Wednesday, January 27, 2010

It's been busy around here!

Well.. more busy than usual. *grin*

Brandon and I have always seemed to have a very fast paced life. So what we consider a "slow time" still receives comments from friends and family like "Don't you EVER slow down?" Oh and we got lots of "Number 2 will slow you down." And that was followed by "Number three will slow you down." Well.. now we are starting to get "Number 4 will slow you down." HA! I think each one adds a little bit more speed to our "busy." But we do slow down.. in our own way.

So let me catch you up.

1. I've been busy thinking about revamping our homeschool for the 2010-2011 school year. Our homeschool is an ever evolving process and I'm okay with that. After 20+ years of watching my mom change her thoughts and plans as a public school teacher, I see this as a normal and good thing and it doesn't freak me out. January starts what I call "Homeschool Season" with new catalogs arriving and conventions. I've been keeping a working document on my computer with my thoughts and what I'm looking for for each subject so that will help me decide. This next year will add the challenge of adding another "little" as I teach Lainey who will be in 2nd grade this coming fall. 3 littles, 1 student and 1 teacher/mom. Some days it feels frazzled but Lainey gave me the best compliment that I could ever receive as a homeschool mom. We were at a restaurant and someone asked her what grade she is in. She said 1st. Next they asked about her teacher.. do you like your teacher? She said "Oh she's great.. and she's my mom. We homeschool." This big blob of hormones had to fight back tears.

Sooo.. we are keeping Math-U-See. As a visual learner this is a definitely a plus in my book (and Lainey's.) She loves the video lesson that she watches once a week and loves playing with (ahem.. manipulating) the blocks as she does the work each day. Thumbs up!

For science and history/social studies we'll be using a unit study approach by Christian Cottage. Unit studies will be new for us but I love the way the curriculum is laid out and compared to other unit studies, this is a steal of a bargain!

Bible, phonics, reading and grammar are still up for discussion although the field is narrowing quickly. I'm also looking at more "fun" elective type things for Lainey to explore this coming school year. One of the huge advantages of homeschooling is that you can really tailor your child's learning to the way that they learn best and what they are passionate about or interested in. The flip side of that, is that the choices are numerous so you really have to pick and choose what works best for your family.

2. We are going to a convention! HEAV has their convention in Richmond in June.. but it is pushing it due date/delivery wise, especially if I follow my past pattern. I've not seen a due date yet without holding a baby in my arms (for successful pregnancies.) Walking a convention either hugely pregnant or newly delivered is not my idea of fun. So we branched out. We'll be attending the Midwest Homeschool Convention in April! It's in Cincinnati, Ohio which is exciting for Brandon and I since we've never been. Brandon actually has never been to a homeschooling convention and I only attended one day of the HEAV convention last year.

3. We are taking a detour to the Creation Museum the day before the convention starts. Brandon and I have wanted to go for quite some time and we are finally going to be near enough for a little detour. I can't wait to report back!

4. There is a tiny rumor that we are expecting snow on Friday and Saturday. Saturday is my new shopping day after being moved for Brandon's schedule. Normally that would not worry me but since we've been doing the Pantry Challenge, things were looking pretty bare. So we went shopping to replenish things.

5. Xander is highly mobile! We've had to put the Bee House on lockdown with babygates. Not only is now a speed crawler he is also pulling up on things and taking steps to reach for things. He also has a new found love for touching things that are not his. He is by far my youngest mobile child in the history of Bee children at 9 months old. For example: Lainey was barely pulling up and walking holding onto both of my hands at 13 months. We have a record breaker on our hands folks!

6. Lainey's 7th birthday is coming up and we've been busy preparing for that celebration. Since moving so far from family, we've greatly toned down birthdays. But they are still fun and she'll still feel special on her special day. I'm trying not to think about how much my first baby has grown and blossomed because I do not want to get mushy. I'm usually fighting back tears around 4:48pm on her birthday which is when my first princess made her appearance now almost 7 (goodness is that really right?) years ago.

