Friday, December 31, 2010

Confession Number 67: Oh, I Love A Rainy Night!

It has been forever since we have had any measurable form of precipitation in our neck of the woods.  The earth was parched and the lake was low.  A cold front is heading our way, destined to ruin the humid, balmy December temperatures we have had the last few days.  It was a combo perfect for a good, old fashioned, spring like rainstorm. 
It started moving through sometime early this morning.  I woke up, heard the pounding on my windows, smiled to myself and cuddled a little deeper into the covers.  I love, love, love sleeping in the rain.  The storm would come and go, and it started up again a little before 6:30.  For the first time ever we hear the pitter patter of little feet coming across the living room whispering, "Mommy!  Mommy!  I'm scared.  Can I get in bed with you?"  Dustin gets out of bed to pick her up and lift her under the covers where she immediately snuggles up with both of us for the next 30 minutes.  The best morning EVER.  I'm loving this rainy night....or morning. 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Confession Number 66: It is Pouring

I need this.  I need to sit down and pound this out on my keyboard, because if I didn't have you all to whine to I might just go lay in bed in the fetal position crying, and Lord knows I don't have the time for a pity party.  So, I need you to listen to me vent for a minute, okay?  I need to sit down here, taking out all of my frustrations on these keys and sip on some coffee.  Momma really needs a glass of wine (yes, at 9:30 in the morning), but my half caff coffee is going to have to be good enough for now.  For some reason, I'm thinking that really isn't a fair trade. 

You know the old adage "When it rains, it pours".  Well, it is pouring at our house.  Pouring broken things.  Now, I'm going to start this off by saying it really has gotten to the point that it is funny.  It is such a blessing that we have the capabilities to handle all of these broken things.  I know that God is up there planning some big lesson for Dustin and I.  You think he'd listen if I told him I was ready to learn?  That he had my attention?  I know that all of these things are so little, and for that, I am truly, truly grateful.  That is what is making it humorous at this point.

This story begins the week before Thanksgiving.  On my way to a MOPS night meeting I realized that my heater wasn't working in the truck.  Great, I thought.  That will be a nice, expensive fix on a vehicle we really aren't planning on having much longer.  A few days later it overheated in the middle of town.  We knew I had a slow leak of "something", but wasn't sure what it was.  Well, it was coolant and I was just about dry, hence why the heater wasn't working.  A refill on coolant and the truck was working great again until two days ago, when I started overheating after taking KJ to school.  So, we put the truck on ice for a couple of days and we have been living with one car.  Actually, not that bad of a deal, but, still, needs to be fixed.

The day after Thanksgiving I walked into the laundry room to notice water all over the floor.  After a little investigation, I open the deep freeze to find a cool, not freezing cold, interior.  Luckily, the food was all still fine.  It could all fit into our fridge freezers.  A call to a local appliance repair place found that it was leaking Freon.  A $200 fix on a $400 freezer.  Dustin and I agreed it wasn't worth it.

Tuesday we got a call from a friend at the City of Grove.  "Um, Dustin, this is Stephanie.  I think you have a problem.  Your meter reads that you have used 35,000 gallons of water this month."  Really?!?!  What is up with all the leaking around here?!?!  God Bless Steph and the very nice meter reader, who didn't have to bring it to our attention.  We could have just gotten the water bill in the mail.  Then we would be dealing with a cardiologist bill on top of everything else.  This is why I am loving being back in a small town!! 

This morning Dustin took my truck to work, not wanting to put his daughter and pregnant wife in a car that might break down on the side of the road.  I get KJ all ready for school and off we go out to the car, which won't start.  I just sat in the driver's seat and laughed.

Thankfully most of these issues have a glimmer of a silver lining.  We have been pre-approved for a loan to buy me a new car.  Yes, it is a couple of months before we wanted, but we can afford it, so not a HUGE deal.  My mom has a freezer she isn't using, so they are bringing it up to us next week.  At the very least we will be able to borrow it until we find a few extra hundred dollars to buy a new one.  The ginormous water leak is in our new irrigation system.  Yes, my nice, new, pretty yard will need to be torn back up, but since it is their fault, it should be good as new once they are finished.  I'm pretty sure the issue with Dustin's car is that the electric battery needs to be charged.  Easy fix, but, of course, we can't find the charger. 

During this time of year we all get busy with this and that, and trust me, all of these "issues" are not helping that, but God has given me a peace that these are just "things".  Everyone is healthy, we are happy and have an abundance of blessings to be thankful for.  I need to be reminded of that every once in a while, and Lord, I promise, I have been.  So, until God is convinced that I have learned me lesson, could someone please hand me an umbrella?  I'm soaked over here. 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Confession Number 65: It Is Funny What You Remember

Memories are a funny thing, don't you think?  They make you laugh, make you smile and they have a way of sneaking up on you and biting you on the butt when you least expect it.  Memories are God's little gift from the past.

I remember seeing my husband for the first time across a crowded resturant in LA. 
I remember my parents taking us to "see the lights" in OKC when my brother came home for the first time in years.
I remember the fear of going to a new school.
I remember the overwhelming joy when Dustin handed our daughter to me for the first time.
I remember getting balloons at school from Daddy on Valentine's Day.
I remember watching Pee Wee Herman on Saturday mornings.
I remember the tears streaming down my face as I sat in an empty house in Piedmont the day we left.
I remember the rush of my first kiss.
I remember the peace of knowing I found the man to spend the rest of my life with. 
I remember the family of little girls we helped get clean and dressed for the Christmas Program when I was a freshman in HS.

It is truly funny what you remember.  You never know what moment in your life, or what action you do to impact someone else's life is going to make a difference.  Some of these memories are simply that, memories.  Others altered the way I live my life.

Today I enjoy remembering Daddy.  His life, the gifts he shared with countless others, the impact he made as a father to four kids.  It is also amazing what you DON'T remember.  Thankfully I don't remember every little detail about his illness.  I remember bits and pieces.  Some of them are even funny.  On this, his 10th Angel Wing Day, I'm not going to think about the sad times, but the happy memories that God has blessed me with. 

