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Our Free Swing Set

A couple of weeks ago I was scanning for freebies on Craigslist (under "Free") and saw this swing set for free in our local area. I quickly emailed the person and by that afternoon we had a free swing set in our backyard!

We have looked at swing sets in the past but they were definitely out of our price range- even the Walmart cheap one was $200!

The swing set isn't perfect or brand new, but my kids certainly don't care, it works! It has a slide, a toddler swing, a small swing, a carriage swing and a see-saw.

You never know what God will provide for you- and for free!

Check out more finds over at Money Saving Mom!

Stretching Eggs

When I cook scrambled eggs for a hungry man and two growing boys, I could easily use the whole dozen to feed them. An egg is like one bite for them!

So, when I make scrambled eggs, alone or in easy breakfast tacos, I add milk or half and half (if I have some) to the eggs to make them go further (further, farther- isn't further right? After three babies I can't remember!).

I usually add about 1/2 cup for 8 eggs, and they come out super fluffy and taste just the same. You could experiment with this and add more or less depending on taste.

For more frugal tips, check out Crystal's blog.

I Love this News Story

I saw this over at the Sparrow's Nest. It's great!

Freebie of the Day- Total Cranberry Crunch

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Styling Curly Hair

It took me a while to figure out what would work best for my curly red (read: stubborn) hair. After much trial and error and many dollars spent on hair products that didn't work, I finally figured out a combination that works well for me, and my wallet.

Here's what I do to "fix" my long, curly hair.

1. Shampoo and condition.
This was a trial and error process and I found several products that don't work for me. I can't use Suave of any kind, or Pantene. They make my hair greasy and flat. Herbal Essences has been my number one brand for many years. I prefer the older formula (with flowers on the bottle) that they still sell in one scent at Wal-Mart. Their new brightly colored shampoos and conditioners work well with my hair too though. I apply conditioner quite liberally, about twice the amount of shampoo I use.

2. Keep it in a towel.
I keep my hair in a towel until it is ready to do. I don't rub it or shake it in the towel, I just let it dry inside the towel while I put my makeup on.

3. Use a very wide toothed comb/pick.
I have one comb I have used every day since 2000. Seriously, life stops when I lose my comb. It looks close to the one in the picture.

4. Apply mousse first.
I use Suave max hold mousse (in a mauve can) and rub it through my hair. It acts like a primer for the gel. Rub it in from root to tip, until your hair feels wet again. This is usually a couple of handfuls of mousse for me.

5. Apply thick gel.
After applying the mousse, I apply gel from root to tip with my fingers, with my hair upside down. I use Garnier Fructis hair gel in Super Stiff and use quite a bit of this as well. If your gel feels watery in your hand/ fingers, it won't hold a curl well. If it kind of stretches between your fingers it's good stuff. Separate the hair by combing your fingers through it (no combs or brushes after gel).

6. Flip your head over to dry your hair.
Dry with a hairdryer, keeping the dryer closer to the hair and scrunching it to add the curl. Your fingers act as the diffuser. Rotate the hair dryer all over the head while scrunching the hair in your fingers. By keeping the hair upside down, it dries with more volume and more evenly without frizzing out at the top.

7. Don't touch it again.
After it dries, don't comb it, not with your fingers or a comb or brush. To hold a tight curl, it must stay in a catatonic-gelled state. If you tend to put it up and take it down a lot, it will get frizzy, so try to stay with whatever style you pick for the day. I often leave mine down during the day and put it up at night.

Here's what my hair looks like when I use this method:

What works for your curly hair? I am always interested to hear about curl-friendly products!

Breakfast Hack- Easy Tacos

I made some breakfast tacos for my husband today. Instead of cooking the eggs in the skillet (stinky, messy and hard to do with 8 eggs!) I scrambled the eggs with a mixer and threw them into a greased baking dish. I cooked them for about 25 minutes at 350, and when they cooled, I simply cut them into taco-sized slices. Here's what it looked like:

Beaten eggs ready to go.

