Faith, Family, Friends, Fellowship, Food, and Fun

Friday, January 30, 2009

Saving dough

I am not a big spender. I never have been. I never could be. I got a job when I was 16 and worked a 2nd job as a lifeguard every summer. I had to buy my own cars and put myself through college. I was not just another one of those 'poor students,' I was so poor that I qualified for food stamps and housing assistance. Even though it was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life, I think it taught me to spend money on the things that are needed, not wanted.

When I graduated from college in '96, I started teaching at $24,000. Isn't that sad? I lived with my parents (boy was that fun) that first year and saved all I could to buy a house. I did it too. It was a nice house, one year old, over 1800 square feet, perfect for a little family. I had a little more money since I was a working woman, but money was still tight. I was paying back student loans. Things continued to be tight as I furnished my house.

I moved back to College Station in 2003 to work on my Master's. One class cost over $1,000! That's just not worth it for a teacher who will only get $1500 more each year for a Master's. I also got married that year. We sold the house in Fort Worth and bought a house here but it wasn't 1800 square feet. Oh no, houses here cost much, MUCH more than in Fort Worth. Our house was a little more than 1600 sq ft AND it still cost more. We didn't pay for cable. We didn't run out and buy furniture and draperies for each room. We got the cheapest cell phone plans available. We continued living simply. We turn lights off when we leave a room- my mom used to charge my brother and me if we left lights on. If you know my mother, that doesn't surprise you. We keep the air on 78 as recommended by air specialists. We use our fans. We conserve fuel by not running several errands a week, we make lists and go run all our errands at once. We were eating "out" a few times a week, but mostly fast food. We buy our groceries at the best priced place in town and trust me, that's not fun. It is always crowded and most of the people are running around like a family of ants whose ant bed was just stomped on. Thankfully we only have to go there every 3-4 weeks because I can plan that far ahead. I buy about 10 lbs of ground meat at a time and divide it by the pound when we get home. I freeze a few pounds raw. I cook some with onion and freeze it. Then I cook the rest with taco seasoning and freeze that. Then I only have to clean the pan once. I mean Stephen only has to clean the pan once. I'm not a big dishes fan. You are ready for 10 meals like burgers, Taco soup, chili, enchiladas and more (recipes on my blog). We do the same thing with chicken. We buy a huge bag at Sam's and grill it, then either use it the rest of the week in pasta salad, garden salads, casseroles, enchiladas, etc... or we freeze it and have it ready for recipes that call for cooked chicken.

When our first was born, we went into debt. She was premature and it's a long story but, a lot was not covered by our insurance. The debt kept mounting. Then our 2nd was born prematurely too and while it didn't cost as much as our first, it still put us behind even more. We got some loans from family and we cut up all credit cards which we didn't abuse, but they were convenient for grabbing a bite out. Then our 3rd was born prematurely too! You guessed it, more medical bills. We were definitely struggling and could not cut back any more. We stopped eating out completely.

You know all the guests on Oprah and Dr. Phil like Suzy Orman? I never learn anything new from them because I had to cut back a long time ago. We don't have nice cars, but we won't have any more car payments after this summer. Clothes and shoes are cute but I don't buy trendy because next year they won't be so trendy. I think that's a waste.

Last May we bought a brand new house BUT our payments are hundreds less because it is outside city limits, taxes are lower, and it is bottom of the line cabinets, lighting fixtures, etc... We can change that out a little at a time. We want to save money now so we can buy bigger and better in the future, when all the kids are in school and we are both working full time.

Last summer, we finally payed off our last credit card and started paying back that family loan. We were told we didn't have to pay the loan back but we insisted! Things have been looking up. Stephen got another job and his video business has been growing. It's a little strange because while things are getting better for us, our economy is really hurting those around us.

