Monday, June 16, 2014

30 Day Challenge - Day 11 - Library

Yes, I am a few days behind.  But on the positive side, my wrist is feeling much better without the help from Urgent Care.  I iced it and just let it rest, and now it's pretty much back to normal!!

For Day 11 I chose the Library.

Now, there are many great things about the library here.  Of course, almost anyone can get a library card.  In addition to the huge selection of books, and books available through inter-library loan, there aren't many books that you can't find.  There are also many movies available to pick from.

Our library also offers many other events.  A couple times a week they have 'Story time" complete with a craft activity and sometimes a snack.  They offer this during the day and at night.  On occasion they have someone from the zoo come in to share with the kids, or they have a magician.

But I really enjoy the summer programs at our library.

They have a reading program for older kids and younger kids.  The younger kids can read book or have books read to them.  The older kids must read chapter books.  When they reach a certain number of books, they earn a prize.  This happens in increments up until they reach the grand prize, which is a book for them to keep.

They also offer book club during the school year and in the summer.  This summer, they have a therapy reading dog at the same time as book club, so while Beau is at book club, Scrappy will be with the dog.

Scrappy and I also use the library a lot when it comes to homeschooling.  We use the 'create your own' curriculum method for teaching, so I can keep with what interests Scrappy.  We also do school year round so that we can take frequent breaks throughout the year.  This is especially helpful now that Chubbers has entered the picture.

What great programs does your library offer?

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Summer Declutter Day 4

I know - you're wondering what happened to Day 3.  The honest truth?  I was just so dang tired after all my running that I fell asleep in the recliner - when I had ever intention of getting some work done.  I guess I really needed the sleep.

First, I have a picture of some progress




This is my desk after all the previously posted clutter was cleaned off of it.  You really don't  want to see how awful it looked before!!  But I am happy that I AM making some progress on my office!!

Here is the Day 2 pile


Left: recycle Right: shred Bottom: Keep


And the pile from today.


Left: recycle Top: shred  Right: garbage

What you don't see here is the "keep" pile, since I had started going through some of the files in my filing cabinet too.  I'm making room so I can file my paperwork soon!  For now, though, I'm going to let my wrist heal :(

30 Day Challenge - UPDATE

I have part of Day 11's post written, but am unable to write much at this time.  I'm right handed and have trouble with the one-finger-typing, but at baseball tonight I was hit in the right wrist bone with a fast pitch while playing umpire.  I will get caught up on my challenge posts when I can type better!!  I may end up going to urgent care to get it looked at if the pain continues :(

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

30 Day Challenge - Day 10 - Consignment

For Day 10 I chose Consignment.

I hate throwing things away, especially if those things could benefit someone.  It's even better if I can get rid of things and make some money from it!  But I don't particularly like having garage sales.  Since I don't have many BIG items to get rid of - mostly clothes, small household items, and toys - it usually isn't worth all the work.  So now what?

Consignment is a great solution!  Someone else sells the items for you, and you still get paid.  Often you get more than what you would have gotten at the yard sale, even after paying the 50% commission.  If your stuff doesn't sell, you still don't have to deal with it because they will donate it for you!  

It's very seldom, though, that I actually cash my consignment check.  I called today and found I have about $6 on account.  Sure, I could go get the money, but I choose not to.  Instead, when one of the kids is in need of an article of clothing, we will first check there to see if we can find what we need, and pay for it using the credits we have.  Especially for Scrappy - often I can find "like new" clothing for him because boys his age either 1) wear their clothes so ragged there is no salvaging them, or 2) outgrow them before they hardly have a chance to wear them.  Often I find something one or the other of the older kids needs on the $1 rack or with a half price tag.  I just LOVE those finds!

As I am going through the Summer Declutter Challenge one of my areas to declutter is my and my daughter's closet and dresser.  I have an appointment for June 24 to take clothes to the consignment store.  She's taking just summer stuff, so I'll have to put any winter stuff aside for a later appointment.  I might look to see if she has any capris or shorts for me up there!

