Monday, December 22, 2008

Overwhelmed

We were blessed this week by someone. We don't know who, but they left us three bags of food and a very large gift. It was broken up into something for each of the kids and something for each of us. I am just overwhelmed by it, and I hope they know how much we appreciate it. We have gotten so used to being self reliant and working for everything we have, and it has been like that since the day we got married. Then we moved to Texas, and I am constantly astounded by the generousity and affection of people here. I feel so blessed to have so many friends, and people that genuinely care about us. When we moved here, we only knew one person, and she lived an hour away. We left all our family hundreds of miles away in Florida, but it feels like we have family here now. I just want to give a big Christmas hug to all the people in our church and our homeschool community. And to our anonymous angel, I would like to say THANK YOU!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Lucky Day!

So all those blog giveaways actually turned out pretty good for me. I won a total of three items. I would like to thank all the bloggers for their great giveaways, and I am looking forward to the next giveaway day from Sew Mama Sew!

I am most looking forward to getting Festive Knits a book of knitting patterns from Fuzzy Thoughts. I really hope I am able to grow past my comfort zone of scarves and decipher patterns for adorable animals! Otherwise, there is always my dear sister Carole, who is able to figure out all sorts of patterns.




I also won a Make Your Own Shower Cap Kit from Hoppo Bumpo. I have no plans for who will get the shower cap, I may save it. I'm not actually sure when a person is supposed to use a shower cap, but I love the fabrics she uses for her kits. Someday, I will find a person who cannot live without a shower cap, and that day, I will be ready!


The third item I won is a lovely Set of Ceramic Magnets from Marti at Standing Still. I am always happy to get handmade ceramics. I see many beautiful ceramic items done by members of my family, but it is not very often that I get to posess one. At least one that was not slightly defective in some way :) I may give these to one of my artsy loving family members for Christmas, if anyone shows a good amount of interest. Otherwise, they are going to look real pretty on my fridge.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Day After Thanksgiving = Recreational Sport

I love Black Friday. I dislike spending money though, so I like to focus in on lower priced items. But really, it is more of a competitive sport to me. It is something I am really good at, so I really look forward to the Day After Thanksgiving. I start out with the sales papers, then I focus in on the stores that I like or that have the best sales on what I need. I automatically try to ignore ads for Best Buy and Circuit City - people start lining up the night before and they usually only have ten of _____ in stock. I ignore Sears because of a bloody toe incident that happened on Black Friday 2004. I was particularly impressed with WalMart's sales this year, so that went in the must pile. JCPenneys is also an obligatory stop, not because I need anything there, but because they have a free Mickey snowglobe every year. I have a collection that goes back 8 years, so I can't stop now. This Friday, my mom (willing partner in fun) and I left the house at 3:20am and we returned at almost 8am. We went to six stores and a short Chick Fil A break. Here was the plan:

We went to Kohls first because they get checkout lines an hour and a half long from fifteen minutes after opening until the sales end. We got there an a half hour before opening, and had a good position in line. I ran to the toys, while my mom secured a position near the registers. I was successful in grabbing a very large and heavy set of metal Tonka trucks (this, plus my existing closet stash means Child #2 is now officially set for Christmas) plus a Rubiks cube. I ran to get the Cutlery Set next, but it was non existent. In fact, funny story, they only had one in stock. A lady that was two steps ahead of me beat me to it. Ah well. Kohls was not a first place finish.
Kohls 4am
* KitchenAid 14pc cutlery Set $29.99 - Unsuccessful
* Tonka Mighty Truck 2Pk $19.99
* Rubiks Cube $6.49


We ran to the car and high tailed it to JCP. My mom went in, but couldn't find them. After a bit of a muddle, I went in and found a Customer service guy. He pointed me in the direction of a rather hidden pile off to the side. I grabbed two and ran out. Not sure what he thought of me...
JCPenneys 4am
* Snowglobe!


By now it was 4:30am, so I leadfooted it to WalMart for the stuff I was really looking forward to. I have to say this turned out to be my favorite stop. (I never would have gone to the WalMart near us in SoFla, too seedy and unpredictable.) It was busy, but they were organized. They were already open, so people just lined up next to the pallets of stuff they wanted. At 5am, they cut open the pallets. We walked in at two minutes to 5. Good timing! We grabbed the housewares, and soon realized we were in dire need of a cart. Mom went for that while I moved on to the electronics... madhouse, and a line had already formed for layaway. Now that is just sad. Do you really need that plasma screen TV that bad? (No, you don't.) I had recently found out Wal Mart price matches Black Friday ads, so I tried to find some of the stuff I say in the Best Buy ad. (I took all the ads with me into WalMart.) I was only successful in finding the Micro SD card. I did find a bunch of $2 DVDs though. Mom guarded the cart while I went for the pajamas and clothing. I got four pairs of pajamas at $4 each; Star Wars, Transformers, Spiderman...yippee. Fleece PJ pants for dear hubby with an obnoxious XBox logo all over them, and some turquoise ones with HSM all them for me. The best was the hoodies with fleece lining though. Luxe! Dear hubby is totally loving me because of that. He has worn his for the last two days. Check out was super quick, but I had a panic attack when I went to pay. No wallet, breathing and heart stop. AAAAH! Mom paid and we went quickly to the car. False alarm, wallet seemed to have fallen between seats. Obviously, in my marathon shopping, I had gotten sloppy.
WalMart 5am
* DVDs $2 - Cinderella Man, Grumpy Old Men, Miss Congeniality, TMNT
* Hamilton Stand Mixer $15
* 1.5 cup Mini Chopper $4 - rang up a dollar!?
*Eureka Stick Vacumn $9
*2pc Pajamas 4 pairs- $4
*Fleece PJ Pants 2 pairs - $4
*Fleece Hoodies 2 - $8
*Graphic Hoodies - $4

*Micro SD Card 2gb - $7.99

Load up the car and off we go to Target. I was disappointed in Target, but in their defense, it was a newer location. And it was their first Black Friday. I really needed the iPod dock alarm clock for sweet husband's Christmas gift, and it was nowhere to be found. Mom and I split up and combed the electronics section. I found four on the bottom of an endcap, with no sale sign nearby. I matched the upc numbers and grabbed two (one for my sister, per her request). They had unlocked all the doors holding the video games, so it was blissfully easy to get the Lego Batman game (officially done with Child #1's Christmas shopping). We also had a very hard time finding the womens shirts that were 2 for $10. They were hidden in the back of the clothes section.
Target 6am
* Clok iPod dock Clock Radio $29.99
* Lego Batman DS game $20
* Lionel Trains DS game $7 Unsuccessful, didn't appear to ever have been in stock
*Womens Cherokee Shirts 2 $5

*Transformers DVD $6

By now it was 6:20am. We took a break to eat at Chick Fil A, and with my many coupons we had a feast for under $5. I love Chick Fil A breakfast, and the Dr. Pepper perked me up. We headed over to Office Max next. The crowd waiting was small and very tame. I really wanted a souped up labeler that normally retails for $40, it was on sale for $10. I headed straight there, and I got one. There was two other ladies at the same time that got the only other remaining ones. (Sidenote: If a store spends all that money to put the item in their national ads, then stock it in the stores for goodness sakes! Otherwise, I will deem the store untrustworthy for next year.) I also got a 100pk of DVDs and mom picked up a 4gb Micro SD card.
Office Max 7am
*Brother PTouch Labeler $9.99
*DVD-Rs 100 pk $16.99

We were winding down, so we drove over to Home Depot real quick before going home. I got six of the $.99 poinsettias, two in white and four in red. They were beautiful. I gave two of the red ones to my neighbor and she really appreciated them.
Home Depot
* Poinsettias $.99


Finally, we made it home. Nobody was awake, but of course, the sound of us unloading woke the house. I had a tricky time hiding some things, but it was a very successful morning. (And I did write my mom a check for WalMart, in case you were wondering.)
And a funny sidenote, I brought my reciept with a $3 coupon from today's paper to Target, and I got $3 back for the Transformers DVD. So it ended up costing me $3 total!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Pumpkin Recipes

I have been using some of my frozen mashed pumpkin lately, so I will share my favorite recipes with you. (For future reference, to cook pumpkin - cut it up into pieces, cut off the outside rind with a knife or a peeler, cut off any stringy section on the inside and I usually end up with 1"-2" square cubes, put them all in a big pot with water and simmer them until they're tender, drain and mash - I had to look in a cookbook written in the 1940s to find out how to do that, although in retrospect, I probably could have found that on google.) Many of these recipes are adapted from Family Fun magazine, I highly recommend it! I got my subscription off Ebay for $4 for one year, but you can probably get it cheaper than that now.

