Wednesday, December 31, 2008

My Proverbial Vision

It's New Year's Eve and it's a time to reflect on what has past and look ahead to what is to come. Mandie already posted a great resolution for everyone, which I do hope to be able to incorporate into my daily life, but I've got something else in mind, too. I have a vision. I had a vision once before and that's how my cat got his name, but this is a different kind of vision. In our Adult Bible Fellowship (Sunday School for grown-ups), we have been going through the book of Proverbs. A few Sundays ago, our teacher had us write down a vision statement along with a plan to accomplish it. Some people shared what they had written and they sounded like put-together people, so I felt like I was kind of remedial in my vision, but nevertheless, I do have a vision and a plan.

My vision is to have a clean house with room for the children to play and organized enough so that it can be easily maintained. (See what I mean about remedial, it's certainly no cure for cancer.) I came up with 4 steps to achieve this vision.
1. Clean and organize room by room.
2. Teach the kids to pick up after themselves.
3. Learn to pick up after myself.
4. Develop self-discipline.

I should probably switch numbers 2 and 3 around or maybe we can learn together. It'll be fun! I got a book to help me, too. It's called The Messies Manual by Sandra Felton. Wish me grace on my journey, please!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

We are no longer being counted.

We are no longer an influence. We no longer have a say in what America watches on television. That's right, today is the end of our reign as a Nielsen family. Now that we're done I can talk about it freely, but while we were actively affecting the TV ratings we could only tell friends and family and we couldn't talk about it on the internet, lest we would be contacted by people wanting to influence our choices. I'd like to think that we changed the horizon of American entertainment, but I'm afraid our choices only show that our kids watch to much Playhouse Disney and PBS Kids and I'm embarrassed to admit that my husband watches pro wrestling.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Foul Beast

Isn't Mango a sweet name for a long-haired orange cat? If you saw Mango from a distance, you would think she's the cutest, sweetest little cat you'd ever seen. Just wait until you get up close though. She's a foul beast.

A cat adoption agency picked her up wandering down the middle of the street and my sister subsequently adopted her. My mom swears Mango is a sweet cat all the time, but whenever we get near her, she hisses and howls then runs away. I consider Mango the "Scrooge" of the cat world.

String Bean is completely enamoured with Mango. You say her name or the word "cat" and String Bean gets a huge grin on her face and starts looking for the foul beast. Once she's found, Mango hisses and runs away. I'm not sure why String Bean thinks she's so great when Mango only greets her with her foulness. I will admit it is the most adorable thing when Mango is hiding under the bed and String Bean gets down on the floor to look under the bed at her. (String Bean has her daddy trained to shine a flashlight under the bed to look for the cat.)

Mr. Bean, the cat enthusiast, nicknamed Mango the foul beast. I'm allergic to the cat, so Mango already had a strike against her. If her demeaner were a bit nicer, we might like her more.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

New Years Resolutions

The sermon we heard today was all about New Years Resolutions. Using the text of 2 Timothy and Paul's final days, the pastor talked about the things that Paul was focused on while awaiting his execution at the hands of the Romans:
  1. Surrounding himself with godly friendships.
  2. Reading uplifting and edifying texts.
  3. Investing in eternity.

The pastor encouraged us to make these our New Years Resolutions above all else. As you look forward to the New Year, consider how 2009 may be the year you make an impact for Christ and his kingdom and the changes you need to make in your life to be more like Him.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Aftermath

I think I might need a shovel to dig us out. I'm not talking about snow, either, that's all melting away. I mean the debris of Christmas. My family room is absolutely devastated from the gift opening and toy initiating and sugar-crisp breakfasting. (We don't generally eat breakfast in the family room, it's just a Christmas thing.) The carpet is covered with sugar and pecans and Cheerios, there are bows everywhere. We could set up a toy store with all the loot scattered about. Although the customers would probably be put off by the Cheerios. But it has been a good holiday with lots of fun and family time and cousins galore for the kids to play and fight with. I hope all of you had a wonderful time, as well.

Now I must commence the digging!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Scary Toys

I fully expect any kid to be afraid of Darth Vader's mask or some of those action figures fashioned after alien movies. What I didn't expect was String Bean's reaction to some of her Christmas presents. Elmo Live was under our tree. At first, he was funny. Then he came closer to her. Forget it. She cowers when he gets too close or when he starts laughing. You'd think he was a monster. Oh, wait...he is.

String Bean also got a book about farm animals. (For the life of me, I can't find you a link to the product to see it.) It is called the Push and Pop Farm Book. It has a little wheel you spin on the edge of each page and a cardboard photo of an animal pops up from between the pages. All it takes is catching sight of that book, and a look of disapproval shows on String Bean's face. If she can get her hands on it, she hands it to whoever is the closest and shakes her head "no." Forget about opening it, or even worse, popping up the photos. She loses all her composure and tears start falling.