With Stephen working nights Monday through Thursday since September, we have been going out to eat every Friday night and calling it Family Night. Woo Hoo, what an excuse to eat out. Last week our bill was $29 including tip but it hit me that Friday Night Family Night was costing about $120 a month and then we always grab McDonald's on the way home from church and that's $12/wk, $48/month so we're spending about $170 a month eating out. Let me grab my calculator, that's $2,040 a year. I told Stephen that we need to cut back. We need to compromise. Every other Friday we'll grab take out and save at least $8 in tips and drinks. And instead of McDonald's where we eat off of the dollar menu and the kids expect Happy Meals, we'll grab Sonic's $1 menu. We can all eat for $7.50 and get drinks at home.

So what about you? Have you had to find a unique way of saving money?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

I should be glowing.

Not the pregnant type of glowing, but the radiation type. On the 15th I went to the dentist in the morning and they took x-rays. That afternoon, I went to a family doctor about back pain I'd been having for almost 10 years. I first noticed it when Heather and I were walking DAILY. FOR AN HOUR! Yep, back when we had no kids. Anyway, I'd be walking along and realize I was holding my lower back. I don't know why I didn't have it checked out back then. I guess it went away. I had more back pain in my third trimester when I was pregnant with Lauren but ya know, you can't have x-rays when you're pregnant so I just lived with the pain. I forgot about it until my third trimester with Caleb and again with Abby.

Well, last month it started up again when I was home for Christmas break. I think it was overly agitated because I was on my feet all day baking and cleaning and baking. Plus, Abby really wanted to be held a lot. The pain was so excruciating that one night, Stephen asked me if I was going to need to go in to the ER. I said no but we might need to fill a prescription for some good pain pills. We didn't by the way.

So...after my surgery in December, I figured I had already payed the $500 hospital co-pay plus the 20%, I might as well get my money's worth and get my back checked out. So I went to a family doctor, payed the doctor's co-pay, and he sent me for x-rays. That was another $70 upfront. Then I was sent for the CT Scan and that was $285 up front plus we are being billed for another $285. OUCH! Did I mention that my teeth cleaning is going to be $300 because I haven't been to a dentist in 10 years and had horrible plaque build-up. So go to your dentist bi-annually!

In case you didn't see it on Facebook, I have Degenerative Joint Disease and I need to make an appointment with a specialist to find out what my treatment options are.

It's only money, right?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

My New Theme Song

Have you seen the video above? This is from one of Caleb's Thomas DVDs we had playing in the van. For some reason, whenever this song comes on, Caleb and Lauren laugh hysterically. Lately Abby laughs too. I catch myself singing it all day long and making up my own lyrics such as: We're busy, so busy, cleaning house all day. Busy so busy, and all for no pay. We're cleaning this and folding that, shaking out the welcome mat...."will you please let go of that!?!" We're busy, busy, busy!

The kids think it is funny.

Whenever Caleb asks me to fasten his trains together and I tell him I am busy, he begs me to sing the song.

Maybe one of these days I'll complete the lyrics to the Mommy's Busy Song. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Digital Scrapbooking

So, I started scrapbooking a little over 10 years ago. I LOVE scrapbooking, really, I do. I love being creative with the tons of pictures I take and all the neat papers, ribbons, tags, embellishments, etc... But let's be serious, I don't have time to scrap and I am running out of room to store all my supplies. Ya know those scrappers who post pictures of their scrap rooms on Two Peas in a Bucket? Yeah, they make me sick! Gag! An entire room for scrapbooking? They must not have children!

The last time I scrapped was over a year ago and I left off with August 2007! I haven't printed one picture of 2008 and we are at the end of January 2009. When am I supposed to scrap all the fabulous moments I've captured on film---I mean memory stick? Anyone else out there have that problem?

Well, awhile back, a dear friend tried to convince me to go to digital scrapbooking. I am the person who got her hooked on scrapping in the first place (and blogging too). I agreed that the quality is nice but I wasn't convinced that digital scrapping was as fun and what would I do with the hundreds, maybe thousands of papers I have already bought? What about all the pictures from 2007 that I've printed? I WAS NOT going to go digital! ABSOLUTELY NOT! NEVER!

But lately I've been thinking.....lately I've been putting the kids to bed a little earlier and have even had time to pick up before going to bed. I've actually had a LITTLE "me time" for the first time in over a year.

