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Archive for April, 2006

Sunday, Fun Day

April 30th, 2006 at 11:01 pm

After church, we did go to drop off our donations at the thrift shop and picked up our receipt. The family proceeded to peruse the aisles of the store. The girls and I all got something (my husband held out for the nearby hobby store.) Used a 20% off coupon the store had sent to me, plus found some items in the 50% off area. So did well, for cheap.

We went to the hobby shop, and my husband bought something he's been waiting a while for (no sale or coupon, but hey, he works hard and asks for little - plus the fact that it was inexpensive helped.)

Next, we went to a chinese/thai restaurant that we had a giftcard for, and were waiting to use. We paid a little beyond the card's value, but the gift made the restaurant affordable for the six of us. We traded food all around, so we all had tastes of six different dishes. It was fabulous!

Home again, we're all hanging out. My husband is ditzing with his new puchase. The two youngest playing games - pick-up sticks at the moment. My second is taking a shower. The oldest is vying for the computer (so I'm hurrying!)

No dinner to cook - we are stuffed. I'm thinking of relaxing with my 69 cent 'new' book I picked up from the shop earlier - Tales of a Female Nomad. Utter relaxation to enjoy...take care!

Still raining!

April 30th, 2006 at 01:35 pm

At least, the newly seeded areas of our lawn are getting watered well.

Today, we are thinking of making a run to donate to a thrift shop that benefits the mentally handicapped. We'll take a gander through the aisles - on the lookout for jeans and shorts for the girls mostly. I also like to look over the book section. We don't always find what we're looking for, but we're not desperate for anything either. It's fun to look, cheap to buy if something is found, and more importantly, we have left if what we're looking for wasn't found!

I always waiver between donating (and keeping track for tax time) and having a garage sale. It feels like everything we have has gone through the ranks of the four girls - can any of it be worth all that much to go through the effort of a sale?? I do know some people make a fair amount of profit at their sales. People wouldn't keep having sales if they weren't making money, right? I participated in our town' community garage sale several years back. I spent weeks culling through the corners of the house and garage, making things look presentable and pricing them low (25 cents was my favorite amount!) It rained. I made $10, and donated the rest for a lot more than that in tax deductions. A lot of work for little gain. I may have to come to terms with the fact that I may be severely garage sale challenged! (And leave the holding of sales to those who aren't!)

Enjoy your day..Take care!

Practical Philosophy??

April 29th, 2006 at 08:02 pm

Rainy, rainy. Slept in a little this morning. Went to my second daughter's band competition - her Mozart duet went well. She'll find out her score from her band teacher at school on Monday. The two youngest are still at the Grandma tea. They were all dressed up in pretty dresses, and my youngest had on a hot pink straw hat to crown her ensemble. They brought two of my china teacups for the tea. I hope they have a fun time with Grandma.

The rest of the day has involved laundry, cleaning and baking for the week. I know, what an exciting life I lead!

Going over the finances, and I'm thinking I may not have to take from the savings to cover the first $1000 bill of my oldest's recent hospital stay. A little tightening up on the spending, and we can cover it. We still have the meds, lab, dr and emergency room fees from the stay, but they look pretty manageable. Having a reserve of funds has helped us!

I find it funny that I keep thinking we have made all the changes in an area of spending than we can, only to revisit it and find that yes, we can do better. Hope is everpresent!

In our situation, part of this fact can be attributed to season changes - utility charges reflect this. I also think change happens bit by bit, and the small successes spur us on to try out even more ideas.

Hmmm...quite the philosophical waxing amid all the practical cleaning around the house! Back to action! Take care!!

Inertia thwarted...

April 28th, 2006 at 08:14 pm

...a few items crossed off the to-do list! This is quite the accomplishment, as I'm beyond tired. The weather is hardly helpful, being chilly and drizzly.

It took much effort to drag myself out of bed. I got the girls off to school, and managed the morning chores before I left for work. The worms were emancipated from our sensory table today!! They are now enjoying their new lives in our school's garden beds.

