Tuesday, December 13, 2011

BlogHer has a section on their site called Life Well Lived.  One of my favorite sections is the one on getting organized.  You've all heard me lament that organization is not my strong point.  The problem they are tackling this week is:

The holidays make me so anxious!  How can I stay organized this year?

My answer is on their blog post.  I encourage you to head over there, find my answer, and join the conversation too.  I've found some of the best solutions to my problems have come from blog comments.

Once you have checked out the post, I encourage to head over to their sweepstakes page and enter to win a $250 Visa gift card. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Still Alive

Wonder where I've been?  Losing.my.mind!  A few months ago, God blessed us with finally receiving the therapy we've been working towards for our oldest.  While a huge blessing, it is absolutely exhausting.  Three days a week I have to find a babysitter for my youngest and pick my oldest up from school early.  We drive to a town 20 minutes away for therapy, drive back, and then it is magically dinner time. 

A fourth day, every other week, I get to car line early so I'm in the front of the line to pick up my child.  We then race across town to therapy.  I meet my husband in the parking lot of the clinic (he gets off work just after car line starts) so he can take the youngest home while I take the oldest to therapy. 

I should also mention, my two year old has decided the only place he will take naps is in the van.  For the past few months, we've been leaving the house around one to get him to sleep.  This means I don't see my house again until dinnertime.

Since this didn't seem busy enough, we added therapy one day every other week for the little one too.  His issue has to do with running and balance and won't be a long term problem but it still makes for a busy schedule.  Luckily, they were able to schedule him at the same time as one of his brother's appointments so one less trip to the clinic.

On top of that, I had foot surgery at the end of November and have been stuck on the couch.  I thought it would be wonderful to get a break, catch up on reading, blogging, etc.  I didn't take in to account pain meds apparently mess with my mind.  Twenty minutes after I took them I was sound asleep.  Once I woke up I couldn't focus on anything.  I sat and stared at Facebook half the day because I couldn't read a book or type more than a sentence or two at a time.  Thank goodness I'm off those meds now because although the break from life was great, the fog I was in wasn't so great.

All this to say, I'm still alive and doing the best I can to keep up right now.  I have some recipes and crafts I would love to share and hope to do that off and on over the next month.  Considering the therapy is a long term schedule, unless someone gifts me with an ipad that I can take to appointments, I don't think consistent blogging will be coming back any time soon.  You guys have been great to hang in there and check in every now and then though so please keep coming back as you get a chance.

In the meantime, I pray you have a relaxing, enjoyable Christmas.  Remember that He is the reason for the season.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Proud to Support Pink: Freschetta Giveaway

Freschetta is supporting Breast Cancer Awareness month through their Proud to Support Pink campaign. From now until Monday, Oct. 31, you can enter codes from Freschetta pizzas and crusts at www.proudtosupportpink.com.  Each code entered will donate $1 to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, with a goal of a $50,000 donation.

I personally know several people who have survived breast cancer, some even my age.  One simple way I can support them is by funding research. Freschetta is making it easy and even giving you a free code to enter to support research.  Simply go to www.proudtosupportpink.com and enter FRESCH11.

Freschetta has also generously offered to give one lucky reader a coupon for a free Freschetta product and two pairs of Freschetta Proud to Support Pink earphones so you can share a pair with a friend.

This is a short giveaway and will only be open until Sunday, Oct. 30 at 9 pm CST.  

To enter, leave a comment telling me your favorite kind of pizza.  Mine would be ham & pineapple.

For extra entries:

Subscribe to this blog via RSS or email
Tweet about the giveaway and leave a link with the tweet

Disclaimer: I was given an identical prize pack as a thank you for my post. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Coffee Tip

I've shared before that adding a sprinkle of Splenda to your coffee grounds cuts back on the acidity.  I've been experimenting lately and discovered the perfect fall cup of coffee has a sprinkle of Stevia in the Raw, cinnamon, and nutmeg.   

Sprinkle these items on the grounds before brewing and you will have a wonderful cup of coffee seasoned to your taste.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Yoplait Giveaway

Did you know that 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime?  I know several women, some even my age, who have been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Yoplait wants to do something about this.  The Save Lids Save Lives program, ten cents will be donated for every pink lid redeemed.  They can be mailed in by December 31 or redeemed online.  Yoplait is even tracking lids by zip code so the funding can go back to local breast cancer programs.

