Saturday, June 14, 2014

Our Ramsey World

So this spring my husband signed us up for Financial Peace University.  You know with Dave Ramsey, that crazy guy who hates debt and talks about envelopes.  I wasn't thrilled about going.  I'm not an outrageous spender but I didn't have a budget.  In fact, I didn't have anything to do with our finances at all.  I didn't know how much we made, what our bills were, how much we were spending and on what.  Is that the right way to live - NO, but I really enjoyed my world of ignorance.  You see, money and I don't get along because numbers and I don't get along.  They just don't compute in my head.  

But we want to live life according to God's plan (not my happy state of ignorance), so we decided to put our best feet forward with this new Ramsey lifestyle.  Were we horrible with money before this? NO.  Could we be better? YES.  Were we setting a horrible example for our children? Yes.  Did we want to set ourselves up to be able to abundantly give to others? YES.  

So while we were on this financial makeover journey I started carefully watching the lessons we had been passing down to Abby in regards to money.

  • Did we tithe? Yes.  Did we ever talk about it? No.  Did she know we gave money to God? Maybe.  
  • Did we have a budget? No. 
  • Did she think we bought everything we wanted? Probably
  • Did she get everything she wanted? Not always. Was there rhyme or reason to that? No

Clearly we needed to make changes.  The biggest difference we made was in communication with Abby.  We started having frequent dialogue about our family budget, what we spend money on, what she can spend money on, and how important it is to give back (that one was easy for her).

We also started implementing a chore chart.  One we made up ourselves that fit her capabilities and our family needs.  She started earning her own money.  She started saving her own money, giving her own money, and spending her own money.  

She has chores she does every day and chores she does once a week.  Chores are something she does because she is part of our family, and in our family we all chip in to take care of our home.  

She has jobs that she can get paid for.  She currently has four jobs a week.  Each job earns her one dollar (because that is simple).  She gets paid every friday (something Dave suggests because most everyone with a job has a day they get paid on - we are training for real life).  

When she gets paid she divides up her money.  She gives one dollar to Jesus (and if one dollar is all she earned then Jesus gets it because He comes first), one dollar in saving, and two in spending.  

in true Ramsey fashion, I did not spend money on cute jars

That is the system that we came up with and it works for our family.  She understands that if she wants to buy something she has to pay for it.  Over the last couple months she has also watched us have "budget committee meetings" (I am not making that up -its a real Ramsey thing and they aren't so bad).  She also hears us talk about things like saving, bills, envelopes, and debt.  

I'm really pleased to see her getting this.  I don't want to raise a child who thinks everything will be handed to her on a silver platter.  I want her to understand the value of a dollar, to know what it is to work hard for something, to really earn an exciting purchase.  I also want to teach her how to be a good steward with the gifts and money God has given her.  I want her to learn how stretch each dollar to its fullest so she can honor Him with more.  

I also started reading Ramsey's newest book that he wrote with his daughter Rachel about raising
children with great money habits.  I'm really enjoying it and glad to see we've already started so many great habits in our home.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Lessons from the Trail

We are very fortunate to be surrounded by some of God's beautiful mountains.  We love exploring as a family, and we are thankful for the memories we make along these trails.

Grand Targee, ID 2013

I grew up hiking in Yosemite.  Yes, I know, I'm spoiled.  I started hiking at a very young age.  I learned a lot of valuable lessons on my many hiking trails.  Yosemite is my absolute favorite place in the world.  It is the most beautiful place I've ever been and also the most peaceful.  I have many great family memories there, and nothing makes me more excited than making memories along those same trails with my own girls.

Last summer my dad, Abby, and I hiked up to Vernal Falls, and then we decided to keep going.  We actually went to the top of Vernal Falls.  Not a very long hike but very steep at parts for four-year-old legs.

