Monthly Archives: August 2012

AW Tozer

I came across a book of AW Tozer writings the other day.  I had forgotten how much I like his writing.  Here’s something that impacted me when I had a few moments to sit and read:

O God, I have tasted your goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more.  I am painfully conscious of my need of further grace.  I am ashamed of my lack of desire.  O God, Triune God, I want to want You; I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made more thirsty still.  Show me Your glory, I pray, that so I may know You indeed.  Begin in mercy a new work of love within me.  Say to my soul, “Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.”  Then give me grace to rise and follow you up from this misty lowland where I have wandered so long.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

A.W. Tozer

It’s All Good Under The Hood

We have been so thankful for all of our supportive friends and family the past two weeks as we waited for Evan’s cardiological appointment to arrive and be over.  I can honestly say that besides the day we learned that we had to see a cardiologist, we have had the most amazing peace, truly supernatural peace, about this situation.  We believed that everything would be okay and, praise God, everything is! 

Ryan, Evan, and I met with the pediatric cardiologist this past Thursday to determine whether Evan’s heart and arteries were okay and whether they were part of his swallowing and eating difficulties.  I know, I know, doesn’t it seem odd that a cardiologist would be involved in this situation?  Let me explain. 

When Evan had the upper GI study done, they found an obstruction or indentation of his esophagus.  Because this is usually caused by arteries near the esophagus, we were referred to see a cardiologist.  We learned that Evan could have a “congenital vascular anomaly of the aortic arch”.  Basically one of his arteries could arch in such a way that it could compress or partially obstruct the esophagus.  And to make matters worse, if another artery did something unusual, it could cause a “vascular ring” around the esophagus, requiring surgery.  Who knew?  Honestly, the more I learn about the intricacies of the human body, the more I’m amazed that most of our bodies develop and function so perfectly! 


Arteries around the esophagus, shows how easily
they could form a ring and compress the
esophagus, image from radiologyassistant.nl

We met with the pediatric cardiologist before Evan’s echocardiogram.  He explained that Evan could have the anomaly, that was considered “normal” and wouldn’t impact his functioning or he could have the anomaly and in combination with other factors, could require medical intervention.  Our pediatric cardiologist was really informative and GREAT with Evan.  He even let Evan spin him around on his doctor stool!  The echocardiogram itself took about a half an hour.  It’s basically an ultrasound—gel and all.  They focused half the time on getting images from Evan’s throat area and the other half were spent getting images of his heart.  I felt like I was pregnant all over again, trying to interpret the blobs on the ultrasound screen myself…wondering if what I was seeing was good or if it indicated something wrong. 

The doctor met with us shortly after the echocardiogram and reported that it had been “inconclusive.”  Ryan started laughing because Evan’s body never seems to make it easy on us to get a quick answer!  The doctor recommended a CAT scan to give us a definitive answer about Evan’s arteries and esophagus.  Luckily, they were able to fit us in immediately!  They forgot to mention to us that Evan’s CAT scan would be one “with contrast” meaning that he’d have to have an IV to get the contrast into his system.  The nurses and technicians were great with Evan, letting him push all sorts of buttons on the CAT scan machine!  And they felt horrible when they had to poke both of Evan’s arms to get his IV in. 
How did our little boy do?  He was amazing!  Sure he cried when they were putting his IV in (and mom teared up a bit too—after all he’s been though, I don’t know why this type of stuff still gets to me), but a few minutes later, that was forgotten and he was enjoying his “ride” on the CAT scan bed.  They put a Superman sticker up on the machine and Evan thought Superman was speaking to him each time the machine gave instructions to him.  This made Evan enamored with the Superman sticker (which he got to take home and insisted that it continue to talk to him–I tried my best to talk in a masculine, super-hero-type voice.  For the most part, I think he didn’t know it was me).  At the end of the CAT scan, Evan wanted to “do it again”! 
Evan walked out of there decorated in Toy Story band-aids and a smile on his face.  And his parents were smiling when an hour later the cardiologist called and told us that while Evan did have the anomaly, it was not part of a vascular ring, and it wasn’t impacting his esophagus, so we didn’t need to see him again!
We are so thankful that a cardiologist does not need to be added to Evan’s list of specialists!  Thanks again for all who prayed and gave emotional support!

 

 

Tin Foil Pork Chops–Super Simple but Yummy!

Thought I’d share another recipe.   This one is for those of you out there who don’t like cooking or like to cook but keep it simple.  This was very simple and due to how it’s made, there really isn’t a lot of clean up either!

