Wednesday, December 31, 2008

What a year

I woke up this morning to my three boys in our bed this morning, and I thought, wow, look how far we've come.

2008 has been quite a year for us. We've had our share of high points (my dad visiting over the summer, watching our children blossom, celebrating 4 years of marriage) and lows (losing R's uncle, financial struggles), but through it all we've stuck it out. This time last year, I wondered how it would be this year, knowing full well it would mean we've survived a whole year with a third child. I remember the anxiety I felt, in part because of our finances (our car troubles, both with R's Blazer and our new minivan), and also because I didn't know how my plan to reenter the workforce would unfold. We've had some doozy of expenses (the countless car repairs, the mold fiasco, the garage door, a few ER visits). It's added up, taking a hit to our savings. All those are nothing compared to the wonders that we've experienced. I am forever thankful and blessed to have our children, our health, our lives together. I love that R's enduring love has supported me through the struggles of postpartum depression, the breakup of my parents marriage, and that I have supported him through losing his uncle, his impending paycut, and supporting his desire to return to school.

I can't wait to see what 2009 brings. This year I'll turn 30. I am looking forward to this milestone birthday, because its the beginning of a new chapter in my life. My twenties have definitely busy: going to college, making a pivitol decision about a romantic relationship that would impact the course of my life, starting my career, meeting R, getting married, having babies, buying a house, attending graduate school, juggling parenthood with a desire to return to work (or have some sembelance of my own sense of self). I look forward to watching my three boys grow-M starting kindergarten, G starting pre-k in the fall, and E becoming a toddler. I don't know if we'll have one more child, but I know that if its meant to be it's meant to be. I won't close the door on it, for I know how much joy and love each child has brought to our family. At the same time, I'll enjoy what we have, for I know time goes by in the blink of an eye. I look forward to R and I celebrating 5 years of marriage, and continuing building our life together as a couple, as parents, as a family. I hope this year brings us financial independance, but at the least, financial wisdom to learn from our mistakes and start anew.

May this year bring our family closer to those we love, and bless those who surround us. Peace and love to all!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Let there be no waste

This new movement of frugal living has its ups and downs. At the same time, I know things that we're doing is nothing compared to how others have lived before us. I've been thinking about the stories of how my great grandparents made do with food that was near spoilage, eating whatever they could, sewing patches, mending clothes-between immigrating to the States,and living through the Great Depression, they were very resourceful individuals. I've had my moments of creative thinking, trying to channel my great grandmother's way of doing things, and at the same time thinking, wow, how is it that we live in a society when something is barely brown or it hits a sell by date that people turn up their nose or decide to make something else. It has also crossed my mind how people just pick a recipe out of the blue and buy all the items at the store at the same time, not thinking about the sale flier or coupons. It amazes me how people complain about the rising cost of food, yet while that's a valid concern, don't necessarily take an active role in trimming the budget, whether its planning a few days ahead of time, a week, or like some people do, a month ahead. I know not everyone has that luxury, but at the same time, I sense that within our world today, planning ahead can keep the wolves away, if only a few more days at a time.

I love having our freezer, love having access to the internet, love how I'm able to make a meal out of a few basic items, even when at first glance it looks like there's not much there. Doing what I do, I feel like I can share the wealth-donating food, donating my wisdom, doing whatever I can to ease the load off of someone else who doesn't have the ability/knowledge to work the sales. I may not always like eating at home, but I'm grateful we have food to eat, let alone a roof over our heads where we can eat.

I'm still debating whether or not we should go out on New Year's Day for brunch-we have a long road ahead for eating at home, and we've gone over 23 days eating meals at home, minus a snack at McD's last weekend, a mystery shopped snack, and three hot dogs we had once while doing a Costco run. Its amazing how far we've come, I don't want to stop now; at the same time, will brunch revive our determination to eat at home, or will it leave us wanting to eat out more?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

eating at home

When it comes to eating at home, I'm finding we've done extremely well this month. We surpassed my expectations for this long holiday weekend, only hitting up McDs once for a snack for the five of us (under $6) and allowing for a much needed playtime for two active boys.

We ate meals before heading out on errands, and came home to cook dinner. I know I would have preferred to eat out, we all would have, but doing it this way, as long as possible, we're doing what we can to ease our finances. I'm not saying we won't eat out, but considering how much food we have in the fridge, I can't rationalize sitting at a restaurant or hitting a drive thru. Ask me when we run low on food or energy and I may sing a different tune, but I'm determined to turn things around. I don't want to have a black cloud of debt trailing us all of next year. I don't know how long I'll work or how R's job will go, but I know changes I make now are setting us up for progress and success.

As for the meals at home, they haven't been the most creative, but they've been filling, nutritious, and relatively inexpensive. Between the coupons and sales, I've been able to keep the price tag of our meals small. However, I feel like my creativity could use a boost, so I went in search of some cooking blogs. I found The Grocery Cart Challenge, Five Dollar Dinners, and a related site to living frugally and stretching our grocery dollars, Bargaining Briana.

I'm hoping these sites (and others I come across) ease the pinch of our decreasing take home pay, while allowing us to reallocate grocery money towards adding to our savings and reducing our debt.

weekend musings

reevaluation-why does that sound better than making resolutions?

r looking at bikes-sigh....i love my husband, but like w/ anything else, is this something that will stick with him or will get pushed to the side along with past ventures for good health and exercise (along w/ the intent of going to school)

reading through the phone and camera manual-and learning more than just point and shoot, or the basics of how to use the phone

letting the boys play on the razor scooters picked up from freecycle, even if it is freezing outside

organizing pictures for scrapbooking, and other projects

making appointments for doctors/dentists

sitting with the boys and playing a game of memory

saving up for the cricut expression-sigh....i have coveted this item forever, but refuse to go into debt for it

loving the sight of footed pajamas and a baby with wavy hair

continuing our plan to pay off past expenses, and having a plan for emergencies

enjoying these days of motherhood

Saturday, December 27, 2008

New Years plans

Now that the flurry of activity has passed for the holidays, and Hanukkah is almost over, I'm turning my mind to New Year's Eve and day plans. I looked around town, there's a couple of (free) kid friendly activites on New Year's Eve during the day, so we may check those out. For the evening, I watched Rachel Ray this morning, and found a few super easy recipes to make a fantastic dinner for the family. For R and I, I plan on making dip, an easy appetizer or two, truffles, and maybe another dessert. Add a nice bottle of wine and some mixed drinks, we'll enjoy the night at home. We'll see what ideas I find in the next week.

For the next day, I'll admit-I'm tempted for us to use a BOGO meal coupon for a restaurant having a nice brunch on New Years Day. Using the could probably eat for under $25. At the same time, we've been eating at home all month, including this holiday week, so I'm wondering if I really want to go, when we're going strong eating at home. I have to admit, going out yesterday w/ the boys, eating our snacks, and coming home to have an easy dinner, it made our evening low key and fun. Lots to think about, we'll see what happens.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Day of shopping, or so was the plan

I had the best of intents, really, I did. And then I remembered, wait, wait until it hits 75% or 90% and then pounce. I went to a few stores today, JoAnns, Costco (for groceries) and Target. I wasn't suprised at how even late in the day how much stuff was still on the shelves. I thought for sure it'd be a zoo-parking lots was packed (but I found a parking spots both times right away in front, so it wasn't completely insane). Same went for inside, a lot of people browsing, not a lot of buying. I saw peole buying mostly the big wreaths and trees, but everything else-Rows of lights, cards, ornaments, still all there, past 3pm in the afternoon. People are not biting at the 50% off mark-and really, except for the gift and food baskets, it was all sitting there. I'll bide my time, last year I scored all my cards 90% off, and my lights were 75% off. I'm not picky about which ones we buy, or where I buy from. I always find something to meet our need. R told me to hold off on buying wrapping paper-he's sold on using comics and brown paper (the kind I have the boys draw on) after he heard something on the news about wrapping paper being unrecyclable. Same for tags, bows, all that stuff. Considering the boys plowed through the paper to get to their gifts, and it took longer to wrap than it did unwrapping everything, I can't see spending money on that stuff.

I did break down and buy 3 calendars at Chick-fil-A today, those were a smoking good deal. The coupons in there far outweigh the cost of the calendar (only $6 and the first coupon is for a free sandwich, and another is for a free chicken burrito-so pays for itself in the first two months). I plan on using those coupons when I take the boys out during the week. That'll make a nice treat for all of us.

Tomorrow we're hitting V town-I'll swing by the Target there, possibly WalMart too. Sunday I'll hit up Walgreens, unless I get a break during naptime. Rite Aid will wait until I do my list shopping for the week.