Yoplait has generously offered my readers a .30/1 coupon.

They have also provided a giveaway to one lucky reader.  This prize package includes two coupons for a free cup of Yoplait yogurt, a Yoplait pink lid collection kit, tote bag, heart shaped key holder, hope journal, and pen.

This giveaway will be open until Wed, Oct. 12 at 9 pm CST.  Winner will have 48 hours to respond. 

To enter, simply leave a comment telling me your favorite flavor of yogurt.  Mine varies by day but I currently love any of the dessert flavors.

For extra entries: 

Subscribe via email or RSS

Tweet about this giveaway and leave a link 

Disclaimer:  Yoplait and MyBlogSpark generously gave me a similar prize pack, opinions however are my own.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Giveaway from Doozy Cards

Do you like to send ecards to friends and family?  This week I am giving away a premiere membership to DoozyCards.com so you can send unique, creative ecards to others.

DoozyCards.com is a family owned and run company that designs and
produces all their cards in-house.  Each card is full of original
music, cute characters and warm sentiments and is a great way to let a
friend or family member know you are thinking about them throughout
the year. Featuring Mariachi Pugs, Anniversary Swans, piano playing
lizards, and dancing cakes, Doozy is sure you'll find just the right
card for the right moment.

The Premiere membership you can win includes:

    •       Unlimited Access to ALL of their 1,600+ cards

    •       A Birthday and Holliday Reminder System

    •       An Online Address Book

    •       Original Artwork and Music

    •       Brand New Cards Created Throughout The Year

Doozy also recently launched a totally free ecard option with over
400+ Free E-cards that you can start using right away.

What You Can Win!

Two lucky readers are going to win a one year PREMIUM membership to
Doozycards.com!! A value of $19.95!

How To Enter!

To enter this giveaway please visit DoozyCards.com and choose two of your favorite cards, then come back and leave a comment on this post telling me which cards you like best.

Extra Entries!

"Like” Doozy Cards on Facebook and leave a comment that you came from
our site (3 extra entries)

Follow @doozycards on Twitter and tweet "Just entered the @doozycards
free year membership giveaway" (3 extra entries)

Tweet about this giveaway on Twitter…Make sure you leave the URL to
your Tweet in your comments!  (2 tweets per day = 2 extra entries per

Giveaway is open until Oct. 3 at 9 pm CST.  Winner will have 48 hours to respond.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Homemade Granola Bars

In an effort to eat better, I've been making more and more of our food from scratch.  Snack food has been tough for me as my boys prefer all of the icky processed snack foods.  I'm working hard to eliminate the processed foods though so I'm always on the lookout for new recipes.

This summer I posted on Facebook asking if anyone had a great granola recipe.  My friend Jenn posted one and I've found it to be incredibly easy and versatile.  One child will sometimes eat it but the other loves them and thinks he is eating cookies.  I like them too because they are packed with protein and give me a sweet snack during the day.

Homemade Granola Bars
By Jenn

2 cups oatmeal (quick or old fashioned)                               
1/2 cup flour (can use whole wheat)                                      
1/2 cup sugar (or honey, or agave, or splenda)                     
1 tsp. baking soda                                                                
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup applesauce (heaping)
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup craisins
1/2 cup chocolate chips
  1. Mix dry ingredients.
2. Add applesauce and peanut butter mixing well.
3. Stir in craisins and chocolate chips.
4. Press firmly (can use a rolling pin) into a greased cookie sheet.
5. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.
6. Cut into bars after slightly cool.

Tips (from Jenn):
You can substitute the last two ingredients for lots of different things.  I have used nuts, white chocolate, infused craisins, golden raisins, & dried pineapple.  If you measure the applesauce first, then the peanut butter will just slide out of the cup when you use the same one.    I like to roll them onto greased parchment paper so I can transfer them easily to my cutting board before cutting to save my non-stick pan.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Tommee Tippee Digital Photobook & Giveaway

Tommee Tippee has come out with a fun new digital baby photobook.  Here is how they describe this new photobook:

"...a simple way to capture moments of pregnancy and the birth day through the gathering of Facebook posts, a selection of birthday news and facts and the collection of precious memories through a pregnancy journal."

The best part - it is free!

Many times in the past, when I've had big news to share, I've wanted to save comments from Facebook.  This new photobook does that for you.  It also acts as a great way to document your pregnancy and those first few months of your newborn.

