For the second year in a row we are having a few friends over to celebrate the holiday. This year it was Mike's idea, mainly because he got a smoker for his birthday and he needs lots of people to eat whatever big piece of meat he makes. Tomorrow it will be a brisket and two pork butts that will turn into BBQ pulled pork sandwiches. The brisket was trimmed and rubbed today and went into the smoker around 8pm. We won't eat it until about 4pm tomorrow. Mike has been running in and out of the house adjusting the temperature on his smoker all night. He's gonna be up doing this while I sleep. While I'm not a huge fan of Texas BBQ, I admire his dedication.
Memorial Day is when we remember those who died fighting for our freedoms. That's important, for sure. I have lots of family that have served our country but none that died in service that I can think of. It does remind me of when we arrived at the cemetery for my dad's internment and we surprised to see a flag draped over his casket. He served in the National Guard for a very short time during Vietnam to avoid being drafted. He loathed it and never spoke of it but got very emotional when the subject of others dying in Vietnam would come up. All in all it was funny that someone had told the funeral director of his service, hence the flag.
Patriotic holidays also drag up for me a newly acquired disdain for large displays of nationalism in church. I love my country but I share a stronger bond with a believer in communist China than I do with a non-believer down the street. My feelings on this are complicated but Kevin DeYoung wrote a fantastic piece about it this week. The more I learn about the suffering in the world, particularly outside our country, the less I care about celebrating the wealth and opportunity of the US. I wish we'd spend less time celebrating and more time using our wealth and opportunity to help those than don't have it. Our freedoms are incredible, especially the freedom to worship as we like, but our freedom in Christ is so much greater. That's something I could celebrate all day, every day.
So what have you got planned for this Memorial Day?
These days we are super budget conscious, especially when it comes to clothes and food. Not because we have to be, but because we want to have more money leftover at the end of the month to save for fun stuff like a new car, pay down our mortgage, and we want to give away more.
Anywho...all that is tough to remember when I'm bombarded by retail overload. That's what the mall is like for me, especially when I haven't been there in more than a month. Especially when end of season summer sales are in full effect. Watch the video, you'll see what I mean.
So I really DID get some amazing deals. Let's just hope I can stay out of the mall next month.
Where's your favorite place to get kids' pajamas?
Anyway I discovered something in the past few weeks of couponing that really surprised me. Every other week, CVS has gallons milk for super cheap. I always thought that most food items at CVS were over-priced due to the convenience factor. I knew that HEB had cheaper milk than Target or Kroger. But the price of milk has been steadily riding and HEB has not had gallons of milk for under $3 in a long time. So when I saw that CVS had 2% milk on sale for $2.99 WITH a CVS Extra Buck back, I jumped on it. That's the equivalent of a gallon of milk for $1.99. I figured it was a fluke, but I only bought a gallon because one gallon usually lasts us a little more than a week. As it turns out, CVS ran the same special AGAIN two weeks later, except $0.20 higher. Still cheaper than anyone else. I managed to make our gallon of milk last two weeks until it was on sale again. Score!
I now have a strategy. Buy 2% milk on sale at CVS. Make it last two weeks till it goes on sale again. Use the CVS Extra Buck towards the next gallon of milk! Mega savings. I used to pay at least $3.50 a gallon.
This is What Works for Me this Wednesday.
Got any similar tips or tricks that you've discovered to save your family money on groceries?
2. Being awarded a character ribbon the very first week for Uniqueness! Nathan is indeed unique, but I have no idea why the teacher singled him out to award him this particular ribbon. It sure made me proud though.
3. Bringing cupcakes to school for Nate's 6th birthday. Apparently most parents bring store-bought cupcakes so mine were extra appreciated...or so I'm told. Also Nathan's birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese. I won't be doing that one again.
6. Basketball season! This was Nathan's first experience playing basketball at all, so he had a lot to learn. Thank goodness for two really excellent coaches.
7. Learning to read. This is actually his second year of Kindergarten so he did know how to read a bit going into this school year, but it suddenly took off like a freight train sometime after Christmas. Now he brings home chapter books and sits on the couch devouring them. He points out signs to me that he can read everywhere. The pride in this accomplishment is visible.