Monday, November 22, 2010

Confession Number 64: It Was Worth Every Penny

So, we have been in the house for about six months now.  We have slowly, but surely, made it our home, adding touches here and there.  One of the things that has absolutely driven me crazy is that we had never gotten around to doing the yard.  We lived in a great big pile of dirt and rocks all summer.  I wish I would have taken pictures of it to remind me of what it was like.  To remind me how far we have come and to remind me how much I hated those rocks when I'm complaining about mowing all this grass!

Our neighbors have been great through our "moving in" process.  Sure, I had a lady stop about a month ago as I was checking the mail and ask if we had already changed our address.  I mumbled back, "um, we moved in 5 months ago" and sheepishly walked up the driveway.  I heard, "Oh.  Well, welcome to the neighborhood" as I slithered away.  Yes, I had a smarty pants neighbor text me, "Why don't you mow your rocks, they are getting unruly."  He was just excited someone else's yard was worse than his.  Tee heee heee.  On a whole, though, they stuck with us through a long, hot, dry summer and lovingly endured our rock yard. 

A few weeks ago Dustin and I broke down and hired someone to bring in good dirt, install the sprinkler system and lay new, pretty, lush sod.  Yes, it was expensive, and yes, it was worth the wait.  One cool, fall day our yard was transformed into a grassy haven, one six foot length of sod at a time...

My back still hurts for those guys.  17,000 sq. ft of sod later we had a beautiful, beautiful yard.  It was finished last Friday.  We spent Sunday doing this....
and this....

and this...

Try doing that in a rock garden.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Confession Number 63: My Most Expensive Trip

Maybe it is because it is the Holiday season.  Maybe it is because the heater in my truck is blowing cool air and I'm thinking it may be an expensive fix.  Maybe it is because it was the topic of our guest speaker last night at MOPS.  I'm not sure of the reason, but I've felt the urge, the need, to save money lately.  I was excited to see some great deals at Homeland this week since I was needing to stock the cupboards for our Thanksgiving festivities next week.  I wasn't sure how the trip would turn out, but I think I fared pretty well.....
Here is what is hidden in this stash and how it broke down:
Country Crock Mac and Cheese $1.29
Best Choice Sugar $1.49
Cook's Ham (6+ lbs.) $9.54
Best Choice Flour (2 bags at .99 each) $1.98
Stove Top Stuffing (6 boxes at ZILCH) FREE!
Campbell's Cream of Chicken Soup (2 cans at .19 each) .38
Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup (2 cans at .19 each) .38
Sister Schubert's Rolls (2 pkgs at $1.25 each) $2.50
Cool Whip (2 containers at .79 each) $1.58
Pillsbury Pie Crusts (2 pkg. at $1.50 each) $3.00
Rhoades Sticky Buns .49
Kayro Syrup $1.20
Green Giant Corn FREE
Green Giant Peas FREE
Nestle Chocolate Chips (2pkgs. at .66 each) $1.33

I also had a $5 off my total order of $30 or more coupon, so my total, with tax, came to $22.84! 

Some of you are saying, "Charla makes pancakes from scratch, like she is going to use 6 boxes of Stovetop Stuffing!"  Well, you are right.  Honestly, I've never even tasted the stuff, but if I can get it for free, there are families out there who could really use it.  I'll donate it to a local food bank to help out a family who is hurting this Holiday season. 

One of my favorite things about couponing is that I can try new products for a lower price.  Some of you are screaming, "You are falling into the coupon trap!"  Well, possibly, but take this for example:  I have always wanted to try the Country Crock sides.  They look totally yummy, not to mention easy, but the price has always been a little high for me.  Today, I could try a new product, for a fraction of the cost.  It made a super simple and yummy lunch for KJ and I.  Will I buy it again?  If I find a good deal on it, probably, yes.  I matched it with carrots and apples and we both went back for seconds. 

Wanting to get in on your own Homeland deals?  Look up your local Homeland ad at, then also check out the match ups at  Click on "Homeland" on the right side of the screen for the latest coupon/sale matchups.  While this was my largest Homeland trip to date, I still think it turned out pretty well.  Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Confession Number 59: Favorites, Money Saving Sites

I've been promising you this post for a long time, and with Christmas knocking on the door, I decided it was time to get you all saving some money!  These are my favorite online ways to shave some money off of your budget.  I've used them all and they are legit.  I love a good deal!

*Groupon-  This is probably the site I've been using the longest.  They are a daily deal site for a specific area.  For example, if you are in the NE Oklahoma area, like me, you would want to sign up for the Tulsa Groupon.  They would send you a new deal each day, usually for a local business.  Sometimes they offer a deal on a website, so anyone can purchase, no matter where you are, and occasionally they will offer a national deal for a big chain.  The deals are normally at least 50% off the regular purchase price.  The one today for Tulsa is 73% off game tokens at a game/arcade place in Jenks.  If you are into that sort of thing, it is a great deal!  I have purchased Groupons for Gap, Shutterfly, Shiloh's (a Tulsa restaurant), a plant nursery in Pryor, and I even purchased one from Long Island for a stamped jewelry website.  They have all been used for things I was going to buy anyway, something special for our family, or as gifts.  I've also heard of people checking out Groupon for a city they were visiting on vacation.  What a great way to shave money off of your entertainment and gift budget!  Signing up for Groupon is FREE and you can visit them here

*Living Social-  Living Social is another daily deal site, like Groupon.  I've been getting their email updates for Tulsa for quite awhile, but today was actually my first time to purchase a deal from them.  They were offering 50% off that awesome "home cooking" restaurant Shiloh's I mentioned above with Groupon.  You will see a lot of businesses using both Groupon and Living Social at different times, so double the savings for you!  Again, an easy way to save money doing things you would do anyway.  Today's OKC deal is for a 4 pack of tickets to the Science Museum Oklahoma.  A great family outing if you have school aged kiddos.  Seems like a no brainer to me!  Sign up for Living Social updates here

*Ebates- This site is the easiest way to save money for those of us who shop online.  Sign up for Ebates and get money back on most of your online purchases.  Once your Ebates account reaches a certain amount, you'll get money from Ebates...either via check or Paypal.  It is that easy!  Most stores offer an extra 2-5% off, which doesn't seem like much, but adds up, especially this time of year when my online shopping increases ten fold.  Wanna know something great?  Go to your Ebates account first, then search "Groupon" and get an extra 3% off of your Groupon purchase!  How cool is that?  Right now, Ebates is offering even higher cash back options for certain stores to encourage your online shopping for Christmas.  I sense a big Ebates deposit coming my way!  Sign up for Ebates here and get a gift card to one of your favorite stores....just for signing up!

