Your Questions Answered – August, 2014 (Part Three)

 Posted by on August 9, 2014  Add comments  Tagged with:
Aug 092014
 

I was wondering if you could write a post on toy/ art supply storage. I love the toy library idea, but I have mixed ages and I dont really know where I should store my 1 year olds toys, and things that she cant play with yet like markers, legos, puzzles, etc. I was also wondering did you have a certain place where the girls had to play with toys that DJ wasnt big enough for? We dont have a toy room, so I would love some your ideas. Thanks!

We no longer have a playroom either now that all the children have their own bedrooms, and I feel that I’ve gotten the toy situation under control because when we moved them into their rooms I was absolutely ruthless about getting rid of anything they didn’t play with, or were on the fence about keeping. I always involve my children in these decisions, and because they are very accustomed to going through their things regularly, they actually seem to look forward to this process. My rule now is that if it won’t fit neatly in their closets, or on their bookshelves, then out it goes! Fortunately, Bee has completely outgrown toys, so that has eliminated 1/3 of the problem. When DJ was younger, if the girls wanted to play with things that had small pieces and were not suitable for him, I just insisted that they stay in their room and keep the door shut, and board games and puzzles were kept on a shelf that was too high for him to reach. Markers have always been stored in a basket on the kitchen bookshelf, and we only have the washable kind so I never got too concerned about him getting into them (fortunately, he wasn’t really interested until age 3).

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I would be interested in learning about your relationship with your husband, like when you were dating, first married, etc. I love to see pictures too (if you feel comfortable sharing). I love your blog! I especially love all your pictures! Your kids are sooooo sweet!

Awwww, well thank you. I think so too! And no, this is not too personal. I have written briefly about our relationship in My Fun, Frugal Wedding. My husband also wrote about us at length in his guest post series, which you can find here. We’re certainly not perfect people – we have both made very bad mistakes in our lives. We’re not even a perfect couple – we fight and have problems just like everyone else. However, I feel that God has greatly blessed our marriage, and we’re extraordinarily happy together. I feel (and I know my husband does too) that we share a strong and intense connection that I had not experienced before him, and don’t expect to experience again. I am very, very fortunate….and I know it.

Here are a few photos that I managed to dig up, though most photos from this time in our lives are from before the age of digital cameras, so I don’t have many stored on my computer. A project for another post!

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This is a horrible quality photo of my gorgeous husband, circa 2000. I felt that I should include it because oh my gosh.

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Our first summer

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Don’t remember where this photo was taken.

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On our honeymoon at the Grand Canyon.

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I used to be young AND thin (ish)

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I think the way I’m looking at him in this picture is so funny!

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I have another question for you for your next round of Q&A – what do you do when your kids fight? I have two girls, ages 4 and 2. They often fight over toys, which I know is normal. But I’m not quite sure how to handle it when my older daughter is being mean to her sister. Do you discipline your kids if they are being mean to each other or do you just talk to them and hope that it sinks in?

My kids are never happy with me at all about this, but when they fight I make them clean!

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Cleaning the basement bathroom with a smile because I got sick of their bickering.

I always tell them that if they can’t manage to get along, and they can find time to stir up trouble, clearly they must need more to do. Sometimes just saying this straightens them right up because whatever they were doing – even if their siblings were being annoying – is still more fun than cleaning a toilet.

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Hi Heather, just wondering how do you normally do school shopping. I know you love yard sales, but how many outfits/shoes do they start out with? I’m trying really hard not to go overboard this year. Thanks

My younger kids always have a pretty well-equipped wardrobe thanks to garage sale season, but it’s become difficult to find good used clothing for Bee because she is developing a more womanly figure, and brands are not consistent in fit. She does get some nice hand-me-downs from a good friend of ours, which helps. Regardless of how much they already have, I like to buy each of my kids a new pair of shoes and a couple of new outfits to start the school year because it makes them feel good. This year I will have to buy more because Bee has outgrown absolutely everything, and she also needs things she has not needed in previous years (ex: bras, athletic wear for school sports). We do laundry every week, so for practical purposes I like for my kids to have a minimum of 5 pairs of pants, and 7-10 pairs of socks and underwear for the school week. Shirts are never an issue for any of them because they’re quite easy to find at garage sales, and we always have more than enough. I also make sure they have fall jackets at the beginning of the school year because in September it’s already starting to be chilly in the mornings.

