Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Work, Home, and Family - Spousal Connections (and John's Birthday Gift!)

Goodness - I've had this post half-written for over a month now.  It's amazing to me how fast the time goes and how I just can't seem to fit it all in from one day to the next.  Throw in sick kids and things really get crazy!  This is the first week we're having that seems to be 'back on track', so to speak.  Hopefully things will keep moving forward this way!

John and I are busy, busy people - we have 3 jobs between the two of us, we're both in school, we have two children who are also in school and have various other activities they're part of, we own our own house and two vehicles, have a yard with flowers, grass, vegetables and trees that we need to maintain, we're part of a faith community, and have extended family and friends that we enjoy spending time with as well.  And I could add more to that list too.

With all of these things going on it's very hard to maintain our connections to each other - especially time to really connect and listen to each other.

Several years ago now we went through the Lutheran edition of World Wide Marriage Encounter (LME) and it rocked our world.   We got a lot of things out in the open, we both listened to the other and felt heard ourselves, and most importantly we discovered that taking time for each other is really, really, really important!

Our schedules are crazy:
John is out the door by 6am most days and I don't take the kids to school and head on my own way until later (anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the semester and/or time of year).
While John is then done by 3pm most days, I usually teach until 4pm or 5pm or later - for a few years I taught an early evening class that usually got me home about 830pm (just in time to put the kids to bed).
We usually have evening services once a week at church (sometimes with meals) and other evening events at church as well and the children have activities 2-3 times most weeks.
Then we both have homework to work on and I have grading and course prep to do, too, which eats into that time after the kiddos go to bed.

After our LME weekend we started making deliberate time together.  We learned and were convicted that (like many other things in life) if it's important enough, we need to make time for it rather than just "letting it happen."

Here are some of the things we do to deliberately make time together.  We aren't perfect at doing any of these, but it sure helps when we do them! :)

* Get up and pray together each morning before John heads off to work.  We pray out loud for our days and then pray Luther's Morning Prayer and the Prayer of the Day from the Lutheran Book of Prayer.  We don't make this every single morning but we try to and it really does help the day get off to the right start!

* Spent 10-15 minutes reconnecting when we get home.  The kids know they can change clothes, get a snack and go play for about 30 minutes when they get home.  We change clothes, get a snack, do whatever else we need to and then sit and chat together for the last 10-15 minutes of that. It's not just a logistical planning time but also a time to share the good, the bad and the ugly from our day.  We're pretty good about doing this every day and we love getting back in touch with each other after a day apart.

* Hold regular "schedule" and "budget" meetings.  This may sound silly but we take about an hour Sunday evenings to talk through our upcoming week - what do we need, who's picking the kids up each day, what errands have to run, etc.  and then review our budget.  This has really helped us get and stay on the same page and ensures no big "surprises" for anyone as the week goes on.

* We have a weekly date night - usually at home and usually on Saturday nights.  Nothing fancy - after the kids go to bed we watch a movie, play a game, or put together a puzzle. Occasionally we do something wild and crazy like making our own Subway Art on the computer or looking through Wedding Photos (man, we were young!).  We also like to sit out on the patio with a fire in our fire pit, holding hands and talking - in the summer or fall of course, when it's relatively warm out!  We found a great resource of at-home date night ideas here.

My favorite way to connect has to be the dialog method from LME.  

We write each other a love letter on a topic or question and then swap letters to read and after they are read, we discuss (there's more to it than that - attend a weekend yourself to find out! ;)  ).  When we ended our weekend we left with lists of questions and ideas, a summary of how to use Scripture as our dialog topic and a calendar with a question for every day.  That was a few years ago and I wanted to do something special for John to share with him my commitment to him and to daily (or mostly daily) dialog.

Here's what I made him for his birthday this year:


Two journals - one for him and one for me and a box full of the questions/ideas to write on!  

We started using a journal for our love letters at the weekend and I really like how they're all together, so we can look back later without having to worry about loosing pages or something like that.


The box looks like this (this is a side view - the top is just plain red).  I had gotten a Christmas ornament in this from a Sunday School student eons ago and tucked it away with my gift wrapping supplies but never used it.  It's slightly smaller than a recipe box so it's not a good size for wrapping presents. It's perfect for this though!


Inside the box are little slips of paper with our questions/ideas on them.  I combined the questions from the loose sheets and the calendar into one handy place.  I haven't figured out a good idea of what to do with the questions we've already used - I thought we'd tuck them in a zip top baggie in here but that didn't work, and now we're just writing the date on the back and then tucking them back into the box.  Maybe we need a divider or something!