*Shop At Home- This site is like Ebates.  It isn't as easy to maneuver their site, but lately, they have been having higher cash back rates, so I've actually been using them more than Ebates.  They also work with different stores, so if one store you are wanting to shop from isn't on Ebates, they might be on Shop At Home or vice versa.  You DON'T have to download anything to use the online shopping feature of Shop At Home and once your account reaches $20, they will send you your money.  Again, a great way to get a better deal on stuff you are already buying.  I check both Ebates and Shop At Home before I purchase anything online.  Sign up for Shop At Home here

*Swag Bucks-  This is probably the easiest to use site I'm listing here today and it is way different from the others.  This is a search engine where you earn points, or Swag Bucks, just for searching the web.  You then can spend your points on all sorts of prizes.  I recently bought three $5 Amazon gift cards with the points I've earned since mid-September.  Not too shabby.  I highly recommend downloading the Swagbucks Toolbar, which will appear at the top of your screen, similar to a Google or Yahoo searching toolbar.  You randomly are awarded Swagbucks based on what you search and how often you search.  Consistency is the key to earning Swagbucks, so I use my toolbar instead of just typing in the web address.  Instead of typing in, I simply type "charlas confessions" into the Swagbucks toolbar, then click on the link.  That gives me a higher chance of earning Swagbucks in a given day.  I've already won 10 this morning!  I'm hoping this will become an easy way to reduce our gift budget.  Sign up for Swagbucks here

I'm sure there are other sites that I use to save money, but these are the ones I love and that I use most often.  If you have a site, I'd love to hear about it!  Share it with us in the comments section.  I hope these help you keep a little more green in your pocket as you start, or for you over achievers, finish your Christmas shopping. 

Friday, November 5, 2010

Confession Number 62: I am a Chi Omega

Maybe the true confession here is that I was a sorority girl in college.  Yes, I was that girl, although hardly any of us met the stereotype given to this group.  I put in my four years, then, I'm somewhat ashamed to admit, I kind of went about my life.  I got married, I started my career, I got my Master's degree, I had kids.  It wasn't until I became a stay at home mom that I realized that a lot of who I was today was because of my days as a collegiate Chi Omega. 
My days as Community Service Chair taught me the importance of giving back to others in need, something that is a large aspect of our family today.  Time spent as Sisterhood Chair helped me understand that women need other women to sharpen them and be the best they can be.  The best mom, wife, worker, friend.  My year spent as Personnel officer?  That taught me that sometimes rigidity isn't as important as flexibility.  An important aspect as an educator and a parent. 
I've reconnected with a lot of my Chi O sisters, mostly through email and Facebook, and others, sadly,  I've totally lost contact with over the years. 
Chi Omega was founded at the University of Arkansas, and as a girl who grew up in southwest Oklahoma, I always felt like Fayetteville was a lifetime away.  Low and behold a move to northeast Oklahoma a little over a year ago brought us only about an hour away from Fayetteville and U of A.  Finally, a couple of weeks ago, we took a day trip over to see what all Fayetteville had to offer.  I had one goal:  I wanted to see the Chi Omega Greek Theater on the U of A campus.  After a little research and some careful negotiating of narrow campus streets, Dustin and Lynn found it for me. 
I felt like a 30 year old giddy college girl as we looked for it, then I realized this was smack dab in the middle of campus and it was obviously time in between classes and there were a LOT of college kids around.  It didn't stop me from jumping out and walking around.  Some kids even stopped so Mom could grab this quick picture of me.  It was neat, and got me thinking about my time in college with the girls.  I love you all and thank you for helping me become the woman I am today!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Confession Number 61: I Love My TV

As a lot of American families, our TV is a central part of our home.  We even made a special place for it when we built our house, specficially made to hold the biggest TV possible. 
You would think there would be a discussion between Dustin and I about our television taking such a prominent place in our home, but there wasn't.  I agreed to it.  Completely!  We love watching TV.  In the summer our TV watching time goes down dramatically, but you give us football (lots of football, any football) mixed with the new season of shows and in the fall our DVR fills up quickly.  I mean, there is way to much Grey's and Private Practice.....The Good Wife and Big Bang Theory......Two and a Half Men (that's Dustin's guilty pleasure) and 19 Kids and Counting (that is mine) to not have something to watch each night.

Now, we aren't in front of the TV all stinking day.  We especially try to limit the amount it is on during the day.  Mostly because this is Kennedy when it is on....

She loves her some Playhouse Disney, and I have to admit Dustin and I like our fair share of shows on there.  I still sing the dang Chuggington song on a daily basis!  During the week, KJ's TV time is really limited to about 30 minutes or so a day, but on the weekends, it is a different story.  If there is nowhere for us to be up and off to on a Saturday morning, Dustin or I may lay on the couch, cuddled up with our little girl, for a couple of hours. 

After an hour or so of said snuggling this past weekend, I came to the conclusion that right now, we are loving our TV.  And I'm not ashamed to admit it.  There will be a day, probably much sooner than we realize, where she won't want to lay down and cuddle with mom or dad while watching Saturday morning cartoons anymore.  When we won't even see her on a Saturday morning because she will be sleeping until noon.  So, for right now, I'm loving my TV and all the cuddles and special times that come with it. 

