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As a single mom, I look to save money in every area. I buy items I REALLY want on eBay for a lot less than I would pay in the store. Items like Mary Kay, Hanna Andersson outfits I want for Grace, CD’s, etc.

I also shop clearance racks a lot, I’m always amazed at what I can find on Clearance at Target and Gymboree. I was able to get some of Grace’s school uniform shirts on the clearance rack at GYMBOREE for $3.21! You just can’t beat that.

My other favorite place to save money is at the thrift store. I am always amazed at what I find there. Grace and I call it “treasure hunting” I’ve found her American Girl dolls, Hanna Andersson outfits (that look like new) recently, I found for myself a pair of Born Sandals and a pair of Uggs. Seriously, they were like $7.99 each, and both looked like new. I also found several pairs of capris for myself for this summer (last years are way too big…YEA!!!!) You just never know what you’re going to find at a thrift store. I have way too much fun in them.

Another place I go to save money is a liquidation outlet in our area. This place has food, clothes, toys, household items…..you name it. Most of it is name brand and is very inexpensive. I got myself some Calvin Klein summer tops the other day for $8.99. They are super comfy and I love them, especially for $8.99.

I try to stock up on things we need in the future when they’re on sale now. I have a rubbermaid bins in the garage that have all of Grace’s winter clothes for next winter already and dress and tennis shoes for her in the next 3 sizes she’ll need. All of them are items that I’ve found on clearance dirt cheap or are items that look almost new that I found at thrift stores.

Plus, I love putting clothes in her closet at season change, looking at the tags and saying to myself, I still can’t believe I only paid $3.99 for those shoes!

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Everyone wants to be a good parent, right?  But how many really think they are?  How many single parents really think they’re doing a good job at parenting?

I’m always looking for ways to be a better mom to Grace.  Twice in the last few weeks I’ve heard “Beth, you’re such a great mom.” from friends of mine.  When I hear that, my brain kinda goes “huh?” Don’t get me wrong,  It’s not that I think I’m a bad parent, but do I think I’m a really good parent?

I always feel guilty that I don’t have as much time to spend with Grace as I’d like to.  I feel guilty because I don’t do as many activities with her as I’d like to.  Here are some of the things we do together:

*Walk the dog.  I really like this one because not only do we get to spend time together, but I get in some much needed exercise.

*Go to lunch together.  This is so much fun.  Grace picks the place and we have a great time just eating lunch together.

*Play games.  She loves activity books and games.  Last week at dinner, I got out some addition flash cards and told her it was a “mystery game” and that we had to use the clues to figure out the answers.  We used a box of colored pencils to help us with the clues.  So if the card said 8+3, she counted out 8 colored pencils and then counted out 3 more and then counted all of them together.  She LOVED this “game”

*Bake together.  Grace is an EXPERT egg cracker.  Whenever we make something, she gets to crack the eggs.  She loves stirring and pouring things in, plus it’s just tons of fun to bake together.

*Watch a movie.  I’m not a big TV person, but once in awhile, Grace and I will get ready for bed and snuggle up to watch a movie before going to sleep.  She loves it when I’m doing nothing else but rubbing her back and paying attention to her.

Good parenting isn’t just the things you do together, but it’s also how you handle situations the require discipline.

I have to tell you that this stage is the best one yet.  I didn’t think I’d make it through the twos.  The threes were rough, but MUCH better than the twos.  The fours are just so much fun.  I’m finding that with each stage, I have less discipline to take care of.  I think it’s because I had to do SO much work during the twos stage, it’s starting to pay off.

I think one of the biggest things were working on right now is her attitude.  Grace can get a bad attitude in a split second.  I told her yesterday that she had to the count of three to change her attitude or she’d have to go to her room…..amazing, the attitude changed.

A few months ago, her room was becoming unbearable.  I was cleaning it at least three times a day.  I know she’s still little, but I told her that she had to start keeping her room clean, so we made a “clean room chart”  that had the days of the week on it and a spot for a sticker by each day.  I told her that if her room was clean at night before she went to bed, she’d get a sticker for the day and then once she had 7 stickers, I’d take her to Kid’s Fun Center.  (It’s a kids dream come true.  Lots of slides, trampolines, ball pits, climbing stuff.  Basically an indoor playland.)   Well guess what?  The girl who couldn’t keep her room clean had it cleaned up every night for 7 nights THE FIRST WEEK we used the chart!!!!  She still keeps it much cleaner than it was before we implemented the chart.  Now instead of cleaning it 3-4 times a day, I only have to do a once a week clean up in there to really straighten everything up.  Other than that, she keeps it clean 🙂

The other thing I’m working on diligently this year is not yelling.  I began to see that yelling is a vicious cycle.  You child pushes you until you yell at them, then they react.  Pretty soon, they only act when you yell at them, and beside that, it’s just not worth it to get all riled up and get your child upset too.  So, I’m trying very hard to be patient, take a deep breath, and make things fun instead of a battle.  The other day, she was really, really pushing me.  I asked her to do something and she was being very sassy.  I asked her again and again, she was sassy.  I looked at her and said in a calm voice “Grace, you are making mommy very angry right now.  I’ve asked you to put your jacket away. You’re not doing it and you’re being sassy about it.  I’m about to yell at you and I don’t want to, so please go put your jacket away.”  She just looked at me and said “oh, ok Mama, I’ll go do it.”  And she did!  It made me very happy that I maintained my calm, and that she didn’t want to make me angry, didn’t want me to yell, so she obeyed.  Those moments are priceless.