If I go digital:

*I can scrap in bed with a laptop.
*I can scrap from anywhere.....while Stephen is driving on road trips...from work when my students don't come because they are on a field trip or maybe at an assembly
*I won't have a big mess to pick up when I'm finished.
*The scrapbooks will take up a lot less space.
*I can print one for each child and maybe even another one for grandparent gifts.

So I am going to go digital as soon as I scrap all the pictures I've printed and I want to know if any of you scrap digitally. If so, who do you use and how much does it cost?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Do you know what this is?

The Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) will be signed into law if Congress passes it on January 21-22, 2009.
If signed into law, ALL limitations on abortion will be lifted, resulting in the following:

1) All hospitals, including Catholic hospitals, will be required to perform abortions upon request. If this happens, Bishops vow to close down all Catholic hospitals - more then 30% of all hospitals in the U.S.
2) Partial birth abortions will be legal and have no limitations.
3) All U.S. taxpayers will be funding abortions.
4) Informed consent laws protecting women would be eliminated
5) Parental notification of abortions on minors will no longer be required (regardless of age).

Just as important, the government will now have control in the issue of abortion. This could result in a future amendment that would force women by law to have abortions in certain situations (rape, Down Syndrome babies, etc) and could even regulate how many children women are allowed to have.Needless to say this information is disturbing, but sadly true. As Catholics, as Christians, as anyone who is against the needless killing of innocent children, we must stand as one.

Please do the following things:
1) Pass this letter to as many people as possible
2) PRAY, asking God to prevent the FOCA from becoming law in the U.S.
3) Write to your congressman or congresswoman and tell them your thoughts at Senate and House.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


I have finally moved all of my recipes to my recipe blog. If you haven't checked it out in awhile, please drop by and check out over 200 recipes that I have actually made. There will be a new recipe every day through at least April 2009. By the way, I have 72 "Busy Mom's Meals", guaranteed to be quick, easy, and with little clean up.

Monday, January 12, 2009

A much deserved fabulous evening!

Stephen and I joined a supper club through our church almost 2 years ago. Our supper club consists of 4 couples and we alternate hosting a dinner party at our homes. Last night we got to meet again with our friends and after enjoying a fabulous dinner, we played the game Apples to Apples. Stephen and I haven't played any adult (I mean grown-up) games since Lauren was born. We've never played with a group either. We had a blast. We haven't laughed so hard in years- isn't that sad? I feel like I saw a side of Stephen that I haven't seen before. We would have loved to stay and play for hours but we had to get home to the kids and get our sitter home as well. We are really looking forward to the next supper club but I must admit, I don't think we can wait that long. We'll just have to plan up our own night of fun adult games (I mean grown-up again) . That is my New Year's resolution, right?

You're all invited!

So tell me, what is your favorite game to play with your friends?

Friday, January 9, 2009

It's hard to punish children when they're so darn cute.

The last 3 days Lauren has not napped. Now, this wouldn't be a big deal if she didn't share a room with Abby. At naptime on Wednesday Stephen heard some laughter in the monitor and went in their room to find Lauren in Abby's crib along with the GIANT doodle bear my mom gave Lauren. She told Stephen she was trying to make Abby happy.

Yesterday we told Lauren that if she didn't take a nap, she wouldn't get to play at the playground. Again, she climbed into Abby's crib and didn't take a nap. When Caleb woke up, I put Lauren in his room where she played. Stephen and I decided that next time maybe we could try putting her in Caleb's room to nap with him since they sleep together when we go to my dad's.

Today, Lauren wasn't asleep when it was time to put Abby down so Stephen put her in Caleb's room, on her inflatable princess mattress, away from Caleb. Shortly after that, Stephen heard voices coming from Caleb's room and found them both playing on Caleb's bed. She had woken him up. Stephen let Caleb come out but Lauren was left to "sleep" in Caleb's room.