8. Breaking his elbow. Spring break, falling off the playground with no one but me around, he came down hard on his outstretched arm and fractured the elbow. Four short weeks with a cast and he was good as new.
9. Mommy makeovers in class for Mother's day. It was hilarious because even though I brought my makeup and some hair stuff, Nate had zero clue what to do with it. He needed lots of coaxing to even attempt to apply nail polish.
10. Kindergarten graduation! That's today at 2:00 and I'm looking forward to it. They don't actually call it graduation, they call it a Celebration of Learning and they have one for 1st and 2nd grade too. Here's a photo from last year's Kindergarten graduation at a private school.
My first stop is Old Navy, because they are masters of the classic looks at bargain basement prices. This khaki dress is the perfect example. It is apparently no longer available in my size, but if you're smaller than I it is only $19.99! Put a cute belt on it, dress it up with some killer strappy sandals and you're all set.
Thanks to Trop50 for sponsoring my writing about fabulous bloggers. This year Trop50 is granting 50 Fabulous Wishes. Click here to enter for a chance to win $1,000 to celebrate a friend with a refreshing attitude about looking and feeling fabulous!
One of the benefits of Twitter I have mentioned before is getting links to blog posts that someone other than the author has read and thinks are great. I don’t even use an RSS reader anymore. I have a tendency to click through to posts about certain subjects that I’m drawn to, such as the business of blogging, creativity, theology, music and adoption. After awhile I notice whose blogs I keep ending up at and I add them to my Twitter list of fabulous bloggers so that I’m more likely to catch when they post.
Today I want to tell you about five bloggers I keep coming back to over and over because they produce such great content. They are fabulous bloggers because they write well and about things that are immediately applicable to my life (and most people’s lives). They make me smile, think, and sometimes take action.
1. Michael Hyatt is the Chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishers and not someone I would have ever guessed I’d be interested in hearing from every day, but I love his blog. I’m not a big book reader and have little interest in the publishing world, but Michael is an exceptional blogger and frankly he seems to be an exceptional human being. He writes about “intentional leadership” which is something I have been trying to live out for quite awhile now without ever calling it that. His posts are super relevant to both my personal and professional life. He writes a lot about social media and productivity, two subjects any serious blogger would be into. He also has had great things to say about marriage and running too. Trust me, you want to check him out.
2. Stacey Nerdin of Tree, Root and Twig is a local friend of mine who is rapidly learning and applying the craft of blogging professionally with great skill. She’s a level-headed and down to earth mom like I am, with ambition and interests similar to mine but really and truly she’s a great writer. I’m not just saying that because she’s my friend either, she’s an emerging leader in my section of the blogosphere and rightfully so. Her “ditch the niche” mantra has really been an inspiration to me too.
3. Jon Acuff is simply hilarious. He created the hugely popular blog Stuff Christians Like and now he has a separate blog over at JonAcuff.com. I had heard of SCL but didn’t think I’d like it because it sounded like just another hipster trashing his upbringing. Boy was I wrong about that one, he doesn’t disparage our faith at all but for someone like me raised in the evangelical culture it is uproariously funny. Now Jon works for Dave Ramsey, who if you’ve read my blog at all you know is my latest obsession, but he’s ten times funnier than Dave and he’s my age so…bonus. I just finished his book Gazelles, Baby Steps and 37 Other Things Dave Ramsey Taught Me About Debt and I laughed all the way through it. He blogs about blogging and social media a lot too, so his blog is not at all just for Christians or Financial Peace junkies like me.
4. Shaun Groves is a musician and big time advocate for Compassion International, an organization I support as much as I can. He makes me think hard about my faith, my theology and what I’m doing (or not doing) to help the poor, oppressed and fatherless. You know God has been working in my life and breaking my heart for the 163 million orphans in the world, and Shaun is steps ahead of me on that, shining the light in the direction I’m moving. He’s a good writer, a good song writer and an all around good guy. I have loved all of his recent posts about the process of creating and releasing a new album too.
