I'm a little behind...

I've been catching up on old posts, so make sure you scroll down... to December.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Goal #15

#15: Display family photos in the house (new house, new photos)

 Family photos from Thanksgiving 
$4 Collage Frame at Walmart's Black Friday sale 
A lovely addition to our entry way.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Extreme Couponing

It was my first major coupon expedition. I had been training for months. I had scoured bargain shopping websites and coupon databases. I took full advantage of my three computers when it came time to print coupons.

I don't know if my total balance would land me a spot on TV. But I had a huge mound of stuff in my cart, and there was a fair amount of sweat tripping down my neck, so... I think I'd qualify.
Two trips. 
Four separate transactions. 
Coupons used: 135
Items purchased: 220
Total value of coupons: $108.71
Total bonus coupons (Fry's made every coupon worth $1): $47.86
Spent: $199.14
Total sale/coupon savings: $463.05

And...here's what I bought. We have toilet paper coming out our ears. Mostly stuff I buy anyway, plus a few new things I thought it would be fun to try, since they were really cheap, or free.

Brawny paper towels, 6-pack : 6
Angel Soft toilet paper, 4-pack: 6 (I hate this brand, but these were free)
Scott toilet paper, 16-pack: 3
Cottonelle toilet paper, 12-pack: 2
Kleenex boxes: 9
Pixy Stix Valentines, 32-pack: 2
Hefty Gallon Freezer bags: 2
Haribo gummy bears: 3 (free)
Orville Redinbacher popcorn, 3-pack: 2
Quacker snack size rice cakes: 4
Huggy baby wipes: 1
Powerade: 4 (free)
V8 Fusion juice: 4
Sunkist 2 liter: 1 (free)
Palmolive dish soap: 4
Softsoap refill: 2
Softsoap pump: 2
Gerber Graduates ravioli:6
Boost kids chocolate milk, 6-pack: 1
Betty Crocker Mac & Cheese:14
Digiorno pizza:12
Red Baron pizza:12
Ronzoni veggie pasta: 8
Dole fruit cups, 6-pack: 4
Barilla pasta: 7
Starkist tuna creations:4
Wolf chili sauce: 2
Ragu sauce: 1
Franks Red Hot: 2
French's mustard:2
Kens Salad dressing: 2
Vlasic pickles: 2
Herdez salsa: 4
Del Monte canned veggies: 4
Minute Rice, brown: 5
Hanode brown rice: 3
Rotel: 4
Ortega green chiles: 4
Fiber One Protein cereal: 2
Cheerios: 2
Kellog's Krave cereal: 3
Apple Jacks: 4
Duncan Hines frosting flavor packet: 1 (free)
Dole frozen instant smoothies: 6
Oscar Meyer Ham: 6
Sargento cheese:4
Frigo string cheese: 2
Yoplait Greek 100: 2
Yoplait yogurt cups: 24

Extra gum: 4 (free)

Monday, February 3, 2014

Birthday boy

I still can't believe Mason is six. In so many ways he still acts like he's four. He is a little hyperactive, gets so easily distracted (no, really, it's ridiculous), and still has trouble playing nicely with his little brother without "accidentally" hurting him.

But when it comes to learning new things, he is amazing. His kindergarten curriculum has been crazy-advanced. He started the year not being able to even recognize all the letters of the alphabet. Now he's reading the scriptures with us, needing minimal help. And he's very good at math as well. I volunteered to help in his class the Friday before his birthday. He wanted to take strawberry cupcakes with blue frosting to share. After I finished grading tests, I snuck a video during a math lesson. Double-digit math problems in his head.

We had a small family birthday party on his birthday (which also happened to be Superbowl Sunday...and I had "coincidentally" decorated with blue and green birthday decor). He chose his favorite food for lunch: bean burritos. It doesn't get much easier than that.

Then it was time for presents.

It's so difficult to describe this boy of mine. I love him so much that it hurts, and I think he is easily the most adorable six-year-old alive. But when he is in "crazy-mode" it takes every ounce of my patience not to lose it. I am just praying that all that energy will find a channel someday. Because when it does...look out world.

