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Friday, December 31, 2010

For Today, I'm Okay

Yesterday was a bad day. I felt hopeless and adrift and alone.

Today is better. I've felt at peace. We haven't made any final decisions about the treatment plans and have actually avoided it today (deciding to get standard treatment or try a few clinical trials). We were going in circles before and just need a break. After two weeks of hell, we needed some normalcy. So today we celebrated our Christmas (which we missed out on with Jacob being in the hospital). We had our Christmas Eve last night and enjoyed watching "Christmas Vacation", eating cookies, and just being together. This morning the kids awoke to presents under the tree and we have spent the day together; watching movies and playing with toys. It felt...well...normal. I have my moments, of course, but overall it has been a wonderful day.

Jacob is thriving being at home. He's had a blast playing with his new toys and being back among his brother and sister. You could hardly tell that this boy had a very intensive surgery not even two weeks ago. He is in his element.

As we ring in a new year tonight I can only breathe a sigh of relief. 2010 was a HARD year. I am glad to be entering a new one. I know that this year will be one of trial and struggles, but I pray that we end 2011 with much better news than 2010 brought. I'm ready for a new year!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Turned Upside Down

Just as we were about to leave the hospital today the doctor came back in to tell us the second tests results were in and it is NOT the favorable type of Wilm's. This type of cancer is much harder to treat and Jacob will be needing more aggressive treatment.

We are home now. We will be home until Monday when he starts chemo (probably in-patient). He needs even more prayers now, as do we. Please add him to all your prayer circles.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

All Eyes On Us

Today we had to go down to radiation to meet with the radiologist. When I wheeled Jacob into the waiting room all eyes turned to us. Every single person that was waiting was 50 years or older...and then came Jacob. Jacob upset the balance in the room. Some people averted their eyes, others came over to tell Jacob how beautiful his eyes were or ask him if he was up to a wheelchair race. Most of all, everyone had pity in their eyes.

It isn't right that a 5 year old boy has to go through this journey.

Tonight I have had to dwell on some tough decisions. Get the flu vaccination so close to him starting chemo and needing another dose in a month when his body has such a low immunity? Enroll him in a clinical study of Wilm's Tumor that may help, or hinder, his battle? There are no easy answers...and I don't have a clue tonight. I'm exhausted and overwhelmed and don't want to have to make decisions right now.

We are still in the hospital. This is day 9. Luckily, they did take the chest tube out today and we *may* get to go home tomorrow. The best news? The pathology reports show it is Favorable History Wilm's Tumor, which is the "good" kind. Much better statistics with this...70-80% at stage 4.

The overwhelming news? It looks as though he may be starting radiation (and possibly chemo) this Thursday...just two days away. We may be going home tomorrow but we will be back on Thursday. And Friday. And Monday...and so on. He will be having six days of radiation. The chemo will start for six weeks (once a week on an out-patient basis) and then they will check and see how it is progressing. Then maybe another 6-8 months of it. So once we get home we will still need to drive back and forth (we are 2 hours from the hospital) for the next week, and then weekly after that.

I ask for prayers this evening for me to have some answers and peace about the two topics above that I still am not decided on. I plan to sleep on it and hope to wake up with an answer. Tomorrow morning will also mean more scans with the radiologists to pinpoint the treatment, another meeting with the oncologist, and hopefully some discharge papers.

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Quickie

Just wanted to send a quick update. I'm not in the mood for writing. I wish I could crawl into bed (or in this case, the uncomfortable sofa) and sleep until this is over.

Since I can't (I can sit in this room for hours but the minute I attempt to lie down someone comes in!) I will write out the latest.

The chest tube is still not out. There is still some air in the abdomen so another day of that. Which means more x-rays. More days in the hospital. More chances of going insane.

We did hear that is for sure a Wilm's Tumor. We won't know which type until tomorrow (favorable or not). I pray, pray, pray that it is the favorable type, as that responds very well to the treatment. The other one...well, the statistics are scary on that one. Please don't let it be that type, God. The oncologist did say that from the way it has acted so far he thinks it seems like the favorable type but he can't say which it is. I'm clinging to hope right now, clinging to his words and hoping he is right.

With that said, Jacob will be starting chemo on Monday...yes, one week from today we will be back here getting his first treatments. The oncologist didn't go into much detail because we won't have any specifics until the whole pathology report is in but his chemo treatments can take several days at a time...which means more hospital stays for us. I'm not sure how we will be working this as Ben doesn't have a whole lot of paid time off but I'm sure that we will juggle childcare with the other two somehow - we have to one way or another.

It's all happening so fast, and yet so slowly at the same time. It's been a real wait to get this chest tube out and to hear the pathology reports; and yet the actions of the team are quick. He was diagnosed quickly, was able to be operated on quickly, and will be starting his treatments quickly. It's hard to process so much at once but also means that we are getting the ball rolling too.

It is odd how quickly life changes. Just 12 days ago everything was normal. Now we've spent 8 days in the hospital and will be starting chemo in a week. It makes me wish with every part of my being that I had fully appreciated my normal everyday life. Because that is no more.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Jacob's Progress

My mom stayed overnight at the Ronald McDonald House (which is just a few blocks from the hospital) so was able to visit with me last night and much of today. She just left, along with my dad and sister who came to pick her up, and Jacob is now asleep for a nap. After he wakes up he can eat supper (he has a good appetite!) and go to the playroom.

