Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Why Advent Has Become So Important to Me

Let me first be honest and say that I really didn't know about advent at all until I started doing research on it this year.  What I knew about advent was basically the idea of a little calendar with shapes of Santa and elves all over it that had a little gift in 25 pockets to count down the days until Christmas.  We never 'celebrated' advent when I was growing up, and I didn't incorporate it into our adult family as it just seemed like another way to get the idea of the season mistaken as being the receiving of gifts. 

But somewhere in this little trickle of information I had regarding 'advent', I knew that our church lights an advent candle every Sunday night during advent season.  (May I add, I think the church in general has failed on this front, too.  I've been a part of this candle lighting for the entire eleven years I've gone to church and was never explained to what it was all about.)  So this little trickle of information was enough to get me interested about what advent was all about, and I started doing some research.

To understand advent, we also have to understand Christmas.  Ultimately, most people could answer what the 'real reason for Christmas' is.  They don't have to be believers.  They can be atheist, agnostic, Muslim, Jewish, etc, yet people know that 'Christmas' is the day that Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus, their Savior, and that's where we leave it.  And when I say 'we', I mean us believers, too. 

You know me, I'm honest, so I'll just say, I've tried very hard every year to keep the 'real meaning' in Christmas.  Not that the other stuff is 'bad', it's just easy to get caught up in.  I find myself really thinking, especially on Christmas eve and Christmas day, about what the coming of the Savior really means.  I've thought about Mary's experience and Joseph's experience.  I've thought about this precious boy Jesus lying in the manger, with 33 years before He changes the spance of history forever, and still, somehow, I miss it.  Maybe not completely, but I miss it.  Maybe we've become too accustom to the "story". 

And in steps 'advent'.  I get it now.  I get it's importance.  As a parent I've become intrigued by how Mary and Joseph would have felt as Jesus' parents at that moment.  I've thought about it and written about it and even shed some tears over it.  But I've never really thought about them, or anyone for that matter, as individuals desperately in need of a word from God and in need of a Savior. 

Advent is a season of anticipation.  (And not anticipation for gifts, ahem.)  It's looking back over the history or our faith and seeing our failure (think Eden and the snake).  It's watching God lead Israel in a very physical sense and seeing them reject him.  It's seeing ourselves in entities like David who failed miserably.  It's seeing the law as we know it, albeit established by God, reflect onto us the sin and the shame and the inadequacy in our lives.  It's hearing prophets predict this coming Messiah, and then watching, waiting, and listening for God for 400 years and hearing nothing.  That brings tears to my eyes, to have no connection with the God of the universe for 400 long years. 

In my own life I feel the sin and the shame and the inadaquecy more often than I'd like to admit, but I can look back in hind sight and see what Christ's blood ultimately did for me on the Cross.  The people living during the time of Jesus' birth had not heard from God, the generations before them had not heard from God, and they knew that they suffered from the same sin and shame, with nothing more than the mysteries of God, revealed only slightly through prophets, to comfort them.  They were still waiting on this Savior King. 

And that, friends, is advent.  Advent is reflecting on where we'd be if Jesus hadn't come.  It's feeling the anticipation, the urgent yearning for a Savior that was promised, but had not come.  It's taking a whole season to reflect on the crying out to God to be seen, to be heard, to have His promise be fulfilled.  It's looking back through scripture about where we've been.  We were totally depraved since the Garden of Eden, since the beginning of time as we know it.  We have been lost, ever utterly, and we urgently, honestly, desperately need God to act on our behalf.  It's waiting.  It's anticipation. 

That is when we appreciate the birth of Jesus.  That is when singing songs like "Oh Little Town of Bethlehem" and 'O Holy Night' and 'Silent Night' and best of all, 'Joy to the World' really resonate with us.  (Oh Come Oh Come Emmanuel would be close to fitting advent.)  Personally, (and I love Christmas music), I wish we'd save some of those strictly for Christmas morning, or better yet, a midnight Christmas Eve service, because right now, well, right now my song should be "Please, God come.  Please, God speak.  Please, Lord, rescue us," because I'm still in a period of waiting.  I'm still in a period of anticipation. 

