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Archive for November, 2010

I'm Back (Lots of blather)

November 29th, 2010 at 02:19 pm


Funny, feels like I've been away for awhile (Thanksgiving, party, Irish Dance have been all consuming).

My inlaws were in town since Thursday, left this AM. I have learned that it is easier to have house guests who are generally happy in nature, rather than crabby. Crabby people tend to cast a crabby shadow over everything. I was grateful that my inlaws were here to help out with the boys during this Irish Dance weekend. I just wish they were happier people, in general.

I learned that just because you're hosting a small Thanksgiving get together, get the big turkey anyhow! Side dish left overs aren't worth anything if there isn't turkey to eat with it.

I learned that sometimes it is worth it to go big in the guest list, too. My girls had a party and I invited their best friends and their families, plus my cousin and her family (this meant lots of kids). I also invited my brother's x-gf who had a good relationship with my girls. It was 40 people, but it was good fun, and laughing, and a nice time. I said there was a 9 o'clock end time. People were all gone by 9:30, and I had a "yes" Mom-moment when I left my oldest daughter's best friend sleep over before the HUGEST competition ever. Both girls were quiet by 10, up at 8, and pleasant.

I learned it is best to follow your gut and not tan your daughter's legs as dark as you think their teachers want them. Nothing as bad as having Oompah-Loompah orange legs on a stage and a face that doesn't match. I stressed too much about wigs, that problem didn't exist. The teacher cut the younger dancers wig, the older dancers wig was perfect.

This competition, the Oireachtas, is a qualifier for Nationals and Worlds. This was my daughters' 2nd time. No one recalls at their first, and mine both performed appallingly bad two year ago - like 102 out of 109, and 97 our of 104. Since then, they've matured and practice and danced and competed and etc etc. The dance pool is the best dancers in the Mid-America region (there are five in the US). The top 1/2 of dancer "recall", for the older daughter it didn't require a second dance, but it required a 3rd dance for the younger dancer.

Both of my girls recalled. The older took 16th out of 63. The dancers 17 to 32 were simple "commended dancers". The younger took 48th out of 102. She was up against stiff competition (lots of world and national competitors). Her friend from another school took 50th and the two of them just looked happy to be up among the talent. Youngest daughter happily declared she is either "worst of the best" or "best of the worst". That was a great laugh.

Life is back to normal. Inlaws left, all the kids went to school. Whew ...

My agenda, and wishes for a Happy (early) Thanksgiving!

November 22nd, 2010 at 08:02 pm

I am sure as with many folks, the next few days our filled with busyness and preparations.

On Thanksgiving, we're hosting my parents, inlaws and brother for a small dinner at 4:00. It is also older daughter's birthday.

On Friday, we are having the Birthday Bash for the girls (younger daughter's birthday is 3 days before Christmas). Our guest list is now up to 40 people (what was I thinking?) Anyhow, the menu is simple: Italian beef sandwiches, baked ravioli, meat balls, garlic bread, a pasta salad, taffy apple salad, and cake/ice cream. Most of it is already purchased. I went to the Dollar Tree and loaded up on paper products and new decorations. Should be lots of fun!

On Saturday, my older daughter is dancing the U13 Traditional Set at the Mid-America Irish Dance Championships. She is one of 63 competitors. Her competition is more straight-forward. One dance and then results. I bet she will do extremely well, given she's placed quite high in this category recently.

On Sunday, my younger daughter is dancing in the U12 Solos. She is one of 104 competitors, and will have to dance the Hornpipe (hard shoe) and Reel (soft shoe) prior to seeing if she recalls.

I need to get their legs tanned (I know, whose ever heard of a tan Irish person? All we do is burn). And my older girl's wig is supposed to be coming from Ireland today (they botched the colors for the first one so this is a re-order), to be picked up and cut tomorrow. I am a bit panicky about this all, but worst case scenario older daughter will be really blonde and wear younger daughter's wig. And I survived tanning the legs two years ago. I've budgeted the admission fee and parking for two days. It's all going to be OK - though I can tend to "wig" out about these things.

