My baby is 10!

No frugality post this week– sorry, today we decorated gingerbread houses instead. I did remember, however, that I hadn’t yet shared any pictures of a very momentous event in my heart– my sweet and sassy lil Julianna turning TEN years old.  Be still, my heart.  We ended up celebrating twice, once with friends and then again the next night with family. Here she is having fun with her sister and their friends who spent the night.
10

Here’s Julianna and her friends again, getting ready to pulverize a pinata.  They had lots of treats, including BBQ chips (her fave) and stayed up late to watch TWO episodes of High School Musical.  The next day we even fit in ice skating and frozen yogurt.  Whew.

10 Yrs Old

Here she is with her little nieces and nephews, getting ready to blow out candles at the family party.  As the happy birthday song was winding down, Ascher puckered up to blow Julianna’s candles out all by himself, which idea Ranger nixed by covering Ascher’s mouth just in time. We all got a laugh at him policing his cousin.  Crazy how much kiddos learn in less than 3 years on earth.  They are so much fun. I’m so glad that even tho my baby is getting so big, we still have plenty of little ones to enjoy.

10YrsOld (1)

 

A giveaway and a favor

I have a book giveaway for you today! Tokens of Affection: Reclaiming Your Marriage After Postpartum Depression is billed as a book for couples recovering from postpartum depression, but I chose to review it thinking it might encourage adoptive families as well.  Adoptive moms can struggle with depression in just the same way that bio moms do. Bottom line– adding a child to your family can be a very challenging adventure.  And in times of stress it can be easy for people to grow apart.

As I suspected, a lot of the advice in the book did translate very easily to couples who’ve adopted. But I didn’t expect the ideas in the book to apply so easily to almost any challenging yet important relationship in life– whether that be with a spouse, a friend, or maybe even a teen who’s having a hard time seeing you as an ally instead of an enemy.

The author calls these ideas ‘tokens of affection’– basically gifts you freely give to your loved one because you desire for the relationship to grow and improve.  Chapters talk about each of the tokens: esteem, collaboration, selflessness, sanctuary, expression, tolerance, and loyalty.  As you read this list, you might have a gut feeling about which of these tokens might be hardest for you to offer your loved ones.  The book explains how each token builds the relationship in a different way, and gives ideas for offering each of these tokens to your spouse.  And the awesome thing is that both partners don’t necessarily have to have read this book– just one partner offering these tokens will begin to improve the relationship, offering both partners incentive to come together and work more at the relationship.

I’m not quite done with this book yet, but I’ve found it to be worth every minute of time I’ve given it.  I recommend it very highly. If you’d like a chance to win a copy, comment below and tell me which token sounds most intriguing.  Is it one you’d like to receive?  One you’re good at giving?  One that challenges you? I think I’m good at loyalty and collaboration, but probably could work on being more tolerant, especially of differences of opinion.  I personally would love to get the token of expression– to be able to express what I’m feeling without judgement or without having to worry that expressing myself will upset the equilibrium.

OK, so that covers the giveaway.  The other thing that I wanted to do in this post is ask a favor of you in regard to my Owlhaven facebook page.  First, if you haven’t already liked it, would you follow this link and do so? It’s one way you can support my writing. Second, Facebook has recently made changes so that even when you ‘like’ a page, you don’t always see all of the updates on that page.  (They want folks to pay for advertising.) If you would like to receive a fb notification each time there’s a new post here, what you need to do is go to the “Liked” button  here on my facebook page, hover over it, and then click on “get notifications.” That way you’ll know if I have a new post up.  Thanks so much!

Remember to comment below if you’d like to win a copy of ‘Tokens of Affection’ and as always, thanks so much for reading here!

Happy 4th– and Frugal Friday

Raspberry Jam

Happy 4th of July!  It’s Frugal Friday again!