30 Day Challenge - Day 9 - Organization

For Day 9, I chose Organization

A topic I truly struggle with in spite of always reading up on it and trying different strategies.  I know that the first step I need to get through is decluttering.  And I know that if I'm organized and know where everything is, I'm less likely to run to the store to buy something I already have at home.

I've also noticed when I'm disorganized, it contributes to my anxiety.  And if you've ever had an anxiety attack, you know how awful it can be.

How else can being organized save money?  When I know where paperwork is, I don't have to reprint it.  When I am able to pay bills on time, I avoid late fees.  The same applies to library books and movies - returning them on time keeps them free.  At one point, Scrappy had misplaced enough of his books that by the time I found and returned them all, he had accrued $35 in late fees!!  This was also during the time I was in and out of the hospital before and when Chubbers was born.  But if they had all been in a centralized - and cleaned area, I could have had my hubby return them.  On time.

I need to take control of my home again.  I need to be able to find things.  I need to be able to enjoy the new addition on our house without worry about tripping over things.  I need to get some order in this house.  And in order to do that, I need to work on getting things organized.  And purged.  So that's what I've been working on now with the decluttering.  Once I pare down what is here, I will be able to find permanent homes for the things that need to be here.

Summer Declutter Challenge - Day 2

I made it through the first day of the challenge!  And I even got rid of more than 20 items! I left them out to get this picture of them:



This isn't even half of the stack I started going through!  I'm hoping to make it through more of the stack today (which, for the time being, has been banished to a box that I've left out in the middle of everything so that I can work on a little whenever I have a chance.)

I have 3 piles here - the upper left is my shred pile (which will then be recycled), the bottom left is recycling, and the right hand pile is my "need to file" pile.

I'm continuing going through a huge stack of paperwork that has been piled on my desk.  I can actually see part of the top of my desk!!!  I will try to get a picture of today's progress posted at some point tonight.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Summer Declutter Challenge - Day 1

I don't know about everyone else, but I have a hard time keeping the clutter gone on a regular basis.  It has a tendency to build up until it's completely overwhelming.  Things get shoved into boxes, bags, and totes, then shoved into a closet or basement or garage where it's "out of sight, out of mind."  Since we put the addition on the house, our old dining room became my new office.  Unfortunately, the office has become the collecting ground for anything and everything that doesn't have a home that no one wants to take to the basement or to the garage or can't find a closet to shove it in.

It seems overwhelming to me to try to get the entire house clean in one fell swoop.  Whenever I try to take on a whole room, I bite off much more than I can chew.  I drag everything out in an effort to sort it out and organize it, but run out of time for one reason or another, and everything just gets shoved back and ends up being a bigger mess than it had been to begin with.

I was reading a blog that I could relate to with the demands of having children in the home, homeschooling, having children with special needs, and all the normal chaos of daily schedules.  Add into that mix a 3 month old baby, and it's almost impossible to find a large block of time to get anything significant done.  Especially when said baby has finally (after 10 weeks) mastered nursing.  And now refuses to take a bottle from Mommy.  Period.  Add in the cystic fibrosis and he wants to feed more than your typical baby.

I know I'm not going to go from clutter to clean and organized overnight. I need to do some every day, but how do you define "some?"

In the above mentioned blog, she had attempted putting 100 things in their place each day.   "In their place" includes garbage, recycling, storage, etc.   The thought of that many items alone overwhelms me!

But her effort has inspired my personal challenge.  Same idea, different number.

Now the Rules:

  1. The magic number is 20 items - must be put in the donate box/bag, thrown away, or put away. (Or have a garage sale, then donate whatever doesn't sell!)
  2. To help with this, the 2 older kids (5 and 11) must each donate/throw away 5 items per day.
  3. More than 20 can be done in one day, but if I do 50 today, I still have to do 20 tomorrow.
  4. I must photograph and post my stuff each day to keep me accountable to myself.
  5. Items may be from any room, as long as it gets DONE.
I suppose I should get started - Today is Day One, so here we go :)

Want to join in on the challenge?  Let me know what you got rid of today!!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

30 Day Challenge - Day 8 - Summer Fun

For Day 8, I chose Summer Fun, particularly for the kids.

