Sunday, August 28, 2011

A bike, a boy, and his mom

As a mother, I like to make my kids happy. I will do just about anything to make them happy...anything within reason. I love the look of joy on their faces. It makes my heart pitter and, yes, patter.

So, when this past Saturday, I decided to break in my new bike, little did I know what joy it would bring my son to invite him along for a ride around the block. Sierra was asleep (she had a late night sleepover) and Matt was doing yard work. Daniel was messing around outside and all I said was "hey, Daniel, would you like to go around the block with me on our bikes?"

Oh my!! The look of joy on his face brought tears to my eyes. He excitedly said YES and got on his bike. We went around the street and every time I looked back at my boy on his Spiderman bike, his face was gleaming with happiness. Oh my...something seemingly so small was huge.

The rest of the day, he kept talking about that little trip around the block. He said that he thought that every weekend he and mommy should go on bike rides together. I told him when it was cooler (at least not in the triple digits we currently have) that I would gladly go with him after school, too.

It's those small things. Much like our weekly game nights that both my kids just love so much, time spent together doing something meaningful can be better than any monetary thing.

Tomorrow, I will start daily bike rides with Sierra to get in some "PE" time. Sierra is just as excited for this dedicated mommy time....just her and I on our bikes!! Who knew??

Friday, August 26, 2011

Money Saving Madness

We only recently stumbled upon a recent find that will save us close to $100/month and we are excited. This plus a couple other savings here and there save us short term and long term. I love to save money, but I am just not an "Extreme Couponer" nor can I do much in the way of budget eating (a fact that Sierra more than anyone appreciates....she told me yesterday that when she has kids, she is going to be like me and cook good food).

So, about a week or so ago, Matt was talking about a guy at work who just cancelled his cable (I think he had U-Verse like us) and is now doing Hulu+. Hulu+ is a service you can pay $7/month for and acts a lot like Netflix Instant Watch. Now, we do Netflix Instant Watch a LOT now. We can watch NIW through our Wii and with it we can watch some current shows and a lot of older shows plus a fair variety of movies. A favorite for the family is The Cosby Show. My kids love it and of course we do too.

We did not know much about Hulu+, so Matt researched it. While it is a lot like NIW, Hulu+ offers more in the way of currently on air shows. A show might air a new episode on Tuesday and be available on Hulu+ that day or mere days later. He got REALLY excited about this. The only issue is you either need to use a Roku box (sold in stores for about $80) or a blu-ray player that can play Hulu+...and Amazon Prime and You Tube and Pandora and many other apps. This excited him more because our blu-ray player has issues and he would like a new one anyway. HOWEVER, we discovered that CBS will NOT stream their current shows and CBS is the bulk of the current shows we like to watch (Survivor, Amazing Race, NCIS, Criminal Minds, etc). All the other networks allow streaming, but CBS refuses (don't get me started). So, Matt decided maybe the thing to do is to find a different cable/sattelite system (we have had our Uverse issues).

THEN he heard of another that excited him more. It is called Amazon Prime. It works a lot like Hulu, but the selection of current shows and movies is much greater (still no CBS...we can just watch these via website and hooking laptop to tv) and the benefits of it far outweigh Hulu! You pay a flat $80 for the year which averages to $6.50/month (according to Matt) AND being an Amazon Prime member, you get FREE 2 day shipping on any order you make on their matter how little you spend. AND, he will get his new blu-ray player. AND, we will stay current on our shows (except CBS...don't get me started) WITHOUT commercials. AND, best of all, we will cut out the $86+ a month we currently pay for cable!! Am I excited?? You BET!!! We haven't started this yet. We have to first buy a new blu-ray player....which will cost a chunk (and we have to buy Sierra's curriculum)...and will also have to pay that $80 amazon prime fee. We hope to in the next 2 weeks.

Another money saving tip we got is at Matt's work. His work has a clinic in it. Matt thought they only handled precriptions (if we have a generic prescription, we can order it through the clinic and get it for free). He just found out that they have a PA there and Matt can go to the clinic for FREE. Well, he had a dermatology appointment set for next week ($40 co-pay) where he needed to get a new prescription for his skin meds ($50). He thought to himself...I wonder if I could see this PA for free and get a prescription. So, he made an appt....saw the PA. The PA informed him that his skin meds come in generic form and though Matt had been told that the generic was not as good as the "real", it was, in fact, exactly the same...AND they gave him a physical. SO, Matt got an exam (free) and, due to the generic, got his meds (free)....all in his office building!! SUPER YAY!!!

