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Showing posts from January, 2011

Prayers Please

We've had a tough week here with the death of our lovely young friend on last Sunday.

Then Saturday we found out my parents are stuck in Cairo.
They were supposed to be home by now - heading through Cairo on their way from somewhere else at the end of a trip. 

And our congregational meeting at church today was horrible.  I have never felt like I don't have a faith family before and today I felt like not only did I not have a faith family to turn to, but that I was being forcibly shoved out the door (along with many people who have been in the congregation a lot longer than we have). 

Will you please pray for my parents and their tour group in Cairo?
And for God's direction for us in what to do next?

Thank you.

Super Savings Saturday - Restocking the Pantry

This is the no-picture edition!  We had a bunch of split runs to the store today so I didn't get pictures of anything.

I managed by the skin of my teeth to make it through the month of January in my pantry challenge of $55 plus some change and a $5 gift card.  I hadn't planned very well and ran out of feminine hygiene products (BIG opps!) and we all had bad colds and John had a sinus infection so 4 mini-boxes of tissues didn't last at all!  If I'd had to buy groceries for this next week out of what I had in this budget, we wouldn't have made it.  SIGH.  I'm hoping to build my skills on stockpiling for at least a few months during this year, I really need to work on that type of thing!    Anyway, we made it through, $110 went into the savings account, and I'm really happy John got paid yesterday so we start a new budget cycle!

Here's what we got today:

Store #1:
4 pack GE light bulbs: $4 - $1 - $1.50 = $1.50

Total Spent: $1.50 (Saved $5.49)

Store #2:
1 …

Kid Funny - Did You Know....?

On Wednesday Missy shared something with us:

"MOM!  There's this new thing!  It's called a Gift Certificate.  And it's something you can spend money on!"

Yes, my dear it is.

And I didn't have the heart to tell her that it's not new. 

She was SO excited!

Life Happens Sometimes

This last week has been a busy and rough week in so many ways - hence the lack of posts.

Yes, bad blogger me. :P

We came off a week with two kids and John sick and headed into a week with me sick, John sick and then Buddy got really dehydrated (for some reason he stopped drinking anything for 2 days!).  Not fun but it looks like we're pretty much out of the woods though John and I still sound pretty bad (we feel fine actually).

Then our van died and had to go in to the 'car doctor' which meant we lost 2 hours over two days driving back and forth to the dealership (30 minutes one day) and spent 2 days juggling one car - not always easy when you head in two different directions each day!

With our young friend dying on Sunday, we had a funeral this week (we ended up not going due to the van thing, so we scrambled to send flowers instead).  And all the emotions that go through losing a friend and supporting her family, who have been through way too much in the last couple of …

Goals Update - Week of January 16th

I think my big plans for January have officially derailed and we're gone past plan B to something like plan F, plan G or plan H by now!  Such is life and I'm okay with that today.

I did accomplish two BIG things this last week:
* I discovered a much better and faster way to organize my data and pull it out of the transcripts I'm working with!  I'm so excited about that since I've felt like I was just continuing to confuse myself the more data I acquired.
* I managed not to catch the head cold/sinus bugs that were running around the house here!

Those two things alone made the week fabulous!

Other things I managed to accomplish in spite of having to take care of all three of the other people in my house last week:
* Finalized my class schedule (what we're doing when) for the semester
* Finalized my syllabus for the semester
* Cleaned out the kids room again
* washed all the switch plates in the house
* Dusted all the ceiling fans in the house
* Found Buddy's …

Menu Plan Monday - Week of January 23rd, 2011

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A not very good photo of John's birthday dinner earlier this month.

Well, nothing like being AWOL last week!  The kids had really bad head colds and lucky John had a sinus infection!  I spent a lot of time blowing noses, washing bedding, and massaging sore temples!  Uff! It was quite the week.

Anyway, somehow I managed to avoid the bugs and we're back to 'normal' this week.   We're still doing the pantry challenge and I didn't buy any groceries this last week do to having to take care of everyone.  I did go buy milk and eggs on Sunday since we were almost out of both (one egg doesn't go very far!) and bought a little bit of fruit since we only had grapefruit, which the kids won't eat.  I have about 4 dollars ($1 and three in change) plus my $5 gift card for groceries this coming Saturday.

