Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The money fast, week 2

Sunday: I stand corrected, our family bike ride was today, not Saturday, so it was today we did the fun bike ride and the Mexican breakfast at home that followed.  That evening we had home church at our house and I had a chocolate cake that our friends had brought us on Saturday, to serve to everyone.  We're doing good on food so far, but the produce is starting to be gone, luckily I have lots of frozen vegetables and some fruit that I can serve with dinner every night.

Monday: It's laundry day and I have plenty of supplies, you see I have this habit of buying some more laundry detergent every time I go to Sam's so as to not run out.  One of the problems I am keenly aware of this week is that I'm always stocking up on non-pershiables as if  to be prepared for a natural disaster.  It occurs to be that I cannot recall ever in ten years of managing a household running out of a paper product, diapers, wipes, dish or laundry detergent.  You might call me prepared, but I also think I could stick to my budget easier if I allowed myself to fully use up one thing before buying the next.

Tuesday:  Kylynn goes off to school and Jack and I run over to the ENT for a follow-up to his ear tubes (they look great, by the way).  We are there for a short period of time so we're left to fill up the rest of the day with play time, as I cannot think of any more free errands to run.  I make fish sticks and other frozen sides for dinner, it's pitiful, but I have a headache and don't feel like cooking and of course cannot run out and buy anything.

Wednesday: We run to the doctor to confirm I do not have TB (it's for our adoption...I didn't think I did :)), this is somehow a romping good time for the kiddos, ride an elevator, mess up a doctor's waiting room, act like holigans (true story: Kylynn sees a baby as we're walking through the building to leave, she walks up to him and begins to stick her hand in his snack bowl to steal some, I told the mom I was sorry, and lied and said we've never been in public before!).  We go to the library and play and check out books, no matter how much money I have available to spend, I will always choose this free activity as one of our favorites.  Kyle asks us to meet him at the park for lunch, I want to pick up ChickFilA, celebrate that my home study paperwork is now complete, but somehow find the strength to stay on the money fast wagon, and pack us some pitiful lunch, I remember cheetos was the main food group :).  We have friends come over to play that afternoon, always a good choice for a free activity.  Kyle comes home and cooks dinner as I am not feeling the cooking vibe.  I end the day babysitting for a friend, our weekly swap.

Thursday:  It is the last day of school for the kiddos and I think that this type of sadness deserve a coffee from Starbucks and chicken minis from ChickFilA (can you tell I eat there too much).  Anyways, I take the time to go to both restaurants as I have a empty bag of Starbucks coffee (good for a free tall coffee, in case you hadn't heard) and a coupon for a set of 3 free chicken minis.  It is satisfying to have a little something and not break the fast.  I spend the rest of the day cleaning (as I previously told you it is the last chance I had to clean for a long time).  I cook something descent for dinner and look forward to The Office season finale that night.

Friday: We pack up a big snack, slather on the sunblock and head out to the splash pad for playgroup.  I love the splash pad because it's free and I can confidently take both of my children to cool off without being afraid that one of them will drown (as I often do if I attempt a trip alone to the pool with a 2 and 3 year old).  We come home and eat, just in case I haven't said it enough, I wanted to pick up ChickFilA on the way home for lunch, we were hot, tired, and very hungry, but I somewhere found the strength to resist.  The kids nap good that day, yay! for naps.  Kyle and I eat a nice dinner of pasta, just the two of us after the kids are in bed and watch a movie (free Redbox coupon).  It is a really good day.

Saturday:  There is a big garage sale today to raise money for a local crisis pregnancy center, I don't go.  I'm not usually a garage sale shopper (b/c I sleep in not b/c I don't want to be), but a big one that raises money for a cause I love, I would have been there.  Kyle spends the morning working in the yard, thank goodness for a handy husband, he does all the projects around here, for free!  After lunch he is beat from the work and the sun (it is the mid-90's) and I am able to convince him to break the fast a tiny bit and take us to the pool after nap time.  We go and spend 4 dollars for the four of us and have an awesome time despite the fact that the entire town is there (they told us it was almost at capacity).  We come home and finish strong, I cook Kyle's favorite meal, a Southern Living recipe called jalepeno chicken strips.  The kids go to bed late, and then we watch a movie (borrowed from our next door neighbor).  I am relieved it's over, but glad that will get through this month without going too far over our budget.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

I hit the reading jackpot

If you too have my goal of reading approximately 23 books this summer all for fun, none for self improvement, than listen up, because I've spent the last couple of weeks reading three great books that have gotten me off to a great start in the relaxation department.

