Saturday, January 24, 2015

How to use your Florida W.I.C. benefits even when your family is on a Paleo Diet

As I mentioned before, my family only lives off of $500 a week. We are also a family of four with two daughters. The oldest just turned 7 and the youngest is 3. Since my husband’s income is from disability insurance, I tried to find ways to help provide my family with what we have needed during this season of our lives. Our family lives in Florida and while we have never qualified for food stamps or federal assistance, we did qualify for the Florida Health Department’s Women, Infant and Children grant program. This is a program whereby my 3 year old receives certain “nutritional” assistance in the form of specific named foods. (If you are a resident of Florida and are interested in the program requirements, click here.) We also have “check-ups” throughout the year at the Department of Health where they finger prick the child to check their iron level. At first, I was scared about doing this and how my child would feel. However, the prick is TWICE a year and since my child was having problems with anemia last year, I thought it might be a way for me to also know where her iron level is currently.

I also have friends who have concerns even after they find out they qualify for this type of assistance. Most of them are dietary concerns. I have one friend who told me her family was going more natural and probably would not eat any of it. So this is a list of encouragement to families who don’t think they could use it…and besides, this is really for the KIDS. While the adults may not drink milk in the household, I think there are more benefits than cons for children under age 5 to receive a glass of milk as part of their regular diet. So here is a list of benefits and possible suggestions for anyone on a more natural diet, paleo diet, or even gluten free diet.

For ONE child, this is what you receive each month:

- 3 gallons of 1% milk

- 1 quart of 1% milk

- 2 lbs of whole grains

- 36 oz. of specific “approved” cereals

- Two 64 oz of juice or One gallon

- 16 oz of protein (peanut butter or beans)

- 16 oz of cheese

- 1 doz large white eggs

- $8.00 worth of fruits and veggies – also “WIC” approved.

Ok, now comes the interesting part. There are some things not on a “paleo” diet per say but close enough. Let me explain.

The milk is your standard milk at the grocery store. However, that being said, you must check your labels. Some stores exclude the hormones in their milk! Gustafson Farms is a local dairy farm near me in Green Cove Springs, Florida. They do not use the rBST hormones that some farmers use. They may not be “organic” but if I use my benefits for milk at Rowe’s grocery store, then I’m supporting two local businesses in my area and I get good fresh milk! It may not be organic, but it’s still good milk.

With the two pounds of whole grains, you have three separate options to use them. One choice is two 16 oz loaves of whole wheat bread. Another choice is two 16 oz packages of Mission yellow corn tortillas (gluten free). (There are other brands out there that are NOT gluten free – so check each store.) The other choice is packages of brown rice. With the rice option, you can buy minute or microwavable rice, or bags of regular brown rice. If you are going Paleo, it’s better to choose the two 16 oz bags of brown rice or the two 16 oz packages of corn tortillas. We try to alternate these each month or make our choice depending on what the store has available.

WIC also allows 36 oz of cereal per month. This cereal can be in the form of instant oatmeal, instant grits or boxes of cereal. Cereal is sometimes a “dirty” word in the paleo diet. If you are trying to go completely un-processed, then you may want to skip getting the cereal. However, if you are going gluten free, then you can use that 36 oz each month towards Rice Chex! While checking the labels, this is the ONLY option for a gluten free and partial paleo diet. Whether you allow your kids to eat the instant grits or oatmeal is up to you. These are individually packaged and do contain preservatives and sugar.

Many different juices are listed on the WIC approved list. But all have to be 100% juice and at least 120% of vitamin C. At walmart, I can get a Gallon of Florida’s Natural orange juice with my benefits. If I don’t want OJ, then my options are Welch’s grape, Mott’s apple, generic grapefruit and generic pineapple juices. However, juices vary from store to store. Publix allows Apple and Eve brand apple juice and Libby’s pineapple juice. We don’t use a lot of juices in our diet but they do come in handy to add flavor when juicing or making marinades for meats. These juices aren’t completely organic, but as I said, I have found options for “natural” juice vs. concentrates. Read labels and visit different stores to compare.

