Tuesday, January 29, 2008

WFMW - 1-30-08

As a mom of four children, I am all about time-savers! I have always loved Valentine's Day, even as a child. I loved decorating the shoe box for school so that my friends could put their cards to me in the recesses of this cute box. I have loved picking out cheesy cards for my children to give on this day each year. Sadly, we no longer have to buy cards for kids in the classroom since my children are now teenagers.

I have one great time saver that I used all through my children's lives. I would watch for Wal Mart to start putting out the Valentine aisle, which was usually right after Christmas. I would then take my children and have them pick out the cards that they wished to give their classroom friends. We would then take them home and immediately do the cards. I kept a class roster in my family household notebook so it always made it handy. Most years we had them all signed and the envelopes decorated by the middle of January. I would then put the cards in a large ziploc bag and kept them in a safe place until the day of the party or when they were required to bring them to school. I would notate on the bag which child the cards belonged to so that I would not be expected to remember in a month!

This worked out beautifully! No more late night tears trying to write out all the names, no more rushing around trying to find the right cards along with every other parent in town, plus we could have the pick of the lot and usually the cutest cards because we were first in buying them. And most of all, it made my children have a sense of pride for accomplishing something that in the past was frustrating to them, especially the boys.

That is what always Worked for Me when my children were young. Buy early, do them immediately, and sit back and enjoy getting ready for all the great Valentine parties at school!

Works for me! For more Works for Me Wednesday posts see Rocks in My Dryer!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Great Giveaway to a Mom with Teenagers!

Update: I will draw at 12:01 a.m. CST, February 2, 2008. I will post the winner a little later in the morning on Saturday.
Shannon at Rocks in My Dryer and Bloggy Giveaways is hosting her annual Bloggy Giveaway! So I wanted to jump on board and offer my first giveaway.

I am going to give away a gift pack for the harried Mom of teenagers that loves coffee, chocolate, and reading!

What a combo!

I am going to give away a 10.00 gift card to Starbuck's, some fine Dark Chocolate (good for your heart ya know), and would love to throw in the great book for parents of teenagers Boundaries for Teens by Henry Cloud and John Townsend.

To enter, leave a comment on this post. I will draw a random winner on Saturday, February 2nd. You do not have to have a blog to enter to win, but you do have to provide a valid email address. Once I draw a winner on Saturday, I will send you an email to get your mailing address so I can send you the gifts!

If you want to earn extra entries, just subscribe to my feed or mention this giveaway on your blog with a link back here. Please let me know if you are going to have extra entries so I can count you properly!

After you leave your comment, click over to Bloggy Giveaways for many more fun and exciting bloggy giveaways.

I hope you come back and visit!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

MPM - 1-28-08

This post will be short but I do not know how sweet it will be. I have been sick and have a child that has the stomach virus, one that is sick with the flu like virus, and praying the other two and my husband do not get sick. Here goes:

Monday - Turkey Patties, Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans, Green Salad, Jello

Tuesday - Whole Wheat Rigatoni with Alfredo Sauce (low fat), Chicken, and Broccoli, Salad

Wednesday - Eat at church

Thursday - Pizza and Salad

Friday - Homemade Chicken Enchiladas OR Chicken Totasdas with sour cream sauce, salad, and brownies

Saturday - Crock Pot Chicken and veggies

Sunday - Not sure yet.

Last week I posted what my husband and I have been eating on our vegetarian plan but tonight I am aching and just want to go to bed. So, I may update it tomorrow.

For more menu plans, please head over to OrgJunkie.com!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Super Savings Saturday - 1-26-08

This week has been so busy for me that I was not able to get my act together to head out to CVS and Walgreens early. I have determined that the early bird does indeed get the worm and I hope to have my plan together after Crystal posts her CVS and Walgreens online tonight.

All was not lost and since this is only my second time to do this CVS shopping I felt like I did okay but not as good as I would have if 1) I was not last minute in getting it done; and 2) I was not running a fever and feel like a Mack truck was rumbling in my head. This is what I did at both places and one product I received in the mail for free this week minus a few products:

Okay now for the list:
Last night at Walgreens I purchased two boxes of Hershey Sticks (not shown...eaten by three teenage boys). Each box was marked 1.99 and I had 2 $1.00 off coupons, which made the final for each box .99 cents. I purchased a Garnier Fructis curling gel, which is not shown, 3.99 original price plus I had a 1.00 manufacturer coupon plus a 1.50 coupon from the Easy Saver catalog at Walgreens, which made the gel 1.49. One Rimmel mascara for 2.99. Purchased Jane Mineral Make up BOGO free with the original price being 6.99. I did not see alot of markdown Jane products at our Walgreens. I puchased a markdown lipstick by Jane for 2.59. We also purchased two Snicker eggs for a 1.00.

I have discovered at my Walgreens they are not careful about coupons. I was shorted a 1.50 but they would not correct since the manager quickly gathered up my coupons and put them away. I was very frustrated but thought next time I would go to another store. All in all the total value of products were:
28.53 before tax
10.00 in coupons, 6.99 free item
Total before tax 11.54; Total out of pocket this trip 13.21

I was disappointed with how much out of pocket I had spent but they were items we needed and the price of the gel was better than Walmart so I felt good after I reviewed my receipt.

CVS - this morinng. I was miserable (getting sick) and looked it. My daughter went with me and this is what we were able to find in stock....most things I wanted like the deoderant, Sambucol, and a few other things were sold out.
3 large Hershey Bars in Dark Chocolate
8 Soy Joys - all they had left
4 M and Ms - all they had left Dark Chocolate which is what I wanted in the first place.
1 Cotton Balls, 1 Cotton Pads
34.13 value - free M&Ms 6.98= 27.15, should have added more to up it to 30.00 but was not feeling well at all and ready to get home.
I used:
my 7.00 ECBs - first to ever use
My OOP ended up being 9.21 w/tax
I Earned 16.00 ECBs

I was excited that I earned 16.00 ECBs and look forward to doing better next time. I never buy candy and I am going to have to dole this out or my boys will eat this all today! They burn so many calories working out but we really limit sugar intake in our home. It was exciting to purchase this for them and two bags are for their Valentine's.

