Thursday, April 30, 2009

Thrifty Thursday--Not Your Mother's Coupons

Coupons have a bad rap. I mean really--spend all day scouring through a Sunday paper so you can save what 20 cents on a brand paper towels you never buy anyway? And then there's the time you spend trying to get the coupons and trying to make sure you buy that right brand so you can save that quarter. It's just not worth it, especially when time is as a valuable as it is these days.

I am talking about different coupons. 'Coupons' you get from clothing stores, shoe stores--the stores you where you actually want to go. I have a favorite clothing store and on one of my many visits, the clerk asked if I wanted to join their 'club'. It was completely free and now I get 5% off all purchases plus $50 to $100 off coupons (coupons that you get in the mail and, at this store, are stored in the system so if you don't have it with you, you can still use it!). At my last visit, I bought my Easter dress with earrings and shoes--when the bill came I paid for less than what just the dress was on sale for!

Then there are the 10% coupons you get from many kids' clothing stores. I like to use these when I buy a bunch of clothes for the season. And the more you can buy all at once, the bigger the savings! I love to look at my receipt after a big purchase for all four kids and figure out just how many items I got for free. It is really exciting to think of the savings you can get from one little coupon.

Last but not least is my Passbook. The Passbook is a book of coupons you buy for $20 for any various charity groups. Since we bought our last December we have saved $35 at a paint store, gotten 4 free movie passes, 1/2 off three different dinners, two free ice creams and 20% off two hotel stays! I keep the book in  my car so I will have it on hand if we ever need it. I think it is one book of coupons worth every penny.

So yes, I do clip coupons and I hope after reading this, you too will start 'clipping coupons' and really truly saving!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Menu Monday--Again :)

Right now I am struggling with  a headache thanks to the carry out pizza we enjoyed last week for Sarah's birthday so I am going to try to make this week light and fresh. I can't stand headaches!

One thing I have noticed in my years of a more whole, organic diet is my intolerance to prepared foods. It's a good thing and a bad thing all at the same time. The good thing--it keeps me away from prepared foods. Seriously my head is pounding so bad right now I don 't ever want to see commercial pizza ever again; the mere thought is making my stomach turn. The bad thing--it's hard to get food on the go or on a really hectic day. Road trips for our family tend to get very difficult when we are in the middle of no where and out choices are the golden arches or the gas station 'deli'. I usually end up digging through our bags to find smashed granola bars. Not the yummiest.

So my focus is try to get the pizza out of our system this week. I hope this menu does it!

Monday: Loaded Garden Salad with Tomato Chipolte Soup 

Tuesday: Girls Night Out (will try to take it easy!); family at home will enjoy quesadillas (spinach, cheddar cheese on tortillas pressed in the panini press)

Wednesday: Grilled Mahi-mahi (mahi-mahi marinated in tamari and pineapples) with steamed bok choy

Thursday: Baked Cannelloni (a bit heavy but we should be OK by then!)

Friday: Citrus-Marinated Salmon with Garden Salad

Saturday: Cincinnati Chili (left-overs from freezer)

Sunday: Chicken Quesadillas (chicken breast cooked in tomatoes and peppers, shredded and served on tortillas with peppers and cheese--pressed in panini press)

Let's hope the headache is gone by then!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Happy Birthday Sweet Sarah :)

I cannot believe I am already writing this. It seems like I wrote your 7th birthday letter just yesterday.


You have grown up so much in the past year. You have attacked school work with such vigor. On most homeschool days, you sneak into your homeschool room before we even have breakfast and finish almost everything! You really love math and doing 'meeting masters'. You do not enjoy grammar. You always want to push it until 'last'!

Ballet is still your favorite activity. Every Thursday, you wake up and say 'it's ballet day!'. I remember how excited you were when you looked at an '09 calender in January and saw your birthday fell on 'ballet day'. You declared it would best birthday ever because of that!

You love playing on the Wii--specifically running. I am amazed that you can run in place for 30 minutes without losing a beat and consistently comment on the 'beautiful site' at Wii Island ;)

Your favorite friends right now are Sarah, Heidi and Megan. And all three are coming to your 'Wizrd of Oz' party tomorrow. We could not find the DVD so we are renting it. You were very upset when you learned they were 'fixing' the 'Wizard of Oz' for the next edition because 'it is already perfect!' :)

You are one of the sweetest girls in class. You are kind, generous and loving. You amaze me everyday with your spunk, giggles, brains and heart. 