5. Brené Brown is a brilliant psychology researcher, writer and teacher. The first time I met her and heard her speak was at the Mom 2.0 conference in Houston last year, and that was primarily about writing and the writing process. I read her blog, Ordinary Courage, a few times but didn’t think I could really relate to her work on shame and perfectionism since I am the farthest thing from insecure or a control-freak. But then I heard her Ted Talk and it literally blew me away. I realized how unwilling to be vulnerable I am and how important that was. The more I read, the more I learned and benefitted from what she had to say. I think you will too.
Don't forget to enter the 50 Fabulous Wishes contest for a chance to win $1,000 to celebrate a friend with a refreshing attitude about looking and feeling fabulous. I was selected for this Tropicana Trop50 sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do. I received compensation to use and facilitate my post.
The YMCA of Greater Houston is one of three charities that have been chosen by the Houston Area Cadillac Dealers to participate in this month-long challenge. The other two charities are the Children's Museum of Houston and the Houston Food Bank, also wonderful organizations I support. These three charities are competing from May 9th through June 5th to see who can get the most votes on the Challenge Facebook page, hosted by the Houston Area Cadillac Dealers. The winner at the end of the month will receive the $50,000 in free advertising, but even the "losers" will go home with $1000 each. Isn't that a GREAT contest?
Couch to 5K training on the treadmill, and I take Christ-centered Yoga class there once or twice a week. I've tried loads of other classes too, from Zumba to pilates. The thing is my kids love going to the Child Watch center there too and I am amazed by how well operated it is. The people who work with my kids are really awesome.
Right now my six year old is taking four weeks of swimming lessons at the Y too, so that's another two nights a week I'm there. I usually end up in the pool with my younger child during that time too. Both the indoor and outdoor pools are impressive...what really blew me away was the long ramp for handicapped people to enter the pool using waterproof wheelchairs. Isn't that cool? It totally fits the YMCA's mission of making sure everyone has the opportunity for healthy living.
My son has also participated in youth sports teams through the YMCA including soccer and basketball. He loved both and they are just another example of how the Y is committed to youth development. This summer he will participate in the YMCA summer day camp program because I love what I have seen from the staff and other programs and I trust the people there a whole lot more than I did the daycamp he was at last summer.
I could go on and on about how the YMCA partners with other community organizations, like my church for example. But the Katy Family YMCA is just one of the 36 centers in the YMCA of Greater Houston. Through these centers and hundreds of other facilities the YMCA of Greater Houston serves more than 800,000 boys, girls, men and women a year.
That's why I would LOVE it if YOU would click over to the Cadillac Cares Charity Challenge Facebook page and "Like" the YMCA of Greater Houston. You don't even have to live here to vote, and you can vote as often as once a day!
Please vote daily!
Have you ever participated in any YMCA programs? Tell me why else you love the Y!
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post and I have been compensated to bring your attention to this worthy cause. All opinions are my own and I swear the money has nothing to do with my opinion about how awesome the YMCA is...can you tell?
So I suppose it's probably too late for a real Fashion Friday post at this point. I'll just share with you what's up with me.
I've been keeping very busy with one child in after school swimming lessons twice a week. We decided to try lessons at the Katy Family YMCA this year and so far it's going pretty well. The first lesson was stressful because Nathan hadn't been in a pool in months and was very afraid of hanging out along the wall in deep water with no place to sit or stand. That's all cleared up now that I've been working with him in the pool a lot.
My husband has been insanely busy with work, both at his day job as an engineer and his "other" job as a Penn State football blogger and author/editor of the annual preview guide, We Are Penn State. That's 128 pages of writing, a huge chunk of it done by him and the rest of his time is spent stressing out over getting articles from other authors who have agreed to write. This is the third year he's undertaken this awesome project and the months of March, April and May are always like this...every free moment of his time is sucked up by the magazine. It's a bummer for me but I'm still proud of him for that work. Hopefully in June he can relax.
Tonight is going to be super awesome fun though, because he and I are going out to dinner with a bunch of our friends and heading downtown to a show of four incredible indie bands. Us and four other couples from our adoption ministry and life group are gonna hit up Houston's famous Blue Nile Ethiopian restaurant. Two of the couples are in the process of adopting orphans from Ethiopia, so it'll be a special experience. Then the live music...oh how I love live music! We get to hear my absolute favorite new band of the moment, Courrier, along with David Ramirez, Gatlin Elms and The Canvas Waiting. All great musicians, all from Texas.
|Robbie Seay Band|
So it's time for another installment of top ten worship songs. I'm willing to be MOST of my Christian readers haven't heard these yet.
