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I'm back!

October 3rd, 2006 at 10:33 am

I've tried blogging elsewhere but I can't get my pictures to upload so I'm back.

Keeping track of spending daily is my new goal.

Yesterday: $187.06 at Costco for groceries. Really stocked up so we have the basics for meals at home.

I've promised Big Rich that I will actually balance the check book each month. I haven't been doing that for a LONG while now. Gotta get my Quicken up and running again.

The money situation is really looking up. Big Rich really killed it this month. I'm not sure why it all came now, but I'll take it!


July 13th, 2006 at 11:34 am

I've decided I need more nature in my life. Yesterday I took the Monkeys and Pepe for a short hike in the canyon next to our home. It was beautiful and really fun. Elder Monkey was complaining before we left. It would be hot, he'd rather go to an amusement park (he's rebelling against me telling him we were going to focus on "free" fun stuff for the next little while). We drove all the way to the top and took about a 3 mile hike (fairly easy). Pepe was in heaven. All the wildflowers were in bloom and the creek wasn't too swift so he could run and play in it. At the bottom there is a place where the creek pools, we spent a long time splashing around in the river. It was a really nice way to spend the afternoon.

I realized that I am literally surrounded by such incredible opportunities to spend time in nature. After I spend time in the great outdoors I feel so peaceful and refreshed. I've decided it is time to make spending time in nature a high priority for me and my kids. For the most part it is free and it is such quality time.

Just One Thing

July 11th, 2006 at 10:59 am

One of my ongoing goals is feel peaceful as much as possible. I've always known that a routine or schedule can keep life peaceful. I've been a member of FlyLady for more than 6 years, but I still can't seem to attain the peace she seems to have.

This morning I had an epiphany of sorts. It is probably common sense to most people, but it really hit home today. You can change just one thing, and it ripples out to change so many other things.

My one thing is getting up early and getting the dog and myself out for a walk or run. He is happy and content for the rest of the morning. I feel a sense of accomplishment for getting my exercise done for the day. I also have a sense of gratitude because where I live is so incredibly beautiful and I get to enjoy it first thing in the morning. A sense of gratitude envelopes my day. I shower earlier, have a good breakfast, read the paper all before the kids get up. Since the dog is mellow, he doesn't pester the kids all morning which leaves them in a better mood as well. We get our chores done earlier and happier as well. Because our morning goes well, the rest of the day goes better too.

This is the one thing I am really going to focus on. When I've mastered it, then I will figure out what the next One Thing should be.

Simple Summer Fun

July 7th, 2006 at 03:44 pm

What an incredible week. We spent the week at my folks place at Bear Lake. My sibs + families also came (except my littlest sis, who lives in Philly. She + spouse will be home on the 24th for 2 weeks. She's in dental school and doesn't have much time off at this point). Big Rich doesn't come up often because he works most weekends. It was great to have him there.

There are times in life where time goes at just the right pace, not too fast and not too slow. I think these times are linked to being close to nature. I've decided that I am happiest when I am on some sort of beach. It is truly when I feel at home. The water, the wind, the sand in my toes. I love it.

I'm sure it is mostly because my folks bought the place when I was four and we went there every weekend during the summer when I was a child.

But some other reasons are: there is usually a group of people surrounding me that I really enjoy spending time with. I love spending time with my sibs and their kids. The cousins all play for hours and hours up there without any battles. The beach is so vast, the water is so shallow, there are so many children, we have just the right toys. I've noticed the kids are never bored. There are endless variations to keep them busy. It also helps that there are so many eyes keeping track of all the kids. It gives me a little much needed rest and relaxation.

Another reason is I get away from the mundane things in life. We have a TV, but no reception. So we only spend time watching movies that we all want to see. Until very recently there was no phone. Even with one, the calls are few and far between. My cell phone won't get reception. There is no computer. I'm amazed at how many hours I spend in front of this box. I get a chance to rethink that while I'm gone. Basically there is no media, which I find refreshing. I think I am going to cut most media out of my life. It just isn't healthy for me. I spend lots of time reading, which is my heaven. I LOVE to read. There are no stores. The nearest town is 24 miles away on a dirt road. And it isn't any place you would go just for fun. So I generally don't spend any money while I'm there.

Which leads me to my main point, it is amazing how abundant life can feel when you are living simply. Why isn't I feel more blessed and peaceful when my immediate family is living in one small bedroom, and my entire family is living in a small cottage? Why are my kids so busy with the few toys that we keep there? Why do the simple family meals taste the best? Why do we sleep so soundly? It is because we are interacting with each other, talking, doing things together. I enjoy my kids so much more up there. There is no hurry to do anything, be anywhere. We can just be.

