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Oh my....

December 31st, 2013 at 07:25 am

Gosh, over a year since I last updated! Things sure get busy when you're living your lifeSmile A little familial update, or if you wish, skip on down to the more financial....

The ten-second year recap.....I'm still working the same position special ed position at the local middle school. My husband changed companies after 20 years at his previous, bumping up a title level, with an increase in pay. A slight culture change going from an international firm to much smaller company, but it's been a good move for him.

My oldest is graduated from college, and is doing an Americorp fellowship for the Boys and Girls Club in the same city where she went to school. She's still in the same rental house - yay to no move this year! She's thinking she may do one more year with Americorp - low pay, but easy enough for her to continue her frugal college lifestyle. And the college loan repay dollars are great too! She has a great boyfriend of a couple years, who spent Christmas here with us - the family expands!

My second girl is working and out on her own. She's a cosmetologist and works at a salon I could never afford (or would choose to want to!) She comes over for Sunday dinners after work, and brings her shears when we need some trimming Smile She's our fashion and fun girl, but she is fiercely frugal too. The portion for savings and retirement (!) come out first, then her living expenses, and then the rest is for bargain fun and shopping.

Number three girl graduated from high school, and was registered for community college courses, when she froze. A little background - this is my sp ed girl with the full IEP, who struggled immensely to get through her school years. She had in mind what she wanted to do, and the college would work with her accommodations....it sounded good, until she had a change of heart after registering. More like total panic, so we stopped and took a breather. We talked and talked some more...she talked with her sisters and friends also, and we talked with the school. Her placement tests are good for at least a couple years, she's admitted to the community college and can go anytime she wants, if she chooses to. But for now, she decided to get a nail technician state certification. She's got about a month and a half left, and then she can work (even at the frou frou place her sister does!) until she decides more on what she wants to do. Little steps, but headed in the right direction!

My youngest is a junior at the high school. She's enjoying school, friends, and activities. She'll also indulge mom and dad with camping, nature walks and hikes, snowshoeing and kayaking, depending on the season. The new meds for her fainting were hard tested this extremely hot fall, but she is now doing well (even through a recent bout of illness, which was always a challenge to get through in the past.) Fingers crossed!

Sorry - that was more than ten-seconds Smile

The financial part! A little broken record here, but I need to plump the savings a bit. We also took on a little debt - we knew better, but...gotta get it paid! We made the final school payment for number three girl at the end of Dec, so 2014 is a year with no post-secondary - we haven't had that in many a year!

Financial particulars -

We get paid twice a month (15th and 30th/31st) - each check is planned out with set amounts for savings, debt, bills, etc. (along with what is taken out ahead of taxes)

Get a handle on discretionary spending - groceries is a biggie (my word, there is less people here and I seem to be spending more!!)

Do the annual perusal of where our dollars are going - check into insurances, taxes, etc - see if I can improve. Collect tax papers and year-end stuff, etc.

Continue purging and sharing the spoils with others - what I can't pass on to my older two, I donate! NEVER-ending chore...

Take care! Happy New Year!!

Thankful Times

November 24th, 2012 at 07:49 am

Much to be thankful for.....

We enjoyed a Thanksgiving meal at home with all of our girls and the two older girls' boyfriends. The girls helped out with the cooking and setting of the table. It seemed like such a lot of food, but we have made quite the dent in the leftovers! And we did take a break from the turkey last night to head out to our favorite Mexican restaurant (inexpensive, but muy bien!)

On only one night of the year, Thanksgiving evening, cars are allowed to traverse the length of Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis to see the holiday lights and decorations of "more than a half a million twinkle lights, 300 illuminated snowflakes and about 4,000 feet of natural garland. The mall's planters have been newly replanted with more than 5,500 spruce tips." It was dazzling! We also got see the crowds of people lining up at the downtown Target. Over the course of day the balmy weather that we woke to Thursday morning gave way to snow and plummeting temperatures, so everyone was bundled up - hopefully the deals were worth that cold wait!

We're not real big on shopping, and especially with crowds (online shopping R us,) so we've been hanging out and visiting and playing card and board games. The beautiful annual wreath that my husband's aunt sends was hung up on the door on Friday. Later we cuddled onto the couch with blankets and cocoa and watched the first on our holiday movie-viewing list - "It's a Wonderful Life". The holiday season is here!!

Later this morning we'll do our annual trek to Clear Lake and choose and cut our tree. We'll ride the wagon pulled by Maggie and Mike the Percherons - the driver has been the same through these 20-some years we've been coming here, and his team is ALWAYS Maggie and Mike Smile So we'll sing some carols (the driver says the horses insist!) and pet Maggie and Mike and the other barn animals, take pictures with the llama because she has pretty eyes, get our candy canes from Santa...oh, and remember to strap our tree to the top of the van. We'll take this over a shopping trip anytime!

I've been squirreling away baking supplies during sales for the past few weeks. I put some butter on the counter to soften for later today - we'll do my oldest's favorite, chocolate crackles. We'll bake enough to send some along when she heads back to school tomorrow. I already pulled banana and pumpkin breads loaves from the freezer to send along too - her college crowd loves homemade baked treats (which is handy, as I love to bake for an army!)

On the medical front, we spent Wed at the hospital redoing some testing on our youngest. The course of treatment that she had been following for the last 2.5 yrs suddenly wasn't working the last 1.5 months. Based on the new test results, the cardiologist prescribed a new treatment plan, and we are hopeful. The Dr still calls her his one-in-a-million case - he and his colleagues have never seen a case so extreme. We're still hoping it will be something she outgrows. We're now letting her old meds clear out of her system, and she's already feeling better, which makes it feel that we are indeed moving in a positive direction. I know there are many times side effects to using meds, and that often you have to choose which is worse - what is being treated or the treatment itself - and it seems we had run the course for those meds. We'll start the new med tonight, and hope, hope, hope and hope again.....and pray a whole lot.

Luckily, or maybe not, we've met our medical deductible early in the year - I think maybe March or April. We tried out the HDHP/HSA, and while I panicked a little at first, it worked out well. So well in fact, that I went ahead and chose that option again for next year. Granted the only other option isn't all that great, and there is more company financial incentive offered for the HDHP...I'm sure I'll be panicking again come the first few months of the new year but I'll be fine,gray hairs and all Smile

Hope everyone is enjoying a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend (or recovering from the rash of illness several here have been dealing with!) Take Care!!

September already

September 2nd, 2012 at 04:27 pm

I'm not sure how much more could have been crammed into one month...

My husband had off the first week of the month, and the "fun" he and I planned with our two youngest was to paint our house! We prepped a couple of evenings before starting the scraping and caulking bright and early on that Sat morning. Painting the siding went quickly, but the trim, oh man, that trim took forever! Our 1200 sq ft story and a half house has sixteen windows, three doors, trim along the roof line for the gutters, as well as those gutters and downspouts. And to do the windows, the aluminum storm windows had to be removed, so all parts of the windows were washed too - my very favorite part!!

