Wednesday, September 30

excuses

My kids' noses started running this morning, right on schedule for being exposed on Sunday at church. I was kinda hoping it was morning allergies or something, but they're only getting runnier. And so the boys and I will be staying home tonight from church.

Which got me thinking about this obnoxious, albeit slightly amusing, song (don't even get me started on the style, or the "comedy" afterwards - what?!)



That verse about the whole family staying home "just to blow that poor kid's nose" has probably influenced one or seventeen too many families into thinking that it's not spiritual to stay home when you're sick.

If you are sick, or if one of your children is sick, please - for the sake of others, use that excuse and stay at home. Pray through the church prayer sheet or something - use the time for family worship, pray for missionaries, whatever you want to do. But please don't buy into the idea that just because the doors are open you have to drag your sneezing, coughing, congested family to muddle through the service. You may survive the service, but there's no telling where your germs might travel.

Just because we are all one spiritual body does not mean each physical body has to share your germs. I can't really do anything about anyone else's feelings or actions on the matter. But I can do one thing, and that is this - we will be keeping the germs to ourselves and staying home tonight.

Midland, MI, you are welcome.

Tuesday, September 29

What's for Dinner at Our House Tonight

Lasagna is one of my favorite things to make for the family or for friends, especially when I'm going to be doing a Pampered Chef show or we have a busy afternoon planned. I can throw it together whenever I have a spare 15 minutes in the morning and it's a satisfying meal, WITH lots leftover.

It's usually pretty spendy for one meal according to our standards - probably among the most expensive dishes I make - at least on a regular basis, but lots of leftovers usually means I can divide the cost over 2 meals. This week, however, I reduced some quantities to use only ingredients I already had and avoid a grocery store run, and combined with sale prices ended up with a pretty good deal on my lasagna.

Lasagna, one pan, $5.89
(Recipe from the back of the pasta box)

1 box Barilla flat no-boil lasagne noodles ($1.72)
2 eggs (1 dozen for .89 = 2 eggs, .14)
15 oz Michigan Brand cottage cheese (you have to try this kind!!) on sale for $1.50
(substituted for the called-for ricotta and it is a small curd, low whey variety - excellent!)
2 cups (down from 4) shredded italian blend cheese $1.25
1 can (down from 2) Hunt's Garlic & Onion spaghetti sauce plus 3/4 c water .98
1/2 cup (2 oz) grated Parmesan cheese (.30 - Aldi)
1 lb ground beef (FREE - a gift to us!)

This makes the best lasagna I have ever made, and I'm telling you it is the sauce. I am disappointed that Hunt's recently changed their recipe to include HFCS, but I must say we like the taste enough to continue to buy it. This is the one item I'm willing to purchase with HFCS in it since good spaghetti sauce flavor is hard to find, and it's one meal every few weeks.

I won't go over the directions as they are printed on the box. I've also divided the recipe up in 2 8 x 8 pans and frozen it, uncooked, for later. We usually still have plenty left over for lunch the next day!

Has anyone found any no-boil whole wheat lasagne noodles? I'd be SO interested in giving those a try!

Monday, September 28

Works of God Monday


This weekend was full of much work on the house, and while photos are not yet available due to a lack of "after" shots, I will be sure to share them when the project is complete. We were able to reuse some of the materials we salvaged from our original demolition, which is always very exciting. And I'm not gonna lie, it is always great to see the "scrap pile" in our back yard decrease due to constructive use. My dad came over to help Michael this weekend, and it was a huge blessing. Praise God for talented, hardworking and creative men!

I also want to praise God for providing for us and for growing my new Pampered Chef business. I have not lacked for shows in September and October is already looking great - especially with some shows that are for people who I don't know or people who know more people I don't know, which is GREAT for business building. Only God can do this!

It's been exciting to watch Aaron learn and understand things about God that are a little tricky to explain to him. Somehow he'd gotten wind of some dubious doctrine - or had at least translated it as such in his mind, so with a few minutes' worth of explanations, it was quite refreshing to hear the corrected doctrine come from his mouth about 2 hours after the fact.