He is off all IV medicine and is doing great with just Motrin. They just took him off suction, will take another x-ray tonight to make sure he is doing good off suction (boy, I hate all these x-rays) and then maybe be able to pull the chest tube tomorrow. At the very earliest maybe we can go home tomorrow evening but I'm guessing the discharge date will probably be Tuesday.

Once again, I forgot another important occasion. I called my husband this morning to talk and only realized after I talked to him that I forgot to say "Happy Birthday". My husband turned 33 today. I didn't even get to give him a birthday hug. So sweetie, if you are reading this...Happy Birthday and I Love You!

I'm trying to continue taking this one day at a time. I've been in here so long that it feels like a prison. I hope that we are paroled soon. Thank you all again for all your prayers and well wishes...at times you are my only connection to the outside world!

Friday, December 24, 2010

I Forgot Christmas

In the back of my mind I knew that Christmas was this week. I knew that Jacob would be spending Christmas in the hospital.

Then the days started to blend into one another. I feel a bit like a caged animal spending my days in this hospital room. I haven't been outside or breathed in fresh air since Monday morning. I feel like I am in another world. I see parents walking the halls with tears in their eyes. I see little children with bald heads and IV lines trailing behind them and I smile a comforting smile to their parents, while trying to hold back tears because this is my child's future. I wheel my little boy to x-ray in a wheelchair with tubes sticking out of him and I see other people smiling that smile to me. I am that parent that others pity.

When we first arrived here I was looking at the dry erase board in our room and thought it was funny that the nurses had to write down the day and the date. Who forgets what day it is?! Then on Wednesday I couldn't remember if it was Tuesday or Friday (turns out it was neither). I couldn't remember how many days I had been here at the hospital. It all turned into a blur.

And I forgot Christmas. Yesterday someone wished me a good Christmas Eve eve and it was only then that I realized Christmas was just two days away. This morning I had forgotten again, until my husband called me to see if he should still attempt to come to the hospital with the kids for Christmas Eve. Oh, yeah, Christmas is tomorrow. There is no magical feeling in the air. No excitement or wonderment. Right now my life is basic survival, somewhat physically (trying to get sleep in the hospital or finding nourishing food in the cafeteria that doesn't cost an arm and a leg is almost impossible) but more mentally. I await the pathology reports (which probably will not come in until next week) and try not to take it personally when my son gets mad with me because of everything he has been through this week. I try not to let my mind wander to the dark side of things, because I just can't handle that.

And yet, while I am not in the Christmas spirit I have things to be thankful for. I'm thankful that Jacob got through surgery okay. I'm thankful that he is recovering well and isn't in a whole lot of pain. I'm thankful that my husband is taking good care of the other kids and that they are getting along well without me. I'm thankful for my mom who was able to spend a few nights in the hospital with Jacob and I and for my dad who is watching my younger siblings so that my mom can be at the hospital and also helping my younger sister care for our animals. I am thankful for all our friends, family, and neighbors that have stepped in and helped out so much. I'm thankful for the strangers that have poured their love and prayers upon us. I'm thankful for the doctors and nurses that care for my child and can still make him laugh when he is in pain. I'm thankful to see how good people really are, when before I had lost a lot of faith in humanity.

Today was a better day. Jacob is eating more. He walked to the playroom and sat down and played with me for awhile and only had to push his medicine button once. His x-ray showed that the air bubbles in his chest are decreasing so he will probably not need another chest tube, though the one he has in will stay in for a few more days on suction, hopefully getting rid of the bubbles completely. We will be in the hospital for several more days, I think.

So while I remember that today is Friday, December 24th (okay, I actually had to look at the board to remind myself it is a Friday) I want to wish you all a Merry Christmas. You have all been a huge support for me and I thank you all for your prayers for Jacob.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Day 3

Today we had hoped to get the chest tube taken out but the x-ray showed some three different air bubbles around the lungs. They hooked the chest tube up to a suction for most of the day and retook the x-rays again this evening. It looks like one air bubble is gone, but the one that they are the most worried about is still there. It sounds like we will keep him hooked up to suction all night and take another x-ray tomorrow to see if it is gone (or at least not bigger). So please keep that in your prayers, as they may need to put a chest tube in the right side if this does not improve...and Jacob really could do without any more procedures.

I haven't asked about a date to go home as I think it is touch and go - just depends on what these air bubbles do. Otherwise, Jacob is doing well. He is eating more and had almost a whole hamburger for lunch and ordered another one for supper, which he is working on as we speak, along with his chocolate milk. The pain is controlled most of the time, though he has pain when he coughs (the deep intake of breathe causes pain in the incisions) and some gas pains.

I'm missing the other kids but in a vague sort of way. I know where I am needed and I am here, beside him, at all times. We are hoping that the kids can come for a visit tomorrow night so we can have a little Christmas Eve celebration in the room and then Ben and the kids can go to the Ronald McDonald House to spend the night and stop here again on Christmas. Our real Christmas celebration will happen once we all go home...after all, Santa is really good about delaying Christmas when needed.

No pathology report yet. I'm still dreading it while also hoping for some good results. Maybe tomorrow?

Keep praying, please. I've been warmed by all your thoughts, prayers, and well wishes. Keep them coming as we will need them for awhile.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Like a Ton of Bricks

It is strange how one processes a life changing event. For me, it is slowly.

On Sunday night as we had a tour of the Ronald McDonald House I thought to myself how lovely it was. As we toured the kitchen area and saw volunteers making food for the families I thought to myself "That is so nice of these people to do this for these families with a sick child." Then it hit me like a ton of bricks...we are that family now.

