Saturday, May 31, 2008

Yard Sale Treasures!!!

Above: Jer outgrew his other Crocs so I was delighted to find a pair in his size for 50 cents. Is it sacriligious that I bought a pair of Robeez when I make my own leather baby shoes? I couldn't pass up this pair for 50 cents for Justus and plan to try to copy the cute mocassin design.

I haven't been yard sale-ing in a few weeks with all the busy stuff we've done in May. So, it was wonderful to be able to find a ton of steals today. I took both kids and was only gone an hour. Instead of biking, I ended up driving but made sure to go to sales close to home. Here are some of my finds!

These baskets were about 5 cents each and the vases were free. Great for gifts!

The find of a lifetime: Like-New Fuzzi Bunz!!! Remember how I started sewing my own because I couldn't even win an e-bay auction on them? The folks I bought them from had lots of cloth diapers (they were NOLSies) and they had decided after about 6 months of using them that they couldn't take the icky-ness of cloth diapers. They sold me these 8 medium ones for $20 (the cost of one new Fuzzi Bunz!) The medium ones still fit Jer and they are better fitting than my homemade ones, lighter weight, and seem to control leaks really well! Yeah hurray!

These are two large fleece tie-quilts for Ali. She sleeps with the two she received as baby gifts but if there is an accident in the middle of the night we're wishing she had some more. These were 50 cents each (about 1/20th of the cost it would be to make one!) and look like they've hardly, if ever, been used.

Someone poured a ton of work into these beautiful little hand-embroidered, lacy burp bloths. They were brand new and only 5 cents. They'll go in my gift stash for baby gifts. I also got a few like-new receiving blankets with these that I plan to use to "wrap" baby gifts for friend's baby showers.

This little Carter's romper still has the tags on it. They didn't charge me anything for it, perhaps since I bought a bunch of their Fuzzi Bunz.

At one sale, the woman said everything on one table was FREE and all the clothes were FREE. Since Lupe has mentioned needing new clothing for her girls, I snagged about 10 really cute things in the girl's sizes, some of which looked new. Also these winter mittens for Ali and I and some flashcards for my mom.

Keeping Kids Immobile

All smiling! Shh! Don't tell the mom of the boy in the pink sweater what he's wearing! It was the only jacket we had on hand that fit!

Group hug! Poor Carsen is surrounded by girls!

King Jo juggles balls to entertain the kids.

Out for a walk!

It was our turn for the baby-sitting co-op last night and it was quite an adventure keeping track of the 6 little ones in an only partially-fenced yard. They had a blast running around all over. When my hubby and I decided our eyes needed a break from watching and counting them, we decided to do the thing that affords any parent a few minutes of peace. Get the kids immobile! There is such relief in strapping a mobile little one into a high-chair, wagon, stroller, car seat, etc. sometimes, knowing they can't escape or wiggle much! We decided a walk would be fun and we managed to squeeze the four tiniest kids in our wagon and the bigger two in our double stroller. We went for a nice walk around the neighborhood and got plenty of looks from people driving by!

I ended up skipping Walgreens (boo-hoo that I missed the great coupon) but my day actually wasn't as crazy as I thought it would be and the 2 other kids I babysat all day were little angels. I was VERY tired by the end of it and slept like a rock last night!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Pregnancy Brain

Lately I've been suffering from pregnancy brain. Those of you who have been there know that it can feel like aliens snatched your fully-functioning mind and replaced it with something that's more than "a few fries short of a Happy Meal."

I've caught myself in impossible scheduling conflicts at times due to my inability to simply remember what I've scheduled for myself. No SAHM should feel this busy some days but when you have said yes to several committments that are supposed to happen all at the same time, then the panic hits! The sad thing is this isn't something I've done just once. It's happened at least 3 or 4 times in the last month resulting in embarrassing situations and extra phone calls where I have to explain that I can't do what I originally said I could do.

So, I guess I'll have to let you know how I survive tomorrow! Let's just say that it will probably involve cancelling a Walgreens trip that could produced some amazing bargains, and I will be babysitting a total of 6 different kids throughout the day, not including my own, in addition to a couple of other things that are planned (park playdate and lunch potluck). If only my brain would actually WORK when I'm pregnant so I could stop doing this to myself!

Walgreens Goodies

I don't have a pic of my stuff since I did the unthinkable and forgot my camera on our trip to Billings, but I did get a nice haul of stuff on Friday at Walgreens.

Here's what I got:

2 Boxes of sidewalk chalks
3 jars of Miracle Bubbles
8-pack of AA batteries
2 containers of baby wipes
1 large bottle of children's mouthwash (free-after-rebate item)
1 Schick Quattro Intuition Razor
2 boxes of anti-bacterial wet ones (24 individual packets per box)

With all the coupons and the special Friday-only $5 off a $20 purchase, I SHOULD have received all of this for around $4.50 after I get the rebate back on my mouthwash. But, the cashier goofed and voided my $5 coupon so I paid $15 and will get $5 back. However, I plan to bring this to their attention on my next trip and hopefully get $5 in cash back. Even if they somehow refused to give me the money back, I really only paid less than a dollar for everything, which is a super deal, considering these items would have cost at least $32 in our town and we will use everything.

*Alert* For those of you friends needing ink for your printers, I noticed this week they are doing refills half off so that would mean a black refill for only $5! Also, tomorrow, Friday the 30th, there is a super coupon out for $10 off a $30 purchase. You can stock up on June Free-After-Rebates and use this coupon to get paid to buy these things. Or, you could buy a few packages of diapers, use diaper coupons and the super coupon and end up paying $5 a package for Huggies or Pampers.

Motherhood Maternity

Justus is growing, and so is my fatigue!
These pics were taken with the self-timer on my camera so they are at a weird angle.
I mentioned in my trip update that I FINALLY found a long skirt to wear while I'm pregnant. Yeah hurray! In every store I looked it, there were NO maternity skirts, except the occasional mini-skirt. Even in a maternity store, Motherhood Maternity, there were only a couple of choices, a denim and a khaki and only ONE in my size. But I am thankful to have found a pretty outfit that will be cool for summer and will last through any future pregnancies too. If I had a Motherhood Maternity nearby I sure would be tempted to spend, spend, spend because they have some darling clothes and I'm sure there are good sales sometimes. The skirt was well worth the money and my mom treated me to this pretty shirt that was on clearance. With my purchase they gave me a free goody bag and I was delighted to find it stuffed full of baby product coupons and samples. I got a free playtex baby bottle, a little bottle of baby lotion, a baby spoon, a travel bottle of pregnancy lotion, a small pregnancy nutrition bar, and some diaper cream samples among other things. Freebies are fun!

I was disappointed in the maternity/baby thrift shop in Billings. My friend who had lived near there and now lives in our town had given me $17 credit there, saying she wouldn't be back there to use it so I might as well. I've never had such a hard time spending free money! It was outrageous how much they wanted for used stuff. Maybe I'm just spoiled by our 25 cents an item thrift shop here in town but I refused to pay $5 for a used and dingy kid's shirt when I could get it new at Target for $3 or here in town for a quarter or less. I had asked her if I could get her something but her boys are pretty well stocked in clothes so it was up to me to spend that money and it was soooo hard! Everything maternity was not my style or size and was around $25. I would rather buy something at Motherhood Maternity NEW if they are going to charge that for used! Even the kids' used shoes seemed outrageously priced. I wandered the store for nearly an hour, and my hubby and kids tagged along, until I finally spotted some nursing undergarments which I could really use. I ended up paying a few bucks for one that was used but like-new since it was one of the few items in the store on clearance and bought one new one for the same price as I could have at Wal-Mart, but at least they were free due to the credit. I had to throw in a pair of boy's tennies at the last minute to make sure and spend all of her credit. So, it all worked out in the end and I only spent around $2 out-of-pocket there and I got a few things we can use but I will never be back to that store!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Graduating Parents

I had the priviledge of attending my cousin's graduation this weekend. It was a ceremony for the Homeschoolers of Eastern Montana. They had a godly judge from their state give the address, which was wonderful, and there were a couple of beautiful music specials from the graduates as well as a touching slide show of photos of the graduates growing up. It was so neat to attend a formal graduation service for homeschoolers. I came away with lots of ideas for when my own kids graduate (many, many years from now). The neatest part was at the end when each set of parents presented their diploma to their child and spoke for a minute about their child and told them how much they loved him/her. To say it was a tear-jerker is an understatement! My dad referred to it afterward as a "sentimental blow-out!" I was surprised my aunt and uncle were able to get through it as I know that I probably wouldn't have been able to in front of all of those people if it were my kid graduating. Many of the moms couldn't speak and let the dads do all the talking. It just struck me how blessed each of these 23 homeschooled high-school grads are to have such loving parents standing there, passing on a public, verbal blessing to them and assuring them of how much they love them.

