A wonderful Grandpa

I lay down to sleep last night
All cozy in my bed
And as my mobile danced
I snuggled down my head.

Across town Grandpa sat down
To close his eyes a while
But instead of waking up like me
He woke up to Jesus’ smile.

To our wonderful father, father-in-law, and grandpa: We love you and we will miss you terribly.


Tall shoulders

We had fun celebrating Dad yesterday. Since Jack can't talk yet, I made a sign for him to give Daddy when he woke up: "Happy Father's Day, Daddy!" Then it was off to the grocery store to pick up Dad's favorite breakfast: doughnuts. Before we left for church, he and Jack opened his gifts and cards.

We had a couple family dinners to go to yesterday, so we were pretty busy, but even then my husband found time to demonstrate his good dad skills, changing some diapers (even though I told him he didn't have to on Father's Day). We also sneaked in a lovely all-family nap.

Thank you for being a wonderful Daddy and giving us your big heart and strong, tall shoulders! We love you!

And a big hug to our dads, who took such a great deal of time and energy and love to shape us into the people we are today—and still give much. We're grateful for and love you!


Money-Saving Monday: Family fun

Saving money doesn't have to be painful. Consider these suggestions (and please share yours!) for free or cheap ways to enjoy meaningful family time this summer. Actually, I've discovered that some of the cheaper activities are sometimes the most fun and memorable.
  • Get outdoors: Pack a picnic and play in a nearby stream afterward, go for a walk in the woods or on the beach, go for a night hike with flashlights, play at a park you don't usually go to, fly a kite, throw a ball or Frisbee, play tennis, camp in the backyard, splash in a neighborhood pool (usually cheap), go berry picking, or invite a few friends over to run through the backyard sprinkler or play on a slip and slide. If it's raining, don rain boots and coats and let the kids splash away through the neighborhood. Even if you're not a child or don't have children, some of these activities can be very refreshing and fun.
  • Cook together: Make a homemade pizza—or another dish that everyone can have a part in—adding sauce, cheese, and creative toppings. Then, make sundaes for dessert. Provide as many toppings as you can think of—nuts, sprinkles, whipped cream, fudge, bananas, candy pieces—and admire and sample each other's creations. Or make cookies (or one giant cookie) and decorate them together. If the weather's nice, enjoy a cookout in your backyard that everyone helps to prepare, and play outdoor games together. 
  • Find free fun: You may have free (or cheap) attractions, festivals, concerts, or other family friendly fun within driving distance that you've never before experienced. Take in an evening of music in the park or browse a hometown museum. Also, several stores—including Home Depot and Micheal's—offer free crafts and activities for kids on certain days.
  • Stay home: Pop some popcorn or make some indoor s'mores (in the microwave) and rent a movie for cheap or free (free Redbox codes are available constantly online). Have a family board game tournament, or just play a variety of games and enjoy the friendly competition. Get out old home videos and photo albums and reminisce and laugh. If you're musical, have everyone pick up their instruments and play (or sing) a few tunes in your inpromptu band. If you're artsy, set up a project you can all do and enjoy together. Or one family member can share a talent; maybe dad can teach the kids how to do a simple woodworking project. If you're ambitious, throw a thematic mini-party just for your family, such as a luau, using simple items you have around your home (or ones that are inexpensive to purchase). Do the limbo, don your Hawaiian shirts, eat a pineapple, and play luau music.


Money-Saving Monday: The mighty coupon

The coupon is a wonderful thing. But I didn't realize this until a couple of years ago. I had used coupons very rarely when they happened to land on my doorstep for something I happened to need right then, saving maybe a few dollars a year. And I took an occasional coupon on trips out to eat. But that was about it.

Since then, I've learned a lot about how coupons can come in handy for all sorts of purchases, and save all sorts of money.

Going out of my way to get coupons made a huge difference. Lots of coupons are on the Internet (such as product coupons on company websites); you'll find links to them on frugal blogs. Coupons.com and other sites devoted to coupons are great resources for loads of good coupons (see other sites on the right).  Some people subscribe to a major metro paper just to get the weekend coupons (you can get a weekend-only subscription), and they say it's more than worth it. Other sources, among many, include in-store coupon booklets, coupons that come with free samples, and coupons in magazine ads.

Many people say that coupons can only be used for things that aren't important, or that they don't buy. They claim that coupons can actually make you spend more because you'll purchase things you wouldn't ordinarily. And that can be true. But if you use them wisely, you can often get stuff you use all the time (eggs, milk, toothpaste, cereal, diapers, and more) for free or pennies on the dollar. Yes, it might be most economical to bake your own biscuits—unless you can get the Pillsbury pop-'em-in-your-oven style for free (which I have). I used to purchase the generic brand to save money. Now, my coupons often get me name-brand (and in my opinion often higher quality) products at much cheaper prices than generic ones.

One caution: Being brand-picky is typically not helpful. You might not get to buy your favorite brand of shampoo—but washing your hair at no cost ever again is too good to pass up (at least for me). Most people have some brand loyalties. Limiting those brands that are super important to you can help you save even more.

Couponing is work. Frugal bloggers make it easier by spelling out specific deals for you at specific grocery stores and other retailers. But since the savings can be so significant, it is like getting paid a decent salary for your work.

For more detailed information on couponing, check out these excellent resources:


Say "Awww"

My sister-in-law had her tiny little boy yesterday. He is simply perfect. And he has perfect, soft, black hair. Her and her husband have a beautiful family.

As we took turns holding him, my husband remarked that he couldn't quite remember Jack being that small. It was strange to think that just a year ago we had embarked on the world of parenting with a teeny bundle of our own. Now, he looks like a giant next to his newborn cousin.

It was also odd to peek into the very same hospital room where I had held my son for the first time and remember all the emotions and well wishes and, despite reading gobs and watching videos and attending childbirth classes, how extremely clueless I was about parenthood.

I think Jack seemed big at the time because he seemed like such a big deal. A big responsibility. A huge representation of change in our lives. He was placed in our arms for the next 18 years at least. We loved him more than we could express, but it was a bit overwhelming.

Now we're enjoying parenthood immensely and learning to take it one day at a time, and to enjoy little Jack's journey and our own.

And I have to admit holding the precious little guy made me think about making Jack a big brother someday.

Say "Ahhh"

While a kid with eight teeth hardly needs a dental cleaning, the staff at our dentist's office suggested bringing Jack in during my appointment for a quick peek at his pearly whites so he would be more familiar with the concept when he reappears for a real visit in a couple years.

He loves to say "ahhh" at home. Of course, he wouldn't do it for the dental hygienist. But she still managed to look inside his mouth with a little mirror and pronounce that everything looked good.

The best part for Jack was a new whale bath squirter from the treat box.

The worst part for me was that I let him play with a (clean) wipe in the waiting room (yes, I know, that wouldn't be among the criteria for the Mother of the Year award, but I didn't let him put it in his mouth and I knew it would keep him happy—for a few seconds at least). I saw the dental hygienist, flat on my back, and chatted with her as much as one can while propping one's mouth open, brought Jack in for his little visit, saw the dentist, and went out to the front desk to pay. Only then did I notice the large piece of wipe dangling from my shirt.


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