We don't live in a super huge city.  The population here is about 18,000, so in my eyes it's still pretty big.  This is coming from someone who grew up in a town with a population of 280.  One of the drawbacks of living in a small town is there are not many opportunities for organized activities without driving to another larger town.

Both Scraps and Beau are able to play community ball because of our town's size.  Beau could play softball but chose instead to continue with baseball.  And this is Scrappy's first year playing t-ball.  I figured since I have to be there with the kids for practice, why not coach?  I somehow managed to get the position of head coach for both teams too. (Not like I have enough going on anyway, right??)  Scraps plays Mondays and Wednesdays 5:30-6:30 pm and Beau plays Tuesdays and Thursdays 6-7:30 pm.  For the kids to play ball cost a little more than we wanted to pay - $40 for him (t-shirt and coach shirt included) and $50 for her (t-shirt, hat, and coach shirt included).  We set aside some of our tax returns to cover those costs.

So what can we do the rest of the summer?

The city and the park and rec department put on many activities during the summer which are low cost and free.  Today we went to our city airport for the Touch-A-Truck event.  The kids had a lot of fun, and it only cost us the gas to drive across town.

police car

utility truck
military transport vehicle


fire truck
ambulance

plane

The play parks in town will be opening this week.  They have free activities during the week like craft days, tie-dye days, and water fun days.  Our local performing arts center has a "mystery movie" this Wednesday for $1 per person.  Last year the mystery movie was Beauty and the Beast.  I hope this year it's a newer movie! But the kids had fun either way.  This year it's going to be a little different with having the baby with.

There is also a Kids Art in the Park day (free), Summer Carnival at Farmer's Market ($2 per kid), beach luau (free), Movies in the Park (free), and Stories in the Park (free).  They send out a flier in the spring with all the dates of the activities so we can try to plan our schedule around it.  It gets a little crazy sometimes, but I wouldn't have it any other way!!

30 Day Challenge - Day 7 - Eating Out

For Day 7, I chose Eating Out.

I guess I had just assumed this was a given for a family who is trying to cut down on expenses and save money for other bills.  In the past we'd plan one or at most 2 meals out a week to save me from cooking.  Because of some things that have come up here and have caused a money crunch, I thought my hubby and I were at an understanding about not eating out.  


Until I woke up this morning from a nap with Chubbers to see my husband walking in with a breakfast pizza.


OK, I love breakfast pizza, but the $8 he spent on that could have gone to groceries for later in this week.  I'm attempting to set a meal budget, but I am the only one on board for it right now.  I'm also trying to get my husband to sit down with me so we can work out a budget for the house.  I have offered - and am planning on - closing my checking account since I don't have any money in it anyway.  I will still have my business account, which I have added him to.  I tried explaining that I can better plan things such as groceries or cutting the electric bill down if he would include me in the household finances.


But that is another topic to cover later.  Back to eating out.


My hubby made another smart move by picking up more Hamburger Helper.  That has been a big 'live saver' on nights that we have baseball and don't get home until 8 pm or later. As long as I remember to thaw some ground pork, that is.  I was always hesitant to use ground pork in this because I didn't know how it would come out, but no one in our house has been able to tell the difference!


I think as long as I keep reminding my husband that I have meals planned each day, we should hopefully not be eating out... If only I could keep him from hitting the McD drive-thru when he has Scrappy with him while waiting for us to get home....  I guess I just have to make sure there are snacks around the house that the boys will eat!

Friday, June 6, 2014

30 Day Challenge - Day 5 & 6

I got behind a day - but thought I could combine days 5 and 6 since I have 2 things that go together - Gardening and Canning!

I have a small garden here at my house.  I tried to start my seeds indoors using a Jiffy Windowsill Greenhouse thinking how much money I would save by buying a few packets of seeds for $1.59 each instead of buying plants for $3.00 each.  I planted Brussel sprouts, cabbage, sweet gypsy peppers, and broccoli in these.  They started out well and grew to be several inches tall, although the stems were pretty thin for most of them.  It all seemed to be going well until I transplanted them outside.