I don't see what is so scary about these toys. After all, they don't make that horrible sound the vacuum cleaner makes!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

THE Christmas Story

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, "Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

From Our Homes to Yours

From the bottom of our hearts, we wish you the merriest of Christmases and thank you for visiting our blog. We hope your Christmas season is full of the love, joy, and the peace only God can bring.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Un-Merry Christmas

I just found out that some dear friends have chosen to end their marriage. I also know of friends who have lost a parent or grandparent recently. Others I know have a loved one away for Christmas serving our country in the military. I have a friend living overseas that could not swing it, financially speaking, to be home this year.

I can't help but think that this Christmas is not a merry one for many.

If you are experiencing an Un-Merry Christmas, I extend to you my sympathies. Remember the true reason for celebrating this time of year: the birth of the Savior, the promised Messiah. Even though friends and family may not be with you this time of year and you are experiencing heartache-remember that despite what the Christmas movies and songs tell us, it is not family and gifts that make Christmas; it is the celebration of God sending his Son into the world to be our Reedemer that we celebrate.

If you have all the joys of the holiday, but know someone who does not, consider extending an inviation to them to join in your holiday fun. When I was a kid, my parents used to invite bachelors over to our house during the Christmas (and Thanksgiving) holidays who had no one to spend the season with. I can't remember any of their names, but I do remember the lesson of sharing and celebrating with others during the holidays and can imagine what it meant to them to have someone to be with on a day that can be lonely for those without family this time of year.

If you anticipate a lonely Christmas, remember He who is always with you. Remember that Jesus knew what it meant to be alone. He knew heartache. He knew grief. He knows what you are going through and really is a friend to us. May your Un-Merry Christmas become a day where you can find reason to celebrate and worship the King born in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago!!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Sleep Deprivation

To update our regular readers on how the 12 hour journey with the 13 month old went... I'll start by saying: We survived! The journey actually took 13 hours due in large part to torrential downpours in the Nashville area of Tennessee while we were driving through. The speed limit was 70 miles per hour, but we were doing as low as 35 because the rain was so heavy. Hey, we are just glad it was not snow!

String Bean slept for over half of the journey which ended up backfiring on us once we arrived in Alabama. She would not go to bed. Finally around 11, we got her down. She woke up several times in the night. Since she'd been running a fever leading up to our trip, we thought she might be sick and getting up a lot because she was not feeling well. We were wrong. At 3:45 am, she got up and was inconsolable. When we finally went down to the kitchen and fed her cheerios and grapes to her hearts content, she stopped the screaming and eventually went back to bed.

We are happy to report that even though the doctor told us the fever would last 3-4 days (diagnosis: roseola), after 24 hours it was gone. We have a healthy child. We are sleep deprived, but here in once piece, playing our new Wii (and Wii Fit) and enjoying time with family.

Hope your travels were less eventful than ours have been. Hope your holiday is full of happy moments and new memories!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The First Day of Winter

If it's -2 on the first day of winter with a wind chill of -27, what's it going to be like in February? I wish I were a bear so I could hibernate until April. Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr! I'd say more, but my fingers are too cold to type any longer.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Not a Total Failure

As I mentioned earlier, Walnut, this year, is quite taken with Santa Claus, but he has not forgotten the true meaning of Christmas. I asked him a couple days ago what Christmas is about and he answered promptly "Jesus". I sighed a sigh of relief that I had not totally failed in my efforts to keep the focus on the birth of Christ. Then he said "I was gonna say presents but then I remembered at the last second." Still, it's not a total failure.

Then I decided that we need more tangible reminders of Christ's birth around the house, so I put out a Nativity set. I hadn't put it out, yet because I have 2 toddlers and that just seemed like asking for trouble, but but young hearts were at stake so I was willing to take the risk. Walnut and I went through who all the people were and had a lovely time together. Then he wanted to play with the figures and promised to be, oh, so careful. So he played and before I knew it, I hear the sounds of flying and gunfire as only a 5 year old boy can produce and look over to see the baby Jesus soaring through the air and the Wise men trying to get him down. Later, Cashew found the sheep and horse and carried them around the house saying "moo". Peanut pretty much ignored it. I'm still counting the season as not a total failure, though.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Snow Days

My dad was in the Marines and I lived in a lot of places, but for the purpose of this story, I grew up in North Carolina. Anyone who has ever lived in the south knows that when the snow falls there, the towns roll up their sidewalks, hang their "closed" signs and brace themselves for the worst. In fact, much like hurricane preparation, there is a run on food and beverages of all sorts at the grocery stores when snow is even predicted.

It is no surprise that as a child I got incredibly excited about the possibility of snow for two reasons: 1. we never got it, so it was a special treat and not guaranteed to stick around for long and 2. there was a 95% chance we would have a snow day!

