Sunday, September 21, 2008

Baby Steps

It's Sunday morning and I'm at home. Normally I would be in church but it was a long night and I was barely functioning this morning so The Man took the older two kids to church and I stayed home with Cupcake. I'm still in my pajamas, wrapped in my favorite blanket, with a tummy full of warm English breakfast tea and three slices of bakery bread with real butter. I just finished listening to a Tim Keller sermon and I feel cozy and content...truly it's been a quiet and lovely time.

And as if on cue, I heard Cupcake stirring in his room. I love to get that baby after he's had a good nap. I miss him when he sleeps and there's nothing I love more than feasting on his scrumptious baby self when he wakes up. The truth is, I love babies. I would keep a baby in the house all the's the raising them as they get older that I'll pass on. As I was nursing this sweet soul, basking in the sweetness of the morning, I began to ponder this blessed relationship--that of a baby and his mother. And as I pondered, I sensed the Spirit saying to me, "This is how it is with you and me...think on it." And so I did.

What I love about this baby of mine is that, well, he's mine. He is mine. I love him because he is mine. I am deeply invested in everything about him because he is mine. And because he is my child, I have plans for him...and all of those plans are within the context of my immeasurable love for him.

And do you know what else I love about this child? He delights in being totally dependent on me, the one who gave him life, the one who continues to give him life. He literally cannot get out of bed without me lifting him up and over the side of his crib. When I walk in his room, he squeals with delight and bounces up and down. He knows I am his rescuer. And when I lift him out of that crib, he buries his chubby face in me because he is hungry for what I have to give him...and he knows that only I can give it to him. And when he is done, he is totally full and satfisfied, ready to take on life's adventures...(which for a 9-month-old involves dragging himself around on the floor, not playing with the baby toys that are safe and instead scavenging for dust bunnies under the sofa and the power cord to my computer.) The point is, it should be that simple for me too. My Father loves me because I'm his. He wants me to feast on Him, to fill myself with what He has to offer, to be nourished by Him and Him alone so that I can face my own life's adventures with glee and fortitude.

And as wild as I am for this baby of mine, my Father is a zillion times more wild about me. As I have kissed and hugged and squeezed my baby this morning, delighting in his chubby legs and gutteral laugh, I've thought, "Father, do you love me this much? Am I this perfect in your eyes?" "Yes!" He replied. "But a zillion times more." My mind cannot fathom it. But I know that if I could really live out of that truth, how different life would be. To look to Him and Him alone as the one who can fill me up and meet my needs. To come to Him with outstretched arms so that He can lift me up over the obstacles I face. To live in total dependance on the one who gave me life...who continues, daily, to give me life. He has plans for me...and those plans are always within the context of His immeasurable love for me, His child.

Daily, I am wayward. I have my own selfish agenda. I want things that look so good, so enticing...but they will harm me. I throw fits and shake my angry fist because, like a baby, I want what I want. Period. Sometimes my Father lovingly redirects me. And sometimes He lets me have what I want and He allows me to experience the painful consequences of my misguided pursuits.

Even now, Cupcake is frustrated that he can't get what He wants. Just moments ago He was content, here with me receiving the love and nourishment he needed. And now, he's crawling back to me, both crying and laughing, saying "Mama" and reaching for me. So I lift him up into my lap and I kiss him and hug him and tickle him...and he's laughing again, squealing with glee and delight actually. And I will always pick him up when he needs me. I will never turn him away. I will love him regardless of the messes he makes and the many times he rejects me and swats me away...because I seemingly get in the way of what he needs.

Just as my Father invites me to crawl up in His lap and find comfort. Just as He will always pick me up when I ask...and even when I don't. Just as He will never turn me away or stop loving me. Just as He will watch me make mess after mess trying to get what I want. Just as He has painfully watched me swat Him away and reject Him.

May my Father grant me the grace to see my infinite need of Him, to squeal with delight like a dependant child, longing to be picked up and comforted and held tight. May I understand anew, possibly for the first time, how wide and how deep and how strong is His love for me.

And to my sweet Cupcake, I'm so grateful that God gave you to that I can feast on your sweetness and in so doing, taste my Father's goodness.

Saturday, September 20, 2008


I love to shop, always have. Clothes, shoes, make-up, decor...I love it all. Some of my earliest memories involve "shopping" through my mom's nightgown drawer, making gauzey, flowy, belted (with scarves) dresses for myself. I was three when my first sibling came along. Sadly, my most vivid memory surrounding my younger brother's entrance into the world was not me holding him or oohing and ahhing over his sweet newborn face. No, nothing noble or sentimental like that. I remember the brand-new Sesame Street sneakers that I got and so gloriously displayed through the hospital. Big Bird graced the bottom of my sneakers and I took giant, exaggerated heel-to-toe steps through the lobby to make sure everyone saw my accessorized sneaker soles. Yes, I can recall every major milestone of my life...and exactly what I wore to mark each of them.