During the week after my husband returned to work, I worked with my youngest to clean out the girls' old playhouse, and painted both the inside and outside. The following two weekends, my husband repaired red squirrel damage on the trim of the detached garage, and sprayed the sides (cement block) and brush painted the trim. Yesterday, he did the same with the shed. It is all so, SO done - whew!

Just missing out on the house painting fun by a couple of days, my oldest and her boyfriend came to visit and for her dr/dentist visits. Low-key and fun, with lots of time for visiting and hanging out around the campfire. My daughter did find out she needed some additional dental work, so a return trip was warranted.

The two youngest started getting busy in the last few weeks with marching band practices and parades. Our little town celebrated its one hundredth birthday, and we attended those festivities. The youngest also took and passed her driver's permit test!

And then the last two weeks of August have been wild.... Getting ready for school (not as big a deal with older kids now.) A couple of medical appointments for the youngest two. Oldest and boyfriend returned for her dental appt, and they headed to the state fair (the rest of us went this week as the high school band was playing in the fair parade.) Then we all went to the Renaissance Fair. We had a funeral to attend (my husband's brother's fil.) Lots of visiting with extended family - not sure why it happened all at once, but sometimes it just works out that way! My youngest wanted to go to the MN Zoo to see our dolphins for the last time (they're moving to a new zoo soon) and to check out the new baby animals on display, which we did today.

I really, really would like for tomorrow to be a lazy day, getting ready for our first day back to school on Tuesday!! One can hope....

I'm really going to miss summer break, but I do look forward to the back-to-schedule feeling September and the new school year brings. Our classroom adds two new students (I've worked with both in younger grades.) We also add a new staff member to our room, given the increasing challenges of some of our students -yes! My own kids - my oldest is a senior at college, second is working at a great job (graduated last June), third is a senior in high school and youngest is a sophomore. Me, I seem to be repeating middle school Smile

I'm looking forward to reigning in the spending too - we did great in a lot ways (eating at home, spending within the budget, time at the library and beach) but much of the fun stuff came all at once (painting and the actual fun stuff!) and well, it'll be nice to get back to the program here!

Enjoy the rest of the weekend!!

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!

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!

Working through the errand list...

January 2nd, 2011 at 10:37 am

...though the list may be endless!

Drove off the other day without the three bags of donations - so I have a good start to this year's donations. Thrift-o-rama commented in my last post about checking out resale shops. We do sell (and buy!) from Plato's Closet, but ours is pretty particular about what labels are on the clothing and they can be no older than last year's season. These were my oldest's who keeps her clothes a while and most were Target brand (not quite what they look for at this store.) My second is the fashion girl, and so has more luck selling to Plato's. There are other resale places, but not nearby, and we have found each store has a particular look they will purchase (and it's not often the eclectic jumble of clothes we acquire:-)

I have to make one last return - a pair of snow gloves for my youngest. I picked up a large youth size, and somehow, some way she's bigger than that! My baby!! Will exchange them for a pair that fits.

I did get to Sam's a couple days ago, so we are pretty stocked up food-wise for a while. I bought a huge beef roast there that I put in the crockpot yesterday for shredded beef sandwiches. It smelled wonderful cooking all day as we took down our tree and cleaned the house. We then brought it and other meal items over to dad-in-law's yesterday to eat after we took down his tree and decor. There are lots of it leftover, so that's what we're eating tonight.

I've been reminding the girls to get their school stuff together for tomorrow. I start my new position too, and am figuring out a new routine for the morning, as I have an earlier start time. Much of the household tasks got done before I left for work, but we'll have to see how it all works (I'm an early riser, but 5 or after is more my style, and I already do that!) I have a couple of crockpot meals planned. There's one medical appt and a marching band night, but otherwise a pretty quiet week. Yay!!

My oldest will be heading back to school next weekend, and we may head up with her to help her get settled in her new place, depending on who of her friends is up there to help. Either way we'll buy her what groceries and the few items she'll need.

I have a couple of bills to pay out this week. I'm starting to collect what's needed for the taxes and fafsa (two this year!) ...like I say, the list never ends......so I better get to it!

Take care!

Lovely Weekend :-)

October 17th, 2010 at 03:57 pm

So enjoying our lovely fall this year....

The last few weekends were spent with one day of work and another of fun. The work days have been productive! The garage is cleaned out, the outdoor furniture and garden items are stored away, the camper is winterized, the leaves have been bagged up once (our trees take their time dropping leaves, and we have so many that we bag or rake them 3 to 5 times, depending on the arrival of snow.) Inside, most of the rooms have been thoroughly cleaned, with only those spaces that are difficult (no words to describe the catch-all upstairs landing area!) or to be taken care of by someone other than me.

The fun included all of us setting up the old scarecrow and both the indoor and outdoor decor for Halloween and fall. Last weekend, my youngest and I stopped at a new local small farm, and we picked up tiny pumpkins, squash and Indian corn. We saw that they had a pick-your-own pumpkin from the field for cheap, and we brought everyone back yesterday to pick out the Halloween pumpkins. The last two and this weekend, my youngest and I have been participating in the Autumn Hike program of our local county park system. We punch four different hikes on the card and we can mail it in for a prize - the prize this year may the absolute gorgeous weather we've had. It's been fun to explore some new trails, take photos along the way, and just be outside!

Because we've been so busy at home lately, we took the opportunity to waylay the creeping up of meals out. I've been doing some of my favorite fall dishes in the crockpot - lasagne, pot roast with veggies, minestrone soup - perfect to come inside to after a day outdoors. Tonight, it's chili on the stovetop bubbling away! I love this time of year!!

This week is a bit frantic with activities, though luckily short due to annual teachers' convention and professional days. Then on early on Thursday, my youngest heads to Washington DC for a whirlwind tour with a group of other 7th and 8th graders from her school. She's a little nervous, as were all of her older sisters, but she'll have such a great time! Did buy her a small cross-body bag with zippers for her camera and wallet, as well as a bigger sd card for her camera.

Oh, and we're officially out of the No Heat contest - while the days have been very lovely lately, the nights have been getting more and more cooler. Today we came back from the walk, and it was too chilly (even with chili!) So the heat was turned on for a bit.....:-)

Time to serve up the chili...take care!

Sept ramblings

September 23rd, 2010 at 07:38 am

Here it is another month gone by...so much has happened.

My mom-in-law passed away earlier this month. She had been battling colon cancer over the summer, and had been three treatments into her chemo before it became all too much for her body to take. The summer was filled with helping her and my dad-in-law, who has health issues and uses a walker himself. It was precious time indeed for all of us...

My husband and I grew up in the same town and only moved the next town over when we purchased our house. Our girls were the oldest (and the only for quite a while) grandkids, and were very close to all of the grandparents, so it's been hard. With both my parents and now my husband's mom gone, well, Grandpa is getting lots of attention.

I'm very proud of my oldest at college - she signed up to participate in an upcoming cancer walk in memory of her Grandma.