I have distinct memories of getting up for school, seeing some white stuff falling and waiting impatiently in front of the television to see my school's name scroll across the screen. Fingers crossed. Then, the glorious moment would come and boy oh boy would my sisters and I rejoice. I think it drove my mother nuts.

Here I sit looking at the snow outside. It has pretty much ruined my plans for today. When did I grow out of the joy and excitement of snow days? Welcome to the Midwest.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

To Santa or Not to Santa

This has been the dilemma for Filbert and me. We thought we had decided that we would not do Santa and always present him as a legend or a fairy tale, if it came up. We reckoned not with Walnut. This charming little lad of ours has bought into the Santa hype, hook, line and sinker and there is no talking him out of it. A couple months ago, he would have said that Santa was not real, but no more. It all began when we went the Courthouse lighting in Newton, IA. There was a parade and Santa was there and in the words of Walnut "He looked right at me and he waved at me". It was like no one else was there in the town square as Santa and Walnut had a "moment". We've tried to counteract this in various ways. I found a website about St. Nicholas and read him stories about the real St. Nick (who, I was surprised to learn, calmed the seas once) and explained how the stories of St. Nicholas turned into the legend of Santa Claus, but he's not buying it. For him Santa is real and he believes it with his whole heart. The public schools aren't helping us out, either. Yesterday, in Kindergarten, all the kids got a boarding pass to "The Polar Express" and got to wear jammies to school. He came home and asked me if I believed in Santa and I told him no. He said that I wouldn't hear the bell that he produced from his backpack. He rang it and I heard it and after the look of great consternation that crossed his face, he concluded that I must really believe in Santa Claus, after all.

Tips for Road Trips

I'm so clever. My title rhymes.

I asked some of our Twitter moms (and dads) this question, "What tips do you have for traveling on long road trips with young kids?" Here were some of their responses. I hope they help you as you drive "over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house" this season! We leave on Saturday for a 12 hour drive...should be fun!

frecklesthemom: I say pack your patience, stop as often as you need and take lots of stuff to help pass the time. We also bring a lot of music. And what would a long road trip be without fun games, like Ispy, Punch Buggie...? I pepper the music with some family friendly classics that Mom and Dad like, that way I don't go crazy along the way!

jenleereeves: Many, many DVDs and really good snack cups. My favorite, Snack Trap.

TwinToddlersDad: Make sure they are fed, and start right before their nap time so they can fall asleep in the car. Always works with our twins.

GRIPCOMMPR: Here are some travel tips for special needs families.

musingsfromme: DVDs, kids song tapes, mom sits in back with kids for part of ride to read to them/pass them items, lap desks for car seat.

nicroames: frequent stops, travel at night (they sleep)

MaiaKG: "road trip bingo" for route ...maybe 4 younger, use 'treasure hunt' i spy? how many x animal? how many sleeping?

SarahSingforhim: I love this "I Spy" Bag. They have to look for hidden items. Keeps them busy, and older ones like it, too. My dad used to give us beef jerky on long trips. We had to chew it so much, we would talk less! Ha! Sneaky.

craftymamaof4: I buy lunch boxes when the back-to-school stuff goes on sale, and fill with games, puzzles, treats, books and really special toys.

careywillems: magnets in a cookie sheet to hold paper. Sheet will keep crayons from rolling everywhere. White contact paper & dry erase markers.

copperbrickroad: we have the dvd player. Lil Einsteins works wonders. That and snacks.

peace_: Find out ahead of time where playgrounds you can stop at are and allow extra time so you can stop for play breaks.

brendacarus: Leave at bedtime & drive through the night. Need 2+ adults and a nap before or after, but we always do long drives(>10 hrs) like this!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Purchased Birthday Presents, Yet?

So, Jesus' birthday is rapidly approaching. I know it is a busy time of year for all of us. I know you've probably got shopping to do, baking to do, and travel plans. But, have you remembered to get His birthday present? If not, I have some last minute gift ideas for you:

Toys for Tots. Help the Marines gather toys for the less fortunate. (There is also Toys for Teens sponsored by Best Buy).

Salvation Army. Probably the easiest place to donate this Christmas season since the bell ringers are at nearly every store this time of year! Rumor has it that some bell ringers have credit card machines at their buckets this year so having cash on hand isn't necessarily necessary.

A Friend in Need. Consider a donation to your church to help a fellow church member who is having problems making ends meet this Christmas.

Your favorite missionary. Many missionaries are low on support this year because the value of the dollar has dropped. Consider making a special gift to your favorite missionary to help them make ends meet. If you don't know a missionary personally, consider Ben and Sarah Badgero working with Native American youth in Canada with NAIM.

As you celebrate Christmas with your family this year, don't forget to wish Jesus a happy birthday. After all, we've all gotten presents for one another-Don't want to forget the person of honor!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Twittering with Just We Moms

For a couple of weeks now, I have been experimenting with Twitter. If you've never Twittered before, Michael Hyatt wrote a great how-to article on the subject. Warning: Twittering can be very addictive. Just ask Mr. Bean.

