Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

We're keeping a quiet holiday here.  John is on call for work (and spent most of the night at work!) and friends have invited us over for dinner.  I have a pumpkin spice bundt cake in the oven (much like the one in the above picture) and will frost it with a cinnamon glaze just before we head out the door in a bit.  Our plans for the rest of the weekend include lots of R&R - board games, movies, and throwing a miniature football around the back yard.  If we are really ambitious, there will be some work on a installing a closet system and cleaning out a filing cabinet, but that's on the back burner unless we just feel like it!

Whatever you holiday brings you, I hope you take a minute to think  about what you're thankful for. 

One of our Sunday sermons a while ago, talked about St. Paul's letter to the Philippians:

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all things through him who gives me strength.   - Philippians 4:11-13

Our pastor went on to say that we tend to think of the tough times - the times when things aren't what we want them to be, when we're ill or hurting or so deep into a situation we can't see the way out.  It's very easy to be grateful when we need help, don't have much or are hungry and in want. 

The challenge, the pastor explained, is to be content when we have everything we need. 

How many times do we open our closet doors, look at the overflowing contents, and proclaim we have nothing to wear?

How may times to we open a full cupboard or refrigerator and declare their is nothing to eat?

How many times have we spent the day on the Internet or watching TV and look around and wish we had a different house, a different living room, different face, different body, different job or different spouse?

We live in a land of "much" and it is very hard to be content.

As you celebrate this Thanksgiving, take a moment to be thankful for what you do have, whatever that may be.

I guarantee you won't regret it.

Soli Deo Gloria.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Work Home and Family - A Little Boy's Vision

Starting in late September, Buddy complained almost daily of headaches.  Terrible headaches - the wake-me-up-at-night kind of headaches.  He would hold his head and sigh and sometimes cry and ask for us to "Please make them stop!"

Obviously, we were concerned.

They were in what we thought was a 'weird' place for a headache - not obviously a tension headache or a sinus headache or anything like that.  He was going through some issues at school with another child and we thought maybe stress was the cause.  But they kept getting worse.

So we took  him in to the doctor and had an exam and a head CT.  Nothing.

Except a call from the doctor's nurse telling us that we "needed to be better parents" and "manage his stress better".  Yes, she actually said that.  And she was nasty about it too. 

I was having a horrible day and it hit me really hard.  I mumbled something about Buddy wearing glasses for reading and wondering if maybe he needed his prescription checked.  She said, "Oh, well, do that.  And let us know."

Ugh.  Thanks a lot!

Anyway, we took him in to the eye doctor - in the middle of the school day since that was the only open appointment between the beginning of October and the end of November. 

His eye site has changed drastically.

My baby boy has his Daddy's degenerative eye condition and it is progressing rapidly.  They're talking about hard contacts by the time he's in 3rd grade to slow the progression. 

His Grammie had that done too.  In the 1950s, when contacts were new.

I talked to the doctor about the headaches and he said that was normal.

Especially at this age, when the kids are learning to read and the brain has to work extra, extra hard to understand the signals that are coming in. 

I could see when he was doing his vision check, letters like C and G, b and d, p and q and other similar looking pairs were getting mixed up and he would guess.  Since he had no context (word, pictures, etc.) he got very upset very quickly.

So, now we have really cool new glasses.
And a really cool hippo glasses holder to put them on.
And no more headaches.

And a little boy who can finally see.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Healthy Habits in 2011 - Certified!!!!

It's official!

I'm officially a certified Jazzercise instructor! 

Whoo hoo!!!!  (And I have the official microphone belt to prove it!) :)
Boy, can I tell you that it's been a process and one I am so glad that I've gone through.  And, my, has it been humbling, as well!

I have been "Jazzin'" for 11 years now.  I thought I knew what I was doing.  Boy, did I have a LOT to learn!

I learned that even though I have a small amount of dance background, I really needed to learn a fair amount about dance.
I learned that I really can push myself a little more than I thought.
I learned that I am stronger than I thought I was - physically and mentally.
I learned that I really and truly don't embarrass easily - that is a very good thing!
Interestingly enough, the thing I learned the most was this:  I'm not giving my life my "all".

At workshop, my trainer said "I really don't think you're giving this everything you've got."  She was absolutely right. 

And you know what, I haven't been giving anything my all for years now. 
And she is the only person who's called me on it!

So, I've been trying to dive in with all barrels loaded for the last few weeks, since I was certified.
It's been busy.
It's been great.

I've been taking a hard look at my life and my goals and what I feel I "need" to accomplish each day and each week.
I'll write more about that on Monday (God willing!) next week.

In the meantime, things are busy.  And I'm okay with that.  We're in a season of life when life is busy right now. We're working on changing that for spring semester (yes, we live life in 'semesters' here!). 

For right now, I'm trying to eat right, exercise daily (necessary to be "on" for the classes I teach for Jazzercise), and get enough sleep.

Oh, and the weight thing?  I've lost 2 clothes sizes and gained 5 lbs.
Something about muscle being more dense than fat.
Because I know I have gained muscle mass - I can see it and I can do things I never thought I could do before!

I'm not that worried about the weight - honestly, I never have been.  I do hate going to the doctor and having them say "Well, technically you're morbidly obese according to your BMI and the numbers on the scale, but you don't appear to be obese. But you might want to think about that."  So I'd still like to loose those "extra" pounds. 

For now, I'm content with getting stronger and making manageable changes in my sleep and eating habits.

What about you?  How are you doing?  I'd love to hear....

Thursday, October 6, 2011

In the Refiner's Fire - Don't Judge a Book by It's Cover

We've been so very busy here this season of our life. 

In the midst of all the house organizing, school starting (for all 4 of us), rearranging of plans, getting ready to certify as a Jazzercise instructor and the typical fall household and yard things that need to be done, I was assigned to work on a project with a woman that I would never, ever in a million years have wanted to work with.

I was so upset and frustrated by it.
I didn't want to meet with her, talk to her or spend the large amount of time together that we would have to work through for this project.

This woman really bothered me. 
She was snide and rude. 
She would scream at her teenage children over the phone (including swearing and calling them names) in front of other people and complain about every little aspect of their behavior. 
She would moan and complain about everyone and everything. 

I really didn't like her company and I couldn't even imagine working with this woman.  I consoled myself with telling myself that she was highly competent at what she did (she is) and she would do excellent work on the project.

I prayed about it and I told myself that God has a plan.

I found out several things:

* This woman is so hurt and angry that she can't see anything else right now.
* She lost her last job due to circumstances beyond her control (buyout, downsizing, etc.) at the same time her husband did, which meant they ended up losing their home and had to sell a rather lucrative side business to end up solvent.
* They moved cross-country and are now living in a relatives house.
* She has had many things happen in her life that don't fit with her code of ethics'
* Having these things happen has made her feel that she isn't a worthwhile person
* One of her children has learning disabilities that make it every difficult for him to interact with others and get through a full day at school.

In addition to all of this I have learned far more about the material we have been working with than I could have ever learned on my own - and I am very, very terribly grateful for that knowledge. 
She has gone out of her way to help me several times. 
She has a very wry sense of humor that is starting to sneak out. 

This whole experience has been so good for me and I have been reminded why my parents taught (or tried to teach me) to give people the benefit of the doubt. 

Here is a woman who desperately needs love and grace and mercy and has received very little from anyone in her life.

It is my hope that I can repay her for all the things she has taught me over the last couple of months by showing her some of the love and grace that the good Lord has given me in my life.

