Tuesday, May 31, 2011

May wrap up

The days blur together and sometimes never seem to end, but then I'm reminded by moms with older kids telling me not to blink for the years go by in an instant. This past week/weekend was one of those never ending roller coasters, full of fun, tears, squeals of laughter, and the occasional fit.

Rebecca and I hung out at home a lot, I decluttered-reorganized-tried to wrap up some projects-and be mom. I've lapsed in picture taking-but have been brainstorming-and just busy-but I'll get back to it-I always do :)

This weekend, I took Matthew to a birthday party at a skating rink-and it was the first time he'd been there-and I wanted to skate-but since I brought Rebecca w/ me, I was sidelined. It worked out well-he had fun-and I'm learning to let him go more, and figure stuff out on his own. Robert took the two middle ones grocery shopping-and surprised me-he was so proud of sticking to the list-and staying within budget. Here's Matthew upright on his skates :)

We went to the movies as a family. The kids enjoyed it-they knew movies out are a treat, and I think Robert and I enjoyed ourselves too. I think I'll head to the $1 movies this summer with the kids, and they'll have fun.

Meals were at home-it got a bit hairy pre-grocery shop-but I think that was because we used up all our produce and fruit-two staples I love having on hand at home. I felt better once we got some of those items, and I could continue making smoothies (and daiquiris') at home. I also have gotten accustomed having lots of salad around-its easy to make, and the kids love it too. Who needs to go out when you have salad for dinner?

We also went to the cemetery for the Memorial Day service. It is our family tradition, and I really like how we've done it for the past seven years since we've lived here. Each year the kids understand it more, and I'm glad we're showing them how the day isn't just for bbqs and family time.

There was a lot of downtime last week, and this weekend, but its okay. We're still focused on saving money, and planning out what we want to spend it on for the summer. We're both in agreement that its wiser to stay at home before the heat cranks up, so when it does get hot, we're not short on time, money, and can pick up and go. I definitely feel weird sometimes, but I have gentle reminders that I'm on the right path, we're doing what needs to get done, and our family will be better for making sacrifices now.

With a busy week (last week of school) ahead, I'm going to work out our monthly budget, and factor in swim lessons/activities for the family/and our travel plans. I don't foresee any challenges, but its great to be prepared :)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

I am

I am an eternal optimist. Sometimes though, like anyone else, I need a nudge to remember just how good I have it. It never fails, something will happen, to remind me I'm where I need to be, at the time I need to be, right when I need extra encouragement. This week was one of those weeks.

Here are the positives-because the negatives are not worth mentioning.

-I love listening to Dave Ramsey's Debt Free Friday broadcasts. Even though I didn't get to hear the entire segment yesterday, what I did here, was awesome. My favorite quote: life is too short to drag along a boat anchor. Awesome!

-Struggling with staying gazelle intense-I ran into one of my FPU classmates! That's no coincidence. Hearing how they're going on vacation next week, and they're paying for it in cash (thanks to the class, they're no longer slave to their credit cards), it was inspiring. It provided the boost I needed (but didn't know I needed) to remind me its okay to stay at home-because we're not using funds we don't have to travel (and more importantly, we're saving the money we do have to escape when its blistering hot here, and we want to escape!)

-Knowing that my kids are out of school for the summer after Friday-loving it! I'm so excited about the doors and opportunities opening up for us-thanks to living frugally.

I am healthy and human. Exercise is great for the soul, and helps keep me going.

Couponing-someone paid me a compliment and told me how they want to learn from me since it seems like I've taken it to a whole new level. I didn't know how to take that at first-I'm no extreme couponer, I just follow the deals, clip, and save. I donate a lot too so its not like we have some massive stockpile like those people do. At the same time though I remember how intimidating it used to be to coupon, now I'm more at ease.

My baby girl-everyday she reminds me how quickly time goes by. I appreciate my boys and the wacky things they do-and my little girl-she makes me smile.

Life is a journey~I may not know or understand it sometimes, but I have to have faith its happening for a reason.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Bring on the summertime crafts!

♥ Hobby Lobby. It is one of a few places, JoAnns, Michaels, thrift stores, where I can get lost in and spend too much time in wandering the aisles, perusing the projects, wondering how something would look, wondering how I can make it my own.

I have a ton of ideas for this summer, some with the boys, some on my own. Some as family projects, some for when I'm with my crafty pals, and a few for when I'm alone (but really, when does that happen?). All together it will be the summer of crafting! I am so stoked, I told one of my friends, I'm done having babies so I can focus on decorating the house. I'm far from Martha Stewart, more mod podge than Pottery Barn, and coupons/sales/swagbucks/amazon gift cards/ all play a role in being thrifty and creative. I ♥ what I do, and have fun doing it.