And a final money goodie...this one is more future savings. As you know, I homeschool Sierra, but Daniel is still in public school. It is my ultimate goal to homeschool Daniel, too, but Matt is resistant. I think a big part of it is the cost of homeschooling....Sierra's curriculum is costing us close to $500 and it is HARD to pay for.....REALLY hard. Well, the other day a lady in my homeschool group posted that she was giving away curriculum sets for 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 11th. I saw that someone already claimed 7th & 11th, but I emailed asking for the 4th-6th. Today, I got an answer...I got it!!! Now, it is not 100% certain that I will be homeschooling him at that time and if I don't I will pass the freebies on to someone else. I plan on keeping her curriculum from here on out, so it will be there for Daniel. The best part is this curriculum I just scored is the same program that I am buying for Sierra now!! So, it will be consistent!! I am SO excited!! (Now to afford Sierra's curriculum without having to stand in the soup line)!!

Other added savings we have had....we now have 2 cars so Matt takes the gas guzzling van to and from work every day and I drive the far less gas eater sedan on my little errands. It is AMAZING how much LESS gas we use each pay period!!! Due to having 2 cars, it is FAR easier for me to COOK each night which equals healthier eating (no last minute drives out to McDonald's for dinner)and money saved in meals that often can be served twice in one week (added benefit to this is Matt is FINALLY on a that I am confident will be showing rewards soon). Summer is over (not officially, but movie wise) less outings to the movie theater. Sadly, our heat wave is causing incredible spikes in our electric bill....we are unplugging all the devices we possibly can, but with Sierra and I home so much of the day, it is hard not to have multiple electrical things going at once.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Jane Eyre

I remember when I was in High School. I walked into my 12th Grade English class...a class I abhorred (Macbeth....*shudder*), and the teacher, Mrs. House, had a pile of books on one table and another pile of books on another table. She informed us that the girls were to pick one of the books on the "girls" table and the boys on the "boys" table. I was greatly offended! I was a versatile reader and did not believe that books should be categorized as boy books or girl books. For rebellion's sake, I eyed the books like "Catcher in the Rye" from the boys table with great longing and instantly despised the books on the girls table. It made me mad to have to choose one.

But, being the obedient child I was, I dutifully picked one...not caring which it would be. I could not even tell you what the so called girl titles were. I just picked one up and pre-detemined that I would not like it. That book was "Jane Eyre" by Charlotte Bronte.

I began the book intending to skim it and gain only the details I thought necessary for any test or report I would have to do to prove I had read it......and I became lost in the story of a young girl who is thrown from one bad situation to another....and ending in an unlikely romance. I absolutely LOVED this book. It was just incredible and I found myself engrossed in the story.

I never read the book again, even though it was so great. I do, though, think often of it. I watched an old black and white movie made of this book starring Orson Welles, but I do not recall it being that great....but not that bad, either.

Tonight, I watched the latest Jane Eyre movie, 2011. I was rather pessimistic about it...movies today can be disappointing. The reviews of the movie were incredible, but that doesn't mean a whole lot anymore. I was so pleasantly surprised. I was touched by it so much that I think I must go back and read the book again (I had already downloaded it on my Kindle).

If you are looking for a movie to watch that is classic in presentation and in storytelling, I highly recommend this movie. If you are looking for a good classic read, I highly recommend this book. It is uncoventional in it's romance and I cannot recommend it enough.

37 Years of Wisdom

Today I turn 37. Yay me!! ;-)

Last night, as I lay in bed, I began reflecting on what wisdom I have gained in these long 37 years. That's the good thing about life, right? It is a constant learning experience. The older you get, the wiser you become (or should become). You begin to view life with perspective, drawing on your past experiences and future promises. Here are some things I have learned in my 37 years:

-- Though I was told from a very young age that I would not amount to anything, I can safely assert that YES I CAN. I have broken many of those weighted down chains that could have pulled me down and left me drowning in sorrow and I have accomplished more in my life than I could ever have dreamed....and I am only 37!! There is more to come!!