Mason's Birthday Interview:
What is your favorite color? blue
What is your favorite toy? Mario Brothers K'nex
What is your favorite TV show? Mario Brothers
What is your favorite movie? Scooby Doo
What is your favorite thing to wear? "this" (light blue OP polo shirt)
What is your favorite animal? lion
What is your favorite song? "Everything is Awesome" (LEGO Movie soundtrack)
What is your favorite book? Thomas the Train
Who is your best friend? "There's this girl that gave me Cheez-its today, so her."
What is your favorite drink? root beer
What is your favorite food? tacquitos and bean burritos
What is your favorite breakfast? Quaker LIFE Cinnamon
What is your favorite game? Mario Brothers
What is your favorite thing to do? play with my Legos
Where is your favorite place to go? Lego Store at Disneyland
What is your favorite holiday? Christmas
What makes you laugh? myself
What do you do really well? my homework
What are you afraid of? crane-flies
What do you love to learn about? nothing
What do you want to be when you grow up? a worker (construction worker)
If you had one wish, what would it be? Super Mario Brothers on the Wii U

Monday, January 6, 2014

32 Things in my 32nd Year

I've put a lot of thought into this year's goals. I recently read The 7 Habits of Hightly Effective People (habits that Bree and Mason's charter school teaches), and it gave me some great insight into how to better prioritize and organize my life. So I'm "beginning with the end in mind" by thinking of what I want to be said about my life when all is said and done. I narrowed it down to 5 key roles/areas that are important to me, and I centered my goals around them. This year's list of "things" is not drastically different than those in the past, but I think that attaching them to principles that are important to me will be a great motivating factor. And I plan on finishing my 32 things by the actual end of my 32nd year: November 19th.

So here they are! My 5 areas, along with 32 color-coded things to do in my 32nd year:

  1. Go hiking with the family
  2. Go camping with the family 
  3. Family vacation to Washington state
  4. Go on a date with Chad to somewhere new (not that there's anything wrong with a Redbox DVD and our living room couch...)
  5. Redecorate Bree's Barbie house with her (the plain white one she got from Santa two years ago)
  6. Volunteer in Mason's kindergarten class (he LOVES having me come to his classroom)
  7. Organize a play-date just for Lincoln (without the older kids)
  8. Donate blood
  9. Read the Book of Mormon
  10. Make a Family Home Evening assignment board (so I'm not the only one giving the lessons)
  11. Go to the temple at least 8 times (our new temple opens in March, and is only 20 minutes away!)
  12. Update the RS email directory (I had so much work to do when I became the RS Secretary, that I organized everybody's info until it was just functional enough...time to step it up)
  13. Know all the sisters in my ward by name (I know so many names, but I cannot always match them to a face yet)
  14. Recover the high chair with scraps from the dining chair makeovers
  15. Display family photos in the house (new house, new photos)
  16. Plant something (hopefully citrus trees)
  17. Make a chalkboard message wall in the kitchen
  18. Decorate with a thrift store find
  19. Furnish the loft with more light
  20. Reupholster the couch in the loft (one of its arms used to be just threadbare...now there are chunks of foam missing)
  21. Make bread pudding like the kind served at Famous Dave's
  22. Can butter
  23. Make a tablecloth for the kitchen table (it's an odd size--difficult to find in stores...we finally found a fun yellow vinyl one, but Chad melted it with a hot pan)
  24. Sew or refashion an article of clothing
  25. Do 20 real pushups with good form
  26. Stay at or under my goal weight for a month
  27. Read 52 books
  28. Read a biography
  29. Read War and Peace 
  30. Publish my 2012 blog book
  31. Scan and digitize my bin of old photos
  32. Take pictures every day for one week

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

22 Things

It's New Year's Eve, Chad is at work, and the kids are asleep. I can see and hear the neighbor's fireworks through our upper windows. I didn't have the energy for a New Year's Eve "party" with the kids this year. So here I am with my mug of cocoa and my laptop. Party of one. Time to look back and look forward.

