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Archive for February, 2010

Daylight Savings - Yeah!!!

February 28th, 2010 at 01:56 am

Stormy stormy stormy.

So, I walked out of work at 4pm, and all I Saw was blue skies?

I was GIDDY. Grabbed the kids and took them on a bike ride to the park. Knew it would be WET, but we played frisbee. & got quite muddy, yes. Funny thing, is we are often the only ones out for a walk, or at the park, etc. But the place was actually pretty crowded. I was shocked anyone else was out. Blue skies and sun - but a wet mess all the same.

LM did awesome on his bike - rode all the way by himself - navigating the curb to street a little better...

Then it hit me it was almost Daylight Savings. I LOVE Daylight Savings. I think it is the only way I can REALLY function as a working mom. I can come home and get hours of play time in the fresh air. In the summers we go swimming after dinner, etc. (Because it's too hot before dinner).

& then I remembered that Daylight Savings comes super early these days. The day? March 14! Woohoo!

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Dh and the kids even cleaned up the house a bit while I worked all day. They must WANT something. Kissing up for the TV, I suppose. That also lightened my mood, quite a bit.

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Dh HATES Daylight Savings. I understand the principle behind it is kind of stupid. Especially the early Daylight Savings. BUT, wish he would just be happy for me. & if I come home and take the kids to the park every night - he should be happy for himself, too. Big Grin

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I suppose we don't get many storms here. OR maybe it's the El Nino. But the skies have just been AMAZING. Maybe you will think, "Hasn't this girl ever seen a storm?" Big Grin

Pictures from when we snuck a bike ride between storms, last weekend:





& though I don't make it a habit to snap pictures while driving, the sky was just amazing the other night on my drive home.







After snapping the last one, I walked into walgreens for a few minutes, and the blue skies were gone when I walked out. Blink, and you miss it, it seems.

Of course, according to Facebook, there were also quite a few "Double Rainbow" sightings. I missed those!

Anyway, I suppose I should hope for some blue skies along with that Daylight Savings...

More Time Flying By...

February 27th, 2010 at 03:14 pm

Keeping an eye on the credit card bill...

It's not a tight budget month, not at all. Quite the contrary. So, trying to squeeze out the $400+ cost of LM's new mattress, out of the budget, without touching savings. Which would go a long way towards "crazy TV purchase of 2010." Dh is now set on a $1500 model. Oy vey. (I did convince him to "wait a few weeks." Which means, I might not need to touch savings for that either - if I can earn any decent overtime).

I find it hard to balance the "prepare for the worst" with the "chill out and enjoy" when it comes to this TV. I think because it's the only thing dh splurges "recklessly" on. Maybe because it is something I would never buy. I was looking at our savings and thinking maybe it wasn't a biggie. But then again, we haven't had a great time lately as far as Murphy - and there is certainly a lot more that can go wrong. But in the end, maybe I should just chill out.

On the flip side, my large purchases are always pushed back into eternity, while he gets constant instant gratification. While I am the one working my butt off for a paycheck. Yes, I told him how I felt about that. I told him my fears for the future and my stress at always putting my needs aside, for his. It is certainly a communication thing. I don't feel my needs are as pressing, and so they just stay in the back of my mind, while he is very vocal about these things. So I spilled my guts and it is what it is.

He told me he envisioned working again in 2 years. I don't really want to push him to work anytime soon. Kinder will be a large transition for us all. I don't think LM will take to it all quite as easy as BM. (Though by 1st grade, I am sure he will be okay with after school care, on occasion, if need be - I think all day Kinder will be enough of an adjustment for this year). BUT, I certainly feel more economic pressure this year than I have in a long while, and appreciate dh being on board. We discussed that he would probably focus on volunteer opportunities once LM starts school in August. He has looked for jobs this last decade - and had applied for MANY. Before the economy had gone bad. Though our cost of living is cheap, and my wage is good, employment has been hard (impossible?) for him to find since moving here (whether it be in his field or a minimum wage job - either has been very elusive - I can't imagine how hard it would be now to find anything). BUT, he wants to put more face time at the public TV station (more weekday time with employees, anyway) and we both had thought that volunteering more at Scholastic (more time to) could possibly lead to a warehouse job there. I don't want him to focus too much on menial jobs, BUT he feels he needs SOMETHING on his resume, and references, etc. Volunteering will certainly yield references, at the least. He had talked to the TV station about jobs many years ago - they just didn't have anything part-time. Now, he probably has to wait out the economy a bit.

