Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Simply Woman's Daybook 10-23-12

FOR TODAY October 23, 2012

Outside my window... There is a gentle breeze, the leaves are swirling and dancing, the fields are a crisp green and the sun is warming the day up to 70 degrees!

I am thinking... About the needs in my family, my church, my community and my world.  I feel so very small and inadequate.

I am thankful... For the daily blessings God grants me.  I am overwhelmed with His endless grace.

In the kitchen... I'm am making cookie dough and buckeye cookies to freeze to get a head start on holiday baking.

I am wearing...Jeans, flip flops and my 4-H t-shirt.

I am creating... the lesson plan for the art class I teach our homeschool group.

I am going... to take my little girl to a new doctor today.  She may have strep throat and I have been wanting to check out this new pediatrician.

I am wondering... how my son is doing on this fieldtrip without me since I am home with my little girl

I am reading... Grace For the Good Girl by Freeman, A Hunger For God by Piper

I am hoping... that my daughter will get well soon and that I will feel comfortable with this pediatrician.

I am looking forward to... getting together with a dear friend and her family this weekend.

I am learning... that revival in my life can never grow stagnant.  I must never grow content in my relationship with Christ.

Around the house... I smell fresh fall air, I hear the washer going, opera playing and my daughter playing.

I am pondering... why on earth He chose me.  Why bless me with tremendous abundance when there are so, so many others much more deserving than I.

A favorite quote for today... "Always pray to have eyes that see the best in people, a heart that forgives the worst, a mind that forgets the bad and a soul that never loses faith in God."

One of my favorite things... fall leaves taking flight, hardwood floors that declare the footsteps of many before me, an exquisitely trained soprano voice.

A few plans for the rest of the week: making snacks for Cubbies, another fieldtrip to the Maltz Museum, getting together with our small group from church and dinner with one of our precious pastor's and his family.

Courtesy of A Simple Woman's Daybook hosted by Peggy

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A New Day

It has been quite a while since I wrote anything for this blog.  There are multiple reasons for that and maybe I will get into it all at a later date.  I have had a desire to resume blogging now for several weeks, but alas, time has not allowed.  So many things have changed and new trials and tests have come, that it seems almost impossible to figure out where to begin.  Soon, I hope, I will be able to carve out a brief moment of time to fill in the gaps.  I just rest knowing that God is good and I am richly blessed!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

It's Friday . . . but Sunday's Coming!


It’s Friday…But Sunday is a Comin’

“It’s Friday. Jesus is praying. Peter’s a sleeping. Judas is betraying.

But Sunday’s comin’.

It’s Friday. Pilate’s struggling. The council is conspiring. The crowd is vilifying. They don’t even know that Sunday’s comin’.

It’s Friday. The disciples are running like sheep without a shepherd. Mary’s crying. Peter is denying. But they don’t know that Sunday’s a comin’.

It’s Friday. The Romans beat my Jesus. They robe Him in scarlet. They crown Him with thorns. But they don’t know that Sunday’s comin’.

It’s Friday. See Jesus walking to Calvary. His blood dripping. His body stumbling. And his spirit’s burdened. But you see, it’s only Friday.

Sunday’s comin’.

It’s Friday. The world’s winning. People are sinning. And evil’s grinning.

It’s Friday. The soldiers nail my Savior’s hands to the cross. They nail my Savior’s feet to the cross. And then they raise him up next to criminals.

It’s Friday. But let me tell you something: Sunday’s comin’.

It’s Friday. The disciples are questioning. What has happened to their King. And the Pharisees are celebrating that their scheming has been achieved. But they don’t know: It’s only Friday. Sunday’s comin’.

It’s Friday. He’s hanging on the cross feeling forsaken by His Father. Left alone and dying. Can nobody save Him? Oooh, it’s Friday. But Sunday’s comin’.

It’s Friday. The earth trembles. The sky grows dark. My King yields his spirit.

It’s Friday. Hope is lost. Death has won. Sin has conquered. And Satan’s just a laughing.

It’s Friday. Jesus is buried. A soldier stands guard. And a rock is rolled into place.

But it’s Friday. It is only Friday.

Sunday is a comin’.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Simple Woman's Daybook March 12, 2012

SWDB March 12, 2012

Outside my window... as always it is still very dark (I always seem to blog early in the morning).  I'm still getting adjusted to such a "late" sunrise with the time change.  It seems harder to get moving when it is dark for so many hours when I get up!

I am thinking... about so many things.  I am planning the last minute details for a field trip we are going on tomorrow; I am thinking ahead to the revival meetings our church is hosting in two weeks and I am tweaking our menu plan due to some great sales!  I am also thinking that our cat might be part French.  I have been playing music all morning, but when a song came on in French, she raised her little head and perked her ears up!  :)

I am thankful... for my husband's improved health.  He has almost had 3 weeks of almost no pain!  He hasn't had a stretch that long since last summer.  Praise God!

In the kitchen... I am thawing a bunch of meat.  I am making up a big batch of meatballs today.

I am wearing... jeans, a blood donor t-shirt and a zippered sweater.  I am sure I will lose the sweater soon enough as it is going into the mid-fifties today!

I am creating... nothing crafty at the moment.  We have been crazy busy!

I am going... to the chiropractor today with my hubby and children.  Hopefully, we will also be kicking off our "Ministry Mondays" today and visiting a lady from our church that is in a nursing home after schooling is done.

I am wondering... what God is preparing for me and my family.  He seems to be working in so many hearts.  I am curious.

I am reading... "Surrender" by Nancy L. DeMoss

I am hoping... that Christ returns soon.  I selfishly long to see Him face to face and be in His glory!

I am looking forward to... the warming trend we are seeing in our weather.  It is so refreshing to breath in warm(er) air and hear the birds chirping!

I am learning... too much to put here!

Around the house... it is still quiet.  I am letting the little ones sleep in since they were away this last weekend.

I am pondering...how grateful I am for the many people God has placed in my life.  I have been pondering how blessed I am to specifically have so many godly women in my life.  I long to learn more and more from these women.  If only there were extra hours in the day!

One of my favorite things... joining my husband (when I can) in the early morning milking.  I simply love spending hours upon hours with him.  I think he enjoys the "femininity" I bring to the miking, too.  If nothing else he gets to chuckle at me as I refer to the cows as "ladies" and that I have a tendency to sing to them or compliment how pretty they are or on the quantity of milk they give.  I love that my husband allows me to join him and how he is teaching me more and more each time.

A few plans for the rest of the week: field trip, starting into 4-H for this year, schooling, menu planning, birthday party this weekend, and more.

A peek into my day... We had a brief chance to stop at the park nearby to enjoy the sunshine yesterday with the kiddos.

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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Simple Woman's Daybook March 1, 2012

FOR TODAY March 1, 2012

Outside my window...  It is still dark outside and the wind is howling.  I am anxious for the light of day to see if there has been any wind damage.

I am thinking... that He is I AM.  He is sufficient, He is perfect, He sustains all, He is all in all.

I am thankful... that God is full of mercy and grace and that He has chooses to work in my life.  I am also thankful for a warm, safe house and for my husband that works so very hard to provide for us.

In the kitchen... cinnamon rolls are rising and they are almost ready to bake.  I love it when the children wake up to yummy smells in the kitchen.  I will take my husband's breakfast to him on the farm this morning since he won't have a chance to get away to eat.

I am wearing... sweatpants and an Ohio State sweatshirt.  And thick warm socks!

I am creating...  all things Spring in our home!  Since it is March 1st, I am transitioning everything from Winter decorations to Spring.  I have to put some finishing touches on our Spring wreath and I have to put together our front door decoration (not a wreath per se).

I am going... to stay close to home as much as possible today.  There is so much to get done!

I am wondering... what God has for the two little ones upstairs sleeping.  I yearn for them to follow hard and faithfully after our Lord.

I am reading... Surrender by Nancy Leigh DeMoss.  It is not an "easy" book, but needed.

I am hoping... that God will do dramatic and amazing things in my life,  in the lives of my family, and in our church family as well.  We will be having revival meetings at our church at the end of this month and I am anxiously anticipating what God will do in the next few weeks and months.

I am looking forward to... seeing my husband at the end of the day.  He will have a very long day today and I am already awaiting the time that he will be home and able to rest.

I am learning... what it means to fully surrender to God.  In my human will, it seems so scary but who better to trust?