My worst nightmare has come true. During a week that little boys and girls are dreaming of Christmas my son is lying in a hospital bed and crying out in pain as the nurses get him out of bed to go potty or to stand on the floor and take a few steps. While mothers are tucking their children in at night and kissing them on their forehead I am next to my son's hospital bed and running my fingers through his hair to soothe him when he has a bout of pain, while telling myself to remember the feeling of his hair on my fingers as soon he will probably be sporting a bald head.

One week ago today I complained on this very blog about life sometimes being so daily. You know - mundane, simple, even boring at times. The very next day my world changed. I'd give anything to get that boring, mundane, simple life back for my child and family. How I wish I could take those words back...my life was perfect.

We start a new chapter in our life now. It won't be an easy one, but I pray for a happy ending.

Day 2 After Surgery

Jacob had a fairly good night last night. He hasn't cried out in pain (except when they are moving him) and is able to control his pain medication with a touch of a button, which gives him a bit of a sense of control over this whole thing. He rested well overnight and is sleeping off and on today.

He urinated last night which was good, as they were thinking they may have to put the catheter back in if he didn't soon. He went again this morning when they put him on a tiny portable toilet. His bowels are starting to wake up now so he can have more fluids to drink and may get a little JELLO later today. They will be washing him up today and want him to try to move around a bit, even if it is just standing up by the bed to begin with.

He is such a strong boy and is not complaining at all. I try to let him know that he can tell us if something hurts or can complain if he needs to but he wants to please everyone. It makes my heart break to see him so strong after everything he has went through. And knowing that there is much more to come makes it break even more. I need your continued prayers for the biopsy results and my peace of mind. It's been tough trying to take one day at a time and not think ahead, though I know that is what I need to do or else I am going to drive myself crazy.

My mom has stayed in town and will be going back home today. My husband will be coming to visit Jacob today and then going back to be with the other two at home. We are trying to make this as easy on the kids as possible, because while Jacob is going through all this the other two just had their world turned upside down as well. They haven't even been away from me overnight before so this is hard on everyone.

It's been great having use of the Ronald McDonald House and we hope that the kids can come visit Jacob on Christmas Eve, spend the night again at the McDonald House, and then visit again on Christmas. We will have our real Christmas when we all return home.

Thank you all for your prayers. This is all so overwhelming and scary and I'm trying to process everything. Knowing that there is a support system (especially a prayer one) behind me makes this journey just a tad bit easier.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Quick Update

I have use of a laptop here at the hospital now so while Jacob is watching a movie will post a quick update.

The 7 hour surgery went as well as expected yesterday. They had him fairly sedated last night due to leaving the breathing tube in, but he woke up every hour or so and needed to be sedated more and more throughout the night. We were all so happy to get that tube out of him this morning. He can now whisper (his throat is still dry and hurts from the tube) and is being so paitent...even when he is the one that is in pain. I slept with him this afternoon and we both took a nap. Pain management is going fairly well.

Please continue to keep him in your prayers, especially as he is recovering and as we await the news of the labs. It sounds like an agressive cancer and they did not get it all out of the lungs, but are hoping that it responds well to the chemo/radiation. It's one step in this journey done...now onto the healing part. I will update later when possible.

Watching Jacob

***From Our Mothers blog***

The Saturday before my mother’s death my sister Angie and I stayed overnight with her. From the couch where we tried to sleep we could only see her legs on the chair in front of us. If they started moving, we both jumped up and looked to see if she was alright. When her legs weren’t moving, we brought our faces close to hers to make sure she was still breathing. At one point in the night, in a fatigue-induced hysteria, we were laughing on the floor behind our mother’s chair. Surprisingly, this is a pleasant memory; laughing with the sister who is also my friend. We realized were not going to get any sleep at all unless we took turns sitting in front of my mother’s recliner and watching her. Only then could we sleep, knowing the other was watching our mother.

When my daughter and her husband were brought into my grandson Jacob’s room late yesterday afternoon they witnessed a spectacle no parent needs to see; their son fighting to rise from the bed and desperately trying to communicate with a tube going down his throat........
click to view continued...


Monday, December 20, 2010

***Jacob Update***

***This is Beth's brother Dan posting this***
Ben and Beth were able to get a room at the RMD House. Jacob's surgery went as planned. There were no complications. Ben and Beth at this point are now waiting to see him in ICU. Will post more info as it becomes available.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

24 Hours and Counting...

In just 24 hours my boy will be in surgery. If we can get in, we hope to leave this evening for the Ronald McDonald House near the hospital as we will need to be at the hospital bright and early tomorrow morning and we live 2 hours away, as well as the fact that it sounds like we may be getting some heavy snow tonight. I am praying that there is an open room there.

Please pray that Jacob stays healthy for this surgery. Both Becca and Joe threw up last night and have upset tummies this morning. I will speak to someone at the hospital later this afternoon and let them know that Jacob has been exposed to a bug but I am thinking that they want to get this surgery underway as soon as possible so will probably go ahead anyway. Just pray that he doesn't get this either before or after surgery.

I will be staying in the hospital the whole week with Jacob. Ben will be shuttling back and forth between the McDonald House (if we can get in) and home with the kids. My parents and siblings will be helping out with the kids and animals as much as possible.

I don't have a laptop or phone connected to the internet, though the hospital has a library with internet that I may access towards the end of the week. I will be having either my mom or brother update this blog from time to time though so that you, my prayer warriors, can know what is going on.

I ask for you to pray for Jacob. I ask you to get his name out to as many prayer circles as possible. I ask you to prayer for his siblings and the rest of his family, so that we can be comforted by God's peace. Everything is so unreal right now and a nightmare. Just a few days ago we were preparing for Christmas and now we are preparing to fight for our little boy's life. Please help us in this fight.