I see now why the idea of advent is so important to our Christmas season, as believers.  It's impossible for us to grasp the birth of a Savior (which I tried and tried and tried years to do), when I don't first grasp the need for that Savior.  Sure, we know in our heads that we need Him, but in our day of age we've always had Jesus available.  I'm talking about the need that existed before He came to dwell amongst us.  The need that was the bridge between our sin and death and the Glorious Father.

This is what I pray my family sees through the Christmas season.  The gifts are not bad, I enjoy them.  The decorations aren't bad, I enjoy those too.  But the climactic birth of Christ brings an honest joy to those who understand they have need.  I pray that our family's celebration of advent will give my kids the opportunity to realize their need for a Savior. 

Anxiously Waiting,

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

God's Trying to Make a Point

I think it's fair to say that there were two overwhelming themes for us over our time at youth specialties.  (When I say overwhelming, let's just say I heard little else besides these two things.)

1.  The job of the pastor / minister is to equip the church for service.  Why aren't we as youth pastors letting students lead their own ministries and us mentor and guide them.  More on this later.  Waaay too much good to say in one blog.  Let's just say that the "machine" quote I put on facebook comes from this mentality.  Feeding the 'machine' (aka our programs, stuff that we do just to say that we're doing it, activities, just all of the stuff) just turns out pharisees.  A whole lot of people who know about God and think they can follow him with what they know, rather than a whole lot of people who know God and follow Him based on what they don't know.  Again, more on this later.

2.  We have to do a better job at loving people.  I'll be honest.  Aaron and I have been saying this for years, but it was taken to a whole new level for at least me during the course of this conference.  The Ted Haggard thing was by far enough to initiate it, then on the way home I read this article:
I suggest you read it.  It drove home the point for me in a way I could never articulate myself. 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Ted Haggard at Youth Specialties

I honestly have no idea how to even organize this blog.  I usually don't have that problem, but I have so much to say and some of it may sound like it contradicts each other.  Maybe because I'm still trying to process it all.  So let's go step by step.  And I want you to comment on this and tell me what YOU think! 

Alright, Aaron and I went in very aware that Ted Haggard (I'm not doing any introductions, if you don't know who he is, google his name) and his wife Gayle were going to be at our National Youth Worker's Convention this year.  Sunday morning they did a 'big room', which is corporate worship times for us youth workers, and Monday morning they each did their own seminars. 

I must first start with my assumptions.  Ted's seminar on Monday was titled, "Lessons Learned the Hard Way."  I'll be honest, it intrigued me.  I had visions of him talking about safety nets to put in place and safe guards, having accountability partners and reaching out for help, about not being deceptive and over-all being apologetic. 

Fast-forward to Sunday morning, which I was very much looking forward to hearing what he was going to say.   To our surprise they waited until the very end of 'big room' (each big room session was about 2 hours long, so it's rare that they wait until the very very end for a speaker),  but I quickly understood why when about 1/3 of the 3500 youth workers that were there packed up their things and left when they saw them sitting on the stage. 

I'll be honest, at this point I'm like, "Wow, give them a chance.  We have something to learn from everyone.  You don't have to accept all they have to say, but give them the opportunity to speak and show them a little bit of grace.  (This number of youth workers didn't walk out for any of the other acts the entire weekend.  And there were several.) 

It's fair to say that I was there eager to hear what was to be said.  The speaking was Q & A style, with Gayle receiving the first question in which she basically answered why she stayed.  In a nutshell, he's the same man, she made a  commitment to him, and she wanted to offer him grace at a point in time where no one else was.  What she talked about the most, though, was how at the time of the scandal he was shown no love by anyone, especially the church.  In her defense, true statement.  He was not shown love.  Agreed.  (Unless of course you look at church discipline as love, which I do, but the point was made later on that the 'discipline' was enforced not from love as a motive, but as judgment.  I must agree with this statement as well.  The church / elders weren't looking for healing and showing 'tough love' when they kicked him out of their body completely and banished them from the state of Colorado.  They were casting judgment and protecting themselves.  Agree.)

