Thursday, February 23, 2012

Amaya has Jesus in her Heart!!!

Yesterday was a normal run of the mill day... early morning staff meeting... take Amaya to preschool... pick her up... mac and cheese for lunch... and then Amaya says very matter of factly, "I think I want Jesus in my heart now." I wasn't quite sure what to say... We've fielded a lot of questions about why it's important to pray, read the Bible, learn about God, memorize Scripture, what heaven is like... so I shouldn't have been all that surprised... yet still... I was surprised. I wanted to share this moment with Steve, so I told her we would pray with her at bedtime. Steve had her repeat a short little prayer and she asked Jesus to come into her heart. It was very sweet and tender... Makes me realize how important those little conversations about God really are! The angels are rejoicing in heaven for this sweet little girl!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Day Trip to Mall of America

It's been awhile since we've gotten away, so yesterday we went up to the Cities for a day trip. Our ultimate destination was the Mall of America, but since we were up there, we went to two of my favorite shops - Once Upon a Child, and Half Price Books. I found several new outfits for Amaya - size 5! - and even had a 15% off coupon making my deals even sweeter! And Steve found a Stuart Woods book that he hadn't read yet at the bookstore! There were a bunch of Berenstain Bear books and some Arthur books that Amaya didn't have, but she had her money set aside for other things, so I reluctantly put them back since I couldn't justify buying her more books when her bookshelves are already overflowing.

Afterwards, we went to the Mall of America. It was insanely busy, but considering it was President's Day weekend, we shouldn't have been surprised. Typically, we'll park in the same place so we don't lose our car, but since it was packed, we parked just outside the Nordstrom entrance. Generally, I don't shop at Nordstrom's, but we entered right by the women's shoe department, and I couldn't help but do a little browsing. There's just something I love about fancy shoes, although in reality my feet wouldn't last an hour in anything higher than an inch heel. However, if I had an extra 665 dollars laying around, I would love to own a pair of Jimmy Choos - just to say I owned a pair! Yes, that's right... a simple black heel from Mr. Jimmy was 665 dollars! I cringe paying more than 40 dollars for a pair of shoes (with a coupon of course)... I would have to be delusional to ever consider forking over that kind of money for a shoe that would leave me limping from blisters, but a girl can dream....

Our first order of business... RIDES! Unfortunately, it was so busy that the lines were pretty long. I thought Amaya would get tired of waiting, but she didn't complain once! She went on all of her favorites... the Swiper Sweeper... the train... the "drop-splat" ride... the kiddie roller coaster (just another inch or two and she'll be able to go on the BIG roller coaster)... the Big Rigs... Amaya would rather go on rides than do anything else at the Mall!

We ate dinner at Noodles... gotta love the Wisconsin Macaroni and Cheese! Then, Amaya wanted to pick up some taffy for herself and Grandma Gustafson at the candy store. Amaya's favorite kind of taffy is the frosted cupcake and we think Grandma will like it too! After the candy store, we went to the American Girl store to pick out her Bitty Baby a new outfit. After looking at several different outfits, she decided to buy the sweetheart/Valentine dress. I was a little disappointed that she wasn't as excited about looking at all the different American Girls as I was, but she had RIDES on the brain! Oh, well...

She paid for her candy and her outfit out of her own hard earned money. After taking the Dave Ramsey class, we've decided not to give Amaya an allowance, but have decided instead to give her "commission" for doing jobs around the house. And it makes sense... no one gives us money as an allowance... we work to earn it. There are certain chores that she does because she's part of the family - picking up toys, putting her dirty clothes away, clearing the dishes, setting the table etc. But there are other chores that she can do to earn a quarter - emptying the dishwasher, dusting the dining room table and banisters, putting away the groceries, folding the laundry, etc. She has three separate jars... one for GIVING, one for SAVING, and one for SPENDING. The system works great because she learns that she has to put a little in each jar and she can do whatever she wants with her spending money, but once it's gone - it's gone - no extra money from Mom and Dad.