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies
I made these back when we lived in SoFla. They are tricky to adapt from the canned pumpkin recipe, but the kids love making them (and eating them).
Ingredients: Pumpkin Cookies
2 eggs
2 cups light brown sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 15-ounce can pumpkin
3 cups flour
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
Ingredients: Filling/Cream Cheese Frosting
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 to 5 cups confectioners' sugar
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Beat the eggs, brown sugar, oil, and vanilla in a mixing bowl until smooth. Stir in the pumpkin. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, pumpkin spice, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture a half cup at a time, blending each time until smooth.
2. Drop a heaping tablespoon of batter onto an ungreased cookie sheet, using a moist finger or the back of a spoon to slightly flatten each mound. Bake the cookies for 12 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.
3. Meanwhile, make the frosting. Beat together the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla extract in a bowl until light and fluffy. Mix in the confectioners' sugar a half cup at a time, until the frosting is spreadable.
4. To assemble the pies, turn half of the cookies bottom side up and spread a generous amount of cream cheese frosting on each one. Top them with the remaining cookies (turned right side up). Makes 10 to 14 whoopie pies.

Curried Pumpkin-Apple Soup
This seems to be turning into an annual tradition. It is my favorite pumpkin recipe, and I love it as dinner on cold winter days. My husband isn't as keen. I don't use curry in it, that's up to you.
2 Tbsp Butter
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
1/2 large apple, peeled, cored, chopped
2 tsp mild curry powder
3 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups solidly packed pumpkin mash or canned pumpkin
1/4 tsp salt, more to taste
1/3 cup heavy cream
2-3 Tbsp honey or maple syrup
1. Melt the butter in a medium size pot. Stir in the onion, celery and apple. Partially cover the pot and saute the ingredients over medium high heat until the onion is clear, about 8 minutes. Stir in the curry powder and saute the mixture for another minute. Stir in 1 cup of chicken broth and cook it for 1 minute more.
2. Pour the contents of the pan into a blender or food processor, add the pumpkin, and puree the soup until it's smooth. Pour it all back into the pot, then stir in the remaining chicken broth and the salt. Set the soup over medium high heat and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally.
3. After 5 minutes, stir in the heavy cream and 2 tablespoons of honey. Taste the soup, adding more salt or honey if necessary to get the desired balance of sweet and savory. Simmer it for 2 minutes more, remove the soup from the heat, and serve it hot. For a tasty touch, garnish each bowl with a dollop of sour cream. Makes 6 servings.

Sugared Pumpkin Seeds
This recipe comes from Money Saving Mom. You can see it here:
2 c. pumpkin seeds (from two pie pumpkins; rinsed and dried on a baking sheet for 48 hours)
1 egg white mixed with 1 Tbsp. water (save the egg yolk for your next batch of pancakes or scrambled eggs!)
1 c. sugar
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. salt
Mix seeds and egg white mixture. Add remaining spices and mix well. Spread on greased baking sheet and bake at 275 degrees for one hour stirring every 15 minutes.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Sick

I am sick, not terrible stuck-in-bed with a stomach flu, but just a nasty cold virus. When I go to sleep my lungs feel heavy and when I wake up, I feel like I am breathing tar. I haven't had taste buds in three days, and my voice sounds like a man.
On the upside:
-I haven't smelled poop in four days.
-I have no motivation to go out of the house, so we are saving money.
-I finally found a use for that sample tube of Aquafor that I picked up at the pediatricians two years ago. It works really well for that painful upper lip/outer nose that is red and dry from all the Kleenex use.
-I have a good excuse to sit around in my house robe and slippers.
-That tub of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Blue Bell will taste all the better when I can finally eat it (and taste it. I'm not going to waste any, if I can't taste it!).
-At least I got it this week and not next week, can you imagine no taste buds on Thanksgiving?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Free stuff for Homeschoolers, Websites

Clearance sale at Learning Resources: http://www.learningresources.com/category/teachers/clearance.do?code=PROMO-SAVE40E

Great sites:
http://kids.nationalgeographic.com/ = all sorts of fun for rainy day science/nature lessons!
http://www.starfall.com/ = LOVE this site for young kids learning to read!
http://www.hsiz.org/ = You can register for free, and get a great Fall lapbook for ages 4-8. There are also great planner pages and shopping lists.
http://www.joyoushome.com/ = Free download a day for 12 days of Holiday Homemaking~
http://www.doverpublications.com/sampler/1114a/index.html = Free samplers from Dover Publications sent out weekly, great for puzzles, coloring pages, clip art, etc.
http://www.bhg.com/gardening/plans/?esrc=esbhgreg0208c = Free garden charts, guess you'll have to wait a while to use that :)
http://www.termite.com/images/USASpiderChart.gif = Nifty spider chart
http://homeschoolfreebie.wholesomechildhood.com/ = They send out an email on Mondays with the freebies for that week, usually downloadable PDFs and some audios.
http://www.quamut.com/category/hobbies_and_leisure =I could get lost on this site for hours. It is a bunch of how to guides. I didn't even get past the hobbies section, there's just so much.
http://www.thehomeschoolshop.com/sh-freedownload.htm = Monthly free downloads.
http://www.wowio.com/ = Download free books daily.
http://www.currclick.com/?&SRC=Newsletter = They also send out a newletter weekly with free downloads.
http://www.splashesfromtheriver.com/spelling/index.htm = Free Homeschool Spelling Curriculum - 30 Lessons, middle school level.
http://gardenofpraise.com/bbspel.htm = Free Bible Based Spelling Lessons - 35 Units
http://donnayoung.org = Tons of lesson plans, calendar sheets, budget sheets that you can print for free and lots of other stuff.
http://www.kidzone.ws/ = Free printables/worksheets
http://www.squidoo.com/historyfreebies = Great ideas for teaching Middle Ages

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Thomas Jefferson's prayer:

Almighty God, Who has given us this good land for our heritage; We humbly beseech Thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of Thy favor and glad to do Thy will. Bless our land with honorable ministry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion, from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people, the multitude brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endow with Thy spirit of wisdom those whom in Thy name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that through obedience to Thy law, we may show forth Thy praise among the nations of the earth. In time of prosperity fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in Thee to fail; all of which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

--Washington, D.C. March 4, 1801

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Happy Reformation Day/Halloween!

Aside from playing dressing up and gorging on candy, I don't really like Halloween as a holiday. I love Thanksgiving and Christmas much more. The kids had a lot of fun last night though. We went to our church's fall festival, and the kids played lots of games. Child #2 went in the bounce houses for about five minutes and then spent the rest of the night going through the cardboard box maze. He went through about 29 times in a row, and of course, he got a piece of candy each time. Child #1 enjoyed all the games, especially the dinosaur dig (in 20 lbs of rice), but he was also enamored with the box maze. Good fun and it was all free!
We bought two pumpkins this year ($3.89 each). I decorated one and Child #1 did the other. Can you tell who did which?
I have big plans for cooking them later this week and freezing. Last year, I made an amazing pumpkin soup that I want to have again. I'm even going to try to use the seeds for more than planting this year, I found a recipe for sugared pumpkin seeds. Should be interesting.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Good Times

I know, I know. I say we are finally on the waiting list and then I decide to take a three week nap, leaving my faithful readers in the lurch (all four of you). Life has been kind of stressful lately.

