Monday, August 12, 2013

First Day of School, First Day of School!!!

Last year I decided to start taking pictures of my kids on the first day of school and list all of their favorite things. It was fun to look back and see how much they've changed in just a year. These are their pictures from today!

First Day of 4th Grade!

Zoey was super excited to go back to school today. This girl loves everything there is to love about school! She was a little anxious about knowing kids in her class this year. When she went to back to school night she read her class list and only recognized two names and they were people she didn't really play with last year. But we reminded her that she started last year not knowing a single person and by the end of the year she had a huge group of brand new friends. Her school changed their pick up procedures this year and when I met her after school she was very frazzled and panicked. As soon as I was within ear shot she hollered "I CAN'T FIND GAVIN! I DON'T KNOW WHERE HE IS!!!" Poor girl was so worried about her brother that she was practically in tears. I told her to take a breath and relax that he probably got confused and was at the car line. Sure enough we found him there!  Zoey is really looking forward to this year and all the new things she'll be learning. She's set a goal for herself to pay less attention to what's going on around her in the classroom and focus more on doing her best work. Um! Can I just say that I have the perfect child??? She makes being her mother so stinking easy. LOVE HER!

1st Day of 1st Grade
 Who would have thought that 1st grade would have been harder on mom then kindergarten. You would think I knew what to expect but man I was a wreck this morning. I'm used to having him here at least half a day and now he'll be gone all day long. It was pretty rough on me! Gavin wasn't as excited to go back to school this year. We finished kindergarten a little rougher than we wanted to and he had WAY too much fun this summer. He loved being able to sleep in until I drug him out of bed at 10:30 and he loved being able to stay up late building forts and watching movies. Getting back into a school routine has been pretty hard for him. He was so tired when I picked him up today. He was happy that his best friend, Weston, is in his class again this year and that his teacher is super nice. He's excited about homework and packing a lunch and all the fun stuff that comes with 1st grade! He did tell me that he missed Mr. Green (his Kindergarten teacher) today but that his classroom is right across the hall so he can stand in the door and wave when he gets lonely. Hahahaha! What a funny little boy I have.

I think Tanner had the hardest time with the kids going back to school this year. For the last year I've been doing child care from my home and Thursday was my last day as I transition into a new job working in a holistic health office. Anyway, Tanner's pretty used to there being other kids around so today when his siblings went to school and there were no day care babies around, he kind of freaked out. We got home from dropping off the big kids and he had two immediate melt downs. By 10am I had given in to a Popsicle AND a chocolate chip cookie. It was that kind of day. Then he kind of figured out he had me all to himself and he was not about to let me out of his sights! I tried to call my mom today and he would NOT get off my lap. Climbing, pawing, whining. I'd slide him off and he'd slide right back on. I'd nudge him towards the toys and he'd grab my hand and pull. I told my mom "He's like a sticky booger!Not matter how hard I flick, I can't get him off of me!!" She just laughed and told me to enjoy it while I can. So I did. We cuddled and watched one of my favorite movies , Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium. He played under my feet while I folded laundry and then "helped" me put it all away. Then we had some lunch and walked down to the school to pick up the kids. I'm really looking forward to being able to spend more one on one time with Tanner. He's such a funny little boy!
He loves to pretend he's my husband and will talk on his pretend phone to Jon's boss and drivers. It's pretty cute to watch.

I'm pretty lucky to have such awesome kiddos. I'm going to miss the older ones as they will be gone most of the day but I'm really fortunate in this new opportunity to work less and spend more time with my kids and still be able to provide financially for my family. I love it! More later :)

Friday, July 12, 2013

Confessions of an "Evil" Stepmother

Sometimes being a step parent can be really challenging. It's not like being a "real" parent. At least not in my case. Can I just vent about the separation that is implied with the word "step" or "half"? Why is it that when we use these words there's a stigma that makes us decrease the value of the relationship? Do you know what I mean? It's like using the word "half" or "step" implies that you can't love the person as much as someone who is a "full" or "real". Maybe it's just me. Maybe I make this all up inside my whacked out mind. But I feel it. I hate to describe myself as a "stepmother" or "step-mom" because I think people judge me because of that and judge my relationship with Zoey. I don't think they do it on purpose. Maybe it's a sub-conscious thing but I know it's real. Like I'm "JUST' Zoey's step mom, so I can't possibly love her as much as her "REAL" mom. I'm being a freak about this, I know.  So this post tonight is dedicated to my daughter. I don't know if I'll let her read it right away. Probably not. Maybe when she's a little older and she can understand things a little better. My intentions are in no way to make her feel obligated to feel a certain way, or to make decisions based on what she thinks I want. So maybe when she's older I'll let her read it. But for now... it's just a way for me to throw some of the things I don't often get to say out loud.
June 2006

