Trailer Park Unschoolers

Because you don't need to be rich to unschool!

A Hard Lesson, But Learned Well

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Yesterday was an interesting day for lessons.  The kids learned some good lessons out of all of it, but at least they’ll learn never to make their parents’ mistakes.  They’ve also learned that sometimes help will show as soon as you ask for it.

The first lesson of the day was kind of a good one.  Corde and I talked about budgets when we walked to the grocery store.  I told her that as far as I was concerned, the food budget for the month was already blown and we hadn’t even done any shopping yet.  She thought I was crazy, but we’ve finally decided we’ve got to eat.  If that means throwing the budget out the window, so be it.  Eating and being healthy is more important than whatever we can afford on a “food stamp” budget.  We’ve been throwing things out the window a lot lately.  We went out to eat on Oz’s last day off to a really nice little Italian place.  It was more expensive than we originally were planning, but the kids got to try some new things, like calamari.

Anyhow, Corde and I started talking about how living off $1 per meal is no way to live.  There’s no way you can eat healthy.  We talked about the things we like to eat that we can’t afford on $1 per day.  We talked about the actual cost of each meal and why Oz and I don’t eat three meals a day.  We do it because we just can’t afford to let the kids eat the way they should, yet still afford for everyone to eat.  Rather than having the kids go hungry I decided to cut back on what I was eating.  However, there was a down side.  The baby effectively requires me in order to eat, which means Oz has been eating even less in order to make sure I eat.  Thanks to a few food splurges our food stamps ran out last month well before we needed them too.  We didn’t have to spend our own cash on much, mostly things like milk, but it was rough.  Oz and I decided that we’re just going to have to put a little extra and when our food stamps run out, they run out.  We’ve already seen the difference eating a little bit better has had on the whole family.  There was no reason to take that away from everyone, especially with Oz working a second job.  Instead we would focus on what we really needed.

When we got to the grocery store Corde’s eyes lit up when I ended our trip with the produce section.  Generally we would opt for canned veggies because they’re overall cheaper.  This means not having a lot of fruit.  Unfortunately, my planned menu included a lot of new things so I could make smoothies, figuring that would be a good alternative to meals every now and then.  It would also help me go more towards a vegetarian/vegan diet, not because I have some problem with meat, but because I’m trying to steer towards a healthier diet overall.  I’ve gotten suggestions to go on a vegetarian cleanse or a juice diet instead of what I usually eat.  While I’d love to do that, these kinds of diets are often times rather expensive, so I’m just doing small bits and pieces to aim for something healthier.  Some of them will be great, I’m sure.  Some, like the smoothie I made today, aren’t going to be a complete win.  Since I know I’m not going to be eating all of it, I’m going to be letting the kids dig in to some of the fruit I picked up.

After we’d gotten everything said and don, Oz’s friend tracked us down to give us a ride home.  Unfortunately she caught up to us after we’d paid for everything.  Her bad news had me a little concerned about the groceries I’d just bought.  It was great that she was giving us a ride home, but the power was out at the house.  We were disconnected.

Now, this isn’t the first time we’ve been disconnected, but it’s always been when someone else was responsible for the bills.  We’ve had power outages due to storms and things like that too, but that’s different.  We knew everything in our lives was relying on the ability to have power.  That was our heat.  It’s our ability to cook.  It’s our ability to store our food.  I was completely caught off guard, and I was honestly a little upset with Oz for not warning me this was going to happen.  Had I thought about it I would have realized he had no clue this was coming either.  As far as we knew we were on top of our bill.  Apparently we’d missed the memo somewhere along the line.

When I got home Corde had a valid concern.  Without a refrigerator, how would our food stay cold?  She started to ask other questions, which, of course, Oz and I put her off on.  We had other things to figure out.  We’d never gotten a disconnect notice or anything like that.  Apparently we were still a month behind too, not that this showed on any of the bills we had in our possession.  There was nothing waiting in our mailbox.  It was a nightmare situation.  In an even more challenging situation, we called to get the electricity turned back on if we could only to find that they shut us off almost too late to get a reconnection.  There was nothing we could do.  We’d have to hold the night over without power.

The kids were real troopers through all of this.  They just went along with whatever the plan was.  We were going to use the light we had left to clean the house and get everything organized.  Oz walked us down to the church for Wednesday night dinner.  Then he went off to work.  We sat through dinner and the class.  Corde and Beekee both thought this would be a good idea for us since the church was warm and had light.  It would keep us busy until we had to go home and go to bed.  It was a great plan and I’m glad the kids thought it was such a good idea.

When we went to church Corde and the boys went to the children’s classes while Luca and I sat in for the service.  Everyone missed us there.  It had been a couple of weeks since we’d been there thanks to our former neighbors.  Oz and I didn’t feel comfortable going there if our former neighbors were there.  As it turns out, they haven’t been back in quite some time.  We could have been going all this time, but it is what it is.  We’re going back now and I think that’s most of what matters.

