Monday, January 31, 2011

Financial Strain

I'm with Homestead on this one.  I'm feeling the sort of financial strain that has ME breathing into a paper bag. 

Let's see.  There was Mimi's birthday.  And my birthday.  I don't too much care to revisit the details of that day, but Mimi's special day carried a pricetag.  Then Middle's birthday.  Then Little's.  Then Christmas.  Through many December days, I was medicating emotional pain with retail therapy.  Come January, that was a big owie -- and I'm so glad for my habit of shopping at stores where returns are easy breezy.  Kudos for Kohl's.  Still, December's bills were, er, um, large.  Then January came.  And mid-month, I felt like I'd been sucker punched to the gut.  Yowza.  Let's hear it for the pain of the payment.   The pleasure of the purchase was, quite literally, punched out of me. 

I already blogged about the toaster.  And it's call for replacement.  I ended up fixing it.  Whatever.  Don't ask.  Still.  I fixed a toaster.  With my plumber butt hanging out and my shirt with the my name embroidered over the pocket.  I fixed the toaster.  Happy for me.  But so, so sad when my brief stint as appliance repair-woman failed on the microwave.  Ouch.  Microwaves are $500 flippin' dollars.  Seriously.  And I do really believe in the Sears Blue Appliance Crew and an extended warranty.  Add $100.  MOTH doesn't install shit.  Add $120.  Jingle-jingle-jingle KA-ching.  That will be here on Monday.

And that's all personal finance.  I'm also crunching numbers on the business end.  Fourth quarter taxes.  One word sums it up:  shit.  I was not prepared for that.  Plus payroll taxes.  For three full holidays included in the payroll.  Yowza.   And, happy happy news:  We've just landed new contracts in two new states.  Hooray for us.  (Insert monkies doing cartwheels and copious confetti.)  Now, onto making sure all of our staff can actually WORK in those states.  Not fun.   And the price tag that comes with licensing 20 plus people in two different non-compact states.  Eye-eye-eye.  It makes me want to curse in Spanish.

I think I have logged into banking accounts dozens of times over the past few days.  A transfer here, a cleared check there  . . here a look . . there a look.  Everytime I click "login", I start lamaze breathing.  Breathe, breathe, breathe.  Puff. Puff. Puff.  Hee. Hee. Hee.  Hoo. Hoo. Hoo. In through the nose.  Out through the mouth.  Yes, in a previous life,  I was a childbirth educator.  Before I became a financial guru.  Childbirth education prepared me well for online banking.  

Last week, there was this awesome special on The Today Show about plugging financial leaks.  It was full of juicy tidbits to stop the sieve.   I can't find the link now or I'd use that fancy button and insert a link.  Bummer.  The point is:  the piece was about stopping money from seeping out of your accounts unnoticed.  For example, money that goes into service fees, overdraft protection, interest.   The list goes on and on . . still, my point is the same.  We've plugged leaks.  And we STILL spent like mad hatters in the last sixty days.  Crikey, skiing alone.  And eating out.  For all of the time I spend milling about the grocery store and stressing over feeding my family well balanced and healthy meals that don't have them groaning and eye rolling from the moment they sit down, we sure as heck have alot of 'eat out' bills.  Hmmm.   Food for thought.  No pun intended.    

And there's a long list of constants:  Middle's gymnastics.  And Little and Mimi are gymnast-i-cizing, too.  Big and volleyball.  And Y-ball starts in March.  Piano.  Three of them play piano.  Share your books.  End of story.  Still, gymnastics is a large part of who Middle IS -- same with volleyball and Big.  Those are priorities in the budget right now . . . .  Add the house.  Property tax.  Oh, I backed out the garage with my eyes closed (apparently) and snagged the passenger side rear view mirror.  What a noise that made.  My computer is heaving and dying with every re-boot.   Eeek.  Time to move on to another subject . . . .

Friday, January 28, 2011

Toasters and Microwaves

Last week, the toaster died.  Died.  Dead.  No umph left.  It was a hectic school morning and I had eggos on the menu.  Or toast.  And then there was no toaster.  I suddenly felt breakfast challenged.  Not enough milk for cereal.  No muffins ready.  Nothing to microwave.  Not enough time for an egg-type breakfast.   Later that day, I stood in the toaster row feeling totally overwhelmed at the options.  And very toaster dependent.