Being a (evil) stepmother can be one of the most amazing and the most challenging things in the world. For one thing, you're given this child who is a product of someone else's relationship. Call it love, call it lust, call it a one night stand, call it a happy marriage that ended. No matter how you turn the table that's a fact. This child is a product (ugh hate to use that word but my brain can't think of a better one) of someone else's relationship with the person you love. In my case Zoey was a result/product of a failed relationship between my husband and his ex wife. And it's hard to close your eyes and turn your brain off to that. Please don't get me wrong. I absolutely ADORE my sweet little Zoey. But just looking at her and seeing how much she looks like a 50-50 mixture of Jon and his ex-wife is kind of a constant reminder that she's not biologically mine. I think that our circumstance is a lot different from most in a similar situation because I came into her life when she was very tiny. I like to think that I have had a pretty big impact on the amazing little lady that she is and is becoming. Anyhow. It took me awhile to get used to the idea that while Zoey may not have been the product of mine and Jon's love for eachother, she's deffinitely a perk. It's kind of like I bought a cheeseburger and they through in a super yummy milkshake and fires. Okay. I stink at analogies but hopefully that makes a tiny bit of sense.
November 2004

Secondly, you can't treat your step-child the same way you treat you other children. Now this is probably going to catch me some flack. I'm sure one could argue the opposite but in my case, I've had a really hard time with this one. As much as I love to think I have a say on what goes on in the life of Zoey, legally..... I don't. When it comes down to the nitty gritty I have about as much say on what happens in her life as the cashier in the grocery store. This has been by far the hardest thing for me to deal with as a step-mom. Being in Zoey's life since she was just a baby has allowed me to grow to love her like she's my own. Now this is where things get a little tricky and it may sound like I'm flip-flopping but try to follow me here. I claim Zoey as my own. She is one of my kids. I NEVER use the word step in front of the word "daughter". She is and always will be my daughter. But when you love a child like they're you're own, but you don't have the same rights or authority as a "REAL" parent, it can be absolutely heart-breaking. Luckily for me, Jon and I have almost always seen eye to eye on what's best for Zoey so I've not had many situations where I felt this way. But the one or two times I have felt this way have been absolutely awful. It's like sitting on the bank of a river watching your kid drown and having absolutely no way to get them out of the water. So you have to hope that they make it out on their own, or that someone with the power to help them will. Again, my analogies are terrible but hopefully you get the picture.

October 2007
Third, sharing. I love Zoey.... and I don't want to have to share her. I know that's extremely selfish of me but it's true. If I could find a way to not have to share her, I would. Okay, maybe that's not exactly true. Here's a startling confession that may shock some of you. It is not my intention to sneak in and replace Zoey's birthmom. I don't want to come in here and act like I'm way better for Zoey than her own mother is. I recognize the importance of her mom in her life. She needs her mom (as long as her mom is a positive influence in her life and not making choices that could harm her). And as much I could physically try, I could never replace her. I can maybe supplement her. Provide things for Zoey that she may not get from that relationship, but I could never nor would I ever want to replace her mom. That's why I've tried so hard to keep things amicable between me and her mom for the last 9 years. Sure we have our disagreements and don't always see eye to eye. But I like to think that we have a pretty good understanding of one another. Sometimes parenting Zoey can be difficult because there are three (sometimes four) different opinions. For those of you who have kids you know that sometimes you and your spouse don't always see eye to eye on every aspect of parenting. Now add an extra person (or two if mom has a boyfriend) in the mix and try to come to an agreement. It's a challenge!  Lucky for us Zoey is about as easy going as possible. She doesn't fight, sass, or get into trouble like most girls her age do. She's practically the perfect child! 
September 2010