After work, I ran some errands, made numerous calls to set up various appointments, and cleaned up around the house. Nothing too exciting, except these things get to be crossed off my list.

Looking forward to a fairly quiet weekend. Tonight is homemade pizza and a movie at home. Tomorrow morning my second daughter has a band ensemble competition - she is part of a clarinet duet playing a piece by Mozart. In the afternoon, my two youngest have a grandma/grandaughters tea (an early part of my MIL's Mother's Day gift.)

If I'm looking for more to do, there IS the rest of that neverending list. Enjoy your weekend! Take care!!

Extra work helps pay the bills...

April 27th, 2006 at 07:22 pm

I worked extra today so one of my coworkers could get off early to visit her new grandchild. She's a young grandma. I'm 43, and I think she's only 2 or 3 years older than me. I can't even imagine being a grandma that young, but what fun she is having! It better be a while before I'm a grandma!!

I work the last Kindergarten Connection night tonight. It's hard working on school nights with the girls' homework and all, but extra dollars on the paycheck will be much appreciated.

In a bit, I pick up my daughter for her medical appt - actually she'll see two doctors, with two co-pays. I keep telling myself to be thankful for medical care and insurance, but handing over the copays week after week gets a bit discouraging. At least the money isn't being spent on frivalous things.

Got our latest electrical bill, and month by month, it's been getting lower. We have natural gas for the furnace, water heater, dryer and oven. So being vigilant about what's on (and could/should be off,) swapping out incandescent bulbs for compact fluorescent, and searching out those hidden usage sources is paying off. As with most things in my life, there is still room to improve, but we're headed in the right direction.

Enjoy your day! Take care!!

Back to warm again...

April 26th, 2006 at 09:48 pm

It's near 70 and sunny gorgeous.

Got a bit done this morning. I washed and hung the laundry on the line outside. Dinner was readied to pop into the crockpot - scalloped potatoes and ham. Got the girls off to school, then headed into work.

Paint, paint, and more paint! And believe it or not, one of the teachers put worms in the sensory table. I was the advocate for these lowly worms (note, the I who had to hide being a little squeamish about our little visitors.) The preschoolers will be murmuring 'be gentle' for every worm they come across. I undrowned all the grass the kids planted in cups. More water isn't better, teacher?! But I got through it all unscathed. Worked a little extra today too.

Visited my mom after work. I took her outside for a walk, well I pushed her in the wheelchair. She (and us!) are so anxious to have her foot heal, so she can again receive physical therapy, and get back to using her walker. Feet take forever to heal, and I know they are being very careful to have it fully healed. On our walk, she kept talking about a house across the street from the nursing home - I couldn't figure out what it was about the house, but it was quite the engaging topic for her. There were new baby birds in the home's aviary to admire and talk about too.

Wednesday is our busy day - the two youngest have bell choir practice at church and the oldest has confirmation. My second went to church with the neighbors. A check on the homework situation, and a few more chores before dinner to accomplish.

Have a great rest of today! Take care!!

Holding Pattern

April 25th, 2006 at 07:52 pm

It's a beautiful sunny day - just not very warm. Last night the temp was down in the 30s outside (60 inside this morning - heat is off, so piled on blankets!) We had 80 here a couple days ago! Ahh, Minnesota. At least, there was no snow like some in the west had. I wanted to hang the laundry outside, but with temps so low and hardly a breeze - wimped out and used the dryer instead.

Grocery-shopped yesterday for the next two weeks. I've been shopping every two weeks since January, and it's working great in keeping that portion of the budget down. I've been consistantly spending $200-230 for two weeks of groceries. This covers three meals a day for six people (bring lunches to school and work), some pet items (we get the majority of food and supplies at Petco once a month) and most of our paper, cleaning, and health/beauty needs. Previously, I spent $150-170 a week. So quite the savings! I've learned two things: 1) Shopping is not a favorite pasttime for me anyway, so I get to do it half as much. 2) The less time I spend in the store, the less I spend (I know, this one is very profound!)