But for the entire 30 minutes they spoke all I heard was a couple still with their defenses in place, talking basically about how they had been screwed by the church and proverbially spat upon by church people.  After talking about the importance of showing grace and love, at an effort to break the tension (very evident in the room), at the sound of a very loud plane coming in, Ted quipped that he hoped the plane wasn't headed towards our building (I admit, I was thinking the same thing).  He then, however, made a smart remark about 'another mad muslim' and about how 'he'd be mad too if he had to wake up every morning at 5:00 a.m. to pray."  Ouch, there went love and not casting judgment out the window. 

After that statement I stayed just long enough to hear a youth pastor (one of the 2000 or so left) yell from the stadium "God's judgment" in response to the plane sounding overhead. 

And I'd had it.  I'd had it with judgmental people, and I'd had it with the Haggards too.  So, I excused my pregnant self to go to the restroom and told Aaron I'd meet him outside whenever he was ready.

I won't lie, the entire experience left an awful taste in my mouth.  I was wanting to hear this incredible message of hope and restoration and grace and 'look where God has brought me from', and what I heard was that the church had completely let him down and that they weren't treated well.  Ugh, dude, you did screw things up pretty bad. 

So let's leave it there for a moment and fast forward to Monday morning.  I had planned to go to a seminar entitled "Fulfilling the First Commission:  Helping Parents Effectively minister to their Kids".  Well, being my pregnant butt doesn't move very fast and they gave this speaker way too small of a room, I decided I wasn't going to be one of many in the 'standing room only' section for 1 1/2 hours.  So, right across the room was Ted's virtually empty room (about 20 people at that moment, I made the third female) and I made the decision that I was going to give this effort one more shot. 

As he spoke this time he seemed slightly less guarded, especially at first.  In general here's basically what he had the opportunity to talk about:  He had struggled with this sin in his life for sometime.  He had reached out to others for Biblical help and support and was basically instructed to pray it out, fast, read his Bible, etc.  These things did not help him, and he did them faithfully.  It took the crisis in his life for him to finally find resolution through two years of therapy from a certified, licensed therapist, who was a Christian.  He talked about how important a licensed, certified therapist was to his healing and how often we try to do all of the 'church things' when God is trying to heal us, but through another means.  I agreed with this as well. 

Conversation sprang up quickly, which I welcomed, because I felt that maybe some of us getting to ask the questions may get me some answers myself.  What I heard was a youth pastor who had run a stop sign (still sin) and hit a man and killed him and how he was proverbially stoned by his church and church family.  I heard another female youth worker who has a daughter who just came out that she's a lesbian, and she (the youth worker) is afraid to tell her church, and then I heard several others who basically told Ted they were disgusted with him and that he should have been held to a higher standard as a pastor.  (Which I agree with, yet, well, let me get down to this at the end.)  He battled with two of these youth pastors the entire time.  Another youth pastor spoke up, not in defense of Ted, but to state that he believed we all had sin in our life (true) and wanted to know how we could better love people.  Ted later said he would have much rather been in this man's youth group than the other man's because he knew how to offer forgiveness.  Ouch, but very true.  I'd want my kids in his youth group, I'm not going to lie. 

The man who had said he was disgusted with him said at the beginning of his rant that he really had expected Ted to apologize to us the day before and to tell us 'don't be like me.'  Ted's response put me in a whole new realm of thinking.  He said something to the effect of, "If you believe I still need to apologize I can do so, but I did that three years ago on CNN, NBC, ABC, with my church family, to my family, on HBO, I mean, do I really need to spend the rest of my life apologizing for something I've been forgiven for by God.  I also thought that I was here to talk to leaders, not to be evangelistic.  My assumption was that you would know not to be like me.  I'm here to talk to ministers about how to better to do ministry.  That's what they've asked me to do, and it is my belief that we can more effectively do ministry by loving others... even in our church discipline." 