Lightly browned and springy after cooking.

Egg slices with cheese.

Voila! A week's worth of tacos ready to go!

Check out more kitchen tips at Tammy's Recipes!

Freebie of the Day- Dove Go Fresh Deodorant

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I am Spoiled. Rotten.

Last week I came home from the gym to see these on the table:

Tuna steaks drizzled with honey-dijon ready for the grill:

Angel food cake coming out of the oven.

Veggies ready to be sauteed.

And the finished product was ready shortly after I showered. :)

He had already fed the boys, so it was just us at the table for a special dinner.

And he even made strawberries and angel food cake for dessert.

And get this, he made it all low-fat! What a wonderful man I have. He knows exactly what I like. :) I had to take pictures of it all- it was so pretty.

I know it had to be a lot of work- he even took all three kids to the store with him while I was gone! He told me he just wanted me to feel special. And I really did.

I am such a lucky girl. The Lord has really blessed me by giving me such a great partner and best friend.

Busy, Busy!

We have been so busy this week! Isabella was sick for a few days, which somehow makes everything difficult- even down to the simplest of chores. She was better yesterday, and since hubby had the day off for Good Friday, we took the opportunity to go relax and fish all day.

I did get a chance to take some fun pictures- I hope to post them before the weekend is up. Have a great weekend!

First Time Garage Saling- What FUN!

After reading Bethany's post about reselling garage sale items, I decided to give it a try Saturday morning! I'd never been garage saling, as I just never wanted the things I saw at most garage sales.

I didn't have any specific items on my list, just an idea of getting name brand clothes to resell on Ebay. I went to the first "multi-family" garage sale in a very expensive neighborhood, only to find severely overpriced items from only two families. I was wondering if these women thought they should recoup all of their losses on their items? I was quite sure this is what I would find at others, but I drove around looking for sales around my neighborhood anyway. I'm glad I didn't give up, as I was much luckier at the others!

I went to about eight garage sales total, and scored at the last three. I got a brand new iced tea maker, a wooden rocking horse, a Little Tikes kitchen, and 5 pairs of Abercrombie and Fitch jeans (these jeans cost $90 each new) a pair of men's Gap jeans, a t-shirt and an American Eagle sweater. I got all of the clothes for $20! Probably more than most garage salers would pay for eight items. I saw them as an investment! Apparently, the young couple who sold them to me were exactly our size- all eight pairs of jeans fit us!

I think I went a little garage sale crazy- it was all stuff we had looked at buying full-price but didn't want to spend the money. We were planning to go shopping that afternoon for clothes, and the cheap prices of the garage sales that morning made me extra stingy with my money- a very good thing I think! I couldn't find anything at all at the outlet mall!

I can't wait until next Saturday! I just have to be careful not to spend money on good deals that we don't need.

Weekend Update

We had another death in my family- my other grandpa died last week, and his funeral was on Friday. He was 79, and had 7 children, 27 grandchildren and 53 great grandchildren! While it was a sad occasion, it was also so wonderful to see all of my extended family- cousins, aunts and uncles I haven't seen in years.

It really makes you realize that we should do all we can to stay in touch with our families! It seems everybody is far too busy to get together these days. We are just as guilty as everyone else, we don't stop and enjoy life and people like we should.

Luckily we did manage to collect everyone's email addresses- I am hoping that helps us all to stay in touch more.

Injecting God into "Me Time"

From Christian self-help books to women's magazines, we are inundated with the same message: You need "me time." Time to relax, recharge; time to be alone. To get away from your problems. To get away from people.

As I read this in another Christian women's magazine the other day, it occurred to me- what if my "me" time became "God" time? Wouldn't that revolutionize my perspective? Recharge me?

What if each time I were alone I prayed instead of thinking of how I was going to deal with the next thing?