Last night, the microwave started making a funny noise.  Sort of a prelude to an I'm-gonna-blow-up noise.  It made it through the last 20 seconds of strenuous work and then died.  Dead.  No umph left.   And this morning, french toast (sticks, reheated) were on the menu.  Damn the luck. 

What a dependent I am!  These modern conveniences are life-juggling staples for me.  No microwave?  A moody toaster?  I might as well light a campfire in the back yard and fashion a chamber pot!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Applesauce Chocolate Chip Muffins

A staple in our house, especially for hectic school mornings.  These are moist & fantastic warm or cold . . . it's a recipe I first discovered while I was a live in nanny for two little darlings.  These muffins will forever remind me of Nikki's blonde messy curls as she peered into the bowl while she stirred and stirred.  Now Mimi and Middle love to make these . . .

1 egg


2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 ½ cups applesauce (that's about 3 lunch cups)

2 cups flour (sometimes I do 1/2 whole wheat)

1/2 cup of sugar IF you are using sugar-free applesauce, otherwise, omit sugar

¾ tsp baking soda

2 tsp baking powder

½ tsp nutmeg

½ tsp cinnamon

optional additions:  nuts, raisins, or our favorite -- a couple good palm-fuls of mini chocolate chips

Bake at 350 for about 25 minutes or until the center springs back to the touch.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Golden Chain

Thought of this tonight during a heavy discussion with the kids.  We were eating pancakes and enjoying a fabulous dinner prepared by Middle when a discussion of Buddah erupted.  Big's reflection this week is from Buddah . . . and it prompted some talk from my childhood about Buddahist services.  That made this prayer come bubbling forth. 

I am a link in Amida Buddha's golden chain of love that stretches around the world. I will keep my link bright and strong.



I will be kind and gentle to every living thing and protect all who are weaker than myself. I will think pure and beautiful thoughts,  say pure and beautiful words, and do pure and beautiful deeds, knowing that my happiness or misery depends on what I do now.

 
May every link in Amida Buddha's golden chain of love be bright and strong and may we all attain perfect peace.

Friday, January 21, 2011

"Guts!!"

Little bit his tongue tonight at the dinner table.  It was the kind of deep and painful bite that makes everyone at the table squint their eyes, lift their shoulders and hold their breath for a second or two.  He let out a gutteral caveman type hollar and turned six shades of crimson.  When the initial yelp wore off, I said, "that stinks . . . do you want to say a bad word?" 

He nodded yes and shouted at the top of his lungs, "GUTS!!!"

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Carrie

Carrie is one of my dearest local gal-pals.  I've been contemplating a post about Carrie for a LONG time, but this recent facebook status post (of hers) blasted me into "I'm so glad to have Carrie in my life . . . ." and that prompted this post. 

There comes a time in life, when you walk away from all the drama and people who create it. You surround yourself with people who make you laugh, forget the bad, and focus on the good. So, love the people who treat you right. Pray for the ones who don't. Life is too short to be anything but happy. Falling down is part of LIFE...Getting back up is LIVING.........♥

And I have this story . . .  my Carrie story.  Every now and then a story comes along that really defines a person.  It's the fiber of their morals and is a testament to their type and personality.  This is that story for Carrie. 

Carrie is a teacher friend.  Last summer, she was searching for a little couch type furniture piece to use in her room . . . a reading center or something.   At any rate, she located this little couch on CraigsList, called about it and set an appointment for pickup.  When she arrived, however, the couch was not clean, as it was posted.  It was maybe not from a smoke free home, as it had been posted.  It probably wasn't from a pet free home, as it had been posted.  Instead, it was a filthy, sad little hunk of junk in condition barely suitable for donation.   But, the chit-chatter that Carrie is, she talked to the owner and gathered quite a sob story . . . . single mom needing money for food, selling things to make ends meet, just laid off . . . whatever the story.  Instead of walking away from the dirty little couch that was too gross to use in the classroom, Carrie handed the mom a $20 and hauled the gross little thing off to Goodwill.  

I remember having dinner together at Whole Foods when Carrie told me the story about what she'd done.  I was in shock.  I was in awe.  I was proud of her and in the same instant, compared myself to her actions, thinking, "I never would have done that . . . I would have walked away from that potential puchase in a heartbeat if it wasn't what was advertised."   At any rate, it's the story that defines Carrie, as a person and as my friend . . . . and I love the positive influence that she is in my life (and my family's life.)  I love the practice of treating people well. I love the practice of prayer.  I love the communication.  I love her status.  Don't you??