We're going to do a marathon baking session tonight - pumpkin chocolate chip muffins and applesauce raisin bread for the teachers and therapists. LOoking forward to some fun and quality family time despite the constant ongoings. Inlaws will be with us for five days (the most ever), but they'll be driving the rest of the kids to the competitions so we will only take ourselves plus the dancer.

Anyhow, I hope that all of my fellow SA bloggers have a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend and enjoy the companionship of family and friends. I wish every one of you a peaceful holiday season, whatever your holiday may be! Should you brave Black Friday, I hope you snag some great deals.

"Did you punch the pig yet today?"

November 21st, 2010 at 03:49 pm

Odd question, out of the mouth of an 8 year old.

Backstory: I banked at National City which became PNC Bank. I have no complaints about the transition and didn't see any major changes, with the exception of the offer of a "virtual wallet" which pays 1.3% on your growth account (savings/money market). I converted all of the accounts over to this system, and it is a nice concept, tracks your spending, helps set savings goals and monitors your progress.

It also offers a feature of automatic savings, well automatic in that you can set how much you'd like to have transferred from your "spend" account (checking) to your "save" account. It offers options on how these transfers occur. I picked the "punch the pig" method. A cute little die-cut (if you will) of a pig is on the screen. You can custom design the decorations (we have snow flakes for the winter season) and the sound that the pig makes when you "punch it" (we have a oink/squeal).

For whatever reason, I picked the arbitrary amount of $1.50. Now that most of our random spending has halted, I have been "punching the pig" once a day for the past week.

My 8 year old wants to keep me on track with my daily reminder, and the boys like to gather around the screen and a lucky child gets to "punch the pig". At this rate, out savings should grow by $10.50 a week, and my kids are enjoying watching it grow!

I'm falling for Sam,

November 19th, 2010 at 05:16 pm


as in Sam's Club. I made my second "big" trip to Sam's Club yesterday with my mother. She is the rightful owner of the membership and pays with her Discover card. I have until the due date on the Discover card payment to settle the bill.

There is something satisfying about buying in bulk. (I head up the family that goes through one gallon of milk a day.) We also consume copius amounts of fruit and yogurt and cereal on a daily basis.

Yesterday I spent a total of $230. $20 of that was for birthday presents for my girls (the cutest colorful sock monkeys with a portion of the proceeds going to St. Jude's), $9 in clothing (socks for DH), $10 for a small turkey for our Thanksgiving, $15 in dog food, $54 was food for my daughters' party ($10 meatballs, $30 Italian beef, $4 for chips, and $14 for beer), the remaining, with the remaining $110 on dairy/produce/baking staples/household items.

There is something to be said about being efficient and organized, as I certainly was this second time around. It took about an hour from leaving my house to returning home with another 15 minutes for put away/storage.

Certainly accomplishing a lot in a short period of time leads to a feeling of personal productivity.

Getting a hang of the grocery game

November 17th, 2010 at 05:14 pm


Our Jewel/Albertson had a deal (ending today) of buy a Mrs. Smith's pie for $3.99 (regularly $7.99) and get a free Dean's ice cream (which is usually $6.99 but this week is on sale for $2.99).

I purchased three pies for $12.00 plus tax, and ended up with three cartons of ice cream as well. I will use one pie at Thanksgiving, and another at Christmas. The ice cream we'll use at the girls' birthday party on Black Friday. We'll keep one pie as a spare.

Similarly, in the spirit of friendship, I've invited (as a surprise) the families of my girls' bffs to the party. Younger daughter has had a friend since preschool, and the new bff comes from a very friendly family of 5). Older daughter's bff is from a nice family but we've never socialized with them. So our guest list at this point stands at: 31. That is a lot of people! I'm going to do Italian beef sandwiches and baked ravioli. I purchased six bags of frozen meat torellini for $9 (it was a buy one, get one). I'll spend another $30 on Italian beef (10#s). All in all, I do expect to be right on budget.

I also went to CVS and got a large Triaminic Cold & Cough kid medication ($7.49) and a Nivea lip treatment ($3.99) for $1.39 OOP. Feeling good about the amount of money that I'm spending for what I'm getting!