7. I'm 19 weeks today! Given my above mentioned history of delivering early, I'm over halfway through this pregnancy! It seems to be flying by! Maybe the distraction of my three little blessings are helping that right along. I'm still feeling good. I do have some back pain but after three surgeries on it, I think I'm holding up okay. I'm still losing weight and don't have much appetite. My love for chicken has returned.. so that is nice! Every now and then I do experience nausea but it's nothing my little friend Zofran can't handle. Sleeping isn't going so well lately but I'm just dealing with it at this point. I'm craving protein A LOT and carbs just aren't doing it for this former carb junkie. Brandon is a little concerned about my lack of appetite and he doesn't think I'm eating enough. We'll see. My next appointment is February 2nd and hopefully we will see a beautiful, healthy baby and know the sex. I can't wait to announce the name we've chosen! This was the easiest name decision we've had so far, although actually finding names is quite difficult for us.

8. Speaking of craving protein, Brandon and I realized that Q Barbeque is here in Richmond! Brandon has been watching TLC's BBQ Pitmasters and I put two and two together when we saw the logo after my dentist appointment. So we stumbled in yesterday. And guess who was standing behind the counter? Tuffy Stone himself. He is a very nice, friendly, humble gentleman and he chatted it up with Brandon. Brandon asked if he could take a picture with the pit and Tuffy said sure.. and even took pictures with us! It was BY FAR the best BBQ I've ever had... although that may get me disowned by some of the in laws since I married into BBQ Royalty. Oh well.. I'm honest.. right? Oh and this Georgia girl approves their sweet tea and banana pudding! (It's very hard to find good tea here and the pudding tastes just like mine.. so maybe I'm a touch biased?)

9. The Church hunt is back on. We actually have a few candidates on our list. They are a bit of a drive (25 miles) but we are thirsty and hungry and NEED a church home!

10. Taxes are prepared but not filed. We are waiting on Xander's birthcertificate to arrive and then we can apply for a social security card. I'm SO excited and can't wait to call Dave Ramsey with our debt free scream! It's coming soon folks!

PS: I finally figured out how to hyperlink! Thanks Google!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Book Review: Sidetracked Home Executives by Pam Young and Peggy Jones

I'm always looking for "systems" to help our household run more smoothly. I currently have a system that has been tweaked and updated many times over the years. Several fellow mommies, recommended this book and loved the system it described so I was eager to hear what it was all about.

I checked it out of the local library and started reading it during naptime one day.

The basis of their system is a box of 3 x 5 index cards. At first, this sounded appealing to me. I love index cards! The index cards are different colors based on the frequency that the task needs to be completed. Tasks that need completed more often appear in the box more often.

The stories that they share of their previous times as Slob Sisters were humorous. Most of the book was an easy read although the set up directions were a bit confusing. I read all the way through the first time and then went back and read the set up chapters a few times.

Before jumping in and started yet another system that would never get used, I sat down and thought it out.

I finally decided that this will not work for my family! First... we don't do well with little pieces of anything! I'd have to add a task to my day called "card control." Second, my life at this time doesn't really work this way. I like my way much better!

I can see this working for people that are childless or with older children. Or perhaps people that have a tiny touch of OCD.

I plan to share my current system soon! It's much more "planner-ish" or "daytimer" than a thousand index cards. *giggle*

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Story of Provision: Xander's Adoption

Stories of provision have always amazed me. I get goosebumps and can't help but announce "Praise God" when I read them, hear them or tell them. Brandon and I often lay in bed, or sit over a meal and reminisce over how abundantly we've been provided for in different circumstances... usually right in the nick of time.

When most people find out that we have adopted, funding an adoption usually is where the conversation goes next. I love encouraging people that God does indeed provide for His orphans!

Brandon's company added an adoption benefit and we found out on Christmas Day 2008. Since he was taken off of one distribution list and not put on the new distribution list when changing offices, he hadn't gotten the email from Human Resources describing the new benefit. Instead, we found out from one of his coworkers. We had invited K and Q over for Christmas Dinner. They also transferred into Richmond and couldn't go home for the holiday. So we figured the more the merrier and invited them.

K and Q live in the same apartment complex but their place has a different layout, so they asked for the grand tour. When we got to the third (smallest) bedroom, I casually said that it was the junk room and would eventually be another child's bedroom because we wanted to adopt. K's eyes got really big and she asked Brandon if he got the memo that their company had added an adoption benefit. He said no. She couldn't remember the details so Brandon looked up the new benefit after K and Q went home. I remember sitting on the couch bawling like a baby... his company had added a $5,000 adoption reimbursement. $5,000 is ALOT of money!

Before we transferred, we had inquired with several agencies and social workers and never seemed to get anywhere. Brandon and I prayed after hearing the news of the new benefit and decided that we were to call and get information. We were ready to start our homestudy.