When I first read through this recipe, I thought it sounded perfect for our family.  Why?  Because Ryan LOVES pork chops and I struggle to make them well, but this recipe sounded simple yet great.  I truly didn’t know if I could mess up this recipe, so why not give it a try.  I found the recipe on a friend’s Facebook page.  One of her friend’s had posted it during a discussion about favorite recipes.  Let’s give credit where credit is due, thanks Tiffany and Tiffany friend: Darcy Davis Ayen!!!!

I know I should take a photo of the foods I put on the blog, but I just don’t think about it, until after we’ve eaten it all up.  An empty, messed up plate doesn’t have the desired effect.

Added a photo on 9/5/12, we liked it so much we made it another time. Added zucchini and it was YUMMY!

Tin Foil Pork Chops

What’s Needed:

1 to 1 1/2 porkchops per person you’re feeding
1/2 a potato to 1 potato per person you’re feeding–peeled and sliced
1 onion, sliced
1 pepper, sliced (we used a red pepper, but you could use green or yellow/orange too)
*or other veggies if you’re feeling creative

A cookie sheet
Tin Foil
Seasonings–whatever you usually use with porkchops or try something new (I used Wildtree’s Chipotle Lime Rub, Salt, & Pepper)

Instructions:

1.) Preheat your oven at 375 or 400.  Put a large piece of tin foil on the cookie sheet.  You’ll either need to have enough tin foil attached to the foil on the cookie sheet to enclose the above mentioned food or rip off another portion that you can cover over the food.

2.) Place some of your seasoning (I put my salt and pepper) on the tin foil.  Then place the uncooked pork chops on the foil, season them to your tastes (this is where I used the Chipotle Lime Rub), then place your sliced potatoes on top of the chops, add some more seasoning (I overlooked this step and ours still were fine), then add the sliced onions and peppers on top of the potatoes.

3.) Seal the tin foil around all the ingredients, so there are no holes or cracks.  Cook in the oven for about an hour (depending on the size of the chops).  Then dish each person up a porkchop, some potatoes, and some veggies!  I guarantee they’ll come back for more!

Our house smelled so great while this was cooking and afterward all I had to do was walk the cookie sheet over to the trash and slide the foil (and drippings) into the trash.

Upper GI Scan Results

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully around with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”
– C.S. Lewis


Well, we got the results of Evan’s upper GI/barium scan today.  The results were similar to the results of the MRI done on Evan’s spine: a major curve ball thrown in.  Despite the scan being done with a focus on his GI issues, they had found a possible issue with a whole other part of the body.  I honestly wanted to throw the phone across the room, put my fingers in my ears and loudly say, “la, la, la, la, la” drowning out the doctor’s summary of the results and recommendations.  I wanted to run upstairs, hug my son and tickle him, and then wrap him up in bubble wrap (so he could still breathe and run around) and ignore the reality that there is now another system in the body that doctors need to look at.  I want to stick my head in the sand on this one.  I want to just love my son, cherish the daily moments with him, not pick him apart, system by system to see what they can find.  I know we need to follow the doctor’s recommendations and make sure that nothing’s wrong, but I am so tired of issue after issue, test after test. 

You see, this new concern involves Evan’s heart.  I’m hoping and praying that this is just doctors being conservative and that the echocardiogram will find NOTHING, but the other part of me is scared.  One thing I’ve been so thankful for with all of Evan’s other issues is that there were no brain, lungs, or heart issues.  Now they want to look at his heart.  What if they find something?  They’ve found other issues when doing these scans. 
Evan and Makenna are my heart.  Evan means so much to me and I want to protect him, help him not have to go through any more procedures or surgeries and yet, as his human, not-all-powerful mother, I can’t.  These moments today made me think about C.S. Lewis’ quote about loving others (see above)…how loving others, truly, deeply, freely, with abandon will cause pain.  Today my heart is definitely “wrung” again for my son.  Please pray that the doctor’s looking at Evan’s heart will find a perfectly GREAT heart.  We know without even looking at it, that it’s amazing.

P.S. They also found moderate acid reflux (which we already knew) and possibly a hernia.  Those issues seem like nothing though compared to the other recommendation. 

P.S.S. Evan currently weighs the most he’s ever weighed: 25 lbs. 8 ounces!  WHOHOO!

Yummy Mexican (Beef & Bean) Casserole

Here’s another Pinterest find…a great casserole recipe that doesn’t take much time to make.  I loved it, Ryan loved it, and it’s something that will still taste great as leftovers, so it will definitely be something I’ll be making again.  And this time I happened to already have all the ingredients in our fridge and pantry.  Nice!