Around the house... not a creature is stirring, not even the cat!  The wind has died down a bit and there is a blissful silence in our home that is only broken by the ticking of the clock.

I am pondering... those loved ones that have already gone Home.  I selfishly wish that I would have had more time with them here on earth.  I think of my dear grandmother and the wisdom that she had.  I would love to hear her voice and be able to seek her advice.  I wish my children would have been able to dance and play with her the way I did.  I have so many memories that make me smile.
I think of my uncle, whom I loved dearly and that loved me as one of his own daughters.  By human standards, his life was cut far too short.  I just wish he could see me now.  I miss his laughter and shining eyes.  I swear there are days that if I close my eyes I can still hear him singing.
I think also of my husband's first wife.  Yet another life that was cut too short.  What an amazing woman she was.  I wish that I would have known her more.  Every once in a while I wonder what it would be like to talk to her.  To seek her advice and to hear her stories.
Someday, we will all be joined together again.  What a glorious day that will be when we will stand hand in hand with those who have gone before and we will sing His praises!

A favorite quote for today... is a long one taken from the NLD book I am reading.
"O God whose will conquers all,
There is no comfort in anything
  apart from enjoying thee
  and being engaged in thy service;
Thou art All in all, and all enjoyments are what to me
  thou makest them, and no more.
I am well pleased with thy will, whatever it is,
  or should be in all respects,
And if thou bidst me decide for myself in any affair
  I would choose to refer all to thee,
  for thou art infinitely wise and cannot do amiss,
  as I am in danger of doing.
I rejoice to think that all things are at thy disposal,
  and it delights me to leave them there . . . .
I can of myself do nothing to glorify thy blessed name,
  but I can through grace cheerfully surrender soul
  and body to thee."
            ~ From "The Valley of Vision: A collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotion"

One of my favorite things... the way my children cannot help but laugh when they are playing together.  My daughter's laugh is simply wonderful and my son has a great sense of humor that causes me to break down in giggles despite myself.

A few plans for the rest of the week:  Finishing up Spring decorations; my daughter's "friends" birthday party on Saturday (well overdue since it was postponed due to my son's hospital stay!); planning and then starting a new RAK (Random Acts of Kindness) project with the children called "Ministry Mondays"; and then of course menu planning for the next two weeks!

A peek into my day... The kids love playing down by the creek that runs along our property.  Our dog loves it just as much!

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Monday, February 27, 2012

Parenting Paths ~ More Questions Than Answers

Do you ever have more questions than answers?  More doubts than confidence?  I have found myself in one of those places.  And not about little things like should I have the living room arranged this way or should I change this recipe.  No, my questions and doubts are about my sacred job of raising my children.  I am questioning our discipline, homeschooling, priorities, everything.  I laid in bed last night talking to my husband (my ever loving and encouraging husband), and I told him that I had no wisdom.  I had no more ideas.  What do you do when you come to the end of yourself?  I know the "correct" answer to that is "Look to God!"  He has the answers.  I know that, I do.  I have sought His face day in and day out.  I have sought the advice of godly people.  I have searched the Scriptures.  I have prayed, I have fasted, yet I still have this tremendous fear that I am losing my children.  And I don't know how to stop it.  Is there any worse fear than that?
This isn't about a fear of failing.  This is way beyond being superficial.  This is about the fear of watching my children choose to walk away from the Lord.  Or settle for 2nd, 3rd, or 4th best.  I want my children to have this passionate, joyful, faith-filled walk with the Lord.  Wherever that may lead them.  If they grow to have families or if God calls them to stay single.  Whether that is working a mile down the road on the family farm, or moving around the world to serve as missionaries.  Whatever God's best for them is what I want.  But what if they reject it?
Now, I want to clarify that my kids are "good" kids.  Most people would look at them and think that they were going to "turn out" great.  They are loving, kind, sweet, funny, helpful children.  For the most part.  But there are days that I see a much different side to them.  There are days that I wonder if these are the same children.  Yesterday was one of those days.
Things always seem worse when they return from their biological father's home.  They have no real rules, no responsibilities and no limitations.  I will give a brief example of this from this last weekend's account.  Friday they didn't go to bed until midnight (at home it is 8:30 or 9:00 depending on when we get devos done) and Saturday it was 10pm.  They eat macaroni and cheese, pizza, Lucky Charms and peanut butter and jelly.  They watched 5 movies (only one of which I would allow in my home), played video games, played on the computer (unsupervised) and just played in general.  They did not brush their teeth once the entire weekend.  My daughter never changed her clothes.  She came home Sunday in what she was wearing Friday when she was picked up.  My son was never given his prescription medication.  They snacked on skittles and jello cups.  They picked on each other and were generally mean to each other.  They tattle on each other that neither one of them obeys my ex-husband or his wife.  But they tell me all about the video games that are over there (we don't have any) and the new toys and the fun shopping trips.  They come home and they are grouchy with each other and my husband and I (I blame some of this on the basic lack of sleep).  My son was horribly disrespectful to me yesterday.  They disobey, they yell and scream and even hit each other.  As thrilled as I am that they are home again, those days prove to be some of my weariest days.  And I hate that!  I want them to be welcomed into a home filled with joy and enthusiasm and for the rest of the day to be enjoyed together catching up.  Instead, they are welcomed warmly, but usually within half an hour I am having to correct behavior or play referee.
People have told me to simply talk to my ex-husband and wife.  We have.  Several times.  Nothing changes.  Some have told me to report them to Children's Services.  As far as Children's Services is concerned, my children are being well provided for in that home.  They are not being brutally abused, starved or neglected.  There are much more pressing cases.  So I am left with the aftermath.
We pray.  We absolutely bathe them in prayer while they are gone.  God can protect far beyond a mother's reach.  I understand that.  I cling to that.  I also understand that these are the consequences of a broken home.  I am not so foolish to believe that when sin creeps in it does not create chaos and pain even for those who are innocent.  God never promised to put His children in a bubble.  What I don't understand, is how on earth we combat this.  I do not have the privilege of making all the decisions regarding my children's care.  Every other weekend (or so), I turn all my rights, responsibilities, hopes, dreams, everything over to someone else to do as they see fit. My hands are tied and I have to patiently wait to see what stories I am told when they return.  I cannot fret myself with worry (I try to keep as busy as possible while they are away to help prevent this!).  I cannot follow after them and monitor every move.  I simply pray.  A lot.  And then I wait.  I always seem to be optimistic that when they return they will have not only had a good time, but that they will have had proper hygiene and nutrition, that they had not been exposed to inappropriate material via the TV or computer and that they will have been loving, kind and obedient and little examples of Christ while they were there.  That is my hope each time I see them pull into the drive.  Within the hour (sometimes within a few minutes), my hopes come crashing down and shatter into a thousand pieces.
So what am I to do?  I just keep plugging away, trying to do what is best, but what if my best isn't good enough?  I feel such a strong pull on my children's hearts.  Each week that goes by I feel as though they are slipping a little bit more from my grasp.  I try to be wise.  I try to be patient.  I try to be what I think God wants me to be.  But I fail.  Often.  Too often.  I grow weary.  I doubt.  I question.  I fret.  And none of that helps my children.
So, I write.  I share the struggles that we are going through all the while knowing that there will be those out there that shake their heads in disgust.  There will be those that have perfect children and they will only see the many, many mistakes I have made and they will thank the Lord that they are not me.  But to put up a blog filled with all the wonderful things about my little life and family without giving a glimpse of the real life struggles is borderline deceitful.  And, quite frankly, I am selfishly coveting prayers from anywhere I can get them.  So please, even if you are shaking your head in disgust, take a moment to pray for our little family.  Pray for the hearts and souls of my children.  Pray that my husband and I will have wisdom from the Lord as we desperately seek to do what is best.  Pray that God will direct us even today as we make decisions, both great and small.  Simply pray.  And when you are done praying for us (thank you), remember to pray for all those other families around you that may be going through some seriously tough struggles of their own.
Parenting is a tremendously high calling that can take you to both heights and depths unimaginable.  I am so thankful to have the only Perfect Parent available to me.  May He make our path clear and forgive my mistakes.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Isabella's birthday project

When we were doing our RACK last December, the kids had a desire to continue our journey well beyond the Christmas season.  At that time, I told them about the Birthday Project.  In a nutshell, whatever year birthday a person is celebrating, that person does that number of random acts of kindness.  For Isabella this year, she is turning 7 so she did 7 acts of kindness.