That is where I told Abby about the time that her daddy proposed to me.  It was on top of Half Dome.   Half Dome is an 8+ mile hike up and 16+ hike round trip.  We were sweaty, dirty, and totally in love.  It's a great memory.   After hearing my story Abby decided she wanted to hike Half Dome too.  Even though that's a very big goal for a very little girl, we decided we would help her try.

Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, CA 2004

This past year we've gone on several hikes as a family.  We've seen new places and made new memories.  We did this to help Abby prepare for Half Dome.  I didn't anticipate the lessons we all learned along the way.  So I wanted to share with you the top ten lessons we learned while hiking.

Mt. Charleston, Las Vegas, NV 2014

1. There are no shortcuts to the top.  You have to put in the work to get the reward, and that is so true in life too.

2. Planning is important.  You shouldn't go on a hike without knowing where you are going, how long it should take you, and the important items you will need to bring with you like snacks, water, and sunscreen.
San Diego, CA 2014

3. Press On.  This lesson came from a song buy Building 429.  Abby asked me what "press on" meant.  I told her "it's like when you are hiking, and you are tired.  You want to stop but you can't just stop in the middle of the trail.  You have to keep going.  You have to press on."

4. If you fall, you have to get back up and keep going.  We carry band aids and a small first aid kit with us but scrapes and bumps and falls happen.  When you fall or get scratched by a bush you have to keep going.  We can't carry you the rest of the way, and you can't just stop.  You get up and keep going.

5. Respect the earth.  God gave us this beautiful trail and this beautiful earth.  It's our job to take care of it.  That means we pack up any trash we have and carry it home with us.  It also means we don't take anything from the trail or destroy any homes to the animals living on the trail.
Mt. Charleston, Las Vegas, NV 2014

Red Rock Mountains, Las Vegas, NV 2014
6. It is about the journey not always the destination.  If you can't enjoy the hike itself, odds are you won't enjoy reaching the end either.  There are so many moments, views, and memories along the trail - don't miss them by only focusing on the end.

7. You have to make your own fun.  Technology is great but sometimes we all need a break.  I'm thankful that most times we don't get reception on a hiking trail.  I'm thankful we can't watch a movie or play games on the iPad on the trail.  But we do play games.  We've made up many games along the trail.  Who can spot an insect first? Or naming things in the Bible that start with each letter of the Alphabet.  Or songs that have the word love in them.  We are creative.  We have fun. And we all play together.

Angel's Landing, Zion National Park 2014
8.  Know when to stop.  Yes I believe its important to keep going, to finish what you start, and not to quit.  I also think its important to know your limits and know when stopping is the right choice.  We hiked Angel's Landing in Zion, UT.  It's steep and intense.  We bought Abby a harness for moments like that, but we also told her that if she wanted to turn around, that was ok too.  We didn't push her farther than she wanted.  It's a fine line as a parent to encourage your child to press on and support the choice to turn around.  She went farther than a lot of people and when she wanted to stop I stopped with her, and we sat and waited for daddy.

9.  Slow and steady wins the race.  Just like the tortoise and the hair or from my childhood: Goofy's Big Race.  If you start off too fast in the beginning, you won't have enough energy left to finish.  You have to set a pace that allows you to finish your hike not a pace that gets you to the top first.

10.  Enjoy the view.  God gave us this beautiful place we call home.  When we go hiking we get to see some spectacular sights.  It makes my heart happy to hear Abby turn a corner on a hiking trail and  say, "Mom, look how beautiful this is up here!"

Zion National Park 2013

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Unexpected Blessings

"Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins."  1 Peter 4:8
Abby and her purple bags

To say that we are blessed is a far understatement. We have been blessed every time we have delivered bags. We have been blessed every time we have seen others share our Facebook site. We have been blessed every time we have been contacted by a recipient of a purple bag. We have been truly blessed.

When we were first approached to do a segment on the Today Show both my husband and I had reservations. We aren't the type of people who enjoy the spotlight. We didn't want to put our daughter in the public's eye. The public can be harsh and we didn't want to open ourselves and our family up to negativity.  We also weren't doing this for attention, fame, or recognition. We never wanted to this project to be about us. 

