Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Just a Few Savings I Haven't Told You About

Well, as many of you know, my couponing no longer stops at groceries.  Here are some other things I've done recently:
- Joined and received $10 off my first order, as well as received a rebate from Parenting magazine for $14.97.  All in all it made 6 Jumbo packs of diapers $35!  Woo Hoo!
- Bought two shirts from Aeropostale for a gift for our nephew with a coupon I received in my email.  The coupon was for $10 off any purchase (no minimum).  I skimmed the clearance racks, found two cool t-shirts, and my entire total, including tax, after the coupon was .75!  Again, woo hoo! 
- Found a New York and Company coupon for $10 off any purchase.  Since our NY&Co went out of our dying mall, I had to shop online, which means I had to pay shipping :( Boo.  But, I got a new cami shirt and a tube of chapstick (I had to get my total over $10 to use the coupon) for $8 to my door. 
- Joined Kodak photo online and received a photo book, which I plan on using as part of a Mother's Day gift for one of our moms, for $1.99 shipped to my door. 
- Joined Tropicana's web program with incentives and received 2 B1G1 free coupons, and I'm not racking up more points with the free OJ's entering our house.  
- Ordered, for myself, All You magazine (packed FULL of coupons).  The on sale price was $19.97 (this is cheap for this mag), ordered it through Bing and received $3.20 cashback!  
- It was time to upgrade my phone (this one is kind of a given but it was free so I had to add it).  I'm fighting the data plan revolution.  I think if I've lived without it this long I can go a while longer.  I got a phone that did not require a data package, and one that was, of course, free.  My new LG Cosmos arrived today (found a coupon for free overnight shipping), it is programmed and ready to go.
Well, keep checking back.  I've been shocked at some of the deals I've found!  
I missed a Toys R Us deal on B1G1 DVD's the other day.  Oh well, new deals coming out all the time! :) 
Until next time! 

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

I tried my hand at Walgreens

So I'm always reading how well other people do couponing at Walgreens.  (Register Rewards are the way to go there.  So adding this new tool in my arsenal has proven tricky.)
Here are a little bit about register rewards.  Walgreens offers them when you buy participating items.  They print after you pay your total and are given to you to put towards your next Walgreens shopping experience.  They DO have expiration dates so this isn't for you if you don't have a Walgreens close.  When redeeming your register rewards (and this is the part I've only heard about, not experienced yet), it counts as a coupon, so if you are already buying five items and have a coupon for each item then you have to purchase a sixth (think something very inexpensive) to be able to use your register rewards. 
So here's how I did at Walgreens (I'll tell you and then tell you how I messed up and could have made my deal much better, I'm still learning, remember):
I bought:
1 Dove Shampoo on sale for $4.00 and I had $1.50 coupon
1 Dove Conditioner on sale for $4.00 and I had a $1.25 coupon
1 Package of Huggies Little Swimmers, on sale for 6.99 and I had a $3 off coupon (good deal!)

Now, the register rewards come in like this.  You are supposed to get $4 of register rewards for each shampoo or condition purchased.  Well, I'm not sure if this is limited to one per transaction or what... but I only got $4.00 in register rewards.  Had I split my transaction into two, I probably would have received that extra $4.  Boooo!  But I can't complain too much.  I got a big thing of shampoo, a big thing of conditioner, and little swimmers diapers for $6.15 including my register rewards.  Not too bad.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Understanding My Mother