What are we eating this week?

Sunday, January 23:
   Breakfast: Cereal and Milk
   Lunch: Chicken Nuggets, French Fries, Apple Slices
   Dinner: Soft Shell Beef Tacos, …

These Are A Few of My Favorite Things - My Flexible Schedule

Being in academia, the pay is lousy and the hours are LONG.  Minimum of 7 years of education and a PhD required. Eighty hour work-weeks anyone?  For $40,000 per year? No overtime, no summer or holiday pay and no time off during the semester.  Plus you have to pay out of pocket for conferences, travel and sometimes your research or equipment - or you have to apply for and acquire a grant to cover these expenses, something that is not easy to do.  In this field you have to love what you do to do what you do or you don't stay - at least for the hours, responsibility and the pay!  

Fortunately, everyone who works at my not-so-new-now job with me loves what we are doing - both on an individual level and as a department.  We are willing to put in the long hours for not such great pay.  We're willing to shell out $3000 a year to go to a conference just so we can further our field of study. 

The thing ALL of us love about our jobs that we wouldn't trade for the world is our flexi…

Goal Update - Week of January 9th 2011

Nothing like being a day late in posting this.  Missy has had a terrific cold the last few days and today was the first day "back to normal".  Never mind that I have school and teaching starting, my daycare lady was sick, John has his intensives and it just seems like stuff happens all at once around here.  Whew!  I'm going to be soooo glad when this dissertation thing is done and I have fewer commitments all the way around!

So, what DID I get done last week?  It really didn't seem like much since I had so much I wanted to get done that didn't.  But here goes the list of things that got done:

* 2 transcripts analyzed
* Paper finished (love that!)
* A run to IKEA to get a few specific things and price a few others
* Read The Autobiography of George Muller by George Muller (awesome read!)
* Read another book for school
* Cleaned out and off my desk at school
* Finished an annotated bibliography for one portion of my research
* Reviewed my text book for my class I&#…

Menu Plan Monday - Week of January 16, 2011

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John's birthday desert! Yum!
We're still plugging away at the pantry challenge here and we are doing very well I might add.  We had some unexpected 'treats' as well - Pizza last night courtesy of a coupon for a free pizza from our favorite pizza place and a trip to IKEA on Saturday meant we ate there (love those Swedish Meatballs!) instead of home.  The trip to IKEA was from our "Recreation" category of our budget, so we didn't touch the bit I have left in our monthly grocery budget this time around.  It's been wonderful to take stock and see what I can do with what's in the cupboards and freezer!  Not to mention, using some things up is a good thing too!

Here's what we're eating this week:

Sunday, January 16:
   Breakfast: Cereal and Milk
   Lunch: Breakfast Tacos
   Dinner: Pizza with Orange and Grapefruit Wedges

Monday, January 17:
   Breakfast:  Spiced Waffles with Peaches and Pecans
   Lunch: Chicken Noodle Soup, Homemade Bread, Orange…

These are a Few of My Favorite Things - Unexpected Days Home

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With all the cold and flu bugs running around here, it's no surprise that my daycare lady has called me a couple of times and said  she was sick.  She has school-age kids herself and with the littles she takes care of, it's no wonder the bug bites her sometimes too.  Once she called to tell me her daughter was sick.  With strep throat.  Uff da.  No fun at all!

The kids have been coughing and blowing the last few days but are now well on the way to  fine.  And we have the treat of an unexpected day home on Monday - MLK Day.  They were supposed to go daycare and I was going to finish taking down the last of the Christmas decorations, get some serious writing done and possibly work on a couple of birthday gifts.  Nope - sickness at the daycare lady's house means we stay here.

My first reaction was annoyance. 

I am so far behind!  I need that time for myself!  Yes, I would like some whine with that cheese, thank you!

And then I realized something.

