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Saturday, August 31, 2013

Couponing {August}

I started couponing back in March and since then I have learned so much and saved A LOT.  Yes, it takes some effort and time, but it is something that I am willing to do for our family in order to contribute. And I am happy to say that I have become much more efficient time wise, and I have learned what works for us and what doesn't. Here is some advice and things that I have learned since starting five months ago:

1. Don't let the Extreme Couponing show discourage you.  Those are very "extreme" cases and probably very staged as well.  I don't know many women who would even think about spending 30-60 hours a week couponing, much less, have the time to do it. Figure out what works for you.

2. This is what works for me: I clip my coupons on Sunday afternoons while the boys are napping and I search the advertisements for the best deals and sales of the week.  (Don't forget to print coupons from too)! If I see a great deal that I also have coupon(s) for, I figure out exactly how much I'm going to spend on that item(s). If it's not cheap enough for me, I just hold on to that coupon in case a better deal on it comes up before the coupon expires.  Unless, it is something that I need immediately, of course! Oh, and don't hesitate to ask people for their coupons.  Most people just throw them away and are more than willing to just give them to you.  But if you can't find anyone, a lot of stores will mark their Sunday papers down to $1 on Mondays. Our Country Mart stores here in Lawton do this.

3. I make a list for each store.  This greatly minimizes the time spent shopping.  On Mondays, Jordan's off day, I hit up Walgreens and CVS.  I usually have better luck at CVS because of their "extrabucks" rewards system.  This hardly ever takes longer than an hour to hit up both stores.  On Wednesdays, our Country Mart comes out with their weekly advertisements.  (why can't they do it on Sundays like everyone else!?!) So I normally do my Country Mart shopping on either Wednesdays or Thursdays.   So in total, I spend about one hour clipping coupons and price matching per week and about two hours actually shopping per week.  A total of three hours per week! Not too bad!

4. Also, just from the few episodes that I have watched of Extreme Couponing, most of these "extreme couponers" are overweight and fill their buggies with mostly processed/junk foods and the likes.  The truth is, you can coupon and get healthy food at great prices too.  I've been doing Trim Healthy Mamas for two months now and our grocery budget has not increased at all.  (I will add that I do still buy a few junk few items for the kids, which you will see from the pictures...I'm slowly trying to replace these items with healthier doesn't help that my oldest gags at the sight of just about any food item that is healthy!)

5. Most of our grocery budget is spent at Country Mart.  I rarely shop at Walmart anymore unless I can't find what I need at Country Mart.  My main reason: Country Mart always doubles coupons up to $1.  So if you have a $1 off coupon, it automatically becomes $2 off! Plus, they have fuel rewards! And during the month of August, they double your fuel rewards.  So the next time I put gas in the Suburban, I will pay 70 cents less per gallon! So with all that said, I would encourage you to find a grocery store that doubles coupons.  This is where the big savings come in.  You'll be amazed at how many items you can even get for free! Even if your nearest store that doubles coupons is 45+ minutes away, it would be worth it to go every 2-3 weeks and stock up.  Thankfully, we have three Country Marts here in Lawton.  The nearest one is only about 8 miles from our house but I prefer to go to the one that is about 20 minutes away because it carries all the healthier, specialty items that I need for our THM way of eating.

And just so you can get an idea of how much money you can save by finding a grocery store that doubles coupons, here is my total spending/saving at Country Mart for the month of August:

Spent $270.51 (after taxes)
Saved  $264.33

Before starting couponing, I could easily drop $150-$200 per week just on groceries at Walmart! And that would barely be enough to get us to the next week. Now, not only am I spending WAY less, but my cabinets, deep freeze, freezer, and fridge are completely stocked.  We could live off of what we have (including toiletries), for months without having to buy anything. (except, of course, for the basic things that spoil quickly like milk, etc.)