We have been trying to catch up on a lot of things that we put off while we were saving money for submitting the dossier. One of those things was a vacuum. Our vacuum handle broke off again, and this time, it was irreparable. Instead of getting a new vacuum, we duct taped a pencil to the wiring inside putting it in a permanent "on" position, then we duct taped over the gaping hole to cover the wiring. This means that it has a shorter handle perfectly designed for a person 12 inches shorter than me, and also, it turns on automatically when you plug it in. Yes, I know what you're thinking, where can I find one of those? The sad thing is that my husband uses it more than I do, so I think it was slowly driving him mad. We having been using this "custom" version of our vacuum for around six months, and we finally bought a new one. We are really enjoying the luxury of a new vacuum - the sound, the cleanliness quality, the features! Sometimes I like to deprive myself just so that I can fully appreciate and savor the experience or, in this case, new vacuum. Can you tell which is the new and which is the old?
Unfortunately, right after we laid down the big bucks for our new vacuum we got three different unexpected bills in the mail (dental, dental, and OT for misquoted benefits grrr). Then there are rumors going around poor husband's company about 32 hr workweeks, forced vacation, etc. because there is no work to do. Compound that with my stress over upcoming elections. Plus... Our Crapavan seems to get a new problem every month, and they all came together last week as it threatened to die on the road. Something having to do with oil pressure... valve covers.... water pressure... nothing having to do with the a/c that we repaired ourselves (that works perfectly). Anyway, we determined that we could not easily fix it. We ended up paying $500 to get it working. It would have cost an additional $850 to fix everything. Oddly when my dear husband drove it to work the next day after having it fixed, all the pressures dropped and the engine stopped working. Thankfully the repair place was very honest and helpful, they paid to have it towed back to them. Apparently, the serpentine belt (third one the van has had) came off, so they determined it was the belt tensioner (second one) and replaced that. So five hours after leaving for work, my husband ended up back at home (he burned a vacation day for this!). On the plus side, I used that time to finally finish staining the piano that has been sitting in our garage. When we moved here, dear husband said we could not put our old, ugly piano in our new pretty house, so I had to make it pretty. It only took me close to two years, but it is finished. Dear husband is very happy for all the new found space in the garage. It means we will have room to fit... the Crapavan when we admit it for experimental surgery in a few weeks. That should be oodles of fun! So this week, I have been doing some heavy prayer. As any Christian can attest, the good life brings apathy, and stress pulls us into God. I had a day of fasting and prayer yesterday, mostly for the elections and dear husband's job. Okay, it wasn't a whole day. I only made it until 4pm. I get really cranky when I don't eat, and that's just not fair to the kids. I think I will try a sundown fast next time, maybe Monday, and that would be a sacrifice because that is when I eat my ice cream, cookies, etc. Thanks for the idea, mom. You're totally awesome. Anyway, God has already answered some prayers this week. Poor husband is exhausted because they had three jobs come up, and he has gotten at least twelve hours of overtime already. So he is billable and that is good! Plus he got a small quarterly bonus today!

I was getting stir crazy having the kids all to myself for three days, so we all piled into the car and indulged in Sonic tonight. It was overpriced but well worth it. I thank God for small moments that feed my heart. I was eating a big bacon cheeseburger Toaster sandwich with onion rings and drinking peach iced tea. The kids were all quiet as they filled their bellies. I had Coldplay on the stereo chilling us all out. The weather was awesome.

I do not need more possessions. I do not need a bigger house. I am thankful for what God has blessed us with because it fills my heart to the brim when I think of what we already have. Seriously, listen to this song and tell me if it doesn't stir your heart?http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dvgZkm1xWPE
Or maybe I just like Coldplay a lot.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

WAITING!

I am pleased to announce that after many unforeseen delays, we have finally sent in our dossier and are officially on the waiting list! We were disappointed to learn that we did not receive a grant from Shaohannahs Hope. But thankfully, God in his provision seems to have made in unnecessary. The only thing we have to save for now is travel. We are happy, excited and relieved, and now we get to look forward to waiting (probably about 12 months). Although I know I will soon find myself impatient with waiting, I am glad to have all that time to read all those adoption books that are recommended. I have already read a lot of Ethiopian history and travel books. My absolute favorite is Journey to Ethiopia. It is a big coffee table book with lots of beautiful photos. I can't even find it on Ebay, but it is available at the library :) I also recommend There is No Me Without You by Melissa Fay Greene. It's a non-fiction book that beautifully intermingles Ethiopian politics, history and culture with the story of a selfless woman taking care of AIDS orphans. It took me a few weeks to read because it kept making me cry. Anyway, I wanted to give you a glimpse of what we had to put into our dossier and what it involved.
Here is the list:

Dossier Papers
Page 1: Dossier Family Profile Summary
Page 2: Letter to the Ministry of Women’s Affairs
Enclosures: passport size photos of me and the hubby
Page 3-10: Certification of notary with Home Study Report
Page 11-12: Agency License
Page 13-14: Certification and Power of Attorney
Page 15-16: Certification and Power of Attorney
Page 17-18: Certification and Power of Attorney

Page 19-20: Certification and Power of Attorney
Page 21: my Birth Certificate
Page 22: dear husband’s Birth Certificate
Page 23: Marriage Certificate
Page 24: Letter of Recommendation
Page 25-26: Letter of Recommendation

Page 27: Police Clearance for me
Page 28: Police Clearance for dear husband
Page 29: Medical Certificate for me
Page 30: Medical Certificate for my dear husband
Page 31: Employers Letter for my hard working hubby
Page 32: Notary for 2007 Income Tax 1040
Page 33-34: 2007 Income Tax 1040
Page 35: Notary for 2006 Income Tax 1040
Page 36-37: 2006 Income Tax 1040
Page 38: Attestation and Declaration of Personal Conditions
Page 39-40: Bank Letter

Page 41: Certificate from Parents re: Post Placement Reports
Page 42: Copy of both of our Passports
Page 43: Form I-171H from USCIS
Enclosures: Two money order to Embassy of Ethiopia

Two checks to Department of State
Check to courier
Check to agency for certification

Check to agency for country fee, visa/medical fee
Also included:
-Two page Contact Agreement, signed
-Referral Disclaimer, signed

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Back to Normal

Well, I really don't want to admit to anybody in the area how quickly we got our electricity back, but here's a clue, it was less than three days. It is nice to finally be able to find milk, eggs and the essentials - ice cream. And thank goodness the gas lines are gone.

In a sick way, I sort of missed hurricanes when we first came. I missed the camaraderie and family time and forced isolation from modern technology. But now I remember why we tried to move away from hurricanes - the lines (for everything from ice or gas to coffee and milk), the complainers, the piles of tree refuse, the sacrifice of perishables out of the fridge (thankfully, all we lost was mayo, eggs and sour cream), the interuption of all routines and activities, the days of abnormaility. And did I mention the complainers? I'm not talking about people that lost everything. I'm talking about people that didn't prepare in the first place, and then they are whining that they need things. Why do you think they talk about this in the news for a week ahead of time?? yeesh. I am sick of hurricanes, and I am glad that where we live seems to be returning to normal.

I have included some photos of things I saw nearby in the few days after Ike left. I have never seen so much structural damage from a category two. It seems to be that trees this large don't exist in south Florida (probably because God's tree trimming service comes to town every few years), but here in Texas, they haven't had a storm this bad in 25 years. So there were tons of houses that had catastrophic damage because some giant tree fell on it. In fact, that is also why some people here went so long without electricity. We are very grateful that none of our trees toppled over, and we ask you to keep in your prayers those that lost their homes or loved ones in the storm. There were some amazing stories from survivors in the paper. www.chron.com

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Happy Birthday!

I swear I will post about the hurricane and post photos too, but I just haven't gotten to it yet. On that note of procrastination, I would like to wish my sister and mom belated happy birthdays. My wonderful mom officially became eligible for the senior discount at select restaurants and theaters on Sept. 16. My sister just celebrated her birthday yesterday. (I hope you bought yourself that oktomat!) I sent her a lovely personalized card featuring High School Musical for free at www.jibjab.com. In fact, it was very similar to this one that my mom sent me:
http://sendables.jibjab.com/view/0sPvv9FFSv02zZS4
Hey mom, that was really funny, but I think it sort of scared my husband :)
Here is a little commercial that makes me think of my mom.
http://www.hulu.com/watch/10333/saturday-night-live-mom-jeans
She looked just like that in the eighties, thankfully she has some real cool jeans now. In fact, my mom still looks better than the ladies in that commercial.
Happy Birthday gals!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