I'm chalking this year up to a lack of focus. I was busy, but didn't always choose the best things to be busy with. Moving was stressful for me, and threw a wrench in some of my goals for my 31st year, and I had to change a few of them to accommodate unforeseen issues. But I have discovered that I am totally okay with not having done several of the 31 things on my list. It's been good to evaluate and re-evaluate. And the 22 things I did accomplish feel good.
  1. Organize my recipe binder
  2. Make ricotta cheese  Attempted and failed. That counts right?
  3. Make a pumpkin roll  I made one for Chad's birthday. It got a bit dried out. Oh well. Next time.
  4. Can butter
  5. Give sweet rolls to someone  I dropped some off with a new family in our neighborhood. I had never met her. She and her husband looked very confused. I felt like a crazy person.
  6. Donate blood
  7. Finish 2011 blog book
  8. Reupholster dining chairs  
  9. Organize and consolidate my old half-filled, half-finished scrapbooks
  10. Complete the "ABCs of Me" challenge
  11. Assemble bug-out bags for the family (extreme 72-hour kits)
  12. Move
  13. Index 20 names a month, for a total of 240 names
  14. Attend the temple or Family History Center at least eight times (I honestly lost count here. I know I didn't make it eight times, but I came close.)
  15. Reconcile my parents' books of remembrance with familysearch.org  What a cool website.
  16. Read the Book of Mormon 
  17. Establish a chore routine for the kids, with allowance Need to revisit this one. It got established...and then forgotten.
  18. Take the family hiking (So easy to do. We are so lame.)
  19. Go camping in a place we've never been (We're a little farther from campgrounds now. We'll have to get creative.)
  20. Establish a daily schedule for the family, including home-school, preschool, and therapy
  21. Play 12 different board games with my family (Made a valiant effort here. We played Dora the Explorer Memory, Dinosaur Train Make a Match, Candy Land, Yatzee, Disney Trivia, Up-Words, Skip-Bo, Big Picture Apples to Apples. We probably played Sorry! too, but I couldn't remember if that was with Chad or not, so it doesn't count. The family got a few new games for Christmas, so we're going to keep working on this one.)
  22. Go to a baseball game with Chad
  23. Remain at or under my goal weight for longer than one month (Ha! I still haven't gotten back to what I was in January.)
  24. Do 20 real pushups with good form (I think the best I did was 15)
  25. Learn to draw a cartoon person, worthy of a children's book illustration (nope.)
  26. Finish painting Christmas village
  27. Read 52 books (I got to 49. So close. I definitely need to watch less TV.)

  28. Megan's bookshelf: read

    The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ
    The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change
    The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child's Developing Mind, Survive Everyday Parenting Struggles, and Help Your Family Thrive
    A Christmas Carol
    Homecoming Ranch
    The Diamond of Darkhold
    The Magic of Ordinary Days
    Running on Empty
    The Prophet of Yonwood
    Mansfield Park
    The People of Sparks
    The City of Ember
    Clockwork Princess
    Foodist: Using Real Food and Real Science to Lose Weight Without Dieting
    Ender's Game
    The Crimson Crown
    The 5th Wave
    The Count of Monte Cristo

    Megan's favorite books »
  29. Watch a documentary  I watched "The Perfect Human Diet" which was interesting, but not necessarily credible. I started watching "The Dust Bowl" but it was taken off Amazon Prime after I watched the first hour. I would have much preferred it.
  30. No TV or movies for one week  I did this at the beginning of November, and it was a great week. I got stuff done around the house, and I finished my 2011 blog book. More importantly, I reevaluated the shows I had been watching on a weekly basis, and decided that 90% of them were not worthy of watching. So my Hulu queue has undergone a major overhaul. No more Vampire Diaries or Bachelor. I'm keeping Master Chef, because, you know, cooking is a vital part of motherhood. And Bob's Burgers...don't ask.
  31. Eat Brazilian food  Brazilian steak house. Pretty sure this is not how your average Brazilian eats, but nevertheless delicious.
  32. Send flowers to someone  In this day of emails and texts, there is nothing like an actual IRL bouquet of flowers on your doorstep.

Joining the Smart Club

I was doing just fine with my dumb phone, thank you very much. But I was fed up with our contract and its ridiculous price--especially considering that I was paying extra for a measly 250 texts a month. So I shopped around for a new phone provider, and I found a no-contract plan with better features for much less than we were currently paying. And then I realized that I could get a smart phone for just a little more. So, when I saw a Black Friday ad with a Samsung smart phone for $29, I jumped at the chance.

