"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I love this sweet little girl! Her smile in the first picture reminds me of when she was itty bitty! She loves when I tell her stories of when she was itty bitty! I am thankful that I get to spend this holiday season with her! This past Thanksgiving and this Christmas will probably be the first holidays that she'll actually start to remember and I can't wait to hear the stories that she'll tell! Love her!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

See these two love bugs, they are about the most precious things ever! They were dedicated Sunday a week ago and I couldn't be more proud of our Nicholas and Nataleigh! They are such blessings to my twin sister's little family and to ours and I absolutely love getting to hold and kiss'em when I'm  visiting them. From them, I have learned that all babies, whether twins or not have different personalities! For instance, Ms. Nataleigh while looking like her momma is demanding (she wants her food when she wants her food by golly) which is so unlike her momma and she loves to be held and making her laugh is absolutely presh! While Nicholas on the other hand is laid back just like his momma but looks exactly like his daddy! He will eat when he wants to and he will be happy and content even with his sister crying right beside him. He too loves to laugh!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

This sweet little girl had a fabulous Thanksgiving! I can't wait to share our pics from Thursday! We've been having lots of family fun since then and I have lots of pics to share! We are truly a blessed family and we are thankful for each other and especially our little blessing, Caroline! My how we love her!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Leviner Couponing 101
Last May I shared with you my thoughts about couponing! That was when I had not one clue about couponing. My thoughts then were I really want to coupon but it looks very complicated and cumbersome. I knew the "jist" of couponing like how to organize the mounds of flyers by dates and some couponing sense like never go off ad at drugstores but not the hows of couponing. How do you really save money with coupons and have more "stuff" than before you began this hobby while spending half of what you do? Now eight months later I can share many things about couponing including the above picture to anyone that asks. You and I see the above picture totally different. Before I can start anything new I have to have a plan and a purpose. It can't be because I want to or because it looks interesting. It has to be because its purposeful and to somebody what I'm doing can make a difference or be beneficial. I mean I do like a challenge and in June when I started full fledged couponing, I was challenged. To tell you the truth I didn't want to embark another hobby. I already had several and I just could not possibly fit one more thing into my hobby list. I told you in May that I didn't want to become "one of those couponers" where all my time would be spent searching, sifting, and printing coupons. I also told you that I was not going to be a hoarder, this is still true, like I said we see the above picture with two different sets of eyes. For starters, I had to read about couponing (with what little time I had). I attended a coupon workshop with a friend that was lead by Jenny the Southern Savers queen. My neighbor BFF, Amy, and I spent countless hours in our driveways this past summer till well after midnight (when our babies were sleeping of course) with our coupon boxes trying to match our coupons with the Publix yellow and green flyers coupons and other store and manufacture coupons (called stacking) for the absolute best deals (I did once spend $115 on over $315 worth, once..I think this was to see my limit and how far I could really go..it can/does become addictive). When I thought I was well versed on the matter I even shared my coupon knowledge with some friends at church camp this past summer and to my knowledge they are still couponing (not because of me but because the mone they are saving). My new hobby this summer was tiresome. There was a part that I kinda fibbed in May about but at the time I didn't know the extent to what this whole business was about so the part where I didn't want to spend every spare second finding, clipping, or cutting coupons happened. I found myself doing that. Everyday after C went down for a nap I was on the computer reading SS, printing coupons, and making my grocery store list for the week and cutting out and compiling all of the coupons for the trip, and on and on and PHEW! This took what seemed like eons and I knew that once school began I could not continue this overrated ridiculous thing called couponing. Really, I'm spending all of my time trying to save $1 and for what? But I was relentless and perservered and continued. I don't give up quite easily but (well unless it's college algebra but whose counting, ha) it got way better..trust me for I am still couponing).
Anyways, my plan to start couponing from the very beginning was to donate. I've always enjoyed sharing and giving away. I surely don't need 25 bottles of Resolve or 15 detergents or 35 razors in my garage. I have already met one of those donating goals. I've donated to three families from my stockpile! So as I began stockpiling my sweet hubby started to build a nice shelf in our garage to house the "extras" like toilet paper, paper towels and detergents. I told him that I only wanted one shelf because I didn't have the need for two. Then all of a sudden I had all of this stuff and the "big shelf" in the garage was filling up quite nicely and then things began to pile up on the garage floor. Soon after, we saw the need for another shelf and viola, I had my stockpile. One of our garage walls is filled with SS things bought from coupons. I can't tell you the face value of all that we have. I don't want to know but what I do know is that I paid either nothing for the items or just a few dollars..and oh the Resolve was all free, except tax of course! Sam did build other shelves in our garage from the same materials as my SS shelves so in the back of the pic those are his tools and extra paint not a continuation of my stockpile! My stash goes from the lights on the far right to before the drop cord!
Anyways, my heart is full of joy as I get to donate to a new family from my stockpile this Christmas! I have already made my list for the family for things like toothbrushes down to "her" and "his" razors and shaving cream. These household items are expensive in general and I'm just delighted in knowing that somehow I can make a difference for someone or some family that considers even a basic need like toothpaste too costly to buy or provide for their families.
The couponing has become easier. It is not at all cumbersome or tiresome as this past summer. I think it was this way for me this summer because I was just starting and got way too into it. It is true that once you have a stockpile you will only find yourself going into the grocery store weekly and getting less than 15 or so items! It's great! It has defintely changed my life in more ways than I first thought and my hope is that somewhere down the line it gives at least one person hope!

