Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Another Easter Tradition

I just learned about this one from my super cool sister and I am really excited about it! It's called A Basket Full of Blessings. On Good Friday, you go on a rock hunt and gather rocks. Then you paint the rocks black to represent our sins which Jesus died for. Then you put the rocks in the kids Easter baskets and leave them out. During the day Saturday as you see the rocks, you can talk again about sin and about Jesus' death. Then when they wake up on Sunday morning, the rocks in their baskets have been replaced with blessings! Just like the greatest blessing our redemption and victory over sin! How cool is that?!?!

Easter Traditions

I wanted to share with you some special things we have started doing as a family to keep us focused on Christ this Easter. You may remember my posts about our Jesse Tree at Christmas. It was a wonderful way to keep us all remembering Christ and the boys loved it! I also wanted to establish some Easter traditions this year and I thought I would share those with you. Each heading below is a link to the website where you can find these traditions if you are interested in starting them with your family.

Lenten Lights-
The blog that got the 1,000 Gifts from and many other awesome spiritual nuggets is called A Holy Experience and it's written by Ann Voskamp. Each Monday, Ann posts links to sites she finds interesting. One Monday she posted a link to the Desiring God website and an Easter devotion called Lenten Lights by Noel Piper. It is a series of 8 devotions than can be done once a week during the 8 weeks of Lent leading up to Easter or can be done once a day for the week leading up to Easter. Because the boys are so young and have the attention span of flies, we chose the daily for the week leading up to Easter. The devotion centers around 7 candles- I use tea lights on a tray around a cross. One the first night you begin with all 7 candles lit and during the devotion you snuff out one candle. Then night two, you start with only 6 lit and snuff out another, until on Good Friday you snuff out the last candle. Then on the Saturday before Easter, you do not light any candles as Christ has died, his followers were devastated, it appeared darkness and sin had won. Then on Easter Sunday you light all 7 candles again because Jesus, the Light of the World, is Alive!! Sin and death have been defeated. Caleb has actually understood this devotion much more than I thought he would and we all look forward to doing it each night. Here are our Lenten Lights:

Resurrection Rolls-
On Friday, the boys and I are going to make Resurrection Rolls. These rolls are made with crescent rolls and marshmallows. You coat the marshmallow with butter, then sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. Then you wrap the crescent roll around the marshmallow. The crescent roll is the tomb and the marshmallow is Christ. When you bake these, the marshmallow disappears! After you take them out of the oven, you break open the tomb and Christ is not there!

Resurrection Eggs-
You can buy these at any Christian bookstore, but they will run you $10-$20. We are going to make our own this year! This version only has 5 eggs instead of the traditional 12 in the sets you buy, but some of the items in the dozen are a little above the boys' level at this point. In our version, the blue egg holds a picture of a donkey, the purple eggs has a cracker (for the Lord's Supper), the yellow egg has two nails, the green egg has a rock (that was rolled over the tomb) and the orange egg is empty, just like Christ's tomb on Easter!

Well, that's all I've got! I'll try to post some pictures later this week of us making Resurrection Rolls and doing our Resurrection Eggs. How about you? Do you have any Easter traditions in your family? Please share!

Where Shopping is a Pleasure

You may have read my post last week about how much I love Publix. It's one of those places where the slogan holds true- "Where Shopping Is a Pleasure." Today was no exception as I had friendly, wonderful people helping me and I saved a massive amount of money!!

Total Before Sales and Coupons: $124.30
Total Spent Out of Pocket: $40.52!!!
Total Savings: $83.78!!!

And I had another great week at CVS too. Not as great as last's weeks $56 worth of stuff for $5, but still some good deals to be had!
Total Before Sales and Coupons: $41.03
Total Spent Out of Pocket: $7.87
Total Savings: $33.16
And I got $6 back to spend next week (so it's really like I spent $1.87). Not bad considering one pack of Pull-Ups cost more that my total out of pocket for everything!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

I am moved

It's that time of year when the movie "The Passion of the Christ" pops up everywhere. It's because it is this time of year that we celebrate and remember the death and resurrection of our Lord. And what I've come to discover about myself is that I don't want to see the movie again. I have seen it twice and I think the movie does some great things- it draws attention to Christ and it shares the message of His death- both of which I think are awesome. But there are a couple of reasons I think that for me, that will be the extent of my viewing.

