Pages

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Who Is this Girl?

Yep - that's me on the left and my good pal, Mindy, on the right.  We decided during our junior year of high school to dress up for halloween and go trick or treating (duh, free candy!).  Of course, the obvious selection for halloween costumes were the free football jerseys from our boyfriends and the tights and pads from Mindy's brother's football careers.  (May I mention that these pads we are wearing are from when they were, oh, say elementary / middle school age.)  If you can look past the awful bangs, you'll find this stick figure of a girl (I mean, come on, look at those forearms! I was really flexing, here!)... all 105 pounds of me at that moment.  I did everything to gain weight, mostly fulfilling the large appetite I had and drinking a few extra strawberry shakes (and the halloween candy I mentioned above).  To further add to the irony of the big, tough football player I was posing as, a few select individuals called me 'Buff' through the high school years, and I always explained it with a laugh by saying, "It's like calling a big dog Tiny."  All of that to say this:  if there was one thing I am not, nor have ever been, it is athletic.  These costumes were funny because, well, look at me.  They didn't call me 'Buff' because I was so toned up, but rather because I was stick thin and weak.  I never really had any reason to work out, mostly because I was always trying to gain weight, not lose it, and because I was too afraid to ever compete in any kind of sport, which brings me to this:

FACT:  I squalled my eyes out in the 6th grade after getting my first 'D' on a math test (although I still got an 'A' in the class. )

FACT:  I planned my high school P.E. schedule around the physical fitness testing, because I knew I couldn't pass. 

FACT:  One of the most vivid memories I have of fighting with Aaron came after a day at the gym when he was trying to get me to bench press a bar on an incline, and I just knew that I couldn't do it.  I was mad, he was pushing me and he was mad... it got ugly really quickly.  (BTW - ended up I was capable of benching the bar...)

FACT:  I did workouts for three months over the summer to play basketball my freshman year of high school.  I never missed one.  Then, when tryouts came around, I never even considered going. 

FACT:  The only organized sport I have ever played was softball... for two years in summer league.  The pressure of batting was enough to turn me off. 

FACT:  In the time span of about 6 years I successfully quit 3 dance classes, gymnastics, band, and well, the previously mentioned softball team. 

Do you see a trend?  I'm a quitter at heart, and as an adult I've finally figured out what it stems from... the fear of failure and embarrassment.  Of course I didn't want to do a physical fitness test, I didn't want confirmation of what I already knew in my head... I was a failure.  Of course I didn't try out for basketball after doing all of the work for it, I felt like everyone else thought I was horrible, and what if I screwed something up?  That'd be embarrassing!  I never want to fail in front of people.  

And I've mentioned this over and over and over in my blog, because it is so much a part of who I have always been.  It is so much a part of my thinking, regardless how small, every day.

Here I sit now, in this whole reinvention mode, wanting to change the little tendencies about me that I hate... the ones I don't want my kids to see and apply to their own lives.  I want my kids to know that it's not only okay to fail, but it is encouraged!  How will you ever know what you are good at, capable of, or suck at if you don't at least give trying a valiant effort?! 

And so I did something tonight I never thought I would do (and to be frank, never really want to do again, either, though I'm going to):  I joined a kickboxing class.  It's more like a kickboxing group.  There are only four of us, and it's four people I really trust, but even just the thought of working out in front of the instructor (who I also happen to be good friends with - though he was my first kiss in fifth grade ;) lol)  intimidates the, well, crap out of me.  I'd rather work out with Jillian in my own living room, and if I fail no one has to know it but me. 

But the truth is I need the accountability of the group to keep motivated.  I also need to prove to myself that I am strong enough, not only to be successful at this (which could easily be debated if that is even possible), but also to endure the many failures that I'll have to overcome to be successful... (like when punching you always start with your left hand, Alicia... duh)

Let's face it, 10 minutes (and that's being generous) into the work out, I found my legs giving out on me and me laying on the mat... how's that for humbling for your first experience.  Everything in me resorted back to that little girl who hated getting up to bat... the little girl who squalled with the 'd' on her math test, but rather than cry and run away (like I so desperately wanted to), I stared that scared little girl in the face, and I said aloud, "I will finish this," and I did. 

Now don't get me wrong, I came home and collapsed (fairly literally) on our futon and barked an order for Aaron to get me a glass of water, cold towel and a trashcan in case I threw up, but I finished it.  (Working out shouldn't really make me this miserable, should it?)

And so three days a week I'll face the fear of screwing something up, embarrassing myself, not understanding or even being capable of performing a feat, and people thinking less of me when they see, without doubt, how very weak and nonathletic I actually am. 

And I hope through it all that I get stronger, physically and emotionally, more confident, and regain a better grasp on the idea that people don't really care all that much whether I'm an amazing athlete or a 26 year old stay at mom trying to lose a few inches around her waist and get rid of the remnants of a 10 pound child's growing place all while having a good time. 

Until next time -
A

Father's Day Planning is Underway...


So, I shouldn't have to repeat that I'm a planner by nature, right?  I'm sure most of you have gotten that by now.  Most of you have probably come to the conclusion that I love having reasons to revel in the obsession, and as I'm sure many of you know, Father's Day is upon us, and we will be celebrating daddies in just nineteen short days! 

Believe it or not - with everything else that has been going on recently, I've just now made the final decisions and am just getting to the place to work out the details.  (And I haven't even got to that place with grandparents / our parents yet... hmmm.  One thing at a time, I suppose.) 

Anyway - I'd share with you all of the intimate details of father's day for the dear father of our offspring, but seeing that my hubs humors me and visits the blog, I'll refrain for hope that I can keep a secret until the surprise comes to be! 

Maybe this sounds awful, but mother's day and father's day have become of much more importance to me as I've grown and experienced parenthood myself.  I know that sounds selfish and awful like, "Of course you would, Alicia, you just want the day to be about you," but it's really not about that at all.  It's about finally understanding what it feels like to willingly give up your own desires in order to better take care of your children.  It's about tucking in and saying prayers and about kissing scraped knees and displaying kindness and patience.  It's about discipline and mercy, teaching and learning.  It's about compassion and understanding.  It's 3:00 a.m. wake up cries when they are babies and 3:00 a.m. wake up calls when they're teens.  It's a love that surpasses understanding, rivaling only that of the love God has for us, but not even scratching the surface of it's depth.  It is uncircumstantial, unrelenting, forever and always love.  Gentle and tough, through all trials and joys... it's an emotion and a choice kind of love.  Mother's day and father's day should not be a day where we sit back and say "Look what I do, let me lounge while you cater to me for once," it should be a celebration of this love that only God could allow us to feel.  It's a celebration of the joy brought to us by the smiles of our children.  It's a time to celebrate the title of 'mother' or 'father', as not everyone gets that chance...

Children are a gift from the Lord... the keyword... gift.  We are the recipients... not they. 

-A

Sunday, May 29, 2011

An Ecclectic Collection of Reading (and other musings)

Let's see, I've gone from a book about happiness (from a non-religious or spiritual point of view), to a book by Donald Miller (who isn't the most popular 'Christian' author in some Christian circles), and I have an Audrey Hepburn book on hold at the library.  The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is on my reading list for June, and I'm supposed to be borrowing a book from a friend called Heaven is For Real.  I've even attempted (sorry, Craig, that's as much as I've been able to do with this book) a book called God as Author.  I'm sure it's good, it just reads a little textbookish at times, and I'm finding it hard to keep my attention. 

Anyway - all of that said for me to say this:  I'm doing it on purpose.  There's so much I could say about being a creature of variety, yet habit.  There are so many points I could make about how all of these books could represent a quality and an interest of mine, and everything I said would probably be true, but what I'm learning as I get older, and the thing that is probably the most important reason that I try to read selections in such different genres, is due to the fact that God can use a lot of different means, methods, and avenues to mold us, teach us and shape us into the person He created us to be. 

The book on happiness brought me to a couple great discoveries about myself:
  1. I am who I am because that's who I am, and that's a great thing. 
  2. A list of goals for me goes a long way!
  3. And an improved attitude and willingness (on my part) to enjoy life may make all of the difference in some daily grievances.  
Those are good things to learn, that also contribute to growing me spiritually.