We had nothing saved specifically for an adoption. I mean... not a dime. I remember praying before making my phone calls to several agencies. A homestudy alone was $1800 in our area. I blinked and gulped hard.. and made an appointment for our first visit. $600 would need to be paid at that time.

Brandon and I looked over our budget spreadsheets and "found" enough money for that first appointment by cutting back some discretionary spending and putting off some planned purchases.

We paid that first $600 and went to our first appointment. We went over the various types of adoption... and their related expenses. We made our next appointment in faith that we would have the next $600 in time. We had some paperwork/document things to take care of and each one had a fee. We always managed to have JUST ENOUGH to pay those fees. Fingerprinting, background checks, etc were all paid in cash.

Again we had the money for our next appointment. Brandon received three paychecks in January 2009 and we had enough for the remaining $1200 balance, by scrimping on groceries, watching our gas usage, etc.

So our homestudy was paid for. And I breathed a huge sigh of relief.

We started a savings account and regularly put little bits of money in there. It wasn't a lot. I stayed up many nights looking at the numbers, looking over the budget spreadsheets, etc. I'm sad to share that many times, I thought we had just spent $1800 on our homestudy for NOTHING. Doubt definitely crept in and made itself at home.

March 24th our adoption homestudy was approved and it was in my hot little hands. I remember checking the balance on our savings account and it was only a little over $1000. Not nearly enough to adopt. I prayed for God to make a way. We had stepped out in faith... we heard the call of the orphan... I remember begging God 'Please please, show us how to pay for this!"

To be perfectly honest, several of our relatives thought we were a bit insane. "You paid $1800 for a homestudy and you don't even have the money for the actual adoption? What are you thinking? You should have waited until you had it all in an account!" But Brandon and I had felt this sudden sense of urgency.. we needed to do it right then!

Shortly after we were approved, I got a call from our homestudy worker. She called to tell us that she had received an email from an adoption coordinator that worked for another agency. The other agency was networking to find potential adoptive parents for an African American baby girl due in May. The birthmother wanted the child to have at least one sister and she thought of us since we had two daughters. She didn't have any other information and gave us the number to the agency.

We called and found out that that agency had a sliding scale for their adoption fees! We also found out that based on our household income from the previous year our placement fee would be $5,000! (Yes, the exact amount that Brandon's company would reimburse us!)

We had our homestudy sent to the agency and started preparing our profile. They were going to show it on April 20th at a meeting with the birthmother that was due in May.

We continued to save.. but we were nowhere near $5000!

April 13th, I got a call asking if we were interested in a biracial baby boy.. Brandon and I prayed and said yes... Now remember we were NOWHERE near $5000! The adoption coordinator told us to bring our adoption profile by the next morning and we'd be in the stack for the birthmother to look over.

I got a huge knot in my stomach... We didn't have the cash! What if we were picked? How on earth was this going to work?

I woke up in the middle of the night, that very night.. and realized that we had just filed our income taxes! It wasn't $5000 though. I ran downstairs and added up the amount we had in savings, and the amount of our tax refund and it was $5120. It was the perfect amount! $5000 for the placement and we still needed an infant carseat.

Brandon called the adoption coordinator and explained that we were waiting on our tax refund to complete our adoption fund... she said that she could work with us and not to worry.

We were picked by Xander's birthmother on April 14th, and met our first son on April 15th.

Guess when the check came? April 25th.. Xander came home on April 27th.

PRAISE GOD! (Told you I couldn't hear, read or tell a story of provision without shouting that!)

God didn't stop there! We had to pay a lawyer to finalize our adoption after our 6 month placement and post placement visits. We were given the name of a lawyer from a friend and when we called we found out that their charge was $1000. Brandon and I prayed to see if this was the lawyer we would retain.

A few days later, I casually mentioned to our adoption coordinator that we were calling various lawyers to find out what their fees were. She gave me the name and number of a lawyer she has worked with a few times. We called and their estimate was much lower. It was approximately $650. Before we even asked about payments, we were told that they understood that we had just paid for an adoption and they would take payments. Brandon explained that we were going to be getting $5000 reimbursed after we had the paperwork showing that we had finalized our adoption. They let us know it was okay to pay them afterwards.

I sent that check this last Friday. Everything is paid in full.


When people ask about funding an adoption, I always tell them that God will abundantly bless their efforts! I have several friends that have adopted and I'm ALWAYS in awe when they share their stories of provision for their new additions.

