Sunday, 23 March 2014

Pinterest and Covetousness. Finding the line and fleeing it.

I realized this week that my interest in Pinterest has become... deadly. Josh recently had  a job offer at a company in the States that would mean a lot more money coming in our doors, but it was contingent on some things happening. I like the sinful person I am heard "More money, lookit what we could GET!" And within minutes I was on Pinterest, pinning to my dream home board, dreaming of the beautiful house we could buy or build. And then the job(We're pretty sure), fell through. And I was crushed that all those beautiful ideas on my board would never happen, and in that moment I was SO convicted. Somewhere along the way, probably at that first pin, my mind turned from being content where I'm at, in the beautiful house God made happen, with my wonderful family... to wanting more. 

I think Pinterest as a whole really encourages this. I have to constantly be on guard when looking through the home decor section of that site. Yes, my home is my castle, and I aim to make it the best it can be. But there is a big difference between saying "I'm going to improve my house to make it a better home for my family." And saying "I want my house to be different." Or, "I want something else to be happy." 

God calls you to be content where you are. He set you where you are. In my case, he pulled some pretty crazy strings to make it happen. Feeling unhappy with your life? Look to your father, the more you focus on him... the better your life will be. Because he will change your heart to reflect his. 

Is it wrong to look through Pinterest and see all the wonderful things you can do with your home? Of course not. God calls you to care for your home, and part of that is decorating it. But. There is an awfully thin line between what is possible and what isn't. 

Here are the guards I put up in my own mind while Pinning for my home, or anything else really. 

1. Can I afford it? 

And I don't mean right this minute. But here's a good example. Unless my husband gets a crazy good job, I'm never going to be able to afford the 5 bedroom house I pinned the plans for. Or the beautiful remodelled kitchen. But I afford the pretty paint color I pinned for my current living room, and the curtain coverings for our kids closets instead of  bulky doors with a little saving. 

If you can't afford it, don't look. It's like trying on the $4000 wedding dress when you only have $200 to spend. It's always a bad idea. 

2. Does it fit into my house? 

Can you honestly see it working in your house? And be honest with yourself here ladies. If you have a tiny little entryway closet like I do, and you're pinning these amazing mud room pictures.... it's never gonna happen. So don't even go there. Don't even look. Maybe instead look at how to add nifty hooks onto the side for the kids, and a chalkboard to write up meals or scratch notes for the day instead. Work with what you have! There are so many neat things that can be done with a home without wanting something you don't have the room for. 

3. Can I use it at this point in my life? 

Okay guys, here comes the hard part. I love white. Love it. But wanna know what would happen if I plastered my house in white? My children would destroy it in oh... 3 seconds flat. 4 if I'm really lucky. Me pinning a bunch of pictures of white houses isn't going to do me any good. It's just going to make me discontent with my super easy to clean, hide everything black leather couches. Instead I should plan for where I'm at now. Maybe I can look at that beautiful purple paint, and the patterned grey carpet, both great for hiding stains, or some beautiful leather couches with brightly colored throws and pillows. Easy things to clean. 

Everyone has circumstances in their lives which make some things unattainable right now. Don't look at the things you know aren't attainable. You'll just covet. In 20 years when my kids are grown, we'll revisit white. Right now I'm embracing the leather. 

I think by now, most people have eliminated most things on their wishlists... but there's one more folks! 

4. Does it benefit my family? 

This isn't just a "Well of course it does, it'll make us more organized!" type thing. This is honest at it's hardest ladies. Does it benefit your home to have that chalk board there, or is the chalk dust just one more thing to clean up when you already have a white  board on the fridge? Do you really need new couches when your kids are still potty training? Does it benefit your home to have your kitchen redone, or it really just you saying "But it could be better!" Take a step back and be brutally honest. Does it benefit your family to be spending your energy in this part of your life? Or could that energy be better spent else where? Remember, brutally honest.

Well, those are the steps I take, and honestly, it's helped me a lot. I hope it helps you too.

- Natasha

Monday, 17 March 2014

Blended families: From One Christian to Another

In this day and age, it seems every second family out there is blended in some way. Take my family for example. Samuel is Josh's child from another relationship, and we have a good relationship with Sams biological mother. 

Yet still, people don't know how to deal with us. I find people get awkward, and mumble and look shocked when I say Samuel is going back to his moms. 

Yes everyone, my husband had pre-marital sex, and yes, a child was conceived of it. Yes, I adore my son, and yes, he is my son. Please don't suggest otherwise. 

Sam loves his mom, and is very happy to tell you that he has two families, two homes, and two groups of friends. If you simply ask him, he'll tell you about his life. We do the same here. We're happy to talk about our arrangement with Sams mom, about our living situation, and how we deal with discipline. I find most blended families are the same. 

I think Christians have this idea that with blended families, we have to have a stigma because of the sin that caused our family to have to be blended.

I think this is frankly pretty sad. Families are families. If I didn't tell you, you wouldn't know Sam wasn't mine. I have made a point lately of reaching out to other blended Christian families, because I know that it's hard to deal with the sidelong glances and sometimes outright rudeness.

So this is a challenge to Christians out there. Reach out to a blended family. Learn about them, about how they make it work. Instead of panicing when someone says their child isn't their blood child, smile and say "How you blessed you are!" And mean it. All these people want is to live in victory over their sin, peaceably with their family. Just like you.

- Natasha

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Price Matching in Canada and the States for Canadians

Well, I live in a border town, and so... we shop in the states! But this presents a bit of a challenge, because suddenly, the prices I have to check double. Now I have to check Canada and the States prices and make two separate lists. This is time consuming, but I've got it down to only about an hour of work every two weeks to make my menu, plan my lists and price match, saving me about $100 every pay cheque.