I pray that it sticks with him, and that this proves one of many steps on his journey to understanding God's Grace in salvation. My anticipation is building for the time he understands Christ's sacrifice - I am sure I cannot even begin to imagine the joy - but I pray that we as parents will be able to experience our biological children walking in truth even as we have been blessed to see with some of our spiritual children.

So how is God blessing your family, working in your life by encouraging, convicting, providing? Please share!

"Therefore encourage one another and build one another up..." 1 Thess. 5:11

In the Mister Linky widget below, simply type your name in the top box, or a short description of the work that God has done, and then in the second box, paste the link from your specific "Works of God Monday" post. If you don't have a blog, use the comment section! Feel free to use the image from the top of this post if you like.



Friday, September 25

Aaron's Amazing Dream

I was sleeping in my bed, and I waked up, and heard sompin'. And I looked, and it was you, Mom, flying around up high and catching birds, and going way up in the sky. And guess what, Mom? You had a cape! A BIIIIIIIG LOOOOOOONG cape! And then you went back to sleep and I flied around up high with my little tiny cape, and I flied into mommy's room and saw you in your bed and you heard a noise and waked up and saw me. Flying. And I had bandaids on my arms. Maybe I can do that outside today, mom.

Great dream, Aaron. I only wish I could get you to tell it for the video camera in the same adorable way you told me.

I love you!
Mommy

Wednesday, September 23

What I know. (and maybe a tiny little giveaway)

I know that reusable grocery sacks are just plain better. I love mine and am always bummed when I get to the store and realize that I left them home. (At that point I usually get paper) But recently, I was chatting with an unnamed friend and she mentioned that she's never used them - and said something like, "they seem so small - and when I grocery shop, I really want to grocery shop"

So, unnamed friend, this one's for you - and for those others who are blog readers and who also may have similar thoughts that may have caused you steer clear of cloth bagging it.

First, there is the issue of environmental stewardship. I'm not saying this to give anyone a guilt trip, I love all people regardless of their bagging preferences. But, I think we can at least all agree that if one person stops using plastic bags, primarily, there will be fewer plastic bags around and generally speaking, less plastic trash = better. Can you honestly say that you re-use your plastic grocery sacks at the same rate at which you obtain them from the store? What about the bags that tear and rip? There isn't really an easy way to find a use for those holey bags, unless you are particularly resourceful or creative. (CUTE!)

Second, when you use cloth bags, you really can get more groceries in per bag without injury to the groceries, the bags, or to you when you chase groceries down after a bag breakage, not to mention, it's healthier. Blood pressure, you know. Less stress because you're not dealing with broken bags and loss of circulation from heavy plastic bags cutting into your hands. OK - that might be a stretch. But the more stuff per bag is TRUE, and I have the photos to prove it.

Now, the following photos are not my best-shopping-trip photos, so please overlook the graham crackers and stovetop stuffing mix and instead direct your focus on the all natural dish soap, the milled flax seed, and the best vanilla ever that is worth every extra cent. The whole grain bread and peaches canned in 100% fruit juice are okay, too. What? The pictures are blurry? I totally did not do that on purpose.

Here you see one of my least favorite cloth sacks, but probably the most economical. This is the Walm*rt special, which I obtained for a mere 50 cents. It is full to the brim, but the handles start above the brim, so the groceries definitely do not interfere with carrying the bag. Which is a plus when you have bread on the top of your bag. Unlike the plastic sacks, the bread will remain unsquished.



Demonstrated here is my family's affinity for graham crackers. And it may or may not be my late night snack of choice. Anyway, the fact remains that even with two extra wide loaves of bread on top there is still plenty of room for more stuff underneath.




Yes, you might have to lean to the right, but you will then see the best vanilla available at the Midland Meijer. It is worth every penny. You will have to trust me, but this is a quality ingredient that makes a ton of difference in your vanilla treats. I am speaking here of rice pudding, especially. Or anything with butter. And vanilla. And sugar. Oh. Be still my taste buds.