First I went to the library and scanned the new release section and saw a book called Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout.  I had never read any of her work before but this book won a Pulitzer prize, and if your book wins a Pulitzer prize than I want to read it, now I might now always be smart enough to appreciate a book that wins a pulitzer, but more often than not I enjoy the writing so much that the stretching of my brain is worth it.  This book is the story of Olive Kitteridge told in a collection of short stories in which she is either the main character, a supporting character, or just someone who walks through the story for a brief moment.  A unique story telling process gives you the full picture of not just Olive but of the town she spends her life in and the way people in small towns' lives are all intertwined.  I'm looking forward to picking up another book by Strout as her writing was just mesmerizing.

The next two books I read were memoirs, which are my very favorite genre of books.  I'm not sure how I first realized my love of memoirs, it was probably after reading the middle place, but since then everyone I've read has been pure joy.  I love to read people's stories, to see their pain and joy put into words, to learn that they triumphed over struggles and lived to see another day.  The first one I read was Someone Will Be with You Shortly: Notes from a Perfectly Imperfect Life, by Lisa Kogan, it's a collection of stories from her life and her opinions on things that will make you laugh out loud.  Her self-depreciating humor was especially refreshing and made me want to pick up a copy of O magazine (where she is a columnist) so that I can continue to read her work.

Then I read Making Toast, by Roger Rosenblatt.  I love the quote on the cover of the book,
"A painfully beautiful memoir telling how grandparents are made over into parents, how people die out of order, how time goes backward.  Written with such restraint as to be both  heartbreaking and instructive." -E.L. Doctorow
It is the story of how their whole family was affected when their daughter, who was married with three very young children, died.  It is written with such matter of factness that you are surprised at how he is able to communicate their sorrow, that a simple sentences can catch in your throat, causing you to feel just a bit of their pain.

So I'm off to the library this week to pick up some new reading material, got any recommendations?  I would love some ideas, since usually I just wander around grabbing whatever strikes me.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A sad, sad day

Today is a sad day at our house.  It is the last time our house will be cleaned until September.  It is the last time I'll think to myself, boy, it sure is quiet around here, for many months to come.  It is the last time I will feel productive and full of energy for who knows how long.

That's right.  You guessed it.  Today was the last day of Mother's Day Out.  It is now officially summer, the summer I've been longing for and begging to come quickly (yes I remember), and I'm excited it's here, I'm just not sure what I'll do without that 5 hour break from my children each week.

We'll have fun though, and come September I'll be about ready to give their new teacher a big ol' kiss on the first day of school.  But it's nice to have changes with the seasons, I just looked outside and there is still some light left at 8:30pm and to me that alone makes no MDO worth it.

If you're ever looking for a Mother's day out program or a pre-school for your children I would highly recommend Kingdom Kids at Grace Bible Church here in town, I have been nothing but pleased with every aspect of it.

And now I've got nothing but time, so if we haven't seen you for a while, call me, we'd love to play!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The money fast, week 1

Sunday:  We are camping.  It is easy to not spend money when you're camping, as there is no place to spend it, (side note: if there was a luxurious shower with an adjoining salon to give you a pedicure and wax the various overgrown hairs, on the way out of the park, it would make millions).  It is however mother's day so Kyle has planned ahead and brought a gift card to a nice restaurant (we allow spending of gift cards during our fast, as we always have a pile of them laying around that we've received as gifts and never seem to use).  When we get home that evening we watch a family movie and eat a dinner of snacks in the den, it is the best kind of evening and totally free.