Having seen my dad ravaged by mesothelioma and my mom-in-law by colon cancer - please take advantage of any early screening available. Those who have witnessed the suffering caused by cancer know what I mean, and those who haven't, really you do not want to. My mom-in-law talked often over the summer her greatest regret in not getting screened when it was recommended a few years back, which we didn't know about until after her surgery.

My in-laws also didn't have a living will or POA or anything - my husband's family tends to keep private those sorts of details. That part was much easier with both of my parents - we talked openly about their wishes, and then followed up with the paperwork. There's so much else happening at those times of crisis that you don't always have time or ability (as in questionable cognition after the surgery) to discuss what measures are to be taken. Very, very difficult time... So my PSA is to take care of yourself and try to avoid cancer if possible, screen for cancers early AND get all your affairs in order and paperwork figured out before anything happening.

Within the midst, the girls and I started back at school. Third week in and all of my girls have gotten upper respiratory infections with coughs. At my school, staff have been going home sick with fevers, kids have been throwing up, preschoolers suffering from diarrhea - I have been vigorously washing my hands, taking extra Vit C, snuffing up the nasal saline solution. I've yet to catch what's going around. Boy, this seems very early for the stuff beyond the allergies and little sniffles the kids usually get after getting back together at the year's beginning. I'm so wanting to avoid getting sick! Pretty please....

My brother and family from Alaska also made their annual visit to us and the lower 48. They were roughing it through the wilds of Canada and hiking the Superior Trial up north, so we weren't able to reach them to tell them what they were coming into at our house with funeral plans and all. But it all was fine, and actually very healing to be so totally surrounded on all sides by family. We bid them safe travel to WI and then onto the western states on Monday.

There is more on our financial front, but with all that's been happening - well, suffice it to say, thanks be to savings accounts that see you through times of less watchful spending.

Take care!

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!!

A month and a half later...

June 18th, 2010 at 06:53 am

We now know what's going on with my youngest. Such a relief! After more and more doctor visits and testing, we have a diagnosis. Luckily, we have many medicine options - the trick will be to find the right dosages and combination. But at least we know and have something to work toward.

The aftermath of bills pales in comparison to my girl's health, but it is a force to be reckoned. The few bills we have received so far have been absorbed in the regular budget. We canceled our CO camping trip - partially because we didn't yet know what was going on (and didn't want to be too far from our doctors)and the mounting medical costs. CO isn't going anywhere! I do feel blessed to have access to wonderful doctors and medical facilities, decent insurance when we needed it, as well as the funds to cover any remaining bills. (I'm still going to try to absorb as much into the budget as possible - I do well with challenges!)

The girls and I are all off from school this week, and my husband had taken off for our vacation. So we played tourist in our own area. I love the recent blog entries of "what to do in your area". I'm going to do my own entry soon. We live in a fantastic area - don't we all say that!

I'm still having lots of trouble publishing entries - they vanish as I try to save and publish. Is anyone else having this problem? Are most people writing their piece elsewhere (like in Word) and then copying over to here? I hardly ever had this problem before the new upgrade. I hope it's not just me, though I readily admit that my computer skills are limited!

I need to go enjoy our few minutes of sunshine ... I'm thinking I'm getting a feel for what it's like in the Pacific NW! Take care!!

edited - I'm so excited...this entry published!!

Mother's Day Thoughts

May 9th, 2010 at 07:44 am

This will be the third attempt at this entry - very frustrating to lose it once I click publish and save. I notice Ceejay has mentioned this happening a few times - I hope it's not something against us Minnesotans!

The quick version - For the last month we've been dealing with a health issue for my youngest. It's been very slow going as to figuring out what is going on and eliminating what it isn't. I'm feeling that she is under the excellent care of a pediatric cardiologist (with many wonderful local resources available to us.) Still I can't help but feel that while so much is known in the medical field, there is a lot not known too. I'm kind of in that mode of don't mess with my littlest cub, though really, not a lot is in my control. Sometimes, patience isn't my strongest suit...you feel so compelled to do everything and anything to make it better for your child.

It feels like we're in slow motion figuring out things for my youngest, but the rest of our life is in hyperdrive. Prom was Friday night with all the related prep - oh my, I can only imagine what a future wedding might be for this girl. My oldest is in the midst of finals, and we'll bring her home from college next weekend. My third girl has lots going on with band (this is how I know it's May, and that we're near the end of the school year.) My second daughter is having a birthday bonfire next weekend too. And there's much more in the coming weeks....

I wish all of you a Happy Mother's Day! I'm so very blessed with having my four wonderful and quite crazy girls!! Never, ever, ever is life dull with them! Enjoy the day!!

Whirlwind Weekend

April 5th, 2010 at 06:02 pm

I picked up my oldest at college on Thursday, so she could work and spend Easter with us. On Friday, she worked, while the rest of us grocery shopped and cleaned the house. On Saturday, the family headed to Como Park Zoo, with ice cream at the Java Train Cafe in St. Paul. A free zoo and conservatory, coupled with gorgeous weather, made for a very busy place!

On Easter, I bucked the traditional ham dinner for a brunch. (Note to self - when doing something different, don't try out so many new recipes!) No one was left hungry, but it was a different way for us to celebrate Easter. What was I thinking?!

Along with the usual chocolate bunnies and jellybeans, my girls' Easter baskets (yup, they still humor me:-) included unfinished bird houses for our garden area. After cleaning up the brunch, we sat and painted very fancy bird houses. We have very crazy birds, who will resign themselves to nesting in them. (We did this a few years back, and figured no bird would come near them, but they did...and this garden is near the door we use all the time too!) Crazy houses for crazy birds!

After the artistry, we headed back north to take the oldest back to school. Too much driving...I so appreciate when she has a ride! Very happy she could be with us though.

Today, the three younger girls and I had the day off from school. It was errand day! It was also spend my money day. I got the state taxes (owed a little) ready to send off, mailed another mail-order prescription, did the bills and checkbook, went to the service center to get license tabs for two of our vehicles, and picked up reserved items at the library (at least this was free.)

I think I'll have to go back to work to relax. Well, not really, as I work with special ed preschoolers, but at least I get to spend time on the playground twice during the day! Next on my list is to reign in the spending a bit - this seems to be a spendier spring than normal.

(I'm trying for the first time to add a photo above - I'm having my daughter hold my hand through this process. I'm such a dinosaur with this all. I hope it works!)
Take care!

Our Spring Break

March 28th, 2010 at 04:53 pm

My younger three girls and I had our spring break this week. (My oldest had hers last week.)

My second girl went with a friend's family to Mexico, after earning her ticket and spending money. She is a very lucky, hard-working girl, who came back with lots of fun to tell and a not-so-fun sunburn.

The younger two and I had a bit of a quieter time here at home....

My third girl took and passed her learner's driving permit. We've been out daily terrorizing the local back roads. You'd think by the third, I'd be more sensitized to this new driver process - ha!

My youngest had a couple of sleepovers at our house. With one friend, she likes doing crafts, so we headed to Michael's with coupon in hand. We came home with some wooden boxes to paint and a huge $3 package of embroidery yarn for tying into bracelets.