Until then, I'll enjoy looking online at the sales-much better deals there. Yankee is calling my name, so is the Gap, and Crate and Barrel (for 1/2 price Sigg bottles). I need some work appropriate clothes, or at least something other than blue jeans. I do see a ton of clothes for next spring and summer. I may bite the bullet and buy now-I've always been one for shopping a season ahead, and its done well for me. No way I can swing 49.59 for capris, but dropping less that $13-well, I can't find that at Target or Kohls, and since I've bought from them before, I already know what sizes work well for me. Quality is top notch too-they last me 3+ years vs the one season I got out of the clothes I bought at Target before they looked worn out. I am wanting some new shoes, something that'll uphold-my feet hurt in payless shoes, but I haven't found something that says BUY ME RIGHT NOW. So I'll browse, I'll look for the same sneakers I have now. Maybe I'll hit up the outlets tomorrow while we're in V town-last week when I did a mystery shop at a shoe store, I found a pair of cute shoes under $25, originally $79! Fit well and didn't hurt my feet. Lots to think about. Until then, I'll look and fill my online shopping bag. I can always close the browser window when I've had my fill.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas: part one

Yesterday was a laid back Christmas Eve. The boys and I stayed home all day. We spent the day playing with toys, I caught up on laundry, I baked, we played some more. We made pancakes and sausage for lunch. All was well in our house. R came home after 3, the boys played some more. R took M to the children's service at church at 5pm; we all would have gone, but since none of the boys took afternoon naps, I thought it was best that I stay home with the younger ones. No sooner does R leave, but both younger ones decide to take a much needed nap. I enjoyed my peace and quiet w/ a glass of wine and a TIVO'd show.

When R and M came home, we had a relaxed dinner of tamales. G slept most the evening, woke up once or twice, and then nodded off again for good at 9pm. E was just as mellow. R and I went to bed early too, since we didn't know when the boys would get up.

This morning I woke at 5-my internal clock decided it was time for mom to rise. I made the breakfast muffins, set up coffee, and put out the presents. Of all days, the boys decide to sleep in until almost 7 am! Even mentioning Christmas and Santa-still no one budged. G was the first to rise at 7 am-I told him to take a peek in the living room, since Santa had visited, he wimpered that he was scared to go in there alone. He honestly didn't want to go in! When I showed him the presents and stockings, he didn't seem thrilled, or suprised, or much of anything. The only thing my son wanted was breakfast! Sigh. As for M, once he woke a half hour later, he wanted to see what Santa brought him. We spent the next half hour opening gifts. Most were the toys I bought, except for three small items from my dad and his girlfriend. They sent the boys a pair of walkie talkies, batteries (always a parent favorite!) and a music toy for E. W/ all that, the biggest hit-the stuff from the dollar store! The kids were thrilled with the cars, and the police and fire fighter action figure sets. The kids wanted to play with that stuff, and the games that I bought, well, those were cast to the side. Goes to show-the simplist (and cheapest) of toys can be favorites!

We had planned on surprising my MIL and SIL and her children this morning. R called over there to make sure they were still home, and R heard everyone in the house is in some stage of having the flu-his sister is just now getting over it, and his mom woke up feeling ill this morning. Hearing all that canceled our plans. We did let MIL in on our intent, and wished her well, and told her we'd come again, maybe on New Years Day. In the meantime, we'll spend the day at home, relaxing and watching movies. We have the ham for dinner, and I'll make mashed potatos and an apple crumble for dessert.

The boys are busy playing, R is watching tv, and E is taking a nap. I think I'll take advantage of the peace and read a magazine. Hope everyone is enjoying their holiday!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Holiday musings

Somehow I feel like we're busy, yet not busy during this season. We've been doing activities at home and as a family, yet not stressing out about what to buy for whom, or where to get what gift.

We decided to stay home for Christmas, and told R's mom we were staying home. However, we know she really wants to see the boys so tomorrow morning we're driving up tomorrow to suprise her. I can't wait to see her face! I'm bringing the fixings for the Christmas meal I was making at home, and going to cook dinner for her and SIL and her children too.

R's working today and the day after Christmas. He has work to do, and the boys and I will find something to do on both days. I'm thinking about taking them to McDs, or the mall to run around, or maybe we'll stay home. Crowds don't scare me, even w/ the three kids. All we're looking for is a place to go (and unlike the house, it can't be torn upside down inside out within minutes!) We may also make some more cookies (somehow they keep disappearing!) and bring some to our neighbors. I'm just going with the flow, nothing really pressing to do, except enjoy being with the kids.

Tonight, we may go to church services, either as a family or R by himself. Depends on what time R gets home, and the mood of the boys. If not as a family, R may go to Midnight Mass, and I'll stay home w/ the sleeping kids.

I plan on hitting the stores the day after Christmas, its a tradition me and my sister started a long time ago. We always were amused with the return lines, how people talked about what they got (or didn't get) as a present-for us being Jewish, we never grew up putting so much emphasis on one day-one that has clearly become more commercialized and materialistic. Even for Hanukkah, w/ the idea of having gifts for 8 days, its always been a focus on doing activities, never on material items. R and I are continuing it with the boys too, using money we could have used on presents to fund a music and dance class in the spring.

At the same time, I always loved the sales that came after-and if I really needed or wanted something, I bought it then, not before the holiday. I distinctly remember R's niece being shocked one year at how I scored a ton of clothes and goods the day after Christmas-more than I would have had I shopped weeks before, if only because it didn't cross my mind to exchange gifts soley on Christmas. Well, this year is no different (even though my sister and I live apart). We're both going to scout the sales, buy all our holiday stuff for next year, including cards, lights, and my fav, buying the boys their ornament for next year. It blows my mind how much people spend beforehand on the same stuff, whereas I always get more than enough but at 75% off. I have a few gift cards from my surveys, and I'll buy toys ahead of time for birthdays. I'll pack lunch for me and the boys, and we'll have a good time.

I'm not going to get stressed out, because really, there's no point in it. If we need something great, but if we don't get it, no big deal. The one thing I keep getting reminded of on a daily basis is that we have a lot to be thankful for, a lot more than others, and that's really what I want to teach the boys.

So enjoy the holidays everyone. Hope you're relaxed as I am!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Cookie madness

I am on a sugar high! Being organized this year really paid off, more than I could have ever thought possible. I made five dozen cookies of two different varieties, divided them into 1/2 dozen groups, and packaged them in plastic bins I bought for 75% off last year(reminder-do the same this year too!). It took me a little over three hours to do the main cooking, and only a little bit extra to cool and move cookies into bins. Along w/ bath and body stuff I bought at a screaming deal last summer, all the teachers and director of the preschool are good to go for this holiday season. I even managed to make two trays of fudge too-one for the extra workers at the preschool, and one for R to take to work tomorrow.

With the extra frosting I had left over, I set up the boys gingerbread house for tomorrow. I also have more set aside for them to use on the gingerbread house. I'm excited about that-we're making one from graham crackers-the way I did it growing up w/ girl scouts. I have candy saved for the occasion from Halloween for decorating, and some other candy I bought for almost free w/ coupons.

I don't have an out of pocket total expense on the cookies/goodies, but considering I bought stuff throughout the year, and used what I had in the pantry, the cost is very small. I only spent $3.42 for almond extract this month for the treats. As for the gingerbread house, that cost under a few bucks, if that-since I made the frosting, already had the candy, and used graham crackers from the snack pantry. I'm excited to see how it turns out.

I'm really loving doing the homemade stuff. I hope I don't veer away from that as the boys get older.

Holiday week!

This is a very odd week. R has Wed and Thurs off, but works the rest of the week. My plan for the boys is to make cookies for their teachers/staff at preschool (I forget offhand how many) but I hoped to give each one a dozen cookies (comprised of two different ones). We'll see how far we get today, and do the rest tomorrow. Yesterday I think for every dozen we made, at least 4 got eaten-with four people in the house who could reach the cooling trays, you can imagine how many were grabbed! It was a lot of fun, and R snapped some pictures of me cooking with the boys. My new mixer works like a dream, I didn't get to use it as much last year since I got it for Hanukkah (and after I had already done most my big baking), but this year, I'm getting a lot of use from it.

Last night we lit the first Hanukkah candle on the menorah. I placed it in our front window-the boys didn't touch it, so that made it easy to put it there. We watched the Rug Rat special I had on video about Hanukkah and the boys seemed to like it. While watching Sprout this morning, I saw a neat idea on fingerpainting a menorah, so we'll try that this afternoon. I also have a few more holiday videos, and I need to go by the library and see if I can find the Hanukkah book that I borrowed last year. I also am going to try and make latkes, but I think I may need to hit up one of the specialty stores and see if they sell frozen ones-just in case I can't pull it off. I wish I paid more attention when my mom and grandma made them, but I'll learn as I go. I also have dreidels too, and will probably take those out later this week. I have a ton of other stuff ready for playtime, but I'm going to use my judgement and only take out what I think the boys will play with. No need to take out everything when they're happiest playing with the small stuff.

This week really is off to a great start, and I want to soak it all up. I love how the boys are older, and I can continue the traditions I had growing up, as well as continue the ones I started with M when he was a baby. Later this week, we'll add the traditions that R had growing up with Christmas, and continue the ones we started w/ M when he was a baby too. Lots of holidays, lots of fun, lots of laughter, but little stress. Gotta love that!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Happy holidays to us

Love R's job, I really do. Yesterday he got a white slip-the official notice of paycuts for state employees. Effective Feb. 1, his paycheck will be $900 less that what it is now. On top of that, he'll be required to take two unpaid days off per month. This pay cut amounts to more than half our mortgage. Finding a higher paying job is no longer something I can put off, I need to focus on it now. Or at the least, work when I have the opportunity. Our savings will ease the pinch, but its really a bandaid for a bigger problem if we don't act responsibly. Isn't this a wonderful way to start off our weekend, eh?