My tooth is FINALLY fixed!

Last week I posted that I had chipped a molar and my husband called to get me an appointment. Well... I missed that appointment due to an alarm clock user malfunction.

So we rescheduled. I went to that appointment and was treated VERY rudely and told that they couldn't fix my tooth without xrays. (This was after a visual exam.) I refused xrays since I'm pregnant. They continued to make up excuses... like how they couldn't numb me until I was in my 2nd trimester. At last count.. 16 weeks IS in the 2nd trimester. *sigh*

So I ended up leaving the appointment and giving Brandon a call home to let him know that nothing was done. He was annoyed and called around to find me a new dentist.

It ended up that he found our old dentist! The one that we loved, that left soon after our first appointments with him and opened his own practice. Brandon explained in great detail what happened, what the last dentist said (no decay, I didn't lose a filling, etc) and let them know that I was in no pain but that it was hurting my tongue because it was very sharp.

I went to that appointment today and had the BEST dental appointment. I explained to the dentist what happened, he looked and then told me he could smooth it or fill it. He said he recommended a little filling because smoothing would take off more tooth. He also said he doubted I need any pain medication because he had pushed on it very hard and I didn't even flinch. Within 15 minutes, it was fixed. He asked me to feel the filling and see if it agreed with my tongue.. and it did. It was perfect.

On the way out Brandon made a dental appointment for some work that he needed to have done. Dr. Hawkins earned himself the entire family for just being HONEST and not trying to milk our insurance for new xrays!

The girls really liked the office and Dr. Hawkins said he looks forward to doing their check ups when they are due again.

Good medical professionals are worth their weight in gold...

Monday, January 18, 2010

Vivid Dreams: The Orphan Books

I rarely have vivid dreams that I remember... I usually can only remember bits and pieces of a dream about once a week. Usually, it feels very jumbled and confusing since I can't remember the entire dream and make sense of it.

But last nights dream was very different. The last few weeks I've had very vivid dreams.

Last night I went to bed and my spirit just was not settled. I tossed and turned, watched a few shows on On Demand, prayed, got up and walked my usual routine (kids, doors, locks, stove), etc etc. Nothing seemed to settle my spirit.

The last time I looked at the clock it was 6:00 AM. I remember dozing off but not being in a good, deep sleep. I was still very aware of the whirring of my fan.

In my dream, Brandon and I walked up a long flight of stairs into a large building. The door had a metal sign that said "Orphans." We looked at each other, took a deep breath, and walked in the building holding hands.

When we entered it smelled musty... like an old library. It was very quiet and I whispered to Brandon and asked where we should start. He found a seat after taking down a large, heavy book that was leather bound. The pages were tattered when he opened the cover.

In the book, there were pictures of orphans from all over the world. All races were represented and the children were from 0-17. Underneath each picture their country of origin was listed. I discovered every book was like that after I pulled several books down that caught my eye.
We sat there for hours and poured over the books.. flipping pages, crying and smiling at the sweet smiles looking back at us. It was hard for me to look in the children's eyes. So many had eyes filled with sadness, hurt and fear even if they had a smile on their face.

Then an elderly lady with a tight, silver bun came over and told us that we had to pick and that our time was almost up. Brandon and I held our breath and looked up at her and I asked between sobs.. "How do you pick? How do you decide one is more 'worthy' than another? They are all children!" She looked over her reading glasses at me, shrugged and then walked away.

She was pushing a cart with a stack of books on it. The cart had a label that said "Too Late." I can only assume that the children in the books stacked on the cart had "aged out" and were no longer eligible for adoption.

I heard a bell start to chime and Brandon and I were frantically flipping through the pages... We just couldn't choose!

And then I woke up--with a tear stained face and pillow. I've felt odd all morning... and I can't figure out what my dream was supposed to mean. I do know that dream shook me to my core.. and I'm sure I'll never forget it.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Allergic Reaction times Two...

Tuesday when I went to the OB I showed him a hard knot in my under arm. Lumps, knots and cysts all frighten the bejeebers out of me and that fear only got worse when my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer my junior year of high school. I had showed him the month before and he thought it was nothing.

This time Dr. S thought it was an infection because it was red and painful. I reminded him I was allergic to Penicillin and he sighed and asked about Keflex. I've taken it in the past with no issues even though about 15% of people that are allergic to Penicillin are also allergic to Keflex. He wrote me a prescription, gave me a referral to another doc in case it actually needs drained and sent me on my merry little way.