Of the 24 seed pods I started, only about 6 or 8 are still alive.  I was sure to break the meshing apart when I planted them, but the broccoli and cabbage snapped off and never recovered.  A couple of the peppers began growing, and several of the Brussel sprouts started taking off.

I have been checking my garden almost daily, and was not happy to find several holes in it shortly after planting.  On closer examination, I found that squirrels has been digging up my pods and killing my plants!

I have not yet found a good way to keep the squirrels out in spite of following suggestions to draw them away from the garden.  I ended up going out to buy new cabbage plants, which I actually got a good deal on.  I was able to get a 9 pack of plants for about $4.  There weren't any broccoli plants, and I didn't find gypsy peppers, so I got a cauliflower plant.  That was also about $3, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover there were 2 plants in the container - so 2 for the price of 1!

When I was planting my new plants, I also put new seeds of the other plants into the garden.  Hopefully some of these will be fruitful!!  I have a new plan of attack for next year.  I'm going to try planter boxes to start my seeds.  That is what my Opa does with tomatoes and peppers.  That is actually where I get my tomato plants from too!

This year is the first year that my garden has been in the back yard.  Hopefully we will have good luck here. My husband had worked some 5-5-5 fertilizer in to the black dirt for me.  I planted pole beans, buttercup squash, cabbage, broccoli, peppers, Brussel sprouts, Roma tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, big boy tomatoes, cauliflower, and scallions.  I was tempted to try lettuce, but maybe next year.

tomatoes and cabbage

squash

pole beans

Brussel sprouts

onions


At my Opa's, there are tomatoes, green and jalapeno peppers, tomatoes, summer squash, zucchini, cucumbers, acorn and buttercup squash, and pumpkins.  Once everything is ripe, it will be time to camp out at the cabin and work on canning.

I'm not going to cover a whole lot of my canning but I have written some about it in the past here, here , and here.  I still have a couple dozen jars of pickles left, so I won't need any of those.  I have salsa left, but I always like having plenty on hand.  I AM out of spaghetti sauce and almost out of apple sauce though!  And plain canned tomatoes are always good to have on hand for everything. I really like Campbell's canned tomato soup made using milk instead of water, so I figured there had to be a good recipe out there for one similar to it.  And you know what?  I FOUND IT!  Follow this link to the best homemade tomato soup I've ever made! I've also inadvertently made it and left out the flour and the sugar, and it still tastes amazing.  Unfortunately my daughter doesn't like it, my son won't try it, and my husband "doesn't like soup."  More for me I guess!

One of the best things about canning, besides spending all that time with my Opa, is that I can get many of the supplies - especially canning jars - for FREE.  I know several people who are 'older' and don't can anymore.  Many of them have donated their jars to me.  I often give them a jar of applesauce or salsa in return.  Pretty good trade-off, huh?

Thursday, June 5, 2014

30 Day Challenge - Day 4

For Day 4 of my challenge, I chose Breastfeeding. (sorry, didn't get it finished/posted yesterday!!)

OK, some people thing this topic is taboo.  Some are strongly in favor, some are strongly opposed, and some people just plain don't care.

First off, I must say, I did not choose breastfeeding Chubbers just for the financial aspect of it.  I know breastfeeding a baby, especially one like Chubbers who has special needs and a weakened immune system, helps boost immunity by passing on Mom's antibodies.  Besides that it's 100% natural so it's easiest to digest, and it's everything babies need.

Well, for most anyway.

Because of Chubbers having Cystic Fibrosis, sometimes we need to fortify his breast milk with a scoop of formula.  Even if he was on just formula, we would still have to fortify his milk.

Plus, I admit, I nurse because I enjoy it.  I enjoy having special snuggle time with my little guy.  I love being able to give him something no one else can and knowing what that does for him.  I love how he's able to take comfort while nursing when nothing else will settle him down.

So yet, nursing/breastfeeding can be done for monetary reasons, but there are so many more benefits besides.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

30 Day Challenge - Day 3

For Day 3 of my challenge, I chose Laundry.