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The time is 12:17 pm on Wednesday, the 19th of January, 2011. 

A date and time that will life in infamy for many days to come.  From this time until about 6 pm, when my children begin to disrobe for bathtime, for this SHORT period of time  . . ALL of the laundry in my house is done.  I have three empty laundry baskets.  No socks on the floor, no dirty handtowels, clean sheets, socks are warm, dry & put away.  I'm off to enjoy a full five hour stretch of NO LAUNDRY.

Yeah . . . I wish I could share this feeling with all my momma-friends out there :)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Mountain Air . . .


Just the simple act of packing the car and getting out of the "city" helps cleanse my mind and ease my soul.  I'm not sure if it's leaving the "stuff" our of lives behind or the weight of the air and baggage of this city . . . but leaving feels good.   Getting away is fabulous. 

And if just driving outside the county line feels good, then the view from the top of Peak 8 can't really be described.  Might be the closest one can get to Heaven while physically here, on earth . . .



Ski bums.   That's what we're making.  Ski bums.  They love the snow.  The don't mind the gear.  They carry their own bags, schlep their own stuff and do their level best to keep up.  On Sunday, they skiied with their daddy for the first time.  Out of lessons and free on the mountain.  Yikes.  MOTH was a little worried and felt a touch outnumbered at first, but his reports at mid-day and post event were wonderful.  He says Big is cautious.  She has age and fear of injury deeply ingrained.  She's cautious and what MOTH calls a "cruiser".  He says that she skis at my speed, and predicts that we will have fun together.  He likes that she brings up the rear and watches out for little siblings and everyone else on the run.   He says Middle likes to go straight down and really fast.  He has to issue frequent reminders to turn and control her speed.  He says that she likes to zoom through the trees and actually looks for things to jump off of or over.  Even the slightest little hop makes her giggle and scream, "I got some big air!!"  He says Little just whoops it up down the whole run.  MOTH says he gets going and all you can hear is little yips, yee-haws and whoo-hoos until he's at the bottom.  MOTH's report on Little made me laugh out loud . . . it's exactly what he did last summer on the alpine coaster.  Tears filled my eyes and by the time we skidded to a halt, I couldn't see a thing & my gut was spasmed from laughing.  MOTH says that Little likes to go fast (really fast), too.  Frequent turn and speed reminders are a necessity.  Everyone does well on the lifts, with potty breaks and holding out for a long day  . . . .

Yeah! 

Mimi and I did a little shopping.  We bought silicone cupcake forms.  A culinary must have.  I love them.  And a little tiny blue spatula.  Some wooden cars and a pair of tomboy jeans for Big. We ate lunch at a little tiny French boutique where Mimi cracked up the European tourists when she launched into song and bellowed "hit me with your best shot . . fire away" while she waggled her bootie while standing on the chair.   We checked out the children's museum, played with robotic cars & made pizzas at the sno table.  We bought stickers for the windjammer and the sticker wall in the garage.  We contemplated a horse drawn carriage ride, but opted for ice cream instead.   We went swimming, made a fleece pillow at kids craft time, practiced gymnastics and went puddle splashing in the village.  I love a long holiday weekend!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Mimi says, "I can spell hotel . . . B-E-X-G."

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Preschool Plunge

We did it.  This week, we took the preschool plunge.  I am a big fan of preschool.  I believe in kids taking a few cautious steps out of the nest.  I believe that there comes a time when they really NEED to listen to another adult.   They're all on their own time table, but if an opportunity is lost, it can take years to make up. 

Well, just before her birthday, Mimi started talking about school.  "I'm ready sk-uhl," she'd say.  We would load up to take the Big kids to school and she'd cry when we pulled out the drive through.  I daresay I was boring her to death at home.  Tiny toddler minds that are growing and absorbing everything like a sponge can only take so much "produce section science". 

At any rate, the day after her birthday, she exclaimed, "I'm three now . . I can go to school."

 After lots of investigation and visiting a few programs, I fell back on Old Faithful.  This preschool has done me right in excellent kindergarten prep for two of my kids.   And . . . let's face it, you get what you pay for.  Preschool is like batteries.  Buy Duracell and you get a great battery.  Skimp on preschool and you get an angry grandma putting in her volunteer hours with your tender young mind.  Well, that and a paper cross to hang on your fridge.

