Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Wishes Quilt

A while back, Dawn posted about a wishes quilt she had made for her child. I couldn't help but think what a wonderful idea that would be for a baby gift. And to make it even better, I actually knew some who was expecting! So I asked my friend Lisa's family and friends to each send me a square of fabric to represent their wishes for her new baby, along with a note explaining why they chose the fabric they did. I pieced it and then asked my cousin, Alissa, to quilt it for us. I think it turned out darling. The backing fabric is the same polka dotted border fabric and to be honest, I'm totally in love with that fabric. So cute and special! Thanks Alissa for the quilting and thanks Dawn for a great idea!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Clipping Coupons

Continuing on with the saga of my weekly grocery budget...

I would say I generally save about $6 a week by using coupons. Sometimes, I only have a few dollars worth of coupons but a few weeks back, I had $15 so it all averages out. I try really hard to save my coupons for when items are on sale or on rebate so I can take advantage of a cheap sales price and the coupons.

Since I wrote about my grocery budget, several anonymous "donors" at Derek's work have been saving their coupons for us and putting them in his mailbox. (Okay, Ellen told me she was doing it so I can personally name her but we usually get 2-3 Sunday paper coupon sections each week. So if it's you, thanks. We do use them.)

I also print coupons off from several online sites. The ones I use the most are:

Coupon Bug

Smart Source

Coupons Inc.

The coupons are set to be on the site for a set amount of weeks, with new coupons rotating in to take the place of old coupons. You can usually only print out so many of one coupon so it will tell you if you've reached your maximum. You do have to download some printer software with these. Also, you do need to be careful when using online coupon sources. Often you get asked for personal information in order to get coupons. (With the ones I listed, if you do need personal information it is usually just a one time deal. Once you've signed in with them, you're good to go and won't be asked again. And you may not need to enter your personal information, I just can't remember.) I'm very reluctant to give out my email or phone number to people because I don't want obnoxious sales calls or SPAM. (With the emails, I have two email accounts: my home email and then a free email from Google. I use the home email for the people who I actually want to contact me. I give out my gmail/Google account for things that I am afraid may lead to SPAM, like the coupon sites. That way all my SPAM goes to the google account which I never actually use.)

Happy clipping!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Kenson's New Favorite Sayings

Kenson has definitely started using a lot more phrases recently. His two newest favorites?

"I'll be back." Often said to trucks and stuffed animals but occasionally the vacuum cleaner and snacks.


"Don't do that." Usually said to Mama or Papa followed by a shaking of his little hand in a no, no, no pattern.

What's up in the garden?

Unfortunately, the name of this post is a bit of a misnomer. There are only two things actually up and growing in my vegetable garden. (Garlic chives which are a perennial and my strawberries.) But over the past few weeks, Kenson and I have mananged to get a few things planted. I planted potatoes maybe almost a month ago. And I just put in my peas, lettuce, and onions. Nothing is up yet but it's in the ground so it should eventually be coming. Kenson sort of helped. He mostly just drug the full size hoe and shovel around. He did toss a few pea seeds, onions, and potato eyes on the ground. (Not in the hole or anywhere close to the spot I was pointing but I appreciate the effort.)

We also planted morning glories and moonflower this week by our arbor. We have had sunflowers over there in the past so they reseed and are already up and going. My goal has always been to have morning glories intwined and climbing up my sunflowers. If you are looking for a fun combination, that's it. Morning glories are a brilliant perwinkle blue and get relatively large flowers on them. Paired with yellow and peach sunflowers...stunning. Of course, something always happens and I haven't really ever had them look stunning. (My sunflowers die, the morning glories die, the sunflowers fall over, you get the idea.) I haven't every planted moonflower before but it is similar to a morning glory in that is has similar shaped flowers and is a vining plant as well. The morning glories are open in the morning and guess when the moonflowers are open? At night, of course. I'm hoping for success.