I typed the questions up on my computer in fun fonts, printed them off on our printer using ink and paper I already had, and then cut them using the paper cutter that I have for crafting.  I trimmed fairly close to the letters so that we could fit all the questions in our box.  We have questions/ideas for about 2 years in there plus we can use Scripture so we have lots of things to write about!

The journals were just composition books - one red and one yellow - that I bought on clearance back in August 2012 for about 15 cents each.  I photocopied the logo from the journals we got at the weekend on our printer (which is also a scanner/copier/fax machine) and printed them out on regular paper.  I then attached them to the cover of the composition books (covering up the book's logo and labeling space) using scrapbooking adhesive.

Other than the typing, it took maybe half an hour to do all that.  I did the typing in little bits over several days until it was complete.

A great way to connect with my spouse and a very inexpensive and well appreciated birthday present to boot!

How do you connect with your spouse on a regular basis?  I'd love to hear!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Healthy Habits in 2013 - Little Changes

One thing that I've learned the hard way over time is that trying to make big changes, especially several of them at once, just doesn't work.  It's making lots of little changes, one at a time over time, is what makes things stick - it doesn't matter what it is - health habits, work habits, or relationship habits or whatever - slow and steady really does win that race!

Which brings us to today's healthy habit:

Healthy Habit #4: Little Changes

When it comes to health, most of us can and need to make changes.  Unless you have  a dire, life-threatening situation that requires major immediate action, I've found in my personal life that the best way to make those changes is Little Changes over time.  Most importantly, you'll stick with those changes over the long haul!

I'll give you an illustration:  

I recently ran into a former co-worker of my husband's - someone I hadn't seen in several years.  I honestly didn't recognize her (who is this person talking to me and how on earth does she know my name???).  She had lost well over 100 lbs (I found out during our conversation it was 173 lbs total).  She looked so different and she looked wonderful!  Aside from the weight loss, she glowed, she had energy, and she was all smiles.  She was none of these things when she worked with my husband.  

I congratulated her on her weight loss, knowing that her weight had been a real sore spot for her.  

She told me how she did it:  
First she started substituting water for the soda pop she drank all day every day until she was down to one can of soda per day.  
Then she started walking the stairs when she needed to go up or down one floor (the hospital they work at has beautiful, big open stairwells).  
Then she started parking at the far end of the parking lot rather than close to the door.  
And eventually she added playing in the yard or dancing to music inside with her preschooler every day for at least 15 minutes and then grew that into a walk to the park with playtime on nice days.  
Then she started walking on the treadmill they owned (and never used) until she got up to 3 miles per day.
Finally she started running that 3 miles.  
She stuck with each habit until it was a true habit.  
And lost 173 lbs in about 18 months.  No diet or personal trainer needed - just a good pair of shoes.
She was even hoping to run a charity 5K later that year.

I was very impressed.  And so excited for her!  

For myself, little changes I've made have to do with drinking less caffeine (subbing every other cup of coffee each day with hot herbal tea and then eventually water), flossing my teeth (something I just don't enjoy), washing my makeup off before bedtime (it helped clear up most of my acne too!), getting to bed on time or even early, and getting up early.   Several years ago - before our babies were born - we overhauled our entire diet the same way - adding a little fruit or veggie to each meal until we had roughly half of our plate full at each meal.  John even likes many vegetarian or mostly vegetarian meals that we make - something that never would have happened before!

What little changes do you need to make?
Do you need to go to bed earlier?  Adjust by 15 minute intervals until you're at your desired goal - stick with each one until it's a habit and then work on the next one.
Do you need to drink more water?  Pick one time each day to drink a glass.  Stick with that until it's a habit and then add another one.
Do you need to move more? Pick one thing (walking the stairs or across the parking lot for example) and stick with it until it's a habit. Then pick something else.
Do you need to eat more veggies or fruit?  Add one thing you like per day or per week until you're up to something per day. Make that a habit and then add another the same way.
Do you need to floss each night?  Start with a routine and stick with it.
Do you need to eat less? Start with leaving a bite or two on your plate or not taking a second helping.  Work on that until it's a habit.  Then do something else until you're at the desired amount.

It's sounds tedious and time-consuming but I can assure you it's not.  If you work on one thing per month, that's 12 changes you've made for the better in a year! And they'll stay with you.  Isn't that amazing?

