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I'm a mother of 3 who started blogging as a way to share our many adventures and to expand beyond the everyday "mommy world". While there IS so much more to us mommies than the title, there is very little that doesn't in some way or another lead us back to or influence our children...if anything. So, I hope you enjoy following our family's randomness, because as all moms know- you can never anticipate what tomorrow will bring! Thanks for visiting and have a blessed day! :)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Curse you, mini-vaaaaan!

I'm so upset I could spit.  I called this morning to check on the status of our van.  It's been a whole week and I was under the impression that it was going to be ready on Friday.  Today is Tuesday.  I also could have sworn I heard the guy in the background telling the one on the phone with me that it was ready on Friday.  No phone call to let us know?  Even days after seeing that it's still sitting in their parking lot?  Strike one.

I was told it was ready and was super excited about getting it back!  Justin is working this evening which means he is off this afternoon so after picking him up from work, we headed straight to the mechanic's shop to get our beloved van.  As he was walking inside to pay, I decided to go ahead and leave expecting that Justin would get home around the same time since I had to drive so slowly (because I had a crockpot half-full of soup sitting in the seat next to me.  Our ladies' bible class had a luncheon today. :)).  Imagine my surprise and serious disappointment when I get a call from Justin (as I'm pulling into our apartment parking lot!) telling me I needed to come back and get him because the van won't start.  Major bummer.  Strike two.

That alone is enough to be upset about, in my opinion.  Even more than that, though:

  1. We were told replacing the starter would fix the problem.  That was no minor expense.  It added $286 to an already $100 bill.  
  2. It looks like that bill will be going up again and who knows by how much this time.
  3. And this is the biggie:  This could very well mean not making it to Georgia over the Christmas break for my Papaw's 75th birthday party. :`(
Please pray for us.  The things that have been happening over the past month are really more frustrating than devastating (for more details, see "I'm blaming the van").  We still have our health and our God and for that I am ever thankful.  There are people in this world who have it far worse than we do.  I keep reminding myself of that when I start to have a pity party.  We are truly blessed.  We would sure love your prayers, though.  Thanks for letting me vent.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sunday's Spiritual Smackdown

**Warning- this is an exceptionally long post (and coming from me, that is saying something. ;)) so feel free to break it up into bite-sized pieces if you need to or take a moment to settle in with a nice, hot cup of cocoa and plan to stay for awhile. :) )**

I cried nearly the entire time during church Sunday...both during assembly AND during class.  This is not an exaggeration.  I was really quite a mess.  I know God's hand was especially at work in my life that morning, tugging at my heartstrings.  He had a message that I desperately needed to hear.  I can say this with full confidence because I know that if we'd gone to assembly first like we usually do (Our church has 2 morning services.), and then to class, I wouldn't have been listening as intently.  I probably would have missed it.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

I'm Blaming the Van

Yesterday was quite a stressful day.  We've all had them.  It was the kind of day where you have to intentionally and continually remind yourself that things really aren't as bad as they seem and they could be much, MUCH worse.  When days like these come around, I laugh to keep from crying.  It's all a matter of perspective and we've all heard the familiar phrase, "When it rains, it pours."

The beginning of the day was pretty uneventful other than not feeling well at all.  Sore throat, "achiness", sinus congestion.  In fact, Sadie and I stayed in our pajamas most of the day and I even laid down with her and took a brief nap.  Brief meaning 15-20 minutes, tops.  That's not exactly my definition of a nap, but nonetheless I was thankful for even the slightest bit of rest.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Ankle Pain is Gain

I twisted my ankle tonight while delivering popcorn.  I knew I should have taken the sidewalk around instead of going through the night.  *sigh*  Anytime I have pain in my ankle, I think of my brother, Matt.  I know that sounds strange but I think you'll understand a little more after I tell you this story...

When I was a freshman at Lipscomb University, I participated in Singarama.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with Singarama, it's the Harding equivalent of Spring Sing or the Abilene Christian University equivalent of Sing Song...only better. (Sorry, HU and ACU friends.  I gotta stay true to my Alma Mater. ;) ) For those of you not familiar with any of those, it's basically a time when the majority of students on campus either choose or are assigned to a specific group, given a topic, and then write a story line with accompanying songs, choreography, props, costumes, etc.  The group performs and competes with other groups for bragging rights in front of a panel of judges and a live audience.  It's like watching 3 mini-musicals, really.  And it's SO much fun!!  If you'd like to know more, you can visit this page for a more detailed description of what this year's Singarama was like.

Anyway, you may be thinking that I twisted my ankle while performing with my group but you'd be wrong.  I actually made it through all the choreography and scene changes without injury.  So, what really happened?  We had a cast party at a skating rink after our final performance.  (Now, you're getting the picture.)  My family naturally drove up from Georgia to see the show and went skating with us afterwards, at least my high-school freshman brother did. lol  It is important to note here that my brother was a fantastic athlete and the sport really didn't matter much.  He played baseball, basketball, could ride a dirt bike and speed skate.  It's like he was fearless when it came to a competitive sport, whether he had any prior experience with it or not.  (Remind me to tell you sometime about the time he drove an ATV into the Raintree Village pond...on Christmas day!)

So, the d.j. at the rink decides it's time for some races.  He called the boys up and I see my brother on the starting line, ready to pounce!  I was pretty sure he was going to win before they even started.  Not necessarily because he was so much better than anyone else out there physically.  He was just determined.  It was written all over his face that night.  No one else stood a chance.  Know what he won?  A cute little stuffed animal.  Know who he gave it to?  Me. :D

Now picture this:  The race is over, the rink is an all-skate once again and I'm minding my own business skating around the rink at a nice, steady, comfortable pace.  It's important to note here that I was NOT as fantastic an athlete and the sport really didn't matter much.  Matt, trying to be cute, comes up behind me and grabs my arm going about mach 2 with his hair on fire.  So, guess what?  Now, I'm going mach 2 with my hair on fire except I don't have the control that he does.  After my begging, he finally lets me go but by that time we were rounding a corner and one that I just could not make.  I was going too fast.  My ankle gave out underneath me and I smacked the edge of the rink and went flying into the lobby area.  You know, the carpeted place with the little circle benches where people sit and the lockers are lined up against the wall?  Yeah, that.  I couldn't even stand up and my ankle quickly became the size of a melon.  Matt was one of the first people over there to help me.  He felt just awful.  I mean absolutely awful about the whole thing.  He just kept saying, "Aw, I'm sorry, Steph.  I'm just so sorry.  I didn't mean to.  I really didn't.  Aw man, I'm so sorry."  How could I be mad at him?  Particularly when he was truly apologetic.  It hurt.  I ain't gonna lie but then again, I was still on a rush.  That was the fastest I had ever gone around a skating rink!  Scary as you-know-where but, man!  What a thrill!  (Until the crash and burn part, of course.)

He and some other guys carried me out.  I really don't think that was entirely necessary.  I mean, I couldn't put pressure on that leg, that was for sure, but they wouldn't even let me try to stand upright.  I had to go to the doctor the next business day and he advised me to stay off that leg for at least 3 weeks.  Well, that wasn't going to work.  I was going on a choral mission trip in a matter of days.  He told me to wear crutches, then.  Like I was going on a plane and traipsing around England and Scotland on crutches??  I don't think so.  Pass.  (Yes, I'm stubborn and bull-headed.  You want to make something of it? ;) )  We settled for keeping it wrapped and putting as little pressure on it as possible...staying off my feet and elevating my leg whenever possible.  He also prescribed a pain reliever which I was happy to take.

My ankle never fully recovered from that incident.  It hasn't left a daily affliction or anything and I can still run but it has always been temperamental since then.  That accident happened nearly 16 years ago but it left a mark, probably until the end of time.  It feels sore sometimes, achy, for what seems like no reason at all.  Maybe it's a change in barometric pressure or something.  Who knows?  It still gives out on me sometimes like tonight when my step is just a little off.  The pain used to really annoy me (and still does sometimes) but I have a new appreciation for it now that Matt has gone home to be with Jesus.  Whenever my ankle starts acting up, I remember Matt and I remember that night.  I remember that exhilarating moment of going mach 2 before crashing and burning and how scary yet thrilling it was at the same time.  I remember the smile on his face and later, the concern.  I'm also reminded with every throb that one day there will be no more pain.  No death.  No sorrow.  Everything will be made new.  I'm thankful for my personal reminder of that promise.  And I'm thankful for the memory so closely tied to it.  Isn't it amazing how God can take these "accidents" and these "afflictions" and make them beautiful?  joyful?  Wow.  How does He do that?  I'm reminded of the story of Jacob wrestling with God.  I wonder what Jacob (Israel) thought about his limp after that encounter.  It was wearisome, I have no doubt, but the man wrestled with God! ...and lived!!  What a wonderful reminder of God's grace wrapped in a lesson of humility.  I'm thankful for my precious brother and the mark he left on me for life.  I'm thankful for my precious LORD and the mark He left on me for eternity.