I have reviewed Tommee Tippee products in the past and have always been impressed with their product line.  This new item just adds to the excitement of that line.  In the US, Tommee Tippee products can be purchased at Toys R Us.

In celebration of the new photobook, Tommee Tippee is graciously offering one winner a newborn starter pack.  To enter, tell me your favorite baby product - the one you couldn't live without or you always give as baby shower gifts.

For extra entries, like Tommee Tippee on Facebook and/or follow me via email or RSS.  Please leave a separate comment for each entry.

This giveaway is open until Friday, September 16 at 9 pm CST.  The winner will have 48 hours to respond.

Disclaimer:  Tommee Tippee provided this prize, no other compensation has occurred for my opinion.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Our Journey

When I started this blog over three years ago, we were struggling to survive on a part time income.  In order to keep our head above water, I learned all kinds of new ways to be frugal.  I began making my own laundry detergent, wasting less, and meal planning around sales. As our income increased this past November, I still kept doing those things as they had simply become a way of life.

Something else had changed though.  We were in the midst of discovering our oldest child was more than just an over active child, he was actually a special needs child. Since we began this journey about a year and a half ago to figure out his diagnosis, my reasons for making homemade items completely changed. 

I started realizing just how many toxins and junk we come into contact with every single day.  I kept up making the laundry detergent and other cleaners simply to remove the toxins from our house.  I kept making food from scratch so I could avoid the processed additives we did not need in our diet.

As we keep going down this journey, I'm now working on reducing the amount of sugar in our diet.  I'm spending more time in the kitchen (my favorite place to be by the way) in order to improve our diet.  I'm also discovering that being frugal and being healthy go hand in hand.

Yes, many healthy items are not cheap but when you take the time to garden or make food from scratch healthy items can be affordable.

Going forward from here, I plan to share some of the information I have discovered over the past year or so and how I'm combining frugal with green, healthy living.

While I am certainly no expert in this area, I have learned a ton lately and I want to share it with my faithful readers.  If there is any topic you would like me to cover, feel free to leave a comment or send me an email.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Vacation Tips & Giveaway: Meal Planning

One thing I did not think about before going on vacation was what we would eat once we got home.   I worked hard the week before we left to clean out the food in the fridge.  When we arrived home I realized I needed to go to the grocery store if we were to eat more than frozen meals.  I was too exhausted to come up with a meal plan though.  

I've vowed that on our next vacation I will have a meal plan in place before we leave on vacation.  I will do my best to have a grocery list to go with it too so I can ease back into life after vacation instead of being thrown back into it.

One thing that did help me get back on track after vacation was that Kroger started their annual Cart Buster event just days after I got home.  This allowed me stock up on great name brand products at a reduced price. 

The Cart Buster event continues through August 17 so you still have a few days to get in on the savings.  Be sure to visit the Cart Buster website every day between now and August 16 to download the "Deal of the Day" exclusive offers.

Kroger and MyBlogSpark kindly provided me a gift card to share this annual event with you and they also provided a gift card for me to give to one of my readers.

To enter the giveaway for a $25 Kroger gift card, share one of your favorite vacation tips.  It can be geared towards planning, places to go, how to survive with children, basically whatever you want to share.

For extra entries, subscribe to Living Life With Less via RSS or email.

Mention this giveaway on Facebook or Twitter.

This contest will be open until 9 pm CST on Monday, August 15.  Winner will have 48 hours to respond or another winner will be chosen.

Disclosure: The Kroger gift card, information, and giveaway have been provided by Kroger and General Mills through MyBlogSpark

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Vacation Tips: Cruise Excursions

Our recent vacation was a cruise.  I've been on several but we met many people on the ship who were cruising for the first time.  Most of them assumed you had to do an excursion through the cruise line.  In some instances I think this is fine but for the majority of excursions I suggest waiting until you get off the ship and seeing what is available.  

For instance, we knew we wanted to go to the beach at one port.  We asked the taxi drivers the price and then found someone to give us a tour of the island plus drop us off and pick us up for the same price the other drivers were giving us just for the beach.  Another family joined us so the driver was still making a good profit.