Me - I'm working on healthy snacking right now.  What do you need to work on?  Care to share?

Monday, February 18, 2013

Goals - Week of February 17, 2013

We've had two sick kids here - Missy had a double ear infection one week and then Buddy had Influenza B.  Neither of them are quite all the way back to normal - sleeping a lot and crabby, crabby, crabby (which then makes this Mama crabby - but that's a whole different post! ;) ).  I guess the Influenza B can hang on for a really long time (the active period is 7-10 days and then I guess secondary effects can last longer than that).

I'm just hoping that we don't get any more sick and that John and I stay healthy.  We're trying to eat well, sleep enough and drink plenty of liquid toward that end.  I'm also not going to revisit my to-do list from a couple of weeks ago - what I didn't get done doesn't matter at this point and I just need to move forward.  My goals this week are basically that - to keep us moving forward and not overload ourselves so much that we all get run down and sick again.

So here's what I'm up to this week:

Work:
* Grade Tests
* Finalize next unit
* Update web page

School:
* Meet with my adviser
* Finish a paper I'm writing with a colleague (almost done!)
* Write at least 2 pages on my dissertation

Jazzercise:
* Teach 4 classes this week
* Learn 5 new routines
* Download our new routine set

Family:
* Piano Lessons x2 Monday
* Dance Lessons x2 Thursday
* Dance Lessons x2 Saturday
* Daddy-Daughter Dance for John and Missy Thursday
* Date Out for Me and Buddy Thursday (he's paying with his own money!)
* At home mini-date with John
* Visit with my Cousin this weekend

House:
* Catch up the Ironing Again
* Jesus Tree - finish this and continue with daily readings for this
* Sort bin of donations and drop off at Thrift Store
* Anything on my short-list that can get done (I have a short list of little things that I'd like to get done this week - like re-arranging the photos in the living room - that won't be a big deal if they don't get done).

Faith/Ministry/Church:
* Write our Compassion Child
* Lenten Dinner and Worship on Wednesday
* Work on the Church Photo Albums

Personal:
* Go to bed on time or early every night this week

What are you up to this week?  Care to share?  Visit Money Saving Mom for inspiration!

Menu Plan Monday - Week of February 17, 2013

Potato, Corn and Bacon Chowder, Drop Biscuits and Fruit Salad. Yum!
Hopefully everything is back to "normal" here this week - I'm keeping my fingers crossed, knocking on wood and praying hard!  :)   I'm hoping that all the "bugs" are behind us for this year, or at least this spring. I spent a lot of time last week wiping down all the switch plates and door knobs, washing bedding and towels, swapping out toothbrushes and all that kind of stuff.  We're still trying to keep things simple this week - we have a busy week and we don't need to make things any more difficult than they already are.

Here's what we're eating:

Sunday, February 17, First Sunday in Lent:
  Breakfast: Cereal
  Lunch: Leftovers
  Snack:  Popcorn, Girl Scout Cookies
  Dinner: Leftovers

Monday, February 18:
  Breakfast: Chai Spiced Oatmeal
  Lunch:  Macaroni and Cheese, Sliced Apples
  Snack: Popcorn
  Dinner:  Easy Black Bean Soup, Irish Soda Bread, Strawberry-Blueberry-Banana Salad

Tuesday, February 19:
  Breakfast:  Yogurt, Bananas and Strawberries
  Lunch:  Hot Lunch for Children, Leftovers for Adults
  Snack: Yogurt
   Dinner:  Fish Tacos, Strawberry-Blueberry-Apple Salad

Wednesday, February 20:
  Breakfast: Oatmeal with Craisins and Hazelnuts
  Lunch: Apples with Peanut Butter, Yogurt, Carrots or Tomatoes, Cookie
  Snack: Popcorn
  Dinner: Lenten Dinner at Church

Thursday, February 21:
  Breakfast:  Toast with Peanut Butter, Strawberries
  Lunch:  PB&J, Applesauce, Yogurt, Cookie
  Snack: Popcorn
  Dinner:  Out for All (Daddy-Daughter Dance for John and Missy and Buddy is taking me out!)

Friday, February 22:
  Breakfast: Oatmeal with Apples
  Lunch:  Hot Lunch for Children, Leftovers for Adults
  Snack:  Yogurt
  Dinner: Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce, French Bread, Oranges or Grapefruit

Saturday, February 23:
   Breakfast:  At Bible Studies
   Lunch:  Chicken Noodle Soup, French Bread, Bananas
   Snack:  Girl Scout Cookies
   Dinner:  Pizza and Sliced Apples and Pears

What are you eating this week?