The other thing about the TV station is he has met so many people in the film industry, anyway. Another good angle - could get a lead at another job. But the thing about the TV station is it would be his "dream job" in a sense. Maybe not 100% - but it is for a good cause, deals with his favorite subject (TV) and the commute would be stellar (about a mile each way!). He worries about the income, but as long as we don't divorce (no plans to) the income would be just fine as a second income. We got ample life/disability insurance to cover my wage if something happened to me. I thing being happy is worth more than pushing for the big bucks. The thing is my dh is also great at working from the bottom up. Like he won't be running the place in a decade anyway... That's how he has been at any job - started out low and worked his way to the top very rapidly. He just doesn't look good on paper! I am quite confident he can get a decent wage if he just puts the effort into what he loves. The thing is he doesn't need a ridiculously high wage to support his family - as long as I am making the big bucks doing what I love. $20k income sounds DIVINE to me, about now! But I know he can work up to $40k-$50k income, easy. Pursuing what he loves... Which is plenty for us to live on, anyway.

Even if he scores a minimum wage job, the money would be great as a second income, and could mean paying cash for some college training. References and something to put on a resume, are all good outcomes too. I think for once, he has a really good plan. He has just been floundering since graduating college, for the most part. Mostly because he feels he has to do something he hates for big bucks. Volunteering, is a move in quite a different direction. But he has had a chance to show off his smarts and work ethics to some good employers, in the process. That's how he needs to get his foot in the door.

Come to think of it, Scholastic is a good commute too - it's not any farther than a mile, either. It's not like he will have large commuting costs. Another perk!

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Economic forces? In this economy, my pay is not keeping up with medical costs. (We were blessed it had kept up - the last decade - with skyrocketing costs).

Our plan originally, was to get some modest second job with good benefits. BUT, with the events of the last year, I have decided two things. 1 - We want to keep our HMO, if at all possible. No longer willing to settle for less, to save a few bucks. 2 - Considering my parents' melodrama more than our own - I no longer think relying on an employer for benefits is anything more than short-term thinking. Lose your job, get a pre-existing condition = be screwed. Nevermind that.

We have a rather sudden mindshift that our private insurance is worth keeping, indefinitely. A second low paying job would easily cover it - so it's not a huge biggie. (Not going to go bankrupt over it or anything).

The other economic force at play is losing my retirement benefits. Though I expected a temporary reduction in this economy, and a permanent reduction, in the future, I thought I had a little more time, all the same. I had been trying to bulk up other savings in the meantime - but really needed at least another year to get there!

The combination of both these factors mean quite the storm. (Committing 20% of my income to our health, for the long run, and losing 10% of my compensation - ouch).

I suppose on the health insurance - at least we have gotten our money's worth. Would be different to pay a bazillion and never use it.

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Anyway, I got the preschool bill yesterday, and there was mention of spring break in April.

April???

It hit me that we only have to pay this dang bill for about 3 more months. Holy cow!!! I should have been counting down the months.

It's very hard to believe that both kids will be in elementary school come late summer. & that dh is talking about returning to the workforce, now that it won't cost an arm and a leg. (& also because the kids wouldn't even notice if he was working).

The preschool savings is nothing huge, but will be about $150/month. Phew! Enough to make a substantial difference to our savings, all the same.

I can just hardly believe it. Where is the time going?

I was evaluating my overtime and deciding how much I could realistically work the next 6 weeks. I think I will just throw myself into my work. (Dh is doing great this week!). I can't believe that is only 6 more weeks of tax season, as well. The time will FLY - it has been so hectic. That's the thing - I work my butt off this time of year - but the time FLIES and the rest of the year is so slow and leisurely, really. Anyway, I am putting a big weekend in and work, and so should get to it!

*News* on California Refunds

February 25th, 2010 at 12:44 am

Just in my inbox:

"California refunds could be delayed (02-24-10)
The state budget crisis is not yet fixed, and the state's cash flow is dismal. It's too early to tell, but you can't rule out the State Controller delaying income tax refunds or issuing IOUs if California lawmakers don't resolve the budget crisis.
"

The rumblings are starting later than last year, though. & it is still only speculation, at this point.