So let's review. 3 boxes of graham crackers, 2 boxes of stovetop stuffing, 2 cans of peaches, a bag of milled flaxseed, 2 spice cannisters, a bottle of dishsoap and a bottle of vanilla all fit quite comfortably in my cheapie cloth sack.




And here is how it (doesn't) all quite fit into a plastic sack. It is hard to tell from the photo, but I filled the bag up waaaay more than I would at the store - I would be slightly freaked out that it would break and that is the last thing I need to be worrying about with 2 kiddos in a parking lot - chasing groceries. The corners were taut around the boxes, which often equals disaster.


So, are you convinced? Were you always? Would you like to give cloth bagging a try? It's easy - start small! Around here, stores have reusable bags hanging at the register for around $1 a bag - if you start with one and add one every shopping trip, before you know it you will have 6 or more bags to shop with! You can also make bags - there is a great tutorial here - and you can also buy them on etsy if you want something more artisty but can't sew. I do recommend that you get some with the box shaped bottom, which is why I love that tutorial so much.

Also, it helps me to unload the groceries and immediately return the bags to the van, as I am forgetful and do not need to add one more thing to the extensive list of items needed to leave the house with 2 small children.

What's that you say? You don't have 1 bag to start out with? Well, you have a chance to win one today! I'm giving away a reusable shopping bag with a Pampered Chef logo (woo hoo) on it to one fabulous reader! Just leave a comment with your feelings on cloth bagging, when you started or if you plan to start soon, and I will draw a name on Friday afternoon and send you a bag! US addresses only, please!

***THIS GIVEAWAY IS CLOSED! Congratulations to Sandra, who wins a Pampered Chef logo reusable bag!***

Monday, September 21

Works of God Monday

What a week it has been! I am thankful to God for so many things this week, but especially for the health and safety of our children. Praise God for sustaining us and for giving grace.

Yesterday after church, we had our first youth staff meeting of the school year and we are so excited to see what God is going to do this year in the junior high. We were sad to say goodbye to some friends who are moving up to work with the senior high, but we were also happy to welcome their replacements. We are so blessed to be able to have 3 fantastic couples who are willing to work with us to impact the junior high teens. We definitely couldn't do it without them! We are looking forward to this Wednesday - our first youth group week of the school year!

We were also able to begin the last big project before our home refinancing, which we are hoping will happen very soon. I'm getting so excited about it - it means that our PMI will go bye-bye and that our new kitchen is close enough to taste. I cannot tell you how excited I am getting to actually have a place for everything in my kitchen! YAY!

Anyway, we are clearing out the mudroom and pantry/laundry area so that we can clean up the drywall, finish the mudding and paint - it's not going to be finished the way we were thinking but it will enhance the value of our house for the appraisal. No one likes to see grey drywall with mud lines, and appraisers are no exception.

God's provision is evident in this project - in several ways. In the process, we've cleaned out our food pantry area and I am STUNNED with the massive quantities of food staples that we had stored back there. We have been blessed - and it's time for a pantry-clean-out challenge again for our family!

Second, the mud and paint are already in hand, provided by God at no cost to us! We are ready to go with very little out of pocket expense, which is always fantastic. I cannot wait to show you photos of our progress so that you can rejoice with us in God's provision. We are hoping that by next Monday, that project will be well underway, if not complete. Praise God!

And we've called the bank to start the process of the refinancing and got some great news - the current interest rate is well below what we are paying now, and the terms we were hoping for are also available and attainable. God is so kind to us. Please pray that everything continues to go smoothly in this process! We still have a ways to go for our 5-year plan, but this would keep us on track.

So how is God blessing your family, working in your life by encouraging, convicting, providing? Please share!

"Therefore encourage one another and build one another up..." 1 Thess. 5:11

In the Mister Linky widget below, simply type your name in the top box, or a short description of the work that God has done, and then in the second box, paste the link from your specific "Works of God Monday" post. If you don't have a blog, use the comment section! Feel free to use the image from the top of this post if you like.