1. Fall Over Me, Jon Bauer You can here the whole album before you buy it here, but trust me...this is a gorgeous song.
2. Completely Satisfy, Chris Moerman Reminds me of the story of the Samaritan woman at the well. This would be a good song for communion too.
3. We Remember, Know Hope Collective Former lead singer of Audio Adrenaline, Mark Stuart, has crafted a great record around the powerful theme of redemption.
4. Luminaria, 1211 The first album from a collective group of worshipers at Gateway Church in Austin is crazy beautiful, but this song really stands out to me.
5. Name Above All Names, ALM:UK A simple but strong congregational worship tune.
6. At Your Name, Tim Hughes Tim is a master at writing powerful and catchy worship songs and this brand new album that released last month is no exception.
7. Manifesto, The City Harmonic You have to watch the video for this one. Just do it.
8. O Great Love, Robbie Seay Band I love everything Robbie sings. We are SO blessed to have him here in Houston, he masterfully led our 4000 person National Day of Prayer event in Katy last week.
9. Awake, O Sleeper, Ike Ndolo Friend of Matt Maher's, another Catholic worship guy. Here's an interesting blog post and video about this song.
10. The Earth is Yours, Gungor (Favorite whole album of the year, possibly.) The record version of this song is far more beautiful than in this video, but this live video is incredibly cool none the less.
So let me know if you have heard any of these and like them. And PLEASE share with me if you've found any other new worship songs or artists that you love.
This post is linked up over at Oh Amanda's Top Ten Tuesday.
We've always verbally told Nathan that too much TV is not good for you, but we have been really bad at enforcing any restrictions on how long they watch. They kids usually wake up around 6am, flip on the TV and it stays on till they leave for school at 8, even though they aren't actually watching it the whole time. It's background noise and the same thing goes for after school, except for that brief period of time when Nathan does his homework.
I can't tell you how many times my kids have turned on the TV in the room where I'm sitting, watched for about five minutes and then decided to go play outside or in another room. There I sit, me and the Fresh Beat Band. We have four TVs, something I never imagined, and I often wander into my bedroom or the playroom only to find it empty with the TV on. The kids are getting much better about being conscious of wasting electricity so they have been remembering to turn off lights and TVs when they leave rooms lately.
Mike and I pretty much spend every evening on our laptops in the living room, often half watching television. Neither of us is very engrossed in anything we watch, with the one exception of The Good Wife for me, and sports for him. We also both enjoy Austin City Limits on Saturday nights but we are often already in bed when we watch that.
When Nathan suggested a week without TV I questioned him to see how serious he was. He stuck by his idea and when I mentioned it to Mike on Saturday he was all for it. Good thing NASCAR was on Saturday this week. So yesterday the TV stayed off. Nathan has taken to voraciously reading chapter books he checks out from the library at school, so he has no trouble staying occupied.
The most amusing part of the day was the creativity of the boys who used a great deal more imaginary play to entertain themselves. In fact the noise level in our house did increase a bit at times, when laughter and raucous play took the place of cartoons. My grandparents came for dinner and they were amazed by how the boys just ran around the house chasing each other with imaginary finger lazer guns.
This morning I found the boys once again with the cartoons on at 6am, but when I gently asked Nathan what happened to no TV week, he promptly turned it off and I heard not a single whine or complaint from either child. Instead the sounds of our morning were filled with worship music in the kitchen while I fed them, cleaned and packed lunches.
I could seriously get used to this.
What kind of television habits do you have in your home? Do you think you could go a week without it?
I took my coupon straight to my Old Navy store at the Katy Mills Mall and tried on more than twenty dresses. I was shocked by how much I had to choose from! I really thought finding a dress that fit right and didn't look too young or immodest might be a problem. In fact that was not the case, I found one dress I adored for $34 that I used the voucher for, and I bought another dress I figured I'd use a lot for $20. Here's the first dress...a purple sundress.