When I got home from work, Stephen filled me in on all the fun. I went upstairs to scold (I mean check on) Lauren. When I got into Caleb's room, I found Lauren standing next to Caleb's neatly made bed with his Thomas jammies neatly laid out for him. I had to leave the room before she saw the smirk on my face. How can you get your point across to a 4 year old when they see that what they have done was cute? I got Stephen and showed him. He too had to leave before Lauren caught on to the humor. Stephen came back in, we closed the door and got down to her level to talk to her. That's when Caleb came in.

Caleb: Lauren! (big hug)
Lauren: I have a surprise for you
Caleb: For me????
Lauren: For you!
Caleb: Thank you!
Lauren: You're welcome too! (Because that's what that ridiculous song on Yo Gabba Gabba says)

And we will try again tomorrow!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Abby's Birthday Party

Abby's 1st Birthday Party

Our first birthday party in town was a hit. When all the guests arrived, they got to decorate some clay dough ornaments I had made in advance. I set out paint (because I'm brave like that), sequins, and glitter glue. I made sure I had the first initial of each guest, even the tots.

Next everyone had a snack and then we played bingo. I made Tinker Bell bingo for Lauren's party and since this was a "fairy" too, it worked for me. I bought the prizes at the Dollar Tree. We were going to play, "Pass the Fairy Wand" like "hot potato" but 2 kids had a bingo at the same time and it used all my prizes.

Finally we opened presents and ate the cake. It was so much easier than all the previous parties where I had to make the cake days in advance and we had to pack up everything and cart it to Fort Worth. Even the clean up was a breeze. I can't wait until the next party!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Year's Resolution

I haven't made a resolution in years and hadn't planned on making one this year. Until today.

I have a never-ending list of things to do around the house and my list seems to get crossed off pretty slowly. I work all day and when I get home my husband leaves for work so there is never any time to even think about that list during the week...except to add things to it of course. Weekends are spent running errands, buying groceries, doing laundry, etc... there's no time for crossing things off lists, much less any time to visit with friends.

I usually get to tackle my lists on school holidays and was pretty excited about the 2 week Christmas break. As we were driving to Fort Worth to see my dad I made a 'bonus' list of things I still needed to do for Abby's birthday party which is Saturday. You know...go to the store to buy all the food, buy prizes for the games, buy goodie bags and the goodies, bake the cake, make the icing, frost the cake, clean the house-if that is truly possible, and so on. I figured I could get most of it done today. Actually, I know I can't go to bed tonight without having the cake close to finished, I never know how many hours the decorating process will take. It's crunch time ya know.

Last night a dear friend asked me if I wanted to get together today and let the kids play while we visited. We had a playdate over the summer and I swore I'd try to spend more time with her throughout the year. As much as I wanted to see her today (and needed to), I started writing her back to tell her how it was impossible, I have too much to do to get ready for the party. Then I stopped....erased my reply, and told her that YES, I absolutely wanted to get together. And we did!

Julia and her husband met us all for a lovely lunch at the neighborhood park and then when Jack Frost snuck up on us, we walked down to our house and had a wonderful visit while the kids did what kids do, play, play, play.

I must say it was surprising when her little boy came in to ask her to help him snap his pants as Lauren had taken them off. I could not imagine why on earth Lauren would do such a thing. So we asked, "Lauren, did you take his pants off?" "Uh-huh. We were playing doctor."


And her reply made perfect sense: "I have to take my pants off at the doctor's office to get a shot. I was giving him a shot."
We had a good laugh.
After they left Lauren cried and cried. She would mope around the house and say, "I miss Dominic." Then Caleb would do the same thing, "I miss Dominic." 30 minutes later we were threatening her about her crying. Even when she went down for her nap, she was asking when she'd get to see him again.

Today's visit was wonderful. I thought about how wish I could do it more often. I always tell myself we'll have our friends over for dinner sometime but I never seem to find the time to invite them. Weekends are for catching up, right?

So back to my New Year's Resolution. My resolution is to spend more time with friends. The house can wait. The organizing can wait. It will always be there. Making memories with friends won't be there unless you make time for it. So whatever your resolution may be, be sure and focus on what is really important!