Monday, August 6, 2012

Give them Grace (Part 1)

So, I started a LONG time ago reading this book, Give them Grace. I had never heard of it, but the title caught my eye. When I read the summary on the back, and the chapter titles, I decided to add it to my list of 24 books to read this year (of which I am majorly behind! I've only read 5. 19 to go in 5 months. Eek.) I am so glad that I decided to read this book! While I definitely don't agree with every point made in the book, the overlying themes really hit home to me. I am going to try to give a summary of what I took from the book. It could get long, I'll have to separate into several sections! I want to be able to share what I took from the book for you all, but also for myself so I can look back and see where God was moving!

The introduction is what really hooked me. The title is "Are You a Christian Parent?" The main theme is that as Christians, we should be living our lives differently than others, therefore, we should be parenting our children differently than others. Many religions believe that the law can perfect us, but we as Christians don't. We know nothing but the grace of our Savior can redeem us. We know that morality can't save us. We can never be "Good Enough". Yet, as the book says, something strange happens to us when little miniature unbelievers are entrusted to our care. We work hard to get them to do just that. Be good. Be nice, polite, obedient, little people. Most of our kids believe that God is happy with them when they are good. We forget about the radical saving grace of Jesus who died on the cross for our sin. All of my sins, and all of my Brynn's sins. She doesn't need to learn to be good, she needs "death and resurrection and a faithful high priest." My Brynn doesn't need the law, just like I don't. She needs Jesus. She would "respond to the law just like we would. She'll ignore it, or bend it, or outwardly obey it for her own selfish purposes, one thing is for certain, she won't obey it from her heart, because she can't. That is why Jesus had to die."

That was probably the most convicting part of the whole book to me. Never before had I viewed my child like that. A sinner in need of grace. An unbeliever whose heart is incapable of true good. How often am I praying for her soul? Praying for a transformation of her heart. Praying for her to trust in Jesus for her goodness and letting her know that while it's nice, no amount of good works will redeem her.  Do I truly believe that her heart is capable of doing good apart from the grace of God? To be honest, prior to reading this book, I never thought about that. But, I would say that I did behave that way. I did in some sense believe that my little princess was GOOD. While I say that I don't believe anyone can be good apart from Jesus, something in there changed when it came to my own child.

Something that I've been thinking about is being set apart as a believer, as a parent. The book gave an example of parenting as the intro to one chapter. Later on in the chapter, it explained that example came from a Jewish book on parenting. The example was to show that if a Jewish person can parent the same way you do, it is not Christian it's morality. We're not moralists, so if our parenting can be duplicated by a non-Christian, then it can't be considered Christian parenting. How am I parenting my child differently than others?

It's not all up to me!! This is something I am still trying to let go of. Quote from the book, "faithful parenting is hard work..... We're concerned about parents who carry the entire burden for their children's salvation and lifelong happiness. We were never meant to carry the ultimate responsibility for anyone's soul. Not our own, nor our children's. Only the Good Shepherd is strong enough to carry a soul - that's his job not ours.  Wow.  I for one felt someone (or completely) responsible for Brynn's salvation. Jesus says that he alone is Lord and Savior. Yet, somehow, it creeps into my mind that her salvation is totally dependent on my perfect parenting. I frequently have been so concerned that instead of resting in his unfailing grace, I am trying to find out what I need to do to be a better parent (which is actually what lead me to this book!)

Probably the hardest part of this whole book was the following section: "yes, we're to be faithful and diligent. But, even so, we are not guaranteed that our parenting will produce godly children. Wow. I LOVE the pages that come next though. The authors say, wouldn't we be better parents if that were the case? If we were promised that obedience would lead to our child's salvation? That would be against God's character. Saying that our own actions would lead to the salvation of our children. That would mean trusting in something other than the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ.  This is so hard for me to submit to. I need some kind of reassurance that my Brynn will grow up to love Jesus. That her heart will be conformed to His and she will serve Him all of her life. However, all I can do is pray for her. Be faithful to Him in parenting her. Rest assured that He and His perfect plan are all I need.