Today I took the Monkeys to the zoo. We have a seasons pass so it was paid for 9 months ago. We ate before we left and I told them I would buy them a popsicle there. The food is incredibly over-priced. We went through the new tiger exhibit, then the reptile house, went to the bird show, had our treat, went on the train and played at the playground. Sounds fun right?

The entire time my eldest Monkey complained that I wouldn't buy more treats, wouldn't go to the gift shop, etc. "Why do all the other kids get a hat, cotton candy, toy?" Really got the best of me. Even at the Bird Show, he was upset because people that were selected out of the audience to participate were given gift certificates for free ice cream from the sponser. He was freaking out that he never got chosen. Finally I lost it. I turned into "Mean Mommy" and lectured all the way home about gratitude and enjoying what we have, not what we don't have, living in the moment, spending time together is the important thing, yada yada yada, the fun is in the experience not in the stuff.

He replied that he has fun at Bear Lake. And we both realized it is because there is nothing to buy there. He can relax because he isn't being inundated with messages to buy, buy, buy. I find it incredibly sad that my 6 year old finds enjoying life hard because of the media machine. It just doesn't seem right. Even educational experiences aren't free from advertising.

So I am on a mission to simply our lives so that we can feel the same sense of peace at home that we do at Bear Lake. TV must be limited further. I'm going to be stricter about making sure that chores are done and allowances are only paid if the work is done. Toys and treats must be earned or paid for with their money. Eldest Monkey really needs to lose his sense of entitlement. Paid activities will be fewer and farther between. The Monkeys have enough stuff around here to entertain themselves and each other. They don't need me running around town every day to keep them occupied and entertained.

It is time to reclaim our contentment. Life is about peace, joy and love. Anything else is no longer welcome at my house!!

enough rambling for today.

Dog Daze of Summer

June 27th, 2006 at 05:26 pm

It is hot! In the upper 90's all week. Decided to take the Monkey's swimming today. It was really fun, but we spent too much money due to lack of responsibility and planning. I didn't have any cash, but I knew the pool accepts checks to get it. So I decided not to take my whole purse, just my wallet as we headed out the door. What I forgot is that I put my driver's license and ATM card in a pocket of my purse.

We got in fine with a check, but Elder Monkey realized he didn't have his goggles. Is that his fault or mine? Chlorine really burns his eyes, so I paid for another pair of goggles at $6, so to get in and goggles was $18. That is 3 pairs so far this summer.

Then we find out that the food court doesn't accept anything but cash for non-members. So we borrowed some money from my sister. What I should have done was pack a lunch, but I didn't quite get it done before we headed out the door. Another $8. Kind of an expensive swimming trip.

I read an article this week about how one mom sets up gear for her kids for summer. Each kid gets one swimsuit, one towel, one pair of goggles, and one pair of flip flops each summer. If they are lost or ruined, the kids get to replace them if they want to. She also gives them each a mesh bag to keep their stuff in. It is their responsibility to gather the stuff, make sure it gets to and from the pool, and hang it up to dry when they get home. It is laundered once a week. I think I am going to implement this with my Monkeys. Elder Monkey is definitely old enough to do this. Then I can worry about sunscreen and lunch or snacks.

Big Rich has been out of town until last night. Poor Pepe le Chew hasn't had nearly enough walks. He is acting like a raving lunatic. Right now he is racing around and around the house. I read that a dog really need about 1 1/2 hours of walks every day. Ideally an hour in the morning and a 1/2 hour in the evening. I'm fine with that most days, but I'm also training for a 1/2 marathon. He is too young to run and I am having a hard time fitting in all the activity for both myself and the dog. It's just too hot to go out between the hours of 10 am and 7 pm. But, where there's a will there's a way. I will get it figured out.

I haven't found a replacement for
Big Rich's car console. I may just see if I can have it reupholstered somewhere. Or maybe my dad would be willing to do it for me. Big Rich was surprising cool about it. He even decided today that he actually does really does like the dog (who is currently trying to eat the computer wires).

Big Rich gave me a check today for the monthly expenses. I don't want to deposit it until the 1st of the month because I was to start again fresh this month. I royally botched my $100 challenge. I'm going to try again in July, with some slight modifications. I'm not going to include gas. It just eats up too much of my $100. So I am budgeting gas seperately. $100 will go to everything else during the week, gifts, entertainment, clothes, fees, activites and groceries. I think I can do it.

Puppy Chewed My Car!

