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Dinner for Four

A rare sight these days is that of the four members of my family sitting at the dinner table together, at the same time, eating the same food.

Such an event happened last night, and I almost cried as I saw it unfolding.

I am not very good at planning dinner.

Oh, I sometimes remember to pull meat from the freezer, but actually getting it cooked, with starches and veggies is like a Halley’s Comet sighting.

Bad, I know, but true.

So yesterday, I actually had the foresight of:

1) Buying the meat ahead of time
2) Keeping it in the fridge the night before in preparation for dinner.
3) Researching recipes the night before.
4) Putting everything in the crockpot early enough to get stuff cooked.
5) Watching items on the stove so nothing burned and everything got done at the same time.
6) Setting the table, all by my lonesome self, and even filling glasses with ice.

Now, when we eat dinner together, someone usually winds up getting mad, for whatever reason.

Sometimes, because I’m not that great of a cook, something will be said about dinner, and I, wearing my feelings on my sleeve (guess I am a feeler after all – see Random Dozen post from this week), I either get upset or mad.

But all of the planets must have aligned, because everyone was…

Hold your breath now…


There.  I said it.

And, the kids actually…

Hold your breath now…

Started telling us about their day…

Without being prompted.


I could hardly believe it, but I dared not draw attention to this mini-miracle in fear that it would dissipate as quickly as my paycheck every other Friday!

I dare say that our conversation resembled…

Hold on to your hats…

Adult conversation.

I KNOW!!!!

And you know the kind of sad thing?

This happened just a few months before the Party of Four turns into a Party of Three, when Chicky leaves for college.

It’s yet another memory I’ll tuck away.  What might seem like an ordinary evening for some truly became a special moment for me.

The Roses are in Bloom

Ahhhh…but I do love Spring.

I don’t have much of a green thumb, but I have discovered that Knockout Roses are hardy plants.

They are amazing too, blooming a few times during the coldest months of winter!

But give them warm weather, and they are absolutely breathtaking!

I took a few pictures after I did a bit of pruning today…

Don’t you just love the sight of a rose just beginning to open up?

One can only begin to imagine the beauty that is in store for us in heaven with the teasers God gave us here on earth in nature.

You Aren’t LOST – It’s Time for the Random Dozen

I knew I liked Linda for a reason…she’s a fellow Lostie!  For those of you who’ve been living on another planet for the last several years, what I mean is that we are devoted fans of the television series, Lost (only one of the best shows evah…said with a New York accent).

So, this week’s questions are geared toward the Lost theme.

You know the drill…answer the questions on your blog and link back up on Linda’s.  Simple as can be!

1. Have you ever been so lost that you were really afraid?

Oh baby, have I been lost?  Ha, Ha, Ha!

More times than I can count!

I lived in LA (Lower Alabama, not Los Angeles) where every dirt road looked the same!  I once got lost driving home from an away football game (while I was in high school).  I wound up in Montgomery, an hour and a half away from home.  That was one long night!

I’ve also gotten lost going home for lunch.  This was when the Mr. and I had just gotten married.  We were living in an apartment a stick’s throw away from Auburn University, and I only found my way home for lunch each day by chance.  One day, I got turned around and drove in circles until I finally found the library (where I worked)…just in time for my lunch time to be over.

Oh yeah, and I once got lost in Miami…wound up in Little Havana with two very little young-uns in the back seat.  The Mr. was not amused at the thought of my endangering the innocent (not me, but the babes).

2. Have you ever been to an island?

Having been on three cruises, I can answer this in the affirmative.  Islands are heavenly!!!!

3. Are you more of a thinker or feeler?

Ok, see, the thing about Linda’s meme is that if you read the questions ahead of time, you actually have time to THINK about the answers.  So, while I was never a thinker before I started participating in the Random Dozen, I think I should now qualify as one.  In fact, I believe I could do a very convincing imitation of Rodin’s The Thinker.

Work with me here (I don’t have time to PhotoShop).  Envision that man fully dressed, with long, naturally curly hair, and a chocolate bar in one hand and a Nintendo DSi in the other.

AuburnChick…the Thinker.

Seriously, I think I am becoming more of a thinker the older I get.  I’ve discovered that being a thinker is hard work!  That’s probably why I love my Excedrin Migraine.  Cures the thinking headaches I get.

4. Do you tend to see issues or situations in life as black and white or shades of gray?

Black and white totally.  It’s either wrong, or it’s not.  Nobody better try to get me to stand in the middle, cause I’m having none of that!