I welcome any comments on how I can work this better. I still feel that I am not doing it quite right and really relish reading each of your posts to get a better handle on how to work this to our family's advantage.

Oh and one item in the picture is a free Contact solution we received free in the mail after I sent off a request for it weeks ago when my husband received his new contacts. Woo Hoo, I love free!

My daughter and I also used two coupons at Chick Fil A today and received two free chicken sandwiches with the purchase of medium fries/medium drinks. Savings: 5.18

Total OOP this weekend: 27.51 Total value of items: 67.84

Check out Super Saving Saturday at Money Saving Mom for more great ideas!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Frugal Friday - 1-24-08

Family Entertaiment can be expensive when you have a larger family. Just going to see a first run movie in the evening right now would cost our family of six 54.00! That is just the movie tickets folks! We rarely go and never go at night unless it is the dollar theatre. The matinee however now costs around 6.00 per person.

Several things I have done is to make a run to the dollar store before the movie matinee. I buy everyones favorite candy. Since we never have this type of thing at home it adds to the festivities. I just put this candy in my purse and pass it out once we get in the movie.
When I was a single mom, I would even put two Solo cups in my purse along with a baggy of crushed ice and a can of soda.

We also have a local video store that has free rentals of children's movies, which came in handy when they were younger, but they also have free rental days as well for other movies.
There are many things that you can do as a family and enjoy each others time. Go to the local park when the weather is nice and pack a picnic lunch. Be sure and bring the frisbees and footballs to toss around.

We currently have so many sporting events to go to with our boys playing football/basketball that we have a lot of entertainment opportunities. Our local university also has great events that we can usually attend for free.

Check your local paper to see listings of what is taking place in your city. There are always things that either are a nominal fee or free.

Also, if you have teenagers, like we do, that love going to the movies with friends, purchase a gift card to the movies for a birthday gift or stocking stuffer at Christmas.
For more Frugal Friday ideas go to Biblical Womanhood.

Enjoying the Journey

You know that feeling you have your children are young and you long for that next stage so you can 'know' what it feels like to have a baby that can sit up, or a toddler that can walk, or they are out of diapers...that sort of longing for the next step in life?

I think that is a common thing for Mom's to always think of the next stage. I remember when my oldest graduated from high school in 2006, I was ready for the next stage but yet a little nervous about the future. I also think back to when he got his driver's license...that was huge and very scary. The critical thing is I survived and the Lord graciously brought me through these trials.

I am now getting ready to have a second teenager driving in the house with one more following January 2009 and the final driver in the household in 2010. The years are flying by and I feel like I have no idea where they have gone?

Today, I was thinking about how much they have all grown and that it is entirely possible that in the next decade I may become a grandmother! What?! Oh my goodness!

Tonight, as we were having dinner, I was listening to our fifteen year old relive his basketball game tonight. He is our very animated child. He had to get up from the table to add actions to his words. It was hysterical! We were all laughing and at that moment I realized how blessed I have been to have these four incredible children in my life. One to whom I gave birth and three I was blessed with seven years ago when the Lord brought me my incredible husband.

It seems I have arrived at that stage that we all think about when we have young children and dream about when we have precocious pre-teens...that time is upon me and I realized tonight that I have really enjoyed the journey. Has it all been a piece of cake...nada...but I would not trade a minute of it!

So in about a year or so we are going to be the house on the block that has more cars than anyone else and our insurance bill will probably be able to feed a family of four each month easy, but I wouldn't trade it for anything, well except maybe free car insurance! :)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

WFMW - 1-23-08

Raising teenagers takes lots of time, energy, and investigative work. Many parents think that once their children reach being teenagers they can slack off a bit. Our middle school principle tells sixth grade parents each year at orientation,"Parents, this is not the time to slack off in being a parent. You need to be more attuned and watchful at this age...guiding them to make wise choices."

One area that I see many slacking off in is the area of going to the movies and what they allow their teenagers to see. The movie ratings really mean nothing to us. We have our own ratings system. We check everything out. Just because we have a nearly 14 year old daughter and two boys ages 15 and 16, they do not automatically get to attend any PG13 movie they so desire. We have raised my nearly 20 year old the same way and for the most part I believe he has made wise choices.

We have been shocked through the years by Christian parents that we know that allow their children to see any PG13 or 'R' rated movies. When our younger sons were around nine and ten years of age the movie the Matrix was very popular. They had friends from church that owned the movie. They were over at this friends house and when he pulled the movie out they told him that they were not allowed to see that type of movie. We have taught our children to blame it on us when it is appropriate..."No, my parents won't let me", or "No man, my parents would freak if I saw that...did that....etc.,"

What we are teaching our children is not about censorship but teaching them what to look for in entertainment and how to protect their minds and hearts. We do not want them to fill their mind with lustful things, foul language, s*xual situations, for the sake of entertainment. Garbage in equals garbage out.

There are two great resources that we utilize. One is free and the other has a yearly subscription that is worth it. We love James Dobson's Plugged In Online. It is free. It is a great resource for movies - current or video; music, print, or television. With our older boys we have gotten to a point where we will print the review off and ask them if this is the sort of thing they want to fill their mind with. Too be honest, anymore we let them make the decision, especially as they mature, but for the most part we tell them why we feel it would not be a good choice for them to see XYZ Movie. More often than not they change their mind and see something that they know would be more well-suited. Children want boundaries and just because they are now teenagers does not mean that they do not still want some sort of boundaries in life.