It seems that parenthood has given me a whole new appreciation and understanding of my own parents, especially my mom.  Suddenly I understand the "this is going to hurt me more than it hurts you" talk, and the "because I said so" spill, and how could I forget the "you'll never know how much I really love you" line.  I never used to understand any of those comments, and today I do.  Well, I understand the comments, and I believe, for the first time, that I will never really know how much my own mother loves me.  If it's anything like how I love my son it's not measurable.  
Lately Bryton has been sick.  Who am I kidding?  Lately all of us have been sick, seemingly, one after another for almost 6 weeks.  One gets well and the next gets sick and so the cycle continues.  It's awful.  I hate it.  I hate being sick, I really hate when Aaron is sick, and I carry around this heavy chest the entire time Bryton is sick.  I'd much rather be sick myself.  Well, if I'm choosing, I'd much rather none of us be sick.  Period. 
And I think back to when I was a kid.  I wasn't as sick as a lot of kids in the world.  I had no cancers or diseases, but it seemed like I was always down and out with something.  
Mom recounts ear infection after ear infection when I was Bryton's age.  They prescribed antibiotic after antibiotic but constantly said I wasn't 'bad' enough for tubes.  (Though I was in and out of the doctor's office between October and April about every 3 weeks for sinus infections and ear infections.)  
So in constantly fighting those and then fighting migraine headaches from before I could even talk, I was laid up and out of commission for most of the usual childhood activities.  Birthday parties were canceled, mom doesn't remember many Christmases I wasn't on antibiotics, and Easter was a rare spring day that I could spend outside for the sake of hunting eggs, only to be sick days later.  
Migraines ended me up on sheeted couch cushions, with our orange laundry room trashcan hanging out on the flow in close range, with a cold rag on my head and little to no noise.  My parents finally bought at tv for the kitchen since I occupied the living room so often with my migraines.  (It was my comfort spot, apparently.)  They still occupy the kitchen more than the living room to this day. 
They tried everything... family doctors, ear, nose, throat doctors, sinus surgery, CT scans for tumors, biofeedback therapy, daily prescription medications and finally a neurologist who diagnosed me with migraines.  As I grew older I finally grew out of them (for the most part, I still have the occasional headache that shuts me down entirely), but not without my missing out on childhood memories.  
I laugh at it now, but many of the memories I have consist of sickness related things, like:
- Going to Florida with my aunt, uncle and cousin one year.  I got a migraine on the way down, my meds didn't cut it right off the bat, and after a 14 hour drive down there, they called my parents on our first night there to meet half way (in Chattanooga) because they didn't want to deal with my headaches during our entire trip.  By the time we got to Chattanooga (I slept the entire way), my headache was gone.  I cried the whole way home. 
- I had sinus surgery in the 2nd grade.  It kept me home from school for two weeks.  To be cleared to go back to school I had to visit my pediatrician for the okay.  In the waiting room I sat next to a boy who, we later found out, had chicken pox.  I missed two more weeks of school from the chicken pox, and another week after that with a sinus infection.  Fun. 
- One time we went to Pinckneyville to the Mardi Gras parade.  I ate cotton candy and popcorn while there and threw it up on the side of the road on the way home.  Thanks again, headaches. :) 
You see what I mean?  All of this said to say this.  As a parent now, I realize how hard this had to have been on my mom.  Life seems to stop when your kids are sick, and for my mom, well, that was life for us. I can't imagine the frustration she would have felt, not at me, but for me, because she knew how miserable I was.  Yet she never vented that frustration.  
I pray that B gets through life without the migraines.  It's one thing I never want to pass on to my kids.  But I also want him to get through with less sickness.  
Despite it all, I am thankful that the runny nose and cough are treatable, temporary ailments.  For those parents out there who live with babies and kids who fight diseases and cancers on a daily basis, your strength and courage amazes me.  If ever faced with the same circumstances I don't know how I'd handle.  I pray God never sees it necessary to have me face such a battle.  You are heros, especially to your kids.  
No earthly love is greater than a mother's, and I'm certain God lets us experience it so we can catch a glitter of a glimpse of the awesomeness that is His love for us.  
Until next time. 

Sunday, March 21, 2010

I Blinked...

When you're pregnant people express their excitement for you, and they tell you how much your life is getting ready to change, but nothing can describe the whirlwind that begins parenthood.  Sleepless nights, figuring our life and roles, learning and adapting to this new little person, all wrapped up in this unexplainable love. 
Time literally flies by... before you know it this newborn can smile, then roll, and sit, and play, and stand, and walk... and it... never... ends.  Time keeps going. 
People say don't blink because you'll miss something... and I did it.  I blinked:

This little boy used to be this baby...

Where does the time go?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Twirlin' in the Flowers

I think about God a lot, in a wonderment and an excited kind of way.  I wonder what He would look like if I could see Him.  I wonder what it would feel like to lay my head on His chest.  Sometimes when I'm sick and don't feel good and I'm curled up on the couch, I pretend I'm sitting on His lap and He's rubbing my head telling me He's going to take care of me.  
Zephaniah 3:17 is my favorite verse.  It talks about God's excitement for us, that He's dancing over us.  Combine that with scripture that says we are 'wonderfully made', and I get pretty excited.  Feeling okay with myself comes much easier when I know the God of the universe not only enjoys me but has crafted me by His will, putting me together with precision and excellence.  After all, He doesn't make mistakes.  
Thinking about these things has, at many times in my life, given me the urge to put on a whirly skirt, drive to a field of wild flowers out in the middle of no where, get out of my car and run, and for those of you who know me, I don't like running... but Jesus, well, He makes me want to run.  And dance.  And twirl in those flowers.  With my arms up... undignified, not holding back... loving Jesus without restraint... dancing in His flowers. 
I think someday I'll do it.  I'll get away and I'll dance in some flowers, find the tallest hill I can find, lay down on a blanket and watch the sky.  Maybe I'll see God up there looking down on me and smiling.  And then again, maybe not, but I look forward to seeing His smile someday... 
and until then, I'll twirl in some flowers.  

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Crazy Hectic Time

For those of you who are tired of hearing about budgeting blogs, this changes the subject for at least a day.  (Hmmmm, well, at least a moment... I did GREAT at Kroger this morning so I'll mention that before I go ;) ) 
For those of you who don't know, this is the time of year for our annual girl's retreat in the youth ministry.  Last year was rejuvenating, it'd been so long since I was able to do it (from being on the road) that I was super excited for it!  (Not to mention getting some sleep.  My being away with 20 teenage girls earned me more sleep than being at home with one 4 month old ;) )
This year is no different.  We have fewer girls this year, which I wasn't thrilled about, but I think it may be a little more intimate.  We are staying at Aaron's parent's house in St. Louis to keep the cost of lodging down, and this year the girl's get to go to the Melting Pot and ice skating.  (Not to mention shopping.  That's always requested.)  
I've been planning and replanning it seems like for the past 2 weeks.  I had my lessons written and God changed my direction, so I'm currently re-writing.  I had room assignments made up, and now I'm changing those as people change.  I've had a couple new additions and I've had a few back out... and as I write I'm still racking my brain for another chaperone.  Currently, our chaperones are so few that we cannot legally be driven to STL.  I have to figure this one out.  I have some people checking schedules though, praying they work out!  
I spent the evening the other night packing the girl's bags, I'm currently getting their shirts made... oooohhhh the progress :) 
And none-the-less, I'm sure something will be forgotten, but we will manage.  It is all very exciting!
Now, for the amazing deals I got this morning.  (I went at 7:00 when Kroger opened, because I just got all of my coupons for this specific deal together and I was afraid they'd be 'out' of these items by the time I got there this afternoon.  Pathetic, I know.  I'm an addict remember? ;) )

So here's how I worked it.  I had to do two transactions because both were participating in the march to savings event that Kroger is now running (buy 8 participating items and get $4 off your total).  This event plus coupons made for a very happy Alicia.  

