Friday, February 27, 2009

Thrifty Thursday: A Day Late, but Not a Dollar Short

Forgive me for my lack of Thrifty reporting on Thursday. This week has flown by. We have been blessed to have three showings of our home this week, and that, coupled with either George or myself being out every night this week, left me with less time to write.

But, however jammed packed the schedule seemed to be, I was still able to pull out my Thifty hat and wear it proudly.

One thing I will sorely miss about Chicago are the FREE MUSEUM DAYS!

Last Spring Break, I took the kids to several Chicago museums on the days where they welcomed the public for FREE. We visited the Chicago Historical Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. You can read further about our adventures, here.

On President's Day this year, I took the kids back to the Chicago Historical Museum, so they could meet President Lincoln and his wife Mary Todd, George Washington, Abigail Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Teddy Roosevelt. The day was wonderful, complete with an hour long discussion with President Lincoln and his wife who even fielded questions about current Illinois politics. I enjoyed how Abe showed confusion over any questions from the audience regarding his death. After all, he was still sitting there, wasn't he? It was great. Harper, especially, enjoyed the performance.

Yesterday, I took Zane on a date to the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum - one of our favorite spots. Thursday is free day. And if you get there right at 9:00 - you won't have to contend with parking. If you get there at 9:30, you WILL contend with parking and the place becomes strollerville. If you arrive around 10:30, once again parking because a dream, and the strollerville crowd begins to clear out a bit.

Zane enjoyed being "the scientist" and even had a special scientist walk. He showed me, the student, around the place. We had a small bite in the cafe, which serves organic food, and I was able to walk the museum with a cup of coffee - yes, that is important! Don't you know me?

Surprisingly, he showed absolutely NO interest in watching the water snakes during feeding time, but was quite interested in listening to frog and toad sounds (they have a GREAT exhibit on frogs and toads right now).

So, here is a list of a few FREE MUSEUM DAYS in Chicago.

Note: If you can't handle crowds, or children, you may not want to take advantage of the free days - you'll just end up complaining. No judgement here, I'm merely trying to save you from having a bad experience.

(This list is subject to change, and is just an offering. It is not a comprehensive list).



There are many others - some being free every day.

For a more comprehensive list, check out this site, but be sure to doublecheck with the actual museum.

I'm looking forward to seeing what Pittsburgh has to offer in terms of free museum days!!!

Blissfully Content

My personal contributions to Blissfully Domestic for the week can be found here, with a piece about teaching children respect for personal belongings, and here, a reflection on reading chapter books to young children.

This makes 5 posts in the month of February.

I am praying for a space in my new home that is all my own. A quiet, little room, (seriously, it could be a hole in the wall for all I care), where Mom can retreat to pray, write, keep my MK inventory/supplies, read, and even spread out my scrap booking gear. I've already visited Etsy to shop for terrific art work for the walls. I found the coolest print that says, "Write", and some fabulous small pieces of art that are pink (appropriate) and have to do with coffee (all the more appropriate).

Harper is praying for a front porch with a swing.

George wants space to garden.

Zane just wants to make sure that all his toys follow us to Beaver.


I want my own office. It can be tiny. But it needs a door. I figure, Harper and Zane get their own rooms, and George has an office at church, but Mommy? Mommy is never alone - except for Friday mornings. Friday mornings - when I try to cram an entire list of "must do's" and "just want to do's because I simply want to do them" into a span of an hour and a half.

Pray with me, ok?

And until we find it, keep reading.

Friday, February 20, 2009


Just had to give some props to my friend Jenn's brother, Jason Naumann, who just released the film, Jesus People: The Movie, an upcoming mockumentary, in which Hollywood believers spoof the evangelical subculture—and thus themselves.

I'm all for spoofing the evangelical subculture. No, no, no, I'm not being mean. Every culture leaves itself wide open for spoofing.

Jason happens to do spoof very well.

You can read up on Jesus People: The Movie at the official website here. Be sure to visit and watch the original webisodes which led to the feature film.

Also check out this article at

I am ALWAYS up for a good mockumentary. My favorite being Waiting for Guffman. Plus, I must admit that it has always been my dream to have a small role in a mocumentary. Both actors and writers refer to finding one's "voice". I think I could find my acting voice in mocumentary film. I think this is why I enjoy them so very much.

