Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Christmas Came and Went

These last few weeks have seemed a blur. There were so many things I wanted to accomplish, but didn't. I didn't manage to send out a Christmas card (though I haven't given up hope for a possible New Year's card). I didn't get my house as orderly and straight as I had hoped. I didn't bake all the Christmas cookies I wanted to bake. I didn't manage to pick up the desired gift card for my father (had to merely give him cash - which, although I'm sure will work just as well, doesn't feel as generous or nice).

But, I would have to rate this Christmas pretty high. We had a lovely Christmas morning at home as a family. I had two action-packed cleaning and organizing days without the two little ones (every mother needs two days without her small children every now and again). Moreover, we had a wonderfully relaxing and enjoyable visit with my extended family in our home.

When we invited everyone, I wasn't sure how many would be able to attend. My family is fairly spread out, from Florida to Mississippi, to Kentucky, to Illinois, to Wisconsin. Thankfully, many were able to attend (despite long drives for a few). Only my sister and her family missed our gathering.

My youngest brother, Tim, and his family arrived Sunday morning. My parents arrived by dinnertime and my eldest brother, and his family, arrived Sunday night. My ES said, "I couldn't believe you guys stayed up until 12:30 talking." I replied, "That is what my family does when we get together. We sit around and recall various stories from when we were growing up."

It is always interesting to see what others remember. Oftentimes, I remember something that others question or don't remember. However, this year, it was my turn to have my memory jogged. While we were sitting and sharing, my niece, Amelia, got a bloody nose. I remarked that her dad often had nosebleeds when he was younger. He piped up, "Yeah, and surprisingly it didn't help when some unnamed person, out of the blue, hit me in the forehead and said 'Be Healed!'"

I asked who did that and discovered that it was me! No way! Apparently, one day I felt the incredible healing powers surging through me and - quite unexpectedly - decided to cure my younger brother of his nosebleeds. My parents said that particular episode left everyone puzzled and landed my brother, Tim, in the doctor's office with another nosebleed that wouldn't stop. They even thought perhaps that was the time he had to have his nose cauterized. He even remembered some doctor rubbing his hands together (in true Igor fashion) and saying they would be taking him to the "bleeding room." (something about causing him to bleed, so they could determine how long it took for his blood to clot???)

The cousins got along famously. My own boys thoroughly enjoyed having other kids at our home. They are still begging for some of them to come back (yes, YS continues to say "Abby come back now.")

The weather was absolutely perfect. My mother, who lives in Florida, had said she was praying for no snow and temperatures in the sixties. It was definitely in the sixties on Saturday. Sunday and Monday were a bit colder than that, but still warm enough to afford some outdoor play. We enjoyed several long walks on our property and my niece, Kirsten, took many beautiful photos (I'll have to snag some from her to share). It was even warm enough on Monday, for all of us to sit out in the sun room by the big tree to open our presents (by that time there were 24 of us, because my brother Mark's family came for the day on Monday).

I was a bit bummed because this morning, ES and I saw a blue heron down in the creek and all our guests were gone. At least they were able to see six or seven deer back in the woods on our walk Tuesday morning. Plus, the kids noticed several tracks of coyote and deer.

My biggest anxiety centered on food preparation. I'm not very comfortable in the kitchen, but I wanted to provide adequately for all those invited. We ended up having a very successful spaghetti dinner Sunday evening. Monday, at lunch, two of my sister-in-laws brought in lunch meats and chips for a sandwich buffet (they also bought me a pack of Sharpie pens because I complained that my own Santa is just too practical and failed to get me the requested Sharpie pens because "we already have enough pens").

When the final guests left our house on Tuesday afternoon, we were all feeling happy and worn out. We had a splendid visit. We had a bounty of food to share. The cousins all had a good time playing together (I must say the Magnatiles were the biggest hit - especially since we received another 100 piece set for Christmas, which broadened the horizons of building possibilities). Everyone seemed to love viewing our home and property. I feel deeply blessed, indeed!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Sometimes When You Get What You Want, it Doesn't Work Out as Planned

This morning, as I was making my bed, I glanced out the window to see a FedEx truck backing into our driveway. I ran to ES's room and said, "Hey, buddy. I think Christmas just came for you again! There's a FedEx delivery."

It is amazing how expensive Christmas gets when your children hit the pre-teen years. Somehow, their wishes are more extravagent, more definite. ES had only three wishes this year - each of them were big-ticket items. He wanted a set of cymbals, Rock Band 2 (which only came out for Playstation 2 on December 18th) and Guitar Hero World Tour.

Thankfully, his paternal grandparents have always been interested in nurturing any musical interests, so they purchased him a beautiful set of Zildjian cymbals. The cymbals arrived before Christmas and we let him open them early. He has been like a crazy man ever since.

When the cymbals arrived, there was a special catalog tucked in the box offering a $20 discount on any $100 order. Hubby and I decided to spring for a bit more musical equipment and ordered a double-bass drum pedal for him.