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I have a question – I see that you have sent all your kids to preschool. Did your kids go to one or two years of preschool before kindergarten? I have a 3 year old daughter and have wrestled with whether or not to send her to preschool this year. It seems all other three year-olds in my area attend preschool 3 days per week and the private church preschools in our area are a little pricey and my husband and I have some other financial goals we are working towards right now. I do take my daughter to a mommy and me class at our church, local library preschool programs and she is in a preschool gymnastics class each week but I still feel a little guilty about not sending her to preschool this year. There is a wonderful state funded pre-k program at a great facility near us that I will for sure be sending her to next fall when she is four that is very reasonably priced. Anyway, would love your thoughts on preschool and the cost vs. benefits.

I sent all of my kids to preschool at age 3, not because I believe it to be absolutely necessary at that age, but because it was obvious to me – with all 3 of them – that they needed and very much enjoyed time with other kids. Being the homebody that I am, I knew that I was not apt to take them places where they could have that kind of interaction on a regular basis, so I thought preschool would be good for them (and me). I do believe in the benefits of a quality preschool, and I’m fortunate that all of my kids have been able to attend the same private preschool. I choose to pay for private preschool even though DJ is now 4, and he could attend public preschool for free this year according to a statewide mandate. I have many reasons for this, the main one being that I sent Cakes to a public preschool/daycare for a brief period when she was 3, and I ended up removing her because I was extremely unhappy with it. I think that some things are absolutely worth paying for, and in our case this is one of them. I know all of DJ’s teachers very well, and trust them completely because they’ve taught all 3 of my kids and I know that they genuinely care for them. All of my kids have absolutely loved their preschool experiences, and Bee still talks fondly about things she remembers. Last year, DJ was always so excited about going, and he would ask me every night if the next day was a preschool day. If I said yes, he would say, “YAY!” I also think that preschool is good preparation for kindergarten, as the kids are already accustomed to being part of a group, following classroom rules and routines, etc. It helps ease that transition. That said, I would not feel guilty at all about waiting to start preschool until age 4. Every child (and financial situation) is different, and you know what is best for yours.

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I know you’ve told us a bit about your RV rental experience, and that you didn’t love it, but I had a few questions. What did you do about the car seat/seatbelt situation? (If DJ is still in a car seat?) I feel like putting a car seat on one of those sideways couches would be unsafe, but maybe I’m too paranoid? (which is my husbands opinion). He is soooo enthusiastic about the idea of us trying this, and although it doesn’t appeal to me at all, I may have to do it at least once. Do you have any tips or thoughts?

I had a conversation with my Dad, who is a retired police officer, about this before we left on our trip. He said that in most states, RVs fall under the same category as school and public buses, and not many have seat belts past the driver and co-pilot seats. Our kids spent nearly the entire trip laying down either in the overhead cab, or on the bump-out sofa, and I honestly don’t recall any of the seats beyond the driver/passenger seats even having seat belts. I did find this interesting chart that talks about seat belt laws in various states, and many do exempt RVs. You may want to read this over and familiarize yourself with the laws in the specific states you’re planning on traveling through, but if I can give you just a word of advice, it would be this – don’t do it!  It’s a whole lot of work for not that much fun.

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I know trampolines can be a lot of fun, and obviously a personal choice, but I know they can also be a injury risk and I think may even be discouraged for home use by the AAP. Do you worry about the safety at all and what kinds of precautions do you have in place to help keep your kids safe? (I’m not trying to sound critical in the least, just curious as we think about one for the future!) Thanks!

I do worry, actually. Our trampoline was given to us for free, and the kids absolutely love it, but it does make me nervous. I doubt that I would have purchased one for them of my own volition, but they always begged for one so when my good friend offered us theirs, I agreed and was appreciative. So far, no one has been hurt on it, and it’s been a great addition to the backyard, so I’ve relaxed somewhat. Even so, I would never allow them to jump on it if the safety net wasn’t up, and we also make sure that the spring pad is securely tied down so they can’t fall through the springs. I guess I feel the same way about it as I do bikes, scooters, rollerskates, swimming, and a myriad of other activities that kids can take part in. There is always a risk that they can get hurt, so I take proper safety precautions, and educate them about being careful. Even so, kids do crazy things, especially Cakes who has a tendency to be a daredevil. So far, she has not harmed herself severely, and for that I am grateful.

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Would you be willing to share and/or sell your tooth whitening powder to your reader friends? It’s just me at my house and I don’t want to buy and store all those ingredients. Also, do you have recommendations or reviews of your simple cell phones? I want to get something newer, but am not a fan of the size, bulk, and cost of smart phones

I had a smart phone for awhile and was unimpressed. While I can see how internet access can be very convenient in an emergency, I found mine to be an expensive distraction at best, and a big pain in the butt at worst. We had Samsung phones, and I practically gave myself carpal tunnel trying to use the internet on that small screen. My husband’s phone quit working entirely after less than a year (he could hear people who called, but they couldn’t hear him). So, we both ditched our so-called “smart” phones in favor of very inexpensive, basic feature phones. We both have Alcatel One Touch phones (I think the model is 871?). They’re WiFi capable, but we don’t have a data plan so that’s really irrelevant. Overall I like it fine, but please understand that my only requirements for a phone are that it ring, and that it have a full keyboard for texting, which I used to not understand, and now fully embrace and even prefer! So I’m probably not the best person to ask for advice. (RE: the tooth powder – send me an email!)