Hmmm.  Interesting.

So here's kind of how it highlights out... let me know how you feel about these things:

Things I agreed with and what I got from listening to him:
  • We do kind of suck at loving people, especially in the midst of stuff.  
  • We are all sinners, even in our salvation we are still working things out, called sanctification. 
  • God is using his experience to effectively minister to those in similar situations as him. 
  • Sometimes things are not always as they seem.  He told a story about being on Larry King with Jennifer Knapp and a pastor who reamed her in a blog for coming out that she was a lesbian.  I had heard about this but had not seen it.  He said he got more hate mail from that one interview than any others ever, and then explained why he said what he said.  If you care enough to ask me about that one, I'll be happy to answer, but it's lengthy :) 
  • Many times we issue 'church discipline' as a method of judgment and not a method of restoration.  Many, many times.  
  • God uses other means to 'heal' us.  Doctors are one of those. 
Things I didn't agree with:
  • He seems to still be pretty bitter towards the church.  Love and grace should be extended both ways. 
  • He's still getting an awful lot of publicity for all of this.  He has an article coming out in GQ in February, and made sure we knew it several times.  He complains a little bit about the publicity, but doesn't stay out of it.  
  • He believes he should be restored to the same position in the church.  I'll be honest, the more I think about this one the more I struggle, but I have to say I still disagree.  I will be the first to admit that if truly repentant and healed God could give this man an amazing ministry among ministers and with people in hidden sin, but I'm not sure that he is what the Bible describes as a proper leader for an entire church body.  
So there it is:  I'm sure I've forgotten 100 things I wanted to say, but I figured this would spark some conversation.  I'm interested to see what you all have to say.
By the way, during his seminar he did apologize for the muslim comment made the day before.  He admitted it was a weak moment and he wished he could take it back.

Alright, let's see what you all think!


Monday, November 15, 2010

How Do They Not Get This?

Westboro Baptist Church, what do you not get about 1 Corinthians 13

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
 2If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
 3And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.
 4Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant,
 5does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,
 6does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;
 7bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
 8Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away.
 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part;
 10but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.
 11When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.
 12For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.
 13But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.

You do not love.  You do not love God, you do not love others, but in your arrogance you go about your own cheap agenda.

What does the Bible really say that God hates:

Scripture says in 1 John 4:20:  Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.

Then, in Proverbs it reads: 
 16 There are six things the Lord hates—
      no, seven things he detests:
 17 haughty eyes,
      a lying tongue,
      hands that kill the innocent,
 18 a heart that plots evil,
      feet that race to do wrong,
 19 a false witness who pours out lies,
      a person who sows discord in a family.
Proverbs 6:16-19


Acquitting the guilty and condemning the innocent— the LORD detests them both. (Proverbs 17:15)

Westboro Baptist, if there is anyone the Lord hates, it is YOU.  Repent and turn to Jesus.  Jesus never held picket signs, and just the opposite, loved and dined with the people you throw yourselves against.  One day you will see judgment, and I hope you hang your heads when you see the fallen soldiers and 'fags' that are dining with Jesus, when you aren't.  Their repentant hearts make them right with God, your hardened hearts will send you to hell. 

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Another Recipe Blog - Hot Ham and Cheese Sliders

So I fixed a sandwich dish on Friday for B's party that went over really really well.  For those of you who wanted it, here was the recipe I used:

1 Package of Hawaiian Rolls
1/2 Lb of Ham (any kind)
6 slices of Swiss Cheese
1/2 Cup (1 stick) Butter
1 tsp Ground Mustard
2 Tbsp Worsteshire Sauce
1 tsp Onion Powder

Cut the Hawaiian Rolls in half and layer bottom half in a pan with a ridge (cookie sheet will do).  Divide the ham and the cheese between the sandwiches evenly.  Add the top bun.  Melt the butter and combine all of the other ingredients with the butter.  Mix thoroughly and pour over the sandwiches.  Let refrigerate over night or for a few hours, then bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until melted!



