Monday, September 29, 2008

Little Bible Scholars and Football Players

This was not a posed picture, I promise you. Owen and Rachel each grabbed a Bible and sat on the chair together and started to look through them. I'll have to get them one of their own because some of my maps in the back are nowhere to be found.

Football season has started! Josh is coaching Brendan's football team through the YMCA again this year and having a great time. Here they were huddling up before the game.


An action shot of Brendan running right when someone grabbed his flags. Notice the dirt on his leg? After the game, they all compare dirt streaks and try to figure out who is the dirtiest. I am noticing that there is a big difference this year in the number of injuries and also the number of players who end up on the ground after every play. So far there has been nothing serious but lots of scrapes and bruises and just kids falling down. Have I mentioned that I would be perfectly happy if he gave up football and just concentrated on basketball?

Words I Needed To Hear

This Sunday I heard some words I really needed to hear. I saved the printed version of our pastor's sermon so I could write exactly what he said but then forgot I was going to blog about it and threw it away in my cleaning frenzy last night. Now I'll have to see how good of a memory I have. Unfortunately, I'm not usually good with details, especially with conversations or things I have heard.

Our pastor was talking about a man who worked at a cemetary filling in graves. He said this particular time he was filling in the grave of an infant and he was shoveling very carefully and tenderly, with a manner befitting such a solemn and tragic event. "If Jesus had this job," said our pastor, "that's how he would have done it." Those words really spoke to me. If Jesus had my job of caring for my children and teaching them, how would he do it? Oh, forgive me, Lord. I am so quick to anger and lose my patience so often. I speak sharply and raise my voice. I see them doing the same thing and it hurts to know I have set this example.

It was such a needed reminder to me that my goal should not be just to make it through each day. My goal should be to show Jesus to my kids every day in every way.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

A New Addition

You may have noticed a new button on my sidebar. My friend Wendi has started a recipe blog and invited me to join! I haven't posted any recipes as of yet but plan to tonight. This will be a blog you will definitely want to check out.

Worth The Time

Guess what?? I won the diaper giveaway! I just found out last night and was so excited I could hardly sleep. :) I won 3 packages of Huggies diapers and 2 packages of wipes. I am having so much fun with this coupon thing and entering giveaways for free things.

I have been on my cash-only budget for one month now and it's been awesome. I have stayed within my budget and managed to stock our basement shelves with whatever has been on sale. We have also eaten out less! That was something I never expected. I do feel like I cheated a little bit because last month my budget was more and I got part of that back in rebates this month. But I guess the end result is the same, no matter what my actual spending amounts are. I'm spending a lot less than I used to (about 50% less now) and getting lots in return. Good times.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Another giveaway

How do you tell if something is becoming an addiction? This was just brought up at the recent book club I was at but I can't remember the answer. Maybe someone will be so kind as to leave a comment with the answer for me. I know it had something to do with interfering with your daily life. If so, I may be in trouble.

Yes, I'm blogging about another giveaway to increase my chances to win. :) This time, it's for a planner that looks pretty awesome. Maybe it will help me get organized enough to get my house to clean itself while I sit on the couch and enter contests? Okay, maybe not. But I have always loved planners so this would be pretty exciting to win.

Here is the planner that is being offered - doesn't it look neat? You should sign up, too!

**Update** There is another giveaway. I decided to combine the posts - I hope that still qualifies as a post. This one is for a 2-year subscription to All You, a magazine that is full of great coupons. The articles are just so-so but that's okay - the coupons are worth it! This is being given away by The Thrifty Mama. She always has great info on the deals each week at CVS and Walgreens.

**2nd update** Remember how I said I'd do anything to win free diapers? Well, I just found a giveaway for cloth diapers and I'd like to try them! It might be a good transition into potty-training. You can check them out for yourself at Thrifty & Chic Mom. I'm heading over to the Fuzzi Bunz website to see how far the $50 gift card would go.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Diaper contest entry

I came across a diaper contest entry today and you get extra entries if you share your diaper story in your blog and also include this video. I'll do just about anything to win diapers!

This video is about a recent Huggies diaper commercial - enjoy!


Okay, here is the diaper story. This is a true story and it just happened last night. It didn't involve anyone getting sprayed while changing a diaper but it did show the need for bottoms to be covered up!

I was giving Rachel and Owen a bath and noticed that at some point, one of them had pooped in the tub. I quickly realized that this was having the opposite effect I intended the bath to have so I rinsed them off and got them out. Now I had two naked toddlers running around who did not want to be covered. I caught Rachel and dried her off and diapered her. I went to get Owen and dry him off and realized that he had peed on his towel! Thank goodness they are covered most of the time. And no, potty training is not in the near future.