I am truly the most blessed mom in the world to have you as a daughter!



Monday, April 20, 2009

I Love Food Menu Monday

If you've been reading me for a while, you know a few things about me. I am bit scatter-brained, I leave my grammar abilities at the door and I love fresh, seasonal organic food!

I could honestly talk about food all day. I love to try new colorful veggies and fruits. I sometimes spend far too long chatting with the fish monger about when the fish truck comes in and when will it be Copper River season (seriously counting the days til early May for that fish). I love trying out new cheeses with different breads, crackers and spreads. 

I love doing the menu Mondays here. Before I only made sure to make at least one new dish a week; now I have branched out to at least two.  Occasionally, I make something and I hate it; but every once in a while I make a dish the whole family just devours. And I love it.

So to celebrate fab cuisine of spring, here is this week's menu for my always brave family!

Monday: Soy Marinated Grilled Chicken on Baby Spinach

Tuesday: Steelhead Trout with Roasted Asparagus

Wednesday: Eggplant Parmesan with Escarole (sauteed in olive oil with sliced garlic)

Thursday: Coq Au Vin (not the real thing--not enough hours in my day but a tasty faux version)

Friday: Sarah's birthday celebration--pizza--no, I am not making this one :)

Wishing you all a wonderful week filled with fabulous meals :)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Thank You for the Advice

I wanted to take the time this late Saturday night to thank all you who left the wonderful comments and advice regarding my daughter and math. I must say you are all some bright mommies out there! I wish I could invite each and every one of you out for coffee to discuss kids and school :)

Miley has been doing better. I had my yearly (every middle of April) 'finish strong' talk with her. We discussed about how yes, the school year has been going on forever and, yes, the work is suddenly getting more and more intense. But I told her just how little is left of this year; we are seeing the light at the end of tunnel. We can crawl to the light or we can run and 'finish strong' with our head held high!

I am speaking with other moms about setting up some math study review groups for the summer. I have been asking her to figure out totals for items (finding and adding the tax) before she purchases them to show her how often we do use math. I am going to ask our youth group leader if he knows any bright math students at church that would like to make a few bucks over the summer. I even surprised her with a longer break when she figured out a complex fraction problem.

The result? She's doing a bit better but her handwriting and will have gotten incredible--almost like the beginning of the year. To top it off her teacher showed her handwriting on her math work to the entire class and said 'You are ready for the 6th grade' and added (ironically) 'this class is how you finish spiritually strong' and labeled my daughter as a class role model for finishing strong! She has been beaming ever since :)

So thank you all once again! I am toasting you with my La Crema Pinot right now!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Desperately Seeking Advice

Here's the deal. I am not doing well homeschooling my eldest daughter. Unlike her sister, Miley does not show any passion for school. It's not that she doesn't get it, is confused or slower than most; it's that she doesn't care. At all.

I literally spend two hours going over one subject with her every homeschool day. Math. She whizzes through the rest--sloppy and inconsistent but correct. Then she works on math for at least two hours by herself and then two with me or vice versa. And she still gets the same problems wrong. The formulas, the equations, the 'Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally'...they go from my lips, through her ears and up into the atmosphere.

And like I said. It's not a confusion issue. She is still doing well on her tests. But it will be a confusion issue soon. 

She does not listen to anything. She tells me math is boring. She hates it. And now the latest, she's not any good at it. Well of course she is losing her grasp on it. You can't solve every single problem with A=bh; there's A=1/2 bh, P=2l + 2w and of course everyone's favorite A=(Pi) r (squared) among others. 

I want my daughter to have confidence in math, to know she can do it. But first, she has to pay attention. She has to sit down, listen and do it.

And how on earth am I going to get her to do that?

Friday, April 10, 2009

Why Can't I Just Accept the Gift

The other day Mike came home from an afternoon out with the kids (giving me a much needed break) and handed me a beautiful box. Inside this lovely wrapped present was a very nice gift certificate for a full day at a very posh spa. 