In another country we knew we wanted to go cavetubing and researched several companies online before setting sail.  Once there, we found some of the reputable companies and worked a deal.  The price we paid for two tickets was equal to what the cruise was selling one ticket for.  Also, while on the river the guide showed us where the cruises get out of the water, but we continued a bit further down the water and saw some beautiful scenery we would not have seen otherwise.

If you are going on a cruise or to a resort, I suggest checking it out online first and seeing what others recommend.  This way you will know if you should buy an excursion or seek out something on your own.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Vacation Tips: Plan Ahead

I just got back from a wonderful, kid free, vacation.  It was much needed as now I feel refreshed and ready to face life again.  My kids had a blast too as they got to spend a week with my inlaws at their farm. 

I didn't have computer access while I was away (side note - it was wonderful to have a technology break for awhile) but I kept thinking of little tips that would be helpful towards saving money that I wanted to share with my readers.  I'm going to share some over the next week or so and today I'm going to start with pre-vacation planning.

I don't know about you, but I'm always stressed with last minute to do's right before vacation.  This time I started planning months ahead and it really helped.

We began by looking at how many days we would be gone and seeing if we had enough clothes to see us through.  I realized I needed 1-2 more pairs of shorts and a wrap or cardigan so I set out to check out the deals.  By not waiting until the last minute I was able to find rock bottom deals.

Once we had clothes under control, we moved on to the little things.  A month before we left, we stocked up on any toiletries we were low on and refilled all medications that would be running low by vacation time.  I'm bad about thinking of these things the week before vacation and then not having time to get to the store to get the needed items.

Finally, I dislike coming home to a messy house so we started cleaning it up a few week's before we left.  It helped knowing that my kids and inlaws would be staying at my house for a day or so while we were gone.  Nothing like the pressure of someone else living in your house while you are gone.  By picking up the piles of junk ahead of time all I really needed to do before leaving was some quick maintenance cleaning.

Your list probably contains more than this but these are a few things to start thinking about.  Before you leave on vacation, I suggest making a list of everything you might need to do and then breaking it down so that you can leave on vacation relaxed and ready instead of thinking of everything you didn't get done.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Cupcake Tip

Yes, I am still alive.  Summer has been a bit busy and by the time I get a moment to hangout on the computer I'm too brain dead to write anything.

I have a free moment though and I've been wanting to share a few new tips so here is one.

When making cupcakes, use an ice cream scoop to put the mix in the liners.  If making mini cupcakes, use a melon scoop.  We make a lot of cupcakes and muffins around here and scooping this way has saved me a ton of time and mess.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Fun & Easy Snack

This week in "Mommy School" we are studying dinosaurs.  Somewhere in my quest to find activities for this week I came across a great snack idea that can be adapted for any theme.  Sorry there are no pics - I didn't even think of it until the kids were done eating them.

Take a piece of bread and toast it.  As soon as it comes out, top with one slice of cheese.  The warm bread will slightly melt the cheese, if you prefer it melted a bit more pop it in the microwave for a few seconds.  Use a cookie cutter to cut out the shape of your choice.

We cut out dinosaur shapes and my oldest loved it.  My youngest isn't a fan of cheese so he peeled the cheese off and just ate the toast.  I will probably do this again with different shapes and just use jelly for my youngest.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Mommy School and a Dollar Store Find

As of today, my oldest is officially a preschool graduate.  He informed me a few weeks ago though that this summer we would be doing "Mommy School" every day.  This is something he started one day when he was sick and we needed something to fill the day as he was really missing his friends from school.  We've done it every day since that he is out of school.

Since I'm normally doing it only one day at a time, I usually just grab his Highlights High Five magazine and and pick a few activities out of it since he rarely looks at the magazine.  If we've used up the current issue I print something off the internet or pull out a school project he didn't have time to finish.

Seeing as this is a whole summer, my usual plan just won't work.  Mommy School is going to be based loosely off his school schedule he had this year since he loves that routine.  The only main difference is that we will have a "field trip" almost every day as mommy needs out of the house.

I've created a theme for each week and I'm doing my best to incorporate some educational items, therapy, and fun into each day.  I was searching the dollar store this week for some fun surprises and found out they have some homeschool type workbooks.  I was able to pick up a few to use in Mommy School and I even found one that will work for my almost two year old. 

They also had a ton of school related items such as charts, rewards, stickers, etc.  I'm able to supplement our school at a fraction of the cost of what I thought it would cost.