I Remember This A Little Too Well

My husband and I made a bet three days ago. I said Ike would hit within 20 miles of Galveston and he said within 20 miles of Corpus Christi. Looks like I will be winning! Too bad I didn't put any money on it. For those of you that don't know, we moved away from south Florida less than two years ago, and one of the reasons (along with high taxes and insurance premiums) was hurricane fatigue. I have been down this road more times than I can count, and I HATE putting up plywood. A running joke for Floridians is we don't get out of bed for anything less than a Cat 3. This is slightly different because we are so far inland. I am more worried about losing electricity for who knows how long, or possibly having one of our tall trees fall on the house. Or maybe our next door neighbor leaving his portable carport tent up (that has almost blown away like a sail in 40 mph gusts). Anyhow, I thought I would share with you my tips and experiences in case you are new at this. I am a planner, and I totally prefer hurricanes to tornadoes because you can plan out the wazoo for a hurricane. This will get you through a few days without power. After that, you will start to pull your hair out.
  1. Charge up anything rechargeable - AA batteries, Cell Phone, IPOD, Drill, flashlight, lantern, Nintendo DS etc. If you have a solar powered radio, they are great for after the storm, but you have to wait for the clouds to clear. A weather band radio is the best, sadly, I don't have one. Too bad I can't borrow yours, mom.
  2. Eat all your ice cream and popsicles and use the new space in your freezer to make lots of ice. Store the ice in big Ziploc bags. Also, freeze 20 oz water bottles. Right before the storm, put all your pricey solid frozen things (meat, chicken) in the middle and surround them with frozen vegetables, bags of ice, etc. You can also move some things you can eat in the next few days from the fridge (cheese, milk, lunch meat, jelly) to a cooler with some of those frozen water bottles. But don't waste time doing this until you lose power. The main thing is that you don't open your freezer. Keep the cold in. We only opened our freezer once a day to use up stuff that was thawing.
  3. I hope you have paper plates and disposable cups already because the only thing you want to wash is pots or pans. Or you can use aluminum foil for cooking. (I am assuming that you have a grill with charcoal or propane.)
  4. Fill your bathtub. This is overrated because you don't want to drink the water, but it will work for flushing the toilet. Even a plugged bathtub will drain the water after a day or two though. This is also a rather dangerous thing to do if you have little children, so be very careful of the drowning hazard. For those of you that want to go hardcore, you could fill a heavy duty trash can halfway (that will of course be stored in your garage during the storm) and keep a bucket nearby. If you don't have a lot of water for flushing, then everyone should use the same toilet and only flush when nessacary.
  5. I am assuming that you have already gone outside and cleaned up all your childrens toys - shovels, wagons, bikes, buckets. Don't forget your windchimes, birdhouses, and trash cans! If there are things outside that you can't take in, tie them together or tie them to a porch post. And of course, fill up your gas tanks! And any gas cans.
  6. Park your car inside the garage or right up against the garage door. If you have two cars, park them right next to each other just barely touching the garage door. This seems to lessen the wind that could blow in a garage door.
  7. Get your board games, puzzles, and cards ready. Put these near your safe room. Take your Very Important Papers, put them in a ziploc bag or something and keep them near you. You will also want a good radio and flashlights. This is the stuff to keep near your safe area (bathroom in the middle of the house or maybe a closet). You want to be in the middle and away from windows.
  8. Safety: Be very careful if you are using candles! (For bathroom lighting, I would put water in my sink and the candle the middle of that.) Be very careful if you have open containers of water near small children! Never use a propane grill in your garage! Never use a generator in your garage! You would not believe how often people die of carbon monoxide poisoning after a storm. Don't let the kids play in flood waters! Be very careful with the chainsaw!
  9. As long as you have no damage, you can enjoy some fun family bonding time the first few days. No computer, no TV, no distractions. Unless of course, you have yard work to do or fence repair. Sigh.

I will leave you with memories from my favorite hurricane. It hit us during a cool fall, so we had very pleasant weather. And those that went without A/C for two weeks were very thankful. (Our house was right near the hospital, so we always had electricity back within five days.)

Hurricane Wilma, where is your sting? I knew this was not another simple hurricane when I found myself helping my husband hold our front window. It would be the one window we hadn't boarded that would get the direct wind after the eye passed. It was bowing in, so we stood there pushing it with our bodies at a 60 degree angle. Looking out, I could see the minivan in the driveway getting lifted every now and then, so the tires would just barely leave the ground. I was praying that the wind would die down and not blow in the window or push over the minivan. I was also praying that the house down the street would not lose their garage door. It was halfway out and flapping, and we were straight downwind. God listened and we only had to hold it for 30 or 40 minutes, and the neighbor's garage door did not sail away. Our house stayed in tact and so did our cars. So began the alternate universe. I was kind of getting used to living in it. I had finally gotten the knack of cleaning the grill every afternoon, so hubby could cook whatever was getting mushy in the freezer (hamburgers and salmon anyone?). We have to start by four thirty, so we can have dinner finished before it gets dark. Plus we need time to heat water up on the grill for whoever's turn it is to get a lukewarm bath. The only connection I had with anything was talking to my neighbors and my radio, but I had to conserve batteries. My brave husband ventured out today and waited for two hours to get ice, water and fun boxes of food - thank you, state and federal government for the Pringles and pudding! He brought me home a treat, a newspaper. I was beginning to develop such a routine, the kids went to bed when it got dark. I usually went out to look at the stars (and to see if there was a new glow anywhere indicating electricity) It's insane how many stars I could see, I could even see the milky way it was so dark. I could tell it would soon be gone because tonight I couldn't see the stars on the horizon anymore. Iwas reading by candlelight (have to conserve the batteries) and all of a sudden the kitchen light went on. I picked up the phone and there was a dial tone. I got up and started crying. I honestly thought I was dreaming. In a wierd way I am very sad though. This has actually been a really good time. We have never gotten so much sleep, there has been no obligations, nothing to get done. There was a lot of manual labor, sure. We had to seperate our neighbor's entire backyard from ours and pull a giant seagrape out of the little fish pond. Thankfully, the palm tree did not fall on our minivan, although it stil is leaning toward the east. We have dinner early every night, and nobody is fighting. The candlelight and classical music on the radio at 8 o clock has been really nice. In fact when the lights came on, I thought they were way too bright and had to turn them off. My husband and I agreed we will have to have a hurricane anniversary and turn off the electricity for a day every year, except for the fridge. I really hope that everyone else out there in South Florida is doing well and getting by. We considered ourselves very fortunate because we never lost water. I am very thankful that we live in such a great state that is able to organize things so quickly, and I am loving FPL right now. I am thankful to God for restoring power about ten minutes after I was fervently praying for it and imagining it would be tommorrow if we were lucky.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Inevitable Delays

I've been a bit bummed lately because it has become glaringly obvious that it will take another two to three weeks before we have the money for our dossier to get sent off.
We had more dents in our wallet than I expected, most of them having to do with teeth. My husband has bad gums and I have bad teeth. It is marginally less expensive to take care of bad gums. I went to the dentist last week for a cavity that was "the size of Texas" on a back tooth. He told me there was a small chance that we could avoid a root canal. I prayed on that small chance, and wouldn't you know it, I did not need a root canal. I still needed a crown though, so... not a big savings. He told me to take Motrin for the pain and that would keep the blood flowing to the root. Unfortuanately, three days later I started to feel a lot of pain whenever my Motrin wore off. I would compare it to getting punched in the jaw. So I went back this week, and I looked like someone had run over my puppy. I was so depressed. They did an x-ray, and he said to take super Ibprofen (sp?) for ten days because sometimes the nerve will shrink back and become desensitized. He wanted to try that before we went back in to do a root canal. Wow, I have never heard of that. I don't care if it works or not, I was just happy to put off the root canal. I am a bit curious though. If this works even fifty, forty or even thirty percent of the time, it makes me a little bitter against the dentists that gave me my last two root canals so suddenly. I swear, this is the first dentist that doesn't seem to look in my mouth (*countless fillings, five crowns, two root canals, two missing molars, and previous braces), and see his next big paycheck.
So anyway, I should be inputting items for the Little Lambs Consignment Sale http://www.littlelambs.twumc.org/, but I am procrastinating. Shame on me. We are redoubling our efforts of making money and saving, and we are still waiting to hear from Shaohannahs Hope. In the meantime, my poor husband is back to doing lots of overtime, and I am back to Ebay. Sigh. All in God's perfect timing.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Adoption Progress Report for July

We have everything for our dossier, so we are just waiting for the last bit of money to submit it. We had a lot of pitfalls this month in our quest toward saving. I mentioned most of them in my Summer Vacation Report, and my husband didn't get much overtime. He got a small bonus, so that was a blessing. Despite all that, I think we will be able to submit our dossier by the end of this month, but I'm a little trepiditious about the financial situation it will leave us in. We're praying for it, and we're also praying that we would hear from Shaohannahs Hope soon. I am still hoping that we may be able to get a small grant. Either way, hopefully I will have big news for you in the next month! After that, I will go more in depth about Ethiopia and our process, so you know how it works. Thank you for all your prayers and encouragement!

My Summer Vacation Report Part 3: July 28 - Now

No time to relax. There is painting to be done. We painted a mural on one wall of the boys bedroom last year. It was supposed to extend onto two walls, but we ran out of time. I was determined that it would finally be completed this summer. My mom does wonderful murals. She does all the landscapes and people and I do the brick walls. I am very good at bri and I am a perfectionist about color. I used about 27 shades of gray, maybe more. She completed the inside, but I didn't finish the stone bricks until today. I told you I'm a perfectionist. I wonder about the color of that volcano, maybe I should tweak it to a more burnt umber lava...

