Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Playing catch up!

My brother and Quinnie waiting for his MRI
No surprise that I am playing catch up, no?  Seems to be the story of my life.  First and foremost, I want to thank any and all of you that have been saying prayers for little Quinnie.  He's getting through his days at Mayo and doing a good job.  The doctor's are really sharing their wisdom and providing insight that they have been hoping to receive.  Until they are home and all reports are in, I don't really want to say anything.  There is one more day of appointments and they should be able to come home for a while.  I am seeing several trips in their future. 

He had another MRI today and his mommy said that he did a good job.  They are expecting results from that tomorrow.  I keep praying that there is going to be a miracle and a quick fix.  Wouldn't it be amazing if all things painful had a quick fix?  My prayers will be answered if this little boy can live happy and pain free and free of criticism.

I received an email through work about a movement to remove the "R-word" from derogatory language.  There is a pledge that they are having the high school students sign and they are asking the middle school students and elementary students to join in the pledge signing.  I couldn't be more pleased.  Using the "R word" has always been something that I felt so very strongly about.  It took quite some time to "break" my husband's bad habit of using it all the time.  Hopefully this gets passed along enough that everyone sees and recognizes the importance of this movement.

A month or so ago, my husband and I joined the ezmeals.com menu planning site.  Overall, we've been pretty pleased with it...and if nothing else, it has helped up branch out with trying new things and new recipes.  We don't use all meals all weeks, but more often than not, we use the majority.  It's nice to have it all planned out and there isn't much to have to think about or plan.  You just print and go--grab a few extra easy meals and you're set.  Easy.

On Sunday, we made the most amazing meal.  And it was easy.  So easy.  BBQ chicken quesadillas.  OMG.  I drool over them just thinking about it.  The best part?  It made enough to freeze.  So...when my mouth gets all excited just thinking about it....I run to the freezer, take one out and 45 seconds later, it's mine all mine!  Yes.  It's love.  And I like to share the love.

Here ya go:
2 lbs chicken breast
1 18 oz bottle of BBQ sauce
Flour tortillas
Shredded Mexican style cheese

Cook the chicken breasts in the crock pot with 1/4 c. of water.  (I cooked it from 10 ish till 4 ish on low)
Remove from the crock pot and shred.
Put into a large bowl and add the full bottle of BBQ sauce. 

Put about 1/2 c. of chicken mixture into a flour tortilla.
Top with some shredded cheese.
Fold in half and give it a squeeze to hold it together.
Put into a hot skillet with a little bit of olive oil. 
Cook until slightly browned and the cheese is melted.
Flip over and brown the other side.
Remove from pan and cool.
Cut into triangles. 
Eat and enjoy.
You can even dip them in sour cream.

I made the whole package of tortillas and had so much left over.  So I put them in a single layer on a cutting board and froze them.  Once frozen, I threw them into a baggie.  There they sit in my freezer ready to be grabbed, warmed and enjoyed.  These are a new staple in my home.

Try them.

You're welcome.

Let me update you on our budget coach.  Can I just say that life is amazing since we've gone on this new plan?  Ah-mazing.  Not only are we paying off debt in a quick way, but we are truly living on cash.  We have not used a debit card in about a month.  That is huge.  We used to live on our card.  Now, we live on cash only.  If there is no cash in that envelope, you can't buy it!  Surprisingly, we never run out.  Groceries, we have cash left over at the end of the week.  Gas?  Cash left over.  It's so empowering.  We are doing it!  And it's saving our marriage.  Finances are no longer a friction point and we aren't as testy and on edge as we used to be about money.  It's saving us.

We meet with our coach again Thursday to plan for our March expenses.  We started this journey with seven debtors on our list.  We are going into our March meeting with only four....and we're paying off one more in another week or so.  Yeah....I know.  It's good stuff.  And I'm not bragging.  I'm giving a testimony.  I'm hoping to give hope.  It can be done.  You can too.