June 25th, 2006 at 09:26 pm

Actually Pepe chewed the console in Big Rich's car, which happens to be the car he drives clients around in. Yikes! It's just the lid. Big Rich is out of town until tomorrow evening. I intend to have it fixed by then. My dad is a very handy man and fixes up cars to sell as a hobby so he is going to call a few junk yards tomorrow to see what he can find. If not we will try our hand at reupholstering it ourselves. I plan to tell Big Rich, I just want it to be fixed before I do! I hope it isnt' too expensive. I knew the dog would chew, I just didn't think it would be the car!

Spent the weekend with the Monkeys at Bear Lake again while Big Rich is out of town on business. We had a great time. Played on the beach. Let Elder Monkey drive me around on the ATV. Made s'mores. I forget how incredibly delicious those are. A nice weekend all the way around.

Elder Monkey however is driving me crazy. He is going through a whining and complaining phase. It makes me want to quit doing anything remotely "extra" for him, so he will understand that his life really isn't so bad. That would be great for my budget but terrible for my sanity!

I bought Jesse's budget spreadsheet today. I'm really excited about it. I will write about how it is working in the future.

Money Fights

June 22nd, 2006 at 12:13 pm

Big Rich and I only fight about 2 things: money and The Monkeys. Unfortunately that makes up a pretty big chunk of our life right now.

I'm feeling a little under appreciated because I have worked my behind of this month to save us money. I don't drive if I don't have to, I've made 95% of our meals at home, I haven't taken my kids to many activites that cost money, I have made them buy any new toys with their allowance. It has been a pretty big lifestyle change for me and The Monkeys. So I know I'm a little defensive about it because I've tried really hard. But Big Rich feels the need to ask about every damn expense. I know it is because we are trying to pay down our debt. I get why he is all of a sudden so interested. It just bugs that for the past 10 years it has been my responsibility, and I think I've done a darn fine job. I don't nag him to make more money. They are the dumbest fights because we are actually on the same page, we just vent on each other.

I am determined to get out of debt just to stop money fights. They are pointless.

The Monkeys? I'm stuck with those "disagreements" for at least another 15 years.

Pepe Loco Lopez

June 20th, 2006 at 02:02 pm

That is the name of our new puppy. How did we decide this name? Well, funny you should ask. About a month ago we were throwing a fairly large BBQ party and I decided we needed margaritas. I went to buy tequila, which I haven't purchased in a long time and was dying at the price of a large bottle. So I rationalized that cheap tequila mixed in a drink was ok and I purchased a very large bottle of Pepe Lopez. The fact that the bottle was plastic should have been a huge tip off. Anyway, the evening went buy and nobody really wanted margaritas. Pretty soon it was just a few of us left and I had had a few glasses of wine and against my better judgement, let myself be talked into 2 shots of our fine tequila. I lived to regret it. Just barely.

Against my better judgement. Which is how my husband feels about getting a puppy.

The Monkeys just think it is fun to say.

But he is truly a sweet heart. He is 3 1/2 months. A black lab/australian shepard mix. He looks lab except has a white stripe down the belly. He has barely barked or even whined. He slept the entire night without a peep. They said he wasn't housetrained but he hasn't had a single accident. And he isn't all that nippy. But he sure has a lot of energy. And he loves to cuddle. I think he will make a great dog.

Happy Father's Day!

June 18th, 2006 at 08:44 pm

The shelter cancelled their adoption event at the pet store yesterday. I called on the dog I am most interested in but haven't been able to get a hold of the adoption coordinator. I will try again tomorrow. I'm really very puppy hungry!

We had a fun weekend. Went to a BBQ last night. I love just hanging out with friends and their families. It is definitely my preferred evening entertainment.

This morning Big Rich went golfing with his dad and brothers. The Monkeys and I slept way late then chilled around the house until Big Rich got home. We went swimming at his dad's pool for the day. We had dinner at my folk's with my siblings.

I just took a nice evening stroll, watched the sun go down.

All in all a very pleasant day.

I Want A Puppy!

June 16th, 2006 at 09:17 pm

Our dog died in April. We went to Costa Rica for a few weeks and our 9 year old sweetie hopped Big Rich's brother's fence and took a stroll on one of the busiest streets in the area. Amazingly she got pretty far before the end came. She never was very street smart.

Of course we've been sad. We had her 2 years before we had Elder Monkey. She's always just been part of the family. The Monkey's were soooo sad. Elder Monkey cried so hard I thought my heart would seriously break. Younger Monkey can't quite understand it. He just says "She died. She crash car and got brokie. Daddy can't fix her. We need a white puppy. 2 puppies" But Big Rich seems to think that we need to mourn for an extended period of time or we didn't really love her. But I just miss having a dog around.