I tried it- I drew my relaxing hot bubble bath, and instead of pulling out a book or magazine, I put my Bible on the ledge of the bathtub. I read my Bible and prayed during my bath time, and instead of reading unnecessary or useless information in a magazine, I relaxed and recharged my batteries with God's Word.

I have to tell you, it was amazing. Now every time I take a bath, I read the Bible and pray, and instead of feeling overwhelmed before I go to bed, I feel relaxed and connected with the Lord. I think of what I read and pray about it through the next day.

Then I thought, what if I gave God more than just my bath time? I would be spending more and more time praying and less time focusing on myself. What if I added more God time to my life and replaced all of my "Me" time. How would my life, my heart look then? Even the short amount of worship time in the bath changed my heart and helped me to meditate on His Word throughout the next day.

I Thessalonians 5:17 says, "Pray without ceasing." Jesus told two parables where the moral of the story was pray persistently- in Luke 11:5-10 and 18:1-5. He gives the command- pray, pray, pray. And in the meantime, talk about Him all day.

Deuteronomy 4:6-9 says,
4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.
5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.
7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.
9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

I thought of other times I could inject God into my "Me" time. I want to make God my first thought when I wake, when I have a moment to think, when I lie down to go to sleep. I want to make Him what I talk about all day. It's a huge goal, but I know I can do it with His help.

So here are 10 practical suggestions- ways to inject God into your "me" time:

In the morning:

1. Morning shower.
You are usually alone in the bathroom first thing in the morning. As you step into the shower, start praying. You don't have to think, just start praying. If you need a guide, remember ACTS- adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication. Pray for the day.

2. Getting dressed.
You probably aren't thinking much here, so as you put on each garment thank Him for each leg, arm, hand and the abilities they give you to serve Him.

3.Brushing your teeth.
Hey, you can't talk anyway, so why not pray?

4. Brushing/ drying your hair.
While you do your hair everyday, make it a special time to spend with God about something on your heart. If you're like me, you probably can't even remember what you are normally thinking about while you brush your hair!

5. Applying makeup.
Each time you pick up a specific makeup, pray for a certain person or topic while you are applying it. Ideas: foundation- that your face will shine with God's love, blush- that you will reflect his joy, eyeshadow- that your eyes will be watchful for ways to show His love, mascara- that you won't scare anyone away from Him, lipstick- that you'll speak with His lips.

Throughout the day:

6. Bathroom breaks.
Every time you use the restroom, take an extra minute and pray. Or read. :)

7. Exercising.
Instead of turning on the music, pray instead for half of your normal routine then turn on the worship music. Can you think of a better way to spend 30 minutes?

8. Driving.
Instead of planning or listening to the radio, why not spend some time talking to God about His plans?

9. Cooking.
I often cook alone in the kitchen while my husband plays with the kids. If you are alone, put on some worship music and pray about verses you've read recently. Thank Him for the food He's provided for you to cook.

10. Baths.
This is one of my favorite times. I love relaxing in a hot bath, and I really like digging into God's Word in a quiet place. I keep a towel by the Bible for turning pages, and another idea would be to have a paperback Bible you use just for bath time, leaving it by the bathtub when it's not in use.

Giving God even the smallest amount of my alone time has made a huge difference in my life, and I am sure it could in yours as well. Give it a try this week- pick one or two and see if your "Me" time doesn't bring you more peace and joy than ever before. You'll never want to be "alone" again. :)

Freebie of the Day- Bath Thermometer

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72 Hours- A Parenting Lesson Learned

FYI- This is a real-life mom story, not for the faint of heart or the weak-stomached.... :)

Today was one of those days that you realize you are indeed a mother. And a novice one at that.

I thought it was safe to venture out today, since it had been over 36 hours since Noah had been sick. He felt fine yesterday, and I was ready to get out of the house and go run an errand. We met with my husband at a sandwich place to eat lunch since we were all in town.