As for me, I am not owed a refund. In fact, paid in the minimum I had to - just for this reason. But, figured I'd pass along since I have seen the questions around here - about state refunds this year.

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Feeling relieved today. Took the kids for dental cleanings. BM seems extremely cavity prone. So, basically, I hold my breath every time we go to the dentist. Not only for BM, but wondering if LM will develop the same cavity-proneness.

It turns out BM did not have any cavities, and the plaque they had been monitoring had desisted, so no X-rays next time either. (Not sure I agree with this - give the boy X Rays! Beats a surprise of an army of cavities festering all year). But, was all good news, yes.

However, his baby teeth had been falling out, out of order, and as a preventitive measure, they did want to pull a tooth, in an effort to get the teeth growing in the right place. I exclaimed it was already loose, as of a few days - more for BM's sake. I have had teeth removed - baby teeth are easy - and loose ones must be easier. Dentist thought I was fighting her and said, "well, if it come out on its own in a couple weeks." Pfffft. That is not going to happen. Told her I was just glad it was already loose - we will come in for the extraction.

Full price is $200. 10% cash discount. 25% off that for tax deduction. In the end $135 for a little prevention, is no biggie. Not that I really think it will matter. The kids inherited my teeth - so we are screwed. I have been saving for orthodnotia since before they were even born.

I suppose this is why a tooth extraction doesn't bother me as much. Those are given, with my genes!

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I couldn't fit another dentist appointment in BM's or my schedule for another 2 weeks. (To be fair - trying to work around school more than anything!) Lord I hope dh is up to taking him next time. He should feel mighty fine by then.

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Found out my friend's child has a benign brain tumor. THey have been spending the last couple of weeks ruling out cancer. I feel extra grateful we didn't have to go down that route. (They have been meeting with oncologists and getting biopsies in the time frame we were already interviewing surgeons - dh's tumor was so obviously not cancerous).

But yeah, it's like there is something in the water. Yeesh.

As for us, I can't believe we may be putting this chapter behind us, in just a few days. Dh went out for a hair trim yesterday, and his hair is back to all one length. Can still see the scar, but it will be covered up completely in no time. (If he had darker hair - it would probably no longer be visible). His next MRI is in a few days. Hopefully, his final MRI!

Tuesday Tidbits...

February 23rd, 2010 at 11:21 pm

**Got to go on a bike ride Sunday. First bike ride of the year! Unfortunately, probably too wet and cold, for a while now, to do again soon. But, it was nice. Extra nice since no one else was out and about. VERY peaceful.

LM is also getting better on his bike. Will be SO nice when LM can ride his bike to school and we can ride bikes to pick up the kids, etc. For now, he still struggles with curb to street/street to curb. BUT was able to ride with him around the block, which was a great improvement. Nice not to run after him all the way - nice to ride alongside. The bike was a bit big for him when we got it, but he grew plenty over the winter - so he is doing better on it. PRobably should raise the seats on both the kids' bikes.

Of course, though dh has been happy with his ancient bike (found in his parents' garage) I think he may be next in line for a "new" bike, soon. Probably new, since Craigslist has had such slim pickings...

**BM went back to school this week, and so commences "crazy." The last couple of days have been okay. By the time I have made him luch and everything, I haven't made it to school early to use the daycare. Maybe later this week. (I can drop him off 1/2 hour early for free - which is what I have been doing). We still have about 15 hours prepaid. Wondering if we will even use it, this year. Though I could really stand to get to work earlier, the truth is I was the one who slept in today. I have been running myself ragged taking care of my family on top of the craziness at work.

**Finally broke out the food processor that we got for dh's birthday. It arrived on the day of his surgery, and has sat in a box, since!

So far, impressed with it. We made some hummus (YUM) and I used it to slice some onions for dinner.

Anyway, dh seems pleased. So that is good. & I have got a chance to try it our - more than usual - since I am the chef in the house, for now.

**We got a hospital bill yesterday. I was scared to look, but it was a whopping $100 for lab work the day before dh's surgery.

