Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sam's 5th Birthday

Friday was Sam's 5th birthday. He had a big day!
We began by waking up everyone for presents and breakfast.

Sam's Handy Manny table

Sam's watches Handy Manny every single morning!

This blue tote was one of Sam's gifts. My parents gave Sam a set of Handy Manny tools, and this tote will hold all of the new tools.

Here are Sam's presents in the Birthday Chair.

demonstrating with a pair of swords

Sam posed for pictures most of the day using his "Big 5 Year Old Face", instead of the usual goofy one.

Eagerly awaiting his breakfast of pancakes and bacon

a chocolate mouth!--from the chocolate chips that he put on his pancakes

We spent the day just playing and resting. Sam wanted to play Legos and also play outside in the woods. The boys spent most of the day exploring. Then everyone got cleaned up and we went to Mt. Fuji for a hibachi supper.

Jimmy, Olivia, Julie, and Clay enjoying their soup and salad before the hibachi show began

the birthday boy and Daddy

Leah and Me

both Sam and Leah used chopsticks for their meal

A birthday surprise!
A little cake with a huge flaming candle! The restaurant flashed colored lights and played a lively birthday song while they brought this to Sam. Fun!

the birthday cake--made by Olivia

After supper we came home and enjoyed birthday cake and ice cream. A fun ending to a super day!

Friday, January 28, 2011

It's Sam's Birthday!

Today is my baby's 5th birthday! I cannot believe that he is 5. He has already opened presents, and we all enjoyed a birthday breakfast of pancakes and bacon. Today we are spending the day playing with Sam. Right now, he, Jimmy, and Clay are playing with Legos. I am sure they will end up outside because the weather is so pretty here today. We plan to treat Sam to hibachi for supper. I'll post pictures of the fun day after it's all over!

In other news.....yesterday I did not turn on my computer all day. No, I didn't! I just never had a spare minute. I began the day by meeting Lynn at 6:00 AM for a 16 mile run. It took us 2 hours, 49 minutes to run, plus another 20 minutes or so of 3 bathroom/water/GU breaks plus one more gatorade break. We ran into two of our friends, Yonea and Amber who were doing a 6 mile run, so we ran about 4 miles with them. Fun! I was so tired after yesterday's run that I went to bed at 9:30 last night and did not get up until 6:30 this morning. That is a lot of sleep for me!

I ordered two new books that arrived yesterday, and I cannot wait to find time to read them. They are Family Feasts for $75 a Week by Mary Ostyn and Large Family Logistics by Kim Brenneman. I have read Kim's blog for many, many years, even before I began blogging and reading blogs, Kim had a website with so much information that has shaped how I run our family. I am looking forward to learning even more as I read her book. This book has gotten many positive reviews. Maybe I'll share a review too after I read it. (hardback, 318 pages!)

When I woke up this morning, I remembered the cold morning just 5 years ago. I had not had a very restful night--it was full of contractions and discomfort. It was a Saturday, and my doctor had told me earlier in the week that he would be on call on Saturday, and if I felt like I was in labor to just come on in. It was 2.5 weeks before Sam's due date, but I was ready! I went to the hospital, found out I was dilated 5 cm, and I checked in. Sam was born at 5:26 (I think that was the time) that afternoon. What a wonderful day! He weighed 8 lbs., 5 oz., and he was beautiful. Such a sweet baby. And he is still my baby.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Resolutions Part 2

Grocery Goals

Last January I started my journey of trying to save money on groceries and household items. I began by clipping coupons (I did this for a few years when we were first married, but just fell out of the habit), studying the Kroger sales ad, and trying to do the Walgreens/CVS thing. I stuck with Walgreens and CVS for about 2 months. Then I continued with Walgreens only (the store is closer to me) for another few months, and then I abandoned the drug store/register rewards cycle altogether.

I saved a lot of money last year on our groceries. I learned many things about coupons, the cycles of on-sale items at Kroger, and some fairly easy ways to cut back my grocery bill. This year I hope to save even more.