So I checked online at all the adoption agencies in the area. I have been telling him we all want a dog. We won't be waiting long. Since I'm home I'm even willing to be the one in charge of feeding and cleaning the dog. I'm going to go check out dogs tomorrow.

I can't decide if I want a little puppy, or if I'd rather go with a young dog of a year or so. The Monkeys want a puppy. I do love puppies. But a slightly older dog will most likely have already been fixed and had shots. And I'd like a ready to go running partner. And who can forget the not having to house train and puppy proof the house part. I really wouldn't miss chewed up shoes and toys.

I had the twisted idea of giving Big Rich a dog for Father's day buy decided that would just be too mean. So we got him a heart rate monitor instead.

Am I crazy? Everyone seems to think I must be to jump back into an animal so quickly. But I've always said I would have at least one pet. I'm just an pet person.

Spending Money to Save Money

June 15th, 2006 at 01:41 pm

I think sometimes you have to spend a little to save a lot.

I bought a hot air popcorn popper today. It was $15 and for 2 lbs. of popcorn it was another $2. We go through so much microwave popcorn! We will honestly recoup the invenstment in less than 3 months.

I also spent $8 to buy the Not Just Beans cookbook. In the week that I have had it from the library I have used the simple, from scratch recipes 6 times saving me the inflated cost of items such as frosting, cookies, and pizza. I must also factor in the impulse items I did not buy from not making extra trips to the store.

Which leads me to the next way I am going to try to save more-stocking up on sales. So far this summer we have gone to or hosted a BBQ at least once a week. I am going to start stocking up when the stores have sales on things we cook and take regularly. Also on the meals we often choose to cook at Bear Lake.

I was also thinking about my Costco membership. As much milk as my Monkey's drink, I am pretty insistent on organic milk. Costco has organic milk so much cheaper than anywhere else. I save my membership just in milk within 6 months. Nevermind the savings on bananas, eggs, cheese, organic lettuce mix, spinach and diapers.

Another great example is going to the dentist regularly. Because Big Rich is self-employed and I stay home, we don't have dental insurance. Our agreement was to take the kids every six months and go ourselves every year. Well, one year leads to another and we hadn't been in 3 years. As a result, Big Rich has one cavity, I have 2 and Elder Monkey had one. Big Rich also needs a root canal. We are looking at about $1200 in dental work. I am sure the cost of regular dental visits over time pays by eliminating expensive dental work.

I'm sure there are lots of other ways to save money by investing a little up front. I'm trying to keep this in mind when I go over the $100 I have budgeted each week for spending. I may give myself a little more wiggle room to try to "snowball" my savings, even if I go over budget some weeks. According to Amy D, it will bring my monthly spending down in the long run.

Over Estimating

June 13th, 2006 at 09:03 pm

Big Rich's mom is in town. She took the boys to see Cars today. Popcorn, drinks, the works. Then a trip to the toy store. Grandparents are so great! Tomorrow she is taking them to the park.

Because his mother and her boyfriend are in town, we invited the whole family over for dinner. Yesterday I was going to do hamburgers for Elder Monkey with watermelon and pasta salad. Big Rich took the propane to get filled last night then to work for a work party today. So I couldn't grill last night. We had pancakes instead. So for the family we decided to grill the burgers. I had bought garlic burgers but I didn't think I had enough so I went and bought more today. Turns out I would have had enough in the first place. I always over estimate. I want to make sure there is plenty for everyone I guess. So I have leftovers of everything. I guess we will have all of it again on Thursday, so it isn't really a waste. It was pretty good, I don't mind.

I have been on a baking kick. I get bored and bake. Good for the food budget, not so good for the waist line. I was supposed to run tonight but had a couple of glasses of wine with dinner and had no desire to run.

I've got a half marathon in September I am supposed to start training for this week. It is the Disney 1/2 marathon at Disneyland. We booked a whole Disney trip around it, which is mostly paid for. I better get training or Big Rich will be ticked I talked him into going. Not only did I talk him into it, but I talked my folks into coming. And I convinced my sister in law to run it with me so my brother and his kids are all coming too. I better be ready!

Monday's Musings

June 12th, 2006 at 12:59 pm

I had a busy but wonderful weekend.

Friday I went for my job interview. They need someone to commit at least 25 hours a week. Not gonna happen so I said "thank you" and left. Actually felt relieved. I don't think I really want a job even though I can see many of the benefits. I'm going to hold out and try to stay at home as long as I can. I'm sure I will find ways to keep myself busy while the Monkeys are away. I will find my groove.

