Monday, July 28, 2008

Going To Church

Yesterday we went to church.

Yes, we physically went to church. But that's not what I mean. I mean we went to church.

You know, when the worship is awesome and the teaching is awesome and you can just feel God in that place. That's going to church. Amen? Amen.

What makes the difference? I mean, why does it sometimes feel like you've been to church and other times you've just physically been at church? I'm sure the difference has to do with whether or not you've encountered God. But don't you think sometimes you just encounter Him on a deeper level?

For example, one thing that always moves me at church is when I see someone in need up at the alter in prayer and someone else goes up and prays with them. That's just the body of Christ doing what it's called to do - loving each other.

Yesterday, though, lots of people went up to pray. And lots of other people went up to pray with them and for them. Moved me to tears. I just love it when God moves and when His church does what it is meant to do. I felt Him in that place and in my heart and it was awesome.

Yesterday was just a small glimpse of heaven, and I loved it!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Paying Bills and Loving It

I don't think I've ever been so excited to pay a bill before. I mean, let's face it, paying bills usually is not fun. So why am I excited about paying a bill, you ask?

Because I just paid off THE LAST of hubby's student loans!!!

The great education he received at a not-very-cheap private university is finally paid for IN FULL!!!

The best part of the news, though? We are now DEBT-FREE with the exception of our house!!!!! (And our goal is to try to have that paid off by the time we're 40.)

Sorry I keep shouting at you, but I'm awfully excited!!!

How do we do it? First, we trust God with everything. He is always faithful to provide for all our needs and even some of our wants! All we have is His and we're just called to be good stewards. We love giving and have always been faithful with our tithes and offerings and we believe He has blessed us for that.

Plus, we've been through tight financial times (hubby's unemployment when Josh was a baby) and we understand the value of a dollar.

We plan out how we want to spend every dollar, we don't spend frivolously, and we live below our means so that we can pay down our debt. It's not always easy or fun (although I do admit to an abnormal fondness for my budget), but so worth it! (Dave Ramsey has LOTS of great advice for getting out of debt if you'd like more ideas!)

We can't wait until our debt is gone completely!! Can you imagine the freedom? We'll be able to give however we'd like, afford special extras, pay for college and weddings without nearly as much stress, and maybe even retire early!!!

And the great news is that as of today, we are one step closer! Praise God!!!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Deodorant


I've looked high and low for years for a clear deodorant that both stays clear AND keeps you from getting all stinky. I've never had any luck.

If it was clear, I felt sticky and self-conscious about getting all smelly. If it kept me smelling good, everyone could see it.

Ugh...the troubles of a woman.

So, girls, my search has ended. Thank you, Secret (my favorite deodorant when you don't have to worry about it being clear), for saving the day!

Their new product, Secret Flawless, does it all. I've tried it a couple times and I am so happy with it. No stinkies. No white marks on your shirt. No feeling self-conscious.

My search is over. I'm a happy camper.

Obviously, it doesn't take much.

It costs a little more than normal deodorant, but is worth it to finally have what I need. Now if I can just find a way to get it free at CVS, then life will be grand.

So this works for me. And it's Wednesday. Thus, Works for Me Wednesday.

Crazy High-Pitched Screaming Fans

I know. I know, okay? I am in my 30's. Well - early 30's actually, but still 30's. That's nowhere close to 16.

But man, did I ever have fun at the American Idol concert last night...and just for a little while, it was like I was 16 again. You know, screaming at crazy high pitches, squealing with excitement, and waving my arms trying to get the guy with the t-shirt blaster to point my way.

I went with my mom, my aunt, and my soon-to-be sister-in-law. None of whom are 16. But boy, we had a blast! The top 10 each gave their own mini concert. They were all great, but when David Cook came out I was so super-duper excited! (Insert crazy 30-something lady screaming and jumping here.)

Hubby gives me a hard time sometimes because I love reality tv shows. American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance are two of my faves. I believe that they happen as they show them to me. That's just the way my happy little mind likes to think of them. He watches them and tells me what probably actually happened and how they tweaked it to make it look a certain way so that people like me will get suckered in.

That's when I tell him, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."

Really, how could they mess with reality competition shows like American Idol? I know, I know...they can and probably do. But like I said, I like to think that they don't. I like to think that all my votes for David Cook helped him win. I don't want to be all conspiracy-theory-esque (is that a word?) and think that it was all fixed.

It was super exciting when he won on the show (thanks to my votes!)...then to see him in person?!?! It's so funny because you almost feel like you know them. Not in crazy stalker way, but just in an I've watched him every week for months now and love his music kind of way.