I've got a SAG membership just waiting to be reactivated, Jason . . .

No, really, this post is about YOU and YOUR film . . . not me.

Applause, applause, applause to the cast and crew. Looking forward to seeing the feature.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Thrifty Thursday: Counting the Cost

Well, it's been a month since our family ventured onto Timbercreek Farms for our weekly fill of organic vegetables and fruits.

So, I guess it's time to put my money where my mouth is. I've been shooting it off every Thursday, by sharing my creative ways for saving a buck in order in order to experience an industrious and prosperous life. Remember, I'm not at this to get rich. I do, however, want to experience freedom from the binds of financial stress.

I went back in time on good 'ole Quicken to see what we spent on groceries between 1-23-08 to 2-20-08. The total: $857. ARE YOU FREAKIN' SERIOUS???

Flash forward to 2009. From 1-23-08 to 2-20-08, I spent, drum roll please . . . $490!

Still, rather high, but at just around $114 a week, I'm certainly happier about it, than the $857 - for which I should have been eating steak. Good steak. Somehow, I don't remember purchasing any.

Now, too much gloating isn't good for the soul, so let me be honest and share that the $857 price tag probably included some diapers and household goods, that I failed to itemize. Zane isn't wearing diapers any longer, and I actually make a lot of household cleaners now, (baking soda and white vinegar can go a long way), so it makes sense that this number is ridiculously high.

I'm challenging myself to get that number under $400. That is my goal over these next 3o days. I'm not that person to buy canned veggie's and eat tons of rice and pasta, so I'm not expecting we'll be that family who can survive on $50 a week for groceries - but I do think that $80 a week is doable.

As for the waste I used to experience upon purchasing too much produce? Well, I must be honest, it has been difficult to get through all the leafy green goodness that comes to our door. We've had to get creative. And yet, unlike the past, I haven't found myself chucking an entire head of anything. Parts of a big leafy head which get all wilty (that's my own word) and sad? Yes. However, I am certainly not throwing away the amount of food that I used to.

Dare me to get that grocery bill even lower?
Where have you decreased costs over the last year?

Photo by Darren Hester

Full of Bliss

One post down.

Second post down.

Third post coming out tomorrow.

Fourth post pending review by my editor.

I could, or rather, AM, getting very used to this.

I try to submit at least two posts every week, which means I've gotten into the daily habit of writing. Writing. Every day. Plus, I currently have a list of ideas for future submissions which should keep me busy for a while.

I am mindful of saving each post on my backup drive, as these are the articles I will ultimately use to snag other writing gigs.

Anybody have a laptop they need to sell. Cheap?

Seriously, seeing my name in print (in lights) and seeing my work published makes me giddy. Give me this and some age-fighting skin care any day.

Once again, for those of you who are slow with math, I'll review the equation one more time:

Writing + Mary Kay = Joyful woman, wife, mother, and friend.

Sounds like bliss.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

A Few Weekend Adventures

Watership Down.

The Shire.

Lonely Mountain.

Yep. We visited all of them this weekend.

No, I didn't actually read Watership Down to the kids.

Yes, I realize that goes against my rule. It's a long read. Sadly, I owned a first American edition of the book year's ago, but sold it upon finding out that I was pregnant and that children cost money.

So, last night, choosing to rebel against the rule, I checked out the animated feature documenting those rabbits and their search for a new warren.

Tonight, we hit The Shire. 10 points if you can sing the theme song to the animated feature of The Hobbit. Unlike our trip to Watership Down, this visit to Middle Earth came after finishing our journey through the book. Yes, tonight, we finished reading The Hobbit.

As we watched the film, Harper expressed her frustration over sections being left out. It was the perfect time to ask her,

"Harper, so which was better? The book or the movie?"

"The book."

"Ah! You are my child after all. Prince Caspian. Which was better? Book or movie?"

"The book, Mom."

"Yes! Despereux? Well, we know the answer to this one."


We are reading/listening to The Indian in the Cupboard. I can't remember the film all that well, other than there being a "sh*&" in the dialogue. But, after watching The Goonies, a "sh*&" is nothing.

Zane adored The Hobbit. And now, after reading and watching the story, I think I have a better understanding of where he picked up the phrase "ancient writing". But a weekend of even the finest literature can freak out a 4 year old. For Watership Down's bunnies drew some serious animated blood, and who wants to sleep alone after meeting Golem, Goblins, and Smog?