So many things that touched me, changed my heart and mind, and that was only the first 3 chapters!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Busy Summer!

Well, the summer is half over (CRAZY!) and we've been busy little bees! This promises to be a loooonnngggg post, so get ready!

I'll start with March for Babies. Technically, I guess that was spring, but this is my blog, and I call it summer ;) We had the honor and privilege of participating in 3 different March for Babies walks. 

Walk #1 - DFW
 The DFW walk is the nearest and dearest to my heart for many reasons. First, that's where my Brynn was born. We always meet up with our NICU buddies and it is so awesome to see all the babies (toddlers!) and how far they've come.  It's crazy to think of the nights we spent together talking about them as they fought for their lives. This is Brynn and one of her BFF's Zoey!

Most of the Babies and their parents... 

Then, we had a little impromptu visit to the Norman March for Babies...

Then we had walk #3 - Muskogee! We had the joy of being the Ambassador Family where we could share with others our experience in the NICU and what March of Dimes means to us. 

I can't find any of my pics for this !

Later on in May, we took Brynn and Bella to River Country Waterpark in Muskogee. If you have toddlers, this is a GREAT summer fun place. It is fairly inexpensive and they have a big area where the water is only 18 inches deep and has tons of slides and other water toys for little ones!

In June, I took a few days off of work, just to hang with my little lady. We had so much fun. The first day we just stayed at home, and then the next day we went to Tulsa shopping. If I've done anything right in life, this girl loves to shop! She just shopped her little heart out. 

That week we also started swimming lessons! So far, both girls have really enjoyed swim lessons and are learning a lot. We even went under last week!

Swimming lessons have also been helping with the frequent trips to Nanny's pool!

We also had the opportunity to go with my work to the company "picnic" at Incredible Pizza. We ALL played our hearts out. It was so much fun!

Pudding in one hand, Ice Cream in the other! 

In June, we also went to the eye doctor, Dr. Groves for a follow up. Brynn's eye condition is great! Some of you might remember from our time in the NICU that B was only hours away from having a laser eye surgery on both eyes. Now, aside from a little near-sightedness, her eyes are perfect! This is a picture of her in the waiting room, waiting for her eyes to dilate.

We've also been... Learning to use the potty! It is a slow and steady process, but every day we work on using the big girl potty. One of our biggest challenges has been finding little panties! Little miss has a hind-end that can still wear 6-9 month shorts. Now, in case you've never gone looking, there are no 6-9 month undies out there. So, Mommy had to improvise. We got a package of Minnie mouse, and I just took about 3/4 of an inch out on both sides.  #PreemieProblems....

Besides that, we've been

Going to Journey Church...

Hanging with cousin Bella...

Playing in our kiddie pool...

And getting lots of bunny snuggles in! 

So far it's been an awesome summer, and we can't wait for the second half!

Monday, March 12, 2012

March for Babies 2012

Friends and Family,

   It's that time again! We are so proud to be walking in March for Babies again in 2012. As many of you know, Brynn was selected as the 2012 Ambassador Child for the Muskogee Area.  We will be
walking in the Muskogee walk this year, which is planned for May 5. We would love to see as many
people there as possible (wearing your Team Brynn shirts) You'll even get to hear us tell a brief story on Brynn in front of the entire crowd! Please consider buying (and wearing) a Team Brynn shirt. The cost is only $20 and it goes to support a great cause. You can order your shirt below. If you want a child sized shirt, please select Youth and send me a FB message on the size. We appreciate all of your help!


Please Select Size

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Couponing for busy people.

Couponing... It's all the rage right now. All the cool people are doing it. If you are like me, you just had to tune in for at least 1-2 episodes of Extreme Couponing. Those folks are crazy. I know some spend 40-50 hours per week on coupons. Good for them, I don't have 40-50 hours per week to spare. I really don't even have 4-5. But, I am on board with the coupon craze. I like saving money. I thought I'd just share what works for me.

