Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Grand Experiment

Quite a while ago, I read an article about a family that didn't buy anything new for an entire year. They had kids and the entire family decided to see if they could do it. It has stuck with me as an interesting idea. It crops up every time the Amex bill comes in the mail. So Ducky and I have decided to that we are going to do our own version of this experiment. Oddly, this has nothing to do with the economy, but more to do with our impulse purchases and opting for the easy out (meals, etc.).

We have decided that for the months of January and February, we are going to follow a few simple rules and see how much money we can save. Then we are going to put that amount of money aside for home projects or a trip.

The Rules:
Consumable items may be purchased - groceries, cleaning products, utilities, auto expenses, printer paper/office supplies
Necessary repairs will be taken care of
Eat out not more than once a week - only when life requires it
Any purchase must fill a need - a need being a must have, cannot live without it, not gosh that would be great to have
Shop from lists
We get a monthly allowance of $20 (a girl cannot give up coffee completely)
We will have a monthly family activity allowance of $100
Use coupons when I find them

There was a time when we did not have any extra money and we were really conscious of where our money went. Now that our budget is not as tight, we don't think before we spend. We hope to become mindful of our spending, allowing us to save up to do more expensive projects or vacations more frequently. To stop frittering away our extra money and instead use it reach our goals. Anyone want to experiment with us?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Goodbye Snow

The temperature has risen since Christmas day. It has been a balmy 50-ish degrees outside the last few days. This morning when I looked outside, the snow was gone. There were a few short piles left where shoveled snow had been thrown. But the lawn was visible, the sidewalks were clear and my winter wonderland was gone.

I loved the snow. I didn't love the dirt, slush and ice mix nearly as much. But when it was fluffy and clean and beautiful, I loved it. I loved the extra days it gave me with the boys. I loved sitting in the family room by the crackling fire, reading or stitching or watching the tree. I loved feeling all snug in my house while the world was quiet outside. I loved that we had a brief bit of real winter.

Now, I am enjoying the return of our normally mild temperatures. I am washing the snow pants to put away until next year or until we go sledding. I am getting ready for the return of the mud monster (aka Velcro). There is rain in the forecast for the next ten days. Yup, we are back to normal.

The family didn't get quite enough of the white stuff. We decided that today we would go ice skating. Ducky and I have not been for nearly two decades. The boys have never been. Ice skates have changed! Once we got out skates on, we were off. I had been hoping that the ice would not have been freshly cleaned, and it wasn't. I took sweetE's hand and we stepped out onto the ice. Ducky and sweetP were right behind us.

After half a lap, sweetE was ready to hang up his skates. But, after the whole lap, he was ready for more. We went around again, he was getting the hang of it and my legs were getting back in the groove. Meanwhile, sweetP hung onto the wall like he would drown without it. I convinced him that if he held on with only one hand, it would be so much easier.

Periodically we would stop and rest in the hockey boxes. We traded boys every few laps. I found muscles I had forgotten that I had. The boys were getting better, we no longer got stuck behind other people on the wall. After a while, sweetE got so good that he was pulling us as we went.

The dreaded moment happened, sweetE turned and in my effort to avoid him, down we went. I got him picked up and made sure he was okay. He was shaken, but fine. Then couldn't hold his hand and get up at the same time. I had to walk to the side on my knees so I could get up. Then off we went again. With five minutes left of free skate, he was done and so was I. Ducky and sweetP were off for one more lap.

The rest of the afternoon and evening we have been asked if we "are going skating tomorrow" and "when are we going skating again?" I would venture to guess they had a good time. I wonder how sore I will be tomorrow?

Saturday, December 27, 2008

A Tale of Two Christmases

We had a white Christmas. I had a fire in the fireplace all day. We had a leisurely day. There were the right amount of gifts under the tree. The boys played happily with their toys all day. We had friends over for dinner. It was nearly the perfect Christmas day, the quickly squashed migraine kept it from being perfect. It was a stark contrast to a Christmas eight years ago.

Eight years ago, it was sweetP's first Christmas. He was about seven months old. I was so excited about his first Christmas and ours as parents. Unfortunately, there was a problem that crept up at about six a.m. It was a pain and it was familiar. It was a pain that generally sends me to the ER. That's right, the day dawned with the movement of a kidney stone. It was just Ducky and I at home with sweetP. Our little house was magical and bright. SweetP slept in until at least seven, his gift to his parents (my 5 a.m. boy). I laid there in denial. It could not, it would not happen on Christmas day.