Tangentially, lately I’ve been implementing a concept I saw on other blogs…making an intentional push towards eating up a lot of what in our pantry for a few weeks…There’s some stuff that’s stayed there for awhile (like some rice, quinoa, and some canned goods).  It’s helping us save money and encouraging me to get creative with what’s already in our kitchen.   I’ve done this before with our freezer because you forget what’s in there (I’m not organized enough to keep an inventory like some people are) but the pantry was a new twist.   And Ryan has loved this because he can’t eat enough rice!

And it cracks me up because Ryan has strong opinions about food, but the meals he’s enjoyed the most lately have been the ones that were super simple and easy to make.  Why slave away in the kitchen for hours when I can cook something brief and easy and he’s satisfied?

Beef & Bean Taco Casserole
From Recipe.com (via Pinterest)

1 lb. lean (at least 80%) ground beef
1 can (16 oz.) refried beans
1 jar (16oz.) Salsa
1 pkg (1 or 1.25oz) taco seasoning mix (preferably a 40% less sodium one)
2 ½ cups of coarsely broken tortilla chips
½ medium green pepper, chopped (approx. ¾ cup)
4 medium green onions, sliced (approx. 1/4 cup)
2 medium tomatoes, chopped (approx. 1 ½ cups)
1 cup shredded cheese (cheddar or Monterey Jack)
¼ cup sliced black olives
1 cup of shredded lettuce

Directions:
1.) Heat oven to 350. In a skillet, cook beef over medium-high heat for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thoroughly cooked, drain.
2.) Stir in refried beans, salsa, and taco seasoning mix. Reduce heat to medium. Heat to boiling, stirring occasionally.
3.) In an ungreased 2 quart casserole dish, place 2 cups of broken tortilla chips. Top evenly with beef mixture. Sprinkle with peppers, onions, 1 cup of tomato, the cheese, and olives.
4.) Bake uncovered 25-30 minutes or until hot, bubbly, and the cheese in melted. Top baked casserole with lettuce, remaining tomatoes, and remaining tortilla chips.

*I added extra lettuce to my dish and Ryan used tortillas with the casserole (like a burrito) when he had seconds.  I also put the cheese on just one half of the casserole so some of it was dairy-free.  So its something that can be easily made into a dairy-free dish if necessary.  There are tons of variations you could do with this!

Buckles & Bath-n-Body…

I stealthily crossed the street, dressed in all black and wearing face paint. I army crawl up the small hill and crouch by a tree. I peek around the tree and look at the front porch in question. Nothing. I tip toe closer and crouch by the bush framing the front porch. From there I survey the entire front porch and patio area of the townhouse. Nothing but a half-empty bag of mulch. Dang it! I stand up, dust myself off and walk back home. Mission aborted.

Okay, maybe I exaggerated the scene a little bit but checking out a townhouse’s front porch up the hill from us has become a regular thing. Anytime we have ordered something to be delivered and it doesn’t arrive on the appointed day or at the appointed time, we make sure it isn’t sitting on the townhouse’s front porch. Why? Well we have townhouses across the street from us and one of them has the exact same number on their residence as ours. Their actual street address comes from the street behind their home but not all delivery drivers know this. We’ve tried to meet the tenants of the townhouse multiple times to discuss our ongoing package issues, but despite the attempts, we’ve never seen hide or hair of them.

Ryan’s new shoes arrived there, a pizza delivery, and I swear that the Bath & Body order I never received was delivered to the townhouse. Bath and Body’s tracking information stated it was definitely delivered to our address but it never showed up at our house. They were nice and sent a duplicate order out to us with a note to the delivery driver that it should be delivered to a house, not a townhouse, and I received it. The most recent delivery in question was a bunch of plastic buckles for a Pinterest project I was working on. I was so excited to make a buckle toy for Evan because he LOVES buckles.

This particular project required a sewing machine so my mom had graciously agreed to bring hers to our house on her next trip out here. Since my mom and her sewing machine would be in town for two short weeks, I had been proactive and ordered the supplies early enough so that we’d have everything we needed to get the project done. Besides myself and my mom, a good friend had also agreed to jump into the buckle project. We set up a time to get together: a week after the buckles were to have arrived. Plenty of time to make sure we had everything we needed.

