Monday, February 27, 2012

Interesting things to read

Want to read something about the bible? I just read this and I really liked it.

Want to read about parenting? Try this.


Saturday, February 25, 2012

Discouraged

If you are the kind who gets uncomfortable discussing money, go ahead and skip this post. If I may mount my soap box for a second just to say I think one of the problems in the church is discomfort with money talk. God calls us to meet people where they are, and most people are in debt, both Christians and non. As the body of Christ, we are called to deal with the hard things in life, like money and sex, with truth and love. There are some great Christian programs out there that deal with these things in a practical way, but it doesn't seem to reach those who really need it, and I would LOVE to see the church honestly tackle this huge issue. Getting off my soap box now.

Here is my attempt to deal with money in an honest and open way. I am the one who does the money stuff in our family, not because I like it, just because I suck at it less than Matt does. One of the big motivators to moving away from family and across the country was the perception that it would allow us to make some great financial choices and hopefully Matt wouldn't travel. Notice I say perception.

The first thing we ran into was a crappy move package offered by Matt's new company. Apparently the days when move packages were cherry are over. The package didn't cover our expenses hardly at all. Basically, it took care of the truck and moving company, which when moving a family of 5 leaves a lot to cover. We started this adventure by getting financially screwed. Add to that the customary one month rent Realtor fee, first months rent plus one and half months of rent in security deposit and it was quite a hit. And we had to buy a second car.

Living on the east coast is expensive, we knew that before we moved. Using the tools to calculate living expenses, we tried to make sure we took this into account when looking at Matt's new salary. We must not be that great at math. Our goal was to live here for 2 years, come back to CO with both cars paid off and a nice little nest egg. Matt's resume would look good as would our bank account.

Housing cost alone are $2,500 a month here. A gallon of milk is $4 and we go through several a week, produce and other food is just as bad and gluten free is almost non-existent meaning I have to order it on-line. Insurance costs are high. Gas for two cars adds up. All of this was expected and accounted for, so while it doesn't help the bottom line, we can manage the monthly stuff.

To register a car in Jersey you have to have the title transferred. It is a pain in the neck. Our bank swears that they sent it, Jersey DMV swears they don't have it. To register the volvo we finally had to have it sent registered mail to prove they got it. Well, the van wasn't done. And now it got towed, which is another blog post entirely. It is going to cost about $400 to get back and registered.

The c-section rate in Jersey hovers about %50. For people like me, who have had prior c-sections it is higher. I am not doing a surgical removal of this kid unless I have to. That on top of the fact we know very few people out here who want to keep our kids for a few days while we go have a baby made us decided to have a home birth. Midwives are covered by our insurance some, but not totally. Good by another couple grand. Oh yeah, and we got rid of all our baby stuff before we moved and what we do have is pink. Time to buy a new crib and changing table and maybe a blue onesie or two. Goodbye a couple hundred bucks.

Our house is cold. Not just drafty and old, though it is that, but cold. First we tried to fix the problem by turning up the heat. After a bill of about $400 and still living in an only slightly less cool house, we scraped that. Come to find out that the heat was retro fitted and done completely wrong (hot water vents for steam based heat) So we moved on to mini electric heaters. Annabelles room has NO heat source and the kitchen was so cold I could hardly use it. We also put one in the girls room so that we could turn the heat way down at night and they wouldn't freeze. Enter this months bill to the tune of $500. Well crap.

Matt's company's expense reporting system sucks. Yes, he has a corporate card but they take so long to pay it off that he can't hardly use it. This means expenses on our account that then have to be claimed. My husband is great at a huge list of things, record keeping not being one of them. This may be why his company's profit margin was so good last quarter.

So this all leaves me feeling a little discouraged. No, a lot discouraged. Matt works a ton at a high stress job doing the work of several people. He still travels. We are worse off than we were before when it comes to money. I miss my family and my friends, even, dare I say it?! My church. The east coast is a fine place to live, being by the city has been fun, though we have discovered it costs us about $100 each time we journey in. We have friends, homeschooling has been a success as far as I haven't been able to truly screw Eliana up thus far. We can pay our bills but sometimes I feel like the theme for my life is "just keep swimming..."

Friday, February 24, 2012

Oatmeal Taste-test


Sunday mornings are hard, and I bet not for the reason your thinking. Every morning, all week long, Matt gets up with the kids. I am not a morning person, and while I don't really get to "sleep in" since Matt has to leave for work, not being on duty first thing helps me enter the day with a better attitude. Sunday Matt sleeps in and I am up to bat. I try to have a good attitude and I find I do better if I have a plan in my head about breakfast and am not trying to problem solve in my cold kitchen with 3 small, loud, hungry people demanding sustenance.