Sunday, February 17, 2013

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

My beautiful flowers from my husband and my children.

We decided to buy cupcakes rather than candy. Yes, I could make them but these are so darn yummy we  do use them as our occasional splurge!  We bought them here.

We had a very quiet Valentine's Day coming off of two weeks of sick children.  With Buddy still not being 100% back to normal, I think that was good.  We had cards from us and the grandparents, a yummy dinner of pork roast, roasted potatoes, tossed salad and grapefruit or oranges. And of course the cupcakes in the picture!   I also bought a grow-your-own strawberry kit for the kids to share.  That should be fun once it warms up a bit.

Sometimes the quiet holidays are the best - being able to really take stock of how you are and what you have.  The little blessings are the best....

...time with family and friends...

... a hug from  a loved one...

...beautiful flowers when there is snow on the ground outside...

...a lovely candlelight dinner with my 3 favorite people...


Truly my Valentine's Day was filled with blessings and it is one of my favorite things.
What more can I ask for?

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Super Savings Saturday - $40/wk budget and a splurge

Yet again I totally forgot to take a photo. Argh.  I will remember - one of these days!

We are back to our $40/wk budget for groceries, toiletries and paper products.  And we are still eating from our pantry and freezer!   We have our CSA starting up in June and have a load of veggies in the freezer still that need to be eaten.   Yes, we have a long way to go before we get to June, but I can only eat so many beets, green beans and chicken each week! :)

We've also decided to buy a 1/4 cow from a local farmer, which will be butchered in the late summer/early fall, so we will be saving up for that over the next few months - we pay half now and half when we receive the butchered animal. It comes out to about $3/lb, which is a great price for organic, grass fed, local beef.  We're way excited about that!

I was under budget again this week since we're eating from that pantry and freezer (come back on Monday to see what we're eating) and we're also starting Lenten Dinners on Wednesday at church so we will be eating there instead of home one night per week.  That means less cooking for us during the week!  We also electronically filed our tax return this week and decided to celebrate tonight with a little splurge to go with our Saturday night pizza night.  We usually have the rare babysitter make Kraft Macaroni and Cheese for the kids for lunch or dinner (as a treat and something easy to make since most of our babysitters have never cooked like we usually do) so I like to keep a few on hand - they were on sale for $1 each this week so I bought 3.  That will last us through at least the end of next month!

I shopped at 2 stores today and here's what I got:

Store #1:
Barilla Penne Pasta - 12oz box = $0.81 (markdown due to damaged but not opened box)
Strawberries 2lbs @ $2/lb = $4.00
Pears $1.41/lb x $1.28lbs = $1.80
10oz Blueberries = $3.99 (I miss-read the ad - it was 2/$5 but you had to buy 2. Oops).

Total Store #1: $10.60

Store #2:
5oz Canned Store-brand Tuna = $0.49 (store coupon)
Kraft Macaroni and Cheese 3 @ $1/ea = $3
14oz Classico Pizza Sauce @ $1.59/ea x 2 = $3.38
Bagged Salad 2/$4 x 2 = $4
Store Brand Gallon Skim Milk 2/$5 x 2 = $5

And our splurge: 4ct 16oz Sprecher Root Beer = $5.39

Total Store #2: $21.26

Total Both Stores: $31.86  (Total that goes into savings for our Sam's Club Trip: $8.14)

Our total so far this month for a Sam's Club bulk trip is $11.85.  I'll wait until we get to at least $20 if not higher before we actually go shopping there.

I also bought 2 bottles of Vitamin D tablets on B1G1 sale for $15.49 + $1.49 in tax but that comes out of our "medical" part of our budget via our HSA.  I didn't do any other shopping this week, even though my favorite consignment shop was having their $2 sale on clothes.  I don't really need anything so I decided I just wouldn't go.

How did you do with your shopping this week?

Monday, February 11, 2013

Menu Plan Monday - Week of February 10, 2013

Pork Chops, Tossed Salad, Cornbread and Apple and Pear Slices - Yum!

I've really spent the last week or so - and most of January really - thinking hard about all that the Lord is bringing us through this winter.  I chatted with a friend who had a similar winter 3 years ago and she said that while she'd never opt do it again, she is grateful for that time and how it brought her closer to her family and to the Lord.  I'll write  more about that later this week - Lord willing, of course - but for now, part of what's happening in our lives is a simplifying of our menu to go with an extra busy season of life. 

