee there. 

(The final verse from Away in the Manger)

Friday, December 14, 2012

Advent: The Second Week, Who’s Santa?

There are so many Christmas traditions in families and in our world.  As we are approach the end of the 2nd week of advent one tradition has been in my thoughts, Santa Claus. There has been two moments of awe the past couple weeks of the mystery and magic of Santa. You probably don’t remember the first time you realized who Santa was, but you can probably remember realizing who Santa really was. With a 13 year old and a 2 year old in our house I have experienced both realizations this year.

One morning this December I tried to encourage my 2 year old to do better going potty on the toilet by offering that maybe Santa would bring her some new underwear for Christmas .  She looked at me and said, “Who’s Santa?” I imagine she was too young last year to remember. This made me excited for the years of fun Santa would bring. The nights of quietly laying in bed hoping to hear Santa’s bell. The hurry to get to bed early on Christmas Eve only to find you are not able to fall asleep. Once you are finally asleep waking multiply times throughout the night waiting for it to be a “reasonable” hour to wake Mom and Dad. After two Christmas celebrations with Santa visiting, I think she now recognizes Santa Claus.

Last week I was driving our 13 year old to school and decided I to ask if he wanted to sit on Santa’s lap at the family reunion this year. At the reunion parents provide gifts to Santa and he calls them all up by name. Last year he was one of the oldest to still go up, though he seemed fine with it I didn’t want to embarrass him. He responded, “Not really.” I could see a little disappointment in his eyes and felt it in my heart. Even though it hadn’t been discussed officially I knew he didn’t believe in Santa.  I remember when I stopped believing, how bad I wanted my logical thoughts to go away and telling friends Santa is a big part of the spirit of Christmas and I still believed in that.  So I went on to talk to him about how St. Nicholas was a real person and it is his spirit of giving that has formed the tradition of Santa Claus and been handed down through generations for parents to keep alive.  He looked at me through eyes of a child saying are you telling me there is no Santa Claus and eyes of a teenager saying I know mom! I had to hold back the tears. I know he knew the truth. He was the same kid who has picked up the slack for our less than adequate tooth fairy making the on time delivery of money to his younger brother.  I think he felt like I did, now that I said it out loud he knew I knew and that made it real. I told him I loved him, dropped him at school, and shed a few tears on the way home.

I now have one child who is learning about the the jolly fellow in a red suit that flies a sleigh with reindeer and one who the belief is beyond logical thoughts. I did later inform him that Santa still brings presents to all in the family even if they are too old to sit on Santa’s lap.

“Though I’ve grown old, the bell still rings for me as it does for all who truly believe.” The Polar Express

Santa is magical for all ages in different ways. When we left the reunion last Sunday there was a gift for our 13 year old in the van with a tag reading From: Santa.  When the other kids saw it he said, “Hey Mom, Santa must have found my gift in his slay when he left”. He is now just part of the magic, not to mention he gets to sample the stash of Christmas candy :).

A couple of fun stories of Christmas symbols:

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Household Budget: Step 1 Learn Your Spending Habits

There is some leg work to be done before you can develop a good budget. It may seem like a lot of work, but it will be well worth it. If you take the time at the start of the year then the monthly work is minimal. Here is what you can do to get ready for your 2013 budget. Regardless of where you are at in your financial planning or if you continue on my process this first step will help you.

Evaluate the past years spending habits. How much did you spend each month? What categories do you spend in? Look back at your checkbook, bank statements and bills to gather this information. If you don’t have good records make an educated estimate. Remember be honest about your spending. Log everything you spend throughout the year. Trying to make spending match income even if it didn’t, doesn’t help you plan for the next year. Until I logged everything, I couldn’t understand how we spent so much each month.  It’s amazing how quickly the little things add up.

Below is a sample of how I log our spending. Group spending into categories and how often it is paid (for irregular intervals just say per occurrence). I use 10 main categories with sub-categories in each. The main 10 is what I use in my checkbook spreadsheet. You can make your own categories to fit your family spending or just adjust mine. You don’t have to do any monthly averaging right now. Step one is just gathering information.  

Note: The values below are fictional so don’t use them for any of your estimates.  


Main Category          Sub-Category         Amount/Frequency
Charitable Gifts          Church                        $50/week
Others                      $25/month

Retirement                 Extra Mortgage           $50/month
Other Investments      $50/month

Savings                        Regular Savings          $25/wk
Emergency Fund         $25/wk (if you are establishing one, we’ll talk more about this later)

Housing                       Mortgage                     $1200/month
                                    Improvements             $100/occurrence

Utilities/Bills               Electricity                    $100/mon
Water                          $40/month
Propane/Gas                $500/every 6 months
Phone                          $40/month
Cell Phone                   $90/month
Trash                           $200/year
Internet                       $60/month
Newspaper                  $100/yr
Cable                           $50/month

Groceries                     Food(Groceries)          $800/month
(I include almost everything I buy in Wal-Mart in here.)
School Lunch              $100

Transportation             Gas                              $75/wk
Maint. & Repairs         $50/occurrence
Car Insurance              $200/6months
Plates & Taxes            $300/year
Car Loan                     $300/month

Medical/Health           Doctor                         $50/occurrence
Dentist                        $50/occurrence
Orthodontist               $100/month
Life Insurance             $200/month

Miscellaneous Needs Property Taxes            $100/year
School Reg & Fees     $500/occurrence

Miscellaneous Extras Christmas                    $2000/occurrence
Other Gifts                  $30/occurrence (Birthday etc...)
Kids Activities            $70/occurrence (Sports, lessons, Camps)
Travel                          $200/occurrence
Clothes                        $100/occurrence
Personal Care              $50/month
Misc                            $20/wk

I think this will keep you busy for awhile. Hopefully by the time you are done I will figure out how to upload my worksheets!  If you beat me feel free to email me at and I can send them to you that way. Also don’t hesitate to email if you have any questions. I hate to ruin any momentum.

So get your old checkbook ledger, bills and bank statements, and tackle one month a day, and in January you’ll be ready to go.  Good Luck!