It's something we all have to deal with.  Depending on the number of people in your house and the size of your wardrobe, you may have to do more or less than I do.  With 5 of us in the house, and one being pint-sized, we're doing laundry at least 3 times per week.  If it's not done at least that often it gets overwhelming.

A few years ago our washer died.  It was one we had gotten for free just for my hubby helping get it out of someone's basement.  We also scored a dryer for only $50 because it needed a new cord.  My hubby is so handy that he was able to replace the cord himself.   Instead of shopping for a nice used washer, he decided we needed a new set.  When they were delivered, the delivery people even hauled away our old ones for no charge.

This set was not overly expensive, and is also designed to save money.  The washer has a load sensor so we don't use too much water.  It also has the option to use "Tap Cold" water - no heating or cooling the water.  The dryer also has a dampness sensor so laundry doesn't get over-dried unless you set it to "More Dry."

I needed to do myself one better.  Especially since our yard is finally starting to come around.  The last 2 years it has been quite the mess in our yard from the construction.  I didn't like going in the back yard, let alone hanging my clothes back there. I was actually worried about my clothes getting dirty just from hanging there.

But this year I'm set on hanging them out!  Which means I only do laundry on days that it is not raining.  Tonight when we got home from baseball it was sprinkling, so Beau got all the clothes off the line while I was making supper (it was after 8 pm already.) I know some people hang clothes in their basements when it's wet or cold out, but I don't think I could do that because 1) the cat boxes are by the laundry and 2) our basement floor gets wet with large amounts of rain, so any clothes drying down there would smell musty.  With the clothesline I have, I can hang out 3 large loads of laundry at once.  I don't do much more than that on laundry days.

Chubbers loves helping Mommy when he's riding in his Moby!






Then there is the question of towels.  They always come out so stiff and scratchy, right?  I did a little bit of research into this.  I used to throw them in the dryer for a few minutes after taking them off the line, but that doesn't  always do it.  That defeats the purpose of not using the dryer in the first place anyway!

The one method I've tried so far that seems to be working is to use vinegar.  I put half a cup of vinegar in the fabric softener dispenser.  The towels do NOT smell like vinegar when they come out, and the towels are not so stiff they are able to stand on their own!

I have also been using homemade laundry soap for a couple years now.  The old recipe I used would take up a lot of space in my laundry area.  A friend turned me on to a more concentrated version.  It's the same recipe, just less water, and therefore less soap per washing.  A single batch makes 128 loads, so it lasts quite a while.  I have not had any reactions to it and I have sensitive skin.  It's also been fine for my kids' clothes including Chubbers.  It doesn't take long to make it, and it's very inexpensive.

Monday, June 2, 2014

30 Day Challenge - Day 2

For Day 2 of my challenge, I chose exercise.

I used to have a gym membership.  Actually, I've had memberships at a few different places.  Like many others, I start out strong when my membership begins, and then gradually ease off until it's a chore for me to get all my stuff together and trudge to the gym.

And I have a million excuses.

  • I don't have a sitter.
  • I don't like getting up early in the morning to use the gym before hubby goes to work.
  • It's too late by the time we're done eating to go to the gym.
  • I feel sick if I exercise after eating.
  • I'm too tired.
  • All the gyms are all the way on the other side of town.
You get the picture.  Plus shelling out $30 per month for something that is barely ever used.  Even if you pay for the full year up front - there are still other things I could better spend that money on.

So I decided that I could save the money and find a way to do it here at home.  My husband bought a Wii Fit for me a while back.  Unfortunately all the batteries for my balance board and the remote keep disappearing.  Gee, I wonder who could be taking them (Scrappy!)  The big problem isn't the kids borrowing the batteries - it's them losing the batteries.  We specifically shelled out the extra money for rechargeable batteries so that overall we would save money on batteries. So I haven't been using my Fit as much as I want to.

Instead, I've starting going walking outside.  I actually started making walking a priority on my birthday - April 22.  We were at the hospital with Scrappy at that time.  He had sinus surgery and then spent the next 2 weeks getting a CF tune-up.  Chubbers and I stayed with him at the hospital, but Chubbers couldn't be in the room while Scraps was doing his treatments because of his forced coughs.  I would take Chubbers walking usually 4x per day during treatments.  After we got home, I decided to try to continue.  I've walked the trail with my family and walked to pick Beau up from school and back.  