Missy had a double ear infection with a fever of 103F last week and was home from school 3 days, my Dad's white counts were so low that he had to have extra medical interventions and then Buddy was diagnosed with Influenza B and the accompanying fever (also 103F) and cough at the end of the week.  To top it all off we had a major 'explosion' over what we all thought was a "small" matter at my work and John has been going through restructuring at his work and had a huge confrontation over taking time off to take care of sick children (he has plenty of time off that can be used for anything but none of his co-workers have children and have felt like he just 'abandons' them for 'no good reason').  This is the first time in 7 1/2 years that taking time to care for a sick child has been an issue for either one of us- and it's something we've rarely had to use and we're beyond frustrated by it. (I'll quit whining now! Thanks for 'listening'!)

I can't do much about the situations at work or what bugs my kiddos catch but I can make sure we have good, healthy, easy to prepare food to eat each day!  Love that!  We're heading into Lent this week with Ash Wednesday and it's a perfect time to eat simpler and think about those who don't have as much as we do.  We are beyond blessed and it can be so easy to forget that!

Here's what we're eating this week:

Sunday, February 10:
  Breakfast: Cereal and Milk
  Lunch: Leftovers
  Snack: Popcorn
  Dinner: Cabbage Rolls, Oranges and/or Grapefruit

Monday, February 11:
  Breakfast: Cereal and Milk
  Lunch: Macaroni and Cheese, Apple Slices
  Snack: Popcorn
  Dinner: BBQ Chicken Legs in the Crock Pot, Tossed Salad, Melon-Blueberry-Apple Salad

Tuesday, February 12:
   Breakfast: Oatmeal with Apples and Cinnamon
   Lunch: Peanut Butter and Honey Sandwiches, Carrot Sticks, Orange Wedges
   Snack: Yogurt
   Dinner: Shrimp Stir Fry, Rice, Oranges and/or Grapefruit

Wednesday, February 13: Ash Wednesday
  Breakfast: Toast with Peanut Butter, Yogurt
  Lunch:  Apples with Peanut Butter, Yogurt, Carrot Sticks and/or Sliced Tomatoes, Cookie
  Snack: Popcorn
  Dinner:  Pancake Dinner at Church or Pancakes at Home (depending on whether we're all well or not)

Thursday, February 14: Valentine's Day
   Breakfast: Raspberry Braided Bread, Bananas
   Lunch: Hot Lunch for Children, Leftovers for Adults
   Snack:  Yogurt
   Dinner: Pork Roast, Roasted Potatoes, Steamed Carrots, Apple-Pear-Banana Salad
   Desert: Decorated Sugar Cookies

Friday, February 15:
  Breakfast: Chai Spiced Oatmeal
  Lunch: Hot Lunch for Children, Leftovers for Adults
  Snack: Yogurt
  Dinner: Easy Black Bean Soup, Cornbread, Oranges and/or Grapefruit

Saturday, February 16:
  Breakfast: Oatmeal Muffins and Bananas
  Lunch:  Vegetable Soup, Ham Sandwiches, Apple Slices
  Snack: Popcorn
  Dinner: Homemade Pizza and Bread sticks, Oranges and/or Grapefruit

What are you eating this week? 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Healthy Habits in 2013: Habit #3: Get a Check Up

I'm not really sure this is a habit, unless you count it as a yearly habit, but it's still very, very important.

Habit #3: Get a Check Up


So many times in today's busy world as women we tend to let our own needs fall to the bottom of the list.  This includes things like getting a yearly check up with our family practice doctor or women's health provider.  

I know, I've been there, done that!  

We don't go for a variety of reasons: full schedule and can't find a convenient time to go, want to lose those last 5 or 10 or 20 lbs (or more) before we go, want to break that bad habit (whatever it is!) first, we forget, or we're afraid, or whatever.  For whatever reason we just don't make the time and schedule that appointment.

In reality, this is our first line of defense against the really big stuff.  It gives both us and the medical community a chance to check to make sure everything is all right and to catch things before they get really out of hand.  It gives us a chance to establish a baseline for when thing don't feel right later on.  And it gives us a chance to get to know our provider and for our provider to get to know us.

Here are some things that I've found helpful that might help you too in making this an easier and more enjoyable experience:

* Schedule first-thing-in-the-morning.  The provider hasn't had time to get behind schedule yet and we're usually relatively fresh - unless you're really not a morning person.  We also haven't had a chance to gain water weight throughout the day, so the scale might read a hair lower.  And if we need to fast for labs, we don't have to fast all day long!