Blanchard Springs! (Day Two)

To read the first part of this post, go here.

Surprisingly enough, sleeping in a tent on the ground is not the most comfortable of beds.  Shocking, I know.  I forgot to pack pillows, too, and we were short one sleeping bag so, can imagine.  I also forgot how every sound is heard through a single-skin tent wall (or any tent wall for that matter)...both inside and outside.  Several of us caught bits and pieces of a bedtime story that Justin shared with the kids.  (Apparently each one of them contributed to the story which involved giant roaches, a Princess Gima, vampire bats, and trying to make the kingdom the worst in the land.  Humorous to say the least.)  You also find out rather quickly who the snorers are around you and uh, who knew leaves were so loud?!   Anyway, we survived and the kids actually slept better than I anticipated.

When we finally ventured out of our tent Sunday morning, several people were already awake and making breakfast.  The kids were in quite a hurry to get back to their cave, particularly Sadie, so I didn't even bother with changing her jeans.  I was kind of surprised that Justin didn't change Sadie and Josiah into their pajamas the night before (although, I'm surprised at myself for being surprised.  Dads don't typically worry or think about that sort of stuff.).  Truth be told, they were probably warmer in their clothes than they would have been in their pjs.  Still, if she was that excited about "caving" (which would undoubtedly lead to muddy pants), why change her?  So, off she went to have another adventure.  She also made a fierce and fast friend while we were there.  One of the other tiger den leaders has a daughter around her same age.  They were having a blast finding bugs and chasing each other.  As I write this, it strikes me as extremely ironic that Sadie is so much more of a Miss Priss at home, a real fashionista, but also exhibits many "tomboy" behaviors outdoors.  She didn't shriek when she saw the bat, grasshopper, praying mantises, walking sticks, or stink bugs.  At home, she'd call them "yucky bugs" and quickly try to "killed them" but out among nature she was fascinated and wanted to see them up close.

While the kids were off exploring and climbing trees, Justin and I attempted to help with breakfast.  We learned a lot about how to cook over a campfire or camping stove.  Dutch ovens are apparently a camper's must-have.  I don't believe there's much of anything that can't be made in a dutch oven.  Also, Justin was even told that you can cook bacon and eggs in a paper bag.  Somehow the grease is supposed to keep the bag from catching on fire??  We're planning to google that one.  Sounds kind of weird, if you ask me.  And did you know you can make omelets by placing prepared baggies into boiling water?  We also watched our friends roast biscuits on a stick.  It was quite a lesson in camping cuisine. ;)

Our other den leader, Kerry, went overboard fixing our meals.  Not that I'm complaining, we probably ate better than any other den there!  He made cheeseburgers for lunch Saturday and pancakes, bacon, eggs, and biscuits for breakfast Sunday.  He would have made some gravy, too, if we'd had any flour.  Saturday night's meal was provided by the Pack.  Yummy taco soup ladled over corn chips and topped with cheese.  It was all so good!  Big thanks to Kerry for our den meals and Adam for Saturday night's meal.

Once everyone had had a chance to eat, we met over in the amphitheater for communion and group pictures before breaking camp.  I was really impressed that a communion was planned and offered at this event.  There's something about taking communion with believers outside of our typical fellowship and assembly that opens my eyes to how much more we are connected to Jesus across "denominational" lines or circles.  Whatever our theological differences may be, we are still brothers and sisters in Christ communing together around His Holy Table.  How much greater is our God than we could ever comprehend!  The change of atmosphere and seeing and hearing the beauty of God's creation all around us was indescribably moving.  It was a welcomed breath of fresh air and perspective.

Next, photo time!  Of course, taking pictures of a large group doesn't come without its challenges...particularly when your subjects are elementary kids...and particularly when they're boys. :)  We were able to get some decent shots, though.  Here is a photo of just our den.  We're in the middle holding boy, girl, boy.  Do you see us? :)

After the photos, we broke camp and then started our service project of cleaning up trash around our camping site.  Our boys were certainly not very interested until I tried to make it more like a game.  "Can you find the soda can?  The first person to find the soda can and bring it to me gets a piece of candy when we get home!"  That definitely got Josiah's attention.  He'd earned two pieces in a matter of minutes.  I know some people frown upon rewarding with food or candy, but what can I say?  It works. :)

After gathering trash, it was clear that the boys were ready to go home, evidenced by the fact that they came and told us so. ;)  We told them we were going to take a little hike first and that idea was met with dismay.  "No, not a hike.  I want to go home," in a whiny, pleading voice.  Nonetheless, this was part of an achievement and Justin and I were pretty sure that they'd change their minds once they saw where we were hiking.  (And we were right.  When it was time to go, it was non-stop, "I don't want to go home.  I want to hike some more.")  

This was my first time to Blanchard Springs so I didn't really know what to expect.  It was a short walk from the parking area and we quickly met up with some of our other cub scout compadres gathered around the spring, some wading in the waters.  I guess Josiah wanted to try his hand at that because he made his way out onto the rocks and into the water before we could say boo.  Of course, he slipped once or twice and soaked his shoes, socks, and jeans.  That's when I looked at Justin who was standing some distance away and said deliberately so everyone could hear, "Look at what your son just did."  haha  Well, his son nearly gave me a heart attack skipping across some rocks that were dangerously close to where the "pool" ended and the "stream" began, if you catch my drift.  He could have easily slipped and hit his head on a rock.  The water was pretty shallow so I wasn't really worried about him drowning...more losing his footing and smashing his head on a rock or breaking a leg.  He's fairly accident-prone, so I don't think I was overreacting.  Needless to say, his wet clothes marked the end of our hike and the beginning of our good-byes.  I snapped a few pics that I'll hopefully be able to post soon.  Sadie looked exceptionally beautiful with her dirt-covered face, too. *wink* 

The spring was refreshing and beckoned me to stick my feet in but I refrained.  Definitely worth the stop before leaving, despite the soggy outcome.  I just love the sound of a mountain stream.  It's so calming and relaxing.  We'd like to take a trip back there again sometime.  Who knows?  Maybe the cub scouts will go again next year and I can wade in the water then. ;)  There was also a small waterfall that we stopped to see.  I was the only one to get out of the car that time, just to get a picture.  Everyone else stayed in the car and saw it through glass.

On the drive home, Josiah started feeling sick.  We tried our usual trick of turning the air on full blast (which just about resulted in human popsicles) and I had found some peppermint oil that I used on our last trip to Georgia for motion sickness.  You just dab a few drops onto your finger and then rub them on the soft pocket behind their ears.  It normally works like a charm but I think we were too late getting it on him.  We had to stop but escaped any major mishaps requiring major cleaning, thank goodness.  He was fine after that.

When we finally arrived, we were all so happy to be home.  We really had a marvelous time but all 5 of us were completely wiped out!  All 3 of the kids fell asleep during some part of the drive and Jackson was still asleep when I turned the car off.  Poor little guy is at home sick today, too.  The nurse called me this morning to come pick him up from school.  The principal walked him to the office straight from the cafeteria after he didn't eat any of his breakfast (which I'm happy to hear is unusual) and coming in crying.  He never even made it to his classroom.  He has a small ulcer in his throat and a low-grade fever.  It's certainly not slowing him down, though, or keeping him from talking.  Hopefully, he'll feel well enough to return to school tomorrow.  I'm supposed to give a presentation to Josiah's class in the morning about our Native American heritage.  I really don't know a whole lot about that side of my family but the internet actually fills in many of the gaps.  Please keep us in your prayers, that Jackson will heal quickly and be well enough to go to school tomorrow and that I'll have a presentation interesting enough to hold the attention of a bunch of 5 year olds.  I'll let you know how it goes, if I'm able to make it!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Blanchard Springs! (Day One)

We had a marvelous time this weekend with our fellow cub scouts and their families at Blanchard Springs Caverns in Fifty Six, Arkansas.  (Yes, that really is the name. :))  (This was also the very first Lillard family camping trip!  The very first time Josiah or Sadie had ever been camping and the very first time we'd gone together as a family.)  What beautiful country!  I really wish I could post pics from this trip.  I'm really getting sick of using disposable cameras.  (Someone, please tell my husband to get me a digital camera for Christmas! ;) )  I never know if my shots are any good and I can't immediately come home and post them online.  Instead, the questionable quality images sit trapped inside the disposable until all the exposures are, well, exposed and then developed.  So, I will try to remember to post pictures (if any of them turn out decent enough) but I'm not making any promises.  That's how I get myself into trouble...broken promises. ;)

Anyway, some from our group went up Friday instead of Saturday.  We considered doing that too but decided not to because #1-Justin works until 5 and it gets dark around 5:30 now ever since the time change took effect.  Putting up a tent in the dark is not my idea of a good time.  #2-Even if someone put our tent up for us (which they did. Thank you, Kerry!), we'd still be driving in the dark on unfamiliar roads, with one working headlight and a husband who is teetering on the verge of "night blindness".  We'd all like to get there in one piece, if you know what I mean.  And #3-We figured as soon as we got there, Jackson's "meltdown clock" would start ticking.  We thought it best to leave as much sand in that hourglass as possible.  All things considered, I think it was absolutely the right decision!