Transaction # 1
1- 2 Liter Cherry Coke - Normally $1.29 / .79 after event rebate
1- 2 Liter Sprite - Normally $1.29 / .79 after event rebate
1 Box Wheat Thins - Normally 2.49 / 1.99 after event / $1 off coupon = .99
1 bag Frito Lay BBQ Chips - Normally 2.79 / 2.37 after event rebate
2 Jugs Motts Apple Juice - Normally 3.49 each / .99 each after event rebate
2 Jars Planters Peanuts - Normally 3.99 each / 1.99 each after event rebate and Kroger savings / 2 - 1.50 coupons made each .49!

Total for Transaction #1 with all sales and rebates:  $12.16
Percentage of Savings: 52%

Transaction #2
1 box Kroger Brand Garlic Toast (not on sale.... BOO)
1 Sara Lee Cherry Pie - 3.49 / 2.99 after event rebate / $1 off coupon = 1.99
1 Sara Lee Dutch Apple Pie - 3.49 / 2.00 after event rebate / $1 off coupon = 1.99
4 Boxes Ronzoni Pasta (healthy harvest and smart taste) = 1.25 / .75 after event / 1 - 1.00 off two coupon and 2 - .75 off one coupons made each box = .13
2 Jars Classico Pasta Sauce - 1.99 normally / .99 with event / $1.00 off 2 coupon

Total for Transaction #2 with all sales and rebates:  $8.47
Percentage of Savings:  69%

All products totaled on normal price would have cost ~ $52.00 
In total I spent:  $20.63


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Pen to the 10 - 10 Things I'd like to Ask a Dental Hygienist

I am afraid of the dentist.  No, really, I am.  Growing up I had a stress induced migraine at every experience I had at the dentist's office.  I'm not exaggerating.  I can remember more than one occasion where the dentist had to rush to my room to check my teeth as I was getting nauseous from the pain.  Really.  I don't know if I was afraid of the pain of the inevitable filling, or if I felt like a failure because, regardless of my brushing and flossing I always had cavities.  Always. 
I have some friends who are hygienists, so you guys, these are for you ;)
  • 1.  Do you really prefer one kind of toothpaste over the other?  Lots of commercials tell me you like theirs best. 
  • 2.  Why do you always talk to me while your hands, both of them, are in my mouth?
  • 3.  Are my teeth... normal?  Please tell me you've seen worse than mine!
  • 4.  Why do you insist on talking in 'dental' language?  I'd love it if you'd just say, "Yeah, that there tooth looks like it has a hole in it.  That's gonna be a doozy to fix."
  • 5.  Why, at the teeth cleaning appointment, do you tell me to cut back on the sweets because they are causing cavities, but then when I get the cavity filled you tell me to eat a milk shake?  I'm confused. 
  • 6.  What grosses you out most about your job?  I mean really, how does plaque on teeth, bleeding gums and bodily fluids not completely gross you out?
  • 7.  What is one thing you'd love to tell people, but wouldn't be 'socially acceptable' to say?  Come on, don't hold back.  This is your chance.  
  • 8.  It doesn't really make a difference if we brush our teeth relentlessly minutes before we come in to see you, does it? 
  • 9.  Can I tell you if that bright light is in my eyes?  Or better yet, maybe I'll wear my sunglasses.  Maybe I'll be invisible that way. 
  • 10.  Besides brushing and flossing after I eat everything ever, and getting regular teeth cleanings, what ELSE can I do to prevent my teeth from 'gettin' them there holes in 'em?' 

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

I Thing I'm Forming an Addiction

Some people do drugs, some drink alcohol, some have affairs or do high-risk, adrenalin rushing activities.  Me?  I coupon.  
I really believe I'm becoming an addict.  I'm not kidding.  I've spawned this new excitement everytime I go grocery shopping.  Most times I leave stores with this 'high' or 'excitement.  On the same hand, though, when I have to buy things, any things, at 'regular' price it almost makes me throw up a little. 
See, the couponing addiction started with grocery shopping, and just with printing coupons.  Then, it grew into printing coupons and loading some on my shopping card as well.  Then, it spawned into couponing and researching the sale ad to meal plan for the best bang for my buck.  
Then I started looking up coupons for clothing, entertainment, houseware items, toiletries, shoes.  You name it!  Today, I filled out a survey for $2 off of our next Taco John's experience.  
The girl who used to be ashamed of coupons is gone and this new, out of control, money saving lunatic has taken her place!
Now my opinion is, 'if you can buy something at a cheaper price for the sacrifice of a little bit of work, why wouldn't you?'  Duh, it's like common sense, right?  
So now I frequent SEVERAL couponing and budgeting blogs, usually everyday.  It doesn't take much of my time but I often find good deals and good ideas.  
I enjoy the rush of feeling like I got a good deal.  I think it's the same rush people get when they rob stores, except mine is even better because I've done it legally :)  
At least my addiction currently HELPS our family rather than hindering it! :) 
Until next time!