We discussed all the different possibilities that we could do and she settled on doing something special for other kids.  We decided to go to the dollar store and buy little gifts appropriate for boys and girls of various ages.  Isabella had a blast picking out little items to give away.  We were all set to hit the town when Michael ended up in the hospital.  That created a quick change of plans!

So now two weeks later, we were finally ready to complete our mission!  I printed up cards similar to our RACK cards to give with each gift as a little explanation.

We wrapped a ribbon around each little item and attached our Birthday Project Card.  We had things like Play-Doh, coloring books and crayons, books, etc . . .

We added some little party blower things and put everything in a bag.  We were ready to go!

When we got to town we parked on the street so we could walk around to our various destinations.  Before we even got out of the car, I had Isabella pray that God direct us to the right people.  We then started by going to our local library.  There we found three kids working on the computers.  My daughter came down with a serious case of shyness.  We stepped outside of the library and I reminded her why we were doing this.  We then agreed that Michael would give the boy something, I would give a gift to one of the girls and Isabella would give a gift to the second girl.  Michael said that he would go first to make Isabella feel better (what an awesome big brother!).  So we gave the kids their gifts.  They were a little surprised and confused to say the least!  When we left the library, Isabella was flying high!  She simply loved it.  There was no stopping her now!  We continued on to the hardware store.  There we saw another girl with her dad.  Isabella had no problems going up to her to give her a gift.  We also saw a couple children in a coffee shop with their parents.  We then headed to the grocery store.  We only had little boy toys left, so Isabella said a quick prayer on the way into the store that God bring boys to us!  Sure enough, He did!  We found two different boys shopping with their parents.  No girls in sight!  If you added that all up, we actually gave out eight gifts.  We bought ten gifts just because we didn't know what ages the children would be or if they would be boys or girls.  We wanted to be prepared.  Isabella was so excited that I could not refuse to let her give out number 8!  :-)

Again, we have no idea how God will use these little gifts and cards.  I do know how it changes my children.  They get so excited to do for others.  They come up with some great ideas.  Michael is already planning out his birthday project for his 11th birthday in May.

As a side note, I had mentioned before about setting aside change throughout the year and also actively putting money in a "ministry" fund.  We have started that with the children as well.  On top of their tithe (you never want to take away from your local church), they take another 10% of any money they receive and put it in a ministry fund of their own.  They will be able to use this for things like RACK and Birthday Projects, but also if they learn of a specific need that they want to give to.  It will be interesting to see how God directs their little hearts when it comes to the spending of this money.

I am so grateful to be able to do this with my children.  It is so good for everyone in our family.  Although my husband cannot be with us when we do the majority of these things, he loves hearing the children tell him all about the people they ministered to during the day.  He also faithfully prays for these people as well.  He is so very supportive of our little ministry.  He is a truly great man!

So that is the story of Isabella's birthday project!  We are now counting down till May when it is Michael's turn.  The kids are very excited about my birthday in July.  They don't quite so how on earth we are going to do SO MANY random acts of kindness since I am going to be SO OLD!  Gotta love those kiddos!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Learning to Trust ~ Michael's hospital stay

It's been a week!  On Tuesday my son was playing in the back yard and accidentally stepped on a nail.  The rather rusty old nail went straight through his shoe and into his foot.  It bled quite a bit, but it eventually did stop.  I called his pediatrician and she advised me as to how to clean it out and she called in an antibiotic for him.  We started him on the antibiotic that night.  I thought it was pretty much a done deal.

Wednesday morning when he got up his foot was red and swollen.  He was complaining that the top of his foot was hurting.  I began to wonder if he had possibly broken a bone or sprained his foot when he stepped on the nail.  I called the pediatrician again and she recommended that we ice it and keep an eye on it.  She said that the antibiotic can take 24 hours to work and that there might be an infection brewing.  She said that I could bring Michael in to have her look at it, but I thought it would be better to wait and see how things went.

By Wednesday evening there had been no improvement and he couldn't walk on it at all.  I called a friend of ours that is a nurse and she told me to soak his foot in epsom salt and warm water.  We did that and it did temporarily relieve some of his pain.  I was encouraged that maybe Michael was on the mend.

Thursday morning when he got up there was still no improvement.  I knew right then that he had to be seen by a doctor.  I called our pediatrician and we were able to get in right after lunch.  The pediatrician came in and took one look at his foot and said that she was admitting him.  I was stunned.  I will say at this point that I love our pediatrician.  She was very matter-of-fact, but in a very calming way.  She gave me the information that I needed and stressed the importance of the situation, but in a very relaxed manner.  It wasn't until later that I realized how serious this all was.

Thankfully the hospital was only 4 miles away from her office.  We got to the hospital and got him registered.  He didn't exactly understand everything that was going on, but we thought that he would be in the hospital for one night and then he would go home.  We got him up to his room and somewhat settled in.  I was trying to make phone calls and take care of everything I could from the hospital.

Within an hour of our arrival he spiked a fever.  The doctor there at the hospital also discovered that he had a rash going all the way up his legs and on his stomach.  We eventually figured out that the rash was an allergic reaction to the first antibiotic he was on.  The fever was due to the infection beginning to spread.

At this point, I started to figure out how serious this all was.  The pediatrician was very honest with me about what we were looking at.  He quickly learned what the bacteria was that caused the infection.  It was pseudomonas.  Pseudomonas likes to hang out in the rubber of shoes.  Which typically isn't a problem.  But when a nail pierces the rubber and picks up a bunch of that bacteria and the punctures the foot and thrust all that nasty bacteria into the body, it becomes a big problem.  Pseudomonas is highly resistant to most antibiotics.  That is why the first antibiotic didn't do a thing to help.  Michael would have to go on two different very powerful antibiotics through an IV to combat the infection.  The doctor warned me that there could be other complications.

Then a podiatrist came in to see him.  She was such a dear lady.  She looked at his foot and ordered an x-ray and an MRI.  The x-ray was to check and see if the nail had broken the bone or possibly chipped the bone.  If the bone had been broken or chipped, there was a good chance that the infection had gotten into his bone.  If that was the case, it could become a chronic condition that Michael would have to deal with the rest of his life.  Not something that a mother wants to hear.  The MRI was ordered to check for any fluid/pus build up and to make sure that a piece of the rusty nail had not broken off in his foot.  If either of those things had happened, Michael would need to have surgery.  Due to the amount of swelling, the podiatrist seemed to think that she would have to do surgery just to drain the fluid.

During this whole time, Michael was such a champ.  He was nervous, but brave.  By the time we got down to the MRI it was 9:00pm.  We were told the MRI would take about an hour because the doctor wanted a contrast and non-contrast MRI.  This is when things started to get hard.  Michael was getting very tired.  He had already been through a lot.  A new tetanus shot, blood drawn, getting the IV started, the antibiotics being pumped into him burned a bit, getting an x-ray and all the information he was learning about what all was wrong.  Then they put him in this MRI machine and tell him he can't move while he goes into this tube and this machine makes all these crazy loud noises.  They gave him headphones to listen to music and they allowed me to stay in the room with him (with earplugs).  As he was laying there, I saw the tears start to well up in his eyes.  This was by far the hardest part of this journey.  He was in pain (they had to pretty much strap his poor, swollen foot down), he couldn't move, he was exhausted and scared and he couldn't communicate with me.  Between the noise of the machine and my earplugs and his headphones, there was no way we could talk to each other.  I kissed his forehead and gently rubbed his head.  I wiped away the couple of tears that slipped down his cheek.  I tried so hard to keep the smile on my face and to let him know that I was there.  Even now as I write this, the tears well up in my eyes.  Not being able to ease his pain or fears or even give him some words of encouragement was so very hard.

We finished with the MRI and headed back to his room.  It was after 10:00pm at this point.  The nurses got a bed set up for me in Michael's room and we tried to get some sleep.  Michael was horribly uncomfortable and his foot was still in pain.  The wonderful nurses did all they could to help him.  The antibiotic burned and stung as it went in so it was very hard for Michael to sleep.  He finally did get to sleep around midnight.  I fell asleep somewhere between 12:30 and 1:00am I am guessing.  The nurses had to come in every couple of hours to change out his IV and antibiotics and check on his foot.  Between that and Michael's very restless sleep, I hardly slept that night.