* Schedule the appointment you need - time wise that is.  Some clinics and providers schedule slots as short as 10 minutes for routine appointments. Yikes. That barely leaves time to do the basics much less ask questions, etc.  Ask how long each appointment is and if it's too short, ask to book a double slot.  This allows both you and provider time to ask questions, explore options and really have an actual appointment rather than a rushed short meeting.  In reality 20 minutes is usually enough for an exam to be done and follow-ups ordered or discussed as necessary.  If you're going to need a full physical with all the works, 30 minutes might be needed - it will depend on your provider.  If you're unsure, ask how long they schedule and then ask if it includes extra time to ask questions.  Most clinics would rather have you schedule extra time than have everyone else in the day run late because you wanted to ask a question!

* Find childcare if you need it.  Unless you have a nursing infant, it's a good idea to leave little ones (or bitter ones!) at home or with someone else you trust.  Seriously, we all know how hard it is to keep up a fully coherent, adult conversation and keep our children out of the stuff they shouldn't be into (ask me how I know!). Find someone to swap with, a lady at church who'd love to spend an hour or so with children, a teenager or adult you can pay a few dollars to watch your children, or even a drop-in childcare center.  Trust me, being able to have a full conversation with both of you actively engaged in the conversation is going to be a good help to your appointment.  And you'll get done quicker!  And a couple hours each year is sure worth the hassle of finding someone.

* Find a provider you feel comfortable with. Or at least the one you feel least uncomfortable with.  Having a provider that you can talk with and have some report with is essential to you getting the health care you need.  If you have an option between providers, that may mean trying several before finding the right fit.  If you don't have options, be more open about what you need. Often providers, especially where options are limited, are rushed and stressed and may not even realize they aren't given you what you need as a patient.  They may not realize they aren't listening, or are falling back on things you've already tried because they see so many people they have a hard time remembering who's who.  Be vocal and keep looking until you find your fit.

* See the same provider every time.  Many clinics are bowing to the want that patients have to get in immediately and schedule people with the first available provider.  If you have something that absolutely shouldn't wait - by all means go!  Otherwise, see the same provider every time.  They know you - yes, even if they only see you once a year.  And can often tell that something is wrong or know what does and doesn't work for you personally.  If nothing else, you know how they work and feel comfortable with them.  

* Spill the beans.  Let's just admit it - we're afraid our provider is going to think we're an idiot for something we have done - how much junk food we eat, how little we exercise, that we smoked or drank or whatever at some point (or currently).  Fess up!  Seriously.  Unless they're right out of medical school, they've probably heard it all before.  Really.  And it means your treatment will probably be more effective and less of a hassle than if you didn't tell the truth or padded the truth a bit.

* Ask at the beginning.  Very often any concerns people have are left until the last minute - "Oh, by the way...."   Don't do that!  If you come in with a concern - you've been more tired than usual lately, running to the bathroom too often, have headaches, have a funny lump or spot somewhere, or a rash or acid reflux, or whatever - ask it right away. In fact, tell the nurse or aid that takes your blood pressure, etc. at the beginning of the appointment.  That way you have it out in the open right away, you're more likely to get your answer and the nurse or aid can make sure the provider has something on your mind before they walk into the room.

  * If something is wrong, push until you get an answer.  Diagnoses can take a lot of time.  Often more time than we think they should.  If you just know in your gut something isn't right or you don't feel well and can't put a finger on why, ask and ask and ask again.  Many things have similar symptoms and if the "obvious" doesn't help, then ask for something else.  Sometimes that "obvious" has to be ruled out before other options can be explored. Don't give up!  I spent 2 years knowing in the core of my being that something was wrong before I got diagnosed with both of my chronic illnesses (that's 4 years total being really sick with no answers, folks). In the case of one of those, a few more months would have been fatal. I'm glad I stuck with it! Ask. Push.  Be an advocate for yourself.  You know your body better than anyone else. And believe me, sometimes fixes are simple.  And having a name for what ails you is almost always better than not!

What other suggestions do you have for getting that check up and making it run smoother?  I'd love to hear!