Friday, April 24, 2009


In honor of my cousin, Alissa's recent posts about animals she has no love for...

2 is the number of snakes I have seen in my yard this week. And trust me, we have many more snakes than just thoes two camping out in our yard. It is not unusual for us to see 5 or 6 snakes a week in the summer. For the record, I dislike them immensely. (In fact, I was going to put a picture of snakes at the top of this post but then once I looked for images online I realized that even the pictures give me the heebyjeebies.) They're just garter snakes but still it's offputting. My brains gets that they are harmless and that they are helping to keep the mice population down. But I don't appreciate the quickness with which they move or the way that they surprise you when you bend down or turn a corner. I would really like to be rid of them. I think they nest in a retaining wall that we share with a neighbor, that is made out of old railroad ties. But the weird thing is all the snake ridding ideas I've seen like putting down rough surfaces like mulch and having large pets are things we already have done and we still have snakes. We have a large double lot but we don't have any areas of tall grass for them to hide in. We live in town for pity sake! We are not supposed to have snakes! So for now I'm left awaiting my greatest fear...the moment Kenson decides they are playthings and thus picks one up! (I think I'm safe for a while; he was a bit scared of the baby kittens we saw last week that were so tiny they still had their eyes shut.)

Snake update-make that 4! I just was outside doing gardening things and found 2 more so that makes 3 I saw today and one on Tuesday. Urrr!

Image courtesy of (Taken in downtown Omaha!)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Photos for a HCH Mom

I think this is Julie. (I sometimes mix her up with Lineda so if I have the wrong kid, please let me know.) The first ones are from July 2008. The last ones are from January 2009.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Shopping Sales and My Budget

I know you were all waiting for this news...I have managed to get my grocery budget down to under $100 a week. I am now averaging around $90 a week on groceries and household expenses. Some weeks I've spent only $60. I was spending close to $120 a week so that's $30 a week I've been cutting out.

I took my friend, Rhiannon's, advice and started shopping just the sales. To really make that work, you need a few things:

a price guide to what the baseline prices are for items (I decided our local Walmart was normally the cheapest place to buy groceries and made up a list of all the normal supplies I usually buy. Then I went in and wrote down the normal price of every item. I also did this with the bread store in Lincoln as that is where I can get the cheapest bread.)

access to store ads (Since I have to drive 45 minutes to get a larger town, I generally only look at the two local stores ads. Surprisingly enough, they often have sales that are comparable to the large chains. I do go to Lincoln about every two weeks where I try to get my bread at the bread store and take advantage of Walgreens ads. If a bigger chain has an unbelievable price on something, I may arrange my trips around that. For example, Hyvee had shredded cheese for .99 a bag. That is almost 75% off of the normal price of cheese. So I did shop in the larger town just for that.)

and a stockpile of food (To be able to just shop sales, you need to have most of your basic items already in your pantry so that each week you are only buying a handful of shelf items plus your produce, dairy, and meat. I'm still working on this as there are times where I have been out of items but didn't have the item in my stockpile and it wasn't on sale so I had to pay regular price. But I am getting more and more things acculumlated. And I have a super small kitchen and hardly any cupboard space. But if you're creative you can make room for it all.)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

From Wee to Yah!

Sometime between Friday night and Saturday morning Kenson decided that he no longer needed to answer things with the affirmative Creole word "Wee!" Ask a question now and the answer you get is "Yah!" Not yes, not okay, not a head nod. "Yah." It's just like a switch has been flipped.

Holy Crapola!

One part of motherhood that has come as a mildly shocking suprise is the amount of crap your kids get. I don't mean gifts from friends or family or special treats that someone passes out at story time. I mean C-R-A-P, crap. You can hardly go anywhere without someone wanting to give your kids something for no reason what so ever other than the fact that they are a kid. Walmart gives out smiley face stickers. The doctor gives out stickers and toys. (And if you have to get poked a lot, you can get more than one thing!) Almost all kids meals come with some junky little treasure. Even our bank manages to find something for Kenson when we come in. I'm sure I sound like a big meanie but it is no wonder our kids are so into "stuff" and suffer from severe cases of entitlement. Every time they turn around they are bombarded by people giving them something, often with no real reason for the gift.