Despite the heartbreak that can come with being a step-parent, it is one of the most amazing gifts I have ever been given. I fell in love with Zoey the instant I met her. She will always have a permanent place in my heart. She is by far the most Christ-like, loving, forgiving, and kind people I have known. And I like to think that I have played a part in that. I take so much pride in knowing that I've taken the time (along with her dad and mom) to teach her wrong from right. To show her what it means to be compassionate and watch her take what she's learned and apply it to the way she treats every single person she meets. There is no words to describe the special spirit that she is. And while I sit back and take SOME credit for that, I know that it's not me who made her this way. God made her special. He gave her the strength and the tools she needed to rise above the challenges she's had to face at such a young age and excel in everything she does. I wouldn't trade being her mom for anything else in the world. And as strange as it may sound I thank not only my Heavenly Father for giving me the chance to be part of her life, but also my husband and his ex-wife. Without them, Zoey would not be here. And she was meant for this time. The best gift I ever received was from her "REAL" mom. The permission to have Zoey sealed to me and Jon for time and all eternity. So even though it stinks to have to share her now... I know I will get to have her for eternity.
May 2012

If you ever do get a chance to read this, Zoey, I hope you understand what I'm really trying to say. While being a step-mom may have it's tiny challenges, every bit of it is worth it to get to have you in my life. You make me want to be a better person. Your smiles and hugs fill my world with happiness. You are such a great big sister to your little brothers (and sisters) and an example to your friends and others who get the privilege to know you. You rock, sister! I love you so so so much. While sharing you now may be hard now, I look forward to spending eternity with you and your brothers and daddy. I love you, Zoey Bagoey!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Secrets to a Successful Relationship

Okay... maybe I'm setting myself up here with such a prophetic title. I know that I have only just begun this amazing journey with my husband, but I honestly feel like we've learned some pretty amazing lessons on how to have a successful marriage. When I look at my relationship with my husband I can absolutely say that it is what I would call "Successful". It's more than successful, it's AWESOME! This post is not necessarily a how-to for marriage. Not at all. It's more of a way for me to brag about how awesome my husband is :) And also share some of the things we've been through that have made our marriage that much stronger. Hey, I figure if I can help a few couples out without having to struggle through some of these things, that's the least I could do!

I'm going to start with one of my biggest pet peeves. My husband and I got married fairly young. We were both only 21 years old and were the first of our friends to get married. It was difficult not having any married friends. We would get attached to a friend's boyfriend or girlfriend and then they would break up and it would be super awkward. Really the only example we had of marriage were our parents (we weren't really active in church at this point in our lives). We had been married for around three years when we started hanging out with another married couple. They had been married for about 10 years at the time. One day while visiting with the wife she said "Just wait until you've been married for as long as we have.  You'll not even be able to stand each other and be sleeping in the other room." Woah! Wait! What?! Where was this coming from? And even though Jon and I had only been married for a few years at the time, I knew that she was wrong. I use this example not to embarrass that couple or knock their marriage, but to make a point. It is completely uncool to speak that negativity over someone's marriage. And this was just an example. People do this all the time thinking that they are being funny or making jokes. It's so offensive to me! Not only are you basically telling someone that their marriage is going to suck after a few years. You are bad mouthing YOUR marriage. Why on EARTH would you do that?! There are so many obstacles that married couples have to endure without the additional battle of trash talking each other. My advice... keep your negative opinions on marriage to yourself....or better yet, try saying something positive about your marriage. After all, I'm a FIRM believer that what you think about you bring about. I'm going to say that again because it's SO important. What you think about, you bring about! If you're talking about or even thinking about how awful your marriage is, chances are it's going to be pretty awful. Negativity breeds on negativity. I don't want that in my life...thanks! So my first secret to a successful relationship is:
1. Don't trash talk your relationship - or anyone else's for that matter!
(On a side note- I think it's in very poor taste to trash talk your husband/boyfriend/ex-boyfriend/ex-husband for everyone to see on Facebook. It makes everyone who reads it really uncomfortable. Just sayin') This idea or way of thinking comes from the most amazing book/movie ever: The Secret. If you haven't already read it/watched it. Take notes. It will change your life! I will blog about this topic separately another time!

This next secret is a BIGGIE! 2. Fight fair,admit when you're wrong, and forgive.(Okay so basically that's three secrets for the price of one!)