Monday, March 15, 2010

See What This Week's Budgeting Brings

I hate weeks where there are so many things you have to have that your budget seemingly looks drained before you even get it.  I've not been doing this couponing / budgeting thing long enough to have a good 'stock-pile' of really cheap stuff just yet, so this should make for an interesting two weeks.  We're off to a good start though.  Here is what I have to have in the next two weeks: (notice that these things come out of my 'grocery' budget and are, generally, more expensive items)
- Trash Bags for the kitchen.  We are running WAY low.  These are an item I've not had to buy since we started couponing, so, honestly, I'm not sure how much I'm getting ready to spend.  (Just goes to show you that you don't pay much attention to what you spend on items when you don't budget for them.)  I know that we are really partial to the Glad flex bags, but we'll see what's on sale.  I've searched forever for coupons and haven't found any yet.  Bummer. 
- Dishwashing tablets.  We use the 'Finish' brand with the little red ball.  I just happened to find two coupons for these so I actually got them at Target today for $1.50 off.  Not bad. 
- Diapers.  We have a love / hate relationship.  I'm sure I'm going to be sad to not be buying them (means my baby is growing up), but they are so expensive.  Luckily, it's just been in the past few months that I've had to actually start buying them regularly.  We had a lot from our baby shower that lasted forever, and lots from family who buy them.  I bought these at Target today too... stay tuned to the bottom of this post to see my deals from there. 
- Paper Towels.  This is always a bummer to me, because I feel like this is a place that I'm not a great steward.  I can go through some paper towels, let me tell you what.  So, I have found a coupon for some Brawny paper towels, and they are on sale this week, so it should only cost me $6 of my $125 grocery budget.  (Bleh, $6 for paper towels.  Gross.)
So there you have it, trash bags, dishwashing tablets, diapers and paper towels, all from our grocery budget.  I hate it when that happens.  This is going to encourage me to get on stockpiling when these things are on sale. 
On a higher note, it's that time of year to start buying clothes for B (and us, if needed) for spring and summer.  Since he has absolutely nothing that fits him and is weather appropriate for that time of year (he's a growing boy, you know), this always means budgeting.  So, we've put some money aside particularly for this endeavor.  Lots of sales make it possible to stock up well.  
At Macy's I bought: 
  • A zip up sleeper (24 months so he grows into it)
  • A short sleeve polo
  • A pair of athletic shorts
All for $11.60!  
We had a JC Penny Gift Certificate from Christmas so he scored:
  • Another pair of athletic shorts (different color, he lives in these a lot over the summer)
  • A romper.  (I'm not totally sold on such a 'little boy' look on such a big boy, but Aaron has mentioned having one for him and I'm not totally against it, so we did it.)
Out of pocket cost:  $0.
At Target for clothing we got:
  • 1 short sleeved polo short
  • 1 pair of jean shorts
  • 1 pair of really cute striped 'railroad' shorts
  • 4 different t-shirts
all for $25.  
Also at Target we did great (in my opinion) on diapers.  Jumbo packs of Pampers were on sale 2 / $17, so I bought two and had 2 coupons for $1.50 off, making it 2 / $14 and approx. .20 a diaper.  Not too bad.  

I also got Johnson's Buddies Soap Bars as a money maker.  I earned .06 on two of them ;)  I enjoy that.  

I'm grocery shopping tonight.  We'll see how that goes.  

Saturday, March 13, 2010


Watch Video Here!
I saw this video, and I wanted to throw up.  I don't smoke, thank God.  Not to be disrespectful, but my parents did enough of that while I was growing up to have me constantly sick and to take years off my life.  I've had my fill of it.  
But, you know, smoking isn't the only preventable cause of death. 
What about laziness, weight gain, poor eating habits, drinking excessively, not protecting yourself through regular doctor / dental visits, not taking care of our mental health, allowing ourselves to be depressed and fat and knowing that something might be 'wrong' but doing nothing about it?
Why?  Because we don't want to, because we're too busy, because we have other things to do.  Me, me, me, me, me. 
But what about them?  What about the babies we bring into this world?  When we encourage our kids to eat better than we do, not smoke, don't drink, get their vaccines, go to their dental appointments, exercise, don't be lazy, yet we don't take any advice ourselves, what are we teaching them?  Do as I say not as I do?  Well, news-flash parents, that isn't how parenting works.  Our lives speak louder than our words. 
Let's not rob our kids of a childhood with us and of their own experiences by setting bad examples and not taking care of ourselves.  Let's not rob our kids of the healthy habits that will lengthen their lives by not leading by example.  Let's face it.  Kids will do what we do, not what we say. 
B is proof of it already.  If Aaron and I eat 'out' one night for convenience and laziness, but try to prepare some veggies for B, he doesn't want his veggies.  He wants what we have, regardless of what it is!  He's not even old enough to want it because he thinks one tastes better than the other, he wants what we have because we have it.  Period. 
So let's not leave our kids early.  Let's not grow them up in a lifestyle that will require them to leave our grandkids early... it's not worth it.  They are more important than any cigarette, any discomfort in a doctor's office, any addiction to food, alcohol, etc.  Let's take care of ourselves so we can be here to take care of them.  

