Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Thrifty Tuesday Tip: Coupon Chief

Do you coupon?  I have to admit there was a time when I was a pretty good couponer and regularly devoted time to collecting and organizing my coupons and USING them.  Since we moved here a year and a half ago I have pretty much stopped.  Some of that has come from our local newspaper doesn’t have the hoards of coupons that our previous one did; also my shopping style has changed a lot.  I do a lot more shopping online, which is why I was very interested when I was contacted by Coupon Chief  and asked to check out their site. 

Most of the coupons I do use these days are from online sources. The Coupon Chief  site has codes for thousands of online retailers…even ones I had no idea had coupons!  One really neat thing about this site is that members comment, rate and validate coupons.  I can see this being a huge time saver as I tend to find deals that don’t work online which is a total time waster.

Also, Coupon Chief offers members users a way to make some money by sharing the great deals they find in their Pay to Share Program. It is hard to find every coupon/deal out there so members are invited to contribute and get paid for it!  The Coupon Chief offers 2% revenue earned made with any coupon you submit.

It works like this:

I hope some of you great, savvy online frugalistas can reap the benefits of all the great deals you find by sharing them with Coupon Chief!!!!  I know I really appreciate saving any where I can.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Update on my Little Man

Yesterday we finally got to see a Pediatric Neurologist at MUSC.  They also ran a short EEG.  Fortunately, that EEG showed nothing irregular! The Dr. ordered a longer 72 hour EEG.  I should hear from them sometime next week for scheduling of that test.  DS2 will be able to do it from home rather than stay in the hospital which is GREAT!
What I do know from the results of all the tests DS2 has had is… he is healthy as a horse; for that I am so thankful.    So, we have no definitive diagnosis on what caused the seizures.  I am so relieved that we have found nothing wrong with my sweet little man, but also find it unsettling not to have some concrete reason why. 
Why are we so much more comfortable with black and white answers?  I want something that says 2+2=4, not a “we may never know why this happened.”  BUT, that is where faith comes in.  I believe God has His hand on this child of mine.  He is feeling great today and I am going to stand on that!
If you need to catch up on what started this journey
check in out HERE

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

More from St. Helana Island, SC

After we left the State Park we headed over to the other side of the island to see the Chapel of Ease constructed in the 1740s ....
The Chapel of Ease was constructed so that the Planters that lived too far from the "city" churches could worship closer to home.  What remains is an example of a construction method  called tabby which creates a concrete out of lime, sand and oyster shells. It was, during it's hey day, called the White Church because of the white color brought by all those shells.
It is really amazing to see these ruins and think of all the families that passed through the doors when it was still a place of worship.  It was abandoned by the white planters in 1861 just prior to Northern invasion when they left the area. Afterwards it is said to have been used by Union forces and later freed slaves before it met its destruction in a massive forest fire in 1886.
 It is a beautiful and mysterious place and the cemetery is still somewhat intact, although most of the graves have become almost indistinguishable.  There is also an open mausoleum, which is a bit unsettling to take a peek into!
One plot in the cemetery contains the graves of several children, the oldest being 7, from a single family. The children all died within days of one another in 1839.  I can't help but wonder what kind of illness swept through and envision the heart broken parents standing in that cemetery.
Of course, a place like this can't help but have all kinds of legends and stories connected to it.  This a great video that shows you more Chapel of Ease, St. Helena Island, SC or this web page for more details on the haunting stories The ghost of St. Helena's Chapel of Ease and Land's End Light
 After visiting the Chapel of Ease we headed on to Fort Fremont at the end of the Island.  It was quite an impressive, albeit creepy, structure built in built in 1899. "It  was one of six fortifications designed to protect the southeastern coast during the Spanish American War. The original Fort site had 170 acres and was manned by a force of 110 personal. The main weapon systems consisted of Battery Jesup which had three 10-inch breech-loaded disappearing cannons and Battery Fornance which had two 4.7-inch rapid fire guns." ~Fort Fremont History
Fort Fremont was deactivated as a military installation in the early 1920s.  It was sold into private hands in the 1930s and fell to the undergrowth and thick St. Helena's Island vegetation and to vandals.  Currently it is owned by Beaufort County and is it is open to the public. It is a massive structure  and completely open to explore, although I would encourage you to bring flash lights as most of the rooms are underground and very dark (thus creepy). 
From the coastal side you couldn't even tell the Fort was there as it is hidden by the bluff.  Amazingly it rests on the shores of the most beautiful and quiet beach.  The park currently has has 900 feet of beach frontage on Port Royal Sound.  We were just stunned at how pristine and lovely this beach was.  It was a hidden gem. You can find more information about the Fort at this link Fort Fremont.
I hope you enjoyed coming along and seeing what fun
we had on St. Helena Island!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Weekend Road Trip: St. Helena Island, SC