Here are my lessons learned and goals for 2011.
  • Walgreens/CVS is just too much trouble and not enough savings for me. Since I don't live in town, it is not convenient for me to just "run in" either of those stores to shop. Especially CVS. It is nowhere near any other place that I frequent. I have found that by watching the sales and using coupons, I can save even more money on household and personal care items at Kroger than I can at the drugstores. I now pay $1 or less for toothbrushes, toothpaste, and sometimes even shampoo (sometimes shampoo is $1.50) at Kroger. Frequently I even get those items for free! I also have found that I can get super deals (read, cheap!) on razors, deodorant, soap, and shaving creme at Kroger.
  • Loading digital coupons onto my Kroger card is so worth it! In fact, the iPhone now has a Kroger digital coupon free app. I can load those coupons onto my card while I am in the store if I forget to do them at home! I also use and to load digital coupons onto my Kroger card.
  • Kroger allows you to stack coupons. This just means that for one particular item, you can use a manufacturer's coupon (like you cut out of the Sunday paper), a Kroger issued coupon (they send you these in the mail) and a digital coupon, for the same item. That is how I get items for free!
  • I have a goal of staying out of Walmart this year! For years I have done monthly shopping at Walmart. I have a list of all kinds of household (cleaners, paper products, etc) and personal care (shampoo, soap, bandaids, etc.) items that I buy every single month. I know just how much of each item to last us one month. But, I have found that by buying these same items at Kroger (on sale, with a coupon), I can actually spend less on these things at Kroger. I would have never believed this until I tried it!
  • I renewed my Sam's Club membership. I have been twice this year, and I am taking notes of products that I am interested in buying there (the prices) and I am trying to figure out which store has items that I regularly buy at the best price. I am pretty sure that combining a monthly Sam's trip with my weekly Kroger trips will completely eliminate the need for me to visit Walmart!
  • There are no coupons for fresh fruit and vegetables! You really have to watch yourself if you clip coupons. Many, many coupons are for processed foods. I try to buy and prepare healthy foods, and there are just not that many coupons available for the bulk of my grocery shopping. Kroger does sometimes send me a coupon for $5 off $20 worth of produce, but that is not that often. Most of the coupons I use are for cleaners, paper products, personal items and cereal. We eat a lot of cereal, and now I refuse to pay more than $1.50 a box for cereal, most weeks I can get our Cheerios for $1! The older girls and I eat Fiber One Cereal, and it is more expensive. The best I can usually do on it is $2.50 a box. Still, a good deal.
  • I buy as many items as I have coupons for when they are on sale. This means that one week I may buy 6 boxes of Cheerios, and then not buy cereal again for 3 weeks. I do the same for frozen vegetables and canned tomatoes.
  • I buy larger portions (on sale) of ground beef or turkey, brown it all and divide it into 1 pound portions and freeze them.
  • You have to shop with a calculator. Sometimes the store brand of an item is cheaper than name brand with a coupon, but sometimes the name brand is actually cheaper. You have to do the math!
I have found that by doing all of the above, I have trimmed my grocery/household spending, but I am also buying healthy food--which actually costs more--for my family. I still haven't bought a cart full of groceries for $7, like all of those coupon queens that you read about, but I have consistently shaved $50-$100 off our our total monthly spending in these areas, and I hope to save even more this year.

What about you? Do you have any money saving ideas to share?

Monday, January 24, 2011

What's For Supper?

Believe it or not, I have not been to the grocery store (except to run in a couple of times for more milk and strawberries) since before we went to Disney World (Jan. 6). Since Leah and Sam were sick when we got home, Jimmy and Olivia went grocery shopping for me about 10 days ago. I tried to make a list that would last us two weeks, but I am going to have to visit Kroger today. I haven't clipped coupons in a month either, so I am going to try to do that, study the Kroger sales paper, and download coupons to my Kroger card--all before leaving for piano lessons at 1:30. Oh, and I need to run this morning, and do school with the precious children.

I better get busy!

Here is the supper menu for this week.

Monday--grilled chicken, roasted new potatoes, peas, green beans (cook a double batch of each)
Tuesday--baked fish, baked sweet potatoes, leftover vegetables from Monday
Wednesday--lasagna, salad
Friday (Sam's birthday and his request)--chicken and rice, salad

Visit for more menu inspiration.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Frostbite Half Marathon 2011

Earlier today, Lynn, Kelly, and Stephen (a friend), and I all traveled to Starkville to run the Frostbite Half Marathon. What an experience! Unfortunately, my hard working husband had to work today, and he couldn't join us. I really missed him!

Stephen, Me, Lynn, Kelly
after the race

Lynn and I planned to treat this "race" as a training run. We were scheduled to run 16 (the furthest she or I have ever run) today, so we decided it would be fun to run the half marathon and just run 3 extra miles. So we arrived in Starkville in time to run the 3 miles before the race. Good thing we did! I don't think she or I could have run one more step after crossing the finish line.

This race is unique in that the runners (363 of us) all gather in the parking lot of the Wellness Center and then board 12 greyhound type buses (MS State buses---Go State!) for a 13.1 mile ride out to the middle of nowhere, Pheba, (pronounced Pheebee) MS. There is one little gas station in Pheba, and they dropped us off just beyond it. So we all get off of the buses which turn around and head back into town. We have no other choice--we must all run 13.1 miles back to our cars. There are no timing chips, just a "go", and we were off!

