Monday, July 27, 2009

Weekend update

This weekend was fun. We went to C's farmers market on Friday and met up with some friends. I only took the two younger boys, and got a taste of how life will be in a few weeks. It was so different, I kept turning my head to count heads, and realized they were right next to me. Snack time was a breeze, no diaper changes until we got home, it was so simple. I told R it was never that easy when I took the two older ones out by myself, or even now when I take all three out. We enjoyed the music, and the company. We took our kids for a late snack after the market, and it was great. We talked about our large families, and how our little ones are going to kindergarten together. It was really nice. Hearing how another mom has dealt with the schools that M is going into, I'm at ease with what lies ahead. I'm not so anxious about him riding the bus, although I will take him the first couple of weeks, and see if he changes his mind about riding it.

Saturday we went to V farmer's market. I pigged out, the lettuce and eggplant looked so good. I bought some extra food this time, my dad and girlfriend may come towards the end of the week (if we don't go to San Jose), and I want to make them a special dinner. If they come here, we're all headed to Pismo. I'm so excited, the weather should be great. I also bought myself a bunch of wildflowers.

I think there was lavender in there, it smells fantastic. It definitely changed the vibe of our dining table, complete with our bowl of tomatos and fresh peaches.

We also went to the reptile show at the library. The boys loved it, and M participated in the show. E was also a happy camper, loving the lizards and turtles.

Wrapping up the day by having a free dinner out, it was great. It has been a long time since we've gone out, and it was nice for a change.

Yesterday was mellow, and was a big freecycle day for me. I plowed through the baby toys, and made up a huge bin to donate on freecycle. I'm saving some items for when we have guests come over, but I pared down what we have. I also made a large box of kitchen items for a woman who is moving into her own place with her daughter. I made a bin of children's videos too, and re-freecycled our double jogging stroller that was freecycled to us. It felt really good to pare down, and know the stuff is going to get used by others who can benefit from it.

Today is a busy day. I'm ahead of myself with laundry and dishes done, and we'll head out to the water park later for playgroup. I have to pack for my overnight trip to the Bay Area, and call my dad's attorney this morning. Otherwise, I think I'm squared away to leave R w/ the boys overnight tonight. I'm not sure if I'm taking the train back, my dad may drive me home so they can visit at the same time. Either way I'll be glad when this ordeal will be over, and I can resume our sense of normalcy. It'be weird spending the night away from all three boys, I have never done that since having E. On the brightside, E is now 20 months, and R is confident it'll be easier than having a young baby to care for. All I can do is prep dinner, and then relax-because it will definitely be out of my hands! 5:45 will come soon enough, and then I'll be Bay Area bound.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Bargain hunting

Yesterday was a quiet day. I took the boys to summer camp, and they were so excited to go. I sometimes wonder if its worth it to send them, but then I see how much fun they're having, and how they run off to be with their friends. Who wouldn't do anything to have their kids happy?

While they were at camp, I went bargain hunting. I hit up CVS for their free school supplies (both for M and to use as donations), then headed to the local thrift stores. I've wanted to get myself a dress for my birthday, but in my usual style, always find something for the kids to buy before I buy for myself. Some dislike thrift stores for any number of reasons, but for me, I love them. The thrill of not knowing what I'll find, knowing that I've come across some high end merchandise that I've coveted in a magazine to find in a local store, it's great.

I started out at Salvation Army. While perousing the clothes, I found several shirts and jackets for the boys, all in "like new" condition from Gap, Old Navy, and a Cars themed one from Disney. I love how those brands hold in quality, yet can't see paying $30+ per jacket brand new. I also found some solid colored polo shirts (the school uniform type) for M. Definitely a steal at $2. I I also found a Halloween costume (a police officer), which by the way the boys grabbed it, may return to me in time for Halloween. I did find a great pair of St John's Bay capris for me, they looked brand new. I grabbed them. Off to the fitting room- a perfect fit! I learned that at the Salvation Army in town all the clothes go 50% off after 7 days, but after a certain point they go 75%. That must have been the case, since the grand total of dropped from $24 to $6. Sweet!

My next stop was Goodwill. There I found two nice summer dresses, one from Old Navy and the other from Ann Taylor. I love Ann Taylor, but the clothes are not cheap (most dresses that I have loved start at $59; while that may seem like a bargain, to a mom w/ three kids, that's a lot for one dress!). I try and wait for a sale, but even now with the boys, I usually buy for them before I do myself. However, seeing these dresses for $4 each, and in mint condition, I knew I found good deals. Yay!

So I told R last night, I'm definitely wearing those dresses, he was beyond thrilled I bought them, and even more thrilled at the price (he thought I bought them at the mall, lol). One other purchase, a small purse for me. Now with two kids potty trained (yay G!) I have the option of using a much smaller bag. I found a cute Roxy one, another favorite brand of mine (complete opposite of Ann Taylor, but this girl loves options!) and a Brighton style (going to find out if is a real Brighton, but even if its not, it is still really cute) purse. I didn't break the bank, and found really nice "new" to me things.