The tiny measure of grace that we can show each other is nothing compared to the grace the good Lord gives to each and every one of us day by day.  It is my hope and prayer that we can instruments of grace for each other as we go about our daily lives.

Yes, even working with people we'd rather not.

Soli Deo Gloria.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Healthy Habits 2011 - Jazzercise Instructor Update!

I only have a few short weeks until I go through my "final" workshop as part of the Jazzercise Instructor certification process.  I'm a bit pumped, a bit scared, and just plain really excited about the whole thing.

The hardest part of this journey has been learning to do all the things I've been doing wrong right.

Yep, you read that right.

I had been doing several things wrong for years and just found out now.  In the last few weeks, I've been up on stage, behind the current instructor, practicing during class.  What I've noticed is that a lot of people are doing things wrong too - almost everyone in the room.

Can I offer some unsolicited advice to anyone doing aerobic exercise?  (If you don't want it, you can skip these next two paragraphs - you won't hurt my feelings.  Really.)

Good posture is really important and it will make your workout far more effective than if you don't have good posture.  Keep that tummy tucked in and that pelvis tucked under and those shoulders down and your workout will be that much better and that much more powerful.

Also, if you aren't sure that you're doing something right or if you just want to check if you are doing something right, try it at home in front of a  mirror or ask your instructor, trainer or another professional to watch you for a minute.  As the instructor for this morning's class said, you'll often say "Yikes! Do I really look like that?"  If you don't look like the professionals, try purposeful movements and adjusting your posture.

Just doing these two things have made a huge difference for me.  I work on the posture all the time and I've noticed I look slimmer and feel better and I don't get tired as easily either.

I'll let you know when I finally do get this certification.  I'm so excited!

What are you doing to stay healthy?  I'd love to hear!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Menu Plan Monday - Week of October 2, 2011

I can hardly believe how fast this year has flown by and how quickly we have entered fall.  The leaves on the trees are starting to turn crimson, gold and orange, and I'm lovin' almost every minute of it!  We have a giant pumpkin and a few smaller ones in our garden that the kids are way excited over and we still have some spaghetti squash to harvest too.  We've had an over-abundance of apples - all free from various friends and family.  I have plenty of applesauce in my freezer now!  Good thing we like it!

So, what are we eating now that the weather has turned cooler?  Well, here's what we're eating this week:

Sunday, October 2:
     Breakfast: Oatmeal with Cranberries and Cinnamon
     Lunch: Out with Company
     Snack: Popcorn
     Dinner: BBQ Pulled Chicken Sandwiches, Cole Slaw, Apple-Pear-Grape Salad

Monday, October 3:
    Breakfast: Sour Cream Raspberry Bread, Apples
    Lunch: Hot for the Kids; BBQ Pulled Chicken Sandwiches, Apples, Carrots, and a Cookie for Mom and Dad
    Snack: Cinnamon Raisin Bread with Yogurt
    Dinner: Soft Shell Beef Tacos, Lettuce Salad, Sliced Apples and Pears

Tuesday, October 4:
    Breakfast: Oatmeal with Cranberries and Cinnamon
    Lunch:  Fruit Kabobs, Yogurt, Carrots, Cookie
    Snack: Breakfast Cookies
    Dinner:  Vegetable Stir Fry, Rice, Cantaloupe

Wednesday, October 5:
   Breakfast:  Toasted English Muffins with Peanut Butter, Bananas
   Lunch:  Mini PB&J Sandwiches, Carrot Sticks, Applesauce, Cookie
   Snack:  Breakfast Cookies
   Dinner:  Chicken Noodle Soup in the Crock pot, Baking Powder Biscuits, Cantaloupe and Watermelon

Thursday, October 6:
    Breakfast:  Oatmeal with Cranberries and Raisins
    Lunch: Hot for the Kids; Leftovers for Mom and Dad
    Snack:  Zucchini Bread, Cheese Stick
    Dinner:  Taco Salad with R- fried Beans, Cantaloupe and Watermelon

Friday, October 7:
   Breakfast:  Toasted English Muffins with Pumpkin Butter, Bananas
   Lunch: Hot for the Kids; Leftovers for Mom and Dad
   Snack: Zucchini Bread, Cheese Stick
   Dinner:  Chicken Noodle Soup for the Kids; Out for Mom and Dad

Saturday, October 8:
    Breakfast:  Banana Nut Muffins, Peanut Butter Smoothies
    Lunch: Beef Sandwiches, Carrots and Celery, Sliced Apples, Pears, and Melon
    Snack:  Zucchini Bread
    Dinner:  Homemade Pizza and Bread sticks, Apple-Grape-Banana Salad

What are you eating this week?  Check out I'm an Organizing Junkie! to share and be inspired!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

These Are A Few of My Favorite Things - My Cousin Diane

Earlier this spring, my cousin Diane did all of the frosting on this fabulous cake that we had for my kids' 6th birthday.

My cousin Diane is so special to me.  I'm the youngest cousin by almost 20 years on my Mom's side of the family.  I am an only child, Diane has two brothers and we had 2 other male cousins.  So, Diane and I are the only girls. 

Never mind that Diane is literally old enough to be my mother and her son is only 5 years younger than me.  Never mind that her two step-sons are my age and she has grandchildren.  Once I hit my teenage years, we've always been very close.

Diane lives about 3 hours away and it has never stopped her from being here for our kids birthdays, recitals and programs.  She comes a few times a year for the weekend - just to visit and spend time with us.  She and her husband, Bo, live on a very limited income and are so generous with their time and energy and what they do have.  She always shares apples, grapes and raspberries from their garden and yard.  They always share the "fruit" of Bo's hunting trips - bear and dear mostly, though we've also been blessed with antelope, fish, elk and moose also.  They always have a free bed if we need it and provide very generous hospitality.  They are true friends and their love of the Lord shines through everything they do.

I am so very blessed to have Diane in my life.
And I am blessed that God has given me my extended family.

Truly, my relationship with Diane is one of my favorite things.
I am so very blessed.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

These are a Few of My Favorite Things - First Grade

My munchkins officially started first grade this fall - three whole weeks ago now.  It's hard for me to believe that my babies are six already - the time has gone by so fast and it just seems that they were teeny, tiny little babies just a short while ago.  Now they're reading, writing and, in Missy's case, doing multiplication in her head!

And I'm lovin' it.

I love watching my children head out the door each and every morning so excited about school.

I love having my children sound out a new word or read a simple sentence.

I love having my children clamor to tell me about something that happened at school today.

I love having my children share the things that others brought for show-and-tell.

I love having my children get excited about field trips.

I love the freshly pressed school uniforms hanging in their closets.

I love the excitement over their first spelling test (yes, they got excited about it!).

I love the clean white knee socks, and jumbles of lunch boxes and back packs.

I love that their teacher greats them every morning with hugs.

I love that their teacher takes personal interest in each and every student.

I love that every single adult and most of the kids in the their K-8 school know them by face and name.

I love that my children are so excited about learning that I have to tell them to put the book down and go play.

I love that my children want to share that learning with me.

I am lovin' first grade!

Truly, it is one of my favorite things.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Goals for the week of August 14th

Where, oh where, has the summer gone?

It seems like it just started yesterday and now we're in the middle of August.  The kiddos head into first grade on the 30th of this month and we are in a whirlwind of activities between now and then.   My mind continually races and I wish I wasn't so much like a magpie - jumping after the brightest thing in the room (in my case, the next thing on my to-do list) before I've even finished with what I have.

We've had 3 more trips to IKEA and 3 trips to Menards.  We've had several get-togethers, a conference, a trip out of town, and I took last week off from work and school to get some much-needed things done in the house.  My to-do list has barely shrunk because I have so many, many things partially done.