Otherwise, we spent time outdoors as often as possible - raking, walking, biking, and exploring a quaint little nearby town. On the less nicer weather days, we cleaned cabinets, cupboards and closets. I was amazed at how little stuff we had to get rid of - could it be after all of these years that we are finally equalizing the contents of our house??? Wonders never cease...

Tomorrow, we're back to school and schedules! 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!

A Good Day Indeed...

February 14th, 2009 at 06:23 pm

The FAFSA is done!! Taxes last weekend and this thing today - I'm on a roll. Now we'll wait and see...

My oldest signed up for a registration session for her upcoming fall college classes over spring break in March. I'm off, and my husband may take a vacation day. We might even take the rest of the girls too for an overnight, sort of a mini-vacation. The session cost $40, and I was thinking wasn't the school already getting enough from the tuition we'll be paying?! I was told by a co-worker that this is only for new incoming students and only happens once - whew! Some things about college have changed a lot in the 29 years since I was starting out. I've much to learn!

Yesterday, the girls and I were off from school and work (teachers' professional day) and we're off on Monday. Not a lot planned, but finishing off a bit of my to-do list. The girls are content with sleeping in and not doing a whole lot. We did manage a trip to the bigger area library in our system, and checked out bags of items. The girls have been reading in various places throughout the house. My self-imposed goal was to get the FAFSA done, then I too could delve into my library bag!

We finally accepted that my daughter's totaled Suburu was truly unsalvageable, and got rid of it yesterday to a local junker. Kind of bittersweet for my daughter, as it was her first car bought with her hard earned money.

My husband and I and the younger two spent a little time earlier today looking at used RVs. We have come to the realization that we have a popup tent trailer-sort of a vehicle, as well as a budget. We left all the campers where we saw them today.

Just when I thought I had the groceries in control...I made the fatal mistake in allowing those in my family who wanted to come along if they wish. Ha, should have known better! Oh well, at least I know how the amount got where it did, and how to remedy it in the future.

Usually, we don't do much for V-day - we like quiet and simple (or as much as a life with four girls and three cats allows!) I did up some candy treats and simple homemade cards for my husband and girls, with a nice meal planned for the evening. My girls helped their daddy pick out flowers and a box of candy for me, which was a nice surprise. The cats have all expressed high interest in the flowers, as usual. Little sniffs somehow result in little nibbles. So either they are closed up in the bathroom (flowers, not cats, though that IS an idea...)or we keep an eye on them and scoot all the crazy nibblers on their way.

For dinner, we grilled steaks outside, and it's a toss up which was the bigger treat - the steaks or being able to grill outside in mid-February! For dessert, we had brownie sundaes. A very nice day!

Happy Valentine's Day to all!!

Taxes & Tires & Tidbits - oh my!

February 7th, 2009 at 07:43 pm

The taxes are done! I e-filed my oldest's federal and will mail out her state - both with refunds. I also changed her withholdings. I used TurboTax for the first time (I'm a long hold-out with the paper and pencil!)and e-filed our federal - we get a refund of all of $50. The state taxes is a 'oh my, how did this happen??' We owe $674, which include a $17 penalty for being over $500. Not much has changed from last year, but somehow we ended owing this much. Will be submitting new w4s on Monday for sure.

Well, we upped our percent going to my husband's 401k - we're at the max. I'm hoping this is, and will be, a good move, but as it is said, we're in it for the long term (so please, please turn yourself around, market!) I'm a public employee and my retirement fund is a prescribed employer/employee amount, so no more there I can do. Next is to check into a Roth IRA.

It's been one of those weekends where things want to join together in falling apart. A couple nights ago, we were doing our nightly shuffle of the cars so everyone is parked in the right order to get out of the driveway in the morning (yes, we look crazy and yes, the neighbors think it's hilarious.) When my husband pulled our Olds into the driveway, he heard a sudden hiss, and one of the tires went flat. A puncture in the sidewall of one of the new tires we had just bought in May. Poo... My husband took it off, and brought it to the tire store. Not salvagable, so another $80 for a new one.

Today we were finishing up the last load of laundry, and my husband commented on how long the last load was taking to dry. He went to check on it, when he found it was wet and cold, not a good sign. Luckily he's a handy sort and after dismantling the machine, he did a little check online for a schematic and found that it was a heat sensor fuse that had blown. We'll have to wait for the Sears Parts store to open (we'll check, but I'm thinking it's not open on Sunday) but the part is about $15, which isn't too bad.

My husband is thinking that work is starting to look more relaxing that these 'restful' weekends.

I'm thinking there are forces out there trying to part us with our money. Always!

In other news...we got the official letter saying that our mortgage has been satisfied and officially payed off. We'll still need to get the copies of the record from the county when it becomes available. I guess my category of "I owe,I owe..." is now "I don't!"

And oh my...the best news of all is that my oldest got an acceptance to her first choice of college. (This is what spurred me on to accept what my taxes were saying and just get a move on in filing!) On to the FAFSA - oh yay...

Enjoy the rest of the weekend!

Another update....

February 1st, 2009 at 03:03 pm

Make that a quarterly one! (Computer issues to blame, and lack of time always!)

Lots of news at our house...

The best is that my brothers and I received and divvied up some money from a trust - not a lot, but enough to help out. After MUCH deliberation over how best to make use of the dollars, this is what we did. (It was kind of funny that during the same time period, BA asked the question in his blog about how to spend a sum of money - I read with great interest!)

My household is officially debt-free! We just paid the mortgage off this month, so it doesn't seem real quite yet. Writing the check for the payoff amount at the bank to get the cashier's check was a wow though!

Then after much research and analyzing (years before the advent of our money event, and after) we purchased with cash a new-to-us 2004 Honda Odyssey, with intent to keep until it no longer runs. This upgrades our failing fleet a bit - maybe to one not failing and well, let's not talk about the rest! (This wasn't an investment by any means, but gosh it's nice to have a newer car and hopefully less of those failing features common among the rest of our fleet!)

The balance of the money is sitting for now. We never had much of an EF, so now we do. Right now, both my husband and my jobs seem to be stable (though in this day that hardly means a sure thing.) And the whole car repair and medical costs events of the past few years surely could have been alleviated by having a decent EF - lesson learned!

We are looking into increasing/maximizing our retirement dollars. I have spent a lot of time lately thinking about 401k, IRAs, etc. How easily my decisions would have been made not all that long ago... I think I know what I want to do, just want to make sure.

Other news...

We've had a tough winter so far, car-wise. My second daughter hit some black ice and smooshed the front corner on a guard rail - luckily no injuries or other cars hit, and no damage to the rail (I found out the state will send a bill - yikes!) My husband replaced the headlight assembly and snipped the dragging part of the bumper - our formerly 'best' car looks quite wonderful, as you can imagine, but it's drivable.