They do allow a type of “protein” on WIC. Your choices are a 16 oz jar of Peanut butter or 16 oz of dry beans (or 4 cans of beans). If you or your children are not allergic to peanut butter, I would suggest getting the “natural” PB. WIC supplies one or two brands of the natural. I have found one of them at Walmart stores. You are only allowed one 16 oz jar a month but I find that plenty for a “dip” with apples. Dry beans are the other choice and very easy to do with a paleo diet. While they only allow certain kinds, all are paleo friendly.

The 16 oz of cheese has three options. First you can get either mild cheddar cheese or mozzarella cheese. The other option is the “better” American cheese that is not individually wrapped. If your paleo diet does not exclude dairy products then I would suggest the first two alternatives. I have found that sometimes the mozzarella is the “fresh” mozzarella and is less processed than other cheeses.

The one dozen eggs is the store brand. These are not organic, nor are they brown eggs. I wish there was another option but for now you can either get the white or skip it.

The last thing on the list of benefits is usually something I spend first. They allow $8.00 for “fruits and vegetables”. You can use it on jarred salsa, canned fruit, canned veggies, frozen veggies, frozen fruits and fresh fruits/veggies. I usually go with the fresh option as it can be labeled organic! Walmart, for example, sells a bag of organic apples for $3.67 and carrots for a little over a dollar! Plus since my family follows the “dirty dozen” list of organic fruits/veggies, we will buy regular oranges with this money. This usually allows for one bag of apples and one bag of oranges a month! That helps not only my three year old, but the rest of us too!

Above are just some ideas to help families who have a special dietary concern and are considering if or how they should use those WIC benefits that they qualify for. This is just one way we are able to supplement our grocery budget and stay within our $500 a week for all of our expenses. I don’t plan to live on the benefits forever…and in fact, a family cannot unless they keep having kids! Remember you must be pregnant or have a child under age 5 to qualify. For now this helps us through this “season” of our life and my hope is that after some of you read this, you may see how flexible these benefits are to you and your family should you have them.

I have also found some couponing strategies to use with WIC benefits! I will address that in a later article. For now…God Bless and come back Sew Hungry For More.

Monday, January 19, 2015

The TOP TEN uses for extra "Kids Meal" toys

TEN uses for all those extra “Kids Meal” toys:

As I go through and de-clutter the toys in my girls’ room, I sometimes wonder if it’s best to toss or re-use them. So here are ten things you can do with all those “kids meal” toys BEFORE completely throwing them away:

10. Give out at a garage sale. C’mon, we’ve all been there. It’s Saturday morning and you want to visit that garage sale to scope out the latest d├ęcor items for cheap. The catch is that you have the kids with you and they instantly… “MOM, look we don’t have that…Can we get it?” The truth is you might just be looking and don’t feel like wasting your change on some small toy that can wait till a birthday. So If I am hosting a yard sale, I usually give these things out. This makes another kid happy and they will remember you if you host another yard sale! ;)

9. Make a lamp or wreath with them! If you like spray paint them all the same color for a more modern look. Here is a link for a lamp. Please note that you may need to translate the site because it is not in English. Here is a link for a wreath.

8. Recycle as a Christmas ornament to remember that year. Take a permanent marker and remember to write the date as well as the child’s name. This link here is not with “kids meal” toys but with real toys…but I think you get the general idea for an easy DIY.

7. Glue them to a photo frame and use for that school year photo! C’mon, who doesn’t want their favorite movie character glued next to them on that fifth grade yearbook photo! This would also be a good way to match characters up to make a frame for the best Universal Studios or Disney trip frame.

6. Use extra toys as giveaways in your family chore store, your Sunday school surprise box or donate to a teacher to use in their classroom treasury.

5. Use them as accessories for 12” or 18” dolls. We once received miniature beanie babies as meal toys. Come to find out, they look great on Skipper’s new bed in the doll house! How cool is that!?

4. Use them with playdoh, in a sensory bin or outside in the dirt/sandbox. If they get all sticky or dirty, they can easily be rinsed and re-used. But bottom line, they can be tossed.

3. Donate to Operation Christmas Child in November. Remember to keep it in original packaging and do not donate any “war like” toys as that is the rule. The easiest way to remember to do this is to buy a shoe box now and label it OCC!

2. Use them as cupcake toppers for your next birthday party!! You heard me. Why buy rings when you can collect enough of these toys during the month to top 12 cupcakes or more. You may need help from family members or others on this one, but hey I don’t know too many people that won’t be crying over handing you over those extra toys!!