The other choice that used to be free but now goes by subscription rates is Screenit.com. This service tells you EVERY word that is said, every scene that is inappropriate and why it is inappropriate, the morality of the movie, whether there is drinking that is glorified, or situations that even as an adult I do not want to see in a movie.

We have also been known to go see the movie before allowing our children to view it but that was when they were much younger. Try to find like-minded friends that feel the same way you do about what movies to see or not see. I have learned the hard way that sometimes your closest friends or even family can steer you wrong. You have to know that you are like-minded on what you feel is inappropriate so that you are not surprised. Including your teenagers in the process helps teach them how to handle this type of temptation when they are older. It works for us!

For more Works for Me Wednesday see Rocks in My Dryer.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

MPM - 1-21-08

This week on Menu Plan Monday, I am going to add what I fix for my teenagers and then try to give a little insight into what my husband and I eat each week. It is not the same menu....we changed our eating habits last March and since then I have cooked for my kids and made our meals too.

This week the teens will be having:

Monday - Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo bake with whole wheat rigatoni

Tuesday - Tostadas with salad

Wednesday - eat at church

Thursday - Chicken in the crock pot and mashed potatoes, green beans

Friday - Homemade Pizza

Saturday - We may not be home for dinner due to family activities today

Sunday - Potato Soup and cornbread

My husband and I will eat:

Monday - black bean/chili tomatoes/corn salsa with spinach salad, triple berry fruit smoothie

Tuesday - large spinach salad with spring greens, grilled Tilapia, couscous with artichoke hearts

Wednesday - eat at church, salad bar

Thursday - large salad, fresh broccoli, carrots, hummus, and sauteed onions, mushrooms, and red peppers, triple berry fruit smoothie

Friday - whole wheat pita bread pizzas with mushrooms, onions, tomato, spinach broiled in the oven

Saturday - bean soup made in our Vitamix, whole grain Ezekiel bread

Sunday - large salad with chicken, balsamic dressing, peppers, onions, mushrooms sauteed, brocooli and hummus

We are following Dr. Joel Furhman's Eat to Live plan. It has been such a huge help to both of us. We were gone this weekend and ate things we have not eaten in almost a year. Tonight we are both MISERABLE! We got off of red meat, dairy (we went to soy), and most meat. We eat a lot of fresh veggies, fruit, nuts, seeds, beans, nut butters, some fish, whole grains, oatmeal, etc. I have been trying to make up a lot of recipes as I go along and will try to pull them out and begin to post them here. It is a huge change of mindset. It has changed my blood levels and cholesterol, blood pressure, sugar levels, etc. Coupled with exercise it has radically changed our lives.

I have been in a rut and have been seeking new recipes so if you have great vegan or vegeterian recipes leave me a comment. We are on the hunt for them!

If you need more ideas for menu planning see Laura at OrgJunkie.com

Saturday, January 19, 2008

A Time to Refresh

We just returned home from a whirlwind 24 hours. My sweet husband told me on Wednesday to not have plans for Friday night. I love a man with a plan so I was excited. I am also the worlds worst at being surprised. I always want to know and have a sharp, investigative nature so I immediately had all kinds of thoughts going through my head. Having been married to me now almost seven years he knows this trait very well. Before I could open my mouth he told me to not ask, not speculate, and to just sit back and wait for instruction. I asked what I was to wear and he told me, "I will let you know when you need to know". Phooey...I was not going to get anywhere.

Something changed however after a day or so. I began to get very excited about being surprised. I mean, this was a big deal for me. Believe me, I have never liked surprises. I am MORE surprised when I know. I think it means I have a fear of the unknown but we are not trying to pychoanalyze the situation right now. When I was thirteen I even gave away the surprise of everyone's Christmas presents to my three siblings. I had found the presents and asked if they wanted to see them! I showed them the presents. My parents that year were furious. Of course my younger sisters tattled on me, as they should have, and at first no presents were under the tree. I learned my lesson about that but my husband has still had a hard time trying to surprise me.

Yesterday arrived and he was off work and had lots going on. He was not reachable most of the day by phone. It just so happened that I had a hair appointment with my dear friend yesterday. I told her that something was up and all I knew was we had reservations at seven o'clock. She gave me the works with my hair and sent me on my way.

I arrived home and did not notice anything that would give me clues at all. Our daughter was geting ready to leave for a weekend mission trip so we were getting her ready and taking her to our church by six that evening. She had picked out what I was to wear. As I went into our room I noticed that it looked a little different. That is when I noticed the suitcase on the bed and turned and saw the enormous smile on my husbands face! He had planned an overnight get away for us! He had gotten our sons taken care of with food and fun for the night. They are more than capable of staying by themselves. He told me to go get ready.

I must tell you that I was so happy. What I have not told you is that last weekend while my husband was busy at work I had a melt down. I mean a big, bad meltdown. I have not cried like that in I don't know how long. It was not really over any one thing. I had to deal with the usual teenage angst issues but I was overwhelmed with all I needed to accomplish and was having a pretty big pitty party to boot! I felt everything pressing in on me and realized that I missed my husband so much! We always try to have a date night but we are both so tired and there is always a teen calling to ask a question, or tell us something 'important'. We never really get uninterrupted time to hold hands, talk, and just sit quietly with one another.

I did not voice this to anyone but my Lord. I prayed so hard last week. I desired to have time with my husband without our children around and no commitments. After my crying jag he realized he was going to be off for nine days. He got the ball rolling. He wanted us to go to Tulsa but then remembered our middle son turns 15 tomorrow. He then decided that we would stay at a new hotel in Oklahoma City...a few miles from our home but still...alone....away....quiet....peace.