Today Crystal wrote out her goals for this week and I'm inclined to follow.  Here are mine:

* Get the rooms upstairs finished - this involved painting, moving several things and re-arranging some furniture.
* Get the kids' toys sorted through.
* Spend 1 - 2 hours going through things from my pile of things that needs to be gone through
* Catch up the ironing

* Finish proposal
* Check in with my advisor
* Finish draft of one more chapter

* Finish both sets of lab re-writes
* Draft of course schedule for fall semester
* Lay out my grade book for fall semeseter

* Send in 3 sets of paperwork forms
* Write and mail one think you note
* Jazzercise 4 times
* Fill out paperwork for Sunday school (at 3 different churches!)
* Make appointments for hair cuts for the kids
* Make eye appointments for the kids
* Order new Jazzercise shoes

There are probably other things that I'm missing but those are "the biggies".  What are you planning on doing this week?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Work, Home and Family - Through the Eyes of a 6-year-old Boy

Lately Buddy has gotten into taking photos with my little wimpy digital camera.  Since the camera was cheap, and I don't even pretend to be a photographer, I think it's pretty fun. He hasn't dropped it in water yet - that might make me take the camera away! In the meantime, I'm enjoying seeing the world through the eyes of a 6-year-old boy:

I think it's safe to say that my little guy likes nature and dinosaurs.  What do you think?

And just for a bonus:
A conversation that took place tonight while I was trying to get a snarl out of Missy's hair before she washed it:

Me: Did you know that Grandpa used to just cut the snarls out of my hair?
Missy: Did it hurt?
Me: No, but I had pretty funny looking hair.
Buddy:  Is that how Grandpa lost all his hair?

(My dad is completely bald!)
He he.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Crazy, Drastic and Wildly Rewarding

In the reflection and analysis of our life that John and I have been doing in the last month or two, we came to a conclusion...the way we had our home laid out just wasn't working for us and what God has called us to.

In some ways it never has. 

Our disaster of a home office, is a prime example. 

We have had a "home office" the entire 11 years we've owned our house.  We have only used it very sporadically during that time.  Most of the time, I work at the kitchen table and John works curled up on the living room sofa. 

So... part of the reason that I've been so quiet this month is that John and I decided to drastically cosmetically and organizationally "remodel" 4 rooms in our house:

The kids' room.
The office.
The family room.
My sewing/craft/scrapbooking room.

We're about halfway through and we've gotten rid of more junk stuff than I could have imagined.  We've bought several pieces of new furniture and made 4 trips to IKEA in the last 10 days.  We have at least 1 more trip to go.  And a pile of things to go to the donation drop off for our favorite charity on Thursday evening.  And several more stacks of paper and two file drawers worth of paper to sort through and hopefully recycle or shred most of it.  I can't even begin to tell you how many times I've said "Why on earth did we keep this?!?!"  

John has gotten very proficient at assembling IKEA furniture. 
I've gotten very proficient at getting rid of paper (something I've struggled with for a long time).

Not that we needed more chaos in our already crazy lives - school starts for me and the kiddos in August, John's leading 2 Bible studies in the next month's worth of time (starting Tuesday), we have 2 weeks and 1 day with no childcare between now and when school starts, I'm getting ready for a conference out of state, and we've been driving hither-and-yon for John to do weekend fill-in work with his seminary program.  I've even managed to up my workout schedule to 6 days a week!

It's been crazy - both at home and with all our work and school 'things'.

We've taken some very drastic steps and schedule changes.

And it's been WILDLY and AMAZINGLY rewarding.

I''ll be showing off some real "before" and "after" pictures in September but for now here's a teaser for you.... and an idea of the real mountain I've been up against cleaning out my house....and why the door to that room has always been closed when people come over :) ...

For a long time, there wasn't even this path and the pile on the left there (behind the humidifier) kept changing - it would get cleaned out and then would return with different content.  At least here the desk was usable and we could walk through the room without falling over!  (Note: I am shooting at an angle so the path isn't as narrow as it looks! Really.)

 This is standing at the other end of the room looking toward the door.  The path through the room is about as wide as the door itself.  The room is 10 ft x 7 ft.

The morning after we took this photo, the filing cabinet you see here went downstairs. The cabinet was behind/under the "pile" in the photo immediately above.  It embarrassing how little time it took to actually get everything out of the room! (And its embarrassing that I actually have photos of rooms in my house that look like the two above!  ****Sheesh***)

And I'm not going to tell you (yet) what this room is going to become! :)  You have to wait for September to find out!
I've realized that sometimes you just have to take drastic steps if you're going to get the results you want.

I've also realized that sometimes you have to change your plan - cleaning out my house was a good goal. 

Making my house functional for my family is a better goal.

Making my house function so my family can follow God's goals for us is the best goal yet!

And sometimes it takes crazy, drastic and wildly rewarding steps to get there!
How are you doing with your goals?

PS This is one of two rooms in my house that look looked like this - the other is my sewing/scrapbooking/craft room and that just got there in the last year.  Just for the record, the rest of my house does NOT look like this in any way, shape or form!  The other 8 rooms are normal. :)

Monday, July 4, 2011

Menu Plan Monday - Week of July 3rd, 2011

One of our dinners from our camping trip last month - salmon and corn on the cob! Yum!

Does anyone else feel like summer just arrived and we're already halfway through it?  I am wondering where my June went here.  July is going to be very busy for us and I'm hoping to get several large things crossed off my do-to list.  We'll see!

In terms of menus, I'm loving the summer produce!  We have had a cold and very, very wet spring and early summer so the summer produce is just now coming into the Farmer's Market and the grocery stores.  I am really enjoying the strawberries and blackberries - and I'm eagerly awaiting our first crop of raspberries on our 'invading' bushes that crawled under the fence from next door.  It looks like we're going to get a good crop and I'm excited!

Here's what we're eating this holiday week:

July 3, 2011, Sunday:
   Breakfast: Cereal and Milk
   Lunch:  BLT's, Strawberries and Blackberries
   Dinner:  Leftovers

July 4, 2011, Monday, Independence Day!
   Breakfast: Cinnamon Coffee Cake and Bananas
   Lunch: Salad with Steak and Shredded BBQ Chicken, Watermelon
   Dinner:  Pot Luck at a Friend's House:  Bring a Fruit Salad

July 5, 2011, Tuesday:
   Breakfast: Oatmeal with Apples and Cinnamon
   Lunch:  Chicken and Rice Soup, Bread, Honeydew
   Dinner:  Shrimp Stir Fry, Rice, Honeydew and Watermelon

July 6, 2011, Wednesday:
   Breakfast: Oatmeal Muffins and Bananas
   Lunch: PB&J, Ants on a Log, Sliced Sweet Peppers
   Dinner: At Church: Bring a Tossed Salad

July 7, 2011, Thursday:
   Breakfast: Oatmeal with Cinnamon and Raisins
   Lunch: Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, Strawberries and Apple Slices
   Dinner:  Ground Beef Tacos, Salad, Melon

July 8, 2011, Friday:
   Breakfast:  Oatmeal with Blueberries
   Lunch: Crackers and Cheese, Sliced Sweet Peppers, Bananas
   Dinner:  Leftovers

July 9, 2011, Saturday:
   Breakfast: Peanut Butter Toast and Bananas
   Lunch: Turkey Sandwiches, Cut Veggies, Strawberries
   Dinner: Out 

What are you eating this week? Check out I'm an Organizing Junkie! to share and be inspired. 

Goals Update - A few little things that have arrived at our house...