The bills will probably dribble in, for eternity. This is just the beginning. But they seem extraordinarily slow on anything over $500. (I'm talking, YEARS). Of course they sent us a bill for lab work - pfffft. & here I am holding my breath for $100-ish bills. Gah.

Life is Settling Down, Maybe...

February 21st, 2010 at 04:24 pm

I told myself that I would take today off. Something I haven't gotten in many weeks...

Then I remember:

1 - We were going to buy an apple tree - and plant it!
2 - I have some spots to clean off the carpet (procrastination has already been done there)
3 - I was going to make dinner
4 - I was going to go to work for a few hours

& on and on and on...

Geez!

In the end, decided to skip work.

Though maybe we will do morning chores and call it a day. I am also thinking of putting off the apple tree purchase another year. February is the month to plant it. This year is just way too crazy though. We haven't removed the stump on our old tree (though small and may be simple). & I really rather do that when dh can help. I don't mind the work - I have issues with the SPIDERS. This is why I do not do yard work!

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All that said, today should be pretty low key, compared to the rest of the week, and I have gotten some time with the kids.

Yesterday I took them to Chuck E Cheese hell - for a birthday party.

You may recall that my kids had their party there. BUT, it was a WEEK NIGHT. It was a very pleasant experience.

We went to a party there one weekend a year or 2 ago, and I would describe it as hell. There was nothing redeeming about it. So, I promised to take them yesterday - hoping to get in and out as fast as possible. It was worse than I remembered. This time was an actual "reserved and "official" party. They churn them out like a factory. They cram you in like sardines. & then they kick you out to make room for the next batch.

Who in their right mind would do this to their poor children?

The best part? We had to buy our own tokens.

Yeah.

Because they wanted us to wait a half hour.

Anyway, I had thought ahead and brought some "just in case." From home. Really did not expect to need them. Thank goodness! Saved me cash or making my kids stand around and do nothing for a 1/2 hour.

I came home and told dh he could take them next time. This monkey mama is never going to Chuck E Cheese on a weekend. Again. Ever.

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When we got home, the weather was gorgeous and the kids were quite upset we left early. I let them play outside though. We put air in the bike tires and LM practiced on the scooter. (We are convinced BM learned how to balance on his bike by learning to balance on his scooter). So, was encouraging very timid LM to TRY the scooter. He runs hot/cold on the bike, but was open to it yesterday.

Today, I need to get air in my tires (they've been sitting in the garage all winter) and BM and I may go for a ride. Though it is a bit cold for my taste. But, it's getting better. It's either that or the gym, for me, today. I haven't gotten to the gym or anything, all week.

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Last night I went grocery shopping with BM. I am not sure I have ever bought so many groceries, in my life! I was telling him how I have never shopped for a whole family before. Strange territory. The timing was good. The place was pretty empty (6pm-ish Saturday).

I had quite a list and called dh about 10 times for directions. (Which ones? Where are they???). But I luckily scored quite a few sale items, and hope I did semi well. Dh is the grocery MASTER.

Since my total was $120, I wasn't feeling thrilled, but dh assured me that I did good. He skimmed the receipt and oohed and aaahed over some of the sales I had scored. I suppose I did okay. BM told me even daddy never buys so much food at once. LOL. Though I do not think this is true.

I did score a quarter off per gallon for my vehicle - haven't had one since dh has been out of commission. Have to spend $100 for that holy grail coupon. Usually dh plans the groceries just so, so we never pay full price for the van's gas.

I had to stock up on a lot of stuff, like tuna and yogurt. Bread, juice, salad.

The menu for the next week (or 2):

**Texas Burgers and seasoned corn (new recipe to try)

**Spaghetti and meat + garlic bread (easy and makes lots of leftovers)

**Burritos (easy and makes lots of leftovers).

**Hummus (we need to try the new food processor - haven't opened it yet).

I also bought some eggs, and would like to make an egg salad. Haven't chosen a recipe yet.

We still have about 4 frozen meals in our fridge, as well. SO, this should carry us through the end of the month. & then some...

Anyway, it feels good to have a PLAN. It's been so hectic and I have been waiting for the weekend to plan some meals, etc. I picked meals I could easily cook after work, but dh said he may be up to helping too. He probably is. He helped us fill tires yesterday and stuff like that. He seems totally fine as long as he doesn't leave the house. Which is awesome that he is feeling as good as he is!