Friday, December 17, 2010


I don't want to sit down and write this...it makes it too real.

Yesterday my world stopped. We found a large lump in Jacob's abdomen. We took him to the doctor, who mentioned cancer, and set us up for a CT scan this morning. The CT scan showed what looks to be a Wilms Tumor (cancer of the kidney...which they can't say for certain until after a lab declares it that). It has spread to his adrenal gland and his lungs. Which means it is a stage 4 cancer.

He will have a very invasive surgery on Monday, removing his left kidney, and the areas on his lungs. He will be in the hospital 6-7 days and will later need chemo and radiation.

Please pray for my little boy. He is the sweetest 5 year old you would ever meet and I can't stand thinking about him going through this.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


My computer crashed yesterday. I knew it was coming, as my computer has been dying a slow death for months now. Actually, it hasn't been quite right since the day I bought it.

I knew I was going to have to buy a new computer sooner or later so wasn't too shocked when I turned it on and only got system restore notices...over and over and over again. Then I realized that my pictures - all my pictures from the last 3 years - are on my hard drive. I'm kicking myself for not backing them up on something and hoping that since I got my computer a little past the system restore function that maybe there is hope for retrieving the photos. I did try to download all my pictures to snapfish a few weeks ago to order prints in case my computer died anytime soon but it took over an hour to download 12 pictures. Uh, yeah, that tells you how bad my computer had gotten.

I'm working on a borrowed computer and will be searching internet deals and store ads the next several days to see if I run across a good deal on either a desktop or a laptop. I'm having trouble downloading pictures from my camera to this (borrowed) computer so will work on that tomorrow or just delay pictures on my posts until I get my own computer. Computers are such fun, aren't they?!

Besides my computer crashing yesterday, my van window wouldn't roll down. I'm hoping that it is just frozen but couldn't hear the motor even trying to open the window. Please don't let it be a dead motor!

These things are just drops in the bucket of life though and I may as well let those drops roll off my back. While our checkbook may be a bit lighter at the end of this month this too shall pass.

Christmas is gettin' done in this household. Most of the presents are bought and wrapped, Christmas cards are getting sent out, and some holiday goodies are already waiting for us in the freezer. I had to pause for a moment when I realized today that Christmas is next week! This month is speeding on by. And the day after Christmas is my hubby's birthday so I have two special events to plan for next week.

School is getting caught up on after a lull in assignments in November. Or rather, an unexpected vacation after some unexpected events. It's all good though and by the beginning of the new year we should be back to our regularly scheduled programming. So far Jacob is proving to be a little math whiz and Becca has stopped fussing while working on her reading assignments and has instead been wanting to get at them with gusto as of late since she is finally getting it. Now if only she had that light bulb moment with math...

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Enjoying the Bon Bons?

Christmas movie at theater: Free

Popcorn and Pop: $9.00

2 Hours alone in the house: PRICELESS

Last Saturday my husband took all three children to the free holiday movie at the theater. I had 2 whole hours alone in this house...it's the first time since July 4th when my husband took them to the park for an hour or two. Is it pathetic that I can remember the last time I had the house to myself, or pathetic that it was over 5 months ago?

I couldn't believe it that I got more done in those two hours than I usually get done ALL day. Living room, dining room, office, and bathroom were all cleaned and vacuumed. Three loads of laundry were washed, folded, and put away. A batch of chocolate almond bark pretzels was made. The kitchen counters were cleaned. It was delicious. And when my husband came home with the kids, saw how much cleaning I did and asked "Why did you clean when you finally had time alone?" I responded with "I didn't want to waste my time reading or watching a movie." Time without children underfoot is so rare in this house that actually being able to clean without being interrupted was a treat to me!

Last week when I wrote my post about working moms insulting stay-at-home moms unaware by saying certain comments opened up a line of communication between working moms and stay-at-home moms (both on my blog and another online forum). Some mamas said that the comment "I wish I could afford to stay home" didn't stick in their craw nearly as much as "I wish I had all that free time" or "If I was at home all day my house would be clean!" (Why? Would you be home ALONE?) I think the whole mommy wars really boils down to certain mamas insinuating that the other one has it so easy. That line of thinking is so far from the truth.

There is no way that I think working moms have it easy. Finding childcare, trying to figure out what to do when a child is sick and needs to stay at home, rushing home to put supper on the table, fitting errands in on time off, juggling work, children, and marriage. That's not easy at all. As a stay-at-home mom I can see things that are positives about working as well: adult conversation throughout the day, being able to actually get work done without someone undoing it behind you (i.e. children), and most of all - a paycheck! But I do not envy the working mom.

On the same token, as a stay-at-home mom I am without a doubt completely insulted when it is insinuated that I have so much free time on my hands. I don't have time to sit on the couch and eat bon bons. Yes, I have more freedom with my time, but I don't have more free time. My whole day is taken up with children wanting and needing something. It's funny that often times a stay-at-home mom isn't viewed as "busy" but a daycare worker would be. And don't forget that the daycare worker gets a paycheck.

As a homeschooling parent it gets even worse. I don't send my children off to school each day so they are literally with me 24/7. Yes, this is of my own making. I choose this lifestyle. But that doesn't mean it's easy. Staying at home can be...so...daily. There are days (or weeks!) when life can feel like the movie "Groundhog Day".