My husband is also a very good listener and has remembered things that I have told him, sometimes all the way back to when we were dating. I mentioned one of my favorite places to eat in Edmond but it had gone out of business in town a long time ago. I knew there was one still in OKC but it was never something we thought about on date night. He got us reservations there for seven last night. MMMM it was so good. The jazz was great! We loved it! We then moved on to Barnes and Noble, which is my favorite thing to do so we could hold hands, read, and more importantly talk, oh yea and drink Starbucks. We were able to sleep in today and have spent the entire day together. It did not matter that we did not go to another town outside the boundaries of our own. It was a time to reconnect and remember how the Lord brought us together and just enjoy each others company.

I highly recommend it! I feel recharged and refreshed. Ready to meet the challenges of the coming week. It was just what I needed to refocus on this wonderful gift the Lord gave me. It also made me realize that I can't let myself get so stressed. While I have wonderful children that are awesome....they are all trying to find their place in this world and where they fit. They also have those teenage hormones racing through their bodies and at times they may not make sense may get a little testy, or they may have their own emotional upheavals but we are a family...that Christ put together. We fit perfectly together like a hand in a glove. It is the most amazing thing that I have ever experienced in my life. I needed only 24 hours away to relax and realize yet again who is in control and relinquish that tight grip I seem to have at times when I want to be in charge. That is where I always fail and get myself in a bind....I just have to keep my focus on Christ and continually let Him mold me into the wife and mom that He desires for me to be and not some preconceived idea that I have in my head.

So I missed being around today. I did not get my Super Savings Saturday post done but tomorrow is a new day. I think I have had my batteries recharged and I am ready to rumble!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Frugal Fridays - 1-18-08

Being frugal to me also means that when one needs something or even desires something you find another way to have it for the least amount of money spent. If it is free, that is even better. So began the room I call my free room at my home.

Moving into our home three years ago was filled with great emotion. I have mentioned before on my blog that this was the home I grew up in. It was very exciting to have the chance to buy the home from the woman who bought it from my parents thirteen years prior. While we were very excited to have the home, I knew that buying new furniture was out and that meant a couple of rooms would be empty. I began to pray.

I went ahead and planned how I wanted the rooms to look and had them painted. I love french country style and I am a bit eclectic. The front of the house has the typical 70s style of a formal living/formal dining combination. I wanted red walls and a yellow ceiling. My reproduction oak table that was over 20 years old looked great as did my 100 year old buffet I had purchased in the early 80s. I prayed for more furniture.

About this time, my youngest sister advised me that she was going to re-decorate and would I like her french country couch? Oh my goodness of course I would! This is the beginning of my frugal streak taking hold. I never dreamed how well it would match my scheme. Soon my parents gave me two french chairs to add to the mix. They were perfect! One day our neighbors were having a garage sale and I saw the cutest yellow furniture. I quickly recognized it as 1970s Ethan Allen furniture. I asked how much for all the pieces and about fell over. I knew the hutch/bookcase alone sells on eBay for around 1500.00 and they were 0nly asking 150.00 for four pieces of furniture in excellent shape. The coffee table came from a thrift store that had half price day and I snagged the oak table for 12.50! I soon pulled out all my blue and white plates that I had been collecting for years, never paying more than 4.00 for a single plate, and my dream room took shape.

I am so glad that I did not feel pressure to run out an charge up a card in order to furnish this room. It is my favorite room in our home. It is SO me. It is not formal but homey and comfortable. My sweet sister later gave me the balloon shades as well and the room was complete.

In your quest to be frugal, never overlook the possibility that you may have friends or family that will want to re-decorate or give away furniture. Never give up looking at garage sales or thrift stores for great finds.

That is my Frugal Friday tip. For more Frugal Friday ideas go to Biblical Womanhood.

Here is my frugal/free room:

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Twila Paris - Small Sacrifice

This week I received a highly anticipated package in the mail. I was asked to review Twila Paris' new project, Small Sacrifice. Let me say that I was absolutely thrilled to have the chance to review this project plus the opportunity to talk about it.
I have since played the cd through numerous times and I must say that I absolutely love it!

I have always loved Twila. Her voice sounds like an angel but more than her vocal talent, it is how the Lord speaks to her through the written word. Her lyrics are spectacular! I have always been the nerdy one that is so excited when I get a new CD because I can't wait to get the wrapper off and open it up to pull out the jacket and read the lyrics. Somehow the music means more to me personally when I see that the artist has written the lyrics.

I am excited that there is an entire generation that will be able to enjoy this wonderful artist. She has released 22 albums, amassed 33 number one singles, and was named Gospel Music Association Female Vocalist of the Year three separate times. This album is being released exclusively through LifeWay Christian Stores. It will also be available for purchase on Twila's website (http://www.twilaparis.com/) and through iTunes.

Twila is a pioneer in praise and worship music. As many of you know who visit this blog, I have one of my favorite Twila Paris songs, How Beautiful, that plays in the background.
I was very excited to hear one of her songs entitled I Can Do All Things. It is obviously based on Phillipians 4:13. This has been my life verse. I can remember learning to snow ski in Santa Fe, New Mexico and quoting this verse out loud all the way down the slope! The song did not disappoint!

The title track Small Sacrifice is beautiful. Twila says she called the album Small Sacrifice because she loved the scriptural concept that giving of ourselves as a living sacrifice is simply our reasonable service. I love the words to the CHORUS: What can You do with this gift of mine...So insignificant, so unrefined. What can You do with a simple girl. You can change the world. You can change the world. With one small sacrifice. I give You all my love. I give You all my life. A token for a prize. It never could be worth the honor You deserve. It's one small sacrifice. WOW! I love this song!

My all time favorite on the CD is a song that really touched my heart and I look for it to really make a difference in lives. The title is Not Forgotten. For ten years I waited on the Lord.Earlier in my life I waited for eight years for a child and suffered loss of four babies before finally being blessed with my oldest. I know that many wait for children, a spouse, a wayward child to come back to the Lord...whatever you are waiting for He has not forgotten you. This song alone touched a place deep within me that spoke to my heart.