My oldest was driving to work on New Year's Day, and when passing a walker and dog on a snow/ice covered road, ended up spinning around until hitting the rear against a tree on the opposite side of the road. An ambulance was called because she was bleeding from the back of her head (prob from hitting the seat belt housing) and for a possible neck injury. My husband and I arrived just ahead of the ambulance. I rode with my oldest, and my husband oversaw the towing of her Suburu, which was a goner. After some x-rays, a few staples, my daughter came home with aching head and spirits (she worked long and hard to buy her first car.) Her staples are out, and she's making due with the 91 Olds Custom Cruiser, aka the land yacht.

Granted, this winter's ice and snow has been quite the hands-on learning experience for my girls, when the recent past years have been so warm and lacking in snow. But can anyone really blame me for not allowing ANY of my daughters to drive my new Honda??

There's so much more to catch up on - my grocery successes, my utility bill challenges... not to mention taxes, college apps for the oldest, FAFSA, etc. A tad overwhelmed - that's me! This entry is quite long enough though, and the making of dinner awaits. Take care!

Monday Musings

October 20th, 2008 at 07:25 am

All of our travelers are home. My second girl arrived back on Saturday, after enjoying her time at a church youth convention in southern MN. My third daughter flew in last night from Washington DC. She was a bit nervous about the plane ride (her first!) After arriving in DC, she texted me saying so, and I jokingly replied back that she had survived the flight. Her reply - "Yay for the plane!" Yes, indeed!

Her two older sisters had also taken the same trip as 8th graders, but daughter 3 was the most technologically supplied. She took almost 1200 pictures on her digital camera, while her sisters made due with disposable cameras. They all took cell phones to call us at night, but #3 knew better how to text. We knew when she landed, when she ate, what sights were being seen, where she waited in lines. I had to do a top-up to her phone by the third day. A co-worker's daughter had gone too, and when we compared notes, she was receiving even more texts from her daughter (and photos too!) Well, it was almost like being there! All in all, My third had a great time.

The four of us left at home this break took Friday to head down the Mississippi River to the quaint little town of Red Wing. We wandered around antique stores, where my husband and I discovered more of our childhood there than we'd like to admit to. We checked out the other shops a little, nothing of interest (decluttering the house sure squelches the desire to bring stuff home.) We did bring home some candy from a little shop that's been there forever, and we and others want to keep it there - oh, the sacrifice. We ate a delicious lunch at a cute little sandwich shop. Then we walked down to the river, and were surprised to find the American Queen from New Orleans docked. Only those with boarding passes were allowed on, but it was fun to see it. The boat usually heads up to St Paul, but we were told that the river has been too low to go up the river that far this summer. We also walked through the old train depot that houses local art. It was a gorgeous day!

The rest of the time off has been taken up by doing all those little piddling things that for too long go undone. I don't know why, but my grandest accomplishment has been sewing all of the badges on my youngest's new girl scout cadette sash. I'm a sewer, but I have the darndest time doing this (and yes, it took me all of a half an hour!) Well, she can now start out the year properly badged.

With only four at home for a bit, I was able to scale down the grocery shopping this week. I saved the bigger quantity meals for when we all would be eating, and used up some frozen meal makings in some smaller meals. I feel like I'm keeping a good grip on this part of our budget.

Now if only I had such a tight rein on our vehicle expenses! We're enjoying the cheaper gas prices (the lowest was $2.42 in Red Wing.) Unfortunately, we've had some vehicle repair and maintenance. None of it's too unexpected, but gee, it likes to lump together. Our minivan needed a water pump and all four tires replaced. There's still some work needing to be done on its drivetrain we think. It's been hard tracking down what exactly is wrong, and that always seems to be expensive! My oldest's suburu also had a timing belt replaced and work on a cv-joint. My husband has been methodically changing oil and filters, etc, on all of the fading fleet before the snow flies.

Today is dentist visits for five of us. I have some more piddling things to get crossed off my list. And I'll bake for the week today - I have helpers!

Take care!

Enjoying October

October 15th, 2008 at 06:22 pm

Gosh, where has October gone?!

We have the most beautiful trees this year - the drive to the school has been wonderfully colorful lately. We went to the pumpkin patch the next town over last weekend. The farmer was saying what a bumper year it's been for pumpkins, and we brought home some huge ones. They're decorating our front step, and along a fence near our side door. Also against the fence is a stuffed scarecrow that the girls' grandma had given them many years ago (he definitely borders on the tacky side, but we cannot not put him up each year!) We split him at a seam here and there, and added some extra stuffing, as he had been getting a tad droopy. The stuffing has been in my sewing area forever, and it eludes me why I would ever have needed so much!

I've been alternating crockpot meals with simple, fast dinners... so no unplanned meals out, which really helps the budget.

The girls and I are off from school, and my husband is taking vacation for Thursday, Friday, Monday and Tuesday. It's our state's teacher union and professional days. My third daughter is heading to Washington DC with some of her class. My second daughter is heading to a church youth convention in the southern part of our state. The rest of us are going to try to get a few things done around the house before the snow starts to fly. We take time to do a few fun things too.

I'm being summoned to pick up a daughter... Take care!

Our Company's Left...

September 21st, 2008 at 12:49 pm

...we're down to six at our house again. We had such a wonderful visit with my brother, his wife and four kids from Anchorage. Their older two and our younger two are the same ages, and all the cousins had a blast. We had my other brother and wife come over yesterday for a bbq - lots of food, talk, a cutthroat game of monster badminton and picture-taking. We miss them already, and it's so quiet here.

We did great on the meals. I stocked up ahead on milk, cereal, sandwich-making items and fruit, as well as plan out the week's dinners. We ordered in pizza once with a coupon deal (we paid.) My sis-in-law offered to make a meal (she shopped for what was needed.) And the rest of the meals were what I had planned out, with no restocking needed. As I plan out meals normally for us, I should have known how great it would work for double the people!

Loving my new camera more and more. We usually have an extra friend or neighbor we can call upon to take a group shot, but not this time. I figured how to use the self-timer feature, and we got several great pictures. (I know - probably most cameras have this feature, but I am so proud to have figured it out.) We are still working on my oldest's senior pictures - we may already have too many pretty shots to choose from.

We have found that my brothers and I will each have a bit of money coming to us, and it's a bit of a shock, though not totally unexpected. Going to give thorough thought to its use...kind of thinking along the lines of paying off the rest of the house and a little leftover medical debt from old times, definitely will max out the 401k, check into funding a Roth. I have a certain minimum amount of it that I'd like to see boost our EF. So far, those lines seem reasonable, but then there's the rest...

It would be nice (and a foreseeable need soon) to update one of our failing fleet of vehicles. We have made due with the under $1000 wonders, but I have to admit that we seem lately to be unlucky magnets for cars with troubles. Right now we have enough cars to allow one to be out of commission to be worked on. My husband does much of the work, but still it's pretty constant. The cars have managed to live up to that expectation and quietly take their turns being the car in the midst of repair. Except that we kind of look like a really bad used car lot, I don't really mind old cars as long as I can get to work each day. None of us really tie our identities to what we drive (though there are days when I probably do look as tired and worn out as my car, but that's something different.)

