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.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

holidays past with the babes

All it took was a pumpkin (retrospect)

Outside my comfort zone

Three words that describe tomorrow: kindergarten substitute teacher.
Not sure how this will compare to my last sub day (sending 6 8th graders in one class to the prinicipal's office-total disrespect and defiance).
It shall be interesting......

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Birthday delima

I don't always have stuff figured out. I have been going back and forth on what I want to do for E and G's birthdays, both of which are of equal importance to me. I suggested to R that we host an open playdate at the house, for our friends, and whoever comes, comes. The guest list remains in the air-how many people to invite-just the ones I know from playgroup? The ones from outside groups? How about preschool?

Sigh....I'm to the point where I don't want to have some big hoopla, but at the same time, I want to acknowledge my children. I have decided one thing, the date and time (Nov 22nd, either 10am or 2pm) just the location needs to get ironed out-that will happen this afternoon (need to see if the new park in town has opened yet). At the very least, I'll invite a whole lot of people, and maybe a few will show up. I seriously doubt everyone will come-even in the past years when I've invited M's whole preschool, I've had maybe 4-5 kids show up out of 16, and G's class has only 12. E only knows a few kids outside of the same circle (from the infant playgroup). I'll extend the invite to those families too, and if no one comes, no biggie-I'm planning on bringing a special treat the week of his birthday, just for him and his buddies.

When it comes to the prep stuff, I'll keep it simple. Design the invites myself, use the plastic utensils, and paper goods we already have on hand. Order a cake, make some refreshments, and we'll be good to go. I'm going to request that no gifts be given-instead of that, if people wish to do, bring a book that I can donate to G's preschool in his name, or some other place-I'm thinking a cause that will be collecting books for children for the holidays. Otherwise, I'm nixing gifts-my kids have enough-and really, the cause for having this party is really an excuse to celebrate our boys, and let them play with their friends. Hopefully, people won't think I'm tacky for mentioning the no-gift thing, but really, I'm the mom, so in this case, what I say, goes ;)

On the other side, I fell like, ya know, this is the last time I'll have a one year old's birthday to celebrate (or at least that what I keep telling myself). So, on that note, let me throw caution to the wind, things will have a way of working themselves out, they always do. In the end, if its just R, me, and our boys, so be it-we'll celebrate the miracles that are our two youngest boys!

Surfing the web

Someone from Moms Club had a link to this website, here's a mom friendly site to check out, I'm going to have to take a better peek at it, but it looks like fun :) Skip to My Lou Enjoy!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Things happen for a reason

You never know what the day ahead will bring. I truly believe that after today. We had a nice, relaxing morning at home. We had coffee, boys played, I sat outside with the kids all morning. While R was giving the kids lunch, I hopped online. Someone was freecycling Home & Garden show tickets for today-I requested them-if we got them great, if not, no biggie-I just knew we weren't going to pay $7 each for R and I to attend the event. I got them!

We loaded up the boys, complete with snacks and drinks, and made it out to pick up the tickets. We made it to the home show, and found free parking down the street from the event. Looking around, we saw some things that interested us. I told R I wanted to go by the cooking demonstration-it sounded like something M would like to watch.

We went there, and saw a chef make sweet potato pie. After the demonstration, R waited w/ the older boys for a sample, and I walked around with the baby, looking at the various displays. I heard my name called, and couldn't believe my eyes-it was a neighbor from my hometown! She was there w/ her daughter's home business-I knew her as the mom of one of my classmates from junior high and highschool, and a long time family friend (her husband was my brothers boy scout leader from the time they were 10 years old (and now they're 25 and 19), so you can see how long we've been in the same circle.

We spent time catching up on our lives, and it seems we've had our fair share of sorrow from our families-mine from my mom, and her's from her son and his xx-wife. Both of us are on opposite sides of the same coin when it comes to having children, wanting to have a relationship with grandchildren, and having a connection with your child/parent. My heart hurts for her, and at the same time reassured me that what my mom does is of her own doing. I can only control what I do, and nothing more.

I've been thinking lately about my own relationship with my children, how I want what's best for them, for me, how its all a huge juggling act. Sometimes I think I can barely hold my head above water, other times its a cake walk. Seeing the family friend today, reminds me that when its all said and done, our role as mothers and daughters never ends, it continues, evolves, grows. I am reminded how fragile relationships are, how bonds can cross blood lines. I never suspected that by talking with an old family friend, I would gain insight that would help me on my journey to make peace with my decisions. I'm not saying I can wipe the slate clean, but I can let go-and enjoy what I have, what I make of it, its my choice to do, and I won't feel ashamed of my choices or decisions-for I've always tried to live my life with the best of intentions.