What joy to watch his enthusiasm as he opened the box today. My joy gave way to amazement as I watched him figure out on his own (since it came with no instructions) how to put the thing together. I helped him carry the pedal downstairs to his drum set and left him to his revelry.

Unfortunately, amazement soon gave way to discouragement. I wish I knew how to nurture patience and temperance in my sons. Both my ES and MS seem to grow easily frustrated. MS tends to respond with tears and vocalization. ES, on the other hand, tends to pair "flinging" with his vocalization.

Soon, he was upstairs complaining that the thing was "a piece of crap!" I sensed the danger of his possible response and headed back downstairs with him. I tried to encourage him that perhaps he needed some assistance in calibrating the thing. I offered to take the pedal to a local music store and have them look it over to make sure he assembled it correctly. He pointed out his dissatisfaction (the pedal doesn't stay grounded on the floor well - perhaps he needs to put it on carpeting???). Then, he threw the drum key (a tightening device) across the room.

I sent him upstairs - away from the drums. I knew, even as I was praying for patience for him, that patience is only learned through experiences which require patience. He stewed for quite a while. I stewed for quite a while. Then, he came out and apologized for his outburst. I explained that I understood his frustration, but don't appreciate his present reactions to frustrations. I assured him that there was no way in the world that we were going to turn around now and buy him something else. We would have to figure out a way to get the drum pedal working properly. In the meantime, I expected him to avoid the drums and clean his room.

After spending most of my day organizing and straightening, I happily logged on to check my mail. There were quite a few CarePages and Caringbridge updates. In the midst of checking (and hoping to hear more concerning Coleman's recent struggles), I received an e-mail from Renee, telling me to check her blog.

Yay! Christmas came for me today, as well. My number was randomly chosen and I won one of the four recording ornaments. I have asked Renee to send it to Coleman's family and I'm praying that Coleman has enough feisty moments left within him to record a special message for his family this Christmas-time.

Continue to keep Team Larson in your prayers. When Renee wrote back, she informed me that Coleman was Life Flighted to the hospital Christmas Day and has been given 1 or 2 days to live.

I find myself wondering how God decides which kids with cancer survive and which ones join him in heaven. I don't want Coleman to die! I want a miracle. I want something to change for the better so he can walk out of that hospital and live a long full life with his precious family.

But, I know God, too. Sometimes that doesn't happen. Sometimes His will allows a child to succumb to the demon that is cancer. I think of the many people around the world, who are sharing my grief and the fears and intense feelings of all who count themselves one of Team Larson, a team that "Neva Divs Up!"

I want to scream, "Why, God? Why did you allow him to be born only to die? Why did you allow him to be afflicted? Why did you bring each of us to his CarePage to fall in love with these beautiful twin boys, only to feel our hearts break in two?" I don't want to think about the pain and loss Caden and Peggy and Scott are on the threshold of.

My mind keeps hearing the phrase, "Born to Die." Of course, that phrase is meant to describe Christ. We celebrate his birth, knowing full-well that from the outset he was born to die. His birth and death accomplished something miraculous on our behalf. He was born to share in our earthly trials and sufferings and He died to carry the penalty for our sins. How I pray that Coleman's life, however long it is lived, will bring great glory to God. How I pray that God would reach down and give Team Larson the strength to "Neva Div Up." I pray that God would let them know that He understands their pain, having borne the loss of His son, Jesus Christ. I pray that he would bear them along in this journey - carry them when the going gets rough.

Renee is going to try to next day air the recording ornament. I don't know if it will arrive in time or if Coleman will be able to speak even. For now, I celebrate the chance that I was given to walk alongside this family. I am grateful that there is more than just life and death. There is purpose and eternity. Life is precious. Tomorrow I will hug my two little boys again (they have been with Daddy at my in-laws) and will recognize the precious gift of my YS's second birthday. Children are a treasure from the Lord. Hold yours close tonight!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Not much time left for a great give-away

I popped over to Renee Garcia's blog tonight, wanting to look again at her wonderful Christmas surprise (her husband returned home from a 12 month deployment, in time to spend Christmas with the family), and then noticed that I had missed the news of a great giveaway she is hosting (because I read her news on her CarePage and figured it would be the same on her blog).

Head on over to Renee's blog, because she is giving away four special Hallmark ornaments which allow you to record a message. The random drawing will take place on Friday (which is only hours away). You'll also notice other exciting news they have to share. They will be adopting a daughter with Down's Syndrome this year, to add another K to her Special K's - Kellsey!

I'm hoping that I win so that I can send the ornament to Team Larson. They have suffered a bit of a set-back recently. Coleman woke up fine on Christmas Eve, but soon began showing slurred speech and a droopy hand. They rushed him to the ER and discovered another two spots on his brain. I am praying that this is a temporary set-back. It would be wonderful if they could record a Christmas 2008 message from Coleman to have on their tree every year. Please continue to lift Team Larson in your prayers. My heart is grieving for them.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

I Need Some Elf Slave Labor!