My other major resource for school is the library.  I've lined up books and movies based on our theme each week.

We will see how this goes.  I plan to update in a few weeks and let you know if we are still doing Mommy School.  I think he will benefit from the routine and I'm hoping it will keep us from going crazy each day.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Preparing for a Tornado

I'm currently sitting in my basement waiting for a storm to pass by.  It looks like the worst of it will not hit us but just an hour down the road was hit hard. 

As I was preparing to head to the basement, it dawned on me that many people do not know what to do in a tornado.  I happen to live in an area where tornadoes are a bit too common. 

Growing up my family did not have a good place to use as a storm shelter in our house.  The people behind us had a basement though and would leave the back door unlocked any time there was a threat of a tornado.  For this reason, my parents always had us sleep with our shoes by our bed when there was a possibility of bad weather.

My husband thinks I'm crazy because every time there is a tornado threat I make everyone get their shoes on.  I realize we have a basement now but having gone through a tornado that caused some damage to my house, I know how hard it can be to find what you need in the aftermath.  Wouldn't you rather have a safe pair of shoes on instead of walking through debris in bare feet?  So, my first tip is to find your shoes.

In this wonderful day and age of technology, I also suggest charging your electronics (cell phone, laptop, etc) if weather is supposed to get bad that day.  It really helps in keeping in contact with others and you never know when you will get a chance to charge electronics again.  I spent most of my evening tonight on Facebook and Twitter getting up to the date news from news outlets and friends.  As an added bonus, it was kind of fun to get to bond with others over such a stressful event.  

I also suggest having a few flashlights and candles nearby.  Make sure the batteries work and/or that you have spares near by. 

Finally, to keep my kids entertained I also bring snacks and a few toys or games to our storm shelter. Anything that helps them take their mind off what is going on is a huge help.

By the way, round one has passed us now and we are safe and sound.  There was a beautiful double rainbow after it all passed.  If you have any tips to share on how you prepare for a tornado, please share them with others in the comments section.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Quick Tip: Save on Soap

Apparently this is a widely known tip but it was new to me so I thought I would share it with all of you.  To reduce the amount of pump soap used, wrap a rubber band around the pump.  This will allow you to only use about a half of a pump at a time instead of a full pump. 

That is more than enough soap for washing your hands and now your pump soap will last twice as long.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Extreme Couponing Thoughts

The internet is all a buzz with thoughts and reactions to the new TLC show Extreme Couponing that debuted last night.  I finally had a chance this morning to watch last night's two episodes and I felt the need to share my two cents.

First, I think the next show TLC should come up with is Extreme Couponing: Hoarders Edition. It irked me to no end that these people had entire grocery stores sitting in their house and they continued to buy.  One lady kept bugging her husband to put more mustard in the cart because she could get it for 39 cents each. He then commented that they don't even eat mustard and she said she tends to forget things like that when couponing.  

I would have been ok with them wiping the shelf clean if they showed her donating the mustard to charity.  Instead, I'm sure she added it to her stockpile. She was going for the thrill of the hunt instead of the practicality of buying something like 60 bottles of mustard.

Second, people said they dedicated their entire day to couponing so they could save money for their family.  Yes, you can save money but if you do not need the massive amounts you are buying, are you really saving money?  You can put your time and talents towards other things to help save money too.

I'm not knocking couponing at all.  I am a couponer and love a good sale, I'm just stating that you need to be realistic with the amount of time you spend on it and how much you buy.  If you find an amazing sale and you know you will not use it all then I suggest donating it to charity.  In fact, I keep an area in my pantry that is just for charity and everything in that area was bought for probably a quarter or less.

I will continue to watch the show as I think it is interesting but I want everyone to know, this is not reality.  Most of us couponers are not this obsessed and you can save money for your family without spending your entire week trying to do it.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Jewelry Tip

I rarely wear jewelry but sometimes I like to have a trendy piece or two for those rare occasions when I get out of the house without kids.  In my search for affordable pieces, I've discovered the Juniors section at most department stores usually has better prices.  