We left the house Saturday about an hour and a half later than I had hoped but I didn't get myself worked into a tizzy about it like I've been known to do. ;)  This was, after all, supposed to be a nice, relaxing, and fun weekend getaway.  I was not about to let 90 minutes of "disappointment" ruin an otherwise fantastic 2 days!  We weren't in any danger of missing the first scheduled activity anyway, the cavern tour, so we took (in my opinion) a leisurely drive to our destination.  I say "in my opinion" because I was driving.  Justin probably has a much different perspective seeing as he started singing to me a time or two on a couple of mountainous curves.  (Yes, I meant singing.)  After one occasion, I heard my precious echo from the back seat say, "Yeah, Dad.  Relax.  Everything's fine."  Love that girl! LOL

 The drive alone was gorgeous.  We hadn't gone very far when it occurred to me that I forgot to make sure we had dramamine.  All 3 of our young ones are prone to motion/carsickness but that's especially true of Josiah.  We've had more emergency stops than I care to remember in our long road trip history.  I did not want to have another one.  I'm happy to say that we made it to our campsite without incident!

Our group campsite was AMAZING.  And when I say amazing, I mean we literally had our own cave...with bats!  Don't worry.  We didn't pitch our tents in the cave.  Although, I don't think our kids would have minded it if we had.  They absolutely loved that cave!  (And there were only 2 little bats in there. Harmless, really.;) )  Jackson also found a climbing tree.  We didn't have to worry too much about where our kids were whenever we were at camp because 99.9% of the time, they were either in the cave or around (or on) that climbing tree.  Justin and I have decided that we're in the market for a cave now.  If you know where we can get one real cheap, please let us know! ;)  Still undecided on the climbing tree, though.  Jackson has no trouble climbing UP the tree.  It's climbing DOWN that causes an occasional problem or two.  We're not in the market for broken arms and/or legs so, best wait on the tree.  But, caves.  Caves are good. lol

The cave tour was fun, too.  Thankfully, they did NOT turn out all the lights inside the cave.  I think I personally would have enjoyed a demonstration like that but not with my kids in tow.  There would have been much weeping and gnashing of teeth...and clawing at Mommy.  You could tell Sadie was scared because she kept covering her ears.  Not eyes.  E.a.r.s.  Silly girl.  Josiah wanted to be held nearly the whole time and Jackson kept reminding us that he wanted to go home.  (I know what you're thinking.  "Yeah, Steph.  That sounds like great fun!"  It really wasn't as bad as it sounds, though.)  I'm really proud of them, actually.  They didn't scream or cry.  They pressed on and began to lighten up the longer we were in there.  Jackson pointed out a rock in the cave that looked to him like a dragon (and when I looked, it did look a lot like a dragon's head) and Josiah even tried to share a joke with everyone during one of the group talking stops that was riddled with bad jokes. Wanna hear it?  Question: "How many bats are in a cave?"  Answer: "One."  I warned you they were bad.  His was funny simply because it was so bad! lol

Back at camp later, our fearless leader Adam, demonstrated a science experiment with all our cub scouts involving water, an air pump, and 2-liter soda bottles.  Jackson wasn't very interested at first.  This demonstration was too close to his climbing tree and cave.  He's a boy of action and has little use or time for words.  But once he saw that bottle rocket into the air, Adam had his full attention.  Jackson laughed so incredibly loud every time a bottle left the ground after that.  We should really expose him to "The Three Stooges" because he loves slapstick humor. :)

Saturday night, all the dens each put on a skit for the pack.  They were really cute.  Our den's skit was kind of like a TV news interview gone terribly wrong.  I was the reporter interviewing the Tiger Cubs and asking each of them what they liked about being a Tiger Cub.  The first one (my son) said "Nothing." (Yeah, I'm thrilled with that answer. *insert sarcasm*)  Others said, "Because you can shoot bow and arrows, b-b guns, use pocketknives, build fires, and it's fun."  I asked if I could be a tiger cub and was told no.  When I asked why, I expected to be told I was too old but noooooo...instead, I was told it was because I'm a girl.  I have to be in girl scouts, not boy scouts.  (I think Girl Scouts of America could learn a valuable lesson from this, don't you? ;))

After the skits we all settled in around our respective campfires and just enjoyed each other's company while the majority of the boys ran wild in the field with their glow sticks screaming, chasing each other, and just having an all around wonderful time.  Our kids stayed with us and made smores.  What's a campout without smores, right?  By 8 PM it felt like midnight for all of us.  Justin took Josiah to the tent to sleep but Sadie followed him in and they started playing instead.  So, the 3 of them made up a bedtime story and it's entirely possible that Justin was the first to fall asleep.  All I know is that he never came back out that night. :)  In the meantime, I was sitting in someone else's camping chair with our 6 year old in my lap who was just as fast asleep as they come.  I do not know how I managed to get out of that chair holding him but somehow I did.  Special thanks to Meredith for unzipping our tent so I could get him inside without dropping him! :)

This pretty much sums up Day 1 of the weekend trip.  I'm gonna stop here for the night because I'm extremely tired and this post is already too long.  Day 2 tomorrow.  More fun stuff!

Link to: Day 2


Friday, November 11, 2011

Hair, hair, hair!

I've had long hair the majority of my life and never learned how to french braid.  Can we say, "sad"?  I'm trying to learn (Sadie's my cute and perfect guinea pig.) and so I'm slowly getting a little better now.  I cannot do my own hair.  Maybe if it weren't so stinkin' long I could work with it but it just ends up a tangled mess and I lose my pieces and my patience.

Anyway, I've joined the pinterest world (LOVE it!) and have found several websites with tutorials that are really helpful.  I really wish I could do this one on myself.

Isn't that just super cute?!  And it would totally make dirty hair look good for one more day.  Confession time:  I don't wash my hair everyday.  Before you judge me too harshly, you should know...I have long hair, ladies!...and thick!  (Thank you, Indian blood.)  I also have 3 kids, 6 years and under.  Even if I didn't have long, thick hair, there are just other things that take priority over washing my hair every 24 hours.  Honestly, there are other things I'd rather do than wash my hair every time the sun rises or sets.

The good news?  It turns out that your hair is healthier when you don't wash it every day!  Are you surprised?  If you think about it, it makes sense.  Shampoo washes away the dirt but takes the oils with it too.  The more often you wash, the more frequently you strip away your hair's natural oils and the more likely they haven't had a chance to recover between washings.  Also, if you're like me, you prefer hot showers as opposed to cold ones (how on earth did women ever bathe in rivers???  Brr!).  Then, what do most of us do to wet hair?  Blow dry it, of course!  More heat.  Nearly everyone knows that heat damages your hair.  No big surprise there.  But there's even more good news for the "I don't wash my hair every day" crowd...dirty hair is easier to braid and (in my opinion) holds better.  Think of all the hairspray and shampoo you're saving!   You're helping the environment and your pocketbook! lol

In closing, I'll leave you with a couple of tricks I've learned to help keep your hair (and skin) looking good.  I already mentioned that I like hot showers so naturally, my hair gets washed with hot water.  Duh!  But, I rinse it with cold water.  And by cold, I mean as cold as I can stand it.  (It's o.k. to squeal, sing really high, or do a crazy dance in the shower at this point.  I usually do! ;) )  This is also a fantastic treatment for your skin.  The cold water seals in your body's moisture and gives your skin more of a natural glow by closing your pores and your hair a nice sheen by closing the cuticles.  With hot water, your skin's pores are wide open and taking in whatever they come in contact with (dirt, germs, other icky stuff).  Funny thing, though.  Your pores don't like to be cold either so they seal themselves as tight as possible when hit with cold water, making it pretty hard for dirt and air to get in there and form blemishes and leave you dry.  So, suck it up and rinse with cold water!  Come on, we're as tough as those pioneer women who bathed in rivers in the dead of winter and then hiked back to their homes with frozen hair, right?  We're not gonna let them show us up!  We're not wimps!  We can handle 15 seconds of cold water. :)  Then, whenever possible, let your hair air-dry.  I usually leave mine wrapped in a towel for a little while before blowing it dry just a little, leaving it a tad damp to finish drying on its own.  When your hair is as long and as thick as mine, blow drying could become an all-day task.  And to that I say, "No, thank you!"  Lastly, in between washings, if your hair is looking a little too greasy for you and you don't have time to wash it right away, add a little baby powder to your hair.  Not a lot.  Just a little.  It'll help "suck up" the oils and buy you another day. :-)

So, your turn to confess or share beauty tips.  I want to know.  How often do you wash your hair?  Are you brave enough to rinse with cold water?  *sigh*  The price of beauty. lol

All By Myself

It seems as though Sadie has been in the "I can do it myself, all by myself" phase for at least a good, solid year. I'm thrilled at her independence...really.  And someday I will learn to appreciate it.  ;o)  I keep telling myself, "She'll grow out of this.  It's just a normal thing that all kids do.  She'll eventually accept your help sometimes without making a fuss." Oh, please!  Who am I kidding?  It's been a year already.  This is definitely not her typical "phase".