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Confession Number 59: Favorites, Fun Blogs

So, it is been awhile, but I promise, I'm here!  In the past ten days I've finally gotten over the I'm so exhausted I can't think straight phase of pregnancy (I hope), survived a surge of HootieMomma orders, went on a mini-vaca, and I'm finally back to semi-normal living for awhile.  My house is a disaster, the blog has been lonely, and I'm yearning to plant mums in my pots on the front porch. 

For now, as I wait for the dryer to buzz at me, I'm taking some time to pound out the next installment of "I Play Favorites".  I wrote about my favorite money saving blogs here, so this time around I wanted to introduce you to a couple of my "friends" (yes, they really are true friends, not just internet friends) that I visit on the blogosphere when I need some laughs or mommy insight or just for fun. 

First is my good friend Shannon over at Shannon Gurney Photography.  Shannon has been taking our family pictures for the last three years and we LOVE her.  There is no other way to put it.  I love checking out her blog on a regular basis, even looking at her shots of people I don't know.  I'm not some crazy stalker person, I just love her work.  She makes the sessions fun and easy, her work is stinkin' amazing, and she is affordable.  I love the fact that Shannon sells you a CD of your photos, along with a copyright release so you can order your pictures from wherever you want, whenever you want.  Sometimes I've gone back a year later and had more pics printed for one reason or another. 
I've been a little obsessed with Shannon and her blog here recently.  A couple of weeks ago she took my nephew Joe's senior pictures (could someone please help me with the sudden chest pains I get when I realize that my oldest nephew is a SENIOR?!?!), then a few days after that she had a session with the Wyatt Family.  They are great friends of ours that we left behind in OKC when we moved.  Our girls are only 3 days apart and we are both expecting baby number two and they should only be a month or so apart.  Then, at the beginning of this week, we had our yearly family session with her.  I can not send Shannon enough love.  She is spectacular and is becoming spectacularly busy with her business.  If you are within driving distance of OKC, I highly recommend you get a few clicks of the camera in with Shannon and check out her blog a couple of times a week.  You won't regret it!

Next is a long time friend of mine, Megan, from SortaCrunchy fame.  I've known Megan since college.  She was a Chi Omega advisor of mine, my dorm director and my long time college roommate's big sister.  To say she played an important role in how my college years played out is an understatement.  I always have viewed Megan as a classy, intelligent woman.  Those thoughts continue to be spot-on as you read her blog, SortaCrunchy.  Megan writes about a whole host of things including natural living, parenting practices, and religious views.  She never fails to entertain and educate, no matter what her topic.  She has opened my eyes to new things such as washing my face with oil (verdict still out) and a greener way of life.  Her articles on religious views challenge me to seek God in a new way and I love her call to advocacy.  Agree with her, don't agree with her, as long as you are respectful, she loves to hear your comments.  Megan helps me to strive to be a better mother, a better child of God, and a better member of this big 'ol community we call Earth. 

Since I don't have enough to do, I want to know, what blogs do you think I should add to my reading list?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Confession Number 60: It's Been A Good Day

This morning Dustin mentioned that it had been awhile since I had been bargin shopping at Homeland.  Yes.  It has.  Mostly because they have only had one or two deals I needed each week and I didn't think it was worth my time to drive 15 minutes to Homeland one way.  I've been using coupons here and there at Wal-Mart, but Homeland is my stocking up store, so our pantry shelves were getting a little bare. 

After surfing my blogs a bit this morning, I realized that there were some pretty good deals this week, so I worked on my list, printed off my coupons and headed to Jay.  Here was what I brought back...

Here is what I bought and the price after coupons:

Tidy Cats kitty litter.....49 cents
Friskies kitty treats.....FREE!
Tony's Crispy Crust Pizzas (2 of them)...FREE!
Armour Lunchmakers (2 of them) ...$1 coupon
Oreos.....89 cents
Starkist Tuna....39 cents
Rhoads Warm and Serve Sticky Buns...69 cents
Carnation Evaporated Milk....79 cents each
85/15 Ground Beef....$2.81
1 lb. Baby Carrots....$ coupon
Butterflied Pork Chops...$2.03

This came to $11.88 plus tax.  Not too shabby! 

Some of you might be saying, "Charla, why are you buying kitty stuff?  You don't have a cat."  Well, actually we do.  We have two of them and they have been adopted by Dustin's parents since we left Piedmont.  We have felt a little guilty about their rent free living, so I've had my eye out for good cat deals lately to help out. 

I want to send a BIG shout out to Amanda at Simply Saving Savvy.  She compliles the Homeland deals in OKC, and while my store runs off of a different sales circular, many of the OKC deals are "unadvertised" at my store, so I can double dip.  I wrote about why I love SSS here

By the way, the majority of my coupons were printables, so if you are interested in your own Homeland trip, visit SSS for all of the coupon links. 

Happy Saving!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Confession Number 59: Favorites, Money Savings Blogs

A few months ago I became intrigued by the amount of money my friend Nicci over at Nix9to5 was saving by couponing.  I used to clip coupons and use them when I could, but I often found that the store brand was still cheaper than the name brand with the coupon. 

I figured out that the secret to couponing was to match your coupons with the store sales and to stock up when things were at a good price.  With the help of some useful blogs I find sale/coupon match ups at stores like CVS, Walgreens and Homeland.  These blogs also have pointed me to other money saving sites that I'll share with you on another day.  I try to visit them at least once a day, usually during Kennedy's nap or while she is busy with something else. 

Yes, this takes up a bit of time, and I'm not sure how into it I would be if I were still counseling, but for now, with me staying at home, it works for me and is saving us some money in the process.  I am not wild and crazy into it, but I am saving us some money, especially with personal care and toiletry items.  I have seen a decrease in the amount of my weekly Wal-Mart trip, and I think most of that is because I rarely buy a non food item there any more.  Most of my savings is due to the ladies who write these blogs because they do all the searching and match ups for me.  I just have to read, find or print my coupons, make my list and go to the store.  There is no telling how much money these women have saved families across the country with all of their hard work.