I came home, pleased with my purchases, and pleased with how much money I saved too. Here are pics of the dresses-the pics don't do them justice though, I'll post once I wear them too :)

Monday, July 20, 2009

Beach bound

This weekend was awesome! We decided to let go of the heat, and take a run for the beach. It was a fun filled trip from beginning to end. We drove to Morro Bay and Avila Beach, then to Pismo and Santa Maria. We ate cheaply, bringing lots of food with us and taking advantage of free breakfastt at a hotel (which was also cheap, but safe and clean). We went to the Santa Barbara County Fair (took advantage of free admission for everyone except for me!), where all the boys got to sit on a cow, touch the lambs, see the pigs, and look at all the other FFA and 4H animals. Rides? We skipped the rides, the kids had a ball walking around, and we enjoyed the family friendly atmosphere. We enjoyed the cooler air-and bundled up in sweaters when it became cold at night. It was great, and amazingly a cheap weekend! The one big shocker, that I got over real fast, was all the parking and places that used to be free admission, you now pay for. Eh, its all part of travel (and we didn't get gouged on the cost). We're already planning our next trip, I think Monterey later this week, followed by more trips to the coast between now and when school starts next month (in four weeks, can you believe it?). I'll post pictures later (as we're already heading out to our next adventure!). Stay cool!

Thursday, July 16, 2009


Something my parents instilled in me was if you get lost, go exploring (within reason of course). Well, yesterday was one of those days. Everyone was out of town for playgroup, the movies were packed, I couldn't find a park where some moms were meeting, and I promised the boys we would go out and about before picking up groceries at Costco. I took a back road, not sure where we would end up. It would around the back part of V town, close to some vineyards, and close to grazing cows and horses. The boys were in awe-E is all about horseys. We continued on our way and I found a park that we have gone to in the past, complete with shade and nice walking paths. I told the boys it may be too hot to play on the unshaded playground-it was already nearing 88 at 10:30am, but we could definitely go and explore some other parks of the park.
When we arrived at the park, we came across a free museum. Upon closer inspection, I learned it was closed, but a woman inside saw us walking away and welcomed us to explore, if we didn't mind some dust. I was so happy, we ventured inside and founnd a space complete with local history and history about the geography of the region. I wasn't sure how much the kids would like it, they're young, but then again, they're young. They have no concept of old-a telephone switchboard, box style cameras, how currency was different 100+ years ago. M and G got a first hand look at Indian baskets and settlers clothes. They saw a fossilized tusk from a mammoth (and M thought that was the coolest thing since he just saw Ice Age), and a display of farm and household tools from the late 1800s. There was a huge set up of buildings for the kids to explore, a jail, a printing press, a log cabin, a train car, and much more. We must have spent over an hour there, and still didn't see all of it. I was so glad I didn't give up, since if we had just gone to Costo, we would have missed out on doing something completely different.
I took pictures, but I need to work on uploading them since I used my camera on my phone.

This was a prime example of how I'm now living my life. I try new things, jump into unchartered waters. I don't know where or how things will always turn out, but I don't want to let anything hold me back. I want my kids to see that nothing is impossible, life is really a journey. I see that more and more as my 30s grow closer, and my 20s come to a close. I did so much in my twenties, that slowing down now, well, it doesn't suit me. I want to see what life has to hold. I've had conversations with my MIL, and she's pointed out life is short. Suck up the tough moments, savor the good moments, and be a sponge for new ideas and new experiences. So between the day trips, the planned v next week, and keeping my eyes and ears open for new things to do, I'm wondering what adventures I'll take in my 30s.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Ready for the weekend!

Today is going to be a fun filled day. We have summer camp and swim day. It'll be fun going with the boys. Tonight I have bunco, and the kids will have movie night at home w/ Daddy. Tomorrow we're headed to the farmer's market and then either the Kings County Fair to see the animals, or up to the mountains. We'll probably do both, packing meals and drinks for the road. Its bound to be fun, the boys love animals and E has a fasination with cows and horses, so he'll be in heaven. The rest of the weekend is going to be close to home. There's a free magician event this weekend, so we may do that too. There is a lot to explore, so we'll have fun in our own "backyard". Have a good one everyone!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Change in overall mentality

I read a post recently that made me think about how we're doing on our budget. It hasn't been a huge concern to me lately, we've cut back on eating out, trimming unnecessary expenses, doing what we can to ensure our wiggle room. While it thrills me to have savings, and know we're decreasing our debt, I'm a tiny bit nervous. I'm nervous because I don't want to get complacent in working towards our goals. We're hitting our third paycut soon (word is October or sooner), and after a talk today with another woman whose husband works in the same field as mine, the fourth cut is already being discussed. The third is going to drop us a total of 25% in take home pay. That may not sound like much, but when half our take home goes to our mortagage, you can see how quickly the rest can disappear. R's worried about job security, but that hasn't hit me yet. What has hit me is knowing that we're living below our bottom line, but no matter how much we save, the bottom can always fall out.

This is not just a one field issue-many sectors are getting hammered. R's hoping that his college classes for the fall don't get canceled, even though they're paid for. Lack of funding means tighter budgets, which means everyone from staff to counselors are getting laid off. I'm seeing this as I apply for jobs in schools, its ridiculous. There's always a trickle effect, its just a matter of time before others feel the pinch too.