Today - I did a little 30 minute couponing on my lunch hour. For $18.96 I purchased the following...
1 box Post Shredded Wheat
2 boxes of Wheaties
1 4pk of Activia Yogurt
2 bags of Kraft shredded cheese
2 large bottles of Pace Picante sauce
1 pkg WhoNu cookies
2 boxes Cheezits
1 box Club crackers
1 box Keebler Sea Salt and Olive Oil Crackers
1 pkg 20 Valentine cards with Nerds boxes
1 box of GrapeNuts

 Not one of my best trips, but still pretty good.

Nothing too crazy. 400 packages of nothing. Just regular old food. Took 1/2 my lunch hour.

Here's what I usually do:

*  Buy the Sunday Paper. I first go here to see what coupons there will be, and determine how many papers to buy. Yes, sometimes I buy 3 or 4. I always buy at least 1 copy even if I don't think I will use any of the coupons.

* Keep all, or mostly all the coupons in the paper. Even if it is something you know with 100% certainty you will never use. There are several reasons why. Sometimes, those items can be "money-makers" you use the coupon and they actually pay you to take the item.
   For example, 1 time I had about 25 Dial Body Wash coupons for $2 off. (More on that later). There were no size restrictions on the coupon. One of my bloggers listed that this body wash was selling in a trial size at Wal-Mart for $0.97.  Since Wal-Mart allows overages on your coupons to be applied to the rest of your order, I basically was paid $25.75 plus I got 25 bottles of body wash.
    Even if that is not the case. You can leave the coupons next to the item in the store so another shopper can use them. Or you can use the coupons to buy the item to donate. I once had a coupon deal that made canned veggies $0.09 per can. Our church was collecting canned green beans for a food drive and we were able to make a nice donation with little cost.

* Usually buying the smallest allowable size will give you the best deal. I know, contrary to the normal "buy in bulk" mentality. Just like the example earlier with the body wash... $1 off of a $1.10 can of tomatoes is better than $1 off of a $6 can of tomatoes. That's why I buy the small diaper packs. When I got the 20 $2 off coupons, I could use 1 coupon on each small package. So $2 off every 25 diapers made more sense than buying the large box which would have only been $2 off of 100 diapers.

* Find an organization system that works for you. I use a zip-up binder with baseball card pages that I put my coupons in. Then I have dividers that I sort them by. Dental, Shampoo & Soap, Baby Stuff, Sauces & Dips, Meat, etc.

*  Find several bloggers (at least a few local) that post weekly "Coupon Matchups" and bookmark those. For example, I frequently visit for deals at Homeland. Just google, coupon matchups and you get a zillion results. Find a few that work for you, and the stores in your area. Also, look on facebook. There are several FB pages that do matchups and will post deals and links to your News Feed. Then, you do basically no work. Buy your papers, clip your coupons, and look at the matchups. Scan the matchups, if you see something you want, pull your coupons out of your organization and go get it!

* Know your store's coupon policy. Know what (or if) they double, what about overages, clearance items, etc. Do they price match? Can you stack a store coupon with a manufacturers coupon? Rain checks? Don't try to cheat the store or slide one past an unsuspecting cashier. Let's all be honest. However, if the cashier tries to give you grief and you are within their policy, call them on it.

* Find ways to obtain coupons for free or very low cost. I trade Pull-Ups coupons with my sister for diaper coupons. It works. Someone else I know discovered that local apartment complexes received coupon inserts in the mail on certain days. 99% of the received coupons were promptly inserted into a recycle bin near the mail boxes. 100s of coupon inserts free for the taking. Yes, you do have to pick them up out of recycling. If you are grossed out by that, then don't. I have bought coupons on eBay. Last month, I was able to purchase 20 $2 off a package of Huggies for $2.36, shipped to me. I know for sure I will use those. Especially for items that you use frequently, search eBay and see what you can find.