So many graduations from public institutions are cold and unfeeling. Most people I know have their name butchered by the person reading it and don't have much of a relationship with their teachers/professors, etc. Even if one does happen to be close to a professor/teacher, that teacher doesn't have the wellspring of love for the graduate that his own parents have for him that has spanned a lifetime. I thought it was very fitting that after all the years of sacrifice, hardship, hard work, and pouring themselves into their children, these parents got to taste a bit of a reward in seeing their kids to this big milestone and being the ones to be able to hand them their diploma. Their efforts have really paid off, especially if their kids love the Lord and have character and virtue above academic success. Of course their job as parents isn't over; and in some ways has just begun, but one stage of life is over and another is beginning. I thought it was sweet how many of the husbands looked first to their wives and congratulated them on 13 years of homeschooling (some had even been doing it for 25 years!) and gave them the credit for their child's success. Many of the parents broke down crying as they told their child how much they loved him/her and many of the young men were headed for military service to protect our country with honor and a desire to be missionaries to their fellow soldiers. My uncle reminded my cousin to remember 3 things: Who she is, Whose she is, and Where she is going. He also said a brief prayer for her future. My aunt had a neat quote for her and talked about how she didn't feel she deserved such a wonderful daughter but was so thankful to have been blessed by God with Ashlee.

It was good for me to meet to be surrounded by godly parents who have reached the milestone of seeing kids through their school years and training them in the Lord. Sometimes being a parent is so frustrating and you forget about the end goals. I love being a mom and wouldn't trade it for the world and yet it can wear me to a frazzle when there are no days off and no breaks from my preschooler's energy! Even though our visit to our family's home was fun, there was all the stress of making sure they didn't break things, be too noisy, scream in restaurants or fight over things. For a minute one day I was tempted to have a little pity party and feel so sorry for myself because everyone else could just make their plans and go here and there shopping with no cares or take a nap or read a book but I felt like I was stuck since I had little kids to care for and had Ali constantly bouncing and chattering next to me and being hyper-active and interrupting conversations and slowing me down in the goals I wanted to accomplish shopping. I thought back to the days when I could go to the bathroom in privacy, have a long conversation with my aunt without interruptions, be a quiet guest in someone's home instead of a guest who brings chaos with her, and help out with the meals and dishes to bless the hostess instead of having to chase kids, clean kids, wipe kids' bottoms and supervise kids immediately after every meal. I thought back to the days when I could leisurely shop, not have to think about nap schedules, and not have to hear endless whining and crying on long car trips. The days before sippy cup spills, having to discipline your kids in front of other people, picking up endless clothing and toy messes, and the days where I could sit down for a complete meal without having to jump up a thousand times to get things for the kids.

Though I was tempted to have a pity party and wonder why I'm doing this all over again, starting from scratch in August when I'm already beyond busy with little ones, I reminded myself that these kids are gifts and blessings from God and He will give me the strength I need to get through the tough days. I know that pregnancy makes me more tired than anything else in life and things always look brighter after a good night of sleep. I know that these years will fly by and before you know it I'll be standing on a stage, handing my precious kids a diploma and sending them out of the nest, with sadness at how fast the years have gone. These years are physically exhausting but they are so important and I don't want to just wish them away because there are so many things to enjoy about having tiny and dependant kids.

We're Back!

I hope you all had a wonderful Memorial Day weekend. We had a great time in Billings seeing my sweet cousin graduate. We got to shop all kinds of fun stores we haven't seen in a year or more (Old Navy, Target, Motherhood Maternity, JC Penney, Michaels, etc.) but we still managed to not spend that much. I found the perfect denim maternity skirt that is very long, comfy and fashionable and was only $25 and should last through any future pregnancies too! I think Motherhood Maternity is my new favorite store when I'm pregnant, especially if they have a good sale!

We've been looking at stores all over and online for about 6 months, trying to find wooden letters in my son's name so he can have his name on the wall like sister has. We finally found them at Michaels' and they actually had all the letters (everywhere else we've looked they've been out of certain letters)!
We had great fellowship with my aunt and uncle and cousins. I don't think I've ever met a family who laughs as much as them. It's so much fun to be around them. They always make gourmet foods and love to linger over meals for a couple of hours, just visiting. My aunt made the best whole wheat pancakes with fresh-ground wheat and grape syrup made from the organic grapes in her garden! All of her meals were just amazing! We also got to enjoy one of our family's all-time favorite restaurants after church on Sunday: Olive Garden! The kids got to go to Zoo Montana yesterday and see some animals, which they enjoyed. All in all, it was still tons of work to travel with little ones and keep them from destroying my aunt's breakables, but they did very well and were very good for the most part. Just before leaving they each received a scratch on their left cheeks from the poor cat they were tormenting.

My mom and I drove back together, as my dad and King Jo had left a day earlier since they had to work, and we are the spaciest ditzes you have ever seen when we are gabbing in the car. We missed our exit and didn't realize it until an hour had passed, only to find out that there was no other way to fix the mistake than drive all the way back. So, our five hour drive with two squirming kids was stretched into an almost 8 hour drive by the time we took several potty breaks for my pregnant body and a supper break. We got home at 11pm in the pounding rain, neither one of us is even remotely good at night driving! Oh well, I guess we'll learn to pay more attention to road signs next time!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Frugal Friday--Tips for Being MORE Frugal at Walgreens

Some tips I have learned recently for shopping at Walgreens:

*ALWAYS, ALWAYS flip through your EasySaver booklet before you go up to check out at the register. Last week I got home and discovered that though I had gotten a great deal on batteries with a regular coupon, I could have saved $1 more if I had paid attention to the coupons in the Easy Saver booklet too. I also missed getting another good deal (Kotex pads for 50 cents) because I wasn't paying attention to the EasySaver coupons.
*Be very careful to get the exact items that the flyer says for RR deals. The past couple of times I have made mistakes on the ounces of toothpaste, etc. and it has caused some hassle with having to get the manager over there and confusing everyone.
*Pay attention to minor holiday sales. They often have free photo deals or great sales on holidays like Leap Day, Tax Day, Memorial Day, etc. Today they have a super good coupon out you can print off online to get $5 off a $20 purchase. Even though I already bought most of my Free-After-Rebate items for the month of May, I am going to hit Walgreens this afternoon since we'll be driving through on our way out of town for the weekend and am planning to get a big LOAD of great stuff for around $4.50 thanks to this extra coupon and some others I didn't use last time.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Modifying an Immodest Shirt

The overly-tight neckline!

Sewing a straight-stitch around the elastic and slightly gathering it.

This photo is a little blurry since I did a timed shot of myself but you can see the results of the modified shirt!

If you've ever been pregnant, you've probably gotten to the point of feeling like you have literally nothing to wear that fits, or nothing that looks remotely attractive. I love my two e-bay shirts, but I am starting to think people must think I should try wearing something different once in a while! So, when I spotted a beautiful maternity shirt at Wal-Mart, of all places, I was drawn to try it on. Usually our Wal-Mart just carries a few ugly t-shirts and a few pair of maternity pants and that's it. But, when the shirt fit, and I loved the look of it, I bought it even though, gasp, it wasn't on clearance and was more than I would normally ever pay for a shirt!