Okay, so here is the fun

spent $40.94 saved 44.00

spent 67.76 saved 67.00

spent 85.74 saved 83.00

spent 76.07 saved 70.33

Once again, my total spending and savings at Country Mart for the month of August:

Spent $270.51 (after taxes)
Saved  $264.33

You may have come to the conclusion after looking at my pics that we aren't eating enough meat, fruits and vegetables.  But that's not the case at all! Like I said earlier, my cabinets, fridge and freezer are fully stocked...Last month I took advantage of the sales on salmon and chicken and stocked up.  Plus, we still have ground venison from the deer that Jordan killed last season.  And my freezer is packed full of frozen veggies and fruit.  And my cabinets are full of canned veggies.  When items you know you will use go on sale, STOCK UP!

My plan is to start taking pictures and keeping a running total of my spending and savings at CVS and Walgreens each week too.  But that might not happen for the month of September.  Addy will be here on Tuesday, Lord willing, and I plan to take full of advantage of our stocked groceries this month.  The less shopping that I have to do with a newborn the better!!!

I hope you found this post encouraging.  If you have any questions about couponing, don't hesitate to ask! : )

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Addy Jo {38.5 weeks}

Today I had an appointment at 38.5 weeks. I wasn't surprised at all when the doctor told me that I was 3 cm dilated and 50% effaced because the contractions and pressure have been pretty intense the last few days.  I honestly feel like this time around I could actually end up having Miss Addy before my due date on September 7th.  However, because of my gestational diabetes, we went ahead and set an induction date because my doctor will not allow me to go past my due date. So the date is set for Tuesday, September 3rd.  My water isn't scheduled to be broken until noon because there are two csections scheduled before my induction.  But maybe she'll come before then...we will see!

The end of this pregnancy has been so different from my two previous pregnancies. I was completely miserable at this point with our boys...horrible swelling, no energy, moody, blah, blah, blah.  Not so this time around! I feel pretty awesome. Don't get me wrong...I am very anxious to get our baby girl here safe and sound. And I have no desire to be pregnant longer than necessary! I just haven't gotten to that point where I feel like I'm going to go absolutely nuts if I don't deliver soon.  I owe it in large to Trim Healthy Mamas.  If we are friends on facebook, then I'm sure you have heard me talking about this diet/lifestyle. No, I am not getting paid to promote their book in any way.  I'm just loving the results that I am seeing in my own life from it and I want other people to experience these changes as well! I was very honored last week when I got a message from one of the authors of the book saying that they wanted to feature my testimony on their facebook fan page.  So in case you missed it and you're interested, here it is:

“In case you are needing that extra push to get started, take a look at how THM has helped me. In the first pic, I was 38 weeks pregnant with my second child and had gained about 45 lbs. Don't let the smile fool you.. I was BEYOND miserable! My legs and feet were so swollen and I had zero energy to keep up with my 18 month old.

The second picture is current. I am 38 weeks pregnant with our third child and have only gained 22 lbs. Not only that, since starting THM, I've had very little swelling and my energy levels have been incredible compared to my previous pregnancies.

It has been amazing! I never feel deprived or starved! And my doctor and dietitian have been amazed at how well I have controlled my sugar levels without insulin. Of course, I gave THM all the credit! If I can do this while pregnant with gestational diabetes, anyone can! Best wishes!”

I hope you found that encouraging! I would suggest this diet for anyone whether you need to lose weight, maintain weight, have diabetes, PCOS, thyroid problems, hormonal issues, pregnant or not, nursing, male or female,  etc. etc.  I could spend a long time explaining this way of life to you but it would be much easier if you just bought the book.  It's expensive at $30 but it is worth WAY more than that! So go check it out. And there are no supplements, vitamins, etc that you have to purchase in order to do this.  It's just learning to eat from all the food groups that God created in such a way that promotes weight loss and overall good health. Did I mention that I never feel deprived or starved? And that you get to eat chocolate and other yummy desserts? Bonus!!!  And that's all I'm gonna say about that.  : )

Okay, back to Addy Jo.  I cannot wait to meet this little girl! I am so excited about adding a daughter to our family and getting to do all those girly things that I did and still do with my own mama.  It's hard to wrap my mind around the fact that at this time next week, she will finally be here! Lord willing!