All this, as a result of responding to a freecycle ad for tickets to the Home & Garden show.....

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Sweet Saturday

Today was a great family day, on so many levels. We woke up at 7am (yay for E to let me sleep!) and decided to make a morning of a local marching band parade. The kids were excited to go, I grabbed snacks and drinks for the boys, and off we went! On a side note, since we were out of coffee creamer at home, and we bypassed making coffee at home. R and I shared a Venti Carmel Machiatto, paid for with a gift card. Yummy :)

After the parade, I picked up some scrapbooking supplies someone had given me from freecycle, and we went to Costco for groceries. We stayed within our budget, and just picked up our needs for the week. We treated ourselves to a pizza, but since kids were tired and cranky by that point, we hit the road home, figuring we'd eat during nap time.

Nap time-what was that? Yeah, the boys decided a timely nap was not in order, throwing my plans to take them to a family halloween party out of our agenda for the day. I was not willing to take the older ones by myself for them to be miserable and cranky once we got there. The boys eventually drifted off at 3pm, and woke up at 5pm, full of energy. I put them to work, and we have a nice, vacuumed playroom and living room (that really stayed clean for all of 5 minutes, but still pulled up a bucketload of dirt!)

The rest of the night was low-key- played ambulance with the boys (always the patient, never the driver), and enjoyed the cool night air.

Tomorrow should be a restful day- I have nothing planned except for laundry and maybe going to Target or Vons, depending on the sales/Grocery game list for the week. Hope everyone had a great day :)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Riding it out

This is where my determination meets a brick wall. We have one week left in the month, yet so much ground to cover. R asked me if we have enough money in the account to get a pizza this weekend. He's weary of cooking, in other words, my having to cook, every night. The truth is, right now I don't mind cooking. What I'd hate is to see a huge bill and know we're adding to our own credit card debt-because we just don't have the funds to pay for it in cash.

Instead, I've been using our cash to build up our food at home. I went by the grocery store for milk yesterday, and came out with another 2 carts full of frozen food. I found out the store is doing a "reset", where the store is getting new shipments from companies, based on repackaging or discontinuing merchandise. What helped me out considerably, was that I had coupons to match those items. I got bags of frozen Green Giant veggies, originally $3.00 for .50 or free, depending on the coupon (it was clearanced for $1). I bought 2 packs of Marie Callender deep dish pie crusts for $1, where it cost me $1.50 for the shallow store brand ones, and I usually have to buy 4 at one time to complete my recipes. I also bought organic frozen veggies, and Amys Organic meals (which are delicious) for me as a treat, since they too were marked down to $1, originally $4.

The biggest coup-Morningstar veggie products, for $1-I love using mealstarters (vegetable protein) instead of ground beef/turkey in my recipes. I got too many bags to mention, at least 12. Why so many-here's my rationale. Each bag was 12 oz, and I typically use 1 1/2 pounds of ground beef/turkey in any recipe. With Morningstar costing $1 per bag for 12 oz, and ground beef/turkey costing at least $3.49 (per costco's last price) per pound, I'm paying $2 towards a meal (Morningstar price), instead of $5.23 (1 1/2 lb of ground beef). My boys love it, honestly they don't know the difference unless I say something-same goes for R too. I'm just glad we're able to get it, since the normal price is more than the price of ground beef ($3.99 a bag).

I received a few more coupons as I was exiting the store, and got a $5 off when you spend $50. Well, I have yet to spend $50 in one shot, even when I tried, it still only came to $30~whereas the bills would have been $90 something if the items weren't being sold at these prices.

I'm reluctant to admit that this shopping trip made me giddy-then again, knowing that I don't have to pay full price for things is always a reason to celebrate. On a side note, I'm prepping bags of food to donate to the local food bank. Seeing as how we're fortunate, makes me want to spead the wealth too.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Motherhood and working world thoughts

Tonight was a perfect example of why I love my husband. I worked a full day, and went to complete mystery shopping after school was let out. R got home at 3:45 p.m., and asked me what I wanted to do for dinner. I told him I didn't care, I was going to complete my shops and pick up our children. I came home later this evening, children in tow, to a wonderful, homemade dinner. Yes I helped load the dishwasher, and get the boys settled w/ dinner, but overall, it was definitely a partnership. Love nights like this!

Tomorrow's a full fledged mommy day, we go to the pumpkin patch with our playgroup. It may be one of the last times we do it, only because M is going to be in kindergarten next year, and who knows what the future holds for our playgroup. Either way, I'm going to enjoy it, and let the boys enjoy the day.