The first project: re-covering our dining room chairs. I'm excited to see how it turns out; I have the fabric, batting, staple gun. You-tube to lead me through the steps, and a lot of faith.

For crafting inspiration, here are a few of my favorites:
here's one I found recently-can't remember how, but I love it: http://jonesyfor3plus1.blogspot.com/

and some stamping/cricut ones:

Monday, May 23, 2011

Outdoor fun


Robert had his parole advancement test in the morning, so instead of staying at home, the kids and I went on a bike ride to the Swedish Festival. The weather was fantastic-and we had no trouble getting there. We found a shady spot to watch the parade. Elijah loved the music, and the older boys loved the old cars. I personally loved seeing the couples married 50 years riding in the cars-part of me wanted to ask them just how they lasted so long. After the parade, we walked around downtown, and saw many of our friends (because this is one of those "if you live in Kingsburg, you go here") The boys played at the park downtown, and Robert met us there after his exam. I window shopped in a few of the boutiques-and fell in love with some things for Rebecca (and now I know what some of my friends with daughters were talking about-its fun to shop for a girl!). I just looked though-she really has a lot, and buying more would just lead to excess (which we've been cutting out). Here are some snapshots from that adventure.

Sunday we went to one of our favorite parks, Oso de Oro in Fresno. Its been awhile since we were there, and for the first time, the park felt smaller-I couldn't quite figure out why-was it because the kids were older/larger? or it just is not as big as I remember it. The boys had fun running around, and Rebecca went in the swings/animal ride for the first time there. She was loving it! The boys fed the ducks too while we were there. We left before lunchtime, but I told the kids we'll come back next time with a picnic.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Plank Pulling Thursday

It’s Plank Pullin’ time! The one day a week that we strongly resolve to ignore the multitude of specks and sawdust around us and pull one bona fide plank from our own eye. Matthew 7:3-5, style

My friend Jennifer has a beautiful blog, one I'm fond of. You can check it out here: The Path Less Taken She has this weekly writing exercise-I forget how it started, but it has piqued my curiosity, so I'm going to participate.

I am one of those people that love to cook. I love to get in the kitchen and see what I can make. Give me a cookbook, money for the grocery store, and a kitchen, and I'm one happy camper. The end result will typically end in delicious tasting, aromatic, all around goodness. Yet, getting there, and keeping it there are two distinct things. I like that eight times out of ten, its a hit here with the family. Yet there's a back story.

First, it takes time. Having four children now, I don't have a lot of spare time-or uninterrupted time is more like it, to spend in the kitchen. When I do have a half or entire hour-the last place I sometimes want to be is the kitchen. Yet I do it-because we can't afford not to.

Going out is not an option for us, as much as I would like. With the cost of gas, the cost of eating out, eating healthy, it all adds up. The typical meal for our family of five (baby Rebecca is not yet included in the food cost) is about $5-$10, tops, when I make it at home. Going out, on the other hand, costs us anywhere from $20-$40. We just don't have it-not if we want to do other things with our money.

My kids would love it if we hit up a restaurant every week. My husband would love for us to go out for pizza or a nice steak dinner, or even somewhere just because we can. All our meals tend to either be planned out in advance, or pulled from the pantry/freezer the hour before. I tend to be the voice of reason, "No, we have food at home." "I would love to make this at home." "Why don't we do that next time"-always the "next time", never "okay, lets just do it." I wish sometimes I could just say, to heck with this all, lets throw caution to the wind and see where it blows.

Well I tried that, and blowing money sucked. Being tapped out and paying for meals on credit sucked. I hated that, and going out did not have the relaxing effect I'm sure most people get when they're being waited on and cooked for. It just became too much stress. Mind you-I haven't mentioned the issue of taking four little ones out for a meal. That's cake-I don't mind taking our kids out. They're kids-they're happy when they get something yummy and are out.

My cooking style is a difference amongst me and my friends. Its not always easy accepting the difference, but I've come a long way in not getting bent out of shape nearly as much as I used to when I see updates from friends about a new restaurant, or going out because they're tired. It's a choice they make, this is a choice we make, and at the end of the day, we're all lucky we have enough food to eat. We may go about it differently, but no one's starving. In the end, that's what really matters.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The LCSW plan

"It is difficult to say what is impossible, for the dream of yesterday is the hope of today and the reality of tomorrow." —Robert H. Goddard

I started the beginning of reaching my new goal yesterday-finding out how to get my clinical license in social work yesterday. Considering that I've been thinking about where I want to work down the line, somewhere I'm passionate about, it seems that getting this license will help me achieve this outcome. Having a Master's Degree is a prerequisite, so at least I know getting my degree wasn't a waste of time or money well spent. It just appears that due to many factors-getting my license will just rank me higher compared to other applicants.