First, so many times the more we see something the more we become desensitized by it. I don't ever want the death of Christ to become common place for me- something I've seen so many times that is no longer impacts me. Watching it, I am moved and impacted and I don't want that to change, but I think the bigger problem within that issue, for me, is the reason for its impact. The thing is, The Passion of the Christ is a movie. Yes, it is true, but so are many movies. Movies are designed to move us- and it doesn't take much to move me. I often find myself moved to tears as I watch movies. Movies about people who don't exist facing problems that are not real- and yet I am moved. Actors strive to portray a character in such a way that the audience is moved. The movie is set to a score which reaches its climax and swells, creating emotion. There are make-up and special effects, all designed to touch the audience. The Passion of the Christ is no exception to these movie rules. There is incredible acting, directing, a beautiful score and there is make up and special effects showing the brutality of His death. And while I don't think these are bad things (actually I think they are great things... too many times "Christian" movies lack excellence in these areas.), I don't want them to be the motivation for my emotion. I don't want to be moved by the brutality I see on the screen (although I know His death was brutal). I don't want to be moved by the incredible actor whose performance touches me. I don't want to be moved as the music swells to a climax.

In my life, I want the death of Christ to move me, to impact me, to change me. But not because of a movie I watched. I want to be moved by His death because it is substitutionary, because it is redemptive, because it is healing, because it is grace and mercy, because it was not the end and three days later He rose! The thing is, the death of Jesus doesn't need great actors, make-up, special effects or a great score.

It is a beautiful, perfect, complete, once for all love story that forever changed everything!

It should move us all by itself. It should move us to great sorrow over our sin that nailed Him there. It should move us to great gratitude for He took our place though we were unworthy. It should move us to great emotion for it is a love like no other. It should move us to worship for the God who hung on a cross, also defeated death. It should move us to live lives of abandon for the glory of the One who gave it all. 

I want the words of God to move me more than a movie. I want the breath of God to change me, push me, move me, touch me.
"But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
       the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
    and by his wounds we are healed" Isaiah 53:5

He was pierced for me, He was crushed for my sin, He bore my punishment to bring me peace. And by His wounds I am healed!! And because of this, I am moved. 

Monday, March 22, 2010

A Spring Weekend full of Gifts

It was a beautiful Spring weekend here. The kind I've been waiting for for weeks. Blue skies, sunshine, 70 degree temperatures. We played at the park, we grilled out, we planted our garden. And it was a weekend full of gifts.

91. little boys in baseball caps

92. running, jumping, laughing

93. "watch me mommy!"
94. sitting on the swing with my sweetie
95. faces and hands dirty from play

96. daddy and boys and worms

97. little hands full of earth planting new life

98. reading outside in the warm sun
99. dinner on the grill
100. blue eyes playing under blue skies

This one was definitely blog-worthy

Ok people. I went shopping today and well, my savings were definitely blog-worthy. I shocked even myself! Prepare yourselves to be shocked, too- you may want to sit down - he he ;)

Total Before Sales and Coupons: $111.66
Total Spent: $44.48
Total Savings: $67.18
I got the All Detergent for FREE, the Prego Sauce for 3 cents each, the pasta for 14 cents each, the Uncle Ben's Rice for FREE, the Chef Boyardee for 39 cents each and the Wishbone Dressing for 21 cents each! Pretty good deals!

Ok, now prepare yourself because my CVS trip was even better.....
Total Before Sales and Coupons: $56.82
Total Spent: $5.41
Total Savings: $51.41, and I earned $6 back for next week!

