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.