When morning did come, we started to see some improvement in Michael's foot.  The swelling was still there, but some of the redness was fading.  We also received word that there was no bone damage and that the MRI was clear.  His lab work also came back and it was good as well.  This was all very encouraging.  No surgery needed and the infection had not gotten into the bone yet!  I was anticipating that we would be released in a couple hours.  However, when the podiatrist came in that morning, she made it very clear that she was not comfortable sending Michael home yet.  The hospital pediatrician came in later and expressed the same thought.  They wanted Michael to stay another night and continue the antibiotic.

By this time I was beginning to really miss the rest of my family.  Although I had called and talked to my daughter a couple times, she was having a hard time being without me.  That made it harder on me to be there.  Not to mention how much I was missing my husband.  I wanted to see him so very badly.  I had not seen him since Thursday at lunch.  Since we were going to be staying another night, we made arrangements for my husband, daughter and my parents to come up that evening to visit.  I was so grateful for that visit.  My husband and I were able to go to the cafeteria to get some dinner and just talk for a little bit.  It was so encouraging to Michael to be able to see everyone as well, especially his little sister.  Soon enough the two of them were laughing together and I know that it really lifted Michael's spirits.

Michael continued to improve little by little.  We were told that we would be able to go home Saturday.  I thought we were in the clear.  Saturday morning came and I started getting instructions about what needed to be done at home.  They had mentioned to me before about the type of antibiotics that Michael would need to be on, but it wasn't until that morning that I got the full grasp of it.  The only antibiotics that would combat this infection were very powerful.  They also carried some risk.  Especially for a child.  One of the antibiotics was typically not even given to children.  It could stunt a growing child's growth.  It could also mess up the joints of the child as well.  Not your typical side effects.  I had two different doctors come in and talk to me at great length about the possible complications.  I felt like I had to decide to poison my child in order to get him well. It was made clear though, that any other antibiotic would not be strong enough to kill the infection.  The infection would then continue to spread and we could be back to square one, but worse.  It could get into his bones and he might need surgery.  Ugh.  I agreed to the antibiotic regimen that they doctors were recommending.  Then one of the nurses there spent over an hour trying to find a pharmacy that carried this antibiotic and that would agree to fill it for a child (what does that tell you when the pharmacist doesn't even want to fill the Rx?).

We were finally discharged from the hospital and on our way home.  I picked up the prescriptions for Michael and we began the 10 day regimen.  The one antibiotic has to be taken every 8 hours.  Based on the schedule that Michael had in the hospital, that means I have to get him up in the middle of the night to give him his medicine.  While waiting for Michael to finish his first dose of medicine at home, I started reading all the information given to us about these antibiotics.  It was a bit nerve wracking.  I have never read so many warnings about medications.

Through this there have been two very prominent thoughts in my mind.  The first is regarding families that deal with so much worse than a bacterial infection and a couple of nights in the hospital.  Families that have children with chronic illnesses or injuries that are so much more severe.  I was acutely aware of how blessed I was to be in the hospital for a very temporary stay.  I was also acutely aware of the little things that I can take for granted.  One thing that was very hard for Michael was that he was pretty much bed bound.  Anyone that knows my son knows that he is a kid that is always on the go.  When he finally was given permission to go for a "walk" in his wheelchair, he was only allowed to go on his floor.  No going down the elevator and getting some fresh air outside or even just perusing the hospital.  We made so many laps around that floor and we stopped at every window so he could see a different view from his room.  In the floor lounge, there were great big windows and for a moment the sun was shining brightly through them.  I was able to position Michael so that the sun shone on his face.  That gave me such joy for my little boy to feel the warmth of the sun.  He sat there for several minutes just soaking it up.  I can't imagine those that are stuck in the hospital for weeks or even months.

Another little thing that I missed was just being able to take a "proper" shower.  I was so grateful to take any shower at all and for the toiletries that the nursing staff provided for me.  However, there is nothing quite like taking a lukewarm shower and trying to wash my hair with "hand and body soap".  :-/  I am thinking that we will add this to our RACK list or for one of our Birthday Project ideas.  What a simple joy we could bring to a family that has found themselves unexpectedly staying at the hospital by making up little travel size toiletry gifts with "real" shampoo, soap, conditioner, deodorant and so on.  The staff there also had tons of movies for kids to watch in their rooms, but what about coloring books and crayons?  Or books that they could read or from which they could be read to?  I understand that they have to be very cautious about transferring germs (they have to sanitize the movies before they can go back on the shelf) so keeping books and crayons on hand is simply not practical.  But they could be given as gifts just to keep.  We were so blessed that someone had donated a new Jenga game that the staff just gave us.  Michael was thrilled to have something different to do and it was his to keep!  What a blessing!

The other thought that kept going over in my head through all of this was simply to trust God.  Again, we have gone through nothing like other families have and I don't want to even compare our situation to others.  But there was definitely something God was teaching me through this.  I am a girl that tends to worry.  A lot.  About everything.  All the time.  Seriously.  It's bad.  So dealing with this hospital stay has tempted me to push my worry into overdrive.  Especially regarding the medications Michael is now on.  However, I have been reading "Trusting God" by Jerry Bridges.  It's not an easy book to read, but very needed.  Through all of this with my son, God has soothed my heart and reassured me that He is in control.  So what if my son is 3 inches shorter than he would have been if he had not taken this medication?  What if he does face joint deterioration or rupture?  What if this does cause all sorts of serious complications for his liver?  Will any of that catch God by surprise?  Not at all.  When I was trying to make the decision about the antibiotic regimen that the doctors wanted to put Michael on, I could feel the anxiety begin to rise within me.  Then I remembered (through the Holy Spirit) that God was in control.  That this wasn't about me holding my son's future in my hands.  God is holding Michael's future.  God knows exactly how tall my son will be as an adult, regardless of medication.  God is the one that sustains Michael's little body and is intricately involved in every little cell of his being.  If God wanted to allow one (or more) of Michael's joints to rupture, it would happen, with or without these antibiotics.  All of this is completely and fully in God's ever capable hands.  It is foolish of me to think that I in anyway can alter God's plans for Michael's future.  God saw to it that we got to the hospital at the exact time needed.  Right as the allergic reaction began and Michael's fever spiked.  That was no accident.  All of this is by His design.

So, I don't know what the future holds, but I know Who holds the future.  I will seek God's face and try to make wise decisions for my children, but ultimately, God is in control.  I will give Michael these medications without fear or guilt, because I know that God is bigger than any warning label.  I know that I can trust Him more than any physician and more than myself.  That is my little lesson learned for this week.  And it is one I am sure I will continue to learn for many years to come.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Simple Woman's Daybook February 4, 2012

Outside my window... it is getting dark outside.  It seems so much later than it is.

I am thinking... that I am exhausted.  It's been a long week.

I am thankful... that my son is home from the hospital and it looks like he will be okay.  I am also so very grateful for a team of doctor's that worked together to take care for my son.

In the kitchen... there is a simple dinner in the crockpot provided by my mom.

I am wearing... jeans and a gray sweatshirt and my glasses.

I am creating... absolutely nothing.  All things crafts and baking have been put on hold temporarily.

I am going... absolutely nowhere!  We just got home and I want to stay put!

I am wondering... how these medications will affect my son.

I am reading... Trusting God by Jerry Bridges

I am hoping... that we can all get good sleep tonight!

I am looking forward to... enjoying the sweet fellowship in church tomorrow morning.  So many have been praying for us, it will be so good to see them tomorrow.

I am learning... to trust in God and to enjoy more of the simple joys.

Around the house... it's a bit of a mess.  There is a lot to do, but somehow, I'm not all that concerned about it!

I am pondering... the grace of God.

A favorite quote for today... "This taste like a bear bum!" ~ Michael referring to one of his medications.

One of my favorite things... is my daughter's laughter and my son's sense of humor.

A few plans for the rest of the week:
- to catch up on cleaning
- to keep up on Michael's medication (even those crazy middle of the night doses!)
- to get back into schooling the children
- to watch Michael continue to heal!

A peek into my day... kiddos laughing even while big brother lays in a hospital bed.

To do your own daybook or to read other daybook entries click below.
The Simple Woman's Daybook

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Mama Mia! Italian Meatballs

During our January Challenge I discovered that I simply could not afford pre-made frozen meatballs.  I was determined to find a meatball recipe that I actually liked so I could make a big batch and freeze them for myself.