I suppose much of the frustration stems from two things: #1- I run out of patience or time and #2)- she runs out of patience with herself but still doesn't want help (although she'll say she does and then refuse it).  Very.  Frustrating.

Honestly, I try to give her control of a number of reasonable things.  I know how important it is to her growth and development and to her self-esteem.  She needs to have the chance to accomplish things alone.  She picks out her own clothes and shoes, then dresses herself (and has a style ALL her own).  She buckles herself into the car.  She carries her plate from the kitchen to the dining table and back.  Those are things that she can do by herself most of the time.  She's just slower about it...and I don't always make time for slow.  Sometimes that can't be helped.  Other times, it's just laziness or selfishness on my part.

Then, there are the things that she wants so desperately to do by herself that are settled with compromise.  She helps me pour her drinks.  If I'm baking something, she wants to crack the eggs and whip the batter (again, all by herself).  Sometimes I let her and just ignore the fact that only half the egg made it into the bowl or just dig out the piece of shell that falls in.  Other times I need to do when I'm baking for someone besides us and are concerned more with quality.  In a public restroom, she wants privacy in the stall, to get her own toilet paper (which usually ends up being way too little or way too much), and to wash and dry her guessed it, all by herself.  You moms know that not every public restroom has a stool or short sink and you're not always comfortable leaving your 3 year old in the stall alone.  So what do we do?  We compromise.  I hold her up to the sink, soap, and paper towels.  I turn towards the door as much as possible if I need to be in the stall with her.  I let her try to get her own toilet paper and then help with the more or less as needed...while trying to be encouraging, supportive, and explaining that everyone needs help sometimes, even Mommy.  I think my message is falling on deaf ears (which may have more to do with my presentation than my actual words). :)

Let's face it, though.  These compromises take time.  It's hard to be patient.  Sometimes, it's just not even possible (for instance, when I need to go just as badly as she does. :)).  The point is, if there is something to be done, she wants to do it...all by herself.  She's definitely teaching me patience...and it's a hard lesson.  Kids will do nothing if not show you the ugliest parts of yourself.

Probably even more frustrating than my running out of patience or time (that is something mostly within my control) is when she runs out of patience with herself (not so much in my control).  "Mommy, help!  I can't do it!"  I try to help.  "No, I want to do it.  I want to do it!"  Seriously??  Make up your mind, kiddo!

Hopefully, I'm teaching her at least as much as she's teaching me.  Hopefully, I can model patience and how to graciously receive help when you need it.  That's a hard lesson for anybody, isn't it?  I still want to do most things all by myself.  I mean, don't we all think that our way is the best way?  If we didn't, it wouldn't be "our way", would it?

Yes, I'm gradually learning to appreciate her independence.  It means she'll be a strong, capable woman some day.  I'm so thankful to have a healthy daughter who can demonstrate her desire to do things "all by herself".  There are so many moms out there who would love for their children to be able to just feed themselves, to just have the cognizance and desire and awareness to even refuse help.  So, I'll try to embrace this "phase" and be grateful for her "stubbornness" and that my baby girl is growing up!  But, while it lasts, I'll also relish in the one thing she doesn't want to do herself...flush a public toilet! :)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Am I finally over my writer's block, yet??

I guess we'll see.  I know it's been forever since I've posted anything.  Moving must have really messed with my head.  You should see all the half-written drafts in my blogger account right now.  Ridiculous!!  For whatever reason, I just couldn't seem to finish any of them.  It didn't matter the topic.  They range all over the place...all unfinished...all collecting cyber dust.

I hope to put an end to my blogging silence.  After all, not everything I write has to be profound, right?  It really doesn't even have to be interesting.  I write more for myself than anyone else anyway.  So much has happened since we moved that I don't even know where to begin.  So, I won't post anything deeply personal just yet.  I'm just going to get my feet wet this time...not take a swim.  It's been so long since I've been in the water, I think I'll avoid getting in over my head right now...just to be safe.  After all, I'm hoping that this post will actually get published!  Baby steps.  Baby steps. ;)

Anyway, I ran across this article about the benefits of eating out for Thanksgiving and I'd really like to know your thoughts on the matter.  Here is my brief personal take:
I have mixed feelings about this.  I really hate the reality of anyone working on a holiday.  I definitely don't think it should be mandatory (with the exceptions of defense and emergency healthcare professions.  I mean, duh!  Emergencies are called that for a reason.).   
On the other hand, these are hard economic times and if you find yourself barely scraping by, it could actually be a god-send to have the opportunity to work on a holiday or Black Friday.  Many times working a holiday will earn you time-and-a-half or extra commissions and hopefully those that come eat at your restaurant recognize the sacrifice you are making and tip generously.  Black Friday is a HUGE day for sales.  (That's why it's called Black Friday and not Red Friday.)  For some, it may mean the difference between purchasing Christmas gifts this year or going without. 
Personally, I prefer the homemade meal with family, football, and all-day conversations.  In my opinion, part of the joy of the holiday is lost in a restaurant, particularly if you have a large crowd because you don't have as much time to visit and if you really wanted to talk to "uncle Bob" who happens to be at the opposite end of the table, you probably won't have much of a chance.  A day with family leaves room for private conversations and more personal moments.  Besides, quality time doesn't happen on a schedule.  It spawns from quantity time together.  It happens while cleaning up the dishes after the meal or cheering for your favorite team.  I don't see myself looking back over my life and thinking, "Remember when we had Thanksgiving dinner at that restaurant?  Wasn't that so much fun and so exciting?!"  For me, it would probably look more like, "Cousin, remember when we talked Nana into playing on the Wii with us last year?  We nearly laughed ourselves silly when she beat YOU at bowling!  And the dancing...Oh, the dancing!!" :)
I feel sorry for those who constantly bicker with their families and who dread spending time together.  Goodness knows, our family is far from perfect and we have had (and no doubt, will continue to have) our own share of dreadful moments.  But I hope and I pray that the happy times and fond memories we've made, and have yet to make, will far outweigh the bitter ones.  I think making the most of the time we have together is one way to accomplish that goal...and I don't think eating at a restaurant on a major holiday will suffice.  I suppose the possible exception to that would be in how you plan to spend the rest of your day.  Will you be in the company of your family then, too?  Or is Thanksgiving just the meal?  What do you think?

*Clarification:  "Family" does not have to mean blood-kin.  It is for most of us but hopefully if you know someone who doesn't have anywhere to go for Thanksgiving, you'll invite them over and treat them like family, too (or in some cases, better than). ;)

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Joys of Moving!

Sorry I haven't posted in a while.  Things have been (and continue to be) seriously hectic at this moment in our lives.  In fact, I'm pausing now in an attempt to relieve some stress so forgive me if I start to vent.  Writing helps me relax sometimes and putting my thoughts "on paper" really helps me focus.  Goodness knows, I desperately need some focus right now. :)

For those who haven't heard, we are in the process of packing up all of our worldly possessions and moving 695 miles and two states 12 days.  Yes, I said 12 days.  We don't have a forwarding address yet which is really raising my stress level with each passing day.  I'll sleep a lot easier once we nail that down.  At least then when the movers ask, "When will you like your things delivered?", I can actually tell them when and where.  I'll also be able to fill out a change of address form from the post office and give our forwarding address to companies when I call to cancel services...more of the many things on our to-do list.

I should be used to this by now (and for the most part I am.  I think I handle moving much better than the average person.) considering how many times I've moved in my lifetime.  I was born in Virginia, lived in Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and all over Georgia before even getting married.  Since that time (nearly 8 years ago), I've moved back to Virginia, then to Texas, Arkansas, back to Georgia, and now back to Arkansas.  This list does not even include in-town or within-the-state moves, which were more frequent than I care to remember.  