When I got it home, I just knew I would probably wear it almost everyday for the next few months because it was so cheery and pretty. That is, until I actually wore it and discovered, horror of horrors, that it was quite immodest! Sometimes, a quick look in the dressing room doesn't reveal how a shirt will fit when you are moving around, holding toddlers or bending over. While I had bought a size larger than my normal in the hopes that it would continue to fit even when my belly is at it's biggest, I hadn't realized that the neckline would make me so uncomfortable and would constantly shift to show my bra.

So, what did I do? I whipped out my needle and thread, unwilling to lose my new favorite shirt! I sewed carefully by hand around the elastic neckline and gently pulled on the thread to gather it so it would tighten up the neckline.

However, I under-estimated the power of a little gathering. I made the hole sooooo tight my head would barely go through it! When I did squeeze my head through, I noticed the bustline of the shirt was unnaturally high and so the shirt wasn't quite as attractive or comfortable.

So, I ripped out my stitches, and re-did my gathers, this time I didn't pull so tight and I started by doing the section between the shoulders. Then I slightly gathered each side from about front-middle up about 4 inches. I tried it on and PERFECTO! Not so tight that I can't get it in it, but not so loose that it will reveal more than it should. The bustline of the shirt falls in a flattering spot and all is well!

The moral of the story is: Buy clothes that are in your size, not a size above! Bend over, move around and wiggle in the dressing room so that you can see how a shirt shifts around. If you do have a neat shirt that you wish you could wear, but it has a low neckline, there are ways of fixing it. Sewing an underpiece across a V-neck or adding some lace or something can sometimes fix a shirt. It is as easy as pie to fix a gathered neckline like I just did. I also lifted the shoulders on one of my shirts by taking in an inch or two to raise the neckline.

Now I can wear a comfy, cool, MODEST blouse this summer without having to wear another shirt under it!

Good Deals this Week

There were some great deals going last week and this week so I made the trip over to the other town in order to hit them all. I figure the cereal and yogurt alone more than paid the gas for my trip because it would have cost that much just to buy them in our town.

What did I get?

Smith's had a deal where you get 4 boxes of cereal for $4. I had two, $2 off coupons for chocolate Honey Bunches of Oats so the cereal should have been completely free! I think my cashier dropped one of my coupons or it might have been stuck to the back of the other one because he only rang up one so I ended up paying 50 cents a box. Still a great deal! The LiveActive cereal was about 12 cents with an internet coupon.
I also did the Smith's Huggies deals where I got 3 packages, got $4 knocked off, and I used $4.50 in manufacter's coupons and sent in for the $5 Huggies rebate. It averages out to $5 per package.
The Corazona chips, which are delicious by the way, were absolutely free, with overage, thanks to a coupon I found on MoneySavingMom and printed off. Thanks for the tip Blasdels!
The Crunch Crisp bar was free with a coupon. I have to say I like the old Crunch bars better.
The Pert Plus will be free after rebate, the Old Spice bodywash was only about 10 cents due to the catalina and manufacter's coupon I had on it, and I got MORE Pro-Health toothpaste since it was still on sale, with a RR on it, and I had coupons too. Walgreens wipes were buy one, get one, so I got a couple boxes since that's a better deal than anything you will find in our town. Thanks to the Muir Glen coupon my friends told me about, these cans of organic tomatoes were 24 cents each. I also got 4 boxes of organic frozen veggies for only $1 each thanks to coupons. The Seventh Generation dishwashing liquid cost $1.50 after a catalina coupon I had on hand. I wanted to try it and needed dishwashing stuff and though I didn't get it FREE, it is still cheaper than buying a bottle of Palmolive.
I got a lot of other things not pictured, such as fruit, yogurt, and toliet paper, which were all way, way cheaper than the cost of buying it here in town. I also stocked up on some dried fruit, granola bars, and juices for the kids for our upcoming road trip to Billings this weekend.

Thanks for the Comments!

Just wanted to say that while I don't usually have time to do a lot of comment replies here, I appreciate each comment and do think them over. I appreciate the ideas for using "Tough Love" with the neighbors. It is truly impossible to not see them throughout the day just because of the living situation and how close in proximity we are. If we do laundry, (and I do lots of it) we will see them, if we walk to our cars or want to open the door for fresh air or if our kids play outside at all, they are there. So, as much as I would like to cut all ties with them some days, it's virtually impossible. I appreciate your ideas and thoughts on the subject and it's helped me to see more that being a loving Christian neighbor doesn't mean you can't have boundaries too.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Pregnancy Hormones Meet the Neighbors!!!

To say I was irritated with the neighbor girls today would be an understatement. To say I YELLED at them would be closer to the truth. It doesn't take much to push this pregnant woman to the limits anymore, and today was no exception. After watching them trying to get Jer to eat leaves, trying to trick Ali into eating Tabasco sauce on chips so it would burn her mouth, watching them pick Jer up and then drop him a few inches from the cement sidewalk on his head, and watch them destroying yet another one of our toys I had had enough! First, I sternly told them to NEVER, EVER pick Jeremiah up again. The next time, regarding the toy, I hollered at them to give it to me NOW when they balked. The third time, after they began running by my door yelling, "You're mean!" and telling Ali her mom was mean and being nasty to her, I totally lost it and hollered at them with a furious red face that I'd had enough of their lip and if they didn't quit I was going to tell their parents what little brats they are! I think I sufficiently scared them for a couple of hours at least.

I admit that I was fighting immature behavior with some immature behavior of my own. I do indeed have this Grizzly Bear Mama instinct that comes out when people hurt my kids and drive me nuts day after day. I'm not excusing my behavior and saying I reacted in all the right ways. I'm not saying that they pushed me into it because we are ALWAYS responsible for our actions and words no matter how others treat us and no matter how hormonal we are. (Remember the Calm Me Down concept of the Gentle Mothering posts? Remember how Scream-Free Parenting taught me not to let others control my emotional buttons?)

A part of me doesn't know what to do with these kids. Being firm with kids who have faced few consequences in their lives and habitually lie, manipulate, torment, and disobey is overwhelming at times. I want to be a godly witness in spite of the few times I've really blown it with them, and I want to be loving, but I hate to be around them when they are teaching my kids things I don't approve of and treating them like dirt. Ali came home saying "What the heck?" this week and though that may not seem like a big deal to some families, my husband was horrified! We were both beyond horrified to hear, "Oh my God" come out of her mouth thanks to the neighbor's saying it often.
Not too surprisingly, I am the second neighbor to get after the girls this week. They got the most severe tongue lashing of their entire lives on Saturday when a neighbor discovered they had her daughter's ballerina outfit and had trimmed it short, the very day of the pictures and the biggest dance recital in town. Apparently she screamed at them in such a way that their mother Lupe was driven to tears and told me later in Spanish that these people "needed a vacation" as they say in Mexico, if they were so upset they would holler at innocent children like that. I do understand the mom's fury when you consider ballet outfits probably run $100 and lessons aren't cheap either! I think that although the ballet thing wasn't intentional (the girls from Mexico didn't realize it was our neighbor Lola's outfit) this angry mom was still smarting from the fact that the girls had slashed her daughter's screen on her window with a butcher knife, cutting out a huge section of it, and had recently dumped a jug of bubble solution on her daughter's linoleum bedroom floor so they could all "ice-skate." They also roam her apartment continually when she's gone as she has a hang-up and refuses to lock it (it's a hippie-I-want-to-trust-people-thing) and I've told her they go in there all the time and probably eat her super expensive organic food but she still won't lock up.

Later tonight, after I'd cooled down a bit, I went out my back door to find the girls swinging wildly on our outdoor swing. They do this CONSTANTLY. I've told them and told them not to stand on top of the back of the swing and stand on the arms of the swing, but to no avail. So, I calmly and very sweetly told them I was giving the swing away and dismantled the swing part. They began using the frame as a set of monkey bars. As much as I wanted to scream and take a sledgehammer to the swing and throw it in the dumpster, I decided to let it go. After all, it has lasted us a few years and though we got it in new condition at a yard sale for $25, the neighbor kids and long winters have taken their toll on it and it's been patched up and no longer has a sun awning and isn't that attractive anymore. I moved the frame to their side of the tiny yard, to their great delight, so they could scream, holler, and throw each other violently off the bars in front of their parent's apartment instead of keeping my kids' awake by doing it in our yard, and decided to completely just LET IT GO! We now have nothing except a grill in our backyard thanks to the neighbors messing with or trying to destroy everything we have ever put back there. We've learned our lesson and keep everything inside, even our sandbox tub, except the bikes and double stroller in the front hallway (and we have made stern threats that they must NEVER touch them!) We've given away our sandbox, exercise bike, and yard toys, and have had to raise flower pots up to hanging pots and have to keep close tabs on our folding chairs. We never cease to find garbage and litter of all kinds in our back and front yard thanks to these girls.