"Daddy, will you snuggle with me? Sometimes I have bad dreams. But, I'm ok because Jesus is in the room with me."

George began to pray for him.

"Daddy, could you also ask Jesus to help me say the word I can't say very well?"

"What word is that, Zane?"

"I can't say it. I need help saying it."

So, he prayed.

The biggest laugh of the night came when George did a dead on impersonation of the singer of theme song to The Hobbit.

10 points. And just what song is that? (No googling allowed!)

Friday, February 13, 2009


I wrote, quite recently, how my children, four year's apart, actually get along.

Sure, they have their daily tugs, pulls, pushes, and kicks. And there is the occasional bite. It happens.

And yet, truly, there is a deep love between the two of them.

Zane genuinely worries about Harper. He even expresses it. If we are in a store or a public place, and Harper lags behind, he demands, demands, that we stop and wait for her. He has a fear that she will somehow be left behind and that "we will lose her." Harper, in turn, knows that she really can not even tease him by hiding while we are out and about, for he'll break down into sobs if he thinks she has gone missing.

Harper feels her brother's physical pain and is brought to tears when he is hurt. There have been several instances when he has fallen, or cut himself, or bumped his head, where she is right there, by his side, wanting to help and console.

Today, however, she should have been awarded a medal.

They both had their annual pediatric check-ups today. During the appointment, Harper was given the option of getting her additional Chicken Pox booster right then, or making an additional appointment to do so. She opted to wait.

Zane, on the other hand, was due for two vaccinations. He wasn't given a choice. Today was the day. He was not happy.

Let me preface this next part by first describing our experience at Harper's check up last year. Last year, when overtaken with anxiety, she refused to remove her clothes and change into a gown or even have the Dr. or nurse check her. Last year, when she was so "glum and vacant", (the words we use to describe her disposition leading up to diagnosis), that she sat comatose during the entire appointment - other than during that anxiety-fueled freak-out moment over the gown and exam. Last year, when the Dr. communicated her concern, as this wasn't the Harper she had known since birth. Last year, before therapy and medication.

Contrast last year with today, when upon realizing how scared Zane was about getting his shots, Harper willingly chose to receive her booster, before him, so that her little brother wouldn't be the only one with a sore arm.

Dr. Goodman's face was in joyful shock over the radical change she saw in Harper from last year to today: the smiling, the joking, how she had returned to her old conversational self - and, most especially, this specific moment where she put her pain aside in order to help her brother cope with his. Even now, I am fighting back tears as I write. Not real successfully.

There was no hesitation on Harper's part when Dr. Goodman asked if she wouldn't mind getting her shot today so that her brother could see her bravery and courage.

There was no hesitation as she sat strong, anticipating the prick. She didn't make a sound other than to thank the nurse for the lollipop.

Zane went next. She was there, standing right in front of him saying, "Zane, you can do this. Don't look at your arm. Look at me. Focus on me and your lollipop."

Focus on me and your lollipop.

Zane said he never wants to return to "that place". Even the visit Dunkin' Donuts on the way home can't take away his sore arm.

But maybe, just maybe, his big sister can.

Photo by christian svanes

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Remembering that Dream

Remember this post from almost a year ago?

No? That's ok. I do.

Briefly, the post, (and several of the one's that follow), documents the beginning of how I developed an enormous craving for writing. A craving which I have actively pursued. Almost a year since writing that particular post, I am beginning to experience how marrying my creative drive to write, and my business/administrative (and creative side) as a Mary Kay consultant, could be a fabulous union.

I have begun submitting articles here and there.

I have written for a local PR agency.

I am still consistently selling the fabulous products on my shelf.

And now?

I am happy to report that I have been accepted as a contributor for, an online magazine.

My first post was "published" just yesterday. I stared at it. First, shocked that it was mine. And second, trying to stop myself from criticizing it and wanting to tweak it. That was the editor's job.

I'll be submitting 2-4 articles a month. There are about 16 of us who write for the Family Bliss section of the magazine, so I could, quite possibly, get a lot of web-time. And the more I get published the better - for I can then turn around and use these articles as a means of getting more writing gigs in the future.