The stole and the cross are from Tanzania, a gift from my parents and their work in Tanzania - the purchase of the stole and the cross supports the school they work at there.  The robe with its tie and the shirts are part of the progress through seminary.  He needs both for the work he'll be doing this fall.

It has been so amazing and humbling to watch John as he travels this path. 

He has lead worship this summer and will be doing so again - wearing the shirts, the robe and its tie.  He cannot wear the stole until he is ordained.  He has done a wonderful job.  Even when being put on the spot to chant and come up with a children's sermon that he hadn't previously prepared. 

He is so humble and unassuming and yet definitely the leader.

The stole symbolizes the yoke we take on when we are equally yoked with Jesus, pulling with Him on His labor in life.  There are other things it symbolizes too, but that is the part that I like the best.

John is so very yoked with Jesus. 
And I am so very blessed to be yoked with John.

Soli Deo Gloria.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

These are a Few of My Favorite Things - June's Blessings

Way back when I started this blog, before it was even 'open to the public', I wrote a monthly review of blessings that God had given us over the previous month.  I decided that for my own reminder I needed to bring that back!

So, here are June 2011's Blessings:
* All the uniform pieces our kids need for school in the fall (including an awesome fleece sweatshirt for Missy!) for totally free via the uniform swap at the kids' school.  Yes, ALL of them.  About 22 pieces total.   I was beyond excited!

* A new black skirt and sweater for me for 25 cents each at a neighbor's garage sale.

* The repairs needed for our van that came up very suddenly only costing us $150 to repair!

* A chance to see Cars 2 for free!  (And it was an awesome movie too!)

* Two outdoor movies in a friend's backyard with great food (potluck style) and great conversations with great people.

* John not needing major medical treatment for his illness this month - just lots and lots and lots of rest.

* The beautiful field across from our Camper Cabin, covered with fire flies.  It was so awesomely beautiful I can't even describe it!  And we got to enjoy it for 6 whole nights in a row.

* Being able to go hiking and cook over an open fire every single day of our camping trip, even though it was cold and rained every day while we were there!

* Writing a family mission statement.  This was a very powerful experience and I highly recommend it if you don't have one.

* John doing an excellent job leading worship this month - even though it included chanting, which he really seriously dislikes doing!

* John doing a terrific children's sermon with the "Stump the Pastor Bucket", which held a snow globe!  The church he was at has a bucket that is passed around through the kids in the congregation during the summer and the Pastor/Children's Minister/Fill-in-person has to come up with a children's sermon on the fly about the article in the bucket.

* Getting to hold a friend's brand new baby at worship one Sunday.

* John's collared shirts coming in the mail and having them fit perfectly with no altering!  He has a very large neck compared to the rest of him so I'm very grateful for that - I was expecting to have to take the shirts in.

We've had lots of progress around the house and on things at school and work too.  It's been a good, though busy and at times disappointing month.

Thanks for listening to my Blessings for June!
Do you have any to share?

Thursday, June 30, 2011

In the Refiner's Fire - Something We Keep Forgetting

I realized something earlier this week.  Something that has been bugging me for a while and I haven't been able to put a finger on it.

If we have a handle on peace, joy, love and patience and all the other fruits of the Spirit given to us by our faith in Jesus Christ, why do we have so many Christian "self-help" books?

Now, don't get me wrong, I have read and enjoyed and gleaned useful information from several of them.  Some of them have helped me to figure out something I was stuck on, or was just plain wondering about.  I have even kept some of them for my shelves because I found them so useful that I want to be able to reference them later. 

I just find it really odd that we as a community, who are supposed to have all these things that the worldly world doesn't have, would need books other than the Bible to tell us what we can do to get those things.

I think the reason is this:

We are taught that we need to be patient.
We are taught that we need to be loving.
We are taught that we need to be humble.
That we need to have initiative...and faith...and joy...and peace...and kindness...and gentleness...and forgiveness...
and the list goes on and on and on....

There are even lists of these 'Christian virtues' for every letter of the alphabet (26)  or week of the year (52) or month (12) or whatever other memory aid or organizational tool you'd like to pick.

Did you notice something about that list I  just wrote above?

We are taught that we....

We.  Not God.  We.

That means we are missing the most vital point:

These things are fruits of the Spirit.  Not the fruits of human beings.

When we rely on our own strength and things like "willpower" to get us these things, we are going to fail.  Why? Because we are humans, and therefore sinful. 

God is perfect.  We aren't. 

These perfect things come from Him, not from us.

We need to let His peace, His love, His joy, His patience, His kindness, His initiative and His whatever else it is that we need flow through us.

I think that we get so stuck in what we can't do, that we forget that we aren't the ones who do it in the first place.

We get so stuck on how we've messed up, what we haven't done, comparing our insides with someone else's outsides, and feeling guilty that we can't forgive ourselves for our mistakes that we forget about grace and forgiveness.  Then we turn to talk show hosts, our neighbors, counselors, and self-help books to show us what to do to fix ourselves.

While we would never tell a person dying from cancer that if they just had enough faith they would be healed, we tell ourselves that if we had enough faith we'd be infinitely and perfectly patient or joyful or whatever.  That's inconsistent theology.  We can have all the faith in the world, we are still human and we will never be perfect.

When we let go of our own strength and thought processes and willpower and the like and let God's grace and love flow in, that's when the miracles happen.

That's when God changes our perspective to one of joy.
That's when God gives us the extra patience we need.
That's when God gives us the initiative to start something.
That's when God gives us the endurance to run that race (whatever that race is).
That's when God strengthens and grows our faith.
That's when God removes our sin and allows us to show some of His perfection through our words, thoughts and actions.

And I am so very relieved that is is He that does all of this, because I know for sure that I can't.

Soli Deo Gloria.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Work Home and Family - Small Changes Make Big a Difference!

We've been working on getting the to-do list around the house crossed off.

The cleaning out is going slowly, but steadily, and I'm okay with that.  Add to it that John and I had a very long talk and decided to really clean out and cut back on our possessions rather than just cleaning out.  I'm glad it's happening, and at the same time I want to fast-forward to "Done!"  I'm sure I'm not the only one that feels this way!

We also decided to tackle some projects that have been laying around for a while and not getting done.

Moving the stepping stones to a new place in the around-patio flower bed...

Rearranging the flower pots and other artifacts by our front door...

Hanging curtains in the kids' room that we've had for a month and never got around to hanging...

In the same vain, installing the curtain rods we've had for quite a while for our bedroom and never put them up (we were waiting to get new curtains, but the old rod that we'd inherited when we bought the house fell apart, so up these went - next up, new curtains!)...

A basket to hold the books under the living room end table rather than just having them in a neat stack...

All little things, but things that make a difference.  Things that update and refresh and make the place feel like a home.

I still need to sew a tie back for each of the curtains in the kids room out of the green check from the toppers and we would still like to get curtains that actually match and work well with our bedroom and the curtain rods.  The tie backs will go up in the next week or so, and the curtains for our room will have to wait.  In the meantime, we have very sturdy curtain rods, and nice curtains in the kids' room!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Healthy Habits in 2011 - Coming up in July...

I hit a plateau with my weight loss these last few weeks.  The good news is that I haven't gained any weight back or any inches back.  The bad news is that I'm stuck.
For July....

I'm planning on working out 4 or 5 times each week (which is fairly easy since I'm not teaching at night right now).
I'm planning on not eating seconds at dinner and not finishing the kids' breakfasts (bad habits that I've gotten into).