As a teacher, I didn't teach that way. My students occasionally got rewards, often at unexpected times with no predictable pattern, and always with a clearly explained rationale. Sometimes I gave out "just because" treats because I don't think kids have to feel like their behavior is always tied to the way someone expresses love for them. Often I rewarded kids with extra adult time because that is truly what they are craving. (Like reading a story to another teacher's puppet or eating lunch with me.) In fact, if we played a game or had good behavior in class, my kids quickly learned not to ask, "Can we get candy for that?" Asking for rewards was a sure way to not get a darn thing! My teaching style is pretty to the point so I often just told kids it was rude to ask for a treat when playing a game or when you receive a compliment.

And I hope as a parent, I don't parent in a way that focuses on extrinsic motivators like candy and toys as rewards for good behavior. Are such motivators necessary? At times. But they are way overused by teachers and parents. (For the record, I aim to keep it a secret that kid's meals come with toys for as long as I possibly can.)

I guess I just wish people thought about what message all those freebies send to kids. That we have to be surrounded by stuff? That we deserve treats at every moment? That temporary delights are of high importance? That toys should be cheaply made, do stupid weird things, and really have no point except for inticing you into buying a specific meal at a fast food resteraunt?

It especially saddens me when I consider how much our culture freely doles out and how much corporations spend to come up with these gimmicks. I often wonder if those same individuals or corporations are as cheerful and generous when it comes to the real needs of children.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Sickness and Death

That's what's going on at our house. Okay, maybe not death but there are times when I think death would be simpler. D has been sick for essentially the last 2 1/2 weeks. Those soccer boys of his just keep reinfecting him. (I don't know which one keeps kissing him but I sure wish they'd stop!) Kenson has been sick off and on. And now I have it so that means it's much more serious! (I'm such a baby when I don't feel good.) Right now, I think it's allergy related, sinuses plugged gunk. To borrow a phrase from another mom, a serious case of the elevens. (Those of you with toddlers think about a toddlers runny nose and the space under it and you will know exactly what I mean.) Kenson sounds like a freight train when he sleeps and is coughing like crazy. I'm just wishing that freight train would run me over.

On a more serious note, Conleigh's orphanage has been having sickness and death. There are generally four Americans/Canadians who run the place and it sounds like they have been working at a crazy pace. (It's always a crazy pace around there but it sounds like it's been even crazier.) One of the toddlers caught menegitis and passed away. So they tried to give every one antibiotics as menegitis is very contagious. Then another 2-3 kids got really sick. I'm not sure if it was menegitis or not. After that, they had a round of malaria and a round of gastorintesinal sickness impacting both kids and staff. They had several kids on IVs due to all of that. I have no idea if Conleigh was involved in any of this. This has all happened over the past few months and this is the first we've heard of it. (I'm having to bit my tongue a bit because it's frustrating that things as serious as malaria and menegitis were making kids sick and that we didn't hear about it until now. But that's the way it is. I wish we had known earlier but regardless, God is still omnipresent and omniscient and knows that situation. I'm not being flip about it; it's just that with adoption if you try to "control" or know all the details, you will make yourself crazy.) Then Minnie, the American school teacher, had a mini stroke of some kind which required hospitalization in Haiti and eventually for her to go back home to the States for a bit to rest and recover.

So perhaps I'm going on a bit much about my own could be worse.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Snapshots of Easter Weekend

We went to K's mom and dad's for the weekend and spent Easter Day with Grandpa, Grandma 1 and Grandma 2, Uncle Jared, Aunt Sheree, Uncle Tim, and Cousins Alissa, Brenna, and Quinn.
Enjoying an Easter basket from Grandma and Grandpa
Ready for the egg if I only knew what I was supposed to do!