As we were getting out of the car Noah started screaming like he had hurt something. We were trying to figure out just what was wrong with him, when suddenly I realized what was about to happen. And just as I thought of it, out it all came. I never knew such a little boy could produce such a mess.

Luckily my husband was right there unbuckling him, so he helped him a bit, and cleaned it all up. (Such a wonderful husband I have, really, I mean throw-up?!!) We waited a little, and he seemed just as fine as he had when we left the house. We stripped him down and used his brother's jacket for a shirt. We decided that we still needed to eat, so I went in to order the food, and hubby took the kids to sit outside on the patio.

Noah didn't eat, but he seemed to be feeling and looking okay and was acting normally. So I decided at the end of the meal that we would continue our errand and quickly go to Sam's as planned. (Yes, I am that naive...)

We went to Sam's, and shopped for the few groceries I needed to get. I asked Noah if he was okay a few times, and he still seemed fine. I had Isabella and Noah in the front of the basket with me.

I kept smelling this funky smell through Sam's. I did the mom thing, got near Noah's bottom area and sniffed, but couldn't smell anything so I figured it most be something else. Thinking back, I did this like three times. Silly, silly girl. Sam's is a big place and how likely is it the whole place smells!

When I got outside after checking out, I smelled it again, so I decided to raise his jacket-shirt in the back and look. Yes, it was him. And it was all over the back of his brother's jacket. And on the cart.

This is moment when you try to remember if you saw anyone looking at you funny. Did anyone notice? Did they think I knew he was covered in poo and kept on shopping? Surely if I didn't figure it out from one foot away they didn't either, right? Right?

I took him to the car and stood there trying to figure out what exactly I should do first- unload the groceries or take care of the mess. I decided mess first since I was going to need all the room I could get. I picked up Isabella, and --surprise-- she was soaked in a stinky mess of her own! What a bonus! I laid her down on a blanket in the back of the SUV and proceeded with Noah.

It was one of those messes where you just want to stick the kid in the shower fully clothed just so you don't have to touch anything. Seriously. I stripped the poor kid down in the parking lot with my full buggy of groceries sort of blocking the view. It was the worst parking lot change I have ever done. Ever. And I hope I never have to do it again.

After taking care of Isabella too, these elderly people came to their car beside ours. Please, Lord, I'm thinking, don't let them smell anything or look over here...! If they did notice, at least they didn't say anything.

I used the box I had planned for carrying my groceries to harbor the huge mess of diaper and clothes from two little ones and wiped down the cart with baby wipes.

When we got home, poor little Noah was sleeping in his car seat in only his diaper- the only clean thing he had left were his socks, so he had just a purple blanket covering him. So precious. So innocent. I felt bad for him. Next time his young mom will be more cautious about stomach bugs. And we'll wait at least 72 hours next time before we go to Sam's.

Menu Plans 03/10/08

This weekend we had a little one with a stomach virus. Funny, we were just saying how lucky we were to have avoided that so far, and what do you know, the next week we have one come to visit! ;) Luckily it was only a 24 hour bug, so he is much better today.

Thinking about food sounds great now doesn't it! :P

Here's our menu plans for this week:
Mon- Broccoli Chicken Casserole, Beans
Tuesday- Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas, Beans, Rice
Wednesday- Spaghetti with Meat Sauce, Green Beans
Thursday- Cheesy Chicken Vermicelli, corn
Friday- Out or something easy- Fridays are the worst- I am spent by this day :)
Saturday- Chicken Veggie Pizza
Sunday- Sandwiches, Carrots

Lunches: PB&J, Chicken and Potatoes, Leftovers, Breakfast for Lunch

Breakfasts: Burritos, Oatmeal, Cereal, Eggs

Check out more menu plans over at OrgJunkie!