-- Though I was told from a very young age that I was ugly, I can look in the mirror and see beauty.

-- Though I was told that I would never be a good mother because I never had a mother to guide me and teach me, I can stand before you and say that I am an excellent mother. The proof is in the pudding.

-- Though I was told that no one would love me, I can tell you that I am loved by many.

-- Though I was told I was worthless, I can say that I am worth more than all the treasures of the world. If I were the last person left on this Earth, my Savior would still die on the cross for me!

It took most of my life to reach the point where I can walk in confidence and squash the lies beneath my feet...and the battle is far from over, but that is life and I will persevere.

So, on this, the first day of my 37th year, I say bring it on...all of life's great highs and low lows (let's be skimpy on the lows). My resolution...I will surround myself with those people who are like-minded. No more being around people who, to coin a phrase, break my mojo. lol I love where my life is currently. We struggle financially, who doesn't, but I am surrounded by loving, caring people and I have God to hold me up when I am down. Life couldn't be better!!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

My Son, Daniel

God knows far more than we do about life, love, everything. He created everything out of nothing...why is there any question on his ways being not our ways and faith and all of that.

God instructed me to have my son. He spoke to me directly telling me that I needed to have a son. I never wanted a boy. I thought they would come with all sorts of problems.

God knows more than I do, though, and thank God for it. My son brings me such great joy. He is an incredible kid. He wakes up every morning and comes into my room to cuddle with me. He nuzzles in and tells me how I am the best mom a boy could ever have. He is so loveable. He is so incredibly sweet...and just about the cutest thing EVER!! Each night, we all take turns tucking him in. First I nuzzle him, lots of kisses and loves. Next Sierra has a turn where she gives him butterfly kisses and tells him how much she loves him. Last, but not least, is Daddy who does the daddy thing with growls and funny stuff, but still hugs and kisses and love. What a lucky kid he is!!

It pains me greatly to see him growing up so fast. He just lost his fifth tooth. He is getting taller and taller and smarter and smarter. He tells me everyday that he will always be my teddy bear, but I know this is not true. It hurts me greatly to see and hear how other kids talk and behave. I do not want him to be influenced...for his sweet, innocent nature to be ruined. I know most would say you can't shelter them, but I want to. He is very sweet and innocent.

*sigh* I guess I write this because 1st grade looms in just days. He is beyond excited about it...seeing his old friends, making new ones. I just want to wrap my arms around him and keep him at my side. I pray a hedge of protection around him, sure, but.....

So, my baby teddy bear...will be leaving me soon for another year of school. I know how fast these years speed daughter enters Jr. High on Monday (at least she will be home with me through these treacherous years). I would like to say it is easier with the baby, but it isn't. If anything, it's harder. This is my last child....this is my sweet cuddle monster....this is the light of my life (of course they both are) is very, very hard.

Ok...I am done wallowing. Don't get me wrong. I am proud of who he is and I trust God to keep him safe. He is an amazing kid...a gift from God. He will crush 1st Grade, without a doubt. Watch me on facebook...bragging to be continued in my many status updates!!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A New Book

I love when friends suggest a book or an author that they have been reading and really think I will like as well. I LOVE finding new books and authors...there is nothing quite as thrilling as reading a good book, as I have stated in SO MANY of my other posts. I LOVE to read. Sometimes a friend will suggest a book that just holds no interest for me and I will trudge through the book out of respect for that friend's thought that I might like it.

I came across that very issue these last few weeks. An author was suggested in a friend's post on facebook and that friend recommended I start with this one book (that is the first in a series). I saw it was a bit much to download (I have a Kindle that I LOVE), so I got it at the library.

It started off as a bit of a yawn. A girl with a bad mom and a loving dad. It took me a couple weeks to get through the first 1/4 or more of the book...I had no desire to read it (but I kept renewing it hoping something would click).

As the book went on, something happened that rarely happens. I was reading, in a sense, my own story. The girl in this story was me and I felt her pain, her depression, her blind searching for meaning to life. It was quite amazing.