5. If you were stuck on an island, what book would you hope to have with you (Let’s pretend the Bible is already there, so you can’t say that.)

Ok…I thought too much on this.  My first instinct was to go with a favorite book, like The Hiding Place, by Corrie ten Boom (the second person I want to meet when I get to heaven).  This book would remind me that God always provides, even in the most impossible of situations.

But then, I started over-analyzing the question and thought the most practical thing would be to select a book on how to build a boat.  However, I quickly realized, when doing a search on Amazon, that I probably wouldn’t have such items as carbon, teflon, and other materials needed for a boat, so this type of book would do me no good!  So, I’ll stick with my first choice and leave the rescuing up to the rescuers.  I might as well relax while I’m on the island.

6. What are you most afraid of?

Tornadoes.  I don’t know where this fear came from, but I think it’s the unexpectedness of them that paralyzes me with fear.  Once, about six months after my dad died (and a couple of weeks after September 11th), we were having a volunteer breakfast at my children’s elementary school.  An announcement was made about a tornado warning, and I sat shock still at the table with tears running down my face…petrified.  Tornadoes also have the nerve to invade my dreams.  Good gravy!

Sheesh!  I need counseling worse than Kate Gosselin!

*Bad AuburnChick*

7. Would you rather lose all of your old memories or never be able to make new ones?

Oh gosh, Linda.  Why the tough questions this week?

If I lost my old memories, I wouldn’t remember the joy of being pregnant and being force-fed pizza and peas (the Mr. wanted to ensure I was eating a balanced meal).  I wouldn’t remember the thrill of my babies kicking while in the womb and the inexpressible rush of emotion the first time I held them after giving birth.  As they near adulthood, I would miss the memories of watching them grow and mature and become fine mini-grownups.

However, if I lost the ability to make new memories, then that would mean that I would miss becoming friends with a daughter who’s been pushing hard for independence against my desire to hold tight.  I would miss the moment of forgiveness that will surely come one day.  I would miss watching my babies grow, meet the loves of their lives, and have their own babies.

Nope.  I’m not gonna do it.  I can’t choose.

I have to run get a kleenex before answering the next question.

8. Pretend I’m looking at a scrapbook page about you. There are three spaces for you to drop in individual pictures. What are those pictures of, and why did you select them?

Whoa…I need a whole box of kleenex now!

Picture #1 – The picture I took of Chicky and Rooster on the first day of school this year (sorry I can’t show you but you know the rules…no pictures of my babes on the blog).  What strikes me about this photo is how tall Rooster is…towering several inches over Chicky.  I see her maturity and his laid-back attitude.  This picture is a glimpse into the most important things I feel have come from my life.

Picture #2 – My knitting

That is the table I decorated for last year’s women’s retreat at my church (I blogged about it here).  All of the tables were themed, and I picked knitting.  Knitting has become an important outlet through which I give to others.  It has also become the avenue through which I have made very close friends.  I always tell people that I don’t have real-life friends but internet knitting friends.

Picture #3 – Me and my sunflowers…

The teensy bit of gardening I am successful at is growing sunflowers.  I love them, and I think they know that (hmmm…kind of like the students I work with…must be a parallel).  Sunflowers are bright and cheery and make me feel like God is smiling back at me when I gaze upon them.  My kids are used to me planting them each year and look forward to how tall they get.

9. If you were re-doing your wedding, what would you do differently? (If you’re single, tell me one thing you would do if you were planning a wedding OR huge party.)

I would have picked out comfortable shoes…maybe even flip flops of some sort.  Things have loosened up a lot since the 80’s!

10. Tell me one thing you know/believe about forgiveness.

We are commanded to forgive just as Christ forgave us.  Forgiveness is an act of the will, not a reaction to something your heart tells you.

Forgiveness is hard…something I struggle with.

11. You’re waiting in a doctor’s office. What is your favorite way to pass that time?

Knit, of course!

12. If there were a clone of you in a parallel universe what is one way you hope she/he would be the same as you and one way you hope she/he would be better?

Oh, I discussed this with a friend, so I am prepared!  In a parallel universe, I would want the other “me” to be the same go-getter, no waiting on somebody else to do something kind of person.  As far as better, how about if the other me could be a better cook.  At least her family would eat decent meals each night!

It’s Not Just a Game

Chicky has a teammate on her travel team who is on the U.S. U17 Women’s National Team.

Yeah.  She’s a good player.