And our number ONE use for these toys:

1. Use as Bathtub toys! Yes, as long as they are not electronic, feel free to make them cheap bathtub toys. This not only keeps the better toys out of the tub, but no one feels bad if they are thrown away as they age or cannot be cleaned. (Squeaker toys tend to gather mold in them so we no longer use these.) Since bathtub toys can be a bit pricey this is a win-win for this momma!

So there you have it TEN ways to re-use those "Kids Meal" toys! Until next time...remember, come back SEW HUNGRY FOR MORE!!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Part Four: Other savings to stretch the budget

Hopefully, you’ve been following along for the first of our series and today will be the last post in this series. I’m going to talk in general about some other ways we have lived within our means of $500 a week.

Gasoline prices have varied greatly this year from about $3+ a gallon to presently about $2.15. We do try to get the lowest price we can find. We use gas perks when we have them. We buy gas gift cards at discounts when they sell them and I’ve done some of those purchases where you can earn a gas gift card. I realize though the best way to save is STAY HOME. There are times when appointments are filling up our calendar but those days are winding down now. It makes much more sense to stay at home and find something to do there!

Technology is always moving along and always expensive. So another way we have stayed in our budget is to stay BEHIND in technology. Up until three months ago, our VCR player worked and we used it to watch videos we still owned. I could buy movies for $1 at the flea market and I owned it to watch as many times as I wanted. Now, I’m de-cluttering, so since the player broke….the movies are now gone too. But for a while, it helped us have entertainment and it was in our budget. We also own older computer models, older cameras and an older “type” cell phone. It’s the old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Technology can work a while, so instead of getting rid of the older computer, find another use for it by loading older games for your son/daughter to use rather than hook up to the internet. It may not be the latest and greatest, but it still works. It’s not about keeping up with the Joneses when you’re trying to stay on budget.

Stay out of debt! This is easier to say then do, but the less you have in bills, the more you have to save/spend on things that are needed. If you have debt, start a plan to pay it down and wipe it out. There are some things that we know we cannot pay down right now, but we do have a future plan on how to attack it when the time is right. But for now, leave the plastic behind and the debt will soon follow!

Use cash when possible. I have tried the envelope option and it works for areas such as entertainment, groceries and eating out. It’s harder for us with gasoline and medical expenses. One month, we may have 3 doctor appointments a week and other times we may have none. So I do have a debit card that we use for gas and other “non” planned expenses. The best thing to do is only bring one card and ensure BOTH you and your husband AGREE that this is an expense you cannot do on cash.

Make sure that you are also paying your bills on time. The last thing anyone needs is finding out that they owe months of an electric bill or credit card payments. Find a system that you and your husband can agree upon and communicate to each other about what your spending. Currently, we are going to re-vamp ours to start the New Year. We used a budget binder for last year and it worked well….until we got lazy about not punching holes in bills for filing!! So now I’m looking at building a better command center to calm the paper tiger before I can’t catch it’s tail! Haha.

Become a DIY expert! This last year I have been pinning a lot on Pinterest. I have found and used recipes for homemade laundry detergent (3 different ways), homemade handsoap made with ivory soap, and even more homemade cleaning products. It’s amazing what you can do with a few different ingredients that you usually keep on hand already. If you wish to follow my boards, click on the right hand side for the Pinterest symbol. I have one marked FRUGAL LIVING and another one marked DIY. Feel free to follow my links to some of my favorite articles.

Keep up your vehicle! Keep it clean, keep ONE running and try doing your own oil changes or having family members help in this matter. There are TONS of YouTube videos on repairs for vehicles or if you don’t feel comfortable, ask a family member or friend/neighbor for help. We have several people we know that are always willing to lend a hand on keeping our one family vehicle up and running. We do own a second vehicle, a truck, but with the transmission out, we don’t feel the need to fix it up just yet. It can wait for another day. As long as one works, we can do just fine. When my husband goes back to work…the vehicle goes with him for MOST of the week. I’ll just have to survive not running errands until the evening or the day I have the vehicle. And did I mention that both vehicles are paid for!

Our “home” budget is quite simple, if it doesn’t need fixing at this moment then plan for the future or fix when it breaks. This is a little harder than it sounds because we really cannot save much, if at all for BIG repairs. We also have no furniture budget either, so we use what we have.