Monday: It is only day two but since we were out of town all weekend, I have to use our one exception and run to HEB to get milk and Pediasure.  The store has never looked so good, has never been filled with so many things I need!, has never had such a low price on HEB diapers which I love.  , I stick to the rules and walk out with nothing but the milk and Pediasure, even passing up the chocolate milk that has a million calories for Jack, deciding that even that breaks the rules.  

Tuesday: Usually after we drop off Kylynn at school, Jack and I run errands, it's a nice way to pass the time and it's so much easier to do with only one child.  However running errands usually involves spending money, so I run the free ones I can think of, return books to the library, mail a letter (the stamp was one laying around the house), and drop off our recycling.  That evening I make banana bread with the old bananas, that should be a nice treat to help me get through the week.

Wednesday:  There is still so much food in this house, it's not hard at all to make meals.  I make breakfast tacos for breakfast and decide I'll take the kids to the library, most likely my favorite free activity.  Kylynn makes a new friend at the library we all have a great time then go home to pack a picnic lunch to go eat with Daddy at the park.  Our friends come over to play after naps.  So far, so good.

Kyle and I have a date tonight, we swap babysitting with a friend of ours, so it's free, but what to do?  Good question, I cook dinner that we eat before we leave.  Kyle makes us some fancy iced coffees to go and we walk around an old neighborhood in Bryan we both love.  It's a beautiful night, the streets are quiet, and I get to walk around holding Kyle's hand.  We then go shopping....but don't buy anything, weird choice I know.  We go to Academy to look at bikes for Kylynn's upcoming birthday and decide that we also need: a life vest for Jack, water guns for the whole family, new swimsuit for Jenny, new shorts for Jenny, some cool bike toys, baseball shoes for get the idea, thank goodness for the fast and for self control.

Thursday:  Kyle and I have previously scheduled doctor's appointments today that are basically a check up saying we're healthy enough to adopt.  It falls under our exceptions, so it's not a problem.  We talk to a doctor, pee in a cup, and cry like a baby while we have our blood taken (okay, that one was just me).  I make pizza from scratch for dinner, courtesy of Pioneer Woman, and it's a hit, better than Papa John's, I think so!

Friday:  The fast is starting to get old, I see a weekend ahead with no eating out and that makes me sad.  We go on a walk in the morning and play at the local park for a little while.  The rest of the day is spent hanging out at the house.  I have bunko to look forward to, and although not free (I did put in in my exceptions) it is a wonderful way to hang out with women I'm starting to really like for not much and to boot I always win a prize, yes that's right, try not to be jealous, I've discovered the one thing I'm really good at, and it's bunko.

Saturday: The exceptions just keep coming I know, but again it was one from the beginning.  I run to Kroger to buy a handful of food items I need for a shower I'm helping to throw.  I get what turns out to be an amazing pineapple for $1.97 and am so sad I cannot get a second one for our family.  We go on a family bike ride, which has long been one of our favorite (and free) activities, we end up in downtown Bryan and it strikes me that we would definitely stop at one of the amazing restaurants there for a big breakfast.  So instead of feeling sad about it I ask myself what is it that I would want from those restaurants and decide I want a breakfast tostada with chips and salsa, just like the one I had on my honeymoon. I tell Kyle, he amens that, and makes us an amazing Mexican breakfast when we get home.  It was just as good as eating out if not better.  That afternoon a friend of ours who is graduating brings his parents by to visit and brings us a cake!  We go to church that evening to get out of the house for free and surprise they have dippin dots for everyone!  Kyle want to rent a movie and as fate would have it the other day in the mix of coupons Kroger printed out for me, was one for a free rental at RedBox.  We rented an okay movie and enjoyed our evening (I actually accidenally paid or the movie instead of using the coupon, but it's the intention that counts...right?).

Stay tuned, it's always week two that's the hard one.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The bond of peace

I was going to write today about how our financial fast is going, but then I clicked on over to It's Almost Naptime and read about how some "friends" of theirs had written a mean email, attacking their motivation for adopting, I went on to read the comments, various degrees of support and shared misery.  I read about people who no longer had a relationship with their parents due to their reaction to their adoption.  I started to go down that road, to bring to mind the times that I had been wronged, the people who didn't congratulate us the way they would have had I been pregnant, the ones who had failed to hide their distaste for seeing my family become interracial, the accidental slights when someone's true feelings came out in a words they never intended to say.