We went to our play groups big holiday party last night. The party was much smaller than in past years, but it was still a lot of fun. The boys had their fill of playing on the gymnastic equipment, and thanks to the location, were tired and ready for bed when we got home. I won the big prize (felt silly accepting it since I was the head person, but considering a ton of names were pulled before me, and I was still there, the woman who pulled it insisted I take it). We have family movies, board games, a ton of stuff. Its a nice contribution to our family fun stuff at home.

R's mom found a job, so now her plans to visit the week between Christmas and New Year's is put on hold. We may go up to S town overnight to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with her, and come back late that evening, since R has work the next morning. Doing it this way, maybe R and I will be able to attend Midnight Mass, since R's mom said she'd watch the boys so we could go out New Years Eve-but since she probably won't come, going to Midnight Mass would be possible (and for R, more enjoyable too).

My dad's hearing was just a hearing to set another court date, so nothing's changed with him. No word from my mom, so at least I don't have any drama there.

This weekend is going to be mellow. We have a free dinner thanks to mystery shopping in H town, and I have to return something at the mall there. We'll let the kids play in the play area, and maybe walk around the small town. There's a couple of thrift stores that I like, so maybe we'll sneak a peek and see if we can find anything for me to wear for work/maybe a bike for R for school.

Tomorrow's the first night of Chanukah, and I have ceramic menorahs that I bought years ago for the boys to paint. Between doing that, making latkes, and playing the dreidel game, I think we'll get that holiday off to a nice start. I also found a cute website Torah Tots so I may use that to find other activities for us.

This weekend will definitely be mellow, as well the weeks to come. I'm glad we downsized how we spent our holiday money this year, it'll make the changes we have to experience in the upcoming year that much easier to swallow.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Its all worth it

I don't often wonder how life would be w/o E because I'm forver grateful and blessed that he's on our life. Today was one of those days, reading a bit, that I wondered for a minute how really our life would be if we only had two children. As crazy and chaotic as our life is, I know it would never be easy or manageable if we stopped at our two older boys. Our boys are rough and tumble, carrying on, emptying out bookcases, throwing rolls of toilet paper in the toilet (love that potty training!), always on the go. Nothing would ever be fair w/ our two, someone would always miss out on something, that's just the way life is-and would be if we only had one child too. To say that everything would be close to fair, I disagree-but that's my own point of view.

For me, growing up in a family of six, the priority was never about trips, or activites, but then again, it was never about money either. If money was tight, we never knew-my parents did a lot with us, more than a lot of my friends parents did, and their familes were smaller. My parents were always there for recitals, and camps, and scouting, taking turns, chaperoning on camping trips. I don't think I got less of my parents because there was more of us, if anything, sometimes I think we had too much-but that could be because we did everything together, as a family. We had one on one time, but I loved the time we spent together, the weekend trips we took, the travels we went on. I had a love-hate relationship w/ my siblings, but now, I'm glad we all have each other.

To me, adding to one's family should be about being there, for the important moments and the quiet moments too. At the same time, taking care of yourself in the quiet moments, so you don't lose sight of your own shadow. I think about my dad and his sister, who missed out on having their dad around, because he died when he was 13 and his sister was 3. I think of my grandma who took care of two children as a single mom, doing whatever it took to keep a roof over her family's head. I think of R's dad leaving his mom with him and his older sister, to fend for herself. Then I think about my aunt who has three children, the oldest having autism. It didn't stop my aunt from having her second, or her third, all while she was in her mid thirties, and her attempts at juggling time for herself, restarting her career, and having children. I think about my other aunt who is graduating from college now, with her three children in high school and junior high. That road started long ago, while her children were babies, but it was something she wanted. Then I see my mom, who had four children, yet focused so much on her children that she never took time to focus on herself. Now her children are grown, and her husband has left her. She hit rock bottom, and has struggled w/ what her life is since in her own words, she gave her life to her children. She's struggled w/ us making our own decisions, and instead of supporting us and being happy for all the good we've done, has been bitter about how we didn't do things the way she had hoped.

What does all this mean for me? It gives me a sense of understanding why I do what I do-I want to do my best for my children by taking care of myself. I feel I give them strength and independance, and the comfort in knowing that they can stretch and test their limits. They ask why, they test limits, they push boundaries, all under our watchful eye.

M has asked me why I go to work, and I told him, its so I can be a better mommy to him and his brothers. He asks me if I like it, and I do, but I always tell him I love coming home to him more. I told M and G that Daddy is going back to school, since he wants to do better, be more, have more opportunities. R knows our boys are watching him, seeing what he does, just like they watch what I do too.

I applaud those who want to stay at home full time, I never felt truly comfortable in that role. I think its because I've seen the downfall of my mom that makes me feel that if I don't do this, I'll have a harder time of letting go later on. I want to have a better relationship w/ my children, and I hope my self care makes a difference.

Along with this, I love my three boys and my husband, with all my heart. I hope E one day knows how his big brother cried more than he did today when getting his shots. Poor M, you would have thought someone was telling him E was going away for good, he didn't want anyone to hurt his baby brother. I think of G telling me about Bob the Builder "Yes, I can!" as I put him to bed. I think of E falling asleep on my chest, soothed by the bear puppet on my hand. I think of R giving me a hug and telling me that he knows I'm trying the best I can, and doesn't regret paying for my grad school tuition. He just wants me to be happy, whatever that is. If I want more children, fine. If I want to resume a career, fine. As long as I come back to him at the end of the day and tell him I love him, he's a happy man.

Its hard to believe that six years ago this month I started work at the job where I would eventually meet R. I had worked there the previous school year, but never thought I'd land a job there, it was a tough environment to break into. Who would have thought that six months later, I'd work there again, and another six months later I'd meet my future husband. Life has a funny way of working out, and I'm glad I took that leap. I was scared out of my mind to take that job, but I took that leap of faith. It was all worth it, and I look forward to whatever leaps of faith are in my future.

Midweek musings

Today we're headed out to run errands and Baby E's one year appointment. We're having to miss our Moms Club holiday party, but I was not up for driving a 1/2 hour there, only to drive an hour to E's appointment in the opposite direction, and then 1/2 hour home. I did not think the boys would want to spend that much time in the car. We'll head to McDs for a treat, Grandma gave them each a $5 McDs giftcard for Christmas, so we'll have a snack (but I'll pack lunch). I have $2 for coffee, and will pack something sweet for me to munch on while the boys play. We have E's appointment in the afternoon, so in between, or after, depending on temperment and naps, we'll hit up Costco and Target for wipes and diapers, and some window shopping.

We'll come home, and I have gingerbread mix for the boys to make, we'll see how that goes. R is working late, so dinner will be easy. He made an awesome casserole last night, but took the leftovers for lunch. I may make another casserole or some soup, depending on my mood. Either way we'll eat at home, and that's fine by me. Less money spent out, and more in our pocket.

That's all I can think of right now, want to update on the holidays but that'll have to wait until this afternoon.

Monday, December 15, 2008

This is why i do the grocery game

(Double click on the image to see the detail).

This was the only thing we needed this week, besides produce, dairy, and bread. As for meat, we have enough meat in the freezer for a long time, and buy it monthly as we need it/goes on sale. Hitting up the reduced price section (nothing different than it just buying it on the sell-by date) saves a ton of money, that's how we get our hamburger, chicken, and pork chops. Feeding a family of five under $60 for the week is becoming a regular occurance!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Inside activites

Brrr it is chilly outside! Last night scrapbooking was cut short by E who was not having a good night w/ R. Not sure what happened, but considering how dense the fog was at 9:30 last night, I'm glad I headed home then instead of staying out until 11pm, like I had orginally planned. I'm glad too it was at a friend's home, and we didn't pay to scrapbook at a local store. While it's an inviting, comfortable environment, not seeing all the fun tools and decorative items for sale helped keep me on track. Then again, right now I have a ton to work with, so it was a win win situation.