To share a little bit about this Donald Miller book (which I've read partially prior).  Here are a few quotes from the book (whether you like Donald Miller or not) that stepped on and crunched my toes:

"To be honest, though, I don't know how much I like my spirituality being relational.  I suppose I believe this is true, but the formulas seem much better than God because formulas offer control; and God, well, He is like a person, and people, as we all know, are complicated.  The trouble with people is they do not always do what you tell them to do... The formulas propose that if you do this and this, God will respond."

After talking about "I Dream of Jeannie" and how he wanted a Jeannie himself, "I realize of course, that is very silly, and there is no such thing as a genie who lives in a lamp, but it makes me wonder if secretly we don't wish God were a genie who could deliver a few wishes here and there.  And that makes me wonder if what we really want from the formulas are the wishes, not God."

"Some would say formulas are how we interact with God, that going through motions and jumping through hoops are how a person acts out his spirituality.  This method of interaction, however, seems odd to me, because if I want to hang out with my friend Tuck, I don't stomp my foot three times, turn around and say his name over and over like a mantra, lighting candles and getting myself in a certain mood.  I just call him.  In this way, formulas presuppose God is more a computer or a circus monkey than an intelligent Being."

I appreciate the toe stepping, and am able to use ideas to allow Christ to develop me more fully...

And how does our friend Audrey fit in?  I'm a writer by nature, and quite honestly, she has some pretty amazing, well thought out, well articulated quotes out there that make my heart breathe easy.  Seriously.  I really believe reading about her may make me a better writer, and possibly a better individual (seriously, the only thing I know of Audrey Hepburn are some quotes of hers, and that is enough to intrigue me.) 

All of that said to say this:  is it fair to say that God could be teaching us a great deal about Him and even about ourselves through means that aren't intrinsically or ultimately Christian.  I think that's exactly the case!  In fact, look through Jesus' parables and ideas, the people who He conversed with, and what He used to get his points across... it wasn't about the work of John Calvin or Martin Luther, it was about sowing and plowing fields, the faith of children and social status' of tax collectors.  It's the reason that, despite how we felt about him or how we agreed with him, we were still able to take something from Ted Haggard's talk at youth specialties last fall. 

In other news - notice at the top of the blog I've added some new pages :)  Keep a watch on those, you never know what may pop up :)

And enjoy your holiday weekend - I need a beach :) 

-A

Saturday, May 28, 2011



How does this look?  I know, that's what I thought!  Bliss!  What if I told you that you could go for 4 days, 3 nights, all inclusive, meals, drinks (even alcohol), and even a round of golf or massage and it'd only cost you $299 for TWO people.  Yep - the $299 price is for 2!  The extra cost is airfare and wasn't nearly as bad as I expected (for the dates I chose on American it was around $1000 round trip for 2).

Another daily deal site, this deal is on eversave!  Go here  to check it out!!!  You have until April 30th, 2012 to book... it's hard to pass up!

Gonna buy?  Use the code PARTY for $3 off!!  Hey, every little bit helps!

Friday, May 27, 2011

We Made the Switch

Crib to toddler bed.  Yep, I considered long and hard, and before I let myself over-think it, I found myself with the little wrench tool taking Bryton's side off of his crib.  (That's the glory in convertible cribs... it would have taken me all of ten minutes to put it back together if all else failed.) 

How'd it go, you ask?  Well, I made the conversion before a nap.  (So it would give me an idea what kind of fight I was going to be up against.  I'm much more patient at night time than at bedtime.)  Only one time during the nap did he remotely get out of his crib (only his legs lol) and did I go back in and tell him to get all of him back in the crib.  (Got to nip it in the bud, you know?)  Granted, he spent the endurance of what was naptime fake crying, which happens about once a week anyway, so I just let him be and chalked it up to the possibility that it had nothing to do with his crib. 

Fast forward to the evening, Bryton had a normal evening routine, went to bed with a little struggle, which isn't totally normal, but once I left he was fine and laying there.  It took him all of maybe 5 minutes to be out, and ahhh the bliss, he was asleep in his big boy bed! 

A few hours after he'd went to sleep we noticed that he was sleeping the 'wrong way' in his bed and his head was just hanging over the edge... by a lot!  I wanted to go in and fix him, Aaron swore he'd fix himself, and he eventually did.  About an hour later as I was getting ready to go to bed myself, I noticed Bryton was not in his crib.  (This is the glory of a video monitor!)  No, alas, he was layin' on the floor in front of it, snoozin' away and wrapped up in his comforter! 

I couldn't just let him sleep on the floor (and I didn't want him waking up in the middle of the night and freaking out about where he was - no need ruining a good thing), so I went it and picked him up and laid him back in bed. 

The rest of the night went smoothly and normally... he didn't even get out of bed when he woke up in the morning until I went in and told him to!  Now, I'd be lying if I said that I woke up several times to check the monitor throughout the night!  Can't have any children roaming the house unattended, or the neighborhood for that matter :)  (Just kidding, we put a gate in front of his door so he couldn't escape ;)

So let's pray it continues to go as smoothly.  So far so good ;)

-A

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Another Deal Worth Mentioning

Go check out Carter's website!  They've got a great summer sale going on right now!  Go through ebates for 2.5% cashback and use coupon code LETSPLAY for 25% off!!!  (Don't use the 20% of Memorial day code, since 25% is obviously better.)  Shipping is a flat rate of $6 so I'd purchase a few items to make it worth it!

I've Always Liked to Write

So.  Apparently I've always liked to write.  Apparently I haven't always been very good at it either...

Just the other night my mom ran across a journal I kept in 1st grade.  Yep, 1st grade.  I'm sure it was a mandatory journal from my 1st grade class, but reading through it was humorous.  So to share the humor, I'm going to randomly share some 1991 / 1992 journal entries with you all periodically.  Here are a few to start out: (Please note that journal entries will always be written as they are written in my notebook.  I'll translate if needed ;)

- (No date) "When we go to the Polls today I thag At I will see Mi MoM and DaD"
Translation:  When we go to the polls today, I think that I will see my mom and dad.  
(I have a very nice picture of my parents drawn at the bottom where my mom is wearing a nice peach dress, has no feet, large ears and thick arms.  My dad on the other hand is apparently wearing a flannel shirt and pants, has feet, but they somewhat resemble his mouth, which resembles a glazed doughnut.)

- (January 8, 1992) "To day I Wos bod be cos I did not have fun  The end"
Translation:  (As best as I can gather) Today I was bad, because I did not have fun.  The End.
(No such funny picture with this entry.  I must have really been having a rough day.)

And to end this humorous post (I'll do this often, it's fun) - here's a doozy (sorry, Casey :)

- (January 16, 1992) "Today casey wos not Keeping his hns and feet and obshs to his sov. 
                                  The end
                         and I did not have fun
                     Now thta is The end.
                          Aliciacrawford.
                     oh and do you no weo he did that?"
Translation:  Today Casey was not keeping his hands and feet and objects to his self.  The end.  And I did not have fun.  Now that is the end.  Alicia Crawford.  Oh and do you know why he did that?
(No funny picture with this one either, darn.)

Until we timewarp again...
-A

Taking Control of Your Finances: Part 4 - Pay Attention

This is a small step.  In fact, it's a teeny step, but it is monumental in making your finances work out for your good.  One of the biggest ways to start saving money and to stop spending, and paying attention to where money is leaking out, and tightening the proverbial pipes may just make all of the difference. 

I mentioned this before when I told you all that I would be incorporating an "online spending" segment into our budget, simply because we cannot pay cash for those things, and if there is a place money leaks, it's getting our credit card statements and going, "Hmmm, I didn't realize I spent that much," and the expenses usually stem from a $20 purchase here, a $3 purchase there, a $17 purchase there, and by the time you're done you have a credit card statement that reads $100.  (And a zero based budget that now has to be manipulated to pay it off.) 

So the question is, where are you leaking?  Is the leak in your gas tank and the money that goes into it?  Is the leak in buying a Starbucks coffee every morning?  Or an extra toy for your kid once a month?  Or going out to eat?  Maybe it's a soda out of the soda machine a couple times a day 5 times a week.  Pay attention to where your money is going!  Maybe it doesn't mean cutting out that soda (either completely or at all), maybe it just means working it into your budget somehow so you are cutting back somewhere else to indulge in that thing that is of a higher priority to you. 

So for June - watch for leaks, then you do the plumbing! 

Let me know how the financial revolution goes in your life! 