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or work in any capacity for a medical provider nor do I have formal medical training. This information is not intended to be taken as formal medical advice. It is simply what works for me and what has helped make getting that recommended yearly checkup easier for me.  Please consult with a medical professional to determine what works best for your personal needs! Thanks.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Menu Plan Monday - Week of February 3, 2013

Chili, cornbread and pears - Yum!!!
Brrr - we're cold here.  Warmer than we have been but still cold!  It's good soup weather out there right now.  Even so, I'm with the Groundhog and spring can come whenever it likes, thank you very much!  In the meantime, we're enjoying lots of warm, yummy soup at our house.

I still have quite a bit in our pantry and freezer and we're continuing to eat up some things that we've had around for a while.   Here's what's on the menu this week:

Sunday, February 3:
  Breakfast:  Cereal and Milk
  Lunch: Gingerbread Waffles with Strawberries and Bananas
  Snack: Popcorn
  Dinner: At a Super Bowl Party (we didn't have to bring anything - we chip in for pizza)

Monday, February 4:
  Breakfast: Chai Spiced Oatmeal
  Lunch: Leftovers for Adults, Hot Lunch for the Children
  Snack: Yogurt
  Dinner:  Corn, Bacon & Potato Chowder, French Bread, Strawberry-Blueberry-Melon Salad

Tuesday, February 5:
   Breakfast: Toast with Peanut Butter, Orange Wedges
   Lunch: Apples with Peanut Butter, Carrots or Tomatoes, Yogurt, Cookie
   Snack: Yogurt
   Dinner: Pan Fried Whitefish, Couscous, Carrots, Blueberry-Melon-Orange Salad

Wednesday, February 6:
   Breakfast:  Oatmeal with Almonds and Cinnamon
   Lunch: Waffles, Applesauce, Yogurt and Cookie
   Snack: Yogurt
   Dinner:  Chicken Noodle Soup in the Crock pot, French Bread, Orange and Grapefruit Wedges

Thursday, February 7:
   Breakfast: Toast with Peanut Butter, Bananas
   Lunch: Leftover for Adults, Hot Lunch for Children
   Snack: Yogurt
   Dinner: Crepes with Mushrooms, Onions and Cheese, Melon-Blueberry-Banana Salad

Friday, February 8:
   Breakfast: Oatmeal with Apples and Cinnamon
   Lunch: Hot Lunch for Children, Leftovers for Adults
   Snack: Yogurt
   Dinner:  Chili, Baking Powder Biscuits, Orange and Grapefruit Wedges

Saturday, February 9:
  Breakfast: Oatmeal Muffins, Oranges
  Lunch: Leftover Chili, Cornbread, Orange Wedges
  Snack: Popcorn
  Dinner: Homemade Pizza and Bread sticks, Apple Slices

What are you eating this week?

Goals: Week of February 3, 2013

This last week was crazy but we're officially back into the swing of things.  I *think* I even have my schedule worked out so I don't have to bring much work home for work and can concentrate on my family and home and maybe a little schoolwork (if needed) in the evenings!  Hurray!

Here's my goals from two weeks  ago:

Work:
* Continue revising my first unit for class.
* Finish moving my office.
* Meet with my department chair.

School:
* Meet with someone else on my committee  scheduled!
* Meet with my adviser
* Schedule another meeting with the Statistician
*Revise my Literature Review I'm working on this - it's taking longer than I thought it would.

Family:
* Piano x2 Monday
* Dance Lessons Thursday
* Dance Lessons Saturday
* Family Night on Friday: Titus, Timothy & Silas, Missionaries; Lydia, Dorcas & Phoebe, Witnesses to the Faith: Make Thank You notes for our Pastors
* Sleepover Saturday Night for Buddy
* Date Night Saturday Night; Play a Game, Apple Crisp
* Finish Reading Prince Caspian to the children; start Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis
* Prep all items for homemade Valentines this week

Jazzercise:
* Teach 2 classes
* Attend at least 1 other class  I ended up teaching 3 last week
* Learn 3 new routines I learned two
* Put together 2 new sets I put together 1 new set

Home:
* 15 minutes of cleaning out each day
* Finish up that ironing already  Yay!  Finally!
* Inventory the deep freeze
* Inventory the pantry
* Daily chores for me and the children
* Clean out and organize the storage bins

Faith/Ministry/Church:
* Return the LWR quilt top
* Write to our Compassion International Child
* Work on the Church Photo Albums
* Continue working on memorizing Romans
* Continue praying for our home congregation

Personal:
* Polish my shoes
* Evaluate my wardrobe - list any gaps

Not terrible but I'd like to have actually done a little more - especially with the church/ministry and home stuff.  I'm cutting back slightly on the non-work and non-family related areas - I need to make sure I don't over-do it again this semester.  One semester battling pneumonia is plenty, thank you very much! :)

Here's what's up for this week:

Work:
* Keep up with my grading (my least favorite part of teaching)
* Be fully prepared for every class
* Clean out my filing cabinet (after moving, it's a disaster - I kind of threw everything back in just to get it in there!)