Saturday, September 19

Ice Cream and Aaron








video


Today was a special day - Aaron's first ice cream cone. Well, definitely not his first ice cream, just the first ice cream CONE. And as you can see, he enjoyed it to the very sweet end.


Half off day at the local DQ and a local hot air balloon festival made it a fun Saturday, indeed.










Friday, September 18

photorama














Friday.

Woo hoo, it's Friday!! I was hoping to have the house whipped into shape and the laundry caught up by tonight - so we can spend our weekend NOT doing house chores, and perhaps get a little progress made in other areas. I'd like some progress in sleep catch up but something tells me that I am going to feel like that for a long, long time.

So I got started right away this morning, but while I was folding and sorting laundry I remembered that Evan is growing out of all his clothes and winter will soon be upon us, so I hauled out the larger-size clothes bins out of the garage and did a switcheroo now, to save steps.

God has blessed us ABUNDANTLY with clothes for the boys, and my list of things to keep looking for at the few dwindling garage sales is shockingly small. I even have a small stack to pass on to others, which is exciting. Unless someone wants to tell me that I might want to hang on to 8 pairs of 3T blue jeans. I don't know - I haven't ever clothed a 3 year old boy before.

Oh, and while you're at the clothing advice, if anyone knows where I can get regular old not-white toddler underwear (briefs) in size 2-3T that will last longer than this last pack, that would be good. I'd like plain colored ones - I think they'd look nice longer. We paid waaaaay too much for superhero underwear.

Anyway, I was so blessed that I had to praise God on our blog! I am so thankful for kind and generous people of God who are willing to bless us in this way!

Wednesday, September 16

I don't think anyone's ready for this.


This is why I did not tell Aaron

until 5:17pm

that his first night of Cubbies was tonight.

I hope everyone took their vitamins today.

(they grow up so fast)

And yes, he picked his own socks, and pulled them up to his knees.

Apparently, it helps you run faster.

Tuesday, September 15

I am not superwoman.

I do appreciate all your kind guesses on my Target shopping trip, but here's the breakdown:

I paid $29.47.

The giant box of EasyUps was $20, though, after my coupon for that item, so that really inflated the total. I'm a loyal EasyUps brand user, as Aaron's skin never got along with Huggies as a baby. We were given some Pull-ups in a bigger size, so I'm hanging on to that pack to test out, but until then I'll take my mediocre deal on Pampers brand.

I've tried the store brands but I figure if I'm spending the $ for nighttime protection, I'm going to at least get something that has a more certain chance of not leaking. I realize I could wake up and take him to the bathroom, but at this point my sleep is most valuable to everyone's well being, and I'm not ready to face a freaked-out-'cause-I-woke-him three year old at midnight. And no one is ready to face a sleep deprived Jenny. *grin*grimace*

I was thrilled with my deals (Kashi for under $1/item??), but boy, howdy! I would have been even more thrilled with an under-$12 expenditure!

And let me also say at this juncture that not only am I brand loyal with training pants I don't really need to buy, but I also purchase only pre-cooked bacon. Please don't judge me.

So definitely, I am not superwoman.

Monday, September 14

hurray!

oh, yippee!!! Here's what I got at Target this morning. I have to say I was thrilled. I normally do not get to Target in time to cash in on the really great deals - or at least by the time I get there, all the stuff I have coupons for is already gone. So I figured Monday morning was as good a time as any to try again. So here's what I bought. Please keep in mind I am willing to pay (a little) more for quality products like Kashi!

6 boxes of Kashi Honey Sunshine cereal
2 Kashi frozen dinners (hey, I had coupons...)
2 boxes of Kashi cookies (what? This still counts as dessert? They taste like muffins!)
1 3-pack of baby wipes refills
a gigantic box of Pampers EasyUps - totally unplanned buy as they were clearancing all the big boxes in favor of the small boxes. 86 count.