Wish me luck!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Riffs

My brother-in-law was recently reading my blog - I'm not sure what took him so long - but he read my profile and thought it was funny that I used the word "riff". Now he apparently pictures me jamming on the guitar every time he thinks of it and cracks up. :) I really need to get a guitar and take some lessons to show him I'm serious. In the meantime, I looked up the definition of "riff". I knew the main idea but wasn't sure how to articulate it. Here is the definition, although I'm still not sure I can articulate it. This is from Wikipedia:

In music, a riff is an ostinato figure: a repeated chord progression, pattern, refrain or melodic figure, often played by the rhythm section instruments or solo instrument, that forms the basis or accompaniment of a musical composition (though they are most often found in rock music, Latin, funk and jazz).

What???

This defintion made a little more sense to me, also from Wikipedia: Rikky Rooksby (2002, p.6-7) states that "A riff is a short, repeated, memorable musical phrase, often pitched low on the guitar, which focuses much of the energy and excitement of a rock song."

So, on that note, I've started a list my favorite riffs. :) And yes, I will use this word as much as possible when I'm around my brother-in-law now. :)

And again, these are in no particular order.

1. Iron Man, Black Sabbath
2. Sweet Child of Mine, Guns-N-Roses
3. Smoke on the Water, Deep Purple
4. Kashmir, Led Zeppelin
5. Walk This Way, Aerosmith
6. Enter Sandman, Metallica
7. Thunderstruck, AC/DC
8. Back in Black, AC/DC
9. Immigrant Song, Led Zeppelin
10. Whole Lotta Love, Led Zeppelin

I know there are lots more out there - feel free to share your favorites!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Remembering . . .

I was planning on going to bed early tonight but it's just too nice to have the house to myself! All is quiet and peaceful. I'm trying to go to bed earlier so I can get up and run in the mornings but so far this week it has not been going well. I even made sure I didn't nap this afternoon so I'd be more tired but here I am, wide awake.

I was reading my friend Judy's blog tonight and a lot of memories came back. She had her baby yesterday and he's in the nicu because his lungs were a little underdeveloped. She writes about getting to hold him for the first time and talks about his stats and how her older boys have to have their temp taken before they can go in. Tears just started dripping down my cheeks.

It's amazing to me how quickly I can get taken back to this time:






The emotions return in full force. My eyes tear up, my heart rate goes up and I get a little pit in my stomach. It was such a helpless feeling to have Rachel and Owen in there and not be able to do much to help them get out. I remember crying a lot and feeling guilty no matter what I did. I remember wanting to see them but not really wanting to be at the hospital a lot - feeling like I couldn't do much when I was there and there were two older kids at home that needed me also. Then feeling guilty when I was home because I had two newborns that I wasn't taking care of. And it felt so incredibly wrong to leave the hospital without them. And even more wrong bringing one home without the other 10 days later. Although when Rachel came home 8 days after Owen, we did contemplate taking her back - she was not an easy baby! We did seriously wonder if they let her leave too soon because she was not eating well but after a day she seemed to get the hang of it.

I mostly remember crying a lot during this time. My mom would try and prepare Brendan and Tori because it really bothered Tori. She started looking deep into my eyes, trying to see if I had been crying or if I was going to start soon. I remember one time a few months after they had been home I was laughing hard and my eyes teared up and she instantly looked very concerned. Then I almost did start crying for real. I think I have extra tear ducts.
On a more light-hearted note, this morning we were doing our Bible and history lessons. I got the books we needed and sat down on the floor and told the kids what we were going to be talking about. Owen came in the room and saw me sitting there and ran to the bookshelf, grabbed my Bible, climbed on the couch, opened it up and began to "read". What a great thing for him to imitate.

It's very difficult to get a good picture of both of them together but here they are looking at all our books for school. I had to move this step stool and put the books on a higher shelf because it was impossible to keep them on the shelf and the edges of the books were getting nibbled on.


Rachel apparently has inherited my blinking problem when getting a picture taken. And of course, they both decided to get up after 2 tries. They really do love looking at books though!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Budgets and Spreadsheets

It is kind of scary how much I like spreadsheets. I know this is very geeky to admit but accounting was my absolute favorite class in high school. I loved setting out all the paperwork and getting it all totaled up. It was like playing office, which I also loved doing when I was a kid. I wish I would have had more insight when I was in college. I thought briefly about going into business but didn't really pursue it. And who knows? Maybe I would have hated it. I don't think so, though. I still sometimes think about getting a degree in accounting. Maybe someday.

For now, I get to use my math skills and create spreadsheets at home. In the past week, I've created a spreadsheet to keep track of my rebates, a spreadsheet to keep track of how much I spend, and a spreadsheet to keep track of our savings account and the "mini-accounts" we have within it. It is so incredibly satisfying to see all those numbers in the right columns.