We also celebrated a birthday for Child #2 by going to the best place on earth - Chuck E. Cheese. We invited some good friends of ours to join us, and I used oodles of coupons for pizza and tokens. It was kind of predictable: the kids loved it, I got hoarse from trying to talk and couldn't hear what anyone else was saying, we stayed too long and the kids had a breakdown when it was time to go. We did get a pretty neat souvenier though, only one token and we actually fit six people into the picture! That took some doing.

My sister arrived on Aug. 1 for a whirlwind visit. We went to lots of thrift stores, and we all found some great treasures, especially at Nearly New at Conroe where they were having a fill a bag with clothes for $1 sale. I actually found clothes for me. That's unusual. While she was here, we found out that there was an article in the Miami Herald about her and her husband and other artists. Check it out here: http://www.miamiherald.com/entertainment/arts/visual-arts/story/626023.html If you look at photo gallery there are more photos of them and their art. Awesome! Unfortunately, there wasn't a lot of places that we could go because it was about 100 degrees outside. Then the day before she left we had a mild tropical storm, so it was rainy all day. We all thought it was sort of funny how people were all running to Wal Mart for supplies for a tropical storm. We got dinner at PF Changs. I keep a permanant supply stockpile, so I don't panic anymore. We have a joke in south Florida about how anything less than a catogory 3 isn't worth getting out of bed for.

My husband and I got in a last date before everyone left. We tried to do something nice for our eleventh anniversary, but it turned out that there was a John Mayer concert that was clogging all the streets and restaurants. We went home and tried again the next night. That worked better. We saw the Dark Knight, which honestly, was kind of a waste of money. Total downer. I'm sure the critics thought it was a great movie, and Heath Ledger was such a good actor that you really think he's psychotic. But it was scary, depressing and demoralizing. I don't pay big bucks for a critically acclaimed movie, I pay to have fun. You know what my favorite movies this summer were? Ironman: Really FUN, Wall-E: FUN and Really heart warming. Also, Penelope on DVD, it's uplifting and funny. Okay, that's my tangent. Just wanted you to know that my husband and I wished we had gone to see a mindless, fun popcorn flick instead of Batman. Don't make the same mistake.

Also, I finally got a new crock pot last weekend! The 7 qt went on sale for $20 at Kohls, so after eight months of waiting and watching, I finally have a giant slow cooker. I am now able to cook a whole rack of ribs, a whole pork loin, a giant beef brisket or two whole chickens, not sure that will happen, but still, it's nice to know that I can if I want to. I am finally catching up on laundry and house cleaning, and Child #3 has been teething (molars!). Back to work! I am still not getting enough sleep though because my husband and I are currently reading Breaking Dawn. It's 750 pages long and we're not even halfway through it. I don't mind though, I love Stephenie Meyers books.
July's progress report is coming soon, just a little late :)

Monday, August 11, 2008

My Summer Vacation Report Part 2: July 23-27

This was a big week. We took our long-planned-for trip to San Antonio dragging my mom along for fun. I really do think she had fun... I'm pretty sure. Now since we are saving money, or rather, just not spending it, we only had three days and two nights there. We loaded up the minivan with all the kids, grandma, one giant suitcase, and lots of snacks, games and DVDs. We thought if we left early in the morning, we would have plenty of time on our first day for sight seeing. While this might have been true, it also meant that the kids started to get cranky much sooner, and we couldn't check into our hotel until the afternoon. We drove around the city on a very dreary, grey, wet day trying to make up our minds about what to do. Oh, did I mention that we went right when Hurricane Dolly was on top of Texas? We ended up going to a swanky shopping center that looked very pretty from the highway. They had lots of stores that I would never shop at, like an expensive granola store called Whole Earth. Now, when I say granola I am describing a type of person, not a food. They sold $100 sandals, which came in leather or the vegan version (synthetic). We spent most of the time using their bathroom. They did have an awesome baby carrier called the Ergo, which I tried on and salivated over. It's $92... I thought that was ridiculous, surely it would be cheaper on Ebay. (Much to my dismay when I got back home, I found out that $105 is what it costs online. $92 would be a used one on Ebay.) Ah well, something to wish for.


We ventured back out when the rain let up, and we drove south to check out the missions. They are all free, free, free, and there was hardly any other tourists. We visited Mission Concepcion and Mission San Jose (or San Juan - I mix them up). We would have seen them all, but they closed at five. This was one of my favorite parts of the trip, and it was all so beautiful. There is a real sense of history and God in those parks. The churches still hold mass and the bells still ring. They all date back to the late 1700s. Child #2 was obsessed with the fans that were in most parts of the un-air conditioned missions and the bells. Oh, how he loved the bells. How do you explain to a preschooler that he cannot go up to the tower and ring the bell himself? Such misery. Child #1 thought it was all pretty neat, and listened to most everything I told him. He was a little impatient, but mostly really good. Child #3 was just along for the ride in the stroller. She did feel that we were taking too long once it got close to closing time. She made her displeasure known quite loudly. And yes, if you look behind that old cook stove(?) that is a Coke machine peaking out of one of the old cloisters doorways - don't you know that those monks loved their caffeine.



The kids did not go to sleep easily that night. They probably weren't used to all sleeping in one room. I really don't want to remember it. That night, I got to sleep next to Child #1, who took the longest to fall asleep and then proceeded to spin around and around. I was woken up from being kicked in the head and in the ribs at different times of the night. It was similar to when I was pregnant with him.

Day 2 was all about Six Flags Fiesta. I had some free tickets and some BOGOs, so for three adults, two kids and a baby, it was $80. I thought that was pretty good for a theme park. On the downside, it was hot and crowded. Seriously, why isn't there more shade and benches at that park. I wanted to pass out by 1pm, but I soldiered on (for the children's sake). They had oodles of fun. Child #1 is cautious, and really enjoys mellow rides, like trains and little airplanes that go up and down. Child #2 is not cautious. He will go on most anything and is usually limited only by his height. He sat in the front of the log flume with my husband and was totally unfazed by the drop. His favorites are things that spin around and around, like tea cups and the carousel. Child #3 mostly rode in the stroller. We actually made the mistake of trying out the attached water park in the afternoon. This should definitely not be done on the same day as the main park. First of all, they put the kiddie pool and play area at the top of a big hill! So now you know why I came so close to passing out. After pushing the double stroller up about five stories worth of ramps, I was done, but the kids all wanted to get wet, including the baby. It is a mother's nightmare - large open area, teeming with people, plenty of places to lose kids. We only stayed an hour or two and by then, we were all running out of enthusiasm and energy. I am proud that we spent only $5 in the park. We let Child #1 play a $5 guaranteed to win fishing game, and he got to pick out a nice sized teddy bear emblazoned with the Six Flags logo. Totally worth it. We ended the day on a wonderful ride that my sons called the Tornado, not sure if that was the real name. It was a lovely breezy ride that swings you around in circles. We rode it a few times in a row because thankfully, no one else had discovered this gem. I do love to swing! All in all, it was a big theme park, but I have been spoiled by Orlando. It just does not compare to the quality of Islands of Adventure or Magic Kingdom. And there were bees everywhere! They were by every trash can and they would come investigate your stroller if there was any food uncovered. Every time I tried to sit down, they showed up. I saw one poor girl burst into tears after getting stung and Child #2 also got a nasty welt on his foot. I am glad it didn't bother him as much. I was grateful that no one in our family had a bee allergy. Seriously, can't they afford pest control - there was red ant problem too. That is just one of the things that differentiates the great Florida theme parks.

Thankfully, everyone went right to sleep at the hotel that night, and I got to enjoy cable! Psych and Monk are such a treat to someone that only gets three channels with her bunny ears at home.