One might suggest that you shouldn't ever "fight" in a marriage. I completely disagree. I'm not saying you should break out the wrestling moves and screaming fits and get the cops called on you for domestic violence. Not at all. I'm simply suggesting that it's healthy to disagree with your partner. Heaven knows Jon and I don't always see eye to eye.  And there are times when we want to claw each others eyes out. But one thing that we've learned from each other is how to fight fair. What does that mean? It means when we disagree and are angry that we don't call each other names and we TRY not to use phrases like "You ALWAYS" or "You NEVER". I highlight the word 'TRY' because we're not perfect. I catch myself using those types of phrases ALL THE TIME (haha see what I did there?). Calling names is something that people do and write it off that they were just mad and that they didn't really mean it. Those are the times when it's most important to keep your cool and not call names. Names can last forever. I still remember some of the horrible names an old boyfriend of mine used to call me. And unfortunately I chose to believe him. Jon still has to deal with some of the "clean up" from that one.  One thing that I absolutely love about my husband is that he is not afraid to say "You're right, I'm sorry" and actually mean it. There are some men out there that just don't use those words but I am SO thankful that I have one that does. It makes it a lot easier for me to use those words when I know he'll say them when it's his turn. The last part of this secret is to forgive.  Jon and I have been through some pretty big world rocking issues that require forgiveness. We've both done or said something that really hurt the other. And as important as it is to say "I'm sorry, I was wrong" it's even more important to say "I forgive you because I love you." I remember clearly a time when I went to Jon to apologize for something. When I thought he would blow up and be angry at me, he wrapped his arms around me and said "I forgive you because I love you." What an amazing feeling it was and how much stronger we are because we use that phrase. We've learned so much from our mistakes, embrace them and learn from them is my suggestion to you.

Jon and I met when we worked together at a call center.  There were about 400 employees at the call center and we just so happened to end up on the same "team". At first we were just friends as he was going through a divorce and I was dating someone at the time. But our friendship grew into something so much bigger (after I broke up with my boyfriend who had left for the Army) because Jon had a trait that I find SO important. He could make me laugh. I've always found him hilarious and I know that I can count on him to make me laugh when I need it most. We have so much fun together playing indoor basketball, dodge ball around the house, singing in the car at the top of our lungs, and just having a good time whatever we choose to do. Jon is absolutely my best friend. If we couldn't find a way to have fun together and enjoy the others company, our marriage would be miserable. Jon used to work a job that required him to cover vacations for people in his company in Utah. When he would travel, the amount of arguments we had would go through the roof. We just get along better when we can play together!

 3. Couples that Play Together, Stay Together

There are so many more "secrets" we've discovered but I'm only going to share one more for the sake of keeping this blog relatively readable. Before I get into the most important secret that Jon and I have found I was to preface it with a little disclaimer.  I try to be respectful of everyone's belief system and their right to be a spiritual or not spiritual person. As much as I respect everyone's right to choose, I expect the same respect for my beliefs. I will not apologize for what I believe and know to be true. With that being said, I fully believe that any successful relationship needs to be centered around our Heavenly Father.

A few years back Jon and I were not living our lives the way we should be.  We were making choices that were sending our marriage straight down the toilet. There was one particular day that we got into an Earth shattering argument. What was strange was that we weren't really fighting over anything in particular. It was an argument that if it were to have happened today, we would have just giggled our way through it. It wouldn't have even been an argument. But this time it was. It was HUGE. And Jon left. He walked out the front door and said "I'm done. I want a divorce." I was absolutely terrified. Sure, I was mad at Jon. But I didn't want him to leave. I certainly didn't want a divorce. I had originally written out the details of what happened that day but decided to use my better judgement. The details were not important. What's important to take away is that we were faced with the end of our marriage and we had a choice to make. We could let our story end there, or we could turn around and go a different direction. When Jon walked out the door, I hit my knees and pleaded for direction from my Father in Heaven. It was not easy, and it was without a doubt one of the hardest things Jon and I have ever been though, but we made it back. We were able to turn it around and go a completely different direction. One that includes our Heavenly Father and Savior in our marriage. One that realizes that a successful marriage does not involve two, it involves three.  I thank the Lord every day that he gave our family a second chance. Our marriage is so much stronger and we are able to face challenges with much greater ease.
4. Seek the Lord's Guidance in Your Relationship

I have been so blessed to have such an amazing husband. And while I can brag and say that we have an amazing marriage, I know that every marriage works a little differently. What works for us, might not work for you. I know that we have so much more to look forward to and to learn.  I can't wait until we can look back over 50 years of marriage and see the obstacles we've tackled and overcome!

BONUS! So not to toot my own horn or anything but my husband is so fantastic that he's even started a little blog. Check it out HERE!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

TURKEY DAY- I mean Jon's Birthday

This year, Thanksgiving was extra super special for our family. Jon's birthday happened to land on Thanksgiving this year!! Because he so very often get's his birthday celebrations smashed into our Thanksgiving celebrations, I thought he deserved his very own BIRTHDAY post!