The funniest thing happened, I couldn't quite seem to get my footing on that road, somehow the path had been washed away by forgiveness and I could only vaguely remember that these wrongs had happened but when or by who or the details, they were gone.

When I tried to further judge those who had done the hurtful things I read about in the post, God gently reminded me who I am.   A terrible sinner, who is on a journey.  One who for the first 15+ years of my relationship with God never took one step forward but  remained an infant Christian confused on how to even know if I had a relationship with God and whether or not I could lose it at any moment.

A girl who has not always been a lover of orphans, a lover of the lost, a lover of the people of this world.  A lady who once said to God, "I'm going to go over here and do what I want to do, even though I know it's wrong, because it feels good, and You, I don't feel You at all."  A woman with a big mouth who often speaks before she thinks and has more often than I know hurt people I love with my insensitive words.  Just a person, nothing special about me, except the love of the God who saved me, all by Himself, with no help from me.

It's easy to get your feelings hurt when your in the adoption community, even people who love you well will occasionally open their mouths, insert their foot, and say words that equal, "Your children aren't really yours".  But my children are mine I say politely, quietly, because their words hurt so bad that if I don't fall upon my good manners I will scream and kick and hurt them for hurting me.  But alas, feelings get hurt in this life.  No matter who you are or what decisions you make their will be people who disagree, people who don't cheer you on they way you dreamed they would, people who will tisk tisk, causing hurt and shame and tears.

But a broken relationship is rarely the answer.  And I say this as a mama who has to use all my effort sometimes to tame that impulse to protect Jack, no matter what, from anyone, anywhere that would ever say something to hurt him.  But if I expect everyone to respond the way I do, then I'm forgetting who I've been, who I am, and that I would have never gotten here if Godly people hadn't let me stick around even when I was thoroughly confused about loving God.  If I pounce in that moment and say, that's it, where done with them, then I lose so much and steal so much more from my son.  God works on people's hearts and I need to pray for those people and watch Him work.  I need to stick around for those who don't know Him, so that they look at my life at my journey and finally be willing to consider Jesus Christ, because He is evident here.

Our flesh yearns to punish those who hurt us, but I hope I give people second chances, even if they aren't happy about the way we're building our family.  That I have a honest conversation with them, letting them know of the hurt, giving them the opportunity to apologize.  He receives more glory that way, people are drawn to Him when they see it happen, our children are perhaps less protected but more prepared to love even those who are hard to love in this world.

"Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all." The Bible, Ephesians 4:2-6

Updated: just clicked over to Sit a Spell, such a great read and kind of related in some ways.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

It's that time of year again

The Ultimate Cheapskate's Road Map to True Riches: A Practical (and Fun) Guide to Enjoying Life More by Spending Less
Here in our house we're doing another financial fast.  If you've read this blog for a while you might remember our fast from last year, if you want to read about it you can read the posts about it here.  By coincidence it was almost exactly one year ago, so I guess it's time.

We have spent a lot of money in the past couple of weeks, most if it was on legitimate expenses that happened to come up during the same week, but some of it was just spending way too much on things that we either didn't need or didn't need right then.  Just like last year my major struggle is at the grocery store and this month we went to Sam's and Kroger in the same week and just like that our grocery budget was mostly gone for the month.

No matter where you fall on the money spectrum a spender, a saver, or somewhere in between, a spending fast is a wonderful learning experience and I really encourage you to give it a try.  Your not supposed to prepare for it, just jump in there and do it.  So you wanna?  Huh, you wanna, come on you know you do.  It'll be fun.  Well if you do wanna the rules are below, all taken from a great book that is full of great ideas.

