Thursday, December 31, 2009

Christmas Tree

If you had been outside my house last night you would have seen the following:

The taking down of the pitiful Christmas Tree. The poor thing was chopped down sometime this last year and left in our yard until we got around to completing the cutting of logs, and piling of branches several months later. It was already 1/2 dead, needles falling off, lopsided, curved trunk. Lately there was a solid carpet beneath it of fallen needles - the husband was done - "out today or else". It was decorated with just what was deemed unbreakable due to cat & dogs & children running next to it's instability. Pitiful, yet lovely in an almost Charlie Brown kind of way!

You would have heard the sadness in children's voices at the ending of the Christmas Tree, and a Mama who agreed that it was too early to be without - after all, more family was coming over on the 2nd for a Christmas Party.

You would have then witnessed the comedy of the Box Elder Branch, followed closely by the comedy of the Willow Branch.

I figured I had found the perfect solution - a branch wouldn't shed like the pine does, it would still hold our ornaments, still fit in our tree stand, still look pretty at night with the lights on it...

The first branch was brought in, and I easily put it up. The kids & I set to work decorating, it was 95% done when Vin decided to put the "necklaces" on - bead garland. He threw it at the tree, and it toppled on top of him. He was fine, no ornaments broke, so I hoisted it back up into place, warning him that we couldn't pull on the tree. I spent the next hour trying everything i could think of to get it to stand up again. I tried just putting it back up, but it kept leaning, and toppling. I tried putting playdough under it, cutting the bottom (3 different times), putting it in a pot of dirt - nothing would keep it up. I broke 2 ornaments, started dinner, sister showed up with my niece to stay the week, got part of dinner on the table, sister got ready to go, finally decided that I needed a different branch. Yes, I know, I should have just given up at this point, and been contented with our "yule log" that was decorated on our dining room table - but I just couldn't! I even undecorated it in case it was unbalanced from the preschool decorating (5 ornaments on one branch). So as my sister left, I went out and found another branch. This one a much lighter willow with what appeared to be a straighter stem.

Well, it had longer branches, and I nearly broke several valuable items trying to pull it from the kitchen to the dining room. I finally pulled it in and started pruning, then sawed down the trunk, and set it in the stand... twice. FINALLY! It was up. Unfortunately at that point I was so frustrated that I wouldn't let the kids help, and warned them repeatedly that they couldn't go anywhere near it.

And as I lay on the sofa, having put the children to bed, stretched out and enjoying the Christmas lights and silence, my husband returns from his work day and I show him proudly how the Christmas tree is gone, and the needles all clean up, and how lovely the new "tree" is, and he says "Why?" ppppbbbbbtttttt! I'm sorry, you're overruled, we want Christmas to last longer!

I love holiday lights & ornaments. Every year it is my one "splurge" to buy myself a fancy ornament. I used to keep them out all year, hanging in my windows, but they were getting in the way of the opening & closing of said windows so I've had to stop except for a few. I even used to have a red, fiber optic tree that I would keep out as my Valentine's tree - but that got "forgotten" in storage when we moved.

I don't like the urgency with which the holiday is packed away until next year - and yes, I am someone who keeps the pretty painted eggs out on display all year as well!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

From the bottom and looking up

I am paying the consequences for my poor choices and mistakes.

1. my attempts at refinancing and consolidating debt have so far failed. (appraisal came back very low in value)
2. my attempts at taking advantage of my high credit limit credit card and transferring balances have failed. (credit card cut my credit limit)
3. my attempts at selling stuff to increase my income have failed. (no one has followed through in purchasing)

On the positive side, I've been able to keep our spending under control - well, except for the day when we had to get the cars repaired, and we didn't have any money to pay for it, so we put it on the credit card. sigh.

When every penny goes to bills. And what little is left is barely enough to cover groceries and gasoline. What do you do? I know the other expenses are going to come, but I just can't find the money to keep any savings around.

This weeks tasks include calling my insurance company to reduce my home insurance rate, calling my county to see if they'll lower my taxes based on the new appraisal, calling credit card companies to see if someone will consolidate and transfer balances. Things I'm considering - dropping our life insurance again or dropping the value, in the grand scheme of things I know it's not a good idea, but for the temporary I only have so many expenses I can cut. I should also try to find all my medical expenses and try to get reimbursed by my HSA card. hmmm. I wonder if there is a time limit on that.

On another positive note, I have not yet exceeded my "Official Holiday Budget" which is supposed to encompass all November & December events and gifts. I need to reevaluate tonight and go shopping tonight too. We have two parties to attend on Saturday, and some ideas of things to purchase at the big T. Also planning on taking V's Birthday Funds to purchase some fun new bedding for his new big bed. Wheee.