Friday, March 12, 2010

Turn off the Electronics

I'm going on strike.  Nope, I quit.  No, that's not right either.  My electronics are fired.  Yep, fired.  
Frankly, I've had it.  I wake up in the morning when Bryton does (on days I don't work), I make sure his tray is ready for his food, I turn the tv on, and I go in his room and get him up.  We then go on about our day.  The tv barking at us the entire time.  
For those of you who are readers of my blog you know that we've been having an interesting climbing stint with Bryton.  It's on all of the furniture he can get on really, but most popularly was the tv stand. The sad part was that my initial thought was, "I hope he isn't trying to compete with it for our attention."  Here he is: 

It's ridiculous, really, how much our television is on.  
So today I fired my television.  Not permanently, of course, but for two hours of our morning.  I just didn't turn it on.   You know what I realized?  The play time that B and I usually have was 100 times more fulfilling.  I noticed 1,000 new things about him since the television was competing for my attention.  I found out that he knows what "sit down" means.  He doesn't always obey it, but he knows it.  I didn't teach him that... it's just something he's picked up.  
You know what else I did?  I cleaned the whole house!  Okay, that's a slight exaggeration.  I didn't clean the bathroom and the kitchen is already clean, but I cleaned and reorganized the living / dining room, our bedroom, and Bryton's!  In a morning!  That normally would have taken me forever!  It was difficult, and I was worn out, but it can be done!  
I'm not anti-television, but I am pro-family, and I think the television pulls us apart sometimes.  You know, I'm not even that interested in what's on most of the time.  I love the Today show (which I gave up this morning for B... and liked it), The Biggest Loser, Parenting, and occasionally The Bachelor.  Anything else, I can take it or leave it.  Personally, I'd rather be doing something together as a family in the evenings as opposed to being stuck in front of that stupid tv.  I'm glad we only have the cheap cable package.  It makes it less interesting.  Unfortunately it still steals our time!
So I'm taking action.  From now on, limited (1/2 hour or so) television from the time B wakes in the morning until his nap.  TV is free during his nap time, partially because I have so much to do during that time that I don't watch it much anyway (like keep up on my blogging).  When Aaron gets home, well, we're obviously going to have to discuss that together, but I'd love to see us spend the time up until Bryton's nearing bedtime (until 7:00? He goes to bed around 8.) together as a family, not in front of the tv. 
It's so much easier in the summer:  walks uptown with B in his wagon, going to the park,  driving to the custard stand, playing outside, etc.  Bryton isn't exactly at "boardgame" age yet, but we aren't that far off, so that'd be a great alternative to watching television once he gets a little older.  Maybe we could color together, or bake cookies.  Who knows, but I know this:  Our electronic dependencies to television, cell phones, and computers, have got to stop.  It is killing our families.  

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Loving for a Purpose

I've been using Jesus.  You heard me.  I've been using him.  Not even like a spare tire, I've been using him like a teenage girl uses her boyfriend so she always has a date for the dance and a jersey to wear.  It's the bad kind of using.  
I've been using Him to help my marriage.  I've been using Him to give me blog ideas.  I've been using Him to help me parent.  I've even been  using Him to look and sound more spiritually mature.  
As time has gone on I can see that I love Jesus, I really do, but my efforts to know Him and love Him more are not for His benefit and so I can spiritually know Him better.  No, it's because someone told me that it is only when I really love Jesus that I really can love my husband and my kids, and I really want to love my husband and my kids.  It's because I know I'm expected to have some wisdom shoot out of me like canon balls on Sunday mornings during Sunday school and on Wednesday nights during girl's group.  It's because I need some new ideas for blogging.  It's because I need people to think that, spiritually, I'm a rock star. 
Guess what.  I'm not.  I'm a user. 
I'm tired of using Jesus for the outcome.  It's time I love Him for the journey.  The outcome will be what it will be.  I hope that I do have some inspiring words to share, both verbally and written, but I hope more that it comes from an outpouring of love and respect and admiration that I hold for such an amazing God.  I hope that what He has to teach me allows me to parent better, love deeper, and be forever more intimate in my relationships... but I hope it mostly makes me more intimate with Him.  
My prayer is that I can love Jesus because He deserves it, not because He first loved me, not because of anything else He has done for me, but because He is Jesus, He is God, and He is due all praise. 

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Pen to the 10 Wednesday- Post 1!

I actually had another blog in mind for the first 'Pen to the 10' post, but I've been inspired, and this inspiration requires feed back from you parents in the world. This 'Pen to the 10' post is in reference to discipline. Here it goes:
When I was a kid my mom's weapon of choice was a wooden paddle ball paddle, without the ball attached. The 'weapon' lived in the drawer just east of the fridge, and though it came out only on rare occasions, when it did, I cringed.
I can remember one rare occasion that mom chased me with that wooden paddle ball paddle. Through the kitchen and into the living room, where she popped my little butt hard enough that it stung that time. For that reason, I never ran from the paddling anymore. Don't get me wrong, it was bad enough when it didn't sting. It was demeaning, I guess, because though it didn't hurt, when she'd whip me with that paddle I'd cry like a baby and feel guilty for the rest of the day.
Her secret weapon, which became much more prevalent as I grew older, was a heavy dose of the silent treatment / disappointment. My mom was the Queen at it. Shoot, she may have even been King. She was good. If I did something wrong, lied, or disobeyed, she turned off. She had a 'look' and she just didn't speak to me. She was 'cold as ice', as the song would say. I would have rather the woman beat me with a broom. I did whatever I possibly could to avoid mom as the popsicle parent.
So what kind of 'discipline' is the 'right' kind of discipline for kids? I believe in spanking, but I question myself with it at the same time. Well, before I get into all of that, here are my 10:

1. Ignore it: I've heard people say a lot that kids will sometimes do things to get attention and if you just ignore it they'll stop. There may be a kid on this planet that works with, but I can't imagine it will be mine. Not at this point in time. My baby is young, granted, so I may change my mind on this particular tactic as time goes on, but for now I feel like I see a lot of teenagers whose parents 'ignored it' for far too long and now they don't know how to behave well.

2. Verbal Scolding: I'm a firm believer you can do this without 'yelling' at your kid, that you should change your tone and not your volume. I have no desire to completely belittle my son by yelling at him in anger. (I'm not saying that I've never, or will never mess this up. I will, and have.) I do, however, wish that he'd respond to verbal scolding at this point in life. I can't discount this completely, Bryton is still young, but I'm hoping as he gets older he will know by my tone that he's done something he's not supposed to do, and he'll feel remorse for it.

3. Take Away Privileges: I will definitely use this as he gets older. Privileges are privileges for a reason. They are not 'rights.' When a privilege is abused or behavior cannot be maintained then privileges will be taken away. It happens on a small scale now. When B continues to throw his ball onto the table, which knocks everything over, after being scolded verbally once his ball is taken away if it happens again. At this point in life I only take it away for a short period of time. I don't feel like he's old enough to remember an hour later while he still doesn't have his ball... and usually the amount of time is long enough for him to forget how fun it was to throw the ball on the table and knock everything down.

4. Time Out: When do people start this? I mean, seriously? I think it's a GREAT idea. I hope Bryton abides by it some day. At this point in life, I don't know how you ever keep a kid in a specific spot for any period of time. Do you teach them to 'stay?' because I feel like I'm talking to a dog. I have heard by teachers that time out should be only as long as a child is old. For example, a 2 year old has time out for 2 minutes, a 10 year old for 10 minutes, etc. Does a two year old really understand timeout? I'd love input on this one.

5. Spank with a hand: It seems like the first disciplinary action for new parents is slapping hands. We did it, chances are you have too. It didn't work for us. We'd slap the hand, B would cry, and he'd go right back to what he was doing. It didn't work. After that a lot of parents move on to spanking the bottom with their hands. (Think birthday spankings.) I bet that works for some kids too. When Bryton started climbing on top of the tv stand, very dangerous I may add, we started spanking his little behind when we'd get him down, first for being up there, and second for not obeying when we told him to get down. Guess what he did, yep, climbed back up. Ugh. We apparently have a persistent little daredevil. Sin nature at it's finest... at 16 months.

6. Spank with an item: And as bad as I hate to admit it, this is where we are now. I've seen lots of things used. I had a friend whose mom would use a fly swatter. Ow. My mom had her paddle ball paddle, minus the ball of course. We had friends who used a thin wooden spoon. Back in the old days schools had a paddle. Well, after countless climbs on top of the tv stand, mom was desperate, so off to my utensil drawer I went. I easily spent 5 minutes debating what I could 'go without' for awhile and smacking my thigh with countless objects to see what 'popped' but didn't 'hurt.' Out comes... the ladle. Yep, my flimsy plastic ladle. It makes a great popping noise, and stung only slightly on my thigh... very little on his diapered rump. Two times he climbed back on that tv stand, a few other tries where all I had to do was grab the ladle and tell him to get down, and we've broken it... at this point. I hate it with everything in my being, you know that, 'It hurts me more than it does you,' stuff that we always thought our parents were lying about? It's true. I don't think that pop hurts him hardly at all, but his little tears break my heart to pieces. :(

7. Don't Discipline, Reward: Not sure how I feel about this one. This is the 'don't discipline for the bad, reward for the good' mentality. The idea is that if kids are consistently rewarded for doing good they will continually do good. It's a great concept, but I'd love for my son to know that part of the reward for being good is being good itself. It's something that is expected, not something that warrants a reward. You be good to others regardless of the treatment you receive from them. This seems to circumstantial for me. Don't get me wrong, if I see he's done something really well, or has done something really nice, I'll praise him for using good judgment, but to reward just for doing something he's supposed to do, probably not. (This will come into play when an allowance is offered. Money will be given for above and beyond things... not for putting your toys away, cleaning your room, brushing your teeth, or putting your dishes in the dishwasher... those are all duties that don't warrant 'pay', because they are responsibilities of being a human being.)

8. Distraction: This is a big one for the baby stage. We used it a lot. Throwing a fit over one thing? Hey, check this out, see how fun it is? It's all about redirecting attention. I think this is a must use for babies!

9. The Silent Treatment (aka make 'em feel bad): Not sure how I feel about this. I know there is a "cool off" time period, but sometimes I questioned my mom's love when she wouldn't speak to me. It will be important for me to be able to talk things out with my kids, so they know why I'm upset, the effect of what they did, and how we can move on without it happening again, not the mention that fact that I still love them.