This past Sunday we decided we had gotten a full 3 weeks into 2012 so a ROAD TRIP was in order.  I do believe we have a bit of gypsy in our bones and we catch wander lust from time to time.  This trip was inspired by a show we saw (about 3 weeks ago...hmmm?) about St. Helena Island, South Carolina and the wonderful Gullah Culture that is rooted there along with a unique style of art and food.

I did mention food, right????
 Our first stop was for sustenance
because you can't explore on an empty stomach. 
We found our way to Gullah Grub.
 It was a  real treat! Chef/Owner Chef Bill Green
has been cooking for nearly a half century
and has been featured on Martha Stewart Living and
Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations.
 Inside the restaurant is filled with great Gullah art and artifacts...
including the snarling gentleman in the corner.

 We all came away full after stuffing ourselves with sampling yummies like Shrimp & Grits, Shrimp Gumbo, BBQ, red rice, lima beans, cornbread and the best collard greens I think I have ever tasted.
After getting nourishment for our journey we headed over to Hunting Island State Park to visit the lighthouse.  The Hunting Island historic lighthouse is the only lighthouse open to the public to climb in the state.  It was tall.....
 Did I mention the plan was to climb to the top?
 up....up....10 stories, as the stairs got narrower
 and narrower with each story
 The view from the top.
See that dot on the ground?  That would be me...yep, I chickened out about 3 stories up.  I had to go back down.  I didn't realized that I apparently have a thing about heights, or maybe small steps???  But don't I look just tiny in this photo?

Check back for my next post continuing all the fun things we saw while visiting Gullah Gullah Island (do any of you remember that show?)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A Wow Mommy Moment

You know those Mom Days when you really think boarding school sounds really good?  I had one of those yesterday with my oldest DS.  He got in trouble because he let his grades slip…which on my radar is a pretty high offense.  This is a song and dance I have done regularly with this child as he isn’t crazy about the whole book learning part of school (the social scene is a totally different thing, trust me he is really good at that…)  So yesterday I pulled out the big guns and laid down some pretty hefty consequences that I intend to stand behind.  He got mad…heck, if I were 15.... I would have gotten mad too. 

But this afternoon, after he did his homework, he came into my office and said the words that almost took my breath away.  He said, “Thanks for caring.”  Of course, I was stunned and ask about what and then he said, “About my school and all.”

Wow, just wow……

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Chewy Chocolate Cookies & Cream Cookies!

This past weekend I baked Jaclyn @ Cooking Classy's Chocolate Cookies & Cream cookies.  I had planned to try these before Christmas but didn't manage to get around to it.  Though I did try 2 other cookie recipes from Jaclyn (Peppermint Brownie Cookies & Marshmellow Brownie Cookies) and they were both devine! 
So, I have to fess up, these aren't for those trying to cut calories but they are soooo good (I am channeling Mr. Food here, folks!)  My DH, who is a professed chocoholic, fell just a little bit more in love with me after he had these....seriously girls, they put a spark in his eye!

Chocolate Cookies & Cream Cookies

1 (18.3 oz) pkg brownie mix 
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 Tbsp packed light-brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs
2 Tbsp milk
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 recipe vanilla cream frosting, recipe follows
12 Oreos, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a cookie sheet  with non stick spray and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together brownie mix, flour, brown sugar and salt. Add in eggs and milk and stir with a large spoon. Add in melted butter and vanilla and stir until well blended. Spoon dough by heaping tablespoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet (you can fit 12 per sheet). Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before frosting. Once cool, frost each cookie and sprinkle with chopped Oreos.

