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Wending my way through the weekend

September 30th, 2012 at 05:09 am

My husband and I have a wedding to attend next weekend. At this point in my life, I live in jeans and tops/sweaters, and I've been doing Weight Watchers successfully. What dressier outfits I have are too baggy and/or seriously out-of-date. Since I'm mid-way to my final weight yet, I didn't want to spend too much. I lucked out at Target though. I ended up buying a darling fitted black dress and a cocoon sweater for a coverup - perfect for cheap!

Next weekend also, my oldest and her boyfriend are heading south to visit his parents in southern MN, then they'll stop at our place on Sunday on the way back north. Usually we would take them out to eat, but we'll host a bbq here instead. It'll be more relaxed, as well as better priced.

We're keeping the spending reigned in as our two youngest are heading to Italy next spring for their band trip, and my husband and I will be joining them! It still seems a little unreal yet....but so exciting! We got the girls their passports this summer, and husband and I will later this month. Italy vs. spending frivolously - a very easy choice Smile

Scrutiny on the groceries - did pretty well. My husband likes to tag along, and is slowly understanding the budgeted amount IS what we're spending. I do better shopping alone, but I like it when he comes along, so it's a work in progress. I just try to spend that much less on the weeks when it's just me!

Not eating out is going good. Also reigned in the coffee/ hot chocolate treats - even the cheaper versions at the local Holiday gas station. As the weather started to cool - warm beverages seem such a fine treat, but we have travel mugs and the makings at home - we can do it!

Tough week emotionally at work.....a graduate from our school district was killed. He was with a couple of friends, when an suv pulled up and a group of people got out. While trying to protect the two girls he was with, he was punched once and fell back and sustained a fatal head injury. He was only 20. A 17 yr old was charged with his murder, and the attorneys want him tried as an adult. So senseless and tragic... he graduated the year between my two oldest, and well, it hits a bit close to home.

On the agenda for today - I'll take a look at finances and make an online payment to oldest's school. And will see what else needs to get sent out this week.

Will putter around outside - put away a few more garden items (pots, stakes) and pull the chairs into the garage (not too deep, as we still use them for backyard campfires.) Still lots of green tomatoes - will they turn red in time?? Crazy tomato year...

I washed and line-dried another duvet yesterday, as well as regular laundry.

Need to go through the bathroom cupboard, as it's driving me crazy with its disorderliness!

And bake - I need to bake...some for us and the girls' lunches and some to send back with oldest next weekend. Pumpkin bread for sure and maybe chocolate chip cookies (or bars, if it gets late.)

I also need to get out for a nice, long walk. I did one yesterday morning at the local county park, and it couldn't have been more perfect. So definitely planning another one today - maybe through a nearby old-growth forest. It has been a beautiful autumn here!

Enjoy your Sunday - take care!!

September speeds along....

September 23rd, 2012 at 08:25 am

Our school schedule is up and running, and somehow entering into our fourth week. We've added two 6th graders to the crew in my classroom (no one went on to the high school this fall.) We're busy, but all are settling into their routine pretty well. (And how busy is reflected in my Saturday morning weigh-ins - I've lost 7.5 lbs over the last three weeks! I do walk daily outside of work, but I did that before school started back up...but any way it's happening, I'm happy!)

My oldest is in her senior year of college. We were thinking she'd get to graduate a semester early in Dec, but one class was not available until spring term, so she spread out the credits between the terms to receive maximum scholarship and grants. One of her instructors for her art history minor asked her to join a group she is taking to study in Italy for the May term - they'd make an exception for her minor. I told her to look into what funds are available for that, and she did, and there are. We'll run the numbers and decide before the Feb deadline. It sounds like such a wonderful opportunity! Her major is in psychology, but she really loves art history. I should encourage her to look into what it would take to double major, since there's a cap on the cost over a certain number of credits - she may be close enough to make it feasible. And who knows, maybe having two majors will help in the end for acquiring a post-school career Smile

Speaking of careers, my second daughter is really enjoying her new career at the spa/salon she went to after graduating cosmetology school. She's continues to prepay her few loans that are in the grace period, while she's still here at home. She's looking ahead to moving out into her own place, but she's biding her time and building up her money reserve. We used to joke in her younger years that the depositing of her paychecks in the bank was only a formality as they were immediately dispersed to stores at the mall. But she has grown up and listened, learned and, more importantly, acts on her financial goals and plans - very, very proud of her!

My third daughter is a senior in high school this year. We've been spending the last couple weekends photographing her in various locales for her senior pictures. Then she needs to decide which one goes into the yearbook. Over the summer we visited her first choice of community college. There's another one she'll check out nearer the downtown area of the Twin Cities that is an easy straight shot in by bus. Her first choice is a nice school, but does have some major parking issues, and the nearest bus connection is nearly to the school. Some upcoming decisions soon - free application week is in Nov.

My youngest is a sophomore already! She took her driver's permit exam and passed. Yesterday, we finally had a chance to get her in the car - by the fourth, you'd think it would be less terrifying Smile She did well after getting a few right turns under her belt and a feel for the gas and the brakes.

Husband is doing well too Smile His branch boss was let go recently, as the company reduces its mid-level management. The guy who took over manages branches here in our metro area and Rapid City SD, with the install/service areas they encompass. We're hoping for this to be a positive thing rather than a worrying thing. His line of work is in security/fire systems (he does commercial and industrial, but the company does homes too,) and this industry is still feeling the backlash of hard times and budget line reductions. My husband has been keeping stealth feelers out, just in case...and we keep our budget in line as usual.

I was looking back over some of my early blog entries, and was reminded of some of what we did during the leaner times. Sometimes I get into an automatic mode that I forget or ignore taking a closer look at what we spend money on.

First up...groceries. My groceries category encompasses a lot - our food, health and beauty, household items, pet needs, and even small clothing and school needs (blacks shoes for band concert, poster board, etc.) I should probably just call it my Target category, because that's pretty much where I shop. I'd like to look a little closer at what I'm spending and try to reduce it a little, as I think we can do better than we have. The cupboards are replenished after the summer "eat down". I'm slowly stocking up on items for the upcoming season of baking, but we're pretty stocked up household-wise, so it's a good time to hone it down.

We keep a running list on the frig of what we need, and I check in with the family before I go. I don't use a lot of coupons (not available), but what I have is always clipped to the list. My grocery list is on one of those long shop list pads, with a bull clip magnet. I flip up the bottom and write the meal list on the back. I always keep soup, frozen pizza, mac and cheese, etc on hand for crazy times or too tired days. I like eating out, but not wasting it in a frazzle or due to laziness.

With its cooler temps and school's schedule, September has me in a CrockPot mood! Last night, I tried a new soup recipe - Pizza Soup - excellent (and smelled wonderful all day.) Scalloped potatoes and ham for tonight. I do love fall!

Speaking of fall - I've been taking the most amazing walks on the paths at the nearby county park. Forget going north for the leaves this year - it's gorgeous here in the metro right now! Did I mention I love fall?!!

Enjoy your weekend...take care!

How can it be.....

July 3rd, 2012 at 07:00 am

...six months since I've last posted! Life gets so busy!!

I had to update all of the girls ages, and added another kitten to the batch. My third daughter was driving home from the next town over, and found a little kitten near its dead mother next to the road. Its a rural area, so no nearby homes, and well, she brought it home. We had our vet check her over and deworm her. Such a sweet little tortie calico, but pure kitten too (livened up our middle-aged kitten crew!)

