Thursday, October 15, 2009

Happy Birthday Matthew and Eli

Can you believe it, half of our family has birthdays today!?! We're celebrating my wonderful husband's 28th birthday, AND Eli's 1st birthday! What an exciting day!

When I realized last year that Eli was likely going to be born on Matthew's birthday, I felt a little bad about stealing his thunder. Matthew however, loves sharing his birthday with Eli and thinks that it's really special.


Happy Birthday Sweetie! I just want you to know that I love you so much and appreciate everything that you do for our family. You are the best husband and a wonderful father; we are very lucky to have you in our lives! I hope that you have a fantastic day today. You deserve it!


Happy Birthday Big Boy!! I can't believe that you are ONE year old today. You have changed so much in the past year and have grown up so quickly! We want you to know that you are a light in our lives and we love you so much!

Some of the things that you are doing now are: Walking holding onto things, saying a few words: Mama, Dada, Eli ( pronounced L-I), you play peek-a-boo, and you are learning to play toys with your brother. Your favorite thing to do is be held by Mommy!

The funniest thing that you do is eat EVERYTHING in sight! We haven't found a single thing that you don't like. You really made me laugh today when you ate all of the black olives off of my baked potato! You are such a special little boy and we love you so much!!

We are so proud of you, and we are excited to see what the future holds for you! Even though you're a "Big Boy" today, I want you to know that you're still my little baby-Today and Always!

I have to say I feel like the luckiest person alive today. How blessed I am to be able to celebrate two such special lives today. How blessed I am to count these two special lives as members of MY family! I sure do love these boys!

Stay tuned later for the "Year by Bear" photos!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Last Day Little

Today is the last day that I get to spend to my "little" baby. Tomorrow, he will be a big ONE year old. I cannot believe it. Where has the time gone?

One year ago today, I was 36.5 weeks pregnant. I was having a great deal of pain on my right side, and I had been for over ten weeks. The problem was that Eli was lying on the ureter going to my right kidnery and it was causing hydronephrosis. Ironically, hydronephrosis was Owen's diagnosis, and part of the reason that his kidney had to be removed. Mine was apparently pregnancy induced. The doctors monitored my kidney and renal function through ultrasound from the time that the pain started. On this day, I was sent to the hospital for another renal ultrasound to see if the hydronephrosis had worsened. During previous exams, it had been labeled as "moderate", but this time, they determined it to be "severe". Once hydro becomes severe, it can cause other problems with the kidneys and result in permanent damage. The radiologist immediately called my OB, and she told me to go ahead and check into the hospital. We went home, grabbed our bags, and a bite to eat before heading back to the hospital. I also gave Matthew his birthday gift because I had a feeling that the next day was probably not going to be his :)

We got back to the hospital around 6 pm, checked in, and got hooked up to all of the monitors. I was contracting every 2-7 minutes and I was dilated 3.5 cm. My doctor had high hopes that I would progress on my own and we wouldn't have to make any tough decisions. Unfortunately, as we waited for Dr. Fenoughty to return from her son's football game, my contractions slowed down and we had to decide what we were going to do.

The bottom line was that *something* had to be done to relieve the kidney. My options were to deliver the baby to get him off the ureter, OR undergo surgery to have a tube put in through my back and into my kidney to drain it. Option two, *REALLY* did not sound like fun to me, so after weighing the options, and assessing our risks, we decided to go ahead with the delivery.

Around 8 pm, they gave me cytotec, I received two doses over the next 6 hours before they broke my water. Within an hour of my water being broken, I was fully dilated and ready to push. Things went VERY quickly from there! Literally, within minutes, we were holding our perfectly healthy, 3 1/2 weeks early, 7 lb, little boy!

Tomorrow he will be one... But today, he's still my little baby.

I love you Eli!

My "Dear Abby" Blog

I received this question from my lovely Sister-in-law, Jodi, today.

"What do you use to organize your coupons? I have tried to do coupons, but have trouble staying organized and then am not as diligent about it."

She suggested that it would be a good blog for other people who are interested in saving money and becoming better couponers. I couldn't agree more. Reading a friend's blog who coupons faithfully is how I got started doing all of this.