Since the most challenging part is finding a job anyways (with someone willing to provide supervision hours)-and I need two years of experience (104 weeks/3200 hours) to get my license, researching it now while Rebecca's a baby seems like a smart step. Who knows, by the time I find someone willing to supervise and find a job that works in my family's favor (both which need to happen in order for me to proceed) she could be in preschool-or maybe school. It takes a few months alone for the application to get processed, but just getting the ball rolling is something.

I was nervous poring over the BBS website yesterday-all the requirements, the licensing exam, its a lot to take in. The minimal fees did not scare me, we'll work that into our budget when its time to pay them. Yet, like with grad school, having a fourth child, running a half marathon, its all about facing my fears head on. I am a life long learner, that much I know. I just need to put one foot in front of the other, and remember, its all about the journey.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Pick up the phone

I am led by something other than myself-I sometimes don't understand it, but I have to believe that there is a purpose behind everything. I won't lie and say everything is easy-far from it. Yet, I walk with my head held high and try to embrace life as it comes.

My mother in law is ill. My sister in law is responsible for taking care of her. Both of these together is a bad combination-not because I don't like it, but because its the truth. My sister in law, who I love dearly, needs assistance to get by herself. Enter myself and my husband. When we were first dating I told him, I knew one day this day would come. The day where we would have to consider who's going to take care of his mom, his sister, and everything else that goes along with them when they could no longer take care of themselves. I knew deep down it would fall onto us-was I thrilled about it-not really. Yet, I'm not one to turn my back on the responsibilities that lie in front of me. I may take time to understand it-take a little bit longer to take action-but its because I don't want to jeopardize something by acting too quickly, too harshly, and without emotion or caring for others (which is why its hard to make these decisions now).

Every couple of hours I get a phone call. Sometimes its every 15 minutes, sometimes once an hour. Its been a few hours now so I know one is coming soon. Will I keep a steady tone-will I maintain a sense of calm? I could see it as pure chaos and hide behind our doors, take the phone off the hook. Yet that's not me. I will face what comes my way-and show my children what its like to take care of each other (from a distance yes, but that will change too in time). I have changed my prayers-seeking strength and wisdom in troubled times, for my husband and I to come together and face the issues which lay ahead, and for peace.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Start fresh, dive in

Blogger was acting weird this past week-I wrote a post and it disappeared. I wrote another, and that too can't be found. Instead of repeating what I wrote, I'm just going to dive in where I am this morning. I am feeling AWESOME!!! Life is full, and blessed, and I love who I am surrounded by. Yes, we have our struggles-my mother in law is ill and prayer and faith are what's getting me through this tough time. It is what it is, and I consider myself blessed to have the mind and body that I do so I can be there for those who are taking care of her needs, and be prepared to help them get through the trials ahead of us.

I took the crew grocery shopping yesterday-yes, if you saw 4 kids in the cereal aisle with a gleam in their eye, throwing box after box in the cart, that was my crew. What a deal, what a rush, kind of trippy to hear the checkout clerk tell me "ever since that couponing show, a lot more people are coming in with coupons." Ummm, yeah, I am one of those that was around before the show, and will be long after it goes away. It was a thrilling rush to get 30 boxes for under $40-and its not junky, crap food. Its cereal that my kids will eat, we'll donate to the food bank, and we'll use when we have to contribute to a worthwile cause. It is way cheaper and all the coupons I bought off of ebay have already paid for themselves triplefold, so yay!!! I'm underbudget for groceries, and that's an added benefit too.

This weekend I have lots of work ahead of me. Creative projects are brewing in my mind, and the kids are going to help. We have fun times ahead, and I'll be sure to post pictures along the way. Its all in good fun to keep us happy and safe, and not wear out the car with gas. Yes gas is still high, but it is what it is, and I'm not going to let it ruin my day or rain on my parade. Life is too good to be sad by it.

I finished Financial Peace, whoooooo hoooooo!!!! Life will never be the same since I took that course-well worth the time, babysitting issues, and money. I can never go back to credit (not that we have, but boy am I thankful those credit cards are shredded!) We have a plan for emergencies, and that's a wonderful feeling.