Join me in saying "Happy Birthday" to

November 17th, 2010 at 03:22 pm


creditcardfree!

Hope you have a great day!!

Doing the right thing

November 16th, 2010 at 05:14 pm


I am one who has passed up opportunities because I have found that they might be awkward or uncomfortable or I might call attention to myself, etc. The funny thing is my nature I am sensitive to other people's needs and I do want to be helpful and make a difference (I was a therapist in my previous existence before becoming a mother. I was good working with certain populations and diagnoses, other ones, not so much).

Last Wednesday I took my son to his session with the resource teacher at the public school. She is the cutest, nicest, friendliest young woman and her enthusiasm is really helping my son plod through the work (his minutes have doubled). Last week she looked so sad and downtrodden. I asked if she was sick, and she started to cry and said her best friend's son had just passed away. The little boy was named Noah and he was 3.5 and had been plagued with medical issues that he always managed to get through, just not this time.

To make matters even more confusing, Noah's mother had given birth eight days earlier to a baby girl named Hope. I went along through the days off and the weekend, enjoying my family and time, but I kept thinking about Noah's mom. I don't know her name, but I prayed for her.

Today I stopped by our parish's business office to touch base with the Religious Ed director that I work with. I asked for a prayer shawl; the women of the parish get together and knit shawls and scarves and pray for those who will use the shawl. I got one for Noah's mom and had our deacon pray over it. I had a green cloth bag in the car (a Zoo bag) and I put the prayer shawl in it and I drove over to the public school. The teacher happened to be helping decorate the office for the holidays. I asked if she would give the shawl to Noah's mom. She gave me a big hug and said she would. She also said the Noah's family is Catholic, as we are, and her friend would appreciate it.

I am glad I did this. I didn't know that the family was Catholic - not that it really matters, but I didn't want to offend. I picked a shawl that was colorful in jewel tones - something that was pretty, but not flashy. I really hope that Noah's mom feels as though it is a hug from God.

Don't know why I wanted to share this. It cost me nothing but my time to do this. If we all do what we think we should, I imagine the world would be a better place.

Wicked ... here we come ...

November 15th, 2010 at 07:21 pm

Oldest daughter's birthday is on Thanksgiving this year. All the kids had/have a budget of $125 for their celebrations. Oldest son just did it with $12 to spare.

I just ordered tickets to see "Wicked" in Chicago at a 2:00 matinee on a Wednesday. I had anticipated spending $85/ticket and having to cover my own. I ended up going directly to the theater's ticket website, got decent balcony tickets just off center. Four tickets for me/my mom/daughter/daughter's bff came to $253 (including $14 UPS delivery charges) or $63.25 per person. I'm covering the outing with my cash gift from my father and my mom is paying me back for her ticket.

Daughter's outing will have cost $126.50. Of course, there will be parking and maybe a dinner out, but all in all, a lot cheaper than I had anticipated. I like days like this!

Age ... its all just a number.

November 15th, 2010 at 01:56 pm


I'm officially well into the 40s with this, my 42nd birthday.

My 90 year old grandma called and sang to me yesterday (she's sometimes a day off). My biological father who I'm not exactly on great terms with sent me a nice card and a check for enough money to fund my older daughter's birthday outing to see "Wicked" and maybe a pair of boots (on sale at Payless). My best friend stopped by to give me a retaliation gift (because of her Christmas present last year, which I didn't think was that bad). I now own a red fuzzy footie slipper pajama thing out of Target. It is elf-red and has a very cute sock monkey on it, plus the feet are two sock monkeys.

My eight year old made me the best card that had five wishes in it: (1) a pinch to grow an inch (2) have fun (3) take a day off (4) get funny jokes, and (5) ? you make one. There were other wonderful cards, too. My FB friends are wishing me happy birthday. DH is taking me to see the new Harry Potter movie this Saturday. We're going over to my mom's and stepdad's tonight for triple-chocolate whammy cake.

It is going to be a great day!