I think this move is the most stressful for a number of reasons:
  1. The time-frame.  It's so much more sudden than any previous move I've experienced as an adult.
  2. We have kids now.  The trek from Virginia to Texas was a long one, but at least it only involved packing up myself and the love of my life. :)
  3. This move will also involve finding a church home which is something we've really never had to do before.  For the most part, that decision was made for us.  Even after our move to Abilene (which was not related to a church job), Justin found a local preaching position before we ever placed membership anywhere.  Our church home in Valdosta was also a given.  My family has lived in this area and attended the same congregation for 30 years.  It's like my second home.
  4. We're having a birthday party for our soon-to-be 5 year old only 6 days before our move.  It just doesn't seem fair to deprive him of his own party with friends, particularly when his brother and sister had one of their own.  After all, it's not his fault he was born when he was.  (Seeing how I was induced, if it's anyone's fault, it's ours. ;) )Poor baby, though.  His party involves far less preparation than I put into the other two...far less than any other party I've ever thrown, for that matter.  I console myself with the knowledge that this is still his own party unlike when Sadie turned one and we had a combination party for her and her older brother.  It just made more sense to do it that way since their birthdays are only 2 weeks apart and they had the same friends at the time.  Not to mention I was a mom with 3 preschoolers at home then.  Planning one party was challenging enough for me at that point.  At least they had their own cake, right? ;)
  5. We're considering using professional movers this time.  You would think this would be less stressful, right?  And I feel confident that when the actual moving date arrives, it will be.  Currently, however, it is a bit frazzling to have the phone ringing every 5 minutes and then proceed to relay every possible thing inside your home that doesn't fit in a box.  In fact, I've already fielded calls from 3 different movers while trying to post this...and am expecting another phone call in the next 10 minutes.  Once we find a service, I expect all this inconvenience will be well worth it, though, and that the silence of the phone will bring relief in itself.
  6. We've now become accustomed to living close to family and it will be difficult to leave them behind.  Not only that, but I lost my dear brother shortly after we moved here and he's buried only 5 miles up the road.  Moving away, while I knew it was going to happen, is unexpectedly causing me to recall that tragic day all too often...partly due to the family connection and knowing I won't be able to visit his grave on a whim, and also (due to the timing of his death) because of the correlation I have subconsciously (or not) drawn between moving and the event.
Even with all these stress factors, though, this is still a great move for us.  I'm excited about the opportunities and possibilities Searcy and Harding have to offer and am looking forward to our future there.  It's hard to leave and I sometimes feel a twinge of guilt (like I'm leaving or forgetting my brother/family.  Irrational, yes, but nonetheless a very real and raw emotion.) and that's when I have to remind myself that Matt wouldn't want me to put my life on hold and remain stuck in grief.  That he will always live on in my heart and always be with me no matter where I go.  I have to remind myself that moving away does not mean the end of family relationships.  We'll make every effort and attempt to nurture those ties and we will remain close and connected.  Besides, it's not like we're moving half-way across the world.

Moving is stressful on so many levels.  Physically, logistically, and emotionally.  In the hustle and bustle of it all and in the middle of the here and now, I'm reminded of something my grandmother loves to say (and I've mentioned it before), "This too shall pass."  If ever that was true (and it is), it's true now.  As I already find myself doing now in relation to raising 3 "babies" so close together, I'll look back on this someday and think, "How did I ever do that?" and the answer will come quickly, "Only by the grace of God."

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Happy 2nd Birthday, Adler!

We sure do miss you, buddy.  I can only imagine what you look like right now.  I still remember holding you when we were in Nashville for your Daddy's funeral.  It was so hard to let you go knowing that I might not get to see you again.  You were such a doll baby!  You still had that new baby smell, too.  I loved that.

Wherever you are today and whatever you're doing, I hope you are having fun and enjoying all the things a little 2 year old should be enjoying.  We have thought of you often, we still pray for you daily, and we will love you always!  Hugs and kisses to you and Ashton and Aydan!  You are forever in our hearts!

Happy Birthday, Addie!  Love, Aunt Steph, Uncle Justin, and your cousins...Jackson, Josiah, and Sadie

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Walt Disney World Vacation-Day One

Like every other trip we take, we didn't get on the road as early as I had hoped.  However, I decided not to stress over it this time.  This was supposed to be a vacation, after all.  We didn't have an appointment or anything so why rush, right?  I was just really looking forward to spending plenty of time at Downtown Disney before our 4:00 p.m. check-in.  I think it was around 10:00 a.m. before we actually left, maybe even later.  I had returned our dvd and vhs checkouts to the library the night before but found one of the dvd's in the dvd player later that evening.  I couldn't exactly put that in the drop box, now could I?  The library was closed for Memorial Day (the day we left) but thanks to my sweet aunt who returned it for us the next day, we were spared late fees.  Unfortunately, that also meant an extra stop before heading toward Lake Buena Vista.  You could tell the kids were super excited about this trip because when we pulled into our aunt's driveway, (which often means a trip to the pool, which they ALSO get very excited about) this time Jackson said, "But, Mommy.  I thought we were going to Disney World."  Sorry, Aunt Ginny.  I guess your pool just doesn't compare to Disney...atleast not that day. ;)

Anyway, we left before my mom and her carpool but they quickly caught up with us since our little lady decided she needed to use the potty every 15 minutes.  Ugh!  (Can we say annoying?  Although, I'll take that over a wet car seat and pants any day of the week!)  Jackson surprised us both when he said, "Hey, look.  I see Aunt Abbe and Alex."  We look out the window and sure enough,  there they are.  It's really uncanny how we both got to the resort, Wyndham-Bonnet Creek, at the same time.  I'm so thankful to my Nana and Papaw for this combined birthday present (for everyone in the family, I think. ;) ) of sharing their points from their timeshare to make our stay possible.  This resort was awesome!!  It's the only resort ON Disney property that's not owned by Disney and it was BY FAR the nicest accommodations we've ever had for a vacation of our own.  They even let us check-in early.

We picked up our rental stroller from concierge (I highly recommend Magic Strollers.  They are much cheaper than renting from the parks and they deliver and pick-up from most hotels in the area.  You also have the stroller for your entire stay instead of just at the parks.) and unpacked our things from the car.  Justin did most of the work with that one.  :)

I had presents for the kids "from Mickey" which Justin brought to the room on the second load.  We told them that Mickey had met him in the parking lot with the gifts and that he was so excited that they'd come to visit him.  They ripped into them super fast and seemed happy with what they got.  I put together these "care packages" to help ward off the "gimmees" and it really worked!  They didn't fuss for anything in the gift shops but enjoyed looking at what was there.  It also helped that we told them that they could get whatever they wanted in the shops with their own money.  Josiah and Sadie used some of their money to ride the carousel at Downtown Disney on day 2 but that was it.  We also had fun collecting pressed pennies, too, and we supplied the coins for that.  Dollar bills are much easier for them to keep up with than a pocket full of change and it was another nice distraction from wanting everything in sight, but now I'm getting ahead of myself.

In case you are wondering what was in their care packages, you know me, Mrs. Practicality, although I tried to make them fun.  Jackson already had a glowstick so I got Sadie and Josiah each ones that I found on clearance after Easter.  Sadie's said "Princess" and Josiah's had Mickey on it.  His had easter eggs on it too, but he didn't care.  Here's a picture of them holding their lights before the Spectromagic Parade on Day 3...

Each of them got a disposable camera (which I ended up using.  They didn't show as much interest as I had expected which was a blessing, I guess, since my camera stopped functioning.), a small duck filled with bubbles with a neck strap (That was to keep them occupied during the down times and while waiting in line), two plastic eggs (Disney themed, of course.  One filled with candy and one with playdoh intended for use if it rained while at the resort.), and a personal fan with a neck strap.  The boys also got "Cars" matchbox cars and a package of Toy Story collector cards.  You can tell Sadie is the baby and the only girl because she ended up with more loot.  I justified it in that hers was more practical...Disney socks, panties, and a reversible Disney hat...and a Disney Princess poncho.  Josiah also had a pair of sunglasses and a small Mickey puzzle.  Jackson got a pair of Toy Story slipper socks and a Mickey night light.  (They've got to have something unique to them, right?)  EVERYTHING they got I either found on clearance, at a yard sale, or purchased at the Dollar Tree.  I should have kept a tally of how much I spent.  They really were great deals, anyway.  Oh!  They also each had an autograph book that I made (super easy!  I'll explain in another post.) and a Disney Kooky pen (Jackson-Woody, Josiah-Buzz, Sadie-one Little Green Man, all from the Dollar Tree!  Compare to Disney's price.  They had a more limited selection, but who cares?  Our kids prefer Toy Story, anyway.).  The pens clipped onto their book and were fatter than most pens, making it much easier for the characters to hold.  Their books were the perfect size to slip into the pocket of their badge holders, too (which I found at a yard sale for a quarter a piece.  They had zippered pockets and a velcro transparent pouch in front for IDs.  Score!).  The size wasn't planned but it really made things easy!