This week I cooked double batches of chili and pasta carbonera, so I was able to serve 4 meals for the effort of two. Thankfully my family does pretty well with leftovers, because they are a real help on busy days.  We also resisted fast food when we were out during dinnertime one day, instead waiting to eat til we got home.

On Monday we had our usual 4th of July party with all our kids.  OK, not really frugal, but I wanted an excuse to show you pictures.  We played all sorts of water games and had burgers and grilled shrimp and melons and jalapeno poppers for dinner.  Our married girls brought dessert– yay!– and our grown boys contributed to the treats that folks won as prizes for the various  games.  We had lots of fun.  Click on the various photos to see the enlarged version of each.  Bonus points if you spotted the new girl and wondered who she is.  Her name is Erika and she is Jared’s girlfriend.  :)  Slightly confusing since Jared also has a sister named Erika, but very delightful. :)

On Tuesday we took the teens to the dollar movies with friends. This year to encourage them to spend their money wisely, we decided to only allow three ‘new’ (full price) movies per year, and to wait for the dollar theater for other movies.  This has not been the most popular decision: some say since it’s their money, they should be able to decide, and in the spring it was painful for them to only watch SOME of the new movies their friends were seeing. But this summer there are lots of interesting options in the dollar theater that they now get to enjoy for the first time (or second) for only a buck. Not sure if this decision will truly lead to wiser spending later in life, but at least it is netting just a bit more money in each kid’s bank account.

On Tuesday I also canned 13 pints of raspberry jam.  The berries are coming on full force– hooray! — a really good thing since last year I didn’t can enough jam, and we ran out in about March this year.  Also of note, my husband had one of the boys spray our apple trees for the second time this summer, which should increase our yield greatly.  We’ll probably spray one or two more times between now and harvest time in September.  All our other garden produce is organic, but apples just need spray if you’re not into worms.  At least in our experience.

On Wednesday we brought kids to the God and Country Rally, an outdoor concert, fireworks display, and patriotic celebration in our area, where we got to see Audio Adrenaline, Esterlyn, and Ryan Stevenson for a grand total of $5 (to park the van.)  We ate before we went, brought dollar-store glow sticks with us instead of buying the overpriced ones they sell in the venue, and limited the kids to $6 spending each. Again there came mild grumbling about my spending cap, but I just told them no one ever regrets having money in savings. Right?

On Thursday I found a CUTE clearance outfit at GAP for my youngest daughter for less than $6 including tax.  Just about the only time I’ll buy kids’ clothes new is if the clearance is stupendous, and this time it was.  We also moseyed into Claire’s and found cards of earrings marked down to $2, with an additional sale of buy two/get one. So 6 cards of earring cost me less than $9, and will be good little stocking stuffer/birthday gifts here and there.  They were even earrings for sensitive ears, which is a necessity for one of my daughters.

On Thursday I made split peas and rice for lunch– super easy, moderately well liked by all, and very affordable.  I also made a menu plan for the next couple weeks, which should help me wisely use all the food we have stashed in freezer, fridge and cupboards. And one of these days we’ll have apricots, and later plums from our fruit trees– always a help in the produce department in the summer. All in all, a decently successful week in the finance department around here.

How’d it go at your house?  I love to hear about your successes.

 

Camping fun

Here’s at least some of what’s been keeping me away from the blog during the past week. I’ll write more later. Hope you’re enjoying your summer as well!
Tubing

 

Smores

Flame-out

 

Volleyball

Games in the lodge

Sunning

summertime

Sweet little Ascher
Too busy to blog today, but thankfully my lovely daughters have somehow found time to blog even with teeny ones!  Maybe you’d like to pop over and see what’s new with them??

Amanda

Erika

Easter fun

Eggs!

FlowerGirlSmThis week we’ve been preparing to have family over to our house for Easter. Along with our kids and grandkids, we’re having both sets of grandparents plus John’s and my brothers and sisters. Between tables in the family room, dining room, and patio, as well as kitchen counter seating and patio furniture, we should be able to find space for everyone.