First off, let me just tell you that before Matthew and I had children- we both had full time jobs and we never really thought about money. We had enough, and pretty much bought what we wanted, when we wanted it. It was nothing for us to go grocery shopping and spend $200+ every couple of weeks--- For just the two of us! CRAZINESS!

Anyway, when I started couponing back in January/February- I had to figure out the best way to organize my coupons. Organization is the number one most important factor in being a successful couponer. If you can't find your coupons, chances are good that you won't use them.

My first coupon organization strategy was a photo album. It was great starter strategy and worked pretty well for breaking down my coupons into more manageable categories. The worst thing about this strategy was that I would have some categories that were always stuffed to the gills, and I ended up just having too many coupons to comfortably fit into the album.

My second strategy was a three-ring binder and sports cards holders. With this strategy, I could see every coupon, when they expired, and they were organized into categories. It was super to use while I was shopping- I could always see exactly what I had, but the bad thing about it was that it was painfully difficult to get all of the coupons cut out, sorted, and wrestled into those little slots! I just don't have enough "kid-free" time in my life to be able to accomplish all of that.

My third strategy, the one that I am currently using, is called "clip-free" couponing. With this method, I just put the entire week's inserts into a file folder, and file them by date in my bag. As I prepare my shopping list, I use this website, to search for each of the items that I am going to purchase. The website is compilation of all coupon sources, including Sunday inserts, All You magazine, and coupon websites. You type in, "Betty Crocker", or "cheese", or whatever you're shopping for- and a list will pop up telling you exactly where the coupons for that item can be located. They will usually be listed by date and location, RP (Red Plum), SS (Smart Source), PG, (Proctor and Gamble), GM, (General Mills), AY (All You). So then, all that I have to do is go that folder, pull out the correct insert, and find the coupon.
This method would be especially great if you have a Blackberry, iPhone, or netbook. If you have one of these, you can use CouponTom Mobile, to check for deals on the go!

The other thing that I ALWAYS do before shopping is check, Every week she lists the best deals available at CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, Wal-Mart, and Target. These often include several freebies that are available at each store. I look through these lists, and decide which stores I will shop at. (Don't forget that most of these stores will match the others' deals!) My favorite place to shop for the majority of my groceries is Super Target. I've always preferred Target, but I used to not shop there as much because I felt like a lot of the prices were higher. Since then, I've found the best, most wonderful, Target secret. On this website, you can print Target store coupons. Target coupons can be combined with manufacturer's coupons to score AMAZING deals! Money Saving Mom will always list the items that you can get for free at Target each week.

The bottom line is that you have to find a strategy that will work for you. If I had the time, and fewer grabby little fingers in my life- I think that I would really like having my coupons all clipped and organized. At this season in my life though, it's just not the best option for me. Someone once told me that you need to give any strategy about 3 months before you're really going to know if it will work for you.

Couponing is not my favorite thing to do. It would be incredibly easy for me to claim that I just don't have time, but now that I have seen how much money our family can really save, I can't *not* coupon!

Remember that couple that I mentioned back in the beginning of this blog? The ones that spent over $400 a month on groceries?? Well we've doubled our family size, and halved our grocery budget. We now spend less than $200/ month on our groceries (including all of our household supplies!). That's an accomplishment that we're pretty proud of!

Monday, October 12, 2009

The day my life changed forever

We can say that about many days in our lives. The day we were married, the day our child was born, September 11, the day a loved one died. Our lives are marked with these days. Some are happy, some are sad, some are bittersweet. Some are simply indescribable; unfathomable to anyone who hasn't walked in those shoes.

October 12, 2007 turned into one of those days for me. We were preparing to leave with our best friends for a trip to Tennessee. We were going to spend the weekend in a cabin there to celebrate Matthew's birthday.

After some concerning events through the previous afternoon and night regarding my pregnancy, I went in to see my OB on the morning of the 12th. I had an ultrasound that revealed a teeny, but normal little baby. For the moment, my fears were somewhat calmed. I think in my heart, I still knew that things weren't okay. They also drew blood to check my HCG levels.

That afternoon, I got the phone call that changed everything. My OB called to inform me that my blood tests indicated that my pregnancy was terminating. I cannot describe the helplessness that consumed me at that point. The pain that pierced my heart was unimaginable.

