frugal friday: the spiritual gift of poverty.

i don't have it. but todd does. it's his primary spiritual gift (followed closely by the gift of giving). he looks for ways to make more money for the purpose of giving it away, he looks for things he can go without in order to be able to give more to the church. whenever he receives anything (a gift or unexpected income), his first thought is about how he can give some of it back in gratitude. it's so inspiring to see that he truly understands that it has never been his money; it has only ever been God's money, and that he has been entrusted with stewarding it.

that being said, i mentioned that i don't have this gift. and i don't say that to fault myself - i have been given gifts that aren't todd's strong suit. that's the beauty of gifts. we've all been gifted differently so that we can each contribute something valuable and unique to the body of believers.

however, it should be pretty easy to see how it might be difficult for someone without the gift of poverty to be married to someone with this gift (and vice versa, if you think about it). people have asked me on multiple occassions, after learning that this is todd's gifting, if it's difficult for me. and my answer is "yes and no."

yes, because i'm a spender. well, not so much a spender as much as someone who values getting new or nicer stuff...and you usually have to spend money to get that stuff. which makes me a spender. when we first got married, this was one of only a couple big things that i struggled with. i had never had to be accountable for my spending before, much less to someone who saw money totally differently than i did. it meant that there were no impromptu cruises through the drivethru, fewer impulse buys at the store, fewer shopping trips to buy yet another shirt or whatever.

but the interesting thing is, it has made my life so much simpler in a way, too. i find myself wanting less, and the things i DO want, i weigh much more seriously before getting. and if i do decide something is worth getting, i actually enjoy looking for ways to get it cheaper (or best, free!). i love being able to tell todd about ways in which i saved us money. and at the end of it all, i find myself enjoying and valuing the things i have much more than i did, because so much thought and energy went into each thing.

mostly though, i love the fact that i can get truly EXCITED to hear todd say that he wants to give that hard-saved money away. when my income was nearly completely disposable, i thought in terms of how much makeup/clothing/mcdonalds a certain amount of money could get for me, or shuddered at the thought of buying off-brand velveeta (which i still do - some things don't change). it made it hard for me to joyfully give even the most basic amounts, and i found myself making all kinds of excuses for why i "just couldn't afford it."

but now, it's so much fun to hear about new giving opportunities and to frequently say "yes" without hesitation. and it's really exciting to see how much joy it brings todd to be able to do those things, and to come alongside him in doing the thing that brings him so close to God. and to be honest, todd does a great job of making sure our needs are beyond met, which makes it much easier for me to feel comfortable with the level of giving he is so passionate about.

so, yes, it's hard sometimes when i think about all of the things i could be getting if we gave less of our money away, and if we saved less of the money we keep. but more than anything, i'm grateful for the opportunity to give, to grow in a way that made me uncomfortable at first, to become a person i never thought i could be, and to submit to my husband wholeheartedly. god apparently had bigger plans for me than i had for myself, because i definitely didn't see this coming! but it has just been so awesome to see how todd's gift set has edified me so much in ways i couldn't have even imagined, and i'm beyond blessed.

(todd and i took this spiritual gifts inventory to help us identify our gifts, although todd's gifts of poverty and giving were pretty obvious before he even took this! mine were not so obvious, so i found it really helpful. do not be deceived by the eighth-grade-computer-class graphics.)

sweet deal.

just a quickie....

last night, todd and i each got a sandwich from quiznos, a fountain drink to share (aka, a soda for me to drink by myself) from kum 'n go, and two like-it sized ice creams from coldstone for $1.87 out of pocket. how did we do it, you say?

go here to sign up your family for free subs from quiznos - you can sign up each person in your household as long as you have a different email address for each one. note: you have to have a photo id in order to redeem each coupon, so signing up, say, a three-month-old infant doesn't work.

buy gas at kum 'n go and keep your receipt. (bonus: buy at least 12 bucks of gas on a sunday and get the sunday paper - including coupons - for free.) then go here to take the survey - they'll give you a free 32 oz drink.

and as for coldstone, we got a 2-for-$5 coupon from the paper and used a gift card for all but the remaining 1.87, so i have no links to help you out on this one. but if you sign up on their website, they'll give you a free ice cream on your birthday- so sign up everyone in your house!

okay, that's all. just thought i'd share the awesome deals!

announcing a new addition to our family!