My oldest girl is spending the summer working at the college. We got her moved into her new place on Jun 1. She missed a few days of work when the city was recently flooded. Her place only got a little water in the basement, but some of her friends had a bit more. Our favorite state park near her is closed due to massive damage - it may be years before it can reopen, though I hope not. Not sure what we'll do for our warm-weather economy lodging for a while...luckily we were up there a week ahead of the flood to visit and camp. What devastation though...

My second girl has finished her cosmetology program, and started her career this week! Her plan is to work, live at home for a few months and get her finances in order before she moves out. She's our one that really likes to plan things out, and then goes for it! And she's looking forward to signing up for the retirement plan as soon as she's eligible Smile

We'll be checking out the local two-year colleges this summer with my third daughter. She has had an IEP throughout most of her school years, so I'm a little worried (as moms always do!) But she has definite goals in mind for the future, and I'm sure we will find the right place to get her started.

My baby is taking her classroom drivers ed starting next week - how can this be??! She is my outdoor girl, and we've been spending a lot of time at the lake this hot, hot summer. We finally purchased a couple of kayaks this year, and been using them nearly daily. We often take them to our favorite swim beach, and kayak for an hour, and then swim and float on floaties for the rest of the afternoon. I lead a very charmed life, I know Smile

Money-wise -

I took my summer pay lump-sum after school ended as I usually do. Most of it is in the savings, though we helped out my oldest when she wasn't working during her May term - her school schedule was very full and intense, as the term only lasts three weeks (but by doing so, she'll graduate a half-year early, so good trade-off!)

We took our camping trip just after school ended and had a lot of fun. The rest of the summer will be pretty low-spend though, with trips to the library and daily to the beach. No one is going to school this summer which helps (except drivers ed, but that's already paid for.) Have some vacation time for husband in August, but school activities have already snuck in and claimed some, so we may get a start on painting the house (if the weather cooperates.) We've always painted our house ourselves, but we'll see how we fare - not as young as we used to be and the girls have `full calendars - I have some ideas of potential painting helper hires too.

The two younger girls will be heading to Italy for a band trip next March. I have the funds ready to pay out as the school asks for it. I do need to get the girls passports, and look for a deal on luggage (our camping duffles probably won't be up to snuff.)

We had a slew of medical and dental appointments - easier to manage outside the school schedule. Most will be covered as free annuals. I felt like I splurged, though it's been a number of years, and got myself some new glasses. My distance sight was the same, but the bifocal had doubled in stregth in the four years - my age is showing! Our new eye insurance allows only a few places in-network, and so I tried out Target optical (my girls tried Pearle Vision last year, but I didn't find any frames I liked.) So far, so good...but I still miss the service I'd get from my local stand-alone place.

Speaking of medical - We're trying out the HDHP with HSA choice this year, and besides a few panicked early months, I think we chose well. So far, we've spent a lot less than last year overall. It's just when it all comes at the front, rather than piecemeal throughout the year, it's a little scary. I also have covered everything without touching the HSA so far. I could reimburse myself or use the debit card for the account, but I'm trying to see if we can build the account up for future, more costly use. If we don't use it, we can keep it for use during our retirement years, when we may be able to afford the costs. We'll see...I feel like I'm still learning the ins and outs of this all.

Well, another hot day on tap.... we did put the window ac units in last night ...we're all a little less cranky! The heat's supposed to ease up by the weekend, hopefully. A little straightening around the house, figuring out what's for dinner, a few errands, and then it's to the lake for us Smile Take care!

It's all about taxes and fafsa....

January 29th, 2012 at 07:33 am

....or so it seems lately! Actually, there is light at the end of this tunnel...

I've been working on our taxes last weekend and this, and finished! I'm always so jealous of all the mentions of people finishing earlier in the month. Between both tuition statements and one w-2 finally showing up on Friday - well, I'll be polite and say I was extremely pleased with their arrival.

We owe the state a little as usual, and will be getting a refund from federal thanks to the American Opportunity credit for both girls. People used to tell me that we'll have it made with two in college at the same time, but except for more offers of loans, we weren't seeing it. Compared to the dollars spent on tuition, the refund is a drop in the bucket, but I'm not refusing it! I think we'll get to do this one more year, unless the credit is renewed by the government again. We'll have almost the same tax situation in 2012, except I'll lose the child tax credit on my third. Makes my head spin!!

I still have to do the oldest two girls' taxes today- simple and easy. Then I'll start on the FAFSAs for each. I think these will be similar to last year's, and probably similar financial aid offers.

To take a break from those head spinning taxes, I've been trying to learn all the ins and outs of our new version of health plan (same provider as last year, but it's a HDHP this year) and our new HSA. Kind of makes my head spin just as fast the other way Smile I momentarily panicked after paying outright some of our first prescriptions earlier in Jan, thinking we may have made a huge mistake doing this option. But after having real figures to finagle, and not the wild ones my mind was plucking from my panicking memory,I was relieved to find the numbers that helped make the decision last Nov. Oh the safety of having those real numbers, a working calculator, a pen and paper....though there are moments when being oblivious to it all may be the way to go (lucky husband of mine!)

Otherwise, we've been hanging tight here. We had such a bout of beautiful weather most of Jan. Wonderful for getting out for walks and for less heating costs. No snowshoeing, but I can deal Smile

I've been on a soup kick lately - maybe because so many here have been mentioning soup too. I love soup because I've been using up dibs and dabs of stuff in the fridge and freezer, it takes care of itself once it's assembled (lots of crockpot ones) and it tastes wonderful. Along with our usual standbys of chili, taco soup and minestrone, I've tried chicken enchilada soup, broccoli cheese soup (huge hit!),
black bean soup (supposed to be similar to Panera Bread's and it's a close match) and a potato/vegetable soup. Many have come from a website called skinnytaste.com - it has the nutrition info and Weight Watchers points for those wanting that, and the photos of the food are wonderful.

We've been doing well with groceries, but have been noticing the creeping up of prices. It's inched up at restaurants too, so the best deal all around is homecooking. All the more important to not let any food go to waste (yay soups!) I've been baking a little every so often for the younger girls' lunches. I bagged up the leftovers from the holidays and stored in the freezer, and have started to add in a new choice - I love to bake, and it saves a little over buying at the store.

Well, a novel as usual....plus the rest of those taxes and the FAFSAs aren't getting done by themselves! Have a great day!!!

Christmas Tidings

December 27th, 2011 at 08:29 am

We had a fun Christmas. We spent within what we had planned, and everyone got many nice things. My brother and his wife and daughter #2's boyfriend joined us for a Christmas Eve ham dinner at our house. It was an evening of laughter! We slept in a little for the next morning, and then opened gifts to each other and stockings from Santa. Later on Christmas Day, we headed over to my dad-in-law's place. We all brought food and visited. We were home by 5pm or so, and watched a new dvd. By 7pm, we were either asleep already or nodding off, so early to bed for us!

My husband had yesterday and today off as holiday, and Wed as a vacation day. Second daughter headed into school today, and has an appt made for her older sister later today. We'll do a couple of store returns and a bookstore stop (giftcards!) before I drop her off for her hair coloring and facial. After they are done, the rest of us will join them for a meal out - not sure where yet.

