Thursday, February 28, 2013

One!

I don't normally post on Thursdays, but today is not a normal day. Today we celebrate Naomi's first birthday! Technically, she won't have a birthday for 3 years (Leap Day baby!), but we've chosen to celebrate on the 28th in the off-years.

What a road we've been on with this little girl--born 7 weeks early, weighing 4 pounds 11 ounces:

Coming home after 3 weeks in the NICU:

Amazed that she's one year old and celebrating that she is healthy, active and growing:
 
Happy birthday, sweet miracle!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Bag lady

Natalie is a collector. Of. Pretty. Much. Everything! She has no fewer than 10 bags which she fills with goodies of all kinds. Her piles were starting to drive me batty until we landed on an unusual but successful solution a few months ago. There is an area behind a recliner in our living room that we designated as Natalie's house. She can sit back there and arrange all her treasures, and since it's in a corner and behind the chair, it is not highly visible and therefore no longer drives me (as) crazy.

Thought you'd enjoy taking a peek, though it looks different every day!
 And here is a closer look inside one of the aforementioned bags:
The girl cracks me up. She's inherited my love of containers; however, keeping every teensy little thing she receives/creates is not my tendency.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Valentine fun

Last year, I had a bunch of valentine things planned that I was unable to carry out since we ended up in the hospital unexpectedly. (However, my parents did a great job stepping in and made heart-shaped pancakes, etc.!) So I was excited to plan some special touches for our FAMILY celebration this year.

Eric was given 40 Tootsie roll pops for his birthday last fall, and I still had them because there's (unfortunately) not been a shortage of sweets around here. So when I found a couple ideas for valentines using those suckers, I thought it would be perfect. (And, thus, why I spent no money on these. Hollah!) Here are Nathan's super hero pops:

And Natalie's butterflies. They are supposed to have googly eyes on them, but if you can believe it, Wally World was sold out of the small ones!

I couldn't get a great smile out of Naomi, but here she is on her first Valentine's Day. Each of our babies has worn this bib on V-Day, so I had to get a pic!
I served pink pancakes for breakfast and had all the mailboxes ready to set out. Those are always a big hit! The alligator one Nathan made as a preschool craft, and I use it for Eric; the other three were a dollar apiece at Target a couple years ago.
Dressed in our holiday pink! I made a "fancy" candlelit supper, and then we watched a valentine movie and had red and white popcorn.
Hope you had a special valentine celebration!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Frugal accomplishments

My mom was right--I love reading The Prudent Homemaker's weekly posts on her frugal accomplishments, and thought it would be fun to share an occasional such posts here.

In that spirit, here are some specific things I've done this past week to be thrifty!

*Instead of buying an 8 oz. bag of diced ham for $2.49 as I've often done, I instead purchased just over 2 pounds of deli ham on sale for $2.39 a pound. The butcher sliced it for free, and I diced it when I got home. I paid $4.95 instead of $11 for an equivalent amount!!

*I took advantage of a local thrift store having 75% of all clothing and purchased a cute shirt for each of the older kids for a quarter apiece! Even better, while I was in the store, an employee offered me some meat and eggs. This thrift store supports a local ministry that provides food, and she said they had an abundance of donations and would be happy to pass some on. She gave me a dozen (farm fresh!) eggs and a bag containing frozen chicken nuggets and tenders. Not bad for 50 cents!

*Natalie needed a pink cardigan sweater to go with a spring dress. When I could not find one in our local secondhand stores, I posted the need on a swap page and an acquaintance of mine promptly replied. I paid $3 instead of probably $15 or so new. Similarly, when Natalie needed some slippers a month ago, I used the same approach. I paid $2 for a cute pink-with-hearts pair that she loves wearing!

*We've been enjoying the convenience and entertainment of a free month-long Netflix trial.

*I got a great deal on diapers by using a sale, coupons and a rebate (Triple play!)--40% off the regular price of name-brand disposable diapers is nothing to sneeze at. I was pumped!

*Took advantage of a super sale on fruit snacks--8 boxes for $6! (Normal price is $1.99 each) I initially did not purchase these, but then I remembered that every couple months, Nathan's teacher asks for 40 individually packaged snacks, so I am thrilled I'll be ready when the next note comes home. That will save me time and money--love it!

*I made syrup using water, sugar and maple flavoring. I do this several times a year--I like the taste, it's easy, contains no HFCS, etc.

*I spent $0 on the kids' valentines using supplies I already had. Pictures to come early next week.

Wow, that was fun to write. I will definitely do it again sometime. I think it's so inspiring to read other people's frugal accomplishments and hope you feel the same.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Rubble

Today is a very significant day for me. Last year on this date, I left for the hospital thinking I would be gone a day or two. I ended up being gone for forty. It is difficult for me to adequately assert how awful/crazy/surreal/trying that period of time was. And yet I see so much of God's handprint on my life as I look back on those memories. His provision. His protection of my life and Naomi's. The ways I am a stronger person and able to bless others because of what I went through.