Sunday morning us girls got creative. My children are not always great at trying new things food wise, so I thought we would make it a game. We started with something they will all eat, oatmeal, and went from there. The girls chose the mix ins and 2 out of 3 of them tried all varieties. Annabelle wasn't quite as willing to eat everything. To our oatmeal sample tray we added blueberries, apples and cinnamon, nuts and bananas, peanut butter and bananas, chocolate chips and "normal", which at our house means butter and brown sugar.

Eliana decided her favorite was chocolate chip. Addilyn decided she liked peanut butter and banana, which was my favorite too. Annabelle just likes it normal. Over all, a Sunday morning success. The girls tried something new in a fun way, everyone at a good breakfast and I drank my coffee in peace.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Life in the SLOW lane

I am sitting here drinking a cup of coffee, twice warmed in the microwave. The babe-in-belly has the hick-ups. One child is dressed, 2 are not. I am in yoga pants. The girls are playing legos together. It is almost 9. This is my life, pretty much every day.

Some days I think I home school because I hate mornings. Though I say that tongue in cheek, there is some merit to it. My family thrives on "slow". My girls enjoy being at home creating games for themselves, helping me tend house, playing outside. We spend our days building, creating, learning, all at our own pace and on our own schedule.

Every so often I feel like a sucky home schooler. We only "do school" three days a week. And then only for about an hour and a half. Surly my kid is going to bomb first grade and I will have no one to blame but myself. I am setting her up for a life time of struggling to keep up. And then we do an end of the the year "kindergarten assessment". Eliana can read, she can sound out words she doesn't know, she can tell time and count money. She has good hand writing. She understands how to read a map and globe, she knows the difference between countries, continents, states and city. She knows what plants need to grow, parts of the body and what they do, understands habitat and climate. She blew through the assessment so does that mean I am done with kindergarten?

I worry my kid is going to be backwards socially, we all remember the kids in high school with velcro shoes, bad hair and no sense of style. Worse yet, they didn't seem to notice or care. This may be my kid, and I think I am ok with it. I will be thrilled if my girls don't feel the need to look like every other 13 year old girl. Despite that, my kids have tons of time to interact with kids of all ages. We do AWANA, playgroup, story time and soon, martial arts. My girls have no problem interacting with kids and adults of all ages. But my days move slowly.

My children have no ability to rush, they posses only one speed, and it isn't fast. I can't imagine if I had to get out of the house in a timely manor every day and give MAD PROPS to all you moms who do it. I suppose that the day will come when we will have to learn to move faster, be busier, go more. But right now, I think I will finish my cup of coffee. I will clean up breakfast while listening to music and dancing in the kitchen with my 2 year old. My 6 year old will work on sweeping while my 4 year old mops behind her. I will fold and put away our laundry. Maybe we will walk to the park today, plant our tulip bulbs or plan our garden. I think we will read Eliana's new kids National geographic and work on her AWANA stuff. We will stay in our jammies until 10, eat a snack, have a play date.

The rest of my children's life will be lived on a schedule of someone elses making, if right now I can give them the gift of slow, I think I will.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

On the way to story time

Elie: (singing) Twinkle, twinkle little star, how I wonder how you are...
Me: Elie, it is "what you are"
Elie: No, its "how". I know what it is, it is a star, the song says so.
Me: true... but I think the song is asking "what" a star is, you know, made of
Addilyn: That's easy-peasy, stars are made of God!

Addilyn: YOU are not the boss of me, Elie! MOMMY is. Are you the boss of daddy?
Me: Ummm. No.
Addilyn: Who is the boss of God?
Me: God is his own boss
Addilyn: that must be nice!

Me: (as Annabelle wipes her nose on a stuffed animal) Annabelle, not on that, use your tissue!
Annabelle: Its ok mama, it's Addilyns

So, how was your morning?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Christian Siriano

Sorry about the lousy picture. I would love to say I have some great ones, but I didn't feel like hauling my camera around with me.

So, I survived my first fashion show! It was a lot of fun, a very cool venue, and it is always a kick to watch Matt get treated like a VIP. We were greeted at the door with VIP passes because we were on "the list". We were escorted to the back where the models were all still in street clothes. The clothing was laid out, press and family were around and Matt chatted with Christian and got some pictures done. They shot some video and asked if I wanted my picture with Matt and Christian, which I did not. I was already towering over my husband in my heals and Christian is a good several inches shorter than Matt! I felt like the overstuffed Jolly Green Giant.