"1. The fiscal fast should be at least one full week in length, with the starting and ending times determined in advance.
2. Everyone in the family should play. If everyone is not playing, nonplayers are prohibited from interference of any kind.
3. In regulation play, ALL SPENDING IS PROHIBITED, regardless of type of expense (e.g., food, clothing, entertainment, routine bills, commuting cost) or form of payment (e.g. cash, check, charge card, debit card). However some families may choose to establish agreed-upon exceptions before starting the fast. For example, commuting costs for working adults or writing a check for the mortgage.
4. No hoarding in advance! Intentionally stockpiling extra food and other supplies prior to the fiscal fast is strictly prohibited. Topping off the gas tank in the family car prior to the start of play is generally permitted.
5. In order to benefit fully from a fiscal fast, during the fast keep a household diary in which all players are required to make at least a short daily entry regarding:
*Challenges of getting through the day without spending money
*An estimate of how much money they would have normally spent that day, and on what
*An observation (positive or negative) about their fiscal fasting experience that day."

For our family's fast we will:
1. Last two full weeks, beginning on Sunday, May 9th and ending Saturday, May 22nd.
3. Exceptions: purchase of pediasure and milk, any adoption expenses, two previously scheduled events (Bunko and a shower I'm throwing for a friend).
5. Check back I will keep a daily log of what happened, what I learned, what made me want to scream! :)

Monday, May 10, 2010

Camping for Mother's Day and other surprisingly fun times

We went camping this weekend. And I was being a brat about it, I didn't want to go, I didn't want to do all the work that leads up to it, that makes camping (especially with toddlers) so hard. The shopping, the planning, the packing, the prep work, if you've been you catch my drift, you spend the week before a camping trip in a constant state of "preparing." Constantly asking yourself, what items do I use in my day, what cooking utensils are necessary to prepare these meals, what can I bring for Jack to eat since he's so picky, what if this happens, what if that happens?
So Kyle got sick of listening to me complain (who hasn't) and said that this trip he was going to take over all above stated planning. And he did, he planned the meals, shopped for them, prepped the food, and did all of the packing besides clothes and some odds and ends.

So off we went on Friday afternoon, with me convinced that for the first time ever we didn't forget anything. I was still dreading the long nights with the kids in that tent, but I was unwinding and starting to enjoy that feeling of realizing I get to spend a whole weekend alone in a quiet place with nobody but my three favorite people.

Then we arrived and well, the thing is, we really did pack the best we ever had. Into our various totes we had everything we needed, the only problem was one of the totes was two hours away in our kitchen, instead of in the bed of our truck. I waited for Kyle to freak and remained calm, I've learned over the years that you have to take turns having break downs and I figured it was his turn.

Then the most amazing thing happened, he stayed calm and said, ok kids we'll go down to the creek to go swimming, Mommy will run to HEB and get the food and sunscreen we left behind and everything will be okay. That's when I decided that if he was going to be calm, then I was going to take my turn at freaking, I cried a little bit, but soon was back from HEB with all we needed for the weekend in time to cook dinner and enjoy our weekend.

From then out it was a perfectly lovely, relaxing weekend and trust me no one is more surprised by that then me. There was the whole snafu with an animal running away with my bra Friday night, but he returned it by Saturday afternoon (ok, fine actually it was in the tote the whole time, but when neither of us could find it, that was what we thought had happend). We ate good, we rested, we hiked, we swam in the creek, we saw beautiful waterfalls and Kylynn went through a free program to learn to fish and caught her first fish, we had a blast and really loved McKinney Falls.

Of course I can say all of this because the weekend had the theme of Kyle doing absolutely everything, while I read a book, I didn't cook a single thing or touch a dirty dish, it really was what I've always dreamed of for mother's day.
Sunday we got up and went on one last hike and Kyle gave me my mother's day gift and then told us we were going out to eat to Macaroni Grill on our way home. Well I love Macaroni Grill and it sounded just lovely, the only problem was we looked like hillbillies who had come to town to eat at a restaurant for the first time...jeans, t-shirts, dirty from living outside with no baths for three days, I'm sure we smelled. But they let us in, I got over my embarrassment and it was a lot of fun.
Driving home I couldn't believe that I had ever dreaded the weekend, that I would waste my time complaining about the gift of time with my family. In the end I learned the lesson that God was gently telling me all weekend, that nothing else matters, not a tote of food, not a missing bra, not loss of sleep, just my family. That each moment I have with them is a gift, that a weekend filled with those moments of mommy watch this, and mommy can I hold your hand, and mommy look what I found for you, are the moments that make life worth living.