 From the beginning we agreed not to pursue any publicity and put everything in God's hands. So when this fell into our laps, it was scary. We were hesitant. We prayed long and hard. We finally came to: God if You want to use this, want to use us, here we are.  

great friends = great fun

The play date itself was fun, as all the purple bag play dates have been. It was filled with artwork, creativity, smiles, and purple bags. The real gift we received from this experience was when we delivered bags. 

Abby and her dad waiting patiently

Abby and her new friend Claudia
In the past, we have always dropped the bags at the receptionist's desk. Most treatment centers do not allow visitors, especially children back into the treatment room. So the day we filmed, it was truly an honor to get to visit with patients.

We got to witness courage, hope, and joy in the faces of every patient we met. Their strength and determination was inspiring. We may have given them a purple bag, but they gave us an example of how to live, how to conquer, how to smile. That experience was an unexpected blessing.

Another unexpected blessing has been the relationships we've built during this project. Relationships have been strengthened and new ones have formed. We are so fortunate to make so many new friends.

We put ourselves in God's hands. We put ourselves in the public eye. Guess what. The public wasn't harsh. The public was loving, the public was supportive, and the public was inspired. 
Abby and me at Channel 3 News

What started out as a selfless birthday wish has become a symbol of love. Love fore others. Love for strangers. We have been privileged with front row seats to see this project touch lives in every corner of the country. We are so blessed. Today I reflect on one of my favorite hymns from childhood:

"To God be the glory, 

great things He has done." 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

My kid is amazing! Can I take the credit?

Abby is amazing.  Her project has taken off, and I am sure we will reach her goal long before I thought possible.  Every parent wants to help their child fulfill his or her dream.  I am just so blessed that Abby's dream was to help people and she started at age 5.  So she is amazing.  I know it.  My husband knows it.  Most people who meet her know it, but I try really hard not to let Abby know it.

I want her to think she is an average, everyday kid.  And she is in so many ways.  I also want her to think that helping people you don't know, dreaming this big, and spreading God's love is an average everyday thing to do.  The moment I put the credit on her, the moment this project becomes about her.  Then her head swells up and she won't be the pure, innocent Abby that wants to change the world.  Right now, this project, in her eyes, is simply about helping people who are sick.  And that is what it should be.

So instead I give the credit to God.  (which is where it really belongs).  I tell her, "God made you pretty special."  So she knows she is special, but it is because of His handiwork, not hers, and not mine either.

People have said to us, "you must be amazing parents," or "you are doing a great job raising that girl."  I would love to sit here and take all the credit.  Maybe start writing some parenting books since I am so great at it.  But the truth is, most of the time, I don't know what I'm doing.  To be completely honest with you, I can't get that sweet kind-hearted girl to eat one vegetable.  And I've given up trying.  I have plenty of parenting mistakes in my past and I guarantee there are plenty in my future too.  So I was trying to think of how on earth we ended up with this amazing child.

God made her.  He did a great job too.  But not only did He make an amazing little girl, He gave us a village.  You know that saying: It takes a village to raise a child.  It's totally true.  It does take a village, and we have a good one.  Our village starts with our church, our church friends, our faith-based school.  It is our family friends that step in for us when we need each other.  It extends to our family and our lifelong friends that live all over the country.  My husband and I couldn't do this alone.  We need a village.  We need both our girls to have examples of how to live that don't come from us.  They need adopted grandparents to see at church since theirs are miles away.  They need older kids to look up to, role models to shape their goals after.  Our village contains so many, I couldn't list them all if I tried.

So while I'd like to kick my feet back and admire myself as a parent, I simply can't.  I can only thank those who have helped us raise our girls so far and those that will continue to help us raise our girls.  I can only thank God for giving us this little girl in the first place.  Everyday I learn more about His love, kindness, and how to serve others through her eyes.   We are so blessed that God has given us this wonderful little girl, we just pray everyday that we continue to make positive choices for her.  We pray that we surround her with people who love Him, and that they will be a good influence for her.  We ask that He guide us to raise her into the young woman He created her to be.