We also have a few parties coming up (a relatives retirement party, an off-to-the-military party, a reception lunch after John serves at a church out of town, and a couple of delayed graduation parties), so I'm planning on skipping the cake or only have cake and some veggies/fruit depending on the time of day of the party and making some wise choices about the other food there too.  I have found that if I have a glass of water in my hand I won't eat as much because I can take a sip of water if I feel I need to "eat".  So, I'm bringing my big refillable water bottle and will be toting that around with me!

How are you doing on your weight loss and healthy living goals?  Have you learned anything new lately?  I'd love to hear!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Menu Plan Monday - Week of June 26th, 2011

Date Night Desert - Raspberry Cheese Cake and Hot Cocoa
This photo was taken last fall, but it's still  a perfect desert for a cold, rainy "summer" day!

The last two weeks have been interesting - John got terribly sick and then we spent a week in the cold and rain camping.  Now, we're getting ready for company, a conference I'm attending in August, and then several weekend "trips" so that John can lead worship for some churches out of  the area.  We have company Wednesday this week and Monday and Tuesday next week - we're looking forwarding to visiting with friends!

What are we eating this week?

Sunday, June 26:
Breakfast: Cereal and Milk
Lunch: Pancakes and Sausage, Strawberries and Melon
Dinner: Hamburger Gravy, Noodles, French Bread, Strawberry-Grape-Melon Salad

Monday, June 27:
Breakfast: Oatmeal with Bananas
Lunch: Leftovers
Dinner: Pork Loin, Rice, Salad, Nectarine-Banana-Grape Salad

Tuesday, June 28:
Breakfast: Oat Groats with Apples
Lunch: Leftovers
Dinner: Homemade Macaroni and Cheese, Grapes

Wednesday, June 29:
Breakfast: Oatmeal Muffins and Bananas
Lunch: Leftovers
Dinner: At Church: Bring a Fruit Salad
Desert for Company: Turtle Cheesecake

Thursday, June 30:
Breakfast: Peanut Butter Banana Smoothies, Toast
Lunch: Leftovers
Dinner: Barley Vegetable Soup, French Bread

Friday, July 1:
Breakfast: Yogurt and Granola
Lunch: Leftovers
Dinner: Shrimp Stir Fry, Rice, Melon

Saturday, July 2:
Breakfast: Cinnamon Braided Bread, Bananas
Lunch: Tuna Sandwiches, Carrots and Celery, Apple Slices
Dinner: BBQ Chicken Legs, Potato Salad, Corn on the Cob, Melon

What are you eating this week?  Check out I'm an Organizing Junkie! to share and be inspired.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Healthy Habits in 2011 - Battling Chronic Illness

I have written before a little bit about how one of my main reasons for getting healthy is to keep these two chronic illnesses that I have in check.   One can be controlled very well through diet and exercise - and that works very well .  The other has fewer flare-ups if I eat right, exercise and get enough sleep. Sleep being the key point here.

I found out last week that I've been in a flare-up for about 12 weeks. 

This week (and for the next 3 weeks) that  means nasty-scary antibiotics, plenty of sleep and prayers that I don't have to go on something stronger and more invasive again.

I had just thought I was tired from all the end-of-semester chaos and everything else that's been going on in my life.  I totally didn't realize that the 4 1/2 -5 hours of sleep I was getting a night was not helping and that my fatigue was due to a flare-up rather than just being 'regularly tired.'

My problem is this - I don't know what my limits are anymore.

I have to re-learn them.

When I'm healthy - as healthy as I'm going to get anyway - pushing myself when I work out and skimming a little (and I do mean a little only) on sleep is fine.

When I get over-tired, it's not.  When I'm in a flare-up it's not. When I'm stressed out, it's not.

So, here's the question:  How do I meet my exercise and fitness goals without sacrificing my other goals or pushing myself so hard I have a flare-up or worse?

Being overweight and sluggish all the time isn't an option anymore.  It perpetuates the illnesses and I can't live like that anymore. 

I've been thinking on that this last week and I'm not sure I have an answer. 

What suggestions do you have for me?

I'm hoping to come up with a couple of different options to try over my summer here.


Monday, June 13, 2011

A New Why of Reaching My Cleaning Out Goal

I think clutter multiplies in my home.  Does it in yours?  I feel like I put thing away or even just set them down, come back later and the amount has doubled or tripled. * Sigh *

We're working really hard on cleaning out our home - getting rid of all that junk stuff that we just don't use or can't seem to find a home for.

I'm discovering that I keep cleaning out the same areas over and over again.  The areas that really need to be cleaned out, seem to get left behind and get more and more crowded with the things that don't have a home elsewhere.

My new goal is to look at the areas that don't get touched regularly and get rid of two things per day.

What have I gotten rid of this week:

* A hideous light-up Christmas tree topper angel that my aunt gave me
* An equally hideous doll that my aunt gave my daughter (which isn't meant to be played with either)
* A pair of matchstick blinds that I've had sitting in the corner of my bedroom for 4 years
* Recycled a ton of paper
* Recycled even more paper
* Got rid of a box of Christmas decorations that we haven't used in the 10 years we've owned our house
* Donated two large boxes of outgrown kids clothes

I'm feeling good and I'm liking that I'm getting to areas of my house that haven't been touched for a while. I can actually walk under my stairs again!

How are you doing with your goals?  Care to share?

Menu Plan Monday - Week of June 12, 2011

The thing I love the most about summer? All the salads!  The above photo is not really salad, but includes quite a bit of it!  Yum!

We have a fairly normal week this week for summer - school, work, and a few church events.  We're enjoying the slightly slower pace of summer.   Here's what we're eating this week:

Sunday, June 12:
Breakfast: Cereal and Milk
Lunch: Breakfast Tacos, Grapes
Dinner: Pancakes with Strawberries

Monday, June 13:
Breakfast: Cinnamon Breakfast Cake, Bananas
Dinner: Mixed Green Salad with Salmon, French Bread, Strawberry-Melon-Grape Salad

Tuesday, June 14:  Missy and Buddy's Baptism Anniversary!
Breakfast: Chai Spiced Oatmeal
Dinner:  Pan Fried Tilapia, Sweet Potato Fries, French Bread, Strawberry-Grape-Apple Salad
Baptism Anniversary Desert: Gingerbread

Wednesday, June 15:
Breakfast: Oatmeal Muffins with Bananas
Dinner: At Church: Bring Tossed Salad

Thursday, June 16:
Breakfast: Oat Groats with Apples
Dinner: Easy Black Bean Soup, Cornbread, Grape-Apple-Pear Salad

Friday, June 17:
Breakfast: Strawberry Pastry with Peanut Butter Smoothies
Dinner: Leftovers

Saturday, June 18:
Breakfast: Strawberry Pastry with Peanut Butter Smoothies
Lunch: Oatmeal Bread, Sliced Turkey, Cheese, Strawberries and Grapes
Dinner: Baked Chicken, Rice, Corn on the Cob, Strawberry-Grape-Banana Salad
Date Night Desert: Vanilla Ice Cream with Rhubarb Sauce

What are you eating this week?  Check out I'm an Organizing Junkie! to share and be inspired.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Healthy Habits in 2011 - John's Jumping on the Bandwagon!

One of the really fun things that is happening this summer is that John is taking the summer off from his Seminary classes.  Ideally, so that I can write on my dissertation.  In reality, since he needs a desperate break and needs to get some much-needed balance in his life.

After watching him struggle with full time and 2/3 time school and a schedule that leaves very little time for anything else, even my head aches.  His shoulders get tense, he starts craving junk food, and he feels very listless and lethargic.

One day in the last month we decided that we would work together on this goal of getting healthy.