As I logged on briefly to check my important mail (and wait for the last other member of this household to head to bed), I couldn't help but click back over to the NORAD Santa Tracker. We have been watching Santa's progression across the globe all evening. MS decided that Santa wants chocolate milk with his cookies, since that is what Ruby declares on "Max and Ruby's Christmas." He also asked an enlightened question at the beginning of "The Polar Express" this evening. He was watching the scene where the little boy tiptoes down to see if Santa has arrived yet. MS noticed the stockings were hanging empty over a raging fire in the fireplace. He looked up at me and said, "Won't Santa's bottom get burned coming down the chimney?"

I can tell you, Santa's safe at our house. We have three lovely fireplaces in this old home. I don't know if any of them have ever worked. My husband says when the house was built the flues were built incorrectly and don't vent properly, so we can't possibly singe Santa's behind!

What amuses me is that the Santa Tracker informed me that, at 11:45 p.m., Santa had already arrived in Indianapolis, Indiana. Yep, his gifts are under the tree, alright! Darn it all, I still have to wrap more of my gifts for the boys. How come Santa gets elf help and I don't???

Plus, I was actually expecting some elf help that never panned out (this happens to me often). My hubby planned to take the little boys over to Grandma's house on Monday and then leave them with her (with the help of his sister and nieces to watch them) and return home to help me pack, wrap, and clean the house. Alas, on Monday, we were still doubtful that the full ramifications of the flu bug had left the house. We couldn't risk taking anything over to my in-law's house, since my father-in-law is in very poor health.

Thus, I have had little boy help all week, instead of focused individual power-cleaning time. Thankfully, I'm pretty sure that my family is coming to visit US and not coming to evaluate the state of my house. We did decide to stay here for a personal family gift-time in the morning. Then, we will head over to my in-laws for a grand Christmas dinner (something my husband and the boys wouldn't have gotten if we stayed here for the whole of Christmas day - that has never been my forte!).

All I want for Christmas is some elf slave labor! But, knowing me, I'd try to hold them hostage so I could have that kind of help year round! Hope you all managed to get everything under the tree, the meals prepared, the family visited and the house reasonably clean (we don't want Santa to be unable to get to the tree, now do we?). I also hope that the reality of God's love as revealed in the birth of His Son Jesus Christ long ago, born with the express purpose of carrying our sins to the cross on our behalf, warms your heart and soul this Christmas season.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Book Review: Maggie's Miracle

Once again, Karen Kingsbury, has warmed my heart with another inspiring Christmas tale. Maggie's Miracle, is the second in Kingsbury's Red Glove Series. Each of these short tales are suitable for reading as a family.

The book begins with an eight year old boy's letter to God. He is asking God to help his widowed mother, Megan, believe in love again, so he can have a daddy. The characters felt a bit stereotyped. The mother is a busy district attorney, who obviously took time to have a child, yet doesn't have time to give her son. The grandmother is too tired to keep up with the boy (I guess this rubbed me the wrong way, as well, since the grandmother calls him "the boy."). The denouement was a bit too perfect - all the strings were tied up nicely. Still, I enjoyed listening to this Christmas tale. It was a pleasant way to fill the time driving out to get my Christmas shopping done.

If I could have changed the book in any way, I would have made it a bit less neatly packaged. Megan didn't seem to be a likable character until the very end. The boy never once talked back, despite having dealt with many difficult changes in the past two years of his young life. Casey had not a single flaw. I did enjoy the story, but I wished for more redemption and character growth. Still, I doubt all this could have been pulled off within a brief, 12-chapter book.

Friday, December 19, 2008

What's Up With That???

A few nights ago, I headed off to Walmart after the boys were all FINALLY ASLEEP. I must admit, shopping by myself late at night tends to make me dally. I think I was there almost three hours. When I finally made it to the check-out at 1 a.m., the girl who was handling my line (one of only two open at that hour) looked like she was comatose. She took forever ringing up the individuals in front of me.

When she got to my purchases, she mechanically began to scan item after item. Perhaps she wasn't paying attention. Perhaps I merely needed an odd chuckle before bed. I don't know. But, she accidentally dropped one of my broccoli crowns out of the plastic bag onto the metal bagging area.

What happened next made me think "What's up with that?"

The girl looked horrified. At first, I assessed her expression as shock over spilling out a customer's valued purchase. However, then I watched her daintily reach out a finger and thumb, as if picking up the dead carcass of a rat off her station and whisk the broccoli quickly back into the bag.

Next, the girl reached behind the cash register and pulled out a bottle of hand sanitizer and doused her hands. Only after vigorous rubbing, did she resume scanning my further purchases.

The woman behind me in line was standing with a talkative friend. The friend's back was turned to me, so she didn't witness this little episode, but the woman did. When we made eye contact, she said, in the clearest non-verbal communication, "What's up with that chick?"