The Quiet Partner II, meet everyone. everyone, The Quiet Partner II. (i call her The Quiet Partner for short.)

the stork (i.e., the draintech guy) brought her just this morning. isn't she beautiful? she also came with free rinse-aid and electrosol tablets, as well as coupons. freebies and coupons - she'll be right at home here!
some other highlights i haven't written about:

atticus' two-month "birthday" (his three-month will be a week from thursday. i haven't posted pictures in a while.)

atticus' newfound talent of bumbo-slouching.

todd's and my date to the olive garden (yes, we got dressed up to go to the olive garden. and i liked it.)
i also really enjoyed the andes mints they gave us.

the plethora of diapers we bought on sale. yes, if you counted SIXTEEN family-sized boxes, you counted correctly.

our trip to the willises' superbowl party. (yes, that's a football bib. he's all about it.)

how mad atticus got when the cardinals lost. here, we see jared willis comforting him.

atticus sneezing milk out his nose.

other stuff we've written about, but haven't illustrated:

the booty of todd's treasure hunt.
atticus not feeling well (here with a smile - and a bunch of snot - on his face)

close-up of the snot, in case you missed it.
guy time at the van voorst house.

me, nebulizing the heck out of that kid.

his enduring love for the nebulizer.

the tortilla mix with which i made my horrible "chips." there were more pictures, but whoops, i forgot to upload them.

and TODAY'S highlights:
learning to roll over:
step 1.
step 2.
step 3.

step 4. (he needed a bit of help getting from step 3 to step 4.)

our first outdoor adventure:

we went off-roading...apparently at the edge of where "winter"meets "spring."
all tuckered out. what a big day!

hepatitis and $5.40

so i found a can on the road while walking to casey's to buy the sunday des moines register. then i saw another, and another. so i went back to our apartment and got a bag. i went out and filled it up rather quickly. much more quickly than i would have anticipated. i came back and got more bags. i ended up filling about 5 bags. some observations:

- people are messy and litter far too much
- people apparently like giving me their money
- things have not changed since high school: people who chew tobacoo still drink mt. dew (or mtndew as the cool kids say these days)
- i think high school students drink booze in the tree nursery along the bike path behind our place (bud light with mtndew chasers)
- i'm so glad i was wearing gloves (which my wife washed for me afterwards)

at the end of the day, i made $5.40 in bottles, cans, and plastics and cleaned up our neighborhood a little bit. not a bad day's work.

not me monday (holla, paris hilton!)

(started by mckmama)

. i did not get SERIOUSLY pooped on yesterday when atticus exploded out of his diaper all the way up to his armpits. i did not have to take his poopy onesie off over his head without being able to avoid getting it in his hair and on his face. i did not think it was the grossest thing that has ever happened to me, including that time i got bled on by a stranger.

. i did not have a dream that i was an unwed, pregnant mother who got kidnapped by the hilton family (who then took me, as well as the other pregnant women they kidnapped, out to dinner to make us feel better about it all) so that they could steal my baby and run paternity tests on it.

. i did not analyze my dream, concluding that it must mean that i feel safe knowing that i have todd, and that i hate the hiltons. even though paris DID offer me her pink horse. and even though her mom hugged me when i started to cry because i made a fool out of myself at dinner. (apparently, i didn't know that it was faux pas at a rich-people restaurant to cut my corn into tiny pieces before eating it and to throw my wheatie-wheels on the floor - yes, in my dream, i invented a new cereal.) i still hate the hiltons.

. i have not jipped my child into taking his nebulizer treatments by doing them while he's been asleep. i have not laughed at how ridiculous he looks with his fish-face nebulizer mask, or at how MAD he gets when he has to be awake for a treatment.

. i did not accidentally cyberstalk a stranger because i didn't take enough time to read her self-description to know she wasn't actually one of my best friends from college. i did not overlook the fact that she referenced a boyfriend/husband that did not have the same name as my friend's boyfriend. or the fact that she lived in a different state.

. i have not been pulling my hair out by the handfuls (literally) and i do not suspect that i will be completely bald by april.

. i did not find myself army-crawling into our bedroom to turn on the lullaby machine without being spotted.

. i did not attempt to save money by trying to make my own tortilla chips...only to have those efforts fall flatter than flat. (or, actually, flatter than a *store bought* tortilla.) embarrassing pictures soon to come.

also soon to come: our (todd's) latest money-making endeavor!

frugal friday: laundry

so, i used to make my own laundry detergent, but have kind of fallen out of the habit recently since store bought is a (tiny) bit easier. also, since i wash all of our clothes together - including atticus' - i decided to use store-bought rather than homemade, since homemade is soap-based and they don't recommend that for use on baby clothes (i guess it messes with the flame-retardant stuff on kiddo pjs). however, i think if done a certain way, storebought can come pretty close to homemade in terms of price.

