Friday, July 15, 2011

Fun In The Sun At Cedar Point

Our church had it's annual Cedar Point trip for the middle school and high school students. I have attended every year for seven years as a chaperone. This gives me the opportunity to get to know the middle school girls that each year I have had the pleasure of leading in the TURN program at Heritage Christian Church. It also gives me an opportunity to hang out with my own children who are able to participate.

Kelaiah invited Megan, her life long friend to go with us. The girls turned it in to a few days of girl time. In preparation for the big day, Kelaiah and I had gone shopping for fun girls stuff. She got matching t-shirts, flip flops and backpacks, lip gloss, nail polish etc.. On the back of the t-shirts she wrote "Best" on one and "Friend" on the other. Megan came over on Tuesday evening and they did their nails and laid out their clothes as they planned the next day's events.

Later on that night, I took the girls and Nehemiah shopping for snacks and beverage for the bus ride to and from. They were all so excited. This was Nehemiah's first time going to Cedar Point. He really was not interested in the big roller coasters, but his sister convinced him to go. She worked to purchase his ticket and bought him a water bottle and a hat just for the trip. He was excited about the fun to be had with her and his friends.

This was the first time I took a baby with me. Yes, baby Malachi went to Cedar Point. I was not willing to leave my little guy for a whole day, so I packed him up and took him with us. It was a joy to look down at him in the front carrier throughout the day. When the children were all on the rides it was me and my baby gazing into each others eyes as he smiled and cooed at his mama.

Having a big family I have learned to make adjustments as not to miss a single event. Each of the children have looked forward to my participation in this annual event; I did not want to disappoint them. I think it is very important to show them they are more important than my circumstances and well worth the sacrifice. I am grateful to God for his provisions of good health, a willing heart and a wonderful husband. It truly was a fun day in the sun!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Vacation On A Budget

As I shared in my last post I am diligently planning our vacation. I look forward to learning and relaxing together. It is always important for us to stay on a budget even when we take a vacation. When we travel the greatest expense we have is hotel cost. I will use Choice Privilege Points I have accumulated for one of our overnight stays and to earn two additional night stays from this vacation we will stay at a different Choice hotel location, closer to the beach for a couple of days.

The cost of gasoline is another big expense. I have been making wise purchases at Giant Eagle and Kroger to earn fuel points. I have also been taking advantage of the FREE $10 gas cards at CVS. My goal is to have 6 FREE gas cards. We will fill up at Giant Eagle when we leave and we will use the gas cards on the road. These efforts should really help save money.

Feeding our family takes careful planning so we don't break the bank. The kind of room and the amenities of the hotel play an important role in this. We always stay at a hotel that offers FREE breakfast. As long as the children eat waffles and fruit they are happy campers in the mornings. If we don't get a suite hotel, a refrigerator and microwave are a must because I will make most of our dinners. I will make fun things like hearty salsa with refried beans, chicken, corn and mexican cheese that we will eat with tortilla chips, over lettuce or wrap in soft tortillas, make your own sub night and chips, and coney dogs with coney sauce made from home. I will bring groceries from my pantry and my freezer. To transport the food we have a refrigerated cooler that we will pack and plug in while we travel.

I've been buying craft supplies, games and swimming toys. Walter will take care of the movies we will watch while on the road. The activities in Virginia will be very nominal expenses as we get a good discount as a home school family.

Is there anything I have left out? What tips can you give me to save money on this vacation?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Bowie Summer Vacation 2011

I am in the midst of planning our summer vacation. One of my goals each year is to include a little learning as we relax and have fun together. The learning is based on our curriculum for history and science for the current year. This year in history we are studying the Late Renaissance-Early Modern history era. I am planning a trip to Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown where we will have the opportunity to experience the culture of life in the 1700's on the eve of the American Revolution. To lead up to this trip we will be reading books and doing online activities as a family. These fun times are what make me appreciate the privilege of home schooling.

The relaxing and fun will take place at Virginia Beach. This will be a surprise for our children (hush...don't mention it), one they will really enjoy. Walter introduced them to Alum Creek Beach this summer and they have found that to be a fun adventure, making sand castles and riding the waves (smile). I can only imagine the fun Virginia Beach will be.

It's another long trip for the Bowie's, but we are used to long road trips, it's the only way we've traveled. Though packing is a chore and must be done strategically, there is some fun in planning the road games, hotel activities, and meals. So, the next couple weeks will entail me looking for sales for these things...what fun!