I have to admit, my mind was whirring. Wouldn't it have made more sense to douse her hands before touching my produce? Is the produce offered at Walmart so foul that it requires the extensive cleansing of the hands after touching it? We are certainly not eating that broccoli raw. I will spray on the Fit! Fruit and Veggie Spray and then I am boiling that roughage!

I tried hard not to chuckle as the woman behind me said to her friend, "Man, you are missin' it all!" The friend didn't understand, but the woman assured her she would explain when they got to the car.

Now, I'm wishing she (or the check-out clerk) would explain it to me! Anyone want to venture a guess about that weird scenario?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Saga Continues

This year has brought the most medical illnesses, Dr. visits, prescriptions filled and lingering health questions that our family has ever experienced. All five of us are on some form of medication. I feel as if I fill a prescription at CVS every other day. In fact, just today, I learned that hubby had contacted his doctor to explain that his new medicine was causing him to be unable to sleep for more than an hour the past three evenings (I didn't even know he had begun taking it). The doctor has given him yet another prescription for me to fill.

ES's stomach ailments continue to perplex us. When he began to experience unusual side effects to the Reglan, I called his GI to explain what we observed (as the prescription notes instructed to do). This doctor suggested we take him to a psychiatrist. Yes, these problems are getting him down, but the issue isn't primarily psychological, it is physical. The doctor called in another prescription for Erythromyacin (which I filled, but hubby refused to start ES on until school lets out tomorrow, because the pills are gigantic and side effects may cause further nausea - wasn't that what we are trying to combat in the first place?!).

In the meantime, with his weight loss continuing and his intense determination to participate in his school's wrestling season, I decided to call the primary physician again and ask for a referral for a second opinion. The first GI was going to wait until the end of January to give another colonoscopy. Another friend has asked the question, "How can the GI rule out Crohn's if he indicates that there is inflammation within the intestines and at the entrance to the stomach? Crohn's, by definition, is inflammation occurring anywhere from the mouth, down through to the anus." I hadn't realized this and since I wasn't at the colonoscopy, I'm not really sure how they "ruled out" Crohn's disease.

Thankfully, our primary physician is also gravely concerned about the extensive weight loss and has referred us to the GI specialists at Riley Children's Hospital (our second specialist there, since we already take YS to see an outstanding pulmonologist at Riley). They have taken down his history and are securing file information from the other doctors who have seen ES and will be letting us know where that places him on their schedule.

In the meantime, we have been battling the flu. Yah-rah! We missed a family portrait session scheduled for last Saturday because YS was ill. I rescheduled for tomorrow evening. Since I rescheduled, MS had a brief episode Monday night, which rendered him unable to attend preschool on Tuesday. I came down with it on Tuesday. Hubby, with his loss of sleep had it last night into this morning. Unbelievably, just before bed, MS threw up again. I'm hoping it is just a last little flare-up (Please Lord, may I not be up all night fulfilling that undesirable parenting role!). Tomorrow morning, I will be calling Olan Mills to cancel (why bother rescheduling when the next few weeks look pretty full already - regardless of which illnesses choose to linger).

All I can say is, literally, our cup runneth over. Somebody grab a towel!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

At Least Our Ill Health Has Some Perks

What a week we had last week. ES missed more school and I finally took him to the doctor on Wednesday afternoon (another new medicine, Reglan, to try to alleviate the nausea caused by his gastritis). Then, Friday morning, hubby had to go to the doctor and he was put on a new prescription (although he was given samples for the time being - whew!). Plus, I had to take YS for a follow-up appintment with the pulmonologist on Friday (no new meds - yah!).

When I returned home, hubby reminded me that ES was almost out of his Prevacid prescription. After all of MoneySavingMom's great 24 hour give-aways, and her CVS tips, I left with the intention of purchasing the medicine, but the niggling thought of trying to also swing a deal. Imagine my joy, when the prescription receipt held another coupon for $5 off a $15 purchase (again it was only good for 3 days).

There was a weekly deal where if you purchase $20 of Hershey's candy, you would receive $10 back in ECBs. MoneySavingMom suggested buying 7 packages of Hershey's Bliss, which were on sale for $3 and using 3 of the Sunday coupons for $2.50 off two bags. However, I don't get 3 Sunday papers, so alas, I only had one lonely $2.50 off coupon. Still, I knew that MS loves to make the easiest toddler assisted candies around. (I line the cookie pan with foil. He puts out rows of pretzels. He removes the wrappers from umpteen Hershey's Kisses and I place them in the middle of the small round pretzels -sometimes I let him help, but often he puts them lopsided, so I adjust them. Then we bake them in a 200 degree oven for two minutes and I plop an M&M candy in the middle of the melting kiss.)