Key word from the above paragraph: PAST.

We filled the prescription and I took my first dose. No biggie. Wednesday I took three doses (one pill three times a day.) Thursday I took three doses again and a few hours after that last dose, I told Brandon I was very itchy and going to take a bath and go to bed. Brandon was headed up behind me and by the time he walked in the bathroom I was scratching like I'd be overtaken by a swarm of fire ants. Brandon said I had large red whelps all over me. I sent him downstairs to get the children's Benadryl since I knew I didn't have the adult variety in the house. I took the recommended adult dosage and got in a cool bath. Shortly after I got out of bath, the itching was gone and I was then Benadryl drunk and was fast asleep.

Friday we called my doctor and let him know that I showed an allergy to Keflex and he called me in another prescription. This time he prescribed a Z pack.

Again, I've showed no issues with taking Zpacks in the past. (Are you seeing a theme here?) Took my first dose of two pills the first night. I thought I felt a little itchy but I also thought I could be imagining things after my experience the night before.

Saturday I took my one pill with dinner and about 4 hours later, my legs felt like they were on fire and I was again itching to death. I had large red whelps on the back of my legs. Again, I took the adult dose of children's Benadryl and took a cool bath. Again I was Benadryl drunk and fast asleep....

So... right now I'm not on any antibiotics and I'll be calling the doctors office again, in the morning so he can decide what to do with me.

I'm a bit concerned that I'm now showing allergies to a major family of antibiotics and TWO frequently used alternatives. Have I mentioned I have no spleen so I NEED to be able to take antibiotics when they are necessary?

Oh and as a side note... my oldest daughter shows an adverse reaction to Benadryl and is allergic to peanuts and rocephin(also an antibiotic.) Brandon is allergic to the entire penicillin and sulfa drug families. Julianne and Xander have no known drug allergies at this time. I need a notebook to keep all this straight!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Neon Sign Kinda Girl...

I've ALWAYS been what I call a "Neon Sign kinda girl." I bet you are wondering what exactly that means... Stay with me while I attempt to explain.

Have you ever been in a situation where there is a fork in a road? And you aren't sure which way to go? You pray, you ask other people's advice.. perhaps you even fast. But the way you are supposed to go isn't clearly lit? It's not marked. One path doesn't look particularly more rough or rugged... so you can't use the process of elimination.

That is me... Over the years this has happened several times. And honestly, I have to pray for God to not only give me a sign... but to give me a neon sign. I like to think He giggles over His children.. like I giggle behind cupboard doors at my own children. Perhaps He says something like "Yup.. that is my child.. my neon sign child..." Maybe He sighs... or shakes His head. I do that with my own children, afterall.

We've been given some neon signs in the past. For example, Brandon prayed over leaving a previous company and going to another company. It involved a pay cut and we weren't really sure. Both options had their own positives.. and then suddenly he was let go from his old company. And almost immediately he got a interview with the company he was considering. He's worked for them for a few years now. I got my neon sign.

I'm at a place now that I need a sign... not a little sign... or a temporary sign... I need a neon sign.

(Sorry to be vague... I just can't say too much right now.)

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Remember that FSA card?

That I just talked about in my last post about my quirks? Well, I get to use it later today. I have an appointment at 9 am at the dentist because I broke/chipped a molar tonight. When I figured out it broke, I looked at the clock and it was exactly at 5pm on a Friday-- just my luck! I'm not thrilled. I had my teeth cleaned a few weeks ago and the hygienist nearly drowned me and I hurt for days. I've never had that hygienist and I've never had my teeth hurt like that.

Pray for me.. My anxiety is HORRIBLE at the dentist. But at least I'm not juggling the budget tonight to find the money to pay for it. (I still don't even know how much it is going to cost!)

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Other Quirks...

I mentioned in my last post that I've picked up quite a few quirks over the years.. *giggle* if you only REALLY knew! So Brandon has challenged me to share some more with you. Too bad I'm not embarrassed because the sum of all the quirks equals saving a lot of money.

Years ago when we decided I would stay home with Lainey, we started a saying that Brandon's job was to make the money and my job was to stretch it. It's amazing how a little work and planning can pay off big. I'm now home with three kiddos and we've paid for an adoption all on a single modest salary.