Saved $12 back into the caboodle to be spent

November 14th, 2010 at 05:50 pm


Oldest son's Christmas gift is a Razor Electric scooter. I bought one (E100) for $103 + tax on Thursday at Toys r Us. I thought I scored a deal because I used 20% off.

Today at Target they had the Razor Electric Scooter E175 for $92 + tax. I used $80 in Target gift cards for this purchase (oop $19) and will return the other one for a savings of $11+tax.

The first one goes back to Toys R Us tomorrow.

Oh, the things I will do to save $12.

You can tell it is a productive day at my house when you walk in the door

November 13th, 2010 at 03:44 pm

and the smell of fresh banana bread is wafting from the kitchen (daughter is baking for Bake Sale to raise money for a youth group event)

and the smell of paint and primer is coming down from the upper story (husband and daughters are repainting the room to white walls which will be the palette for a green strip and polka dots).

Personal productivity abounds!

Crossing the big items off the list

November 11th, 2010 at 06:45 pm

(1) Older daughter would like a North Face jacket, a new one in the popular fashion. I found a 2009 season one, right size and color for $77.00 (including shipping). Done and ordered.

(2) Oldest son is getting a Razor electric scooter. I found one at Toys R Us for $129 and used my 20% off coupon, bringing total to $103 + tax.

All that remains is the cell phone for younger daughter (figuring about $70 at Target) and I have $80 in gift cards.

The small boys are done. Making progress.

Also limiting "family" gift to one $20 item per person. Done with four of the five for that, too!

**ETA Paid cash for all purchases Big Grin

Let's be realistic, self ...

November 10th, 2010 at 07:22 pm

There isn't going to be much chance of saving much money now through year end.

You've got Thanksgiving on 11/25 and a birthday party that you're hosting on 11/26. You've got the expense of the Oireachtas (admission of $40 and parking of $20). You've got to buy birthday gifts for the girls. You have to *buy* the gifts on your list with *actual* money. Don't forget the rest of the items you need to get. And you're hosting Christmas as well.

You're doing a decent job watching the sales, and using coupons with your groceries. You're also doing a good job finding the items you want at discounted prices.

However, you won't be able to actually save money.

Just plan on spending the least amount that you need to, on the things that you have to.

We return to reality.

(I was sort of actually thinking that it would be nice if I could add to my savings account during these high expense months. What was I thinking?)

Cleaning out ...

November 9th, 2010 at 07:04 pm


the bedrooms, of junk and unused items to be donated. Four big bags of old books/toys/games/puzzles. Another bag of better clothes and toys to go to our friends who truly appreciate our hand-me-downs. Organizing memory bins for the kids.

Another NSD.

The girls' room is going to be painted on Saturday and I've cleaned out under beds and the dresser. Have piles on things that the girls need to try on or they go the hand-me-down pile, too.

I think that the 60+ degree weather has me confused somewhat, it is like spring cleaning over here.

Budgeted Amount vs. Actual Amount

November 8th, 2010 at 02:22 pm


We celebrated (belatedly) my 3rd Grade son's "friend party" on Friday after school.

Son had a budget of $125. He wanted to play laser tag. Most kids go to the Lazer Quest place which is $17.50 per kid and to play two games takes 1 hour (can't play back to back). We called around and found a local place that is called Enchanted Castle; my girls had a party there years ago and it was more of an arcade place (think bigger Chuck E Cheese). This was the place: two games of laser tag was $10 per child, plus indoor mini golf was $3. We spent $73.50 for 12 rounds of laser tag (two for each kid, two for DH) and 5 rounds of golf.

We then went to Pizza Hut and spent $42 (including $5 tip) for pizza/bread sticks.

Back to the house for homemade cupcakes and ice cream (covered from "consumables" category). Used candles and decorations and paper products on hand.

Total budgeted $125, total spent $115.50.

Got great pictures and the boy got some fun games for presents. Will use Thank You notes on hand.

I told him I'd give him the change. He was happy about that.