So ya'll need to run out to your local Lifeway Christian Bookstore and buy a copy of this fantastic new worship CD or head over to http://www.twilaparis.com/ and pick up a copy. This is bound to be another great group of songs that we will be using in our churches for years to come. Some of the most powerful and well loved worship songs that are a constant in our churches today were written by Twila, "He is Exalted" and "We Bow Down".

I will leave you with one more quote from Twila that really sums it all up. "I want to encourage people to be faithful in what God has given them to do, however insignificant it might seem, because they have no idea how huge it could be in God's overall plan."

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

WFMW - 1-16-08

I wanted to share something that has made my life a lot easier in the kitchen. I have a notebook that I call my "Kitchen Notebook". I keep it handy when I am cooking. I was never very confident in my abilities as a cook. I never really like a long recipe and the fact I never cooked a meal before I married added to my level of frustration. This is the main reason why my children are learning valuable lessons around the home like how to do laundry, how to run a home, cook, clean, budget, etc.

FoodNetwork has helped build my confidence in my abilities in the kitchen. I also love watching my favorite chefs cook without benefit of a recipe, at least that we can see.

Well there is one guy that I also love to watch on the Discovery Home Channel that never uses a recipe. His name is Michael Smith and his show is called "Chef at Home" This guy is great! He encourages you to keep a kitchen notebook. He writes down what he creates in a notebook he keeps nearby when he is cooking. He is inspiring to watch and his show has become a favorite of mine and a few of my children. I found that I was always creating things on the fly after work and on the times when I really hit it out of the ballpark with a home run, I never could remember everything I had put into the dish.

Many times lately my sixteen year old, who would love to be a chef one day, in addition of course to his NBA career and being an FBI agent, has reminded me to write everything down. I have found that it is also helpful to not throw away the cans/boxes/wrappers of whatever you are using until you are finished. I used to clean as I go and then when I was trying to remember everything I did not want to dig through the trash. Now I can count the items, write them down and have my recipe all ready for the next time I decide to make it for my family.

I encourage you to give it a try. It sure works for me! For more Works for Me Ideas, check out Shannon at Rocks in My Dryer

The Anchor still Holds

Life can be hard as an adult, but I can't imagine how trauma, heartache, disappointment, and grief feels as a young child/teen.

In our home, we have four very individual children that each have endured their own hurt, pain, heartache, and trauma. My oldest has had to deal with his father's leaving our home and all the pain and suffering that goes with a divorce. He is now older and can see for himself the depravity and what happens to a life when one turns his back on God and his child. The other three have endured unthinkable tragedy in losing their sweet Mom so early in their young lives to a horrible disease called cancer. I can't imagine what it feels like to lose your mom at only three and a half years of age. My childhood was so idllyic and happy that it is hard for me to wrap my head around how these four incredible young people handle this type of stress day in and day out.

The last seven years have been filled with new challenges, untold joy, dealing with grief, and the realization that life is not fair but God is good.

Yesterday our oldest was concerned that he had a cold heart and was indifferent when he heard that his father's long standing girlfriend (who was the catalyst in the breakup nearly 17 years ago) had her cancer reoccur. He told me he did not care but he was concerned that it was inappropriate to feel that way about her situation. I shared with him that we are to love our enemies and pray for them. He told me, "Mom this woman has made my life a living h*ll since I was a very little boy...I just don't care what happens to her." I was able to share with him why he needs to care but realized that this is an area the Lord will have to deal with him deep in his own heart. We went on to have a discussion about how my husband and three other children lost such an awesome Christian wife and mom. He said it seemed so unfair and yet I could point out again how the Lord is in control and how her life had been an example to those around her of Christ's love. My son then told me that he truly did not know how he would have made it this far if it had not been for my husband and his two brothers and little sister. It was a sweet time and gave me more things I really need to focus on in my prayers for him.

I hurt for all my children and their unique situations and on the other hand I rejoice in what the Lord has put together! He took two battle-scarred families and brought them together as only the Lord can do.

I leave you with the words to one of my favorite songs. When I hear it I think of what the six of us have endured in our lives and how the one constant between us all is that the Anchor still holds! Praise be to God!

The Anchor Holds
By Ray Boltz
I have journeyed
Through the long dark night
Out on the open sea
By faith alone
Sight unknown
And yet His eyes were watching me

The anchor holds
Though the ship is battered
The anchor holds
Though the sails are torn
I have fallen on my knees
As I faced the raging seas
The anchor holds
In spite of the storm

I’ve had visions
I’ve had dreams
I’ve even held them in my hand
But I never knew
They would slip right through
Like they were only grains of sand

The anchor holds
Though the ship is battered
The anchor holds
Though the sails are torn
I have fallen on my knees
As I faced the raging seas
The anchor holds
In spite of the storm

I have been young
But I am older now
And there has been beauty these eyes have seen
But it was in the night
Through the storms of my life
Oh, that’s where God proved
His love to me

The anchor holds
Though the ship is battered
The anchor holds
Though the sails are torn
I have fallen on my knees
As I faced the raging seas
The anchor holds
In spite of the storm

Monday, January 14, 2008

MPM - 1-14-08

The university I work at started the spring semester today so I have several weeks of not being able to leave for lunch and will be stuck on campus (due to terrible parking problems) so I will be busier than normal and not have that precious hour to go home and do things around the house and/or run errands. My menu is very sparse and quick this week.
Monday – Sweet and Sour Shrimp with Couscous, veggies and salad
(pre-cooked shrimp, defrost, add sweet and sour sauce, mix the shrimp into the couscous and viola! A quick an easy meal.