10. Disciplinary Duties: Again, I'd use this for older kids. Hmmm, can't consistently get home on time... you'll spend some time on home Saturday, mowing, weed-eating, and helping dad with that project in the garage. Be responsible or responsibilities will be added to your load to make you responsible.

So there you have it... Pen to the 10 on Discipline. Now, I would love some insight on what worked for you! Leave me some feedback!!!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The American Dream of the 21st Floor

I love warm fall nights, hometown football games, really being able to borrow a cup of sugar from your neighbors, and even the 'everybody knows everybody' side of small town living. So, this is not a complaint. (I had to preface with this because, honestly, I currently am happier, yes, happy, it's circumstantial, I know, than I've been in a long time. That means happy in the small - town environment that I've always known, living in an average house, with an average dog, with no white picket fence.)
On that note, let me welcome you into my fantasy world. I love the city. I have this infatuation with sky scrapers and strips of restaurants, Starbucks on the corner, the baseball stadium blocks away, and the river six blocks east. I have this fantasy of living in a nice suburb with a nice backyard, commuting to work everday, working in a large downtown building, on the 21st floor, with a corner office of course. (It's a fantasy, remember? A girl can dream.)
I see myself as a professional, in a good pair of heels, a pencil skirt, a well tailored button-down, tucked just perfectly into that pencil skirt. I am the modern, young professional. Classy.
Maybe I work as a journalist for a magazine. Yes, that's it! I'm a columnist even.
I see myself skipping out of work a couple hours early to change and get to the ballgame. I see myself going in early, because I am so excited about an article.
I guess it's true. Even people who believe there is much more to aspire for in life than the American Dream innately have an American Dream of their own.
Quite frankly, I'm living a dream, and I just happen to be in America. Sure, I'd love to get to write for a big magazine someday. I'd even take a short stint working in a sky scraper somewhere... but having an amazing family, financially making ends meet, and most importantly, getting to serve Jesus right where I am in exactly the capacity I have been able to, well, that's quite a dream.
I'll be honest, there are times I wish I could freelance for the Evening Call again. It was a short period of my life, but I enjoyed the feature article writing, meeting new people, and being able to get paid to write. I think I'd do the job much better part time rather than full time at this point in my life, but I loved having the opportunity to write about the extraordinary experiences of people around me. (I would be lying if I also didn't mention how much I loved hearing that people appreciated my articles.)
I guess you don't have to be on the 21st floor to have a great view of life.

Monday, March 8, 2010

New Weekly Wednesday Blog

Okay, readers. I'm adding some structure. Wednesday's now will be "Pen to the Ten Wednesdays." Features including:
"10 things I'd like to Ask _____________ "(fill in the blank, A Financial Planner, A Dentist, A Pizza Delivery Boy, etc)
"10 Things I'd like to Say to ____________" (Barack Obama, Miley Cyrus, My Foot Doctor, etc)
"10 Favorite Places to _________________" (Spend Vacation, buy locally etc.)
If you get the drift, it's all lists of ten... some humorous, some serious. Check every Wednesday to see what I put the pen to!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

How Do Mom's Work Full Time?

Sometimes I firmly believe that I could do it... of course, I'm certain I could do it when our kids get in school, but sometimes I am crazy enough to believe I could do it now. Then, life happens and I realize how impossible it seems.
For example... welcome week one of March. Bryton starts Sunday with this little wheezy cough that effects him mostly at night time, Monday it's a little more severe, Tuesday I have a kid with a runny nose, fever, and who is totally fussy, and Wednesday we find out he had a double ear infection. Rosey.
SO - since I sub, I was already scheduled for Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of this week. Aaron was nice enough to stay home Wednesday, but said he couldn't do it Thursday, he had work, so I stayed home Thursday.
May I also mention that Thursday I began feeling scratchiness in my own throat and my ears getting plugged up.
Friday I was able to work because Aaron is normally off on Friday. So I went to school, scratchy throat, stuffy ears and all. Not a huge deal because I didn't feel awful.
That is, until today. So, now my goal is, since I'm working Monday, get me better, Bryton better (he's fever free and has been for several days so technically he can go to the sitter, but I don't want to send him feeling awful) and everyone in 'working' condition for next week's work week. So someone explain to me, how do parents juggle full time jobs without taking off of work constantly for their kids illnesses and then their own? I just don't get it.
You know what else I don't get? I've been waiting since December for warm weather, and now that it's here, I can't enjoy it. Grrrrr....