(the only thing that creeps me out about it is that it has a ton of unrecognizable chemicals in it, and thinking about having residue of that stuff on our baby clothes or my underwear is kind of gross.)

anyway, here's the best cost analysis i could come up with. i'm not the greatest at math, but i dedicate myself in the name of saving money, so i think this is right:

homemade detergent:
ivory soap: 3.79 for 10 bars (.02 per load)
borax: 2.89 for 76 oz (.01 per load)
washing soda: 2.38 for 55 oz (.01 per load)

homemade rinse (fabric softener/residue remover):
vinegar: 1.99 for 2 gallons (.02 per load)

total cost of one load: .06 (+ the cost of water and energy, obviously, but that will be true regardless of the type of detergent you use.)

here's the clincher for store-bought: only use half of what they tell you. i was talking to our appliance guy, and he said that it's better for your washer and your clothes to only use half the recommended amount, unless your clothes are really dirty. the only reason they recommend using as much as they do is because it makes you use more and therefore buy more.

storebought detergent options:
xtra liquid: 5.86 for 96 loads/192 half-soap loads (.03 per half-soap load)
arm and hammer liquid: 8.49 for 96 loads/192 half-soap loads (.05 per half-soap load)
arm and hammer powder: 11.86 for 145 loads/290 half-soap loads (.04 per half-soap load)

so, for the actual cleaning product, arm and hammer powder costs the same as homemade, and xtra actually costs less, as long as you only use half the amount of detergent. not to mention, both are (only a tiny bit) more convenient than having to make your own.

storebought softener options:
target brand fabric softener liquid: 3.29 for 60 loads (i don't know if you can halve this or not) (.06 per load)
target brand softener sheets: 6.49 for 240 sheets (you can use each sheet twice) (.01 per load)

so, for softener options, vinegar is less expensive than storebought, but if you want to buy softener, sheets are way less expensive than liquid.

so there you have it. i've decided to use arm and hammer powder detergent and vinegar, so my total cost-per-load is about 6 cents. i do 3-4 loads per week (avg: 3.5), which means i'll spend about 11 bucks a year to wash our clothes.

if i didn't halve our detergent, and used both liquid and sheet softeners, i'd be spending around 15 cents per load, or about 27 bucks a year. and that's only using the cheapest-of-cheap products. other products could make it WAY more expensive than that even.

so i save 16 bucks a year, which doesn't sound like much, but it's like getting nearly a year and a half of laundry for FREE, if you think about it.

not to shabby. and hopefully not too boring.

taking a sick day (or week)

atticus is sick. he started getting sick on friday of last week, and a cold really set in on sunday (the day we returned from AZ). by tuesday morning, it was really bad, and he was having a rough go of it - he had a really stuffy nose and was developing a cough.

i called first nurse to see if i could rub vicks on his chest (the answer was no), but she heard him coughing over the phone and told me to make a dr. appt for that day. however, i went back and forth with the decision, because i felt like i'd end up kicking myself for taking him to the doctor if all they were going to do was tell me he had a cold, not be able to do anything about it, and charge me thirty bucks for the whole thing.

so i didn't make the appointment.

then tuesday night, his breathing became really labored and i was super freaked out that he was going to stop breathing in his sleep or something, but of course by that point, the doctor's office was closed. so first thing yesterday morning, i called and made an appointment.

we went in at 3:30. i figured we'd be in and out after the doctor just gave me some tips for dealing with a kiddo with a nasty cold. however, three and a half hours, four x-rays, a breathing treatment, a rented nebulizer and two prescriptions later, we were finally home!

it turns out he has this bug called RSV, which is a virus that settles in your lungs, and an ear infection. they took x-rays, though, to make sure that his difficulty breathing wasn't related to a heart problem, but thankfully it wasn't. (at his last appointment, they discovered he has a hole in his heart. because they took the x-rays, though, they were able to determine that his heart is shaped normally, so they think the hole should heal itself and shouldn't be too much of a problem. we have an appointment on march 12 to see if it has improved at all.)

seriously, he's been a completely different kid today. yesterday he was having so much trouble breathing through both his mouth and his nose, he's hardly smiled at all in the last week, and he hasn't slept much - mostly because he can't breathe well enough to fall asleep, and once he's asleep he'll cough and wake himself up. however, today he has taken two AWESOME naps (1.5 hours, then 2 hours, now he's back asleep again) and he's been smiling and even cooing a little. i definitely think he feels better!

we have another appointment tomorrow to make sure he's healing well, but i think it's going as well as it possibly could!

poor kiddo - his first illness. but he's been taking it like a man - i'm just glad it's almost over!