The U.S. National Team traveled to Costa Rica for World Cup Qualifiers.  Its first game was against the Haitian U17 National Team.

This team had recently lived through the horrendous earthquake that cost thousands of people their lives.

Tonight, ESPN aired a segment about the Haitian team.  I implore you to watch the video (click on the picture to view it from ESPN’s site).

It is one of the most poignant videos I have seen in a long time.

I am so proud of the U.S. girls for their maturity and sensitivity toward the plight of the other team’s players.

They showed that soccer is not just a game but a bridge that links hearts together.

I doubt that anyone will forget the experience.

The Chicklets are on Patrol

Last night was the BIG night.

No, I’m not talking about Dancing With the Stars and the first show without Kate.

*Bad AuburnChick*

What I am referring to is Chicky and Rooster’s final night of lifeguarding class – THE night when they had to take their final exams.

Rooster had been nervous for a few days, concerned about the emergency scenario he would be given.  He had not done well on the practice test last week.

I did not get to see the kids before they left because I had gone to teach a couponing class (more on that in another post).

But, I did take Rooster aside and pray with him.

The Mr. and I waited up for them.  We were actually surprised when class went the full length…until 10pm.

We waited anxiously.

Rooster texted me to let me know they were headed home (a safety rule in this house)…

“On our way home,” he said.

“And…” I asked.

“Chicky failed part of her test, but I passed,” he said.

“Please tell me you’re kidding,” I said, hollering to the Mr. that Chicky supposedly “failed.”  I was doubtful because we like to play jokes on one another.

“Yeah,” Rooster texted back.

Oy.  The boy can be cruel sometimes.

The kids walked in the house shortly after, laughing at the trick they pulled.

Yeah, yeah.  All was forgiven when they proudly displayed their lifeguarding and CPR certificates.

I am so proud of them for hanging in there.  I am proud of them for acting responsibly by looking and preparing for jobs rather than taking the lazy way out and whiling away the summer eating Doritos and playing Xbox.

I chuckled when a parent come up to me at church and ask if he could send his son to my house for training.

Are You a Thermometer or a Thermostat

…continued from the last post…

After singing praise songs, the congregation settled in for a sermon titled “Blindsided by Cultural Consumption.”

Oh yeah.

It was good.

My pastor listed several ways Christians respond to cultural influences, and he warned us not to be changed by the culture.

And then, my pastor put two pictures on the big screen…

A thermometer reflects the temperature of the air that surrounds it; whereas, a thermostat controls the temperature.

The pastor challenged us to be thermostats…ever steady and not affected by outside influences.

Folks, can I just tell you just how relevant this message is?

We live in a time when we are bombarded by influences that seek to draw our attention to what will please ourselves.  In the process, we are changed…molded into beings that are quite different in nature than what God intended.

Some might think we need to go with the flow.  I can’t tell you the flak I’ve caught when voicing my displeasure at the movie Transformers 2 (do you remember my heated post?).

Oh, I don’t seek to elevate myself to a higher station just because I took the high ground on that one.

I merely wanted to give you an example of how we, as a culture, allow ourselves to be fueled by other things in this world.  It is so easy to make allowances – to let little things slide – to the point where suddenly our values do not resemble what they originally started out as.

I truly want to be more like a thermostat.  I desire the willingness to allow God to program my heart, mind, and soul so that I might walk with a confident step, unwavering in my decision to follow Him and make choices that reflect that I serve a LIVING God.

In such a way, may I be used by Him to change the air around me…electrify it, if you will, so that He will be glorified.

Such a simple question…my title.  And yet, it will make me think twice from here on out.

Praise Songs from this Week

Ahhh, Sundays…you’ve just gotta love the day.

Our praise songs at church included the following…

I could have easily gone home after singing these.

But, I didn’t.

Good thing too, because I heard a great sermon.

To be continued…

His and Hers Grocery Carts

Grocery shopping is a routine thing for me.

Grocery shopping with the Mr. is not so routine.

Grocery shopping with the Mr. and two separate carts is completely foreign.

Welcome to Podunk, USA, where you see a lot of unusual things.

It all started when my Publix decided not to allow customers to use the $5 off of $20 coupons.  Stacking them was a huge money saver!  Rats, but it was good while it lasted.

Despite this, my store is still allowing us to use Harveys coupons.  Harveys is a competitor grocery store.  Southern Savers has $5 off of $25 coupons that can be printed multiple times.  But, you can’t stack them (use two for a $50 order).