But occasionally, I get to thinking that while a new car is a poor investment, it's also nice... We've had a good experience with buying a brand-new car just after my husband and I married in 1984. We knew what we wanted, offered a price and quite amazingly got it. We loved every moment with that car, and we drove until its end (a sad day indeed.) We car camp, and more recently, have been venturing further from home across the country (I know, great timing with gas prices and all...) Is there a Dodge Colt equivalent out there for us - something reliable, gas efficient, travels well? Or do we bump up to a $5000 wonder? Lots to ponder, and we don't have to rush into any decisions at the moment luckily.

Otherwise, we're enjoying a quiet Sunday, with a mix of leftovers to do a "fend for yourself" day (the boarding house cook is taking a day off!) It's homecoming week, so tomorrow we're back to busy!

Enjoy your day!

A bit chatty today....

September 6th, 2008 at 04:01 pm

We all survived the first week of school! I did manage to keep on top of all of the papers (my homework as it's called) and the checkwriting (why do I ever think I'm done with just the supplies and shoes!) All fees and forms are complete - my girls are now free to attend school, just us parents are broke!

I used the crockpot twice last week, as there were curriculum nights and activities. It all has to start at once, I guess. All other meals were at home too. Grocery-shopped this morning, and kept to budget.

Because I started back to work too, I was again using the dryer for the daily load of laundry. Today was beautiful, though, so my clotheslines are filled.

My brother, his wife and four kids from Anchorage are coming for a visit in a week. Actually they started driving on the 1st and may have arrived up north in MN today - they have plans to hike the Superior Trail before heading down to us next Saturday. They homeschool their kids, so have the flexibility, but the week they'll be here is kind of a crunch week for us, with something going on each afternoon or evening. I'm doing my best to pare all that I can... and at least there will be the two weekends. I'm planning out some large-crowd, kid-friendly meals - chili, tacos, grilled hamburgers and hot dogs, etc. With my nearby brother and his wife, there will be 14 of us around the table, into the living room, and on the floor. We'll be cozy, and I'm looking forward to it all!

On the spending front - I purchased a new digital camera last weekend. I went in with a particular camera in mind, but was flexible enough to spend $20 more to get double the megapixels and 2x more optical zoom. Actually, I'm totally amazed at what I spent on this new one and all of its features compared to its few-generations-ago predecessor (my old camera was four years old, and very well-used - it was a great camera while it lasted in and out of my hands!) I loved my old Canon, and really love my new one (720IS)! I took some gorgeous senior pictures of my oldest last weekend at a nearby historical house and grounds. It's where the local Proex goes for their outdoor senior photo sessions. All I can say is that this new camera made ME look like I knew what I was doing, as well as making my daughter look as beautiful as ever. Plus the camera was cheaper than the Proex portrait session I was pricing, which was the lowest of the senior picture gamut around here. Thanks to all who encouraged me to do so after my previous senior picture mention a few entries back!

Still cleaning up a bit around here - we should look pretty presentable by the time our company arrives next week. The teacher that I work with at school gave me the prettiest tub of yellow mums for a 'late birthday/welcome back to school/oh my, what a caseload this year' gift. It looks wonderful on my front step, but the nearby summer flowers are looking really sad and past prime. Kind of want to get some more mums.... but it'll pass because I don't have time to go get some (being busy works in my favor often - no time to shop!) Oh well, I guess that's what fall is all about here in the upper midwest. If they get too bad, those summer flowers are compost!

Dinner will be grilled tonight - chicken and peppers for fajitas. Enjoy your weekend!!

Easy Come...Easy Go...Laying Low

August 22nd, 2008 at 08:31 am

Boy, the last paycheck just shot of our house, between bills and back to school, coupled with no OT. Hmm, I think we start to enjoy that OT too much, then forget it's not always there.

Oh well, this is where the 'laying low' comes in. There isn't anything we need, and nothing to spend on that is worthy of touching the savings.

We're sort of restless with these last days of summer break. So far, we've headed to the beach every day for the last two weeks. It's been absolutely gorgeous for this late in August. Usually, the 'dog days' have arrived, along with the pea soup green scum. Definitely, soaking up as much summer as possible - we're about due for a true MN winter here in a few short months.

We hit the library earlier this week, and I've actually found some books to pique my interest. I've gone through three so far. I love reading, but if it doesn't grab this tired mom's attention fairly quick, I fall asleep. (Of course, the reading of late is not improving the said mom's tiredness...but it's still summer break.) Oh, and I picked up some dvds - Zorba the Greek (I haven't seen it since I was a kid, but I remember my mom loving it- it may be a hoot, or not.) Also Snakes on a Plane - missed that one the first time around, though from what I hear it's a lot of snakes popping up everywhere (hope I didn't give away the story!)

I've been doing great with using up some of the newly discovered frozen foods at the bottom of my recently cleaned freezer. Lots of crockpot use lately. I even used a lasagne recipe twice that was so delicious and easy, I may not return to my oven recipe. I know Boo and some others here have mentioned this site - crockpot365.blogspot.com - it has lots of great recipes and fun commentary on the author's commitment to using her crockpot every day for a year.

I do have to meet my husband later at the DMV to renew our driver's licenses - both our birthdays are coming up. I'm looking about as good as it gets...

Enjoy your Friday!!

This, That and Everything...

August 1st, 2008 at 08:22 am

Not much happening lately. After a little time of spending - final payment on a Washington DC trip for the 8th grader, a sports registration fee, some school supplies sale shopping, etc. - we're in a blessed quiet time money-wise.

We've been heading to the beach nearly every day (storing up these warm, sunny days for the long winter!) The girls and I have been making great use of the various close-by libraries. They are all part of our county system, but each has its own personality (plus they are near where we do errands, so no extra gas expense.) I should add that all of the libraries are wonderfully air conditioned, and we are not at our house...so a nice break on some of hot,muggy days.

We're getting ready for a week of camping up north along the North Shore of Lake Superior. My husband and I and our two youngest will head out early with the tent and gear. My second girl and a friend will head up later after work, with everything that doesn't fit in the minivan. My oldest won't be along for the first time - she's on a road trip with a friend and her mom on their way down to Florida. I'm a tad nostalgic for the old days of cramming everyone and everything into our old conversion van. Bit by bit, I grow up too with my girls - ha! This is an annual trip for us, so it's relaxing and fun.

We had a little rain yesterday morning, but I still could hang out on the line before noon. The dewpoint was so high, it took til well after dinner time to dry.

After a concerted effort to reduce some of our utility costs, we've had some successes. The water/sewer bill came in at $30 less than last quarter, which ends up being about a 10% reduction - not great, but at least down. The electric bill went up a little, though, due to rate increases, warm weather and fan usage. I got a call about a week ago from the natural gas company, stating in an automated message that the rates will be going up about 50% over last year. We got the bill, and sure enough they did. The past year we've been paying $84 a month, and we're scheduled to start paying $129. In all the years we've been on this program, they've estimated our usage higher than what it is and re-estimate our bill in February....may it be so this year! It seems our saving efforts just go to maintaining our status quo, and that's better than not!