Most importantly, the grocery savings have allowed us to fund a small emergency fund, have helped us to keep current with the medical bills of late, as well as, have let us up what we are paying monthly toward the cc debt (with no charges for almost a year, and consistent 'more than minimum' and some 'way more' payments, we are seeing progress!) It does feel good to be in charge of the finances, instead of the other way around. You all are good influences here!

I'm jealous of all the talk of gardening lately. Here in MN, after May 15 is when it's usually safe to plant anything not frost tolerant (and often there is still a lot of covering things up at night.) So I've raked, cleared the perrenial beds off, and planted our frost tolerant pansies in the wondow boxes of the girls' playhouse. Our trees have gotten so tall over the years, that I'm getting less and less full sun, and lugging vegies around the yard catching the rays of the sun is a less than fun activity. I was just reading in our community ed brochure that garden plots will go for $10 behind the school I work at, not even a block away. The $10 covers the tilling and fencing (very necessary - the school backs up to woods with deer, raccoons, rabbits and more.) Sounds like a good deal for a sunny patch and fresh vegies.

Another spring time thing to do at our house - clean the garage! I ended up piling in my mom's stuff from her move from assisted living to the nursing home. Decisions will have to be made. Then there is the yard and patio furniture to freshen up with paint. So far, only one chair needs a full paint job. This stuff is ancient - some were my parents' things, some even my grandparents'. I can only imagine how many times they've been painted over the years. But nothing beats how well they were made - steel and wrought iron - heavy but indistructible! And I still have paint leftover from last year that's still good.

Enjoy your day. Take care!

Oh, the Possibities...

April 22nd, 2006 at 01:32 pm

...that the weekend holds for us!

It was just my husband, youngest and myself at home last evening. We offered to go out to eat, but couldn't think of anywhere we wanted to spend our money, so opted instead to rent some movies and eat at home. We usually make use of our own collection of favorite movies, but every three or four months we rent a few (December was the last time we rented!) I watched 'Dreamer' with my youngest last night. Enjoyable, but glad to rent rather than own. Bambi II, Mummy and Mummy Returns still to view - from one end of the movie spectrum to the other! Far less than a meal out, and more fun too.

While the movies are what we'll do in the next few evenings, our days will remain busy! I'm heading over to the bread store in a little bit - Saturday is discount day. I'm getting better at tracking our usage, so haven't run out of what we need, or ended up with indistinguishable ice chunks in the bottom of the chest freezer. I throw my purchases into the freezer when I get home, so I'm set for the month. It's such a treat to spend around $10 for 4-5 grocery bags - what a deal!

Then on some sad business later this morning, I'll attend the memorial service to celebrate the life of a dear friend from a writer's group I was in for a while. Almost a year and a half ago, he had a heart transplant (after a whole lifetime of heart troubles and surgeries.) He fought so hard to keep on living, but his body couldn't handle all that it was dealt. He was 61, and while it is so very sad to see him gone, he truly lived life to the fullest - and we are all the better for knowing him. In the eight years that I've known him, he showed us all the importance of family and friends, life and love. I will miss him.

The rest of today will be filled with outside work - gorgeous day - and grocery shopping for the next two weeks.

On Sunday, my oldest is lector at church, and there's Sunday school for the younger three. Otherwise, the rest of the day is open...with boundless possibilities. Could check out the signs of Spring at a great little forest preserve a couple miles from our house. Of course, there IS the garage that could use a bit of Spring cleaning, and, well, the vans themselves could use some of that cleaning too. The lawn furniture needs a bit of paint. Some baking to do for the week. Hmmm, boundless!

Enjoy your weekend - take care!

Free Drying

April 19th, 2006 at 11:10 pm

It's so windy today that within two hours my clothes were dry on the line. And I took them down at the right moment, as I was feeling a spattering of sprinkles in the wind just beginning. I love clothesline weather!

It's the simple things in life...