Vanilla Cream Frosting

4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
6 Tbsp heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 salt

In a large mixing bowl, with an electric mixer, whip together sugar, butter and cream until fluffy. Stir in vanilla and salt, blend well.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Word of the Year...Intentional

2012 rolled into our lives when things were a bit (understatement) chaotic and for the first time in a long time I didn't even consider resolutions or goals or even spend much time looking back on 2011, which has always been my way.  So, when I came across Layla's @ The Lettered Cottage Word of the Year Linky Party it got me thinking.  Not new thoughts but thoughts that have been rolling through my head continually since we almost lost our precious youngest son on December 27, 2011.  The word that seems best to sum up what I am thinking and feeling is Intentional. 

Intentional is defined as: Done on purpose; deliberate. 
Synonyms are: deliberate - wilful - willful - purposeful - intended

I have always tried to be an intentional person; someone who pays attention and doesn't miss the details. But somewhere along the line I have become distracted and realize that I have become someone who does miss the details and doesn't see and appreciate the small stuff.  Sometime, some how...I just stopped focusing on what is really important. I stopped seeing the beauty in each moment.  Maybe I just got too busy, maybe I just go too lazy, either way...my desire, my prayer, my goal for 2012 is to live more intentionally.

I want to live on purpose, I want to be deliberate in my relationships.  I want to be willful in showing love. I want to be purposeful in my prayers, actions and even in my quiet moments. 

Do you have a Word of the Year?

The Lettered Cottage

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Walgreens and Pharmacy Choice!

This post brought to you by Walgreens. All opinions are 100% mine.

Have you been effected by the recent changes created by pharmacy insurance plans managed by Express Scripts?  I am talking about the recent inability of Express Scripts to come to an agreement with nationwide chain Walgreens, which means as of January 1, 2012 countless Walgreens pharmacy customers can no longer choose to have their prescriptions filled there if they want to have them covered by their insurance benefits. 

We become aware of the impending change many months ago as Walgreens began to inform us though letters and flyers that this change was on the horizon as Express Scripts became more and more difficult to negotiate with.   Walgreens says during negotiations that it didn’t ask for rate increases and offered to hold rates steady for commercial plans but Express Scripts rejected the offer.  Unfortunately, Express Scripts doesn’t just effect the commercial insured it also heavily influences the pharmacy choices of our military and military families. Walgreens went a step further in trying to negotiate on the military package.   Walgreens stated in a press release, Walgreens and Express Scripts  that it “Offered to negotiate the Tricare renewal separately from Express Scripts’ commercial business in order to continue to provide Walgreens services on an uninterrupted basis to all active and retired military personnel. Offered to lower Tricare reimbursement rates across the board resulting in double-digit million dollar savings to the U.S. military and taxpayers over the next few years; and provided an ironclad guarantee that Walgreens prices would match or beat the average costs per adjusted prescription of all other retail pharmacies in the Tricare network. Those costs would be compared on an apples-to-apples basis and verified by an objective third party each quarter. Walgreens also committed to reimbursing Tricare for any overage following the end of each quarterly review. ”

 We are Walgreens customers and prior to January 1, 2012 our insurance pharmacy coverage was with Express Scripts.  Fortunately, for us, my husband’s company chose to change pharmacy providers at the end of 2011 so we can continue to use Walgreens.  Walgreens is our pharmacy because they are convenient to our home, work and school, not to mention they have a 24 hour pharmacy and with children it seems we have used it more times than we could have ever imagined. We also have a daughter who goes to school out of state and her local Walgreens has made it easy to keep her medications filled and transferred as needed.    Sadly, many satisfied Walgreens customers no longer have this freedom to choose what works best for their family thanks to Express Scripts.