I, like this character, was abandoned by my mother (well, not initially...long custody left and I saw her twice from age 3 now she is no longer living, so all opportunity is gone). My father tried his hardest to make a good life for me....though many things stood in his way. Like the character in this book, I was an outcast in school with little purpose or direction. She had a best friend she loved, a boy who lived close by, who, in a sense, abandoned her when he went to college and fell in love with a girl there. I had a best friend who was my only friend, whose family moved away. I was robbed of any chance of regaining that friendship...she died just before turning 16.

This character decided to shake the dust off of herself and went to college determined to be exactly the opposite of who she had been...trying to fit in the best she knew how.....though she found social life hard and thought so very little of herself. This was so much like when I arrived at college. I took off for college alone and watched as so many families dropped off their daughters (I was in a girl's dorm) with tears and hugs. I walked into the common area and began chatting with the only other girl that was there. It was so hard and exhausting to be that open, friendly girl and not that shy, awkward girl I had been (especially hard since I had just had jaw surgery and my teeth were wired together....not the best first impression).

The character in this book went on a path I did not, though I could still relate to her feelings and awkwardness. I had friends who cheered for me when the wires got cut and my jaws were free. We ordered pizza and had the first real conversations I had had. We laughed and talked and it was wonderful.

It is interesting to read a book with a girl who has raw feelings and emotions...a girl I can more than relate to, I can feel. It has had a real impact on me. I am not even sure why I am writing about it. I just felt the need to!! The book "After the Leaves Fall" by Nicole Baart is not a great book, in my opinion, but I am anxiuos to see how she deals with what life has before her. She is seeking God, though she is not sure how or why or what to do when she finds Him. It is so surreal to have such a parralel life to this fictional character.

The second book starts off with this dedication "For Mom: Because Janice is entirely a work of fiction. You are everything she is not and more." Janice is the mom who abandons the main character, Julia. This sent a jolt of electricity because I did not have a mom...or at least not one that was there for me and it has been my everpresent goal in life to break the cycle, to "be everything she (my own mother) was not and more."

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Summer End + School Year Beginning = SCREAM!!!

Like any other summer, this summer seems to have been a flurry of activity that caused the end of summer to come much faster than the year before. School starts two weeks from tomorrow!! Where did the summer go? And where will the school year take us??

Sierra: Sierra has had quite the summer. She started the summer with her birthday...she turned 12 and is very excited that her next birthday will be her entry into the teens. Her birthday this year was overriden, though, by the trip she took to Alaska for 2 1/2 weeks. She could not believe she was getting to travel, by herself, to the incredible state of Alaska. She would be able to go to camp with her best friend and be able to hang out in the cooler, more beautiful area of Anchorage Alaska. She came to think of it as fact, she announced to me before she came home that she would be returning to Alaska in December. I can assure you she will not.

July was a slow month for her. A couple sleepovers, trips to Splashtown, and other odd things here and there. She finally, after years of us trying to perssuade her, finally learned to ride a bike and she realized that she really, REALLY loves it. But, lucky girl that she is, she got to experience another summer vacation in the form of a beach. A friend of mine who turned 40 wanted to go to the beach for her birthday and wanted us to come along...and so we did. Sierra had a fantastic time, basking in the sun and riding on her boogie board.

And now, we are getting ready ba bummmmm...7th grade. Jr. High!! It lacks the drama one would normally anticipate with their child going to Jr. High...seeing how she will be homeschooled. I have never been more convinced that this is the right choice than now. We are both very excited about the new curriculum she will be using this year. Boy, curriculum is EXPENSIVE!! We have her curriculum on layaway is costing us close to $500...I doubt we will get it out in time to start on August 22, but we will get it out. We have a backup plan... The main thing is, it will be a GREAT year. Among other things, she will begin to learn French!!

Also, we were going to get a membership at an athletic club for her to get some PE in...but now that she can ride a bike, I am going to buy one for myself and we will bike for PE. She LOVES it so much...and so do I!

Daniel: His summer was not as action packed for him as it was for Sierra. No big trips across the country for him. He did get to go to a great VBS while Sierra was gone and he has gotten to spend a LOT of time with his mommy. I so enjoy my son and would give anything to hold on to him and his innocence for that much longer. He is just such a great and sweet boy. He thoroughly enjoyed his trip to the beach, too. He would play in the waves and than dig in the sand, and play in the waves some more. He never wanted to leave to eat lunch or dinner. Both kids loved the beach so much, I decided that it was of vital importance that we plan a family beach vacation soon!! I am anti-sun, so I enjoyed staying out of it under a nice big umbrella....just watching my kids frolic in the salty ocean.