Which gets me to a point that I was going to make. Working Moms AND Stay-at-home moms have some things easier...and some things harder. Each job has it's perks...and it's hardships. I wouldn't change my job for the world, but that doesn't mean that I like it 100% of the time. Sometimes the grass does look greener on the other side...even when it's not.

Two years ago I read the book In Praise of Stay-at-Home Moms by Dr. Laura Schlessinger. You'd think I would have liked it. Instead, I despise it. Dr. Laura is trying to make the point that children are better off with stay-at-home moms. Instead, she makes both working and stay-at-home moms loathe her. A working mother would feel like she was damaging her child by working if she were to read this book (I'd love to hear from a working mother who did read this book - what were your feelings?). And as a stay-at-home mom I was insulted by many various things Dr. Laura wrote. First of all, Dr. Laura was NOT a stay-at-home mom. She mentions being home during the day but would work in the evenings while her husband watched her son.

And second...the real reason I can't stand the book...is that she said that any woman wanting to quit her job to stay home that needs to convince her husband of what a good thing it will be just needs to sit her husband down and rub his shoulders while telling him how he will come home to a much more relaxed wife, supper on the table, more sex (because, after all, you will be much more relaxed after quitting your job), and more. She reiterates this several times in the book. So, isn't she really saying that stay-at-home moms have it easier by saying we will be more relaxed? If that is true, why is it that housewives have a lower life expectancy than other occupations?

The book In Praise of Stay-at-Home Moms just fueled the mommy wars even more, I think. Instead of making one party happy Dr. Laura seemed to manage to insult both types of mothers at the same time.

There is no easy choice. Working out of home or working at home is hard work.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Menu Plan Monday & A Sweet Recipe

My menu is prepared for the week and my shopping list is in hand, so let's hope that the van starts for the shopping trip later today. We have been having arctic cold weather and the wind chills have been 30 below zero. I really don't want to go out in this weather but it looks like it is here to stay for awhile so I guess I better get used to it.



Beef Noodles

Homemade Pizza Pockets

Roast chicken

Broccoli Alfredo

Yesterday I talked about NuNaturals Stevia and promised some recipes. One that everyone in the family loves is:

Coconut Crusted French Toast

bread slices (we got seven slices out of the recipe)

4 eggs

splash of milk

10 drops of Nunaturals Vanilla Liquid Stevia

4 t. shredded coconut

Mix everything together. Dip bread into mixture. Heat 1 t. butter in skillet and add bread once skillet is hot. Cook until browned. Serve with syrup or your favorite toppings.
It was an especially yummy breakfast this morning as the snow blew around outside and the temperatures stayed below zero all day (with the windchill, that is). We stayed home from church since the roads were so bad and stayed in our jammies all day. It would have been the perfect day except for the $25 parking ticket we received overnight for having forgotten to move the car off the street during the snow emergency (if only we had remembered to park the car on the odd side of the street last night).

You know what, even with that lousy ticket it was a nice cozy day being stuck inside with the ones I love. It's the little things that count. :)
Following: Menu Plan Monday

Sunday, December 12, 2010

How Sweet It Is!

I hadn't heard much about Stevia until this past summer. Stevia is an herb that has extremely sweet leaves. It is a natural sweetener and can be used in much smaller amounts than sugar. It has zero calories and will not raise your blood pressure; making it safe for diabetics. Most recipes call for under a teaspoon of Stevia...so you can image how sweet it really is.

I was fortunate to be able to try some of the Stevia items that NuNaturals carries this summer when they sent me some of their products. It's been interesting using it in recipes and so far so good...though it has been an adjustment trying to figure out how much to use in a recipe as a replacement for sugar. The Stevia baking blend makes it easier as you add the equivalent amount of baking blend as you would have sugar.

My husband has fallen in love with the NuStevia packets. He loves to use these in his coffee and can use just one small packet for all his morning coffee - a little goes a long way!

He also loves the Vanilla Stevia; he adds just a drop to his coffee to sweeten it as well as add a touch of vanilla.

I'm still experimenting with these products and plan to use it a lot in my holiday baking this year. Those receiving our goodies will be getting some yummy sweets that are actually good for them! I'll be posting recipes as I make them.

What's nice is that our local health food stores carry NuNaturals Stevia so it isn't hard to find. You can also order directly off their website and it looks like free shipping after $35. It is not as frugal as sugar, but you use a whole lot less of it in recipes so it still ends up being a fairly good deal for something that is healthy.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Lunch For 4: 60 Cents

After arriving home from the boy's speech therapy yesterday we were all hungry. I don't know if it was the hard work the boys put in or if it was the cold weather and falling snow. Whatever it was, we needed something to fill our grumbling tummies.

So imagine my despair when I realized we were out of lunch meat, out of macaroni and cheese, out of soup, and out of leftovers. Besides the dinners that I had planned out there wasn't a whole lot left in the cupboards. I knew that I would be doing my grocery shopping on Friday or Saturday but I thought we could scrape together a few lunch staples...everything that we had on hand involved long cooking times. Nope, those weren't going to work.

I was tempted to run to Hardee's to pick up a few hamburgers. Besides not wanting to bundle three kids up again, I especially didn't want to spend the money. With Christmas this month and being a bit behind on the budget after some bills I just didn't want to spend $5-$10 on one meal. I put my thinking cap on instead.

I saw the bag of rice in the cabinet and knew what I would be making for lunch. I ate this growing up and my kids love it. After all was said and done, this lunch (for 4 people) cost us a grand total of about 60 cents (which, if you're keeping track, is 15 cents per person). You can't get any cheaper than that.