At two days late, I checked the tracking on Amazon. Nothing new. I checked into what they advised me doing if my package hadn’t arrived. They first recommended that I wait a few more days and said that most items come within one or two days of the estimated date. I told myself to be patient and waited a few more days, did more reconnaissance on the townhouse, and still nothing. Now I decided to get someone at Amazon on the phone. When I reached someone, he was not very helpful and told me to call the local post office. Nice. The post office told me to call Amazon back. The second Amazon rep was really nice and offered to refund my last buckle order, placed a new order for buckles for me, and guaranteed arrival by the next day just in time for our scheduled project night. This sounded AWESOME! Well, those didn’t arrive either. Luckily, we had a back-up plan (fool me once, shame on Amazon, fool me twice, shame on me!), but it was still disappointing. Amazon did do a great job addressing the second failed delivery by offering us a decent credit for our Amazon next purchase (which significantly offset the cost of the buckle toy supplies in my eyes) and the replacement buckles arrived two days after promised.

Could my original buckles be sitting somewhere in a mail warehouse, lost? Sure, but I prefer to picture some mysterious townhouse resident living it up while wearing both my Bath-n-Body scents and a myriad of 1.5 inch buckles added to his or her outfit in creative ways…maybe someday we’ll actually meet him or her! We can only hope.

Back to the buckle project. So, I’ve been super excited about Pinterest. I’ve cooked multiple Pinterest recipes, have created a few Pinterest kids activities, and used some of their creative tips (and inspirational sayings) to make some artwork to go on our walls (something that Ryan pestered me most of our marriage to do!). I’ve been having fun, feeling productive, and was ready to tackle another project.

This buckle toy didn’t seem too difficult…loop a few ribbons around some buckles, sew the ends of the ribbons to some fabric, what, an hour or two tops? Ah, no. What in the world was I thinking?!?! I am no Martha Stewart! My mom, who sews more often than me, knew from the moment I sent her the link that this project would take some time, but I was definitely naïve.

In order to make it more cost-effective, we ended up making seven buckle toys. I’d recommend others do the same (make multiple buckle toys) unless you already have some of these materials at home. Here’s the supplies we needed:

• Buckles—best deal was on Amazon (we did smaller ones and bigger ones—I believe 5/8 inches and 1.5 inches)
• Velcro—Walmart purchase
• Ribbon—great clearance purchase
• Snaps—wow, way more expensive than I thought
• Fabric (thicker than normal but not quite“canvas”)—I vow to never buy fabric full-price, the prices are INSANE! Luckily we had a tech-savvy cashier at the craft store that scored us multiple 40% off coupons…she was 65+ and knew how to work my smart phone better than me—amazing!
• Sewing machine—Mom brought hers out from Wisconsin

And here’s the link to the website that shares the directions for making these in case you’re interested and have better sewing skills than me: http://kidsactivitiesblog.com/clip-toy-for-toddlers/

We did make some alterations to their plans…we added both velcro and a snap and had two different sized buckles…

The three of us worked on this project for three hours one night and then my mom and I finished the rest over the course of two more days…my mom doing more of the actual sewing. It was definitely more time consuming than initially thought. Was the buckle fiasco and hours of work worth it? Definitely! Will I take on a Pinterest project that involves sewing again soon? Not likely!

More Cute Photos from Summer 2012

Evan LOVES climbing on all sorts of things. 
His latest endeavor was the rock climbing wall
at his new school’s playground. 

Makenna, chillin’ at the park



Makenna post-nap



Awwww, I love watching how gentle Evan is with his little sister.  We’ve had a lot
of rain lately and I’d find them sitting together, watching it come down.

My Love Affair with Tar-zhay

I love Target (a.k.a. Tar-zhay) so I was excited to discover they were building a SuperTarget a mile or so from our house!  As it was being built, my husband would tease me about how I couldn’t wait until it opened.  He painted a picture of me and our future children (this was before Evan and Makenna were born) driving or even walking to bask in its glory, and of course spend a lot of money! J  I downplayed it, saying that I’d probably continue to mostly shop at our local grocery store or make the trek to our closest Super Walmart to save money. 
But he was right, once SuperTarget opened, I loved having it close by and did take our children there often.  I’ve even considered getting a Target logo tattoo…kidding!  Anyway, the longer Target has been close by, the less willing I’ve been to make the “long” drive (10-15 minutes via highway) to our closest SW.  But in my frugal moments, I wondered how much extra I was spending by shopping at Target. 