Simple Saving Savvy-  Amanda is the brain behind SSS and it is her goal to save money so her family can give more to others.  Sounds good to me!  She is located in Oklahoma City and many of her match ups are for stores in the metro area.  SSS was the first saving blog I started reading, thanks to Nix9to5.  I love her match ups for Walgreens, CVS and Homeland.  I have to be careful on the Homeland match ups because my store doesn't always run the same ads as the stores in OKC.  She also posts other deals as they come up.  Her site is easy to read and follow and is great for beginners.  I also won a contest on her site a couple months back, so she is a favorite in my book!

Passion for Savings-  I found Passion for Savings by searching for blogs that did match ups for Harps, a local grocery store in our area.  Heather writes Passion for Savings and I absolutely love her site!  She does tons of match ups for the NW Arkansas area including Harps, Wal-Mart and the drug stores.  Unfortunately, her Wal-Mart sales are rarely the same as my Wal-Mart, only an hour away.  She loves to save where she can so she can spend where she wants to (for Heather, it is often her designer jeans!).  This is the old tell your money where you want it to go philosophy.  She also has great links to printable coupons and other saving strategies and sites.  I love her links for Swagbucks, Groupons available nationwide and tons of shopping sites!  I'll talk all about those another day.

Wild for Wags-  I love Christie!  She is absolutely the craziest Walgreens shopper I have ever seen!  Her entire site is devoted to finding great deals at Walgreens, which, let's face it, is normally sky high.  Since there is a Walgreens less than 5 minutes from my house, I love the match ups and scenarios she offers each week.  For example, today, I got PAID 11 cents for taking a bottle of dish soap out of the store.  Crazy!  Want to know how I did it?  Check out Wild for Wags and start saving!  She also throws in other money saving tips as she runs across them. 

I know there are about a bazillion other money saving blogs out there, but these are the three that help me out the most.  I hope they can help you too!  I've almost found this couponing thing to be a game.  How many things can I bring home for the least amount of money?  It's fun!  I'd love to hear if you have some favorite sites to visit to save you money.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Confession Number 59: I Play Favorites, Intro

Since staying at home with Kennedy, my eyes have been opened to a whole new world I never really knew existed.  There was this whole part of the internet I had never paid attention to before.  I wasn't an internet novice.  I probably spent 80% of my work day on the computer, but it was the blogosphere and the wide range of topics on the blogosphere that was so shocking. 

Over the months I have found many sites that I visit every single day.  Some of them are blogs, some are just sites in general.  Most of them a friend has suggested to me.  A few I found by doing some searching.  I have had so many friends ask for my fav sites, especially on the subjects of couponing and saving, that I decided to do a series on my favorite spots to spend time on the web. 

Here is the thing, when I do a "series" here on Confessions, I have a hard time keeping up with it.  So, you all out there are my accountability partners.  You have to stay on top of me to keep this going.  You are free to email me, send me a facebook, hollar at me in public, send me harassing text messages, just about anything short of public tar and feathering to remind me to keep posting these awesome sites.  Check back often (as in later today) to see the latest in the "I Play Favorites" series.

Oh, and happy Friday!!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Confession Number 58: Kennedy's Confession

Kennedy has a confession for today.  She's been holding in a secret for a few weeks and she just can't keep it to herself any longer....

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Confession Number 57: I'm the Mother of a Three Year Old

Well.  It is offical.  My baby isn't much of a baby anymore.  She is a full blown, independent, demanding, bossy, incredibly cute preschooler.  She talks in paragraphs.  She learns new things every day.  She dances and twirls like no one is watching.  She lives for the glass slipper to fit.  Okay, yes, yes, she IS my daughter.  She was bound to like the whole Cinderella story, right?  The shoe fettish is genetic, so maybe I should take the credit for that.  She is unbearably cute and loveable one minute and makes us want to pull our hair out the next.  All in the day of a three year old.

I've never been one that gets overly emotional on her birthdays.  I cried on her first birthday, but it was more because I had to work and couldn't spend the day with her than it was that she was getting older.  It has always been my philosophy that if we are doing the job God intended for us, as parents, then our children should grow up, they should get older and become more independent.  We'll see if I feel the same way when she turns 16. 

This year Kennedy was old enough to pick her own birthday theme and in true fashion she choose princess.  We had a little gathering of friends and family to celebrate her big day.  Let's just say, she was in heaven! 

My very talented friend at Tasty Creations by Julie made her princess birthday cake to match her party invitations...
So, is a crooked crown kind of like a crooked halo?  I think so.

Her cake was adorable and sooo yummy!  I bought some special sparkler candles for her cake...
Little did I know when I bought them that they were also trick candles.  They kept relighting and KJ had a hard time getting them out for good.  I received many boos from the crowd that night.  I didn't know, I swear!

Like most three year olds, her favorite part was opening presents.  There were so many! 

We are truly blessed with amazing friends and family, but it really got me thinking about a more simplistic plan for next year.  I hate that in her mind a party means presents.  Maybe a book exchange or something fun for all of the kids next year.

Three is a lot of fun, but very challenging.  Dustin is learning what it is like to be in a house with two females.  One minute she is happy, the next she is falling on the floor crying because she didn't want you to get her a new cup.  Then you hand it to her and she's completely fine again.  And that is just me!  Kidding!  The emotions run high around here, but we wouldn't have it any other way!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Confession Number 56: I Am One of Them

Last year a new friend drug me to my first MOPS (Mother's of Preschoolers) meeting.  I have to say, I wasn't overly excited.  I was new to this whole Stay At Home Mom thing and sure didn't want to fit into any SAHM stereotype.  I wasn't into playing with play doh all day, creating exciting crafts for my daughter on a daily basis, or talking about nothing but kids with a bunch of other women.  I was different.  I was a professional who was "trying out" this whole full time mommy thing.  I wasn't like them. 