No real plans otherwise for the time off - I can tell it will go fast though! I've been cleaning out little spots that have been driving me crazy as I encounter them. A drawer in the bathroom, a couple of shelves on a bookcase in my room, my closet floor (now that Santa is done storing his stuff in there!) Adding to my donate pile, which will head out of here before the year's end Smile

There's no snow in MN! So no snowshoeing or other usual wintery things we like to do here. Can you believe it - 40s for temps? As long as we don't have to pay in the spring (like snow in May - hate when that happens!)

I need to sum up in a holiday journal that I keep the details of this Christmas for reference next year - what went well, what didn't, ideas for gifts. My mom-in-law gave me my first one the Christmas after I was married, and I've diligently kept one up since. It helps me mostly for not repeating gifts to extended family over and over (once I have a good idea...,) and how many batches of what cookies so I don't run out, or have too many in the end. I also track prices of things, so I'd have a running tab on the total, and it's interesting to see how much postage or tree costs have increased, or what changes the budget went though - children added or job changes or medical expenses or car stuff.... A lot happens in 27 years!!

On the near horizon - the monthly tuition for number 2 daughter, the semester bill for number 1 daughter, the annual life insurance bill for me, tabs for some of the vehicles, property tax (April) - there probably is more that I'm not recalling at the moment. We'll help my oldest with some expenses too - she works on campus, but the school shuts down for about a month between semesters (so she's not working.) She'll receive one more check soon, but then it'll be four weeks without. Her expenses are low luckily, so we'll help with her share of rent and enough groceries to see her through until she's got money coming in again. I've been freezing chicken, ham and meatballs and quick breads and cookies, and we'll send along holiday leftovers. Then we'll transfer enough money to her account for her to fill in the gaps once she's back up there. She's in a house of four, and with the break they can meal share a bit more than they usually can (all different schedules!) A bit more time for cooking soups and stuff for the oven etc. It's fun to see her really "get" stretching the budget - I'm so proud!

Also in college news...with the end of this past semester, my oldest is officially a senior! She's on track to graduate one year from now, which is a half year early!! She's signed up for classes for this upcoming second term, then will take two courses in the May term, and finish up next fall term. Her classes are mapped out with her counselor, and she has preference now as a senior. We didn't use all of her financial aid offered for this year, so there is money for the May term that we weren't planning on. Life is good! Daughter is a little nervous with the prospect of getting a job after college, but plans to make use of any and all services provided by the college.

Except for tonight's dinner out treat, we've been, and will be, eating leftovers and making a dent in the fridge! We made a huge ham on Christmas Eve, and we were given the bbq shredded pork leftovers from Christmas Day - none will go to waste! We have a lot of fresh vegies and dips and fruit to round out the meals a bit.

I guess it's the same old, same old around here... but it's always something! Smile

Happy Holidays and a wonderful New Year to all!

Dallying in December

December 3rd, 2011 at 06:43 am

We got our snow! It's only about an inch, but it's looking a bit more like December now.

Lots of holiday prepping - Some baking already in the freezer, with more to happen this weekend. The girls like to help - a good thing to do on a frosty day.

Gifts are getting there - probably more than half way done. When the girls were little, it was far easier to get their shopping done early! Except for the twin nieces, extended family that we exchange with is done. For the two little girls, my girls and I will head to a wonderful toy store in a town near us, and pick out some fun things for them (they're the only little ones left, until the time of grandchildren!) It's a store that we'd go to when mine were little that encourages a lot of trying out of the toys. The owners are tolerant of big kids playing too!

We went to cut our tree on Thanksgiving weekend, when all the girls were home. It's up in the living room with lights and garland on, with only this year's new ornaments for the girls on it so far (small handmade felted mittens from our trip to Grand Marais this fall.) It smells wonderful! Hopefully we can decorate a bit more on Sunday.

In other financial news - Our Honda Odyssey has been occasionally not starting at inopportune times, though I've been always able to get a family member to come give a jump. I told my husband that it's not comforting to have to carry jumper cables wherever I go....so we replaced the battery as a first lowest cost measure. So far, so good! The old one wasn't super old, but a new battery is cheaper compared to the work and expense of replacing the starter or whatever else it could be.

Of the six members in my household, two-thirds of us wear glasses/contacts (and one of the remaining wears drugstore readers Smile I had thought I could start replacing eyewear in the coming year, but some of the needs were too great.

Repairs to my oldest's glasses were getting beyond what most would find acceptable in public (blatantly ignoring her father's offer of duct tape repairs!) She wanted to try contacts out, and so stayed within what was paid by the insurance for the glasses at least. A chip off the old block - well,the one that uses less duct tape anyway.

My third daughter was saying it was hard to see the board at school. We took her in, and she had a significant change. Glasses for her (no sticking things in the eye for her!) Number two girl will be heading in for a new pair in the next week or so. Me I'm pushing off into the new year, as my glasses aren't cheap. My luxuries are bifocal with a progressive lens and as thin as they can go polycarbonate Smile

My oldest registered for second term at college. I've yet to peek at her account to see if the bill has been posted, but I'm thinking it should be comparable to what we paid in the fall. My second's schooling is paid monthly, with the last payment being in March or April (can't remember if we pay for 8 or 9 months.)

Have been doing very good in keeping our grocery costs down. A little effort in planning goes so far, but falls too easily to the wayside when I'm not watchful of it - I want to say human nature, but it's more likely my nature Smile

Took a look outside, and everything is covered in hoarfrost - beautiful!! The drive to get groceries should be spectacular...

Take care and enjoy your weekend!

November Natterings

November 19th, 2011 at 05:14 am

Boy, it's been busy lately, but with what, I'm not sure! Cheerleading and tennis are done for the season for the youngest two. We visited with my oldest over the state-wide educators' conference break in Oct. While there, we drove up to Grand Marais for the day and had a wonderful time exploring, with the most perfect weather you could ask for on a fall day. I went to my second girl's school for a color and cut, and she did a fantastic job (told her she will be my stylist forever!)

On the money front - well, all I can say is that we survived Sep and Oct! November brings on the start of the holiday spending, but all have been put on notice of our reduced circumstance (we're in college mode, girls, and all will get their turn!) Following close behind is the continued monthly school charges for second daughter and the second term bill for oldest daughter...we'll get through, we will, we will!

We're eating a combination of meals from the freezer and less expensive meals to allow for holiday meal and baking extras. We've been eating lots of stews and soups which is fine with us as we love them! I have some beans soaking at the moment for a ham-bean soup tonight.

In anticipation of possible snow sometime today, we went grocery shopping last night. We enjoy a little baking on a snowy afternoon, so have plenty of ingredients for the stuff we will freeze. I always think of a line from Truman Capote's The Christmas Memory, saying that there comes a day in November when it's fruitcake weather. We're not much for the traditional fruitcake ourselves, but we do up a variety of breads that we give as gifts.

Please ignore all this early baking banter, if you like to do it closer to the holidays Smile I come from long line of what I like to call the cookie tray ladies...I remember the year my youngest brother was born, he was due early December. My mom and I baked and baked until we had filled the chest freezer with ice cream buckets of cookies and candy. And it was all done before Thanksgiving, luckily, as my brother couldn't wait to get here and came early, little turkey! Closer to Christmas, we created endless trays to give to friends and family. Now, my girls and I continue the tradition, with some of my grandma's recipes, some of my mom's and some of our own - lots of history in every tray and container heading out our door!

I also picked up more for our Thanksgiving meal. That's shaping up nicely, with my immediate family converging all together by Wed night. Our turkey is so huge this year, that we put it in the frig last night to start thawing. Each of the four girls picks their favorite thing from the meal to cook or bake.