One help for those families affected by this change is a special discount on annual membership for the Prescription Savings Club at Walgreens.  For a $10 per year membership, everyone in your immediate family is covered, including a spouse, dependents 22 and younger and pets. Individuals may join for $5. Join and receive discount prices on your prescriptions. Other benefits include: Savings on more than 8,000 brand-name and all generic medications, discounts on flu shots, pet prescriptions, nebulizer and diabetic supplies and bonuses when you purchase Walgreens brand products and photo finishing services!  Show your support for Walgreens by following  Walgreens on Twitter  liking Walgreens on Facebook

Visit Sponsor's Site

Saturday, January 14, 2012

I must have spoken too soon!

Source: google.com via Katy on Pinterest

Yes, almost as soon as I posted yesterday about how well DS2 was doing I got a call from the school.  He was dizzy, with blurred vision, severe headache and shaking.  Of course, I was at the school in about 5 minutes flat. Fortunately, this was nothing like the previous episode as he was aware and responding all throughout and had no breathing issues.  I called our Dr. and was told to take him to the Emergency Room.  So, off we went for an unexpected Friday Afternoon Adventure (not one I would really recommend.)

By the time our Dr. was able to get to the ER to meet us, DS2 was feeling better and all tests looked fine. There is no definative way to know what was going one with DS2 during the actual episode, and it is possible it was a partial seizure but the Dr. is not sure. They are hesitant to give him anything medicine wise right now for fear it might mask what ever perplexing problem we are dealing with.  So, the positive to come out of it...apparently we will be getting a much quicker appointment with the specialist now.  The saga continues....

Friday, January 13, 2012

MRI and an Update

My sweet boy is doing well. No more scares! We had an MRI yesterday and have an appointment scheduled (of course not as soon as I would like!) with a pediatric neurologist in Charleston at MUSC (Medical University of South Carolina for those of you not from my neck of the woods!) The only on going issue DS2 is having is regular headaches but otherwise he is 100%.  Of course, I am watching him like a hawk and very protective of his tiredness level.
Our Dr. here is keeping a close eye on him until we get to see the neurologist and was able to review the MRI yesterday as well. He called me immediately to let me know there was no sign of a mass or ...tumor which is such a HUGE relief. Hopefully we will know more in a few weeks after we see the specialist at MUSC.

Praising God and praying this was a one time incident with no repeat! Thank you for all the prayers and support we have received, I don't know how I would have made it through the last couple of weeks without it.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Monday Musings

Just a quick update from our house; my youngest son is doing well. He is back in school and seemingly back in the groove and full of energy.   We are waiting on the appointment with the Pediatric Neurologist.  My daughter is home for a couple of days and last night all 3 of my children were in rare form and this house was filled with laughter and joy.  For that I am more thankful than I can express. 

Somehow though, we seem to be in the cross hairs of something because a couple of (non related to my youngest son) issues have arisen that have me shaking my head and wondering, "what else?" Yes...mostly I seem to be asking God, "What else?"  I feel like a little kid most of the time when I come to God in prayer these days.  I probably sound like a spoiled child to Him for the most part, I am sure.  "What else, God?"  But, I will still go before Him, knowing He is there and loving me.  I am thankful that even in my most drained, tired, angry, fearful moments He is there.

This morning, after I dropped my boys off at school, I heard this quote on the radio and it felt like balm for my emotions:

"The enemy wouldn't be attacking you if something valuable wasn't inside of you!
Thieves don't break into empty houses!
You've got purpose!"
~author unknown

Friday, January 6, 2012

Happy Birthday!

Yesterday was a big day around here! It started off bright and early at the DMV.  You see my oldest son (DS1) had one of those milestone birthdays that opens up a whole new world for him... and us (yep...us.)  He is now the proud owner of a Beginner Drivers Permit.  Boy...it just seems like yesterday he was cruising around the yard in his Power Wheels jeep.  If we could only figure out a way to keep him in the yard now....

This birthday feels pretty special to me in a unique way, because this brave young man saved his little brother's life last week.  I am not sure that is something a lot of 15 year olds have experienced, but he has.  Last night when we went out for a special Birthday dinner celebration I couldn't help but be extra thankful for the wonderful faces around that table. 