Monday, November 8, 2010

Cake Balls

So, you won't see these two overwhelmingly often with me, but this is a recipe blog... well, kind of.  It's more of an assembling blog because how hard is it really to make a boxed cake mix.  Exactly.  But I thought I'd document my first 'cake ball' experience, and state that they were actually quite well received at Bryton's party! 
So here's what you need:
1 Box of cake mix (your choice)
The ingredients called to bake your cake from your cake mix (oil, eggs, etc)
1 can of frosting (again, your choice)
Candy melts or Almond Bark (I used one whole package of white almond bark)
Skewers or lollipop sticks (optional)
Decorating items such as sprinkles, candies, etc.  (Also optional)

Alright, it's this simple:

Go home and follow the directions on your boxed cake mix and bake the cake normally in a 9X13 inch pan.  Remove from the oven and allow the cake to cool completely. 
After the cake has cooled, take the entire cake and crumble it up :)  It'll look something like this:

After you've crumbled the cake up into small crumbs, start adding in the canned icing.  I used almost the whole can so I'd start with about 3/4 to see how well your mixture balls.  My funfetti cake mix was really moist already so I didn't need quite the entire thing.  Stir this well until it forms a 'dough' like substance.  The crumbs just need to be able to stick together. 

Once they've stuck together, form them into balls and place them on a wax paper lined cookie sheet and place them in the refrigerator to chill so they harden some.  (My cake mix made about 55 balls.  Anywhere from 35-55 is normal depending on how large you make your balls.)

While these are chilling (15 mins or so), start melting your almond bark or candy melts.  When your balls are chilled dip each skewer in the candy melt and then insert into the ball.  (This step is optional depending on whether you just want balls or if you want balls as 'lollipops'.  I found that the lollipops would be easier to dip and decorate I think.)  The dipped skewer allows the candy melt to 'bond' the cake ball and the skewer, making it easier to dip without losing your ball of the skewer.  When you've inserted all of the skewers, chill again to harden the candy.  I did this in the freezer this time.

After they have chilled, take them out and dip them in the melted candy (make sure the candy is not lumpy or hard, the balls are still 'cake' and will recrumble if tossled too much, I didn't have much problem with this but could see how one could.)  I then stuck each skewer in a piece of styrofoam so the balls kept their 'ball' shape and didn't have a flat side from laying them for the candy melt to dry.  Before they dried completely I sprinkled some with chocolate sprinkles and some with blue sprinkles.  My finished product turned out like this:

They were actually very well received and super easy to make.  I'm sure I'll be making these in the future, especially for times where I want something unique but don't have the time to make buttercream and decorate a cake or cupcakes!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Build a Bear Deal on Groupon

My good friend Brooke from Brooke's Bargains mentioned a while ago that Groupon's Witchita Deal is a $20 voucher for Build a Bear, good online or in store, for only $10!  Go here and check it out!  Sign up if you don't already have an account!  Amazing deals in St. Louis and elsewhere! 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A Quick Frugal Party Planning Blog

Alright - let's sum it all up now (since the party is tomorrow!)

Food:  Chose a very inexpensive main course (be sure I'll post pictures and recipes if all of this stuff 'turns out', yes, you read that right, the sandwiches I'm fixing for 40+ people tomorrow have never been tried in this household... yikes!), have great mother / mother in law who are each preparing a side dish, got individual packages of chips for 50% off on the halloween sale, bought the cake / icing when they were on sale in the months prior, as well as the cookie mix, and not doing the fruit now (see why in the treatbags later).