Yes, you read that correctly. I got $56 worth of stuff for $5.41! And technically because I earned the $6 back, I got $56 worth of stuff for nothing and they paid me 39 cents! The best part is I got two jumbo packs of Pampers (the most expensive brand of diapers) for $1.80 each!! And you may have noticed a diabetes meter in the picture. No, I don't have diabetes, but I had a coupon that made it free and it earned me $5 back which I used on the diapers. I plan to donate it to a local mission here to give to someone who needs it. That is one of the great things about my savings- with the coupons there are times when I have am able to get things for free. I always get them, even if we won't use them, because I can donate them to the mission! Yay for saving money!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Things that make this Momma happy!

So lately I've been pondering how being a mommy makes certain priorities in my life change and certain preferences and niceties become crucial. Here are some things this Momma loves- things that used to be nice, or a perk, or even a little awkward, but now I am pretty sure I can't live without them!

1. Publix! I love this store..... seriously, it's a love affair. I used to think it was so much more expensive than Walmart, and full price it is. But there were days I would shop there anyway, even if it was more expensive. Know why? Because they have these spaceship carts that keep the boys completely contained- they can't get out! Because they give the boys free cookies so they are very content to sit in their spaceship and eat cookies. Because everytime I look even slightly lost there is someone who comes to my rescue and points me where I need to find whatever I am looking for (try finding someone to help you at Walmart!!!). Because every employee seems genuinely happy to be there. Because they bag my groceries for me and push my cart out to my car, load my groceries into my car and return my cart for me (you know that never happens at Walmart). And so I love Publix and I was content to spend more to get these services..... BUT THEN I discovered couponing!! And now I spend much less than I would at Walmart and I get all of the great full service! Some of these services were nice before kids, and the grocery loading a little awkward when you are a lone person.... but now I know I can't live without them!

2. Chick-fil-a... again, it's seriously a love affair... I could eat there everyday of the week. And yes, it is a bit more expensive than, say, McDonalds. But again, as a mommy it is totally worth it! Know why? Well, the food is great. The employees all seem very genuinely happy to be there (seeing a theme here?). They see a mom with her hands full and they take my order and then tell me to go sit and they will bring my food out to me. They come around and refill the drinks. The toys in the kids meals are great and educational, but if the boys don't want them or already have them they can exchange them for ice cream! They have free wifi. They play Christian music. The playground is great. They have a family night where kids eat for FREE! We go every Thursday to our Chick-fil-a's family night with our friends- the kids play to their hearts content, the adults get to chat and with the kids all eating free we save money! Sweet tea. Milkshakes. They have free placemats to stick on the tables that are sanitary and get thrown away when we are done. They have hand sanitizer wipes at the playground entrance. Some chick-fil-a's even have a mommy station with extra diapers, wipes and little cups of cheerios. Again, these used to be nice things, bonuses if you will. Now, I am not sure I could live without them. There's no other restaurant I could take all three boys to. In fact, as I write this I am at Chick-fil-a while Maria cleans the house. We got chicken biscuits and sweet tea and I am on the free wifi while the boys play on the playground. They will come around and refill my tea and I can stay here as long as I would like. Love, love, love it!

3. A playroom. So happy for my sister and her family and their new home. We helped them move last weekend and I gotta say, I'm a little jealous of her awesome new place. It's got all the upgrades- hardwood, granite, jetted tub, big master closet. And those are nice, but you wanna know why I am so jealous? The playroom! It's huge and fantastic! Stace and I talked about how after kids, somehow your "dream home" changes. Want to know what my dream home has.... a huge bonus room/playroom, a yard and lots of cabinet space. Huge master suite? Upgrades galore?  Jetted tub? Formal dining? Well, I wouldn't complain if it had those things, but I would gladly give them up to have the playroom, a basement, a yard- places for my kids to run and play and keep their mess,  uh I mean their toys.

4. Story time at the library. It is FREE! They boys get read to, they sing songs, they watch a little movie, they make a craft and did I mention it is free? I love it. They love it. It fills up our time with a fun activity. They learn, they laugh, they play. So thankful for a free, fun activity each week. 