Even better than getting my own dress for free was being able to give the coupons for free dresses to three friends. I decided to give them to three friends who are teachers on extremely tight budgets who have recently faced a scary round of district layoffs and fear losing their jobs. One of them recently left her full time teaching job to be a SAHM while still substitute teaching occasionally, and two of the women are in the process of adopting orphaned children from Ethiopia. I just really thought these girls could use a new dress!
Alex's only "fruit" are raisins and occasionally a couple bites of apple. Once in awhile I can get him to eat a tiny amount of pasta with spaghetti sauce, but no meatballs. Both kids drink a fair amount of milk but I've cut back a bit on Alex's because his pediatrician suggested it may be the cause of his constipation. Of course, if he simply ate more fiber we likely wouldn't have a problem. He does eat oatmeal and fiber rich cereal bars. He will sometimes eat deli turkey, but not actually IN a sandwich. Chicken nuggets, fish sticks and pizza are standbys. I try very hard not to do much short order cooking, so he does skip dinner entirely a lot. He usually makes up for it at breakfast.
So my wonderful, brilliant, faithful readers...help! Give me all your great suggestions and recipes for how I can encourage my kids to eat more healthful foods! It happens to be "ask your readers" week on Works For Me Wednesday, and this is my most pressing parenting issue.
What has worked for YOU in getting kids to eat more fruits and veggies?
|My boys playing Angry Birds together|
As a photographer I was thrilled to upgrade from a Blackberry to an iPhone4 with it's really awesome camera. The first apps I looked for were camera apps, so I downloaded Chase Jarvis' Best Camera and Instagram. It was super fun being able to snap pics with my phone, apply fun filters that made them look even cooler, and send them out to Twitter and Facebook instantly. But what I didn't realize was Instagram is so much more. Here are ten reasons I am now totally addicted to Instagram.
1. Instagram is a NEW social network. Sure I can connect to my existing networks this way but what I'm finding is sometimes it's more fun just getting to know a smaller group of people exclusively by way of my phone.
2. I love that it's a much more select group of visually inclined, early adopters. I love that we can have short conversations around an image.
3. I'm connecting with people I know a little bit through Twitter or blogging, but not very well because I usually miss a lot of their tweets.
|The lovely Alli Worthington|
4. I'm connecting with people I don't know! Just like through Twitter I get new followers that for unknown reasons are interested in my Instagram feed. It makes me curious and I can immediately check them out.
5. Instagram is so simple I can send a photo with comment on the fly. I can snap a shot and send it sometimes without the people I'm in front of even knowing it. I can do it in the car at a stop light.
|Gorgeous color in a flash, with commentary.|
7. Snapping photos of yummy food I'm eating tends to help me appreciate them more. Being fully conscious and appreciative of what you eat is one way to avoid over-eating.
|Making chicken fajitas!|
8. Likewise it helps me be observant of the often unnoticed beauty around me. I'm more likely to see and appreciate detail and texture when I have someone to share it with visually. Anything that helps me live more intentionally is a win in my book.
9. Public API means lots more apps are springing up that interface with Instagram and make it even more useful. One I like is called Inkstagram, which allows me to view my Instagram photos and comments on my laptop via web browser. Another one that seems like it could be cool is Instaprint, which prints Instagrams tagged with a particular location, comments at all.
10. Did I mention it's fun? Too bad you need to have an iPhone to use it. Score one for Apple.
So if you have an iPhone, what's YOUR favorite app?
This post is linked up over at Oh Amanda's Top Ten Tuesday!
|Shot this right before church started. Little did I know...|
Pride comes before a fall, people. It's not just a saying.
I knew these thoughts and feeling were wrong and I knew in my head that opening scripture and talking to the Lord about them would send them away, but I was reluctant to do that. I voiced all this to Mike and he patiently comforted me.
For everything in the world - the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes, and the boasting of what he has and does - comes not from the Father but from the world.New clothes or a great meal bring a momentary thrill, but don't leave you satisfied for long. I need to quit trying to meet needs with money that ONLY GOD can meet. Feeding on His words and promises and trusting in Him alone is the only way to do that.
I just hope I take this very loud message from God to heart. If I do, I'm grateful I only needed a small course correction before I got too far off track.
Would YOU say you are a content person?