In fact, I think I have a lead for a paid writing gig with an online magazine specifically geared towards mom's living in the Pittsburgh area.

Both of my employment choices are risky.

Writing is subjective. I can work really hard on an article only to have it denied or edited to the point where I don't recognize it.

Mary Kay depends on sales. Straight up. It's fun. But, Mama doesn't just pay the bills by lookin' purty.

However, marry the two and I'm a happy woman, wife, and mother.

If there weren't any risk involved, then it wouldn't be a dream. Right?

Got one of your own? What's your risky dream?

Thrifty Thursday: Won't You Be My Valentine?

"In this small sign I find a way to greet my Valentine today."

I did it.

I actually made all my Valentine Card's this year.

Well, Zane made 21 of them. But just like Shake 'n Bake, "I helped!".

It was my goal to avoid purchasing any boxes of meaningless and thoughtless Hannah Montana, or Spongebob, or Transformer Valentine's greetings this year. I probably just offended a ton of you. Sorry. Kind of.

Moms R Us helped out my goal by sponsoring a card-making event this past Monday. I love this event. Everyone pitched in by bringing paper, stamps, stickers, and scissors - although all of us forgot about glue. So, GASP!, we shared. Somehow, everyone was able to make their cards with 2 glue sticks being passed from creative Mom to creative Mom. Within an hour I had successfully crafted 4 hand-made Valentine's cards, and was blessed by the fellowship with the ladies.

Three of the cards are for George, Harper, and Zane, of course.

The 4th? For me. I made myself a Valentine's Day card from the big "J" Himself.

On the front, in has hearts falling from the sky and the word "trust". Inside, He wrote, "My love endures forever." It is signed, heart sticker, J. Translation: Love, Jesus - he's so hip.

Card-fest continued with a visit to Tom Thumb, quite possibly the most disorganized craft store ever, and yet one of those places unique to Evanston that I will miss so deeply when we move. For while it may seem a scattered mess, I never cease to be inspired when I visit. Zane and I had a list: a pack of white construction paper, plastic to make a stencil, a sponge brush, and some stickers.

We headed home and began our project. Zane successfully made 14 painted cards for his classmates, using the construction paper, a heart stencil that we made, and red paint we already owned. He stenciled the heart on the front of the card, placed a sticker in each one, and then signed off on them with his signature "Z". Having finished cards for his class, he continued on, making one for me, Harper, George, his 3 teachers, and the school's administrative assistant who gives him a lollipop everyday - and goes the extra mile by digging through the bag of Dum-Dum's in order to find him the root beer one's that he adores the most.

Sidebar: at school, when asked, "How do we show our love to others?", Zane answered, "With ancient writing."

This, no doubt, has something to do with Egypt and hieroglyphics, and, well, I don't know. He's Zane.

As for Harper? Well, her teacher is a hit with me. Rather than having the kids bring in the customary HS Musical or Camp Rock cards, she had the kids work on a writing project for a full week. Each day, for homework, Harper had to write a letter to three of her classmates, and then make a card for them out of supplies which were donated by all the families in class. Mrs. M also distributed a list of personality traits and interests about each child in the class, (all the kids helped with developing this list), so that the letters would actually include an expression of something specific about each classmate. For instance, the class agreed that Harper "loves puppies" and that she is "spunky". Using this description as a starting point, her friend's will write her a Valentine greeting.

Tomorrow, her class will enjoy a quiet festivity, reading their letters, all 20 of them, while munching on a cupcake. Sounds delightful. I hear the cupcakes will be from Tag's. This is turning into a post about Evanston businesses I will miss upon moving.

Last fall, I picked up these adorable plastic heart boxes at the Thrift store for $.50 a piece. So, tomorrow, I will head to the $1.00 store and get Harper and Zane a few small treats. I'll then pack up the boxes with the goodies and the cards and have them waiting for them when they wake on Saturday morning.

Before they go to the dentist. Bad, bad planning on my part.

But hey, my chiropractor gave me flowers today. Perhaps Dr. Fisher has something special planned for all the children who have the privilege of visiting the dentist on Valentine's Day!

The cost of Valentine's this year? Just around $10.00 for 45 personal cards, some containers, and some small treats.

(Although, if you add in the trip to the dentist, that cost increases. Dramatically. So, we'll just leave that amount out of the equation!)