We headed out the next day and made the all important trip to the Alamo. It seemed like a requirement for people that have never been to San Antonio. Although the Alamo is free, downtown parking is not. We found a parking lot nearby that charged $1 for the first hour, but then the price jumped to $6. So that was the challenge. We do so love a challenge. We synchronized our watches and jumped out of the van. Bear leash for Child #2 and umbrella stroller for Child #3. Child #1 holding grandma's hand. Let's go! We did a whirlwind tour, and even had time for souvenirs. And boy do they have souvenirs. Lots of plastic, made in China, doo dads stamped with the Alamo. We settled for two crushed pennies, a clicky camera key chain that you can look into and see photos of the Alamo (aside from the crushed pennies, the best deal by far at $1.75) and a lovely poster that shows the Alamo when it's not totally swarmed with tourists. Did I mention how crowded it was? There was not enough room to move. It is fortunate we had a time limit because I don't think I would have wanted to stay longer. I really enjoyed the missions a lot more, they seemed more authentic and less touristy (also less crowded). We got back to the car and out of the parking garage with six minutes to spare. We drove north and after a few indecisive stops ended up at Wonder World in San Marcos. I was drawn to it because it reminded me of Rock City in TN. I have fond memories of my mom taking us to Rock City and Ruby Falls. It was a splurge, even with a coupon it was $70 for all of us. It was lots of fun though. We went through a cave. Child #1 went via Snugli. She enjoyed it a lot more than her first cave experience at Mammoth Cave. Child #2 had the bear leash, but I still kept a firm hand on him. I have lots of fears and caves bring out the worst of them. The stairs are steep and the hand rails inadequate, but thankfully, nobody slipped. So why do we explore caves? We all love it. It is something so amazing to see God's handiwork in forming the layers of the earth. Plus, natural air conditioning. Then we all went up to the tower, where you can see the hill country to the west and the flatter plains to the east. There is a fault line that runs under that seperates the areas. It is a whole lesson in geology. Next we drove through the "Mystery Mountain" to feed deer. Thanks mom for buying us all deer food! We all got to hand feed them and still have time to take lots of photos. I especially enjoyed sneaking a feel on the antlers of the young bucks. Velvety. Then it was time to go and we finally got home. It was the longest, most action packed three days that I have seen in a few years. I swear I am still trying to catch up from it.

My Summer Vacation Report Part 1: July 4-22

Okay, I wasn't technically on vacation, but I was on hiatus from my blog and most emailing. I dove deep into listing on Ebay and I made almost $300 for the month off of miscellaneous book lots. I specialize in book lots, and they are my favorite thing to ship (very easy to package). My mom came to visit for three weeks. I wasted no time utilizing her babysitting services. My husband and I went on a date her first night here. I think she was really eager to visit our kids, so I thought heck, we should go to dinner and a movie and let her have fun with them. (Thanks mom!) We saw Wall-E. Yes, it is a fantastic date movie, and I teared up at the end. If you don't, then your heart is made of stone. I hope it wins lots of Oscars.

We got our fingerprint notice from USCIS on the 17th, so we went the very next day. I was praying we could go while my mom was here because I had no desire to drag our three kids with us downtown to the immigration office. I have to say that we were pleasantly surprised. It was the nicest government office I have ever been too. They were all so helpful and polite and organized. (If only the DMV in Conroe was that nice.) I'm still glad we didn't have to take the kids with us though. Here is how much I like them - we got our approval letter on the 22nd! They must have sent the I171H the day after we were finger printed. Woo hoo!! Awesome! That was the last bit of our dossier.

Oh, also my wonderful, generous mother helped me have a garage sale. It was not quite as lucrative as my last one. I only made $100, but compared to some of the garage sales we used to have in Florida, that qualifies as a success. Other events: I went to the dentist and found out that I will be eating some of our savings, quite literally -root canal and crown = $700 out of pocket. Yeah, that sucks. Then I took all of our crazy animals to the vet for a much delayed visit. Annual for cat, annual for old dog, semi annual for epilectic dog = $430. Sigh, there goes my Ebay money. Sad thing is, I go to the cheapest vet in town. That was a tough few days. I kind of let a few tears sneak out, but at least, my mom was there to offer perspective.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Adoption Progress Report for June

I don't really understand how, but we are 64% to the total. I triple checked it, but it seems right. Apparently, we still socked away money despite a few pitfalls this month. Such as, my husband's motorcycle running over a nail and having to be towed. Sadly, he happened to be FAR away from home. So he was towed to Brenham for it to be fixed. 25 miles into his return trip, the tire went flat again. By this time the sun was setting, so the kids and I went on a road trip to get him. Apparently, he ran over another nail in the same tire. Go figure. My poor husband was toasted pink from all the hours waiting by the road for tow trucks, but he looked totally bad boy gorgeous when I picked him up. We found him lounging in the grass next to his bike. It was a country road and there was a farm in the background. And it took my breath away how good he looked. I don't think he realized it because he was pink, sweaty and dehydrated. The tow truck came soon after I did, and apparently, it had to be towed back to Brenham. So after another repair expense, we drove out again the next day to pick up the motorcycle. We didn't even get to Blue Bell, but we did get the motorcycle home. So... we'll call it even.

Other highlights this month? I had my big toenail removed. Yes, it was numbed first, but by night time, it felt more realistic - like my toenail had been ripped off. I went around for a week cringing every time a child came near my foot. Despite my best efforts, I had a couple days were the toe was stepped on six times by different children and animals. I am glad to report that it is feeling relatively normal, and hopefully, the toenail will finally be normal when it comes back. (Interestingly enough this is the second time I have lost that toenail. The first time was in fifth grade when a conference table was dropped on it, but that isn't what did it in. No, I had a soccer game the next day. I got put in, so I had to play! I had to kick the ball. Afterwards, my mom stuck my purple toe in ice, but the nail came off the next day. I suspect it is a cursed toe.)

I spent one whole week doing VBS. We actually went all five days, and we were even there on time once. I helped with the Crafts. I love crafts, all the glue sticks and glitter and markers. Plus, I don't have to worry about someone messing up my carpet or using too much glue. Go for it! There was also some overlapping days of Child #3 being terribly cranky and feverish with no other symptoms. I blame it on a new molar and front tooth, but watch out, I think more molars are coming.

Oh also, I turned 30 and my daughter turned 1. Milestones? I supppose, especially when you consider what I was like when I turned 20. Thank you Lord for grace! Mostly, I am just thankful for what God has given me in the last 30 years. I am thankful for every day that I have watching my kids grow and being with my husband and loving all of them. I am thankful that my parents and sisters and brother are all still living and healthy and happy. Oh, I'm getting misty. I'll tell you why. I just finished watching Jane Eyre. It's a newer version (2006) from Masterpiece Theatre and four hours long at that, and I was leery about another adaptation of a great book. Oh, but I was wrong. I was bawling by the end of it, and I am not fond of crying at movies. But this was a good crying. The actor playing Mr. Rochester will rip your heart out. He rivals Mr. Darcy. I am not joking. It was so good that I went straight to the internet to purchase it. It will go in my closet as a Christmas gift to me (thank you honey!).

Anyway, I will tell you our progress since that is supposed to be the purpose of this post. We sent all the paperwork to USCIS. We are on the verge of sending in our grant application materials. We sent stuff to the Secretary of State to be authenticated. Some day I may run out of things to fill out and send. I am waiting to hear from the USCIS, and I admit I am starting to get a little anxious. But I repeat my mantra, all in God's time. Once everything comes back to me and gets completed, our dossier will be almost complete. We continue to thank God for moving everything along smoothly and continuing to provide for us financially.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