What cool trips do you have planned for the remainder of the summer?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Sowing and Reaping

Parenting is a process of sowing and reaping. It must be done consistently, with patience and zeal from the Father. I look to God as my mentor when it comes to parenting. He has the green thumb necessary for the growth of our children. He exemplifies much character when dealing with me as his child and I desire to parent like Him. Daily it is necessary to cultivate the heart and mind of our children, the soil, so they can receive those seeds that will be planted. This cultivating is done not only by what we say as parents but, I believe more so, by what we do before them. We must show them how to follow Christ.

Communication is the fertilizer; it is essential for the spiritual growth of the child and the growth of a strong relationship between the parents and the child. As my children have gotten older I found that it has been natural for us to talk about life as they experience puberty and young adulthood because I have always taken the time to share with them with the hopes of imparting wisdom and understanding. Along with talking to them, I learned along time ago it is very important to give them an opportunity to speak. I ask my children if they understand what has been said and for their input, validating them as an individual, a child of God. For I am not always right and I am willing to learn and grow with them.

Discipline and instruction are all a part of the weeding process. Children are born foolish and we are chosen by God to lead our children in the way they should go. While the children are young more discipline is necessary to draw them unto our authority and the authority of Christ. Instruction begins to replace discipline as the children grow older and wiser for they will have experienced a few consequences and are in need of more guidance and affirmation to keep them on the straight and narrow path.

The reaping is seen greatly in the rhetoric stage of life, young adulthood and throughout the balance of our children's lives. My prayer is that they will continue to blossom as they apply all that was and is imparted unto them that they might have life abundantly.

Do you see parenting as sowing and reaping? Explain.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Big Savings At Walgreens

Wow, I am so glad I learned how to shop and save at the drugstores! This week I saved big; I purchased $80.41 worth of merchandise at Walgreens for just $17.43. Talk about a savings, that's over 80% savings on items I am sure to use. I purchased Hanes Men's 3pk of Tank T-shirts, 1-Bird feeder, 3-Disney Cars tableware, 1-3pk Athletic Socks, Gillette Shave Gel, Gillette Facial Cleanser, Gillette Fusion Proglide Razor Kit, Coppertone Sunscreen, Crest Mouthwash, Goetz Carmel, 2-2pks Earbud Speakers, 2-Speed Stick Deodorant and 1 Travel Alarm Clock.

Much like their competitor stores, Walgreens have their own system of "money" called Register Rewards that is only good at Walgreens stores. Weekly, Walgreens offers deals that give you back RRs. RRs print out on a machine called a Catalina machine (this machine sits beside the register when you buy your merchandise). Cashiers will hand you your RRs with your receipt at the end of your purchase. Walgreens also takes manufacturer (MFR) coupons and store coupons (SC or Wags coupons). Remember, when using coupons in a transaction, the number of coupons you use must be the same number or less than the number of items you purchase. If you purchase 4 items, you can only use 4 coupons. Keep in mind, Walgreens considers RRs as coupons. When you don't have the number of items you need, find a “filler” item. A filler item is a very cheap item (a $.25 piece of candy) that gives you the same number of items to purchase as coupons needed to use for your purchase to take advantage of your savings. RRs cannot be used for alcohol, tobacco, prescriptions, and some other similar purchases.

This week I started my shopping trip off with two $5 RRs that I didn't spend from last week. I chose items from the sales ad that would give me additional RRs. As always, I browsed through the items on the clearance shelves to use them as my "filler" items. I also used manufacturers coupons on my purchases. RRs are meant to be used on your "next" purchase so separated my purchases into four transactions and as you see my savings was "BIG". I teach this in my Coupons 102 class. If you're interested in learning more you can register for my class by contacting me.

Did you save big on your coupon purchases this week?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Friends and Fellowship

Having multiple children has encouraged me to be creative with how to give my children as well as myself opportunities for fellowship with friends in the summer. I am not one to taxi my children around town or farm them out to others, so our home has become the gathering place at least one day, each week in the summer. Usually on Tuesdays, we have "Friends Day", a time when each of our children can invite one friend to come hangout, eat burgers and hot dogs and swim. This is an instant party when you have as many children as we do. It is a blast for everyone! It gives Walter and I an opportunity to engage with our children and get to know their friends.

Last night we had a family join us for a bit of fun and fellowship. We enjoyed hanging out and talking, while the children enjoyed one another. They played in the pool until about ten o'clock, finally with the volleyball net down and the big splash contest over they retired from the water for a bite to eat and a few minutes of Xbox Kinnect. I praise God for His many blessing...our health, a home and a heart of hospitality!

What do you do with your children for fun at your home?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Grocery Savings Can Equal Gas Savings

There are a lot of offers for saving money on groceries, some of which offer you savings on gasoline as well. The most recent offer I have found is at CVS. Yes, even the drugstores are getting in on the competition. Now it is very common to find groceries in the drugstores. Unlike the grocery stores of the past that would generally offer to fill prescriptions and would be stocked with basic over the counter medicinal needs and few hygiene products, you can find a variety pantry and refrigerated items available as well. With these products available it makes it easy for CVS to get in the game and draw us in to purchase items and save big.