I'm getting excited for our Christmas cards to be finished. This year I had the kids write Merry Christmas, and then hold their words while I photographed them in front of our wood pile, and then we'll put them in the black paper with silver marker drawings they've been doing. I can't wait to see them put together.

Other things I'm hoping to do this Christmas: Cookie baking on the 20th. For unexpected gifts, I'd like to put together gift "baskets".

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Financial Stress

I understand money. I've chosen to ignore it for most of a year. Well, not really so much as only let myself be stressed by it twice per month when I sit down to pay the bills. I do periodically sit down and try to make a budget. I do check my bank balance most days to be sure I'm not overdrawn...

All that being said, I've come to the point where I'm tired of living in denile. I HATE DEBT! It is exactly what everyone says, the evil thing that drags you down. I am up to my eyeballs in it. All those things that just couldn't wait, and now I'll be paying on for the next who know how many years.

My major problem is that I am not currently bringing in enough income to cover everything. That is, the normal day to day, expected expenses - no problem. But as is evidenced by the past few months, I don't have any room for unexpected expenses. Not to say I don't expect them, it's just I keep hoping they won't show up. Like car repair. I plan my gasoline and oil changes, but anything beyond that goes on the credit card because i don't have the money for it. Then there are the weeks I forget to pull my $20 allowance, or the husbands, and one of us wants to get something, and it happens a couple times, and without the cash only restriction, it goes above the planned amount, and I find myself $10 short, and another autotransfer of $300 "richer" from my bounce protect loan. So to keep myself from stressing, I leave it there, and end up with another month of debt accrual.

So here is the plan today, I will call my insurance company and try to reduce my homeowners insurance. This will in turn reduce my mortgage! I will also talk to the tax office to see if they'll agree to use the appraisal value for my taxes instead of the tax value. This should reduce taxes, and reduce my mortgage. I've already switched to slower internet, and smaller trash can. I'm trying to remember to turn off electrical sources - but I need to try harder. I did request the electric budget plan - where it's the same amount each month - hopefully that helps a little.

We currently have listed our vehicles online for sale. I am hoping to find somewhere or someone to buy my stuff - whatever that is, so I can increase income a little. I'm pondering a 2nd job, but don't know how we'd fit it into our current schedule, unless I never sleep, or we get childcare - which would most likely cancel out the income.

My refinance didn't come through the way I hoped. Instead it said my home value was WAY lower than expected. Also learned that the lovely government programs don't apply to me either. So I continue on dragging my head and praying for miracles.

The reason for this slump down instead of the last posts positive tone: It's only the 3rd, and I'm already out of money until next weekend, so all my gasoline, and anything else we need has to come off the credit cards. No way around it because I didn't get to evaluating the autopay bills in time to stop any of them from clearing my account, and ended up over budget.

Ain't life grand.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

My attempts at getting out of debt

I try to limit weekly spending to $40. Hubby & I each get $20 at the beginning of the week to spend on whatever we want/need. Since I'm the primary grocery girl, I tend to spend mine on weekly grocery deals.

When it comes to groceries, I limit myself to 1. things we need (don't have a suitable substitute for). 2. if it isn't on the list, it better be the best deal ever. 3. I try to never buy meat for more than $2 per pound (still working on a suitable substitute to my hubby's desire to give kids lunchmeat every day for lunch - still working on several of his daily "needs"). 4. As often as possible, I take advantage of store weekly deals & coupons.

This week at Cub I picked up:
4 boxes of phili cream cheese .88 each - not a usual purchase, but i adore cheesecake and want to try to make it again.
2 boxes of butter .98 each - we are a butter only family, so any time it goes under 2.50 a pound I buy a bunch and keep it in the freezer.
6 cans of beans/corn .37 each - when rinsed thoroughly its a tollerable substitute to fresh veggies.
2 bags of marshmallows - son's birthday request includes a fire breathing dragon to roast marshmallows at.
1 can of coffee - great deal at 3.98 - we're daily pot of coffee people
2 5lb bags of potatoes at .68 each - wow
2 cans cranberries .98 each
2 bags stuffing 1.48 each - we like to use this for fish breading & mixing with eggs

I plan on making a second trip this week to get several more of the above items, as well as their great deal on the .39 per pound turkey. Yipee! if only I had a big freezer i could stock up and get several.

I always check, even when something looks like a good deal, to see if it really is cheaper by checking the price per ounce price on the store displays. I'm not brand oriented, so whichever is cheapest is usually what I get.

I'm currently just paying minimums on my credit cards because I'm hoping to refinance and consolidate some debts to help us get from under this load. As soon as the consolidation/refinance go through, I plan on doing some balance transfer deals to get the rest of my debt onto one card so i can get it paid down quicker.