When I'm buying trendy, I'm not looking for the highest quality because I know the trend probably won't last that long, therefore I can get away with a cheaper purchase.  The Juniors section tends to fit this description perfectly.  I came across this by accident but now it is the first place I look when I want new jewelry.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

New Giveaways Up

Over on my review blog I have two giveaways currently going on.  First is for Yoplait DelightsThe second one is geared towards kids and is for Yoplait Kids.  Click the links in order to win, comments left on this post will not be eligible.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Frugal Fatigue and Seasons of Life

Several blogs I follow have been talking about frugal fatigue this week.  It can get exhausting and old to constantly be frugal.  I believe there are seasons of life where you need to be more frugal.  Some seasons may only be a few weeks where others can last years.

We just came out of a three year season where we had to be frugal.  I am frugal by nature but I had to take it to a whole new level for those three years just so we could survive without debt.  I learned all kinds of new things such as how to make my own laundry detergent, a variety of homemade gifts, pancake mix and much more.  I love how much I learned and still use most of it today.

However, I'm in a new season of life where my husband sometimes works as many as 60 hours a week.  I am very thankful for those hours but with raising a special needs child and a very active toddler, I don't have as much time as I did before to make everything from scratch or hunt down every great deal.  

When you get exhausted from trying to keep up with being frugal, take inventory and see why you are doing it.  Is it because you have financial goals? Do you simply enjoy being frugal?  Do you feel you have to keep up with everyone else?  

As I said, I am frugal by nature, so I will never stop being frugal or looking for new ways to be frugal.  I have, however, started giving myself some slack and sometimes I skip a week of couponing or allow us to eat out dinner so I can get a break.

What season of life are you in and how do you combat frugal fatigue? 

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Quick Tip: Dishwasher & Dryer Fires

This has been on my list to post for a few weeks now but I'm just now finding a few seconds to post it.  

Several weeks ago, a friend had a fire in her dishwasher.  She posted about it on Facebook and I was surprised by the responses from others who had similar experiences or knew someone who had.

Through her status and some research of my own, I've learned that you should never leave your house or go to bed while your dishwasher or dryer are on.  Apparently fires are very common in both appliances.

I almost always have one of these appliances running while I am out running errands but I've changed my habits since then.  It is a bit of an inconvenience but I figured it would be more of an inconvenience if I had to remodel my house due to a fire.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Try Something New

I find it very easy to get stuck in my routine and never branch out to try new things.  Don't get me wrong - I love to try new things - it is just that sometimes it is easier to not put the effort into something new.  I'm working this year to get a little bit out of my rut though.  Remember when I mentioned I joined a gym. Yep, that was a huge step towards trying something new.

Today I tried something new on a smaller scale - I cut up my first pineapple.  It was bit messy but not near as hard as I had pictured it in my head.  The results are delicious too!  My youngest loves fruit and veggies and that has challenged me to try many new fruits and vegetables that I either had not tried before or had not attempted in my own home.  It has been great to get me out of my cooking rut and introduce new flavors to my family.

What are you doing to try something new and get out of your rut? 

Saturday, February 19, 2011

New Giveaway: Progresso Soup

Continuing with the theme to lose weight and become more healthy, I have new giveaway up for Progresso Soup. Click on the link to enter.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Giveaway Up

The first of the giveaways that I promised you last week is finally up.  Head on over to my review blog to enter to win a prize pack from Yoplait.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Trail Mix

Do you have random odds and ends in your snack cabinet and have no clue how to use them up? Use them to make trail mix!

About a year ago I started taking all of those random items that were almost finished but there was still just a little left in the bag or box and turning them into trail mix.  My kids thought it was great when suddenly they had chips, cheese crackers, and pretzels all in the same bowl. It cleared out my cabinets and gave them a new type of snack.

They now ask for trail mix almost daily and we vary it depending on the time of day.  Their current favorite is breakfast trail mix.  It usually contains Cheerios, chocolate chips, and dried cranberries.

I would love to hear some of the trail mix ideas you have using items you already have in your kitchen.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Pouring Out My Heart

Towards the end of last year I mentioned that we discovered our oldest was a special needs child.  I've been hesitant to talk much about it here as it is not the focus of this blog but I feel I need to share my story.  I might give updates occasionally but plan to not change the focus of the blog.  If I need to say more, I will probably start another blog.

S has been a tough child since birth.  He was a horrible sleeper, always needed someone to entertain him, and got into everything.  When I would mention this to people they would all say he was just a kid and would grow out of it or that he was my first and that was the problem.  

As he got older, the behaviors got worse.  He was significantly behind in speech so most people attributed the behavior to him not being able to communicate.  After several months of testing, we started him in speech therapy last January.