If you are a Twitterer, we welcome to to follow us. Our Twitter ID is JustWeMoms and it is usually me, Mandie, posting from that account.

I have a post I am working on that my Twitter friends are helping me put together on travelling with small children. Isn't social media fun?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Motherhood Milestones

Do I still count as a "new mom"? My String Bean is 13 months old. All new moms have to brag about their babies, so I'm going to assume for a minute that I'm still a new mom. Bear with me.

String Bean took her first steps last night! Mr. Bean had students from his college class over for dinner. We were sitting in the living room when String Bean saw across the room her new shoes--red velvet mary janes with faux diamonds. (Wouldn't you be excited if you saw those across the room in YOUR size?) She crawled over to the end table where they were, pulled herself up to a standing position and turned herself around to face me. In her excitement about finding her new shoes, rather than sit down, crawl 2 feet, then stand up, she just took 2 steps toward me instead. Of course the whole time I'm yelling at Mr. Bean to watch which in turn makes everyone in the room watch what is going on.

Just in case you don't think I'm telling the truth here, I have several witnesses. 9 people total witnessed this momentous event (including Mr. Bean and myself).

On another note, my friend Leslie had her first baby right after Thanksgiving. When I had String Bean, I called my co-blogger, Amy, all the time asking questions about newborns and breastfeeding. Now I'm able to pass along my vast knowledge on the subjects to Leslie. She's now experiencing all those "firsts" with her son that I enjoyed with my daughter. *wipes tear from eye*

So, the circle of life goes on.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Skip Hop Stay Put Mat

(This is not String Bean)

I recently recieved this Skip Hop Stay Put Mat to try out. I love how the girl in this photo has such a balanced meal on her mat. My String Bean's meals consist of carbs, carbs, and a bite or two of fruit. She's somewhat of a picky eater.

We've got a really nice wooden high chair for String Bean with a tray that has this groove around it (presumably to keep your little one from knocking food on the floor, but clearly a parent did not design it). We've tried the Gerber Lil Trainer Tableware (plate with a suction cup bottom) and we can't get it to stay on this tray. We tried it in public, too, and found that String Bean is smart enough and strong enough to pull the suction off of the table and throw the plate on the floor. No good.

When I got this mat in the mail, my number one priority was to make sure it stayed securely on String Bean's high chair tray. Check. Our next priority was to make sure the plate was secure enough that she couldn't pull it off on a whim. Check.

This plate has non-skid rubber pads on the bottom so String Bean can't push it away. The plate easily comes off the tray for washing (yes, it is dishwasher safe!), and the silverware sits on the tray to keep from getting accidentally knocked off. Of course, String Bean has no idea what to do with a spoon or fork, so she just picks them up and plays the drums with them. Hey, at least she's entertained!

We really like this tray and would recommend it to you if you're teaching your toddler table manners or you're just trying to sit through a meal without having to pick up your toddler's plate off the floor numerous times. At $20, it is more expensive than Gerbers' or some of the other brands' options, but then again, you get what you pay for! This product is more sturdy and is BPA-free, Phthalate-free and PVC-free. I'm not sure I can say the same for the rest of those guys.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Yummy Breakfast for a 8!

Congratulations to the winners of our Pancake/Waffle Giveaway!

Cynthia C.
Aimee P.
Lisa C.
Carla P.
Heather @ Not a DIY Life
Jennifer J.
Deb (HopeLovJoy)

You should get an e-mail shortly. If you do not respond within 48 hours, we will contact another winner.

Those of you who did not win can go check out the Batter Blaster website to see if a store near you carries this great product!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Links Links Links

Don't forget to enter our giveaway before noon tomorrow!

If you haven't noticed, yet, our privacy policy, disclosure, and terms of use are now uploaded on this blog. There is a link on the left hand side of this page.

I was blog surfing this afternoon and ran across a great post by Simple Mom. I suggest you go check out the best company to work for.

If you are looking for a chuckle, read this post about a water mishap in LA. (By the way, this blog has great giveaways. I just won a Wii and a Wii Fit from this blog yesterday!)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Good Christmas Songs

Since yesterday I posted about the worst Christmas song ever, today I thought I'd post about the best Christmas songs I've ever heard.

White Christmas sung by Bing Crosby. It is my goal this Christmas to memorize the whistle solo. I'm *this* close to getting it.

You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch sung by Thurl Ravenscroft. Is there any other situation where it is acceptable to say "Your heart's an empty hole," or Your soul is an appalling dump heap, overflowing with the most disgraceful assortment of deplorable rubbish imaginable, mangled up in tangled up knot"?

Feliz Navidad sung by Jose Feliciano. It is catchy, and you definitely can't get it out of your head once you've heard it! Plus, it doubles as a New Years song!