38.5 weeks!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Josiah Neal {4 years old}

Dear Josiah,

Has four years really gone by since you made me a mommy? I read an article the other day about how becoming a mother is one of the bravest things that a woman can do.  I probably would have raised my eyebrow at this before you tore into this world on that hot, August night...a Wednesday.  Yes, even at 12:58 am, it was hot in Houston.  But your daddy and I were anything but warm.  Our hearts were turning cold as we watched our firstborn be swept away, unsure if he was even going to take a first breath.  And in that moment, when most parents feel those first feelings of complete joy as they glimpse their own flesh and blood, we were faced with our first feelings of despair and utter hopelessness.  But in that same moment, we found our strength and bravery in Christ as we called out to the only One who could save our precious Josiah.  And He did just that! And we will never stop reminding you, Josiah, that God has a special plan for your life. He saved you that day for a reason.  You had life to live.  And I can't wait to see how His plan unfolds in your life.

At four years of age, you look just like any other four year old should.  There is nothing about your appearance that would suggest that you are any different from other kids your age.  But there is a big difference.  At four years, most kids are talking and communicating in sentences and paragraphs and spouting out those "cute sayings" that parent's send in to magazines and newspapers to be displayed under the "Your Kid Said What?!?" columns.  But this is where you differ.  Getting three words out of you at a time is considered an achievement and something that rarely happens.  This is something that has stumped us for awhile now.  Your hearing appointments came back normal and we will have you retested in a few months just to see if there is anything that was missed. We have suspected high functioning autism/aspergers to be the reason for your lack of communication but the hospital here refuses to test kids under the age of four because of so many children being tested too young and being mis-diagnosed. But now that you are four, your pediatrician sent your referral in for testing and we should here back with a testing date soon.

What they will find, I do not know.  Will they be stumped too? I guess we will see.  This is where that bravery thing plays in. I'm trying to be brave and completely trust that no matter what we find out, God is in control and He is not stumped by this.  He is on His thrown and His will will be done.  If you never speak another word, I'll trust that God will still use you in some way to bring Himself glory and fulfill the plan for your life.  And at the same time, I trust completely that God can make you speak.  And I know that He will if that is what He has for you.

But enough of that! This is your birthday post! You are four! Our big four year did it happen so fast? It seems like just yesterday when I was nursing you every two hours and wondering how I could possibly cope with someone needing me so much and for everything to supply their every need...four years seemed like an eternity away.  Now it's here and you don't need your mama near as much as you did then.  Our doors leading outside now have three locks on them because you don't need mama to take you outside.  And the day that your daddy installed the third lock (the one you can't reach), I found you with a chair pulled up to the door trying to reach it.  You have broken at least four child safety locks on the fridge because you don't need mama to get you something to drink.  And don't even get me started on the snack cabinet, or the bathtub, or the DVD player, or your lamp, or the top of the may not be talking much but you sure do know how to get things done without your mama's help! If only you would apply that to potty training...but I'm not even gonna go there right now...

Josiah, life would be pretty boring without you around.  I think that even Eli would agree with that since he wakes up every morning asking about you.  "Where's Siah?" he asks.  And then I tell him that "Siah" actually likes to sleep late.  And when you finally come strolling in the living room from your deep slumber, Eli has to run up to you and say, "There he is!" and gives you a hug or a kiss.  He really does love you! And you're a pretty good big brother (most of the time). Don't get me wrong.  You have your moments...many moments actually.  But that's what brothers do, right?

Now, as far as Addy Jo goes, she will be here very soon and I am anxious to see how you react to her.  You were only 19 months when we brought Eli home from the hospital and it pretty much shocked you and I think you were mad at us for awhile! But something tells me that you are going to be a little more understanding this time around and a lot more gentle.  I love the look on your face when you see a little baby or when you pat my tummy and say "baby!". No, it's not really you that I'm worried's Eli...oh, but I'm getting off topic again...

At four, you are going through a mommy-clinging stage. You do not like leaving the house unless I am with you.  If we are getting ready to go somewhere and daddy is already putting Eli in the car, you usually stand by the door and motion for me to "come on" before you step foot out.  It's like you and Eli have switched places all of a sudden because he is going through his daddy-clinging stage right now.  He loves going to the office with daddy when he can and you love staying home with mommy and curling up on the couch to read books together.  I don't mind this.  Nope, not one bit.  This is one of my favorite things to do with you. : )

Josiah, I could fill a book with all the ways that you have brought joy to our lives in your four short years.  And it is my prayer that you grow up knowing just how much you are loved, wanted and adored.  Not only by us, but by God.  You were made to fill a purpose in His plan and I know that He will equip you for whatever that purpose might be.  I love you Josiah.  Happy 4th Birthday!