Daniel also learned to ride his bike. In fact, he learned before Sierra and took great pride in knowing how to when Sierra did not....I think this is what boosted her into learning how to. Daniel loves his bike and takes any and all opportunities to ride it.

Daniel starts 1st grade this year. It is so funny to me to say that. First grade!?! To me, he still seems so small...but at the same time, he is so smart and far more advanced than the average 1st grader. He is still attending public school...though I do want to wrap my arms around him and keep him at home. Matt believes he should remain in public school for the time being. He said if we come into loads of money, than we will talk. lol Daniel is a special kid who has come to realize just how much he LOVES the piano over the summer. The piano has always been his favorite instrument, but when he first started lessons, he decided he hated them (the lessons, not the piano). Over this summer, though, a switch turned on and now he LOVES his lessons. His teacher has remarked at how great he is doing and she can tell he is really getting it. He says that the next instrument he wants to learn is drums (heaven help me). He enjoys reading and is reading through a series of books right now called The Magic Treehouse...a book series about a couple of kids who travel in their treehouse to different adventures...many historical. He is so excited about the series. I can't wait to see what this upcoming school year will be like for him.

So, school starts 2 weeks from tomorrow. I still need to finish up Daniel's school him some clothes and shoes...and get Sierra's curriculum out of layaway. The level of stress is high, but the faith in God is also high. He will provide, as he always does. It will be a momentous year.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Skin Cancer Scare

I am a red head...truer than true...I come complete with freckles galore. In my almost 37 years of life, I have suffered many sunburns complete with horribly red skin, hot skin....many with gigantic blisters. I remember several where I had to wear my bathing suit for days and would get little to no sleep as I tried to find that cool spot in my sheets at night. I have always been prepared for myself to get some form of skin cancer.

A couple weeks ago, I had a weird sort of blemish appear on my forehead. It was unlike any pimple I have ever had and was not a burn. I thought it looked strange, but I was suffering from a sinus infection at the time that was causing me a lot of pain. I ignored the sore that appeared on my forehead. When the sinus infection cleared, I realized that the sore was still there and as weird as ever. I had a friend look at it and she confirmed that it was very unusual looking, which only furthered my thought that something wasn't right.

So, I did a search online...what does skin cancer look like. I knew that any new moles should be looked at...especially any exposed to sun. I had had a couple moles removed and tested as a cancer. I, also, knew that some forms can look really and oozy. But could any look like mine.

Well, Basal Cell Carcinoma can take on many forms and my little sore on my head looked an awful lot like one of these forms. I compared the images on the computer with what had taken residence on my forehead (I was looking on the skin cancer website...not some webmd site). The sore had been on my forehead for over a week and showed no signs of leaving and I pretty much decided that this must be skin cancer.

Now, if you are going to get skin cancer, this is the one to get. It rarely spreads anywhere...not on to the rest of your skin or to your soft tissue. It is easily removed and rarely reappears. I was never very nervous about HAVING I said, I have been burned BAD so many times in my life and I am a red head with green eyes. I was, though, very anxious to know what it was.

I made an appointment with a dermatologist...they cannot see me for 3 weeks. I thought, oh my...I have to sit on this for that long. BUT, an amazing thing happened. It started to heal!!! It is, at this point, almost gone. This is exciting news...I think it must be a wacky sore and not skin cancer...I can deal with a wacky sore.

I am not willing to do cartwheels (not that I know how to). I am not completely out of the woods. It is not uncommon for the sore to appear to be healing only to come back. I am not cancelling my doc appt yet (I have time) and I am being cautiously optimistic that I was being ubersensitive to my skin. I take skin care VERY seriously now, as an adult. I coat myself and the kids with sunscreen (I can't get Matt to wear it) and I try to limit my exposure to the sun.

So, am I out of the woods, yet?? Not quite. I am 89% sure I do not have skin cancer. I will feel better when this thing is completely gone and stays gone for a period of time. But, for now I am breathing big sighs of relief. Hey, it is fading daily!!