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Happy/Sad Card
Let me start from the beginning. When it comes to discipline, I have to say, I struggle. It has been a learning process for me. When Caroline was eight months old and found herself able to get out of her crib, I knew that she was going to be a tough girl! For almost two years she hasn't proved my theory wrong! Two and a half years ago I couldn't imgaine my child ever doing anything wrong for me to have to discipline her. I have to admit I was naive. I remember looking at her when she was just home from the hospital thinking I would never spank you! I mean, I was disciplined as a child and I belive in disciplining children. I was spanked, there were times when I remember getting my own switch after church on Sundays. So when C was first born I couldn't imagine ever needing or wanting to "spank" her. Now two and a half years later, I have learned a lot about discipline. Sometimes I feel like I'm flying the plane as it is being built. I'm winging it so to speak. By this, I mean I'm choosing the consequence as the behavior happens while hoping that the consequence detters the behavior permanently. Miss C is a strong willed child. Not sure which parent she inherited this attribute from since Sam and I do not have strong personalities! As I said earlier, I learned that she was strong willed when she was an infant. I've struggled with the spanking issue. My three sisters and I were spanked and we all turned out just fine; hard working, selfless citizens trying to make a difference in other's lives. I know people who were never spanked as children and they are hard working, selfless citizens trying to make a difference in other's lives. I also know people who were spanked a lot as children and they are, even as adults, considered rebelious. I also know folks that were never spanked and are as adults considered rebelious. So my question is how do you find discipline balance? How do you know that you are getting it right? How do you know that your discipline policy is not so extreme where your child is ashamed? How do you know that your parenting style is effective enough that your child knows her boundaries?  I've thought back and looked at my childhood and tried to find what my parents did to have this discipline balance. Their style of parenting was authoritative! I finally put a name to this parenting style while in college studying to be a teacher. I want our child (children) to grow up just as I did, in a loving and nurturing home while having boundaries and guidelines! My parents were great examples of this and got it right! Are they perfect, no but somewhere down the line they knew how to parent the correct way when it came to disciplining us girls. It's easier said than done, I'm afraid, because even after having great models I'm still trying to get it right or find my own discipline niche.
I have blogged before about Caroline's biting issue. It seems, at times, to come and go. Just when we think she's forgotten about it she'll do it the very next day. Right now she has gone three weeks without biting her friends at Ms. Leah's! For the most part her biting has been my most behavior concern. People have told me that "she'll grow out of it" and "it's just a stage". For me, it is just the end of the world to have my child bite someone. It makes me sad. It leaves me crying and I feel like a failure. I question myself as a parent and often ask myself, how can this be, that MY child exhibits this type of behavior or what is wrong my child or even worse could this be all because of me. I'm so thankful that the children and parents at Ms. Leah's love us so much! Caroline is absolutely sweet, happy, and precious but she does bite. Our ped told us that it was because she was bit first at eight months, I don't buy that now that she is almost 32 months old! Because of my worry and concern we set up a behavior consultation last June with our ped to only discover, to my surprise, that this is "normal" and that we have "no cause or reason to worry". I seemed fine with our ped's answers to our questions until she bit again. I was a biter as a baby too! I guess my mom must've said to me when I was little "I hope you have a child just like yoursef so you can see just what I'm going through! Pay back kind of thing, ha! No seriously, I do want Caroline to be strong willed. This will pay off for when she's 21! Our ped also told us that Caroline is very smart and very advanced for age. At her 18 month check up she asked what the secret was and what were we doing with her for her to already be so verbal and have so much awareness. We simply said that we read to her every single day and that we find ourselves constantly talking to her about everything from "what noise did we just hear" to answering her questions like "who bought that for you mommy". 
Sam and I are learning ways to channel her strong will instead of snuffing it for snuffing it would be detrimental to her character. She already is who she is already going to be.
Recenly our SS class did a video series by Chris Ingram called "Effective Parenting in a Defective World". I learned so many things from this series including that spanking is acceptable and it is a must since the Bible "spare the rod spoil the child" verse tells us so. So my beliefs and struggles with this were validated! We learned other things too like loving her so much even in the midst of a "behavior" crisis! We also learned that a child should be spanked with something instead of by hand. You don't spank with the same hand that loves. We use a spanking spoon (wooden spoon) and you better believe that C hates to see it pulled out. Needless to say we don't have to use it quite as much as we used our palms before!