April 19th, 2006 at 07:42 pm

Got the biggest of the hospital bills today - boy, this hospital is faster than the one we used last November. Have the money set aside for it, at least.

Was going to try to hang the laundry that I washed before leaving for work this morning on the line outside, but a bank of dark clouds is moving in quickly from the southwest.

Wednesday is a busy night with the girls all heading to church , but at different times. So crockpot spaghetti is on the menu for an early dinner at 5pm. (We still eat all together - we just move the time around as needed.)

I was catching up the checkbook yesterday, and was sort of panicking, because it seemed that I had a lot of debit card receipts and checks to log in. (Probably could tell my panic by my long, rambling entry yesterday!) So I marked them all down, and sat back feeling a little silly. I only spent as we had planned and budgeted for, except for a small amount at Target (something we needed, just vague as to when.) I shared this with my husband, and we had to laugh at being out of the practice of spending our money that it seemed we were being quite reckless. May we remain so out of practice!

(Ok, I have to share what I got...bath towels. I happened on a clearance of better quality, cheaper than what I was pricing, AND in the color I wanted! Our old ones were very well-used. This is my third set of towels since my husband and I got married in 1984 - yup, very well-used old towels, very appreciated new ones. It is quite simple to make me happy! Hey, and I got some new towels to replenish the rag bag - oh, yay!!)

Hey, and it's not so bad looking to the SW, maybe I'll try the clothesline yet! Better get to it. Take care!!

Time Flies...

April 18th, 2006 at 07:47 pm

...when you're having fun!

Actually, life hasn't been too bad lately, just plain busy. The couple times I tried to make a new entry, I couldn't log in, so I'm glad it's working out for me today.

We had a fun long Easter weekend. My third daughter came home from her school trip on Thurday night, feeling very successful (no tearful calls home from a homesick girl!), tired and with lots of stories of her adventures. On Friday, everyone got up early to do yardwork in our beautiful summery Spring weather. Afterwards, we had moved into the house to clean and generally spruce up the interior. On Easter day, we had my husband's parents over for noon dinner, and later went to visit my mom at the nursing home (she's still in a wheelchair for her December hip break, and we would not have been able to get her to our door even, plus her stage of Alzheimer's makes it so hard to take her anywhere anymore - she gets so unsettled and anxious, and just wants to go back home. Can you tell I feel bad about this? This is the first Easter dinner without her. I know there is nothing to be done, but to do what's best for her. It just takes a bit of getting used to, I guess.) We took her dog along for the visit - she loves that old dog! It was a nice visit with my mom - the dog and girls always bring my mom a lot of attention, so she had fun being at the center of it all.

So it was back to work and school for us all today. I work extra this week - the last session of Kindergarten Connection. I also said yes to working a two-week session in August to get the kids ready and raring to go to Kindergarten in September. I'm off in the summer, and by August a bit of paycheck will be welcome.

We've seen online all that the insurance will pay toward my oldest's hospital stay in March, so will be prepared for the bills when they are sent out. We have the money set aside.

I'm getting a little edgy about upcoming expenses. Hospital charges - ok. Ongoing medical appointments - 25-75 per week - have been managing, but have been putting off the more non-pressing medical appts, and that can't go on too much longer. (Still saying to myself - be thankful that there is insurance!!)

My two middle girls are going to our church's camp in Wisconsin in June. My oldest is going on a mission trip to Wyoming in July. Between the girls' savings and work (at the pool and babysitting) and youth accounts at the church, I'm estimating that the amount I'll pay out to be $200-300, or so altogether.

We are camping over Memorial weekend - paid for! Just the gas (no small expense anymore!) to get there and we bring along food. We try to camp a couple other times over the summer - we'll have to see how we stabilize after paying off the hopsital and manage the ongoing medical expenses, once I'm not getting a paycheck.

Also, we got notice that my second daughter was recommended for a school trip to Wahington DC next Fall as an 8th grader. Her older sister did the trip, and we thought it was a wonderful experience. My oldest paid for over a third of the trip by working at the pool as a water safety aide in lessons. My second is applying for an aide position in our commnuity ed program over the summer - that would really be great news in making this trip a reality.