Friday evening the Monkeys and I went up to my parents cabin at Bear Lake. My sister's family and my brother's family and my parents all came. My parent's bought the place when I was 4 so I have been going there for my whole life. My kids LOVE to go up there. I try to make it at least every other weekend and usually stay a week over the 4th of July.

I'm trying to figure out ways to make it more frugal. We always stop for dinner on the way. I'm responsible for meals, the number of which depends on the length of the stay. Everyone pitches in for snacks and drinks. And there is the gas. Sometimes if Big Rich isn't going I try to tagalong with my parents. But this weekend I needed to be home by a certain time on Sunday so I drove the Subaru.

Even if it isn't frugal, it is wonderful. Bear Lake is an enormous, aqua blue lake with mountains surrounding it. We have a beach that is soft sand. The lake is cold but our beach is shallow for a long ways before it drops off, so the water warms up a bit where the kids play. My dad is a toy lover so there are wave runners, ATVs, a boat, a dune buggy, a tractor as well as tons of beach toys and other various things he likes to pick up to keep the grand kiddies entertained.

My kids wait all winter to go and when we do they don't want to come home. I've decided that it is probably one of the only places where they feel totally free. There are lots of other kids to play with. They can run around between the cabins and make up all kinds of games. We spend hours on end at the beach where they play in the sand and water. It is great for me because they are totally enthralled and happy. I just get to sit back and read a book or talk with people. I'm so lucky to have parents who sacrificed when I was a kid to afford a place for our family to be together.

Sunday the Monkeys spent half the day with Big Rich's mom who is in town this week. We drove to another town to look at some property we are considering going in with 3 other couples on. It was really beautiful. I don't know if we are going to do it, but it is really pretty.

Last night we went to a baby shower for my best friend from high school. I was nervous about my present being "enough". I got her 6 little board books, a blankie and an outfit. Both she and her husband seemed really excited about all the books. So I feel good about the gift. I've had some trouble with this particular friend but I'd like it to all be water under the bridge. We will most likely never be best friends again, but I'd like to see her more often than 3-4 times a year.

Today is errand day. I did a little grocery shopping, made a pasta salad to go with the hamburgers Elder Monkey requested for dinner tonight. He also wanted a chocolate cake. I had a mix so I made it and now that it is cooled I need to whip up a batch of chocolate frosting. I have never made frosting from scratch but the recipe looks so easy. I'm getting such a kick from making things from scratch. It is just so much easier than I thought.


June 8th, 2006 at 09:06 pm

Today the Monkeys had Summer Camp so I set out to entertain myself. I spent at least an hour on the freebies forum signing up for free stuff. Then I decided to try making buns for crock pot pork roast sandwiches for dinner. They turned out OK. They didn't rise as high as I would have liked, but I did add a fair amount of whole wheat flour which surely made them more dense. They tasted good though. Big Rich thinks I must have bumped my head or something. I have done more cooking lately than I have for years.

On a whim I decided to apply for a job at one of the large warehouse clubs that I do a fair amount of shopping at. I know the cashiers make good money. I figure I could work one or two shifts a week and make some extra money to put straight on the credit card debt. They called me for an interview within a few hours! So I have an interview tomorrow. I'm a little nervous! Do I want to work? Even a few hours? I guess I will just lay out my needs, two shifts during the time my kids are at Summer Camp. Then maybe a little more during the school year. If that doesn't work, then it doesn't work. No loss right?

I do wonder how it would affect Younger Monkey. He had a hard time at Summer Camp today. After lunch he cried and said he wanted to come home to see me. He has never done that before. But there are a lot of changes. He has one of his pre-school teachers for a camp teacher, but only one of the same kids in the group. It is also a different classroom and he is there for twice as long. I think he will get used it and then really like it. But part of me wonders if I should wait another year. Or 3.

I also think Big Rich's pride was hurt a little even though he agreed the extra money would be really nice to have to put on the our debt. We have two months worth of expenses saved, and I'm sure we will have more business long before that runs out, but I would like to be further ahead. It's not like the little bit that I would be making would really help with the major expenses anyway, but every little bit off the debt would really help. He just kept asking if I really wanted to work. And he wondered what would my parents think? My mom always stayed home while we were young so my dad is sure that it is the only right way to raise kids and has said so. But I worked until Elder Monkey was 3. All that really matters is what Big Rich and I think is the right thing to do.

I'll just go and see what happens.