But our favorite is to walk the lake.

Our town is built around 2 lakes.  There is a route around a good portion of the main lake that has walking paths.  It's about a 5 mile walk in total.  Scraps has trouble with the hills, so we've been going the longer route and following the gravel one-way roads that hug the shoreline.  My goal is to do the lake 3x per week, in addition to the exercise I've been getting from coaching t-ball and baseball.  (I've been working just as hard if not harder than a lot of the kids out there.  Man are my knees and ankles taking a beating!!!)

I snapped a few pictures out on our walk today....


Getting ready to go

Snoozing - which is what he normally does during our walks.


Frequent water breaks


We were following a butterfly

Riding on the gravel.  To look at this, you wouldn't think we were in the middle of town.
There are houses on our left and water on the right.

Of course we couldn't just walk past the park without stopping to play.
That was fine, though, because Chubbers needed to eat.

Such a cutie, but always with a dirty face.
I try to get some kind of walking in every day.  Plus it's great for the boys to get fresh air.  I really need to do a battery round up so that the next time we have a thunderstorm like yesterday, I can still do my walking but inside.  I know I don't have to use the Fit, but since we bought it,  I should get my money's worth.  Plus it's more fun :)

In addition to saving money on the exercise, it's going to save on my hospital bills when I'm not sick as often too!!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

30 Day Challenge - Day 1

In an effort to get back on track with both my blogging - and my life - I'm trying a 30-day challenge.  This is in response to seeing many other posts on the subject on a few other blog sites I have been following.  But what kind of challenge should it be?  There are so many different categories.

My plan is 30 days of Frugality - money saving practices.  I have been making an effort and doing much reading on the subject.  June just seems the perfect month to put much into effect because Beau will be done with school, so I will have a little more help around the house with the boys.

Oh yes, the boys.  On March 11, Beau and Scrappy welcomed a new little brother who we have nicknamed Chubbermonkey - or Chubbers for short.  This is because he is much more pudgy than Scrappy, even though he also suffers from Cystic Fibrosis like Scrappy.  I gained a whopping total of 4 pounds during my pregnancy - and Chubbers weighed in at 9 lb 1  oz and 20 1/2 inches long.  Did I mention that he was also 3 weeks early???  I can just imagine how big he would have been at full term!!



Baby Chubbermonkey
All 3 kids
Our family
Chubbers 11 weeks old :)
In addition to the challenges of a new baby, we also have many activities going on.  Scrappy is taking taekwondo and playing t-ball, and Beau is playing baseball in addition to having Girl Scouts.  We have our own troop now, and they have decided they want to meet over the summer.
Scraps just earned his 3rd orange belt stripe!!
Well, back to the challenge.


As it says in the title, today is day one.  For day 1 of the challenge, I am Meal Planning.  Sunday has always been my day of choice for meal planning.  The weekdays end up being too chaotic to make it.  Once I have my meals for the week planned, I will be posting that here as well.  (I do not include breakfasts or lunches in my meal planning.  For breakfast we usually have cereal or eggs.  Lunches generally consist of leftovers, sandwiches, or cereal since it's only me and Scrappy during the week.)

With my meal planning, I am also challenging myself to very minimal grocery shopping.  I do have to get milk tomorrow, so I will be doing some shopping with my WIC.  This is how I buy many of our veggies.  WIC also provides vouchers for Farmer's Market, which is also great until my garden starts producing.  (I will talk more about my garden in a future challenge post.) 

I should also mention that in the spring, my husband and I purchased half a hog.  At around $2/lb, it's a hard price to beat.  Plus we love pork chops, bacon, sausage, etc.  I don't order sausage from the meat market, just the ground pork.  I prefer to make my own sausage - it just tastes so much better!

Sunday: Leftovers
Monday: chicken & gravy on rice
Tuesday: BBQ ribs, calico beans, applesauce
Wednesday: tortilla pizza
Thursday: sandwiches & soup or chips
Friday: leftovers