* Don't be brand loyal. I should say usually. We are loyal to Huggies. But, on Salsa, or cheese, or toothpaste. Be willing to branch out. If I can get Crest for free or pay $4 for Colgate. I'm getting Crest. Now, if you absolutely positively cannot tolerate Crest, don't suffer and die over it, but at least be willing to try new items and brands. Usually the newer items have the best coupons. The manufacturers want you to try their new thing and get hooked. Be brave. You can do it. You might even like it.    

* Go to the store organized. Know what you are going to get, what coupons you are going to use, and how much it should cost.

*  Know what a good deal on your most commonly purchased items is. $10 for a regular package of diapers is not good. $5 or less is. Even though it says it's on sale for $10, you can almost always find them cheaper.

Last but not least... be generous. Share coupons you're not going to use. If you end up with a bunch of something - share it. If you got 20 bottles of laundry detergent for free or close to free... give some away. Another good deal will come along before you run out. Help those who help you. I have my favorite cashiers at my local Walgreens. They help me with my coupons and let me know when good deals are coming up. When they have a store contest on who can sell the most packs of gum, I help them out.

That's all I've got for now. The basics of coupons for busy people.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Signing Time!

I wanted to post an update on Brynn, but not one ridiculously long one, so I am going to split it up into bite sized chunks on the highlights of Brynn's life. One of her most favorite things in the whole world is sign language.

Not so very long ago Brynn was barely talking. She had a few words she'd say frequently, and a few she'd say occasionally. It seemed like once she learned a new word, an old one was gone. Almost like there was only room in her head for 5 words at a time. It was very frustrating. She has always had such oral aversions, and we've seen speech pathologists, I just kind of felt like talking wasn't going to come easy. Now, I've always thought that the baby sign language thing was neat. Not overly amazing earth-shattering... but neat-o. We taught Brynn a few signs, "More" "Milk" "Juice" and that was kind of cool. But once we became owners of our very own Signing Time DVD, our world changed.

Brynn is totally and completely hooked. When she wakes up in the morning the first thing she says is "Sign Time?" She constantly wants to be watching it. Since she started the Signing Time videos, it seems like her vocabulary has exploded. Now I realize that there are other factors at work here as well, but I think that putting a little hand movement to a word really helped her to grasp speaking. Don't ask me how that works, you can ask my sister who teaches deaf students.

Brynn now knows all sorts of ASL signs. More, Please, Thank you, milk, juice, crackers, dog, cat, elephant, horse, potty, bath, all done, cook, and lots more. She's even putting 2 signs together now. My little bilingual genius. ;)

All of the signing time videos are awesome. They sing and sign songs that help to learn. It's very fun and educational. Anyone with babies/toddlers, I highly recommend the Signing Time series. We just received out "Potty Time" Signing Time... wish us luck! This is one of Brynn's favorite songs... enjoy!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

It's been a while...

It's only been about 9 months since my last post. There is lots to update on Brynn, but that will have to come later. My next 2 blog posts are going to be around my personal goals for 2012. I have set some goals for myself and I want to share them as well as updates throughout the year. The actual goal post will come later, but 2 goals are around losing weight and reducing the grocery budget. One way I hope to accomplish both of these things is by cooking freezer meals.

One thing I struggle with is coming home late and throwing together the easiest meal possible. Easiest meal possible is very rarely healthiest meal possible. Not to mention, most packaging contains enough food for a large family, not 2 people. Cooking for 2 is hard. This is how it usually goes. Get home, think to self, "Self, what's for dinner?" Hmmm... How about spaghetti? Box of pasta (free from coupons), pasta sauce (free or close to free from coupons), frozen meatballs, or meat. Makes enough spaghetti for 8 or so people. We eat more than we should. Leftovers go in fridge. We eat them again tomorrow. More leftovers. Isaac takes to work for lunch. Must cure evil spaghetti eating habits.