Time with my children is p…

Super Savings Saturday - Continuing the Pantry Challenge

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If you recall from last week I am challenging myself to spend only $60 on groceries in January ($50 from this month's budget plus $5 from last and a $5 gift card).  Last week I spent  $28.95 leaving me with $26.05 + $5 gift card.
This week I bought the following at one grocery store: * 2 gallons skim milk @ $2.49 = $4.98 * 2 boxes Cherrios @ 2/$5 = $5 - $1 = $4 * Clear Value Oyster Crackers = $0.99 * 2.39 lbs bananas @ $0.49/lb = $1.15 * 2.35 lbs green cabbage @ $0.49/lb = $1.15 *2.03 lbs Bartlett Pear @ $1.29/lb = $2.62 * Westpac Green Beans $0.99 - $0.35 = $0.64 * Quaker Traditional Oatmeal $2 - $1 = $1
Total Spent: $16.53 (Saved: $7.44)
Our store apparently is not doubling coupons on Saturday anymore, so I may have to adjust my coupon shopping to Wednesday night.  Not my favorite time to shop since I don't get home until 830pm anyway and that would push me back to 9pm or later.  I guess it will depend on what I would get for free or close to free!  Today, the oatmeal would have been …

Frugal Friday - Repurposing Containers

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Aren't these cute?  They're leftover liquid creamer bottles that a friend gave to me filled with mocha mix (L) and cocoa mix. It's a little hard to see in the picture, but the mocha is beautifully layered too! The container on the left was decorated with that self-stick ribbon available in craft stores.  The one on the right, curling ribbon and candy canes (for stirring the cocoa of course!).  Her co-workers drink a lot of creamer in the breakroom at work so she saved the containers (with permission of course), brought them home, washed them and filled them with homemade cocoa, mocha and trail mix for Christmas gifts!  Genius!  And let me tell you - so handy!  Just pour and you're ready to stir!

Making myself some cocoa this afternoon (and it's a very snowy, stay-inside kinda afternoon here!), made me think about re-purposing containers.  We seem to do that a lot around here.  Baskets and boxes get moved around as needed.  As do bookshelves.

But it's the 'u…

In the Refiner's Fire - There's Nothing Wrong with Me, I'm Just Lutheran!

Something I have been struggling with for the last few years, as I have done more reading in the "Christian" realm is  the "Christian Worldview".  Not that I think there's anything wrong with the "Christian Worldview" itself, the problem I have is assumption that all Christians have the same worldview.

So much of the Christian literature out there comes from presses that come from Calvinist, Anabaptist, or Catholic backgrounds and while the stuff is good, there's usually something that I disagree with.  Something that bugs me. Something that sticks in my mind and I chew on it for a while and get all "het up" over it and make myself frustrated.

We've been struggling with so many things at our church this last year, some of them theological but most of them not.  And in the midst of all of this, I've been coming off two years of serious and undiagnosed illness that made me delve deep into my faith and my own personal convictions.

N…

Healthy Habits in 2011 - Upping the Ante

My dear friend Bea and I went to breakfast last weekend.  I won't even talk about what I ate (it was very high in calories - but I did get a side of fruit!), but we decided that we're going to be each other's accountability partners in this whole weight loss thing!

She has several physical difficulties that mean strenuous exercise is out of the question for her.  After some extensive surgery 2 years ago that finally allowed her to move without pain for the first time in the entire time I'd known her (since 2000), she was able to lose 60lbs!  Whoo hoo!  You go girl!  It's amazing what being able to move at all can do to your physical fitness level! 

I tell you, she's an inspiration to me in so many ways, and that's just one of them!

Anyway, she has a grand baby (her first!) due in May and is hoping to lose another 20lbs by then. 

I am planning on being certified as a Jazzercise instructor before the end of the year and would like to lose 15lbs by then.

So,…

Goals: Progress during the week of January 2, 2011

So, how did I do on my goals for last week?  Since I promised you all that I'd share (for your amusement and for accountability) here's my lists for last week.

Here's what I accomplished:
* poster off to a conference with a colleague
* grades submitted for my fall term class
* last little bit of 'stuff' cleaned out of our bedroom
* finished outlining a paper
* finished a draft of that paper
* church committee work completed! (WHOO HOO!!!! - love getting stuff off my plate!)
* returned some things to the store that weren't needed
* sold several DVDs (made roughly $70!) and donated our extra VHS tapes
* Jazzercise 4x
* one data set completed
* purchased curtain rods for our bedroom
* analyzed 1 transcript

Here's what I'd hoped to accomplish and didn't:
* finishing that paper
* installing the curtain rods in our bedroom
* ironing and re-hanging the curtains in our bedroom
* analyzing 2 more transcripts
* baking krumkakka
* finishing another baby quilt …

Menu Plan Monday - Week of January 9th

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Here's a picture of our Christmas Eve table to share with you!
We're eating from the pantry this month, with $50 in groceries for the whole month!  Wow!  So, what are we eating?