Today we have less than 300 bags to deliver before we hit our goal and only 11 states left.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Abby's Purple Bag Project

In my last post I mentioned that we were working on Abby's Purple Bag Project.  After she originally came up with the idea, we spent time deciding how best to go about reaching enough people to accomplish her goal.  We decided that we should put a number on her goal so this would seem achievable to everyone we asked to help us.  I suggested 150.  She responded with 1,000.  She also said that she wanted them delivered in every state.   (States were something her teachers taught her in PreK.)  So we decided the best way to get the word out was through a Facebook campaign.  We launched a page just for her goal and she created a video so it would be coming straight from her mouth.

We are launching Abby's Purple Bag Project today because Lala is currently getting her chemo today.  So while she has to sit there and feel yucky, we wanted her to know that soon there would be lots of purple bags being put together.  Lala has such a gracious spirit and always thinking of others.  It is neat to see Abby taking on that same trait.

I started writing this blog post right after I uploaded Abby's video on Facebook and launched Abby's Purple Bag Project Facebook campaign.  In the minutes that is has taken me to write this, my Facebook must have dinged over a hundred times with likes and reposts and phone has been receiving texts.  Its amazing to see the support in my Facebook friends.  I know that only God can take a project like this and make it so successful.  All Glory goes to him.  I just feel honored to have a daughter with this vision.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Delivering Bags to Lala

As we were planning out our PURPLE BAG PROJECT, Lala's next chemo treatment was approaching.  I asked Abby if she wanted to put bags together with her friends again.  She said, "no I want to put bags together and take them to the place Lala gets her chemo."

Well that would be great but Lala lives about 5 hours away.  Now I honestly wanted to pull Abby out of school, take the day off work, and show up Tuesday morning with purple bags, but my sensible husband helped us come up with a better plan.

We probably would have made a family trip down there the weekend before if we weren't already committed to go the following weekend.  So Abby and I decided we would make the trip just the two of us.  Her 18 month old little sister isn't the easy traveler that she is.

We decided to take all the supplies down with us and asked Lala to help us put the bags together.  The drive was long but SO WORTH IT.  Lala was very surprised and it was a very special time for us to spend with just Lala.

the Purple Bag Playdate

Abby was so excited to put together bags again that she wanted her friends to help her.  I felt so blessed to have had this experience that I wanted to share this joy with other moms.  So we set up the Purple Bag Playdate.  We put out a list of items on Facebook and had friends pick one item to bring to fill 12 bags.  When everyone arrived at our house they made one or two beautiful pieces of artwork to put inside the bags.  It was a really special experience watching the bags come together and explaining where the bags would go to our children.

Every bag gets a letter explaining what we are doing and letting them know that we are praying for them.

I can't tell you how exciting it is to load up the back of my car with purple bags.

We invited anyone who could go with us to drive down to deliver the bags.  Abby's friend Claire was able to join us.  They don't let the girls go back so we just handed the bags to the receptionist and she promised to make sure they got to the patients.  We got to talk to a few people in the waiting room who thanked us for doing this.  

We drove away and Abby said, "Mom, I feel sad."  For the life of me, I couldn't figure out why she would feel sad.  I felt great and blessed after delivering those purple bags.  After asking her why, she replied, "I don't thing we had enough bags.  I want to do more."  I assured her that we would deliver bags the next time Lala had her chemo treatment.  That wasn't good enough for Abby.  She told me, "I want to deliver bags to EVERYONE who has to get chemo." 

Well that would be nice but impossible. 

Thankfully I kept my mouth shut and didn't crush her dream.  I didn't want the limitations I see as an adult to kill the hopes and dreams of my five-year-old to make this world a better place.  Instead I replied:

"Well, if that is really what you want, then I will do everything I can to help you do that."  And so began our