Thursday morning I woke up and drove down to the post office to snag a local paper with all the Black Friday ads in it. When I got back home I had this crazy little intuition that I should just leave the car in the driveway rather than pulling into the garage like I normally do.  Jon thinks I was in on this little prank, but I insist I was not! My thinking was that we were going to be headed to my parent's house in just a few hours and would probably be loading lots and lots of stuff in the car and it would be easier to do so if the car was in the driveway rather than the garage. ANYWAY, I left the car in the driveway. A few hours later we gathered our loads and loads of stuff and went to pack up the car. Zoey was the first one out the door and screamed "Daddy! Someone wrote on your car!!" We all came out to the driveway and found THIS:
Yes, that does say "I'm a Turkey....EAT ME....please?" We knew right away who did it. There's only two people in the world that call Jon "Juanito", and they just so happen to live a few blocks north of our house.  This guy and this gal! We love them so much! They sure put a smile on Jon's face!!

 Every year Jon asks for a coconut cake, and every year I end up going to the Safeway bakery and buying one. This year, I decided I was going to make the BEST COCONUT CAKE EVER! I found THIS little gem of a recipe on Pinterest and decided to try it out. Okay. I know I've said this a million times but I don't cook. I can bake some things (yes, there is a difference) but for someone who can burn anything I touch, this cake was quite the feat. I mean, I only had one 9 inch round cake pan, so I had to cook them at separate times and I managed to get them out of the oven in the PERFECT amount of time. AND the coconut. Have you ever tried to toast coconut?! It goes from not even dry to burnt to a crisp in like 10 seconds. There's definitely an art to it. So I made this AMAZING birthday cake for Jon. He was really impressed!

Jon's Epic Birthday Cake

So the bummer about Jon's birthday falling on Thanksgiving is that often, nobody really treats it like a special day for him.  Everyone would rather eat the pie than eat the cake.... and that's pretty much what happened this year too.  We had Thanksgiving dinner at my Mom and Dad's and everyone wanted the pie. Zoey and Jon were the only ones who took a piece of cake.  I figured, no big deal, I'll have some at home tonight when my turkey induced coma wears off. But the universe had other plans.

Let me just say, us Stanley's have a bad case of Murphy's Law syndrome (I just made up the syndrome part of that, deal with it). If something CAN go wrong on a holiday, it WILL! As we were packing up our stuff and leaving my parent's house, Jon came around the corner to where I was herding chickens gathering our children, with a look of absolute horror. I asked him what was wrong and he said "I just dropped the cake." Jon is like a big kid and often jokes about things that he probably shouldn't. Joking about dropping the epic birthday cake I made him (that took 3 hours to bake from start to finish), it's really not appropriate to joke about. So I asked him "Swear on your love?"- This is our little way of saying, "Okay... joke's over, now tell me the truth." to which Jon responded "I swear on my love." He had been carrying the cake holder by the handle and the lid wasn't snapped on all the way. So gravity won.....

I came around the corner and there was my masterpiece lying in a big heap of coconut, dirt, and strawberries. I felt like the Mom off the Christmas story when the hound dogs stole their Turkey and they had to go to the Chinese restaurant for dinner. All I could do was let out a half laugh-half cry. I'm not sure who was more disappointed, me, Jon, or my dad. He came out to the site of coconut all over his driveway and asked "But you left me a slice on the counter, right???" When we told him that we hadn't he goes "But I didn't even get to taste it!" LOL
What was left of the cake after cleaning/scraping it off the driveway

Jon felt so terrible. I like to think that he felt most terrible because of all the hard work I put into the cake, but I really think he felt terrible because he didn't get to have seconds. And even though Jon's birthday cake was smashed to bits.... I like to think he had a pretty swell birthday.  He even got to go Black Friday shopping for the first time in 5 years (thank you, Shamrock)!!

I sure am glad to have such an amazing husband! He has been such a blessing in my life for the last 8 years. No one can make me smile, laugh, and give me the butterfly's in my stomach like he does. Happy 29 years, Jon!! I love you!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Inappropriate Laughter Gets Me in Trouble with my Kids

Did you ever play that game when you were little where you would try to make the other person laugh or smile by saying "Don't Smile.....don't smile" over and over again??? Remember how hard it was to sit there and keep a straight face when all you wanted to do was burst into laughter? That's how it's been for me lately when I've had to discipline my kids.

