Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Wants and Needs

There are so many things I want for my boys. I pray they love the Lord above all else. I want them to be kind. I want them to serve others. Gratitude is a hard thing to instill, but we will keep teaching it until it sinks in. ..For ALL of us. Bottom line, I don't want them to have a spirit of entitlement. I want them to KNOW there are people whose needs far outweigh their wants.

You might have heard of a man named Dave Ramsey who has a radio program and a debt reduction program called Financial Peace. Even if you didn't know his name, I'd be willing to bet you have seen or heard his principles in action. Examples? People pulling out envelopes to pay for things rather than their wallets. Friends or family cutting up their credit cards or freezing them in a glass of water. Families creating budgets and operating only with cash. I do not profess to know all there is to know of Ramsey, but one piece I do know about is Financial Peace Jr. Pull up a chair...you'll be hooked.

Imagine this....teaching your kids at an early age that money they earn isn't just theirs to spend at Target on whatever they want. WHAT?? Is that just crazy talk? I don't think so. Our job as parents is not just to keep our children happy. We're raising a future grown-up who will face choices and consequences related to money. If we give our children a financial foundation and arm them with this knowlege now, they will be less likely to make those costly mistakes in the future. Do you know how many of our generation are contemplating walking away from their credit card debt and leaving that burden for the next generation to shoulder?

Financial Peace Jr. is the power of Financial Peace University tailored for children ages 3-12. It is a hands-on way to teach children the value of earning money. The kit we received came with a boxed set of books, envelopes for spending, saving and giving and wipe-off charts for goal setting and responsibilites (he uses the term 'commissions' instead of 'chores'). The books feature a character name Junior as he learns about working and saving; giving and spending. Love the logic...LOVE the program!

We began by identifying responsiblities for them to earn their commissions (taking out trash, dishes to the sink, feeding the dog, etc). Then we assigned a dollar amount to each and paid out commissions on Sundays. Sometimes they received their entire amount, others only a portion. But each time money was given, they divided the money into the three envelopes. We have since moved from envelopes to the Learning Cents Bank. The running joke was that I could sell these banks better than anyone at Learning Express. What can I say....it makes sense to me and I had to share! I really like the visual of the clear bank and the icons that label each section.

One of the harder things to teach is the difference between their 'save' and their 'spend'. To make it simple, their 'spend' is for little stuff and their 'save' is for bigger items that they are setting a goal to reach. Eventually they will come to an age when the 'save' will be for their portion of a car. The awesome thing is....no arguing. If the money isn't there, it just isn't there. How many of us would like to rewind and learn that before we filled out that first credit card application in college. Was that free t-shirt or coozie worth it? I'm just sayin'.....

I wish I had some snappy humor to make this more interesting, but I just love the program and feel it can stand alone. Don't just take my word for it. Log onto their site or visit a Lifeway Christian Bookstore to flip through the materials. I'll be suprised if you aren't impressed.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

This and That

It's a gloomy afternoon, perfect for a nap...but sleep won't come.

I took down part of my Christmas decorations but am losing motivation fast. Nothing like killing time by catching up on blogs.

Although shopping is the last thing on most of our minds, I found this treasure today and wanted to share. It resembles Piggies and Paws, but instead of a framed picture, you'll have a plate. Their company is called Clay Memories. Mercy, I am such a sucker for using kids' unique prints and transforming them into amazing artwork. If I was a Longhorn fan, I'd SO be ordering that cookie jar. Too die for!

And if you came into some extra cash this Christmas and wanted to indulge in something just for YOU, go here now! I have been eyeing this style of jewerly for awhile and I might just take the plunge. It will be hard to decide which to order. How cute is the name of her business? You might also want to check out The Vintage Pearl. Similiar style, different designs.

And finally, indulge me for a sec because I just cannot shake this.

Do you ever feel as if the story of Christmas has become less extraordinary? When has it ever been common for a 14 year-old girl to be told by an angel that she will give birth to the Messiah, the Savior of the world? How could she even begin to explain THAT to her fiance'? Hear my clearly...this offense was punishable by stoning. I know there are days at 35 years old that I can't find courage to handle even the simplest of task. Mary was remarkable in my eyes. And Joseph... what a man among men, a true hero full of integrity and honor. I don't want to add a ton of comentary because I believe the video below speaks completely for itself. A baby DOES change everything. You cannot help but be different when He comes in and takes over your life. I, for one, could use some of that kind of change. See if you can get through this without raising a hand to give Him praise. I sure couldn't.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Not just for December

If you are like me, you really enjoy checking the mail in December to see which friends decided to endure the torture of not only taking a family picture but licking all the envelopes to mail those darlin' cards.

