Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Power of a 7th Grader {and a mama's pride}

Most days, I really like my little town. If I'm truly honest, I actually consider it Mike's town, as he was born and raised here--I married into it. But it's also home for our kids, and that part is my favorite. It's where they continue to build and grow friendships. It's where they began their schooling at a wonderful elementary school, and where two of them now attend the junior high. While the school aspect will never be "perfect" (because, plain and simple, none of us are perfect), I am thankful for the teachers who encourage, challenge, educate and affirm my kids every year.

It is within those challenges, those pushes to reach something greater, that Connor currently sits. The end of the year is a big one for him and the other kids in his Language Arts class. It's a place where their current project consumes their classroom time and extends well into the night at home. A project where even moms now play a big role as they share their sons' and daughters' project information on their Facebook pages. Through the Facebook shares, I have gotten to witness these 7th graders passions, pleasures, hobbies, entrepreneurship, and hearts for various philanthropies. From Africa to our little town, these kids are bringing awareness to various needs. The kids are helping out. Making a difference. Sharing information. Growing in knowledge and confidence as they create websites, blogs, spreadsheets and products.

I know this assignment isn't an easy one. I'm sure it has brought tears, do-overs, and switching topics completely. Even Connor put his hands on his head last night and stated, "Running a business is HARD!"

But, isn't that the best way to learn? To dig deep and strive hard? And fail? Then succeed? I'll be honest--when my daughter Kaitlin did this project last year, I wasn't too sure about it. I felt it was too much to put on a 7th grader's shoulders. I was wrong. I have loved reading what these 7th graders in my quiet town are doing to make a difference.  Here are a few of their website links and topics. Here is our future:

Klop Incorporated  Where my son Connor is making paracord bracelets, selling them, and giving 25% of his proceeds to our foster care agency.

The DIY Hot Spot Where Kyra focuses on recreating Pinterest fails, and provides honest insight into the world of craft projects.

Honor Veterans Project Where Rebekah & Katlin are bringing awareness to our local Veterans Memorial Fund and sharing info regarding not just donations, but the opportunity to purchase a paver and even a bench so the Memorial can be built. A wonderful tribute to Rebekah's brother, who died way too soon.

Our Steps to End Hunger in Africa Where Lindsay & Lauren are educating on hunger in Africa. Info includes many statistics, providing information on Unicef, and speaking at a local elementary school.

The Go To Where Keaton & Tristan provide daily insight and information to all things within the NHL, NBA, NFL & MLB sports professions.

TrueHop Where Max & Jake critique movies new to theaters and DVD films, adding new reviews on a weekly basis.

So much talent, so much heart. So proud to call this place home.

copyright 2015 LeAnne Klopfenstein

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Diapers + Kmart + Shop Your Way Rewards = AMAZING Deal

I'm great at telling friends when I find a fun way to save some money, but it's never anything I blog about. And chances are, this will be the one and only time I actually sit down and consider something I'm doing to save money worthy of typing and sharing with others. But I've found a pretty good rhythm and after tracking for several months, figured it was worthy to pass along!

Here's the scoop on my household:  In 2014, we gained a newborn foster daughter in March. And then another in September! Throw in our toddler who turned two in May 2014, and it's safe to assume we buy--and use!--many, many diapers. Since we suddenly had 3 children in diapers, I started looking around to see whether a local store or Amazon was the best route to go in making the best purchase.  The factors:
  • I have to purchase Luvs diapers for two of the kids. I've tried Huggies, Pampers, various store brands, and Luvs. For whatever reason, Luvs are the ones that work the best for their body shapes. And since two kids need Luvs, it is easiest for me to buy them for all three kids.
  • I checked prices at Walmart, Kroger, Kmart & Amazon. 
  • Size 2 diapers cannot be found in the largest boxes at any stores. I found the best purchase route for size 2 Luvs to be through Amazon Prime (You could do find with just Amazon and then making another small purchase for free shipping, but it takes MUCH longer for the diapers to arrive!).
My town still has a Kmart, and I was surprised to find the price per diaper for size 5 Luvs was cheaper at Kmart than Walmart (I researched last fall, so there is a chance that has recently changed). It was also cheaper to go to Kmart than to purchase size 5 through Amazon!

I already had the Kmart "Shop Your Way" rewards card, but I rarely used it or shopped there. And when I began getting diapers there, I was so confused by the savings program (I was never saving any money with the card), I just figured it was a crock.  But once I figured it out, the savings began to really show!

  • Attach your email and your phone number (cell if you have one) to your account when you open one.
  • Get the SHOP YOUR WAY Rewards app added to your phone. (Or utilize the website and your email address if you don't have a smart phone).

  • Load coupons to your account via the app.  SPECIFICALLY, ADD Kmart "$10 in points on $50 Storewide"
  • One box of 112 Size 5 Luvs costs $25.99.  I either buy two boxes of size 5, or get one box 148 Size 3, which are also $25.99.

Ideally, I only buy the two boxes of diapers to maximize the potential deal.  So, even if you have no need for diapers, you can still shoot for a $50 purchase total each time and come up with a similar scenario.