The house looks pretty decent - been using our fall weekends productively. This weekend we're cleaning the carpets in our dining and living rooms (open to each other.) We need to check on our old carpet cleaner - it seems to me that there was something not working right, which was why it was in the basement near my husband's workbench. We've also been known to keep nonworking items, thinking of getting rid of them, only to keep them in that state long enough to forget that that was our intent. I use to blame this stuff on the distraction of kids, but I'm thinking we're just getting old - ha! Luckily, there's a cleaner to rent at our local grocery store, 'cause either way, it's getting done!!

We got through the nerve-wracking decision of open enrollment. Actually, the choices are fewer each year, so in some ways it's easier. This year the big decision was on choosing between an Open Access Plan (more traditional health plan) with an FSA and an HDHP with an HSA. Last year we did the OAP/FSA, and this year we went the other route. We're putting enough funds into the HSA to well cover the deductible, and our own savings could cover the max- out of pocket. We're anticipating a quiet health year, but can manage if it's not. Hopefully, we chose well....

We got our next year's proposed tax notice on our house, and for the most part, it'll be a repeat of this year. Along with it came a change in the homestead credit, and I'm pretty sure the only ones who know for sure what it's saying are the guys who created it. I guess we'll find out what's what at tax time.

Well, so far no snow... I always like the first snowfall, especially on a weekend, when I don't have to go anywhere. Snow or no snow, we have no plans to be away from home - we have everything we want or need here at home Smile Enjoy your weekend - take care!

Off to a racing start.....

October 2nd, 2011 at 08:35 am

Haircut - I took a half day off on Friday, so that I could be my second's live haircut model. The cut was free (well relative, as we are paying tuition!) When her instructor checked her work, she told my girl she did an excellent job. I said I should have brought my camera - can still get a good eyeroll outta that girl! A fun afternoon!!

Garden and yard cleanup - Worked with my youngest and cleaned out the gardens and put away pots and garden miscellanea. Cleaned and oiled the garden tools.

Grocery shopping - Went to Sam's with my husband and youngest. Bought a lot of meat, fruit and vegies, and pantry stockup. Youngest also found canned pumpkin for some pumpkin bread, which we made later in the afternoon. Soup was in the crockpot, so dinner was easy after a busy day. All meals planned for the coming week - it's a whirlwind!

Money out - Will work on financial today - besides the normal ones, many bills are converging in October (knew it was an extra scary month!) Oldest's college tuition is due by the the 6th, second girl's by the 15th, property taxes on the 15th, 2 deposits for the February band trip to Chicago on the 11th. Plus we're pondering the idea of heading up to oldest over our state's teacher convention time mid-month...and, dum dum DUM, we might stay overnight at a motel. We looked into bringing the tent camper, but private places are already closed for the season and plumbing is shut down by the 10th at the state park, with the vault toilets on the far side of the campground (not a good thing for those middle of the night trips made by me.) We found a cheap chain motel - not as cheap as camping, but a good price.

Today will be a little more low-key, as our week is shaping up to be busy. A visit to the library, and will check with the rest of the family for any other errands while out and about. Maybe a walk on the trail near our house - the trees are getting gorgeous.

Next week is youngest's last tennis match, two back-to-school nights at the high school (husband and I each go through a speeded-up version of a daughter's day at school and introduction to each teacher - we trade notes later.) End of season party for tennis. Regular practices for cheerleader daughter and an at-home game on Friday. Before-school marching band practices for the two youngest with a performance at Friday's game. Next weekend is family birthday party for our 5 yr old twin nieces (need to get gifts.) It's going to be a very looong week!

How do I spend my time....

August 20th, 2011 at 06:56 am

I have been continuing my cleaning, organizing, de-cluttering and financing:

- worked in my bedroom - went through MY stuff (working with husband on HIS this weekend) Nice to know that I'm set for "back to school" and everything is organized and in order for crazy mornings.

- finally finished my June project of our big attic - cleared out more to donate, boxed up what was being kept, and put most of it back in the attic (except for holiday, the next time most of the boxes leave is with the girls as they move to their own permanent places in the future.) The couple of boxes still in the hallway upstairs are the only ones left to go through, but they're out of the way, so will get to as I'm able.

- ran one load of donations gleaned from the above projects a couple weeks ago, and have another smaller load to go after the girls go through their stuff once more before school (though some of their clothes will go to Plato's Closet first to see if they will buy.) Except for what was unearthed in the attic, there has been less and less for donation in general - helps to be doing it a little more regular, I think.

- in anticipation of a small family reunion of my husband's side at our house, the girls and I did a pretty decent cleaning of most of the house. What didn't get done before the party has now gotten done after - my bedroom's closet, dressers, and underbed storage (except husband's part.) I also worked on cleaning the main floor's windows and treatments, and our bed's duvet and cover. We had beautiful weather this week, so out on the line it all went to dry in the fresh air and sun. Feeling really good about the state of the house, as in the summer we tend to run to the lake or get outside in some manner over doing anything beyond basic housekeeping! And then once school starts.... :-) (Ok, ok, I'll admit I'm a bit cleaning challenged. I grew up in a house that was so clean that when we did the spring and fall housekeeping it always felt we were cleaning a clean house, but we did it anyway! Now my house...well, I love it when it is clean, but I see it as a losing battle that I never seem to win, but always have to attend. Well, my mom must be beaming at me from heaven this week!)

- clearing out the dregs of our small chest freezer - always amazing what finds its way to the bottom. Have been able to stretch out the grocery shopping this summer a bit, which is good.....

- ...as we've had to start paying for the our second daughter's schooling this week! She's off to a great start - excited about classes and what's she's learning.

- oldest daughter received her financial aid notice, and for the first time her grants and scholarships add up to enough that we won't have her take out any student loans for her this year! We can easily cover the balance of tuition and fees. Her work-study covers her living expenses and books. Life is expensive, but good around here!

- the two younger girls started their fall sports with a vengeance - that signals summer's end more than anything! Third girl is a junior and cheering again this year (not enough people for a squad last year.) And youngest is a freshman and on the tennis team. The fees are outrageous, but the girls put some of their own earnings toward the costs.

- finally getting some tomatoes - the Big Girl has gone crazy, but the Sweet 100s are struggling (something's eating the leaves - we've had an invasion in our area of japanese beetles, but I haven't found any on the plant.)

- still eeking out more summer pursuits while we can. I'm hanging my laundry out, swimming in the lake, pulling weeds and watering the garden, taking walks with my husband at the nearby county park. The state and renaissance fairs are coming up - we'll see how finances hold out as we get closer. I think we'll be cleaning and closing up the tent trailer for the season - definitely didn't go camping as much as we had wanted, but there were other things we did get to do instead. There's always next year!

Better end this novel...enjoy your weekend!

Summer summary

July 8th, 2011 at 07:26 am

I've been so frustrated with my entries disappearing!!!! (ok, got that out...)

First, thank you to all who commented on my last entry. Yes, doctors are telling us the fainting is something she should outgrow. And we're back to good again - no fainting since the first week of June.

Besides losing typed entries to oblivion....

We've been in clearing out mode here. My youngest and I have been working our way through the remaining house attic space. I'm amazed how much in there was not bought by us (actually yay!) - most originates from my well-meaning and generous inlaws. We kept the spirit and gestures behind the gifts, but donated the physical items. The girls went through their rooms, and culled the unwanted also.