Take care!

Money In...Money Out...Money Saved

July 18th, 2008 at 06:03 am

I got a check on Tuesday, and my husband got his yesterday. Oh, the ways to spend them!

After the deluge of recent medical, things have settled down - finally! In a bit I'll head to the grocery for our two week shopping.

I do have a Target list, and a pack of girls who want to come along. They have been informed that if something isn't on my utilitarian list, they have their own money to spend.

Upcoming spending to keep in mind...

We head up for our annual camping up in Duluth and along the North Shore of Lake Superior in early August. We don't spend a lot, and it's probably a wash for what we would spend at home. But gas prices are up, plus we like to eat out a couple meals, as a break from the hot dogs and hamburger over the campfire.

My third girl is a returning cheerleader, and the fee is due mid-August. So far no mention of an extra camp (and fee) - this is good!

Then there is school shopping - hiss, boo! It seems like summer has barely started... Actually, only the two youngest have supply lists, and the older two just need basic supplies for high school. Bags and backpacks are in good shape. My youngest will need athletic shoes, though her feet keep growing fast, so nice but cheap is in order. She'll also need some jeans. They all enjoy going to a favorite thrift store, and of course to Plato's Closet. We don't buy too much up front, as it's still warm at school. A nice outfit each usually to start. School pictures are the first day at the high school.

Speaking of pictures...I started pricing some senior photo sessions for my oldest. There is quite the price range, though I can't imagine paying some of those top figures (someone must though.)

Enough thinking of ways to spend. There will be still enough to send a few hundred over to savings. It's nice to get it all together to do all three...earn, spend, keep.

Take care!

Working on Loose Ends

July 17th, 2008 at 06:35 am

My husband had his eye dr appt yesterday, and he needed glasses. No getting by with drug store cheapies. I told him he was getting old - ha! So another $100, exam copay included. This is the end of our vision care needs, for this year anyway!

A lot of loose ends got tied up this week. Not sure how they get lost in the pile...

We've got the rest of the dr appts scheduled in August, as well as an orthodontist retention appt.

I sent off my second daughter's discount papers and license info to the auto insurance, so they can calculate her insurance into the picture. I also sent along our homeowners' insurance info. In the past they haven't been able to give us a better deal, but as we add drivers, it's worth it to keep checking.

Need to reply on a shower and wedding invites for our next door neighbor's girl - and get a gift for the shower, and a card for the wedding (I think money will be most appreciated.) Gosh, wasn't she just a little girl...

Still need to schedule my oldest girl's senior pictures, or decide if my digital camera is up to snuff for it. It's not very high in pixels or optical, so we'll see... I can try a few outdoor pics.

And I even printed out the school supply lists for my two youngest (the older two tell they need only 5-subject notebooks and pens and pencils.) I can't bear to peek and those quite yet. Maybe another beach day will give me the strength -ha!

Spurts of Spending....

July 7th, 2008 at 04:19 pm

...or maybe more like gushes! Nothing too out of ordinary, but still...

My two oldest and I went to the eye dr today. We all wear glasses, and we all needed new prescriptions (it's been four years on the current glasses, so not too unexpected.) The girls said it's like shopping! I felt the same, only without the exclamation point. I'm always amazed at how the word 'shopping' brings two such diverse reactions in my house.

The girls have simple lens needs, and so after insurance, their pairs cost about $40 each. Now mine, on the other hand...not even close to that. I would be wearing very thick lens, if not for the wonderful progressive thin(!) that are available now, for a price. I'm at an age where I appreciate the blended feature of my bifocal, for a price. And my frames, again for a price, make my grey hair less noticeable and might even make me look a bit funky...um, thank you daughters, I think?! Well, these super-duper specs came to about $350. I very much appreciate the sight they afford me, so it's ok and a part of my life, such as it is. But still...!

Over the weekend, I did our two-week grocery shopping. Because of some great store coupons deals on meats especially, I spent a little bit more than usual, but not too bad - $240. We also made a bread run to the thrift store and got enough bread and buns for a few weeks (I freeze most of it.) They've been out of bagels the last two visits, which my girls enjoy, but we'll make due until they get them in again. I probably need to get there earlier in the morning. Plus I go on the one of the two discount days, so lots of things go fast. It seems more people than ever are shopping there - it can get a bit crowded at times.

We've been going through a dry spell here, weather-wise. I've been hanging my laundry out on the line. I know it probably sounds corny, but I do enjoy doing it. It's been beautiful outside, and I get to watch the birds and squirrels chasing around. It's usually a solitary activity, which isn't a bad thing in our not-so-large, not-so-quiet house. Sometimes my youngest comes out to help and chatter. I look over the flowers, while I'm out there. I talk to our three cats who sit in the window begging to come out (ok, no longer corny, now crossing the line to loony...) Well, you can see, it doesn't take much to entertain me!

Tonight is a grill night (it's hot and humid.) On the menu, hot dogs and brats, beans, chips and cut up fruit (we have guests - teenage males to be precise - so cheap, but plentiful is the plan.)

After dinner, we'll have some monster badmitton time. A couple of weeks ago, we bought a set with its big raquets and birdies, and the kids have been having a great time with it. Not particularly a financial note, but it is a fun and inexpensive way to entertain the troops.

Enjoy your evening. Take care!

Wow, it's been forever...

July 5th, 2008 at 08:08 am

All I can say is that life and computer issues get in the way sometimes.

A little update - I've updated all of my girls ages, the latest birthday just this past week. We have added a new driver as of May. My oldest bought her own car in May, and we added another cheap used car in December, as our conversion van wasn't defrosting its windows (and it wasn't the winter to have that happening!) We are starting to look a bit like a used car lot. We entertain the neighbors I'm sure as we pull the cars in and out of the driveway, repositioning so whoever is parked at the front of the line can get out. The girls pay their own insurance and gas - we help out on maintnenance and repair ( where's daddy? - look under a car! Yay for handy men!)

I finished my first school year in my new position (special ed paraprofessional,) and loved it (and the pay increase it included.) I'm working this summer for the extended year for special ed - just two more weeks. All four girls are working at the pool (same hours and building where I work, so we all drive in together.) The oldest is a Red Cross swim instructor, the second is a lifeguard and the two youngest are safety aides for the lessons. The older two have additional hours in the afternoon. All in all, we couldn't ask for better jobs for the girls - great pay and hours, and we can easily schedule fun and vacations.

With my increase and with the overtime and oncall my husband has gotten over the past few months, we've been able to accomplish a lot. I'm paid two times a month, and earmarked one check to savings and one to reducing our old debt. We've paid for a Washington DC trip my third will be taking in Oct. We increased the % going into our my husband's 401k.