AZ, a to z.

last tuesday, we embarked on a trip to arizona to see todd's parents. they live in mesa during the winter months and hadn't seen atticus yet. i was a little nervous about the trip, since it's my first time traveling with a baby and atticus' first time traveling period. needless to say, i packed about half the house in our suitcase - just in case, of course - and we took off for the airport. we flew out of des moines tuesday morning, and had a quick (VERY quick) layover in dallas.

we got there in the afternoon, and just chilled at home that evening, which was nice after a long day of traveling. i started getting really hungry that day, and pretty much ate them out of house and home. no joke. i spent the entire week famished and gorging myself on anything high in fat and/or protein.

on wednesday we ate lunch at this awesome little chinese food place (holla back, kwan's sampan!) that served huge lunch plates for 2.95. as mentioned, i was starving and ate my plate of stuff and a bunch of crab rangoons and was a very happy camper. for about an hour, as it goes with chinese food.

that night, we went to the arizona opry where these twins named brenda and barb barleen and the guy who sings "the lion sleeps tonight" (george staerkel. i'm not lying. that's his name) and a guy who looked remarkably like my dad put on one heck of a show. the lion sleeps tonight guy played like 30-odd different instruments and sang really high. it sounds ridiculous. but it was really cool.

the next day, we went to IKEA! i fell in love with pretty much everything in the store, with a few weird extra-swedish exceptions, and bought some twin-sized bedding for atticus. loved it loved it loved it. with a restaurant, a bathroom, and a bunch of beds, i could live there quite nicely. it was also the only place we went that actually had a family bathroom equipped with a chair for nursing and even free diapers! it was at IKEA that i ended up spilling on the kiddo's head for the first time. (of many.)

(the buildup...)and there you have it.
(todd, eating his swedish ice cream)
thursday night we had some seriously awesome mexican food and jacqi told me about some little girl who called her cooter (the little girl's, not jacqi's) a baginacabinet. i laughed.
on friday, i fed atticus in the morning, only to have him projectile puke- twice. he wasn't running a fever or even acting like he didn't really feel good, but it was the start of him getting sick.
later that day, we rode a steamboat around canyon lake, where we saw a bunch of mountain goats, a bald eagle, petrified trees, geodes, and a bunch of rock formations. it was all very bob ross until atticus crapped his pants and i had to strip him naked and scrub him down in front of a boatload of old people.

from there, we drove to tortilla flats for lunch, where the main restaurant/gift shop is pretty much entirely wallpapered with dollar bills, sometimes multiple bills deep. it made it easy to leave a tip. kidding.

yes, that's me, holding my child's face up into a toilet seat. no, i don't know why.

tortilla flats, by the way, is where i spilled bacon and onion rings on my kiddo's head.
that night, we ate at organ stop pizza, whose kitsch is...well, an organ. the entire building was built around this giant, million-dollar organ, which sits on a spinning stage in the middle of the restaurant. they have juliard-trained organists on staff, who entertain the pizza-loving audience with such catchy organ hits as a star wars medley, hi-ho, and "all that jazz." not only do they play the organ, but also control drums, a piano, and a quartet of dancing cat puppets. actually, all serious jokes aside, it was a really cool place and the pizza was AWESOME.

on saturday, we went to a giant swap meet (read: year-round old threshers craft barns + giant new york knock-off warehouses x4) where jacqi bought me these knock-awesome shades: well as a shirt for atticus that says "someone who loves me went to arizona and got me this shirt." pretty self-explanatory. i had my eye on some knurberry (knock-off burberry) luggage and a knurberry wallet, but for various reasons, it just wasn't meant to be.
saturday afternoon jacqi took me to get a pedicure where i sat next to a beautiful tummy-tucked mormon wearing a wig. i'm paranoid i caught a fungus. not from the mormon, from the very old pumice stone that was used. however, the hot stone leg massage and the sugar scrub made it all worth it, even if my foot gangrenes.
also, fyi, it's a place to go if you want a mole removed. i didn't know you could do a surgical procedure in a nail place, but i guess dreams DO come true in good ol' AZ.

that night, todd, tony and i went to a valentine's dinner in the court while jacqi stayed home with atticus. it was really good, and pretty fun, considering we were easily the youngest people there by 20 years. with the exception of the entertainment, which was a few dance classes from a local dance studio - the tiny cloggers were the cutest! (also, spoken word poetry was performed, as a newly-married 93 year old man read an entire internet forward about AAADD: age-activated attention deficit disorder. haaah.)

...and that was our trip. we left sunday morning for the airport, after todd went to walgreens to buy a nose-sucker for our poor sick baby. the travel home was a little more challenging, since atticus wasn't feeling well at all, and was therefore more cranky. but we all got home in one piece (although, atticus' piece was a little leakier than when we left), and are really glad we got the opportunity to go!
some other highlights from the trip:
atticus looking quite dapper in his polo-onesie and jeans.

lovin' on dad, and thinking about how he's going to poop out of that outfit later. for the fourth time. he loves to poop on that outfit.

bracing himself for paparazzi exposure.

hating the car seat. as usual.

three generations of van voorst men.

sneezing, which he did a lot of toward the end of the trip.

yawning, which he also did a lot of, considering he didn't sleep much.

smiling at mom.
making his classic sad face.
one happy family!!