Stephen is just not human, and he shows up for these half marathons with virtually no training (I am NOT exaggerating), and outruns us all! Today he set a PR (personal record) by 5 minutes. He finished in 1:42. Before the St. Jude Half (back in early December) he ran one set of 1/4 mile repeats (I think 2 repeats) ONE TIME before the race. Yes. That was his training. And he ran a 1:47. On the way down today I asked him if he had trained for this race. He said, "Yes. I have run one time since St. Jude, and it was an 8 mile run." He was prepared!

Lynn and I ran a little quicker than we usually do on long runs. I guess we were caught up in all of the race excitement. About halfway through the race there were these little children on the roadside counting out loud. They said 209, 210 when we passed by. It dawned on me, and so I asked them if they were counting runners. They said yes. For a second I felt pretty good......about 150 runners behind us, and then the man running beside Lynn and me said, "We better pick up the pace if we want to get a medal!" WHAT? Then Lynn reminded me that the website stated that medals were awarded to the first 200 finishers. That got me fired up! I did not want to run 13.1 miles and not get a medal. I told Lynn that if I did not get a medal, I would be blogging about that! So we picked up the pace! Then my more competitive than I would like to admit side kicked in. I really wanted to catch up with Kelly who started out way faster than us. Lynn and I discussed it and decided that I would run on ahead after mile 9 or so.

Big mistake on my part. I really wasn't keeping in mind that mile 9 was really mile 12 for us. What was I thinking, trying to run fast at this point? But I kept looking for Kelly. I left Lynn at mile 9.5, and I didn't catch him until mile 11.4. I was exhausted by this point. Exhausted! Thankfully, I got my mind back and slowed down until the end of the race. But I paid for it. I felt terrible those last 3 miles, and felt terrible for hours after the race. Yuk. The whole last mile I was desperately wishing that Jimmy was there, running back to drag me the last mile.

I finished in 2:08, Kelly in 2:09, and Yay for Lynn--she set a PR too. 2:10! She took 4 minutes off of her best half marathon time! I am so happy for her.

After the race we headed straight to Oby's, the most delicious place to eat in Starkville. We all used to eat there when we were in college, and it is still yummy!

I hope I recover fast, because Lynn and I have to run 16 again on Thursday. This time will be slower!

Oh, and we all got medals! Not that I was in the first 200 to finish---I was number 236. I guess they bought more medals. It's a cool medal too!

Leah's Birthday

Sweet Leah's birthday was January 12, the day we flew home from Disney World. We surprised her that morning with a Lotso bear (from Toy Story 3). All during our Disney trip, she couldn't decide what she wanted to spend her money on for her souvenir (each of the children brought some of their own money). She had a hard time choosing between Lotso bear, Bullseye or a turtle from Finding Nemo. Jimmy surprised her with the turtle, and she finally chose Bullseye...but we could tell that she really wanted Lotso too! Julie also chose Lotso for her souvenir, and on the very last night when we went to Downtown Disney to shop, we sadly found that the Lotso bears were all sold out! Julie was so disappointed, especially since I had confidently told her all week that she could buy the Lotso bear the last day at Downtown Disney. Yes, I assured her, they would have plenty of bears! I was wrong!

So Jimmy, the sweet daddy, noticed that he had a little over an hour until the Magic Kingdom closed, and he felt sure that he could catch a bus from Downtown Disney to the hotel, walk to the ticket and transportation center, and then ride the monorail from there to the Magic Kingdom--and then run to the gift shop on Main Street USA where we had seen numerous Lotso bears--all before the park closed! And he made it!

He gave Julie her Lotso bear that night, and we gave Leah her bear the next morning on her birthday! She was so happy! Lotso sat in her lap all the way home.

Even though she and Sam were both very, very sick by the time we arrived home, as soon as I got them settled in the bed (for a little while anyway), I hurriedly wrapped Leah's gifts and set up her birthday table. We celebrated as best we could in spite of her feeling badly.

Leah posing with her birthday presents--she really doesn't feel well

the table
I decorated with stickers, one of Leah's favorite things!

Leah requested rainbow plates...I thought these were colorful as a rainbow, and she like them.

opening an American Girl outfit from Mims and Pops

The rest of the day Leah spent on the couch with Sam and me. We didn't have cake or a special supper--she was just too sick. In fact, I took her and Sam to the doctor that afternoon to make sure they didn't have strep throat. I never even suspected the flu, which is what they ended up being diagnosed with after having both a flu and strep test.

Several days later, when Leah and Sam were both feeling much better, Julie made Leah a birthday pinata. We hung it in the kitchen and shared many, many laughs as the children took turns trying to knock it down.

Jimmy--he hung the pinata for us

Olivia taking a swipe

the birthday girl taking a turn

After many hilarious attempts, the pinata finally burst! Candy flew anywhere!
In this picture the candy had been gathered into a pile for sorting.

While we were gone to Disney World, Tupelo got the biggest snowstorm in years! Here are some pictures of what it looked like when we got home. Sadly, Leah and Sam never felt like playing outside in the pretty snow.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Disney Vacation 2011

Leah and Sam are finally over the flu, and it looks like none of the rest of us are going to get it!