-A

A Sale Worth Mentioning






For those of you who are The Children's Place shoppers, you do not want to miss this sale!  Go check out the website and search their $5 day deals AND the sale section (which contains several items at a 70% discount!), combine that with the coupon code (insert at checkout) EBATES5C for another 15% off, AND there is free shipping on all orders right now!  To make the deal even better, shop through ebates and earn 3% cashback!  Hey, every little bit helps!!!  Hurry in, sizes are going fast!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

I Won the Dresses ;)

Yes, indeedy :)  With the help of lots of facebook friends, we had enough 'likers' who commented that Alicia sent them to win Ansley free holiday dresses for the rest of the year! 

You can count on seeing some pictures coming up!  This is one of the  outfits on her facebook right now!  Isn't it adorable?!  It's a good thing she has these made in sizes too large for Ansley right now, or I'd be buying one up :)  You can still go 'like' her and check it out for yourself here.

Taking Control of Your Finances: Part 3 Getting Out of Debt

We're talking baby steps for June - so don't expect these tips to get you out of debt in a month, or expect these to be all you need to do to get out of debt... look at these as a good start.  This is a shorty blog, so I'll try to keep it that way ;)
  1. Make room in your budget to pay down debt.  Maybe it means cutting out on eating out for awhile.  Maybe it means couponing your hiney off to cut your grocery down to bare minimum.  More inconvenient, maybe it means taking on a 2nd (or in some cases a 3rd) job for a period of time to tackle the debt head on.  Either way... make room in your budget and stick to it, monthly!
  2. Tackle your smallest debt first.  I know, doesn't make a great deal of sense.  Most people would say to tackle the debt with the greatest interest rate, but the idea is that if you pay down one to the point of paying it off, that generates the moral and motivation to keep it going.  
  3. After you've paid off the smallest, go to the next smallest, and so forth.  Dave Ramsey (our financial guru) calls this the snowball effect. 
  4. Work to not accumulate any more debt.  This sounds like a no brainer, but seriously, it's easy for debt to accumulate with not much effort.  Even if you just purchase a few things online with a credit card, it's easy for those few things to turn into a few more, to a few more, and those few things add up!  Nothing is too dramatic to save yourself the trouble.  Dave Ramsey would greet you with a pair of scissors and a trash can ;) 
Watch tomorrow for part 4 where we'll sum everything up!

-A

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Some Random Things and Looking for Advice

I'm getting really good at random posts ;)  I don't have to think too much to write them!  So here we go!
  • So in the Gregg household at the moment, we are considering turning Bryton's baby bed (crib) to a big boy bed (toddler bed).  I debate back and forth on whether to do it.  It literally almost just happened 5 minutes ago, but I'm busy trying to get 'likes' on facebook at the moment (more on that in a minute.)  I'm nervous about doing it because I'm concerned about naptime.  This momma covets and cherishes naptime.  Bryton still needs naptime.  But naptime rarely happens without a pretty large crying episode in his crib.  If he's not contained then I'm nervous he won't stay put.  He's not tried to climb out or anything, so safety isn't any kind of an issue at this point.  For momma's who have been there... thoughts?  Go for it or wait it out, and if I go for it, any tips?  I kind of want him switched over by the time Ansley is in his room with him... maybe a month or so?  
  • Which brings me to number 2.  Help a sister out with some more advice:  For those of you who had children sharing a bedroom... how did you make that work?  I mean, well, here's the dilemma... we are in a two bedroom home, (at the moment), and Ansley eventually has to make it into her crib in Bryton's room (she's in ours right now).  She's sleeping through the night pretty consistently (can't say that without saying 'knock on wood' - so knock on wood), but she gets up a little earlier than Bryton and goes to sleep way earlier than Bryton.  He's pretty quiet after going to bed so I'm not so much afraid of him waking her up as I am her waking him up early... or us waking her up putting him to bed... I don't want to mess up the preciousness of sleeping through the night!!!  She goes to bed between 6:45 and 7:15... him at around 8:30.  Suggestions?  Also, she gets up anywhere between 6 and 7 usually.  Occasionally she'll make it to 7:30... I'm thinking if I get in to get her fairly quickly he may keep sleeping?? What were your experiences?  What things should I consider?  Any tips?
  • In other news - I've spent the day trying to win Miss Ansley dresses for every holiday for the rest of the year ;)  A woman I've bought some dresses from (she makes boutique style clothing) is having a contest on her facebook to get people to 'like' her page... the more people that go saying I referred them, the better chance of Ansley winning :)  SOOO - if you want to here's the link ;)  
  • I'm having a lot of fun with my Scentsy stuff - and I've not even had a party yet ;)  (Although my launch party is Sunday!  I'm nervous!  If you want to order something you can let me know, come on Sunday, or even order through my website by clicking on "Alicia's launch party".  Every little bit helps me get off the ground!)  Anyway - I've booked 3 parties so far.  I've organized all of my scents, and picked out new favorites for me!  Plus found lots of new warmers I love!  Guess I chose a good thing to sell.  I love this stuff!
  •  I've picked out the two books I'll be reading in June... be prepared for blog thoughts on them... the first is a re-read for me, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe!
  • I can't get this Joplin disaster out of my head.  The stuff on the news astounds me.  I wish I could pack up and go help, but I don't even know the proper way to do that.  I mean, I want to be a help, not a hindrance, you know?  It wasn't that long ago Aaron was baptized in a creek there in Joplin!  What a tragedy.  I hate tornadoes!
Is that enough random thoughts for one day?  I think so... off to win dresses, hopefully :)

-A
 

Taking Control of Your Finances: Part 2 - Budgeting

I hope you all try this!  I want to prove to you how easy a budget is to create.  (Sticking to it on the other hand, well, that takes discipline and will power.  I will say this:  Just knowing that we have enough money to pay our bills and put money away for special things is enough to motivate me to stick with our budget!  Find your reason!)  If you have one hour in week 2 in June, you have enough time to create your budget!  Here are the steps I took to create ours a couple of years ago (once you do it the first time, it's easy to adjust and manipulate as you need to!  takes only minutes here and there!).  I hope these steps help you, too!
  1. Figure out what your actual 'take home' pay amounts to.  For us it's easy, because Aaron has been the one working, and he's on salary.  He brings home two paychecks a month and they are exactly the same.  Now, take into consideration I just started selling Scentsy.  When I start producing an income, that money will have to 'go somewhere' in our budget (we do a zero balanced budget, I'll explain that later).  Rather than count on me making a certain amount of money each month, we'll put all of my income into a place of excess like savings or put extra in miscelanious, or towards a vacation fund, etc.  I would, obviously, not count on my income to put into a grocery budget when who knows when I may have a bad month?  In other words, if you are on an ever changing income, calculate what you would expect to be your lowest month worth of take home pay... that is what you really have to work with in your budget.  Then, anything else that comes in those months could go towards 'extra' things.  
  2. Once you have your income established, gather all of the things you pay out on.  And I mean EVERYTHING.  Our budget pay outs include: tithe (twice a month), we give to our church's building fund (two separate pay outs - we believe that the building fund is above and beyond our tithe amount), our mortgage (which includes our home owners insurance and property taxes), cell phone bill, we sponsor a world vision child, our water bill, car payment (only one and we're working to get rid of that), car insurance, life insurance, trash bill, gas and electricity bills, directv bill, internet bill, and then we have grocery, miscellaneous, our savings, and the kids savings that we give to every month.  Start with all of the things that have a set amount.  Write all of those down.  
  3. Add all of these up and subtract that from your take home pay each month (the total established in number one.)  What you have left over is what you have to spend on the expenditures that change a lot but are the easiest to control like what you spend at the grocery store, what you spend on eating out, gas, clothing, etc.  For us, these include our grocery, misc., and savings categories.  
  4. This is where the budgeting comes in.  We do a zero balanced budget, which means that every dollar that comes into this household is accounted for.  When every dollar is accounted for, it's 'spent' before we get it, and it cannot be spent on anything else (even if that means that some of the money is 'spent' when it goes into our savings account.)  We rarely have anything significant in our checking account, it all goes someplace else.  So, now is when you take all of those payments you can count on, all of those payments that are relatively the same, and then all of your 'other' categories (such as the ones listed in number 3) and assign everything a dollar amount that, added together, equals your bring home pay.  In other words, when you subtract all of your expenditures from your take home pay you should get $0.  (It's important to note that for us, having a 'grocery budget' and 'miscellaneous budget' works for us.  I don't have to separate 'miscellaneous' into a whole bunch of different categories - though I do sanction out money to eat on occasionally.  You may be different!  You have to find what works for you!  For example:  I'm getting ready, when I re-evaluate our budget, to add an "internet purchases" category, as I've found that it's impossible to use cash in this category - which is what our miscellaneous category is, and that a place where money leaks is through purchases made online.  Making a category for this would allow me to have just enough in my checking account to have online expenditures that are paid for with cash - with our debit card.  Make sense?)
  5. This is the last part, and for me, the fun part.  It's the organizing part of it.  I put together all of our expenditures and separated them into two different categories... those that I pay on the first day of the month and those that I pay on the 15th day of the month.  This saves me all kinds of trouble.  A.) Every bill that comes in goes straight to a bill basket and I know it's on my budget and when it gets paid (without having to try to organize it.)  B.) I only have to pay bills twice a month, which means I can sit down and do it all at those times, and it becomes so easy that it's almost a 'brainless activity.'  C.) No more going to the the mailbox and having the 'kick in the gut' kind of feeling like "what is this bill?"  I, then, put these two categories down onto a spreadsheet with boxes available for me to (X) them off when they've been paid.  Then, I always have my literal budget to look at if any manipulating needs done :)
Please comment if you have any questions.  If there's one thing that has contributed to my less stress about money - this has been it.  This allows me to know that there is enough money to cover our expenditures!