The first card I receive each year is from a friend of mine named Kathryn. She was one of my 'Fish' at Texas A&M, which means she was in my small group for the Summer Brainwashing Session we call Fish Camp. This is where incoming freshman are driven out of town in the August heat on those big white Thomas buses (which I used to drive....wearing a BIG bow on my head. Yes ma'am! I had a CDL drivers license. Be SO impressed with me!) and taught everything they need to know about being full of the Aggie Spirit.

Anyhoo, I digress. Sweet Kathryn has 2 traditions. Her first is to mail her Christmas cards the day after Thanksgiving and her 2nd tradition is to gather all the Christmas cards she receives in a bowl on their table and before dinner each night, one of her kiddos chooses a card, re-reads it and then they pray for that family.

We are lovers of this wonderful tradition and have participated over the past few years. Give it a shot. Think of the glory days you'll get to live over and over again as you get the opportunity to tell your children just how you know ALL of these people over tacos and spaghetti and the just how blessed they'll be by your choice to pray for them.

Monday, December 22, 2008

8 Things

I was tagged by my friend Nancy to complete the ardous task of naming things about myself. I pointed out to her that #1- I have NEVER tagged her with such a lengthy task and #2- I don't have 8 friends who blog. SO....let's see how far I can get on this. I am a rule follower after all..but you'll notice I had to tweak it a bit to get in my quotas.

8 Things

8 TV Shows I Watch/DVR or will start DVRing in January

1. The Biggest Loser
2. Chuck
3. CSI Miami
4. Meacum Car Auctions (my boys are NUTS for this show)
5. Fetch with Ruff Ruffman (again, PBS rocks the house for kids)
6. Scrubs
7. Martha Speaks (Kids show, NOT the one that did time in the Bigs )
8. Movies that I intend to watch but never do and sit on my DVR recorded list for months

8 Favorite Restaurants

1. Pappasita's
2. Carabba's
3. Alicia's
4. Pei Wei
5. Salt Grass
6. Tommy Bahamas
7. Fuddruckers
8. Idyll Hours

8 Things That Happened to Me since I was tagged with this deal

1. I commented on Nancy's blog about the 'blessing' of completing this list
2. I worked my last day at Learning Express for holiday help
3. I got a new dishwasher
4. I went on a holiday hayride to see Christmas lights
5. I went on my 1st holiday grocery run with all the crazies at HEB
6. Laughed my head off with family
7. Decided on a new Bible Study to complete
8. Got to hug the neck of my sweet friend and her girls from S'Port

8 Things I Look Forward To

1. The possiblity of snow again today
2. Eating tamales with family on Christmas Eve
3. Going to the BodyWorld exihibit with my niece
4. Starting to workout again
5. Watching a plan unfold in 2009
6. The Start of Astro's Baseball
7. See my kids faces on Christmas Morning
8. Hoping I really DID suprise my man with his gift

8 Things I Wish/Pray For

1. To see the good in people
2. To live, not just exist ('Fun Laurie' in 2009)
3. To choose laughter instead of frustration
4. For God to intervene
5. To be more in the moment
6. To love God and His Word more
7. To be content where I am
8. To embrace grace and mercy in others and myself

8 People I Tag

1. Michele
2. Nancy Matt
3. Jennifer W
4. Melissa C.
5. Tami W.

Best efforts!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Go To Gifts

I am a lover of sweets. I have been known to skip the meal and bank those calories to savor a more deserving item like dessert. Honesty is the best policy.

One of my favorite ways to show appreciation for those who teach my kiddos is to bake some holiday treats. These three below are my faithful standbys. I'll be baking and getting these treats out of the house as soon as I can because I have been indulging WAY too much over the past few weeks...that and the fact I have been persuaded one too many times to Run For The Border, if you know what I mean. The hazard of working right next to one....

If you have any must-gift and are willing to share, please do!

Happy Baking and Testing!

King Tutt’s Toffee (‘cause it is so ‘rich’!)
1 sleeve of Saltine Crackers
1 stick of butter
1 stick of margarine
1 packed cup of brown sugar
1 bag of milk chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 400 ยบ. Cover a cookie sheet with foil. Line the saltine crackers up in rows. Melt butter and margarine in pot on high. As soon as butter and margarine are just about melted, add brown sugar and stir to dissolve sugar. When the mixture begins to boil, let it cook an additional 3 minutes. (It could start to burn on the bottom as your are stirring it, so be careful at the very en. Sometimes, I have to take my pot off a few seconds early so it doesn’t burn.) Have a spatula ready to spread. Pour over crackers and spread as quickly as possible. Put in oven for 5 minutes. Take out of oven and evenly pour bag of chocolate chips on top. Let sit 3 minutes and spread chocolate. Put in refrigerator for 3 hours. Break and serve.