I wanted to have a recipe for Italian style meatballs and a traditional meatball recipe.  The traditional style recipe came as a lightbulb moment.  Another blogger mentioned that she simply used her meatloaf recipe for her meatballs.  Ta-da!  I love (and my family loves) my meatloaf.  It is a recipe handed down to me by my mother.  This is one of those rare recipes that I don't tweak when I make it.  I have tried tweaking it over the years, but I always come back to the original.

For the Italian meatball recipe, after some serious trial and error, I found my meatball! The pictures and directions below are for the Italian meatballs.  I will include the recipe for my "meatloaf" meatball at the end.


2 pounds ground beef
2 teaspoons Nature's Seasoning Salt
½ teaspoon ground fennel
3 tablespoons minced onion
½ cup Italian breadcrumbs
¼ cup parsley
1 tablespoon oregano
1 cup fresh ricotta cheese
2 eggs
2 tablespoons olive oil

1.  Mix all ingredients together except for the olive oil.  The best way to mix this is definitely with your hands.  You want the mixture incorporated very well.  No one wants a meatball that has a big bite of fennel!  Plus, it's just fun to mix this kind of thing with your hands.  I remember growing up I loved it when my mom made meatloaf because she would let me be the one to mix it.  I thought it was so cool and gross to feel the meat and slimy eggs squeeze between my fingers.  It was quite the thrill!  And yes, I have passed that on to my daughter!

2.  Next you need to roll the balls.  I like big meatballs.  Meatballs the size of my fist would make me happy.  But realistically, I rolled these to a bit bigger than a golf ball size but not quite as big as a clementine.  Still, nice, good sized meatballs.  Make sure that when you roll them that are packed fairly tight.  You don't want them to fall apart or crumble when you try to pick them up.

3.  Use the oil to coat your baking sheet or dish.  This will help to keep the meatballs from becoming stuck to the pan.

4.  Place your rolled meatballs on the oiled pan.  You can place them close, but not so close that they are touching.

4.  Bake the meatballs at 450 degrees for about 20 minutes.  You may have to adjust the time based on the size of the meatball.  Just make sure they are baked through when you take them out.  A good way to test this is to take the biggest, juiciest meatball and cut it open.  If there isn't any pink, you're good!  Then of course, since you only want to serve the best and prettiest to your family, you will need to dispose of this now broken meatball.  In you mouth.  Slowly.  Oh, the sacrifices we make for our families!

5.  When the meatballs came out, they had more grease sitting around them than I would like to see in my arteries, so once they cooled enough to touch, I transferred them to a paper towel lined cookie sheet.  This soaked up a lot of the extra grease.

6.  Finally we move to the freezing.  Once the meatballs are cooled, place them on a wax paper lined cookie sheet.  Again, make sure they are not touching.  Stick them in the freezer until they are frozen through.  Then throw them in a ziploc bag and you're done!  Ready to use meatballs whenever you want.  To use them, throw them in with your favorite sauce or dish and just heat until heated through.  So simple.  They are great to use in crockpots.

Mom's Meatloaf Meatballs
2 lbs ground beef
1 1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
2 eggs
3/4 cup ketchup
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon basil
1 Tablespoon parsley
Dash of pepper

Follow the same steps as the Italian Meatballs!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012


I am not content.  I am not satisfied.  I want more.  I realized a couple nights ago, that I am not happy with myself right now.  I feel like I am status quo, and that is unacceptable.  I have found myself stressed, impatient and unhappy.  I have no reason for these things.  God has poured out His blessings in amazing ways over the past year.  So why do I feel like this?

I laid there the other night thinking about the kind of woman I am and the kind of woman I want to be.  I want to be patient, gentle and consistent with my children.  I want to be a constant source of encouragement and support for my husband.  I want my home to be open to those in need.  I want to utilize my spiritual gifts in the way God desires.  I want to be the Proverbs 31 woman.  And I try to do all of that.  So where is the disconnect?  Because I try.  The passage in Proverbs 31 is not a "to-do" list.  That passage is simply a list of characteristics that are an outgrowth of a godly woman.  It is similar to another famous passage found in Galatians 5:23-23.  The fruit of the Spirit passage.  Neither of these passages are meant to be a list that we try to check off each day.  It should be natural.  A simple out pouring of what is happening in our own hearts.  In my heart.

I got caught up in trying to "do" the Christian life.  Partially because of all the blessings God has poured out on me, I felt as though I needed to then live up to a certain ideal.  If God was going to bless me with a wonderful husband, I, of course, needed to be a perfect wife.  Since God had given the opportunity to stay home with my children and homeschool them, then I had to be the best, most efficient and most creative teacher/mom ever!  Because God had blessed me with a home in which and from which I could minister, then my home must be kept ready for ministry at all times.  I translated that as in keeping it perfectly clean.  Trying to be everything that I felt I was supposed to be absolutely exhausted me.  I was trying to do what I thought was expected of me.  I was trying to please everyone and to be everything I "should" be.  How did that work out for me?  Stress, exhaustion, overwhelming anxiety and so on and so on.  When things started to crack, I kept that smile on my face and just tried harder.  I wanted to have the appearance of a perfect life.  A perfect marriage, perfect children, and a perfect home.  Was I more concerned about how my children looked and behaved at church than what they were gleaning from the Word?  Was I more concerned about keeping a perfect home to minister to others that I neglected to minister to my own family?  Was I so anxious about appearing to have a perfect marriage that I listened to others more than my own husband?

As I laid there in bed contemplating how I saw myself falling short, I started talking it through with my husband.  Saying it all out loud made me realize how many times I said "I, me and my".  I was trying to do it all on my own strength.  I had turned Proverbs 31 into a "to-do" list.  I realized that the reason I was unable to please everyone all the time (besides the utter impossibility of that) was that I was working to please the wrong person.  My eyes were on all those around me.  I watched and listened to all the people in my life and I tried to conform to what I felt they wanted me to be.  But what does Romans 12:2 say?  Does it say to conform to a certain mold that I make for myself or that others make for me?  Not at all.  I love the way the NLT puts it.  It says, "Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect."

It hit me like a ton of bricks.  I needed to stop trying to "do" the Christian life.  I needed to simply focus my eyes on Christ alone.  I had put all the focus on myself.  What foolishness!  When I focus on Him, He will teach me to walk in His ways.  He will guide me as I try to train my children.  He will open my eyes to new ways I can serve and help my husband.  He will give me the opportunities to minister.  Does this mean that I need to keep my house perfectly clean?  No.  Does it mean that as an outgrowth of my desire to honor God with my time that I will try to run my house efficiently?  Yes.  But in His strength.  Not mine.  Does it mean that I ignore the day to day dealings of life in some holier-than-thou pursuit?  Not at all.  But I can allow Him to guide me in the little day to day things.

I will never be perfect, no matter how hard I try.  I can serve a perfect God, though.  He will lead me and direct me.  Psalm 37:4 says, "Commit everything you do to the Lord.  Trust Him, and He will help you."  Psalm 119:37 states, "Turn my eyes from worthless things and give me life through Your Word."  I need to let Him set my priorities.  I need to allow Him to lead me through each day.  If He is my focus, He will not let me miss the important things.  If He fills my heart, His love, patience, joy and strength will naturally flow from it.  After all, Psalm 46:10a says, "Cease striving and know that I am God."

January Challenge conclusion

Well our January Challenge is coming to an end.  Out of the $150 I started the month with I have a whopping $0.33 left.  But, I made it!  I will wait for the applause . . . okay, thank you!  :-)

This challenge has been very good for me.  It forced me to break some bad habits I was making (running to the store every couple days, shopping where it was convenient and not always cheapest, etc).  All in all it made me a responsible shopper again.  I will give an example.  I went to the store last week to buy some produce.  I had pared down my list as much as possible and I was only buying the bare bones necessities.  One of the things on my list was tomatoes.  I was making a tomato cucumber salad and I needed nice plump, juicy tomatoes (side note: just thinking about perfect tomatoes makes me seriously wish for summer when I can just eat them straight from the garden.  Yum!).  I strongly prefer stem ripened tomatoes as they have a much better taste to them since they have had time to ripen properly.  Well, at the store I picked up a little bunch of stem tomatoes and started to put them in the bag.  Then I looked at the price.  $4.69 per pound!  I do believe that my jaw actually dropped!  I couldn't believe it!  I was guessing that my little bunch of tomatoes probably was close to 2 pounds, so that would have been around $9.00 just for tomatoes!  Ugh!!  I looked over at the Roma tomatoes on sale and they were only $.98 per pound.  I put my lovely stem tomatoes back and grabbed up the Roma tomatoes.  My fear is that if I had not been watching as closely as I was, I would have unwittingly paid $9.00 or more for a handful of tomatoes.