It is strange to me, then, that with all this love for numbers, I have trouble remembering to enter debits on our quicken program. It is strange to Josh as well. I'm tired of the overdraft fees and am going to try really hard to record every time I use the debit card. It also helps that we are using cash for a lot more things. I shouldn't have to use the debit card that often so hopefully the overdraft fees are a thing of the past.

We got a little more serious with our budget this past week and I'm really excited about it. I know, it's not cool to get excited about budgets. This is the real me though. We purchased some things from Dave Ramsey and feel like we're on the right track. We used his on-line budget software and told each dollar where it was going to go. Now we just have to make sure those dollars obey. Once I see the big picture, it's easier to stay focused and not start sliding back into old habits.

Oh, by the way, my new coupon binder is awesome. I used it on Wednesday at Meijer for the first time and absolutely loved it. I've got it organized and can easily flip through to see if I have a coupon for an item. Now to get that kitchen countertop cleaned off again . . .

Monday, September 8, 2008

Goals

I've been thinking about goals lately. It's important to set goals but it's also important to think carefully about the goals you set. One of my goals this year was to finish our curriculum. I wanted to be consistent and to do school every day and to feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of the school year. These are good things but I don't think my original goal necessarily would achieve that end result. I suppose I would certainly feel a sense of accomplishment but at what cost? Would my children have learned what I wanted them to learn? Would we have enjoyed the process? As we're now one week into our school year, I think I need to re-define my goals.

Yes, I still want to do school consistently and use our time wisely. But I started looking ahead at Brendan's math and realized that he's going to get frustrated and really struggle in a couple months. He'll be introduced to division when he won't have fully memorized multiplication facts yet. I debated about what to do - I really wanted to finish that curriculum this year! I thought about the bigger picture and eventually realized that it is more important that he learns a few things and learns them well this year then learning many things and not really knowing what he's doing.

I'm going to work on more individual goals for Brendan and Tori and possibly make some curriculum changes to better fit what they need this year. When I was first thinking about this school year earlier this summer, my goal was to get through the year. :) I no longer worry about achieving that goal. We're going to have a great year.

Another goal I've had for a few months has been a personal goal - to run 3 miles. I used to run in high school and occasionally in college. I ran a few times after Brendan was born but it was hard to find a time to run and I didn't like running by myself. I had lots of excuses. Then a couple years ago, I joined a gym and would walk on the treadmill or use the elliptical machine. One time I tried jogging on the treadmill and after only a couple minutes, my ankles completely locked up! I slowed it down right away and had to hold on so I didn't fall off. Can you even imagine the humiliation?

I tried it again at home a couple days later and was shocked at how out of shape I was. I shouldn't have been shocked - exercise has never been a priority for me. But it was so easy to just start running in high school. I guess that is a difference between running when you're 30 and running when you're 16. So sad. I determined I wanted to be able to run again but then found out I was pregnant. Not the best time to start a running program.

After Rachel and Owen were born, I heard a friend talking about a running program called Couch to 5k in 9 weeks. You start out slowly alternating between a brisk walk and a jog for longer periods of time until you are running 3.1 miles or 5k. That sounded perfect for me. I'm not a very disciplined person and the idea of a written assignment really appealed to me. We decided to buy a treadmill - another major incentive to really do this. I didn't want to waste that money! I started in early April and was diligent about running 3 times a week. I built up to 18 minutes of running but then decided it was okay if it took me longer to get up to running 3 miles. It was more important that I was running at least a little bit.

In July, I asked my friend Lisa if she'd like to run with me. She hadn't been running regularly but thought it sounded like a good idea so we met to run and ran 1 1/2 miles and thought we'd never make it. Then we had to miss a couple weeks because of vacation and family visiting. We had been toying with the idea of running a 5k race on Sept 13 but now it was mid-August and we still hadn't run more than 1 1/2 miles! We ran 2 miles that week and then decided to shoot for 2 1/2 the next time. We managed that but just barely. This last week we tested ourselves and set a goal of 3 miles and We Did It! It was such a thrill.

We're still not sure about the 5k race this Saturday but knowing we did it once is a great incentive to keep going. I know there will be another race to run. Now to set another goal . . .

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Faces



How can you not love a face like this? Their big eyes get me every time. I love this age.

5 Reasons I Love Homeschooling

I decided to come up with 5 reasons I love homeschooling to remind myself that there are definite advantages. This year I really struggled with that and kept thinking about how much easier it'd be to send my kids to school. I know it's a "grass is greener on the other side" mentality so I wanted to count my blessings and remind myself of why I do what I do. These are in no particular order - I think it would change depending on the day anyways.