Lest you think I was born into privilege, let me state that I come from humble beginnings. My dad was a minister and my mom stayed at home for 13 years until the youngest was school-age (then she went back into teaching). I am the oldest of four children. I had an immensely happy childhood! Lots of love, lots of friends, big families, and my mom's great cooking. What I did not have, however, was a closet full of the latest fashion trends like most of my relatively wealthy friends had. Remember Guess jeans? Yeah, I didn't have those. I survived from hand-me-downs and department store clearance racks. I started babysitting when I was 12 and from then on, bought most of my own clothes. I learned to be creative and resourceful, traits that serve me well now. My mom laughs about seeing me walk out the door for school as a teenager, with an oversized v-neck sweater of my dad's (remember, this was the 80's...oversized anything was soooo "in"), belted with a paisley scarf from her winter coat, and my size 6 feet shod in cream-colored flats from Target...into which I strategically placed Liz Claiborne labels I ripped out of my mother's church pumps. Cut me some slack, I was 15...image was everything.

We are all products of our past to a certain extent. And while I thought God was less than merciful in placing me, a full-of-potential fashionista, in a barely middle-class home, I now see His sovereignty in the seemingly inconsequential aspects of my upbringing. Clearance racks and shopping family members' closets made me who I am today.

Luckily, I am now privileged enough to shop at Nordstrom's and my favorite store, Anthropologie. asfjaw#@!!!uer09q823q/jpo. Sorry, that was just me darting out of the way because lightning struck. Truth is, I would LOVE to shop at those chi-chi stores. My reality, however, starkly contrasts. Technically, I guess I could buy those amazing $468 Anthropologie Button Brigade Boots (not that I've looked at them on-line and coveted) but then my family would be forced to eat peanut butter and boots for a month and that would just end badly. You know, me resenting the children because they ate the boots, the children resenting me because it's "boots for supper...again?" So, I love thrift stores. I shop them almost once a week, usually on my way to get groceries or drop off stuff at the library (which is also a cool place because you get stuff for free...unless you're me and you have a daughter with a wayward foot who accidentally stepped on the Thumbelina dvd and broke it in half...then it's not free.) And while I know that many of you may not have a penchant for second-hand clothing and cast-off furniture, keep an open mind. I like to think of my favorite thrift excursions as treasure hunting. You know, an opportunity to find a diamond in the rough. So, I thought I'd take this opportunity to boast about some of my more recent gems. In so doing, maybe I'll inspire some of you to venture into second-hand heaven and see what you come out with. Oh, and for those of you who are trying to go green, think of thrifting as the best kind of recycling. Here it goes:

* a $40 Southern Living at Home vase for just $10 (courtesy of my mom who I dragged along with me.)

* plates (I LOVE to hang plates on my walls!) for 50 cents each

*fabric to make bookshelf curtains for just $1 (to hide all my homeschool mess behind)

I am especially proud of this bookshelf "mistreatment." You see, I do not sew...but I am armed and creative with some remnant fabric, trim, and a glue gun. I put these together in an hour and while they are rather unsightly from the back, from the front I am totally Martha Stewart (except I haven't gone to jail.) Thank you, Nester, for showing me how to mistreat.

* the whole series of the Little House books for my daughter for $2 (and LOTS of other books for me, my hubby, and the kids)

* a fantastic old sewing table that I painted red and put in the nursery for $5
* a set of 3 brand new Ikea pillow covers for $1.50
* some super-cute and trendy black flats (like new) for $3
* a Barbie pool, complete with slide and resort deck for $1.50
* a faux Bamboo plant that looks totally real and graces my mantle for $3

* Ralph Lauren dress pants (like new) for my handsome hubby for $2.50
* 3 like new Banana Republic dress shirts for handsome hubby, also $2.50
* a JoS A Bank new with tags beautiful dress shirt for handsome hubby, $4

I could go on but maybe I'll save some of my other treasures for another blog post. What's my point? Actually, I'm not sure but something to the effect of: Never pay retail, work a weekly thrift store jaunt into your regular errands, and be willing to see the potential in things that may look a little ho-hum surrounded by junk, dust, and porcelain kitties. The thing about thrifting: it's hit or miss. Sometimes I hit the jackpot. But for every one of those, I may have three excursions that yield little to nothing. Either way, I'm still getting out of the house and getting a break from laundry, diapers, and children. Thrifting allows me, a consummate shopper, to still be able to shop. Because right now, even a rendezvous with some of my former discount lovers like ROSS and T.J. Maxx are out of the question. (I love you R and T.J...please don't hate me.)

Happy hunting!