So, I asked the Mr. to go to the store with me.

He was game.

I gave him a calculator and an envelope.  My envelope had all of the coupons, so when we got to an item that was going into his buggy, I gave him the coupons he needed.  We both tallied our totals as we went to ensure that we would each hit the dollar amount needed to be able to use the Harveys coupons.

I’m sure we were quite a sight, but as I said before, when you live in Podunk, USA, you see strange things.

You also run into people you know everywhere you go.

The first person we saw was a soccer dad.  The conversation went something like this:

“Hey you two,” he said, eying both of our buggies.  “I see you’re getting buy one get one frees.”

We chuckled.

“So, how’s your daughter doing,” I asked, to get his mind off of why a married couple would be following each other around the grocery store…both people pushing their own buggies.

“Fine, fine,” he said.  “I’m just here to pick up some dinner.  We’ve been working in the yard.”

I really wanted to offer him a coupon or two, but I’m stingy, and things just felt a little weird.

The Mr. piped up with an intelligent (yeah, right) quip…”Pick out something easy for dinner.”

Um, yeah.  That would be what you’re doing, oh keeper of the Contessa Frozen Shrimp coupons, which, by the way, is what you’re having for dinner.

I laughed nervously, wished the friend well, and booked it around the corner.

“Well, that was a little embarrassing,” I told the Mr.  “It’s bad enough that we already sit in separate parts of the bleachers when we watch Chicky play soccer.  Now we’re shopping sort-of-separately.”

“Uh, yeah, I guess I see your point,” he said, laughing.

On we went.

Upon hitting the water aisle, we saw a soccer mom.  She drew near just as I was ordering the Mr. to put a couple of packages into his buggy, handing over the $1 coupons.

“You don’t have to tell me what to do,” he said, “Especially with people we know standing so close.”

“Be quiet and get me another two packages.  Put them in my buggy,” I said.

When you’ve been married 20 years, a conversation like this is typical.

I smiled politely at our friend and hustled to the next aisle.

Before we headed to the register, we parked our buggies near the wine section (I could have used a toddy about that time) and tallied up our totals.  I wanted to ensure we didn’t spend a penny more than we needed.

I have no idea if anyone passed by us, but what a sight we must have been…the Mr. crunching numbers on the calculator as fast I could call them out to him, me sticking coupons in an envelope as I read them off.

Penny-pinchers to the core, I tell you.

We visited my favorite cashier’s lane, and she smiled when she saw us (LOVE that lady!).  The Mr. stood in line behind me, coupons in hand…ever the obedient spouse.

My total came out to $12 and some change.  I was a little disappointed, but I’m not a math person, so I probably figured wrong.  Yeah, I know.  I even had a calculator, but numbers and AuburnChick do not go together.  Still, I saved over $50.

The Mr.’s total?  $6.06.  His savings was almost $80.

He smiled.

I assured him that in truth, I get the credit for the savings since I pulled the coupons and organized the trip and even put the stuff in his cart.

We’re a bit on the competitive side.

We’re soccer parents.  We play to win.

Total spent in groceries:  $19.03
What we would have spent without the sales and coupons:  $149.96
Percentage saved:  87%

That’s no chump change!

Here’s a picture of what we came home with…

Cheez-Its – $.04 each
Morton Salt – Moneymaker of $.37
Edwards Pies – $.50 each.
Granola Bars – $.75 each
Water – $.24 each
Shout – Moneymaker of $.11.
Scrubbing Bubbles – $.25 each
Windex – $.25 each
Bread – $.33

Oh, and let me show you what I got when I went to a different Publix earlier in the day…

I only spent $1.35 for everything.  I saved $50.40 (97%)!

So, the shopping is over…for this day, anyway.

I’m sure the rumor mill is flying, though, at the thought of AuburnChick and the Mr. shopping with his/her’s carts.

Hmmm…I wonder if the friend noticed the cleaning products in the Mr.’s buggy?

Not only does the family shop separately, but the Mr. does the cleaning!

Welcome to Podunk, USA — home to strange sightings and men who pretend they’re the ones keeping the house clean!

AuburnChick Needs Your Input!

On Monday, I will be teaching a couponing class to a group of ladies I formerly worked with.

They recently caught wind of my shopping adventures, and they want in on the fun!

I am in the process of making an outline of topics that I want to cover.  I am wondering what, besides the basic how-to’s of couponing, to include in my outline.

If you were going to attend a coupon session with me, what are some things you would want to know?