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I snapped my own pictures of spring:





Though, looks like the cold is returning - I ran the heat a bit last night. & the forecast calls for endless rain again.

It was nice to glimpse spring for a bit...

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ETA: Sun came out, its warm, and the little boys and I did a lot of bike riding today. Yay!

Quickies

February 19th, 2010 at 05:37 pm

**Filed our taxes. Phew! When my $800 Fed refund arrives, I will send it over to the state. Won't bother waiting until 4/15, like usual. Just want it done!

Still have to fund $1080 into a new regular IRA. Goodie goodie - maybe will do when the refund arrives. A chore for March. Don't want to wait too last minute...

**I do admit that all my early bird clients are the ones with the big refunds. They can't wait! Though the refunds have been absurd ($5k-$15k).

I admit a twinge of jealousy.

Then I knocked myself back to reality. I transfer $1200 to my savings every payday. I could let the IRS hold that money for me all year, and forego the 2% interest on my savings account. Sometimes it is easy to be jealous when you focus on a small piece of the pie. The big picture is I'll take my money now, thanks!

**Kids are home and we are back to self sufficiency. Feels kind of good. Though definitely, exhausting!

Though I know most of my friends (SAHM/working mom/every mom) thinks my boss chains me to my desk and my dh never lifts a finger - I am definitely experiencing this reality right now. All I can say is, it sucks! Biggest sacrifice? "Me Time"? Um, no. QUALITY time with my KIDS. I am hoping to spare some time with them this Sunday.

All the same, I can hang for 2 more months. Until work settles down. & I can be thankful that this is only a temporary reality!

It's not just that dh is laid up, or that work is crazy. IT's the combo of the 2!

**Dh is doing pretty good. He is doing good at home, and is doing more than I expect. (He refuses to send the kids to daycare, and I caught him doing dishes last night). He has also cooked a bit. BUT, he is still pretty exhausted when it comes to driving and going out.

I think next week will be good. He will walk BM home from school (if he feels up to it) and will drive a short drive to pick up LM from school (if he feels up to it). I think a regular schedule will help build up his strength. HE did both of these with his mom already, so I know he is up to it.

He does fine with the kids, though MUCH easier with BM in school all day - next week should be better. LEss refereeing, with only one child. & LM is the type who can play quietly for 8 hours. So, he will be fine.

For the long run, I Expect I will be doing a lot of driving, grocery shopping, and errands. Though I guess in 2 more weeks time, he may build a lot of strength. It has still only been 4 weeks.

**A week from Monday is his next MRI and follow up. I can hardly believe it! Right around the corner. Crossing our fingers for some good news. No follow up radiation, would be the best news.

Hope it's not Too Good To Be True

February 17th, 2010 at 07:29 pm

I did some shopping last night. All I need is the internet to do financial damage. Credit card info - memorized!

Anyway, to make a long story short, we tried to hit a few mattress sales this weekend, and failed. I suppose, in this day and age, the true deals are online. (It probably doesn't help that 10,000 small businesses closed in our county, in 2009). You know - those hole in the wall places are impossible to find any more. Our favorite furniture discounter is long gone, etc.

I would like to see and feel a mattress before I buy it. But I haven't seen anything halfway decent for under $1k. I don't think my standards are that high either - just looking for a Twin mattress for my youngest. With the "best sales of the year" winding down, I started looking online, out of frustration.

I struck gold with Overstock.com

$1200-ish mattresses on sale for $450-ish. Big name brands. $2.95 shipping. Unexpected perk - no sales tax. (Though technically, California can come after us for the sales tax - might as well report it - but I have a year to pay that). I also found a $10-off coupon. I stared at the total in disbelief before I clicked "finalize purchase."

So, that whole thing isn't over. Will see when it arrives. BUT, the mattress had excellent reviews, as did Overstock for their mattress selling/shipping. Well, okay then. At this point, I am desparate!

There were a couple of catches. BEsides not getting to see and feel it. (& I suppose if I wasn't so sick of the mattress stores, I could have gone out and looked for one in person, to see, before I committed). Anyway, the mattress did only have a 5-year warranty. Which, actually surprised me. Because we saw some really cheap crap with 3-year-warranties. This mattress appeared to be much higher quality. Anyway, with out eldest, our philosophy was to buy him a "forever" bed. (He actually just has my old "forever" mattress). The thing is, he is a rambuctious boy, and I think we are lucky he hasn't broken it yet!!