We watched the practice walks down the runway, found our seats and waiting for the show. The venue was PACKED. The show was great, I actually really like his stuff. Here is a link if you want to see what we saw. The show itself is only about 20 minutes long.

After the show we were invited into the back, and I am sure to the "after party", but, being the rockstars that we are, we had to get home to our baby sitter. Over all it was a fun afternoon spent in the city with my husband and an item to check off my bucket list.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Fashion week

Swimming up stream. Non-conformity. Square peg, round hole and all that. I want to live differently that those I see. I want to love more, sacrifice even when it is hard, care when it isn't my business. I want to not give in to the culture of "stuff" that I am surrounded by. I want to be ok with my old car, stained furniture, imperfect wardrobe. I want to be comfortable with the choices I make for my children. If homeschooling means that they are not "socialized" and the kids I interact with are the ones who are, I guess I am ok with my sweet, socially "awkward" children. I want my children to value people above things, to care about kindness more than coolness.

An yet.

Matt arranged a partnership between Samsung PC's and a well known fashion designer. Samsung will be on the "catwalk" at fashion week in New York. He has tickets. VIP tickets backstage. To fashion week and this designers show. And I am invited.

My first thought? What will I wear? And all my ideals seem to blow away in the breeze that is pop culture. Things I don't care about, fashion, what is "hot", who the coolest people are, are now on my mind. I try to be mindful about spending my money and energy on what really matters to me, and I can say that none of these have made the list. Not that those are bad things or wrong to care about, it just isn't me. And yet I laid awake last night thinking of what I was going to wear, worrying about weather or not I would stick out like a pregnant, poorly dressed sore thumb among all these people who in all actuality I don't give a rip about and I will never see again.

And there is the rub. When all my ideals are face with the reality of the world and culture I live in, what will reign victorious? Am I confident enough in my choice to be nonconformist to live out loud when others might notice? Will I choose to be content with what I have in the midst of others reveling in excess? Will I be proud of the choices I have made in my life, to be a stay at home mom and not a professional, enough that I carry myself with pride befitting my choice? Do I actually value people more than things?

So I face my closet, my shoe rack, my stack of bags to deal with my first world problem of "what to wear". I will do the best with what I have, both body and wardrobe. I will enjoy the wearable art that I see in fashion week. I will be proud of the work my husband has done. I will see all the areas in my life where my heart desired ideals and my actually life are not in compliance.


Thursday, February 2, 2012

Costco Chickens

I try to keep my love of big breasts in check, but man, Costco chickens make me really happy! (where did you think this blog post was going?!)

Each Costco trip, about monthly, I buy a rotissery chicken. They are cheap, big and make for quick and easy meals. When I come home, my amazing husband pulls all the meat off and tosses the bones/skin/parts into a big crock pot with some onions, water and other yummys and makes a fabulous batch of stock. (Hint: toss in a few tablespoons of vinegar. It will pull minerals from the bones and cook off so you don't taste it. Very nutritious!) The stock is then cooked all night, frozen and pulled out for soup, risotto or other things.

Now for all that yummy cooked chicken, just waiting for inspiration! Sometimes it just becomes a batch of chicken salad for lunches. Other times it gets tossed on raw spinach with other veggies for a dinner salad. This week, I was needing a Mexican fix, which happens a lot on the East coast. While we might have some amazing things out here, Mexican food is sadly not one of them.

I came across a recipe on pinterest that inspired me. I would like to say I followed the recipe but we all know that just doesn't happen.

Mexican Chicken Casserole:
1 can ranch beans or red beans
1 cup salsa
1 cup non-fat Greek yogurt or sour cream
2 cups cut up cooked chicken or about 1 lb cooked ground beef
1 T. taco seasoning
2 cups crushed corn chips
1-2 cups shredded cheese

Toss everything in the crock pot, stir up, top with the cheese. Be aware of a couple of things: first, how spicy are your beans, salsa and taco seasoning? If all have a kick, when mixed together you might have a meal with some fire. Which, in our house, leads to lots of griping from the little people. Also, if your chips are the left-at-the-bottom of the bag variety, like mine, you might find your dish to be a bit salty.

This recipe combines my love of many things; Mexican flavors, creamy cheesy dishes and the ability to clean things out of my pantry.

I have an inability to throw away the last of a bag of chips.The way I save things you would think I was raised in poverty or in the great depression. I like corn chips and it seems like such a waste to toss out the little guys at the bottom. Sure, you get salsa up to your knuckles if you try to use them for dipping, but that doesn't mean they are worthless! This recipie makes me feel better on so many levels.

I see a blog post in my future about the many uses of crumbs from the bottom of the bag.