We have video of opening gifts. I am in pain and it shows. I was trying so hard to enjoy helping him open a package of mittens. He went down for his nap and I tried everything to feel better. A hot shower, walking, drinking water, a heating pad. No luck. By the time he woke up from his nap, it was time to go. We packed him in the car. There was no snow that year. We headed off to the ER.

I had been there ten days before. Same stone, different day. I checked in and then waited. There were carolers in the waiting room. I have never hated Christmas songs before that day. If I hadn't been hoping to die or at least pass out, I might have let them know how painful their singing was. Not their actual singing, but the fact that they were reminding me of what day it was, and how it was my baby's first Christmas and we were in the ER. Insult to injury. I'm sure people in other parts of the hospital would have enjoyed their singing more.

I made it in to see my favorite ER doc. I had already seen him twice before. He scanned me, drugged me and sent me home after giving me the option to check in and stay a while. The rest of my Christmas day was spent in a drug-induced, drowsy stupor. There was no Christmas dinner. Our neighbors brought Ducky a plate of leftovers. SweetP doesn't remember a thing, I will never forget.

By comparison, a quickly squashed migraine is a mild inconvenience. Our Christmas was everything I could hope for. My children did not fight all day. There were almost no demands to get stuff done, Ducky's fretting about dinner getting done will soon be a distant memory. It was quiet and calm and happy.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Twas the Night Before Christmas

The stockings were hung on the mantle with care, by two little elves who are beside themselves with Christmas excitement. Those elves have been busy all of the day. They helped to make cookies, gingerbread stars, and tasted them too. They decorated them, using new found restraint, they heard that last year Santa got a tummy ache. They offered to go to bed early to help things along, at 6:30, so early!

They have opened their ornaments, they both got a plane. A plane to help them remember their first BIG adventure. They love their new jammies, with polar bears on them. But just can't seem to settle down for the night. Not once, or twice, but three times and more, they have popped out of bed, just too excited to sleep.

Go to sleep my boys, Christmas is coming. Mommy Santa needs some sleep to be ready for tomorrow. It is so hard to sleep when Christmas is coming, but try my boys and you will see that the time will fly by.

Merry Christmas to all and have a good night!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

What Do You Mean I Only Have One More Day?!?

Just as it does every year, Christmas has snuck up on me. Just yesterday I had weeks to get ready, or at least it seemed. Now suddenly it is the 23rd. There is still so much I want to get done, holiday and otherwise. How is it that I can go from feeling on top of the world (mine at least) into where has the time gone so quickly?

Not to fear, there is nothing of grand importance that remains undone. The only big project I have left is to make cookies. Santa will appreciate the fact that they were baked earlier that day. My house will smell heavenly. And I will have yummy cookies to munch on. The boys and I will be donning our aprons and getting to work tomorrow making gingerbread.

Tonight, the boys got to experience fed-up mommy. She is not very nice. But an hour is plenty long to clean up those Legos, don't you think. The boys have started to completely ignore my requests. So tonight, more than 45 minutes after asking them to clean up, I set the timer. They had 10 minutes to get that mess cleaned up. I needed access to the tree and I was not going to work around Legos. The consequence in question, one Christmas gift each. If the timer went off before every Lego was picked up, I would remove one of each of their gifts from the tree.

Can you guess what happened? The timer went off, there were Legos on the floor, the wailing began. True to my word, two gifts were removed from under the tree. SweetP was despondent because he is convinced I took a video game (I did). SweetE, wasn't bothered a bit. He told his brother that there were still lots of presents under the tree (there are). SweetE seems to have a better perspective on life most of the time. Not that he can't throw one whopper of a fit if he wants to. But lately, sweetP loses it at the drop of a hat.

So I gently reminded the boys that they had more than enough time to get the room cleaned if they had started when I asked them too. SweetP came up to me later and asked what he would have to do to earn his gift back. I simply said that if he did what was asked of him, without complaint or being reminded, it would probably reappear under the tree.

Tonight he helped make his bed, he put away his towel and cuddled while we watched "Shrek the Halls." He is well on his way to getting his game back.

Meanwhile, the weather report calls for four more inches of snow tonight. It looks like it will be a white Christmas.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Fluffy White Stuff Continues

I got up this morning to more snow. This is so very rare in this part of the world. We don't even own a snow shovel, or even a flat shovel. We are well over a foot of snow. It is hard to measure with the layer of ice in the middle. The boys have been out playing in it and came in as little snowmen, covered head to toe.