1. - We REALLY like to eat out. It makes us feel good to eat out every now and then and not have to cook or do dishes. So.... rather than pay full retail price for eating out, we hop on buy a gift certificate for a few bucks and then take our gift certificate to the restaurant with our cash envelope. It stretches it. The best part is that if you are on their email list, they frequently discount their own already lower gift certificate prices. I'm a fan of 60% off or more! The gift certificates aren't for huge chains like Red Lobster, but we both have a soft spot in our hearts for Mom and Pop kind of restaurants (or independently owned and run) and have found some really good favorites this way. Also we can use this when we are traveling out of town. We do have a few exceptions to this. (Cracker Barrel is one.. it's comfort food when I'm homesick and I crave it! Especially when I'm pregnant!)

Warning: check out the part of town the restaurant is in first. We ended up in a sketchy part of town one time because we were still learning our way around Richmond. We didn't realize that *that* end of *that* road turned sketchy quickly. Live and learn right?

2. We buy generic - A lot of things that we buy are generic. There are a few things that we only buy name brand but the numbers have drastically decreased over the years. Most of what I buy is going in a recipe anyway so it really doesn't matter. But I carefully look at prices when I shop. Every now and then, a brand name is less than a generic. It blows my mind but I happily scoop up the brand name.

3. Use cloth - We use cloth napkins, dishcloths and burp cloths. The kids regularly use washcloths for napkins (huge pack for $2) that are bright, fun colors. I do have a nice set of white cloth napkins that we use as well. Our dishcloths are flour sack towels from a large warehouse store and I've used them for years and they are still going strong. For burp cloths/spit ups/messy baby food mouth, we use plain ol' Gerber cloth diapers. Baby wipes are for changing heiny's. Paper towels are for oil spills or cat puke. Most of the paper napkins we have around here are from certain restaurants providing too many. (We save those too!) I do have a small package of paper napkins for really messy things like ribs. I haven't successfully ventured into cloth diapers.... yet. Stay tuned!

4. Refuse to pay retail- I just flat out refuse to pay retail price and most of the time I succeed. I think it is hilarious that the girls (6 and 3) have already picked up on this. They often play "bookstore" and when the cashier tells the buyer the price, the buyer exclaims "Oh I can do better than that!" and puts the book back. Hilarious.. but oh so very darn true. Brandon teases that I can smell a sale... armed with cash and a budget, I stretch, scrape and make my pennies squeal! Coupons, extra percentages off, clearance, goodwill, consignment, etc are ALL my friend. I don't coupon for food anymore... because we use generic so much and well.. there is a slight time crunch around my place. *grin* But for clothing, books, oil changes, gifts, etc...the goal is less than retail. I've gotten a little pickier now that we live in a larger area with more competition. Last time I went to the children's consignment store I only bought things that were an additional 50%. Brandon laughed and rolled his eyes.. but he didn't complain at all! And likewise, he called when he was at the pharmacy and there was a swarm around the diaper section. They had just clearanced discontinued packaging for diapers and he wanted to see what size we needed. He bought around 10 packages of diapers for $30... I'm rubbing off on him!

5. Clothing - I buy children's clothing that is classic and not trendy. No glittery shirts or words on my girls' bottoms. Well made clothing and brands that last are at the top of my list. Since the girls are 3 years apart, I can pass down from one to another. I only keep the outfits that are in great shape when Lainey is done with them. When Julianne is done, they go to consignment. The money I get back from consigning their clothing goes back into the clothing envelope. Right now consigning is on a brief hold for most items because we are waiting to see the sex of the upcoming #4. Xander's clothes are also on hold for the same reason. Often I can buy clothes at consignment, let both girls wear them, and still consign them at the end. Anything that doesn't get bought at consignment goes to the Goodwill. They are all still perfectly usable clothes.

6. Flexible spending - We LOVE this option from Brandon's employer. We pick yearly amount and they divide it over all of Brandon's checks for the year and take it out pre-tax. Then they give us a pre-loaded debit card specifically for health care co-pays and purchases. We can use the entire amount the first day of the benefit year although we've never needed to. It comes in handy with three kiddos... Lainey's AFO braces for her legs was paid in full the day we started and we didn't have to dip into the emergency fund or find it in our monthly budget. (They were several hundred dollars after insurance.. I'm in the wrong business!) Same for her serial casting this past summer. We paid for it all up front. Julianne's emergency room trip, paid in full without tapping our emergency fund. Cold medicine, teething gel, headache medications, prescription drugs... they never touch my monthly budget because they are already budgeted for. Same with dental bills, etc. The one "catch" if you will is that if you don't use it during your benefit year, you lose it. We've never had a problem since the tiny amount we have left at the end of the year can be used for glasses, over the counter medications, etc. We just stock up. Oh and you can still use coupons too!