We’ve been planting flowers and sprucing up around the house.  The flowers on the tables will eventually end up in the flowerbeds, but I thought I’d keep them indoors for the weekend to add more of a spring feel inside. And of course there was some egg decorating.

FlowersSmThe really crazy (and nice!) thing is that all I’m cooking is potatoes and ham.  Everyone else is bringing every blessed thing, right down to cups and plates and oodles of dessert and lots of eggs for the kids to hunt. Should be a lovely time!

I hope you have a blessed Easter as well.  I saw this amazing video on facebook and wanted to share it here in case you haven’t seen it yet.

Our Redeemer lives!  Halleluiah!

 

 

Because you NEED an antelope


me with Sophie Hudson and Melanie Shankle at dotMomI discovered blogs way back in 2006, and since then have found lots of good ones.  But only a handful have remained steady favorites, and Melanie Shankle’s blog Big Mama is one I’ll read as long as she’s game to write it. Her sense of humor is priceless–in my next life, I want to be as funny as she is.  I had the fun of traveling to the Dominican Republic with her on behalf of Compassion International several years ago, and also attended a dotMom conference where she and fellow blogger Sophie Hudson (A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet) spoke. (I begged this photo with them at the end of that conference.)

Anyway, Melanie’s SECOND book was just released:   The Antelope in the Living Room: The Real Story of Two People Sharing One Life.  It’s a delightful story of married life that I think a lot of us can relate to, even as we’re chuckling over some of the funny moments. I read it in two days and loved it.  My husband is currently reading it, which is a testimony to how funny it is– he rarely reads the same books I do.  Several of our teens have read and enjoyed bits of it too. SO!  I am delighted that I get to give away a copy of this fun book to one of YOU!

All you have to do is comment below and tell me the funniest or most shocking or most controversial item that you or your husband brought home, to the dismay of your partner.  For John and me I think it would have to be a plush recliner that we found next to a dumpster at the nursing home where I worked, and brought home as newlyweds.  One of us (OK, it was me) naively thought a good scrubbing with baking soda would get it smelling like roses.  Ah, notsomuch.  Let’s just say that chairs residing next to nursing-home dumpsters are there for a good reason.

So what was it for you? Tell us your stories.  And by all means, if you have more than one funny story, comment twice and share both stories for two entries.  You can have another entry by tweeting or sharing this contest on facebook, and commenting yet again.  I’ll announce a winner on Monday!

my (un)Valentine’s weekend

Us

It’s funny how you get used to all the rhythms that are peaceful in your home, and begin to take them for granted.  It’s much easier to focus on the hard parts of living in relationship.  Any marriage, no matter how happy, consists of two souls with different needs and wishes and sometimes widely varying ways of seeing this big world.   It can be easy to focus solely on the squeaky spots, the places that lack harmony, to feel frustrated that even after years of living together it can be hard to see the world through another’s eyes.

But the good.  It’s right there all around me too.  If only I would remember to see it and savor it and breathe it in.

Over the weekend my husband took our teens to snow camp, which left me home alone with our two youngest girls on Valentine’s Day.  The girls and I look forward to this weekend each year almost as much as the folks who actually get to go someplace.  We’ve turned it into a girls’ weekend, where we stay up late and sleep in the living room and watch movies and paint our nails and play games and go on little outings that we rarely make time to do during the rest of the year. Oh, we had a good time!

But this year, maybe because of the Valentine’s-Day-that-wasn’t, I also felt the absence of my husband much more keenly.  It seemed that everywhere I turned, there was something not quite right because he wasn’t there.  The fire in the wood stove went out over and over, all weekend long. We forgot to feed the cows in the evening until it was nearly dark. No firewood magically appeared on the hearth when we needed it. I woke in the middle of the night realizing I’d forgotten to lock up the house, then scurried barefoot to lock everything up, pushing back a hint of the dread I felt as a child when walking through the dark night to the bathroom alone.