I sent Ducky to the grocery store last night on foot to pick up a few necessities for Christmas dinner, just in case. We have everything except dessert taken care of.

The pots are completely covered in snow. The van is nearly lost in the snow as well. From the front you can't see it at all. The snow has picked up again. There are dozens of birds gathering in my willow by my bird feeder. I believe I better settle in for the long haul.

All this snow is reminding me of pictures of my early childhood where multiple feet of snow was common. The first four years of my life were spent where people had snowblowers and for good reason. A kid could get lost in all that snow. I think I will go wrap some presents.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Welcome Winter

Today is the first official day of winter. We all know it started a while ago. In our little corner of the world it started last Sunday. I enjoyed my week off. Normally when we get snow it lasts for a day or two tops and only happens once, maybe twice each winter. Mother Nature is really outdoing herself this year.

Last week, we got a couple of inches and it would melt and freeze. Saturday, it started to snow early in the morning. And continued all day. It was quiet and peaceful watching the flakes drift down in varying densities over the course of the day. Ducky took the boys to the park to go sledding and I started a fire in the fireplace and settled in with a book. My idea of the perfect winter day. Periodically, I would head out with a ruler and measure the snow fall.

At dinner I took a picture of the pots on the deck. I hope they make it through without breaking and the plants survive too. The snow was soft and fluffy and slightly crunchy.

Three hours later, it was still snowing enough to completely hide one of the pots. I kept the curtains open to enjoy the winter beauty outside. The neighbors all had their Christmas lights on. It was magical to see. I sat and looked out the upstairs window and the glittering world around me. Before I went to bed, I went out for a last measurement, 8.5 inches. There was a light crust on the top and a slight sheen to the landscape.

This morning, I went out for a final measurement. There was 8 inches, the top .25 inch was solid ice. The trees were all glowy white with ice. Velcro was walking on top of it all, until he jumped off the deck and broke the ice layer. Poor guy, with his short legs he was high-centered. So I threw on my snow boots and coat over my pajamas and went out to break him a trail. I nearly took a nose-dive in the process. The rest of the day has been spent by another fire, working Sudoku, stitching projects, reading and enjoying the warm glow of the fire.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Snow Week

So it turned out to be a snow week. And what a glorious unexpected gift it was. Monday had the start of a headache, but upping my liquid consumption took care of it. Otherwise it was headache free and fun. I got projects done. I played games with boys. I lounged. I slept in every day. Some days I was productive, others not as much.

Last night I was running around town picking up supplies for school projects, just in case. I have two tubs of frosting for gingerbread houses. I have a book about fairies for a book exchange. It is time to put work away for more than a week. I am giving myself permission to not think about plans or papers or anything else school related. I am going to enjoy the holidays and time with my family. There are cookies, movies and other fun planned. I'll be spilling the beans here.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

An Unexpected Gift

The last two weeks have been stressful. It is a vicious cycle, get a migraine, get behind, get more stressed, get more migraines. In 14 days, I had six migraines. I was falling further and further behind at home, at work, everywhere.

But Mother Nature intervened with a most welcome and unexpected gift. Snow. We get snow so rarely that everything shuts down when we do get it. I am on my third snow day. Woo-hoo!

Last week I was shopping at a seasonal Christmas store and found this really cute ornament. It is an apple and on the back it says "I love snow days!" It was so perfect that I bought two, one for me and one for my teaching partner. It must have worked because we got our tree on Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning it was snowing.

Monday, I played out in the snow with the boys for two hours. All I can say is thank you Columbia Sportswear, you kept me warm. We made cookies, frosted and decorated them. We hung out and enjoyed the day. No stress, no worries, just me and my boys. The boys attempted to make snow men in the afternoon. The snow was too dry and it was too cold, so they improvised.

After such a relaxing day on Monday, Tuesday was another snow day. So I got productive. Yesterday, I worked on laundry and put clean sheets on our bed. I thoroughly cleaned the living and dining rooms rather than my quick spruce up. The dog hair tumbleweeds were preparing to take over and were being fed by little boy crumbs under the table. Our house felt so clean and fresh when you walked in the door. Then I got to work on some projects.

I started these curtains nearly two years ago. I was making them for my girlfriends baby's room. I got the valances made before she arrived. But life has been just a little too hectic to get the actual curtains done. Now, there are blinds up in her room, so she has not been being blinded by the sun every day. I feel bad that it has taken this long, but I can only manage so much. I had taken a pre-made curtain. I had to hem it, add the decorative ribbon and then add blackout fabric. It didn't seem like much, but it took me about four hours per curtain. And eight hours for projects is hard to come by. I had finished one of the them two weeks ago and really wanted to get the other one done. So that was my Tuesday afternoon project. And now they are done! Aren't they cute. I still plan to make a crib skirt, but I don't have the measurements. So when I drop off the curtains, I'll measure. Maybe I will have that done before the new year.