Boy, was I wrong.  I was like them.  All of us with little ones at home are like them.  "Them" are now some of my closest friends.  Most of us don't hang out at the park on a daily basis.  Most of us don't relish in a spic and span house.  Most of us are doing good to get dinner on the table at night...a special feat for those in the group who don't cook!  We don't sit around talking about when baby eats or how many diapers they go through in the day.  Actually, when we are together, we rarely talk about our kids in detail at all.  We talk about girl things, what to wear, how our husbands don't empty the dishwasher enough, the current issues.  We laugh together, we cry together, we pray together. 

Don't get me wrong.  This is a great group of women who are wonderful to bounce parenting tips off of, but when we are together most of our time is spent in investing in ourselves as women.  That, in turn, makes us better mothers, better wives, better friends. 

We come away refreshed.  Ready to tackle the world for another day.  Because, at the very least we got to eat a bite without sharing it with our three-year-old and we were able to sit and chat without kids running around our feet.  That is the joy of being in MOPS.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Confession Number 55: I Didn't Cry

I've been promising a post on Kennedy's first day of school for awhile.  I thought I would have all of this free time on my hands once she was at school two days a week.  Are you kidding me?  What was I thinking?  Yesterday was the first time I wasn't booked solid on a school day. 

School has been great for all of us.  It helps me to better appreciate the time I have with her when we are home and she loves the interaction and learning.  Now, if I could only remember to put a show and tell item in her backpack, we'd be all set.  Yesterday, she showed her lunchbox.  How sad is that?!? 

She was so excited on her first day.  We got all dressed up and she got her backpack and lunchbox....
She could barely get it off the hook.  Since then, she has mastered getting it down...and putting it on, "all by herself". 

Then we took the traditional First Day of School picture....

I can't help but wonder how long I'll get to do this before the eye rolling and refusal kicks in.  I'm thinking, um, 1st grade?  Her Weezie says she looks too little to go to school.  I think she looks like such a big girl. 

An exciting car ride, in which she wouldn't stop talking, later and we were finally there.  There she goes...
She absolutely loves it!  It totally and completely wears her out.  She is crashed by 8:00 on nights after she has been at school.  She's learned lots of new songs, how to speak in front of others, and apparently how to hold hands with Dakota.  More to come on that story, later. 

As for right now, Dustin and I can proudly say, we made the right decision.  She is loving it and two days a week is perfect for her.  Whew!  Another parenting obstacle overcome....and I didn't even shed a tear!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Confession Number 54: I've Been in a Rut

Maybe it has been getting used to our new schedule, maybe it is the time of year (I miss August in a high school) or maybe it is one of the other billion things going on in my life, but lately, I've been in a rut.  I haven't been blogging, I have been couponing regularly, I really just haven't been doing much of anything that is normal for me lately.

Today is the change of that, though.  Life is great!  Nothing to be in a rut about!  This weeks marks the start of football season, the start of our MOPS year and the start of me being rutless.  I'm hoping to get posts up about big things going on in our lives this week.  KJ's birthday and first day of school, plus who knows what else.  Stick with me, I'm back, I promise!

In the meantime, I think I got kicked out of my couponing rut this weekend.  Dustin, KJ and I ran to Tulsa for a little bargin shopping.  One of the stops on our list was to CVS.  I only recently started shopping at CVS, once I realized their Extra Care Bucks were good for a whole month.  Surely long enough for me to go to a larger city that has a CVS to spend them.  I had saved up $18 in Extra Care Bucks and they were about to expire.  There weren't a ton of things I needed that CVS had on sale, but I was pretty pleased with my haul. 
This trip included:
2 cans of Scrubbing Bubbles Bathroom Cleaner
2 pkgs. of Arm and Hammer Moist Dryer Sheets (not sure how I'll like these, but they are worth a try)
1 bottle Crest Complete Mouthwash
1 tube Crest Pro Health Toothpaste
2 tubs CVS Wet Wipes
1 bottle Fantastik
1 bottle Windex Multisurface
1 Green Bag Tag (not pictured)

I got all of that for $3.29, plus tax.  I had coupons for everything except the Green Bag Tag.  It will pay me a quarter in ECB everytime I bring in a reusable shopping bag.  It was $1, so it will pay for itself in four trips.  I also earned $10 in ECB off my next purchase. 

Hopefully my rut will stay far, far away.  I'm too busy to spend time in a rut. 

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Confession Number 53: She Cried

This week is a pretty big week in our house.  Full of lots of fun activities and big milestones.  Not only does Miss Kennedy turn 3 years old Friday, but this week also marks her first day of preschool.  It is crazy that she is getting ready to start her lifetime of formal education tomorrow. 

The decision to send our 3 year old to preschool two days a week wasn't one that Dustin and I came to easily.  You may remember reading about my big inner struggle with this decision here.  It was one of the most commented on postings I've done on this silly little blog of mine.  You all offered some great advice, and when all was said and done I knew I wouldn't make the wrong decision, either way.  A great friend pointed out that Kennedy's intellectual future probably wouldn't be solely determined on whether or not she went to preschool 2 days a week when she was three.  After lots of prayer and thought, and a little encouragement from Ms. Cheryl, her soon to be teacher, we decided to give it a try.  If she hates it, we don't have to go back and if she loves it, we are set.  We aren't locked into any contracts and don't feel pressured at all from the school. 