Between the fog and the chilly weather, R and I hav talked about what activities we want to do w/ the boys this weekend. It's too wet to take the kids to the playground, so I mentioned McD's playland. R comes back and mentions the mall play area, since he wants to look for Christmas presents. I'm trying not to be a control freak about R wanting to look at gifts, since he doesn't ask for much, he knows our financial situation, and he knows I'm happy with what we have, so we may head into town and hit the mall. The boys will burn off some energy, and I'll try not stress out. I'll keep in mind that we're not going with the intent of shopping, just window shopping. I can handle that, I can handle crowds, I can handle the boys, I just can't handle staying at home with the three kids going stir crazy. I'm hoping we head home to eat, but in case we want to eat out, Sweet Tomatoes is having a great deal for families to eat under $20 this weekend, so we may take advantage of that. Checking out the holiday light displays is another option too. The weekend is full of possibilities.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Happy Friday

This week has passed by so fast. Today is an easy day, I'm keeping watch on students as they study for finals next week. All I have to do is take roll and note if anyone gets out of line-considering these are honors students, I don't forsee a problem.
R has the day off from work today, so he dropped me off and will pick me up after school. He's using the day to go to a nearby college and find out what he needs to do to get his BA degree. He's talked about going back in the spring, and doesn't want to put it off anymore. With the economy tanking, and pending paycuts at his work, anything he can do to ensure having a job is definitly positive. It won't be easy to juggle since we only have one car, and he can't use his work vehicle to go back and forth to class. However, I'm determined that if this is something he wants (and it is something that will help our family) we will make it work, even if it means me taking on more work, or doing w/o a car-I do not want to add another car expense to our budget. We'll see what happens.
R also plans to clean house and grocery shop. Two things that would eventually get done, but it helps that he will do it while I'm at work. Tonight is a scrapbooking night w/ friends. I have a ton of pictures to work on, but more than anything I'm looking forward to socializing. With the other moms working now, and our kids going to different preschools, we don't see each other in passing everyday. I'm seeing how it takes effort to stay connected when life starts getting busy, but at the same time, its not hard-when we get together we're able to pick up where we left off. I hope that continues, since its not always easy to find good friends.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

December update

Where has December gone? Its been a steady hum of activity, one that won't end w/ Christmas.
Yesterday was our playgroup's holiday party. Its hard to believe that this was the last year w/ the older kids- next year they'll be in kindergarten. The boys decorated cookies and exchanged books. I made a crockpot meal, and relaxed while the boys played. We had a nice time and I'm glad we went.
This week I'm subbing today and tomorrow. I have mystery shops lined up through next week. I've had some interesting assignments, between free lunches and a personalized ornament, I'm having fun. The extra money doesn't hurt.
I spoke w/ R about the ornament. making a comment about how there was no room for another name on this particular ornament. His response- we could always get one for all our names. We'll see how we are next year- we like the boys being close in age & I don't see us waiting years. Starting all over isn't for me. Still I love how he's warming up to adding one more!
Speaking of family, someone I know is pregnant w/ baby #3. For the longest time they thought they were done, but recently changed their mind. I'm so happy for them! I can't wait to see how their family grows. I spoke w the mom about babies, staying at home, and plans to go back to work. It was interesting hearing how someone else plans to juggle motherhood with her own goals. It reinforced to me there's no wrong way to do it. If I want one more child, its okay- I stayed home as planned and am now reentering the workforce. I love doing something for myself and the boys enjoy preschool. E does well, and spends no more time with his careproviders than he would spend w/ extended family if we had R's mom or my SIL or sister here. If we have one more, I'm not sure what I'd do workwise- then again, I love how life is an adventure. Next year starts the cycle of my boys entering school, so the path to reentering the workforce will widen, no matter if another baby enters the picture. I can't wait to see what next year brings, both for me and my family :-)

Monday, December 8, 2008

Will there be one more?

Geez, I'm not sure whether or not I should add a new label-fourth child. Last night we talked about how the day went, and I was talking to R about the three beautiful little girls behind us at the Santa line. It was something about their hair, the winter dresses, something in me stirred. Its not to say I don't love the ambulance, police, trucks, rough and tumble play. I do, it's all I know. When I mentioned it to R, he said he noticed them too. That and some other sighting of a baby girl recently, it makes me wonder, is the recent thoughts of having another child because I want a girl, or because I possibly want one more child.

Its getting to that point where its easy with three children, and I know this is the usually when I become pregnant-just from past experience. I told R about this, and he knows it too. Do we want to go down that road again? Do we care if its a boy or a girl-I don't, R said he doesn't care, but I think now I would want to know the gender, only because R has let me have the experience twice of not knowing, he should have his chance to know. Then again, do we want to start all over? I'm not sure I want to physically go through pregnancy, having a newborn, all over again, yet I know my heart has room for more children. Then again, hearing the trials and tribulations of my SIL having a surly teenage daughter (who just last year was pure joy-thats what happens when they turn 13 and are in the 8th grade), I don't want to adopt a teenager. Then again, teens have different needs than newborns. Either way, I want my children to be close in age, or at least get through the baby stage with all of them before having a taste of pure diaper-stroller-carseat freedom.

Another consideration-Do I want to put my career further on hold, or do I just plan on being a working mom? Money is always a concern-but in the grand scheme of things, it'll all work out. I don't want to regret not having more children later on, not that I do now, but man, when things get easy, it leaves room for thinking about adding to our family.

There's so much to think about, I told R we have to be careful, it would be just our luck to get pregnant again in February like we did with our two younger boys. He laughed, knowing its true, and always a possibility. I won't be disappointed if we become pregnant, I won't be disappointed if we don't. R has already told me he feels the same way, because he knows that if we were both 100% serious about not having more children, we'd take permanent action.

So stay tuned, we'll see what develops this year.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Day of freebies

I love days like today. Everything fell into place, and it couldn't have turned out better. I was approved to do the Santa picture mystery shop, so R and I took the three boys to see Santa at the mall. The older boys smiled, E looked at the camera, and the moment was captured :-) I wrote up the report, and submitted my receipt for reimbursement. Nothing better than getting paid for something I was already planning to do!

We also went out for a late lunch at a new restaurant, courtesy of another mystery shop assignment. Food was great, the boys behaved as well as could be expected. I was glad someone else paid for the meal, because it would not have been cheap for the five of us to eat. It also made me happy that we've been eating at home all this time. The report was simple, took less than 7 minutes to do, and afte enjoying a meal out with the family, I'd say the work equals the reimbursment.

The boys are making cookies with R, I'm catching up with email and going to read my magazines. We have a potluck this week, and I'm making cookies for families besides the main dish. I want to see if there's any new recipe I want to try, before making my stand by recipes. I'll finish up by using the time to plan ahead for this week's meals.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Weekend close to home

We spent our day at home, relaxing and watching cartoons. We only headed out to grocery shop, and take advantage of my mystery shopping gigs, havingJamba Juice for free, yummy! Tomorrow we have a lunch in V town-compliements of another mystery shopping assignment. I'm excited, the report is simple, and reimbursement is $40. Considering we've been eating at home for I don't know how long, this will be a treat! I'm always prowling the various mystery shopping company websites to find more shops, and so far I'm having a good time. Not making a fortune, but when I coordinate errands and shops it makes for a pleasant way to spend the day. R is supportive of it-I think he's sold on it after the Jamba we had today. That and seeing paychecks from companies have helped reassure him what I'm doing is legit work.

Tonight we went to our hometown parade. I rode on the float w/ the three boys-R snapped pics of us along the way. M and G loved waving, E was happy as a clam sitting on my lap. The weather was chilly, about 45 tonight, but we were definitely bundled up, and the coffee R made for us helped keep us warm. Dinner was at home, but low stress. Soup and quesadillas, and everyone was relaxed and happy.

Not much is planned for tomorrow. Depends on the weather, the moods of the boys, and what we feel like doing. I know we'll have lunch out, so at least that'll break up the day. I think R is going to put up the holiday lights w/ the boys-we have to see if the ones from last year still work. If not we may purchase some to hold us over until they go on sale after the 25th.

Hope everyone is staying warm :-)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


What is security? Is it knowing that you have a roof over your head? Food in the fridge? Healthcare? Family? Sometimes I wonder about the world we live in, the world our children are growing up in. I know what I worry about, what my struggles are, and yet I know there's stuff beyong what I can control out there.

I'm not in a pessemistic mood tonight, just thoughtful. My mind wanders to how I observed M's preschool teachers handle an outburst amongst a couple of boys this morning (impromtu visit thanks to picture day) to R telling me to expect pay cuts come Jan 1st. In the next breath he mentions the slight possibility of overtime, but that would only cover some of the pay cut. To my dad calling and telling me he finally found a job-based on what he told me, I figure it's 25% of what he was used to making, enough to cover some basic necessities, but not much more. To calling my mom on her birthday yesterday and leaving a message, despite her not calling either of my younger children on their special day.

Yes my mind wanders tonight, and I think too of what I have. A husband who loves me, and wants to have a date night, even if it revolves around mystery shopping at a bowling alley. To M, who told me I should get a necklace on tv because I'm a girl, G who wanted my reassurance today that no, he wasn't going to get shots at his 3 year physical, and E-who slept in my arms while watching tivo'd shows tonight. We have a roof over our heads, and food in our bellies. We have heat, and clothes, and each other.

R told me tonight that if he lost his job (not a possibility at this point, but pay cuts-that's enough to make him worried), our house would probably foreclose. That's a given-no matter what I make or could make right now, its not enough to cover our mortgage-rent yes, but not a house payment, especially when you factor in everything else-utilities, insurance, maintenance. How does this make me feel-honestly, I told him I could do w/o the house, I really could. We started out with nothing, we could do it. My concern is sticking together-doing what we need to do to provide for ourselves and our children.

I'm not pressing the emergency button tonight, just a caution one. I'm relieved because I know the changes we've made to scale back on expenses, and am grateful I've planned for a quiet holiday season. Not only has it saved us money, but given me some peace of mind. And security, that's the best gift of all.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Is it really December?

Wow-November seemed to pass by in a blink of an eye! It was a whirlwind of a month. We had three birthdays, two holidays, and a bucket full of expenses. However, it seems like we survived quite a bit.