Items of more value have been set aside to see if we can sell. Replacements.com is interested in, and is writing up an offer, on a set of unused silver - I'm hoping it's a good one. If that works out, we have some china and crystal to part with. We also put out an email to a gallery on a signed limited edition art print that looks like it has some value. If that place isn't interested, I'm not sure where else to try selling it.

We also junked our oldest minivan - called a cash for junker place and they came and picked it up. I know it's silly, but I was a bit sad to see it go. It was my mom's car, which we took over use when she went into a nursing home. It had a long life, and served us all very well, with the girls sharing its use at the end.

On the spending side, we purchased with cash a used Honda Accord for the girls to use. My second girl will be commuting to school in August, and we wanted something reliable and fuel efficient. We used craigslist again (we bought the Olds that way a few years back.) Of course, the state is shut down, so no title transfers can be done on either the junked Plymouth or the new Honda - arg!

The Accord needs brake pads and rotors replaced, and my Odyssey needs an oil change and oil, air and cabin filters. My husband bought what he needed last night at the auto store, and will work on that this weekend. It's very handy having a husband who is handy :-)

On the plus side for not spending - since school has ended we've been stretching out the time between grocery shopping. I did a big Sam's run before my second's grad party the first weekend in June, and then did a small trip to Target a couple weeks later to stock up on milk and fruit/vegies. I'm stretching it out another couple days, and will head to Sam's again maybe on Sunday.

Of course any savings is already earmarked :-) We have nothing for the rest of July, so catching up a bit after the new car purchase. August has a bit more though! We have a camping trip to SD planned for the first week. Sport fees are due soon after - third girl is thinking of doing cheerleading again and youngest is doing tennis. Second girl starts school Aug 15, with the first payment due that day and the 15th of the next seven months. Back to school stuff later on in Aug (ugh to be talking of it already!) I have an OfficeMax reward of $44 (expiring at the end of July,) which will take care of the bulk of school supplies. The girls are petering out on the growing, so not much for clothes (plus they have jobs to supplement any whims beyond what I contribute.) The oldest's tuition and financial aid should be known sometime in Aug, though not due until Oct.

And my favorite little ways to save are still happening - I'm biking around in town for errands, combining and planning out the errands I need to drive to, hanging my laundry outside on the lines, and tending my little tomato plants (lots of little green fruit on the branches already!), plus cooking and eating at home. Nothing extraordinary, but it all helps out.

Enjoy your day!!

School's out for summer!!

June 10th, 2011 at 06:38 am

Whirlwind of activity lately! But school's out, and I'm very ready for summer to begin....

Got through graduation and birthday festivities for second daughter. We hosted a grad party for her last weekend, and it was fun to catch up with everyone and see the crazy grads together.

Oldest daughter has been home since last weekend to join us in all of the celebrating, and also squeezed in medical and dental appointments before she heads back to school on Sunday. She's attending the summer session and working on campus this summer, but took off a week from work before school starts.

I got to see the new place when I picked the oldest up. She and her friends made all of the arrangements, and were stressing a bit before the move-in. Details like old lease ends on the 31st and new one starts on the 1st, how to move stuff between places with no vehicles, transferring utility accounts - well, the four new roommates learned much in this move :-) It's a cute house, near the busline to the campus. All her stuff is moved in, except for the massive amount of laundry she came bearing home. Because of the quick change of her rooming situation last year, she made due with an inflatable mattress for her bed. A few patches here and there every so often, and the occasional hint of wishing for a REAL bed...well, she did live to tell the tale. But all good, and not so good, things come to an end, and she is now the proud owner of an inexpensive, very portable bed setup from Ikea. You'd think we'd given her a million dollars.

We're heading up to the college on Sun - daughter, her laundry and new bed, along with us and the trailer and camping gear, as we'll stay up for the week to visit her and help get her settled in the new place. Second girl won't be able to join us due to work (though may head up for a couple of the days mid-week.) Entering new territory as we add more jobs and school to the mix!

As you might imagine, distracted times lead to distracted spending. Nothing too horrible, but have had a bunch of unexpected expenses to deal with. I've made reference to our fading fleet of vehicles, well luckily, my newer Honda Odyssey is holding true. The other two older cars - all I can say is at least they are tag teaming the repairs! The Plymouth will be in the shop while we're gone - and fingers crossed we're making the right decision in its repair, rather than its demise. We are keeping a lookout for a replacement (toss up on whether the Plymouth or Olds go first - and it would be so nice if it wasn't at the same time!)

We've also had a resurgence of what was happening last year with my youngest health-wise, with the fainting. Not as often, and doctors feel it's still within an acceptable range. Last year, we were very lucky with no injuries, but this spring, she's hit her head (luckily a goose egg with no lasting effects) and did a direct hit onto to her shoulder (resulting in ortho dr visits and physical therapy sessions - and the insurance this year doesn't pay as well as in the past.) So frustrating to have a good run of seven months with no fainting, and then have it all start up again. I made contact with a mom whose daughter is going through a similar experience - she's more where we were last year - and she talked of program down at Mayo, so there may be hope yet. We are lucky to have so many medical resources available in the area, but in the end it comes down to eliminating what it isn't, and realizing how much is not known about the human body. Some days I'm better with patience than others, but I'm always searching for answers, and trying to keep life as normal as possible for her.

I guess the rest of it (finances included)luckily comes together on its automated way. We could be the poster family of "When thinking of the cost of raising kids, it's not about the diapers!" I always tell people, learn from us :-) Oh well, I figure my husband and I will have down pat the "tired" part of retire -ha!

Off to a running start today - picking up prescriptions, and getting my oldest driver's license renewed, and the library (desperate for books!)and maybe a haircut. And laundry, which I'll hang out if it doesn't rain, and grocery shopping for the camper. I better get to it! Take care!!

Ready for April

March 31st, 2011 at 05:08 am

Our spring break ended with a fizzle....

My youngest got sick, and she was knocked out on the couch or in her bed for several days. The high school played in championship basketball games, and my third girl played in the pep band several times over the course of the week. The least I say about the snow storm mid-last week, the better. Spent two afternoons, straightening out the FSA and all things health insurance - I have nothing civil to say about the process, except that I am really hoping there is someone there who can, and will do, what they keep telling me they will do to fix it (and no, I do not want another confirmation number as I have plenty!)

Not all was dismal though - I spring-cleaned my bedroom, and it's now lovely in there. Cleared out several bags worth of stuff from all over the house and dropped off at our favorite charity. I tried out some new recipes and baked. We visited the library a couple of times, and we all read more than we had been lately. In my ever quest to be organized, I came up with yet another way to keep track of user/passwords for everything on the computer (took longer than it should have, but now even my husband could figure it out if he had to, and the new way does not involve a flutter of post-its:-) Wild and crazy life, I know!

Back to school and work for us girls this week. Time for buckling down expense-wise too. We're expecting to have to pull together some big dollars by fall for schooling for the two oldest. There is enough to cover it from our savings, but I'm thinking we can do a bit better with our budget of late and get together at least a good amount before the first payments are needed. We have some sort-of figures from the fafsa, but won't know until just before school starts what we'll need exactly (and this drives me crazy, so we always over-estimate, which isn't a bad thing either.) My oldest got some good news a couple days ago - she was awarded more work-study funds for the rest of this school year, which is great because she is signed up for classes in the summer in her quest to graduate early. (I feel like a broken record with all my posts in trying to figure out this college stuff....but I guess I've been known to talk to death some subjects in real life too - just the way I roll I guess :-)

My third girl is heading to Denver after school on Friday for her high school band trip, so tonight will be wrapping up the packing. She's excited! We're hoping for good weather (not sure what that is any more for any where this year.) I'm sure she'll have a great time.