So, yeah, I am totally happy, with current cashflow, to go a little cheaper. Maybe LM will get his *forever bed* in a few more years... I am still assuming he gets at least 10 years out of this mattress, all the same.

The other thing is that I know we will just buy a platform bed of some type, eventually. I really just wanted the mattress. But this one came with the boxspring.

I think it works out, because dh has been really against throwing the mattress on the floor. I really wanted to buy a mattress LAST year and to buy a bed this year. With the box spring, maybe he won't freak out too much about LM not sleeping on a REAL bed. Will look more bed-like?

That being said, since we are no longer shopping "forever bed," I am sure we will find something quite frugal in the next few months. I suppose we will shop for a bed and desk set. But if what we want is on the pricey side, we can wait another year or so to get him an actual bed frame.

I suppose we can sell the old toddler bed for $50. That is how much we paid for it used - though it came with a crappy mattress that we switched out for our nice crib mattress.

Good mattresses are so important! So I am crossing my fingers that I didn't make a terrible purchase.

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I shopped around but only bought him a mattress pad, last night. Amazon? Ours is pretty sad (has holes and everything) and found one for $20-ish, so replaced it too.

Will take him shopping for some bedding, though I know we can make do with that too, for now. I REALLY liked a comforter set online for $99. A little pricey for my taste, but maybe I should just get it - since the mattress was a steal. Will wait and see if the mattress is good, and will consider it. (Or wait and see if it goes on sale???) Mattress should arrive in 1-6 weeks!

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I also bought a nice pair of workout shoes at Zappos. It's the only place I can find shoes that fit. Without spending DAYS roaming the stores. I had picked this month to buy since it is a long put off purchase. HAd been waiting for a slow month. Not that this month is ending up a low spend month, but the mattress will come from savings (for much less than I expected), and I've still got room in the budget for shoes. If they fit well, I will immediately buy a second pair. I replace them so slowly, every time I find a good pair, the go out of production buy the time I want to buy them again. I hate that! I have been shoe hoarding of late. It's a perk to having more wiggle room in the budget. Phew! It may be YEARS before I have to shoe shop again. Big Grin

Spring is Here!

February 16th, 2010 at 04:20 pm

Don't stone me!

The sun has come out, and it was absolutely "warm" this weekend. I HATE winter, with a passion, and spent most of it wrapped up with dh's medical issues. As things calm down, so has the cold/wet weather. Which is nice. If I could spare 5 minutes to enjoy the outdoors, anyway.

I didn't flip on the heat yesterday because the kids were gone and I figured dh could turn on the heat when he felt like it. He likes it colder than I. To my surprise, the heat was *off* when I Came home for lunch, but the thermostat read 68 (what we usually set it to). I asked him if he had turned on the heat at all, and he said, "IT's not on???"

I forget that we rarely run the heat with the sun out. IT had been gone for so long... But, the nights have been warmer too. I am sure we will have another cold spell before spring, but this is nice. As long as we have sun, no more heat for the house. The energy efficiency takes over & harnesses the sun's warmth.

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I am having a real love/hate relationship with Facebook. I love getting in touch with old friends and having a central place to keep in contact with people. For that, it is worth it.

Everything else is uber obnoxious! Like, if I turned down adding your page to my favorites, 1 million times before, why do you keep sending me a request every day? OMG! (My #1 pet peeve...)

BUT, I appreciated it last night. A good friend that I have grown apart from announced that her young child has a brain tumor. Geez louise! They don't really know much at this point, and the symptoms sound different from what dh had - so probably a different type tumor. But, I am very saddened to see a young child going through all this. & I couldn't help but thing I Wouldn't know this was going on, otherwise. I am hoping it is beningn, and curable without surgery!

My neighbor keeps telling me she knows what we are going through because they have had so many serious medical issues with their son (since birth). Oy vey - it is so much easier dealing with this with a spouse than a child. I just can not imagine having a child going through any of this. I keep telling dh, "no offense - but it's not the same. I'd be a 100% wreck if it was one of the kids." I've only been 50% of a wreck, with dh. Wink

So yeah, my heart is really going out to my friend right now.