This whole time I had been talking to our preschool director at church.  I've known her for years and she has known S since he was born.  She is in charge of the preschool ministry for the church and weekday preschool, which he attended last year.  She knew we were having a tough time but had only seen a few of the behaviors at church.

The weekend after his 4th birthday last year, it all changed.  He hit his favorite Sunday School teacher.  We thought maybe he was just exhausted from having his birthday party the day before.  The next Sunday, he did it again.  The behaviors started coming out more and more.  With the church encouraging us, we went to our pediatrician for help.  He said we just needed to be tougher parents.  We told him that we weren't accepting that as an answer, we needed help before this child tore our family apart.

We were referred to a large behavior health facility in town.  Their screening was a joke and they put us in parent training therapy.  I knew this wasn't what we needed but I agreed to it because someone needed to see what my husband and I saw.  

We were blessed with the sweetest therapist who was an older lady and semi-retired.  After a few sessions she said we were passing with flying colors and doing great with the techniques she taught us but S was not catching on.  She agreed we needed more help but wasn't sure where to go.  She used her free time to ask around the building, contact our preschool minister and S's school teachers.  She stuck with us and kept doing therapy until we had a place to go.

We finally wound up getting an occupational therapy (OT) evaluation.  Through that, we discovered S had sensory issues, his upper body was very weak, he had attention problems, etc.  In August of last year, we began going to OT once a week. 

Due to all of this struggle, we opted to attend pre-K through the school system this year instead of at church.  We knew they had many great services that could benefit us.  As soon as school started we asked for more help for him.  After several months of evaluations (it is a very slow process) and talking to his speech therapist (also through the school system) we had a meeting to go over everything.

This meeting happened to be the day after my youngest had surgery.  I had barely slept in days and was an emotional basketcase.  I sat there for 1 1/2 hours hearing all of the issues my son was having.  I was practically in tears as I left because the part that stuck out was when they said S would not survive kindergarten without help.  

I won't go into all the details but to sum it up, they decided to start some OT and special ed with him.  Around Christmas I asked for an update and we changed things again as academically he was at the top of his class and didn't require the special ed services but did need help with social/emotional problems.  We changed up his services and that is where we are currently at. (Since writing this, I've learned we need to meet again as the school is not holding up their end of the deal).

This entire time we've been seeking a diagnosis.  He is a very bright child and can be so adorable when he wants to but the rest of the time he is extremely tough.  Most doctors do not want to diagnose until at least kindergarten as many behaviors correct themselves as the child ages.  

Our OT has been incredible and has talked with several doctors who agree we need a diagnosis now, not in another year.  The problem is that our insurance changed Feb. 1 and none of our current support team is covered.  We had two doctors who were willing to do the evaluation process but could not find an opening in their schedule (we've known of this change since Nov. and have been trying since then to get in).

We started over from square one this week .  We do not know a lot about our new pediatrician but we do know he has referred to our current therapy facility so that leads us to believe he is open to seeking help.  Most doctors in the area who will diagnose have a 3-6 month waiting list which is very frustrating when we've already been waiting so long.

We expect his diagnosis to be several actually.  Just a few possibilities that have been thrown out are ADHD, Sensory Processing Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, and Gifted.

I've spent most of my free time this past year researching, talking to other parents, and chasing medical staff down.  I have high hopes for S and know once we get the proper therapies and medication he will be a much more enjoyable child.  Getting to that point is very difficult though.

I am not writing this post for sympathy, but rather to let you know why I've been fairly quiet on this blog lately.  Also, we believe God gave us S so we can minister to others in similar situations.  If you have a special needs child, we would love to talk to you.  It is a long and lonely road and we've been blessed by others who are much further down the road so we want to pay it forward.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Ready to Break Free

Did you guys think I forgot about you?  I've actually thought of my great readers many times over the past few weeks but computer time has been very limited.  Last week we were all sick and miserable.  This week, I'm stuck inside due to 10" of snow and school being canceled most of the week. Lets just say I'm ready to break free from this house!

Stay tuned because next week I will start a series of healthy related giveaways.  Two weeks ago I did something I said I would never do - I joined a gym.  I do not like working out in front of others and it just seems like another expensive thing that can easily be cut from a budget.  