It is so easy to just get caught up in what is on the list and what I know that I need, and then to not cautiously check the price.  I had gotten out of the habit of keeping a running total in my head as to how much I was spending as I went through the store.  Doing that forces you to check every single price.  If you haven't done that lately, I encourage you to do it.  Maybe you haven't noticed how some of the staples in your own home have increased in cost.  Take a calculator with you if need be.  I have my son with me most of the time and he acts as my calculator.  :-)  Just round up the price of each item and keep a running total in your head.  You may be amazed and shocked at what certain items cost.

Now, how did we end out the month of January?  Our shelves are a bit bare, but we have made it through.
All I ended up purchasing for the last 3 days were a dozen eggs (store bought ~ my niece didn't have any available) and a package of frozen peas.  On Sunday we had a surprise birthday party for my mom so there was no food prep for dinner there.  However, I did make the cake, but with supplies that I had on hand.  So here is the menu for the last three days of January:
Sunday ~ Mom's party - butter pecan cake
Monday ~ breakfast burritos (scrambled eggs, sausage, green pepper, onion & potato scramble) and mandarin oranges
Tuesday ~ Spaghetti and meatballs (made from scratch you know!), frozen peas and canned pears

I now head into February with a bit of a new perspective.  Although, I will say that I have never planned out our menu so very quickly.  There have been a couple of things that I have been craving (Lasagna Soup!), that I promptly added into the menu.  I am still resolved to do the majority of my shopping at ALDI the way I have this past month.  I am determined to be flexible with my menu planning and to be on the lookout for good sales.  I will continue to "punt" when needed without relying on convenience food. (Disclaimer here:  Last week I was having a bit of a rough day and my mom showed up with one of the rotisserie style chickens from the store.  It made my day!  We had the chicken in place of our "scheduled" entree that night.  I used the leftover chicken for lunches a couple days later when we had run out of leftovers.  I made a wonderful fettuccine alfredo and mixed the leftover chicken with it.  It was fabulous!  My mom also brought me some eggs too, that she refused to let me pay for.  Yup, moms are the greatest!)  I am also determined to make up and freeze some of those convenient type foods to keep on hand such as the frozen meatballs.  Hopefully, I will be able to post soon about making and freezing said meatballs with recipes!

All in all this has been a great reminder to me to curb our grocery budget and to be much more cautious about where our money goes.  This has also given me more motivation to make sure I have a bountiful garden this summer.  When I grow weary of weeding, I will just picture my perfectly stocked pantry filled with the blessings of harvest.  I long for those days!

I will say that this January Challenge has given me some inspiration for another little project that may be coming soon.  Stay posted!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Apple Pie Pork Chops

Yesterday was a long day.  It started with me waking up at 1am and unable to go back to sleep.  It ended with us finally getting in bed at 10:00pm only to get a phone call that the cows were out.  My husband took off to the farm (only a mile down the road) and I went and woke some sleepy kids and jumped in the van and went to try and help.  Thankfully, they were able to round the cows up quickly and we were back to bed by 11pm.  Still, I was exhausted going into today.
All that to say that although I simply love to cook, there are days when I want things done as simply as possible. Enter tonight's tweak (and experiment) on dinner.  I was planning on doing parmesan sage pork chops tonight, but the later it got in the day, the more I realized I wanted to do something easier.  The pork chops were already thawed, so on my way out the door to take my daughter to ballet, I threw this together.  It's four ingredients and I only dirtied two dishes.  Yup, that is simple and that is what I needed today!  Thankfully I had my camera there in the kitchen so I grabbed a few quick photos.  Here it is!
Apple Pie Pork Chops
1.  Grab all your ingredients
          1 apple (I used red delicious because that is what was on hand!)
          4 boneless thin sliced pork chops
          Sparkling apple cider
          Apple pie spice (If you don't happen to have this don't fret.  All it is is cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice.)

2.  Put you pork chops in the bottom of your crockpot in a single layer (if doing more than four they could be layered, just be sure to add liberal spice to each layer).  Liberally pour on the apple pie spice.  I'm not one for measuring, so I can't tell you how much exactly to use.  Just coat those babies well!

3.  Pour in the sparkling apple cider.  Again, no measurements, I just poured it over the pork chops until they were almost covered.

4.  Slice up your apple in fairly thin slices and layer over top of the pork chops.

5.  Close the lid and walk away!  I cooked these on high for 3 hours.  You could do low for 5-6 hours as well.  Whatever works better for you.

When I walked back in the house not only was our main dish ready, the entire house smelled amazing!  I am all about utilizing several senses to enjoy food.  The look and smell of the food is about as important as the taste.  Well, sometimes.  I have made things that smell amazing and taste amazing, but they have been affectionately called "goo" or "glop" or some other endearing name.  It is what it is!

The pork chops were absolutely delicious!  My family just gobbled them up.  They were super tender.  No knife needed!  I might add a dash of ground ginger next time.  I don't know yet.  The apples had a fabulous light sweetness to them as well.  We ended up having these pork chops, homemade applesauce, tomato cucumber salad and left over Caramel Apple Sticky Buns (from our prayer meeting the night before) for dessert.  It all went together so well and my family just loved them!  That always thrills my soul!

So there you have it.  A super simple recipe and next to no cleanup!  All I had to wash from the pork chops were the knife I used to slice up the apple and my crockpot.
*Side note on the cleaning of the crockpot ~ I am a big believer in crockpot liners.  They are just like oven bags, but made to fit a slow cooker.  They are amazing little things.  Instead of having to scrub out your crockpot after dinner, you simply lift out the bag, toss it, and wipe out your crockpot.  So very simple!  The liners can be pricey, but I find that I can get coupons for them all the time.  I just picked some up last week at Giant Eagle and they had rebate for them so I ended up getting them for free!  WooHoo!  They make crockpot cooking even easier on tired mamas!

Well, since my dishes are done and the kiddos are in bed, I am off to bed with my sweet hubby!  Good night, y'all!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

January Challenge ~ almost there!