Right now we are in a season and sometimes I just have to keep telling myself that. (As Galatians 6:9 KJV states: And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. And Ecclesiastes 3 KJV states: To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.)

I hope you have enjoyed this series. For now this will be all I will write, unless anyone has some specific questions or requests about how else we have lived within our means. I hope this truly blesses someone out there! In this day and age it seems like we are constantly trying for bigger/better things when sometimes its OK to stay where you are at! Slow down and always come back Sew Hungry For More.

Photo courtesy of "Death to the Stock Photo."

Monday, January 12, 2015

How my family has lived off of $500 a week for an entire year: (Part Three: Our FOOD budget)

Welcome back to our series on how we have lived off $500 a week for one year. I'm glad you could join us. Part three is my food budget. I do include eating out in this budget because let's face still EAT it. It's part entertainment, but if I don't cook at home, I have to eat somewhere. So read on and let me know if you have any questions.

Our food budget is like a lot of frugal moms in blog land out there. (Personally I love Money Saving Mom.) My grocery budget varies from month to month depending on what I can find on sale but I do try to keep it under $400 a month for a family of four. This price DOES INCLUDE paper products, cleaning products and personal products unlike some other families you see on blog land. I generally try to make things from scratch. I have a few frugal mixes like a pancake mix and a hot roll mix that I use on a regular basis. I try to buy meat when it’s on sale or at a discounted price. I buy pantry items on bogo (buy one get one), by couponing, on discount/clearance or I get them at one of my trusted mark down places.

We try to visit one of our local farmers markets about once a month, but I will also compare with grocery store prices. Sometimes on produce, the grocery store IS the best price and they seem to keep them at better temperatures ensuring each item is fresh when you buy it. We did try to garden one year, but planting heirloom seeds in Florida was not good. The weather killed off half the crop and the bugs got the rest. I think I got 10 peas and only a few herbs from it! This year I’m going to start slow with a few containers and a few plants to see which plants I can grow from the patio. We do know a couple of people near us that have their own gardens and sell the extra for really cheap prices. I have bought onions and potatoes for 25 cents a pound and received cabbage, oranges and onions for free just for asking. There are also two local honey places that sell their honey for average prices. Oh, and I can’t forget about some of the “U-pick” places. We had fun picking blueberries this year at Veterans Farm (picture below) and plan to return this summer for more!

So you are probably wondering where my “trusted mark down” places are located. In my town, I know which stores to go to and on what days/times to get some of the best deals. A few years ago, I bought the book “America’s Cheapest Family” by the Economides. It taught me some of the basics and gave a lot of illustrations on how their family of six was able to save on groceries. I took some ideas to heart and started to look around town to find out where I could get the cheapest prices.

One place I shop regularly is a salvage warehouse type store. Ok, I probably either sparked your interest or you just wrote my blog off......LOL. I remember when I was little, my father and I would love to go to bargain stores and thrift stores to see what treasures lie around. We would always go to one near the beaches. This store had “salvage” food such as dented cans, cleaners that had leakage and other partially “damaged” goods. My father would tell me, “We don’t buy that stuff because it might make you sick!”. As a kid, I listened and never thought anything about it. But now that my family wants to keep a lower budget, I frequent a salvage store. HOWEVER, that being said…I have a few rules about what I buy and don’t buy. I rarely buy an item where the date has passed. I don’t buy dented or damaged food items. I inspect the item VERY carefully to ensure no seal has been broken and no bugs are in that package. I also DO NOT BUY flour, grains, pasta, rice or cereal from these stores. So what do I buy? I have bought organic dairy products for $1.50 a half gallon! I have bought 5 pounds of shredded cheese (frozen) for $10. I have bought organic coffee for $3.50 a brick. I buy Kerig cups for $5 each and organic deodorant for $1 each! This is one of the only places I can buy my organic products and still afford them. The downside is that items come and go. If you don’t buy it when you see it……the item will probably be gone when you come back. I also have to limit myself or I can spend more money stocking up on stuff I may not exactly need. I know when I find a deal it’s the lowest price and if I don’t buy it, someone else will! So now you know…my dirty little grocery saving secret is out..haha.