Sweet Rice

Cook rice as directed on package. When done cooking, spoon into bowls. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon (according to taste) and pour milk on top. Enjoy!

Another variation is to omit the cinnamon and put a little cocoa powder on the rice instead.

I haven't met many people who have tried rice this way and many people turn up their noses at the suggestion of fixing it this way but it is delicious. It tastes almost like dessert but is healthy for you and really does fill you up. I did run across this recipe in a depression era cookbook (the only difference was they suggested adding butter too) so we aren't the only ones who eat sweet rice! It would also make an excellent warm breakfast meal. Frugal, healthy, and delicious...a winning combination.

I'll be doing several more meal ideas for a family of five under $5 in the coming weeks and months.

Following: LifeAsMom

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Green Monster

The kids had fun decorating the almond bark pretzels we made.
We all realized, though,
that Joe can keep the green decorated ones

all to himself.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Do you think it is possible for a married person to be friends with someone of the opposite sex? I don't mean friends as in, say, I'm friendly to my co-workers because I work with them and they are nice people type of things. Or, catching up with my old high school friend in the middle of a grocery store thing. Or even, my husband and I both are friends with this person and hang out all together sometimes.

I mean, do you think it is okay for a husband or wife to have a friend of the opposite sex that they meet up with, chat with on the phone or computer, and talk with quite often...without their spouse?

It's a tricky situation, I think. When you're single, it's fairly easy to have friends of both sexes. But when you are married, are you supposed to drop the "opposite sex" friendships? Is there anything wrong with them?

We haven't really had to face this issue in our marriage. My husband left all his female friendships behind in one state when he moved to another soon after we met, and didn't cultivate any new ones. The friendships with my male friends dissolved when I got engaged. It was a bit of an awkward situation for all, I think. One friend was truthful when he told me "I don't feel right being close friends with someone who is about to get married, especially since our friendship involved me becoming closer to you because you were single." Hint, hint. It's true that often times one can think it is just a friendship while the other has hope for something else.

There was one male friendship that I kept up after I was married. After a few months it became strange and weird, and apparent to me that one really probably can't be friends with someone of the opposite sex while being married. That friendship broke up. My husband never demanded that I stop being friends with anyone...and never brought it up even, but I realized when I became uncomfortable with it that it had to go.

Here's the thing. I trust my husband completely; I don't trust other women. I'm a woman myself, of course, but I see how sneaky, conniving, back handed, hateful, and jealous women can be. Women like to always one-up another. Women are not simple creatures. It's clear, especially, in a statement that my husband's cousin told him "Just wait until you have a wedding ring on your finger...women will become much more interested in you." Women want what they can't have...and want to take what you have.

Are all women like this? Well, probably not. But even just a friendship can be a temptation. While I trust my husband, I wouldn't agree with placing him in a situation that can be a temptation (or vice versa...I trust myself but won't place myself in a tempting situation). Men and women are different. When women chat with their girlfriends it's about anything that is going on in our life at the moment, including marriage and sometimes even sex. Especially marriage troubles. Men like to joke about things and will occasionally gripe about something that their wife did. Do we really want our spouses telling a woman about something stupid we did, or have our husbands trying to comfort a woman who is going through a troubled spot in her marriage? Yeah, I didn't think so.

This is not to say that I think all male/female friendships have to end after a marriage, but rather, I think they have to evolve to include the new spouse too. I've read many "Dear Abby" letters where a spouse (usually the wife) is writing saying that she is uncomfortable with her husband's friendship with a woman but that the husband brushes her off by saying "We are just friends". A marriage ALWAYS comes first, before ANY friendship (whether the same or opposite sex). If a spouse is uncomfortable with something it is our duty to calm that fear, even if it means that a friendship breaks up. After all, our spouses are our best friends, right?

And shall I even go into the people who consider their ex's their friends and still hang out with them even after becoming involved in a new relationship? What's up with that? Actually, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this whole matter. Do you agree or disagree?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Last week after church we stopped at the only grocery store that was open in town on a Sunday (not our town, we go to church in a different one). I walked past the bakery section and immediately picked up a package of Scotcheroos and was about to place them in my cart when I stopped myself. Why am I paying close to $3 for four small bars? I was hungry, these are some of my favorite treats, and it was convenient. It's also expensive.

I put the package back on the shelf and went to pick up some rice krispies and butterscotch chips, knowing that I could make a whole pan of these babies for about the same price. It was just another reminder to myself that one can save money and still get what they want.

These are some of my favorite snacks. I even make them for Christmas platters and sprinkle them with red and green sprinkles to make them more festive.

(No, I didn't give the kids a huge chunk of yummy goodness to snack on. I just plopped this slab down on a plate and photographed it...before cutting it into kid sized portions. This was all that was left 12 hours after I made the batch.)

Chocolate Scotcheroos

1 c. light corn syrup

1 cup sugar

1 cup peanut butter

6 cups rice krispies cereal

6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate morsels

1 c. butterscotch chips

Place corn syrup and sugar into a 3 quart saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until sugar dissolves and mixture begins to boil. Remove from heat. Stir in peanut butter. Mix well. Add rice krispies cereal. Stir until well coated. Press mixture into 13x9x2 inch pan coated with cooking spray. Set aside

Melt chocolate and butterscotch chips together in 1-quart saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly. (I usually do this in the microwave.) Spread evenly over cereal mixture. Let stand until firm. Cut into square bars.