Decor:  Went with a Dr. Seuss theme, bought a few Dr. Seuss printed items and coupled that with solids at our local $1.00 store.  Also bought all cups, plastic utensils, and tableware there.  Printed kids coloring sheets off of the internet (cost of paper and the ink).  Showing "Horton Hears a Who" which was free with swagbuck amazon gift cards (only $5 anyway through amazon), and it serves as a gift for Bryton too!   Also, forgot this one, using the Kohl's cares plush animals ($5 a piece, I bought 2, my mom bought 2, and books, 2 and 2 again) as decor on tables.  Bryton gets to keep these as well.  Not to mention all of the other Dr. Seuss books that we already own (I literally bought some when I was like 18 on a huge lot on ebay because I wanted them for my kids later on!)

Treatbags:  I used brown paper sacks, put a Dr. Seuss sticker on them, and wrote each child's name on their bag.  With such a large age difference I had to do the 'baby bags' differently.  Itty babies got a boardbook (sets of 2 at the dollar store for $1), bigger babies got a board book and a jar of food for their age, big kids got two suckers (halloween candy 50% off sale ;), an apple, a tiny box of raisins (10 for 10 for the bags of 15 little boxes at our Kroger this week), and a thing of bubbles (.50 for 6 containers on the clearance rack at Wal-Mart).  The theme for the Treatbags:  All of Bryton's favorite things.  I wanted to put things in the bag that he really liked to share with his friends!

Gift:  This is one I haven't talked about yet.  Here is where swagbucks comes in again... you guys have heard me talk about it.   Aaron and I decided in about August that we wanted to get B a tricycle, a real tricycle with pedals and all, for his birthday this year.  We found the one we liked on Amazon, and I started saving swagbucks.  Within about 6 weeks I'd saved the $50 or so in Amazon gift cards needed to buy him that tric ;)  He also is getting all of the previously mentioned books, dvd's, plush animals, etc.  PLUS, I ordered him Dr. Seuss' birthday book for his guests to sign :)  Should be fun!

Check back for pictures soon!


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Happy Birthday Bryton!

Two years ago this morning, at 1:15 a.m., I laid my eyes on this little guy.  8 lbs, 3 oz, 20 inches long, with the cutest chubby cheeks I've ever seen in my life.  I knew right away he had my dimple.

 Mom and dad were so tired, but were so incredibly proud.  This new little bundle of joy would change our lives in ways we never expected.  He would teach us about God's love, a Father's love. 

 And he was so incredibly tiny, even for a very average size baby.  Sandwiched in his little sleep positioner, he was barely big enough to stretch from one length of it to the other.  He looked so small in his huge crib.  I spent hours during the day watching him sleep, listening to his sounds, and holding him against me.  Never did I realize how quickly 2 minutes old (picture one), 
would turn to two weeks old (picture 3),
would become two years old (below). 
My little brunette baby boy has turned into a little blue eyes, blonde haired, rambunctious toddler who loves balls, trucks, apples, and music.
Happy Birthday, B... regardless of how old you get, you'll always be my baby boy.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Frugal Party Planning: Food

