Category Archives: Holidays

Has it been too long?

What can I say? It’s summer time. Mind you, we’ve spent half our summer so far dealing with record rainfall, but still. There have been many trips to the park, a visit from my dad, Canada Day celebrations and lots of days playing in the backyard on the trampoline.

And now I’m going to get busier for the next two weeks with VBS. We are doing a pioneer theme and I’m running the memory verse room for the younger kids (4-6 years old or so). I get to set it up like a pioneer schoolroom, something I first saw as very challenging but now am having a good deal of fun with.

Anyway, I’m not making any promises regarding new material in the next few weeks. Maybe when things slow down at the end of the month.

I hope you’re all having a fantastic summer!

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Birthday Season

Would someone please tell my womb that May/June is off limits next time? Thanks.

May 21st was Ben’s first birthday (apparently I wrote my post on his birthday so late in the day that it registered as the 22nd. Oops). June 1st was Jenny’s sixth birthday and today is Erik’s third birthday. After this one we get a three month break until Elias’s fifth birthday. Phew. Busy, busy.

Erik got up this morning looking pretty sleepy. I wished him a happy birthday and he said, “Where my cake?” Because to a three year old, the birthday is apparently all about the cake. I think Jenny’s question on her birthday was, “Where are my presents?” Erik will get there.

Anyway, it’s busy, so posts are few and far between. It’s not just because of birthdays, but also because of of the Stanley Cup Finals (Mike is a HUGE Canucks fan) and this last weekend, our church family camp. Family camp was a blast. I wore myself out going out on a canoe twice, a kayak twice, and back and forth all over camp because I kept forgetting things in my cabin. Thanks, brain, for helping me get all that exercise!

At least hockey will be over after tonight. The big question is whether this game will leave my husband, sister-in-law, brother-in-law, father-in-law and countless other fans, elated for the rest of the summer or depressed. I’m going to watch the game but I’m a bit nervous….the mood is not going to be great if they don’t pull this one off.

Enough of that.

I made The Pioneer Woman’s iced coffee overnight and had some this morning. Cold brewing really does make a smoother cup of coffee. Who knew? Today I’m thinking about tweaking my standard (and wonderful) chocolate chip cookie recipe to include a portion of peanut butter in place of the butter. Here’s hoping it works!

And that, ladies and gentleman, is all she wrote.

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Multi-tasking

First off, today was Ben’s first birthday. I made him a cake (which ended up tasting like baking soda…but at least the icing was good), we made a big meal for family and he seemed to enjoy his day.

I decided a while back that I was going to cut Ben’s hair today. It’s part of my obsessive perfectionist issues. I cut his hair at exactly eight months, I cut it again at exactly ten months…you get the picture. I imagine one day I’ll get over it.

So he needed a bath rather desperately after digging into that awful cake. The last few baths he’s had he screamed his way through, so I decided to get in with him. I cut his hair a bit before I ran the water in the tub and figured that would be all I could do because of how wiggly he was being. So we got in the tub, he didn’t freak out (much) and I gave him a good scrub. Then I decided that I may as well try to cut his hair a bit while he was in the tub and his hair was wet. It was ridiculously long before, but I don’t feel quite ready to buzz him yet. So I got the scissors and a comb and started randomly grabbing chunks of hair and snipping away. All the while I’m thinking, “This is probably a bad idea. It’s going to look terrible…I don’t even know what I’m doing!”

So he sat for a few minutes and a few snips and then squirmed and splashed so much that I decided to give up. But then the perfectionist in me reminded me of how uneven the whole thing was going to look. Okay, fine. So I did the only thing I could to get him to settle down. I nursed him. In the bath. While cutting his hair. It worked.

And not only did it work, it worked well. I got it done and it looks great. The parts that don’t look so good are those that I did before the bath, trying to be more precise. The rest of his hair was just combed up straight and then about half an inch or so cut off. I grabbed pieces as I could and tried to get each part of his head. In the end, we were covered in hair and had to shower off, but at least it got it done. Now I can get used to him looking like a little boy instead of a baby before I buzz him with the rest of the boys in the family.