1. The kids don't get up until 8. We don't have a bus to catch or have to get in the van by 7:30 every morning. We just get up around our normal time, eat breakfast, get dressed and are ready to start at 9.

2. Rest time every day. Even with our later start, we finish by 1:30 or 2:00. The latest so far (out of all 3 days!) was 2:30 and that was because Owen and Rachel had a dr's appt that morning so we basically did all our schoolwork in the afternoon. Brendan and Tori still go up to lay on their bed for an hour in the afternoon to rest and read books and just have some quiet time. Of course, I practice what I preach and I do the same thing! This schedule means the kids generally aren't over-tired and get plenty of rest.

3. Free evenings. Except for extracurricular activities (currently ballet and football), there is no homework around here. We work until we're done and then we put it away and enjoy time as a family. That is the goal, anyways. There are days when there is more arguing than enjoying but we're working on it.

4. We can vacation when we want. This is huge to me. I love that we can plan a vacation whenever we want and either take our school with us or change our schedule around to fit us better. It is just so freeing. This year we are following the normal school schedule because I am a creature of habit but we will be taking a week off in November to go to North Carolina. We'll either go a week longer in the summer or make it up another time.

5. Learning more about my children. It has been amazing to see how differently they both learn and to see our relationship develop as we learn to work together. I have to remind myself that this is a blessing because there are times when I want to be the mom with the cookies after school that says, "How was your day?" and hear all about it. It is a burden to have to decide what to teach and how to teach and when to teach it. Or at least it becomes a burden in my mind. But really, it is a privilege. It is one that brings me to God many times saying, "I can't do this on my own but I know that nothing is impossible with You." Actually, I usually say something like "I can't do this! I don't know what I'm doing!" But He has been faithful and when I seek Him, He shows Himself to me in so many ways - through His word, through Josh and homeschooling friends who are always encouraging and supportive.

I was going to list 10 reasons but it's getting late. :) Maybe I'll do a part two. This has already helped me look forward to tomorrow. Anything that brings me closer to my children and to my God is a good thing.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Coupon deals and our 1st day of school

I've had a few comments on here and facebook about couponing and how to get started. I would recommend Money Saving Mom for starters. She has a lot of helpful info on shopping at CVS and Walgreens and using coupons in general. She also always lists free sample offers, as well as giveaways. From that site, I started blog-hopping those who were posting comments on other deals and found some other great sites. Two that I really like are The Coupon Coup and Common Sense With Money - both of which are also listed on my favorite sites on the side. I just try to read these at least once a day to find out what deals are going on. I've had to recognize that I can't hit all the deals all the time and that's okay.

I switched to a cash budget for groceries and have given myself some flexibility while I figure this out but eventually I'd like to get it lower. My goal is to maintain our current lifestyle or even better and spend less to do it. Last month was very successful and this month is off to a great start, especially with some rebates coming back! That will be a nice addition to my cash budget. So far I am spending a lot less (about 1/2) than I was before just using a debit card and I have 2 shelf units in the basement full of things I've gotten besides our normal groceries! And that doesn't even include the rebates that are coming back.

I enjoy shopping, spending some time out of the house, and using math skills and couponing manages to do all three at once! I also enjoy being on the computer and reading blogs and also contributing to our income. Since I don't bring in any money, I feel good about taking less out. It's really been a win-win situation for me. Last Friday, we went up to my parents house and I wanted to go to Walgreens. My mom went with me and their Walgreens was so awesome. They went out of their way to be helpful and I got everything I wanted and it went just how I hoped. My mom just laughed at how euphoric I was. My total before coupons was $82, after coupons was $35 and then I will get $48 back in rebates! How can that not be exciting? No, it's not all stuff we need, although we'll be able to use 90% of it. But I basically got paid to do that! I just love it.

Today was also our 1st day of school for this year. It went fairly well, all things considered. We were interrupted numerous times by Owen and Rachel, which was expected. We started around 9 and finished everything by 11 except for science, which we did at 1. My biggest challenge, besides Rachel and Owen, is figuring out how to do one on one time for Brendan and Tori and what to have the other one do while that is going on. I think we will just keep trying to figure it out and hopefully as the year goes on they will become more independent with some things. If we had a different lay-out (which is a dangerous road to go down because it quickly leads to discontent) then I could have them in different areas but still close enough to go back and forth as needed.

Speaking of houses, we now have our "for sale" sign ready - but it is propped up on our porch instead of in the ground. I tried to push it in today and was having trouble so decided to let Josh do it when he got home. Maybe tomorrow? I have still managed to keep everything organized and can get the house cleaned up pretty quick - all except that kitchen countertop. It just looks like something exploded on it. I am in the middle of trying to organize my coupons and just can't keep that area clean. I did win the coupon binder that I posted about the other day (yea!) so hopefully I can get all those taken care of this weekend.