I feel bad for the girls in a way because everywhere they go they seem to make enemies due to the lack of parenting that is so evident in their lives. When you don't give your kids boundaries, or refuse to enforce them, you are setting them up for heartache, failure, and angry people. Lupe, their mom, confided the other day that the older daughter has made her younger daughter's life completely miserable with her constant lies about her sister that get her into trouble with everyone. The older daughter feels that the younger girl (the baby of the family) is spoiled rotten and that her parents don't love her or want her. Perhaps this is why she continually lies to get her sister in trouble. If her sister says, "Daddy is guapo (handsome)" the older sister will tell the daddy that her sister said, "Daddy is stupid." The little one is very deceptive herself, but her life is a lot harder with a big sis like that! I often wonder how these girls will turn out.
In the meantime I pray for patience to endure the hot summer living next to them. We've been checking on rentals but the most recent lead we found was a small 2-bedroom home for $1,150 a month, exactly double what we pay now for a 2-bedroom apartment! The good news is that I don't think Lupe could bear the thought of being around her girls all day either and so she signed them up for as much summer school and swimming lessons and soccer activities as possible so they shouldn't be around as much as I thought they would be originally. Hopefully I can find a way to help them go to 5-Day Club this summer which would be really cool.

A Word Fitly Spoken

Here's my side shot at 27 weeks! Alathia enjoys kissing baby Justus and he kicked hard right at the moment this shot was taken. I'm officially in the home stretch AKA the last trimester where fatigue and discomfort reign. With all the summer activities I know this last few months will fly by faster than ever before! I'm still feeling pretty great.

Have you ever been encouraged unexpectedly by a wise comment from someone? The other day at church I was juggling my kids and herding them into the building when an older woman passed by, must have noticed my big belly for the first time and said, "Oh, I see God is blessing you with another wee one!"

This comment really surprised me, but I found it to be such a good reminder. While we haven't gotten really negative comments necessarily this time around, we've gotten plenty of, "You'll be so busy!" "What were you thinking?" "Your kids are sooooo close!" "I couldn't do it. How are you ever going to handle three?" and, "You do know how this happens right?" It was surprising when someone said something different, yet so true, and so refreshing. Sometimes I'm tempted to believe everyone's comments and wonder if everyone just thinks we're young and "irresponsible" for having so many children so quickly in a world that doesn't do that. Not to mention we don't own a home yet and King Jo doesn't plan to work his job permanently so career changes are likely ahead in the next couple of years. Sometimes on those rough days with whining or fussing kids I begin to believe that when another kid joins the mix, it's going to be chaotic and awful.

This is why it's good for me to be reminded that GOD, the author of life, saw fit to bless us at THIS particular time with another baby. We weren't trying to have one but we were open to the possibility, and He caused it to happen unexpectedly. And it is a blessing! He's giving us another precious gift, not a burden.
You have the power of encouragement or discouragement on your tongue! Remember that today and bless others!

Monday, May 19, 2008

New Addiction

If you don't read MoneySavingMom yet, you're probably crazy, but if you do, you've probably seen the links recently for coupons for free Frutista Freeze drinks at Taco Bell. We tried them after church on Sunday (we used 2 of the 3 free coupons our computer printed) and they are SO, SO, SO YUMMY! I know now why they give out freebies; in order to addict a person who will be a lifelong customer! I hope to print out many more of these coupons from my relatives' computers because I will be there a lot during the hot days of July when I'm hugely pregnant! But even if I have to pay the regular price of $2 to get one, it will be so worth it now and then for a treat. In order to use your freebie coupon you have to buy something else. Since I hardly ever go to Taco Bell I didn't realize how tasty and filling their burritos are. For $1, I can get a huge and delicious burrito, and a free Frutista Freeze with the coupon! That's what I call a frugal meal!

Wedding Gift Idea

My mom and I were invited to a bridal shower last minute this weekend. In between all the company, as well as our yard sale, I was hard-pressed at first to think of a nice, but inexpensive gift for someone I really don't know all that well. I have lots of baby gifts and general gifts on hand, but no wedding gifts. If I had had the time I would have made Bride and Groom beach towels but there wasn't an opportunity for that.

So, I racked my brain and called my mom with an idea. She shopped for the stuff while I was at our yard sale and then we quickly threw it together in the thirty minutes between my yard sale and the bridal shower. We came up with a cleaning bucket of natural cleaning supplies for the new bride. I wish someone had given me one when I was a new bride as I didn't know all about natural products back then.

Here's what we put in the cleaning bucket:

Scrub Brush

Dusting cloths

Baking Soda

Bottle of Vinegar

Two Spray Bottles (one for the vinegar and one which I filled with Dr. Bronner's soap and water I had on hand)

Mr. Clean Disinfectant wipes I had gotten free at Walgreens a few weeks ago
Mini broom and dustpan

I also threw in a cute little jar of my homemade powdered laundry detergent and all my recipes typed out for homemade natural cleaners and detergents. We added a homemade wedding card, tied a ribbon around the bucket and we were ready to go! By shopping at Family Dollar and splitting the cost it ended up being a very nice, but inexpensive gift!
*If I did it again I would throw in some lemons and some homemade olive oil/lemon spray for dusting.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Pregnancy Pics

Pics of me on Mother's Day (in the Gap shirt I got off e-bay brand new for $1! I love it!)
Do not be deceived. I don't look that pregnant from this front view, but from the side.......
Stay tuned for a side shot coming sometime this week! You'll be amazed at how different someone can look from different angles or in different outfits!
*Sidenote* The brown skirt is my non-maternity one and I'll confess that I wore it to church with a rubberband holding it together, and this rubberband popped off a couple of times! This is how desperate I am to wear a skirt. I have NO maternity skirts (the one I bought at a yard sale a few weeks ago ended up being too small even though it was labeled my size.) I am tired of wearing pants, capris, and shorts, but I have not found any maternity skirts online or in stores or at yard sales or any sewing patterns for maternity clothes, except for one super short mini skirt someone loaned me. Of course the mini skirt had to be the one skirt that fit and I tried it on and said, "I can't believe anyone would dare wear something this short while pregnant!" To which my hubby replied, "I can't believe someone would wear something that short even if they weren't pregnant!"

Busy Weeks in May

Anna and Ali watch Mr. Buckmeyer trim the horses hooves in a barefoot cut so they don't have to wear horseshoes the day before Colter and Anna went riding in the mountains all day with Dad.

Saying Goodbye is hard to do! We'll see Uncle Coco again at Christmas time!

Our new double jogger! With it I can waddle around town a little easier than with our other double stroller.

The yard sale corner in town. Everyone puts their box here with the address and info on it and all the yard sale-ers come to the corner and write down the addresses. Free advertising! You'll find me at this corner almost every Sat. morning at 8 am jotting down sales!

Dad grilling hamburgers. Notice that Wyoming is green one month out of the year!

Well, our time with Colter and Anna was MUCH, MUCH, MUCH too short! I knew the time together would fly by but I am still amazed at how quickly it was over. Anna got to experience a lot of the west in a short time and hopefully wasn't too weirded out by my family. Since I wasn't with Dad the whole time he was with Anna I have no idea what kinds of things he said to her, but she seems to like us anyway! There are very few women on this earth who I would say are worthy of my baby brother but Anna is definitely one of them and it's exciting to see God writing their love story.