And because I'm committed to fairness . . . here's the First Day of Preschool Picture . . . just like the rest of my crew . . .


January 10, 2011 . . . Mimi's first day of preschool.



Sunday, January 09, 2011

More on Resolutions . . .

There are MY resolutions and there are MORE resolutions.  I've posted this in the kitchen, as a list of resolutions to work on with the kiddos.  A couple of times this year, we've left situations thinking, "some people need to go back to kindergarten for basic social skills."  (It happened at the Costco food court just last week with "wash your hands before you eat.")  Besides, can't we all use a reminder from time to time, about the crucial life skills we leaned in kindergarten?  

ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW I LEARNED IN KINDERGARTEN


All I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sand pile at school.
These are the things I learned:

* Share everything.
* Play fair.
* Don't hit people.
* Put things back where you found them.
* Clean up your own mess.
* Don't take things that aren't yours.
* Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody.
* Wash your hands before you eat.
* Flush.
* Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
* Live a balanced life - learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
* Take a nap every afternoon.
* When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.
* Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: the roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
* Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup - they all die. So do we.
* And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned - the biggest word of all - LOOK.
* Everything you need to know is in there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation. Ecology and politics and equality and sane living.

2011 Resolutions

I'm one of the crazies out there that really likes resolutions.  While preparing for this post, I went back through all of my previous resolutions posts to see how things are coming.  Guess what . .  I've not changed much.  I still like all the stuff I wrote about resolutions, me and my goals.  That's happy to report. 

I don't do JUST one resolution most times.  Most years, I look back and see what fellby the wayside.  A new year's resolution includes picking up the pieces and creating emotional order. 

I have a few things this year that I'm sharing with all of blogger-dom:

1.  I resolve to grow thicker skin.
2.  I resolve to do a better job flossing.
3.  OHIO.  This my personal method of home organization.  Only Handle It Once.  It's a lifestyle . . and I'm continuing to practice.  Also, I resolve to go as paperless as possible.
4.  Body, exercise, diet, boobs & curves.  I'm still working on accepting and living with my body.  Last year was good, and living pain free after back surgery has certainly helped get me to the gym and create a calorie deficit.  Deep down, there's a goal -- an "I'd like to lose 10 pounds", but I'm also okay like I am.  Losing those last ten pounds doesn't invade every thought and the fear of NOT losing those last ten pounds doesn't keep me out of social situations.  This year's goal for health and fitness:  make good choices.  That's it.  Do the right thing for me.
5.  Cut and pasted straight out of last year's list:  I'll continue to purge negativity . . . people and their energy from my life.  In the unfortunate circumstance where I MUST deal with bad energy, I'll do my very best to leave the situation balanced & centered. If my kids are involved, I resolve to use it as a teachable moment and speak the truth into them.
6. I'll make the trip to see my dad as many times as possible this year.
7. I'll concentrate on the people and things I love. I'll grow my garden, train my dogs & be absolutely real with my friends.   I'll limit involvement with social media so that my FREE time can be spent sharing coffee and conversation instead of clicking "update status."  I will not be a slave to email.
8.  Also right out of last year, mostly becasue it worked . . . but also becasue it's good practice:  On money.This year, I'll add money to savings every month. I'll recover the cash spent on time-sharing. I'll be better about saving the receipts for flex spending and I will submit them on time.   I'll make at least one extra mortgage payment.
9.  I will give back . . .
10.  On Mimi  . . . I will support her transition into preschool with the enthusiasm and uniqueness that she deserves.   I will color with her and play dollies.  I will make time for her needs.
11.  On Little . . . I will both embrace and protect his need for spontaneous jedi rolls and making sound effects for various weaponry.  I will not be upset that spit flies out of his missing teeth holes at sound effect time. This too shall pass.  I will love that little man from deep in the center to as far as I can reach every single day. 
12.  On Middle . . . I will support her transition to competitive gymnastics.  I will do her hair.  I will understand sore muscles, tired bodies and stress over homework.  I will balance her sporting life with books and down time and will concentrate on making opportunities for her to be a child.
13.  On Big . . . I will breathe deeply and count when her pre-teen attitude shows its ugly head.   I will communicate with her every day.  I will tuck her in, hug her and share secrets.   I will embrace her dramatic side and teach her to identify and label her emotions and understand the WHY.   I will stand beside her, let her lean on me, or carry her, if needed, as she transitions into her middle school mind and body.
14.  On parenting . . . . I will live by example, even (and especially) in the face of judgement and scrutiny.  I will put into practice these phenomenal tips on parenting gifted children.  I resolve to understand and teach the people around me that their battle is not the same as mine . . but they are both battles.
15.  I resolve to read.
16.  I resolve to CHOOSE happiness.
17.  I resolve to be the best wife that I can be.
18.  I resolve to appeciate, communicate and negotiate.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Nobody trips over mountains. It is the small pebble that causes you to stumble. Pass all the pebbles in your path and you will find you have crossed the mountain.