Tuesday – Crock Pot Enchiladas

Wednesday – eat at church

Thursday – Turkey Chili and cornbread (posted previously)

Friday – Homemade Pizza and Salad (I am going to use Crystal’s recipe)

Saturday – Zach’s birthday dinner out with friends

Sunday - Family celebration for Zach’s 15th birthday – meal of his choice
For more menu ideas see Laura at Orgjunkie.com

Friday, January 11, 2008

Super Saving Saturday - 1-12-08

I have made my first CVS run and went to Walgreens too. You ladies rock that can do this so efficiently and save so much more than I did today. But I am getting there!
The total value of all items is: 122.58
Out of my pocket tonight: 31.34
ECBs earned 7.00
ECBs spent tonight (beginner) 2.00
Expecting rebate of: 19.99
earned register rewards 3.50
I am not sure how you ladies work the final tally. I am choosing to take my total spent: 31.34 - 19.99 rebate - 7.00 ECBs - 3.50 RR = .85 cents will be my final out of pocket once all is completed OR 31.34 spent tonight - 19.99 rebate = 11.35 with 10.50 in earnings to use later. However, you choose to look at it....this rocks! I have had alot of stress trying to figure this out but now that I have gotten over the first hurdle of actually going through the process, I know I made it too hard on myself!

I have two One Touch Ultra blood sugar monitors, two Arm and Hammer detergent (my children love this and how it smells - a consumer reports pick for laundry detergent); 4 Reeses Whips; 2 Pro Vive Shampoos; 2 Garnier Fructis Shampoos; One Garnier Curly Spray; 4 Orbit gum packs; 2 Mentos gum packs; 4 boxes of General Mills cereals, and one Colgate toothpaste.

I will be heading out later on today for my weekly shopping and hope to post pictures upon my return. However, I am very excited about the One Touch Ultra monitor that I was able to purchase for 'free' today! I am sending off the rebate later today. I am curious to see what takes place and if the company actually sends the rebate.

I went to a different Hobby Lobby this week and found three more ornaments to match the previous ones purchased last week at 80 percent off. I also found a star for the top of our tree that matches our stocking, tree skirt, ribbon, etc. Our Colorado lodge look is now complete.

I purchased three items for Valentines Day gifts for my teenagers friends. They had picked them out last week but I told my children I was sure they would start pricing the items 50 percent off soon. Sure enough, the Sunday paper confirmed my theory and I went and snagged the cute items for 50% off.

I also have been waiting for the decorative wood sayings to be on sale. I wanted one that said CREATE for my craft room. I never pay full price at Hobby Lobby because they have a regular sale schedule and you can pretty much get whatever you are needing/wanting on sale if you are patient. They had the decorative words on sale for 50% off. Total worth of items purchased: 49.00 My cost: 16.00.

Check back later today for more bargain updates! Check out Crystal's site for more Super Saving Saturday.

Five ways we saved a 100.00 last year

Five ways we saved a 100.00 last year:
1. Turned our thermostat down in the winter to 66 degrees and turned it up in the summer to 76. This year we have saved over 200.00 each month on our electric bill during the recent cold weather.
2. My husband and I began to share a meal when we went on our date night. Mimi's Cafe is our favorite place to share a meal. We at first each had a petite portion salad but one day we decided to share a large and have it split. We did and the savings were great and it was plenty for us to eat! They also bring a wonderful muffin with your meal and we always split the honey oat muffin. We also usually will each order a small cup of corn chowder for one dollar. Our total for our meal on date night is usually with tip around 14.00 for two people.
3. I began to shop in earnest at thrift stores plus each week I would stop by TJMaxx and Ross Dress for Less to look through their clearance items. We saved a ton of money on clothes for our teenagers. Nike shirts or shorts for under five bucks! Yea, great prices and the brands our kids love.
4. We do not go to the mall. Our teens go to the local movie theater in town where it is cheaper than the local mall, plus we would not allow them to go to the mall anyway, unless they are with us. We found that staying away from the mall keeps you away from tempation.
5. Our children take their lunch to school. My husband and I both take our lunch most days as well.
If you would like to see more money saving ideas visit Biblical Womanhood for Frugal Fridays!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

WFMW - How to make a quick and easy whole grain bread?

I have never participated in the Backwards Edition of WFMW before today. This should be really awesome!

I would love to have someone guide me to an easy recipe for homemade bread. I would prefer a whole or multigrain bread and one that is not for the bread machine. I want to make it the old fashioned way.

I have never made bread before other than the frozen loaves and quick breads such as pumpkin. It is intimidating to me. If you have a quick, easy, or tried and true recipe for a hearty whole grain bread, I would love you point me in the right direction.

Thanks! For more answers to probing questions, go to Rocks In My Dryer this week for a twist on Works for Me Wednesday!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

MPM 1-7-08

This week I will back at work after a two week absence. The kids are all back in school but our oldest, who will be back in session next week. We have a lot going on the next seven days and my husband is working some very crazy hours. I think he will more than likely have worked 85 hours by this time next week!

My menu is very simple this week:

Monday - Brown rice with black bean/corn/chili tomatos and onions, and Avocado seasoned with Cumin, Mrs. Dash Southwest Chipolte Seasoning, and a splash of Lime Juice. Salad and fruit for dessert.

Tuesday - Quick meal of Tostadas with Fat Free Refried Beans, Cheese, and Salsa, a big green Salad. Daughter's musical program at school tonight so meal needs to be quick and easy. I take tortillas and slather them in fat free refried beans, add a little cooked ground turkey on top, cheese, enchilada sauce, and broil them in the oven until bubbly and brown. Add a quick salad and one of my children's favorite quick meals is served. My boys have several of these and they like to fold them in half and eat them much like a quesadilla. Our daughter puts jalapenos on hers and then adds more hot sauce. She loves things spicy!

Wednesday - eat at church

Thursday - Soup night - Taco soup with homemade green chili cornbread. Take Jiffy Corn Bread and mix as directed. Add a can of chopped green chilis, a handful of cheese, and some of the great Mrs. Dash Southwest Chipolte seasoning mixture and bake as directed.