Tune in tomorrow for part 3 of the series:  Make a plan to pay off debt. 

Until then -
A

Monday, May 23, 2011

To help you with your couponing:

If you are a Lean Pockets fan, go 'like' lean pockets on facebook, and they'll give you a coupon for a buy 1 get 1 free package of lean pockets! :)  Push your browsers back button after it prints and you'll be able to print it twice!  If you can find a good sale before it expires, you'll have lean pockets for next to nothing!  (Or NOTHING if you can find a b1g1 free sale at your local grocer!)

Taking Control of Your Finances: Part 1

I start this blog series for two reasons:
  1. It's been a long time since I've done a finance blog, and I can be honest and say that half of the reason that I'm able to organize thoughts even to blog is because of the peace that has come from having our budget in place.  In the event that there are new readers, or old readers wanting to make their finances new, I felt it was worthy of being touched on again.  
  2. I'm reviewing our finances in the month of June, and it seemed like good timing to remind myself how to do this.  I also thought it'd be fun to do together and hear the feedback from you all!  SO - this blog series is written in such a way that there are 5 easy steps to revolutionize your finances in the month of June.  Obviously a month isn't long enough to pay off all of your debt and be financially secure, but it sure is long enough to start some good habits to lead you to those goals.  So my goal in these blogs are to give you easy steps that are not time consuming that anyone can incorporate into their lives and apply.
So part 1 is tackling the place where, if you are like me, people spend their most money without noticing it: at the grocery store.  I'm not just talking groceries here, I'm talking diapers if you have kids, I'm talking toiletries and cleaning supplies, I'm even talking all of your paper products.  All of the money that you would, essentially, spend at the grocery store.

This is how my financial revolutionary journey began.  I saw a friend who realized how much money she was spending at the grocery store each month, and it dramatically changed the way she shopped.  Which brings me to your first step for revolutionizing grocery shopping in the month of June:

  1. Sit down and get a realistic idea of what you are actually spending at the grocery store.  And I mean really.  Every stop in for a loaf of bread and gallon of milk, every candy bar, every grocery trip, every box of diapers, every bottle of shampoo and stick of deoderant should be included in this total.  Use your debit or credit card?  Get your statements out and tally it up.  Use cash?  Think about every purchase you made and guess a little high.  If you are like me there's something you've forgotten.  Finish this step before even moving on to the others.  You need to know that total.  Our total was around *gasp* $475 a month a year and a half ago. 
  2. Look at this number and decide how much you think you could practically cut outI'm going to address couponing here in a minute, so think about coupons when putting this together, but don't rely on them all together.  Life gets busy sometimes.  Don't sell yourself short, though, make it a goal that you know you have to work for! Initially, I cut $225 out of my grocery spending and set my budget at $250 a month, $125 every two weeks.  It made sense for me to divide our grocery budget by the number of 'pay periods' each month, as this is when my grocery budget would "refuel' itself. (Our grocery budget has since been revamped and is now $200 a month.. though it probably won't go much lower.)
  3. Use a method of payment that has a cap, in other words, when the money is gone, the money is gone.  This was the hardest step for us.  We used our debit card for everything.  We thought we could control that spending by controlling our purchases, but let's face it, since we knew the money was in the bank, we did a whole lot of small "it's just this once" purchases that killed our budget.  Those small purchases add up.  We use cash as our method of payment, just because there is an emotional response to seeing that money leave your hand and to see, physically, that when it's gone, it's gone.  If you are absolutely against using cash (which we were at the start and now look at us :) ) I do have a few friends who do some interesting things.  One friend keeps only the money in her checking account that is her grocery money.  If she has a $300 grocery budget, there may be $303.27 in her checking account, but it's never far over her actual budget.  Everything else goes in their savings account (easy to do now with online banking), and she watches their grocery budget like a hawk.  She has to as to not be overdrawn.  Another friend uses a gift card from the grocery store she shops at and reloads it every pay period with her grocery money.  Either way, there is a limited number of funds that are 'disposable' at that point. 
  4. Menu plan, practically.  What do I mean by that?  I mean go look in your refrigerator.  Go look in your freezer.  Check out the pantry.  Brainstorm what meals could already be made with stuff that you have in your house or could be with very few, inexpensive purchases.  Have chili seasoning, beans, and hamburger?  A couple cans of tomatoes or tomato sauce spends maybe a dollar out of your grocery budget for a batch of chili that could probably feed you for a dinner meal, and lunches again for leftovers.  Have frozen chicken and a marinade?  Make some homemade "poor mans" garlic bread (you know, bread out of the loaf, butter and garlic salt), and buy a veggie to compliment the meal, and you have another meal for the price of the veggie... and it's healthy.  Be creative.  This is the most important step of revolutionizing your grocery budget (yes, even over coupons, the coupons help, but you'll see how later.)  Set out to make your grocery list based on what you have on your menu plan.  Maybe you'll plan for a week at a time.  If you do, make sure you divi your grocery budget into weekly increments to see how much you have to spend.  I, sometimes, plan for two weeks at a time and leave enough money in my grocery budget to buy perishables or things I know we'll run out of like lunch meat, bread or fresh fruit (a staple in our house).  Then, when you grocery shop, stick to the list.  This step helps a ton of things!  It helps me not have to wonder 'what's for dinner tonight?', because I know what items I have in my house to make meals.  It expands my menu because to use up an item, say rice, I find recipes to use the items I have in my house... and now we have jambalaya :)  It makes grocery shopping faster and easier, and I don't end up throwing out a ton of food that I didn't use... or leave the grocery store with hundreds of dollars in groceries and wonder "now, what can I fix for supper."  It's definitely a win win, and may take you a half hour or so the first time, but you'll be surprised how easy it gets and how much money it saves you.  By the way, I normally put on my menu plan a day to eat out so that I know I have a day coming where I don't have to cook, I then set money aside out of my grocery or miscellaneous budget to do so.  Don't forget to add in breakfast foods, things you may need for lunch (but remember leftovers make good lunches), and snack foods!  
  5. Coupon.  I know, I know.  Life is busy, it's confusing, it takes too much time.  And you know, you may find that you are right, but I think it's worth a valliant effort for a month before you totally write it off.  Here's what I'm asking you to do: clip some coupons, either in your Sunday paper or print them online (coupons.com is a good resource).  Put a small amount of your grocery budget aside for couponed items.  (You'll see why this is important in just a few sentences.)  When you have your coupons clipped, take an hour - yes, set aside an hour - on the day of week that your grocery store (ahem - grocery store, not super center) puts out their new ad (you can usually look at these online), and see what coupons you have for things that are in their ad.  Often times you'll see that items come up cheap or sometimes free.  It helps to know your grocery stores coupon policy.  The most important thing I know about Kroger's coupon policy, they double coupons .50 or less.  Two weeks ago I bought 12 boxes of Ronzoni pasta (the pasta that we use), and they paid me .12 to take them off of their hands.  The pasta will last us, probably, the rest of the year and I paid nothing for it.  Last week we bought Sister Schubert's frozen rolls (5 packages to be exact) and a box of texas toast that we use for many of our meals, and I spent $6 for all of them.  They freeze so they last a long time, and I saved well over half on what I would have spent full price for later.  Obviously I won't use all of those in my menu plan, but (here's there important part of couponing), these purchase help build a stockpile of items for me to use in next week or next month's menu plan.  Without purchasing these, I run out of 'the stuff you already have in your house' to make the menu plan with!  Occasionally I use coupons for items that may be on my menu plan that current week, but more often than not, my best couponing is helping me save money later, not now.  See what I mean?  You need those stockpiled items to make the menu plan later.  Trust me, it's worth it, and not near as hard as it seems.  You can even use websites such as Southern Savers who will show you what items are on your stores sale ad that week and will match up coupons for you, many times giving you websites where you can print them!  It makes it really easy!  Start slow and work your way into it!  When you start seeing the money saved and how much it helps your menu planning, I'm betting you'll want to continue it!
And that's it's it.  I'm asking you to try that for one month.  Spend the first week of the month getting into the swing of things.  Once it gets easier you'll be able to make more drastic changes to your budget, but think about what you could be doing with an extra $200 a month or more!