Other things: I'm working at filling out "energy assistance" paperwork. I took the kids off my insurance and will add them to MN Care after 4 months (1/2 the cost of what I was paying). I also have been approved for Alina's medical assistance program to cover all other med costs!

Things still to do: figure out other ways to reduce our bills - like adjust our insurance to be lower (higher deductibles and other adjustments) - use less electric & more wood heat...

I've set a holiday budget (thanksgiving & christmas) at $200. This is really low considering last year I spent that much on my name draw family and I'm hoping to add in the thanksgiving party & vin's birthday into the mix!! Let's see how i do :)

I'm feeling fairly comfortable with things this week, but I'm between checks and can't spend anything until the hubby's check clears this weekend - however, according to my sheet i shouldn't need to spend anything except the money to grocery trip reload & turkey.

As sad as it sounds, I'm pleased to say I've been 24 days without credit card assistance!

One step forward!

Monday, June 8, 2009


There are certain number that make me stressed out! Primarily budgets, income vs. outflow. And let me tell you, we are in the red almost every month. This makes me very cranky, because last august, after the sale of our home, and purchase of this home, our ONLY debt was the house. sigh. Then there was this list of things we NEEDED, and the list of things we wanted, and the list of things that just couldn't wait. Here we are again up to our noses in ugly debt. Drowning in it. And I can't seem to get a grip on it. In the past, we've gotten bad, but I've always been able to figure it out, get us back on track, set up the budget. This time, I just get stressed out!

So I keep reading the blogs I love about budgeting, and read the schemes on making money on the internet, and keep checking the job ads for that perfect pay me millions to stay home and play with my kids job... and still can't make ends meet.

But those faces in the photo make me long to live simply, and rightly. I want to teach them the value of hard work, and budgets, and savings! I want them to live in a way that they understand how to save for something they need or want - instead of just getting it! The economy doesn't make it much better. My usual route of consolidating to one low interest credit card or refinancing my mortgage to include the debt seems to be stymied as well. It's time to figure it out. We are drowning, but somehow, we will get through this. We didn't get into debt overnight (although it feels that way) so I guess it will take at least twice as long to get out (maybe even 10 times as long). So it is here and now that I will say again, I want to live debt free. I want to live on a budget. I want to stop spending!

Step 1 I have read is to track spending and come up with a budget - I'll try to do that before I post again. And I'll also try to post the blog links that i'm reading now, as well as the websites I'm visiting.

Thanks for your support!

Friday, June 5, 2009

My many hats

Accountant Hat:
I am an accounting assistant for this year's conference. I am working with FilemakerPro. It is our database. We have in the past sent out invoices from it, but generally we send them out one person at a time. Well, having learned a little more about reporting this year, I included a grand total at the bottom of my invoices! Invoice 6000 has 3 attendees on it referenced with a school district PO#123456. The invoice itself lists one attendee's detail, with a subtotal at the bottom, I think included a sheet listing all the people included with that invoice. Well, I had one schools district who sent 10 attendees on 5 POs, and two without PO numbers. Their invoice says one invoice per PO. So I wrote up Invoice 6001 on PO 123457 with one attendee at $10, and invoice 6002 on PO 123458 with three attendees at $30, etc. I sent the 6 invoices, with their 5 POs and a list of all their attendees which included that PO number and Invoice number. Well, they sent back a check with their own PO numbers listed, but only paid for one attendee on each PO/invoice. When I called to clarify, she said it was because my invoices listed two amounts, and I didn't include a po number. sigh. They are not my only payee, yet so far, no one else has been confused with my system. Despite this set back I have managed to so far collect on 1/3 of my invoicees!

Photography, renaissance, mama hat:
In today's photo is Lily during the 2007 season playing with the wood blocks provided by the lovely panini's after parade. This will be her last year with this dress. Actually, it might not even make it - it just fits her now. So we are seeking out the next phase of her costume. We have to find some way to keep her in a hoop (as long as she'll allow it). She is my hoop baby after all!

Mama hat:
Since we first moved into our new home Vincente has periodically mentioned wanting the phone port in his room removed. I pulled the port itself, but kept the small white wire curled against itself in the hole in the baseboard. Vincente wasn't quite satisfied with it, and I kept forgetting to check with Seth to see if we needed it. The other night I discovered why he keeps bringing up the silly cord that sticks out of the wall. It is a "scary". (The kids don't usually have monsters that scare them, they have Scaries. Monsters we generally like! Well, as Lily puts it, we like the little monsters, not the big ones, because the little ones sleep with us, but the big ones don't always want to go to sleep.) Seth got to be the hero this time, and remembered to ask Vincente about it, and removed it! Now all is well in Vincetne's room!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


Katie & Henry. Our pretty black lab mix dogs. Mother & (we think) father of our 7 cute puppies.