I didn't go so crazy as to wear a shirt with glitter letters that say I heart David Cook, but I did yell for him.

Just a little.

Okay...a lot.

You know, the guy in front of me did leave early. I hope it's not because his ears hurt.

Oh well, I had fun. Whooo hoooo!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Chicago

A whole week has passed since we've been in Chicago. How does that happen, and does time ever slow down?

Anyways...

Last Sunday hubby and I were going to send the kids home with GaGa and PaPa after bocce and head to Chicago. He had a conference there Monday and Tuesday and since work was paying for it, we could have a free little getaway. (With the exception of our activities and my meals, of course...don't want you thinking we're cheating the company!) Well, GaGa got sick, so we didn't think there'd be any traveling for any of us besides hubby.

However, at 11:45 p.m. on Saturday night, we decided we could take all the kids with us! We are crazy, let me tell ya! We knew we weren't really prepared, but we just said it'd be an adventure and we'd make the most of it!

Well, we did just that. We got up Sunday morning and in a whirlwind of activity got all five of us packed and on the road. Now, I am a list maker and a planner, so this was against my nature, but we had so much fun! Sure, there were some crazy, hectic times. But we did a lot of laughing and the kids loved seeing the big city. We don't live in Podunkville, but Chicago is definitely something different for them.

We walked everywhere. A double stroller doesn't make it easy to get around on any sort of public transportation, so we just walked. And walked. And walked some more. Josh was so cute - he'd wave at all the cars as he passed by and was mesmerized by the city. When we weren't walking or doing something fun, he'd sit in the windowsill of the hotel and just watch all the activity below. So cute!

We got to do lots of fun stuff like the Museum of Science and Industry, Navy Pier, and the Lincoln Park zoo. A friend of mine who lives in the Chicago suburbs was even able to meet us at the zoo and we got to spend a very hot but fun day together with our kids.


You know, sometimes those spur of the moment crazy ideas turn out to be some of the best trips! I'm really glad we all went!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Bocce 2008

As I mentioned before, we've had a busy few days. Today I'll fill you in on bocce, and I'll have to catch you up on our Chicago trip later. (There's just not enough time in the day! I figure laundry really should take precedence over blogging!)

The fun started last Saturday with our family's annual 4th (or 12th?) of July bocce tournament. (Of course the party wasn't the same this year because my mom was stuck at our house with the flu. We missed you mom, and are glad you're feeling better now!)


Sarah with her "best buds" aka cousins Lindsay and Allison - she is still bugging me about when we can see them again!

baby Megan taking a break with Sher

We get together and celebrate with the traditional pitch-in and fireworks, but the heart of the gathering is the bocce tournament. We draw numbers to make teams of two and compete in single elimination form. And let me tell you, the competition gets fierce!

My brother, Matt, in victorious celebration

My cousins, Tim and Mark, losing quite graciously (Is that possible in this family?)
Well, my partner, Kay, and I were out the first round. (We lost to the eventual tournament winners, which I think makes our loss sound much better.)



Giving it my all


Hubby made a respectable run, but lost in the semifinals (also to the overall winners).


Competitive bocce takes serious concentration!

My dad and my cousin's boyfriend pulled out the victory in the end. Congrats Dad and Colin! And congrats to the runners-up - my brother, Matt, and my cousin, Kathryn.


Someone (who shall remain nameless) didn't get the real prizes picked up in time, so Dad and Colin will have to receive their custom hats at a later date.


After bocce came the real competition. Junior bocce! All the little ones (and some that aren't so little anymore) get to play their own bocce game. My kids thoroughly enjoyed it!



Go Josh!

I love this tradition that my family has. I forget exactly how long it's been going on, but I think it's been over 25 years! That's amazing! We even have a lovely trophy that the winners can proudly display during their reigning year as bocce champs.



Don't you wish you could have something this classy for your home?

And my favorite picture of the day goes to my cousin, Homie Dave...(yo!)


A fun time was had by all! (Well, except for mom, I guess...)

Lots of catching up to do...

Hi friends!

Did you think I was gone forever?

Nah. We just have been quite busy the last few days with our family's annual 4th of July bocce tournament (this year held on the 12th) and then a family getaway to Chicago. We've had lots of fun and I have so much to share!

Stay tuned...

Friday, July 11, 2008

Zerberts

We've been in the zerbert kind of mood around here lately. I don't know if it's because of summertime and being in swimsuits a lot or what, but if you're caught around here with a belly showing, it's a pretty safe bet you're gonna get a zerbert.

While I was changing Megan today, I couldn't resist her cute baby tummy and I gave her a zerbert. She just loved it! Her giggles attracted her brother and sister and soon everyone was giving her zerberts!