Carol of the Bells by David Foster. I just love how this song feels. I always try to clap on the syncopated parts of the string section when they play the bass notes. I'm not very good at it, but it is a fun challenge.

Hark! The Hearld Angels Sing is Mr. Bean's pick for the best Christmas carol ever. "It does the best out of all the hymns of spelling out the redemptive qualities of the Christmas story," he says. Can you tell he has a bachelors degree in music?

Santa Baby sung by Eartha Kitt. I've just rediscovered it this year. The tongue-and-cheek look at an extravagant Christmas list reminds me of the materialism of our culture. I also think it's kinda funny.

The entire Charlie Brown Christmas album. This is a classic for our family. Mr. Bean has almost the entire album memorized for piano. We listen to it nearly year-round.

Duke Ellington's Nutcracker Suite. This is a great instrumental jazz album. If you are having a Christmas party this year, this would be a good soundtrack for the background!

The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't be Late) by the Chipmunks. Any child of the 80s remembers this song fondly. Let's see a show of hands for who wants a hula hoop this year!

Sleigh Ride by the Boston Pops. I have memories of my dad "conducting" his imaginary orchestra as they played Sleigh Ride when he thought no one was looking. You can count on Dad doing this almost with the same probability of Santa visiting the house on Christmas Eve.

Ok. What did I miss? Share with me so I can load my iPod with the appopriate play-list for the long drive home in a few days.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Christmas Shoes

Don't forget to enter our giveaway before December 13!

I just had to flip the radio station because the song, Christmas Shoes, came on. Unfortunately, when I flipped the station the same song came on the station I'd flipped to. So, I flipped again.

I apologize in advance if you are a fan of this song. Stop reading if you are a fan. If you think the song is stupid, read on.

The premise of the song is that a man is out shopping on Christmas Eve and there is a kid in line behind him with some shoes and he does not have enough money to purchase them. Here are the lyrics to the chorus of this song (and I should mention there is a movie that came out about this, too):

Sir, I want to buy these shoes
For my Mama, please
It's Christmas Eve and these shoes are just her size
Could you hurry, sir,
Daddy says there's not much time
You see she's been sick for quite a while
And I know these shoes would make her smile
And I want her to look beautiful
If Mama meets Jesus tonight

Depressing. Why is this a Christmas song? Does this kid not know that Jesus won't see his mom in her new shoes? After all, it is the spirit that meets God, not the body.

Puke, barf. Give me a Holly Jolly Christmas, a Silent Night, or a First Noel any day over this garbage.

Yeah, I've got opinions.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Do I Smell a Pancakes/Waffles Giveaway?

Mmm...Nothing like waking up on a Saturday morning to the smell of pancakes (or waffles) cooking in the kitchen. *sniff, sniff* Can you smell them now?

The good folk at Batter Blaster ("Make a better breakfast faster, Batter Blaster!") sent me a coupon (well, several actually) to try out their organic pancake/waffle batter. I dutifully went out to my local grocery store to the refrigerator section and found this can of Batter Blaster to give it a try. After all, I'm doing it for YOU, the masses. You rely on Amy and I to do the task of trying out these things so you know whether or not they are worth it.

THESE ARE WORTH IT! It has earned the Bean seal of approval. Mr. Bean, String Bean and I all love this stuff.

I'm lazy. I've admitted it before. I'll likely admit it again. We never get pancakes at our house because I'm so lazy; however, Batter Blaster comes in a pressurized can (think whip creme in a can) so there's no mixing or anything. Clean-up is a cinch! All you do is rinse the can and throw it back in the fridge (well, and clean the pan you cooked 'em up in of course).

It is organic! I personally love the chemicals in my food, so this is not a big deal to me, but I know that for health reasons many people out there only eat organic. You'll love adding a little Batter Blaster to your life.

Wondering if it is available in a store near you? The Batter Blaster website has a store locator on it. I'd never seen it in my store before, in fact I'll admit I asked the grocery-man where it was (he gives it rave reviews by the way). I found it plain as day in the refrigerated section of my local grocery store. Most of the grocery stores in my area carry it!

Want to win a coupon to try this product out free for yourself? If I had my way, I'd keep all these coupons for myself, but I'm going to be selfless here. To win, just sign in below. We'll pick 8 lucky winners to receive a coupon for a free can of Batter Blaster. Yum, yum!

Giveaway ends Saturday, December 13 at noon. I'll do my best to get this coupon in your hands in time for that Christmas company if you win!

As always, we'll use the random number generator at Random.org to help us pick our winners! Good Luck!

Monday, December 8, 2008

We've got Winners!

The winners of our Snacktrition giveaway were randomly selected by Random.org and are...

Myrna E.
Cynthia C.
Teresa C.
Aimee P.

You should be receiving an e-mail shortly for more information. If we don't hear back from you in 48 hours, we'll have to pick another winner. I hope you all enjoy your nuts!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Christmas Traditions

Don't forget to sign up for our giveaway which ends tomorrow at noon!