Oz had spoken to the pastor earlier in the day and they gave us some suggestions on where we could go for help.  He said he’d talk to the church and see what they could do.  What i didn’t know was Corde shared what had happened with the teacher in her class.  At the end of the service she came up to me and asked if I’d talked to the woman that organizes the dinners to see if there was any food we could take home that didn’t need to be cooked to help us out.  As it turns out they didn’t have anything, so Corde’s teacher went to the store and got us some food to hold us over until we got our power back on.  The pastor gave us a check for the money we needed to get the power back on.  Then one of the other members of the church gave us a ride home.  It was wonderful, and it definitely showed the kids just how generous people can be if you’re only willing to ask for help.  More importantly, these people wanted to help us.  It wasn’t just because we were needy or just for the kids.  These people wanted to help us because they know Oz is working two jobs and we’re doing the best we can, but sometimes things happen unexpectedly.  Sometimes your luck just turns bad.  As we didn’t have any kind of notification to prepare us, obviously this wasn’t even a case of us not playing things smart.  We genuinely had no idea this was about to happen or we would have made certain to make other cuts in our budget, like not going out to eat and not doing any Christmas shopping.  We had all the best intentions, but things just didn’t seem to work out.

When we got home the kids and I all went to bed after having some snacks.  There wasn’t much else to do without power.  We’d all just settled in to bed when we got a knock at our door.  One of our neighbors, someone Oz knows pretty well because he sees him all the time in town, asked if we wanted to let the kids stay at his house.  He didn’t want them to be in the cold.  His house doesn’t have heat right now, but we had space heaters that weren’t going to do us much good in a house with no power, so it all worked out.  We packed everyone up and went over there.  Oz stopped in there when he got off of work and we all slept in a warm house.  The baby snuggled up to me and Oz snuggled on the floor with the boys.  It all worked out pretty well.

Well, that is it worked out until this morning.  When we looked at the check we realized it wasn’t made out to the electric company, but to one of the other people from church.  Thankfully they came right out and got it taken care of, and took Oz out to bring the check to the office in time to get the electricity turned back on.  It was perfect timing.  The electricity came on almost as soon as Oz walked in the door.  We were able to get some heat in the house (which really wasn’t as bad as it could have been) and get everything sorted out and organized.  Thanks to the cold, no food was lost in the process.  It all worked out in the end.

Corde brought up a concern she had.  She asked if I was mad at her for telling her teacher about the power.  I told her I wasn’t, which was true.  Then I told her how there are certain people that it’s okay to ask for help when you need it.  It’s actually good to ask for help sometimes.  When she needs help with something, it’s good to know who she can go to.  I told her about the way things had gone down, how we really hadn’t gotten any notice of the disconnect and that’s why everything fell apart like this.  Since we didn’t know what to do we asked for help too.  We talked to the pastor at the church and that’s how we got help getting the power on.  If we didn’t ask for help, we still wouldn’t have had power.  If she hadn’t told her teacher what was going on we wouldn’t have had cereal, granola bars, pop tarts, crackers, and fruit snacks to tide them over until the power came back on.  I’d bought juice for the kids, so the additional juice we got was nice, but we could have lived without it.  Everything else was stuff that needed to be cooked, even the breakfast food, with the exception of a few special snacks.  Those snacks got us through the night, morning, and early afternoon while everything was being taken care of.  Without it we would have been cold as well as hungry.  Oz asked the neighbor to check on the kids and I, which is how the plan hatched for us to stay there.  Sometimes it’s good to ask for help.  I told her I was proud of her for expressing her concern to someone she felt comfortable to talk to because it’s never easy to ask for help.

As if that wasn’t enough, one of the people from the church stopped by to check in with us.  He offered to pay for gifts for the whole family so we could participate in the gift exchange this weekend.  He knew we couldn’t afford to spend extra on gifts and he wanted to make sure the kids had a good Christmas, full of family, fun, and wonderful food.  He and his wife are going to cook for the potluck for us as well so we have nothing to worry about.  It’s the Christmas season, which is the season of giving.  It made me think about all the “reason for the season” comments we’ve heard.  Corde even asked what that whole thing was about.  I told her the reason for the season is more than just some religious story, no matter what faith you believe in.  The season is a reminder of what’s important.  The holiday season is about family.  It’s about giving.  It’s about charity.  It’s about humility.  It’s a time to suck up your pride and let people help, or reach out your hand to help those in need.  The holiday season is always a good reminder of why we take care of our whole community, not just the people in our family, and those who have need will generally find a way to get a helping hand, just as long as they’re willing to ask for help, never something easy to do.

In all of this we’ve all agreed that we’re never going to let this happen again.  We’re going to be putting reminders for all the bills on the calendar, that way if we don’t receive the bill, we’ll still make sure we call them to find out what we owe.  We’re going to mark the due date for each of the bills on the calendar because we want to make sure we’re still on top of all the bills.  The kids also now have seen from experience that sometimes things don’t go according to plan, and worse yet, not all companies are reliable with making sure you get the information you need.

So what have the kids learned?  They’ve learned why you don’t rely on the company to keep you up to date because sometimes they’re unreliable.  They’ve learned that it’s okay to ask for help, especially when everyone can see how hard you’ve been working to try and get something done without help.  They’ve learned that bad things happened, but if you work hard you can find a way to get through with it if you think hard about it and keep focused on what’s important.  They’re also learning a lesson about charity, from perhaps the most difficult side of the whole charity thing, the receiving end.  Hopefully they’ll remember how good it feels to get help when you need it and when they’re in a position to extend that help to someone else in need, they’ll be right there to “pay it forward” as the term is now called.

(Okay, so I fell asleep while writing this because it was a long day, so by “yesterday” I mean “Wednesday”.  By “today” I mean “Thursday”.  We’ll probably write about the cool lessons from the real today later!  We’ve been having some interesting discussions already!)

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Author: Fox

With four kids in the house, who has time for much? Well, we're trying to make it work, trying to get as close to our unschooling roots as we can while state restrictions and family pressures try to stand in our way. Every day is a new adventure.

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