Monday was Open House at The Academy, Kennedy's new school.  It is a small, private school at the Presbyterian Church here in our hometown.  The school director is Ms. Judy, who, many moons ago, kept watch over Dustin, his sister Mallory, and a whole host of Dustin's lifelong friends.  KJ will be a 2nd generation student of Ms. Judy's.  We really can't go wrong.  We had been building it up all day that we were going to go meet her new teacher, and she was full of excitement.  We walked up the stairs and Dustin and Ms. Judy hugged (they hadn't seen each other in years).  Kennedy shook hands with Ms. Cheryl, then walked over by Judy and stood really close.  Finally Ms. Judy asked if she wanted a hug and KJ nodded.  I guess if Ms. Judy was good enough for Daddy she was good enough for Kennedy!  We were then lead to Kennedy's new classroom, where she immediately began playing with some toys in the floor.  We were told of the daily routine and the "homework" we could expect, then went to fill out some paperwork.  KJ drew on some scratch paper while Dustin and Ms. Judy caught up and when we were ready to go, she said, "OK, bye Mom".  I had to explain that she actually wouldn't be staying to go to school for a few days and that next time she came she would be able to stay and play all day.  Then they started.  The tears started flowing and we even had a collapse to the floor.  Ms. Judy commented how Kennedy may be a perfect candidate for the drama program the school offers.  You think?!?  We bribed her with some ice cream and made it out the door without too much more of a scene.  Dustin commented, "Why did we even question this?"  My thoughts exactly.  We'll see how well Momma holds it together tomorrow morning.  Stay tuned!  I'm sure there will be a good story!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Confession Number 52: I Kinda Like 30

I'm a few weeks into this new decade in my life, and I have to say,  it isn't too bad.  I mean, it's not like something earth shattering happens in that minute that you officially become older.  It's not like I instantly saw more wrinkles or felt like I was getting around slower.  It just was.  Literally, one minute I was 29 and the next, I was 30.  For the first time (that I remember) I was up at that minute.  I was born at 2:07 and Kennedy woke up that night at 2:06.  You can't tell me God didn't have something to do with that.  I mean, come on.  Chance?  I think not.

The day I had been dreading for weeks was actually really great.  I spent the morning with Mom and Lynn, who headed back home after lunch at our favorite Mexican joint.  Then Dustin surprised me with a hot stone massage in the afternoon.  To ease my old and aching muscles.  It.  was.  goooood.  I didn't drool this time, though.  I promise!

He then surprised me with a little gathering of our closest friends here in Grove.  We had such a good time.  Here are a few of the highlights...
Hiding my eyes while they brought in my birthday cake.  Thankfully, it had no candles!

Showing off my amazing cake my way talented friend Julie made (check her out here) and the incredible new ipad from Dustin.  I have such a great hubby!  Back off girls, I know you are jealous, but he is all mine!

With all the girls!  I am truly blessed to have an amazing group of women in my life.  Thanks, girls!

As the night wore on comments started being made about me being a cougar.  I don't think 30 quite qualifies you for cougar status, but since Dustin is a couple of years younger than I am, the group was letting them fly.  Here are a few fun shots of the cougar in action...
At least you are never too old to have a little fun!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Confession Number 51: I'm Back

After taking a few weeks off and surviving a minor computer crisis (thank you, Dustin), I'm back in the blogging mood.  Here is what you can look forward to this month on Charla's Confessions:

30 Isn't So Bad
Why I Love Wipees
My Online Obsessions
The Final JWL Recipe Review (finally)

and a few stories (I'm sure) on surviving Kennedy's 3rd birthday and her first day of preschool.  Trust me, it is bound to be a fun few weeks around here.  You'll want to stay tuned!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Confession Number 50: Lessons Learned at Sea World

We jumped in the truck last Monday afternoon and headed south for a little family vacation.  After an overnight stop to pick up Dustin's parents and sister, we finally made it to San Antonio and Sea World Tuesday afternoon.  KJ has had a total blast, even if she has been utterly exhausted since before our trip south.  After spending the better part of two days at the best marine wildlife park, I have learned a few lessons along the way.  Some are sassy, some are serious.  All are making for a great (and much needed) vacation.  Here are the Lessons of Sea World....

1.  Parenting at Sea World, or any other outdoor venue in the heat of the summer, is NOT for the faint of heart.  We actually got pretty lucky weather wise, but the heat brings out the worst in all of us, almost 3 year olds, too.  I was talking to KJ at one particularly hot and sticky moment and I told her, "sometimes we just have to put on our big girl panties and deal with it".  Great parenting quote of the year, I know.  Her reply?  "I don't want to wear big girl panties, I want to wear a pull up!"  I know how you feel honey, sometimes I do too.  I SWEAR this is a true story!

2.  Seeing something new through the eyes of a child is priceless.  Happiness.  Fear.  Joy.  Awe.  Whatever the emotion, children wear their feelings on their face.  And sometimes on Daddy's face, too....

You can immediately tell what they are thinking. The world is so simple through the eyes of a child.

3.  No matter how bad I think I look, I will still rank in the top 20% on a given day at Sea World. Don't get me wrong, I am nothing special to look at, I'm a mom for heaven's sake. I'm doing good not to walk out the door with a random bow in my hair and snot on my dress, but one afternoon in the Lost Lagoon and your self esteem will start inching upwards. I'm just saying. I thought to myself, "she left the house thinking she looked good this morning", more than once.

4.  Watching your hubby being a good daddy is one of the sexiest things he can do (next to unloading the dishwasher).  Dustin is so good with Kennedy.  She completely and totally latched on to him this week.  She's with mom all the time, mom's boring.  Dad is fun and exciting!  I love watching the two of them together.  He's the best dad a little girl could want!
5.  Last, and by all means, not least...Our God is an amazing God!  What creativity!  What insight!  He not only created us, but he created thousands of creatures, each with their own purpose on this planet.  They are beautiful! 
So, there you go, a little insight into my mind on vacation.  We have about 24 hours left.  I think I'm going to go enjoy them!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Confession Number 49: I Need to Buy More Beads

A little over a year ago I bought a big Easter basket on ebay filled with goodies.  I bought it more for the basket than the goodies, but the goodies were a good bonus.  One said goody was a small wooden box full of wooden beads and string.  I tucked it back in a drawer thinking it would be a fun activity for KJ once she got older.  Fast foward 16 months and two moves later.  Yesterday I found the box of beads in some of my craft supplies.  I thought it might be a little hard for KJ to handle, but it was worth a try, so after naptime we ventured to the craft room and I showed her the big surprise I had been promising.