Each little moment of unbalance reminded me how much I take for granted.  How much my husband nurtures and cares for me, quietly and automatically, simply because he savors his role as my lover and protector. There have been moments where I resent his protectiveness, crankily ‘reading’ it to mean that he thinks I am not competent.  But this weekend of missing him made me see it clearer.  He serves me in these little ways because he cherishes me, plain and simple.  He wants me to move through life with warmth and safety and comfort and ease.

That’s all it is.

And yet it is so much.

Things I’m loving

CrochetHeartPattern4

Randomness that I’m enjoying lately:

Gluten Free Blueberry Cake Donuts– yumminess. I found that they cooked more evenly if we just formed them into donut ‘holes’. Lots of times when I make gluten free things, the kids taste them and don’t like them too much, but these donuts were eaten by all until they were gone. One of the kids said they get better after a few hours, when they’re cold. They have a nice tender crumb and we all loved them.

This post from The Better Mom,  especially, ‘what makes us crabby often reveals where our idols dwell.’  So true.


I literally found this  Organic Wear Face Sculpting Trio clearanced at the grocery outlet a few months ago for $5, and have only found it on amazon since then, but I love it.  I wear it on top of foundation, and it adds a glow and a smooth look that I love.


COVERGIRL Bombshell Volume Mascara is another makeup find that I have been loving lately. It is a two-step mascara that really maximizes your eyelashes. Love it. (Hint: I linked to this on amazon, but you can get it cheaper at WalMart. $8, I think?)

This hairstyle is going to be my next cut, I think. So cute.  I might even get some red highlights. Maybe.

StitchFix Stitch Fix is just too much fun.  I keep saying each fix will be my last but then I get lured in wondering what cuteness they might send me next.  And face it, when shopping on my own I all too often default to a blouse that is either turquoise or black.  Seriously, I am so stuck in a rut.  I have another box coming on the 22nd and I am so much looking forward to it!

Isn’t this garland sweet? I don’t know how to crochet, but I’m going to see if I can talk my daughter into making it for me!

 

Have you pinned or discovered anything interesting lately?

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Conversation Starters for Holiday Dinners

Conversation Starters

Last night we were invited over to my parents’ house for dessert and a few gifts.  While we were visiting, my dad asked everyone to tell about a favorite gift they’d gotten a different year.  It turned out to be really fun going around the table and hearing what was most memorable to all the various people.

My mom and dad both have memories of getting Christmas bikes that were joint gifts to them and a sibling or two or more. One of our kids declared gummy bears to be the best gift ever. :)Of course my fingerprint Christmas was my very favorite, but I also remembered getting the gift of piano lessons one year as a child, with a prelude of dozens of cryptic clues smilingly supplied by my mom, none of which helped me guess a bit. John remembered the lengths to which his dad went to ‘prove’ to the kids that Santa did exist.  (Tape recordings of the jolly elf saying ‘ho, ho, ho’ and rattling packages pretty much seal the deal, right? :) )

Anyway, the conversation was so delightful that it got me thinking about other conversation starters that a family could employ at a holiday meal that would provide interesting conversation and leave everyone knowing a little more about each other.  So I did some thinking and some looking at similar lists and compiled one of my own:

1. Tell us about a favorite gift from a different Christmas.

2.  If you could eat only three foods for the rest of your life, what would they be?

3. What was a job you hated when you were younger?  One that you like now?

4. What is one thing you wish had more time to do during the next year?

5. What is the bravest thing you’ve ever done in your life?

6.  What is one adventure you’d like to have in the future?

7. What is the hardest thing about your current age?  The best thing?

8. What is your earliest Christmas memory?  Your best?

9. What’s the best compliment you’ve ever gotten?

10.What’s one thing you got better at this year?  What would you like to get better at next year?

Have any questions you would add to this list?  I’d love to hear them.  And here’s hoping holidays with your family will be treasured memories!

 

 

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