Check back tomorrow for week 2 of June's activity - creating a budget.

-Alicia

Sunday, May 22, 2011

May Has a Week Left...

Which leaves me already thinking about June, of course :) 

(For those of you who don't know me, I used to be a major procrastinator.  I apparently have floated to the other extreme because I typically tend to be a major planner now.  I'm already planning Bryton's birthday party in November for goodness sakes :)

First, I've had to look at May's goals and decide what is worth keeping, altering, eliminating, etc.  Here's what I've come up with:
  • I've rekindled my love for reading.  I'm setting a fairly lofty goal for myself (because let's face it, between taking care of myself, feeding, bathing and sustaining the lives of two others, and doing housework, it's not like I'm wallering in the gift of extra time) I'm going to attempt to read two books a month.  Attempt is the keyword, so I'm kind of keeping my goal of the doing my thing for 'me'. 
  • Bryton's letter learning and project doing taught me one thing... it's nice to get to do special things with Bryton.  He's doing great on letters, and I know we'll keep up the project goal, but it may be something I do more in my making a conscious effort to do it more.
  • Working out... definitely sticking with it... may try some new things in June with it... we'll see.
  • Two dates and a girls night.  Definitely keeping the two dates.  Probably keeping the girls night... but may make it more of a "hang out with girls" time.  Hopefully Scentsy helps satisfy that goal some! :) 
  • Definitely sticking with getting in God's word.  I'll be out of Ruth, so I may do a NT book next time... hmmm, how about, 1 Timothy.  Yep, 1 Timothy is June.  
  • Going to try to stick with my housecleaning schedule.  I'll be honest, it's helped a LOT, mostly due to the fact that the house doesn't have the chance to get so dirty that it takes forever to get it clean.  It's basically a maintenance clean, and I can handle that!  Granted, I know we have some plans to be out of town here and there, so I'm going to do my best to fulfill my schedule when I'm home.  
So there's what is sticking around and what isn't.  So on to new goals.  Reading two books a month is kind of a new goal, and I don't want to add so much to my plate that I can't keep up with it all.  (I'm trying to find goals that I don't intend to keep around, but the goals for May were worthy of keeping...)  I'm not going to add as many goals as I did in May.  I figure May is a good foundation set of goals, now to build on those.  I'm limiting myself to three new ones.  They are:
  • (A Character Goal) - Portray and exhibit a more gentle spirit (gentleness) and have more fun in my every day life.  This encompasses, but is not limited to, yelling at Bryton less, watching my tongue and what I say, being slower to anger, and reacting positively when I am angry, making an effort to show love more often, to possess humility, to belly laugh at least once a day, to make both of my kids laugh and smile at least once a day, to take 'jokes' better (Aaron, this is not permission to pester me... then that would fall more in the 'being slow to anger' category), and to have, generally, a better attitude.  
  • I'm reworking our budget in June (hopefully - waiting to see when Aaron's checks change due to our health insurance premiums decreasing).  I'm going to work to make the budget more effective and to be able to put more money into savings each month. I'll keep you posted.  
  • And here's the doozy:  I want to learn how to better utilize my camera.  I have a book I'm looking through that talks all about aperture and focus and all of these other words that I'm completely unfamiliar with, so this is an incredible undertaking for me.  There are so many daily things I'd like to document and capture, but let's face it, I can't exactly tote Jason Hill around in my  back pocket to take awesome pictures for us all of the time... and the camera has the capability to do a decent job... it just has to be utilized properly.  The only thing that I've gathered from the book so far, is I probably need a better lens, so we'll see what my capabilities are with what I have... and we'll see if it's worth me getting that new lens :) 
So there ya go - you know I'll include you on the journey.  It should be a good one!

Hope everyone's Sunday is blessed and wonderful, after all, this is May 22, 2011, the day the Lord hath made... and it's even past May 21, 2011 ;)

-A

Saturday, May 21, 2011

This Week In Review

Goal wise:  I've barely hung on this week, if you can even call it that.  Our entire family is fighting allergies again, on top of Aaron being gone every night this week besides Monday... it's been challenging to say the least.  Bryton is, for lack of better terms, extremely sensitive when he isn't feeling right, making for a lot more fits and a lot more crying episodes out of him.  Due to this he has, unfortunately, spent much of his week in time out.  I've felt lousy, lousy enough even to have taken a nap, yes, friends, a nap, on Wednesday.  Those of you who know me know that I do not nap, ever, but somehow I managed to lay down when the kids did at about 1:30... expecting to either be up with Ansley in a couple of minutes to put a paci in (I was watching her on the monitor - video monitors are the greatest invention ever - and she was just loooookin' around) or in 45 minutes when she decided to wake up, but somehow, both kids decided to take longer than 2 1/2 hour naps that day!  It was 3:35 when I opened my eyes, still holding the monitor in my hand... and still feeling lousy.

So - as far as goals - Bryton's rocking out his letters, as you've seen in previous blogs... so that one is done for the month... as well as finishing my book.  The house, well, most of it got finished.  I've had to play catch up on laundry a couple times, but it was just getting it out of the dryer and to it's appropriate spots... so not too bad.  I did miss it all together today.  Oh well.  And I was supposed to clean the bathroom on Friday.  Have I mentioned I've felt really bad?  And so have my kids?  And that makes life difficult?  Okay.  The bathroom didn't get done.  So sue me.  I'll make it up, well, sometime.  I've done decent on Ruth this week.  This was a difficult chapter... a lot to take in - but a little at the same time.  I'm ready to move on to chapter 4.  I haven't got the 2nd date with my hubs yet... we're going to make it happen, somehow.  All I know is that he's a very busy man... and has his whole next week booked full... glad next weekend is a holiday weekend, we're going to need it to fit that date in... so that's me barely hanging on.

On lighter, more random notes:

The world is still... well, here.  And I'm happy with God on that decision.  Why?  Because I really want to see God doing a 'boo yah' to the false prophets who think that the "no one knows" verse doesn't apply to them.  You may as well be claiming to be God... and quite frankly, I would have been a little disappointed if God would have brought the world to end tonight, like He was giving them the satisfaction of being 'right'.  I'm glad He has other plans.

Totally bummed out that the David Crowder Band announced their split after this tour is over.  I mean, they have been around for the endurance of my more mature Christian life.  They've been around for all of my Christian music life.  So Aaron and I are planning a "our last Crowder experience'' trip.  It's the major end of an era.  It's kind of like our dog dying or something.  I know, weird analogy.

The Biggest Loser Finale is Tuesday, and yes, I'm extremely excited about that!  One obsession I have not shared previously on my blog is my love for The Biggest Loser.  I've seen almost every season from start to finish... it's the only show I really keep coming back to... but I love how radically people can change their lives in such a short period of time.  I especially love the finale because you see all of the people who left in the first couple of weeks, wonder to yourself, "Who are they again?" and then when  you remember you say, "Holy cow, they look completely different!"  Or.  at least those are the ones who are fun to see.  And I'm totally stoked that my girls Olivia and Hannah - the purple team - are both still standing in the final 3!  And I'm praying America voted the right way and kept Irene in the mix... girl has rocked out that gym, and hasn't been sent home, returned, and almost sent home TWO other times... cough cough.  She deserves to be there, but that is just my opinion. 