I'm not going to lie, I don't have all of the food purchased and ready for Friday yet, but there's a reason why.  I'll explain that later... let's just start from the beginning. 
In deciding to do a Dr. Seuss birthday party I needed to keep with the theme (of course), so I started thinking of what kind of things would be food related to a Dr. Seuss theme.  I'm sure you're thinking the exact initial thought that I had: Green Eggs and Ham!  And so was birthed the menu:
  • Green Deviled Eggs and Ham and Cheese Sliders (warm ham and cheese sandwiches)
  • Poodles of Noodles (Pasta Salad)
  • Lick your Lips Potato Chips
and then dessert:
  • Thing 2 Cupcakes (Since Bryton will be 2)
  • Regular Cupcakes
  • A person's a person Cakeballs
  • Green Egg Sugar Cookies
  • We All Root For Fruit Kabobs
  • Dandy's of Candy
So here's the just of it all, as far as the main course:
  • My MIL offered to make something so I chose to let her make the deviled eggs. 
  • I'm going Thursday / Friday to buy the stuff for the ham and cheese sliders.  Why?  Because I hope to find some good deli bread on manager's special, that won't matter because I'm using it same day ;) 
  • My mom is making the pasta salad, and I have alllll of the pasta saved up from sales in which I got all of the boxes for FREE with my coupons! 
  • And the potato chips?  Let's just say if you wait until after Halloween, even the candy and 'treat sized' bags of chips go on sale.  So, I bought 44 packages of cheeto/doritos for $5 and a box of 40 pretzels for $2.59.  With about 40 guests, I should have enough for everyone to have two (if they need them) and have some left over for home!  I also bought all of the candy half off that day, as well as a box of 40 miniature bags of popcorn (to cook in the microwave) for $3.39, regularly $9.98!  Woo hoo!
As far as desserts:
  • I did cupcakes for Bryton's birthday last year too, just because I like doing them.  This year my job is going to be a little more simple.  Last year the cupcakes were fairly complex and took a lot of time.  On top of that I used two batches of homemade icing (which does add up in expense.)  This year, the cupcakes I'm making calls for regular icing, so using coupons I bought the cake mix and the icing for more than 50% off.  For the cakeballs the only added ingredient was candy melts, which I purchased full price :( 
  • I have the sugar cookie mix already in the cupboard, which I got for free with coupons, and I'm actually going to make my own icing for this for decorating, I have everything but powdered sugar.  (I have powedered sugar, but not the full two pounds I need.)
  • I still need to buy fruit for the fruit kabobs (I'll let you know how that goes).
  • And the candy was listed as above. 
A little bit of planning goes a long way.  What holiday, etc, is your party planned around that you could score some good deals with?  Even my popcorn I bought doesn't expire until September 2011... that could be used any time in the next year!!! 

Monday, November 1, 2010

Bryton's Birthday Week Series: Frugal Party Planning / Maintaining a Theme

Saving money is part of who I am now.  I'm a planner by nature so it all works out pretty well, but being that I didn't start this major couponing / frugal living until January of this year, this was my first party planning on a 'budget'.  So I thought it'd be beneficial to go through and document some of my money saving and budget saving techniques for planning a party. 

Day 1's topic - Maintaining a Theme. 
Two things you should know up front about me:  I want the party to be unique, I'm not that 'buy the box' kind of gal who chooses a character and buys all the stuff in that 'category' to go with it.  (Not that that is a bad thing, it's just not me.)  Second, I want my kids' birthday parties to be something special.  They'll get an option every year as they get older as to what they want to do for their birthday.  If they want a party, great.  If they want to go some place fun, great, but they get to choose one.  Until they are able to decide... I'm doing some light party planning ;)

Bryton's theme for his party this year is:  Bryton's Seussical 2nd Birthday.  I chose this theme because he loves books, and for a long time, the only books we could read him were Dr. Seuss books.  In fact, we had Dr. Seuss' ABC's memorized for car rides.  And me, well, I love Dr. Seuss just as much as he does, so it seemed like a good fit. 

The first thing I did was start researching the internet.  I found some blogs of other moms who had done similar parties for their kids and I borrowed some of their ideas.  (You'll see some of these later on this week.) I even know one mom who had a Dr. Seuss party for her twins, and she offered me their left over things!  (Thanks Arje!)

I also found that, believe it or not, one particular website actually carries Dr. Seuss related party items.  Rather than spend $3-$5 per 8 or 12 pack of plates, napkins, cups, etc, I bought about half of the plates and napkins that I needed, some stickers that were on clearance (these come into play in a minute), and called it good.  Then, I went to a $1 store and bought matching solid colored napkins, cups, plates, and tablecovers.  I get the effect of the printed plates, without the cost.

The stickers I then put on plain paper sacks, which I plan to fill with items for a 'treat bag' for the kiddo guests.  

Then, I started planning what else I could do with the theme.  Games are hard with the age group of kids we are having... Bryton is 2, just a wee bit young for the pin the tail and pinata things (which will be great next year... I'm not going to lie, I thought long and hard about a pinata this year!), so I decided to stick with the theme and I made one of Bryton's birthday presents the DVD "Horton Hears a Who".  Being that we are having his party in our youth room at our church, we can project it on the big screen and have it playing throughout a good deal of the party!  It should be perfect for our kids aged about 6 weeks - about 6th grade!