Have a wonderful spring day!

Looking forward to this weekend...

March 5th, 2011 at 08:15 am

Busy week at work - the resource room I work out of has a student that has been difficult to service, and we're trying to figure out ways to accommodate his needs, while still balancing the needs of the other students in the room. As a staff, we're taking turns visiting a facility that services students with unique needs from area school districts (the most difficult students to service in our small, short-staffed local school districts.) I went on Tuesday, and felt our student would fit perfectly at the facility, which has a 1:1 student/staff ratio. I'm not sure how well we'll do with creating that sort of environment at our school, given we aren't anywhere near that ratio! But I came away with some great ideas that will help with the student(anything would help the situation!)as well as for the other students I work with. Still loving my job and the kids! People ask all the time how I'm liking it at the middle school, and my standard response has been that it's the same needs as in early childhood, just taller kids. This week I have to say though - same needs, taller kids, but hormones make quite a difference -yikes!

Last week I had mailed out a renewal of a work license for my husband to the state. Yesterday, we received a mailing from them, and opened it. Out dropped a mangled version of what we had mailed, with the bottom half missing, plus a letter saying they couldn't process the license or check. Hmmm, I wonder why - maybe because it was half missing?! Not sure where it happened (suspect the PO, as the stamp hadn't yet been canceled,) but mailed it out once again. Fingers crossed!

Finally got tabs renewed for my minivan and our trailer this week. I went to do it over our little break a couple weeks ago, and missed the office being open by a half hour (early hours on Fridays - got to remember that)and then on that Mon, it was closed for President's Day. Glad to have it done, though we need some warm weather to put the tabs onto the plates.

Last Sunday, we visited a free zoo and conservatory. My two middle girls are taking the same photo class at school, and they both had a ball with their cameras. The conservatory had their spring flower show - so beautiful! It gives one hope of things to come....

Will be heading out for groceries at SuperTarget soon. I have a pair of black pants of my daughter's to return. Not too much needed today, as we had stocked up at Sam's last weekend. Just some items, we can't get at Sam's, and some we just prefer to get at Target. Doing well with eating at home, except for planned eating out. Plus we've made good use of giftcards for restaurants we received at Christmas. It's all good...

As many have mentioned here, gas is getting pricey. It just seems that when the prices are highest, we end up driving all the more - ha! I do get reimbursed for mileage I did for school, which will help. We have been trying to do something fun on Sundays, usually it's a free activity, except for gas. Oh well, at least we can still afford it. (I feel most bad for those who can least afford the prices and have no other options but to pay :-(

My oldest called with news - she and her friend have found a place for all of next year (Jun '11 - May '12.) She needed some help with the deposit, and I transferred the dollars to her account. I also checked it out online (love google) as much was possible. The owner is local to the unit, which is nice. There are four bedrooms, and as of yesterday, they already have a third friend for a room. The monthly amount divided by two is a little high but not unreasonable, divided by three is what she is paying now, and by four will be wonderful! It's an older home (as most of them are in the area) but smaller and less grand than the one she is in now - meaning the ceilings aren't so high or not so many grand, cold windows,etc. Plus it's been updated better. My daughter has the whole top floor with lots of windows at her current place - "I can see Lake Superior!" My first thought was shoot, it'll be freezing when those winds come a-blowing. She also has a cranky radiator. The thing is massive, but you couldn't tell for all the heat she gets in her room. It's been a learning experience for sure! We sent up an electric blanket and a space heater - luckily electric is a part of what her monthly rent covers. She was very proud in finding that first place, but knows a little more about covering the basic human needs. She and her friend found this one on their own too, but it looks like it'll be a good choice for them. It's as far from the school as the other, but a quicker route, as it's nearer the main street heading up to the campus. So my girl is set with a place, a job, and classes to take over the summer. We'll be definitely heading up to her for visits this summer - it'll be so different...my girls are growing up, and mom has to get used to it!!

My second girl just got a job at Applebees. She went through three interviews with three managers, and she did it! It should work out great, as it's near the school that she'll be starting at this August. They know she's still in high school until June, and it sounds like her hours will increase over the summer, and then back to a reasonable amount for school again - so yay!. (There's a few doing the same thing.) She starts training on Sunday.

Already did some of the weekly cleaning/chores last night and this morning. Groceries in a bit, then maybe some more snowshoeing (the sun is out!) Maybe a little baking - been on a kick with the new range, plus the girls like the treats in their lunches brought to school. Maybe tomorrow we'll head to our history center (free with our membership.) It's a weekend with much potential! Take care!!

If it's got to snow...

February 26th, 2011 at 07:49 am

...I might as well go snowshoeing :-) I know it's MN, but man, oh man, is it ever going to end?! At least, it's a light snow so far today. I went snowshoeing earlier in the week with my youngest, and it was wonderful to be out in the sun. We live next to a county park, and we have the option of a groomed trail along side the nordic skiing trail or we can cut our own trail throughout the campground area (obviously closed for the season.) It has been a great year for the sport!

Speaking of the campground, we're starting to plan out our camping season. A couple weekends ago, we checked out the RV and camping show, as we hadn't for many, many years. As you might expect, the biggest and very best of the camping world were on display. We had tented for decades, and then bought our tent camper two years ago, though remaining for the most part very simple campers. It's nice being off the ground, but we cook and do everything outside our camper. We're looking forward to the possibility of being snowbirds some day, but there's no interest in one of the mammoths we saw at the show. For this year, we're hoping to schedule one out-of-state trip (not too far away, though with gas prices as they are) and two to three other in-state long weekend trips. We love our state parks, it's a toss-up on whether to repeat some of the ones we enjoyed or to try out some new ones. We'll definitely heading to near where our oldest is in school, as she's taking classes and working on campus over the summer up there. And for our bigger trip, hmmm, decisions, decisions... I like to gather info on some realistic possibilities, and then put it out to the family. We hope to include everyone, which means an early August timing. Decisions soon, as reservations have to be made!

I think it was Analise that was mentioning the advantage of knowing what sort of retirement you want, and making specific plans and goals. I so agree with that, and we have been thinking along those lines for a number of years. We're focusing at the moment on our girls' post high-school education, but retirement is not far from our minds and is on auto-pilot (and not to be messed with!) It's nice to know that we won't have to forage for a half a million dollars to fund one of those show RVs - and then the gas!! Not much to say, but wow!

In other news - last weekend was productive in that I finished my oldest's state taxes, so except for mailing our state in with what we owe in April, we're totally done with that. I finished both fafsa'a for the oldest two. The results may figure highly in my "I'm ok with my simple retirement dreams" - ha! The final amount was what I was kind of figuring on.. I truly did not believe all the "you'll make out like a bandit once you have two in school" talk. My second received similar amounts as my oldest, and we pay for the slack. As we are committed to not getting a PLUS loan, we're tightening the belts another notch, and that's ok. Now that we have the figures in for this coming first year with two in school, we'll know what the next six years will hold for the most part, and then the final two years are back to one in school again for my youngest. Whew! That's what we get for spacing our girls so very well:-)

I'm off to Sam's Club in a bit for groceries. Doing well with the grocery budget and meal planning. Also doing better with a little concerted effort on the leftover front. (Freezing is the answer you seek!)