Parenting to me is a constant analyzing process.  I’m constantly analyzing her behavior.  What is it that we need to work on?  I don’t expect her to be perfect or to work on it all at one time, but I also know my child isn’t a complete angel.  She has areas that she needs to work on.  I also analyze how to work on her behavior.  What worked or didn’t work in the past?  What can we do differently so that I’m not using the same methods over and over?  Grace loves rewards.  Whether it’s a day at Kid’s Fun Center, a dollar, picking where we get to eat lunch, choosing an inexpensive item when we go to the store, she just loves rewards.

Honestly, I see her behavior improve the most when I take time out of my schedule and we spend time together.  I think that sometimes she gets sassy or acts up because what she really wants is my attention, she wants to spend time together.

I also pray and ask God to show me how to be a better parent.  I ask Him for wisdom, ideas, solutions.  He is the Master when it comes to parenting, who better is there to ask for parenting advice from?

So, if your child pushes you to the limit, or acts up…..don’t worry, you’re not alone.  Being a single parent is tough stuff, but with a little creativity, analyzing, prayer, and patience, you can do it.

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OK, I’m going to tell you something about me that I have never liked.

I have dark circles under my eyes.

I can’t stand them.  They’re hereditary, so they’re VERY difficult to get rid of and once I feel like I have them under control, they pop back up again at a moment’s notice.

I’ve tried everything.  I’ve tried putting cold cucumber slices on my eyes, I’ve tried those cold packs you put in the freezer and put on your eyes.  I’ve tried getting more sleep (good luck on that one 🙂  I’ve tried concealers, foundations, powders, anything I can think of.

The best thing so far is just making sure I get enough sleep, but the problem is that if I don’t get enough sleep just ONE night, there they are again and it takes days, even weeks to get them back under control.

I’ve finally resorted to trying a cream.  It’s from AVON.  I decided to try it when I saw it in the catalog because I’ve found a few really good products that work exactly like they’re supposed to from AVON, so I went ahead and ordered it.  It’s called ANEW Reversalist Illuminating Eye System.  It’s supposed to clear up dark circles in 3 weeks.

I’ve been using it for 4 days, and I really see a difference, so I’m hoping this will be another great product from AVON for me.  I’m so glad because having dark circles under my eyes is embarrassing.  I feel like it makes me look like I have sleeping problems or I’m too stressed out when I have them.  Neither of those are true, but I don’t want people looking at me thinking “that poor single mom, look at the dark circles under her eyes.”  I’ll let you know if this product is a winner in my book.

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It has been quite a stormy few weeks around here……..let’s see…..my PC picked up 16 viruses and Windows wouldn’t even let it start up.

My car was run into and the driver’s side mirror was broken.  (Luckily the young man was HONEST and left me a note with his name and number and his insurance paid 100%!)

I have piano students coming out of my ears….well, maybe it just seems like it after 38 lessons every week…….

I almost ran over a ladder in the middle of the highway going 70 MPH  (and yes, that was the speed limit 🙂

In the middle of all of the stress, inconvenience, and being shook up about nearly totaling my car if I hadn’t been able to swerve around the ladder (Grace was with me, which scared me even more)  I still have peace.

Peace comes from knowing that God is in control.  I have no control over ladders in the middle of the highway (which I believe fell out of a state department of transportation vehicle that was working just up the highway….anyway……) but God has control over the traffic and allowed the lane next to me to be clear so I could quickly avoid the ladder.  He’s also in control of giving me complete peace, good judgment and decision making skills right in the split second I needed them.

I have no control over people hitting my car when it’s parked in my driveway, but God has control over the situation and worked out all of the details.  It turned into a blessing because I was able to borrow a car for free all week while mine was in the shop.  The repair was paid for 100% AND they totally detailed my car inside and out for me!!!!! (that was a VERY nice surprise.)

Even though the past couple of weeks have been inconvenient and I’ve had to spend time dropping my computer off, taking them my software, picking it up, dropping my car off, picking it up and have added more students to my schedule, God gives me peace.  I don’t worry about the details because I CAN’T control them no matter how hard I try.  I can only trust the One who does.

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I know it’s been awhile since I blogged regularly…….it’s the last thing on my mind during the holidays, but I thought I’d give you an update on my progress with losing weight in 2009.