The following days and weeks were some of the worst of my life. It was a difficult road to walk. I felt so alone. I was angry and hurt that God would let this happen to me. But like always, God has a plan.

I ended up meeting an amazing group of women who had also suffered losses around the same time as me. These girls have been wonderful blessings in my life, I still speak with them daily, and feel extremely close to all of them. The ties that bind us now are much deeper than the initial tragedy that brought us together.

The other blessing that comes from this is Eli. Eli wouldn't be here today if I would have carried that pregnancy to term. I am thankful everyday for the blessing that he is to our lives.

I will never understand why my angel was taken from me so soon. My heart will never be completely healed. But I have learned a lot these past two years. I am a different, and better person than I was. I have a deeper appreciation for the miracle of life, and a better understanding of just how precious and fragile life really is.

So today my prayers are with many of you.

To those of you with earthly children, hug them, tell them how much love them, remind them how precious they are to you.

To those of you who are pregnant or trying, my prayers are with you and your unborn children.

To my friends who have suffered losses, my prayers are with you. Always. We know that our angels were simply too beautiful for this earth. We know that one day, we will finally get hold our heavenly children in our arms.
I love you girls very much.
She flew up to Heaven on the wings of angels
By the clouds and stars and passed where no one sees
And she walks with Jesus and her loved ones waiting
And I know she's smiling saying
Don't worry 'bout me
(Chorus from Alan Jackson's, "Sissy's Song")

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Turtle Soup

Look at these Cuties!!

This weekend I got to attend my very first turtle soup party with my Gessner family. We were celebrating my Father-in-law's 60th birthday with all of our extended family. From what I can gather, this turtle soup business is a Southern Indiana specialty. In fact, the parish in Matthew's hometown holds a festival each year where they cook thousands of gallons of this soup. People come from all over to buy the stuff.

Eli and Daddy stir the soup

Needless to say, I was pretty excited about my first experience with turtle soup! The whole process starts early in the morning, (Actually it begins the day before when they grind and cook the meat and prepare the ingredients). The morning of, they bring out this gigantic outdoor kettle and start cooking the broth and some of the vegetables. Someone is constantly stirring the soup with a huge wooden paddle. Everyone takes turns stirring and lots of people add different ingredients to the soup at various points throughout the day. The whole process takes around 6-7 hours to complete.
Owen adds tomato juice

The soup itself is very good. It wasn't exactly what I was expecting, but it was delicious nonetheless. I think that I was expecting a very unusual, very unique concoction that would taste very "turtely". I don't know what turtle tastes like, but I figured that it would be distinct. In the end, it reminded me of a cross between vegetable soup and chili.

We had lots of other fun activities throughout the day as well. We played corn hole, ladder golf, painted pumpkins, took a hayride, and most importantly, we all got to spend time together as a family. It was truly a wonderful day!

Like I said last month, this fall is extremely busy for us, but we feel very blessed to be able to spend so much time with our families! We can't wait to see everyone again next weekend for Mr. Eli's 1st birthday party!!

Daddy doesn't stop at stop signs

Owen has recently taken up the habit of backseat driving. I am pretty used to it, and I can tune him out pretty well. Matthew however, doesn't drive with him in the car nearly as often as I do, so he gets a little more irritated with it. Friday night, we were coming home from our trip to Greenwood and Owen started barking orders at Daddy from the backseat. He was shouting at Matthew that he needed to stop at the stop sign. Now, we were on the interstate when he started yelling about this, so I can only assume that he saw a stop sign as we drove by a side road. He does not yet understand that not *every* stop sign is *our* stop sign.
Matthew told Owen that he needed to stop yelling at him, and Owen stopped right away. I encouraged Owen to sing a song instead.
Owen composed a song right on the spot. It started out innocently enough as we drove by the airport...

"The airplanes are all asleep.
The cows are all asleep.
The pigs are all asleep.
Daddy doesn't stop at stop signs.
Mommy stops at stop signs a lot."

I was trying so hard not to laugh as Owen sang this little tune, but then he stopped singing and said, "Daddy, Is that a good song? Do you like that song?" We both just cracked up laughing at that point. How could we not?

That kid is such a little stinker!