I also snagged a container of Thermaflu Warming Relief, on sale for $5.99, which gave me back $2 in ECBs. I had a rebate coupon to get my $5.99 purchase price back, so if you consider the $2.00 in Thermaflu ECBS as going towards the chocolate, I secured 4 bags of Hershey's Bliss and 4 bags of Hershey's kisses all for the final price of 50 cents (The chocolate total was $20 - minus $10 I got back in ECBs, minus the $5 prescription offer ECBs, minus the $2.50 coupon off the Bliss bags, minus the $2 ECBs earned from the Thermaflu). You can see why this stuff gets addictive!

Granted, I probably didn't NEED 8 bags of chocolate. But, I would have bought the kisses anyway at some point. Plus, we are having some family visit in our home over the holidays, so now I will be able to have lovely little bowls of candy around tempting them! I did chuckle when I got home and realized that I had purchased all 8 bags in dark chocolate - MY favorite. I think I may have to see if they will let me exchange a few of the dark chocolate bags for milk chocolate, in the interests of my guests.

Unfortunately, I wasn't chucklin' for long. As I entered the house, with my triumphant spirit, my son's medicine and my fists full of chocolate, I quickly took in the reality of my life. YS had thrown up at the dinner table. Hubby held him until I was able to clean up (the table, the carpet, the clothes, the tub), then I bathed him and started in on a night of attempting to catch infant vomit. You can be darned sure, though, that during a half hour lull, while he slept, I washed up the evening's dishes and treated myself to a few dark chocolate bites of Hershey's Bliss!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Win a $500 Home Depot Card

Hurry! Don't stop to read my blog thoroughly - I don't have anything exciting to share (apart from some updates on my ES's health, however that will have to wait for tomorrow). Head over here and enter to try to win a $500 Home Depot Gift Card. You have to leave a comment on that blog post before 6 p.m., December 11th. I know I am minimizing my own chances by sending you over there, but wouldn't that be a cool wind-fall for this expensive month of the year? Best of luck to you all. Priceless holiday wishes to you just for visiting my blog, even if you don't win!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Still Faithful and Still Wooing

As soon as the boys were in bed, I headed to Walgreens to get my transferred inhaler prescription for YS (and the $25 gift card they offered). They also will be paying me a buck for buying two of their Scotch three-roll tape (they were on sale, 2 for $2 and when I send in the Walgreens Rebate Club form at the end of the month, they will put $2 back on a gift card, plus I had a $1 off coupon clipped from the paper).

Next, I dashed into CVS and talked with a manager about my purchase Saturday night. Because I arrived before midnight on Saturday, she assured me that I did indeed see a sign offering a second toy at half off. She looked over my receipt and then printed out a $5 ECB to give me the half off that I failed to get on the initial purchase receipt. Score! Does that mean I paid -4.99 for those three items now?

Plus, they continue to lure me into the store with their good deals. I usually purchase my YS's diapers in a large package at Walmart for about $19. However, this week, CVS is offering $5 in ECBs with every $25 purchase of Huggies. This enables me to purchase three of their smaller packs for $10 each and use three Huggies coupons ($3.50 in further savings). Of course, Catherine has already trumped me, big time, on the diaper purchase in this post, where she secured 658 diapers for $3.36! See why she makes me green?

I don't want to get my hopes up too much (given my experience with MS), but my need for diapers may be dwindling soon anyway! YS has begun asking to "pee in the potty" every time we take his diaper off. He is the only one of my boys who seems to prefer sitting during the learning process. Thus, he has also successfully done both while sitting on the potty. I try to leave him "nudey-butt," as we call it, for a portion of each day and he tends to produce on the potty about three times a day for the last week (today he even forgot to ask for the M&Ms I offer him). Wouldn't it be a tremendous blessing if he went to night-time diapers only, by the time he's two? Oh, he's a keeper, and cute-to-boot (which is a British expression for also, I believe - am I right, Sarah?)

Monday, December 8, 2008

How I Was Romanced into a Relationship with CVS

Cardiogirl was blown away by my story of the penny purchase of two toys and a 2-liter of soda. I must admit that, even though every detail is true, it feels like a fish story (where the fish is portrayed as bigger than it really is). Before I come clean and explain exactly how much those items cost me, I want to explain how my love for CVS came about.

About a year ago, I began to enter the blogosphere (previously, I really only read my friend Sarah's blog - you must go there now to view a fantastic You Tube video about getting back to the real meaning of Christmas). First, I met Dawn through her widely famous Pokemon Card-E-bay story. Then, I found a place to search for bloggers by state. I believe that is how I found Catherine's blog (you can check out her Jesse Tree blog as well - a meaningful Christmas tradition). She regularly chronicles her big CVS deals and I am often green with envy.

I had long been a Walgreens monthly rebate player. However, when Catherine began to outline her deals at CVS, I started to salivate. Then, I received a CVS deal via snail mail offering me up to $50 in CVS gift cards with the transfer of up to two prescriptions. I had several prescriptions to refill and usually filled them at Walgreens. I transferred two prescriptions and received the $50 to spend in a CVS in the future.