Anyway, it wasn't long after opening their gifts that several of our party (including our children) had their swimsuits on and were ready to visit the pool.  Papa C ended up helping with our little ones so I could concentrate on finding us tickets (yeah, I know.  Waiting until the last hour.  It ended up being worth it, though.) and going with mom to get the remaining groceries we needed.  We had hoped to go out for dinner that night but it didn't happen since it was getting pretty late before we got back and the kids needed to be in bed at a decent hour so they'd be in a good mood and well rested for our trip to Animal Kingdom the next day.  We decided to order pizza instead, which was great since it's one of our kids' favorite foods.

After dinner, I began packing our lunches and getting each of the kids' bags together with all their goodies (book, pen, fan, etc.).  I wanted to make sure that we could get out of the door the next morning as quickly as possible.  I even packed some "breakfast" for the ride to save time.  I put that in quotes because they ended up just being additional snacks.  Our kids ate at the resort every morning before we left.  They are usually early risers and ready for breakfast first thing.

While I was doing that, Justin worked on getting the kids in their pajamas and ready for bed.  I brought along Sadie's fold-out Princess tent for her to sleep in along with one of the boys' kindermats and I'm so glad I did!  She really enjoyed having the personal space (along with being a princess in her own castle) and I think the seclusion helped her fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer (We were all sharing a room with two full beds.  I knew trying to put the 3 of them in one bed, while they would all fit, would not work very well.  They'd just keep each other awake by either playing or griping that someone was in their space or "touching" them.).

I was the last one to bed that night, (Big surprise, there! ~insert sarcasm~).  While preparing for the next day was much of the reason, I was probably just as excited about our trip as the kids were and had trouble going to sleep.  After all, I'd been to Disney LOTS of times so I knew how much fun it would be, plus this would be MY first time to Animal Kingdom, too!  Stay tuned for Day 2!!!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Only Two More Days!

I can't believe we're leaving for Disney World in just 2 more days!  This week has seriously flown by!  Now, if I could just wave my magic wand and have all of our bags packed, the house cleaned, and all the laundry done.  Oh!  And the van cleaned...inside and out.  I guess once we're there, I'll have to ask Mickey where the Sorcerer keeps his wand.  Then, he'll have to teach me how to use it.  The jobs will already be done by that point but I can still save the information for future reference. ;)  Based on what I've seen of Fantasia, I think it's best if I just go straight to the source on this one.  Mickey doesn't have the greatest track record, if you know what I'm saying.  I don't exactly trust him to "keep things under control". haha ;)

Anyway, I'm so excited about the trip (and so overwhelmed with what needs to be done before we leave) that I'm finding it hard to sleep.  This is nothing new for me.  I usually find it hard to sleep whenever we plan to go somewhere.  My to-do list, which is already long on a normal day, becomes easily twice as long AND has a definitive deadline when we're planning a trip.  I insist on having the house clean before we ever go out of town.  It drives my husband crazy.  He doesn't understand why the house has to be cleaner when we're gone than it is while we're living in it.  Or why it's OK to leave it untidy when we're out shopping and strolling around town, but not OK if we're spending the night elsewhere.  When put that way, it does sound sort of irrational.

My initial argument has always been, "I just don't want to come home to a dirty house."  Which is absolutely true!  But it does beg the question why it doesn't bother me to come home to a mess unless we're away overnight.  Actually, it bothers me to come home to a mess anytime.  I just don't typically make a fuss over it unless we're going out of town.  When I'm asked why that's different, I don't really have an answer besides, "It just is".  I don't know how well that answer works at your house, but in ours, not so much. lol

Better get back to my packing and cleaning now, since sleep is still eluding me.  I am curious, though.  Do you also go into "cleaning overhaul mode" before leaving to go out of town?  If so, what reasons do you give to justify your behavior?  Also, if you've been to Disney World, what tips can you offer for a successful and relaxing visit?  And don't say, "Don't go!"  Haha.  That's not an option.  :)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Tidy-Up Tip Tuesday 5/24

No, you're not crazy.  Today is really Wednesday.  Yes, I'm a day late posting this.  For whatever reason our computer (or blogger, not sure which) refused to sign my husband out of his blogging account yesterday so I could get into mine.  Anyway, here's your tip for the week.

This week I'm not showcasing a product as much as an idea.  With the kids now out of school for the summer and vacations on the rise, I thought this might be a good time to encourage everyone to set a routine early and stick to it.  (I'm preaching to myself now, too.  Ideas and theories I can handle.  Putting them into practice consistently is another matter entirely. haha)

So, my tip for the week is #1) set up a plan, #2) get the kids and spouse involved, and #3) institute the "pick-up before play" rule...or "PBP".  Now, this is a useless tip to all you super-moms out there who are highly organized and orderly.  However, for those of you who have trouble with this like I do, we can benefit from the accountability that comes from simply admitting our struggles and developing the discipline of a stable routine.  It will truly make for a happier home.

From what I understand, the first 21 days are critical to establishing new habits and behaviors.  Apparently, if you can stick to a new routine for 21 consecutive days, you are more likely to continue that pattern.  (I can only surmise that I haven't reached the golden 21-day mark in this respect yet. ;) )  So, my challenge for you today is to mark your calendar for the 21st day after implementing your plan.  Then, find an accountability partner (preferably someone who will call you out when you need it) and share specifically what you plan to accomplish and how you'll measure success.  Then, after 21 days, reward yourself for a job well-done!

Your plan will depend upon many factors affecting your specific family so it probably won't look exactly like ours or anyone else's.  Only you can determine what works best for you.  For us, my part of our plan is to start and finish at least one load of laundry and empty the dishwasher every MORNING (which also means the dishwasher will be loaded and dishes cleaned the night before).  For the kids, they will pick up their rooms and other toys before we go out anywhere (and before computer or television time) and everything will be put away before bedtime.  This is just part of the plan but if we can do this for 21 consecutive days, I'll consider it a success!

So, what will you do for the next 21 days?  Leave a comment below and let's help each other reach our goals  and enjoy a more relaxing and tidier home even during the hectic summer months!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

When Did Grocery Shopping Become Such a Headache?

I've been procrastinating for days but at some point before the end of the day I will have to go to the grocery store.  We are completely out of milk, bread, and peanut butter (among other things, but these are true necessities at our house.  Our kids go through peanut butter like it's going out of style.).  So, unless I can find a recipe for popcorn and ketchup, I will grace the door of a local grocer...before midnight and preferably before dinnertime.

What I'd like to know is since when has grocery shopping become burdensome to me?  I used to love going and finding bargains, taking pride in how much I saved.  Actually, I still do most of the time.  For some reason, I just haven't been as excited about it these last few days.  I can think of several different reasons:

  1. I don't like taking the kids with me.  Even with just 2 during the day, they tend to slow me down.
  2. With gas so incredibly high, I've been paying much more attention to where I go and how often.  This means that ideally I would plan to visit all the stores during one trip to town but this is near impossible for reason #1.  So, I'm weighing the cost of what's in my tank with what I'm planning to purchase and if it's worth the savings/speed with the kids.  Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't.
  3. We're leaving for Disney World in 12 days so every penny counts at this point.  I'm much more conscientious now as to whether or not we really need what I'm planning to buy or if it's just something that happens to be "a really good deal".  Sometimes the deals are worth it, sometimes they're not.  Right now, for us, they are more often "not" just because there are other things that we will "need" more immediately for our trip.  Truth be told, these "deals" will come back around again and as mentioned before, I don't really need them right now.
I imagine many of you are like us and doing everything you can to "squeeze a nickel until the buffalo farts"  (You can thank my husband for that expression. ;) ).  So, I think these reasons are worth noting.  Sometimes I don't think we pay enough attention to them.  Those of us couponers will often feel guilty for not getting the best deal on something or missing a sale.  Maybe we don't have a coupon for something and that's reason enough to feel badly.  Really it's not.  Sometimes convenience is more important.  Sometimes we need a break from coupons...and that's ok.  So what if you missed out on getting dishwashing liquid for free when you've got 3 bottles left at home?  So what if you paid $3.79 for a gallon of milk when another place in town has it for $3.29?  You'd probably spend that much in gas (not to mention the extra time) traveling 20 miles just to save 50 cents.

So, now I don't feel as bad about my lack of "shopping" lately.  I use quotes there because many times I find some really fantastic deals and get many things free!  But this week I've needed a break.  Next week, we'll be vacationing.  Maybe the following week I'll be back to my old self!  What about you?  Is couponing a blessing right now, or a burden?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Tidy-Up Tip Tuesday 5/17

Today's tip: Bleach!  I just love bleach!  (As long as it hasn't spotted my favorite shirt, that is. ;))  I love the smell of it, too.  It's cheap.  It's powerful.  It's versatile.  We use bleach in nearly every room of our house.