As you can see, she thought it was pretty fun!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Tummy Time

Ever since they've begun recommending that babies sleep on their backs at night, they also say that babies are supposed to have tummy time. You know, let them practice lifting their heads and gaining strength and things.

With Josh I had scheduled tummy times and we were diligent about doing them all the time. Sarah, probably not as diligent, but still on a daily basis.

The poor third child.

Megan gets tummy time, sure, but for a minute here or a minute there.

So I sat down today to give the girl some undivided attention and work on tummy time with her. And what does she do?


Yep. She rolls over.

My baby girl rolled over!

I thought maybe it was a fluke, so I set her back on her tummy again.
Roll.
Okay, one more time.
Roll again.

Oh my goodness! I'm so proud her and yet so sad that she's growing up so fast.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Being Equipped

I don't do well without a plan.

I like to-do lists and calendars and budgets and spreadsheets and all those wonderful, wonderful things.

So when July came so incredibly fast, I started to panic. School starts in August and we had so much up in the air for school! I knew we wanted to homeschool, but our co-op had a lot of work yet to do to figure out what Kindergarten would look like and I didn't have my curriculum that I knew I wanted in hand yet. (I'm trying to find the best deal on it that I can!)

Yikes!

Well, my bright spot today is that I feel so peaceful about it all. Our co-op met last night and those plans are coming together well and I have a friend who brought me all the books that I need to do our own school time. I just have to go through them and let her know which ones I want to buy from her.

All the pieces are beginning to fall in place.

Whew.

I don't know why I lose faith sometimes. I just need to remember that when God calls us, He equips us. I'm just grateful to Him today that He is showing me the way and helping these pieces to fall in place.

And you better believe I'll have fun crossing things off my to-do list!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Getting Dressed

Well, my daughter may have inherited my love of Florida, but I know one thing she definitely did not get from me.

You see, I have the I-Could-Wear-My-Jammies-Until-Noon gene. She has the I-Can't-Stand-To-Not-Be-Dressed gene.

This girl gets up in the morning and 2.4 seconds later she's begging for her big girl undies and her "clothes shirt." (You know, as opposed to her "jammie shirt.")

Today was especially torturous for her. We had plans to go to our neighborhood pool again today, so instead of putting clothes on, we put on bathing suits. However, it just wasn't that nice of a morning with clouds all around and not very warm temps. Our friends still came over to play, but we just stayed inside - all of us in our bathing suits.

Well, once Sarah realized the pool just wasn't happening, she asked if she could get dressed. I was fine with that. So she went upstairs and brought down her favorite "dark pink dress" that she told me she found in the closet. I helped her put it on and you could tell right away that she just felt whole.

She spun and twirled. She jumped and ran. She looked really darn cute.

Until I noticed the stain.

"Uh oh," I said. "What happened to your dress?"

"I don't know," she replied, not really caring too much.

"Well, where did you get the dress?"

"From the closet."

"Your closet?" I asked, remembering she can't usually reach the things in her closet.

"Nope. Yours....on the floor."

Ah hah...it all made sense now. The dirty laundry goes in our closet. It's sorted in piles on the floor. She went and found her favorite dress in the laundry. Ewww...

Then I did something I normally wouldn't do. I let her keep the dress on. If it didn't bother her, it didn't bother me. I figure you're only 2 once.

At least that's how I felt today...maybe tomorrow I'll be back to my normal self.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Changing The World

Okay, so I promised yesterday that I'd write something interesting today.

Man, the pressure!

We did lose a passy around here somewhere. Is that interesting?

Well, lucky for you I decided to check in on some other blogs first. The first one I read just struck me. You'll have to check it out here. I just couldn't move on from there without writing about it.

Let's be honest. There are days when all you do is clean up messes on and around your kids, break up arguments, make silly faces to try to evoke grins, wash umpteen loads of laundry, and read a story for the fifty-seventh time. Oh, and search for lost passies.

Doesn't exactly leave you feeling like you're changing the world.

I was so touched by what I read, though. There really is no greater way to change the world than by investing in the precious little ones God has entrusted to your care.

So today, I'm going to go about my seemingly unimportant tasks, grinning while I do, knowing that I'm changing this world.

Wow. Me - changing the world. For the better.

Whether I ever find that passy or not.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Celebrations

I hope you all enjoyed your 4th of July celebrations! We sure did!

On Friday night we watched "the big fireworks" from afar. We found a spot where we could see them perfectly but that wasn't in the middle of all the crowds. Great for families with little ones - not too noisy and the kids could watch them in their jammies!