7. Prescription Drug Coupons - For a while we had several prescriptions to fill each month. We had our lovely flexible spending card... but we soon discovered that pharmacies are constantly at war with each other for new prescriptions and refills. We started seeing coupons that said "$25 giftcard when you get a new prescription filled here" or "$25 giftcard for transferring your refill here!" REALLY!? For just choosing their pharmacy they will pay me $25? So we did it. We figured there was a catch, but there was none. We got our giftcard, and bought other things we needed. Yeah things are higher at the pharmacy (unless on sale!) but it was essentially FREE money! Many of our co-pays were $15 or less. Then we started watching sales flyers, and the other coupons that drug stores put out and stretched the free $25. It was amazing and really helped out! It's most common to find these coupons when a new pharmacy opens. Or if the pharmacies are battling it out. I have seen them at Kroger and even Publix (for those of you in the south.. I'm JEALOUS!) Who can't use free groceries? Target also does $10 coupons.. they are in their Sunday ads. I clip these even if we don't need them. You never know when you might need a prescription. If they expire, they expire. But it's better than me kicking myself later. Also some pharmacies advertise that they take competitor coupons. These types of coupons are included in that!

WARNING: if you are on several medications be sure to let your pharmacist know all of the medications that you are on, even if they are filled at other pharmacies. This allows them to cross check them and make sure there won't be any reactions, etc.

8. Cheap Prescriptions- When a child comes down sick and goes to the doctors office, I carry a few extra things with me. I carry two lists: Target's discount drug list and Walmart's discount drug list (I used to also carry the Publix list.. but alas.. no Publix here!) If it they need a prescription, I ask the doctor if any of the drugs on those lists will work. $4 is cheaper than my best copay. It is a little harder for Brandon and I to find drugs we can use on those lists because we both are allergic to Penicillin and Brandon is also allergic to sulfa drugs. Then I use my flexible spending card for the cost of the prescription.

9. Zenni Optical- is a website that I've heard nothing but RAVE reviews about for their cheap but well made glasses. (Folks you can get glasses for $15!) We haven't ventured here (we need eye appointments) but last time we purchased our glasses (Brandon and I both wear glasses) it was almost $500! Seriously! Once we have our prescriptions and use Zenni I'll be sure to do a full review.

That is all for now... I'm off to check in on Lainey's homeschooling work and feed Xander. The natives are restless!


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Cheap or Frugal... I don't care what you call it!

Over the years of penny pinching and stretching, I've picked up some interesting habits. I don't even realize that I'm doing it half the time unless someone mentions it.
For example, today I was making Shake and Bake porkchops. I realize that they weren't scheduled for today but I'll address that in a minute. First, I buy the Great Value brand Shake and Bake. I honestly can't tell the difference! Second, they give you two large packets of Shake and Bake and then two plastic baggies.

Oh no no no! Not in the Bee house! First, I do use one of their bags. But do I mindlessly dump the entire packet of Shake and Bake in the bag? HECK NO! I pour a little in, and start coating my porkchops. I keep going until I see I'm running low and pour some more in the bag. When I'm done (and I've always been done before the crumbs are) I still have some crumbs in their original packet, not contaminated with raw meat juices. So what's a girl to do with that? I put them in a ziploc bag and put the ziploc bag back into the box. I always get at least 4 uses out of a "2 packet" box.

Sorry... Mr. Shake and Bake guy, I'm not going to dump it all in my bag, shake it around and then throw crumbs out. We try not to waste in this house!

On another note, we are off of our menu schedule and that is fine. Really, it is. I bought enough groceries for that menu but if we don't use it all I'll have some ingredients to roll over to next week. That is part of why my grocery spending is as low as it was. I shop my own pantry first and then write my list based on what I need to finish the meal.