Do you understand what “stacking” is?  Do you know the difference between manufacturer and store coupons?  Are these things I should plan on explaining?

Your input is very important to me and will help me prepare adequately for Monday evening’s shindig.

I look forward to hearing your suggestions!

Random Dozen – Truly Random This Week!

I don’t know about you, but each week, I eagerly await Linda’s list of questions for the Random Dozen meme.  I just love reading others’ responses!

If you choose to play along, make sure you go back to Linda’s blog and link up!  Don’t forget to say hello to some fellow bloggers!

Onward…to this week’s questions!

1. Ever had any run-ins with the “library police?”

Not very many.  I am such a rule-follower.

One main time I remember is when we were moving from Coral Springs to north Florida.

The movers packed Chicky’s room before I could get in there to retrieve a school library book.  When I called the school, the librarian must have been having a bad day, because she was not very nice at all…totally not empathizing that we were leaving everything we had known for the last seven years and moving away.

I found the book a few weeks later and sent it back.  I can only imagine the look on her face when she received it.

2. Do you have a special organizational plan and place for wrapping paper, gift bags, etc., or do you just purchase whatever you need as you give gifts?

I have two wrapping paper containers that fit under the bed.  I typically do not buy paper for special events, except Christmas.  I only buy that kind of paper after the holidays when it’s marked for cheap, cheap, cheap.  I only buy it every few years…when I’m almost out.  For birthdays, we use gift bags, which you can get at the dollar store.

3. Have you ever been in (first-hand witness) a natural disaster?

I have run from hurricanes a few times, toting a glass fish bowl during one trip.  The kids and I have sat through a few hurricanes as well.  The worst one was a Category 3 that didn’t, at first, seem to do much damage.  When we walked outside the next day, the bushes than ran down the side of our house were tilting sideways.  There was a lot of debris in the streets.  It was an interesting experience, let me tell you!

4. What’s your favorite Barry Manilow song?

Copacabana.  I don’t think I know any others!!

5. What’s the best costume you’ve ever worn?

My best costume was the one I wore for a play I was in my junior or senior year of high school.  I was playing the role of a grumpy old lady – no comments from the peanut gallery.

I struggled with getting the nuances of the character…until my teacher, a spry old gal herself, got up in frustration and acted one scene.

Being the tenacious person that I am (even at a young age), and also being a somewhat angst-filled teenager with an attitude, I mimicked her actions…to make fun of her.  That’s when she hollered, “Yes!  That’s it!”

I decided then and there to copy everything about her, including the skirt hiked up to my boobs, old lady shoes, and rolled-down stockings.

Best costume ever!

6. Which do you use more often, the dictionary or the thesaurus?

Dictionary.  I cannot stand not knowing how to pronounce things properly and frequently use one for phonetic spelling!

7. What’s your favorite breakfast food?

I am not a big eater period, much less breakfast, which I skip most days.  I can’t have milk, so cereal is out of the question.  The last couple of days, I’ve eaten an over-easy egg with one piece of toast.  I love dunking my toast in that runny yolk!  YUM!

8. Have you ever purchased anything from an infomercial?

Nope.  I don’t have the patience to even sit through one, much less buy anything from the TV!

9. Have you ever crawled through a window?

Hmmm…never snuck out as a teenager, never snuck out as an adult.  Hmmm…no fires (thank heavens) to escape from.  So, no.  I’ve never crawled through a window.

10. Do you believe in love at first sight?

No.  I think most people mistake lust at first sight for love.  I think love takes time to grow.

11. How man pairs of jeans do you own?

Four or five, but only one pair fits semi-properly.  I really need to get some new jeans!

12. If someone were going to bake a cake to honor/represent you, what would it be? (Think creatively, like Duff and Crew on “Ace of Cakes.”)

Oh man, but I love Ace of Cakes!  For my cake, I envision two children – boy and girl (representing my role as a mom) – pushing a shopping cart (representing my couponing/shopping deals) filled with the following items:

  • An apple – to represent the teaching profession that I am privileged to be a part of
  • A cross – to represent my relationship with God
  • Knitting needles or a skein of yarn – no explanation needed if you read my blog regularly
  • A Chick-fil-A Chicken Biscuit – to represent my determination to win (see this post)
  • A soccer ball – One of the activities that has taken center stage in my family’s life
  • The mirror ball trophy from Dancing With the Stars – The only thing that gets me through Mondays and Tuesdays

Sounds like tall order?  Duff and his crew could do it!

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