I also have found that some grocery stores don’t check dates quite as often as you think. I will sometimes browse around the dairy or meat aisle just to check dates. If I see one that is out of date (also called out of code), then I will ASK for the markdown. I have also made “deals” with the meat manager or dairy manager where I negotiate the price if I buy ALL of the markdown items. Once, I got 12 rotisserie chickens for $3 each because I bought all of them. When I came home, I baked two and froze the rest. Needless to say, you need room in your freezer to do this….so never ask this question unless you truly want ALL of the meat!

At two different stores, I am able to buy the end pieces of meat and cheese from the deli. They have mark down packages of the last “hunks” that cannot be put through the slicer for fear of slicing someone’s hand off! I buy them at really cheap prices, usually under $1 a pound! I can use chunks of roast beef for beef veggie soup or chunks of American cheese for making my copycat velveeta cheese sauce.

I ensure my freezer and pantry are stocked as much as I am able to at this time. This allows us to pull out items to make a meal rather than have the temptation to eat out. This also allows me to make a bigger meal and freeze the leftovers for another time without wasting them in the trashcan.

If we do eat out, our options right now are: a Kids eat FREE night, using coupons, eating at our church, and fast food. These options may not be the healthiest for our family right now, but it is a cheaper option. My husband and I are also trying to make date nights into coffee and dessert times. We do notice how prices are going up and now even a trip to a fast food joint can easily make us spend $20 without extras such as fancy drinks or upsizing.

Now, there is another equation to my budget and I will be totally honest. My family does not qualify for Federal Food assistance or "Food Stamps". Apparently for a family of four, they are now requiring that you make $400 or less a week!!! So we have never been on that type of assistance nor do we qualify. HOWEVER, living in the state of Florida with one child under age five, we do qualify for W.I.C. or Women, Infants, Children assistance through the Florida Department of Health. For more information to see if you qualify click here. This is only for CHILDREN under age five that qualify. It allows us to receive milk, Orange juice or juices, Cereal, Grits, Oatmeal, one dozen eggs, one pound of cheese, a 16 oz container of peanut butter, two pounds of grains, and eight dollars a month for fruits and veggies. It's not much. I think I calculated that it helped us with about $40 worth of groceries, if that. You are limited to buying their brands and the named products on your list. For the most part, these are what I would consider breakfast items. I will talk about getting the most out of these benefits in a later post but for now, this is the ONLY assistance we receive to help us keep on track.

I will say that GOD provides everything we need whether I am short one month or have extra to spend on groceries another month. Some have told me they don't feel like applying for Government assistance because they don't feel like that is trusting God. I really don't feel that way because I STILL trust God for everything. He helps me research and find the best deals to use what I have in my pantry and my freezer. He helps me find meat at discounted prices. He helps me in every way with my budget. Without him, I could do nothing. I will also point out that this last year...and some of this year to come is only a SEASON in my life. I do not "live" off government assistance. I will also challenge others and churches to help MORE. If we complain that people are "living" off the system....then we need to change that system by supporting and allowing the churches to give as they were originally set up to help the poor and those in need. And that is an area I want to help more with when our family ends our season and goes on to our next season.

Well time for me to sign off. I will have more on this series coming up...So come back....Sew Hungry For More!!! God Bless.

Friday, January 9, 2015

How my family has lived off of $500 a week for an entire year: (Part Two – Utilities, Entertainment and Clothing)

Hey, thanks for coming back, this post is to continue our series of how my family lives off $500 a week. Today, we are going to look at some expenses such as Utility costs, Entertainment costs and Clothing costs.

So enough about my why we live off $500 a week now let me tell you HOW we do it. Our house payment is not like others as we do only have a $200 a month home loan to pay off. (I know there are a lot of you out there thinking...I wish...but truely this was only put in place by God otherwise we would have much more in housing expenses.) Our electric bill in our area is MORE than our current house payment! We have internet costs of $60 through Comcast because our area only carries Comcast. (Yes we are out in the country where no one else digs lines in cow fields! Haha) This internet also came with the local channels for cable. I only did this because it was a package deal. Our other TV has a digital antenna that receives the local for free. Our family decided to go with the ROKU 3 for our other “channels”. We only subscribe to Netflix and JellyTelly which is $15 a month. Our landline phone is through Basic Talk sold at Walmart for $10 and then each month is $13 with taxes included. (This is an internet phone.) We currently have a “pay as you go” cell phone from At&t. The phone was on clearance at Target for $12 and the plan is currently $25 a month. We have unlimited texting but only 250 minutes of talk and no data. I am looking into several plans and hope to review some plans later on this year.