Sunday, January 8:
    Breakfast: Cereal and Milk
    Lunch: Waffles with Bananas and Walnuts
    Dinner: Baked Chicken, Homemade Whole Wheat Bread, Baked Squash, Apple-Banana-Pineapple Salad

Monday, January 9:
   Breakfast:  Oatmeal with Apples and Cinnamon
   Bag Lunch: Crackers and Cheese, Pear or Mandarin Oranges, Carrots or Tomatoes, Cookie, Juice Box
   Dinner:  Pot Luck at Church: Bring Tossed Salad

Tuesday, January 10:
  Breakfast; Peanut Butter Pancakes with Strawberry Jam
  Dinner:  Pork Stir Fry, Rice, Orange and Grapefruit Wedges

Wednesday, January 11:
  Breakfast: Oatmeal with Cinnamon and Raisins
  Bag Lunches: Apples with Peanut Butter, Orange Wedges, Carrots or Tomatoes, Cookie, Juice Box
  Dinner: Easy Black Bean Soup, Cornbread, Apple Slices

Thursday, January 12:
  Breakfast: Oatmeal…

These are a Few of My Favorite Things - The Beauty of the Season

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Today is the first Sunday in the season of Epiphany, the day in the church year that the Three Kings (or Wise Men, if you prefer that title) arrived to see the Christ Child and his mother, Mary.  Their journey was long and tiresome, lasting according to accounts up to 2 years by camel.  Can you even imagine?  I can't.
Today also marks the very last end of Christmas - the 12 Days of Christmas start with Christmas day and last until Epiphany.  We like Christmas so much we stick around until the first Sunday in Epiphany. :)

Today also marks the day that we take down the Christmas tree and the rest of our Christmas decorations, except the Nativity, which will remain up until the end of Epiphany.


All the pretty things like the tree with it's lights and ornaments, the garland with our Christmas photo cards pinned on it with red and green clothes pins, the Christmas table cloth and the Advent wreath, the twinkle lights on the houses and the greenery on the businesses, fancy cookies, …

Super Savings Saturday - $20 produce haul

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I'm challenging myself this month to $50 for the whole month!  It won't be as hard as I thought since I found $5 and change in our grocery envelope (leftover from last month) and we have $5 gift card to one of our grocery stores.  So a total of $60 and change for the month!  I can do that!
Today's store runs are as follows:

Store #1:
2 bell peppers: $0.89
1.77 lbs Fuji apples @ $0.99/lb = $1.75
2 bags of Fresh Express Salad BOGO = $2.99
1lb baby Carrots BOGO = $1.59
2 bags cherry tomatoes BOGO = $3.49
Total Spent: $10.71 (Saved $8.96)

Store #2:
2 boxes Ronzoni Pasta: $1x2 = $2 - $1- $1 = FREE
2 boxes Healthy Harvest Pasta: $1x2 = $2 - $1- $1= FREE
4 Progresso Soups: $1x4 = $4 - $1 - $1 = $2
4lb Navel Oranges = $3.49
2 Cheddar Cheese: $0.98 x 2 = $1.96
1 gallon skim milk: $1.98
Total Spent: $9.43 (Saved :$19.99)

Total Spent Overall: $20.14
Total Saved (According to Store Receipts): $28.95

Total Left to spend for the Month: $34.86 + $5 gift card

For more shopping inspirati…

Frugal Friday - 5 Uses for Leftover Socks + 2 for Holey Nylons

We all have socks that have no mates.  Perhaps the dryer ate one, or one got a hole, or one got lost or whatever.  But if you own socks, you have a leftover sock laying around.  

These things bug me.  I really dislike having an unmatched sock.  And I dislike even more not knowing what to do with it! 

So, here are 5 things that we've used our leftover socks for:

* Child's dusting rag.  Spritz lightly with your favorite dusting solution or a very small amount of water, have your child stick the sock over their hand and let them loose on your furniture - to dust of course!