I think I can, I think I can, I think I can!  Yes, that is what I am chanting to myself over and over right about now as we near the end of our January Challenge.  I had a whopping $27.00 going into this week to purchase groceries for the rest of the month.  On Monday I went to the store and stared at prices, weighed every piece of produce and hemmed and hawwed about what was absolutely necessary.  My son was in charge of adding up the items as we went, always rounding up a bit.  When I got to the check out, instead of placing the items how they should be bagged, I placed them on their necessity level.  I carefully watched the total and decided if the last couple items could be purchased or not.  I was left with $2.37.  And I still have to get eggs from my niece.  So that means that for the three days next week I will have $1.37 to spend.  Honestly, I'm not that worried though.  We will simply have to do canned fruit and veggies (the store bought canned stuff ~ remember, I don't have that beautiful pantry filled with jars upon jars of summer produce yet!) and rely on ground beef.
I had to make choices on this last grocery trip that I had not faced before.  One thing that I determined we could do without was milk.  Thankfully, my husband is a dairy farmer and every other morning he brings home fresh, raw milk.  The benefits of this are amazing.  It is better for us to drink and it makes everything I cook/bake creamier (& yummier) when I use it.  The only issue is that this girl grew up on skim milk alone.  I can't take the thicker consistency.  It is about 3.6% milkfat.  I'm working on it though.  I have worked myself up to drinking 1% milk and am in the process of trying to get used to 2% milk.  So when I say that I didn't get milk, that just means that I probably won't be drinking any milk until February.  The kids will be fine and the baking will be done.  Just mama has to do without!
I also really had to study and do a lot of price comparison.  I looked at the list and had to make choices as to what I absolutely needed to have now, versus putting off for another week or so.  I usually buy 2 or 3 loaves of bread at a time and that will last us a couple weeks.  Monday I just bought one loaf.  Every dollar counts!  I also nixed the snack foods altogether.  I was just working on the main meals.  Everything else was cut.
I will say that one thing that has helped out considerably this month was that earlier in the month I made our own instant oatmeal.  My children will go through 2 or 3 bowls of cereal EACH and every morning just about and that gets expensive in a hurry.  It took me about 10 minutes to make a month's worth of instant oatmeal and they now prefer that over cereal.  It is just as fast in the morning and that is important when trying to stay on schedule!  All I do is heat water in the tea kettle and pour it over the mix in their bowls.  I let it sit for a couple minutes and then stir it together.  Waalaa!  Yummy, filling breakfast ready to be "personalized"!  The kids add fruit or brown sugar or cinnamon and eat it up.  It is so much better for them than cereal or store bought instant oatmeal packets.  There is no sugar or MSG in it.  I just love the stuff and it is a fraction of the cost of their typical breakfast.  If I still had to buy boxes and boxes of cereal every week, we never would have made the budget stretch this far.  This has been a lifesaver!
Tonight is our last night of hosting our weekly prayer meeting at our house.  For snacks tonight I am using all items I have on hand.  I am making Pioneer Woman's scrumptious Caramel Apple Sticky Buns, Cranberry White Chocolate bread, and gluten free raspberry coffee cake.  I doubt anyone tonight will realize that I am on my last legs with my grocery budget!  I was going to make some of these items last week, but my cousin called earlier in the day last Wednesday and delightfully informed me that she was making her fabulous cilantro bread with butter and garlic and fresh tomatoes and fresh cilantro topped with melted cheese.  Yes.  Fabulous is the proper word to describe this little taste of heaven!  Along with scrumptious, delicious and all other sorts of yummy type words!  All I did was slice up some apples and cube some cheese to have on the side.  That allowed me to save the baked goodies for this week!
I will say that my little pantry is showing the abuse it has taken, along with my freezer.  My pantry now has two and half completely bare shelves.  Oh does this make me sad when I walk in there!  Oh well.  February is coming and past that, it will be summer!  Oh the dreams I have of a pantry filled with jars upon jars of the blessings of the Lord and the work of my hands.  What sweet, sweet dreams!  But for now, I trudge through to the end of this month anxiously looking forward to working my own garden.
I leave you with a picture of some of those dreams in my head.  Ahhh . . . . so pretty!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

What I've been working on

I finally finished a couple of projects that I have been working on and I thought I would share!  The first thing is a new yarn ball wreath.  This has to be my favorite one thus far!  I love the colors.  I was thrilled to find some vase filler at Target that perfectly matched the yarn I had picked out over a week before.  I love it!  This has been sitting in my living room since two days after Christmas and I would do a little here and a little there.  I finally finished it up today!  Take a look!  If you want the directions as to how to make these little gems, I posted the step by step instructions here.
The second thing I have been working on involves my daughter's birthday that is quickly coming up!  She decided that she wanted an ice cream themed birthday party.  I got to work figuring out what cake to make (the most important part, you know!) and we decided on having a sundae bar with the cake.  I then needed to plan out the invitations.  I also needed to do invitations for her "friends" birthday party.  In lieu of a gift, one of her grandmas offered to pay for a "friends" party.  We decided that Isabella would have a balloon theme and that each of the guests would be able to make some jewelry.  This was another easy theme.
Now on to the guest list and invitations!  I wanted something simple so my daughter could be involved with the making of the invites.  This is what we ended up with.  On the left is the invitation for her ice cream party.  She was able to help cut out the ice cream cone pieces.  Below is her "friends" party with balloons.  She helped to cut out each of the balloons and then we added a simple red ribbon to each.

We included the note at the bottom of the balloon invitation that says, "No gifts please.  We prefer your presence over presents!"  I do prefer that for a friends-type birthday party the guests are able to simply come and celebrate with the birthday child instead of feeling the need to shell out money for a gift.  It just makes sense to me!

So there are the latest projects from our home.  I have also been working on the corn heating bags, but I'm not quite done.  Once I get those finished, I will post pics and how-to for those!  Time for coffee!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

January Challenge update ~ phew, this is getting tight!

I did my grocery shopping last night and it wasn't pretty.  Two of the items I had on my list ALDI did not have in stock.  The one item was frozen meatballs.  I know, I know, that is essentially a convenience food, but it is one I hesitate to give up.  I have never really found a recipe that I truly love for meatballs.  However, frozen meatballs were not in the budget and I do have ground beef, so I will be searching for a recipe and making them from scratch this time!
The other item was turkey kielbasa and I had to go to Giant Eagle to get it.  Thankfully it was on sale.  While I was there though, I discovered that they had a bunch of meat (mainly pork) on sale for buy one get one free!  Although there is definitely not room in the January Challenge budget for it, I decided that it would be foolish of me to pass up such a rare and great deal!  I went ahead and purchased some of the meat, but I didn't go crazy with it either.  I did not count it towards my January Challenge budget (is that cheating?).
I also struggled with what to do for prayer meeting this week.  I already have the ingredients for the muffins, but I don't know what to put with them.  I was originally thinking some fresh fruit and there was some on sale at ALDI, but if I purchased enough for everyone it was going to add $7.00.  At that point I knew that I was already pushing my budget limit with the basics for my family.  I nixed the idea of fruit, but I'm still searching for what to put with the muffins.  It may be simply muffins and nothing else.  We shall see.
All in all I ended up spending $44.04.  Seven dollars over budget for the week and I'm already running low for the month.  Thankfully, this is the majority of the food needed for the next two weeks.  I only have a few perishable items to purchase for next week, so hopefully it all works out.  I am thinking that the last three days of January will be a lot of cheap-o meals.  Things like breakfast foods (eggs, pancakes, etc.), spaghetti with meat sauce (unless I find that I really like the meatballs I make for next Tuesday) and such things.  It is certainly TBA!
Well, back to school.  The kiddos are finishing up their Bible lessons and it's time to move onto Spelling!

Monday, January 16, 2012

January Challenge ~ second two week meal plan

As I wrote before, the last half of this month in the January Challenge is going to be a little harder.   I was able to switch out some of the fruit salads from the last menu plan thanks to some great deals on cantelope and cherries.  Because of that I can utilize some of the supplies that I purchased last week for this week.  Also, we started purchasing eggs from a neighbor (and relative), so that saves us a bit.  I took stock of my freezer again and this time I spent some time in my pantry figuring out what I had.  My cash is running low heading into the next two and a half weeks and I will have to purchase some meat to get through the month, but I am determined to still make this work. Here is the menu plan for the next two weeks:
Sunday, Jan 15th ~ Chilli, Cornbread, Salad, leftover fruit salad
Monday, Jan 16th ~ Grilled Chicken Strawberry Spinach Salad, Homemade bread
Tuesday, Jan 17th ~ Meatloaf, Garlic red-skin mashed potatoes, spiced pears
Wednesday, Jan 18th ~ Chicken Crescent Wreath, Triple berry yogurt parfait
Thursay, Jan 19th ~ Turkey kielbasa with green beans and potatoes, Homemade applesauce
Friday, Jan 20th ~ Date Night! *Side note, gift cards are fabulous things!  Don't be afraid to request gift cards for birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas gifts, etc . . .  It gives you the opportunity to eat out and enjoy something special without busting the budget!  We were able to use a gift card for our last date night and we only paid 99 cents for our meal!  Love that!
Saturday, Jan. 21st ~ Takeout and foreign movie night with my wonderful sister-in-law!
Sunday, Jan 22nd ~ Curried Coconut Chicken, mixed veggie blend, mandarin oranges
Monday, Jan 23rd ~ Amy's soup (yummy gift from Christmas), cornbread, pistachio fruit salad
Tuesday, Jan 24th ~ Sweet & Sour Meatballs, Botan rice, Pineapple
Wednesday, Jan 25th ~  Tilapia, Honey-roasted red potatoes,  sliced peaches
Thursday, Jan 26th ~ Parmesan-sage baked pork chops, Mama's fruit salad, Cucumber-tomato salad
Friday, Jan 27th ~ Family night (We could use yet another gift card, do leftovers, make our own pizzas, etc. It's kind of up to the kiddos.  We usually do a very laid back dinner and either watch a movie or do board games until bed time.  Good times for all!)
Saturday, Jan 28th ~ Pizza party with our small group from church