And I still can't get over how many possibilities can fit in the palm of my hand. For instance, I can take pictures...and then actually do something with them! Like, I can take them off my phone! Put them in my computer! Amazing.

So, without further ado, my first phone photo collage:

1. We got a new food place around the corner. Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers. Literally around the corner. As in 0.6 miles away from our front door. Dangerously close. And yes, it is as delicious as it sounds.

2. Can you have a favorite child? Yes. Bree is my favorite child when it comes to shopping. Lincoln is my favorite when it's time to snuggle. Mason has my favorite impish grin. He's my favorite when it's time for homework (he's really smart)...he's also my least favorite when it comes to homework (he is SO easily distracted). He's my favorite for pure energy and enthusiasm. Aaaand he's my least favorite when it comes time to deal with bugs (the kid screams like a little girl about to be murdered...unless it's just a regular fly...he has no problem catching those...weird).

3. Our first Christmas in our new home. The tree is my favorite--an eclectic mix of homemade ornaments, mementos from vacations and life events, and cheap unbreakable stuff from the dollar store. It became clear very quickly after we decorated the house this year that we need a whole lot more Christmas stuff to fill up our bigger home

4. Chad and I bought little ceramic houses at Walmart waaaay back when we didn't have kids yet. And we painted them together. Over the years we've added a few more to our town, but the painting kept getting put off (because, by this time, we had kids). I finally finished the last house this year. Actually this little town might tie with our tree for our favorite Christmas decoration.

5. Mason probably wrote and mailed 5 letters to Santa this year. All on his own. I convinced him that letters to Santa are given a postal exemption, and therefore don't need stamps. Most of his letters were sealed before I had a chance to read them. But I am so glad I got to see this one. "I WONT A INDE ANAJONES LEGO SET"

6. Lincoln keeps surprising me with what he can get himself into--and how quickly he gets there. Of course, if sugar is involved, he is very resourceful. He is in a stage where I frequently find myself feeling proud and terrified at the same time."Wow, you climbed on the counter! (Awesome gross motor skills!) But you shouldn't do that, because then when you fall and hit your chin we have to go to the doctor and you get three stitches!" (That visit was fun: trying to entertain him with a smart phone video while the assistant held his head "still" and the doc tried his best to put those stitches in...all three of us sweating profusely).

7. My mom gave Bree and Mason subscriptions to Highlights and High Five magazines. They loved the calendars that came with them. We spent a long time putting all the holiday stickers on the correct dates.

8. Gingerbread houses 2013. Bree designed this one, and I helped her with the frosting. And now that we have a kitchen island, we actually got to display them nicely, instead of shoving them on top of our refrigerator to get them out of the way.

9. I admit that when I took this picture I was trying to channel another blogger who frequently posts pictures of her stockings/shoes which always reflect the season/mood of the particular post. This particular sock/shoe combo not only imbued a holiday spirit to our outing that day, but it included the bonus of me getting asked if I was a Bass Pro Shop employee (to be fair, I was wearing a green Christmas shirt as well, and was standing next to the carousel in the Winter Wonderland).

10. Aaah, the Mesa Temple Christmas Lights. We went last year, and I loved it. The lights were gorgeous, there was a great spirit, we stopped to listen to the message being played through hidden speakers, and I took some great photos. This year...we made the grave mistake of going on a Saturday. It was. So. Crowded. It was impossible to enjoy it. But I did get a couple decent photos without throngs of people in the frame. Still gorgeous. But we won't make that mistake again.

11 & 12. Mason and Bree did a decent job of wrapping their own gifts this year. Bree didn't need any of my help. And I assisted Mason a little. That kid gives up easily on certain tasks, but the excitement of the presents kept him going surprisingly well.

13 & 14. Since we were going to be spending Christmas day at my parents' house, Bree and Mason opened their gifts from Grandma and Papa Wallace before we left. Mason got the whole set of Ninja Turtles and Shredder. Bree got a grown-up purse and some shelves for all the nick nacks in her room (she seriously channels an 70-year-old woman).

15. Laundry is a bi-weekly chore now. We got away with doing all our laundry once a week for quite a while. No more. I think it was the kids school uniforms that sent us over the edge. Chad always helps with the chore. His location preferences for folding vary, and on this particular day the spread was quite impressive.