True CVS players attempt to roll-over their freebies when using the Extra Care Buck system. I spent my initial $25 on items which then gave me back almost $25 in ECBs (I still have one of those $25 cards). The ECBs do expire within a month, so you have to be more diligent than the Walgreens deals (once I receive my Walgreens rebate card I can use it any time, months and years later).

I have an Extra Care Card, which I always provide at the outset of any transactions. Because I took the time to register the card on-line, I also receive on-line offers from time to time. Then there are the occasional deals on the receipts of filled prescriptions.

Over Thanksgiving weekend, I had received an e-mail deal offering $5 off a $30 purchase. I had a few ECBs to roll-over and there were bountiful deals offered at that time. I don't remember how much I paid at the check-out, but by getting ECBs back on many items, and using several coupons on toothpaste and candy bars, I managed to get two free Colgate Total toothpastes, 3 free G-2 Gatorade drinks, two free nail polishes, two free lip glosses and two free candy bars. I left the store with a fistful of ECBs on my extra long receipt.

I was a bit worried that I wouldn't manage to use the ECBs before they expired. Then, I received the $5 off $15 purchase coupon on my prescription receipt. I headed to the store intending to buy a large plastic dump truck which YS had been craving the last time he had been in a CVS with me. By purchasing the soda and a container of shampoo (also with coupons), I figured I could get the dump truck for $5.

Alas, I was on a time-constraint with only 15 minutes to shop before my $5 off deal expired. I couldn't find the dump truck anywhere, but did notice a sign, which I thought read, "Buy One toy, get the second one for 50% off." When I noticed a $15 Bump and Go Train which blows real smoke, I knew that it would be a big hit with YS for Christmas. Thinking I was getting the second toy for half off, I selected the $10 Magnet Mania toy (ES already has these and the boys love to play with them - though, they are noisy). I have 14 nieces and nephews to buy for on my side alone (due to the number, we all agreed to keep the gifts around $5).

When the clerk gave me the total - $20, I produced two ECB's worth close to that amount and the difference came to only one penny. So, in reality, I paid $10 for each of those toys. I don't especially want to pay $10 for the magnet toy, but I'm not sure they will give me money back if I try to return it, since I paid with ECBs.

If you are interested in joining this fun game, so that you too can do end zone shuffles after really great steals, you can learn more about it at She offers a tutorial on how to get started and how to secure the best deals (check her sidebar for CVS 101 and CVS - How to Make it Work For You). She also outlines lots of deals which are available in various stores. These days we're going to need all the deals and money-saving tips we can find, and it does feel as good as catching a really BIG fish or scoring that important touch-down for the team!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Never Let the Obstacles Win

What a treat to have been able to watch the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, "Front of the Class" tonight on CBS. As mentioned in a previous post, I made every effort to nail my sons' bodies into their evening coffins. Alas, one of mine, in particular, is a vampire and refused to be nailed in the figurative coffin (and this is almost every night, not just nights when he knows that Mom intends to seclude herself downstairs to watch a movie on our lousy rabbit-ears TV, because the Dish won't allow access to such inspirational fare as CBS sometimes offers). (Int, Cardiogirl! Should I curse the Dish or Comcast?)

From the first ten minutes of the movie, I was already being moved to tears (am mentally seeing the scene which played-out back in high school when I watched West Side Story for the first time, and my sister came up from behind me to gloat over catching me crying). It was a touching, heart-warming, inspiring movie. My husband interrupted my tears to ask me if I would check in on the little boys at the first available commercial, since they were both clamouring for me.

I gave them a quick and hearty scolding. Told the baby to lie back down because I was NOT going to rock him. Answered MS that, "Yes, it is o.k. to get out of bed if you must go to the bathroom, but then you must head back to bed."

Alas, after the first half hour of the movie, I felt little eyes penetrating the back of my head. MS had gone #2. I didn't even want to miss a minute of the movie to go and wipe his sorry behind, so I told him to go wait on the downstairs potty until I could wipe him at the next commercial (now there's a tale that should have been made into a "Not-Me-Monday" post and aired on McMama's blog).

Instead of enforcing my boundaries, I gave in and let my MS stay up and cuddle with me and watch the movie. This required frequent explanations ("Mommy, why are you crying now?"), but I'm hoping one day he will also make a difference in someone's life because he learned early on that sometimes people are different and we shouldn't laugh at those who are different, but rather seek to help them and understand them, and maybe even, learn from them.

I certainly was reminded to never let the obstacles win. We all have them. They come in a myriad of forms, but if we let the obstacles win, then we and others around us, lose out on a lot of blessings and lessons.

If you didn't get a chance to watch the movie, I did notice that you can read the book. And, if you watched the movie, send me a comment (just to know you are out there and might actually be influenced by something I have written) and also go to leave a comment with Brad Cohen about his story. Here is his website.