Better get to it! Enjoy your weekend and take care!!

Where have all my entries gone...

January 22nd, 2011 at 06:34 am

...even my old standby highlight and copy wasn't keeping them safe. Well, maybe I was just too wordy!

So short and sweet-

Oldest back to college and new room is working out. Got her bill for 2nd term with an increased state grant amount - surprised, but will take it!

My new job is a blast! I moved over to our middle school, and a very different experience than early childhood, but I'm loving it. Same special ed needs, just taller kids!

We're on the search for a new range. We replaced the washer, dryer, and dishwasher in Oct. I guess the range too is feeling its use and age. (This is what we get for buying all of our appliances all at once eons ago!) Luckily we've been skimming along using the burners and crockpot and microwave, so as to do some comparison shopping. My husband is very handy, but when we priced the part needed for the repair and figured in the age and wear of the appliance, it made sense to find a good sale. (Fingers crossed for our hard working frig - we need a couple more years and then we could downsize a little too.)

As many here have mentioned, I too am awaiting the tax forms to do our taxes and fafsa (for two girls this year!) Soon enough we'll have an idea of what to expect to pay for next year with two in higher educational pursuits - it's like you want know, but you don't want to know :-) I just keep throwing money into the savings in anticipation of what it might be. We didn't have the means earlier on, but learn from me - you'll be so thankful for any dollars saved ahead. The pay-as-you-go method is hair-raising!

Ok, getting a little wordy at the end, but I'll try it, and hopefully it'll publish! Take care!!

Enjoying the Break

December 29th, 2010 at 07:00 am

Christmas was very quick, but fun. The girls and I had school through the Wed before Christmas. I took a half day off Wed afternoon to finish up some errands like grocery shopping etc. Instead of that, I headed north to get my oldest from college, as all of her stuff didn't fit in the car she was coming home in (she goes back to a different apt after break and couldn't leave anything behind.) But we made it back safe and sound...and I shopped with the crowds the next day!

Christmas Eve was spent with my brother and wife at our house. After our own Christmas in the morning with the girls, we headed over the dad-in-law's, bringing tons of food, and met up with my husband's sister and family. Fun visiting all around - my voice was even hoarse from all the talking and laughing over the two days!

We've been enjoying our time off - my husband took vacation the last two days and headed back to work today. The girls and I have off the rest of this week. We've been sleeping in, eating, watching the new movies we got for Christmas, playing games, goofing around with the new toys (my youngest got Just Dance - 1st and 2nd - and that's been fun to do together, mostly because some of us (mom and dad!) are pretty lame dancers!!) Now we're getting into puttering mode - organizing and clearing out and finishing the undone. Love, love these breaks!

As mentioned above, my oldest is moving into a new apt, with a lease this time, for her 2nd term. We're helping her out with the 1st payment (rent and damage deposit), but otherwise with her campus job, a monthly amount grandpa sends and a little on our part, she's got rent and groceries pretty well covered. Her books will again be rented from Chegg, and her tuition will be the same as 1st term, as it maxes out on cost over a certain number of credits. She's been taking over that amount each term, and should be able to graduate after 3 1/2 years. She may not be so great at planning details like packing the car, but she does get the big picture at least!

Yesterday, we dropped off more donations. I've been going through some of the easy to ignore areas of my house. I checked out the wrapping drawers to see if we needed to replenish, but no need. I organized the pantry cupboard, as soon I'm needing to grocery shop again (the ham is almost done!) Things that were given to us that my inlaws could no longer eat, and had sat in our cupboard since the summer are being donated. We eat so differently that no one at my house could stomach the stuff - I feel like I should write sorry on the bag. Oh well, maybe others will enjoy it.

I'm seriously going to have to cut back on my holiday baking, as everyone is now baking and trading treats! I'm going to freeze up a bit to dole out in the girls lunches (it may see us through to the end of the school year!)

Before break, I applied for and got a new position at work. It's still the same classification, but instead of early childhood, I'll be working with special ed middle schoolers. I'm very excited to be there. All but three are students I worked with in their early childhood years and some in their elementary years too. I'm up off the floor and there's less diapering! I'll also have the same hours as my girls, as the time with them is so fleeting! I start next Monday, though I spent some time over there last week.

And the last of my current ramble - Santa brought me and my youngest each a set of snowshoes, and what fun they are! This is the year for them, with all of our snow. So far we've been trekking around in our yard, but will today be venturing to our county park a half mile down the road. The other girls are intrigued by the fun we've been having, so we'll rent some for them to try out. It should be fun!

Enjoy your day!

Back to Reality...it's Snowing!

November 13th, 2010 at 01:55 pm

I can tell I live in good old MN again, after all of the unusually warm weather we've been having.

And, like a true Minnesotan, a little weather didn't hold me back from leaving the house this morning.

I had a soon-to-expire coupon for Great Clips, and I was going to use it! I ran into the Target next door, and picked up a couple items for the girls for the holidays. I really would have liked to finish up the shopping errands at Home Depot for some things for dad-in-law, but the roads were getting worse as the morning went along, and no plows were in sight. (Plus seeing a few cars in the ditch, coupled with a couple encounter with some crazies - well, I have plenty to keep me busy safe and sound at home:-) My husband did head a town over to visit/check on his dad (not that I'm implying he's crazy or anything, he just did, and he took the girls that were home with him!)

My oldest got the news this week that the house she's been renting a room while she's at college is being put on the market, and she'll have to find a new place for the next term in January. We had it good, while it lasted, or maybe it was too good to last...it was a great deal. She's telling everyone she knows, and has a couple places to look at. And there is on-campus housing, if need be.

On the agenda for the rest of the weekend.... cleaning the house, baking (I love to give an array of cookies on my trays for the holidays, so I start early with ones that I can freeze - I know I'm a dying breed, but my mom would have started even earlier than this - ha!) Making a big pot of chili for dinner, which I probably had on the menu the last time I blogged. I'll head to the sewing machine sometime this weekend to shorten some black dress pants for my third daughter for her early December band concert.

I've also taken DisneySteve's decluttering project to heart. I've been clearing out, bagging up, corraling in the back of one of our minivans, and periodically delivering to our favorite place to donate. I don't know why I continue to be so amazed at how much we clear out...but I guess the girls continue to grow up and grow out of things, we lose interest in items, or we just plain don't have need or use for things. But my word, you'd think we'd eventually reach a point of not having so much to pass along :-)

Take care and have a great weekend!!

August is one big checklist....

August 22nd, 2010 at 06:13 am

Medical appointments - check!

Fall sports forms filled out and signed - check!

School supplies bought - check!

Each of the girls to the store for essentials for school - check!

Help my oldest get packed and ready for college - check!

Clean my in-laws basement level and clear out their closets - hey, not on my list, but what the heck, check and check!

Intense bout of 'clear the clutter' at our house - feels so good and check!

Haul my and my in-laws' clutter to the donation destination - yay and check!

Get ready to head north to camp and bring our daughter to college this week - crazy, but check!

Get husband to install new brakes and rotors on the second car heading north and distract his thoughts on why the heck the oldest needs to take so much stuff - check, check!

I think this is why I'm always so ready to have us all go back to school :-)

In financial news - we found out this week what my oldest is receiving for financial aid - not as much as last year, but it'll work out, as her living expenses will be a lot less (dorm last year vs. off-campus this year.) She also rented most of the textbooks online through Chegg, and the one book she couldn't find to rent was cheapest to buy through B&N. So we over halved her book costs this year. (We'll be geniuses by the time my youngest goes to college!)