Friday, March 5, 2010

I think I'm Too Competitive

It's been a long time since I revisited the side of me that must restrain myself. I'm usually a pretty composed individual... maybe a strong personality, but nice. I'll give myself that. I'm nice. But put me at a high school athletic event and apparently I lose my mind.
Tonight I had stirred up the perfect recipe for "slip up Alicia."
Hear me out. Back in 2008 when the football team went to state, Aaron and I made the trip to cheer them on, and cheer we did. I, with every stitch of my being, wanted to see those boys win that game. I wanted to see them hit harder, play better, and cry tears of joy. My heart gets wrapped up in the game. However, one thing I did not have at that state game, that, I must add, I did face tonight, was close proximity to the enemy, the other team.
I hate it enough when the other team is a football field away, and I can't make out what they are saying. I hate it even more when they are 3 yards away, and I can make out every murmur.
Fast forward to tonight's game against Murphy. I go as the chaperoning adult. Bleh. Adult. The only seats we can find for the six of us girls are on the Du Quoin side, barely, in the student section. So now I've set myself in "their world". (I must admit, I like it haha).
Again, my natural drive is "go boys, go!" (Not to mention, several of these boys have attended the youth group, either regularly, or from time to time, and to be honest, since I've become a mom, I've become very protective.)
Let me mention now that the game does not go well. At not one point in the game do we lead, and for maybe a 1/3 of the game we were in a single digit deficit.
I think I cheered pretty purely for about two minutes until I heard quite clearly the ripping apart of boys that I knew, and ones that I didn't. After that, I was flailing my arms like the rest of them. I wanted nothing more than to win, just to rub it in their face. Instead, I found it best to leave early (just a minute), knowing that if I had to deal with teenage boys acting their age in the parking lot, I may lose all witness and stoop to their level.
On top of that, I see adults absolutely acting like idiots, which enrages me to the point of wanting to hit them. "You know, ma'am and sir, if you weren't idiots your children probably wouldn't be either, and I wouldn't have to be sitting here biting my tongue in two and trying to remember who I represent. I'm pretty sure you are causing me to stumble."
I'm telling you, it brought out a side of me that I've not seen in so long, that it surprised me when it came out. I, apparently, am very competitive. Which is funny, because I don't have much skill to master anything... which may explain why I don't participate in much. I hate losing and I'm not good enough to win. Well, at least I know that much.
I don't think I "stumbled" tonight, but I was tempted more times that I would like to admit.
I've got to get a grip on this before my kids are old enough to participate, or I might be "that" parent.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A Note for My Babies: Proverbs 4

My wish for my children, as inspired by the Proverb.

"Listen to your parents, babies. We don't always get it right, and we will not always completely understand how you feel or your situations, yet we have lived and we see your lives through goggles of love that you don't yet understand. Trust us that we want only what is best for you. And when we ask something of you that seems hard or makes little sense, know that we've been praying since before you were born for God to give us wisdom in how we direct you, little ones. Never before have I prayed so fervently for wisdom, but we're trusting God to provide the wisdom in raising you. No task is greater, no job more risky, than raising precious children entrusted to us by God. Don't just do what we say to make us happy. Do the right thing to learn how to do the right thing. Really learn how to show and be love. Here are a few things I'd love from you: -Love Jesus more than you love anything, including mom and dad. Loving Jesus makes all other wisdom fall in place. -Treat people kindly, without exception. That means being kind to those who are different, those who are not kind, those who have not yet gained wisdom. It means not gossiping, shooting dirty looks, or turning a cold-shoulder. -Don't follow the crowd. Be a leader. It shows confidence and strength, even when it's hard. Do not drink, obey laws, obey us as your parents, allow only Jesus to direct and control you. If you feel it's wrong, don't do it. Period. -Don't speak poorly. Your talking should bring life and light where you go. Not darkness. If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. -Guard your heart. The world is out to beat it up... to rip it apart. But the world needs your permission. Listen to what you know to be right and follow it. It will be tempting to stray, but don't. There's reward at the end... follow it closely. Save yourself the trouble of having to make your way back. We love you, children, and want only what is best for you. Your successes are more valuable than our own. Your miss-footings more painful. For when you hurt, we hurt. You are our gift and our responsibility, entrusted by God to nurture, love, provide for and lead. He has given to us a love that we can only explain when you, one day, have children. Then our explanation will simply be, "see," and you'll understand. You are loved by us with a love that only our Father can provide. And because of that you will be loved inevitably, unconditionally, whole-heartedly, and from me you will be promised discipline and grace, protection and wisdom, direction and freedom. You are a very special gift in our lives, and you will not be taken for granted.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Spring as a Spiritual Analogy

Today when I was putting laundry away I seriously thought about putting away my winter clothes. Crazy, right? Well, this weather is enough to make a person completely stir crazy, and if willing the spring to come by freezing my fanny off is the only way to make it happen, well, by golly, freeze I will.

Now, I didn’t end up putting the winter clothes away just yet. I hate being cold too much. The one day of warm weather we had was enough of a tease to get me thinking sundresses and flip flops, though. I actually bought my first pair of flip flops this year last Thursday. I know, pathetic, right? It really cannot get here soon enough. The grass, the sun, the flowers, the warmth... I am so ready.

And every year while I’m stuck inside going out of my mind I start thinking about our seasons and how much they represent our faith, especially the transition from winter to spring!

Winter is dark and dry for the most part. Sure, you get some snow and rain here and there, but the air is dry, the earth is dry, and my hands are dry. All sign of tree life lay brown and crumpled on the ground... more proof of death. Some animals hibernate during this time of year. It keeps them alive, but it’s the closest they come to dying without actually doing it. Almost all outside vegetation dies for the winter. It is like spiritually being dry, dead, asleep.

Then the spring comes. The rain comes to moisten everything up again. With the moisture and warmth of the sun (or Son) life is reborn. Grass turns green again. Leaves appear on trees. Flowers blossom in every color of the rainbow. Animals come out of hibernation, back to life. It seems as if the world is reborn... rejuvenated, brought to life. It surprises me none that we celebrate Easter at the time in our country where it seems as if all of life is lush and vibrant. No better time to celebrate our lives in the newness of Christ, and most importantly, His resurrection from the dead.