When I was a kid, one of our Christmas traditions was to put a train around the base of our tree. We also had a birthday party for Jesus every Christmas Eve. When Christmas morning would arrive, we would have to wait upstairs until everyone was dressed, beds made, hair combed, etc. before we could go down. We all went downstairs as a family and opened stockings before breakfast. For breakfast, we would have a bread/cheese/egg/bacon casserole my mom calls "12 for Breakfast." After breakfast, we would open gifts. Besides the trains which haven't been up for years, this is pretty much what I expect this year as we visit my parents.

Mr. Bean's family grew up doing the Advent candles and singing carols every evening of the Christmas season. When we go visit that side of the family, we enjoy this tradition and sing heartily my favorite carol, The Boars Head Carol, which is especially brilliant when sung in the shower at full volume.

This year is String Bean's second Christmas. We haven't yet started any family traditions of our own. One I am considering is the Jesse Tree.

I'm curious what traditions you remember fondly each year or from childhood. Help me explore what's out there as we start our own family traditions in the coming years.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Welcome to the Breastaurant

Don't forget to sign up for our giveaway which ends Monday, December 8 at noon!

String Bean, who is still nursing, discovered this week, that her mother doesn't have one breast. She has two! This has really opened up a whole new world to her. Without a doubt, her life will never be the same again.
Nor will mine. A nursing session does not end without incessantly going from one breast to the other for the simple joy of doing so.

Oy vey.

Friday, December 5, 2008

An Interview with Angie of BabyCheapskate

Don't forget to sign up for our giveaway which ends Monday, December 8 at noon!

I recently had the opportunity to interview Angie, the owner of BabyCheapskate, one of my favorite blogs. I actually respect her as somewhat of a superwoman. Besides being a mom, she owns several websites and forums including Freepeats, Blog Coach (which is a blog as well as a community of bloggers), and some off-shoots of BabyCheapskate including Cheep Peeps and BabyCheapskate Coupon Traders.

Angie is definitely on that list of people you should know. Not only is she the queen of "saving big bucks on baby stuff" (BabyCheapskate's tagline), she also helps other bloggers out (like me) with ideas for making their blogs better and more successful. Be sure to check out all the sites Angie has her hands in, you'll find some great gems there!

Angie and I have traded e-mails for the better part of a year now (she's really sweet and indulges me with answers to all my crazy questions), and here are some of the answers to my most burning questions!

We love reading BabyCheapskate for the tips on how to do all kid things frugally. When and why did you start this blog?

I started Baby Cheapskate shortly after my son was born in 2005. I was sitting on the couch poring over circulars to try to find the best deals on diapers and formula when it occurred to me that I could save other frazzled new parents time as well as money by posting my findings online. I looked around to see if such a site already existed and didn't find much at all, so I created Baby Cheapskate. At first my posts were primarily about sales on diapers and formula. I also wrote about how I saved money on baby gear and other items by shopping thrift stores and consignment stores and sales. Eventually I started including posts about great deals that I found online.

We know you have another site, Freepeats.org. What's that all about?

Freepeats.org is a way for parents to pass on gently-used baby, kid and maternity items (and coupons) for free to local families who can use them. So much of what we buy for babies and young kids is used only for a very short time--just weeks or months. And a lot of that baby gear is pricey, too! There's still plenty of life left in these items, and by passing them on we not only save other parents money, but we keep usable items out of the landfills. In addition to passing on their items, Freepeats members can also arrange to pick up free items they find listed on the board from other local families. [editor's note: be sure to check out the incentive for joining Freepeats during the month of December by visiting the Freepeats blog!]

Tell us about your favorite frugal moment.

I'm really into buying used items--and even giving them as gifts. I love it when I'm shopping for something specific at the thrift store and I actually find it! I get a thrill out of picking up a cute pair of $300 French shoes for $2.50. Or a hip, mid-century modern vase for $1. Or a wooden play kitchen for my son for $5. I could go on and on...

Besides saving money, what other passions do you have?

I teach high school ESOL and French part-time. It's a lot of fun. I also like helping other bloggers with their blogs at BlogCoach.org. Being my three-year-old's mom is my passion, too.

What parenting advice do you have to share with other moms?

I try not to give parenting advice, too much, but if pressed, I would tell parents that Google and parenting books will only get you so far. There's no cookie-cutter solution that's going to make your three-week-old sleep at night, and there's no book (trust me, I've looked) that's going to tell you when your child will finally poop in the potty. The best you can do is try what feels like it might work, and then try something else if it doesn't. That and realize that babies grow up so quickly that behavior that seems like it goes on forever now will seem like it lasted a mere instant a couple of years from now.

Thanks, Angie, for pioneering the way for so many of us looking for good deals, great advice, and a friendly ally in cyberspace! (And no, I'm not a crazy stalker...)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Unexpected Bills

Don't forget to sign up for our giveaway which ends Monday, December 8 at noon!