I have a pretty immature sense of humor for being almost 30 (and by "almost" I mean in two loooong years). I still get the giggles when I'm in a public bathroom and someone passes gas (totally just giggled out loud) or when someone gets hurt (but not too hurt.) Poor Jon. He used to get terrible charlie horses in the middle of the night and would wake up screaming in agony. I would just lie there and giggle until they'd pass. Or when he catches his "raptor toe", as I like to call it, on a door frame or coffee table. I cannot control my laughter as he's rolling around on the floor.

Once when I was growing up, I attempted to flick a piece of corn at my older sister who was making faces from the opposite end of the dinner table. My dad had taken his seat on the couch adjacent to the dining room table.  As I flicked the piece of corn at my sister, it took a detour and pegged my dad in the back of the head. HE WAS SOOOO MAD! At 6'1 and 250+ pounds, my no-nonsense police officer father can be pretty intimidating. I knew right away that I was in deep doo doo as he yelled "WHO'S THROWING FOOD?!" All I could do was burst into laughter. I'm pretty sure I got grounded for a month but all I remember was not being able to contain myself. Trying with every ounce of my strength to contain my laughter and it pouring out with a snort and a cough. The harder I tried not to laugh, the harder I did laugh.

Unfortunately, my 6 year old seems to have a very similar sense of humor. One of his absolute favorite things in the whole wide world is watching America's Funniest Home Videos. Although some of it may be genetic, I feel Tom Bergeron plays a major role in defining his sense of humor. This is where he learned what a "groin" was. Super! Thanks, Tom.

Lately, I've had a really hard time maintaining my composure while disciplining my children. My immature sense of humor gets the best of me and I am forced to snort and choke back all laughter that is dying to come bursting out! It's not a good thing at all. It's extremely detrimental to the cause when you're giggling while dishing out punishments. Let me show you a few examples:

A few weeks back Gavin was playing outside with his cousins and got hit in the "bad spot" with a ball. On my way to see if he was okay I hear him shout "Ohhhh man! I just got hit in the boing boings!" I had to choke back the laughter while I told him that it was rude to talk about his "boing boings" in front of other people. Try saying that sentence with a straight face. "It's not polite to talk about your 'boing boings' in front of other people. I don't want to hear that again." - Are you laughing? Smiling maybe? Okay...well... maybe it is just me.

 Last night sitting at the dinner table that cat was attacking the table cloth right under Gavin's chair. She jumped up and swatted and ended up hitting Gavin right in between the legs. He started giggling and said "She's trying to scratch my undercarriage!" I could not help myself.  Raspberry Crystal Lite shot out my nose across the table as I giggled uncontrollably. Undercarriage?! Really?! I think I've used that word maybe twice in my whole life. I totally blame Tom for this one!! Since this was a second offense I decided I would go into more depth with Gavin about talking about his private parts in front of other people, especially at the dinner table. They call them "private parts" because they really are private. No one needs to see them, no one needs to hear about them. I may have to have this conversation again when the tone is a little more serious. It's hard for him to take me seriously when I can't keep from smiling and giggling. Bottom line was Gavin's "undercarriage" is not an appropriate subject for the dinner table. CREATIVE, but not appropriate. Hilarious even, but still inappropriate.

Later last night, after Jon had left for a meeting in Denver and I had put the kids to bed for the night, I sat down to catch up on my Grey's Anatomy. I had gotten about 30 minutes into the show when I heard some chatter coming from Gavin and Tanner's bedroom. At first it kind of sounded like crying, but as I got closer I could tell that it was singing. I had already gotten after the boys several times that night for not going to sleep and horseplaying. So I listened carefully to see if it was one or both of them..... that's when I heard this coming from my funny little boy's mouth:

"Doot do do do do Manah Manah. Doot do do do. Manah manah"  With impressive accuracy my little boy was singing his little heart out to this muppet's melody. Trying as hard as I could to not laugh hysterically, I asked him what he was doing. He just kept on a singing like he didn't even hear me. So I asked him again "Gavin, what are you doing?" He replied flatly "singing." I reminded him that it was extremely late and that he had early school tomorrow and he needed a good night's rest, then went back to my spot on the couch and laughed until tears came out.