This past weekend was amazing! We had a ton of quality family time, and hardly any expense! The first two days were very frugal, with us volunteering on Thanksgiving and just buying R's blue tooth headset on Friday. The holiday cards I bought at Costco were inexpensive, and considering we ran out of them (but I had extra cards at home) it was a great deal. We spent all of Saturday, and most of Sunday at home.

I used that time to start mailing out the holiday cards. Its crazy to think of how many we send out, but at the same time, the people we do send to, I couldn't imagine not sending one to each of them. Some are family from both R and my side, but others are people we've known throughout the years, many of whom live back in the Bay Area. Its our way of staying connected, and I love doing it. My mom in law received her's today, and loved the simplicity and the realness of it-not something posed, or "perfect". She loved how each of the boys was doing their own thing in the picture, yet no one is crying, or sleeping, or has their eyes closed. Hearing her say that-well, that was somewhat my criteria for a picture worth sending out-then again, after not having one of me and R w/ our boys last year (it was just the boys), I loved having a casual snapshot of all of us.

The only other time we left home was on Sunday for groceries, and replenished our perishable goods. The rest of the weekend was spent in the front yard, playing with toys, or inside watching holiday movies that I had tivo'd in advance. And we ate all our meals at home, no fast food or restaurants for us-yay!!!

This week should be quiet. We had planned on going to V town's holiday parade this evening, but the heavy fog kept us home. I'm hoping it clears up on Friday, long enough for our hometown parade. I'm excited-the boys are participating w/ the preschool, and it'll be the first year with all 3 boys on the float. We're planning on taking the boys to see Santa at the mall on Saturday, in hopes of getting one picture with the three of them. I may go earlier in the week, only because I have a msytery shop at the mall, but R wants to come with us. So we'll see what happens.

I am busting my butt in the next few weeks since I'll have some major down time the last two weeks in December. I'm hoping between the sub jobs and the mystery shopping gigs, I'll be able to add to our savings considerably, and help regain our financial footing. R's doing a lot, but right now, I'm just doing what I need to do to help pull us through. At the very least, if I don't work, we're making definite strides in reducing our expenses. I already have all our holiday gifts that are store bought, ready to go, and the homebaked goods will be made and passed out in the weeks ahead. I'm tempted to pass out my resume for other positions, and may do that just to see what bites. I have to admit, I love the flexibility of subbing, but I'm torn between wanting to shore up our savings and wanting to stay home.

Thats the November wrapup, I can't wait to see what December brings.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving weekend

Yesterday was a wonderful Thanksgiving, and it turned out better than I expected. We spent the morning at home, playing with the children, watching the Thanksgiving Day parade on tv. I made pancakes w/ G, and he was thrilled with how I made it a G and mommy event.

At noon, we headed into C town, to help prepare and serve Thanksgiving dinner to the fire, police, and paramedic personnel that were working. I thought it was a nice way to give back to our community, and was amazed when I heard the story of why the event was taking place. The woman who planned the event does something for her community every year, and this year she chose to serve our protective employees a Thanksgiving meal. She planned everything in less than a week, calling 15-17 restaurants in the area who donated all the food and drinks. It was an incredible set up, and goes to show how one person really can make a difference.

Both G and M were on their best behavior, and helped set the tables, and put various items in bowls. R sliced the turkey and ham, and I helped put the finishing touches on whatever needed to get done. E was awesome-when he wasn't in his stroller, he was content being held by R or myself. Later on, he crawled along the floor, happy as could be. There was more than enough food for everyone, and we were invited to eat too. We had ourselves a relaxed meal, and the food was delicious!

We came home to rest, and the boys spent the afternoon playing outside. Before it got too dark out, I took the boys on our annual Thanksgiving walk around the neighborhood. The boys picked up huge fallen leaves along the way, and was eager to show R when we returned home. I loved walking along the streets, hearing my boys chattering amongst themselves. I reminisced about years past, since we've spent every Thanksgiving at our home. Its hard to believe another year has passed, its gone by in a blink of an eye. The evening ended with us watching movies together.

Today was also a nice day. We spent the morning at home, perusing the black friday ads both in the newspaper and online. The boys played with their toys, and had a nice time watching Sprout tv. I took care of our holiday greeting card order, and picked that up while we were out and about today. We hit a couple of the major stores, looking for a blue tooth set up for R's phone. We found a nice one for him at a reasonable cost. We had put off getting that until today, in hopes of getting a deal, and Best Buy did not disappoint. R already put the receipt with our tax stuff so he can write it off for work. The rest of the shops, we just window shopped. Neither of us were tempted to buy anything, it was just something to do to get us out of the house.

Now the boys are playing outside w/ R, and I'm taking a break for myself. After dinner tonight, I'll compose our holiday greeting and get that ready to mail out tomorrow. I already have our addresses together, thanks to the spreadsheet I've used in past years.

Tomorrow we'll head to the zoo or a park if the weather permits. The only other thing I'd like to do is get our holiday lights up, and chances are R will do that tomorrow or Sunday. As long as we get them up before we get another dose of rain, I'll be a happy girl.

Hope everyone is enjoying their holiday weekend.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

How many in a family

I debated posting this here, but as I'm going through baby clothes and toys today to freecyle, today seems like the day to get it out in black and white.

Adding to our family has been the topic of discussion lately. I've been asking R if he was ready to get the V done, and he said not yet, since it definitely closes the door to having more children. I already knew that, and when I told him I thought he didn't want anymore, R mentioned that he may be open to having one more. Talk about floored-how long have we thought we were done? Every discussion, talking w/ family and friends, he's quick to point out how we're done. But now-when things are getting managable w/ our three boys? Talk about a switch.

While the idea is nice, I'm not sure where I stand, so I'm going to just see what develops. Work on our goals, and see where life takes us. Work for now, and see how I like it. I can always change my plan, and that's okay. In the meantime, I'm going to whittle down the baby stuff-I have an overabundance and passing things forward to a new mom sounds like a good idea. I know what we used (and what we really needed-not much for G and E, just diapers and warm clothes-and no baby is picky about the brand/style of clothes!) A durable car seat is easy to come by, and we still have our stroller.

I don't have a time frame for having one more, as it was I thought I wanted to have all my children by my 30th birthday. I'm not going to hold out hope for one more, my heart is full with love for our boys. I love what we have, and love the organized chaos that is our home. It reminds me of my childhood years (before the teen battles w/ my parents!). If we're blessed with one more, great. If not, that's okay too.

Now I'm off to bless someone else w/ some baby clothes :)

Thanksgiving plans

I truly feel that my letting go of control is assisting me in leading a saner, more peaceful life. R and I decided not to chance the drive to R's dad tomorrow, its raining hard there, and while we could spend the day inside, his dad lives in a tiny one bedroom apartment, and it would be like letting 3 tiny bulls free in a china shop.

As if life already had a plan, a open opportunity to serve meals popped up, and we're going to volunteer to serve firefighters and police officers, and the homeless in a nearby community. R and I decided that at the very least, one of us will volunteer w/ M, while the other parent supervises the younger two. I'm excited at the possibility of this learning opportunity for our family, for our boys, to share this holiday with others in our community. We'll spend the rest of the day at home, maybe rent a movie from the library, or make homemade cookies for a treat. Either way, its shaping up to be a wonderful holiday at home.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

pay it forward

Money is non existent until payday and that's okay. We have a roof over our heads and food in our bellies. I have a huge bag of canned goods to give to our community for the food drive tomorrow, and I'm going to have M and G put a second bag together. There will always be someone out there worse than us, and I am going to count my blessings. R also got a contact for a woman's shelter- not just for a job lead for me, but also where I can bring the huge bags of toiletries I've gotten for free the past few months. I can't wait to go down there as a family to make our donation. I'm also going to see if we have any extra blankets and coats, and add that to the mix. Yes, we may be in debt, but I know firsthand how people are struggling with a lot less, and make their load a little lighter.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Bonding time

Last night we had a great time w/ our preschool family at the potluck. It cracked me up to see my children running around, laughing, playing, as people sat around and talked, listened to the music man as he played his tunes. It warmed me up-because in terms of doing something for Thanksgiving- this is what we do-we don't have family close by, so its the people who we surround ourselves (preschool/playgroup/neighborhood friends) who we see during the holidays. I love making these memories with my boys, I hope they appreciate the family we have, and the people we celebrate with, because doing stuff like this is meaningful and special.

This morning we had G and E's birthday celebration at the park. As it turned out, G's preschool pals didn't come, and neither did E's playgroup buddies. Who did come are our treasured friends that we've made since moving to K town with M. Honestly, I couldn't have asked for anything more-except warmer weather! The boys were thrilled to see their friends, I had some girl time w/ the moms, and R-well, R helped big time with getting the pizza, setting up the cake, doing the behind the scene stuff. The cake was delish-R saved me a tiny slice, and I loved how it turned out. Yay for taking the initiative and doing it myself :-) I took pictures of it, and the birthday boys too.