Friday - Homemade pizza night. Veggie for me and sis and usually candadian bacon or turkey for the kids.

Saturday - Taco Salad with ground turkey instead of beef.

Sunday - Chicken Penne Pasta with Broccoli and fat free Alfredo Sauce, always a salad

For more menu plans see Laura at OrgJunkie.com

Financial Goals 2008

We have discussed our categories and I thought I would post a few here:
Home - within home it will include all things pertaining to HOME. I have taken a sheet and broke down mini categories within HOME such as mortgage, insurance, repairs, heat/gas/garbage, taxes, and a separate account for items that we want for our home such as new furniture, appliances, etc.
Cars - since we owe nothing on any of our vehicles we want to set up a fund to replace these vehicles. We are choosing to use an ING account. Also I set up the same sort of mini categories such as oil/gas, repair, tires, insurance, tags, insurance deductible, maintenance
Food - this includes our grocery bills plus eating out. In 2008 we are purposing to not eat out as much as in the past. Also I am planning my menus and meals plus using coupons to extend this budget.
Savings - this is one huge group but I have broken it down into small mini categories again like the previous areas. We will have three in high school next year. I have taken all the expenses that I know will exist and have multiplied it by three and have a figure of what our great expenses will be such as class rings, letter jackets, yearbooks, football camps, choir expenses, etc. We will then begin to take a certain amount out of our monthly budget and apply it to a savings account so that the fund are there when the request is made.
Within this group we have also added the church trips that will arise with the three younger children. For instance we know that this summer two of our boys will be going to Beach Camp with our youth. Next year all three will attend. This year it will take around 600.00 for both boys to attend. We are saving up for that. Having three children so close in age really adds up in big money when they get older and have activities to attend or church functions. This year we spent 150.00 on yearbooks. Sure I could just buy one yearbook but, you know I am frugal to a point....each child should be able to have their own yearbook to look back over and have friends sign at the end of the year.
That is it for now. I have things to do!

Crystal at Biblicalwomanhood and Money Saving Mom is hosting a Financial Shape in 2008 Challenge. This is a year-long campaign to encourage families to live on less than they make and take personal responsibility for their finances.

Seven years ago we committed to being debt free after seeing Dave Ramsey in Oklahoma City. We cut up our credit cards and proceeded to have a gazelle intensity to pay off debt. The Lord certainly blessed us along the way and currently we only owe on our home. It has been a struggle and hardship at times. My husband works so hard. He takes every opportunity afforded to law enforcement to work overtime and extra jobs. We sock that money away in various areas for savings and goals we are working towards. Our teenagers have learned very valuable lessons ...patience, gratitude for what they do have, frugality, and the sense that it is okay if you do not have the latest and greatest gadget RIGHT NOW. They have learned what it takes to run a home and how important it to distinguish between needs and wants.

The first part of the challenge is getting a working budget together. While we have had great success at paying off our debt and living within our means, we have not yet gotten the written budget down to a science nor working the envelope system as much as we could. These are two goals that we really want to achieve this year.

We are going to sit down and work on this as a couple this week. I will be updating as soon as I have the categories in place. I wanted to go ahead and make a post pointing to Crystal's challenge as a way of our commitment.

One quick note I want to add. We divide our house payment amount by 12. Each month I apply this amount to the principal of our mortgage. If you do this each month, after the end of one year you will have made an extra payment to your mortgage thereby cutting precious time off your loan.

Finally, I have one more financial goal this year: get a handle on the CVS/Walgreen way of saving money for our family. Each time I have tried to use coupons at our local Walgreens they never understand and I never get the savings that many post about on Crystal's blog.

I am looking forward to this challenge and being a faithful steward with the resources the Lord has provided for us.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Super Saving Saturday - Hobby Lobby Bargains

Update: Just got back from SuperTarget where all Christmas items were 90% off. Not much left, however, we did pick up Christmas gift tags at .09 cents per package of 100! We also picked up two 2008 calendars for two of our boys that love Dale Earnhart, Jr. for .99 cents down from 9.99! Bags of bows - silver and white ones and a bag of gold bows for .18 cents a bag of I think 25 bows in a bag. We also picked up the last of the gingerbread cookies and a shortbread cookie and they were all under .45 cents a box. We hardly ever buy sugary snacks so this was a real treat for the kids. All in all it was a great last minute stop on our date night.

Robin and Shannon both call my favorite store the same thing: the Mother Ship. I think anyone that loves to decorate, craft, or scrapbook knows exactly the store I am talking about: Hobby Lobby!

Today was my fifth or sixth time to hit H.L. during the last two weeks! I have bought things at half off, 66% off and today 80%! Granted the groovy red glass bowls that I was really wanting I missed out on. Even at 66% off they were not frugal enough for me to part with my cash. Besides, right now I'm not sure where I would put them. Honestly they were more of a want than a need so it is a moot point.

I did pick up the most awesome ornaments, more curly bows, a few more gift bags, several awesome larger Christmas items. To give you an idea of what I found ornament wise...I bought three silver and glass tea pot ornaments for ornament exchange gifts next year. Each were regularly 4.99. I bought all three for 2.99! Two dollars and ninety-nine cents people! Less than what one cost regularly! The average original cost of the other ornaments, which were the old fashion, mercury glass type ornaments, was around 5.99 - 7.99 apiece. I got them for 80% off!!!

The six packages of curly bows that I bought were 2.99 a pack. They have I think four or six bows on each pack. They are darling bows that I can use for birthday gifts since they are not Christmas colors. So let's assume there were four bows on each package that would make 24 bows total. The original price was 17.94 for six packages; 8.97 at 50%; 6.10 at 66%; and at 80% 3.59. So since I love numbers, to break it down further: I bought a total of 24 of the cutest curly bows in hot pink, lime green, silver and white, blue, pink, and I can't remember the other color and they equal out to .14 cents a bow!