I was showering on Tuesday morning and all was fine until about halfway through my shower when I realized I was standing in about 3 inches of water. It all happened quite suddenly. The shower was draining fine at first then it was not draining anymore. I turned off the water and watched the tub drain ever so slowly. I mentioned it to Mr. Bean and he shrugged it off.

The next morning, Mr. Bean got up to shower only to find "black stuff" that he had to scrub off his tub before showering. Then he showered and had a very similar experience to mine the day before.

This morning we both showered and again had the backed up tub that didn't drain. Cue plumber.

We live in a condo, so every time we've called the plumber, the problem has been in a shared line and the plumber has been paid for by the homeowners association. The joys of living on the first floor is that your sink/tub gets backed up with everyone else's gunk when the shared pipe gets clogged. Oh, yes, it is fun.

The plumber was at my house for a long time (says my mother-in-law who was babysitting String Bean when he arrived) and found "hair and wax" in the pipe in the wall between our bathrooms. Our regular maintenance person is on vacation so her substitute was handling the whole thing and isn't sure just yet if the bill belongs to us or the association.

$363. Ouch.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

What's left to do

Don't forget to sign up for our giveaway which ends Monday, December 8 at noon!

I'm nearly ready for Christmas. Go ahead and throw tomatoes. There are a few things I have left to do before I can sit back and enjoy all the holiday has to offer.

I have 3 addresses left to find. (Wade and Jenni, Nicolette, and Kurt and Jen if you are reading this, get them to me pronto.) Once I have all the addresses, phase one of getting the card out is finished. Phase two involves folding the Christmas newsletters I so lovingly wrote (that Mr. Bean hasn't bothered to photocopy for me, yet). Phase three is writing "May your days be merry and bright, and my all your Christmases be white," or something like that in each of the cards. Phase four is putting the photos in the envelopes sealing, stamping and dropping them off at the post office. Lucky for me that I got an e-mail from CVS today telling me those photos are on their way to my local store! I'm excited because I got the prints for 10 cents each. I so totally rock.

I have to finish shopping for Mr. Bean and String Bean. I have one stocking stuffer for String Bean. That's it. You'd think this kid would make a list of what she wants for Christmas. Is that asking too much of a 12 month old? I don't think so. Maybe she'll just get an extra donation to her college fund this year...and the cell phone stocking stuffer so my cell can be mine again. Mr. Bean made me a whopping list of one item. I guess he knows what he's getting. No surprises under the tree this year.

Mr. Bean is one of those "Christmas babies", so I have a birthday to shop for. I already got him tickets to the Bears Jaguars game on Sunday, but that is a bit anti-climatic to have your birthday present 11 days before the big day. So, I'll get him something small to go along with it. My sister, Holly, is a Christmas baby, too, but I got her gifts (Christmas and birthday) mailed to California earlier this week.

I have to wrap about half the gifts I bought. The other half, including those for my parents dog, Leia, and cat, Mango, are already wrapped and in my closet. I suppose I should bring them out and put them under the tree.

That's about it. Today is December 3rd. I'm doing pretty well. How about you? What do you have left to do this season?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Nuts and More Nuts and Some to Giveaway!

In case you were wondering, my nut name is Hazel. I cannot not take credit for the idea of naming my kids after nuts, it was my co-blogger, Mandie, that came up with it. She and Mr. Bean have always called Peanut, Peanut and Walnut is a play on our last name and Cashew is, well, just another nut. I decided to follow the trend and give my husband and I nut names, too. I picked Filbert because I think it's funny and Hazel just because I like it. Plus, they are kind of the same thing, just like a happily married couple should be! So when we were given some nuts to giveaway, it seemed only appropriate that I be the reviewer.

Since one of the primary concerns with Prader-Willi Syndrome is obesity, I am always looking for healthy snacks, and I think I've found one in Snacktrition. As most people know nuts are full of fat, but that's not actually a reason to avoid them. Nope, quite the opposite, in fact, because the fat in nuts is the good kind. Almonds and Cashews have only 17% and 6% (respectively) of the "bad" fat, and have about 20% protein, making them much more filling than an equal amount of chips or cookies. They are also rich in minerals, something most of us are sorely lacking. One thing that makes most commercial nuts unhealthy is the oil that nuts are usually roasted in. However, Snacktrition offers 4 different variety of nuts that are oven roasted with no oils. Even better though, is that they bake on fiber and calcium along with yummy sea salt, so besides the good fat, you're getting other nutrients that your body needs. Now, the big question is, how do they taste? Well, they taste like nuts. Ha! (Sorry, I had to do it.) Actually, they are quite tasty and your hands don't get greasy when you eat them.
Snacktrition offers Sea Salt Cashews with Fiber, Salt and Pepper Cashews with Fiber, Smoked Almonds with Calcium, and Sea Salt Almonds with Calcium. Their fifth offering is a Fruit and Nut Mix which combines the Sea Salt Cashews and Almonds with dried blueberries and cranberries and yogurt chips. This one was an especial favorite at our house, I didn't really want to share it, but we had a family emergency and I needed to take the kids to visit a relative in the hospital and Filbert missed dinner because he was too upset to eat and once we knew the crisis had passed, everyone just started inhaling the stuff. Filbert would stop chewing every once in a while to comment on how awesome the stuff was. He has even commented that he would buy both the salt and pepper cashews and the fruit mix again, and he is a notorious cheapskate. Peanut and Cashew seemed to like all the nuts equally, although, sometimes Cashew just sucked the salt off of the almonds. I took my sample pack to my family's Thanksgiving gathering and the reviews were all positive, but there was no clear favorite, although the men seemed to favor the salt and pepper cashews. So all in all, Snacktrition is good stuff and gets the Nut family seal of approval (or Hazel looks down and pats her tummy.)