I've said for over a year now that I need to lose weight but I can't seem to get more than a few pounds off.  My husband and I decided that the income commitment might get us to exercise more.  There is also the added benefit that they have free childcare and a wonderful pool with a kids area.  We are getting to enjoy family time and couple time so it is well worth the investment.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

I haven't fallen off the face of the earth, I've just not had the energy to write once my kids are in bed.  I've been trying out some recipes though and want to share them with you.  Today I will share the muffins we made during our snow day yesterday.  My kids devoured them and my oldest even asked to have one in his lunch today at school.

Banana-Chocolate Chip Muffins 
adapted from Eat Better America

1 2/3 cup whole wheat flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup mashed bananas (2-3 medium)
3 egg whites
1/4 cup canola oil (I used vegetable as it was all I had)
1/4 cup skim milk (I used whole as it was also all I had)
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 375.  Spray 12 large muffin cups with cooking spray or line with baking cups (recipe works great as mini muffins too).  

In a large bowl mix flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.

In a medium bowl mix bananas, egg white, oil, milk and vanilla with a fork until smooth.  Stir into flour mixture until flour is moistened.  Gently stir in chocolate chips.  Divide evenly among muffin cups.

Mix 1 tablespoon sugar with 1/8 tsp cinnamon and sprinkle evenly over batter.

Bake for 20-24 minutes (mini muffins take about 12 minutes) or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Lessons I Learned When The Washing Machine Broke

The week before Christmas the agitator on my washing machine quit working.  I called my usual washing machine repairman and he was booked for that week and then closed until after the new year.  No way could I wait that long to do laundry so I turned to Facebook to ask for a reputable repairman.  A friend had the same problem recently and she knew how to fix it.  Here are a few lessons I learned from that experience:

1. Google it.  For some reason it never occurred to me to try to fix it myself.  I do a lot of DIY projects but this seemed out of my league.  Turns out there are a lot of tutorials for this problem and the part to fix it was less than $10.  

2. Your washing machine is not as clean as you think it is.  I was appalled at how gross our machine was once I had the agitator out of it.  Every part I took out got a good cleaning and then I cleaned out all of the nooks and crannies I could get to on the machine.  

3. Do not overload your washing machine.  The guy at the appliance parts store said the main reason the agitator stops working is the machine has been overloaded.  He said there should be about an inch of water above your clothes when the tub is full.

3. Laundry piles up quickly when your machine is broken.  I usually do a load a day and it was four days before the machine was fixed.  A load a day doesn't seem too bad but four loads at once made me feel like all I did that day was laundry.

What projects have you tackled that were much easier than you thought they would be?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Six Tips Towards Living With Less

Our pastor does a series every year on finances and last week was the first in the series for this year.  He gave six problems that America has with money.  They are all common sense to me but are things that people are just beginning to learn thanks to the economy.  Here are his six points and a few comments for each.

1. Too much eating out.  There is nothing wrong with eating out as long as it is in moderation and a part of your budget.  He said that on average, drinking only water when eating out will make about every fifth meal free - good food for thought.

2. Too many college loans.  We are huge Dave Ramsey fans and I know he tells people to work their way through college so you do not wind up with loans.  People are constantly amazed that we paid cash for my husband's college even though we did not have full time income.  We worked every odd job we could so we could pay for his school debt free.

3. Too many clothes.  The mood hit this week for me to clean my closet and my husband quickly joined in.  Between the two of us, we cleared out 3 boxes and 6 bags of clothes and we still had plenty of clothes left in our closets.  Neither of us buy expensive clothes but we quickly realized we owned a ton more than we needed.

4. Too much house.  Kids do not realize that their parents did not start out in the house they currently live in.  You have to start small and work your way up.  People are buying too much house in order to have the lifestyle they grew up in.  Let your kids know what your first house was like.  Including taxes and insurance your house should be about 25% of take home pay.

5. Too much car.  The average car payment is $378 a month.  Save this much (and more) each month in a car fund so you can pay cash for a decent used car the next time around.

6. Too much credit card.  Our pastor found a fact that said you will spend 30% more when buying with credit instead of cash.

The key point of his sermon was that we need to be in control of our finances so that we can give back to others.  I'm glad he stated this as this was one of the first things we did when we finally came back to full time income.  We love to give and found it hard when we could barely pay our bills.  We've committed to still living on less so that we can help others in need.

Design by Amanda @ BloggerBuster