So I'm off for the day, hope everyone has a fabulous weekend!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Reflections from Mother's Day

Mother's Day is one of those holidays I look forward to and dread at the same time. Expectations, memories, wishes, dreams, it all comes to the surface. I am usually an optimistic, full of life, fun loving person, but on this day-I never quite know how its going to be. Memories of my mom during my childhood, teen years, and adulthood intermingle with how I parent my own children, thinking of moms I know thanks to having children, and those who are without their moms/children today. It all leads to an emotional day-one that could either render tears of joy or sadness, smiles or frowns, the cup half full or the cup half empty perspective. I'd like to think I balanced it all, all came to me yesterday, it was just a matter of surviving-and not passing on my issues to my kids-for their own memories of Mother's Day with me are forming now.

I muddled my way through the start of the day, completely aware that I was apt to get weepy or emotional at the drop of a hat. I enjoyed coffee and reading blogs before heading to breakfast with the children, Robert took the lead on grocery shopping, we enjoyed an afternoon of playing outside. I enjoyed sangria on the porch, and Robert made dinner for the family. I avoided the kitchen, except to refill my glass, and the laundry and errands that normally get done, were avoided too. I tried not to dwell on the stuff facing me this week-and soaked up the smiles and cuddles with the boys and baby too. I talked with my mother in law and dad's girlfriend, both who wished me a memorable mother's day and reminded me to just enjoy the day as it came, for my "alone" time would come one day, and I'd miss this type of chaos. I thought of the mom I am, the ones I aspire to, and the ones I'm nothing like. For the most part, we all try to do the best for our children, and even if we have different parenting styles, we're all trying to raise our children to be healthy, well adjusted adults.

On a side note, it was also Matthew's 7th birthday. My sweet boy, the one who turned my world upside down and introduced me to parenthood, is getting tall and lean, loves to run, has an active imagination, and has a heart of gold. I'd like to think he had a fun birthday-even if it meant having to share Mother's Day with me. We sang him happy birthday, and he chose his first belt buckle from the western store. We meant to get summer sandals but the store moved-so that plan is delayed until next weekend. I'm baking him a cake today (I did mention I took the day off from cooking yesterday, right?). Cupcakes were brought in last Friday to school, and he talked to his grandparents who all wished him a happy birthday. It was simple and sweet, and full of love.

So in the end, I survived the day; but more than that, I enjoyed it too. I had my sons and daughter, husband, and my life. I don't need anything more.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

My life

Sometimes I feel like my life is a country song; and I can relate to living in a small town where its all about who does what and when and how. Its growing on me, seven years later.

Dirt Road Anthem is the third single by American country music singer, Jason Aldean, from his fourth studio album, “My Kinda Party”, released on November 2, 2010 on Broken Bow Records.
The song was written by country music artists Colt Ford and Brantley Gilbert (who also wrote Aldean’s hit “My Kinda Party”), both of whom recorded their own versions of the song.
Here you can listen the song.

Jason Aldean - Dirt Road Anthem Lyrics
Yeah I’m chillin’ on a dirt road
Laid back swervin’ like I’m George Jones
Smoke rollin’ out the window
An ice cold beer sittin’ in the console
Memory lane up in the headlights
It’s got me reminiscing on them good times
I’m turnin’ off a real life drive and that’s right
I’m hittin’ easy streat on mud tires
Back in the day Potts farm was the place to go
Load the truck up hit the dirt road
Jump the barbed wire, spread the word
Light the bonfire then call the girls
King in the can and the Marlboro man
Jack n’ Jim were a few good men
Where you learned how to kiss and cuss and fight too
Better watch out for the boys in blue
And all this small town he said, she said
Ain’t it funny how rumors spread?
Like I know somethin’ y’all don’t know,
man that talk is gettin’ old
you better mind your business man,
watch your mouth
Before I have to knock that loud mouth out
I’m tired of talkin’ man y’all ain’t listenin’
Them ol’ dirt roads, is what y’all missin’
Yeah I’m chillin’ on a dirt road
Laid back swervin’ like I’m George Jones
Smoke rollin’ out the window
An ice cold beer sittin’ in the console
Memory lane up in the headlights
It’s got me reminiscing on them good times
I’m turnin’ off a real life drive and that’s right
I’m hittin’ easy streat on mud tires
I sit back and think about them good old days
They way we were raise in our southern ways
And we like cornbread and biscuits
And if it’s broke ’round here we fix it
I can take y’all where you need to go
Down to my hood back in them woods
We do it different ’round here that’s right
But we sure do it good and we do it all night
So if you really want to know how it feels
To get off the road with trucks and four wheels
Jump on in and man tell your friends
We’ll raise some hell where the black top ends
Yeah I’m chillin’ on a dirt road
Laid back swervin’ like I’m George Jones
Smoke rollin’ out the window
An ice cold beer sittin’ in the console
Memory lane up in the headlights
It’s got me reminiscing on them good times
I’m turnin’ off a real life drive and that’s right
I’m hittin’ easy streat on mud tires
Let’s ride
Yeah I’m chillin’ on a dirt road
Laid back swervin’ like I’m George Jones
Smoke rollin’ out the window
An ice cold beer sittin’ in the console
Memory lane up in the headlights
It’s got me reminiscing on them good times
I’m turnin’ off a real life drive and that’s right
I’m hittin’ easy streat on mud tires
Let’s ride
Song Information
Released April 4, 2011
Genre Country, Country-rap
Length 3:50
Label Broken Bow
Writers Colt Ford, Brantley Gilbert
Producer Michael Knox