This is our new "wallet" that we take everywhere we go.  It's Dave Ramsey's envelope system.  Each envelope has a category written on top and then it has lines where you keep track of what you put in and what you take out.  It's very simple.  And like I said, in our clothing envelope, if there is only $25 left in there and K's shoes are $40....she needs to wait another week or two.  It's very black and white.  Which is what we needed.

And lastly, on my mind tonight, is Spring.  We've had a mild, very mild, winter this year.  Only two (or three) good snow falls.  And for Chicago, that's rare.  I can't help but to start thinking about Spring weather and putting my princess baby in cute Spring outfits.  Can't wait.  My friend, Kacy, has always been my go-to girl for all things cutesy for Kinley.  She made all of the tu-tus that we used for her pictures.  She's crocheted Kinley's new blankie.  She made Kinley's second birthday outfit.  I love her work and love the creative ideas that she comes up with.  Her latest creation in no different.  As soon as I saw it, I knew that we had to have it.  And it's hanging in her closet now, just waiting for Spring to get here.  And you can get one for your little girl too.  She has one left for sale in her Etsy store

I know.  It's adorable.  Right? I can't wait to put Kage in it and get her 2 1/2 year pictures in it.  Her next dress inspiration (thanks to Pinterest) is in the making.  And it is just as adorable.  Kacy is an amazing creator! 

I guess that is all that I had to unload off of this brain of mine.  I feel lighter.  A good ten pounds lighter. 

Wouldn't that be nice if blogging helped us lose weight?  How many calories do you think blog writing burns?


Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Strongest Fighter Of All

Now I lay me, down to sleep, I pray the Lord, my soul to keep.
If I should die, before I wake, I pray the Lord, my soul to take.
God bless my mommy, daddy and Lucy.
God bless Nonie, Papa and Papa John.
God bless Grandma and Grandpa.
God bless Gigi and Papa and Great Grandma and Great Grandpa.
God bless all of my aunts and uncles and all of my cousins.
God bless all of my friends.
I love you Jesus, amen.
A special prayer for little Quinnie.

When you are pregnant with your baby, you just assume that the day will come when you deliver your beautiful, healthy, baby.  That's just what is supposed to happen, right?  You expect that.  You deserve that. 

I've been writing this blog in my mind over and over again over the last several months.  But I honestly couldn't get through it because of the tears, the pain, the empathy.

My oldest brother and his wife brought a beautiful daughter into this world eight years ago.  She is so wonderful:  full of life, full of caring, full of love.  And, she looks so much like I did at that age.  Proud?  You could say that.

When she was about three (or was she four?), they brought another beautiful baby into the world.  Wonderful, handsome, perfect, Quin--or, Quinnie, as we call him.

A special prayer for little Quinnie.

He's five years old now. 

He's still perfect.
But God felt that he was strong enough to handle a challenge.

He was born healthy. At 18 months, he started showing signs of regression with balance, walking and talking.  His mom knew the entire time, I think.  Moms just have that gift (is it a gift?) of knowing when something is not right with her baby.  Today, while his health is good, his motor skills are suffering.  His muscles are deteriorating.

Every night when Kinley goes to sleep, we say her prayer together.  And it always ends with the same prayer:  A special prayer for little Quinnie.

This little boy has the biggest heart, the strongest soul, the most amazing determination.

You can't even imagine the pain of watching him try to keep up with his cousins, only to see him tumble to the floor.

It isn't fair.  A child is sacred and God isn't supposed to do this.

He's been through so much, so many tests, so many doctors...just searching for answers.  And his parents are left with only questions.

This weekend, it goes to the next level.  He's Mayo bound.  It's where we all wanted him to go--but it's not so easy.  His parents had to jump through hoop after hoop just to get him accepted. 

This weekend, they head north for the long drive. 