BTW, today's assignment was for my friend who's a 8th grade English teacher. Loved helping out in her class, and it gave me a bird's eye into how my life is going to be with three adolescent teen boys. Yikes-I'm really going to have my hands full! On the flip side, I'm glad I have boys vs girls-it seemed like everything was drama, and gossip, and ugh, not my type of thing.

Have a restful night everyone :)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Mid-moth check in

So far, this is where we stand with our goals
1. Make breakfast a top priority-eat at home or bake muffins/bread on the weekends to bring with us instead of hitting up somewhere on the road
We have yet to hit up a breakfast place during the week or weekends! I did break down once on a sub day and buy lunch for $5, but I was beyond ravenous, and had mystery shopping to complete after work. I felt so guilty about it afterwards, and haven't hit it again.

2. Have one crockpot meal a week,
We haven't eaten out this month. Instead of crockpot meals, we've had soup and sandwich nights. Its worked out okay, and I'm betting that as the weather cools down, we'll use the crockpot a bit more. I'm just relieved we're not eating out-that's the primary purpose of this goal.
3. Make one extra payment, consisting of $100 (found money-surveys, mystery shopping, etc.) on debt of choice
I'm waiting to recieve my mystery shopping check for this past month. Once I get it, I'll disperse it to an outstanding debt.

4. Do one pampering activity for myself per week, without spending a dime
I sat down and read a current copy of one of my magazines. I ripped out the recipes I wanted to try, and put one aside that I intend to make this week. It felt nice just to kick back, and it wasn't an expensive activity.

5. Set up something to pamper R, without spending a dime
R's been having his weekend naps, w/o any griping from me. We're both happier when he takes a break to recharge his own batteries.

6. Focus on inexpensive activities for family time
The past few weekends we've spent having family picnics at the park and with one of our playgroups. It really was a lot of fun for us.
7. Continue to reduce our reliance on credit cards
We're thinking twice about purchases. We're more conscious about the ramifications of indulging ourselves with frivilous purchases. We have yet to spend the credit card on necessities for this month.
8. Figure out how much it would cost to go to Hawaii next year (pending our debt was paid off) to visit R's grandfather
This one was a doozy. It would cost us approximately $4500 for our family to to Hawaii for 8 days, including air fare, hotel, and van rental. That's if we left 3 weeks from now, around the birthday season in our home. For R to go alone for 5-6 days, it would cose $900. After thoughtful consideration, we'vc decided to postpone our trip until next Sept-Oct, giving us breathing room to get things paid off and go there w/ a clear consicous. R pointed out that if we go now, instead of enjoying the time we had, we'd be consumed with guilt over the debt we were putting over our heads. While R does want to see his grandfather, he can't see us drowning in debt as a result of that choice. He told his grandfather that we can't afford to go, and although he wants to go, he can't make us go broke. Can you say breakthrough?! Wow, I never thought R would say that, but it does put my mind at ease that he too wants to get ahead as much as I do. Makes those times of saying no to something that much easier to swallow!

That's where we stand right now. Seeing what we've done helps me know where we're going, and even though I feel that we haven't gotten ahead, we haven't made a bigger mess for ourselves. These things take time, and we'll keep trudging along :)

Sunday, Sunday

Is it already Sunday? What happened to yesterday? We spent the morning running errands in V town, came home, dropped stuff off, and then off we went to a family picnic w/ our playgroup. It was a small turn out, but I think one of the more memorable ones.

As it happened, M had an accident, we didn't have extra clothes, R decided to take M home and left me with the two younger boys. I was disappointed at first, heck, I felt like I was doing this stuff for M. Really though, whatever happened to doing stuff for G? G ended up having a ball! We decorated a pumpkin, did a mummy wrap, and a donut eating contest. It was great to see how he does when he's around other children, and not in the shadow of his older brother. R took care of M, and really, he stepped up to the plate-I didn't ask for help, he just dove in. E was great, loved the fresh air and came along for the ride.

It really drove home the reminder to advantage of the time we have w/ all our children, its easy to get caught up events for the oldest, when really there are others who would love their own turn. (Can you tell I was the oldest in my family?)

We debated what to do for dinner after the picnic-it seemed most people were headed out to eat. I was not in the mood for fast food, and while normally I don't care if we have some dirt on our clothes if we go out to eat, I felt like if we wanted to go out and have it really be nice and worth it, I wanted for at least me and R to look presentable (and I for one, after spending the afternoon at the park, did not!) We headed home, we relaxed, and the boys and I fell asleep at bedtime. I'm happy at how it turned out, no money was spent eating out, and no one missed a thing.