Now, I'm just hoping that my little vampire doesn't decide to take this lesson to heart. May I not discover that he is determined to never let the obstacles win when it comes to his desire to achieve his dreams of staying up past his bedtime. Dear God, please give him the wisdom to understand that this lesson applies to persevering in positive ways, not ways which will diminish the strength and health of his body (like some women who blog into the wee hours of the morning and then wonder why they can't get their morning tasks accomplished).

Friday, December 5, 2008

Deals at the Stroke of Midnight

Tonight, as I began reading my mail I discovered that today was the last day for a great sale over at Vision Forum. Remembering my love of the three-man sling-shot, which we purchased last year for our nephews, I decided to check it out. How thrilling to discover that the three-man sling-shot and a few other items were on sale for 50% off, plus they offered a flat rate of $5 for shipping through December 5th. Now there will be more nephews loving the three-man sling-shot!

As I finished placing my order, I seemed to recall that earlier in the week, when I had filled a prescription at CVS, my receipt offered $5 off a $15 purchase within the next three days. I dug out the receipt. At this point, it was 11:35 p.m. and I noticed that the offer expired December 5th.

Here is what I managed to snag:

I paid one penny, thanks to those Extra Care Bucks I earned on their Thanksgiving deals! Ya just gotta love CVS!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Making a Difference

I guess this is the month for inspiring, heart-warming tales. After a frustrating evening with my own 12 year old, I'd much rather focus on something positive and encouraging. So tonight, I am making mental plans to reserve Sunday night (note to self: this means getting the kids to bed before 9 p.m., before 10 p.m., even before 10:30 p.m. ... unlike TONIGHT!).

At 9 p.m. (8 p.m. Central time) on Sunday, December 7th, CBS will air a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie called, "Front of the Class." It is, apparently, the story of Brad Cohen, a young man with Tourette Syndrome who dreamed of becoming a teacher. He was turned down by 24 schools before one school finally gave him a chance. I was able to watch four brief interview questions with Brad Cohen (here), where he encourages other teachers to determine to be the teacher who makes a difference in a young child's life.

My first thought was of how I probably failed just such a student as Brad Cohen. Although my passion was to become an English teacher, after only one year teaching English, I found myself teaching a Basic Life Skills class with special ed. students. It ended up being a really great job, one which I will always look back on with fond memories. It was also a perfect fit because the class only met for two hours and I was able to have the best of both worlds. I was still in a classroom, working with students, yet I was fully a stay-at-home mother (only missing my infant's nap time).

My students were challenging for a variety of reasons. They came with plenty of baggage and different learning disabilities. They made me laugh and they gave me loads of pleasant memories and stories, but they also tested my patience and stretched me. One student had Tourette Syndrome.

Looking back, I doubt I was the supportive "make-a-difference" teacher that a student with Tourette's would need. I can remember feeling frustrated with his tics and outbursts. It disrupted my class. I didn't want my classroom disrupted. I'm not saying I was unsympathetic. I probably was, but I do remember many times feeling drained dealing with this particular student.

But, after dwelling on a situation where I may not have been the "make-a-difference" teacher, I realized that there were other occasions where I certainly played that role. In fact, it made me think of a student I still remember with great fondness, Mike P.

Mike P. was not the student I was assigned to work with, when I worked as an individual assistant at my son's elementary school. However, he sat right next to my student and on the very first day of class in that third grade classroom, I noticed how quiet and withdrawn he was. I soon learned that he had recently lost a younger sibling.

One of the perks of my aide position was that I always had ample opportunities to talk books with the students. I love books and I love to talk about books. Ms. McKee, the fabulous teacher who guided our days, shared my passion for books.

One day, early in the year, we sat in our island of four desks (myself in a chair next to Jenny, the student I assisted), discussing books. I mentioned that I had tried the popular book, A Series of Unfortunate Events , but that I didn't really like the book. I outlined my grievances. I didn't like the way the author stops continually to give definitions of words. I didn't like the baby talk of the youngest sibling. I didn't like the formulaic feel of the book.

Amazingly, Mike spoke up. He said that he would probably like that book if I would read it to him. Mike was a quiet kid. He wouldn't come out and say that he couldn't read the book himself, yet he was willing to venture that he would enjoy hearing the book. I decided to take him up on this little challenge. I sought the permission of Ms. McKee, who thought it a tremendous idea, and we began leaving the classroom for ten or fifteen minutes (I think it was during the D.E.A.R. time, Drop Everything And Read, immediately after lunch) to sit in the library and read A Series of Unfortunate Events, beginning with book one, The Bad Beginning.

Over the course of three years, we read through ten of the books. During his fourth and fifth grade years, we read after school and then I drove him home. If we had remained in DeKalb, and Mike had continued to be willing, I would have read the entire series. In fact, to this day, I continue to collect the series for him. Just this morning, I saw another copy of book two in a thrift store and thought of Mike. I'm pretty sure I've already given him that one (if not, it is waiting on the shelf with the others).