He bought it 'just because'.

I was floored. We have been trying so hard to save money because the future is so uncertain. He is a self-employed real estate agent and to say our income is based on the shape of the economy is an understatement.

Knowing one of the rudest things a person can do is not accept a gift, I smiled, kissed him and thanked for thinking of me.

And then I spent the whole night wondering 1. Could I find a way to return it without anyone knowing and use the money for summer camps? 2. Can we really afford such a frivolity? 3. Why would he do this? 4. Why can't I accept the gift?

The fourth question really rung in my head. I love spa days. They are a fantastic way to relax, unwind and you feel like a million dollars when you are done being pampered from head to toe. Here was my husband offering me something wonderful and I was trying to find a way to get out of it. Wasn't I worth the day of pampering?

Why did I feel unworthy? I'm a good mom. I give my heart and soul (and even my sleep) to my family. A day at a spa is a wonderful thank you all moms should enjoy. Yet--I can't seem to get past spending that amount of money on just me.

Isn't there a better use for it?

And so I sit here on Good Friday feeling unworthy and my thoughts journey back 200o years when God brought us the greatest gift of all. His son. And out of pure love, His son gave His life for me, for us to be forgiven. And if there is anything I am not worthy of, this is it. 

Many of you know the line 'I a poor miserable sinner'. We recite it weekly as we confess our sins and a receive forgiveness. And I am so not worthy.

But God believes I am. He believes we all are. How are we to deny this gift He gives us?

And God knows so much more than we do!

I am feeling better about my much smaller gift. My husband loves me and feels I am worthy of this day at the spa. The gift is a way he is saying thanks and showing me his love.

What else is there for me to do but set up my day at the posh spa and enjoy it?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Nothing but meals Menu Monday

Time has been getting away from me. I know I skipped last week--we did actually eat--so before I skip yet another Monday, let me share our meal plan for this week. You will note there are a few left-overs here; this is because it is 'Holy Week';  the week that remembers Christ's journey from entering as a celebrated king on a donkey, to the cross and, ultimately, resurrection :)

Tuesday: Pesto Salmon Wrapped in Parchment with Asparagus (link includes pasta which we are skipping this night)

Wednesday: Chicken Fajitas

Thursday: Cincinnati Chili (left-overs as we are going to Maundy Thursday service

Friday: 5 Bean Chili (left-overs) (we do not go to Good Friday service--Lutheran-Missouri Synod has a very moving, emotional, service where the entire church goes dark, which can be very scary for small children--so we stay home for now)

Saturday: Date Night (kids will have quesadillas--seasoned chicken, cheese and peppers grilled in tortillas)

Easter Sunday: Roast of Lamb, asparagus, seasoned new potatoes and angel food cake

I wish you all a blessed holy week!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Any Math Geniuses Have a Baby about 8 years ago?

The girls take a standardized test cold (aka unprepared) every year to test their progress.  The purpose of the test is to see exactly where they stand in comparison to 1. all children their age in public and private 2. all children in private 3. all children in a classic education private school (like the one where they go). 

Like the teachers, I have never paid much attention to it. We are told about a week before the testing that they will be tested. A month or so later, we get the results.

Obviously, I make sure the scores are above a certain range.

Because Sarah is only in second grade, she is only compared to private schools, and in order to be compared to all schools, we are supposed to add 2 to 3 points to the ranking. Ranking is based off a percentage--for example better than 56% is a 5.  Her first scores were good. I thought they might be higher but it was her first test like this. (Honestly, she talked for days about how a computer was going to grade her paper and she had to fill in circles completely 'for the computer grader'). 

And then I got to math.

She scored better than 99% of all private school peers putting her in a 9 ranking.  I always knew Sarah was good at math but better than 99% of her peers?! I am good at math but not that good. That score was Einstein good. I thought it might be a common thing for that group and not something to get too excited about.

Sarah looked at her scores and asked why  she didn't have the third set of numbers like her sister. I explained they did not have public school comparison and to get that number you need to add 2-3 or 20-30% to percentage.

"But you can't add more 1 to 99%. You can't go higher than 100%."

It was then and there that I realized two things. One: The test was right and two: some nurse switched babies on me in the hospital.