The other way our family saves is through trying to stay at home more often. We try to keep our errands to a minimum. We keep our entertainment to a minimum budget. We use the internet and YouTube for a lot. We use our public library for some things and now we even use our new church library to check out read on your own bible studies. I also try to borrow media (books, movies, etc.) from other family members or friends rather than rent/buy. We use redbox most of the time instead of on-demand. While Amazon and Comcast are tempting, we pay twice to three times more for the same movie that I can check out at a Redbox location. We try to have family outings “on the cheap” which I will explain later. This year we are doing Friday Family Fun night at our house by fixing a simple meal and enjoying board games or activities together. This not only uses a lot of my craft resources but some of the homeschool games that we never seem to get around to playing.

The picture above shows my daughters in a display at the annual Jacksonville One Spark Festival. This is another FREE event in our area where you can walk around and have fun with the family.

Our clothing budget is very simple. I would say less than $20 a month. We ask relatives for clothing as gifts for birthdays and Christmas. Since I have two girls, it is easier to save the larger sizes for the smaller one later down the road. A six dollar box is cheaper to buy now than to buy a hundred dollars in clothing later. But I have learned that it’s best to pick the “better” outfits or the ones I handmade and let some go. For my clothing, I seem to thrift things at a few of my favorite places. I have found plus size jeans in excellent condition for $2 a pair and brand name tops for $1! I also have made some items and will probably look at making more in the near future. My husband is still in a big men’s size and because of this, we end up going to an outlet store or buying things on clearance. We try as best we can to make do with what we have. And since my fabric closet is larger than my clothing closet, I REALLY need to start sewing up more of what I already have. Currently, I hope to finish some valentine dresses for the girls and post on that later. (EEK...screeching with excitement.)

So I hope that helps you see some savings for your family as much as it has helped our family stay in our little budget! It's amazing how God has worked things out for us this last year. I will say our family is kinda in a routine with savings, so I don't see how we will ever go back to cable TV or even Dish. Even when my husband does go back to work, some of my routines won't change. But I will be saving change!! LOL.

As a side note, I'm also posting this on Serenity Now's Blog Party link for the weekend, so I hope new readers will stay around for the rest of this great series. Remember, always come back....Sew Hungry For More.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

How my family has lived off of $500 a week for an entire year: (Part One)

As I browse ads on the internet, I see the release of the newest iphone and then I see the price tag. Hmmm, it sure looks nice but right now that’s dreaming for my budget. Or I should say, OUR budget. Our family currently lives on about $500 a week and this year it will decrease a little more as the family health insurance just increased. It’s funny how I think back to days when I was single, right out of college and making the same money for myself as my family of four now lives on. We live in Florida. The land of no double or triple coupons like up north or out west. Gas prices have just recently started to fall below $2.50 a gallon, but milk just rose to $4.29 at some supermarkets in the area. With our family only living off of $500 a week, you may wonder Why and you may wonder HOW?

If you read my blog, you may know some of the why. After the birth of our first daughter, we decided it was best for me to stay at home. I used to teach middle school but getting sick with pregnancy was not something I planned for, much less could get used to. I was ill for almost all 9 months. So I worked from home doing some work for attorneys I knew in the area for about 3 years after. Then came my second pregnancy….far worse than the first. I had gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia and then landed myself in the hospital only to find out I had placenta previa. I stayed in the hospital for 6 weeks before my c-section. (This was 4 weeks prior to my scheduled delivery date.) While we were pregnant with our second daughter, we also found out my husband was having problems with his vision. These problems could not be fixed with the glasses he already owned. We soon learned what keratoconus meant and how my husband would either have the expense of intact lenses to stretch the cornea or a corneal transplant.

My husband and I continued to go along with life, praying his eyes would heal and that we could prepare our family to face the situation of my husband’s health. While I wish I could say we only endured a few months of hardship, our situation went from bad to worse. We soon found out he would need a complete corneal transplant in both eyes. We were also renting during this time and were trying to pray about a way to help either bring in extra income or God allowing us to rent someplace we could actually afford. Two years later, my husband’s grandfather passed away and left his 1988 doublewide trailer to us.