I'm holding onto the belief that we'll pull through. We've slashed our discretionary budget, going out only when we get paid to (a recent trip to Marie Callendar's was such a treat, yet in the back of my mind I thought how ridiculous it was to spend $20 for us to eat out). I can't see paying for more, not when we're working too hard to get where we're going.

Our kids are learning about the value of thriftiness. We're taking advantage of the free water park, library, and anything else that's free or very low cost. We do our weekly trips to stores, including Target and the boys enjoy their treat of 59 cent yogurt cups while I bargain hunt. We're doing what we can to stay cool, while not losing our minds. We're doing playdates and playgroups, meetups at the park and at the waterpark. Buying random things is such a thing of the past, yet I think wiggle room is important. We did buy an aquarium pass, which to us is a valid expense given its a full year of an educational resource, and its tax deductible. The boys recently earned $1 sea animals (peaguins and an octupus) for working on their goals, being a good helper at home and potty training. Needs get put first, and wants, well, wants are on the back burner. I've learned that I can do without certain things (new clothes), while others take precendence (I will need a new pair of tennis shoes as my one pair are falling apart).

My dad tells me that we'll have some stories to tell our kids years from now, yet I don't think I'll have to wait until then. The pictures of us smiling at the park, at the free water park, hanging out with friends, learning how to do better with less and enjoy it more, it'll be there. They'll see how even in times of economic trouble, there was plenty of love and laughter surrounding us.

Monday, July 6, 2009

New month, new goals

Life is good. This is the month before my 30th birthday, and I'm enjoying every last bit of my 20s while excited to see what the next decade will bring. I'm eating healthier than ever, and taking steps to ensure that we have healthy food available come the dead of winter. We've cut out eating out (lots of wasted $$), using the crockpot, making lots of salads. I had a laugh yesterday, I posted on facebook about needing a side for salad, and someone said, isn't salad a side? That used to be the case here, but given the lettuce bar I discovered, I'm using more lettuce and tomatos than before. The kids are seeing us eat it now, and while they're not always crazy about it, with it being what's for dinner, they're getting more adventurous too. I don't feel deprived skipping restaurants, it's made a world of difference for us.

My goal for this month is to continue to branch out more of my comfort zone. The weather is hot, but I'm finding new things to do and enjoying life with the boys. We've been using the pool in the afternoon, choosing to go to playgroups and other activites each morning. I've been reading more, and have my creative juices flowing with ideas for our home and plans for the future.

This is the last full month of summer for us, next month both R and M start school, so we'll have to be more organized. Until then, we'll enjoy the lazy days of summer.

Saturday, July 4, 2009


One of my friends told me her mantra, Keep It Simple Sweetie. How I love those words! So much we do is in excess. Overspend, overeat, overanalyzle. In the end, it leads to us being tired and of course, overstressed. I feel like we've adopted a similar approach, in the past six months. I just didn't have a name for it. Here are some of the things we've done:

-cut out extra spending. We ended our newspaper (get coupons through the coupon trains) and have reduced our grocery bill. On average, we're spending about $60 on groceries, about half in fresh produce. I've grown accustomed to brewing my own iced tea, ridding ourselves of diet soda at home. Its not to say we don't have our vices-I love chocolate and alcohol, but given how I keep a keen eye on the sales, I know we're getting a good deal and keep track of what we use, and how we use it. I keep a close eye on extra expenses-even necessary ones (like his v-which is completely covered by insurance, or E's specialist visit that's coming up). We're hitting up thrift store and yard sales, yet purging unneccessary and unused items. We've taken strides to live better on less, and the proof is evident as balances are hitting zero.

-we take advantage of free attractions. we have been hitting up the water parks in neighboring cities, as well as movie days, story times, and playgroups. We have our vices-we joined the aquarium, we paid for a parking pass to the city's main parks, but its a worthwhile expense that provides educational benefits for all. We use the library for books and movies, and hopefully will use the internet one day to get our tv (have to obtain a converter box or get a newer tv first)

-we have branched out away from home to explore our community, yet learning how to appreciate what we have at home. For example, The boys and I are attending a summer class this month, and its taking us out of our comfort zone. We're going to different places in the morning to beat the heat, and retreating to our pool in the afternoon to stay cool. We go out and are making new friends-evident by taking advantage of family groups, and learning how to try new things.

R and I taking this perspective to our marriage too. We take advantage of his days off. We're not as reluctant to leave all three kids with a sitter, and grabbing opportunities for nights out when we get the chance. Last night was like that when we went to Tahoe Joes and had free drinks and dinner, plus made money to pay the sitter. We'll take advantage of it again when my dad and his girlfriend come into town this month, perhaps staying away overnight, or at least doing a full day trip away from the boys. Along the way, we're both commited do what we can to provide for our family, and know we'll outdo whatever is thrown our way. I feel more secure about this as we face the next round of paycuts.

So KISS, its working for us. Unstressed, carefree, enjoying the summer with our friends and family. Less is definitely more these days!