We had a little time before we had to leave and still had points left on our tickets, so we went on a few more rides... the Diego Bus... the Carousel... AND the LOG RIDE!!! Amaya was a little nervous to go on it - not because the ride looked scary, but because she didn't want to get wet. Silly girl... I explained that we had extra clothes in our bag in case she got soaked. As we went through the mine tunnel, I explained what to expect and she was pretty cool about everything... I think I was probably more nervous trying to figure out how to get her in and out of the log... how to hang on to her and hang on to the bars as we went down the steep drops... and what I was going to do if she did freak out! We got in and out just fine... she LOVED floating along the "river"... she wasn't crazy about Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox... but she LOVED going down the "hills" and all the splashing! Amaya was pretty wet since she wanted to sit in the front and was sitting on my lap, but it wasn't as bad as it could have been. Amaya was so brave and I couldn't be more proud! I can't wait until she gets a little older and taller to go on the other wild rides with me - that is if I can still handle the wild rides!! :-)

It was nearly nine o'clock and all of us were pretty tired... although Amaya said she could go on rides "ALL NIGHT!" However, as soon as we left that parking ramp, Amaya was zonked out... and once we got home, Steve and I slept like a rock. Awesome day!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Bacon Cheeseburger Soup Recipe

Last night I tried a new recipe I had found on Pinterest - (my latest and greatest obsession) and it was AWESOME! Even Steve liked it despite not being a big fan of soup and Amaya gobbled it up! For whatever reason, I simply can't leave a recipe alone... I've always got to tweak it a little and add a few things... and for the most part it's a good thing, and last night was a VERY good thing!!! Someday I'll tweak this to a healthier version, but it is so creamy and cheesy - can't wait for leftovers tonight!!

Here's the recipe - the original came from Taste of Home and was later "pinned" on Pinterest..
**I've kept the original recipe, but the things in bold are my changes.***

1/2 pound ground beef (1 pound ground beef)
(1 pound low sodium bacon)
3/4 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup shredded carrots
3/4 cup diced celery (1/2 cup diced celery)
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
4 tablespoons butter, divided
3 cups chicken broth
4 cups diced peeled potatoes (1-3/4 pounds) (3 cups potatoes... I felt if I added another cup, it would be more like stew than soup)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups (8 ounces) process cheese (Velveeta), cubed (16 ounces of Velveeta)
1-1/2 cups milk
3/4 teaspoon salt (3/4 teaspoon no salt substitute)
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup sour cream (1/2 cup sour cream)

In a 3-qt. saucepan, brown beef and bacon; drain and set aside. In the same saucepan, saute the onion, carrots, celery, basil and parsley in 1 tablespoon butter until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Add the broth, potatoes and beef; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 10-12 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
Meanwhile, in a small skillet, melt remaining butter. Add flour; cook and stir for 3-5 minutes or until bubbly. Add to soup; bring to a boil. Cook and stir for 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Stir in the cheese, milk, salt and pepper; cook and stir until cheese melts. Remove from the heat; blend in sour cream. Yield: 8 servings (2-1/4 quarts).

Monday, February 13, 2012

Well On Our Way

Steve and I would make Dave Ramsey proud... I sold some PTO... earning us an extra 850 dollars and just got notification of my salary increase... since we have another 22 paychecks left for the year... a grand total of 1232 dollars! I cannot thank God enough for my job! Total money saved/earned so far... 2,706.06... Only 9,293.94 left! We're chipping our way through those student loans - slowly but surely. I have a love/hate relationship with Dave Ramsey, but I know in the long run we'll be much better off.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Lace Up Against Breast Cancer

Today two of my co-workers and I braved the frigid weather to support Mayo Clinic Breast Cancer Research and participated in the Lace Up Against Breast Cancer in memory of Michelle. There was a half marathon, a 5K run, and a 2 mile walk with staggered start times. Guess which one we opted for? The 2 mile walk. Several of Michelle's friends and family participated as well and it was wonderful to share memories and comfort each other.

It was about 11 degrees out with a little wind, but the sunshine and exercise warmed us up. If I continue to participate in any more charity walks this winter, I may need to invest in a fleece mask to keep my face warm!

As we finished the walk, we encouraged the remainder of the 5K runners - most finished before us. We were very surprised when a half marathon runner finished in an impressive 1 hour and 17 minutes! A little under a 6 minute mile!

We had the opportunity to walk beside both cancer survivors and families who had lost grandmas, mothers, aunts, sisters, and daughters. Their stories remind me that each day is precious - each day is a gift from God - each day should lived by to the fullest.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Amaya's 4th Birthday - Part 1

Friday, January 20th - the Birthday Girl turns 4 years old!! First things first... she wants to open presents right away!

Amaya LOVES clothes and since she's growing in leaps and bounds, she really needed new clothes. Here she is in her new outfit!

Opening a few more presents.

Amaya's really been wanting to learn how to read. She'll ask what different letters sound like, try to spell and sound words out on her own, and "pretends" to read. So, we bought her the Tag Leap Frog Learning to Read system. (I would highly recommend using this - she loves it!)