Laundry room: Most of you already know that adding a cup of bleach to a wash load of whites leaves them brighter and can get out even the toughest stains.  But did you know that you can also use a q-tip dipped in equal parts bleach and water to save a white garment that is not all white?  It works just like the expensive bleach pens but at a fraction of the cost.

Kitchen:  I'm always amazed at how much better our floor looks after I clean it with simple bleach water as opposed to the expensive mop cleaners.  It doesn't require as much elbow grease either, which is always a plus.

Bathrooms:  Again, the floors, but also the toilets.  When I'm cleaning the bathrooms, before doing anything else, I'll add a little bleach to the toilet and immediately flush.  Then I pour a little more in the next time and let it sit until the rest of the bathroom is cleaned.  By the time I get to the toilet, bleach has done most of the dirty work for me. :)

Clogs:  Did you know that you can also pour straight bleach down the drain to clear clogs?  Now, it's not as quick a fix as Drano might be and not as powerful but if it's mostly hair or tissue paper that's causing the problem, pouring bleach down the drain and letting it sit for about an hour, then following it with hot water will probably be enough to do the trick!

How do you use bleach at home?

Ebates Celebrates 12 Years! *Promotion ends today!*

If you plan to shop online in the near future, today's the day to do it!!  Ebates is offering 12% cashback TODAY on purchases made from a wide selection of stores such as DSW, Gap, Old Navy, Sephora, Teleflora, Jcpenney, Banana Republic, Eddie Bauer, philosophy, Petco, shutterfly, snapfish, The Body Shop, Birthday Express, and many many more!  For many of these stores, this is more than DOUBLE and in some cases TRIPLE the usual cashback award.  Be sure to check coupon codes for the stores you are visiting and you could score additional discounts and/or free shipping!  If you are new to ebates, click the button below and you'll receive a $5 bonus just for signing up after your first qualifying purchase!  It's so easy and I just love getting my Big Fat Check in the mail!

To see a full list of all stores participating in the birthday celebration promotion, click on the "monopoly man" in the upper right hand corner of the home page.  Happy Shopping!

Here's what I found:  I received a DSW giftcard for Christmas last year and have been waiting for their store to be the "Ebates Daily Double" but this birthday promotion was even better with TRIPLE the amount of cash back!  Plus, as a DSW member (it's free to register) I got free shipping on my order of $35 or more.  I ordered a nice pair of crocs and 3 pairs of men's socks.  After my $25 gift card discount and free shipping, I paid $15.55.  Once my $4.54 cashback comes in from ebates, I'll have paid $11.01 for all of it!  I'm really looking forward to slipping my feet into those crocs!  I think these may be the first pair I've ever owned.  What deal did you find today? :)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Free Samples

I just love free stuff, don't you?  That's why one of my favorite websites is All You where they have truly free samples nearly every day!  This is not like freeflys or other websites that require you to complete silver, gold, or platinum offers before getting your freebie.  With All You, most of the time you just enter some basic information like your name and address so they know where to send your "swag"!

Today's free sample is Alpo dog food.  Maybe you're like us and you don't have a dog.  I bet you know someone who does, though.  Why not order one for yourself, then share the information with your dog loving friends so they can have 2?  Everyone loves free stuff and maybe next time it will be diapers (or something else you need that they don't) and they can help you out.  Even if you don't know someone with a dog, donate the sample to your local animal shelter.  Every little bit helps.

Either way, I advise adding All You to your favorites list and checking back every day for their sample.  Some of the previous days' samples are still available so if you follow the link and scroll down, you'll see additional samples to choose from like Tampax, Ester-C, and other name brands!

**Tip:  Although most companies will not sell or distribute your email information without your consent, I advise setting up a "junk mail" email address.  It's been a lifesaver for my personal mailbox and I can still go peek at my "junk" to see what hidden treasures I may find there (coupons, promotions, free samples, and the like).  Enjoy your freebies!

Sock Insanity!

Who knew there were so many different types and brands of moisture-wicking socks?  I wasn't even really familiar with the term until I began planning our Disney vacation and read a suggestion about wearing them to keep your feet happy and blister-free after long hours of walking around the parks (and getting your feet potentially soaked on wet rides).  Sounds great to me!  But now I'm swimming in a sea of possibilities...on a limited budget.  I'm on a mission to find at least 10 pairs of moisture-wicking socks in at least 3 different sizes for less than $30.  Quite a challenge.

I also happened upon something called Blistershield and wondered if any one who might read this had heard of it or used it.  I also wondered if we were to use it, would it still be necessary to use the "special socks" as well.  Another question then came to mind; Is there a "homemade" prevention that would work just as well and not cost as much?  One more thing: how does this stuff feel on your foot?  We have a son with Asperger's who is very particular about how things feel on his skin, particularly his feet.  Blistershield, great as it may be, would be of little to no benefit to us if 1) Jackson won't wear it or 2) we make him and he's screaming and pitching fits about it...kind of defeats the purpose of making our trip a more pleasant experience for everyone. haha

I would love suggestions and advice!  Military friends, I reckon you probably have loads of experience in this regard and can offer ingenious insight!  Please help!  I would really hate for a small blister or foot pain to reek havoc on our joyous and exciting days in the parks.  Thanks in advance. :)

Performance Moisture Wicking Low Cut  Sock (3 Pack) - Youth

Free Molten Monday!!!

Poor Monday never gets a break.  For most of us it's the beginning of the work week and can be the most disagreeable day for that very reason.  Well, here is a reason to LOVE this Monday!  Chili's is giving you a free molten cake (or other dessert) with coupon with the purchase of an adult entree.  Don't wait!  Print your coupon now and dive in!  This offer is for today only.  Ah, Monday.  Finally a reason to celebrate you! ;)

Friday, May 13, 2011

Josiah's Beginning

It started out as any other normal day, except it also happened to be Justin's birthday.  I was working as a special education paraprofessional for a local middle school.  Jackson was just shy of 7 months old.

I was talking with one of the science teachers that I aided, Mrs. Jorja Berg, in the office adjoining her room and Mrs. Mandy Welch's room, another science teacher next door, both of whom I considered my good friends.  I don't exactly remember how this conversation got started (There's really no telling.  We were known for our randomness.), but at some point we stumbled onto the subject of menstrual cycles and the fact that I was late.  I wasn't worried about it because I was breastfeeding, after all.  I couldn't be pregnant.  Jorja was not so convinced.  This part I do remember.  "Just how late are you?" she asked me.  "Eleven days," I replied very flippantly and nonchalantly.  "ELEVEN days?!?!  You need to get tested, girl."  Well, I still didn't think I was pregnant but her alarm definitely shook my confidence.  Mandy just happened to be at Target on her lunch break so we called and asked her to pick up a pregnancy test and bring it back.

Mandy came racing through the door about five minutes before the bell rang for class carrying the now infamous test (in a bag, of course.  No need to traumatize the children. ;) Sadly, it probably wouldn't shock them at all, but that's a story for another day.).  She said, "I got it!  I just know the cashier thought I was crazy checking out with a box of tampons, pads, and a pregnancy test."  (Yes, she's hilarious!)

Our Little Songbird

Jackson is almost always singing. It's a well-known fact, too. Just ask his teacher who assigned him the Indian name, "Songbird", for their annual Thanksgiving costume party this year. He's a really great singer for his age, too. Most six-year olds have little self-awareness but this is particularly true of Jackson, among others diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. I mention that to point out that when he sings, he really sings. He doesn't care who is listening. He is oblivious of whether or not his noise may be bothersome or distracting to someone. He just sings loud and strong. I truly love that about him and I hope it never changes! I love that he enjoys singing so much...but that's probably not surprising to most of you, considering my own passion for music.

Anyway, last night Justin and I were cracking up while listening to Jackson singing one of his new favorite

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

McDonald's Coupon!

Head over to McDonald's website to print a $1 off coupon for a frozen strawberry lemonade!  The coupon is good thru June 15th.  Who doesn't like frozen treats?  Especially when they're so cheap!  Enjoy!

Free John Frieda!

Hurry over now to grab your free sample of John Frieda haircare while you still can!  I love getting these sorts of freebies in the mail!  Sometimes I will save them for traveling since they are the perfect size to fit into a toiletry bag and you don't have to worry about packing it up when you leave.  Of course, you don't have to do that.  They are perfect to use anytime! ;)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Tidy-Up Tip Tuesday 5/10

I had hoped to get this out earlier this morning but today has been crazy with a sick child at home.