* Sock puppets.  Yes, it's cliche but I had to include it.  Don't have things to make a face with (i.e. buttons, yarn, felt, etc.)?  Use a good old Sharpie or other permanent marker and draw away.  The kids LOVE this one!

* Polish or buffing rag for your shoes.  Honestly, we use the back end of old cotton undies to apply the polish but I don't see why an old cotton sock can't do the trick as …

In the Refiner's Fire - Trust and Contentment

I've been reading lately about trusting God.

We don't trust God enough.

Any of us. 

We don't have to.

We have so many things that  wecan rely on instead of God: our money, our jobs, our talents, our health, our friends, our family and our possessions.  We place our trust in 401(k)s and 403(b)s and education and the amount of things we buy.  We rely on our spouses and children, our careers and our hobbies to make us happy and keep us fulfilled.

The thing is: God doesn't promise us happiness and fulfillment.  He doesn't promise a bountiful retirement or a long, healthy life. 

What he does promise is this:

All we need to get to heaven.
A relationship with Him - that brings us fulfillment and joy.
That He will help us through our life.

It doesn't mean that life is easy.
It doesn't mean that we shouldn't work hard, or save for our retirement or that we need to quit buying nice things. 

It also means that it's hard to trust God, because we expect earth…

Work Home and Family - Loving my Cleaning Out!

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My biggest challenge to keeping my home clean and inviting is clutter.  I am a pack rat.  Yes, I have admitted that before and I am admitting it again.  My home office and sewing/craft rooms are huge piles of paper.  Yes, I did manage to clean out the office enough that we can actually use one of the two desks in there and open the closet door to access the closet.  I also managed to keep my sewing area clean enough that I can actually use the sewing machine.  Both of those things are accomplishments for me!

I love having the rooms free of clutter.  I had cleaned out my kitchen and living room early last year and managed to keep it that way through the whole of 2010!  Whoo hoo!  The kids room stays pretty neat and tidy because it has to - two kids sharing a small room means if things aren't kept to a minimum, we end up with an unusable room quickly.  And I had to clean out the laundry room so my new washer and dryer could come right before Thanksgiving. 

Now that our bedroom is …

Healthy Habits in 2011 - My Plan to Kick this Weight in 2011

Nothing like a new year to get things rolling along in the weight loss realm!  I think I remember reading somewhere that losing weight and getting out of debt are the two most often made New Years Resolutions.  I believe it.  Because both being overweight and being in debt have a lot in common and both aren't any fun!

My plan in 2011 is to lose 15 lbs and several inches. (I haven't measured myself again so I will have the inches numbers for next week - gulp!). 

Last year I managed not to gain any weight from beginning to the end of the year and my weight went down and then back up during the course of the year.   My goal for this year is to have it go down and then stay down! :)

How?

That's always the trick question isn't it.  I could focus entirely on what I eat or exercise like crazy or crash diet or something that would work temporarily and then be difficult to maintain in the long run.  I won't do that. 

Here are some things I learned in 2010 that will help …

Goals for 2011

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My non-traditional "Christmas Flowers" from my Dad - just because!
As I'm sitting here, there are huge, fluffy snow flakes falling outside my window.  I have a pot of tea and one of my special tea cups and a lighted candle.  It's quiet and peaceful.  In the living room the tree lights add a spark of joy.  I couldn't find our angel tree topper this year - things got put away so hap-hazard last year I couldn't find half of our decorations this year! - so Missy drew a paper star, cut it out, colored it yellow, glued it to a Popsicle stick and we stick it at the top of the tree.  Every time I look at it, it makes me smile!
This year has gotten off to a good start. 
And today is John's birthday.  I am so blessed to be married to him and so blessed to have the marriage that we do.  Celebrating his birthday so close after Christmas and New Year's is just another reason to count my blessings one by one.
So what are my goals in 2011?  I have an ambitious list aga…

Menu Plan Monday - Week of January 2, 2011

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A whole new year and a whole new week!  How blessed are we!  And this also is the first week of an eating from the pantry challenge for us - $50 for groceries for the whole month!   Can we do it?  Yes we can! (My apologies to Bob the Builder for borrowing his lines there ! :)  )

With our pantry and fridge well-stocked we are eating well again.  John's birthday is today - Happy Birthday Sweetie! - and he requested Crab Legs for dinner.  And, yes, our budding foodies love them too.  Never mind that the kids won't eat ground meat of any kind or most vegetables, they'll eat crab legs and shrimp and salmon.  Glad that they will do that.  Not too sure about what that does for the budget!  Anyway, the crab legs were on sale for $5.99/lb this week. We bought 2 lbs and that came out of the birthday gifts part of the budget.  So glad the man is easy to please!