I can't help but cry for them when I think of all of the worry they must feel in their hearts.  The worry that questions won't be answered.  Cures won't be found.  The unwanted answers will be told.  The unknown.  The known?

This is their baby boy.  He shouldn't be fighting a fight that is so big. 

As a parent, you only want to take away the pain of the world from your child.  But they can't. 

It's not fair.

Kelly, his mom--my sister-in-law--once said that people always ask her, "how do you do it?"  What an amazing answer to say, "How do I love my child?  How do I care for my child?  How do you not?" 

The challenges that I face and fret over daily seem piddly in the comparison.  My heart goes out to Quinnie on this Mayo trip.  He's going to be facing new doctors, tests, procedures, more shots, needles.....pain.

But more so, my heart goes to my brother and his wife.  As a parent, I can't imagine the fear and worry of not having all of the answers and being able to fix him.

Join me in saying a prayer for their family this weekend.  Not only are they making a very long road trip to Mayo, but they are in search of an answer for their sweet baby boy.  An answer that they may--or may not--want to hear.

Regardless of what happens, I know that God trusted this challenge with His most amazing fighter.  If anyone is strong enough to handle this, it's Quinnie.

Photos credit:  Sugar Petunia Photography

In honor of our little fighter, this button was made for you to display on your blog or Facebook profile picture to encourage prayers from everyone!  Never underestimate the power of prayer!

Thank you for the quick work on the button for me, Sheila!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

My Easy Button

Have I told you how blessed I am to have such an amazing little girl to call my own?  Have I told you how blown away I am by her pure awesomeness?  I really, truly, think that life has given me the easy button a few times with this whole parenting thing.  Now, I'm in no way saying that parenting is easy.  No way, Jose.  It's freakin' hard!  But really....I have been let off the hook more than a couple of times with this one.

When she was 7 weeks old, she moved from our room in a bassinet to her crib in her own room.  Smooth transition.  At 9 weeks old, she was sleeping through the night.  She nursed for 15 months and the weaning...EASY.  Then came the pacifier weaning...once I weaned myself, she was easy to get past it. 

This past weekend, we (on a whim, mind you) decided to convert her crib to a toddler bed.  I say "on a whim" because it literally was one of those situations where I was like, "hey, you want to take her crib apart and see if it really does convert like the box said it did?"  And so, we did.  It helped that my parents were in town for the weekend and were able to confirm our plan as not being too crazy.

And I guess I should point out that ever since I got my hair done (ummmm, about two weeks ago) and was casually comparing parenting notes and daycare stories with my stylist (her son is a few months older than Kinley and goes to a Montessori day care) when she mentioned that her son's teacher acted appalled that he was still in a crib at the age of two.  So, I guess I've been feeling totally crazy about it.  Am I babying her too much?  Am I holding her back?  Am I doing the wrong thing?  Isn't that what all of us moms ask ourselves?  God forbid we do the wrong thing!

So we converted her bed.

And she thought it was way cool and instantly called it her big girl bed.  We really played it up to be something special and she bought every minute of it.  In a flash before my eyes, my baby became less of a baby.

Nap came and we dreaded it....oh, we dreaded it.  And well, this bed/crib conversion isn't very sturdy.  Meaning, I can't lay in it with her without feeling like we're both goin' down!  So as badly as I want to curl up with her and snooze, I can't. 

I try and try to get her to lay down and nap.  No dice.

I put up the baby gate, told her to nap, and walked out.

She got up and shut her door. 

Okay, fine.

Two hours later, (I knew she hadn't slept, she wasn't as quiet as she thought) we opened the door (after picking the lock because she had locked it) and found this:

Hurricane Kinley.  She blamed the dog.

We dealt with a no nap Saturday and moved along.  Saturday night came and bedtime was relatively easy!  And each night since then, (why am I blogging this....I am so jinxing myself!) bedtime has been pretty simple.  She doesn't get up.  She doesn't wander.  She doesn't get up to play.  She's yet to end up in our room. 