We were originally thinking we might keep one puppy, however, with money where it is, we are planning on sending off all 7 to new homes. We have two people coming Saturday to pick which ones will be theirs. Yippee. At four weeks old, the puppies are playful and starting to try out soft puppy food. I'm also working on beginning potty training. I'm hoping to get the porch rearranged soon so that the puppies have more space to play and also to get them some fun chew toys.

Husband & I spent quite a bit of time last night talking about plans. Daughter's birthday party plans, and money matters. I'm getting very excited to put on a Tea Party for my little girl. She's turning three and declares that anytime she or I wear a skirt or dress we're princesses. She loves butterflies, flowers, kitties, and puppies!

Monday, June 1, 2009

One of those days

Ever have one of those days where you just
want to go back to bed and start over?

I made the mistake of stepping onto the scale this morning out of curiosity. I haven't been on the scale for months, and I knew I had gained a little. It's just so horrible how much those numbers can change the flavour of the day. I try so hard to not let my size, my weight, affect me. I don't want my kids growing up taking on my skewed perspectives on myself. I want them to love themselves for themselves. So the scale is officially being banished from my home! We can weigh in at the doctor's annual visit.

After the lovely numbers this morning, I was faced with a day of more numbers. Accounting. Piles of numbers that just make less and less sense as I try to sort them out. It's the conference wrap up stuff. Numbers that have been taking way too much time to go through. Things that seem like they went so smoothly every other year for the usual accounting staff. grumble. I've tried so hard to keep things in order, only when requested of me, I feel like I have to start back at the beginning.

And then, to my joy, this is the evening I promised my husband I would get our budget in place. Great timing on my part. Although, right now I'm pretending that it isn't on the to do list. Internet diversions abound!

I have been reading several blogs all having to do with budgeting, money, and living simply. It is my goal. I'll post the links once I figure out how. I'm also seeking out alternative income sources. I can add adverts to this blog, and get paid every time you click on it. I am trying to take occasional survey's that are supposed to make me money. And finally, there is the sale of things in my home, as in, puppies, eggs, clothes, candles, arts stuffs.

About the puppies. Weighed one of them today - 4.5lbs. 7 cute little bundles of wiggles, tongues, and mini barks. Adorable all. It's going to be so hard to let them go. I'm really hoping to have them all spoken for in the next couple weeks, so that it's easier to give them up! They're almost 4 weeks old now.

Friday, May 29, 2009

5/29 - Jacob as his own grandpa

My 13 year old - looking like he's someone's grandpa. This photo is not as creepy as it was seeing him for real. They sure do grow up fast. giggle.

I've been thinking lately about how long I've known Seth & Jacob. How much our lives have changed, how much we've grown. Seth & I were married 5 years ago - Jacob was 8 then. I actually don't remember how long I've known him, it always seems he's been part of my life.

I'm very proud of the young man he's becoming. He is gentle and kind. He is polite, and still remains able to be playful. That is something we try so hard at, giving him the chance to just be a kid as often as possible. He's smart, cute, and kind - some girl is going to be so lucky to get him *when he's 50 - cuz there will be no girls until then!!!!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

May 8, 2009 - Puppy Love

On May 6th, 2009 our dog Katie gave birth to 7 puppies. 3 girls, 4 boys. The two most distinctive ones are shown in the foreground of this photo. After telling our 13 year old about their birth, he said we should name them: Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday. These are of course temporary names :). Monday, also known as Panda is at the bottom of the pile here. Also in the foreground is Sunday, who looks like a St. Bernard. She has cycled through several names including: Bailey, Bernie, Lucy... She's the current favorite of many puppy-gazers. The current plan is to keep them until they are 8-10 weeks old and then send them to their new homes (small rehoming fee applies). They are black lab mix. 5 of them have only small amounts of white. If you know of someone looking for a puppy, let us know asap, we'd like to assign them homes before the kids get too attached.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Mother's Day, May 10, 2009

We moved into our home on August 1, 2008. When we moved in the grass was 2-3 feet high everywhere. There were daisies, and lilies all over the place in what we figured was an overgrown field. Instead, this spring, we were overjoyed to discover cement paths encircling perennial gardens. We still haven't fully unearthed everything. So far we've watched daffodils, iris, tulip, and lilies of the valley bloom. We are watching pansies, roses, and lilacs pop up everwhere. And patches of lilies like you've never seen before. And all of this - in MY yard.

The kids were more than happy to run around the path at my request. They're wearing "Sunday Clothes". Lily's dress we found at Kohl's on clearance. I love having kids to play dress-up with. Although, Vincente picked out the outfit on this particular day - he loves wearing his bow-tie!