We've always done pretty well in terms of eating meals. 
Snacking, not so much. 
Working out? I do okay. John's workout is non-existent.

We're both wearing pedometers now.
We're both keeping a food journal now.
And we're both reporting in to each other weekly about our progress now.

How cool is that? 

We've starting taking family walks again - something we stopped doing when he went back to school and the kids got too big to be in the stroller.
We've started walking to the store, the library and the post office.  And carrying anything we've purchased or checked out back home too. 
We've started keeping track of the number of servings of fruits and veggies we eat each day.

It's awesome to watch my hubby's tension melting away and to see him getting back in shape.  He thinks its fun to watch me do the same.

I highly encourage you to get healthy as a couple, rather than doing this on your own.  It's helpful, encouraging and it can be so much fun!
How are you getting healthy this summer?

Monday, June 6, 2011

Goals - What do they really look like anyway?

As you've probably guessed from this blog, I'm very much a goals-oriented person. I make incessant to-do lists. I have daily, monthly, and yearly goals.  I love to have a very strict schedule.  I love to know what's going to happen next. 

What trips me up is that I always have more on my lists than time or my health or the general craziness of life will account for. 


It doesn't seem to matter if there is anything single thing on my do list more than sleep, eat and bathe and I will not complete it in some way, shape or form! 

Friday night, I had two baskets of laundry sitting in my living room waiting to be folded.  The same two baskets that had migrated from the laundry room to our bed, to the living room, back to our bed, to perching precariously on top of the hampers in our room, back to our bed and were back to the living room over the previous 4 days.  Buddy had dug underwear out of the baskets twice because there is none in the underwear basket in his closet.

Yes, bad mom me. 

I've been taking a hard, hard look at what goals and success in reaching them looks like to me over the last month.

Friday night, success meant having a wonderful date night out with John while we had an opportunity for free child care rather than worry about the laundry being in the drawers and closets rather than the baskets.

Today, success means completing my two tasks for work and my 1 task for school and being home in time to attend a movie night at a friends' house.  They are going through some tough times right now and asked us to come over so they have an opportunity to snuggle with some littles (who aren't so little anymore) and just enjoy life for a few hours.  I'm thinking of bringing along a lovely bouquet of the irises growing in my backyard as well right now.

Relationships are something that my head and heart have always told me are important but my actions didn't always match.  I do okay with my kiddos because they badger me when they don't get enough of me.  John and other people tend not to do that.  So, I take time for my to-do list instead.  I've been working on turning my to-do lists to relationship focused goals rather than strict tasks.  And it certainly has been helping!

I'm working really hard at not beating myself up when I don't get my to-do list done. It's almost impossible some days, but I am making progress. And that is really what this journey of life is all about isn't it?

Figuring our what goals and the success of reaching them really looks like for you.  So that you can hit your goals every time and enjoy all the little things along the way.

What do goals look like for you? 

Sunday, June 5, 2011

These are a Few of My Favorite Things - Birthday Parties!

One of the things I so enjoy about having children is their birthday parties!  Excitement, fun, and way too much cake and noise. Who can beat that?

Missy and Buddy turned 6 years old the beginning of May and had 17 0-6 year olds at our house for a Princess and Knight themed party.  They got to decorate crowns and shields, "rescue" a "princess" in trouble, chase each other around and eat cake and cookies. 

Since their birthday was during finals week for me, I had to leave much of the planning and doing to my Mom.  Grandma's are great and we all had a blast - especially Grandma!

My Mom and my cousin, Diane, helped make this wonderful cake - isn't it cute (and yes, I do realize that the knights and princess are a wee bit out of scale!).

I loved watching the children decorate and be creative.

And I think we're still finding these in the flower bed!

Truly, birthday parties are one of my favorite things! 
What more can I ask for?

*Note*  I'm planning on being back to blogging regularly this week after an unplanned month off.  I'll share some details later this week, but for now, we're fine, busy, and enjoying a relatively slower place after a very hectic May.!  Thanks for sticking with me in spite of my unannounced and unplanned time off - I really and truly appreciate it!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Goals Update - April 25, 2011

These last few weeks have been seriously busy!  I haven't had time to get more than about 4-5 hours of sleep many nights much less blog, clean or anything else that isn't absolutely vital for our existence and current deadlines.  Buddy had the flu (again), John had a major test, and I had a migraine yet again.  When I was putting together our menu plan for this week, John commented "I don't care what we eat this week, as long as it isn't soup!"  We had soup 5 out of 7 nights for the last two weeks (in spite of what the menu plan said!) and take out or leftovers the other two. *Sigh* 

God is very good. 

He placed someone in my life at the very right moment who knew exactly what I needed without my knowing. I am currently planning on writing about that on Thursday here so you can know too.  I was able to head into Easter with a clear head and no tension and a smile on my heart and soul. 

In terms of productivity, it's been the "crisis of the day" for about a week and a half.  I absolutely hate living in that mode, but it happens sometimes.  Especially when I am so emotionally weary.

Physically weary, I get that part.  I can get some extra sleep, eat some extra protein, get an extra workout and I'm good for a while. 

Emotionally weary is something else.  I have a tendency to depression and I've been getting dangerously close again lately. 

We have made progress in cleaning out the house and I have been keeping my head above water with grading, teaching and schoolwork. 

Today, I am energized and ready to tackle a couple of things for school and a couple of things for teaching that I have been putting off.  I am hoping that I can get the ironing caught back up (I swear that stuff multiplies while hanging on the rod in the laundry room!) and John and I have a big project that we're hoping to get done in the next week (before my parents come for the kids' birthday the first week in May).   I'm hoping that next week I can post some pictures.

I was really inspired by this post and am hoping to have some pictures to share what my completed goals look like in the near future. If you haven't had a chance, click on over and read it. Emily's video clip at the bottom made me cry.  And quite honestly I was relieved that I'm not the only one who's desk isn't perfectly clean at the end of the day!  I hope you can be inspired too.

Menu Plan Monday - Week of April 24th, 2011

Did you have a good Easter Sunday?  We sure did!  I am so very, very grateful for all of the Lord's blessings - this year especially. 

We are eating very well this week:

Easter Sunday, April 24:
   Breakfast: Easter Brunch at Church
   Lunch/Dinner: At a Friend's House: Bring Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
   Snack:  Strawberry Short Cake

Monday, April 25:
   Breakfast:  English Muffins with Peanut Butter, Bananas
   Lunch: Leftovers
   Dinner:  Crunchy Topped Tilappia, Golden Beats, Melon-Blackberry-Strawberry Salad

Tuesday, April 26:
  Breakfast: Oatmeal Muffins with Bananas
  Dinner: Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, Sweet Potato Fries, Carrots or Tomatoes, Apple and Pear Wedges

Wednesday, April 27:
   Breakfast: English Muffins with Peanut Butter, Orange Wedges
   Bag Lunches:  Apples with Peanut Butter, Cheese Stick, Carrots or Tomatoes, Cookie
   Snack for Mom: Yogurt with Blueberries
   Dinner:  Oriental Chicken Wraps, Salad, Melon-Strawberry-Blackberry Salad

Thursday, April 28:
   Breakfast: Banana Bread with Orange Wedges
   Dinner: Homemade Pizza and Bread sticks, Salad, Pineapple-Strawberry-Banana Salad

Friday, April 29:
   Breakfast: English Muffins with Peanut Butter, Apple Slices
   Bag Lunches: PB&J, Carrots or Tomatoes, Pineapple, Cookie
   Snack for Mom: Yogurt with Granola
   Dinner:  Leftovers

Saturday, April 30:
  Breakfast: Cinnamon Coffee Cake with Bananas and Orange Wedges
  Lunch: Tuna Sandwiches, Pasta Salad, Pineapple
  Dinner: Chicken Divan, French Bread, Pineapple
  Desert for At-Home Date Night:  Rhubarb Crisp and Vanilla Ice Cream

What are you eating this week?  Check out I'm an Organizing Junkie! to share and be inspired!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Goals Update - April 11, 2011

We've been busy, productive, ill and weary here at our house over the last few weeks.