16 & 17. Ok, so first Freddy's opened up, and then this? Right around the corner! Donuts are one of my favorite food groups. On this particular day I treated myself to a cheesecake filled, double-chocolate topped one.

18. There's no real explanation for this photo other than it was cracking me up watching Lincoln chasing the chin strap of this hat with his tongue. Totally counts as speech therapy, right?

I continue to work on figuring out my camera phone. Sometimes the pictures turn out great, and sometimes they're blurry beyond all recognition. Not sure if I'll relegate them to their own unique posts (like this one), or mix them in with the others. Time will tell.

But I do know one thing: I love being in the Smart Club.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Scenes of Christmas

December began in earnest, with a Christmas concert at Bree and Mason's school. I hated that we couldn't see Bree during her performance. She was on the floor--I barely caught a glimpse of her when she stood on her toes. But I loved that we were treated to "Away in a Manger," and "Silent Night," and a Hanukkah song (I didn't realize that the kids were singing in Hebrew until half-way through the song). I love our Charter School.


I think Chad and I began our little Christmas Village venture about 10 years ago. I know for a fact that it was before we had kids, and I'm pretty sure we were living in our house in North Las Vegas. We bought four or five ceramic buildings at Walmart, and we started painting. I remember getting paint on our hand-me-down sofa (which was later reupholstered), and that it wouldn't wash out. Chad mixed a custom green for the one-room schoolhouse. I painted the blue and white Victorian-style house.That seems like a lifetime ago.

We added a few more buildings over the years, but with kids now in the picture, the painstaking painting project got more difficult to devote time to. Luckily, this year we moved into a home with a room I can use just for my office and crafts! I am loving it! It's much easier to work with paint when I'm not constantly worried that little two-year-old fingers are going to get involved.

And finally, it's finished. I am in love with it.

We have decorated gingerbread houses in the past, but due to our lack of space the beautiful results got relegated to the top of our fridge. But this year my mom bought two for our family, after I reassured her that there is SO much space on our kitchen island for them to be displayed. Bree designed one, and Chad designed the other. Mason ate candy, and I spilled a little packet of tiny red and green sugar balls all over the table and floor. I also made some wicked-cool icing icicles.


We made the drive to the Bass Pro Shops for a visit to Santa and his Winter Wonderland. We were very miffed to learn that we didn't have the option to wait in line without a Bass Pass, and the next Bass Pass time was 4 hours away. Not to mention that the "elf" at the counter got snippy after we told him that the policy should be on the website (which I had previously checked, of course). So, sadly, we didn't get to see Santa. The kids did have fun playing with the free toys and writing letters to Santa. But we most likely won't be back next year. *tear*


We went to see the Mesa Temple Christmas Lights again this year. They are truly breathtaking. However...if we go again next year, we will go on a weeknight since my dad, brother, and I are all borderline agoraphobics.

We spent Christmas at my parents' house this year. We played games, ate WAY too much food, and enjoyed our time together. We also passed some delightful germs around, but that's what the winter holidays are about, after all.

The kids got new Christmas outfits for church. Bree was ecstatic. Mason tried to be a good sport.

We celebrated my mom's birthday a few days late, but we wanted to wait 'til we were all together. I made a chocolate layer cake with ganache frosting and chocolate bark. It was amazing. And rich. It should come with a warning: "Have a glass of milk in close proximity before consuming."

I don't know how many times Papa read The Foot Book to Lincoln. He never gets tired of being read to.
He did, however get tired.

Mom got us matching Christmas pajamas again this year. They were adorable and comfy. She even surprised Zelda with a set of her own doggy PJs.

The gifts were generous and plentiful. The kids were excited to get so many things on their wish lists. Lincoln was enthralled with his play kitchen (Chad wasn't too excited about that gift...or the baby doll for that matter... but it is such a great way for him to practice imaginative play and learn to do things in order). Bree and Mason tried out their bikes in the courtyard. Bree was wishing her bike had come with training wheels that first day, but we knew she was ready for a step up.

It was an eventful week. We came home exhausted, recovering from our (*ahem*) intestinal illnesses, but with many fond memories.

This was truly a wonderful Christmas season. One of my all-time favorites.
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