We're at home now, enjoying our down time. We never made it to Costco this week (yay for skipping a whole week w/o it!) so we might head there tonight for groceries, or wait until morning. I'll be hitting the grocery sales hard this week, to prep for Thanksgiving and the rest of the month. I already have everything stocked, so shouldn't need anything but fresh fruit and veggies, along w/ some dairy items that always need to get restocked. In case of rock bottom specials, I have my coupons ready to go, so I'll just take time now to relax, and enjoy my boys, the youngest of whom just fell soundly asleep w/ Daddy.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Happy Friday!

Today is quite a busy day for our house, and for once I feel on top on the important stuff, and its carried over to my mood.
For example, tonight is the preschool's family potluck. I signed up last week for a side dish, planning to use whatever we had at home. I originally planned to use my crockpot, but planning ahead I did one better- I made up a batch of cornbread this morning while getting everyone ready for school. I left it on the counter to cool, so when I get home after work, its ready to be plated and brought to preschool.
This morning was a foggy day schedule for work. I used the extra hour to swing by WalMart and get bread for sandwiches and bottled water for tomorrow. I never preordered a cake from Costco-instead I'll have cupcakes/cake that I make myself from all the baked goods supplies I already have on hand. I'll take care of that tonight after the boys go to sleep. The only thing left I'll have to do is make a bean dip, prep my other snacks, and load the car w the non refrigerated supplies/food tonight. I don't think tomorrow will be stressful, keeping it simple is reducing it, and after having done simple parties now for awhile, I don't think I'd want to do more. Its kind of funny too, how even the boys are excited, more about seeing their friends- I don't think they even care its to celebrate birthdays: makes me so glad I never invested a ton of money into doing it somewhere else.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Climbing out

Sometimes I wonder how we got into this situation. Was it one emergency or another that sent us teetering on the edge of a financial disaster? Its hard to keep everything in perspective when bills come, money goes out, and I don't see the immediate change in our situation. At the same time, once certain bills are paid, they will no longer exist, so maybe not seeing the change right offhand won't happen until other stuff fades away.

Yesterday I had a moment, I'd like to think of it as a break through. I realized that no matter what our current situation is, its not the end of the world as we know it. Thngs may look financially dismal right now, but it won't always be this way. In the grand scheme of life, this year will be a blip. Look at how much stuff has taken place this year, watching E grow during his first year, losing R's uncle, us celebrating 4 years of marriage, growing closer to my dad in years. I wouldn't trade all of this stuff, except for losing R's uncle. I don't like to always admit how hard it is to be in our situation, but I do own responsibility for getting us here, and I will see to it that we rise above it. We will do it, one step at a time.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Thanksgiving update

Wow-two posts in the same day? Wow, maybe I'm making up for lost time. Anyways onto my post.
It's official. We're staying put for Thanksgiving. After crunching the numbers today, we've decided to stay home for Thanksgiving. The cost of the hotel alone is a minimum of $100, and that's if we only stay one night. R doesn't want to add to our credit card debt, and told me point blank that we wouldn't enjoy ourselves if we went and relied on credit. We'll stay home, invite his dad to come see us (cheaper for them to drive and stay here vs us going there and paying for lodging, food, any entertainment). At the least we'll enjoy a stress free 4 day weekend, take advantage of the weather by going to the park, maybe the zoo, anything that's inexpensive or free. I'll put the exta money that we would have spent on our trip towards our debt-what we don't see, we won't spend.
Now on with the hunt for some good recipes to try :)

November update

Where have I been~normally I post throughout the week, but this month has been crazy busy! I guess that's a good thing-it helps that we have a lot going on, and not all of it is costing us a fortune. I picked up a thre day sub job that ended today-that was a sweet gig, and I'm already missing having the certainty of work. At the same time, I love the flexibility of not necessarily having to go to work 5 days a week, so on that end, I know I'm not quite ready to go back to work full time.

This weekend we spent time in my childhood stomping grounds. It had a different feel this time-it was 4 years this past October that we moved here, and now coming home, it really felt like we were home. My boys, while they get how excited Mommy is to go to San Jose, I don't think they truly get how I feel-(and I don't even want to think about them moving away from this home just yet!). Then again, maybe it was the frat house environment that has become my sister's apartment, since my two younger brothers moved in over the summer.

We survived, if only w/ bringing our own blankets and pillows (and next time our towels too!). I lucked out, picking up breakfast foods at the grocery for us-the boys woke up early, and somehow having two grown men in a house all week (my sister is only there on the weekends), you would think there would be something in the fridge-nope. The boys were just happy to have a tv/ and played outside w/ anything that wasn't necessarily a toy.

Our picture session went awesome. The location was beautiful, an unconventional spot (a business' side yard), and the kids, well, I don't think they really got that it was supposed to be a photo session-since they were having a blast playing outside. After our session, we let the boys play w/ our photographers' children-their daughter and son are both three months older than each of our younger two boys. Through conversations with both parents, I realize how we are fortunate to have each other. This economy is touching everyone, and leaves no one unscathed. We talkd about adding to each of our families, and I found it interesting to me how the mom felt she wasn't complete w/o having baby #3, and even though she knows that now isn't the best time (her husband is in the police academy, money is super tight, and stress is at an all time high), she's not closing that door-because she doesn't feel complete. I could relate-I think that's how I felt before having baby E. Even now, its hard to believe we're done having babies, but until that door is permanently shut (hint, w/ a "v"), then opportunity always exists to add to our brood.

On Sunday we ventured to San Francisco for Green Festival w/ my sister, her fiance, and the boys. We had free tickets (otherwise it was $10 per adult) and took Bart ($10 per adult, kids 4 and under were free) to save ourselves the headache of gas and parking. I must say, taking 3 young children on public transportation was quite an adventure. The boys loved it, they were well behaved, and it was a great experience. I would do this type of transportation again in a heartbeat for any of our trips-no matter how hard it was, it was inexpensive and a great learning opportunity, and it was easier carrying our stuff than having to travel back and forth to a car parked miles and miles away. Another perk, if we had issues w/ the boys, we would have just taken the train back-having our car, it wouldn't have made meltdowns or bad weather less problematic.

The place was beyond packed, and at times it was impossible to move more than 10 feet in five minutes, but we learned so much about our world that it was worth it. It didn't matter that the older boys were in and out of the double stroller all day, or that Elijah demanded to be carried a lot, it was doable. I can honestly say I had a good time, even if I didn't stop at every single booth-that's what the online resources for the fair are for! R and I talked about it on the way home-we definitely could manage on our own w/ all three of the boys at something like this. It just takes patience, being open to the unexpected, and a sense of going with the flow. We didn't leave the fest until after 2:30, and didn't get back to the train station until 4.

We stopped at a park nearby for another hour, and my sister took some great pictures for me to use for our family holiday card. Even w/ us all tired and not matching (those shirts being cast aside w/ the unusually warm weather), it looked great. I think we're more relaxed, and the word authentic comes to mind. It was how we are, a family of five, with three boys and relaxed smiles, crinkled brows, and fingers in mouths (courtesy of E).

We came home at 9pm last night, and it was a nice time to get home. Unpacking was a breeze, kids were still drowsy (they slept the whole way home!) and still crawled into bed for a full night's sleep. R and I were up w/ no problems at 5am this morning, ready to face the day. We'll hit the bed early tonight, but at least we enjoyed our visit. At the end of the day, that's what counts :-)

Friday, November 14, 2008

holiday inspiration

Check out SouleMama. I was impressed and you will too!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Get those holiday ideas flowing!

I love getting magazines, and December's issue of Good Housekeeping did not disappoint. I have ideas for homemade gifts-better than what I already came up with, and they are super easy, and cheap, yet yummy and thoughtful. Isn't that the point of gift giving? I'll be testing those recipes in the weeks to come and iron out what I already have stocked in my pantry. I don't think I'll need very much, I've acquired most of my holiday baking supplies, including cake mixes, sugar, butter, sgar, and food coloring. I think I may run out of goodie containers, but I'll figure out a plan of action.

As for holiday cards, I was inspired to do things different this year. Read the essay in the mag about holiday cards and you will too. Instead of doing something professional, we're having my sister take a family snapshot of us. No pressure for the perfect pose-however the kids look, smile, wear, it'll show us-a family of five in all our glory. No need for a special background, we'll aim for a playground near my sister's house, and see what develops. I'll print up cards-using whatever discounts come my way-if we get a variety of cards, it'll be fine. No one will know that they're not gtting matching cards-everyone will just be happy to get a card.
There's more to read, it'll be a thumbed up isue for sure once I'm done, can't wait to see what other things I'm inspired to try! :-)

One thing at a time

Its so easy to get caught up in the moment, that sometimes its easy to let other things slide. I've sensed that happening to me-and it causes me to get frazzled, and sometimes spend money that I wasn't prepared to spend. I've been working on lessening that so it happens less frequently, but it does happen. Here are my current challenges, and how I'm coping.
-Prepping for the holidays-anything and everything holiday related. I've been using Fly Lady to start my lists of things to do, sorting, cleaning, and I'm making a fair amount of headway. I have a written journal w/ my lists, and I'm finding it easy to keep track of things that way when I'm away from my computer. If only I could figure out how to use my PDA to my advantage-but I'm slow on the uptake when it comes to technology. I figure by the end of the year, I'll figure it out.
Birthdays-enter mom guilt. G's birthday was on Tuesday-due to the holiday and the boys not attending preschool on Wednesday, today's the day to celebrate it at school. Last year's celebration was a mess-I was about to give birth and making sweets was the last thing on my mind. This year, I thought I'd bake something-after all, I baked muffins for M's birthday at school. My plans fell through- baby E had a rough night and I sent G to school with a store bought snack I had in the pantry. He was just excited about having cookies- but me, for just a minute I thought I should have done more. In the end I realized I needed to let it go, he was happy and that was my goal. The party/playdate I wanted to do- I've been getting sidetracked. I'm going to send out an evite/notes today, and put aside the guilt of not having perfect invites. As it is, no one saves them/looks at them often so why bother making a big fuss? It may cut into who comes- but I cannot control that, so I'm going to let that slide. I'll focus on my babies, who are slowly getting older, and enjoy the time I have with them before they grow up and don't want/need me around so much.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Bring on the birthdays!