Now that I've got your mouths watering, who wants some free nuts? I thought so! Sign up for our giveaway! 5 lucky winners will be receiving a sample package of Snacktrition products to enjoy, just sign up below. Remember just one entry per household.

Giveaway ends Monday, December 8 at noon (central time zone)!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Remembering Bekah

On the drive home from our Thanksgiving festivities, I turned on my iPod and listened to Rebecca St. James' album, God. If you haven't heard it before (and you can ignore some slightly annoying vocal stylings), it is a pretty good album with some solid, biblical lyrics and it has several songs that just rock out. I have a couple of favorites from that album: Go and Sin No More and Abba Father. I just love the message of Go and Sin No More and it reminds me that despite my failings, God still will forgive me and take me back. It is pretty powerful. I like the song Abba Father and the album in its entirety for complety different reasons.

Back on Thursday, April 30, 1998, I was a junior in college. I got horrible news that a friend of mine, Bekah Stewart, had collapsed in her room and that the Public Safety officers who arrived to assist ended up doing CPR until the paramedics showed up and rushed her to the hospital. What I didn't know at the time (although I suspected) was that Bekah was struggling with anorexia and bulemia. She'd been struggling for years and her parents, who were fully aware of the situation, were already on their way to campus to take her to an in-patient treatment facility because they felt it had gotten out of control. Due to a lack of nutrients in her body, she collapsed and her heart stopped beating.

Friday, May 1, my friends, Sahrie, Kristy, Angie, and I needed a break from the drama of the entire situation and took a road trip out of the city into the suburbs to just get our minds off things. While we were driving, Kristy put on the Rebecca St. James album, God. It was the first time I heard the album. I remember being overwhelmed with emotions that day and sitting behind the drivers seat trying not to think about Bekah and what the outcome of this horrible incident was going to be. I know I wasn't paying much attention to the music nor to the idle chatter of the others who were in the car. Then, the song Abba Father came on. At that moment, I needed words of encouragement. I needed a word from God. These are the lyrics I heard:

I'm feeling like the eagle that rises
Flies above the earth and its troubles
Oh yes he knows that there are valleys below
But under his wings there's a stronger power

Oh Father- You are my strength
On You I wait upon

You make the road rise up to meet me
You make the sun shine warm upon my face
The wind is at my back and the rain falls soft
God I lift You high- You are my Abba

Running on this road to the finish line
The only road for me is the narrow
Not gonna stop or even look to the side

When I fix my eyes on You Jesus
Oh Father (Abba)- You are my strength
Now more than ever

Going to Bible college, I learned early on that the Greek word, Abba, means "Daddy." I don't know about you, but the image I get of "Daddy" is similiar to that of what String Bean, at the tender age of 12 months, must see when she looks at her Daddy: the strong man who holds her when she's scared or just too tired to go on, someone who cares about her deeply, and a soft place to land. Being beside myself with worry over Bekah in the backseat of that car, I heard this song and my soul felt the arms of my "Daddy" wrap around me and say, "I know what is happening. I am Bekah's Abba, too."

We returned to campus and finally were given permission to visit Bekah at the hospital that evening. It took the doctors over 30 minutes to restart her heart the day before and Bekah was brain dead but on life support so her parents and friends could say their final goodbyes. As we mourned we lifted our voices in praise to God our Father who is the life-giver. Bekah was taken off life support and died on Saturday, May 2, 1998 at 5:37 am.

We all know we will see Bekah again one day and that she is safe in the arms of her "Daddy."

I always think of Bekah when I hear that album. I don't think about those last few hours that I knew her. I think of all the fun we had together. I remember her flinging herself on my bed and telling me about her latest crush and how impossible boys were. I think about her mom, dad, and sister and how I got to know them and see their hearts and know Bekah more through them.

That's why I love that album. It brings me the memory of my friend.

*Thanks Sahrie, for going through your journals to help me fill in all the little details like exact dates and times!