R let me sleep in this morning, and now we're lounging around, doing laundry and watching cartoons. We may head to the park this afternoon, or go out and about. May even stay home, depending on how the boys behave. The afternoon is open for possibilities, love days like this....

Saturday, October 18, 2008


R and I went to the retirement party last night. It was more fun than I expected, met a lot of people who remembered me as the woman who brought baby E to their office last year (it seems everyone at R's office was done having kids, or has yet to hit that point in their lives). I sat next to a woman who's had three careers, first as a stay at home mom, followed by a paralegal, and now a third grade teacher. I also spoke with a woman who's a social worker for the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. I feel much more at ease about what I'm doing professionally, or not doing as the case may be. If and when I use my degree, that'll be great. If I branch off into something else, that's okay too. The important thing is that I take care of myself.

I bring this up because two days ago, I learned my mom finally served (after 3 year of drama) my dad with divorce papers. It's already looking like its going to be a messy split. Talks about sacrifice, staying at home all those years, standing by spouses, its enough to make anyone go nuts. It all transfers into how much time is worth, why we do what we do, and all the possible outcomes. It definitely increases my determination to take myself into consideration when making family decisions-so often I wonder if I soley do what's best for the kids or for R. I don't want to lose sight of what I need to do to make sure I'll be okay-because one day the kids will grow up, while I hope R and I are never apart, seeing my parents split after 30+ years of marriage, rising from nothing into something, and then back again, I know to never say never.
Not eactly something I want to think about, but I don't want to ever be blindsided.

Talking about the retirement party had started off as precurser to talking about weekend plans, but ventured off into something else. I'll write another post about it later, maybe after our family picnic this afternoonn. Or tonight in between dinner, baths, and bed. Let it be said, I definitely feel like I have a full plate on my hands.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Preschool pumpkin patch trip

I survived! Taking three boys, by myself, I did it!!! Wahooo! M was thrilled, hung out with his friends, Gabriel wanted his teacher, but stayed close to me for most the trip, and E, well E was my lil pumpkin!
I had the chance to sit in on their morning activities in class, since we got there early. M has really learned so much, and is thriving. He loves singing, and I could hear his voice above his classmates as they did their morning circle time. He knew what was supposed to come next, and was so happy to show me what he's been working on. He even had G sit next to him, and told him exactly what to do when-it's hard to believe that in the next year, M will start kindergarten,and G will transition to the older room (once he's potty trained). I saw a few parents (and quite a few grandparents too) on the trip. I got the inside scoop on some of the kindergarten teachers that are good-so I'll jot those names down and reference them once kindergarten registration comes around.
The camera worked wonderfully, took some amazing pictures. My battery died by the end, but not to worry, since we'll be back there next week w/ our large playgroup. I'll upload some pictures this weekend. Its hard to believe that not so long ago I had G in some of the same places as E was sitting, and propped up, and now he, along w/ M were always on the go. Lots of smiles, lots of laughter. It was a really great day!

$272.77 for what?

OMG, I had such a rush today. Its been a long day, and taking two trips to a grocery store w/o naps, heck that was asking for trouble. However, I played my cards right, and actually spent $83.77 on a total bill that would have been 272.77!

I hit Save Mart for a frozen pizza tonight, and saw a huge freezer case of items marked "reduced to $1, $2, $3" Pints of Ben and Jerry, 1.5 quarts of Breyers, bags of Tyson chicken nuggets and other chicken items, lots and lots of Eggo products. I looked over my coupons, and had a coupon for every item, but I knew I had more at home. I decided I'd buy what I could, go home, and see if it was worth a return trip. Well, I went down another aisle, and a shopping cart stacked with the full size Similac and Enfamil formula, marked from $22 to $8-each! On several canisters were $3 mq coupons, so I picked those up. I knew I had formula coupons at home, and definitely wanted to come back for those. I can't even buy one canister for less than $12, and that's buying the double pack at Costco for $22. I received several more coupons when checking out-$8 off of formula, $9 off a future trip, $1.50 off of Tyson products.

I got out of the store in one piece, giddy with excitement, unloaded the car, and grabbed my stack of coupons. Loaded up another cart, and made it in and out within 10 minutes. Got more cans of formula, a few cartons of ice cream, and lots and lots of frozen chicken. This isn't the cheapie stuff, this stuff is expensive, and good, and we'll eat this before heading to McDonalds or anywhere else. Makes nights w/ babysitters and mad cap days so much easier too. This time, the supply had begun to dwindle, and I could see all the stuff I had grabbed was going fast.