Homeschooling May Soon Be Illegal in CA

I got this email from a couple of sources today, a friend and Alpha Omega Curriculum:

A California state appellate court ruled February 28, 2008, that it is illegal for parents to teach their children at home without a teaching certificate! That's right! That means for all practical purposes, homeschooling is not a legal educational option any longer for California families. Unbelievably, Justice H. Walter Croskey and the two other members of the 2nd District Court of Appeal in California's San Diego county signed an opinion which stated, "Parents do not have a constitutional right to homeschool their children." Reversing historic gains, California parents are once again in a head-to-head battle to protect their rights to homeschool!

I can't believe that this is happening- if this doesn't get overturned, it may very well be illegal to homeschool anywhere in the US without a teaching certificate, and if you are certified only in a secondary field you wouldn't be able to teach anything but that subject! This is absolutely an atrocious intrusion on the freedom of parents to actually raise their own children.

We must take action- do everything we can to protect the rights of parents to homeschool their children!

Conviction without Qualification

I love this post from Mama Archer! I also found the quote for the day on her blog- such a great one from Doug Phillips of the Vision Forum! She's got some great points in her post about conviction- it's another must read!

I find it interesting how many in the world cannot or do not deal well with others who have strong convictions contrary to their own. This is especially true in the Christian community. Our culture has seeped in more than many realize. Are we to put a disclaimer saying, "this may not apply to every individual -- the Lord calls some to one thing and others to another," for people to be comfortable and to keep from being hit with the onslaught of accusations of judgmentalism??

Firstly, I think that if we always preface things we disagree with or are not comfortable with by saying, " the Lord calls some to one thing and others to another," this really can simply be a cop-out. Where is the conviction in that? There is indeed absolute truth! To say otherwise is to take up the cultural mandate.

Read more....

Quote of the Day

The Bible calls debt a curse and children a blessing; but in our culture, we apply for a curse and reject blessings. Something is wrong with this picture." ~ Doug Phillips

Making a House Smell Like a Home

I love making my home smell homey and inviting, and my favorite way to do that is with candles. I love the homey baking smells- pumpkin, hazelnut, cinnamon, cake bake, apple.

When we went on our date last week, we found a Yankee candle in Harvest- it smells like cinnamon and nutmeg to me. I really love it, and it was on clearance! Walmart has a store brand I like in Hazelnut too. The candles last forever and we get so much enjoyment from them!

Freebie of the Day- Garnier Ultra-lift Treatment

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February Goals Update

February was a short month but I feel like the Lord helped me have more success in meeting my goals this month. We were very busy this month too!

-Create a new schedule and routine system by next week and stick to it, changing it if necessary (rather than abandoning it) by reevaluating it monthly.
I saw much improvement in this area this month. I keep it pretty flexible, but my daily cleaning and exercising and schooling has improved because I am keeping a routine and getting up earlier.

-Continue breastfeeding exclusively until Isabella reaches 6 months (we usually add cereal at 4-5 months but I want to extend the time before we start baby foods)
This goal was accomplished! Isabella turned 6 months without any solids. She’s as rotund as ever and hasn’t shown any signs that she needs solids, other than trying to reach for any food in her sight!

-Run a 5k in under 30 minutes (I've run only one before in 39 min).
I added running to my weekly exercise routine to get me ready to run again. I feel much more fit than the last time I ran, so I am hoping to bring it in under 30 minutes soon. My pelvis starts feeling weird and disjointed after about 10 minutes at full speed. I wonder if that’s a by-product of birthing three children in under 4 years? ☺

-Add in 1-2 hours per day to my schedule for web/design work
I didn’t have as many projects to work on this month, but I did have time to redesign the blog, now I just have to get it up here! ☺

-Start Elijah's homeschooling, with him reading by his 5th birthday in October
We did more informal schooling than formal this month. We practiced letters, sounds and spelling throughout the day rather than having a sit down lesson. We practice writing a few times a week too.