The smaller gift bags cost me around .20 cents! Better than Dollar Store prices!

The Edmond Hobby Lobby is getting sparse on the East side of Edmond but there are still a couple of aisles of great items. I would check out your local Hobby Lobby.

So in closing I bought: 15 ornaments, six packages of speciality bows, ten gift bags, a wooden 3 foot tree, a large Christmas lodge look Moose and Bear with the same red and black buffalo print that my tree skirt and stockings are made from. Also four photo boxes for my new craft room, Christmas scrapbook stickers, two silk candle rings, and a stamp set with embellishments and cardstock for my daughter to make her cards next year all for around 38.00! The only things not 80% off were the photo boxes and they were 50%.

After coming home and looking at the original prices of just two of the larger items they totaled more than all the items together that I purchased today.

The lesson is hit those after Christmas sales. I have not had to pay regular price for wrapping paper, bows, ribbon, gift bags, etc., for over seven years! It is of great benefit to my family. So tonight my gift wrap area is now re-stocked, the gift drawer is full too and I am ready when one of my children have a party to attend.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Found Space

I am taking the plunge. I am turning a room into my craft/sewing/computer/quiet time room. I am so excited! My camera battery is charging or I would post a picture. Maybe tomorrow.

We bought the home my parents built in my hometown in 1970. We have lived here now three years. It is a really cool story. They sold it in 1993 and I wrote the owner a letter in 2005 and let them know if they were to ever sell the home, we would be interested. The owner called the next day and shazam we have the home! It raised four children (three girls and a boy) and it is now raising four more (three boys and a girl). I love being back in my old neighborhood with the beautiful trees and it is so close to everything. WE can walk to Starbucks if we want! Love it!!

I digress...my Dad did income taxes on the side. When the home was built he had an office built into a wasted space in the garage. It has two built in desks with one having a large bookcase built in above it. It has a window and is on the heating/air conditioning system of the home. It is tucked away and near a door going outside of the garage and right next to the door going into the house. This is where all the blogging takes place currently.

We were never really allowed out here when I was growing up but it was one of my favorite places to sneak off to and think. So yesterday I decided it would be the perfect spot to craft/scrapbook/sew/and basically have my own spot to do my own thing with my daughter. I already come out here for quiet times. I am so excited! I can't believe it has taken me this long to figure this out! Maybe since I have not had this much time, nearly two weeks, to just hang out and relax. My creative juices are flowing and I am ready to hit Hobby Lobby tomorrow and pick up a few things that are on clearance!

I hope to have some pictures to post real soon of the progress.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

How would you respond?

Please visit my blog friend, Cindy Beall, and read this sobering story.

It pierced my heart and really made me examine how I would have handled the same situation. I am reading it to my teenagers in the morning at breakfast.

Praising Him in ALL things,

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Teens and Laundry Responsibilities

When I was growing up my Mom did everything for us. I dusted on Saturdays and attempted to keep my room neat and clean, but overall the most I ever remember doing was making chocolate chip cookies a few times, folding laundry, filling the dishwasher, and cleaning my room. I never even cooked or helped cook a meal until I was engaged to be married!

I admit that I am not very proud of this fact, however, I think it was also easier for my Mom to just do it herself. I was very busy with church and school activities, babysitting, and later in high school an after school job. I still have the little note that my Mom sent to me the first week of college that explained how to use the washing machine in the basement of my dorm! I mean I did not know how to even wash a load of clothes!

This brings me to my Works for Me Wednesday post. When I married my husband seven years ago and went from a single parent of one child to a Mom of four, I knew I would need a plan for chores, responsibilities, rules...all the things that children normally have growing up in a family. However, three of my precious ones had lost their Mom three years prior and while my husband is absolutely the best, men were not created to be mothers just as mothers were not created to be fathers. I learned all I could about their Mom and what her teaching style had been for her three sweet ones and went about trying to come up with a plan.

It was one sweet act by a seven year old brunette with brilliant blue eyes that helped me see that there could be another way. In the long run, I would be teaching my children how to take care of themselves and not feel so lost as I had felt.
I came to this decision after our youngest, Hannah, had watched me intently each time I loaded the washer and dryer. She would pull a step stool up to watch and would ask questions. She was like a little sponge...taking it all in. Her Mommy had died when she was only three and a half. After living in a household full of boys for three years she was very excited to have a Mom to follow around.

One day I came home and she very proudly showed me the freshly washed towels all folded neatly and ready to be put away. I sat down and cried. Here a sweet seven year old had learned something that I did not until I was 18! She was so excited and felt so proud. It was after this sweet display of love I decided that maybe I could start with the oldest and see if this would work. I would teach them how to sort, wash, dry, fold, and put away their laundry. My husband and I discussed this and after a little research we decided sixth grade was a great jumping off point to begin this endeavor.

So my quest began. I would like to say it has worked like a charm and that there have been no problems, but I can't....I have four teenagers...three of whom are boys....however, each child has their own wash day with the washer and dryer solely devoted to them. They mainly do their jeans, uniforms, underwear, etc. Mom still does the shirts/blouses that need special care and towels. Many times I surprise them and scoop it up and do it for them. I realize that these four young adults are much further ahead in life than I was back in 1979. They each know their way around the kitchen (that is another post), can keep a home neat, and can operate a washer and dryer.
I hesitated to even post this, but I have seen the pride they each take in this ability. It has been a rite of passage in our home when each one entered the sixth grade. The boys come in after a hard practice or game and the first thing they do is stick their dirty uniforms in the washer. It has taught them responsibility in a very tangible way. It has worked for our family and brought about many positive attributes.

For more Works for Me Wednesday post, head on over to Shannon's at Rocks in My Dryer.