I'm looking forward to staying home more this week as we were at my folks' for supper most evenings and doing lots of things during the day as well, which cut into Jer's naps. He still refuses to give up those morning naps, which is fine, but makes it harder to plan activities when company is here. He ended up skipping morning naps the first few days and was a crab because of it. It was nice not to have as much food mess in my kitchen last week and I only did dishes once last week (my hubby did them once too) but it was still tiring to chase the kids around my parent's house and clean up after them there as well as helping with all of the meals made over there. It was a blessing that my parents fed us so much as it saved on our grocery bill!

Saturday my friends and I had a yard sale together. I feel it was a success because though it was a ton of work to get ready for, we all got rid of lots of junk and came away with $30-$50 in cash each. I made around $40 but spent $10 on my friend Shiloh's double jogging stroller. I've always wanted one and I'm so excited to have found one for such an unbelievable price. You can sometimes find the nicer ones at yard sales for $100-$150 and they can be up to $400 new! There were a couple of minor problems with it that my husband quickly fixed and we've already been out walking the town with it. I will say I discovered that it's width is the same size as the Safeway doors in town and you have to manhandle it and squeeze it with all your might to get in and out of the store!

Today I had nursery duty and missed the sermon due to cranky/fussy kids. I also had to make a big run to the town nearby to hit the sales at a few stores since the rest of the week is too busy for that. So, it definitely didn't feel like a restful Sabbath day! Tomorrow should be better as I can stay home all day, get laundry done, and try to de-clutter and unwind from the yard sale and the busy week with family. I'll be watching a little 6 month old guy tomorrow and Wednesday all day, and am looking forward to it since it's been awhile since I've held a little baby. Good practice for my kids too! Friday we are leaving for Billings, MT where we will spend the weekend with my incredibly fun aunt, uncle, and cousins and we will get to see my sweet cousin Ashlee graduate from High School Home School. I also have to squeeze a few doctor's appointments in this week (prenatal exam and kid's well-check-ups!) May sure is a busy month and it has flown by!

Thanks Mrs. E

In thanking friend Laura for tons of coupons, I forgot to mention a friend who recently sent me coupons also, so THANK YOU MRS. ERICKSON!!! This dear friend began sharing her coupon stash with me long before I got into serious couponing and still continues to sent them now and then even though we've lived thousands of miles apart for a few years. Just wanted to say, "It's your fault I'm now a coupon nut!" Thanks again Sherah!

Homemade Laundry Soap

I've been making my own laundry soap for 4 months now and I love it! I like the fact that my soap is unscented (scents bother both King Jo and I) and it's environmentally friendly and so, so, so much cheaper. I've been doing the liquid stuff that turns into a thick slime, but my friend Heather inspired me to try the even faster way: powdered laundry soap. It's a 5 minute job and I made enough to last me 3-4 months. I didn't average out the cost but I'm guessing it's about 1 cent a load since it's the same ingredients as my liquid soap recipe and that was the price average for the liquid soap.

I grated two bars of Ivory soap with my cheese grater by hand. Then I added 2 Cups of Washing Soda, 2 Cups of Borax, and stirred it up. I keep my homemade laundry soap in an ice-cream tub with a lid on it. 2 T. per load seems to do just fine getting my laundry nice and clean! Since our apartment building has a high-efficiency washer and I usually do a double rinse and use hot water I haven't noticed a problem with the dry stuff not dissolving or flaking on the clothing. If you use cold and have an old washer this might happen and you may have to try making the liquid kind! To make the liquid kind you need to boil two cups of water on the stove, and add 1 bar of grated soap. Stir on medium until mostly dissolved. Pour into a large bucket and add one gallon of hot tap water and 1 Cup of Borax and 1 Cup of Washing Soda. Stir well for a few minutes and then put into old, empty detergent containers or an ice-cream bucket. Let sit overnight. Will turn into a thick slime. Use 1/4 C. per load.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Pics of our Week Thus Far...

Colt had to get dressed up all snazzy in a suit to speak in two churches last Sunday.

Since I didn't dare ruin my camera by taking it swimming with us, I only got a pic of the outside of the pool building (Ali and Jer are eating crackers on the steps).

Togwotee Pass has unbelievable amounts of snow even in May. We parked the car on the turn-out and the snowbanks on the sides of the road were over our heads. It was a cold and snowy day so Mama and Jer took a nap in the car and Ali had a blast snowmobiling for an hour with Grammy.

We went out for Mexican food after church on Mother's Day. Here, my dad challenges Anna to an arm-wrestling competition while my brothers (Grant, the curly locks on the left) and Colter, look on.

We've been having fun getting to know Anna and seeing my brother Colter! Unfortunately for Anna, who left 95 degree temps in Honduras, the Wyoming weather has been icky and cold a lot of the time. She got to try snowmobiling for the first time, drive all night in a blizzard for the first time to get here from Denver, got to see the Tetons, went swimming in the mineral waters of Thermopolis, try four-wheeling, and tomorrow they'll go for a long horse ride. She's a very sweet young lady.


The other night I was very exhausted and had done lots of running around, gone to a church supper, cleaned for my mom, and still had to shop for a week's worth of company groceries at 10pm and make homemade caramel rolls. Even though I'm frugal, I'm also all for the simple life and realize my limitations when I'm dead tired with pregnancy. So, I determined I would just buy some Rhodes caramel rolls in the freezer section and pop them in the oven the next morning, eliminating my need to stay up all hours of the night making rolls. I thought to myself, "This would be an excellent blog post about how although frugality should be the norm, desperate times call for desperate measures! I'll surprise my blog readers with how non-frugal I am today!"

However, when I got to the freezer department and noticed that it would cost me at least $9 to go the Rhodes rolls route and even more than that to buy rolls from the bakery the next morning, I had to do some quick thinking. I remembered my rapid-rise dinner roll recipe and decided to just adapt that to the caramel roll recipe so that they would only take an hour start to finish in the morning, but would still be super cheap and yummy homemade. It worked out wonderfully although they were slightly doughy (I could have left them in the oven for just a few more minutes).

So, I do confess that my frugality can fluctuate. I'm not so frugal that I can't ditch frugality when circumstances call for it. Yet, I'm not so carefree or so desperate that I will pay astronomical prices either! I confess that while I'm not always 100% frugal, I am frugal enough that it forces me to be creative, rework the menu, or change plans to do what is reasonable for the budget. Hasn't it been said that invention is born out of necessity?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Saving on Gas--Any Ideas?

With gas prices rising, there are definitely concerns among frugal people on how we can conserve in this area. It's alarming to me how the groceries are rising, seemingly almost overnight, at our local grocery stores. Not that I should be buying donuts or anything, but since it's a major treat for me when I'm pregnant, I went in for a raised sugar donut and the price had jumped 15 cents a donut this week! It was already WAY TOO high to start with!

So, what kinds of things do you plan to do in order to save on gas? I'd love to hear your ideas and comments on this subject!

What do I plan to do? Well, with a minivan coming soon, which will no doubt get less mileage than our Honda Accord and Toyota Camry, and with another child coming to the family, I will definitely have to cut back on my trips to the town 30 miles away for shopping. It's just not practical to eliminate them altogether due to the fact that groceries can be as much as twice the price here and buying just a few things over there more than pays for the gas to drive there, especially with all of the Walgreens freebies. However, once a month trips will likely replace my three-times-a-month trips I'm sure. We'll have to rework the grocery budget so that I get most of my money all at once instead of weekly chunks for food shopping.

I plan to walk and bike as much as my big belly will allow. One HUGE PLUS to the small apartment we live in is the central location in our town. It's only 2 blocks to either grocery store, 2 blocks to either video rental place, 3 blocks to the library and thrift shop, 4 blocks to Pamida, 6 blocks to our two best friends' homes, and a little under a mile to King Jo's work and my parent's house. The two best parks in town are both within a 20 minute walk or a 5-10 minute bike ride. I can easily bike to the garage sale corner (where everyone posts their yard sale signs) and I plan to limit my garage-sale-ing this summer and try to bike more and drive less since it's possible in a small town. Ali is signed up for swimming lessons but the pool is only a half a mile away, so we'll bike if the baby belly allows and if not, we'll walk!