Pistachio Bread

1 yellow cake mix
1 pkg. pistachio instant pudding
4 eggs
1 c. sour cream
1/8 c. water
¼ c. oil
1/3 c. cinnamon-sugar (using 1/3 c. sugar and as much cinnamon as you like)

Grease loaf pans with Crisco. Dust with some cinnamon sugar

Mix 1st 6 ingredients then mix in the cinnamon sugar. Pour into the loaf pans and shake some cinnamon sugar on top. Bake 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes or until done, depending on size of the pan-light brown on top, springs back to touch, looks moist.

Can use 5 mini-loaf pans per recipe

Mock Turtles

1 bag of pretzels (twisty kind)
2 bags of Rolos
1 bag whole pecans or walnuts

Lay pretzels out on a cookie sheet lined with foil. Place a Rolo on top of each pretzel. Bake at 325 degrees for 4 minutes or until the chocolate is shiny. Remove from oven and immediately press a pecan/walnut half on top of Rolo. Let cool. Store in air-tight container in the fridge.

Monday, December 15, 2008

New and Even More Applicable

This is by special request...

Diva Daray, This is your life....with subtitles.

Christmas Countdown Giveaway

My amazing friend, Christina aka NinaLoca, is at it again!

Jump over to her site to see just what she is up to this time. You won't be sorry.....

And while you are there, peek around. She's has some new goodies and features to make you smile.

Christmas Miracle Of Sorts

It is a well known fact my man doesn't like to take pictures. Case in point..our last true family pic was when Weston was 18 months old and I had flippy highlighted hair. Get my drift?

Large amounts of bribing went into this photo session as my oldest prefers to be photographed on the field, not off (he thinks Mrs. Audree is his personal photographer. Yes, we are getting bids from contractors to increase the size of our doorframes to fit his increasing head size). My youngest... that dude is MONEY. He smiled in every dang shot. I dig that about him.

I share these pictures not to brag about my big fat family, but to give gigantic props to my good friend, Audree Garcia, for once again saving the day with her photographic giftings and a touch of Photoshop. I keep telling her she could make a fortune. Think of the ladies that would pay $10 a photoshop to trim a little here and add a little there...if you know what I mean. Wink, Wink

She not only captured several money shots (as Tray would say), but also designed our cards. You are missing a blessing if you don't go check our her work. I'm JUST sayin'...

May this season find you content where you are and with what you have.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Story Break

Although we all LOVE reading our kids' favorite books so many times we can recite them by memory, it is fun for all to hear someone else read at times.

Check out this fun site I just heard about today. Celebrities reading Children's Books- genius I say!

My source? Facebook. Mercy...that ALONE is a post for another day. If I see a picture of myself with big bangs one more time....

When Little White Lies Become Big Fat Ones

Foolin' my children is wearing me out.

We all agreed to cut back this year as far as Christmas presents go. This shouldn't be a surprise to anyone, it seems most are...I just wish we had caught the clue several years ago. For years now, I have been sucked into the trap of buying gifts to meet a certain pre-set budget the grandparents or even we had set for each child. I have to say I am officially broken of that little habit as many of the gifts I so carefully chose last year are still sitting on the shelf in rubbermaid containers. Good thing they are building sets and don't have feelings or we'd have some toys in therapy at my house.

A new dilemma surfaced this year and it has to do with the fat guy in the red suit. Now, before you get your feathers ruffled...I am all about the magic of Christmas and Santa has been a part of our season (a part..NOT the focus), but I think this might be his last year. You see, Santa ALWAYS gets to give the best gift of all and can I just be honest, THE DUDE DOESN'T HAVE A JOB! I'd really love to teach my kids that the gifts they receive are because God has provided for their parents and in turn, they desire to bless them. See, I have it all planned out! And to complicate things, this year I totally painted myself into a corner as I gave the Grandparents the best gift ideas and not only hung Tray and I out to dry, I didn't have the very thing left that they asked Santa for. For the love!

So last night as the wind howled outside my window (very pre-Ike and creepy!), I sat down with the list and redistributed who was giving what (taking into account the WOW gift for each, good grief!). I felt like I had dodged a bullet and had a gameplan for complete honesty regarding Santa next year...but dern if my oldest son didn't come downstairs this morning with a forlorn look on his face. Why you might ask? Because Mother of the Year forgot to put money in his tooth fairy pillow last night and he thinks the winged lady passed him by. Ugh!

What did we do, you might ask? Well, of course, we consoled him with a bunch of big fat lies ranging from it was too windy for her to fly last night to he lost his tooth so late that maybe she checked our house around normal bedtime and didn't see his tooth. Are you kidding me? If anything comes up about the Easter Bunny, I am going to have breakdown. Oh, I kid. My people never fell for that one. A flying fairy, yes. A rabbit that walks on two legs? Nope. Sharp as a tack, my two.

Who has unconfessed sin in this house for us to be tested to this magnitude? Must be someone whose name rhymes with Parkay....