Friday, September 12, 2008

My Favorite Dish

So what does the Frugal Foodie feed her family for dinner? First of all, let me say that I actually do love to cook and to bake but in this season of my life, I do not have the time, energy, or resources to put a meal on the table each night ripped from the pages of Bon Appetit. Here is my favorite easy, fairly frugal (b/c you can make it in bulk and have amazing leftovers), and relatively healthy recipe:

Salsa Chicken
* Desired amount of boneless, skinless chicken breasts or tenderloins
* Desired amount of jarred salsa
* Optional: canned diced tomatoes and/or black beans to supplement salsa

(Example ratio: I use a 2.5 lb bag of breasts or tenderloins, combined with 2 jars of salsa, 24 oz. or so, a can of diced tomatoes, & a can of black beans.) Dump ingredients in a crock pot or just a large saucepan on the stove. Cook chicken until done. Shred chicken.

Serve chicken mixture over rice with toppings of choice: cheese, sour cream, cilantro, avocado.

Definitely make plenty of this! It's great leftover and you can even make two totally new meals from it. It's fantastic as quesadilla or burrito meat. If you also have extra toppings, throw those in your quesadillas or burritos. Or, if you're in the mood for a yummy, Mexican soup, try this: Take leftover chicken mixture, add some chicken broth or part broth / water depending on how much you have. Sprinkle in fresh cilantro, avocado, and a big scoop of leftover rice. You will have an amazing soup identical to the one my favorite local Mexican restaurant serves. Top soup with crunched up tortilla chips, shredded cheese, a dollop of sour cream, etc. But wait, there's more...the men in my family love to use the leftover salsa chicken to make ultimate nachos! Layer chips, chicken mixture, cheese, and any other toppings you like.

And there you have it: One ridiculously easy dish served four different ways!

This recipe has become my signature dish. I take it to moms who have just had babies, serve it when we have guests, and make it for my family almost once a week. Bon Appetit!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Frugal Foodie

If you know me, you know that I love an amazing bargain...on anything. I want to find the best deal on everything I purchase and that comes to groceries too. I'm sort of a goal-oriented person and in July I decided to set a crazy goal for my grocery budget that month: $275 for a family of five and that includes diapers and toiletries. A few disclaimers: we were gone for about a week of July (but that still leaves 25 days) and my kids do not yet eat tons of food. I am not a coupon nut (I simply don't have the time) and I do not go to 5 different grocery stores shopping sales. I do clip some coupons and I use them from time to time but that is not how I have saved a lot of money. What's my secret? A bit of planning, using what we have, preparing inexpensive meals, and shopping at a dive of a grocery store once a month.

It's no secret; planning menus in advance saves us money, time, and stress. I am not known for being a good planner but it's really not tough to write a week or two's worth of meals on a dry-erase board. Second, shop your pantry, freezer, and fridge. What do you have? Got a random can of pumpkin? Look on the internet to find a recipe for pumpkin muffins using stuff you have. My kids love those for breakfast and snacks. Just this evening, I spied a few gnats hovering around 6 very ripe bananas. I mustered up the energy to throw together a double batch of banana oat muffins. (I always have flour, sugar, eggs, oil, etc. on hand so it's a no-brainer.) Now my kids will have yummy and hearty muffins when they wake up in the morning. Got a can of tuna and a bag of egg noodles you've had for a year? Presto! You've got tuna noodle casserole for dinner. Have 2 cups of Bisquick in the cupboard? Have breakfast tonight. What kid doesn't love pancakes for supper? I serve mine with some turkey bacon and fruit and you have a well-balanced meal. One of my favorite web-sites is You type in any ingredients you may have in your house and it spits out recipes for you. How cool is that? I have made many a new meal during lean times with rogue canned items, a bag of pinto beans, and the internet. Look at it as being resourceful and creative!

Third, don't you just love those fancy grocery stores with bakeries, a cafe, calculators on the shopping carts? I do. But I never shop at those. My grocery haunts are Wal-Mart, Aldi, and a salvage grocery warehouse 25 minutes away that has ridiculous prices. On my last visit I got cans of chickpeas for 10 cents, canned pumpkin 4 for $1.00, and boxes of power bars for 99 cents. (Just to name a few of my bargains.) It's sort of hit or miss. You never know exactly what they'll have but if you don't mind being flexible and making meals around the bargains you find, it's great. This place is full of dented cans, health food items that the Kroger in Paducah, Kentucky just didn't have the clientele for, and Hunts spaghetti sauce with Spanish labels. For me it's a grand adventure and sort of a treasure hunt. I realize that not everyone is down with shopping that way but I sort of enjoy the "cultural experience" of it all. Oh and they play this hysterical old-time-religion gospel music really loud while you shop. It's a riot. I've attached a picture from my latest trip...two carts of groceries (all that you see here) for just $118.

Well, I didn't hit $275 but I did spend less than $300...and I still had a lot of things left that took me into August. Plus, my sweet hubby had been given a $25 Starbucks gift card at work (that he didn't tell me about) so he saved it and surprised me with it as my reward at the end of the month. I slurped that gift card down in about 8 sad.

Stay tuned for my next post where I'll share recipes and talk about what I actually feed my family.


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