I love that my kids are so funny and can make me smile when it would be easy to scream. It makes being a good, level headed mommy easy to do. Now if only I could stop laughing when I'm disciplining them so they take me seriously! I guess it's a good problem to have :D

Friday, October 19, 2012

PINTERESTing Recipes

Okay, a little known fact about how things go down in the Stanley household. I'm a terrible cook. I MEAN TERRIBLE! I once tried to make a box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and managed to turn it into a gooey paste that you couldn't even swallow because it stuck to everything it touched. It was horrible. I know what you're thinking: "How hard is it to follow a simple recipe?" Seriously, if it can be will be burned (flesh included). My husband, on the other hand, LOVES to cook and is pretty spectacular at it. He's really creative with cooking and knows how to make a lot of things. Because of this, Jon is typically the one who makes dinner every night.

Lately I've been feeling a little self conscious about my lack of cooking skills. I mean, really. Whenever women find out that I don't really cook I can feel them judging me! They get this smug look on their face like "MUST BE NICE!" Let me assure you, I do more than my fair share around this house. It's not like I sit on my bum watching episodes of Grey's Anatomy/Glee/Army Wives/Ugly Betty/Desperate Housewives/Drop Dead Diva/Bones/The Office/How I Met Your Mother on Netflix all day long while my husband works his butt off. Oh wait... okay maybe SOMETIMES I do that. When my dad found out that I don't really cook much he was appalled! He's pretty old school. He told me that it was my responsibility as the wife and I don't work (I actually have two jobs and take care of my kids/house and manage to volunteer as a Girl Scout Troop Leader). Anyway, I was really starting to feel a little guilty that Jon works all day then comes home and makes dinner. He says that he likes to cook and that it relaxes him, but even I can tell there are days that he just doesn't feel like cooking. So I felt like maybe I could help out a little every once in awhile.

Now, I have a little obsession. It's called Pinterest. I can spend hours on that site pinning ideas for home decorating, or cute outfits I want to magically appear into my closet, or fun ideas for my kids and girl scouts. I think I need a PINtervention. (Just for you Cammie because I know how much you love the corny play on words) But one of my favorite things to pin on Pinterest is recipes! I've actually used quite a few and thought I would share the ones I've used and if I loved or hated them.

Bang Bang Shrimp

Of all the recipes I've tried from Pinterest, this one is my absolute favorite! Jon and I hosted my family for Christmas last year and instead of having a huge dinner (like we do on Christmas Eve) we had snacks and treats. This FLEW off the table and it's SO easy to make! We actually buy pre-breaded shrimp from Shamrock instead of breading it ourselves. One of the many perks of my husband working for a food provider!

Pepperoni Roll Ups
This one is pretty much fool proof, which makes it a winner in my book! I tend to make these when Jon is out of town (he's not a huge fan). I serve them with little cup of pizza sauce on the side because my kids will eat anything they get to DIP. They're pretty yummy!!

Pizza Casserole
Awhile back my cousin was struggling with some pretty serious medical stuff and had to have some major surgery. I offered to bring him and his family dinner and decided to try this recipe out. I made a double batch and after we dropped it off at their house came home to eat.  I seriously felt AWFUL that I brought it to them. It was not very appetizing. In fact, I would go right out and say it was GROSS! Let's be honest... I like food. There's not a whole lot out there that I wont eat. But you can add this one to that list now!  And I seriously got a mad case of heart burn after eating what little bit I managed to swallow. No disrespect intended, try it if you like... let me know what you think.

Mexican Pizza
Are you seeing a trend? My family likes "pizza". This really is no big secret but it's something that I added to my menu planning because it's easy and my kids gobble it up!

Crock Pot Cream Cheese Chile
There's not much to screw up with this recipe. You just dump it all in the crock pot and 6 hours later feed it to your family! It suggests to serve it over rice but my family just eats it like a soup or chili. I've made it twice now and my family LOVES it. WARNING: It seriously looks like someone barfed in the bowl, but I promise you it is sooo yummy! On a side note, I made this for my sister and her family after my brother-in-law had surgery. He's kind of a picky eater and doesn't like chunks of tomatoes or black beans. So I switched it up a little and used tomato sauce and chili beans. It came out pretty good! Also, a second warning on this one. DO NOT leave this in the crockpot overnight to "soak". It gets all sorts of stanky and nasty really super fast. Woof.

Cheesy Vegetable Chowder

Jon and I LOVE soups. My kids could really take them or leave them, but they ate this one up like crazy!! This is another one that I've made a few times and every single time it tastes sooo good. Pretty easy to make too!