Oh, I get it now! There's candy in them there eggs!

Inspecting the loot...between aunts, uncles, and grandparents we've got enough candy to give Willy Wonka a stomach ache.

Favorite pastimes continued, lining up all the cars
Last, an Easter parade featuring 3 kids, palm fronds, lots of noise and one terrified but complicit Yorkie

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Tweet Easter Crafts

Around here, spring means the wildlife finally creeps out from their winter hiding spots, especially the birds. Spring means we see more cardinals, robins, blue jays, and starlings. All of those birds are around during the winter but they're so much more active in the spring as they hunt for worms, splash in puddles, and fight with other birds over trees to nest in. And with Easter, the talk always turns to bunny rabbits and chicks. In fact, the preschool story hour at the library had live bunnies and chickens last week. It seemed like this would be a good time to do a craft with birds. I like doing animal craft projects because they are essentially instand vocabulary lessons. You have to use new vocabulary when you talk about them. With birds, doing a craft on that topic would introduce Kenson to the words beak, feathers, and nests.

So we looked at a site with a webcam of birds nesting and feeding as well as still shots of birds. I printed birds onto scrapbook paper using a template I found online. Then I cut them out and Kenson added googly eyes and some feathers. Every bird needs a nest so we then made yarn nests by dipping lengths of yarn into white glue and draping it around an inflated Ziplock bag. Kenson dropped the yarn into the glue for me while I coated the yarn and arranged it to make a nest. (You are supposed to use balloon instead of baggies but I forgot to get balloons to do the projec. I'm sure there are balloons somewhere in the basement with all my teaching stuff but after looking and not quickly locating the box that had my science supplies in it, I gave up. Um, they worked but a balloon would have been better.)

We put the birds into the nests, stuffed the baskets with Easter grass and added some candies, and voila! Easter treats to share.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The question I dread the most is...

"How are you liking staying at home?" Ugh! It's such a loaded question. If I quickly reply how much I love it, I feel like a big fraud. But certainly those whom have asked it don't intend for me to tell them ALL of my feelings about motherhood.

Don't get me wrong, I believe without a shadow of a doubt that staying home is where I am supposed to be right now. But I did not just "know" that right away. I am not the girl who has known all her life that she wants to stay home and be with her babies. Instead, trying to work a full time teaching job and juggling my mother-in-law's illness and death cemented by inability to be all things to all people and helped me recognize that trying to be both a mom and teacher would mean a lot of little kids, both my students and my children, would get the short end of the stick as I would not be able to invest my time in both things in the ways that I wanted.

That said, transitioning to this new life is not all roses. I'd like to tell people who ask me that at times motherhood fits me about as well as a pair of tight, pinching-my-toes-and-rubbing-my-heels-raw shoes. There are times I feel smooshed and smothered and total out of my element. I struggle with wondering if it awful that my toddler watched 2 hours of tv today or if letting him have peanut butter at every meal means he will suffer from some vitamin deficiency. It makes me frazzled and grumpy when I get woken up in the middle of the night. I sometimes push my kiddo away when I know he needs me to be more loving. I wish my husband were home more because there are a lot of days right now where I am doing the whole day by myself. I wish I could get out more, by myself, but then cringe at the thought of leaving my kiddo with someone else. There are times where I am just fed up with crying and that shrill toddler scream Kenson seems to be so fond of right now, times when those sounds bring tears to my eyes. At times, I miss my job and the sense of purpose that job brought to my life. As crazy as it sounds, I miss the buzz of a class full of 6 year olds. And then the real kicker is that I feel badly for complaining, for being negative, for being selfish, because I know there are a lot of other people who have real reasons for those feelings. I think all women do things like that. I think it's part of their DNA, to long for authenticity and honesty but then be totally taken aback and consumed by guilt when those thoughts are finally released.