School:
* Meet with committee member
* Continue working on Lit Review

Family:
* Piano Lessons for both on Monday
* Dance Lessons for both on Thursday
* Dance Lessons for both on Saturday
* Scouts for Buddy on Thursday
* Family Night: Transfiguration of Our Lord
* At-home Date Night:  Play a Board Game, Apple Crisp
* Continue to make Valentine's with the children
* Finish reading Prince Caspian to the children
* Mail cookies and cards to my Dad

Jazzercise:
* Teach class 2x this week
* Attend class 1-2 times this week
* Learn 2 new routines
* Put together 2 new sets

Home:
* Daily chores for me and the children
* 15 minutes of cleaning out daily
* Clean out and reorganize storage bins
* Keep up with the ironing
* Inventory the deep freeze

Faith/Ministry/Church:
* Continue memorizing Romans
* Pray for our home congregation
* Write our Compassion International Child
* Continue working on church photo albums
I'm going to wait and return the photo albums and the LWR quilt top all at the same time.

Personal:
* Get to bed on time every night
* Get up on time every morning

What are your goals this week?  Visit Money Saving Mom to share and be inspired!


Sunday, February 3, 2013

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things - Little Things

The beauty of the snow - we have a lot more than this on our front tree right now!
Watching big fat snow flakes fall with a cup of hot tea and a good book.

Sledding.

Ice Skating.

Cozy evenings curled up with a book (or homework) and hot tea or cocoa.
.
Playing board games!
Spending time playing board games with my family.

Our huge collection of board games that we got as hand-me-downs or as gifts.

Gingerbread cookies! Yum!
Baking and decorating sugar cookie cut outs to send to my Dad as a treat.

Homemade cards for my Dad - to cheer him up while he's "doing" chemo.

This pretty table centerpiece has me thinking about Valentine's Day!
Homemade Valentines

Secret treats hidden away until February 14.

Plans for observing Lent

Looking forward to some fun upcoming events this month!


How about you? What are some of your favorite things?

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Super Savings Saturday - Back to "Normal" Budget

Wow -- I really didn't mean to take over a week off.  Where does that time go anyway?  Hopefully now that we're back into the swing of things, it won't happen too often in the future.  Just don't hold your breath, okay? :)

We just made it with our $50 pantry challenge in January - only by buying TP through Amazon with our Swagbucks gift cards. Sigh.  I also completely ran out of onions, couscous, and a few other things that we eat regularly.  We were able to buy onions in the tail end of our $50 budget (the $4 we had left last week) along with oranges with the blessing of some serious sales.  These things always make me realize how reliant I am on certain ingredients and how a little prior planning would just make sure I don't run out.  I always resolve to rearrange my shopping habits and hopefully this will be the year! Being intentional, remember?

This week we're back to $40 per week.  John did the shopping today since I was down and out with yet another medication reaction (ugh!).  He did a great job and we spent our $40 and restocked some things that we were missing or just plain wanted after a month (or more!) without.  No picture - things got put away before I could crawl out of bed and take a picture! 

My hope over the next few months is to permanently whittle our budget down from $160/month to $100/month.  I'd like it to be lower than that, but that's what I'm comfortable with right now with prices where they're at.  I'll keep you posted as to how that goes!

Store #1:
Hormel Pork Loin x 2 B1G1 = $9.99
Bulk Couscous 1.42lb @ $3.19/lb = $4.53
Roma Tomatoes 0.90lb @  $0.98/lb = $0.88
Kraft Shredded Mozzarella 2 @ 2/#4
Total Store #1: $19.40 (Total Saved: $9.99 according to store receipt)

Store #2:
Bananas 2.5lbs @ $0.59/lb = $1.48
Cantaloupe = $2.99
Baby Bella Mushrooms = $1.50
8lbs Naval Oranges = $4.99
Spring Mix Salad Greens = $2
Strawberries 1lb = $2
Blueberries 1pint = $2.50
1 Gallon Store Brand Skim Milk = $3.29 -$0.79 coupon =  $2.50
Total Store #2: $19.96 (Total Saved: $9.00 according to store receipt)

How did you do this week?