I've done a ton more, but I'm pretty sure not everyone wants to read a fifty page post on food..... I'll make a separate post in the future. Just some ideas to get those creative juices flowing for dinner. And remember.... if I can make these....ANYONE can!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

I Love Good Deals!

Since the time I was old enough to purchase my own clothes, I've always been on a hunt for a good deal.  I absolutely REFUSE to pay full price for anything clothing related. Jon actually get's really super frustrated with me because anytime he takes me to go shopping I immediately head for the Clearance racks first.  He can't understand why I would head there first, especially if I'm there to spend a gift card (which is pretty much the ONLY time I ever buy anything for myself.) Here's how I respond to his frustration:  I would much rather find two or three things I like from a Clearance rack, then find one thing I like that's not on Clearance. Right?!

Right after I graduated high school (actually on the day I graduated) I started working in retail.  I worked for Mervyn's (man, how I miss that store!) for almost three years and learned to watch the Clearance racks.  They would have these AMAZING sales once a month when they would take an additional 25% off the price on the tag.  Couple that with my AMAZING 15% employee discount and I was able to get pretty cool stuff for dirt cheap! However, I wasn't making much (only $6.25/hour), and my paychecks really just went right back into the store. But, I did learn to pay attention to when certain stores do their markdowns (that's when you get the best stuff because it's not all picked over!) THIS blog was amazingly helpful in finding out when to hunt for bargains at Target. And who doesn't love Target?!

Over the years I've also gotten really good at couponing. Now, I'm not an extreme couponer by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, I don't even typically use it for my groceries. BUT, whenever I know we need to buy something, I always check my resources before we leave the house.

My first resource is my phone. I have this super cool App on my Droid cleverly called The Coupons App that allows me to search by product name or by store.  You can also put in certain stores you love to shop at and get alerts anytime a new coupon is available for them! For instance, if I was needed to go buy my kids a coat I could do a search for the brand I wanted ("Columbia") or I could search by a store I know I could find a good coat at ("Old Navy"). Then it will pull up anything that matches.  Old Navy and Kohls are my favorite to search because they almost always have a coupon out, and it's almost always for at least 15% off the total price. If I can't find anything on the app then I hit up google and search for "Old Navy Coupon Codes" or something of the matter.  You have to be really careful if you google because there are a ton of sites that will give you viruses, and a ton of sites that want you to pay them to give you the codes (most of which are invalid). Just a heads up. I've used these strategies to score some pretty awesome deals. Most recently we were able to score a free pair of shoes for Tanner while we were back to school shopping.  We had a coupon for $10 off the total purchase (of $25 or more)from Payless and found a cute pair of shoes for Zoey that were on sale for $17.99. We also found a pair of shoes for Tanner on Clearance for only $8.00. Combined their shoes would have cost us $26 plus tax. But with the awesome coupon we only spent $16, which meant that Tanner's shoes were technically free! (Might I also add that it's a good thing these shoes were "free" because my dog ended up eating them two days later. If I would have paid for them, he would be a dead puppy right now!) We also have used it in the past to get free popcorn and drinks at the movies!

Another way that I snag some pretty sweet deals is by participating in some local trading/bartering/selling groups on Facebook. These can get WILDLY out of hand (and some times pretty obnoxious) but for the most part, if you use your common sense, can be a great way to buy and sell some gently used items.  For instance, prior to my yard sale I was cleaning out Zoey's closet and found three very pretty dresses that were just too small for her now.  She only wore them on Sundays and they were in great condition. If I would have put them out at my yard sale, someone would have chewed me down to .25 a piece...but I posted them on one of my FB groups and made $5.00 a piece off of them. Pretty sweet deal. The thing about these groups is that in order to get anything good, you pretty much have to sit around and scroll through the posts all day. I can't stand that! But I have managed to get a cute pair of jeans for Tanner for only $2.

The last way I snag some pretty sweet deals is by using this awesome website. I'm still pretty new to the scene here but it's an awesome opportunity.  I love to go into Once Upon A Child and look around. Sometimes, I get pretty annoyed that they put some stuff that should be at the Goodwill on their shelves and then try to get me to pay them $7.00 for a pair of $2.00 jeans. My friend recently sent me this website that works a lot like Once Upon a Child but has really great prices on their clothing.  The clothing is all gently used, mostly name brand clothing, at the prices you would see at the Goodwill. The best part? If you spend over $30 they'll ship to you for free! AND if you refer your friends, they give you a $10 credit on your account!  If you wanna check it out, HERE is a link!

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