There will be no more complaining about our camping trips from me (honey, you may want to print this out and silently hand it to me next fall). I'm all about a weekend of uninterupted time with these people that make my heart ache because I love them too much.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day,

Mom, Susan, Grandma, Gran Dorothy. I love you all and admire you greatly. God has blessed me beyond my portion in the women in my life, the ones who have loved me forever and the ones who love me now because they loved Kyle forever. You each teach me something that I hope to attain someday. A drive, a strength, a beauty, a humility, an insight, a life well lived.

Enjoy this day. Sit quietly and realize that you have raised children and grandchildren who love and adore you. You have worked hard, and yet you still work hard, and the fruit of your labors has helped create this family of mine that I cannot believe is really mine for the taking.

Thank you. I look forward to every moment that I get to spend with each one of you, to learn more, to grow more, to find out the parts that make up me and my family.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Calling all Sesame Street fans

Could I have your attention for a moment. If you live in the Bryan/College Station area I would like to draw your attention to something that has been a bit of a problem in our house the past three mornings. PBS kids is not on in the mornings anymore, today at 7:30 Antiques Roadshow (a great show if your me, not so much if your a 4 year old) was on.

So I took it upon myself to notify them of what must have been a simple mistake so that they would fix it. I mean surely, it would not have been on purpose, they must know how important it is to mommies around this great town to have a safe place their children can watch about a curious monkey or a clay pre-school scientist, in order to get a pot of coffee brewed and the day mapped out. It's a given that watching a 30 minute show in the morning makes kids happy and allows them to go in to their day, having satisfied the TV need, on to bigger and better things, right?!

I got my response tonight: "We have had to shift our programming by 3 hours to meet some requirements to be included on DirecTV." You what? So you're telling me, that from now on there PBS kids will not begin until 3 hours later, like when it's no longer TV time but is snack time and school time and errand time!

He did say, he appreciate my note and would see what can be done to get some kids shows back into the morning programs, well duh, what, do you think the adult population is just itching to get their antique roadshow fix at 7 in the morning! Anyways, parents if you live in this area and your children watch PBS kids in the morning and you too can see the very long summer ahead of you, that begins with no TV and therefore means an extra 30 minutes of entertaining your children each day, contact the program director over at KAMU: Jon Bennett at (979) 845-5611 or Maybe together we can bring back some normalcy around here.

I thank you, but most of all my kids thank you.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Paper Trail

I've finally gotten my butt in gear and have been getting the paperwork needed for the home study done. I spent this morning getting some forms signed by the kids' doctor, that ended up sending me on a wild goose chase to correct Jack's medical records and locate Kylynn's. Let's just say there is a bit too much bureaucracy at Scott and White, but the people are really very helpful and a supervisor spent most of her day making phone calls on my behalf and then updating me on our progress.

I've gotten almost everything done, I still need to get the questionnaires to two of our four references, fill out a sheet on our household budget, and have a check-up/blood work for Kyle and I, but the appointment at least has been made. (If you want to pray for me, please pray I don't pass out while having my blood drawn, remember the fainting goats post).

All that to say in two weeks I should have everything complete and mailed into our agency, so that they can send out a worker to do another home study on us. And to say, I'm tired. I don't remember it being this hard last time around.

It's starting to become real to me, as I fill out each paper, I carve a little bit more space in my heart for this new baby. My thoughts turn to him more and more and I've started remembering to pray for him (timing is of course something that always changes, but most likely the birth mom is pregnant with our child right now).

It's a scary and awesome place to stand, the beginning of a journey, not knowing what twists and turns the path will take, and I'm remembering how life changing this one is. I'm looking forward to the journey as much as to the end result, to the stretching of my faith, to the lessons learned, and most of all to the times when I stop and draw near to God and rest in Him and awe at this wonder of adoption that He created and allowed me to walk in.