Grand total of savings, 69%, or $189, $35.30 of that was manufacturer coupons! Wow!

Tonight after the retirement party, I may swing by there again, just to see if any of the ice cream is left. Looking at my receipt, it rang up as $1 for the 1.5 quarts of Breyers, as well as the pints of Ben and Jerry's, and that stuff would be great to have w/ the holidays coming up, and doesn't go bad for a long time in the freezer.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

what I do

Just when I think I know what I'm doing, life throws me a curve ball. Today I'm at a continuation school, and I see what other door my kids could go through. I'm all for trying new stuff, but today I feel I'm at my limit. The one upside to being here is a shorter school day, although the stress of being near mouthy teens makes for a bumpy ride. I'm glad tomorrow's Friday, since tomorrow I'll enjoy the role of mommy as we go to the pumpkin patch with preschool.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Stepping up

This morning was a hard call. I had the opportunity to fess up on why I didn't want to go to Chuck E Cheese, and I blew it. Afterwards, I felt like a fool-why cover it up, that its financially not a good idea for me to go? I gave some lame excuse about the boys and runny noses, and it just wasn't real-and it wasn't me. She let me off the hook, but I felt crappy about it afterwards. had a second chance, and this time, I owned up-I told her I couldn't go, because we are going to be stretched too thin this weekend-she understood how CEC is expensive and how now she has to pay a sitter so she can go grocery shopping and how that adds up (delete snide remark from me) she just asked me to say something the night before, instead of the morning of the event. That I can understand, so next time I'll do that.

We ended up at storytime and a playarea afterwards. We used our own snacks and drinks, and left before I was tempted to have lunch there. I completed one mystery shop on the way home, and the boys were well behaved. I had a dollar's worth of change, so I bought two bags of M&Ms as a treat for after lunch-I have yet to bust those out, so maybe I'll use them another day.

R's supposed to be on his way home now, and after naps, we'll spend the afternoon outside. Maybe I'll walk to the library w/ the kids, or check out a nearby park. Anything to avoid using gas (since I'll use it tomorrow on a sub day, and mystery shops afterwards).

Have a great afternoon!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Where I stand

Where I stand-
the trip to Florida is postponed for now. I hada not-so-nice talk with my mom, and was essentially forbidden from calling my grandma, as I made her upset w/ my lies. Whatever. I finally talked w/ my uncle, and found the current status. It started approx month ago w/ something that led to them doing a biopsy. That biopsy turned into a lumpectomy, which then turned into a masectomy. The drs didn't get it all, but it hasn't spread either. Its intraductal carcinoma in situ. While knowing what it is is very scary, I feel that knowledge is power. I did research it some, but as I'm one to freak out, I decided not to look. Its more stress that I already don't need, and really-I just need to take care of my health-if I don't, well, I don't want to think of the alternative. So tomorrow I'm making an appointment for my yearly exam, and I'll bring up my concerns, as well as discuss my birth control options. I'm leaning towards Mirena, but we'll see-I'm interested to see what our insurance covers.

Tomorrow is supposed to be a playdate at Chuck E Cheese. I'm not inclined to go, I don't want to outlay the money. At the same time, I want to hang out with the boys, and show them a good time. I'll see how we're doing tomorrow, and take it from there. At the very least, I'll pack a lunch for us, along with some drinks. I think I have tokens around here somewhere, so maybe we can get by w/o spending any money. We shall see.

I'm off to type up reports for my mystery shopping, and then pop a load of laundry in. It never seems to catch up, but I'm finally getting a grip on it (or so it seems).

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Dollars and sense

Today was a good shopping day. Using the grocery game and coupons to our advantage, we hit up Vons for the first time in 6 weeks. I replenished our supply of salad dressing, chocolate syrup, ground beef, baking items, and fresh fruit. I also scored some great deals on frozen vegetables and bought a lot of sell-by-today's date meat. The bill was originally $85, and it went down to $30. I couldn't believe it, and R was shocked when he saw all the name brand stuff-even more so when I told him the store brand stuff was 3x the cost, and that was w/o coupons! I do want to mention that I'm not opposed to store brand stuff, I buy it sometimes in a pinch-but I've found that I'm able to get better deals using the sales and coupons combined, and stockpiling, than just making a list weekly of stuff we need to buy. Flexibility is key-I may want specific brand items, (ie cookies, salad dressing, cheese) but if I can get a better deal on something that'll hold us over until the next sale comes along, we just wait it out. I finally got R to be on the same page-he was thrilled to get the chocolate syrup for half the cost its sold at Costco. I don't think we'll have to go there for another month at least, and even then, only to get these rock bottom deals.