See what I mean? Things change when you have kids! Things you thought you could live without, well, you now realize you need. And things you thought you HAD to have, well they are just not that important! I am thankful for these companies who make being a mommy easier. Thankful for free programs for my children to enjoy. Thankful for playrooms and a backyard. It's the little things, isn't it?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Get Ready.....

..... for two videos of Caleb. Last Thursday was "Dessert with Dad" at his school. The kids performed songs for their dads, made crafts for them and then they all ate ice cream together. Jack took a video of the singing and some cute pics. Then on Sunday night the Children's Choir performed and it was the first time Caleb has been with them. He even had a speaking part! Be on the lookout... as soon as Jack gets the videos edited I'll share them with you!

1,000 Gifts

Yesterday was a very busy day from start to finish and I didn't get to my 1,000 gifts. And you know what? It made a difference. I could tell my attitude wasn't right all day long. I stressed about little, unimportant things instead of looking for the blessings in them all. It's funny how just taking time to reflect on every good thing in our lives makes the hard things shrink in comparison. And trying to record 1,000 different gifts in my life has made me really stop and notice EVERYTHING, no matter how small. I mean, 1,000 is a big number, so if I am ever gonna get there, then I must acknowledge every gift, even the small ones. And doing just that changes my attitude, my thoughts, my mood.

81. a big helper
82. when siah's face lights in recognition when he sees me
83. daddy and caleb having boy time
84. racing my boys
85. swiffer wet jet
86. little baby clothes
87. great friends for dinner
88. steaks on the grill
89. consignment sales
90. giggles

Monday, March 8, 2010

1,000 Gifts

71. sunshine!!
72. "so happy mommy!" as exclaimed by noah as we went outside to play
73. coupons
74. fenced in backyard
75. best friend brothers
76. camellia blooms
77. bird songs
78. blue skies
79. grilled meat for dinner
80. laptop computer so i can sit outside as i blog

Can you tell I am ready for Spring? 

Thanks upon thanks to God for these little things. Beginning my week in gratitude, consciously looking for every blessing no matter how small, it makes a difference. EVERY good and perfect gift comes from above and He showers us with them everyday if only we'd take time to stop and look.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Another Great Shopping Trip

Well, I got lots of feedback last week that you like to see my savings! Many of you have asked about my methods. I use sales and coupons to get the biggest bang for my buck. Jenny over at a blog called Southern Savers has done 3 tutorial videos about how this all works. If you are interested, click here. I use her blog each week to match my sales and coupons. It is a huge time saver and big help! I highly suggest watching her videos for more information and checking out her blog- she matches sales and coupons for several grocery stores here in the southeast.

Ok now for this week's amazing deal. Jack is out of town and we are expecting some snow/sleet tomorrow, so instead of going tomorrow morning while Caleb is at school (if he has school), I went tonight with all three boys!! I got lots of "my you have your hands full" (not my favorite comment to get from people, right Carrie R?) and "you are a brave woman!" But we made it without any incidents. It helps that Publix has a great space ship cart that keeps the boys confined, gives the boys free cookies and loads my groceries in my car for me! I love Publix! And I can save BIG time!

Total before sales and coupons: $174.55
Total Out of Pocket: $83.09!!!!
Total Savings: $91.46.... Woo-Hoo!

I only went to Publix this week cause I had all three boys.... hopefully a CVS trip will come later in the week. Pretty awesome savings, huh? :)

1,000 Gifts

In my attempt to celebrate every little thing God gives and begin my week off with the right attitude of gratitude.....

61. big brother entertaining the littlest brother

62. still being in pajamas

63. a relatively picked up house to start the week

64. bed head on two cuties

65. sunday naps

66. all 5 together, snuggled on the couch watching a movie

67. giggles

68. down another 2.8 pounds in the last two weeks for a grand total of 23 lbs in 4 months

69. reading with caleb as he sounds out more and more words. love watching the lightbulb go off

70. noah's cute potty celebration- "i did it, mommy!"