Drumroll please, the total was...what? You want to guess? All right, fine. Guess away.

I'd love to give away one of the $5 Target gift cards I "earned" but I had to figure that in to my total, so that wouldn't be good. I have to use them for something boring and necessary in order to really see the savings. I'll post the total late tonight or tomorrow morning.

Works of God Monday

God is always, always at work. This weekend was no exception, and we got to see God working in a really neat way - in Aaron's heart. Last night at church he was in the nursery with his friends and some of our friends were taking care of the 12 (!!!!) 2 & 3 year olds. When I went to get my 3 year old from the nursery, he was sitting rather despondently in a chair on the other side of the room and came running over to me wanting me to hold him.

I heard the story of how he had disobeyed and suffered the natural consequences of his actions with a fall - a pretty good fall - and so I apologised to the teacher and we were on our way. I don't know what I was thinking - probably that I had to catch some people - and I didn't have Aaron say he was sorry, or anything. He was acting VERY clingy - not wanting to give hugs to Grandma & Papa, just being sad and mopey, which is totally unlike Aaron.

On the way home, I asked him what was wrong and he said "I'll tell you at our house, mom" - I think he wanted me to be able to look at him while he talked to me. So we chatted about a few more things until we got home, but he was sad and mopey. I was about ready to chalk it up to the long day - long services honoring 2 of our pastors for serving at our church 10 and 30 years, church picnic, late & short nap, etc.

We got home and after a looooong discussion it came out that he had indeed disobeyed and he hadn't told Mr. Tomko that he was sorry, and that was making him sad. I asked him if he would like to call on the phone and say sorry, and he said yes, so we did. I could literally see the burden lifted off his little shoulders, and as he ate his snack he was happy again and his old chatty self.

PRAISE GOD for giving Aaron a sensitivity to his sin yesterday, and for teaching me the importance of apologies and setting relationships right again, even for 3 year olds. It's continually amazing to me all that our kids can understand. I pray that Aaron's sensitivity will continue and that God would draw Aaron to Himself for salvation. What a great day that will be!

So, how has God been at work in YOUR life this week? How has He provided, encouraged, or convicted you? Please share!!

"Therefore encourage one another and build one another up..." 1 Thess. 5:11

In the Mister Linky widget below, simply type your name in the top box, or a short description of the work that God has done, and then in the second box, paste the link from your specific "Works of God Monday" post. If you don't have a blog, use the comment section! Feel free to use the image from the top of this post if you like.


Friday, September 11

garden fresh









I was hoping, when I planted my 3 grape tomato plants, that Aaron would learn to like tomatoes. Shelley has told me about her daughter Carmen eating tomatoes straight from the garden, but in May, Aaron would have nothing to do with tomatoes. However, tiny things somehow help with growing the love around here, so I was hopeful. He sees tomatoes on his plate and immediately asks, "May can I do chubby cheeks please?" and it's so adorable - how can I resist?

I know I'm biased, but I really do think that our grape/cherry/whatever it ended up being tomato variety is possibly the tastiest I've had. VERY flavorful. And this boy? Definitely the tastiest 3 year old around.

Thursday, September 10

Thursday already?

So the Muths are semi-quarantined, due to a "it's probably nothing but a cold" possible case of a very contagious communicable disease. But we did take a nice long drive this morning, or I would totally be going nuts. Aaron gets antsy, and then we all get antsy. He's Mr. Social, and "needs" to get out - since parks are off limits, a van ride will do fine, thank-you-very-much. We are all on antibiotics, and it's making me feel quite ill. I don't do well with Zithromax, I've learned. Next time, I'll have to see if there is an alternative.

Last Thursday was a doctor visit for check ups, and Aaron is now a whopping 37 1/2 inches tall and weighs 32 pounds, solidly in the 50th percentile. Evan, our resident shrimp, is following in his brother's slow growing footsteps and is 28 inches long with a 17.8 lb weigh in. He's just below the 3rd percentile, but no one is concerned, which is nice.