I hope that we can also carpool with friends in order to squeeze in a few lake trips this summer, or necessary shopping trips to make the trips a bit cheaper. The price of gas really makes me question whether I really need to go somewhere or not these days! I've decided that staying home and throwing a pool party in the yard sounds a lot easier for an exhausted preggo lady than going on multiple day-long trips to bake in the scorching sun at the nearest lake an hour away. Now for those of you MN friends with lakes in your back yard.....I envy you!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Celebrating Mom

I love these cards, that have a space for a photo and a place for a foot and handprint (or two children's handprints) on either side. You can find them through Current catalog.

Well, I had a interesting and mostly wonderful Mother's Day. Earlier in the week Ali and I had fun getting all of the Grandma's cards together and stamping her and Jer's handprints on them. I had ordered them through on sale and they were a great price and really cute for all of of the 5 Grandma's and Great-Grandma's in our families. For my mom and my mother-in-law, I had ordered a little kit that includes beads and instructions for making earrings. Ali loved putting the tiny beads on the rod and I twisted the rod with plyers in a couple of seconds. It was a very cheap, easy, but touching little craft we could give as a gift that both of our moms will use. It was fun to be able to tape them to a card explaining that Ali had "made them" and chosen the colors for the earrings too!

I also gave my mom a Venus embrace razor since I've acquired a stash in my freebies and she had hinted earlier this week that she's always wanted to try one. She also has really been needing some crocheted dishrags and I keep forgetting to make them for her for Christmas and birthdays so I finally remembered and made her a couple on Sat. night while we watched a movie. We had a wonderful church service and all the moms were encouraged and given a flower to plant and got to be first in line for the cake afterwards! Then my whole family went to the local Mexican food restaurant, which my mom LOVES, (and I do too) and we had a meal together. It was NOT such a fun time when Jer began fussing and whining uncontrollably, making a scene in a restaurant packed with people we knew from around town, and refusing to be consoled due to his great fatigue. So, King Jo and I had to take turns eating and going out on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant, holding the fussy little pumpkin. This is becoming a habit with Jeremiah in restaurants, but mainly because we usually end up eating out on a Sunday and because our church schedule causes him to miss his morning nap, or only get a short one, and by the time we have a late lunch, he's reached his limit and needs to sleep.

The funniest moment in my day was when little Ali walked up after Children's Church proudly holding her project and a little card for me. It was a wooden spoon that had been painted lots of wild colors and had a ribbon through the handle to hang for a decoration. The card explained a little devotional on why Mothers are like spoons. Anyhow, Ali handed me the spoon with a big smile and said, "Look Mom! I made you a spanking spoon for Mother's Day!" I got a huge laugh out of that and so did all the folks I told at church. The lady who had taught Children's Church thought that was funny, as the idea hadn't ever occurred to her when she planned the project! She did say, however, that she's learned her lesson about giving 6 rambunctious preschoolers paint all at the same time and will never do that again as they covered their clothes and the Children's Church room with paint! I guess I now have a very fancy spanking spoon!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Frugal Friday--Cheap, Easy, Versatile Gift!!!

I saw someone give these at a birthday party this last week and I was hooked! Personalized towels/beach towels are a great gift idea for birthdays, graduations, weddings, and for folks of all ages. This towel is a gift for my special cousin Ashlee who is graduating from High School in a couple of weeks. I wanted to give her something she would use, and something that would be meaningful and show her I love her, and yet didn't break our small budget. I plan to put together a gift basket of things she can use at college to go with her towel out of my Walgreens stash of freebies.

Steps to making the towel:

1. Cut letters out of cute fabric colors.

2. Trace letters on Wonder-Under, a fusible paper sold at Wal-Mart for about $1 a yard. Be sure to place the letters right side up on the rough side of the paper, then trace around with a pencil and cut out. I probably used 1/5 or 1/6 of a yard for the name Ashlee.

3. Iron the cloth letters to the Wonder-Under letters.

4. Peel the paper off the cloth letters (there will now be a sticky adhesive on the wrong side of the letters). Stick the letters on the towel in the order you want them in and iron until they are firmly attached.

5. Zig-Zag stitch around the letters. I went around each letter 3 times and was done with the towel in exactly one hour.

Tips for making them fun:

If the person has the letter "i" in their name it is cute to use a large star/flower/circle button to dot the "i." Embellish the name with ribbons/buttons/lace, etc. as you desire. You could make a "Best Mom Ever" beach towel for Mother's Day, a "Bride and Groom" set of towels for a wedding, or come up with other holiday appropriate sayings or nicknames, initials, etc. I thought about doing a matching washcloth and handtowel, but I decided to start with just the beach towel/bath towel. Now no one will accidentally steal Ashlee's towel out of the dorm laundry room!

Cute Little Boy Clothes

My friend Shiloh found these little OshKosh baby overalls at a yard sale and bought them for Justus. They are so tiny and cute! The picture doesn't really do them justice (no pun intended). I'm not sure if Shiloh realized when she bought them that they are BRAND NEW, tags still on them too! Yard sale-ing is the best! I can't wait to see my baby boy in them!

Welcoming a New Sis-In-Law-To-Be, Any Tips?

Colter has been language learning in Argentina and Guatemala for the last 8 months. Anna is a missionary in Honduras.

My brother and the young lady he is courting are going to be in town for a week and I'm so excited! We didn't think we'd get to meet her until Christmas and it just worked out that they were both in the United States this month for a missions conference with their organization and they were able to fly out West for an extra week so our family could meet her. We have lots of fun things to do with them (Colter's ideas) so she will get to experience horseback riding, snowmobiling in the mountains, and swimming in the hot springs pools. Since neither of my younger brothers has ever brought home a woman he is determined to marry, I'm not sure exactly what to do to make her feel the most welcome and accepted into our family. Do you readers have any good tips?

My in-laws always did a wonderful job of getting to know me and making me feel a part of the family, but even so, it is always such a difficult adjustment because backgrounds/expectations/mannerisms are so different among families. My dad can be a real tease too, so I feel sorry for Anna already, and she hasn't even come yet! Hopefully a week with us won't scare her away!

I plan to put together a little basket of things I have in my Walgreens stash of freebies to lay on each of their beds. Ali is busy coloring pictures for them and is beyond excited since Uncle Coco is one of her favorite people and she hasn't seen him since last fall.

What have you done to welcome future sister-in-laws into the family? Any tips on what NOT to say or do?

I promise to post lots of pictures of our adventures in the coming days! In the meantime my mom is hiring me to help clean and plan menus.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

More on Scream Free Parenting

Since this subject has really hit home with a lot of ladies, I wanted to post some more on it from the book Scream Free Parenting by Hal Edward Runkel. Now that we know we need to NOT be reactionary parents, how do we implement that? (Thanks for asking Thia!)

Here are the book chapter titles of his book. I've done my best to summarize the main points of each chapter as a way to expound on the subject.

Section 1 Becoming the Cool Parent Your Kids Really Need

1. Parenting is Not About Kid, It's About Parents. Emotional reactivity is our worst enemy when it comes to having great relationships. The only way to retain a position of influence with our children is to regain a position of control over ourselves.

2. Growing Up is Hard To Do, Especially for Grown-Ups
Part of being a grown-up is enduring discomfort now for the sake of a payoff later. Whenever we give in to our anxiety, we create the very outcome we're hoping to avoid. Parenting is very, very hard but we are to never stop growing and letting the hard times cause us to grow.

3. If You're Not Under Control, Then You Cannot Be in Charge
To be "in charge" as a parent means inspiring your children to motivate themselves. Why do we continually surrender control over our emotional responses to those around us? (As I pointed out in a previous post, the "CALM ME DOWN" thing).

Keeping Your Cool Means Creating Space

4. Begin With the End in Mind, but Let Go of the Final Results
Children are not machines or pets and parents are neithter their operators or owners. When it comes to relationships we cannot ever guarantee or control that end we desire. While working toward that end, we must let go of the need to achieve it. If you want your children to become self-directed adults, you have to face the truth that you cannot do it for them.