I've been very mindful to use up all of our leftovers. We haven't thrown one ounce of leftovers out. All of the Pasta Fagioli was eaten. I do have about a half a sandwich worth of tuna salad, a handful of meatballs, a quart of vegetable and stew meat soup, black eyed peas and rice. So tonights menu has been altered. Instead of scallopped potatoes and green beans, we'll be having black eyed peas, rice and green beans.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


Sorry I've been gone the last few days. All is well and I didn't mean to worry anyone. ;)

Brandon came home from lunch one day this past work week and asked if I minded if he changed shifts. He was asked to take over supervising a team to help them meet company goals and standards. This changes his hours and the days he'll be working so I needed to go back to the drawing board and think through the changes. His new schedule starts this coming Sunday... We are both equally excited that this door has opened for Brandon and this could mean AMAZING things for his career.

In addition to that, Brandon and I have hit the spreadsheets hard to project out when we will be done paying our remaining debt! It seems overwhelming to see the number... but we know that it is just going to take hardwork, determination and self discipline to finish what we've started.

We also have filled out the paperwork for Xander's adoption reimbursement through Brandon's employer. I'm praying it is processed correctly on the first try and it comes quickly.

Still no word on the child support front...

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Contentment... The Biggest Lesson of Our Move

And the biggest struggle of my life. For far too long, it's been engrained in me to keep striving, changing, to push through my circumstances for the next thing.

Moving here has highlighted my lifelong struggle with contentment. When we first moved here, I prayed for God to show us a clear reason for our move here. And then we started the adoption process and were matched with Xander. He was born 12 miles from our rental. DING! DING!DING! I thought.. we have our reason.

And then we did our six months of placement, our three post-placement visits with our adoption worker and his adoption was finalized on December 22.

And after thanking God for all He did in that whole process... my next thought was "So.. um.. what is next?"

I was impatiently waiting for Brandon to get a promotion, get the raise that goes along with it and move on to the next thing. Whether that means to move back to Augusta or move to another location, I'm ready... and impatient. And it stinks.

I was SO discontent, that I searched his company's job posting website on a regular basis. I googled the towns that have the same kind of offices, looked up the states homeschool laws, looked at real estate and churches and the general cost of living. I walked around our apartment and thought about "When we pack this next..." or "Maybe we won't take that next time."

I found myself going over my moving checklist I made myself last time and editing it. Since I had one long distance move under my belt, I knew better what to expect for the next time, right? I found myself looking at our savings and longing for it to reach an amount that we could move even if Brandon isn't offered help with relocation expenses.

I got antsy... and one morning, during my quiet time, when I actually prayed for "our next move in Your perfect timing" I suddenly felt convicted. I mean... I trusted God for our move here right? Yes, I did. And I trusted that He knew best when He moved us here, right? Yes, I did. So do I trust Him to leave me here until He sees fit for us to move? Do I really trust His perfect timing?

I started to stutter and stammer and got sweaty hands trying to "reason" out a correct answer. You know how that is, right? You know the answer deep in your heart but you try to find another one that is the "right" answer. The pretty answer... wrapped in a nice bow. Oh the pridefulness...

And that is when I really started looking at what it really means to be content. I wasn't quite sure what it was, I just knew that I wasn't.

I haven't been checking the company's job postings. I haven't even looked at real estate. I've been here... in the now. And focusing on what my life is right now. Right now, I live in Richmond, Virginia. Right now, I have a 6, 3, and 8 month old. Right now, I am a stay at home, homeschooling mama. Right now, my husband is in the position he is in and doing a mighty fine job at it, if I may say so myself. Right now... this is where I am. And one day, when and if God sees fit, things will change. But for now... I am right here and each day I have to actively choose to be content.

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Years 2010...

Even though we are in Virginia now, we still keep our Southern traditions. I tell myself often that "Southern is a mindset.. not a location." It works when I'm SO darn homesick.

So today, we are making collards with sausage, black eyed peas, rice and fried corn bread. I thought I'd give you a peek into the Bee kitchen. LOL

First, our collards and sausage. Now good collards must have a frost to taste yummy and in Georgia this means that you have to make an icewater bath for the greens before you can tear the collards. However, in Virginia, you don't need to do an icewater bath because we get our first good frost WELL before the greens come in. This is my 18 quart roaster with some water in it, chopped up sausage and torn collards. (We NEVER CUT collards!)

Next up, the black eyed peas with a hambone in there for flavoring.

The brown "blobs" at the bottom of the picture is the hambone. The peas are cooking in the crockpot.. my precious crockpot with my melted handle. (That is a story for yet another day!)

Closer to dinner, we will be frying corn bread. YUM! How was your New Years? What are your traditions?