Aaron is growing up so fast - lightning fast. Today he asked me to make a treasure map for him, and then asked me to fold it and write "Do Not Spy" on the outside. I have NO IDEA. He has such an imagination!! So fun! Evan's not walking yet, but you won't hear me complaining. He just today wriggled his way out of his exersaucer while I was helping Aaron in the bathroom. I came out and he was sitting there playing with his blocks. He is going to be more of a climber than Aaron was, too.

We had a very fun "last big hurrah" with mom & dad before the start of the school year at the Sanford Splash park, our first visit but definitely not our last. Here are a few photos. I certainly am blessed.

















Monday, September 7

Works of God Monday

Sorry this is late - yesterday just didn't feel like Monday to me! I did not get right on posting first thing in the morning and before I knew it, it was 8:30pm and I was getting a phone call from Andrea asking "where is Works of God Monday?" Oops.

God is so good! He provides time and time again for the things we need, and depending on which version you're reading, bears our burdens, loads us with benefits, bears us up. This weekend, God gave me much encouragement through my husband. He used his time off to make improvements on our house - we are one step closer to finishing the trim! The bathroom is completely trimmed out! Hooray! My dad came over and helped us paint our garage entrance door, our back entrance door, and install the garage door opener.

The playroom/Evan's sleeping room has baseboard, as well as some sections of the hallway. Two closet doors have trim! It's so exciting!!

All the extension jambs are in the windows, which might not mean a whole lot to those of you who moved into a house that had all the windows nicely trimmed out, but it means we are making progress! And since I know you like visual aids, here are some examples. The first window has no extension jamb - this is how all the windows in our house have looked for a few years. The second photo is with an extension jamb. And that is how our windows look now. Improvement, yes?

The best part about this weekend's projects is that God provided the materials for us. And we didn't sneak into Home Depot in the dead of night and help ourselves, either. We were able to purchase all the wood for the jambs with gift cards that we were able to earn from various things. Hooray for unconventional ways of provision!

We have a little more trim in the garage to install before we have to purchase more, but it is great to watch the baby steps. We are praying that God will allow us to refinance our house soon, and this is one of the major steps toward that end. We are praising HIM for the holiday weekend and the time Michael was able to devote to our home improvements!

So, how has God been at work in YOUR life this week? How has He provided, encouraged, or convicted you? Please share!!

"Therefore encourage one another and build one another up..." 1 Thess. 5:11

In the Mister Linky widget below, simply type your name in the top box, or a short description of the work that God has done, and then in the second box, paste the link from your specific "Works of God Monday" post. If you don't have a blog, use the comment section! Feel free to use the image from the top of this post if you like.




Wednesday, September 2

Free stuff, easier than ever

Well, Swagbucks is pretty much the coolest way to earn freebies. I've earned totally FREE $10 Starbucks cards just by using Swagbucks as my search engine of choice. It takes awhile, but it is worth it - especially when I (almost) never justify splurging on a fancy pants cup of coffee.

The only problem was, part of the reason it took so long to earn that gift card is that I could never remember to go to the Swagbucks site, type in my info, and search. It was just too many steps and my mommy brain could NOT remember to do it.

Until now.

Swagbucks has now come up with a toolbar with a search bar. I downloaded it, and it's SO easy to remember now. There's a tiny little toolbar with SWAGBUCKS in capital letters to remind me to search there, plus a running total of my earnings. If you haven't signed up yet, use any of the Swagbucks links here and get 3 free swagbucks just for joining!

There are all kinds of rewards - planting a tree, amazon.com gift cards, prepaid mastercards, etc. Something there for everyone! Go sign up today - if you're searching, you may as well be earning!

Tuesday, September 1

for moms and moms to be

Guess what? I just found a giveaway for a Medela Pump In Style. Yeah, I'm doing everything to increase my odds of winning this item, including blogging about it.

Sorry, guys.

oooh, looks delicious.

eeeeeeeeuuuuuuwwwww.

that is all.