Love, Mommy

Friday, August 9, 2013

Nursery Reveal {addy jo}

Some of you may remember that Miss Addy was a big surprise.  In fact, when we found out that I was pregnant, we were right in the middle of converting our office into some much needed closet space.  Obviously my dreams for a big closet flew through the window in exchange for a baby girl.  I didn't mind. : )  But thanks to my loving husband, I didn't have to completely compromise my closet for a nursery.  The room turned into half closet, half nursery and I love it!



Well, now that the nursery is finished and my bags are just about packed, I'm definitely ready for our Addy Jo to get here! Not too much longer now : )

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The boys' first week of homeschool (and what mommy learned)

Day 1: When dealing with this age (at least my kids anyway), it is much more beneficial to have a routine instead of a schedule.  Fortunately, I received this advice before I made their lesson plans and instead of saying "at 10:00 we are going to do ___, and at 10:45 we are going to do ___", I planned our days out by saying "first we are going to have our bible story, memory verse and prayer.  Then we will go over the calendar, weather, clock and songs.  Next we will start on phonics and our letter of the week.  Then we will have art time, etc...etc...

I love this flexibility so much more than being controlled by a clock.  Our activities can take as long or be as short as they need to be.  Instead of having time tell me when to move on, I can focus on the boys and let them tell me when we need to move on or take a break.  I realize that some days we may be done with school by noon and other days we may need a lot more breaks and not be done until nap time or after. 

Flexibility.  It's a necessity.

Today I also learned the importance of having "art time" in our garage whenever possible.  The boys worked with a lot of glue and glitter today and I am so thankful that I made the decision to do this in the garage! Otherwise, we would have had glue and glitter from one corner of the house to the other.

Day 2: On Tuesday we had to make an unexpected trip to Oklahoma City. I couldn't stand the thought of not having school on only our second day so we decided to have a little field trip.  Yep, a field trip on the second day of school! Gotta love homeschool, right?!? So we took the boys to the Science Museum/planetarium.  I was surprised at all the activities they had just for my boys' age. They really enjoyed most of it and so did Jordan and I.   

Day 3: On Wednesday, I learned that it is not always necessary or beneficial to start schooling early in the morning. Sure, as our kids get older, they will need to know that they are expected to go to bed at a decent time knowing that they have to wake up for school.  I think it is important for kids/teens to be prepared for the real world and it's demands, deadlines and so forth.  But right now, it is still summer and the boys are still so little.  To me, it's equally important to enjoy the "long days" of summer and prolong bedtime a little.  Plus, we were all so wore out from Tuesday's adventurous day and I let Josiah sleep until 10 am.  I do not think it would have been beneficial at all to wake that sleeping bear and expect him to go right into school work.  Instead we started after lunch and he did great!

Again, flexibility is key.  Especially at this age!

Day 4: It's okay to accept help! Jordan offered to take Eli to the office with him for a couple of hours while I focused all my attention on Josiah.  At first, I wanted to say no because I wanted Eli to be just as much a part of our homeschool day as Josiah. But then I remembered that he is only two and at that age, sometimes it's just more beneficial to let them just play, play, play and throw in some very short lessons every now and then.  So I let Eli go with daddy and Josiah and I got a lot accomplished during our one-on-one time.  This won't always be possible so I might as well accept the help while it's there. : )

Snack Time=Eli's favorite time of the day!

Day 5: Each week we will be focusing on a new letter, number, color, shape, and memory verse.  Repetition is key at this age...especially for Josiah with his learning disability so this really works well for him.  However, instead of moving on to our new letter, number, color, shape, etc this week, I think we will repeat what we learned this week just with different activities and worksheets.  I just don't feel like he "got it" enough to move on.  Plus, it was our first week so I need to allow some time for him to adjust and understand what mommy is expecting of him.  But all in all, he did really well and I am looking forward to our second week of homeschool!