How are you getting your thrift on for this Valentine's Day?

Photo by Chicks57

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Thrifty Thursday: Land's End

I have not had good luck with Land's End winter jackets.

But, it may just be me. Many folks are surprised to hear about my woes with their products.

I have had two winter jackets from Land's End. On the first, the cuff's frayed after a few months of wear. I sent it back and they sent me another, only my original color had been discontinued, and thus my boots, purchased to match the first coat, also had to be replaced. Otherwise I would have looked like a friggin' rainbow. To their credit, they took back the original boots as well.

On the replacement jacket, the zipper broke. Land's End sent me another. After wearing it for about a year I ended up donating it. I got sick of the color of the replacement. That was last winter.

So, while I can complain about Land's End workmanship, I can't complain about their return policy, for they were true to their word about either repairing or completely replacing damaged items. Due to that policy, I haven't actually had to purchase a winter coat since 2005.

Sure, it was a bit of a hassle to send the damaged jackets (and boots) back to the company, and sure, I had to then wait for the new jackets (and boots) to be shipped. And then there was the issue of the discontinued color.

But, still, I didn't pay anything.

The zipper on George's coat has been broken for two weeks. He hasn't complained and has made it work. Somehow. But, today, I finally called Land's End.

For while this new zipper issue triggers a dislike for the entire zipper department over there at Land's End, (and thus I may be switching to L.L.Bean in the future), I wasn't about to trash the coat until I got a new one. Might as well get a free replacement. Right?

And I will. I will be returning George's damaged coat, purchased in December of 2006, to Sears (as they take Land's End returns), and they will be mailing him the 2008 model of the same style.

A savings of $59.99.

I think I will investigate L.L. Bean for next winter, for the entire family will be due for a new gear - especially with the move to Beaver, where I hear snow can begin in October. L.L. Bean has a similar return policy and I'd like to see how their product quality compares to that of Land's End.

Tip of the day: Before getting all hot headed when a product breaks, as I usually do, follow up with the company - especially if the company has a return policy like Land's End or L.L. Bean stating that they will repair or replace your item for free.

It makes sense to shop with companies that offer a true satisfaction guarantee. No hassles.

Thrift means that you should always have the best you can possibly afford, when the thing has any reference to your physical and mental health, to your growth in efficiency and power. ~Orison Swett Marden

Photo by Scott L

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Wii Sore

Playing Wii with my children has become hazardous to my health.

Like many, we jumped on the Wii wagon this Christmas after having asked for the game as a family gift, rather than raking in a ton of meaningless gifts that, knowing me, I'd end up consigning as soon as my local shop began taking after the holiday selling appointments.

Oh, it's fun.

Yeah, it's enjoyable.

It's also downright dangerous.

It was a week after Christmas when I felt the knot in my left bicep. Lifting my arm was a chore, and straightening it while lifting? Well, fuhgeddaboudit. I had no idea what had caused this unbelievable pain, until I picked up the controller in an attempt to take on my almost Wii pro-status tennis playing daughter for yet another match - this time only using my right arm.

I woke up with a knot in my right bicep.


Now, I'm no couch potato. Ok, in complete honesty, my workouts have taken a dive over the last year or so. But while I've abandoned the lifting and half-marathons, at least for this season, I'm not an "unfit" mama. It's all still there, waiting for me to return. Wii? Please! I can take on the Wii!

(Head down) At least I can in 2-4 weeks after I get the go ahead from my chiropractor to resume playing once he literally works out the kinks.

When I first mentioned my pain to Dr. Tony, before the revelation that this injury was caused by a video game, (sheesh), he asked me if I had experienced trauma to the area. Imagine my embarrassment when I realized and thus shared with Dr. Tony, the guy who works with Ironmen, as to how I had pulled my muscle.

Apparently, I'm not the only one who has developed some Wii muscle soreness due to my most powerful backhand in tennis. This recent article on Boston makes me feel better as to my Wii lot in life. Trauma, strained muscles, general soreness, injured rotator cuffs have all been linked to excessive Wii play. I'm not alone. I'm not alone. I may be taking the "Wii walk of shame", but I'm not doing it alone.

Kids, mommy can't play Wii with you. Doctor's orders. Guess we better go back to reading books, playing board games and, well, talking.

Photo by Bethany