Phew!  So there it is!  I'll make it through the next two weeks and then there are only 3 days left in January.  We will make it after all!  I can say though, that on this restricted budget I have no option but to stick to ALDI for just about everything.  I have also had to be more cautious about what I plan to make for dinner.  I have really been craving Lasagna Soup, but it has some ingredients that I don't have on hand that can get expensive.  So, no soup for us (forgive me, I am a child of the nineties!)!  It has been good to get out of the habit of picking up ingredients at the closest store even if it is more expensive.  I got used to convenience shopping versus economical, planned shopping.  It has also made me shop my own home, too.  For our weekly prayer meeting at our house last week, I used all stuff I had in my pantry.  I made two different kinds of Chex Mix and made a fruit bake with canned fruit.  The fruit bake called for almonds, which I didn't have, so I simply made it without it.  No one seemed to mind!  This week I am making a couple different kinds of muffins and maybe whatever fruit I can find on sale. We will see!
On to the Walmart part of the challenge, that has gone well, too.  Now, I have to confess I have been to Walmart twice.  Both times though I needed things that I could not get at any other local store (and yes, I tried and searched!).  My only other option was heading about 20 minutes away to the closest Target.  Now, in the interest of saving money, I decided to just head to Walmart.  Gas isn't exactly cheap and it makes no sense at all to spend the extra money on gas just to prove a point.  Both times that I went to Walmart though, I was in and out and ONLY purchased exactly what I needed.  So I still consider it a success.
Now, on to the rest of my to-do list now!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

January Challenge week two

Week two has definitely been harder for my January Challenge.  There are a handful of items that I am a bit of a stickler on for name brands.  Not many, but just a few.  I find that sometimes when baking, there can be a difference in some recipes.  I get picky.  I want things to turn out just so.  I ran out of a couple of those items by the end of last week and when I went to the store to get them, I was a bit shocked at the prices.  I guess I had not really been paying attention to the price, because I knew that I was going to get that particular brand even if something else was cheaper.  Ugh.  That set me back a bit.
Then I also wanted to get some fresh herbs for the recipe I was making today.  Now fresh vs. dry herbs decidedly make a difference.  I wanted to proper flavor for our dinner so I went to pick up some fresh herbs at the store.  Yuck.  Again, I must not have really been paying attention to the price.  I have resolved that I need to start an indoor herb garden with some of the herbs I use the most.
So here I am not even halfway through the month but I have already spent about 60% of our monthly budget.  I will need to do some tweaking.  One thing I have found though is that if I watch the sales, the fruit costs can work itself out a bit.  Twice this past week I was able to pick up fresh fruit that was on sale that worked out to be cheaper than what I had planned in our menu.  It was great!
At the end of this week I will plan out the menus for the next two weeks and I may have to get creative with what I have left of my original $150.  I am determined to make it work!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Fighting my Jonah

Something happened on Tuesday and it is still haunting me.  After going through our RACK experience, I was determined that I would always look for ways to help random strangers when given the chance.  Tuesday I blew it.  And it is still bothering me.  Greatly. 
Tuesday I had an appointment with my doctor (new year, new check-ups!).  There seems to be this new law that when you arrive for an appointment you need to show your current insurance card and your driver's license.  I have run into this over the past year in a couple different situations so I'm guessing someone passed a law.  Anyway, I signed in at my doctor's office, fiddled through the magazine rack to find something (that was not from 16 years ago and would hold my interest and yet not be offensive) and then settled into my chair.  I buried my head into some random home magazine and I tried not to be annoyed with the rather loud cell phone conversation a woman was having across the typically quiet waiting room.  Then a rather weary looking older woman came into the office and began the process of signing in.  She signed some paperwork and was trying to tell the lady at the desk something about being horribly sick, but she kept being interrupted with more instructions and paperwork.  She stepped to the side, went through the paperwork and then went back up to the window.  At this point the office worker requested her ID and her insurance card.  The woman answered that she had been so sick and so out of it, she had forgotten them at home.  I could hear the desperation in her voice.  She sounded so very weary.  Exhausted really.  The office worker politely, but matter-of-factly stated their policy and suggested that the woman have someone bring her information to the office for her.  The woman replied that her husband could not drive and there was no one else.  The office worker then informed her that her appointment would have to be rescheduled.  I heard in the woman's voice tears as she responded that she had waited weeks to get this appointment.  By now the rest of the workers in the office had their attention on the woman.  She just kept saying how very sick she was.  My heart started to break for this woman.  
Now, I understand the policy, I do, but I think all of us have had those days when we just don't feel like we can handle any more.  It is rare that I get horribly sick (beyond the typical chest cold and stomach flu stuff), but I know the utter exhaustion that comes from being that sick, but still having to continue on.  I also understand the frustration of having to wait for an appointment for far too long and feeling like nothing should stand in your way of having that appointment.  I understood her disappointment.
The woman's shoulders sunk as she rescheduled her appointment.  She quickly gathered her belongings and walked out of the office and down the hall.  Thanks to the glass front of this particular office, I could still see her down the hall.  She dropped her things into a chair and although still standing, hunched over with her hands covering her face.  She was crying.  Really crying.  At that moment, something in me said, "Go to her.  Reach out to her."  I started arguing with myself.  What if I left the office and they called my name?  I could miss my appointment.  What could I really do for her anyway?  I couldn't get her licence and insurance card for her.  What good could I be?  "You could simply go and pray with her.  Reach out to her.  Let her know that someone cares.  That she is not alone."  I continued to argue with myself.  No really, I was arguing with the Holy Spirit, and I knew it.  
I watched as the woman tried to compose herself, wipe her face with her hands and gather her things.  She walked towards the elevator.  She pushed the button and as she waited, her composure briefly slipped and a few sobs came out.  I felt glued to my chair.  She was leaving, there was nothing I could do now.  "You could take the stairs and meet her at the elevator downstairs."  True, the stairs were right next to the office and I had taken them up.  It would be very quick and easy to meet her.  But that would be weird.  She would think that I was creepy, coming after her like that, right?  I did nothing.  I watched as she stepped on the elevator and as the elevator doors closed.  She was gone.
I knew, I knew, that I had missed an opportunity.  I knew that my pride, my comfort, my potential embarrassment, kept me from doing something that I should have done.  I knew that the Holy Spirit was leading me to reach out to that woman for whatever reason and I clearly said no.  I was wrong and she was gone.  I lost that opportunity and I will never get a chance to reach out to that woman again.  I said a prayer for her.  I could do that.  I prayed that God would somehow encourage her.  Oh.  Yeah.  He tried to encourage her, through me.
That was Tuesday.  I kept thinking of her throughout the day and into the next day.  Then Wednesday night at our mid-week prayer meeting our pastor gave a little devotional out of Acts 8.  He spoke about how when God leads us to do something, we can either say no, hesitate and argue (another way of saying no) or we can say yes.  In verse 26 an angel directs Philip to "go south".  The first words of first 27?  "So he did".  Philip didn't question, he went.  No doubts, no hesitation, no "Why?".  He just went.  He went and he ended up ministering to one person.  One person that God directed Philip to meet.  
On Tuesday, I was far from being Philip.  I was much more of a Jonah.  Now, I don't know what happened to that woman.  Maybe God led someone else (someone more Philip-like) to this woman.  Maybe someone was even there in the parking lot for all I know.  But I missed an opportunity that God gave me.  God is capable of using anyone (and anything for that matter) to do His work.  It is a privilege that God would consider using me to encourage another.  I thought I learned that.  Wasn't that the whole RACK thing?  I had this stuff down, right?  No.  When it was not something I had planned, that I had purposed to do, I failed.
That was Tuesday.  This is Friday and I am still haunted by my missed opportunity.  I am still rehashing what I should have done.  Not that I am beating myself up over it, but I am convicted.  Convicted that not only did I clearly say "No", but that I didn't seem to value the privilege it is to be used by God in even "minor" ways.  If I can't say an emphatic "Yes!" every time the Lord asks something small of me, how do I expect to say yes in the bigger things?
I cannot go back and fix Tuesday.  That moment, that opportunity, that privilege, is gone.  However, I can determine to fight my Jonah tendencies and try to embrace more of the Philip that God desires for me.  He will never give me more than I can handle.  He will present the opportunities and He will give me everything I need to follow His will.  I just have to say yes.  No hesitation.  No arguing.  Just yes.