Well, enough for this entry - not the best at short and sweet! It's a beautiful day here in Minnesota, one that you dream about at Winter's darkest. I definitely need to find some puttering to do outside! Take care!

Hardly restful weekend

April 9th, 2006 at 01:06 pm

The pace of last week seems to be continuing into this weekend.

Early Saurday morning, I took my two youngest to run errands, while the rest of the house (family and guests) slept in. We went to the PO to get postage for the state taxes owed and some postcards for my third daughter while she's away next week for the 5th grade trip up north. We went to the bank to deposit a check and withdraw some cash for daughter's spending money for the trip. We headed to good old Target for a few remaining items for the trip (disposable cameras and underclothes) and some HH and health/beauty items. Then we went to our library to pick up our holds and some new books for the week. Everyone at home was at least up when we got back (won't say how energetic they were!) Then we puttered the rest of Saturday away with cleaning, washing laundry, cooking and making excuses to be outside in our gorgeous Spring weather.

Today is Palm Sunday, and our church has a Palm Procession with the younger kids which includes my youngest, and serves a youth fundraiser pancake breakfast, which involves my three oldest. I just have to get them there (we're the third house from our church, so not too hard) dressed appropriately (a little harder) and oh yeah, attend the service and breakfast!

Our fun plans for later in the day include helping my daughter get packed, get gas and groceries, and go to Petco for the seven beasties. Sunday is not my favorite day to grocery shop, but I have my list ready and will go right after the first church service, so it shouldn't be as bad as later (there seems to be a greater number of recreational shoppers on Sundays, which doesn't mesh well with my 'get in, get out' approach to shopping.)

Here's to hoping for a quieter week! Take care!!

Free Lunch...

April 8th, 2006 at 01:27 am

...and more than you want to know!

I went to lunch after work today with a friend. I offered to use a gift certificate that I got at Christmas time from one of my preschool students. The sandwich shop is adorable and has great food, but a little pricey. It was great for free though!

Otherwise, my husband got paid, and there was a small bonus based on last year's company revenues. Not big, but surely much better than nothing!

We paid the van repair bills. Online, we were able to figure how much we'll expect the hospital to bill for my daughter's recent stay, and we have that ready to pay out.

After my daughter's medical visit yesterday, it was recommended to try a different direction in treatment, including more testing. I'm trying to stay positive. I keep praying that the drs know what they are doing, that the insurance and our finances will hold out as needed, and that I can keep it all sane and stable for the whole family.

And you know what's funny? While those 'big things' seem to have a permanent loop in my mind, I have some wonderfully demanding 'distractions'. Tonight was crazy, but very normal for here. My oldest spent some time with grandma, took a shower, and went to a friend's. My second brought a friend over after school, IMd their friends on the computer, and spent way too much time in the bathroom preparing for a 7th grade event at the youth center. My third took a bike ride, played in the yard, changed clothes, and went to a youth event at our church. My youngest played outside with the neighbor boy, brought him over for dinner (hey, I managed to feed everyone but the oldest!)and they dragged my tired husband to the playground, where they played baseball, 4-square and some sort of running game. Daddy is really tired now. I took advantage of the lull to clean up around here (yeah, I know two seconds after everyone is back, little evidence of the cleaning will remain.) ....ok, I'm feeling better now! Take care!

Van repairs

April 6th, 2006 at 07:25 pm

I'm lucky that I work with a friend whose husband does vehicle repair on the side. He does a great job, at a great price and is very tolerant of my husband doing partial work on our vans (when it's discovered that the job is too difficult or requires special tools, etc.)

The brake line repair that my husband attempted on our conversion van in January got stalled, and was finally brought to our friend at the end of March. Luckily, the timing worked out perfect as our minivan started to shimmy at 40mph, and became quite scary to drive around. So we dropped off scary van for the newly repaired van. Whew!