I have had the terrible head cold that's been running around - it lingers.  And, given my lovely sinuses, it had to turn into a sinus infection too.  I'm on the mend, but it's been a long two weeks.

John's spend more of the last 4 days at the hospital (working) than at home.  He's frustrated with unnecessary tests, cranky patients, lack of sleep and unhelpful co-workers.

The kids have been cranky with endless appetites and not sleeping well - a sure sign they are growing yet again.  Missy's shoes don't fit her again and Buddy's pants seem to have shrunk overnight in the wash.  Buddy lost his glasses about a month ago and we have yet to find them.  We're pretty sure they were lost at school, it's just where at school that is the question!  Ugh.

In all of that, there have been lovely,  wonderful and good things too.

*Lots and lots of work done a two side projects for me - one at school and one at work.
*Excellent school conferences for the kids - and their 'preliminary pass' to first grade this fall.
*A very nice amount of extra overtime pay for John's paycheck from all the overtime he's done.
*The start of a grant to be written at work - exciting times there!
*An entire van load of items donated to the church garage sale (or the "Holy C*!%p Sale" as Pr. B. likes to call it!).
*News of our new nephew or niece on the way this fall for my SIL who has hoped for another baby for a long time.
*Lots of family time - we've been trying deliberately to make more time together as a family and we've succeeded!
*The gift of a large pail of beef stew and ham and cheese sandwiches leftover from a Lenten supper, which meant we had lunches taken care of for 4 days!
* A wonderful conversation with someone about the situation at our home church.
* More work done on my dissertation.
* The irises, daffodils, and tulips making their way up out of the ground.
* The last of the snow melted.
* Buds starting to come on the lilacs.
* New summer dresses for Missy, courtesy of Grandma and her sewing machine.
* My children's school getting close to their total for building their well in Africa.

I have been continually amazed at the Refining Fires that God uses on me. 

These last few weeks have been hard. 
Harder than I ever thought normal life could be. 
I have felt adrift and lost - as though I had no home. 
I was getting so frustrated with not really having a church 'home' at the moment, with the sheer mountain of work that I have to scale every day, the constant vigilance of raising children, the endless of chores of managing a home, the challenge of teaching students who sometimes just don't want to learn, the frustration and endless path of writing a doctoral dissertation, the call of uplifting and helping my husband, and the desire to still take care of myself. 

Tonight I will be up until at least 1am - making rolls for sandwiches later this week, trying to catch up on tidying the house and finishing the never-ending laundry, doing the necessary ironing and trying to make myself tired enough to go to sleep in spite of the fact that John won't be home until about the time I head to bed.

I had time tonight to cuddle with my children and read stories and then do sweet devotions before tucking them into bed.
I spent 15 minutes mixing up a batch of whole wheat dinner rolls - my finger nails getting dough-y in the process and making my kitchen smell lovely indeed.
I will be able to wake up to clean, comfortable home in the morning and know that my children and my husband (as well as myself) are ready for the day ahead with clean clothes, packed lunches and a welcoming house to call home.

God is so good!

I may be weary, but He still blesses me with my weariness and gives me strength to run my race.

Soli Deo Gloria.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Super Savings Saturday - $25.50 for kids' clothes

Saturday at our house is "Errands Day" - we run all our errands including grocery stores, bank, post office, drug stores, and any clothes shopping that we need to do.  Today was the garage sale for our Community Education Family classes group, held at one of the local schools.  I didn't go right when it opened because I knew the crowds would be huge and I didn't want to fight them.  I arrived about an hour and a half after they opened and got several things:

For Missy:  Pink Pants, Teal long-sleeve T-shirt, Denim shorts, Navy knit shorts, a pair of red knit pants and matching top, and that really cute white denim skirt pictured on top.

For buddy: Brown Corduroys, Tan Pants, Star Wars Lego Pajama, and Spider Man Pajamas.

My find of the day!  For Buddy: A 100% Wool suit for $1

These three adorable baby outfits are a gift for a baby shower.

Total Spent at the Garage Sale for All of the Above:  $25.50

And the Groceries!  I took $60 out of my $80 for this two week period because I need to get Kleenex, soap, and crackers for the snack donation at school.  That leaves me with $20 for next week plus the $3 I didn't spend today!

Store #1:
Wesson Canola Oil $2.99
Hormel Sizzler's Sausage $0.99 with Store Coupon = $0.99
Arctic Shrimp (Salad Size) $4.99 with Store Coupon = $4.99
1.95lbs Braeburn Apples at $1/lb = $1.95
3.33lbs Bartlett Pears at $1/lb = $3.33
Eat Smart Pre-Cut Broccoli and Cauliflower B1G1 = $2.29
2 Kemps Ice Cream 2/$5 = $5
Kemp's Gallon Skim Milk Free after Catalina from last week = FREE
Kemp's Gallon Skim Milk Free after Catalina from last week = FREE
Youplet Greek Yogurt 4pack $2.50 - $1 = $1.50
Also used 2 $1 off Catalina

Total Spent: $21.04
Total Saved: $19.25

Store #2:
C&H Light Brown Sugar 2 at $1.89 = $3.78 - $1 - $1 = $2.78
Gold Medal All Purpose Flour $2.29 - $0.41 = $1.98
Clear Value Oyster Crackers = $0.99
Tide HE Liquid $.6.99 - $1.01 - $1 -$1 = $3.98
Ritz Crackers 2 @ 2/$4 = $4
Thomas English Muffins $2.50 - $1.22 = $1.28
Simply Jif Creamy Peanut Butter 2 @ 2/$4 = $4
Celestial Seasonings Tea $3.04
Steam Fresh Peas 3 @ $1 = $3 - $1 - $1 = $1
Glide Floss Mint $2.50 - $0.75 - $0.75 = $1
Soft Soap Refill $3.98 - $1.20 - $0.50 - $0.50 = $1.78
Men's Sauve Shampoo 2 at $1.66 = $3.32 - $0.50 - $0.50 = $2.32
Navel Oranges 10# Bag $6.99 - $1.01 = $5.98
Strawberries 1# 2 at 2/$3 = $3

Total Spent: $34.69
Total Saved: $31.43

Store #3:
Puffs Plus 3 at $0.99 = $2.97 - $0.50 = $2.47
Dawn Dish Soap 10.3oz $0.99 - $0.25 = $0.74
Purex 2x 32 Loads $1.99 - $1 = $0.99
No Nonsense Hose B1G1 = $4.49
No Nonsense Knee Highs $0.20

Total Spent: $7.90
Total Saved: $5.24 +

How did you do this week? Check out Money Saving Mom to share and be inspired!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Healthy Habits in 2011 - 14 1/2 Inches Down!

The last couple of weeks haven't been so hot for working out. 

I pinched a nerve in my neck 2 week ago and last week only got in 2 workouts instead of 4. 
This week I have a colossal sinus infection, so I missed my weekend class since I was running a fever. 
Today I missed most of class since I did something to my ankle and it hurt to put any weight on it (I did do the arm and abdomen parts though and then went for a walk later today with my family when my ankle was feeling better). That means, unless I drag myself to class at 730am on Saturday, I'll have worked out once this week.  *Sigh* 

The good news?  I had to measure myself in order to cut out my Easter dress.