We hit up Costco too. We thought we'd use many of the coupons in the latest mailer, but to our relief/suprise, we left many of them unused. I've found that many of the items that we once bought, I can either make cheaper, freeze ahead of time, or I get for mere pennies from doing the grocery game. I had my most recent list w/ me, and many of them items that we would have bought were definitely cheaper at my list store-but you'd never know it unless you knew how to work the sales. For the first time in a long time, it really felt good to know how to shop and stretch our dollars. We only spent $30 on need items.

Another list store netted me all the cold/flu supplies we need this upcoming year. I got ice pops, children's over the counter meds, and throat lozenges/syrup for free, after rebate. I also scored a ton of lip balms for stocking stuffers, all for free! The rebate system is super easy, I do it online, and it comes in the mail. I don't have to do anything else. Love it!

Overall, today's shopping went a long way, both in what we spent, and what we saved.

Finally, we hit Babies R Us to look at booster seats. I have a gift card that I can apply to one, but it was a bit frustrating since there are so many choices. We found one that's ideal-a Graco Nautilus and this would get us through until M was ready to sit w/o a booster. Part of me wishes we had bought this earlier-only since its also good as a regular car seat. We're going to think about it tonight, and I'm going to look at the reviews. I may order it online from another retailer, but we'll see what booster is best, and for the best price. Nothing compares to the safety of our kids.

Tonight we made dinner, played w/ the boys, and R put them to bed. I'm off to straighten up for tomorrow's playgroup, and then relaxing the rest of the evening. We have pumpkin pie that's calling my name, and some decaf coffee to go along w/ it. A perfect way to end a really good weekend :)

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Take a ride on the train

Tday was a great family day. We lounged around this morning, I input my shops, and R and I relaxed while the boys watched Sprouts. We had breakfast at home, and R planned to take the boys to a travel agent in town while I completed my mystery shop. As it turned out, the travel agent is no longer here, so R sat in the car w/ the boys while I did my shop. It didn't go as planned (no one was there!), so we came home to regroup and plan the rest of our day. At home, I double checked my shop, and confirmed I did what I was supposed to do-so I will still get paid for doing the shop. R decided he'd take the boys to recycle the cans, and I would pack a lunch for the pumpkin patch. We both did our things, and R picked me up once he was done. We decided the money we got from the cans would be what we used at the pumpkin patch.

The pumpkin patch was packed! OMG, I have never seen so many cars in my life. Turns out, the family did some serious advertising and attracted a ton of people. We didn't get a spot in their main lot, or out in front-we had to use the overflow lot-which is used in the winter since its closer to the christmas tree stuff. Crazy!!!The owners also raised the train ticket prices, from $2 to $3 for everyone 2 and up. We had just enough from recycling the cans for our train tickets, so we all got to go on it. The wait was long, about 20 min, but the boys handled it well. We actually got out of line at one point, and ate our picnic lunch, since I thought the boys would have a melt down if we didn't eat soon. There were people eating snacks all over the place (the place was selling a lot of food this year), and we were all getting antsy, and the bottm line, there was temptation, but we were prepared! We devoured our lunch and got back in line. The line was much longer when we reentered it (40 min), but it worked out fine. I even had time to nurse E while R waited in line w/ the boys.

I loved the train ride, everyone was so happy-and considering we don't get to do this for the pumpkin patch visit w/ our preschool and playgroup, it was worth it. We spent a lot of time playing in the play structures, and the boys had a blast playing w/ tractors. All of that was free, so we let them run out their energy. We also walked through a steam engine display, and I think both the boys were enamored with how the machinery worked-they didn't want to leave! We stopped by the pumpkin patch itself, but considering it wasn't about the pumpkins so much this weekend as the trains, we didn't stay very long. In fact, R and I may take the boys again next weekend, if we want to do family pictures at the pumpkin patch. We're going a few more times though w/ different groups, so if we still miss out next weekend, we'll go another time.

Oh about pictures-my camera came yesterday, and I figured out how to use it! Yay! Got lots of great pics of the boys, and even a couple of shots of the family. We spent 4 hours there, and it was so much fun!

We debated going to F town to check out booster seats for M, but decided we had enough time out, and came home. We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing, and letting the boys hang out. I made a stir fry for dinner w/ veggies and chicken, and made enough for tomorrow's lunch. We worked on puzzles this evening, and just chilled at home.

Overall it was a great day, and I really liked how it all turned out. Days like this make for happy memories, that's for sure!