Sam and I also bought the book "The Strong Willed Child" by Dr. James Dobson. At first, I thought, I love Dr. Dobson, always have, but how can an almost 30 year old book help me now. After cracking it open months have we bought it, I was glued from the very first page. From this book I learned the importance of what it means to be consistent with discipline. I also learned, and this has been, by far the most crucial, that for every defiant behavior there must be a consequence. Defiant meaning, you have explicitly taught your child what she shouldn't do (we do not throw rocks) and if she defiesyou, there absolutely must be a consequence for belligerently being defiant. On the same token I learned that I should not give my child a consequence for something she did wrong if I haven't taught or talked to her about it being wrong or inappropriate in the first place. For example, one night C wanted to color. She loves coloring at night! I said yes to her when she asked if she could color. So she went to the living room table to get her crayons and coloring book and papers and went into the kitchen. She likes to color on the kitchen floor for its hard surface. I was in the living room at the time and all of a sudden I heard four hard taps. I knew exactly what she was doing before I even walked into the kitchen. YEP! You guessed! She colored with a very purplish color crayon on our newly painted yellow kitchen wall! I shrieked merely because there was crayon, big streaks of purple crayon, on the wall. Apparently I was so loud that I scared her and she started crying. Before reading the Strong Willed Child book I probably would have popped her bottom. But since reading the book and knowing that I haven't talked to her up until that point about not coloring on the wall that there was no use in giving her a consequence for something that she wasn't aware was wrong in the first place.
I said all of this to say that we have tried many things (time out, popping, etc) and are continuing to try our newly learned parenting discipline skills. I know every parenting preference is different and I'm not presenting these things because I think it's the only absolute way to parent or discipline children and I'm certainly not saying that you should pop your child. I'm just sharing what has worked and is working for our family and our child! The happy/sad card (above pic) is one of those new skills that we are currently implementing that is working (a coworker shared it with me)! When we ask Caroline to do something and she does it right away we'll move the Caroline clip to the happy side of the card while praising her effort and attention to the task. If she doesn't do the request right away or she is being blatantly defiant we move the Caroline clip to the sad side while saying "you're making mommy have a real sad face". This card has made the biggest difference because she doesn't like to see the clip on the sad side. It is a visual so maybe that is helping! She'll say "don't show me that mommy" and her behavior turns around and she completes the request appropriately. I hope she'll want to be a pleaser too! Does that mesh, being strong willed and a people pleaser? We use the card or show it to her mostly for when making requests: "Can you help clean up?" "Can you put your blocks back?"etc. Some other things that we have been doing to try and enforce positive reinforcement is to tell Caroline the expectations prior to doing something. For instance, before going into Publix I'll tell her that we are going shopping and that she has to stay in the buggy and be the best shopper. We also wait until the trip is over before going and getting the shopping cookie in the bakery. Caroline has also just learned that she can scream and cry if she doesn't want to leave places like the library. For our last visit, I prepared her for the trip. I told her that we were going to return our old books and look for new ones. I told her that we would color, read new books, find new books to check out, and play with the puzzles. I also told her that I would set a five minute timer on my phone and that when it went off it would be time for us to leave the library. Preparing the expectations for going places beforehand like the grocery store and the library have helped make leaving our outings successful!
The kicker for me while reading The Strong Willed Child book was the part when Dr. Dobson says you should not have to spank your child past age six and defintely not past age ten. By six your child should already know home/school expectations and boundaries for their life should already be in place! WOW, by age 6! I can't wait to see how this follows through! Like I said, I'm not promoting popping or spanking. I recently talked to someone who use to keep a strong willed child many years ago in her home daycare and she said she believes spanking isn't always the answer. I also believe this. I don't want you to think that we constantly pop our child but we do when it is needed. I don't know that what I'm doing is right or effective 100% of the time, but one thing is for sure, I cannot have a child grow up and be a selfish, unproductive member of society who doesn't show generosity or compassion toward others or not have a care for the world or try to make it a better place for all who inhabit it. After all she is a reflection of Sam and me, and as her parents we do have high expectations for her and her life!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Cooper's 1st Birthday!
Our friends and neighbors, Amy and Brandon, just celebrated their son Cooper's first birthday! C absolutely loves Cooper! She has always called him AmyCooper for some reason and thinks that his daddy's name is just B instead of Brandon! Cooper is precious and we love him so much!
Cooper had a wagon birthday theme and his mommy along with his aunts made the decor, down to the wagon pinata!