Here’s a few pictures. 🙂

Before

After

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Filed under Holidays, Kiddos, Life, in general

On Mother’s Day..

On Mother’s Day, I:

Made myself breakfast. Decided that it was well worth doing it myself because it was just so good.

Took a bath and had a glass of “pink milk” – as my kids call it (strawberry milk).

Went to church.

Went to lunch at a relatively quiet restaurant and enjoyed my meal. Ended up getting treated to lunch by my sister-in-law. Surprise! 🙂

Came home and helped Lacey slap mud in a billion holes on my living room walls.

Baked a flourless chocolate cake. Made whipped cream to go with it.

Helped Mike haul a few things out to the shed.

Not your typical do-nothing Mother’s Day, but it’s been a good one so far.

Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms out there!

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Filed under Happiness, Holidays

A Wee Little Break

It’s amazing what two nights away from home can do for you! Mike and I took the kids two and a half hours away from home for the weekend. We stayed at a Super 8 with a pool and waterslide, in a room with three (THREE!) TVs. The kids had their own room with bunk beds, we had our own room and Ben had the living room – which meant we could stay up watching movies after he went to bed. The family suite wasn’t very expensive and was the only room that came up when I told the website that we were two adults with four kids. Hotels don’t cater to “big” families, apparently.

We had breakfast at the hotel both mornings and ate out for lunch and supper. Last night we spent twenty-two dollars on supper and seventeen dollars on Marble Slab Creamery ice cream for everyone. Sometimes you just have to splurge a bit. 🙂 Having a break from cooking for two days meant coming home and actually feeling like doing it here. I made a very tasty (and healthy) baked spaghetti for supper tonight and enjoyed cutting up veggies, grating cheese and being a bit creative.

We did do a bit of shopping while we were gone. Okay, I did a bit of shopping. A few new shirts, two new Ray LaMontagne CDs and lots of new craft stuff. The good news is that I got two bigger craft items half off with coupons and everything else the following day with a thirty percent off coupon. I didn’t go in with a set budget but I didn’t spend very much in the end.

I spent lots of time lying in bed watching tv and playing in the pool with the kids, eating food someone else cooked and I got some good, old-fashioned retail therapy. It was a good weekend.

Happy Easter, everyone! The Lord is risen!

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Home Sweet Messy Home

We’re home. And it feels good to be here. Unfortunately, we came home with more stuff than we have room for. We also came home to a house that wasn’t all that clean to start with…so now it’s a total wreck.

I’m trying to chip away at the mess this week, but I’m still recovering from the nasty bug we all got when we were away, and so are the kids (which means grouches abounding). I’m tired and would really rather lie around all day. I have so much to do and wish it could be done this week, but I’m a realist and have to admit that there’s no way that’s going to happen. So I’ll just do what I can this week and try to work hard over the weekend when Mike is home to help with the kids.

No matter how messy it is here, it is good to be here…sleep in my own bed, cook in my own kitchen. Vacation was good, but I’m always happy to come back home.

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Filed under Holidays, Home Sweet Home, The H Word

A Very Welcome and Much Needed Break

I will do my best to blog in the next two weeks, if I have any time to do it. We will be going south to be with my family and friends and attend my Grandma’s memorial service. The break will be refreshing, even if it includes a bit of mourning.

See you later…

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The post that never was

I had plans for a birthday post this year – reflecting back on twenty-seven years (or the twenty-five or so that I can actually remember, anyway) – but that day came and went and suddenly it’s been two weeks and it seems a bit pointless now.

However, I have been busy the last few weeks and some of that could be shared.

Starting with my birthday – I turned twenty-seven on the sixth of October.  I don’t feel older.  I had tempura for my birthday.  It was good.

Mike and I worked on the shed at some point..maybe it was on the 9th or 10th?  My brain doesn’t work as well as it did when I was twenty-six. 😉  We cleaned things up and brought in winter clothes and boots; packed summer things away and added a whole bunch of boxes and bags to the yard sale pile that takes up a corner of the shed.  I packed away the majority of my fabric and yarn – most crafting will be on hold until after we sell the house. 