Feels like fall

Brrrr. Coffee sounded really good this morning, it was so chilly in the house. This weekend I definitely need to bring out the warm pj's and flannel sheets. Its just slightly cool at night to use them now.
Today's plan is for me to complete the apartment mystery shop from last week. I also need to input my data from the shops completed yesterday. Between doing those, we'll have a nice quiet morning at home, and possibly go to a local community event-its supposed to have trains, and I think the boys would love to see them.
One good thing came about yesterday, from the snafu of not having work. My camera came-yay! I'm definitely pleased w/ it, and can't wait to test it out in the weeks ahead. Now I can relax about being able to capture the holiday moments ahead with the boys.
Have a great Saturday everyone!

Friday, October 10, 2008

broken down

I haven't posted in the past week, and it first it was because I was too busy. Then things slowed down, and I was ready to jump back in. Then once again, things get turned upside down, and I really don't know where to go, or what to do.
Its no secret R and I have worked hard to take care of ourselves-we pride on never asking for help, always doing what we can to help others. Therefore, its horrible when we run into a tough situation between the two of us, and we plug away at ironing out the kinks. I'm glad we're of that mindset, since really, we love each
other and the family we've established.

With everything going on financially for us, I've felt like I've developed a cocoon around us-to sheild us from misguided expenses, to keep steadfast towards our goals. No matter what, things always find us. R's grandfather is ill-so we've talked about putting money aside so he can see him in a few months-or whenever its non-peak season (which is looking like February).

That trip is now being debated, since last night my world was rocked once again. The call I got last night-through the family grapevine, I learned my maternal grandmother has breast cancer-and today she's getting the results of some tests. The line was filled w/ static so I couldn't get all the info-but sothing about catching it early, second masectomy, biopsy, all this swirled in my mind. I called my grandmother-under the premise of the Jewish New Year, and was dismayed to hear her critical remarks-about stuff that I never said, things I never did, to my momand hurtful remarks about my siblings and how we all treat our mom. It took every fiber of my being to not shout, to bite my tongue, and just tell her life is what it is and I can't undo it. Not once did she say anything about cancer, and I didn't feel it was my place to say something if she didn't want me to know. Through all this I'm considering, do I want to see her before she passes-(because no matter what, we're not immortal), and the truth is she'll probably never come here to visit my kids. R and I talked about it, and said if I felt the need to go, he'd support me, 100%. On a lark, I looked up airfare, for me and Baby E (the older boys would stay w/ R-its too expensive for all 5 of us to fly back on such short notice, and I'm not crazy about taking all 3 boys by myself across the country on a plane-if they were a little bit older, I could deal, but not right now). $500, 2 weeks from now, for one week, a car rental for the week is $250-give or take. We're going to keep our options open. So much to think about, keep in mind, and all while trying to keep on track w/ our own ever growing list of expenses.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

sunday shopping and supper

I made a huge ham tonight, with roasted potatoes. It took so long to cook, that I fed the boys apples and sandwich rollups for dinner. They didn't mind, and R and I enjoyed a peaceful dinner for two. We have the makings for sandwiches, quiche, and soup w/ the ham bone. Delish! I'll stretch it out as far as it can go.

We got our new cell phones ordered today. Thanks to a hot tip from my brother, we called the retention department of our service provider, and got a better deal on an upgraded phone-cheaper than what it would have been had we gotten the "free" phones from the store, since we asked for, and consequently recieved additional store credits, and waived activation fees for both phones. I'm getting a deluxe phone-a Centro-and R is getting a basic one. It suits both of us. Considering that we were already getting internet access for our phones (locked in at a super low rate), our monthly bill won't go up at all.

As a side note, we inquired about lowering our minutes-however, our plan is actually a great deal. Based on what the company is currently offering, if we wanted to actually lower our minutes, we'd pay a higher price-only because they have raised prices so many times for the minutes we currently have, and the basic plan is still higher than what we're paying now. Given that we get additional discounts for R's work, it doesn't make sense to switch cell phone providers. Hopefully our phones will be here by next week, and we can donate ours to a local charity.

Not much is planned for tomorrow. I don't have a job lined up, so I'm planning on going to playgroup w/ E. I'm looking forward to it. I also have a few mystery shops to do, one is setting up an appt to view an apartment in town-if it goes through, I'll get $10 for the phone call, and $20 for checking out an apartment. It sounds super easy, and I told the company I was up for trying new things, so we'll see what comes of it. That's it over here, I'm off to enjoy the rest of my Sunday evening, checking out the internet.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Fall weekend

Our plans for the zoo were canceled, so instead, I'm taking the boys to visit some friends here in town. R and I plan to use the afternoon to take the bike to F town to get it fixed-or at least appraised for how much it would cost. We're also planning on looking at cell phones, since our phones are over 2 years old, aren't user friendly when it comes to hand-free devices, and R's phone is on the fritz-not seeing all the numbers all the time, some other hardware problems. We have a $150 credit per phone towards a new cell phone, and we're not planning on changing cell phone service providers. The only thing we may do is reduce the number of minutes we have available, since R isn't using the phone as much for work (maybe he was using it more during his days of overtime?)
I'm off to make some muffins w/ M and G for this morning's playdate. I have a new recipe to try, and it sounds kid-friendly.
Have a great Saturday everyone!