Happy 1st birthday cutie pie!

Cooper and his mommy!

I love party decorations! They complete any party!
Here's Cooper's birthday banner that his mommy made!

Smash cake!

This is just the cutest...a radio flyer birthday cake!
This is one side...

and here's the other!

The Leviners helping celebrate his big day!

C absolutely loved this circus tent...

and this marshmallow goody!

The wagon pinata!


C getting her turn at helping get the loot out!

Ah, getting her share!

Cute! The party favors!

Rice Krispie wagons! Loves!

Cooper taking C on her first date in his new wagon!

Happy 1st Birthday Cooper we love you!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Saturday before Halloween we attened a halloween party at the Callahans! It was a lot of fun! I think I told you earlier how I am not a big halloween fan partly because of the dressing up part. I don't like to draw attention to myself, I don't know what to dress as, etc. Do I dress my family in a theme, what would it be, and so and so on! Even though this is not my first halloween party (we just attended our neighbor's 8th annual party where we have been to every one), it was the first halloween party that I went to where I dressed up! It was fun and I'd do it again!
Like I said the party was fun! It was complete with halloweenish appetizers and finger foods, dips, mummy drinks, and smores! My favorite part was the hayride! I absolutely love hayrides! Every year at Thanksgiving and at Christmas we go on a hayride at my parent's! C also got to help break open the pumpkin pinata and she decorated a very cute mini pumpkin! I sure hope Heather, Travis, and Morgan Kate make this their new tradition! 

Mommy as a fairey! C as a cupcake!

The Flintstones, AKA The Callahans, Heather, Travis, and MK!

MK as Peebles, Raven as a zookeeper, and Nolan, the lion!


Mummy drinks!

The pumkin decorating table! So Halloweenish!

MK with her silly glasses!

The hayride, round one!

C liking her mummy juice drink!

Pumpkin Pinata!

Eating her loot!

The BFF's and their babies! Love them!

C grinning about stealing someone else's loot!

My absolute favs!

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Triplet Birthdays...
Not really but our niece, Samantha, and nephews, Silas and Christian celebrated their recent birthdays with one party! It was a lot of fun celebrating their birthdays this way! Samantha, the oldest cousin of Sam's siblings' children, has an August birthday. Silas and Christian are a year and a day apart with their birthdays being Oct. 20th and Oct. 21st! We have never celebrated their birthdays this way but I think their parents should make it a tradition. As C gets older and with each of their birthday parties, she has so much fun celebrating and seeing them!

Silas! He's so photogenic! He's a cool kid!
He's also very cute, too! He's loving and oh so sweet!
We can't leave his house without giving him a hug first!
Silas just turned 7!

Franklin is 4! Although we celebrated his birthday
in April, he still had a great time celebrating his big
brother's and cousins, Samantha and Christian's, birthdays!
He loves Caroline. He is like his big sister, Anna, in that he
sees after Caroline and he plays with her! Franklin likes to
play and he loves explaining things!

Anna! She is the big sister of Silas and Franklin!
Anna is 8! She is nurturing and always sees about
Caroline when she's around! She is absolutely presh!

C with Aunt Missi!

C with Uncle Jason! Jason is also a pastor!
Don't know if I've shared this part about him before!
Recently, he preached at his and Sam's home
church in Orangeburg, where their grandfather
started 53 years ago. His sermon
 was phenomenal!

Caroline throwing darts to pop a balloon!
This little girl wants to be big just like her
first cousins!

Samantha wearing part of the pinata as a hat!
She is 9 and gorgeous! She loves to read and
she loves her cousins! She adores her
Uncle Sam, too!

Samantha and Caroline!
They are hilarious wearing
their funny hats and glasses!



Christian! He's 8! He's sweet and very
sensitive! He loves to read like his big sister,
Samantha! He enjoys drawing! He's very smart, too!

C being sneaky! She thought no one saw
her climbing up the steps of the swingset
to sneak a piece of the pinata candy that she grabbed!
This might be what those "sneakcrets" are all about...HMMM!

C the littlest Leviner cousin! She is 2.5!
She is spunky, delightful, and smart!
She is busy, strong willed, and precious!
She is loved by all of her big Leviner cousins!




Anna and Samantha!

The Leviner First Cousins!