After about 10 minutes of instruction and help she was off!  She loved these things and spent over and hour working on them.   She worked....
Choosing each bead carefully....
She got almost all of the beads on there...
I was pretty proud of her for working that hard.  Beading isn't easy when you have teeny tiny fingers.  What great fine motor skills...
Note to self:  Beading equals happy and quiet preschooler for an extended period of time.  I need to buy more beads.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Confession Number 48: It's Too Good for Recipes

Dustin and I were discussing a piece of carrot cake we had purchased at a local restaurant and brought home. D:  This is good.
Me:  Yeah.  It is a tad on the dry side.
A few minutes later.
D:  Really, this is good carrot cake.
Me:  It's not as good as mine.  Said very matter of factly.
D:  Laughs.  Well, it never has been a confidence issue with you, has it?

Umm?  I rarely run low on the confidence meter.  It is a good and bad trait to have, but it is part of who I am, and, well, deal with it. 

In the kitchen I know when something is good.  I mean, when it is really, really good.  I just know, and yes, my confidence gets a boost every time friends are family brag on my yummy food.  Now, I'm also my toughest critic.  There have been plenty of meals that I refuse to eat and Dustin just goes ahead saying that it isn't bad.  He's sweet like that.  Or he just fears starvation, I'm not sure. 
This recipe is good.  I mean GOOD, really good.  I made it the first time a few weeks ago and tried it again last night.  Wooo doggies!  This is a new favorite!  I knew I was going to share it with you all, but I decided it was just too good to get lost under the recipes section of Confessions, so it is here, for all the world to see.  Introducing my Parmesan Chicken Sandwich.....
I saw a recipe for a Chicken Parm burger somewhere and thought it looked good, but knew I wouldn't be able to talk Dustin into eating ground chicken in a gazillion years, so it was born and let me tell you, go make them for everyone tonight because they are yummy.  Now, I'm not real great at precise measuring, so I'm trying my hardest, but here is the recipe, anyway.  This recipe makes 2 sandwiches, enough for the 3 of us. 

2 chicken breasts
3 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp. fresh, chopped basil, divided
2 cloves chopped garlic, divided
6 oz. tomato sauce (do yourself a favor and buy salt free, please.  your cardiologist will thank me!)
2-3 Tbsp. diced onion
1tsp. Italian Seasoning
2 Ciabatta rolls
2-3 Tbsp. mayo
Parmesan cheese and baby spinach to top
salt and pepper to taste

Chop your onion.  Dump into a small sauce pan with a small amount of olive oil over medium heat until tender.  Chop and divide your garlic into 2 batches.   Throw half in with your onions, put the other half in a small bowl.  Reduce heat to low under garlic and onions.  DO NOT BURN!  Slice up your basil.  Add half in with your garlic, chop the other half very fine and put into another small bowl (this is for your basil mayo).  Add the parmesan cheese to your basil and garlic mixture.  Add a little salt and pepper and toss.  Dump tomato sauce into your onions and garlic, add Italian seasoning, salt, pepper and whatever other seasonings God may lead you to add.  This sandwich really is divine.  Take your chicken breast and with a sharp knife cut a pocket into the side of the chicken.  You don't want to cut all the way through, but you don't want to butterfly it out flat, either.  Stuff the pocket with the garlic, basil and cheese mix and secure shut with toothpicks.  Brush chicken with olive oil, salt and pepper and grill on medium high for a few minutes on each side or until the juices run clear.  Meanwhile, mix mayo into your reserved basil and set aside.  Warm your buns on the grill.  When all is finished, assemble your sandwich.  I do basil mayo on both sides of the bun, chicken, marinara sauce, parm cheese and broil untl the cheese is bubbly goodness.  Top with baby spinach, the other bun and enjoy.  I served these with Italian style french fries. 

Sit back and take in your accolades.  You deserve them.  And you can think me later.  Chocolate is always appreciated. 

Friday, July 9, 2010

Confession Number 47: I'm Torn

In about 6 weeks my little "big girl" will turn 3.  3!  When did this happen?  How has she gone from infancy to Miss. Independence in what feels like a blink of an eye?  I love her birthday.  I love planning her party and finding the perfect gift for her.  She's old enough to pick her own theme for her birthday party now, and in true Kennedy fashion she has chosen to have a princess party.  Is anyone surprised? 

With this birthday comes some big parenting decisions, though.  She has the chance to go to preschool a couple of days a week this fall.  At first, I'm all for it.  Saying to myself, "She'll love it! She will get to do crafts and play with other kids.  It is perfect!" Then the doubt creeps into my mommy mind.  "Is she ready?  Is this me pushing her too fast?"  I think if her birthday were in June and not August this decision would be easier for me.  I ran across this article on Baby Center the other day and forwarded it on to Dustin.  It got us thinking, is she ready or are we ready?

At almost three KJ is 97% potty trained.  She's even starting to get the hang of holding it through the night.  In the last week we have had more dry nights than wet, but in the last week we have also pooped our pants twice.  So, does that mean she shouldn't go?  What if she has an accident at school?  I'm sure it will probably happen at some point, right?  Is that okay or should I keep her at home for another 5 months and send her after the first of the year until we are sure she won't have an accident?  Would being around the older kids help with this?

Another issue is naptime.  Our preschool doesn't nap and school is from 9-3.  KJ regularly misses a nap a week, and this week she hasn't gone to sleep during naptime twice.   Maybe she is telling me she is ready?  There are other days that she still naps for almost or over 2 hours. 

We would love for her to have the social interaction.  Remember, KJ hasn't been with a SAHM forever.  She spent the first two years of her life with Saint Marcie while I was crazy, workaholic mom.  She loved playing with the other kids at Ms. Marcie's and I'm sure she would love it all the same with Ms. Judy at The Academy.

Then there comes the Mommy Guilt.  I hate that guilt meter we all seem to have implanted in our heads.   If KJ heads off to preschool I will have 2 whole days at home by myself.  All alone.  That sounds wondrous and lonely all at the same time.  Am I pushing her into preschool so I can have time to myself or am I holding her back so I can have her all to myself?   So many questions.  Okay, all you moms out there, I'm needing some advice, so throw it at me!  Please!  Help!