I hate the mall

I hate the mall. I used to like going and occasionally buying something on clearance, but no more. The mall is only good for teenagers with high paying minimum wage jobs and no responsibilities, and for older women with disposable income. It is too easy to spend money at the mall, so I stay away. But I have gift cards for a few stores and I was on that side of town... so I thought today would be a good day to use them. My husband was supposed to meet me, but he ended up having to stay late. No honey, take the overtime - I can shop with the kids alone. I'll make do. So I push the double stroller toward Victoria's Secret (their semi-annual sale started today). My sweet husband gave me a VS gift card as one of my Christmas presents six months ago, so I thought I should probably get to spending it. They had packed the store twice as full as usual, so I had a little trouble getting the double stroller in. I decided I better just focus on underwear, which of course was at the back of the store. There is nothing like a double stroller to get you dirty looks from some people. No matter where I parked it, little fingers would appear from nowhere trying to pull down the corsets and unmentionables, plus it would inevitably block some sale items. Seriously, there was not one good place to park while I dug through the marked down underwear (VS Cotton $3.99, Pink $3.99 and fancy pants $5.99). So I made do, much to the consternation of the other shoppers, and boy were there a lot of them! Child #1 was pretty helpful, although I am not sure about the wisdom of having my 6 year old son help me pick out underwear. It becomes awkward when I don't know how to explain why mommy doesn't really like that style. Thankfully, he was more fascinated with the security tags, and he just kept asking if they would get removed. It quickly went downhill, what with Child #2 trying to open all the drawers. Then the baby caught on, so she was trying too. Then Child #2 shut a drawer on her fingers so there was a LOT of screaming and tears. (And that wasn't even the low point.) So then I was holding her while I was sifting. Nope. Let's just check out. Did I mention there was a lot of people shopping? There was only a 2 foot area between makeup and mint displays to maneuver the stroller through to the cashier. In fact, I was limited to that line because it was the only one I could fit into. So Child #2 and Child #3 are making mad grabs for everything. Putting steel grips on lollipop panties (?) and eye shadow. It's all within their reach and at their level and evil mommy is taking it all away. So BOTH of them start shrieking, loud, high pitched screaming. The waves parted and everyone turned toward me. Oh look, my turn to check out. The cashier looked at me and asked, "Are you all right? Do you need a moment?" Do I need a moment? I'm only about to burst into tears, but I'm not the one shrieking. No, I just need to check out so I can leave, plus I was getting shaky (probably because I hadn't eaten lunch). Even once I had my bag, I had trouble turning the stroller around, and then I had to get all the way from the back to the front of the store. Yeah, that was me, sorry if I ran over your foot. Were you one of those pretty, young girls shopping with your boyfriend and looking slightly scared of me? You better be scared, I hold Victoria's Secret responsible for Child #2 and 3.
I went to one of those benches in the middle of the mall and called my husband.
" *sob* Don't *sniff* ever buy me a *sob* Victoria's Secret gift card again. *sniff* Victoria's Secret is for skinny girls that have nothing better to do than to blow money on smelly lotions and $40 bras. I can't shop there anymore. *sob* "
Yeah, I called my dear sweet husband and blamed him for his gift.
I hate looking like an incompetent mother more than anything else. Mothering is what I do and it is probably what I do best. It was the way those ladies were looking at me - disdain, fear, disgust, annoyance and the occasional look of pity.
Ah well, screw the mall. Let's go home. It was really stinking hot out today, and I just wanted to get everyone in the car. As I'm buckling kids in, my cell phone rang. It was some lady from an occupational therapy group calling about the coverage for Child #2, who had a SID assessment done a few weeks ago. Apparently, when she called for pre authorization, they gave her the wrong coverage information. It's not covered at 100% with a $25 copay like she told me - no - "you have a $1000 deductible and it's covered at 60%".
"Mommy, I'm thirrrrstyyyy."
$300. I could not hear half of what she was saying, but I heard that. So... I burst into tears again. "I'm sorry *gulp* I have to call you back *sob*" I can't think about this right now. In my heart I am indignant and angry. We would not have driven an hour to get the assessment for him, if she had told us the correct coverage in the beginning. This is their mistake. I will deal with it later, not now.
"Mommmmeee, I'm thirsty."
Me too. We got Sonic. Chili Cheese Coney dog, grilled cheese, corn dogs and french fries, plus a peach iced tea for poor mommy. Total indulgence. We went home and everyone felt much better. That was when I discovered that I'm ovulating again. Oh joy. Let me take this moment to revel in my fertility ability, and the fact that I am not pregnant. Well, at least that explains why I was so shaky and weepy. Yeah, it was a great day. Seriously, if you take out the whole mall part we had an awesome day. What I relearned today - 1) If you already went to the post office and then play group, then the kids are done for the day. 2) If it's after 1 pm, just go home and try again some other time.

Monday, June 16, 2008

USCIS Paperwork - Form I-600A

Just thought you might like to hear the mundane details of how I spent my free time this weekend. Well, it wasn't really free time. I was compiling, copying and typing most of this while the boys were bickering five feet away. Child #2 has been cranky from going to sleep too late and Child #1 split his lip this morning so, he's sort of cranky too (but with a fat lip). That means that their bickering is a lot whinier and louder than usual, and they pounce on each other's toys a lot faster. But I digress... So I was blocking out the world around me to get the USCIS paperwork finished by Monday.

Here's how it works:
-We need to file a Form I-600A for Advance Petitioning to bring our orphan child here (This is only for non-Hague countries like Ethiopia. For Hague countries, you would need to file the I-800. Find all your immigration forms here: http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/) This involves printing out a form and filling it in, not so bad. With this form, you must include:
-Two money orders made out to either US Department of Homeland Security or US Citizenship and Immigration Services, NO abbreviations please - one for the application ($670) and one for the fingerprinting or "biometric" fees ($80 per adult over 18 living in the house)
-Copies of birth, marriage, divorce (if applicable) certificates
-Completed home study with the agency's license (I have heard of people submitting the I600A without the home study, then forwarding the home study once it was done. But I wanted everything together because this is beauracracy. The less that can go wrong, the better.)
-I also included a copy of our drivers licenses because they have requested that before, and for good measure, a cover letter with our intent and a list of enclosures.

Now that I have compiled everything, I have to mail it. I can either go FedEx or certified mail, but regardless, I have to be able to track it. Once they recieve it, they will send us a notice and also, a time to go get fingerprinted. This can usually be done as a walk in. After a period of days, they will hopefully send us the I 171H or Notice of Favorable Determination (or something along those lines). It is the hallowed piece of paper that is absolutely essential to the dossier. All this can take weeks or months. From others experiences with the Houston Field Office, it sounds like about two months, hopefully.

We also applied for a grant from Shaoshannah's Hope (a wonderful grant program started by Stephen Curtis Chapman), which also involves a tedious amount of supporting paperwork, so I will be working on compiling that as well in the next week or two. We will be praying over this effort a lot because the overtime is drying up this month (husband is kind of glad about that).

Friday, June 13, 2008

Home Study Complete!

We recieved the completed home study in the mail yesterday, which means we have officially been approved! Now I get to start on the next chunk of paperwork, but we are just so happy to have this big step completed.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Gas Saving Tips

We have had to change our driving habits drastically. It costs $12 a day just for my husband to go to work, so the small motorcycle that we bought last year as a weekend sanity saver for him, has actually become a big saver (only $4.50 a day). Only downfall is that he gets really hot in his armored jacket, and I only feel safe if he doesn't take the highway. His afternoon commute home is not very fun, and I'm a little concerned that he will melt away before he reaches our house. We only run errands twice a week and it's consolidated. Church is most expensive at $7, but that is worth every penny :) There are no good solutions except lower gas prices and since nobody is making that happen, here are some strategies that might help.

-Find the cheapest gas stations near you: http://autos.msn.com/everyday/gasstations.aspx
-Check out hypermiling here: http://www.sixwise.com/newsletters/08/06/04/Hypermiling_How_to_Save_Big_on_Gas.htm
You can google the term and find even more details. Easiest savers: don't speed up and slow down, don't acclerate, stay below 55 mph (I used to laugh at this and now I'm considering it.)
-This AAA site was reccommended for long trips, but I found it rather limited: http://www.fuelcostcalculator.com/
-Fill up during the cool part of the day and don't fill up when a fuel truck is refilling the underground tanks. Don't carry around extra weight and don't fill the gas tank up all the way. Here are some other tips with explanations: http://www.funandsafedriving.com/content-11.html

-A more accurate method that I use to figure out if a trip to the mall is too expensive to make it worthwhile: First determine your gas mileage. To do this, the next time you fill up reset your trip mileage or write down the mileage you're at. At your next fill-up, write down how many miles you have gone and how many gallons you put in. Take a calculator and divide the mileage you've gone by the gallons you put in (like 320 miles divided by 17.8 gallons = 18 miles to the gallon) Okay, now you know your exact gas mileage. Now look at what you paid for one gallon of gas, and divide that number by your gas mileage number ($3.75 divided by 18 = $.20). So in this example, you're paying $.20 per mile. That means it costs a dollar to go five miles. Now what I do is, I go to www.google.com/maps and I put in the library or mall or Wal Mart or whatever with the street and city. You can usually find the location you're looking for with that much information. Once you find the destination, click on get directions and put in your home address. This will tell you the exact mileage if you take that route. At that point you can add a stop to see how far away it is or whatever, but remember you always have to add in the trip home as well. Once you now the exact mileage to go to the bank, library and grocery store all at once, then you just multiply it by your per mile ($.20 in this example) and you now know how much it costs to run your errands. This works well for figuring out the best route, whether it's worth it to drive by Big Lots as well, whether you should bother trekking down to IKEA, etc. This is what made me realize that it would cost $4 in gas to get photos for Child #3 (which I was using a $5.99 coupon for). So I decided to reschedule for a day that we could do a whole bunch of other things on the same side of town.