Happy Birthday to my sweet boy! I am so honored and proud to be his Mom.  

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A Good Report from the Cardiologist!!!

We just left the Pediatric Cardiologist and he says the tests indicate nothing heart related as far as he sees.  He ran more tests and nothing was abnormal. We even got to see a sonogram of DS2's heart and he thought that was pretty cool.  It showed no abnormalities or damage. We will be using an "event monitor" over the next month to check as needed but fortunately, the one thing that the original EKG indicated is not present and that is a HUGE blessing. The Dr. also lifted the "no physical activity" order which is music a little boy's ears! 
Although this doesn't give us any answers as to why we almost lost our sweet boy, it at least rules out some of the things we were fearing.  And no matter what, God is good...all the time! 

Next we will be seeing a Pediatric Neurologist and I will keep you posted.  Thank you so much for all your kind words, comments and prayers.  It has been so comforting to hear from friends (even those I have never met) during this time.  

Monday, January 2, 2012

2011, Ending in Prayer (Part 3)

For background please read here for Part 1 and Part 2 of this journey.
At the hospital, my little guy was responding well and the pediatrician diagnosed him with having experience fainting and an extended seizure.  It is called extended because it lasted for more than 5 minutes, which is not normal.  He was talking, walking and physically seemed to have no lasting issues.  An EKG was performed and the pediatrician mentioned some irregularities but it needed to be looked at by a cardiologist.  My little man was tired and drifted in and out of sleep, which is apparently normal after a seizure experience.  We were told this could happen again or it might not…there isn’t a sure way to know.  They released us with some emergency meds to administer in case of another extended seizure and told us to follow up with his Doctor at home (an appointment I made from the emergency room!) 
We left GA early on Wednesday (the 28th) for home and on our way home we got a call from the hospital telling us that the cardiologist had looked at his EKG and needed us to follow up with our DR. ASAP.  The hospital called and faxed our Dr. the information and EKG results so they would be waiting for us at our appointment the next day.  When we reported to our Dr. the next morning he had already gone over our results sent from the hospital and felt we needed to see a Pediatric Cardiologist.  He also performed an EKG in his office just for comparison.  We are now awaiting a visit with the Pediatric Cardiologist (their offices have been closed for the holidays until in the morning.)  My sweet, but very active little boy is on a strict No physical/sports activity order until we know more.
He is doing well and just seems a bit tired at times.   Today was the first day back to school and until we have further information we are only going for ½ days.  By picking him up at lunch he will avoid the excitement and temptation of P.E. & recess.  His teachers are also very supportive and are keeping an eye on him to make sure he seems OK and isn’t over exerting himself.  Leaving him at school this morning was one of the hardest things I have had to do.  It left me in a panic on so many levels.  This is worse than when I had newborns, I think.  It is very scary.  But…I know the one who is in control and I trust Him.
It isn’t only us who is carrying this burden, but my oldest son (who turns 15 this week) is struggling to deal with it as well.  He was there even before we were, and felt the fear and feelings of inadequacy in a way that most adults never experience… much less a child.  Our daughter left to go back to college yesterday and I know she has carried a huge weight back with her as well.  We are all feeling the need to nest and draw close to each other and just be together.
I would like to say that I have been all sugar and roses during this ordeal, but I have not.  Both my husband and I are tired, stressed and yes…fearful.  I don’t know how we can’t be. The future is uncertain (feeling more so than usual.)  We don’t know what the next round of doctor’s visits will bring.  For me, I am spending a lot of time in prayer…for it is where I find my energy, my encouragement, the only place I can find peace.
This is a link to a song that is touching me like never before as I walk through each day: My Savior My God” by Arron Shust.  I hope you will click over and listen to it and be blessed (for some reason I am not being able to embed it!)  Just the opening lyrics seem written just for a time as this:
I am not skilled to understand
What God has willed, what God has planned
I only know at his right hand
Stands one who is my savior
Thank you all for your prayers, comments and concerns. 
I continue to covet them as we move forward in trying to discover what is going on with our little man.