Saturday we decided to take a little road trip and we headed to a state park to do some hiking and to see a waterfall. It was flowing very strong because of lots of recent rain. The rushing water just reminded me so much of God - so powerful, yet also quite peaceful. It was good for my soul.

Then, last night we headed to some friends' for a cookout. It was lots of fun - we always enjoy being with good friends! (And good food doesn't hurt, either!)

Sorry for the short post, but man, I'm pooped! Three-day weekends are supposed to be relaxing, but somehow hubby and I are both wishing we could just have another day to catch up!

I'll be back tomorrow with (hopefully!) something interesting to say! : )

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy Birthday, America!



Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I REALLY love this country.

I'm proud of its Christian heritage and I am so grateful for the men and women who have sacrificed to make this nation free! I don't ever want to take for granted the freedoms and opportunities that we have as Americans!
I am proud to be an American! And I'm proud to celebrate this great holiday!
Happy 4th of July!

My First Blog About CVS

Can you believe it? I've made it a whole week blogging and haven't yet mentioned CVS! Wow!

For those of you who don't know, I absolutely love shopping at CVS and using their Extra Care Bucks (ECB) program. My friend, Sarah, got me started on it this February and just since then I've gotten over $1,500 in free stuff. Shampoo, toothpaste, toilet paper, diapers, medicine, cleaning supplies, makeup, batteries, razors, and more! You should see my closet! Seriously, who can argue with that!?!

(For anyone who's not familiar with it and would like to know more about how you too can save lots of money by shopping at CVS, check out the CVS 101 post at moneysavingmom. My other key to my success is the discussion forum at slickdeals where you can see what's part of the ECB deals each week and how to match up coupons to score great deals!)

Well, in celebration of the 4th of July, the really nice folks at CVS emailed me a $4 off a $20 purchase coupon, so who could resist?


Here's what I got today...


1 RightGuard deodorant @ 6.99 (used $1 off coupon from newspaper)
2 Lifesaver Gummies @ 2.19/each (On sale B1G1)
2 CVS Pantyliners @ .99/each
2 CVS Tampons @ 1.49/each
1 Cascade @ 3.99
1 CVS Paper towel


-$4 coupon (mentioned above)
-$1 Rightguard coupon from newspaper
- B1G1 Lifesaver coupon from newspaper
-$1 CVS Paper towel coupon I got when I scanned my card today
-4.50 in previous ECBs
-$8.17 on a gift card I got for transferring a prescription


Spent $0, got $9.96 back in ECB to spend next time!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Passing It On (Part 2)

Okay, so in the few moments today that we did something other than play Florida, I discovered something else my kids inherited from me.

Bony bottoms.

Ouch!



Foot rides were a nice idea, but I think I'd rather play more Florida.

Passing It On

You know, it strikes me as odd some of the things your kids get from you. Hair color, eye color, sure. But a love for Florida? Really?

My mom loves Florida. A lot. Actually, a whole, whole lot. I love Florida, too. Seems I got that from her. And now my kids seem to have inherited the I-Love-Florida gene. If there's any Geneticists reading my blog (I know you all tend to flock here!), could you help locate that one?

We've been stuck inside all day today because of the rain. So what do my kids want to do? Play Florida.

Yep.

It's not unusual at all to play Florida around our house. But that's about ALL they've wanted to do today. Visit the beach. Hang out at the pool. Go to Disney World. Check out the manatee park. Eat in Florida. Nap in Florida. Bathe in Florida. Sensing a pattern?

Here's my son swimming in the Florida pool.

And here they are watching the Disney World parade. Pink baby scored a prime spot in her stroller!

I guess everything is more fun when you're in Florida, right? Sounds good to me...let's go!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Big Kids

You know what I love about summer?

Summer just has a way of taking you back to being a kid. Somehow ice cream cones and lightning bugs and sprinklers beckon and it's okay to play again. It helps when there's kids egging you on, of course, but I think there's just something in all of us.

My sweet hubby taking a break from yard work to join in the sprinkler fun.

And convincing the neighbor to do the same.

(He was warned this would make the blog!)


All the kids - big and little

The county fair is in a couple of weeks and I think all the grown ups eating elephant ears will prove my point exactly.

But then again, that's what summer's all about.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Cable for Cheapskates

I'm a big fan of HGTV. Only I have a problem.

We don't have cable.

I'm a super-duper cheapskate and in my opinion it's just too much money to spend for television. Not when the rabbit ears get it for me for free.

But guess what I just discovered? I know, I know...it's probably been there forever, but I just discovered it and I'm super excited. Full episodes from HGTV are available online. For free.

Yahooie-wooie!