The house had been a total disaster (isn’t that just bizarre?!) until we did the work on the shed and then early the following week I cleaned up inside the house.  All of this was because I was preparing for a trip on the 14th.  Did I ever even mention my plans here?  I’m such a slacker.

On the 13th, we drove to Grande Prairie (Mike, Ben and myself) for the night and at five-thirty the next morning, Mike drove us to the airport.  A forty-five minute flight took us to Edmonton where we stayed on the plane, and a thirty minute flight took us to Calgary, where we transferred planes.  This transfer required a trip through customs – where I nearly forgot Ben’s carseat and had to wait for someone to dive into the conveyor to get it un-stuck.  After customs was another trip through security and then a mad dash to gate C-28 to hop onto a plane to Phoenix, Arizona. 

My cousin got engaged early this year (or was it late last year?) and as soon as she did I started planning a trip to Phoenix for the wedding.  I figured it would be a nice break with just the baby along (this was before Ben was born).  It was a lovely trip – my dad and brother flew down as well and we all stayed with my dad’s brother and  his wife; a favourite aunt and uncle who I seldom see.  The weather was warmer than I like but I survived it.  It’s grey and cold and drizzly here now – not the best thing to come home to when you’ve been in 90F/30C weather for five days.

Flying with a baby was interesting…I’m not sure that I would elect to do it again if it was as long or longer than this trip took (just under four hours of total flying time).

I drank raw milk when I was in Phoenix.  I’ve always imagined raw milk to taste funny, but it tasted just like homogenized milk and it didn’t make me sick.  Too bad it’s illegal in Canada. 

I shopped a lot.  I put money aside starting in August and spent around $300 on clothes for the kids and myself, a few gifts and some fun things for the house.  It’s amazing to me how much farther money goes in a big city with lots of sales available.  I don’t think I bought more than one or two things that were regular price.

I missed Mike and the kids and was glad to be home, but now I feel lonely and cooped up.  I’ve been completely exhausted since I got home and I’m not entirely sure why.  I haven’t stayed up very late and have been sleeping until seven or later each morning.  If I was also feeling like puking, I’d be taking a pregnancy test right about now, but I have no indications of pregnancy other than total exhaustion.  For now I’m just going to chalk that up to a big trip that happened really quickly and an immediate dive back into full time motherhood upon my return.

I had other things to write about and I’ll probably remember them later today.  For now my brain just wants to shut down and curl up for a nap…along with the rest of my body.

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Almost time for a break

I think for old time’s sake, I’ll go back and talk about what started this blog.  Housekeeping.  And my complete and utter loathing of it.

But first, I have THREE more sleeps before our trip!!  Woohoo!  It’s been a tiring week already and I’m so looking forward to the break from the kids, from housework (YAY!), cooking, etc.  We’ve been very disciplined with our money so we’ve eaten at home all month unless someone took us out for a meal or had us over.  That is since we read Dave Ramsey’s book, anyway.  We decided not to be too strict with an actual budget this month, though, because of our trip.  It wasn’t budgeted for so we’ve been skimping on everything to pay for the weekend in cash.  We may have to dip into our savings to help us out, but we’d rather do that than have more debt to deal with.  The hardest time with this plan seems to be the transition from using credit cards to using cash.   When you use a credit card, you’re buying things with next months money; when you use cash, it’s (obviously) this months money.  So we made the decision to pay for our credit card bill from last month with our line of credit and then transfer the whole thing to a 0% interest credit card.  I know it seems like going backwards by getting another credit card, but it seems to be the best plan because of the amount of money we’re paying in interest on the line of credit.  We’ll be able to pay the whole amount off in a few months with our tax refund anyway, so after that the card will be cancelled.

Anyway, back to the H word. 