I sincerely hope that I was able to make a difference in his life. I was deeply fond of him. I appreciated the opportunity he gave to me (you all know that my own ES would not have allowed me to read this series to him). I watched him make great strides as a student and as an individual over the years. It wasn't always pleasant. He often held me at arm's length, if he thought I had treated him unfairly in the classroom (remember, I functioned as a co-teacher in many of his classrooms). But, he always came around again and sought those story times.

Of course, I hope that I can make a significant difference in my own son's life as well, as his parent. Tonight, was a rough patch for us. Indeed, tonight it was ES holding me at arm's length, unwilling to let me in on what was really bothering him. And other issues led to raised voices and disagreement. Sometimes, it is a lot easier to look at situations where I was able to make a difference in a student's life than to look at situations in my own home where I might be failing to make the difference I long for in my own son's life. Thankfully, I know that we're looking at the short-term right now. Maybe the long-term will bear out my efforts on his behalf.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

More Siblings Ya Gotta See

I spent all my time tonight catching up on blogs (I'm so behind and there are so many fantastic bloggers out there). But, I did want to pass on a link to another beautiful story of some siblings meeting for the first time. Renee at Life with my Special Ks linked to a lovely woman named Bethany. Bethany and her husband have two biological children (one with Down's Syndrome). They recently brought home a newly adopted daughter (with Down's Syndrome) and are sharing their journey. What a beautiful story!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Siblings Meet

Two heartwarming tales. I spotted this Chicago Tribune story about two octogenarians who only recently discovered that they were brothers, both lawyers and live six blocks apart. The article's author described it as Dickensian. How appropriate for this season!

Then, I popped over to Boothe Farley's blog since they were expecting a third daughter around Thanksgiving. Their news is fantastic. They welcomed a beautiful baby girl, with another unique name (explained in her post) and have found some comfort to assuage the loss of Copeland (who was born with Trisomy-18 and died shortly after birth).

Monday, December 1, 2008

Huge Sigh of Relief

A month ago, I received a summons to appear for jury duty on December 2nd. This has been hanging on my neck, dragging me down for quite some time. I wasn't sure exactly how this was going to work out. I have no sitter. My littlest guy would have a really hard time being left with a stranger (as hard a time as I would have leaving them with a stranger). The director of Parent's Day Out did offer to allow them to come extra days, but that would only provide morning supervision.

At first, my mother-in-law planned to come for the first day of the jury selection. Then, she wasn't able to come until Wednesday afternoon. My husband spoke with his employer and managed to switch his normal day off (Monday) to Tuesday this week, so that he would be home with them for at least the first day, until we learned if I would be selected for the jury.

Next, we realized that my ES was scheduled for a follow-up appointment regarding his stomach issues this morning at 8 a.m. This meant that I would have to drive all three boys to the appointment. A mother of one of ES's friends did offer to keep them this morning, but that would again mean leaving them with a stranger. Finally, my husband called his supervisor and asked if he could come in late this morning. Thankfully, she agreed.

I was thrilled my husband took ES, since the roads were snowy and quite slick this morning. In fact, last night ES heard sirens racing by our house and he looked out his window to see a burst of flames down the road. We don't know all of the details yet, but think that a car slid off the road, hit a telephone pole and exploded. At first, ES thought it was cool, to see a car on fire out his window. Then, it began to dawn on him that someone may have died in this accident. The thought that it could be one of his friends really hit him. I think he had a hard time falling asleep last night.

The nurse-practitioner who checked on ES this morning said that the biopsy results came back negative for a lot of things: celiac, lactose intolerance, even H. Pylori. However, this doesn't mean that he doesn't have H. Pylori, because it could have been that the particular spot which was biopsied merely didn't have bacteria located there. At this point, his official diagnosis is chronic gastritis and esophagealitis. He is to continue with the Prevacid and eating more frequent small meals (thankfully, he has put on almost 4 pounds) and check back again in two months. Since he continues to experience headaches and have stomach upsets in the mornings, this conflict seems still unresolved.

Thankfully, the court issue has resolved. Over the Thanksgiving weekend, several people had re-assured us that all I needed to do was call the court and explain our situation and I would probably be relieved from the jury duty. My husband's sister had been excused twice when she was home with their twins. So, first thing this morning, I called the court.

Unfortunately, I was told that I would not be excused. However, they were waiting to hear if the case would actually go to court. The woman agreed to give me a call to let me know if the case went to court.

I now feel like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders. She called moments ago to say that the case was settled out of court and I will NOT need to appear tomorrow morning. Of course, when I called to break the good news to hubby, he did say that his employers were willing to let him off to care for the boys, if need be.

Although he might have been allowed to stay home with them, would he really have been ABLE to stay home with them?? We already find that weekends get quite stressful. Their constant demands and endless messes tend to get on his nerves. He admits he's often glad to get back to work. Thankfully, we won't have to test his limits this time around. Whew!