Anyway, I definitely want to keep this a weekly routine and possibly something you'll look forward to reading so here's your tip for the week.  You can use white distilled vinegar as a fabric softener!  I've been doing this for years and have loved the results!  It has so many benefits besides just it's mere cost.  It will keep your washer clean and reduces the amount of lint in your dryer which as a result can prolong the life of both appliances.

All you do is add the vinegar to your liquid fabric softener compartment in your washing machine.  If you don't have one, add it during your final rinse or try pouring it into a Downy ball.  A half-cup is plenty, even less for smaller loads.  It's that easy!

When I first heard this tip, I was very skeptical and concerned that all of my clothes would come out of the

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Josiah Says

I had the pleasure of taking my 4 year old out "garage saling" with me today.  He brought his wallet and we headed out to find some bargains!  It wasn't too long before he wanted to purchase something.  I guess being cute lowers prices considerably because he really did well!  However, it appears he hasn't grasped how money transactions work quite yet.  I take partial responsibility for this since, well, here's what happened...

After securing a Disney puzzle for a quarter during one visit (which I loaned to him because he'd left his wallet in the car...go figure!) and then buying a battery operated toy guitar for fifty-cents at the next (That time he'd asked me to hold his wallet so I took a dollar out for him to pay and tried to hand it to him but he didn't take it so I handed it to the seller myself, then she handed him fifty-cents back.), we came to our final stop.  At this point, it was late and they were already packing up their wares.  Josiah found a Blue's Clues book and when I told him it was time to leave, he started to walk off with it without paying.  He was carrying his own wallet this time so I was explaining to him that if he wanted it then he needed to get his money out and pay for it.  The asking price was ten-cents but right as I was telling him to get his money out, they said he could just have it.  That's when Josiah went up to the sweet teenage girls with his hand out and said,

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Jackson's Birth- Part II

If you're just now joining this story, here are the links for the prerequisite and Jackson's Birth- Part I.

So, we're finally in a room of our own and I'm anxious to start walking around.  I had to wait for them to hook me up to a drip which meant walking the halls with a metal pole and hooked to an IV...pretty cumbersome.  Nonetheless, I still enjoyed the walking, in between bathroom breaks.  Those are fun, too, with an IV...having to unhook the bag from the pole, carry it into the bathroom, latch it to a hook on the wall.  I suppose it's easier than having the pole in there with you but when you're past 9 months pregnant...well, you can imagine how often I took those breaks when I was constantly being pumped full of fluids.  A little annoying.

Anyway, eventually the nurses made me stay in the bed after the doctor broke my water.  I think they were getting nervous that I might drop the baby on the floor or something.  Not likely, but I still relented.  Once

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

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Tidy-Up Tip Tuesday

I'm going to try to make this a weekly thing.

This idea came to me this morning while killing a roach.  I know that sounds weird.  I was in the laundry room getting a washload started when I spotted him.   I HATE roaches.  Since I didn't have any bug spray nearby, I grabbed the nearest thing, a bottle of Lysol Neutra-Air Fabric Refresher Mist Spray, not sure if it would work.  Well, it did!!  And it smells SO much better than Raid, not to mention safer for families with small children.  I'm thinking about making this a permanent change.

That got me to thinking that there are probably other household items we all have at home that would do the job just as well as a bug spray.  I priced Raid Ant and Roach killer on a recent CVS trip.  Granted, it's probably more expensive there than say, Walmart, but even so, it was over $6 for a 17.5 ounce can!  While the fabric refresher doesn't have the residual power of Raid (or another brand of bug spray), just a couple squirts will kill them on contact and it's WAY cheaper than $6 and possibly more environmentally friendly, although I haven't researched that theory.

So that's my tip for Tuesday.  Have any of you used something other than traditional bug spray to rid your home of pests?  If so, please share!  If you have a blog, why not join me in sharing your household tips every Tuesday?  Feel free to post your link in the comments section and together we can help each other keep a tidy home while saving time, money, and preserving the safety of our abodes.  :)

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Cracking Up at Cracker Barrel

The food was good.  The service was good.  The wait was long.

Yet, who knew I had such a polite child?  After waiting patiently for quite a while for our food to arrive, my loving 6 year old son caught our waitress's attention when she came by to check our glasses.  "Excuse me, waiter.  I would like some macaroni and cheese, please."  He had to be hungry.  It was around 7:30 before we even sat down (and I was ready to eat as well).  Even so, Jackson didn't fuss, whine, or pitch a fit.  He just took matters into his own hands and made his desires known in a polite and respectful fashion.

The waitress said she'd go check on his order and it would be out in a few minutes.  As she walked away, he looked at my mom and said, "Well, I think she's going to go tell the chef and then bring my macaroni in a little bit."  If you know Jackson and are familiar with his sing-song, yet matter-of-fact voice, then you can picture how funny this was!

This incident reminded me of another instance that his kindergarten teacher told me about shortly after the school year started.  Apparently, she had called on him to answer a question during one of lessons.  Instead of answering the question, he just said, "Mrs. Freeman, would you stop talking please?"  She wasn't mad or upset with him...just surprised by his response.  Nonetheless, this is not something you say to a teacher.  It looks like at the tender age of six, he's already mastered the art of respectful criticism.  I think this is a character trait that will carry him far, don't you? :)

Friday, April 29, 2011

Jackson's Birth- Part I

If you haven't already read the "prerequisite" to this post, you might want to do so, although it IS optional. ;)

Jackson was born a day after my due date (at least what I considered my due date.  My doctor said it was more like April 8th but I thought April 10th was more accurate.  Turns out I was right...or at least, closer.)  At the time, I was working as a special education paraprofessional at Madison Middle School .  My last day there was April 8th because I thought I was in labor that morning.  When I showed up at school the next day, no one could believe it.  They just knew "Ibby" had joined our world.  Well, one day later he did.

Early, early Thursday morning I went into what the medical community calls "spontaneous labor".  Basically, natural labor.  I remember these contractions felt a bit different than the Braxton-Hicks contractions that I'd been having.  Slightly more intense, closer together, and more consistent.  While I started getting ready, Justin called the doctor to see if this was really it and if we should come in.  She must have asked him if I'd lost my plug because he came into the bathroom (while still on the phone) and asked me if I knew what that meant.  Theoretically, I knew it existed but I really wasn't sure if I had lost mine or not.  (First baby, people.  Still trying to figure things out.)  The nurse told Justin, "Oh, she'd know.  It's hard to miss."  As luck would have it, I lost it a minute or two later...while he was still on the phone!  So, she told us to go ahead and come in.  Once off the phone, Justin came into the bathroom and found me in the shower.  His reaction went something like this:
"What are you doing?!  We're supposed to be going to the hospital."  
"We've got time.  My contractions aren't  that close together yet and I want to look as good as possible for the pictures."  
"This isn't the prom.  You are about to have a baby!"  
"I know.  Trust me, we're good."  
"If you end up having that baby here or in the car on the way to the hospital, don't blame me.  And I'm not going to be very happy about that, either!"  
(Believe me, I know.)

To try to ease my husband's irrational fears, I showered and shaved as quickly as a pregnant woman can and then painted my toenails.  I tried to hurry with that, too, but you can imagine Justin's frustration.  Finally, I was ready to go.  Justin drove like a maniac...which is saying something because many a time I've grown impatient with his leisurely pace.  This time, however, I was more than a little irritated with his speed.  The truck wasn't known for its shocks/suspension and every bump hurt!  In fact, I took to sitting mid-air just to ease the pain.  Justin's behavior was somewhat understandable, though, with this being our first child coupled with the fact that we lived on the north end of town and the hospital was on the south end.  Still, Abilene is no metropolis.  It was only about 15-20 minutes away.

Once we arrived, we had an "informal" check-in and were then sent to a "holding area" (or that's what I called it.  You know, that's where they send you to make sure you are in labor before getting you a room of your own.)  We had curtains for partitions and after only a few minutes in our little "cubby", Justin tells me to put my fingers in my ears and stop listening.  WHAT??  Being the good wife that I am, I humored him even though he wouldn't tell me why.  (Can you picture it?  And I don't know about you, but when I had a contraction, my natural instinct was to put my hands on my sides and my stomach.  You can't so much do that with your fingers in your ears.)  Even with my fingers in my ears, though, I could still hear some of what was going on.  There was another woman in the "cubby" next to us who was pregnant with twins.  Apparently, at least one of them was breech.  She was screaming.  I mean, really screaming.  (That would be the part I heard.)  My sweet husband was concerned that if I heard all that commotion, I'd freak out.  My heart really went out to this woman and I hope she and her babies were ok, but it didn't so much scare me in relation to my own labor.  I don't know why.  It just didn't.

After what seemed like forever, they finally sent us to a room and formally checked us in.  I'll pick up there with the more exciting part of the story next time.  Like I said before, bite-size pieces! :)