I chose several (ok, I think 35 or so) pictures that highlighted our Disney vacation. This was such a fun trip! The weather was pleasant, the company was fun, and I think everyone enjoyed themselves immensely. This was my parents' first visit to Disney World, and while it was the 5th time we have taken our children, there were still several firsts on this trip.

  • It was the first time my mother has ever flown.
  • Sam was tall enough to ride all of the big rides, except for Rock N Roller Coaster (which I wouldn't have let him ride anyway!
  • Sam's first roller coaster ride! First he rode Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, which is a mild roller coaster. He loved it! I didn't let him ride Space Mountain, but I did let him ride Mt. Everest at Animal Kingdom. I cannot believe that I did! If I had ridden it without him first, to refresh my memory of the ride, I would have not put him on that ride. But I didn't, so he and I rode it together. I cannot believe I put my baby on that ride! He did ok, though by the end he was leaning over covering his head! I kept my arms around him the entire time. As the ride was coasting to a stop, he kept repeating, "I didn't die. I didn't die" He was very proud of himself when it was all over! He told everyone, "I rode that roller coaster, and it went up and down, and it was so fast!" Every time we saw the ride or a picture of the ride he proudly reminded everyone that he rode it!
  • My mother, Julie, Leah, Sam, and I attended the Beauty and the Beast show at Hollywood Studios.
  • My parents, my children and I watched the parade at Animal Kingdom (Jimmy was at the hotel recovering from the Goofy Challenge)
  • A character (Pocahontas) talked to Sam while he was still in his stroller and posed for a picture for him there. She also planted a big lipstick kiss on his forehead.
  • We ate lunch at the 50's Prime Time Cafe at Hollywood Studios.
  • We rode a roller coaster as a family--Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.
Here are the pictures of our wonderful trip.

Julie and my daddy waiting for the monorail

posing with Zurg after the Buzz Lightyear ride

my mother and children waiting to watch Mickey's Philharmagic

Leah and Pops

Each time we visit the Magic Kingdom, we always tour Mickey and Minnie's houses in Toon Town. Sadly, the are tearing down Toon Town beginning in February. They are replacing that whole area with some kind of princess land. We have pictures of our children in these houses each time we visited, so we made sure we took some of the same shots.

Leah with Minnie's sewing machine

We always take pictures of the kids sitting on Minnie's couch.

Avery, Ella, and Leah in their cute Minnie Mouse skirts. Lesley (Lynn's sister made the little girls skirts just like the ones she made for Lynn and me for the race).

Parker and Clay

Lynn's four children and Leah and Sam with Goofy

on the swinging bridge that leads to the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse

Jimmy giving Olivia a ride. That bag that Olivia is holding is her crocheting bag. She crocheted all over Disney World!

our family on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Sam playing on the Brer Rabbit playground.
Splash Mountain was closed during our visit. :(

I think this was taken outside Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. I lost count of how many times we rode this ride.

in the candy shop on Main Street USA. We always buy M&Ms and jelly beans from this shop.

Clay, Sam, Olivia, and Julie

Pops and Clay

Leah and Olivia

Tired Daddy and tired Sam.
This was the day after Jimmy's first race.

They are little bit perkier here.

Julie, Mims, Olivia, and Pops at the 50's Prime Time Cafe

Clay, Jimmy, and Me at the 50's Prime Time Cafe.
Jimmy and I had been awake since 2:45 AM!

Leah and Julie

Sam with his dessert

playing on the Honey I Shrunk the Kids playground at Hollywood Studios

Sam, Olivia, and Clay on the playground

Leah and Pops

Leah climbing a tree while waiting for the bus back to the hotel

a rare picture of Sam without a ridiculous face

posing with Pocahontas
Sam refused to get out the stroller to have his picture

Pocahontas came to the stroller!

Leah and Sam with Mims and Pops

Pops pushing the stroller---he did a lot of pushing!

my sweet children

We always take the children's picture inside this shark mouth at Epcot.

tasting Coke flavors from around the world at Epcot
(yes, it rained a little bit that day)

trying food from other countries at Epcot

Clay, Julie, and Olivia at Epcot

not too old to pose with characters or get their autographs

Jimmy surprised Sam with this Goofy.
This picture was taken just before Sam started getting sick.

Leah and Sam with Woody make out of Legos.
Right after this picture, Sam crashed. He started running a sudden high was the beginning of the flu. Leah got sick the next morning.

We flew home on Wednesday morning......Leah and Sam basically slept the entire way the airport waiting, on the airplane, and on the ride home from the airport.

I am so glad that my parents joined us on this trip, and I appreciate all of their help. It was also fun vacationing with our dear friends Kelly and Lynn and their family.

What a super vacation!