Jumping on Foodie's Grateful Bandwagon

November 7th, 2010 at 05:38 pm


Been rather crazy, chaotic days (birthday party for 3rd grader after school on Friday, dance competition yesterday for daughters which lasted most of the day, volunteer appreciation dinner at our parish last night). Toss in some paperwork stuff (basketball registrations for daughters, kindergarten Halloween craft frame/photo assembly, final edit for Catholic VBS choices for the Religious Ed Board, etc). And a last minute semi-private dance lesson for younger daughter.

This left me with a "let's sleep in" mentality for this AM. This meant giving a choice to daughters as to whether or not they'd go to their dance lessons this AM. Older one said yes (to the 8:30 to 9:30 class), younger on said no (to the 9:30 to 12:30 calss).

I spent the most delightful morning with the fam doing odd stuff. I was glad to help the kindergartner with his Disguise a Turkey craft project, and to read with the 3rd grader - Flat Stanley is one of my favorites - and to talk to him about some art classes maybe in the near future, and to help play wii with the younger dance class-dodging daughter, and to help the other daughter learn to strategize when playing FB scrabble public games, and looking at wonderful Lego creations, etc.

I am grateful for the time to spend enjoying my family. I'm also grateful for coming out of my shell more and socializing without too much agonizing (it was a shock to see that DH and I at 40 were like the youngest of the parish volunteers invited to this dinner. We sat with another couple - husband is on school board, and it was a very nice and easy conversation. I'm grateful we were amongst the first to eat (the benefit of sitting at an outside table) because they underestimated the food. I'm grateful for parents who will watch the kids two days in a row. I am grateful for a husband who is putting up Christmas lights on the last warm day predicted for awhile.

I'm just loving the feeling that my cup overfloweth.

Friday - Another week gone

November 5th, 2010 at 01:28 pm


Time seems to be flying by quite fast. Half way to payday and our budget categories have enough to sustain us til then. The major shopping trip to Sam's was the way to go, as far as groceries are concerned.

Unheard of event: I spent $ on myself yesterday. I went to the mall with my mom and found a nice dress Calvin Klein sweater-type, from $79 on sale for $54 with 30% off of that and then 20% off of that. Out the door: $30.75. I have a dinner tomorrow at Church and my clothes are either casual or wedding-dressy. This is a nice alternative that can be dressed up or down, and is versatile. Plus the Coach purse that I've been watching on clearance at Von Maur went down to $64 and my mom bought it for me for my birthday. Of course she took it home with her and will wrap it up and will expect me to be surprised ten days from now. Nice gift, to wait a few more days won't kill me. I should stay away from malls though as I am not immune to the wants and the "me think me needs this." I did walk away from impulse purchases (like Dept. 56 Christmas houses - I already have two different villages - and of course, The Christmas Story's Ralphie's house was 30% off. We REALLY DON'T NEED another Christmas knickknack at the house! It only bothered me for about an hour that I didn't buy it (Oh, perfect gift for DH. He'd like it. He always wanted the leg lamp. Wouldn't that be great? - those were my thoughts).

Today is DS's belated birthday party. Four close friends are going to Enchanted Castle to play laser tag/indoor mini golf/and bumper cars. Then to Pizza Hut to dine-in for dinner. Back to the house for cupcakes and ice cream Sunday bar.

Tomorrow is another dance competition. The last of the year, though the big competition is in three weeks. Of course, oldest daughter broke the strap on her hard shoe yesterday. So today I am off running to the Greek tailor who can replace the straps on short notice. Still cheaper than buying new shoes which she wouldn't have time to break in.

Small trip to Aldi's for milk/some produce/lunch meat.

Short school week next week.

The teacher from Hell has decided to be nice to my child. I sent him an email after he told my girl to be there at 7:20 for the quiz retake (come to find out that she got an 85 on the original - but "she is his brightest student and he wanted her to have the opportunity to retake it and not bring down her perfect grade.") and then told her to come back later because he forgot he had a meeting. I got FIVE kids out the door to accommodate that &^%$#@!( and then he tells her to come back! I wasn't too over the top in my email, and said that due to M's sensitive nature, she was far too upset over the incident - especially to find out it was over an 85 which is a B- - and I would no longer be able to bring her to school early because it is too difficult, and that she didn't even take the test. He didn't even address that point. Oh well.