Do you know what this means? No more having to fight for the remote when we're on vacation or at Grandma and Grandpa's house. The battle between Nick Jr., Disney, and ESPN may still be on, but I can watch my beloved HGTV from the comfort of my own home whenever I want.

Did I mention it's free?

Cool.

Cheap and Super Easy Suppers

I like to read this really cool blog at Rocks in my Dryer. She has this thing called Works For Me Wednesdays where bloggers from all over post tips on their own site and link it to hers.

And now I get to do it, too! (Insert happy cheerleader dance.)

This week, everyone is sharing recipes with 5 ingredients or less. And she even requested that if it could cook itself, that'd be a bonus. I like this lady! Don't get me wrong - I like to cook. It's just that I don't always have the time and/or energy to have a big, fancy production. To me, simple recipies definitely qualify as bright spots.

And so I offer 4, yes 4 cheap and super easy supper ideas...(drumroll, please)

1. Tater Tot Casserole
1 lb hamburger, browned and drained
1 can cream of mushroom soup
2 C. shredded mild cheddar cheese
1 lb tater tots

Mix soup and hamburger and place in casserole dish. Cover with cheese. Layer the tater tots. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 mins or until tater tots are golden brown.

2. Chipped Beef Casserole
1 C. uncooked elbow macaroni
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 C. milk
1 C. shredded mild cheddar cheese
1 sm pkg chipped beef (like Carl Buddig - by the deli meats) torn into bite size pieces

Mix all ingredients the night before. Store covered in fridge. Bake 45-60 mins at 350 degrees uncovered.

3. No Peek Chicken
1 C. uncooked rice
uncooked chicken
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 env dry onion soup
1 1/2 cans water

Pour rice in bottom of 8 x 12 pan. Put the chicken on top. Mix soups and water togeter and pour over chicken and rice. Cover tightly with foil. Bake at 350 degrees for 2 hours.

4. Tortilla chicken
4 flour tortillas
2 C. cooked, shredded chicken
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 C. milk
1 1/2 C. shredded cheddar cheese

Break tortillas into small pieces and place in bottom of a greased 9 x 13 pan. Mix chicken, soup, and milk together and pour over tortilla pieces. Top w/ cheese. Cover and bake for 40 mins at 350 degrees. Uncover and bake another 10 mins.

Noise

My days generally have lots of noise. Some good and some not-so-good.

Giggles, songs, and cooing - good.

Whining, fighting, and crying - not-so-good.

But no matter what noise the day has brought my way, I get to end it with one of my favorite times of day. Nuggle time.

What's nuggle time, you ask? Well, for a little girl who doesn't say her "s" if it's part of a consonant blend at the beginning of a word, it's snuggle time.

(She once ran up to daddy when he got home at the end of a day to show him her arm and excitedly announced, "I have a tamp on!" Daddy looked at me and we about lost it, but he gently held his daughter and told her he thought her stamp was cool. We shared our giggles later.)

Anyways, I digress...

Nuggle time comes after bath time, after potty and jammies and tooth-brushing, goobie-getting, hair-drying time. After story time, after prayer time, and after Barney's I Love You song time and The Wondrous Cross (sometimes sung at the top of our lungs) song time.

Then comes nuggle time.

I often miss out on nuggle time these days because I have a baby who nurses at this same time, but last night I headed in for nuggle time after I got Megan to bed. I knocked quietly on Sarah's door and asked if I could snuggle her. Those big brown eyes lit up and all the craziness of the day vanished. We snuggled and talked about the favorite part of her day. We played with each other's hair and snuggled for just "one more minute."

Total warm fuzzies.

And don't get me wrong - Josh can snuggle with the best of 'em, too. I enjoyed some quiet moments with him last night, too. I find that's the time that you can really get to the heart of your kids. He'll share with me what's on his heart or ask any unanswered questions. We've had some quite deep theological discussions during his snuggle time. And somehow right after a deep conversation, he'll still ask for "the tucker." So tuck, tuck, tuck...tuck, tuck, tuck...all the way down his legs to his little toes I go. He giggles and I kiss him one more time.

Doesn't get much better than that.

Except for when I get Megan out of bed to nurse her one more time before I head to bed for the night. She loves to be swaddled, just like the other two have, except that she pulls her right arm out of her blanket. So in her sleepy daze, she settles in to nurse and then grabs my finger with her free hand and holds on tight to me.

Bright spots, my friends...bright spots.

I'll take all the not-so-good noise. I'll even praise God for it because it means my kids are filled with life. But I cherish the chances for tender, peaceful quiet with the ones I love most.

Besides, I can rest assured that God-willing, there will be more noise tomorrow.