And of course, there are good feelings too. Like when Kenson was totally jealous of a little boy sitting on my lap at church. Or when Kenson smiles when I return. Or a sleeping little boy who is cuddled up in my bed in the morning and greets me with eager eyes. Or when Kenson giggles nonstop because he's managed to escape from his underwear and is rolling around naked on the couch cushions.

It's just that I hate that question about staying home. Staying home is complex and complicated, full of irony. Answering that question is not short answer or multiple choice; it's truly an essay and can't be succintly summarized in a five minute conversation. Now if I could just figure out a truthful but short answer...

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Adoption Stuff-Play

The last few weeks, I have seen a marked difference in Kenson's play. He has definitely began to do more imaginative play. When he first came home, he just "used" toys. He drove the trucks but there wasn't really any rhyme or reason to what he was doing other than driving. He stacked blocks and rocked the baby doll but he seemed to not really have any motivation in doing so other than because he thought it was fun. Lately, he has been full of trying new things with his toys. He often lines all of his trucks up in a row. He likes to use one truck to push another. He hauls all sorts of things in his trucks. He still rocks his baby doll but he also wants to diaper it and feed it. (Just a word, a 9 inch Raggedy Andy looks totally ridiculous in a size 4 diaper. But apparently, he does enjoy a good pretzel.) It's just been interesting to watch Kenson's developmental play change as he gets more comfortable and is more willing to take risk and experiment with his toys.

Menu Planning Monday

Cabbage Soup
Italian bread

Black Bean Quesedillas
Apple slices

Honey Baked French Toast
Fresh fruit

Sesame Chicken
California Blend
Fresh fruit

Runza Casserole (Brown 1-2 pounds ground beef. Add to skillet 4 cups shredded cabbage and 1 medium diced onion; cook until cabbage is tender. Mix in 1 can of cheddar cheese soup and 4-6 ounces diced Velveeta cheese. Spread into a greased 9 x 13 pan and top with one can of refrigerated cresent rolls. You can press the rolls together to make a rectangle or you can put them on top in the triangle shapes they come in and leave space in between a bit like a lattice pie. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.
Mixed vegetables
Fresh fruit

Mushroomy Meatballs over egg noodles, green beans

Friday, April 3, 2009

More fashion tips from Kenson

Belts are not in this season. (He may not be "flesh of my flesh" but the issue with plumber's crack and no butt to hold up your pants seems to have been handed down from my side.)

Soccer game ready but I must get a purse

A boy can never have too many shoes.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Mark it on your calendars!

Yesterday, no potty accidents. So far today...none either! My sanity is coming back.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

God and Me-Potty Training and Long Suffering

I ended last week totally frustrated with potty training but amazed at the tie in between potty training and long suffering. If you've potty trained before, you understand what I'm saying. You think things like "You've got to be kidding me! I just asked you if you needed to go potty." and "C'mon, why are you not getting the hang of this?" Frustration mounts. The word "No Mama" abounds. Tears are shed. (By parent rather than child in case you're wondering.)

And somehow in the middle of it, God said, "Long suffering. Be long suffering because I am long suffering." So I did a topical search in the Bible for references to God's long suffering. I was reminded in 2 Peter 3:9 that God is not slow as men count count slowness but long suffering. He doesn't want anyone to perish but all to come and know Him, so He tolerates our disobedience, hoping we will turn our lives towards Him. I was reminded of numerous Old Testament depictions of God's character which lists long suffering as simply a part of who He is, a part of His unexplainable graciousness and love for us. (Ex. 34:6 , Numbers 14:18, Ps. 86:15)

It left me thankful for a God who is long suffering, who doesn't look at me and think "Are you serious? Why are you doing that? Why are you so slow to figure things out?" My God bears with me. My God is unconditional in His love for me. My God holds out hope for me. My God holds on for me. My God is long suffering. Potty training and God's character, not as unrelated as previously thought.