Then, Great-Grandma and Great-Grandpa invited us over to their house for Amaya to open their birthday present since they were going to be unable to come to her party.

Great-Grandma made her this clown doll.

After leaving their house, we picked up her favorite lunch - McDonald's!

Steve had to work later that afternoon and into the evening, so Amaya and I planned to attend the Kingdom Kids Preschool - Beach Blast with Grandma and Grandpa Gustafson!

We enjoyed a meal provided by Bob's Smoke Stack Ribs, and had free popcorn, and free sno-cones.

Each room had a different activity planned... in the Gym there were two bouncy houses set up. What kid doesn't like to bounce around? This was Amaya's favorite activity of the evening.

Bob the Beachcomber was in the sanctuary and sang some oldies music. My mom enjoyed it... Amaya thought it was okay once he got warmed up ... not sure if it was my Dad's cup of tea... and I was just embarrassed for the poor guy... (I hope that the Beachcomber thing isn't his day job!)

After the show... we stopped by each room to do a different activity... Here, Amaya is collecting as many "Coconuts" as she can.

We also learned how to hula. Amaya was a little shy to go up front to learn by the instructor (a middle-schooler volunteering her time as a service project), so I went up front with her. There are NO pictures of the hula lessons. I wouldn't want to scare anyone! :-)

Here, Amaya is fishing... more middle schoolers behind the back drop putting fish on her line!

One of my favorite stations... dressing up! Isn't she a Hawaiian beauty?!?

It was a wonderful evening - especially with Grandma and Grandpa there. Amaya thought the whole Beach Blast party was for her birthday - how sweet... I continue to be impressed with the loving staff at Kingdom Kids Preschool. What a special way to celebrate her birthday. Part 2 coming soon with pictures from her big party!

Great-Grandma's 93rd Birthday

Tonight we're celebrating Great-Grandma's 93rd birthday! We are invited over to their house along with Steve's parents, Aunt Janet, Uncle Ron and Dianne, and maybe some of Steve's cousins (we hope!) We always have such a good time together and I love a house full of family! We're are incredibly blessed to have Great-Grandma and Great-Grandpa in our lives. How many people make it into their NINETIES? When we first started dating, we hoped and prayed that they would both still be living to see us get married. Then, when we were expecting Amaya, we hoped and prayed some more that they would be able to meet her. Now we hope and pray that we cherish each and every day we have with them and for Amaya to remember her special relationship with them.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Roller Coaster Weekend

On Thursday evening, my co-worker passed away after fighting a 12 year battle against cancer. Her health had deteriorated over the past few months and she knew after Christmas that she didn't have much time left. Taking the advice of her oncologist, she started hospice care at home on Monday. That was the last time most of my co-workers and I saw her... Words cannot begin to express how much she meant to me... She was one of my preceptors when I started in the allergy department and one of the first things she said to me was, "I have cancer, but please don't treat me like I have cancer." She was a fighter... she was stubborn... and she wasn't going to give up. Her will and her determination are to be desired...

On Saturday, our family participated in the Frozen Goose 5K run/walk supporting Mayo Clinic research for childhood cancer and Brighter Tomorrows. We celebrated our nephew, Ben's victory against leukemia. I wish every cancer story had a happy ending. Mike and Arwen are very involved with Brighter Tomorrows and it was fun to support them and celebrate Ben's healing, especially in light of the previous events.

Later that evening, we celebrated Cooper's 4th birthday! I still have a hard time imagining that 4 years ago, we graduated from prenatal classes together and entered parenthood. In the midst of temper tantrums, time-outs, and disobedience... I'll take each and every day with a heart of gratitude and thankfulness to our Lord and Savior for blessing us with Amaya. And I'm so thankful to God for planting Steve and Jen in our life and for the friendship we share.

Over the past several days, I've been fervently praying for a member of our church, who is also battling with cancer. I have had the privilege of being in a few Bible Studies with her and she is a living testimony of God's faithfulness. She has been instrumental in the development of my faith and has been a constant prayer warrior, supporter, and encourager especially while Steve was sick. This week has been a very difficult week for her physicially and emotionally as they have switched gears and are now looking at hospice care at home.

Today was my co-worker's visitation... the funeral is tomorrow... My heart grieves for those that don't know Jesus... Where is the hope? This weekend, my emotions have been all over the place and I can only relate it as to being on a roller coaster. Lots of ups... lots of downs.... While I don't always understand God's purpose and I really don't understand cancer.... I'm just along for the ride and trusting that God is good and that He has a bigger plan.

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God to them who are the called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28