All for now. Off to make this day happen. Hope all is well with my fellow SA blogger!

Monkey Mama, this one if for you

November 2nd, 2010 at 04:04 pm

This can be a funny ha-ha to your post about the nosy people who wonder if/when your husband is returning to work.

The Kindergartner just got home from school In his back pack is a class book. Each of the 28 students fills in the sentence and draws a picture. The pages are laminated and the collated and bound and sent home for all the families to read. The topic is: "When I grow up, I want to ..."

There are kids who want to be dancers, policemen, builders, doctors, sports stars. And one ... who wants to stay home when he grows up. And he drew a picture of himself looking quite happy in a house with five kids (the number of kids in our family).

I'd like to copy it and send it to your MIL. Some kids to aspire to be stay at home parents, even dads!

"We're paying how much per year for this #$$@%^& to torment our daughter?!"

November 2nd, 2010 at 12:42 pm


The above is the excited utterance of DH when he learned of an incident involving our dear sweet 11 year old daughter AND the dreaded infamous school bully, Mr. M, the only male teacher in our small Catholic school who has wandered the halls for over 25 years tormenting the 6th, 7th and 8th graders over things like correct participle verb tenses and whether or not a pencil has a blunt point. He's about 6'2", 275 pounds, and his "uniform" is a solid color dress shirt with a sweater vest (from early Sept to late May).

(Please note that first sentence is probably a long run-on fragment of sorts, dedicated to Mr. M.)

The particulars of the incident are vague and unclear because the girl was too upset to get it all out. It involves something about the teacher of her class just prior sent her on an errand, making her late to Mr. M's class. The test had already started, and she was unclear and asked a classmate. She was yelled at for talking, proceeded to finish the test as she thought, didn't underline something. He then publicly embarrassed her in class, saying she got it all wrong, and didn't she know anything. (Funny thing is this is my brightest - off the charts smart - child).

Round 2 involved her pulling her aside when they were in the bus line. All my kids were there, and the one thing we've done right as parents is create a certain solidarity amongst our offspring. You had better not mess with any one of the *M* kids, because there are four others to stand up for them. My 3rd grader said when the teacher saw all the sibs staring at him when he was yelling at her again, he quieted his voice and said to one of the littler kids "Make sure your mother gets her here by 7:20 tomorrow to retake the test."

I don't really think that there is much to do. I've heard people have complained about this guy without much success. I had a Mr. M of my own in high school. DH said just looking at Mr. M makes him nervous.

It is costing us exactly $420 a month for this abuse.

11/1/10

November 1st, 2010 at 03:11 pm


You'll all think I'm a bit weird, but you know how some people like alliteration? I liked the numeric alliteration of writing all of October's dates as 10/1/10, 10/3/10, etc. Today's 11/1/10 did really seem right. Weird. I know.

Productive day thus far and it is only 10:00. Went to Mass. Had one child ringing in the hand bell choir, another was a gift bearer, and I saw all the remaining ones. I like to sing "When the Saints go Marching In" - it's peppy and happy and hopeful. The one deficit I feel that the Catholic Mass has is the music. Don't get me wrong, I love Gregorian chants and monastic music, but I find the basic Ordinary Time music lacking. Anyhow, that wasn't the case today.

I finished my cover letter for the application/transcripts that DH is faxing to the Dept. Head at NIU so I can start classes in January. Kind of exciting. Kind of scary. Good, all the same.

I finished tallying up the final Boy Scout Wreath sale orders. 3rd Grade Bear Scout did better than last year and better than the year before, so the recession hasn't affected the spending habits of those in my area who are willing to part with money for wreaths. Probably because most people buy them anyhow, and it curbside delivery of the orders. I cheaped out this year and bought an Evergreen Planter $24 that I plan on using as a centerpiece.

Kindergartner is heading to speech today and the 3rd grader needs new school shoes. That's all that is on the agenda remaining.

Hope everyone has a happy November 1st!

Should we start a countdown to Christmas?! Start some sort of challenge on how much we spend/or save? Should we start a post on best frugal ideas? What say you all?