Both vans are repaired. Our friends, knowing our medical situation of late and the forthcoming bills, said to pay them whenever, or make payments, or do whatever we can afford. We thanked them graciously, but told them to give us the bill. I got it today. Well, all I can say is what very dear friends they are. I'm paying them a little more than what they charged, and will give them a giftcard for a restaurant that I think they will enjoy.

We are very blessed in friends! We believe wholeheartedly in what comes around, goes around - so we'll be looking for our opportunity to be 'a friend indeed to a friend in need', whether for this family or for another. It all works out, and adds such richness and depth to our lives. Take care!

Mid-week already?!

April 6th, 2006 at 01:06 am

It seems all I've been doing is running around crazy each day and crashing into bed each night.

I've been working extra this week, every day so far. Monday was our 1st Kindergarten Connection night for kids starting Kindergarten next Fall. Busy, but always fun to see the newest crew so excited to be at the 'big school'. Tuesday was a planning day for the rest of our preschool classes for this school year. And today I filled in for a sick co-worker and for another who had a planning meeting. Whew - the extra hours are always nice on the paycheck.

Family-wise, for my oldest, we had a medical appt, as well as a meeting at her school for some accomodations requests. All went well, and my worries are lessening a bit each day. My youngest came home early from school today with a headache (think it may be allergy caused.) Another medical appt tomorrow for the oldest, with more info of what will be ahead for us. And trying to calm the nerves of my third as she prepares for a school trip to an environmental learning center in northern MN next week. She has always been a homebody and slow to even sleeping over at friends' houses. She is excited to go, and we're spending a lot of time reassuring her and talking things over. A mom's work is truly never done!

Money-wise, I'm happy to say that with a little vigilance and planning, my grocery budget is still where I like having it. We're spending about $100-110 a week for 6 people and 7 pets, as well as paper, cleaning and health/beauty (not including presciptions and co-pays.) And this is good with another round of medical bills coming at us and repairs on both of our vans. Gosh, when it rains, it downpours (it's April, I guess - hoping for some good May 'flowers'!)

Thinking ahead - I'll work until the end of May, maybe into the first week of June with room cleanup. Summers I'm off with my girls. While most of our summer days are low-key and no-cost, there are those other days. Summer money plans include one oldest going on a mission trip, and two middle going to our church camp in Wis. Swim lessons for the youngest two. We are camping and canoeing over Memorial weekend, and would like to camp at least two more times over the summer. Then there is getting ready for next year's school year. With this Spring's medical bills, we'll have to either revise some plans for the summer or keep tabs on the spending while working whatever extra we can. Feeling pretty hopeful - the difference a year makes when there is a better handle on the money.

Wow, what a long-winded entry! Take care!

April begins anew...

April 1st, 2006 at 02:40 pm

It's no April Fool's joke that I'm quite ready to start a new month.

In mid-March, our family had an emergency requiring a hospital stay for my oldest. All is now better. Though we still have the forthcoming bills to address. Luckily March saw the final payment from November's hospital stay. We are very thankful for having pretty decent health insurance, though it is always stressful dealing with a new company, as well as for the reason of the hospital stay. Life keeps marching on at our house, and April definitely has a sunnier outlook for us.

A difference in our two hospital experiences is that we are in a better financial state this time. We have the money set aside, or the bulk of it, when the bills arrive. There are medicine changes, as well as increased medical visits (some weeks will have three with co-pays.) All I can say is that by straightening up our money picture, this is all a lot less scary to be facing (while leaving the majority of our focus free to just plain handle this all.) Not sure that made sense, but it's just nice to not have the bills weighing so heavy on us, when there are far more important things to be dealing with right now. Anyway, I guess I want to give credit to this site and all of the creators and contributors for the wonderful ideas and help I've gleaned from here. Thank you!

Since I'm having trouble creating very coherent sentences and paragraphs, and well, I won't even mention the run-on sentences..oh my.. it's time to be done. Take care!