To shop at CVS and save on gas you will need to spend $30 on specially marked items and they will present you with a $10 gift card to a local gas station. The cards may vary by store. Each week the specially marked items change, so it is important to check the sales ad weekly. I received one of these gas cards a couple of weeks ago and used my gift card immediately. I find the purchases are not always beneficial to our family; last week most of the items for this offer were snacks, foods we don't normally eat so I did not attempt to qualify for the free gas card. This week though, the items are just what I will need, so I look forward to taking advantage of the deal at least once this week.

The key to any of these offers is not to fall into the trap of purchasing just to take advantage of an offer. Remember the goal is to save money, so be mindful to compare your grocery store ads and your drugstore ads for greater savings. Move items around for shopping list to shopping list considering the purchase price and the items needed to qualify for an offer to get the most bang for your buck.

Have you taken advantage of any of the gas savings offers?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

You Can Make Money On Your Drugstore Purchases

I have been using coupons for years. It's one of the many things I learned from my grandma. It wasn't until a few years ago that I learned how to use the drugstore rewards programs and what a difference it has made in my savings in each week! CVS has a great rewards program. There is a true strategy to getting items you use everyday for incredibly low prices. I have even made money!

The CVS reward program is called the Extra Care Plan. Anyone can sign up for an Extra Care Card. Sign up in the store or online. With EVERY your purchase you’ll want to present your CVS card (or phone number attached to the card) to the cashier. Each quarter, the amount you spend in the store is totaled giving you back Extra Care Bucks. In addition, some of the store’s sales do not apply to your purchase unless you card is scanned. I was one of those people who had the card, utilize the sales, but did not know how to use the actual ECB rewards. While on vacation one year I met a lady at a park and she schooled me on how to take advantage of the theses rewards.

For those of you who may not be familiar, ECBs are found at the bottom of your receipt when you buy a weekly item that has an ECB reward. ECBs are CVS’s version of “monopoly money.” The “money” is only good at CVS locations. You do not want to throw this “money” out because it is spent at CVS like money. You can also “roll” your ECBs using ECBS to buy your next purchase of items that will grant you more ECBS. When you do this you are spending pennies out of your pocked but “recycling” CVS’s money. They carry an expiration date so it is very important to pay close attention to your ECBs. I can't tell you how many times I paid for just my taxes and received ECB's on that same transaction, making money on my purchase.

If you are interested in learning how to save or maybe even make money on your drugstore purchases plan to attend my Coupon 102 class this month.

What do shop for at CVS and how much do you usually save?

Friday, July 1, 2011

Home School...Planning For The Days To Come

July is the month in which I plan for the current school year. We usually take a vacation over the Fourth of July, and I take that time to reflect and refer to God for insight, wisdom and direction for our home school plans. I consider the success and failures of the previous year as well as the needs and desires for the current year. God has always given me much grace each summer blessing me with renewed faith and a fresh perspective that motivates me and gives me confidence to move forward. This year our vacation is delayed until the end of the month, but I will start today with prayer, casting my cares upon the Lord.

I am seeking God with anticipation. We have come through a big transition in our family, starting a full time business, being pregnant and having our tenth child in the past year. God's grace and mercy has carried us and I have gleaned much wisdom from the Lord. I have a glimpse of what God is doing with our family in this season and it excites me to know we are in His will. Though I don't have the full plan, I have peace and confidence in Him, so I will continue to seek him daily for His plan to prevail.

Technically, our school year began with a Summer quarter of Learning Enrichment. We indulge twice weekly in arithmetic and grammar lessons. I am teaching seven of our children ranging from eleventh grade to kindergarten. I use the Trivium and we are on the third year which is the year for Chemistry and Modern History. I hope to engage in few more field trips this summer relating to our areas of study.

Looking ahead to Fall quarter, as I gather material for each child's level of learning I must be prayerful as to how to teach them. Each child is different and they learn differently as well. I want to encourage them to grow in character even more than I do in academics. I need the Lord to reveal to me how to lead each one unto Him. I am also seeking God regarding our daily schedule as it will relate to education and work. We anticipate having at least one more of our sons join my husband in our family business this year, so the schedule is an important factor to be considered.

Home schooling is a part of our lifestyle. We recognize our call to home school as not just the act of educating our children in academics, but as an opportunity to walk in the responsibility of training our children and preparing them for life. What a privilege! This is sure to be a busy month of prayer and preparation and I am delighted to engage with God in this endeavor.

When and how do you prepare for the next school year?