Once I get the two boxes of diapers and get ready to check out, I give the cashier my phone number so that the purchase gets connected to my account.  That will add the bonus point ($10 in points) onto my account towards a future purchase.  The receipt below has over 20,000 points, which means I've accrued what amounts to a $20 store credit.
**In order to utilize your savings on a future purchase, you will need to be very proactive and tell the cashier you want to use your points. You then provide your pin code, and the amount will be taken off of your total. You need 10,000 points or more in order to use your points.

What is incredible is the fact the "$10 in points on $50 Storewide" coupon is almost always available!  So I am continually adding it to my account.  I typically do a couple diaper shopping trips before I use the credit towards other items. And it does take several days for the point amount to show up on the app, but the store receipt updates immediately.

And, when you spend over $50, you get a coupon to save $0.30/gallon at BP! At the BP gas pump, I simply press 'pay inside', fill my tank, and then use the discount code inside the gas station to get the discount.  That amounts to over $5.00 savings every fill-up. Compare that to getting $0.10/gallon for every $100 spent at Kroger--it's a great deal.

Between the points coupon and the gas deal, I'm basically getting back $15 for every $50 I spend (or saving, or accruing...however you want to look at it).  No matter how it's viewed, I've benefitted quite a bit from the Shop Your Way rewards program, and will continue to save hundreds of dollars simply by buying diapers at Kmart.

copyright 2015 LeAnne Klopfenstein

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

From 'Foster Kid' to 'Pastor's Kid' {And the Change in Me}

It was a beautiful fall day....nice and sunny, and warm enough to still have all the windows in the house open. The three big kids were at school, Mike was at work, and I was enjoying a peaceful day at home--just me and the 16 month old. A quiet day of sorting, washing, and folding laundry.

I brought up a basket of warm, clean clothes from the laundry room and dumped it onto the floor.  Charlie squealed and ran over to the pile and plopped right on top. He giggled, threw socks up in the air, and giggled some more. He stood up, flopped back down, threw more clothes, giggled, and continued the routine over & over.

My hands stopped mid-fold and I just watched. Charlie had no idea of the momentous thing that was scheduled to occur in a month--his adoption. A boy completely unaware of how God had dramatically shifted his life when his birth parents surrendered their rights.  When, in that moment, Charlie's case moved from a murky 'return home' status that didn't look like would ever happen, to a clear 'adoption status' within our family.

Charlie was switching from "Foster Child" to "Pastor's Kid"...a move that would replace a history of brokenness. A history for which I now had far more empathy; parents who couldn't really parent because they had never experienced love or goodness themselves.  Parents who had both experienced abuse, neglect, abandonment, and for one of Charlie's parents, their own foster care journey.  Parents who themselves had been robbed of safe and secure childhoods. My attitude had shifted from irritation towards birth parents ("How can you be so irresponsible and not know how to get your act together?") to utter sadness ("Why weren't you given the chance to be protected?").

And I offered up a prayer of gratitude from the depths of my soul: "Lord, thank you. Thank you for breaking the generational cycle with Charlie."

What happened next is something I haven't experienced in such a way prior, and might possibly never experience again. Because God responded with words I heard clear as day: "But don't you see LeAnne?  I broke the generational cycle with YOU."

I dropped the laundry, dropped to my knees, and began to sob. It was so easy for me to see the messiness of other's lives that I had failed to see the change within my own. Don't get me wrong; Mike and I were both raised by parents who constantly gave (and still give) to others. We'd each done mission trips, had volunteered since we were teens, and had numerous jobs (both paid and volunteer) that involved serving & helping others.  It was a precedent set by our parents that we had continued within our own marriage.

But the biggest thing about all those "good things"?  They were temporary; we could serve, help, give, provide for, and encourage others, and then go back to our everyday lives.  At the end of the day, we could retreat to the safety and security of our own home.

By becoming foster parents, we had done something brand new--instead of shutting out the messiness, we had invited it right in and introduced it to our kids.  Caseworkers. Parents who weren't married to each other.  Dads in jail. Moms who had abused drugs. Licensing workers who make sure our house passes inspection.  All things that result in the same event; kids who aren't allowed to live with their own mom and dad. And since they couldn't live at their own home, they lived in ours.

I'm so thankful God moved us out of our "Christian Bubble" and asked us to serve within our home. Our kids were 9, 7 & 5 when we became a licensed foster family. Now, at 14, 13 & 10 I see how God is already giving them a world view that allows them to serve in a greater fashion than I ever did at such a young age. They don't have stereotypes regarding foster care because they live the real thing. They know every case is unique in and of itself, and sometimes the successful outcome means a child goes home, and other times it means a child needs to be adopted. Our kids know that every child deserves love, and they pour it out so very naturally to every child who stays with us.

And for the children who stay and become our biological kids' legal & forever siblings? That's a more precious sight and relationship than I could ever properly put into words. God has blessed us beyond measure, changed my life for the better, and I cannot wait to see the ways He grows and shapes our kids to keep serving Him.

copyright 2015 LeAnne Klopfenstein