The lyrics of a song recently stopped me in my tracks, and I wanted to share the words here, because this song closely matches how I feel, especially on this day. The song is called "Less Like Scars" by Sara Groves. I emphasized in bold the lines that mean the most to me, which is most of them!

It's been a hard year
But I'm climbing out of the rubble

These lessons are hard
Healing changes are subtle
But every day it's

Less like tearing, more like building
Less like captive, more like willing
Less like breakdown, more like surrender
Less like haunting, more like remember

And I feel you here
And you're picking up the pieces
Forever faithful
It seemed out of my hands, a bad situation
But you are able

And in your hands the pain and hurt
Look less like scars and more like
Character

Less like a prison, more like my room
It's less like a casket, more like a womb
Less like dying, more like transcending
Less like fear, less like an ending

And I feel you here
And you're picking up the pieces
Forever faithful
It seemed out of my hands, a bad situation
But you are able
And in your hands the pain and hurt
Look less like scars

Just a little while ago
I couldn't feel the power or the hope
I couldn't cope, I couldn't feel a thing
Just a little while back
I was desperate, broken, laid out, hoping
You would come

And I need you
And I want you here
And I feel you

And I know you're here
And you're picking up the pieces
Forever faithful

It seemed out of my hands, a bad, bad situation
But you are able

And in your hands the pain and hurt
Look less like scars

And more like
Character


Climbing out of a pile of rubble seems to me an appropriate description. I am so grateful for His presence with me, helping me pick up the pieces. I'm grateful for the many ways we were supported then, and for those who are still willing to listen as I continue to process what happened. And I pray that my scars are looking more like character.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Reading material

I've mentioned it before, but a few years ago I landed on the guideline of having the number of my age represent the limit of blogs I subscribe to. Since I recently had a birthday, it was a good time to comb through my blog list, adapting it as necessary. Thanks to my mom and sister, I've added a couple fascinating new blogs lately: this and this (I just finished Kelle's very compelling book, as well). I also started following along with this family as they travel around the world with 4 young children!

Going through the blog list reminds me of the song we used to sing in Girl Scouts: "Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, and the other gold." It's fun to add these three new blogs to my selections, but I'm also glad to keep following along with some of the same blogs I've read for years.

Speaking of reading material, I *finally* joined PaperBack Swap. I've been hearing about it for a long time, and when I realized our shelves were bursting at the seams, I thought that it was a good time (as I did with blogs) to comb through them and weed some out. I noticed on the site that when you list your first ten books, you earn two free book credits, so that is what I did. In the first week, four of my ten books were requested and I mailed them out. The receiving end has had a slower start, but I am hopeful. I made a wish list of 20-some books, but apparently many of them are in relatively high demand. I'll wait patiently and keep searching for book titles I'd like to own.

I love these kinds of swaps because rather than paying out money for new books, you earn credits and then can request books for *free!* (If you decide to sign up for PBS, I'd love it if you used this referral link, which will net me a free book credit just by you signing up! Thanks!)

Have you started reading any blogs lately? Are you a member of PaperBack Swap?

Friday, February 1, 2013

Pantry challenge recap


Hooray! Eric added up all my grocery receipts, and I came in a dollar under half our normal monthly budget! I am thrilled with that, and enjoyed spending those weeks strategizing and also thinking about where to send the remaining half.

In the end, I decided to send part of the money to a missionary within our denomination. Nathan was asked to research a missionary for AWANA, and God brought a certain family to mind. We looked them up on-line and learned about their family and the country where they work. I thought it would be a neat extension of talking about missionaries to send some financial support.

The rest of the money was sent to Samartitan's Purse. They are doing such great work all around the world in Jesus' name. As I perused their gift catalog, I noticed an option for feeding a family for one month, and I thought that was a perfect fit with my challenge! (And it's a waaay lower budget than we're used to!) We also funded a goat to help provide sustainable food and income for a family. Praise the Lord!

Since this was my fourth year of completing this challenge, I've definitely learned a few things since I started. My mistake in past years was spending too much upfront, and then I really struggled at the end. I've always met my goal, but it's been tricky!

I was so glad I'd spent sparingly in the middle of the month, because it enabled me to take advantage of some great deals that came up this past week. And though Eric has ribbed me in the past that we have "nothing" to eat in January, the truth is that I think he hardly notices. We eat great during the challenge--and all year-round, I might add! =)

Going to the store just once a week was very helpful in sticking to my goal, and maybe I'll even be able to continue that pattern. I also made a lot of progress on using up the items I intended to.

Another pantry challenge success--love it!