Strangely easy. 

But then I remind myself that a lot of these big milestones that most parents dread, have been, well, easy.

I just wish I had a real Easy Button for those dreadful daycare drop-offs that we've yet to master without tears.  And those leaving the park episodes where I have to haul her away screaming and swatting at me.  And those moments when you just don't know what is the right decision to make.  Those are the times when I really wish I could push the Easy Button.  I guess those big milestones are actually the small things.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Pin It

Follow Me on Pinterest  Everyone seems to be on the Pinterest band wagon these days....and rightfully so.  That place is crazy addicting.  I'm guilty of it myself.

Maybe I'm doing it wrong, but it's beginning to feel like it's my crash pad for procrastination.  Like, I pin almost everything.  Well, not everything.  But a lot.  But, it never goes much farther than that.

I mean,  I have made one recipe so far.  One.  And, I've pinned about 100.  Yeah, exactly.  And the home ideas...don't even get me started.  So many great plans there.  Will I ever do them?  God, I hope.  Cause that would be an awesome house.

But giving myself some credit.....I have used several of the classroom pins.  Several.  So I guess I'm not as bad as I think. 

It's okay to be a dreamer, right?

Feelin' the Pinch

Have you ever been stuck in a pair of too tight work pants--or jeans--for that matter.  Like so tight that it literally feels like they could be cutting your skin at the hips....and if you exhaled fully, the button just may pop?  But you're wearing them anyway because you'll be damned if you have to buy a larger size.  And you'll just shed that extra five that are making the waistband feel like razor blades anyway.  You ever experience that?  Cause I have.  Especially lately...and yes, I have even pulled down that bin of clothing labeled "clothes that don't fit"....I stuffed it full back in my work-out days when I dropped all of the poundage and went out to buy all of the work pants in a size 4.  Talk about a flip flop.  The fours went in the bin and the fat pants came out.  Hold me. 
I will lose it. 

When the gym goes back into the budget.

Speaking of budget, and the whole purpose for me walking you through the whole pants too tight scenario at the beginning of this post, we met with our budget coach last week.

She did our budget for February with us.  And....I.can't.breathe.  Whoa. 

Just as we wanted her to do, she gave each dollar a place and each dollar a name.  Every penny that we bring in, has a purpose.  And that purpose is clearly labeled in an Excel spreadsheet.  And if you forget, you can look at remind yourself.  Ugh.

It was all fun and good before the appointment, sure, it sounded fun!  It sounded great!  On her plan, we'll be debt free (including my whopper student loan balance) in three years.  Yes, three (3) years.  Which then means that we'll be racking up one heckuva down payment on a sweet home very soon. 

But now it's all real.  It's not just fantasizing about living debt free...we're making it happen.  We are living on cash only and we're living on a budget.  We know how much it costs to actually run our home and we only spend that much...every other penny goes to a debt snowball and into savings. 

Sounds tight, right?  It is.  Very tight.

But let me tell you, it is LIBERATING!

To know that our savings account is now loaded and ready for an emergency....wow.  Car repairs, we can pay cash.  Car tags, we can pay cash.  Vet bills, cash.  Clothing, there is cash set aside each month.  Now mind you, each month a little more goes into each category in our savings but knowing that each month we build more and more just makes me feel less stress.  It's tight right now but I know that in a few months it is going to feel good.  It will feel good to know exactly how much I can spend on whatever and pay cash and have no guilt for shopping.  I'm ready for that.

For the first time, ever? maybe...our tax refund came in and it went into savings.  We didn't go out and blow it, we didn't go out and buy something big and shiny and we didn't justify that we "really need ___"...we just acted like it didn't come at all.    It will be allocated to pay off bills as the coach sees fit. 

I'm ready to be past this stage of life--the stage where I live paycheck to paycheck.  I'm ready to live and enjoy life and not worry about money.  I spend too much of this life worrying and I'm over it.

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