I've found that these even freeze fairly well.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

I've gotten off track with my menu plans and therefore have been spending too much at the grocery store. I figure if I become accountable to you again I may stay on track this time.
BBQ pork ribs and potatoes
Spaghetti, garlic bread, salad
Chicken breasts and fried potatoes
Chili and homemade bread
Sausage and sauerkraut sandwiches and fries

Everything is served with vegetables and fruit. Lunches are leftovers or simple things such as soup, sandwiches, mac and cheese, etc. Breakfasts are a variety of items, depending on what we have on hand.

Shopping list: boneless pork ribs $6.95

lil Debbie Snack cakes $1.34 (for the kid's snack)

3 boxes chex cereal $5

saltine crackers $1.39

Pretzels $1.99

hamburger buns $1.19

mixed nuts $2.99

three jars of sprinkles $1.19 each

mini marshmallows 99 cents

shredded cheddar cheese $2

fries $1.50

1 lb. butter $1.99 (after $1 coupon)

spaghetti sauce 97 cents

6 cans of vegetables $2

sauerkraut 99 cents

2 cans diced tomatoes 79 cents each

pickles $2.49

2 jars peanut butter $3

spaghetti $1.59

hot dogs $1.09

jar of yeast $3.99

2.89 lbs. bananas 84 cents

waxed paper $1.29

cranberries $1.29

jelly $1.67

BBQ sauce $1.69

Chex seasoning mix 50 cents (which is not in my grocery bags so I need to run back to the store and get it back!)

Whole milk gallon $3.25

1% gallon $2.79

Total $65.28. Much of this was for baking supplies so it would have been lower had I not needed to buy those!

Following: Menu Plan Monday


I sit in the office which is dark except for the glow of the Christmas lights from the tree that we managed to get up on Saturday evening. I was basking in the sound of silence earlier...something that I don't get enough of around here lately! Sipping on a glass of water, eating a clementine, and working on some Christmas cards.

It hit me just today that with this weekend about over there is only two more full weekends before Christmas arrives. I decided that I better get cracking on my holiday baking, which I enjoy having done well in advance. Tomorrow the kids and I will be working on almond bark pretzels and I'll need to start on some of the cookies and breads later this week. I'll be share to share several of my favorite recipes with you all.

We did a little Christmas shopping on Saturday. The stores weren't too crowded and we went shopping knowing exactly what we were going to buy so didn't do any impulse buying. With that said, while we shopped smart, we did still shop and spend. I have my purse by me and after finishing with this blog post plan to balance the checkbook. Not something that I am looking forward to. Because while we have not increased our spending on anything out of the ordinary of late we have had bills (vet, eye doctor, etc.) that like to all come at once. It seems that I need to revamp the budget to keep us afloat. That may be good news for you all, if you enjoy my budget challenges, as I will be doing an exciting little challenge at the very beginning of next year. Stay tuned for that.

I've been in a funky mood as of late. I blame it on the lingering sadness of my Grandmother's passing as well as the blah darkness that creeps in around November. The time change in early November never bodes well with my internal clock and always throws me out of whack. That, along with us being cooped up indoors more with the colder weather means that I'm trying to be more creative with keeping the kids busy and also trying to motivate myself to snap out of it. That's life though, huh? This too shall pass.

I glanced at the calendar to see that one of my best friend's, Dee, will be celebrating her 10th wedding anniversary this week. Then I realized that I will be celebrating my own 10th wedding anniversary early next spring. Could I really have been married for close to 10 years? And yet, could we really have only been married 10 years? It sounds like such an eternity, and yet it feels like I have known my husband forever. It's a strange thing, this thing called marriage.

I'm off to balance my checkbook and then savor the silence some more by curling up and finishing the book I've been reading.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Have a Merry (Frugal) Christmas!

With Christmas right around the corner many of us may be searching for the right gifts, at the right price. I, unfortunately, did not do as much shopping ahead as I have done other years. As a matter of fact, the majority of people on my list still need to be shopped for...with just three weeks to go!

That does not mean that I need to run out and pay full price for items that I am interested in. As we get closer to Christmas I know that there will be plenty of online sales where I can buy for everyone on my list at a reduced rate.

There are other options too. Frugal ways of doing Christmas shopping. Though everything I list below has already been covered on my blog at one time or another I will review it to show you how these things are helping me have a frugal Christmas this year.

Swagbucks is one of the biggest helps to me this year. It is an online search engine, much like Google, but you can often win "Swagbucks" for a search that you do. I typically win 6-11 swagbucks each day just for my typical few searches. You can then trade in your swagbucks for an actual prize. There are several real prizes (such as books, t-shirts, etc.) but I stick to the gift card section, especially the $5 Amazon giftcards which are 450 swagbucks. I earn at least $10 worth of Amazon giftcards a month this way, sometimes more. If you refer friends you can earn even more...you get a swagbuck every time they earn a swagbuck (up to their first 100). I have earned over $200 in Amazon giftcards this past year and saved a majority of it for Christmas shopping this month (though I did purchase some diapers at an amazing price earlier this year with some).

Trade Books for Free - PaperBack Swap.
Click on the link above to learn more about Paperback Swap. You trade your no longer wanted books for books that you do want. While I've traded for several books for myself off my wanted list, I've also received books that I have saved for Christmas presents. One year I gave my husband a book about his favorite band (which I had been looking high and low for and could only find at expensive prices) that I got from Paperback Swap. I'm saving a cute child's hardcover book for Becca for this Christmas that I received from there as well. If you have a reader on your shopping list this is one of the first places to hit! Some books that you receive will look used, but half the books I've received look brand new. I'm glad that no one on my list would look twice at a used looking book...they only care about the book and not the price!