Friday, October 3, 2008

the working world

Oh how it's turned my life upside down! I have to admit, being called Mrs. A is such a switch from being referred to as Mommy, M's mommy, or that one w/ the three boys.
R helped me get situated yesterday, drop off w/ E went off w/o a hitch. The boys didn't look back, toys and friends were more interesting than me. Pick up time-met with lots of love from E, and the boys jst wanted to play outside. It was a long day, but it seemed everyone was happy. I have to admit though, I'll stop worrying about kindergarten. Its high school that worries me more now. Yikes!

While at work, when I wasn't helping kids w/ worksheets, I read this book I got from the local library, "What's next-Women Redefining Their Dreams in the Prime of Life" by Rena Pedseron. The title struck a chord w/ me, since I'm nearing 30, I've gone to college, earned my Master's Degree, got married, had children (and I think completed our family), and already I'm wondering what I should be doing. Not that having children isn't rewarding, but its a thankless, neverending job, and sometimes, I want to literally run for the hills-although at the same time I love my kids to pieces. I love snuggling w/ E, reading stories w/ G, and having random conversations w/ M. Will all of this disappear if I decide to go to work full time (if the right social work job came along?) I don't know. However, I'm finding that I need to listen to my inner voice, stop worrying what "they" think, and live my life w/o regret. Easier said than done, but obsessing about what should be isn't helping me.

Two quotes stick out for me right now
"No matter what happens, keep on beginning and failing. Each time you fail, start all over again, and you will grow stronger until you find out you have accomplished a purpose-not the one you began with perhaps, but one you will be glad to remember." -Anne Sullivan (Helen Keller's teacher)

"All adventures, especially into new territory, are scary." -Sally Ride, Astronaut

I wrote these down on paper, and keeping them with me. I'll enjoy the time I work, knowing its just as much for me as it is to help my family, and then I'll come home and love my kids to bits.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

October Goals

Alot of thought went into the goals for this month. I talked with R about what we want to see happen in the coming months, both short and long term. We know we need to recoup our savings. We also need to pay off our outstanding debt. We'd love to visit R's grandfather, who resides in Hawaii. He's getting on in his years (turns 94 this year), and its highly doubtful that he'll venture back to the mainland before he passes on. There's no other trip we really want to take, or places we want to go. Material objects are just possessions, and we're continuing to distance ourselves from buying just to buy.
On with the goals.
1. Make breakfast a top priority-eat at home or bake muffins/bread on the weekends to bring with us instead of hitting up somewhere on the road
2. Have one crockpot meal a week,
3. Make one extra payment, consisting of $100 (found money-surveys, mystery shopping, etc.) on debt of choice
4. Do one pampering activity for myself per week, without spending a dime
5. Set up something to pamper R, without spending a dime
6. Focus on inexpensive activities for family time
7. Continue to reduce our reliance on credit cards
8. Figure out how much it would cost to go to Hawaii next year (pending our debt was paid off) to visit R's grandfather

Welcome to October!

Its been a long month, and I couldn't be more happier that October is here. We stuck to our goal of eating at home more often, and our waistline and wallets thank us. I'm determined to improve upon it this month, but I need a day or two to determine what additional goal I want to meet.
With Oct starting today, so does payday. After a trip to the bank, I can pay our mortgage, preschool, and car payment. There are other bills, and those will get paid too. Money will be a little tighter this month, but only because we are paying for childcare for E while I go to work. I'll get my first paycheck at the end of Oct, and it'll be smooth sailing after that.

R and I talked about work yesterday. He's worried about me burning out, my mother's guilt about putting E in child care part time. He knows I have this love-hate relationship with going to work, its definitely different than before I had children. However, I really feel like this time it's something I have to do to help my family. We made poor choices, and now this is part of getting back on our feet. Plus, something I forgot to consider when I first signed up, but realized later on, is that while I was in school, I thought about working for schools as a social worker. I can definitely use this subbing job to my benefit-networking, hearing about other positions. Its all about baby steps, and that'll keep me moving forward.