I really think having three birthdays in November is going to be cake :) We started off our birthday celebration yesterday, celebrating R's birthday. Over breakfast, the boys and I gave R his brithday photo book. R started to tear up as soon as he saw the inside picture (of him standing next to the assembled baby crib). Tears continued as he saw pictures of him w/ M, G, and E during their baby days, and I could tell that he really, really like it. Consindering how inexpensive this gift was to the others I've given over the years, it just goes to show the amount you spend on a gift doesn't equate the joy you get from it.

R got a huge cake at work, and his officemates decorated his office. We took pictures of it for prosperity, and will place that aside in R's scrapbook.

In the afternoon, I deposited the boys piggy bank money into each of their savings accounts. I also opened E's account-and the bank manager was shocked that we had an account for each child. I told him while I wish we had our own finances in order, I was glad that we at least had savings for each child.

Later that evening, I told R that instead of buying the boys presents for their birthday, I rather put money in their bank account to use for future expenses. I still want to celebrate their day, but focus on time and making memories instead of toys-speaking for myself, I cannot remember getting a toy and having that be a highlight of a celebration-instead, I remember spending time w/ my parents and siblings, and sometimes friends too, and doing something fun. I want to instill that in my own children too.

We hired a sitter last night, and went to the Elephant Bar for adult food and conversation. We splurged-if only by sharing an appetizer and entree, we each had a delish alcoholic drink too. That was the most expensive part of the day, if only because our sitter cost as much as our food. Oh well, we're used to it, since we don't have R's family or my siblings to watch the boys for us.

Today is a fun filled day for G and the family. R has the day off, so we made breakfast at home, and are planning on going together to a park for a playdate w/ a local mom's club. After that we're going to check out a Veteran's Day celebration near by, and possibly go to a national forest an hour away. Veterans and their families get free admission today; R has his Veterans of Foreign War card, so we might take advantage and make a day trip. R also gets a free car wash, not sure if it's in F or V town, but we may take advantage of that too. Its a tiny token for what really is an important holiday. We'll wrap up today by heading to our local cemetary, which is adorned with flags on veterans headstones. Its quite a sight, and its been a tradition of ours to go there every year since we moved here. I think its important for the boys to learn about the importance of the day, not just as a day off from school/work.

Remember our Vets today-without them, we wouldn't have the freedom to decide how we live our lives.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

weekend musings

random thoughts for this morning
-love, love my breadmaker! homemade rolls for dinner, cranberry muffin bread for breakfast :)
-sweaters and blue jean weather, how delightful!
-baking banana bread with the boys, yummy!
-knowing that within this week we celebrate R,G, and E's birthday, yay!
-grocery shopping should be a breeze today, list prices on breakfast items are rock bottom, and I have oodles of coupons!
-I LOVE, LOVE, this new site I found Blissfully Domestic - check it out!
-will post more later during nap time

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Family, Divorce, and Money

I'm beyond livid. Words cannot fully express how frustrated, hurt, disappointed I am with both my parents right now. On one side, I'm glad I'm grown with a family of my own-so I'm somewhat removed from the b.s. that has come with their impending divorce. On the other-since they have both done stupid things (which by themselves are not so bad, except when combined and put towards one another, become down right illegal and stupid), I'm now stuck in the middle.

Here's the short version. My mom finally filed for divorce a month ago, nearly 3 years after my dad told her e was leaving her, staying put in Chicago, and not coming back to CA. In the month since getting served with divorce papers, my dad sought and obtained legal counsel. He started to sift through the myraid amount of paperwork, starting to go through financial documents, to assist in getting stuff put in order to make everything short and sweet.

Fast forward to today. I got a phone call from my dad, in panic mode-mind you, he's never been one to panic. After obtaining a credit report, and some other documents, my dad found out my mom did some horrible stuff. Opened up credit cards w/ his name on it. Cashed out all their stock and bonds. Obtained a home equity line of credit, and maxed that out. Oh, and she also maxed out whatever credit cards they had in both their names, previous to her opening additional joint cards (which I'm assuming are also maxed out). The grand total so far-a minimum of $60,000-none of which has turned up in their joint bank account. My dad has no clue where the money is, but the reality is he needs to pay his attorney a retainer of $5000 so she can file proceedings against my mom, in regards to the divorce, and all this financial garbage. The downside-In doing all this damage, my mom did not leave a penny for my dad to retain legal counsel. This is a nightmare, considering my dad recently lost his job and only has his unemployment check to help make ends meet in Chicago.

My dad called up myself and my other siblings, seeing what we can offer. I knew my add was in deep trouble, because that's not his style-and know it was a major blow to his ego to call us up.

My predicament-I'm so beyond pissed at my mom, I don't know what financial help I can offer my dad, since we're trying to get ahead, not get further in debt. The lawyer will accept checks or credit card numbers, so that gives us the option of putting some of his retainer on our credit cards. Not ideal, but at least it wouldn't tap out our savings. My dad raised us-he may not have won Father of the Year awards, but damn it, he did what he could-was the breadwinner while my mom was a SAHM for 20+ years, not to say it wasn't what they both wanted, but damn it, why do this to each other? Ugh....

I spoke to R about this mess. We're going to look at our own numbers and see what we can afford to give. Honestly, I'd rather put my share of my dad's retainer on my own credit card and have him pay me back, than let R and I deal w/ this b.s. We're looking at a min of $750 each between myself and two of my younger siblings (the youngest is barely holding it together now, covering rent and his used car expenses), snce my dad thinks he can get $3000 from a side job.

I know my mom never saw a divorce coming after being msrried 30 years, and always being a SAHM, but still to do this? Its beyond unbelievable, and this has made me lose respect for my mom-ugh. I swear, this just gives me more reason to have some level of self sufficiency-I don't ever want the rug to be pulled out from underneath me like this.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Holiday shopping

How I love to shop, especially after the holidays. I took the boys to Target today, in the hopes that Halloween stuff would be 75% off. I hit the jackpot! I got each of the boys a new costume for next year, including E. I found three race car driver costumes, and they were a steal at $6 each! I also bought the older boys a doctor costume, for $5 each; not sure if I'll bring those out for Christmas/Hanukkah, or wait until their respective birthdays. I found each boy a Halloween tshirt (matching, of course!) for next year, and found a cute one for me too. Each one was $1.25, you can't beat that! I bought art materials (1.24 each, they were geared for Halloween, but really could be used year round), 2 bags of Hershey kisses (69 cents each), a warm fleece throw (only $2.50!), and a Spiderman trick or treat/easter basket for Elijah for next year (1.99) to go along w/ his older brothers for next year. There's no difference between the ones I already had, and why spend $8 on one, if I can get away with spending a lot less. Considering how much we got for our dollars, I'm pleased with the outcome.
I do have more I want to post, but dinner and children are calling, I hope to post more tonight or tomorrow about our goals for the rest of the month.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Always on guard

Today R and I had a profound conversation, and it didn't start that way. We were talking about our going to Santa Maria to see his dad, and how I know he would really like to see him. In fact, we all would-both R's dad and his wife have yet to meet E and he's already almost a year old. Getting away-that would be nice-the last trip we took was for R's uncle's memorial service, and that whole trip was tinged with sadness. Anyways, we were talking about going and I commented on how I hoped he didn't mind me being so cautious with our money. I logically understand why I do it, but that doesn't always mean I like it. Heck, I'd love to just pick something up and not think okay, this is going to cost how much, or should we pay for it with cash, or credit, or is it going to haunt me months from now if I don't eat it, wear it, use it, etc. He looked at me and said, no I'm glad you are the way you are, it helps our family go so much further. Talk about validation. I love my husband.

We're on the fence about going to Santa Maria. We'll think about it over this week and make a decision. I told R we can forgo birthday meals out and other $ activites, and pool our resources for that trip. There's not much else to cut-we're already doing what we can, and I know its making a difference. We're not eating out, we're using the food we have at home. Waste is minimal (it happens), but we're human, we're learning all the time about how to do things better, more efficiently, and most importantly, not forgetting about living in the moment with our boys. That last one is sometimes the hardest when it comes to independance and temper tanutrums and who does what and who goes where.

So tonight I'm running off on a tanget, but sometimes I just need to clear my head. I was feeling a bit bogged down-hopefully this will help me stay on track.