So, I decided to find some freezer friendly weight watchers recipes (my plan for weight loss). Cook my little heart out, divide into appropriate serving size, and freeze. Eat said meals for dinner, and take for lunch. So here goes.

The plan was to prepare the following: Spicy Chicken Spaghetti, Turkey Chili, Enchilada Casserole, Cheesy Chicken Spinach Shells, Baked Honey Mustard Chicken, Marinated Fajita Chicken, Seasoned Ground Turkey for Tacos,  Turkey Burgers, BBQ Pulled  Pork. As well as making 4 turkey sandwiches for lunch at work by weighing meat, cheeses, etc for points and weigh out a serving of Baked BBQ chips to go with sandwich.  The actuals (and recipes) follow:

Spicy Chicken Spaghetti - Check!

This is an awesome recipe! One of our faves. You would have no idea it was a WW recipe if I didn't tell you. I made a triple batch (18 servings) and froze some in 2 servings for dinners and some in 1 for lunches.

Turkey Chili - Check!

I am not sure where this recipe came from, but this is what I do, Brown 2 lbs ground turkey with chopped onions and a green bell pepper. Use 2 cans of tomato sauce, 1 jar medium or hot salsa, 1 packet McCormicks Hot chili seasoning mix. Simmer and tada, done! This will make a very spicy chili, so if you can't handle the heat, use mild salsa and regular seasoning mix. The easiest chili ever, but Yummy! You can also add kidney beans if you like (which I don't). I made 1 pot of this which turned out to be about 15 1 Cup servings.

Enchilada Casserole - Check (Barely)!

I found this recipe on pinterest. It almost didn't happen. I in my mind remembered that it had cut up tortillas in the recipe, not  biscuits. So, I had to make a quick run to the DG and pick up a can O' biscuits.  I made a double recipe and basically split it into 3 pans of 4 servings. Never tried the recipe before, but it looks yummy.  I'll keep you posted.

Cheesy Chicken Spinach Shells - Check!

Made 28 shells. 3 points a shell.

Baked Honey Mustard Chicken - Check!

Used Panko breadcrumbs instead of cereal. It just sounds gourmet. Say it - "Panko!" Fun. I mean what sounds better, chicken rolled in mustard and cereal or honey mustard chicken with Panko crust? plus... I didn't have any corn flakes.

Marinated Fajita Chicken - Check!

I Love love love love this marinade. It sounds weird, but it tastes sooo gooood.

1T Soy Sauce, 1T Worcestershire Sauce, 1T Apple Cider Vinegar, 1T Chili Seasoning, 1T minced garlic, 2T lemon (or lime) juice, dash of tabasco (optional).

I made 2 batches with 2 chicken breasts cut up in each baggie. We use this for fajitas and chicken salads.

Seasoned Ground Turkey for tacos - Not Yet

I wanted to cook 1 pound of ground turkey with taco seasoning and divide up into 3rds for tacos. However, by the time I got finished with everything else and washed the needed skillet. I decided to forgo this one tonight. Still planning on doing it tomorrow.

 Turkey Burgers - Check (Kinda)!

I made 4 seasoned 1/6 pound turkey burger patties. I still want to make 6 more tomorrow. We use either  minus the green onions, or we use a recipe of 1lb turkey, 2t chipotle chile powder, 1T minced garlic, 2T BBQ sauce.

BBQ Pulled Pork - No Go

Use a pork shoulder roast, follow the directions on the back of the McCormicks slow cooker packet for BBQ pulled pork. Makes a delicious sandwich. De-Lish-us. Wally World didn't have the meat. So, this one was a no-go.

Sandwiches, chips, etc - Not Yet

Plan on doing this tomorrow.

I started this at 6:00 PM. at 6:30 Brynn woke from her nap and I spent the next hour with her. By 11:15 I was done cooking, packaging, and had washed all of the dishes. So, it really didn't take all that long.

Well there you have it. Next up - Goals for 2012.