-Exercise 5-6 times per week including classes at the gym and home
We had several events happen during this short month- a death in the family, sickness (everyone got sick at different times!), last minute dates, dinners, and my dad coming to stay with us during his vacation. I ended up exercising only about 3-4 times per week. I try not to obsess over this one, and try to always give my family first priority. I am hoping the next month will look better as far as exercising goals.

-Eat more fresh and natural foods- whole grain, preservative-free, locally grown foods
As last month, most of my meals consist of fish or chicken with veggies and/or a starch. I love not being hungry all the time. I think the whole grains really help to keep me full, as well as the lean protein.

I looked into co-ops in my area. When the season comes, I think I am going to buy most of my veggies and fruits from the local produce stands. I also looked at grain mill attachments for my mixer. Maybe one day I will be able to get one and grind my own whole wheat! I also bought unbleached all-purpose flour instead of regular this month. Small changes, really, but I suppose they still count. :)

-Drink at least 3 liters of water per day
Like last month, I have to keep working on this one. I can tell my milk supply really drops if I don’t drink enough. I think I need a glass now, come to think of it…

-Potty train my 2 1/2 year old (he'll be three in May)
Great strides were made in this area! Noah went potty several times this month. We found that the longer he sits there the more likely he will go on the potty. He refuses to hold any toys or books while on it though, so it makes the time extra long for him.

-Increase household purging of clutter and excess, including selling furniture, shredding papers and giving away or selling toys.
We sold the big piece of furniture that had emotional value- which was great for our space and sanity, but sad nonetheless. I sold some extra clothes we had this month also. I also organized our loose papers into files and now have a great system in place for bills, and other important documents, receipts, etc.

-Slowly change my body clock to go to bed earlier and rise earlier (I am so not a morning person!)
Significant progress in this area! Very exciting, now I wake up much earlier even if I don’t want to! ☺ I feel like I have much more time to accomplish my goals, and I like going to bed earlier.

Maybe March will be even better!

Freebie of the Day- Toddler Dish Set

Get a free child’s tableware set with bowl and lid, juice cup, fork, and spoon -- from Sprout and Mott’s for Tots! Simply fill out their registration form and few questions to have it sent to you! I love freebies like this one!

When it Rains it Pours!

Last week was such a busy week! As they say, when it rains it pours! :)

It was busy in a good way though- we had all kinds of activities last week. Tuesday hubby and I went on our Valentine’s date and ate some fabulous Asian food and then iced tea and awesome carrot cake, then went to Babies R Us and a home store for fun. We had a great time and even had a few deep conversations about our future and plans. It was a lot of fun to be just a couple, and we really enjoyed the time alone.

Wednesday night through Sunday morning my dad came and stayed with us. We had a great time with him here- the boys couldn’t get enough of him and he took them to the park for bike riding, giving me some time alone at the house with just Isabella. We had lots of great times, and went out all together for dinner, bowling, and walking/playing at the park by our house.

Thursday my husband picked up free last minute tickets to a Broadway musical, and we got to go on our second date in a week! ☺ It was a blast, and reminded us of the pre-children days when we would get all dressed up and go to big musicals. We were so grateful to my brave dad for watching all three little ones (and he even had to change stinky diapers!).

Saturday we were blessed with a free swing set! I haven’t taken any pictures yet but it is a great swing set and the kids love it. We got it through Craigslist. So very exciting!!

Yesterday evening we also got a bag full of boy’s 5T clothes through Craigslist! The Lord really blessed us- we were so amazed to get 52 pieces of clothing for only $10! They were Gap, Old Navy, Polo, Osh Kosh, Target and Walmart brands- jeans, shorts, tees, jackets, overalls, all in sizes that Elijah needs, and just in time as the weather is changing! Thank you Lord! We met the seller in my hometown, about an hour away, so we got to go visit my Mom and Granny there too, and ate dinner and made a cake with them. It was a good day!

It was a very busy week, and this week will be busy as we catch up on laundry, dishes and cleaning!