Holiday musings

With the onset ot Halloween, comes the start of the holiday season at our home. November is a busy month of birthdays and Thanksgiving. We're already squared away for the boys birthdays, printing up and mailing invites this week, and I already have R's birthday present (a photobook created and purchased last month). We'll celebrate the birthday boys (R and the two younger boys) out at one meal-it depends on where R wants to go, and the onsluaght of freebies that have begun to come in the mail.

We've been talking about what we want to do for Thanksgiving this year. Since weWe've done it all from hosting it here, being home with a newborn, seeing R's dad down in Santa Maria, to once again being homw with a newborn. The question is, do we go down south to visit R's dad and his wife, stay home and host here, or go up to R's mom in Sacramento. If we stay here or go to R's mom, the cost is minimal. All we have to pay for is gas, and the rest of the visit is inexpensive (since we make everything ourselves). If we go to R's dad, we have the cost of a hotel, gas, eating out (Thanksgiving dinner and/or a couple of other meals). I found the hotel we normally stay at down south, it's affordable-$99 per night, comes with a free deluxe breakfast every morning, has a microwave and fridge in the room, and kids stay free. The question is, do we go? We know how to travel lightly, bring food, and have a bunch of free places we can go with the boys. At the least we'd spend one night, but have two very full days with his dad. At the most, we'd spend two nights, and take an extra day to do sighseeing as a family. Meals we can plan; breakfasts at the hotel, bring stuff to make lunches, and only have to pay for dinner for our famiy. R is going to talk to his dad and see if he wants to come here, all he'd have to pay is gas-the rest of the weekend we can take care of, since we'd eat at home, and find free things to do as a family. He's also going to talk to his mom about her plans.

This is definitely a time to put on our thinking caps, as we already know we're staying put for Christmas and New Years weeks. His family has plans to be with other parts of the family this year. My siblings are spending it with their signifigant others families, and my dad is staying on the East Coast (too expensive to fly back here).

I'm glad I'm thinking about this now, and not a couple of weeks from now, before everything gets crazier. It also helps to plan ahead so I know how much money to set aside for a hotel (it would come out of our fun/dining out money).
I'll update later once I know more.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Sweet November!

Yay for November, it brings such a rush of emotions, all the events coming up between now and the end of the calendar year. I only have a few minutes to post this morning, so I'll update on our Oct goals and Nov goals later this weekend.
This weekend is shaping up to be a nice one. The boys were up at the crack of dawn, or before dawn, but everything was good to go-candy put away, clean coffee pot, and sweetrolls ready for the oven-yum! DH is watching the troops all day today while I head out to celebrate a friend's 32nd b-day. I think I'm more excited than the birthday girl-if only because she just told me she's pregnant for the 3rd time, and is going through the misery of being exhausted and nauseous all the time (and I so remember how that was w/ baby E!) Both her older boys and mine are within 6 months of each other (mine are the older ones) but her baby will be 18 months younger than E. She was on the fence for a long time to have another, and finally felt ready this summer, right when her son turned 2 1/2, and her older turned 4. I'm getting ready to part with some of my baby stuff, some that I never used with any of my boys. I'll probably give some to her, or some other moms that I know are expecting again (one for the 5th time, wow!) Anyways, I'm looking forward to the kid free time, and the girl time, and having my boobs to myself for the day-yay to all that!!!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween pictures

I couldn't pick just a few, so I'm sharing some of my favorite snapshots.Enjoy!

Halloween wrap up

Tonight was an amazing, fun filled family night. R came home right in time for us to head out to the community event. The boys were ramped up, and Baby E was cute as a button in his tiger costume. Some might wonder what happened to my glorious plans for making his costume. Well, as fate would have it, a wonderful woman freecycled an adorable tiger costume, and I couldn't pass it up. It would have cost me more to make the fire fighter one, and honestly, when I saw how cute E looked as a tiger, I knew it was a perfect match. Anyways, back to our night.

We got to the event, and was amazed at how many people were there-yet it didn't look very crowded. The boys spied the bounce houses, pony rides, carnival games, a tractor ride, mini-maze, and so much more. To add to it, was the glorious smell of popcorn, cotton candy, and hot dogs. I wasn't sure how long we'd stay, since R and I didn't bring any money. I heard the event was free, and I figured if it cost money to eat, we'd eat the dinner I had for us at home before we went trick or treating. We soon learned everything really was free!

E was asleep when we arrived-I thought for sue he'd awake w/ all the noise, but no, he slept through the first hour. Hence the sleeping picture of me w/ him and his brothers (same for R and the boys). The boys played carnival games, and recieved a ton of candy. They rode a horse (not a pony, but a big horse!), and loved every second of that ride. I took the older ones on the tractor ride, and it was so much fun, we saw the whole event before our eyes. We filled up on lemonade, popcorn, hot dogs, and chips. The boys were eyeing their candy, but I think they were too full to snack on it.

We ran into M's preschool teacher and her children, plus her own mother. We ran into many of M's playmates from school and their parents. I saw a ton of costumes, and got some really good (inexpensive ideas) for making costumes next year-saw a lot more homemade ones that were adorable!

We came home, and R said he'd hand out candy w/ E, while I took the older ones out around the neighborhood. On a whim, I brought an empty bag w/ me, in case the boys baskets broke, or overflowed, or something else happened to them. It turned out that the kids made out like bandits-we didn't make it to the end of our street before their baskets were filled. G was tired, but M asked to go on. I said we could, and just going around the block, and two cul-de-sacs, we filled their baskets two more times. Those baskets were already filled twice today (once at the preschool, and then at the carnival), so now we're overflowing w/ treats. M was such a good older brother, he reminded G many times how to say "trick or treat" and always to say thank you. It was also cute how M kept asking G if he was doing okay, and M kept saying how much fun he was having, he loved Halloween-I never thought he would be so crazy about it, but he was!

I wondered what M would want when we got home-G already nabbed a lollipop, but I wasn't sure wha M wanted. He didn't want any candy, but a little toy that someone had given him. Talk about different.

Bedtime went off w/o a hitch, E was happy to snuggle and drift off to sleep, and now I can quietly go through the chocolate stash and see what treats await me. Oh the joys of being the parent!

Preschool and Halloween

Today has been a wonderful day. A bit chaotic, but what a day! We spent the morning at preschool, and took all the children through our small downtown to go trick or treating. What a sight to see 30+ little ones, and 8 infants in double strollers, in costumes, big smiles on their faces. I loved being able to tag along, saw Matthew and his friends, Gabriel tagging along beside him. Elijah was content in the double stroller with one of his friends, and I was another set of protective eyes on all our youth. We made a nice stop at the local hospital in town, the children serenaded the residents and staff with songs, and gathered candy from everyone. I don't know who was happier-the residents who were usually alone and w/o many visiters, or the children who were excited to share their singing skills. I hung out with the other moms, and commented on how big our kids were getting, looking all big in their costumes. For some of us this is the last year of doing this type of thing, for others its just the beginning. Either way, I learned the kindergarteners do this every year too, so its something to look forward to with M next fall.

We had lunch at preschool, and the boys were tired, but too wound up to sleep. I decided we'll hang out at home for the afternoon, until its time to take off for the local community event. Its not raining, nor does it look like its immenient, so it seems like we're in for a wonderful evening.

I'v taken so many pictures today, I can't wait to pick my favorites to scrapbook. I may just go online tonight and order them-tomorrow I'm headed to a scrapbooking birthday party, so it would be wonderful if I could get caught up in one day-that would be great!

I'll try to post again later, but if not, I hope everyone has a safe night!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

preschool and kindergarten

After the morning I've had, the one thing that is definite is the need to be involved as a parent. Working with kids on reading, writing, I see the biggest hurdle will be making sure Matthew is ready to sit and follow directions, not just from me or the adults he's usually around. Some kids did not like how I did things slightly different from their teachers-others simply adjusted and were compliant and did what was asked. When it came to the work, there are plenty of dittos-color, cut, paste. Just crayons are used, and at that, not a huge selection of colors-maybe 5-6, if that. I should mention, each child had their own little bin, but its not like the teacher is able to keep crayons in mint condition-so for all I know, kids could have started out with a whole box, but are down to what's not broken or lost.

Lots of tracing, copy, and repeat after me. Looking at artwork on the walls, work is similar, in colors used, but you can tell a child chose which color to use first (apple prints) or placement- pumpkins squished on one end of a line vs others spread out. I think this would be done the same way at our preschool too. I did take photos of the centers-those kept them busy the whole morning in between recess and the instruction time. Free time is at the end of the day, for 15 minutes-considering kindergarten goes from 8 am-2:20 pm with a 15 min morning break and 45 min lunch/break-it really is a long day for kids not used to this type of routine. It makes it a little bit easier for me, knowing M has already adjusted to an 8-2 day at preschool. I am excited about what M will get to do, and be around other kids. There is a little bit that's worried about him making friends, but my hope is that since he's around some of the same kids he'll see next year, it'll put him more at ease. I'm going to talk with his preschool teacher, and just see if there's anything else I should be doing at home. I must admit, I'm glad I came here today-if only to have a peek into next year.