5. Kids Need Their Room
What children need most is parents who do not need them. Quote from Edwin H. Friedman, "The children who do best are the ones least essential to our own salvation." Without space to make their own mistakes, our kids live only borrowed lives.

6. Resistance is Futile; Practice Judo Parenting
Instead of always seeing a challenge to your authority (or an exertion of the will) as an impending battle, try seeing it as your child's developing growth. He is testing you to see that you are stable and consistent. And he desperately wants you to pass. The judo model of combat and the Scream Free model of relationships are very similar. Your children will try to engage you in a test. They only become battles if we accept the challenge and engage in the fight. Judo is the art of going with another's momentum (it is called The Way of Gentleness). He gives these examples:
"I'm bored." You could get angry, anxious, or blame yourself for you kid's boredom. Or you could overcompensate to solve their problem. But, a Scream Free parent would say, "What are you going to do about it?"
"Mommy, I can't do my homework." You could orbit around your child and become a homework hoverer, but the Scream Free parent is empathetic and says, "What are you going to do about it? Who can you call in your class to help you?" Your child's homework is supposed to make them struggle. It is designed to be difficult. Calm yourself down and let them struggle. Let them invite you alongside to help them through the struggle but don't try to hover and be there for them all the time. It's their problem, not yours.

"I don't wanna do it, and I'm not gonna do it!"
While most parents would yell, "Oh yes you are and you will do it right now!" the Scream Free parent learns to keep her cool and choose not to engage in this invitation to battle. She says, "You're not going to come inside huh? You have a choice. You can come inside or (consequence). I'll be back in a few minutes to see what you've decided."

7. You Are Not a Prophet (and Neither is Grandma)
Labels are among the most powerful forces that shape our relationship with the world. Whenever we label our children, even if we think they are positive labels, we severely limit their space. What you say ABOUT your kids is more important than what you say TO them. Change your vocabulary. Instead of saying, "You're always dramatic," say, "You can be dramatic." Instead of saying, "He's always been our studious one" say, "He can be quite studious." I like this quote, "Years ago, we gave our children beautiful names; let's stop there."

Section 3: Keeping Your Cool Means Creating a Place

8. Parents Set the Table by Setting the Tone (and Vice Versa)
Boundaries are both freeing and limiting. Stability and structure are necessary components in a healthy home. There is a personal side to parenting (fun, loving relationships) and a business side (rules, authority, structure, routine).

9. Let the Consequences Do the Screaming
All of our choices have consequences. The more our children are exposed to the small consequences of their small infractions, the less they will have to commit large infractions and experience large consequences. So many parents today can't let their kids face consequences. He gives examples of parents doing their kid's homework for them, fixing their traffic tickets for them, bailing them out, letting punishments slide, etc. Calming ourselves down while we watch our children choose poorly is about as difficult as it gets. We are tempted to panic, scream, get reactive and say the 4 horrible words, "I told you so!" But we need to choose to welcome consequences in our home (you reap what you sow) and walk alongside them as they struggle and suffer. Consequences are here to help us raise our children.

10. Empty Threats are Really Broken Promises
It comes down to integrity--meaning what you say, saying what you mean, and following through with what you promise. Be consistent! Kids will see an empty threat in the same way they would see a broken promise (A promise such as "I'm going to buy you an ice-cream," and then you change your mind. A kid knows that is just not right!)

1. Don't ever set a consequence that is tougher for you to enforce than it is for them to endure. If you set an impossible consequence, you will likely end up not following through with it. (Been there, done that, got the t-shirt! How many times have I threatened that we will go home from the park if she does it one more time when I really don't want to and want to stay and chat with my Mom friends?)

2. There are no shortcuts to setting and enforcing consequences. It is exhausting, difficult, and takes ruthless consistency. Keep on keeping on.

3. Only choose consequences you are willing to enforce. Know your motivations for the punishment you've chosen. If you think you ought to be spanking your child, but don't want to, then you aren't acting with integrity. If you don't want to be a spanking parent, but you find yourself doing it, then you aren't acting with integrity and your kid will pick up on your wishy-washy mindset and think you are out of control, doing things you don't want to be doing.

4. Only choose consequences you are willing to endure yourself. He gives an example of a man who was a speeder and his son had speeding tickets too. Instead of bribing his way out of the tickets, he chose to take his fines, as an example to his son, and let his son reap the consequences of his own speeding also. I think about how I need to be willing to always say I'm sorry and ask forgiveness when I wrong my kids just as I expect them to do to each other and me.

Section Four: Putting Yourself into Practice

11. Put on Your Own Oxygen Mask First
You cannot take care of your family unless you first tend to yourself. This is not advocating selfishness. When we think of the verse, "Love your neighbor as yourself" a lot of us, if we put that into practice, would be running our neighbors into the ground, feeding them junk, and keeping them up too late, etc. We need to love ourselves for others' benefit by taking care of ourselves so they don't have to. Seek to have a healthy life and be a good steward of your body. When we take care of ourselves, we truly benefit our kids without burdening them with the need to benefit us.

12. Revolutionary Relationships
In order to have revolutionary relationships, we need to start with our own reactions, our own emotions, our own choices.

Project Minivan Update

For those of you wondering how our Project Minivan is going......

Well, we "officially" own a vehicle we haven't even paid for! My sister-in-law sent us the title and then later a form filled out by a sheriff verifying the VIN number and I was able to take it down to the County Clerk's yesterday and pay $400 for taxes and plates. So, the title of the 2002 Chrysler Town and Country minivan is in my name, even though I've never actually seen it and we haven't paid a dime for it!

April had some unexpected car repair bills so we were only able to save a couple of hundred toward PM, bringing our total up to around $1,000. However, with the extra paycheck we will get in May (since May has 5 Fridays and we get paid every Friday), my husband is optimistic that we will be able to about double that amount by the end of May. Yeah! Our economic stimulus tax is coming too this summer which will boost our total to about exactly what we need. Of course there will be insurance costs too and we'd like to pay my in-laws' gas to drive it out here, but if we sell one of our other vehicles, that will give us even more toward this project. God is so good and He gets ALL the credit for providing for this need of ours!

More Blue Cake Pics

I think by the time this photo was taken Grandma Kathy and Grandpa Joel have got the mystery figured out!
My friend Hannah did such a nice job on the cake!

Our little nephew Daniel enjoyed his piece of cake the next morning!

My sister-in-law sent me these photos of the blue cake my in-laws received. I already posted pics a couple of weeks ago of my folks eating their blue cupcakes.

Gentle Mothering---Scream Free Parenting

Well folks, I've gone through most of the book, Scream Free Parenting by Hal Edward Runkel and I can honestly say it is a very good read and I highly recommend it. While it's not a "Christian" book, he does state in the beginning that he is a Christian and that influences his thoughts on this area but the book is for ALL parents and isn't written specifically to Christians.

One statement that I found interesting and thought-provoking is that he often says in the book that we need to stop focusing on our kids and focus on ourselves more. This sounds shocking and selfish until you realize what he means. He is referring to the fact that in our child-centered culture, we tend to think we are responsible FOR our kids and their every thought, emotion, choice, etc. We need to focus on US. We are not responsible FOR them, but TO them. We need to be sure OUR emotions, choices, and actions, etc. are right towards them. So, instead of focusing on the tantrum they are throwing and letting ourselves react with frustration and anger, we need to focus on OUR actions in the situation and take control of ourselves. Not being a reactionary parent is very, very hard for me. My dad recently discovered (thanks to the book that helped save their marriage a few years ago--Love and Respect) that he came from a super reactive home and learned patterns of reacting in anger to everything. While he was better than his dad was, he still was a reactionary and so was my mom and they just spun on the crazy cycle for 25 years of reacting to each other. I'm sure that my family influence is one reason I am very reactionary too but I think we all struggle with it as human beings born in sin. It's hard NOT to react when your kids smear your lipstick all over and ruin your favorite tube or track mud on the carpet you've just shampooed after being told 100 times not to. It's hard not to screech when they pop their newborn baby brother over the head with a toy or steal toys from friends for about the 50th time at a playdate. I remember back when Ali went through a stage of taking her clothes and diaper off every day and smearing poop all over everything in her room that I would scream, yell, spank, threaten and cry to no avail. It would happen again and again and I would try every method I could think of to get her to stop and to figure out that this was a horrible thing to do! However, she probably learned, more than anything, that it was fun to watch the Mommy Show and be in control of my emotions by pushing my buttons every day! She learned that Mommy definitely couldn't handle major poop messes!