My house is a wreck.  I wonder how many times I’ve said that on this blog?  I’m guessing at least a dozen times in those exact words.  Hard to say, though.  I could also say, “My house is a disaster.”  “My house is a gigantic pig sty.”  “My house is beyond all help.”  There are just so many options.  I know the reasons for a lot of it – my kids have too many toys and too many clothes and I haven’t taken the recycling in so they keep pulling paper and cardboard out and dragging it around the house.  When the floor is covered in clutter, it makes it pretty hard to sweep/vacuum/mop.  And to top it all off, I’ve been immersed in thoughts of money and crafts all month and cleaning just has not been my priority.  But here’s the thing: I DO NOT want to come home to a house that looks like this.  Generally after a weekend or longer away from home, I’m looking forward to coming home.  I won’t feel so great about it if I know that it’s a wreck/disaster/gigantic pig sty/beyond all help.  So clean I must.  But packing must also be done.  And the swap package I’m bringing with me has to be done since it’s all going to my partner on Monday (in person!).  So I have to fit things in where I can.  I’m doing fairly good keeping up with the laundry and dishes, although there are more dishes than normal thanks to eating all our meals at home.  The main issue is the clutter accumulating on the floors and any open surface.  If it can be cleared, it will be that much easier to do the actual cleaning.  Not that it will be any more fun, but I will admit a certain satisfaction comes about from scrubbing floors or vacuuming carpet.  Finding a place for all the junk is the part I enjoy the least.

Anyway, I’m going to make an attempt at it this week – in fact, in the next three days since that’s all I’ve got.  If I can leave the floors clean and the kitchen counters wiped down I’ll be pretty happy.  If the piles of clutter on the entryway table and desk are cleared up, even better!

I’ll let you know how it turns out…maybe. 😉

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Filed under Holidays, Money, The H Word

The prodigal blogger returns

Yes, it’s been awhile.  I didn’t even give you a little post to say Happy New Year.  My apologies.  I hope you don’t want excuses.  I’m sure I have some, but it actually kind of annoys me when bloggers give a list of excuses when they don’t write.  I mean, are we paid to do this (I mean, most of us)?  Anyway, I’m not going to go there.  I will, however, fill you in on 2010 so far in our home.

New Years was uneventful – the older we get and the more kids we have, the more I would just rather go to bed on New Years Eve than stay up forever.  This year was probably the earliest we’ve gotten home in years.  It might be different if we had a babysitter or could leave the kids with their grandparents, but we can only keep them up so long.  We came home around one and Mike and I got to bed around two.  Thankfully the kids slept in until around ten that day, so we managed to get seven or eight hours of sleep.

It’s only the sixth of January now, but it feels like weeks since New Years Eve.  I got a box from my dad that day and in it were four different books.  I started reading one but quickly gave into the temptation to read another one before I was done with the first.  The tempting book was Dave Ramsey‘s The Total Money Makeover.  I read it whenever I had time, until yesterday, when I finished it.  And I’m blown away.  I really, honestly thought that there was no way to change our circumstances financially and was always saying we “couldn’t afford” things.  But it’s not about that.  It’s either, “we shouldn’t afford it” as in, we don’t need it, or “we need to save towards it”.  Such as a larger house.  If we had no debt, no payments, money in savings and some being invested, we would certainly be able to “afford” a larger house.  I’ve been basing it all on how much Mike makes each month, and while our current payment on the house (plus property taxes) is what it should be – roughly 25% of our income – this does not mean that we can’t afford something else.  The timing may not be right for some time – maybe more than a year from now – but if we get our finances on track, we’ll be much more likely to be ready when the time is right.

Dave’s plan is pretty simple; he uses seven baby steps and explains it all in easy to understand English.  Baby step number one is to get $1,000 into an emergency fund as quickly as you can.  The reason he advises doing this before paying off debt is because if you attempt to pay off debt and then suddenly have a $500 emergency (the furnace breaks, transmission goes out on your vehicle, etc), you will have to go into more debt to pay for it.  If you have an emergency fund, you may have to put your debt-clearing on hold, but you won’t be acquiring more debt.  Then the only rule is that you fill up the fund again before you go back to paying off debt. 