Once all of us get healthy again, Bryton's world is going to be rocked.  Since we aren't potty training currently (giving him another month and going to try... again) we may go ahead and switch his crib to a toddler bed.  We've not done it yet because, well, we haven't had to.  The one thing he's never done is crawled out or climbed out, and he's still all over the crib when he sleeps.  BUT - if Ansley keeps sleeping through the night pretty well (Oh please, Jesus, let her keep it up), she'll be moving into his room for nighttime sleep soon, and after she gets in there, I don't want anything disrupting the flow of things...  trying to pick one battle at a time, and trying to pick them in the right order.  We may still be a few weeks off on that...

AND - I'm working a lot this week on preparing for a dear friend's baby shower.  This is probably one of two showers I've been most excited about,  mostly because we weren't sure whether she'd ever get to have a baby shower for a baby she'd been privileged to carry, but God was faithful, and Sam will be in here in July!  (The other most exciting shower was exactly the same story... and beautiful Reagan came just following that baby shower! :) So stinking exciting!  She said yesterday how much she'll be crying at the shower... and I'm sure she won't be alone.  I'm sure they prayed for that baby more than we'll ever know, but so many of us chorused those prayers for them.  Sam will be a baby who has been prayed for before he even was... pretty cool when you think about it!

Infertility was something that I heard about before I was married and starting to have babies, but has become something very real as I know more people than I ever would have imagined who have struggled with such heartbreak.  Luckily - the ones I know will now ALL have beautiful babies to show for what was once such heartbreak.  

So keep checking back!  Lots of stuff going on... if only I could get us all feeling better.  I hate this time of year...

-A

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Letter Factory

So back when I was working every day at the Elementary school, when Bryton was like one (or just getting ready to turn 1) I worked in Amanda Melton's class.  She used The Letter Factory to help the kids learn their letters and the sounds they made.  I thought the idea of the dvd was great and Bryton got The Letter Factory either for his first birthday or for Christmas that year, it's hard for me to remember. 

Either way - anyone who knows Bryton knows that he just, in the last 4 or 5 months or so, started watching anything on television, and when he started, he'd only watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.  (Which has taught him a lot of things.) 

Needless to say - he wouldn't sit still long enough to watch even through letter A on The Letter Factory so it didn't serve much of a purpose. 

Until now.  As many of you know, one of my goals this month was for Bryton to learn 10 letters (I said A-J), their names, their sounds and to be able to recognize them by sight. 

I've done a few other things this month besides just The Letter Factory dvd, including pushing his fridge magnets (the talking ones, also from Leapfrog), but for the most part, the dvd has done most of the teaching... and boy is it working! 

Let's just say that we've blown A-J out of the water.  He still stumbles with a few here or there, but he knows 17 very well.  He goes around saying "the x says xxxx" or "the a says aaaaaa".  I'm a firm believer in this dvd... I'm telling ya!  And he loves watching it, and he asks to watch it at least once a day. 

Soooo - that being said, I had to show you just how cute he is while going through his letters... hang tight through e,f,g (he's still working on those, and still can't really say the 'f' sound in his speech anyway...) but if you make it to 'w' it's worth it :)  If you ask him what 'w' says, he'll say this everytime ;)  (Those of you who know the video know why lol)

So check him out :)



By the way - don't mind the first part of the video... we were in the middle of lunch (that was him asking for more chips) and the "oh baby" is something my dad was trying to teach him. 

He says "oh my goodness" in the cutest little boy voice EVER.  In fact, when Aaron was going over his letters awhile ago the conversation went a lot like this:

Aaron: "What's the t say?"

Bryton: *t sound*

Aaron:  "What's the p say?"

Bryton: *p sound*

Aaron: "O?"

Bryton: (in his happy loud voice) MY GOODNESS! :)

Haha - guess Aaron should have been more specific! 

Hope you enjoyed as much as I did!

-A

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Launch Party Date Set - Book Now for a Free Warmer!

That's right, folks!  May 29th is the official kick off for my new Scentsy business!  I'm having an 'open house' here at my casa, where any of you all are more than welcome to come smell some Scentsy goodness, take a good look at the warmers, scent circles, Scentsy Buddy, fragrance foams, etc, and order or book a party to earn free products for yourself!

Remember, the first 3 that book parties and host a party of $200 of retail sales (not hard at all) will receive a free full size warmer (for the first person), mid-size warmer (for the second person), and plug in warmer (for the third person).  The first person has already booked, but I'm still waiting to fill that 2nd and 3rd booking!

On top of the free warmer that I am offering as an incentive, all hostess' for all parties earn free product based on the retail sales of their party and half priced items!  If you aren't familiar with Scentsy, this is a great way to 'try' the products spending very little (if any) out of pocket!

Have a thousand excuses as to why you can't host a party in your home?  How about trying a basket party?  I'll set you up with mini scent samples, catalogs, and order forms, and you take the basket with you to work, to church, or anywhere else you go throughout the week, sell your little hiney off, and you get all of the same hostess rewards that you would get if you had the party in your home!  AND - I'll include the basket party bookings with the 'first 3 bookings' incentives I have going on!  Tick tick, two more spots available for a free warmer (and lots of other free stuff!)  ;)

-A

P.S.  If you want to order from the launch party but can't make it to the launch party, visit www.aliciagregg.scentsy.us to place an order.  Just click on "Alicia's Launch Party" under my picture!

Saving Star

So many of you (ahem - us) were a little unhappy when Kroger stopped allowing us to use both paper and electronic coupons.  Honestly, I didn't use it often enough for it to really hurt my shopping experience overall, but every little bit of savings is helpful.

That being said, you all should go check out Saving Star.  Saving Star is a website that allows you to collect electronic coupons on to your shoppers card, and then claim the savings through Amazon giftcards, through a paypal account, etc.  Thus, you can still stack your electronic coupons and paper coupons using Saving Star as your electronic coupon portal.

I don't know about you, but I'm pretty excited about this.

Just a note, that I added this to my shoppers card today, and I've found that coupons can 'sell out', so make sure you get them quick!

-A

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Hitting the Yard Sales

There's a few things I hate about spring.  I'm sure you've heard me mention them before.
  1. Allergies.  I loathe them.  It finally gets nice, and you want to be outside, and it makes you miserable.  Big ole pain in the rear. 
  2. Birds chirping at 5 a.m.  I'm sorry, but I'm not a morning person and the fact that the stupid things are so stinking chipper before the sun is even up really works on my nerves.  
  3. Fluctuation in weather.  By that I mean 80 degrees one day and 52 the next.  No wonder we're all sick. 
  4. And lastly - severe thunderstorms and tornadoes.  Now that I'm a parent, they make me so very cautious.  
That being said... there are a few things I love about spring.
  1. Taking kids outside to play... it's a beautiful thing.  (If we're not all sneezing and coughing...)
  2. Going on walks... aka outside exercise.  Get me out of this house!
  3. And (drum roll) yard sales (or antiquing).  
Now, I must preface by saying that I'm not much of a yard saler for the sake of stocking us up on everything possible.  I do not buy the majority of my kids clothes there (I mean, why would I when I can pay near the same price and have them new with tags on them from the actual store?), and I don't buy much else that are 'necessities' at yard sales, but I do look for little treasures.

Here are some things I'm jonesing to find this year:




Some cool colors of chucks for the kids and other 'accessory' related items.  I have a hard time buying things full price that can't be used or worn with everything.  I do not, however, have a problem buying things at yard sales, for any of us, to accessorize an outfit for pennies on the dollar. :)


A cool red, white and blue shirt (or a cute shirt of one of the above colors as a solid) for 4th of July.  The kids both have cute, cheap (thank you Kohls) outfits for the 4th, and I thought it'd be a great time for a family photo opportunity!  OH - btw - you have to see my cute new fedora here!  It'd be nice if it matched my 4th of July shirt somehow.  (I'm also jonesing for an Old Navy 4th tee, but I'll wait until a.) they go on sale or b.) I get my rewards cards... OR c.) BOTH!  Score! Lol.


Some decor for the front porch.  We now have cushions on our chairs, now we need some more color popping pieces! 

So you should stay tuned!  There's no telling what I come dragging in ;) 

-A

So I Am Officially a Scentsy Consultant :)






That's right, folks, I am a new Scentsy consultant, and I'm oh so excited about it!  It took me a long time and a lot of prayer to decide to enter into such a venture, but after several conversations with Aaron and several more with God, I really began to consider what Scentsy could do for me, and I'll be honest, only about half of it is financial. 