I started at Thanksgiving of 2008 with managing my food intake. For me, that meant smaller portions, drinking water, not sodas, no french fries, grilled chicken instead of crispy chicken and cutting back on snacks, sweets, etc.

I started taking green tea pills as an antioxidant, they really seemed to help with weight loss.

I struggle with exercising consistently and I don’t like to go to the gym to work out, so I tell myself that a little bit of exercise is better than none. In the summer, we went for walks a couple times a week and did some swimming, even though it was just once in awhile, I could tell that I lost more weight the weeks we went for walks than I did when we didn’t get any exercise in. I also count mowing the lawn as exercise…..that counts…..right ? 🙂

My other approach was to work on my weight goals 5lbs at a time. I didn’t work on the total number I needed to lose, just the next 5 lb goal. I was on the scale 3 or 4 mornings a week monitoring my progress to the next goal and cheering myself on!

The grand total lost in 2009 was 35 lbs! It felt so good to see the numbers on the scale drop and to drop to clothing sizes…..but it was a daily process and little bits of progress here and there.

My goal for 2010 is 20 lbs (5 lbs at a time of course) and then I’ll be where I need to be.

Those of you who are working on weight loss……you can do it! Find what works for you, and work on it little by little.

You know what they say….”Slow and steady wins the race.”

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I wish my voice was as beautiful as Susan Boyle’s.

I wish I knew as much about the Bible as my friend Loren.

I wish I was as beautiful as my friend Carissa.

I wish I was as skinny as my sister in law.

I wish I was 5′ 7″

I wish my hair turned out good everyday.

I wish I could play the piano as good as several of my piano playing friends do.

I wish I could sing tenor like my friend Donna does.

I wish I always had the right words to say like my friend Patty does.

I wish I was as patient with Grace as my friend Star is with her 5 children.

But I am not any of those things, nor can I ever make myself be like anyone else.

I am Beth.  I have the voice that God gave me.  I am as tall as God made me.  I am as thin as I can be at this point in my life.  I don’t always have time to make my hair perfect in the morning.  I look exactly the way God intended me to look.  Things don’t always come out of my mouth the way I intend them to.  I am human, sometimes I yell at my child.  I work as hard as I can to take care of my little family, and sometimes that means I have dark circles under my eyes and my hair is thrown up in a pony tail.  I don’t have as much time to practice on the piano as I’d like to.  I am Beth.  I have to live my life, not Patty’s, Lorens, Carissa’s,  or any other of my friends’ lives. 

I cannot spend time or energy trying to be like someone else.  I can admire the gifts and the talents God gave them, but I can’t beat myself up because my voice isn’t like someone else’s, my hair isn’t like someone else’s, or I’m not as thin as someone else.  I have to be who God made me to be.  I have to use the talents that God gave me……I can work to improve them, but I can’t try to be like someone else.

I’ve found that when I listen to someone sing and think “I wish I could sing like they do.” or I look at someone I know and think “I wish my hair always looked as nice as their’s does.” I start beating myself up………every day that week I look at myself and think I’m having a bad hair day.  Everytime I sing during music practice, I cringe when I hear my voice comes out, I look in the mirror and think about how much more wieght that needs to come off (15 lbs).

Satan has a way of distracting us, making us our own worst enemy.  Giving us thoughts that we’re not good enough to serve God, not thin enough or pretty enough to find someone to marry, that we’re not good parents to our children, and on and on.  He will find ANYTHING he can to distract us and mess with our thoughts.

Paul said it best:

“For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.”
II Corinthians 10:12

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It seems like summer has just started and now, it’s already the end of July…..Here’s what we’ve done this summer:

  • Took a much needed 2 week vacation to see my family 🙂
  • I arranged my work schedule so that I only teach 2 days a week (I really like this arrangement….too bad school starts again at the end of August 😦 )
  • Grace had her annual check up and dentist appointments (Dr’s visit went good….dentist, not so good.  She has 2 cavities.)
  • Went to a water park
  • Went to an amusement park
  • Touched the paint up on my car (for only $5.97!)
  • Painted our front door
  • Went to the Children’s Museum
  • Visited an indoor playground in our town…….lots of things to climb on, trampolines and slides.  (Grace can’t wait to go back)
  • Had a cookout for the 4th of July and watched fireworks.
  • Grace went to her first sleep over at a friend’s house and hosted her first sleep over at our house. (she’s growing up WAY too fast.)
  • Made cinnamon rolls with cream cheese frosting (I’d never made either one before…….it’s so easy, I can’t believe I never tried to make them before.)
  • Grace planted seeds and is busy watching them grow.
  • Swimming (only once in awhile because Grace says “It’s too hot to go swimming.”)
  • Going on walks in our neighborhood.

I love being able to go outside and get fresh air and not have to be couped up in the house 🙂

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