All this to say, I’ve really enjoyed figuring out how to combine my love for Target with my newfound hobby of couponing and I no longer question whether it’s cost-effective to shop at Target.  In learning how to shop smart at Target, I’ve gotten items for pennies and even FREE (vinegar, school supplies, and generic ibuprofren just to name a few)! No more ambivalence here.

Here are some ways that many of us Target lovers save money at the great Red and White:   

STACKING:  Target is one store that lets you use their coupons in conjunction with manufacturer coupons.  Additionally, if your item is on sale, that’s three ways to save. 

For example:

Regular price: $3.00

Sale price: $2.50


Target coupon: $1.00 off


Manufacturer coupon: .50 cents off


Final price: $1.00

Here’s the link for Target coupons:  http://coupons.target.com/ .  Target has GREAT coupons for both name brand items and their Target brands (up&up, Archer Farms, and Market Pantry).  If you watch for them, there are also coupons for shoes, clothing, and accessories.  I love being able to get cute, brand new Target clothing, for cheap!  Another tip, you can also print out more Target coupons by using multiple computers (for items we buy alot of, I print coupons off the Target website from both our laptop and our desktop computer) to print them out.  I got this tip off a money-saving website and it’s legal.  It also works for getting multiple manufacturer coupons off online coupon websites. 
GIFTCARD OFFERS: Many times Target will have a deal where if you purchase several of one product (or a group of products), you’ll receive a giftcard for your next purchase.  If the products are ones you’re going to use anyway, buying several at one time makes sense if it’ll make it much cheaper.  And add these promotions to the stacking strategy explained above and you save even more money!  Krazy Coupon Lady (http://thekrazycouponlady.com/category/target/ ) does a great job of alerting people to these opportunities. 

TARGET REDCARD: About six months ago, we signed up for the Target REDcard.  You can set one up as a debit card (deducting directly from your checking account) or as a credit card.  We like the debit option and it made sense for us since we used to use our bank card for Target purchases anyway.  The REDcard gives you 5% off your entire purchase each time you use it.  On each receipt, they list the amount of money you’ve saved using your REDcard in the current purchase, but also summarize your year-to-date savings.  Its AMAZING to see how 5% off adds up.  And it shows me that I am saving money by shopping at Target instead of their competitors, i.e. WalMart (and since creating a list of prices for my commonly purchased items, I’ve been able to see how similarly priced many items are when comparing the two stores).

PRESCRIPTIONS: If you fill your prescription medications at Target (and, I believe, also have a Target REDcard), for every five you fill, you’ll get a coupon for an additional 5% off a day’s purchase.  So when added together with your REDcard discount, it’ll be 10% off your entire day’s purchase—nice!  When I know we’re getting close to that fifth prescription refill (for our family, they’ve added up fast, especially with all the ear infections we had this spring), I try to figure out which more expensive items I can wait to purchase once I have the extra discount—especially if I have coupons that I can use on them too.  Additionally, we’ve gotten three Catalinas–the coupons that print out at the register–that have given us a $5 Target giftcard with our next prescription refill.  That’s $15 savings just for refilling our prescriptions at a store we frequent often.  Convenient and a deal.  AWESOME. 

CLEARANCE: Shopping the clearance items at Target has turned into a treasure hunt for me.   You never know what you’re going to find.  Target has had clearance items on the end caps (the end of the row), but they also sometimes leave them sitting at their regular location/shelf.   If you google “Target clearance” or “Target clearance schedule”, you’ll find that people have posted when some items go on clearance if you’re looking for something in particular.  Other money-saving sites, such as Krazy Coupon Lady, post what shoppers have found on clearance at Target.  I’ve had better luck just checking out the little red and white clearance stickered items wherever I find them. 

REUSABLE BAGS: Like many other stores, you can receive 5 cents off for each reusable bag you use.  Cashiers are hit and miss with remembering to do this (and I forget too) but it’s nice when it does happen.
SHUTTERFLY: Target must have a deal set up with Shutterfly because I’ve gotten several Catalinas at Target for FREE photobooks at Shutterfly (you pay only for shipping).  Photobook prices start at $30 and get more expensive if you customize the book or add pages.  I love, LOVE, love creating Photobooks for our family or to give as gifts so it is definitely a nice perk of shopping at Target. 
DECENT RETURN/EXCHANGES: When I do make an impulsive purchase, Target has handled my returns efficiently.  I don’t even need to keep my receipt to do so since they can find any of my purchases by swiping my REDcard. 

So, those were a few things I’ve been doing at Target to save money.  Have I missed anything?   What are some ways you’ve saved money at Target?