ThredUp is another unusual place to look for gifts. Your kids don't appreciate clothes for Christmas?! Never fear, on December 6th they are launching their toy swap (which you can view details of on their website now). I've viewed some toy boxes ready for swapping that look fantastic! This is a great way to recycle toys and also get some in return without having to deal with all the packaging, little twist ties, and annoying aspects of brand new toys! If you go through the link over here------> you will get two months of free PRO membership (and you can't enjoy this site fully without being PRO as you get dibs on things 24 hours before the non-PRO members do).

Don't forget looking for gifts at consignment shops or thrift stores. Many items are still new in package and other used items are perfect for that hard to buy for person. These stores carry such original items.

Handmade crafts and homemade baked goodies are inexpensive but from the heart gifts. Even children can get in on this to give to teachers or friends.

What else are you doing this year to make it a frugal Christmas?

Disclaimer: While many of the sites I listed above give me a referral bonus for anyone clicking through these links, I am referring these sites because they are all ones I use and love. I would refer away even if I wasn't offered a bonus!

Following: LifeasMom and theFrugalFreeGal

Thursday, December 2, 2010

December 1st Fun

A tradition we do every year is to make Christmas Counting Chains on the 1st of December. We make chains out of 24 red and green construction paper strips. Every morning the kids tear one chain off which results in them tearing the very last chain off on Christmas morning.

The kids were so excited that they started on their project before getting out of their pjs, before school, even before breakfast!

It helps them actually see how long until Christmas, without continually asking. It also is a nice little decoration as we hang them around the house.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


Last month when I hit the Borders $1 table one of the books I picked up was Mommywood by Tori Spelling. I didn't purchase it because I like Tori Spelling (I don't know Tori Spelling and don't recall ever watching a television show that she is in) but rather, thought it would be interesting to read a mom's point of view from Hollywood.

The first thing I got from the book is that it was mainly written for her mother. To write about how bad Tori's mother was and how she isn't going to repeat those mistakes. To point her finger at her mother (and I take it from what was written in this book that Tori also wrote all about her relationship with her mother in her first book - so she stuck it to her mom twice!). I'm not so out of touch with Hollywood to know that her relationship with her mother was bad while growing up but I found it a bit far to bring such a personal topic up throughout the whole book, especially when she had already hashed it out in her first book (apparently. I never did read her first book.).

It was interesting to read about a totally different lifestyle than my own but it also sickened me to see how far from the real world those in Hollywood truly are. Tori was able to take several weeks off from work with her first baby but after her second she said that she had to go back to work a week after giving birth because she had to support her family and couldn't afford to stay home. She later went on to say she would love to be a stay-at-home mom and maybe someday when they had enough to send their children to college. Uhm, seriously?! If Tori Spelling can't afford to stay home than no one can afford to stay home!

This is the thing that gets me. A mother either works 1. because she likes to work or likes the things that work affords or 2. Because she really has to. I have nothing against working moms! Whether you choose to work or have to work...that's your business! What bothers me is the mothers who choose to work but say such silly things as if only I could afford to stay home when they don't mean it. You know...the ones who could afford to stay home if they only cut back on their extras but choose not to. Do they say these things because it makes them feel better? Or do they say these things because they think it makes us stay-at-home moms feel better? Because it doesn't. When a working mother says something like that to me, she is also usually the working mom who has a husband who is making twice, triple, or even quadruple what we live on...and she still acts like she couldn't afford to stay at home. That's an insult. That's like me going around telling working mothers "I wish I could work outside the home, but I don't have the time to do that." That's an insult and an excuse all wrapped up in one.

Tori could afford to stay home. Just selling her stash of clothes and her house would net her enough to live comfortably in a normal suburban neighborhood for the rest of her life. What Tori means is that she can't afford her lifestyle if she were to stay home. She can afford to stay home. She can't afford to keep up her lifestyle. She chooses to keep up her lifestyle.

And that's okay! But why, oh why, did she have to say "She wishes she could afford to stay at home"? Why do women who's husbands make 3 times what my husband makes say the same thing, to me? It makes me feel angry.

We can not afford to stay at home. That is, in society's standards I can totally not afford to stay at home. I can stay at home with careful juggling of finances and creative uses of our money. I can stay at home because I choose to. This is not to say that everyone can stay at home. There truly are mothers who HAVE to work.(I'm not talking about these women.) I get that. I feel lucky that even with a limited income we are able to juggle our finances to afford to stay at home. But it also means that we are giving up a lot in order to do so.

I don't feel that a mother who lives in a McMansion and drives a $40,000 SUV and buys brand new clothes every month and goes on a fancy vacation each years has to work. You know? A woman like that chooses to work.

My whole point? Why can't women just be open about their choices? I don't go around saying "I wish I could work but..." and then list a bunch of reasons that are insulting to women who do work. I don't work because I want to be a stay-at-home mom. I'll always be open and upfront about that. I've heard women say that they love their jobs and are fulfilled with them, or wouldn't want to be home all day, or really just don't want to give up the lifestyle that they live. More power to these women...who are being honest with themselves and with people like me. It's okay to be a stay-at-home mom and it's okay to be a working mother. Why do we always have to excuse who we are or what we want to do?

Martha, over at The Path to Frugality, recently wrote about this issue. She told us that as women we should be authentic to who we are. If you like to work, want to work, choose to work you should own it! If you want to be a stay-at-home mom you should hold yourself in high esteem and realize that your worth is just as great as the working women.

Can we all agree to have no more excuses for who we are?! These mommy wars are not making the life of mommy any easier!

Your thoughts?


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