While the doublewide was free…it was also a mess. It had never had updates done other than a re-roof ten years prior. The plumbing leaked, the house smelled like smoke, there was wood damage due to previous leaks, the air/heating did not work, it needed new flooring and lots more!! I cried when I saw the place…I could never live there or so I thought. Through a friend we found a bank that would finance us a small loan to remodel. My husband was working at the time so we were able to get $8,000 to fix it up. I remember walking into Lowes with measurements for my kitchen remodel. “Yes, that would be about $15K” the representative stated. I was so upset...…how could we ever remodel it…how could I ever live THERE. It was a disaster but it was also in God’s plan. I just couldn't see the big picture yet.

After swallowing my pride and realizing our TRUE budget, I regrouped and thought about how to remodel the 1600 square foot home. My husband and I made a trip to Habi-Jax Restore and looked around at stuff. I couldn’t believe it…they had 5 kitchen sets for under $3K! After finding the kitchen and more, our house came together and so did God’s plan. I may not have seen it at the time, but by following my husband’s lead we were able to put together a decent place to live for our family of four.

Above are some photos of our remodel last year. We repainted with a nice coat of "kilz it" underneath all the paint. You can see the kitchen cabinets hung in place and the laminate flooring was just finished. It's amazing when I think back about all the "deals" that were placed in front of us to have a roof above our heads.

Stay posted ya'll...there's more to come in this series. (I'm also posting this on Serenity Now's Blog Party link for the weekend, so I hope new readers will stay around for the rest of this great series.) God Bless and always come back..Sew Hungry For More.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

“Yes, I think we can try glasses.” Dr. Bowden, my husband’s eye surgeon told us just this week. We are so excited. I didn’t blog a lot in December because we got a call right before thanksgiving weekend, setting the time for my husband’s left corneal transplant. He was scheduled for the Monday morning the weekend after black Friday! It was very much a surprise, as we were unsure two weeks prior to that if things would work out to finish both corneal transplants in 2014. But with lots of prayers answered, my husband has finished his corneal transplants in both eyes. (I promise some pictures later)

2014 has been a very long year for both of us. In August of 2013, my husband got into a fender bender on the way in to work and he finally had to admit to me how many problems he was having with his vision. Since September of 2013, my husband has been out on company disability insurance and has undergone a lot! We were in the middle of remodeling his deceased grandfather’s old 1988 doublewide when work money was no more. With the help of family, you tube and the internet, we were able to fix up our little house and have a roof over our heads. It’s still not perfect a year later but it beats having a huge rent payment over our heads during this ordeal.

My husband had to lose 75 pounds just to qualify for the anesthesia for his right corneal transplant. This took months and was frustrating to both of us. Finally, with God’s help, he qualified for surgery during June 2014. However, with doctors out on vacation and a bad cornea sent to the surgery center, it was re-scheduled for August of last year. This was a scary process for both of us as we did not know what to expect. With lots of prayers, nerves of steel and plenty of eye medications…he made it. We made it.

And now after having had his right corneal transplant in December, we are excited about the road to recovery. The doctor is giving him temporary glasses. This is because of two reasons, to find out how my husband responds to them (computer usage, driving, etc.) and when his stitches come out his vision will change again. It has been documented that it can take one year and sometimes more for the corneal nerves to re-grow into the new cornea! He still has lifting restrictions, bending restrictions, no getting in the pool or submerging his face/eyes, and lots of other things we all take for granted. He has to keep his eyes covered with safety glasses even when he doesn’t wear glasses.

Our family has had a lot of changes though, we went from doing well financially to running through all our savings (even after the Dave Ramsey $1000). We had two vehicles and now we have one. We used to rent for $1,000 a month and now have a loan repayment of $200 a month. We have one bathroom with one toilet in the house! We still have a second bathroom that never got touched other than ripping down to bare studs! We have a rickety back porch, lots of caulking to finish (still) and probably a septic tank in need of pumping. But through it all…we have had food in our bellies, clothing on our backs, a roof over our head and God’s love in our hearts.

It’s been the toughest year I’ve EVER been through. But it has also been an enlightening year. I have lots more to share on this blog, lots more to say, a lot of ways to help and still a lot of improvements to make. My head is spinning with thoughts and ideas…so now it’s time to type it out!

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