Things left unsaid . . .

Ever had a discussion or disagreement or arguement or spat, of sorts, with . . . well, it could be with anyone. A hotel manager about foreign razor blade left in your room . . . . an girlfriend about kids . . . . your spouse . . . your kids . . . a teacher . . . . your mother . . . the list goes on and on.


So this encounter takes place and right after it's over, the most perfect words come to you. This overwhelming feeling of, "Oh, I wish I would have said that?" comes rolling through your mind. And then for hours or days or maybe weeks after the encounter, you still wish you would have said _____________ (whatever, insert applicable phrase here.)

Welcome to my life right now.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

The Great Pumpkin Pie Taste-Test


Every Thanksgiving AND Christmas, we ponder this question . . . . "which recipe was it that we liked??"

We gather all of the stuff to make pumpkin pies.  It's Middle's job and has been for a couple of years now.  And I recall buying evaporated milk and all kinds of different things, but I can never quite remember which is which.

So, this year, Middle made pumpkin pies three times over.   We conducted the first ever (and hopefully last) Great Pumpkin Pie Taste Test.  It was also the makings for a great science fair project -- but we didn't think of it before pies were in the oven!

She followed recipes for Kuner's Traditional Pumpkin Pie, Libby's Famous Pumpkin Pie & Perfect Pumpkin (one that I'd been holding onto in the recipe box.)


All in all . . . the amount of pumpkin is the same.  Give or take a pinch, the spices are all similar.  The big difference is the milk. 

Kuner's = milk
Libby's = evaporated milk
Perfect = sweetened condensed milk (but no sugar)

Notes:  Kuner's is darker and looks like it'd be more spicy.  Libby's smells the best in the uncooked state.  Libby's also looks kind of lumpy and chunky.  Not that pretty in the batter form.  Perfect looks pretty and smells wonderful.   Kuners' doesn't bake as promised . . the others work out pretty nicely.

All of the pumpkin pie eaters in our house tasted.  Then, we packed up a few sliced, labeled them and shared with family friends.

The results are in . . . . the winner in OUR house is PERFECT PUMPKIN PIE -- the recipe from the very back of the recipe box.  It was delicious!!  Smooth, creamy, set up well and perfectly spicy.  In our house, Libby's was a second place winner.  It was smooth and set well.  It cut nicely and served up like a magazine.

We've got another gymnast in our family . . .

Rose Petunia Annalise

Middle's 9-year old birthday roses are opening.  It's been weeks.  It's amazing to me how long they last.  Everytime MOTH buys roses for Middle, I'm reminded of her toddler days.  She was about mid-3 to early 4 year old when she declared to the family that she was re-naming herself.  I remember sitting at dinner with our then family of four.  She blurted out her intentions and crossed her little chubby arms in front of her chest like she was preparing for battle.  Done deal.  There was no room for negotiation. 

MOTH shrugged. 
I complemented her new name choice.

We called her . .   Rose Petunia Annalise for weeks.  

A short stint of very glorious winter weather.

The local weatherman predicted 60 degrees on Christmas. 

Sad. 

I like a white Christmas.  I like frost and wool socks and a good solid reason to stay inside and wear jammies all day long.  I like "snowpacked and icy", with a side of "chains or adequate snow tired required." Warm weather Christmas' are for bikes and scooters and quite frankly, we weren't ready for that this year. 

At any rate . . . we did get a short stint of glorious winter weather right before Christmas.  Frosty, cold, fog-hanging-in-the-air sort of weather.  It was lovely.