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I’m curious how you handle spending— do you talk about all your purchases before you buy stuff? IE do you have an allowance, separate accounts etc. Thanks!!!

My husband and I are both very frugal, so when it comes to necessities such as food, clothing, shoes, oil and filters for the car, and household products, we just buy what is needed without discussion. I would say that 90% of our household purchases are made by me, although my husband buys what we need to maintain our vehicles, as well as tools and anything necessary for household repairs. We don’t have separate accounts – our money and everything else we own is held jointly – and while we do live according to a budget, he has never said to me, “You can only have this much money to run the household, and no more!” I would find that insulting as, I imagine, would he. We trust each other to make smart choices, and I don’t worry about how he’ll spend our money because history has shown that he will spend it wisely. I know that he doesn’t worry about how I’ll spend our money because he is fond of telling people, “If I bring home 5 dollars, Heather puts 8 of it in the bank.” Where nonessentials and luxuries are concerned, neither of us would even consider spending more than $100 without consulting the other. That’s always been our unspoken policy. Fortunately, we’re on the same page when it comes to spending money – neither of us wants to do it, so it’s rarely an issue.

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Have you heard of the spiritual discipline called Rule of Life? I came across the concept this year while do a Bible study on disciplines. It’s pretty much creating a rhythm for your day/week/etc. to make space for God. I am interested in how you determine time management. I know you listed things you do and do not do- which reflect your time values, but I was curious if you had a process or if it just evolved. Thanks! I appreciate your time and energy in sharing all this with us!

I haven’t, but now I’m curious! I’m the first to admit that I’m not good at consistently making time for God. I have never been a person who can function well in the mornings, so the common advice to get up early does not work for me. I’ve tried it lots of times, and I always find that my mind drifts, and I end up dozing. I usually try to read my Bible during the kids’ quiet time in the afternoon, but I often fall asleep then too (good grief….I think the takeaway here is that I clearly do not get enough quality sleep). The choices I’ve made about how I spend my time have really evolved over the years as I’ve figured out what is most important to me, but it’s a process that never really ends.

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How do you stay out of debt once you’ve paid everything off? I’m getting a lump sum of money (one time only) and plan to pay off my bills. Then I don’t know what to do. Do you use a credit card for points or miles?

We do use our Discover card so that we can earn cash back, and our Visa also has a reward system (can’t remember what it’s called though). However, we pay our credit cards off in full every single month and never carry a balance. For an explanation of how we’ve remained debt free (for more than 7 years now! WOO!), please see this post.

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I’ve really become interested in scaling back on the amout of gifts, treats, things my girls receive (from myself included). I really respect and am interested in adjusting it so my children do not expect things and only do presents/ new toys/gifts for birthday and Christmas as you have written about. Since we haven’t been doing an approach like yours do you have advice for those like me that would like to do the same? My oldest daughter is 2.5. 

This is the perfect time to make a change, while your kids are still young and not too set in their ways. At the risk of sounding blunt and overly simplistic (which is honestly not my intention, but I can’t think of a better way to say it), you are the Mom. It’s up to you and your husband to decide how things are going to be, and since your children are so little there will likely not be much opposition. I would start making the changes you want to make, and do not leave it up for discussion. For example, when I changed how I handled Christmas (see this post), I just explained to the kids how things were going to be. They agreed without complaint because we are their parents, they respect our authority, and they know that no amount of whining will make any difference. While change is not easy for most people, at least initially, the kids now love “Christmas month” and they tell all their friends about it at school. I know this because Cakie’s first grade teacher told me at church that Cakes had proudly shared how she gets a present each week throughout the entire month of December.

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Second question is out of pure curiosity. Would you ever see you and your family visiting Disney world?

Oh, man. The mere thought of Disney World makes me exhausted. I expect that since the cost of visiting Mall of America gave me heart palpitations, Disney World might do me in completely. It’s everything I dislike and oppose – crowds, excess, consumerism, and expense. But I love my kids, and Cakes in particular loves Disney, so I will never say never. The fact is that I have done lots of things that I don’t particularly enjoy, for the sake of my children’s enjoyment and happiness. I can say, with absolute certainty, that if we do visit Disney World/Land, we will do it once, and only once!

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