Here's what I found:

Waist: 3 inches down!
Hips: 6 inches down!
Left Thigh: 3 inches down!Right Thigh: 2 1/2 inches down!

That's a grand total of 14 1/2 inches down!  Whoo hoo!

I am so psyched about all of that! 
Who cares of the scale says only 5 lbs down (which I've managed to stay at in spite of eating like a horse over the weekend)?  

When I've lost that many inches the scale can say whatever it likes!  :)

What more can I ask for?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Super Savings Saturday - $42.41 from a $43 budget!

After my shopping trip this last week, I had $43 and a handful of change for groceries this week.  I spent $42.41 for the entire bounty you see above!  Four of the boxes of cereal are heading to the food shelf.  We've decided to spend roughly $5 each week to bless the food shelf. So this week, cereal it was!

Here's what we bought:

Store #1:
6 boxes Kellogg's Cereal @ $1.66 each = $9.96 - $1 - $1 - $1 = $6.96 ($1.16 per box)
Apple Juice $1.88
2 Loaves white bread $3
2 Hormel Lunch Meal $5
Organic Pink Lady Apples (3lbs) $3.99 - $1 = $2.99
Total: $19.37
Saved: $9.28

Store #2:
20oz Mayonaise $2.99
Palmolive Ulta 23oz $2.00 - $0.50 - $0.50 = $1
State Fair Mini Corndogs $3 - $0.55 - $0.55 = $1.90
2.44 lbs Red Grapes @ $1.29/lb = $3.15
2lb Whole Carrots $0.98
1 gallon Skim Milk $2.69
2 blocks Cheese @ $1.66 = $3.32 - $1 - $1 = $1.32
5 boxes Nutrigrain Bars @ $1.88 ea = $9.40 - $1 - $1 - $0.75 - $0.75 = $5.90 ($1.18 per box)
Total $20.04
Saved: $25.09

Store #3:
Purex Crystals $2.99 - $2 = $0.99
1 block cheese $1.80
Total Spent: $3 including tax
Saved: $2.40

Total Spent: $42.41
Total Saved: $36.77

I also received 2 $1 off next purchase catalinas and 2 free gallon of milk catalinas good through April 16th!

Not so bad if I do say so myself!

A couple of quick notes about this shopping trip:  I usually bake my own bread. The last few months have been very stressful and time crunched for me.  Since I came down with another sinus infection on Friday night, John and I decided to take advantage of a 2/$3 coupon and buy 2 loaves of bread this week, rather than making them.  Buddy also loves Apple Cinnamon Nutrigrain bars and I had some coupons, so we decided to busy 5 boxes (the number required for the price deal).  This is a very quick in-the-car breakfast or an on-the-go snack for us.  Very handy if we're running out the door late.  Usually for breakfast I pair them with a banana or apple so we're not eating totally terrible. :)   The mini-corndogs are another treat - which we're saving for the kids' birthday in about a month.  I wouldn't have bought them without the sale and coupons.  Everything else is fairly typical and, like I said before, 4 of the boxes of cereal are going to the food shelf. 

For more shoping inspiration and to share your own deals, check out Super Savings Saturday at Money Saving Mom!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Healthy Habits in 2011 - 5lbs and 2 Inches Down!

Soooo, how's that weight loss thing going, huh?

I'm down 5lbs.
I'm also down 2 inches on my waist!

I have a pair of pants that have been snug for the last several years and I had to wear a belt with them to work yesterday to keep them from falling down to my hips. 

I LOVE that!
I have also been able to work out an average of 4 times per week for the last month.

I am giving that extra working out the credit for not gaining back those 5lbs since I spent last week eating a ton of junk food - cheesecake, chocolate lava cake, hot soft pretzels, ice cream, and a whole bunch of other stuff that I probably shouldn't even mention on a healthy habits entry! 

We had several events where we needed to eat desert and, of course, I didn't plan ahead and went with a basically empty stomach each time.  (Or I did like I did today and forgot a spoon to eat my yogurt with! Opps!)

That meant lots of eating things I shouldn't have.

We have loads of fruit in the house this week and I'm determined to eat better this week.

Fruit and vegetables if I'm hungry between meals.  A cup of yogurt if I have a long time between meals or a couple of crackers with a small piece of cheese.  Not too many calories but filling enough that I don't want to keep snacking. 

Well, that's the scoop for this week. 

How are you doing?  I'd love to hear!

Goals Update - March 28, 2011

Some days I really feel like I'm scaling Mount Everest or something equally daunting.

Writing a dissertation and jumping through all the hoops necessary to gain a Ph.D. degree is far, far, far harder than I ever imagined it would be.  I have been making steady progress on things and spring break was particularly productive for me.  I can't cross things off my sidebar yet because everything has to signed and sealed by the graduate officers before I can "officially" say they are done.  *sigh*  I have made good enough progress that people are impressed - and the right people too!  :)

Emotionally and physically the last few months have been difficult. 

I have been bogged down by the emotional impact of too many deaths of people who are far too young to die. 
I have been bogged down by the physical demands of working part time, going to school full time, being a wife and a mama, and a daughter and a friend.
I have given myself a goose egg on my forehead, sliced open the side of my nose, bruised the bone in my left elbow, broke several blood vessels in my knees and my feet, and pinched a nerve in my neck.
I have had 3 migraines.

Saturday morning I sat in Bible Study and finally asked the lovely ladies of my group to pray for me and for John as we go through this time in our lives. 

Another women there, M, is in the midst of a very stressful situation herself and suggested that I don't think about the next 2-3years (the time it will take for John to finish his degree), but in terms of this week, this day or this hour, depending on how stressful things are.

Another woman, W, suggested that I think about what I can do rather than what I can't do.  Even if I can't finish all of something right now, what can I do?  For example, can I fold half a load of laundry even if I can't fold the whole thing?  Can I grade 6 papers even if I can't grade the whole stack?  Can I dust the 3 shelves on this bookshelf even though I'd really like to clean out the bookshelf instead? 

Both of these things were really helpful - I knew then in my head, but hearing how those two dear women used them (M in her current situation and W in her life as a mom of 3 and an ICU nurse) helped immensely.

Two weeks ago I hit a 'wall'.  I was so ready to change everything and I started to try.  I was feeling so frustrated that I couldn't do it all and change things as fast as I would like them to and be what I wanted to be right now.

I have had great productivity in the last 72 hours since that Bible Study.
I have gotten 1/2 of the rest of my atrocious home office cleaned out (really!).
I have gotten all the rest of my back-log of grading done.
I have gotten through the last bit of data matching I needed to do for my dissertation.
I have gotten through a stack of laundry the size of a mountain.
I have done a pile of mending
I have played 3 games of UNO with my kids.
I cleaned out my fridge/freezer.
I have gotten someone to do a reliability study on my data for me.
I have had 3 deep and meaningful conversations with my husband.
I have played with toys or blocks or dolls several times with my kids.
I have read 4 books to my kids.
I have washed dishes, cleaned the kitchen, swept and washed floors, and done a whole host of other chores.

Being reminded that God's grace is sufficient and He won't set me to any task that He won't provide for the completion of makes a world of difference.

One week at a time.
One day at a time.
One hour at a time.
One task at a time.

In the here and now.

I am truly blessed and feel so grateful to M and W for their wisdom.  Can you say a little prayer for them today?  Just as a way of saying thank you.  And to maybe bless their way a bit too?