On the tables will be the solid colored tablecovers, twisted crepe paper, and everyone will have a Dr. Seuss coloring sheet "placemat", printed from the Dr. Seuss website, and I'll have mason jars of crayons on each table. 

The invitations I made were two-fold.  For parents of toddler - school aged kids I made little Dr. Seuss books for the invitations.  All of the details were on the last page.  Other guests got the same poem invitation, just in 1/2 sheet form rather than book form. 

This saved me all costs except for the 50 sheets of cardstock that were $4.99, but that I got 40% off at Hobby Lobby. 

I'll mention it briefly here, but you'll have to check back tomorrow for the details:  when planning a party for possibly 50 people, there has to be a lot of food, so I found some ways to cut corners on everything from the main menu to dessert.  Some of my budgeting technique:  just start buying things early!
Check back tomorrow for more on the food!


Saving 71% at Kroger

Mega Events at Kroger generally make me very very happy.  This week's mega event is no different... and we've had 3 weeks of different mega events now!  Woo hoo!  After looking at the ad yesterday, I decided I couldn't wait to go to Kroger.  Our Kroger is so small that I know products sale out fast, and I knew if everything was in stock I could add essentials to my stockpile at home.  Before I list my deals, here's a couponing tip:  Don't just buy things because they are on sale, it helps to have an idea of what you may use them for first.  If you buy them and never use them, it's not a deal at all.  (I only buy things I don't 'need' when I get them free or for overage.  I can either donate them or figure out a way to use them, then if I don't, no biggie.)
My deals today:
  • 2 Cans of Dole Mandarin Oranges (not in the mega event, but I had a .50 off 2 coupon and they were 10 for 10.  Since the coupon doubled it made each can .50 each.)
  • 5 Cans of Del Monte Tomatoes (Our Kroger has a small collection.  I ended up buying 5 stewed to use in Chili since we don't use diced very often.)
  • 4 Cans of Kroger fruit (the 'light' version of the Kroger is my favorite anyway... no syrup, no sweetners, stored in pear juice... good for the growing boy... and his mom ;)
  • 4 Cans of Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup (for casseroles)
  • 2 Cans of Campbell's Select Harvest soup (the same 'flavor' so I can make it a meal with sandwiches)
  • 2 Cans of Campbell's Chunky Soups (again, same flavor)
  • 2 Cartons of Swansons Chicken Broth (great for my 'white chicken chili')
  • 5 Cans of Swanson Broth (3 beef for beef and noodles, 2 chicken to have on hand)
  • 3 Cans of Campbell's Gravy (again, got beef for the beef and noodles)
  • 1 Can of Ocean Spray Cranberry Sauce (just because I love it, hoping Bryton will too, makes a good side dish)
  • 2 Boxes of Stovetop Stuffing (again, makes good side dishes)
I used:
  • Dole Coupon for .50 off 2 Mandarin Oranges
  • $1.00 off 5 Del Monte Tomotoes
  • .50 off 2 Cartons of Swanson Broth (doubled)
  • .50 off 5 Cans of Swanson broth (doubled)
  • .25 off 4 Cans of Campbell's Condensed "Good for Cooking" soups (doubled)
  • .50 off 2 Select Harvest healthy request soups (doubled)
  • .50 off 2 Campbell's Chunky health request soups (doubled)
In all, that was 2 Cartons of Broth, 2 boxes of stuffing, and 28 canned goods for...
$15.43 after mega event deals and coupons! 
 I saved $38.27 and gained the piece of mind that I have everything stockpiled that I need for 3 batches of Beef and Noodles (minus the beef), several batches of chili (minus the ground beef and the tomato sauce, which is less than .50 a can), at least a couple of soup nights with no extra needs, everything I need for at least 3 nights of chicken casserole, and lots of side dishes and fruit for us all to eat!