 I'm going tell you how I personally do it with two small children who always need my attention. 

First off, two websites.


Bookmark them. You will use them every week. 

Smart canucks has a data base of every flyer, every coupon, every deal you can find in Canada. All for free. It's updated in a timely manner every week, and it's a great resource. The only problem is all stores in Canada require you to have the actual flyer in your hand. So while this is a good resource for when you are planning, you do have to get flyers to actually price match. If you consistently find you aren't getting your flyers in time... ask around at your church or other social events. Guaranteed someone's kid delivers flyers who always has extras and is willing to let you take a set. 

Deals to Meals in a States resource, yes, it costs $5 a month. You'll make that up in savings in one shopping trip, I promise you. You pick your state, and her and her team price match for you. Considering that as far as I was able to find, the States doesn't have a resource like smartcanucks... believe me, you want this. It will save you a TON of time. The pro of this is Walmart in the States does NOT require flyers to price match. You just bring your list and they will price match. If they give you a fight about it, stick to your guns, their official policy, found here, says that they don't require an ad. Most cashiers won't fight you on it. If you really want to hedge your bets, find the youngest cashier there. Most times they won't care enough to fight you more than asking for the ad. 

Ok, now down to planning! First off, get a notebook, or a spread sheet. I personally find it easier to not have to be moving my screen around and use a notebook. 

Here's how I work it. I wait until my kids are the happiest, and then I start on my menu. For me, that means in the morning, bright and early. Miah is still sleeping and Elsie is a happy baby who keeps herself amused in the mornings. I make a full two weeks, plus two extra days. This means that sometimes I have some flexibility about what I'm going to make, it also means that I typically have some extra groceries in my house from last pay cheque. 

I know many of you are sitting there, "Shouldn't you check ads first, then make your list around the ads?" Sure, and sometimes I end up changing my menu based on a really good deal. But my husband is a creature of habit, and between my children and him.. I find it's easier to just make food I know everyone will eat and try to buy the ingredients for the food we love as intelligently as possible. 

I make a grocery list based only on the food we need to get through that menu. If my menu calls for 4 lbs ground beef and I have four in my house, then it doesn't get on my list. 

Once I've made my menu and 'needed grocery' list, I go to SmartCanucks. I open up every flyer for every store even close to me. Make sure you open the ad for your neck of the woods. I once opened at Atlantic Sobeys ad by accident, when I live in Ontario, and almost had a caniption when I saw that their turkeys were $.69/lbs. I ran out to get the flyer from my mail box when they got here, only to realize I was looking at the wrong flyer. 

Go through each flyer thoroughly, even if normally you wouldn't(Sometimes stores have great deals you normally wouldn't expect from that store), and consider kicking your brand loyalty if things are an honestly better deal. Remember to keep in mind sizes. $2.99 for a block of cheese might seem like a great deal until you realize it's only 250g and you can get the 500g one for $4. 

How I  find it works the best is I write the name of the store, and then underneath that, I write every deal for food my family will eat from that store. If I know it's a particularly good deal, say $.79 for Catelli Pasta sauce, I star it. I then move on to the next store. If I find two stores have the same item on, I cross out the one that is more expensive. By the time I'm done, I have a pretty good little list. 

I then reference this list against my grocery list. I put the price matched price and where it's matched from in brackets beside each item I'm price matching, and I add to the bottom of my list anything that I'm 'stocking up' on. Take for example, my list a couple months ago. My list called for no chicken, as I already had all I needed in the house, but chicken went on sale in the states for $1.99/lbs. So chicken was my stock up item that month. Every two weeks my husband gives me X amount of dollars to spend. I get as close as possible to that number without going over. Everything I don't use on the 'needed' list, I use for stock up foods. This means when I have a lower number one week, I usually have food in the house anyways. 

I then go on dealstomeals and I make and print off my grocery list there using her method. I cross match it with my full grocery list, and then I start to highlight. Anything that I can buy in the states cheaper, I highlight with a blue marker. Things like snacks, meat, and milk are always on my states list. In Detroit, I can buy a gallon of milk for $2.50 as opposed to $5 in Windsor. Just two gallons of milk and I've paid for my dealstomeals subscription. Remember the exchange rate, if an item is only a couple cents different in the States, buy it in Canada. With our current exchange at 14 cents to the dollar, you actually end up losing money if you buy in the States. 

Once I'm done that, I head out shopping. In Canada, I like to shop at Superstore. They have a great price match policy, and if you decide to coupon, they have a good set of in store coupons. They also have the PCplus points card, which lets you load deals and collect points. 1000 points = a dollar to take off your grocery budget. It adds up quickly. In the States we shop at Walmart because of their price match policy. I can usually get all my shopping done in one evening. There is only three exceptions to this rule. I buy diapers and formula at CostCo in Canada. It is so much cheaper than anywhere else. On top of this, most of my produce I buy at a local farmers market, or our local Josephs food market. Look in your area for a small mom and pop farm vegetable market. You will typically find their vegetables more fresh, cheaper, and much more tasty. 

My  method might not work for everyone, and to a certain point it's a little bit more lengthy than it needs to be, BUT I have never missed a deal I wanted, and I am always within my budget, assuming I don't take Josh along and he ruins it. :P 

All in all, find what works for you. But shopping in the States saves me at least $80 a month. That's including toll booth fees and everything else. 

Within the next week, I'll write a post about my price book and what I typically pay for my groceries. 

God Bless! 

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