I try to stay away from anything even remotely political on here, but I am getting absolutely disgusted with our Congress. Do they really have no idea how bad our economy is just from gas prices? Food prices keep rising, companies are laying people off, etc. and what do they do? They sit around debating global warming, and they think the solution is to tax someone? Seriously, anytime somebody wants a bond, that money has to come from somewhere, and anytime Congress wants to tax a corporation, the corporation will just raise their prices to cover it. So I figure supply and demand, just provide more supply. We've got it in Colorado and ANWR and off the Florida coast, just open it up. And build more refineries, for goodness sake. Sign a petition here: http://www.americansolutions.com/actioncenter/petitions/?Guid=54ec6e43-75a8-445b-aa7b-346a1e096659 if you agree.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Adoption Progress Report for May

What a month for savings! Uncle Sam decided to put a nice chunk of money into our adoption fund (granted, he was merely returning money we had paid to the government, but I appreciate it all the same). I made about $230 on Ebay for the month, but my husband totally has me beat with all the overtime he racked up. I don't understand how we are able to keep saving like this, considering how much gas and food has gone up, which just goes to show the power of God. I am humbled to tell you that we have reached 57% of the total.

We are waiting on the final homestudy approval, then we get to start a new set of paperwork. I am just hoping that it will be done this week, but it seems something keeps coming up. Ah well, I guess it's a good thing we started the process sooner than we had planned on.

If you feel inclined to pray for us, please pray that the homestudy would get final approval and be completed, that we won't have any snags in the paperwork phase, that we would continue to save, that our Crapavan would not follow through on any threats (squeaky axle, occasionally not starting, dashboard lights being haunted). Oh and that I would get that cookbook done!

Sidenote: Some of you wondered what the Action Garage looked like that it would sell for $100, so here is a photo. It was a complete set with original box.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Moorhead's Blueberry Farm - A Summer Tradition

It was one year ago that we first visited this pick-your-own blueberry farm. I was very pregnant and I went with the dual objective of 1) doing something that I would not be able to do once the baby arrived and 2) trying to go into labor. My mother and husband picked about 5 pounds, while the kids and I barely got a pound all together. The kids ate most of what they picked and I just went too slow. The whole trip cost under $10 and the blueberries lasted two weeks (since I went into labor the next week, I was very thankful for all that fresh fruit ready to be eaten). For some reason now, I associate my daughter with blueberry picking, and as her first birthdy will soon be upon us, I thought it was time to go back to the farm.

We put on sandals and summer clothes and headed over right after we had eaten a good dinner. The weather was much better than I expected and some of the blueberry bushes were quite tall and shady. We decided to use the double stroller, which turned out great because the ground was mostly grassy or hard packed dirt. Once again, this was a hit with the entire family. My husband yielded the most, of course, but Child #1 is getting very good! Child #2 was still basically there for the tasting and exploring. The most difficult part was trying to teach him to discriminate between the green ones and the dark blue ones and the ones on the branches and the ones on the ground. I'm not sure he learned much, but he really enjoyed himself. The double stroller turned out to be helpful for hauling the blueberries. We strapped a full bucket into the front seat, and none of them spilled. Child #3 turned out to have quite a proclivity for them, and once she had a taste, she only wanted more. Yes, that's her hand in the photo.

Here are my tips if you plan on going, although I'm sure you old timers already know all this: Recommendation #1 - don't wear sandals and shorts like I did. I'm okay with nature, but there was way too much nature touching me. My legs had to desensitize from the flies that really liked my calves and the branches that kept poking me. Also, I ended up getting stabbed in the foot with a stick as I was walking back. Which brings me to Reccomendation #2 - don't stay past 8 pm. It gets dark and you still have to pay and get to the car. The size and uniqueness of the insects grow directly in proportion to the sun as it makes it's descent. There are bees too, so bee aware! Recommendation #3 - take a wagon and buy A LOT. Yeah, 10 pounds of blueberries sounds like a lot, but you will be surprised how quickly they disappear. The kids snack on them, put them in yogurt and cereal, the husband takes them to eat at work, and there isn't much left to bake into yummy muffins and cobblers. They are good for about two weeks in the fridge, but MUCH longer in the freezer. I don't wash them before they go in the freezer (okay to do since they do not use any pesticides) and they don't stick together at all. Recommendation #4 - be ready for baths. We were all pooped, but the dirty feet, legs and hands and the things in the hair (leaves? dirt? souveniers?) demanded attention. Recommendation #5 - when the nice man tells you to go to the end of the rows for the best picking, listen to him. We went in a bit and slowly worked our way down and the bushes just got better and bigger. Next time, we will listen though, and go straight to the end and work our way back. Recommendation #6 - bring cold drinks, you will be thirsty! If you forget, you can buy cold water for $.75 a bottle when you pay for the blueberries.
Moorhead's is off of 242 east of I45. The prices are still only $1.50/pound, and they let you use the buckets for free. They actually encourage you to taste as you pick. This actually helped me learn which blueberries were worth picking. Plus, they are open from 7am to 9pm seven days a week, so it is easy to find a time the whole family can go. The best times are in the morning or evening, so it's not too hot and sunny. They expect the picking season to last through the middle of July, and you can pay with cash or check. Check out their website here: http://www.sayblueberry.com/

Thrift Store Review: CREATIVE OUTREACH ANGELIC RESALE Conroe

We had an errand right near this large thrift store located in Conroe at 727 West Davis St, so I got to do a little shopping! They are in a strip mall right near the Schoolhouse Store, and right down the road from Nearly New Thrift Shop:
http://dealsandbargains.blogspot.com/2008/02/thrift-store-review-nearly-new-thrift.html

I really appreciate this thrift store because they are open later (until 6pm) and they have carts! Although some of their prices can be high and might not be consistent, the store has a nice, wide open feel and a great selection. On the right side of the store is furniture, and toys, games and sports equipment are in the back. Books are in the front next to more expensive antiques and collectibles on display, with small appliances and dishes behind that. The left side of the store is clothes, shoes, computers, baby items and stationary. I started with the books, regular price is $2 hardcover, $1 paperback and $.25 flimsy kids books (this is very subjective so ask the cashier before she rings you up). They were having a sale, as they often do, for buy two books get one free. I found some ABeka books, Christian Liberty Nature Reader Book 2 (!), and a vintage Disney pop up book plus a few others that got me excited. Also, there is usually a table with a bunch of VHS and books that have been marked with a red X - these are only $.25 each. I also spotted some vintage comics and magazines in the collectibles section, but they were $2 to $5 each. Most of the items that they display on those glass shelves have antique store prices.

My husband and kids occupied themselves by looking through the variety of kitchen helpers. Child #2 really wanted his own electric mixer ($4), but I didn't think that was such a great idea. We moved on to the toys next. There is always a great selection of board games, and today I found Balloon Lagoon by Cranium (complete with all pieces and batteries $1.50). I am indebted to my husband and his keen eyes for spotting a vintage Fisher Price Little People pop up camper trailer ($2). There are many signs posted warning you not to leave any children unattended, but there will inevitably be some of those trying to prevent you from buying any the toys within their eyeline. Ah well, it wouldn't be a thrift store without somebody else's kids stepping on your toes (and not apologizing).

Next, we briefly checked out the clothes. The shoes are far too expensive for my taste ($5-15), and most of the adult clothes are as well. The formal gowns start at $10 and go up to about $25, but what a selection - 20 pounds of sequins, pink satin, rhinestone straps, florals! My sister would probably like them. The prices on the clothing are confusing with Kids clothing under 24 months priced seperately from Kids 2t to 5t or Kids 6t to ... Also they subdivide basic categories so collared shirts cost more than pullover shirts and elastic waist are cheaper than button. I had to refer to the prices at least seven times as I looked through the clothing, so that didn't last long. It is worth it for good baby clothing 24 months and under, since those are $1-2. I was also able to find a like new shirt for Child #1 for $2. That was the cheapest though, it went up to $3 and $4 and I didn't even look at the adult clothing.

Since we were shopping as a family, this was a relatively short trip, and I didn't get to really look at a lot. However, I was very pleased because it was only $12.99 for everything, and I bought things that we actually needed. By the way, they accept cash, check and Visa ($5 minimum for charge cards).

I highly recommend this store for it's organized set-up, kid friendly carts and variety of merchandise.
Some prices:
Kids "flimsy" books $.25
Paperbacks $1
Hardcover $2
Board Games $1-5
Barney VHS on Clearance $.25
Fantastic Four Comic Book $2
Atrocious Black and Gold Sequined Dress $18
2 Skeins of cotton baby yarn $.25 each
8 pack of vintage cards $1.75
Burgundy Leather Ladies Boots $14