Baby step two is, of course, paying off your debt.  He suggests paying them off one at a time from the smallest to the largest.  This means if you have ten dollars in library fees, pay them first and then move onto the credit card bills.  Keep on paying the minimums on the other bills while you work on the smallest, but keep going in order to feel your success each time you pay one debt off.  For us, that means this months credit card bill which is just over $2,000 and our line of credit which has a little over $3,000 on it.  Mind you, we paid for everything last month on our credit card which is how we typically do it and typically we pay it all off at once.  We will do the same thing this month, but it will be a challenge because we have decided not to use our credit cards anymore.  At all.  Not even for air miles.  We will pay as much as we can on the credit card from our checking account and then use the line of credit to pay off the rest.  This may not typically be the recommendation, but for us it makes the most sense.  Our credit card interest rate is upwards of 18% while our line of credit interest is around 10%.  At that point, we will have one debt to pay off instead of two.  We are very fortunate in that our decisions have not put us in a terrible place – there are stories in Dave’s book about people who had $30,000 in credit card debt when they started this plan.  We only have one income to pay ours with and it’s not huge, but at least we only have around $5,000 to pay off.  We had planned to pay everything off with our tax refund in April or May, but we will instead try to pay as much as we can before then.  Of course, we will first get our emergency fund ready – so far, we have $300 in it. 

Baby step three is finishing your emergency fund, which should be equal to three to six months of expenses.  We will make ours a six month fund and aim for $10,000.  This is slightly less than six months of income, but if Mike were out of work and we had to pull from the fund, we would certainly be watching our spending and eating lots of cheap food until he had a new job.  It seems as though it could take ages to get our fund that big, but when I think about it and plan for it, I know we can do it, even if it takes a year or two.

Baby step four is putting 15% of your income into investments for retirement.  An astounding number of people are not prepared for retirement and we don’t want to be part of that number.  We both have grandparents on fixed incomes and their lives are not always easy. 

Baby step five is saving for your kids’ college education.  We have been doing this on a small scale since Elias was born but once we reach this step, we may add to what we’ve already been doing.

Baby step six is paying off the mortgage.  This part sounded too good to be true, but there are many stories of people who have managed it in five years or so.  We don’t have a huge mortgage so it shouldn’t take us too long once we get there, but by the time we reach this step, we may be in a larger house with a slightly larger mortgage.  But again, this is a long way off so we won’t worry too much about it now.

Baby step seven is building wealth.  Dave suggests having fun with your money (reasonably), investing it and giving it.  The part that gets me is the thought of having enough money to really be able to help people.  We give our ten percent tithe and sponsor two World Vision kids, but I would so love to be able to do more.

So, this is the start of our journey.  Mike is still reading the book so we won’t fully begin until he’s finished.  However, we will attempt to live on a rough budget and we will also be using cash or debit rather than our credit cards.  We have a weekend in Edmonton at the end of the month and as of now, our plan is to really start going in February when we get home.  A written budget is obviously a very important part of this process as is sticking to it.  One great feeling is that we will be at the start of baby step three by the time we get our tax refund back.  For many people, the first two steps take a year or so, but because our debts are not wildly out of control, we will finish paying them with our refund this spring.

As I’m writing this, I’m hoping that it’s not a bad thing to be listing the steps here on my blog.  I will say that reading this isn’t enough if you’re interested in trying this program out.  Get the book – buy it, borrow it, check it out at the library, but read it.  Even if you don’t have any debt, it’s a good plan (in fact, you’re in a great place if you have no debt because you can skip straight to step three). 

Anyway, that’s the big happening of this year.   Aside from that, I’m in two more swaps – one that I have a partner for already and one I’m waiting until Saturday to get.  I suspect that in order to really watch my spending I may have to take a long term break from swaps until I can fit them into my budget, but I had signed up for these two before I read the book.  The irony is that the bigger swap is a frugal living swap.  I’m crafting out of my stash and meeting my partner in Edmonton when we’re there to exchange packages rather than paying the shipping.  So it shouldn’t actually cost me much (if anything).  The other swap is a bookmark swap and I will attempt to craft from my stash on this one as well.  Even if I’m assigned a group (which means making and sending four bookmarks), the postage will be minimal as they can be mailed in standard envelopes.  If my partner(s) are in Canada or the US, I have enough stamps to send them already and won’t have to pay anything more than what I’ve already spent.

Was that enough catching up for the year?  I hope so because my brain is starting to hurt. 🙂

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