Had it just been the possibility of some extra income for my family, I don't know that I would have been utterly sold on the idea, but the icing on the cake was the opportunity to spend time away from the house, occasionally, with other females at Scentsy parties! 

As a stay at home mom, most of my conversations are directed towards a two year old (and usually involve the words 'no', 'later', or 'time out') or towards a 2 month old in baby talk.  Aaron has the opportunity, often, to get out of the house in the evenings for band practice, worship leading at different events, or for other ministry related activities, and I'll be honest, I was beginning to get resentful and taken advantage of (like I'm just a full time baby sitter) since I never had any reason to get out.  Scentsy would give me the opportunity to converse with other people my own age and get out of the house some without feeling guilty.  (After all, the finances it could add to our family are going to help us do things we wouldn't otherwise get to do.)

So that being said: be watching out for some major Scentsy incentives for those of you who might like to host a party for me!  In fact, I'll give you a little hint, I'm considering offering incentives for the first 3 people to book parties, host them, and earn $200 or more in retail sales (which is not hard by the way).  The first person to book and fulfill the above would receive a free full size warmer (on top of their earned hostess rewards!), the second person would receive a free mid size warmer (in addition to their hostess rewards), and the third would receive a free plug in (again, in addition to their hostess rewards). 

(Look at all of the cute stuff!  I love the Scentsy Buddies, which is the Lion in the back.  He would make for a great baby shower gift and would make the nursery smell wonderful!)

I'll start booking parties at the announcement of my Launch Party Open House.  (So be watching the blog and facebook for when I announce my Launch party, because the first 3 party bookings are up for grabs at that moment!)  I'm waiting to announce my Launch Party until I have my Scentsy supplies in hand!

Think of what you could do with the extra warmer!  It could be kept for yourself, it could be a gift for a friend or family member, and it isn't too early to be thinking about Christmas! 

Not familiar with Scentsy?  Go here to check out what Scentsy has to offer, and to place an order at any time! 

Woo hoo!  I really am very excited!

-A

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

All My Fountains



Aaron's been rocking my socks of with this song on Sunday mornings for the last few months.  The guys do it all acoustically with the cajon (which is awesome btw), and I have officially pegged it the 'pew smackin' song, since apparently we can't clap, but we can beat the pew in front of us to within inches of it's life, but it's all good!  I just like the congregation participation! 

Anyway - I've been working through the lyrics, and I just had to find scripturally where 'All my fountains' fit... so I researched it out.  Here's what I found:

Psalm 87:7: - As they make music they will sing,
   “All my fountains are in you.”

David is talking in reference to the city of Zion.  It seems as if he has quite a vision of a great praise and worship time happening.  I read through Calvin's commentary on the mentioned scripture and this is the line that stuck out to me most:
"The word springs[fountains] is, beyond all controversy, to be here taken metaphorically; but interpreters are not agreed as to the explanation of the metaphor. Some understand it as denoting hopes, some affections, and others thoughts. Did the idiom of the language admit, I would willingly subscribe to the opinion of those who translate it melodies or songs. But as this might be considered unsupported by the usage of the Hebrew term, I am rather inclined to adopt, as most suitable to the subject in hand, the opinion that lookings is the proper translation, the root of the word signifying an eye. It is as if the Psalmist had said, I will always be earnestly looking, as it were, with fixed eyes upon thee."

If you had to read it more than once, you aren't alone.  I did as well, but here is where I'm leading with the scripture, and I think it applies all the way around:  Everything we have is in Jesus.  In Him we invest all of our hope, all of our affection, all of our thoughts.  In Him we look for all of our answers, all wisdom, all peace, all joy, everything.

What a lifted burden, when everything we need and desire can be accomplished when 'all of our fountains are in Him."  It's not a name it claim it promise, as God never promised to give us everything we ever wanted, but we can rest assured that what we have it is because He has so blessed us with it, and that alone, folks, is enough to make me all the more thankful for my children, my husband, my home, and the 3 trillion toys that my kids have strewn all over the house.

I love Calvin's last line, "I will always be earnestly looking, as it were, with eyes fixed upon thee."  That is my prayer for myself, for my family, for my children, that all of our fountains be found in Jesus.  Through every toil, every heartache and hardship, through joy and excitement, through trials and tribulations, that our eyes would be forever focused on Jesus Christ, the author and perfector of our faith.  I will willingly invest all I have in Him... now to remember to do so in every aspect of life.

MyFitnessPal

Go check it out here.  Seriously, it's revolutionizing my life right now!  I had this lofty montly goal to start exercising more (got to fit into those jeans that I love so much!), a friend (thanks, again, Shelly) sent me this website, and I signed up more to just check it out.  Long story short, I'm hooked. 

The website figures your weight, your goal weight, and how often you work out etc., calculates it all down and tells you what your caloric intake should be during the day.  (Broken all the way down into calories, carbs, protein, etc.)  You can type your foods into a search bar and they are already there for you with the calories sanctioned out.  AND - you add all of your workouts in, including light housecleaning, I may add, and it will deduct the number of calories burned, so at the end of the day you know exactly where you stand. 

I even jumped ahead to tonight's dinner (I'm making tacos, yummo), and put that in so that I could get an idea of what I had left to play with as far as calories, etc, for lunch and snacks during the day.

I've also found it's made me rethink some of my snack choices, like, "Hmmm, do I really need those trolli octopus'?  Nope." 

So anyway - a random and short blog, but I seriously think you should go check it out! 

-A

Monday, May 16, 2011

Another Blog in Pictures


I finally cleaned everything off of my mac and put it onto my LaCie - which means, I have room for more pictures!  Yippee!  So in honor of the occasion, here's my life in pictures in the last few weeks. 


We dedicated Ansley on Mother's Day.  I understood the idea of doing this and took my responsibilities very seriously when Bryton was born, but this time around, I understand the importance and what it will require of me to raise my children up in a Christian household.  It means not acting out in anger when my 2 year old throws a fit.  It means disciplining even when it isn't convenient.  It means loving when I'm exhausted.  It means family time in God's word, and taking time to pray with my children every day.  It means living my life in such a way that I reflect onto my children the very glory of God.  It means continually growing in my own faith.  It means passing it on from generation to generation... and this picture was us promising to fulfill such responsibilities.  Our church promised to aid us in doing so.


This is handsome child number 1 during the service.  I can't believe it was only 2 1/2 short years ago that he was the little baby in my arms.  

And here is lovely offspring number 2 - Ansey Mak basking in her sunshine.  We have had the opportunity to spend a lot of time outside, until the last few days when it decided to drop about 20 degrees again.  Oh, and since my children decided to start the sniffling, sneezing, and coughing again.  I'm  sooooo incredibly tired of these awful allergies!  


And here is sweet baby child with her flower power headband and her precious little face.  Love those little cheeks! 


It seems like she constantly has her tongue out.  

Here's Bryton with one of our projects for the month.  Those there green specs are some flowers we're a' growin'.  Granted, this is about 20 seconds after Bryton decided to tear the leaves off of one said flower.  Hoy hum, boys will be boys I suppose. 

And here is my sweet girl and her new little smile.  Everyday we are seeing more smiling and laughing out of her, and I swear she's trying to talk to us.  I think she's going to be like her mom, talking all the time!

And here was my mother's day present!  Aaron did well this year.  I helped only by telling him I wanted a piece of 'mom jewelry' (not to be confused with 'mom jeans', which I have no intentions of ever wearing - ahem) and sending him to the etsy website.  He did all of the rest on his own, and he did well!  I love it!  (P.S. - Please don't mind the white skin.  This white girl needs sun, but I don't think my neighbors or the community driving by want to see my white, post pregnant butt laying out in my driveway since we have no yard.  Ugh - to get a house with a yard and a third bedroom.)


And here are our outside problem areas.  Above you see the aforementioned landscaping project.  We are not in love with these bushes, so, they have to go.  The question is... what do we put in their place.  Hmmm.  I guess we'll tear them out first and see what we have behind.  Any suggestions as to what to put in their place?


And this picture is of the wretched back porch.  Yes, I said wretched.  There are so many things wrong with it we don't even know where to start.  We hate how 'closed in' it looks.  We hate the sidewalk, and now that I mention it, we hate the foliage too.  I say foliage because it is simply weeds that are the green that you see back here.  Ugh.  I hate the underneath of the 'porch', and I hate that the dumb porch is up on concrete blocks like those used in the foundation.  We'd love this to be completely different, but have no ideas as to how to do it.  Help!  