This book helped me realize that I CANNOT control my kids. I'm responsible to discipline and train them and let them reap their own consequences, but I cannot program them like robots to do what I want. I CAN take control of my own emotions and actions. So many parenting books I have read have talked about how if you do A and B you get the results of C. It has never worked and has been so frustrating for me! I really liked this book for being a little different in emphasizing that kids will make their own choices and we need to let them. Of course there still need to be rules, consequences, and authority structure, but I need to stop thinking that everything Ali does is a reflection of me as a parent and taking every naughty thing she does personally and reacting to it.

The author clarifies that screaming doesn't just mean loud vocal action. He talks about different kinds of screaming parenting, using it as a term for various ways we react emotionally. It can be raising your voice, orbiting your life around theirs, cutting yourself off, trying to control their behavior and feelings, or sacrificing yourself for your family and then resenting them when they don't appreciate it.

The biggest and best concept I got from this book is on page 44. He writes, "When you scream at your kids, when you get emotionally reactive, you communicate one single message: CALM ME DOWN! No matter what words are actually coming out of your mouth, no matter how long your tirade is, no matter how old your child is, when you scream the message is : CALM ME DOWN! Whenever you react to your child's behavior by screaming, you actually begging them to help you calm your anxiety. You are saying you just cannot handle the fact that they will not obey or listen or calm down themselves. You cannot handle this, so you flip out. You are saying, "I need you to comply or else I'm going to lose it. And when I lose it, I'm going to need you to comply so I can calm back down. All my emotional responses are up to you."

"When you put all your emotional buttons in a child's hands, you become totally focused on them. You have begun a sort of orbit around them, attaching all of your emotional responses to how they perform in school, whether they use good manners, or the choices they are making today......."

"You have to make it your number-one priority to hold your own emotional responses in your own hands!!!" (Or, I would add, to lean on God to let His Spirit fill you and control you and help you to have self-control)!

So, this week Mrs. Jo is going to make a few signs to post around the main areas of the house that say CALM ME DOWN! This will be a reminder that if I allow my voice to get louder and louder as a way of making my kids obey (or if I get really upset over their messes and bad choices), then I am really giving them the control of Mommy.

I will post a few more thoughts I learned from this book in a future post! Check it out at your library if you find yourself encouraged by this post.

Light bulb!

Thanks to all the comments from folks about my Walgreens deals. I realize my mistake, paying for a Proctor and Gamble deal with P and G RR, so I know what NOT to do next time. It totally bums me out though because I now have figured out that I could have gotten everything in the picture for around $6! Oh well, next time I will know better! Couponing is a learning process!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Hopefully Spring is A' Comin'!

I don't know about you but I am tired of these really nice days followed by really snowy days followed by nice days, followed by snowy, etc. etc. I'm hoping that today's excellent weather is a sign that spring is finally here and is ready to STAY! No wonder I've had trouble getting rid of my cough over the last 2 months with weather like this! The other day when it was cold, wet, and snowy, I took comfort in a delicious bread bowl filled with piping hot clam chowder from my favorite sub shop in town. It doesn't get much better than that, especially for only $3.41 (which includes tax!) I snuggled up under a blankie and ate chocolate chip cookies that I dunked in milk while watching a 1950s Nancy Drew movie from the library during the kid's nap time.

I will admit that one of the hardest things for me when I'm pregnant is resisting food cravings for favorite treats from favorite local restaurants! I do get better with each pregnancy, perhaps because having kids means running around town less (less opportunity) and less money!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Gentle Mothering Reminder

I posted a few days ago on the Mothering with Gentleness Support Group. Kristin asked an interesting question about whether or not mothering comes naturally. What do you think? Don't forget to read the comments on that post and look for more posts on Gentle Mothering in the future!

Friday, May 2, 2008

Meal Plan for the Week

I enjoy looking at other people's meal plans/menus for inspiration so I decided to go ahead and post again on this subject just for fun. I try to incorporate some really inexpensive meals with some fancier stuff. This menu isn't nailed in stone since I will have to see what I can find in the grocery store. None of the sales at the 3 major grocery stores in our area were very impressive this week. I did notice a lot of Mexican food on sale for Cinco de Mayo so we will definitely be having at least one Mexican meal and will be stocking up on salsa and sour cream.

Suppers for the Week:

Bean Burritos (new recipe from my new Taste of Home's 5-Ingredient cookbook) Made with salsa, rice, beans, cheese, and I'm going to throw in some canned chilis since we like them

Salmon with dill sauce and baked potatoes (new recipe from that same cookbook mentioned above) We're trying to eat more salmon since we love it and it's one of the 14 Superfoods!

Crabby Alfredo (imitation crabmeat in Alfredo sauce on top of egg noodles (also a new recipe from above cookbook) homemade breadsticks and salad

Cheesy Chicken (Chicken with cheesy crumb coating, also new recipe from above cookbook)
Vegetables and rice on the side

Tuna Noodle Casserole (Mom's recipe and one of my favorite comfort foods; easy to make too!) French bread, jell-o and fruit

Spaghetti (An inexpensive stand-by that is quick and easy and we have the stuff on hand already. I've been experimenting with making my own sauce using canned tomatoes (since I have a ton from the Safeway deal a while back), frozen green peppers, and various herbs and spices and it's really yummy!) Garlic toast and veggies or salad

Usually cold cereal or toast

Leftovers, homemade mac n' cheese, or PB sandwiches

Cottage cheese (I'm trying to get more protein for Justus's sake)
Goldfish crackers
Homemade bread

Last Week's Meals

Cheesy Chicken Enchiladas

Prairie Fire Chicken Strips with dipping sauce served with brown rice and sauteed zuchinni and onions

Homemade Subs! These made for a delicious weekend supper, and the leftovers made a quick lunch after church. They tasted even better than the ones at my favorite sub shop in town!

Cowboy coffee cake and spiced cider for breakfast!

Spoil King Jo week was a success! I've included a few pics of some of the treats he received this week. With leftover sub stuff and leftover bacon from our pancake meal, he was also able to get a BLT in for lunch one day.

This was the second time I made Prairie Fire Chicken Strips. Both times I've used tenders but I think they would do better with whole breasts. Both fried in oil and baked in the oven the breading tends to fall off and be really crumbly so I'd like to find a way to make them and keep the breading stuck on. They are a lot of work and I've decided that you could get the same taste if you just bought already breaded chicken tenders, and served them with grilled jalapeno slices on top with the delicious, spicy dipping sauce that is a part of this recipe.

Prairie Fire Chicken Strips

(I found this recipe in a newspaper insert and simplified it based on what I have on hand.)

1 C. sour cream
1 T. lemon juice
1/2 t. seasoned salt
1/4 t. pepper
2 minced garlic cloves
10 chicken tenders, halved

1 cup cornflakes (or oats can be used)
1 cup plain granola
1 cup finely chopped pecans (I skipped these)
1/2 c. chopped pickled jalapeno peppers or hot chili peppers
1/2 t. seasoned salt

Dipping Sauce:
1/3 cup Dijon mustard
2 T mayo
1/2 cup honey
1 minced garlic clove
1/2 t. cayenne pepper (add more to taste if desired)
1/4 t. pepper
2 T. sour cream
4 drops hot sauce (or to taste)

Refrigerate chicken in the marinade overnight.

Make dipping sauce by blending ingredients in a food processer or blender.

Bread chicken and fry in hot oil until browned on both sides or bake in oven for about 40 minutes at 400 degrees.

(Perhaps dipping chicken in an egg mix before dipping in breading would help hold the breading on better.)
These are definitely unique and yummy if you're in the mood for trying something new and wild with a kick!
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