May Madness

I'm on a roll this morning, there's a lot going on this month, and it helps to stay on top of it. This week we have two big events~Matthew's birthday and Mother's Day. We're holding tight to being weird, and controlling our finances, instead of them controlling us. I'm proud to say that next week is the last week of Financial Peace University, and we're better off financially than we were when we started the program.

I've stepped up my couponing-purchasing whole inserts and watching the sales. The pantry is stocked, and meal planning is helping us stay on track. We're eating all meals at home, and have back up plans for crazy days, as well as plans for the events coming up. Gazelle intense is not hard once you get acclimated to it, and surrounding myself with others who feel the same way has been such a godsend. I can't speak highly enough about the DR Financial Peace Program, it has been so worth it! I'm now excited to work on the third baby step of DR's plan, and seeing how much head way we can make towards our goals every month. I hope to stay motivated-and then pass on what we've learned to others.

Summertime is quickly approaching, and we're discussing what we want to do for family activities. Gas prices are a huge consideration~because it costs so much to go somewhere~yet, I still consider us fortunate to have what we have. I have faith that we'll figure out what we want to do, and the children will have a memorable summer.

Ready, set, run!

I hate when I get into a funk. More than anything else, I think my husband hates it too. Its part of life though-the sadness makes life that much sweeter so when I do come out of it, I am that much more appreciative of what I have around me. Instead of dwelling on what is out of my control, I'm choosing to focus on the here and now, the present, and all that surrounds me.

Robert has been a huge help the past few days while I was recovering from my half marathon run. Yes, you heard that right-I completed the half marathon this past weekend. It was exhilarating, mind blowing, and the toughest physical challenge of my life. While I was on my run, I remember thinking, "one foot in front of the other", "its all about crossing that finish line" and "if I can go through natural childbirth four times, I can surely do this". 13 miles is a long distance for someone who's never ran a lot, and it gave me plenty of time to reflect on what I'm doing in my life, and where I want to be. The first two miles and the last two miles were the hardest; I never thought I'd reach the end~I definitely felt like I was ready to quit-but I didn't want to-I knew the end result was going to be amazing. 3 hours, 19 minutes later I crossed that finish line, and I was so proud of myself!

It was so much fun, that despite the soreness I felt later, I'm already planning out my next events. I already have the Kingsburg Dala Horse Trot 10K run in a couple of weeks, and now contemplating whether to sign up for the 10K run in Morro Bay in July with some friends. Running has definitely been a great way to have "me" time, and focus on my health-and after last week's stressful events, I definitely want to take care of me. Here are some pictures of that wonderful morning :)
On our way to V-town, bright and early Saturday morning!

Ready to run!

My cheering team!

Crossing that finish line!

I DID IT!!!!!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Beach bound-Spring Break 2011

It was quite an adventure taking our first family of six beach trip. The scenery was breathtaking, and we enjoyed each other's company. Rebecca stayed nice and warm in the Moby wrap-and we went for a long walk along the coastline. The kids were in awe of the sand dollars and jelly fish that were washing up on shore. Memories were made....

The grandchildren with Grandpa and Grandma

The Allen Family 6

Avila Valley Barn-Spring Break 2011

We went to Avila Valley Barn in Avila Beach during Spring Break. The weather and nature were beautiful. There were cute shops, and places to picnic, along with small animals the kids could feed. We'll be back again this summer, as there are pick your own fruit orchards that will be ready throughout the coming months. The kids had a wonderful time feeding the animals, and Robert and I enjoyed seeing them explore their surroundings. We enjoyed a picnic lunch, and then enjoyed some strawberries that were grown on site. It was definitely a day to remember :)