So here's the menu for the week:

Sunday, January 2:
    Breakfast: Cereal and Milk
    Lunch: Pancakes with Strawberry…

These are a Few of My Favorite Things - A Fresh Start

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As crazy as it seems, there's something very refreshing about the new year and a 'fresh start' on all things. 
Think about it for a minute.  It's very weird that one day makes all the difference. Yesterday was 2010 (or, rather, two days ago) and today is 2011.
In reality, nothing has changed but the flip of a calendar page. We do that 11 other times a year without it being any big deal at all.
But this time...this time our minds somehow see it all as new. And fresh. And give us, at the very least, a psychological new beginning.
I love that fresh start.
And since I live by a school/academic calendar, I get one in September too.
I love being able to think and plan and rearrange.  To organize and set up expectations.  To come up with all the reasons that this year or semester or month will be different then the past.
And the best part of it all: Jesus died on the cross to make each day of our lives a fresh start. Freed from all the baggage of this world, we can strive to serve H…

Super Savings Saturday - My Personal Pantry Challenge for January

This week I did actually go grocery shopping - however, my folks paid for the groceries as a way of saying 'thank you' for our hospitality over the last couple of weeks.  So I spent $0 out of pocket for groceries this week!  And we bought a number of things that we were running low on, including several things for the kids' lunch boxes, like juice boxes and applesauce.

So my pantry is very well stocked, indeed.

So well stocked in fact, that I'm challenging myself to the same challenge I had last January: $50 for groceries for the whole month of January!

Typically my budget is $40 per week, or $160 per month.  This will give us $110 to put toward something else - in this case one of our savings goals for 2011 (which I'll write about on Monday). 

I will buy mostly milk and fruit during this time so that is what my Super Savings Saturday posts will consist mostly of, along with any killer deals of course, during the month of January. 

I haven't done a very good…

Frugal Friday - My $25 for 6 OCC Boxes, and How I Did with My 2010 Financial Goals

One of my goals for 2010 was to fill 6 shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child for $25.  I did it - barely! 

That included buying 6 plastic shoe-box size boxes with lids for the boxes as well as the contents.  Much of the contents was gleaned from my own stash - things left over from other projects or from my boxes from last year, as well as stickers that a friend gave to me for my children that we definitely didn't need.

I'm glad I succeeded but I keep looking at the total in my sidebar and thing I can do even better this next year! 

We also had to fill two more boxes for my kids' school - one from each of my kids - and we just let them pick out whatever they wanted to totally another $50 to fill the boxes.  I wasn't happy with spending that amount, so I'm hoping to have the kids pick things out throughout the year to fill boxes this coming fall.

I'll post my goals for my 2011 OCC boxes on Monday so stay tuned!

As for our financial goals, I had a goal of me…

In the Refiner's Fire - Things I Learned in 2010

My apologies for this being a wee bit late (as in three days!). Ugh.  Time just got totally away from me on Thursday - took my parents to the airport and then spent the afternoon with my kiddos. What fun that was!  I realized about the time I went to bed that I hadn't posted. Opps!
Ditto for Friday!  John was home for the day and we took the kids to the Science Museum of Minnesota to climb on their Geometry Playground before it leaves for a new destination on the 9th of January and then to view the Dinosaur skeletons - a special request from Buddy who is about all things dinosaur right now!  We had a great day, beat the storm home and then played card games, board games and rung in the New Year at midnight as a family with chocolate fondue.

Now, we're heading back to normal - or something like that anyway!

My Thursday "In the Refiner's Fire" posts are always the hardest for me to write.  I assigned them to Thursdays because I knew that in the beginning and I have…