I wasn't done yet. I had the urge to project some more. I have a goal to give up wrapping paper. I want to (slowly, over the years) make cloth bags to put gifts in. Granted they won't be as fun to rip into, but it will create so much less waste and save us money in the long run. And they can be beautiful too. So I decided to make one yesterday. I was watching TV with the boys and this one is hand stitched. I thought it turned out pretty cute. My thumb is a little sore today from pushing the needle through the felt.

Yesterday was very productive and and relaxing. I'm curious to see what today brings. And whether we will end up with a three week winter break. There is another storm arriving today with cold temperatures and more snow.

PS, this is my 300th post! I have never been this successful in anything that could be considered journaling in my entire life. And I have tried many times before.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Oh Christmas Tree

We had great aspirations of going to a U-cut place to cut our tree this year. Last Saturday the weather was perfect for it. But my dad was here and we don't usually get our tree until two weeks before Christmas. The plan all week was to get it today.

The day dawned wet and dreary. I had a migraine hangover. The van needed new tires and the previous owner had put wheel locks on it and we couldn't find the key. Ducky spent the better part of the day taking care of the tire problem, safety first. It wasn't until almost dusk that we headed out to get a tree.

So we ended up going to the tree lot that we use every year. Somehow we always end up there. The boys like it because they give them Hot Wheels cars. We had our own personal tree shopper. He ran around and found a Noble fir, that was about 6 feet tall, not too fat, but nice and full. He trimmed the lower branches and gave it a fresh cut. Then we were on our merry way.

Once upon a time, putting the tree in the tree stand caused excessive cursing and perspiration. Now, we have a beautiful cast iron stand that works the first time and makes everyone happy. I picked it up for $20 at a post Christmas sale before sweetP was born. Then we didn't get to use it for years because we got such little, tabletop trees to keep them out of the reach of little hands.

After dinner the boys helped decorate the tree. I had threatened to not get a tree this year when I was abandoned by the entire family last year to decorate the whole thing myself. We had fun seeing the special ornaments again and remembering years past. My job was to unpack and hand out ornaments and Ducky and the boys hung them. Ducky was attempting to get the boys to put them on all over the tree and to find strong branches for the heavy ornaments. The boys just went willy-nilly and put them wherever. There was one branch that had four ornaments on it.

In the end it is beautiful. I just have to avoid looking at Darth Vader.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


Two weeks left of school before break.
Four migraines in the last eight days.
The work is piling up, and I am helpless to get caught up. At least until I stop having migraines every other day.
Getting farther behind makes me stress, stress helps cause migraines, migraines make me get further behind.

I only have to make it nine more work days.

Monday, December 1, 2008

That's Yucky!

We have an ongoing battle in our house. It is called dinner. My boys come by their pickiness honestly. I am picky or hypersensitive to taste and texture. It all depends on how you look at it. So I can understand it. But it doesn't make it any easier to be the head chef. My dinners are generally pronounced to be yucky or gross well before they arrive at the table. Little do they know how gross it can get. I have yet to serve an internal organ for dinner.

Last night for dinner I was serving meatballs. Teriyaki & pineapple meatballs made entirely of chicken. They were quite tasty. But the moment that sweetE realized I was heating up the oven to make meatballs, not dino nuggets, he was up in arms. "I don't want meatballs, I don't like meatballs, I want chicken nuggets."

Being the creative kid that he is, he drew a picture. He asked me how to draw no. So I wrote the word no on a piece of paper. That was not what he had in mind. So I drew a circle with a slash through it. That is what he wanted. Then he required a piece of tape.

This is what I got.

The man on my oven was saying no. At first it was no to the oven. Then it was no to using the oven to make meatballs. Had I wanted to switch and make dino nuggets, that would have been okay.

Later when dinner was made and it was time to eat, there was the usual complaints. But when he actually tried the meatball, he thought it was okay, good even. Not good enough to eat more than one bite, but certainly not the horror that he had made it out to be.

Tonight we had the same, eww, gross response to dinner while in the pan. But sweetE ate it all and wanted more. I also instituted the "You have to choose one dinner and help me make it per week, and it can't be pizza every week" rule. I'll let you know how it goes.