So, God Has a Sense of Humor

This blog could go either way for you, depending on how you feel about Joel Osteen.  I have figured out that you either like or hate (for lack of better word) the man and his theology.  I'll admit that I've always been on the 'dislike' side of his theology, but that my dislike wasn't due to my own personal experience with him. 

SO - while I was sitting on the couch feeding Ansley yesterday morning (we had a combined service so I didn't have to be at church until 9:30) I was flipping through our guide and realizing that there is nothing on television on Sunday mornings.  I saw Joel Osteen's name go across my screen several times and finally I thought to myself, "Well, I guess I'll see what I really think about him," and I turned to his church service. 

I'll be honest, the man smiles more than anyone I've ever met in my life, and it seems more fake than most others I have seen in my life, but, if you have the discernment to pick from his message the truth, his message isn't awful.  (Though, he really rode the line of a 'health, wealth, and prosperity' kind of preacher.  He never actually said that God would give you all the stuff you wanted and yada yada yada, but he did heavily imply it with his stories and the way in which he chose to word several statements.)

His message yesterday was about God putting the right people in your path.  (Which I agree with, but not that everything that ever happens once you start following Jesus will be rosey... because we all know that isn't true.)  Anyway... I'm making my subtle judgments of him (hey, I'm being honest), and I'm wondering if maybe I have anything decent to watch saved on my DVR (which I did end up turning on The Voice), when all of a sudden Joel starts sharing Biblical examples of God putting the right person in another person's path, and his very first example:  Ruth. 

Shut up, right?  I literally looked up and said, "Really?" to God because He thoroughly cracks me up.  Not only was he using Ruth as an example, he was concentrating mainly on Ruth 2, the chapter I've been studying for the past week, and I'll be honest, I thought I had gotten everything out of the chapter that I could, but Joel's 5 minutes on Ruth was enough to drive home the fact that divine providence puts not only the right people in our lives, but it happens at the right time, and in the right circumstances. 

Ruth's meeting of Boaz (whose leadership could be an entirely different blog - Go Boaz for caring about the people who serve you and work for you), was entirely and utterly illustrated by the hand of God.  God knew, in eternity past, that such a meeting would happen.  He knew the hurt she would feel losing her husband and the faithfulness she would express not only to Himself, as a convert, but also to her mother in law, Naomi, and we'll see in coming weeks how God rewards her faithfulness with this initial meeting of Boaz. 

So I'm still not a huge Joel Osteen fan, but God used him to drive home exactly the idea I'd been gathering from the chapter this past week. 

-A

Saturday, May 14, 2011

This Week in Review

Overall a success.  Here's the short of it:
  • Did a project with Bryton with him getting his first library card and checking out his first library books.  He is also doing well with letters.  I wanted him to know 8 at the end of the month, and we should have that no problem, they just may not be the letters I had 'planned' on.  
  • Exercise is a toss up.  I'm giving it to myself even though it wasn't the exercise I wanted.  I did 30+ minutes of walking on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday... so, success.
  • Cleaning was mostly successful.  I didn't do the hardwoods on Thursday.  I'm using the excuse that I'm going to do them Monday because I'm going to start doing it with the vacuuming since I can now vacuum my hardwoods before I swiffer mop them.  And I have laundry in right now that won't make it out tonight... oh well. 
  • Finished my book this week.  Success!
  • Did my studying of Ruth this week.  Success!
  • Went on a date with my husband and had a night out with friends (both much needed).  Success.  Success. 
Now, I have to get through tomorrow which is a marathon of church activities.  Anybody read Simple Church?  Tomorrow may be rough on my children... saying a prayer tonight...

Moon Clouds

There comes a point in the life of every parent where they must face the question, "Where did my child learn that?"  Sometimes the question is in reference to a bad word they picked up on the street, other times it is in reference to a piece of information not directly taught to them, for us, it was moon clouds. 

Our first experience with moon clouds came as we were driving on a cool day in January.  The sun was shining and the sky was a glistening bright blue, rare for that time of year.  Aaron and I were on our way for dinner with family when we hear Bryton perk up from the backseat, "Moon?" 

I looked at Aaron questioningly, "Did he just say moon?"

"I think so." 

I laughed a little, impressed that he knew the word, yet a bit disappointed that what he meant to say was sun.  No harm, no foul, though.  It was an honest mistake for a two year old, and it had been a long time since we had seen our old friend the sun.  No wonder Bryton didn't know what it was!

So I spent the entire rest of the way chattering to Bryton about how what he saw was the sun, not the moon, and that the moon is out at night and the sun during the day and that the sun was actually a star.  Cool, huh?  And I promised to show him stars later, and the actual moon so he would know what it looked like, yada yada yada yada, stupid parent. 

It wasn't until we made it to the restaurant that I realized, the moon was, indeed, out, and Bryton had, indeed, saw it. 

I didn't say anything. 

Now when he shouts, "Moon," from the backseat we believe him. 

In fact, it was just the other day on our family walk that Bryton was standing in the stroller looking up at the vast expanse of baby blue sky when he exclaimed, "Moon!"  And sure enough, amongst all of the fluffy brilliance of the clouds was a tiny, white, moon.  It so perfectly blended in that I wondered how he spotted it.  What was a 2 year olds criteria or qualifications for the moon anyway?  Round? Because it isn't always.  White? Because it isn't always white either.  Small? Nope.  Big?  Nope.  The only thing that is consistent with the moon in the eyes of the two year old is that it is in the sky and it is not the sun, but apparently that's enough to qualify as the moon. 

I could go into an entire novel of theological analogy, but I'll spare you and let your mind wander as it may.  Doing so allows you to ponder on something as simple and beautiful as a two year old enjoying the moon, or to go so deep as to what sets us apart from our God, whose image we are created in, but in who we are not

There are no longer many days that I fail to notice a blue sky, and amongst that blue sky, I always look for the moon amongst the clouds.  It's another part of seeing the world through the eyes of a child who is seeing it for the first time... it is a constant reminder of the beauty of it all. 

-A

Friday, May 13, 2011

For You Green Thumbers

I'm plant / tree / vegetation illiterate.  Aaron bought me hanging baskets for Mother's day last year and I killed them in a matter of days.  (We just discussed this piece of our history.  He was vying that he put a lot of thought into my mother's day that year, and he very well may have, so I'm guessing he didn't know that I kill plants.  It's lucky I can keep people alive.  You'd think they'd be more difficult.  Anyway...) (Oh - and to clear the air, he did really great this year!)
I am not good with plants, and you know, I'm more than okay with that.  I don't really have a drive to be great with plants.  I don't really like messing with them.  In the event that we ever have yard enough for me to have a garden, I'll get really interested, really quick!  Talk about an amazing coupon!  That's a great bargain for food right out of your backyard! 

Anyway - this is where I need your help, you green thumby people, you.  We have this area in front of our house with these awful bushes.  They don't really do anything, and they actually look rather trashy, so we are ripping them out.  Something has to go in their places because they cover up a huge chunk of concrete foundation of our house.  (It'd look very very bare without something.)  The height of the wall up to our porch is 6 feet.  The area that will be left minus these ugly bushes is about 12x8.  So we need some suggestions as to what to put there... here is the criteria we are looking for:
  • We want something that will eventually be tall enough to take up a great deal of that room, but not so big that it starts to cover our screen to our porch, so no more than 6 feet tall at largest.  
  • We want something that needs little pruning.  Aaron has a piece of equipment he can edge bushes with etc, but you must understand, we need things there that are pretty low maintenance.  (I'm good at pulling off dead flowers if need be.)
  • Aaron is anti evergreen anything.
  • We want something that looks kind of uniform, something clean looking, not something that grows every which and a thousand other ways.  
  • I need color, somehow, whether it's in flowers on the big plants that take up space, or by underplanting some kind of flowering vegetation...
  • The area that these particular plants will be going will be partial sun and the sun is in the morning.
  • We can definitely water if need be, but we need something that won't die if we forget a day... or four.  (I'm realllly bad at keeping plants alive.)
  • Nothing thorny, please. We have two children and I have bad memories of riding my bike to the very center of a rose bush and having to sit on a towel the rest of the day while my punctures scabbed over. 
  • An idea of some things we looked at and liked... New Hampshire forsynthia, hydrangeas, gerber daisys and calla lilies.  
Okay, I plan on uploading a picture tomorrow for you all to see (when it's daylight outside)... help!

-A