We were even able to take a "spring break trip" with the girls in March. We did it the insanely frugal way, but with ALL on board for this it worked out great. We drove in a Plymouth Voyager minivan from MN to Galveston, TX and camped in a state park on the beach of the Gulf. The wonderful parts included warm temps (it was snowing when we left - again!) We loved everything about the island and the beach. We found an aligator, and saw lots of pelicans, but couldn't find any dolphins. We hiked in wetland areas and on the beach. We found a wonderful, delicious restaurant that was cheap! We brought home tons of shells and photos and lots of stories. The only insane parts involved driving straight through with only rest stop and gas breaks (no motels expenses for us) and packing the van so tightly, bags would burst out every time anyone had to get out of the back. And there was that day-long search for the aligator, but we found him at last! We made it there and back, and lived to tell the tale. The girls are already asking to do it next year. I think it's like childbirth - you forget some of the more difficult moments. I do see us doing it again, crazy as it was. 24 hours (one way)in a minivan, brings the family together in oh so many ways!

We also headed to Bemidji State Park after school ended in early June. It was a bit chilly for swimming and a tad rainy at night (soggy tent camping, oh joy.) But we had fun walking across the Mississippi, we rented a pontoon for really cheap and putted around Lake Itasca (where my youngest insisted that a dunk into the lake was something she had to do - the rental guy thought she was crazy.) We rented canoes on Lake Bemidji. We saw the most spectacular double rainbow ends to ends. We hiked many trails, testing out multiple layers of various bug sprays. Lots of campfires. With a family our size, camping is the way we go! We have another camping trip scheduled for early August.

Glorious Fall Day

October 13th, 2007 at 12:15 pm

Sunny, 60s for temp, leaves have changed, but haven't fallen...exemplary fall day here in MN.

And my plans for this gorgeous day?? I've already gone shopping for more clothes for my mom - with being in the wheelchair and having aid at mealtimes, she's gained weight and outgrown much of her clothing. As the girls were all places this morning, I took my husband along and he found some steel-toe work boots (his old ones had split across the sole, though he con't to wear them for quite a bit, which became a problem with the recent rainy weather and working on a new construction site in that rain.) We then went out to an early lunch - just us.

In a bit, I'll head over to bring the clothes to my mom. Then I'll come back home and do some much-needed straightening and cleaning. Hopefully I'll have time to do some puttering outside too.

Also this weekend, I want to do some baking for the week's lunches and for the bus drivers for bus driver appreciation week. I ride one of the small buses with one of our more delicate sp.ed. students I work with, and I've gotten to know that bus driver pretty well. He's a retired guy, whose wife died a few years back. He tells me about his four kids and his eleven grandkids. Anyway, we were talking about the bumper crop of apples this year and how delicious they've been, when he offered me some off of his apple trees. So far, he's given me a huge grocery bag full of two different, unsprayed apples. So I want to do up an apple bread or some muffins with those apples for good old Wayne. I think he'll enjoy them. He's so good with all of the special kids he drives - they are all very excited to see him. He's a good guy, and it'll be fun to brighten his day.

Last night was the last home football game, and my three youngest all participated in some manner (oldest was working at the pool.) My second girl danced at halftime, my third cheered at the game, and my youngest was part of a cheerleading camp for grades 3-5, and 'helped' the cheerleaders with the cheering, as well as doing a special sement at halftime also. It was a beautiful night, and fun to see the girls. I'm glad I opted to not pay for the family pass, as the girls either have participated most of the games, or I've only paid for my youngest on occasion, as my husband got in as my guest on my school pass, which gets us in free. Winter season is coming up, but I think we'll still come out ahead by not buying the family pass, which was pricey.

I'm not sure how it came to be, but the cheerleaders get to cheer over the winter season on their fall season athletic fee. So my third girl will continue to cheer for a few more months. She has put in for hockey, though I'm not sure she can as she isn't the steadiest on skates (in which case, the savings on that athletic fee may be far outweighed by the medical costs incurred by cheering on skates - mom is heavily suggesting basketball cheering might be a whole lot safer.) My second girl has opted to not do the winter competitive dance season, as she wants to concentrate on her grades - a wise move indeed.

The three younger girls have joined their older sister at the pool for lesson time Saturday mornings. They will have to put in 15 hours unpaid probation time to train as aides during the swim lessons, and then they'll all be on the school's payroll. Yes, even the 10 yr. old will be receiving pay at $6.50 an hour eventually. Amazing! As we encouraged with our oldest, most of their earnings, if not actually all, will go into their savings account. They really have so few things that they want to spend money on, and especially we find, if it's their own earned money. Isn't that a great thing to learn!

Enjoy the weekend...take care!

Work is working out

September 10th, 2007 at 06:28 pm

It always take a week or two for us to adjust back to school and work. Last week I was tired, and my head was swimming by the end of each day. This week is going smoother so far (one day, I know - ha!)

I get my first paycheck later this week (I thought it would be on the 30th.) With all of the beginning of school year expenses, the timing will be great. Actually, all I have left is school photos for the youngest and yearbooks for the oldest two. Whew - I don't know why I'm so surprised at the flurry of checks the first couple of weeks of school.

I'm already trying out my paid sick leave on Wednesday afternoon. I arranged for a sub so I can go to a medical appointment with my oldest, scheduled from last spring. We're winding down on these appointments, as her medicine seems to be where it needs to be (finally!)

Last weekend was busy, but fun. We went to the high school football game on Friday night to watch my third girl cheer and my second one dance at halftime. The girls looked great (yes, I was the mom taking those annoying flash pictures.) The evening was absolutely perfect weatherwise, and the team won too.

Saturday I ran errands in the morning, including the grocery shopping. Later I took the younger girls over to the next town over for their Heritage Festival. Very small town, but it was fun seeing so many people we knew. My youngest two spent most of the time in the petting zoo area, with hedgehogs, bunnies and guinea pigs. They also went up the portable climbing wall a few times. The girls helped their daddy, who's a police reserve officer, in the public safety area. An AirCare helicopter even came as the highlight - I did mention small town, right?

The two youngest went to an amusement park
with our church youth group on Sunday afternoon. The two oldest were busy with friends. Gosh, my husband and I almost had visions of what it'll be like in a few years. So what did we do?? We made a run to make a return to Officemax, had a fast food lunch we were both craving, and gassed up at the cheaper gas station up that direction. Then we came home and caught up on some housework. I baked for the week's lunches. Hmm - not very exciting, but nice just the same.

I did good at the grocery store. I got a ton of food for the next two weeks, as well as some at the store deals on meat that I put in the freezer. Slowly, but surely I'm stocking us back up for the fall. A few weeks back, I switched back over to Cub Foods for most of my groceries. With this change, my oulay of dollars has decreased once again, making me wonder why did I ever leave Cub in the first place? I shop every two weeks, and I keep a running list of groceries needed, as well as menu plan a night or two before I go to the store. I guess there have been periods in my life where that much preparation was beyond what I could handle. I'm getting better at this as my girls get older. No slacking for me!

My house and work all seem to be in order - at the moment. Please make note, as it can all change in the next moment!

Have a great weeek and take care!!

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