With all of the school related purchases, I made a very concerted effort to reign in other areas of cost, and it worked....I should do it more often...

We've been eating through the cupboards and freezer, which were in great need of their own decluttering. I went to Sam's Club during their open house event earlier this month, and was impressed enough to buy a membership again (had one many years ago.) And since that shopping have only bought some produce and milk during the school shopping treks with the girls.

We've been so busy with our stuff and helping the in-laws (mom-in-law has been in her home for a week, with a slew of home-visiting nurses and therapists making it possible!) Low-key and -cost things are what we've been craving, like swimming at the beach, taking neighborhood walks or bike rides, and library visits for books and dvds. Time together always gets so precious when back to school is bearing down on us, esp. with my oldest heading back to college.

Scratch what I said above, I'm not ready to let go of summer quite yet;-)

Enjoy your day!

More medical and more college

July 7th, 2010 at 07:53 pm

Tomorrow marks four weeks since the last episode for my youngest...meaning the current medicine combination is working! We are very happy and relieved.

My mom-in-law was scheduled to have surgery for colon cancer this Friday, but was rushed to surgery two weeks early for a blockage in her colon. The surgery went well, and she was about to be released when she had a sudden turn in health. Last Friday, she had the rest of her colon removed as it ended up infected and diseased. It's been a pretty intense week with regards to her recovery. As of yesterday afternoon, she started to head in a positive direction, and today was even better.

May I say the family is more than ready to be done with all things medical! As I've said before, we are blessed for all the medical resources we have available...and for family, friends and all the love, prayers and support in which we've been surrounded. We are very, very blessed.

In between all the medical, regular life marches on... My second girl is getting ready to apply to college soon, and today we toured her number one choice. The cost is a good $10,000 cheaper a year compared to her older sister's, though a little more nickle-dimey for some expenses. I guess you only pay for what you want, but I swear I saw dollar signs in my girl's eyes and a cash register ringing up in my head!

That's all for the moment! Take care!!

Tending My College Blossom

March 26th, 2010 at 08:22 am

Yesterday I wrote an entry about our first year of college at our house, likening it to new attempts at gardening. (Well, minus the doing away part of so many of my gardening feats - luckily my girl is a plucky little blossom!) It was definitely an "our" experience, as our oldest daughter has gracefully executed her freshman year, while we, her parents, muddled our way through the finances.

We've learned much this year....

Living in the dorm afforded my oldest great access to the school and all that it offers. We looked at the meal plans, and ended up picking an appropriate one for her. She didn't have a need for a car up there, with free city bus passes offered to students and plenty of rides to/from home (we always give the driver gas money, whether asked for or not.) We relied on the campus bookstore, buying used and ebooks as available, and selling them back. This wasn't the cheapest route we know, but it was the easiest. So many times, my daughter had to have specific editions, or a book list was posted less than a week before classes started.

A good start with many areas for improvement in "our" sophomore year...

The first area of savings, as it turns out, is that my daughter will be moving off campus for her housing next year. (Had she wanted to stay on campus, it would have been fine too;-) A good friend of my daughter from high school and her family relocated to this college town. And the mom, seeing great real estate opportunity in this very depressed area, has purchased several houses near the campus, one that is housing her own daughter, and come next fall, my daughter too. Even with a very generous amount for groceries, etc., her room/board/meals expense will be cut in half. (As an aside, we too had looked into buying something in the area, but for the moment, this alternative seems way less of a hassle.)

My daughter also was able to get a job on campus (a very difficult year for those!) She works as a sub in the dining hall for the remainder of this college year, and has a contract putting her on the schedule starting in the fall. She has been coming home monthly to earn a few dollars and to retain a position at an assisted living dining center for the summer. Usually she's been able to time it to holidays and school breaks. This summer she'll also work at our local school's pool as a swim instructor.

Her college offers a plan where college credits are charged up to a certain number, and then free after that point. She made good use of this during her first year, and will continue doing this next year. Books are definitely an area to cut costs on, and now that she knows more about the system, we'll search out more savings for the coming year.

We're hoping that these saving measures will allow us to reduce or even eliminate student loans for her sophomore year (the last one with a single kid in college for a while.) It's kind of like a pay-as-go plan for college, and I'll readily admit there are far superior ways, involving planning better and saving in advance. Well, we did the best that we could...and we can only move forward on this journey. It's definitely a learning process for all of us, that's for sure!

Take care!!

How Does My Garden Grow...

March 25th, 2010 at 08:14 am

Yesterday, I was shopping with my two younger girls, when we came upon a rack of seeds. Oh, those packages are very seductive, thoroughly capturing my girls' fancy...

I tried to break it to them that it's not so easy- we have three curious kitties (the inside version of the rascally rabbits who wreak garden havoc outdoors.) We keep our house pretty cool, when those darn packages say to keep the sown seeds in a warm spot. We've even managed to swap over to CFLs, so not even an incandescent bulb to offer a little heat (and as if the cats wouldn't all be crowded underneath anyways - the indignities suffered at their expense to save a little expense,so we're regularly informed.) I mumbled a bit about the backyard bunnies and the slight lack of sun in our yard, but hey, what do moms know?

A few dollars later, they're setting out to prove me wrong. I say good for them, as the 'what I know' could use a little shake-up now and again. So, against all odds...Grow little seeds of tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, flowers and more flowers, grow like your life depends on it!


Another way my garden grows, (or a cheesy segue) - my oldest is attending her first year at college. What a befuddler to the budget!

My daughter is at a campus that is part of the U of MN system a few hours away from home, and lives in a freshmen dorm. She is doing well there, and has made good use of her first year - learning about being away from home, about her school and all that it offers, and meeting new people. She had declared a major upon admittance last spring, questioned it a little in the fall, but after doing some testing and work with her guidance counselor, she has a renewed focus with that major.

The total college expense divides roughly in half - tuition/fees/books and room/board/meal plan. How college was paid for this year divides roughly into thirds - scholarships and grants (yay for daughter!), us writing some mighty hefty checks, and unfortunately, student loans.

We made it through year 1! Only 9 more to go through...and if all works out, only 6 of the years will have two girls attending college at the same time, and 3 years will have one. (Not even going to acknowledge the existence of potential grad studies - overload,overload!)

All I can say is, my, how things have changed since I was in college!

We never had the means in the past to put away much for college for the girls. We worked under the vague assumption that it would work out...The girls would work (they do!) There would be help (yes, but mostly in the form of loans for higher than I ever, ever imagined college costs.) I would be working (this is true after being home with the girls for 11 years.)

What I know now is that there is no such thing as too much money saved for college, and I can't even begin to think how we'd do this if we hadn't have paid everything off! Including our mortgage, as what we paid this year was like a making a bigger than imagined mortgage payment - one we may have barely qualified for in the past, but would have never in a million years believe we should take out sort of mortgage. (Kind of makes our old mortgage looks very small in comparison.) I'm thankful that we were as prudent as we were over the years, that's for sure.

Well, as I'm running out of time (dentist appointments are beckoning - oh joy)... I'll conclude by making parallels to my garden theory (I see the eyes rolling.) I think we're at the point where college is like newly sprouted seeds. What we do now will make or break the growing process...da, da,DA! Tune into tomorrow's riveting episode (ok, ok it's only riveting to me :-)

Enjoy your day!! Take care!