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Still feeling a little bad since I had *promised* dh a TV, I asked him why we just do not consider something smaller.

Thing is, the 50-inchers have been at an amazing price point, and why we considered them. But, with flaws in various models, the low price point has vanished. Dh even told me the $1400 one had a *flaw* that he didn't think he was too picky for. (I find that hard to believe - we already have a perfectly great 50-inch that he would be happy to be rid of because of some "invisible flaw."). He did say he wanted to SEE that one before he decided for sure, at least.

BUT, anyway, he tells me, that I confuse him. Because last time *he* suggested to go smaller, I told him not to bother. "Go Big or Go Home." LOL. YEah - last time we were talking about a $200 price difference - might as well get what you want. Since then, finances have changed, and now we are talking a much bigger price gap.

Anyway, I'd rather wait a year and get what we really want, but it's a compromise I can deal with. IT would still be a huge upgrade from our current 32-inch analog TV. & he just can't wait another WEEK even!!!

I am not thrilled to "Settle" for a few hundred dollars, even. But if he goes back to work next year, he can buy whatever the hell he wants, at that point.

Anyway, in the end, if he has to wait 5 minutes, then he can wait a year. No difference to him. (I did say his brain goes out the window when it comes to TV).

So, the new models coming out are much cheaper, and dh wants to wait for the reviews, etc. I think the thing overall is the price point has been low, but so has the quality. I am relieved he is willing to wait, and not settle. I think this is the only thing he is impulsive about. & getting the *right* TV should remove that impuslivity for MANY years. I didn't even ask him to wait very long. I asked, one year? few months? 3 WEEKS???

Well, if he has to wait 3 weeks, might as well salivate over the new models?

But literally, I told him we could go look around at some of the smaller models last might, and in the end he passed. HE is salvating over newer and better, now. & I am grateful for this? LOL. They aren't out in the stores yet, so yeah, peace for me.

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I haven't particularly cared for the Wii, for working out.

But, dh scored a few games that he asked me to try out before he sells. (Came with the Wiis' we bought for our parents).

The boxing one sounds fun, and was a good workout. But, don't think I will see myself using it much.

(Sorry, forget the names!)

The personal trainer one has some potential. That one is pricey and came with all sorts of accessories. Since it came with the Wii and a pile of other games and accessories, was essentially *free.*

The other funny thing is I had kind of written off the Wii as *fad.* I don't know if it's the weather, or dh's surgery, but we have been playing that thing almost every single day lately. We did get a lot of games for Christmas, too. I think they are large improvements over the old ones. (The new games our parents all excited for Wiis, too). Don't get me wrong - the kids play it all the time. But *I* hadn't done any activity games on the Wii, in ages. I suppose it is a good winter toy!

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Last night, dh broke out the frozen brocolli chicken dinner, and so I grabbed hamburger at the store.

To be fair - I tried a bite of the chicken. Blech. He can have it (he knew the kids wouldn't like it either).

I spotted a 1/2 onion leftover in the fridge and so decided at the last minute to spice up my meat. I loosely followed a meatloaf recipe we have. Skipped the eggs and breadcrumbs, but tossed in about 1/4 onion, parsley, salt/pepper, and about 1/8 cup of horseradish. All added to my 1 lb of beef. YUM. Dh took a hamburger when I Wasn't looking - I made them too tasty! I wondered aloud that it was probably too spicy for the kids, but then remembered that they like the meatloaf recipe. I think this is my new "hamburger" recipe.

Spend, Spend, Spend

February 15th, 2010 at 08:48 pm

The ideal was to have the kids picked up and dropped off, fed and cared for by the family all week, and me to work as many hours, for overtime cash, as possible! Talk about a frugal week! (BM has the week off school).

Too good to be true, I suppose. Big Grin Generosity has run out...

Instead, extended family is still all sick from us (4 weeks ago) and MIL took on another job in the interim. Though she could watch the kids M/T, I wasn't too enthused about the germ exposure, all the same.

Dh watched the kids all day Saturday and has been about 99%. I originally just wanted to cancel the whole thing. But dh was so looking forward to a quiet week. The generosity/care he has received is just not enough. He needs a week to himself, while feeling good. PRetty selfish, in my opinion.

My folks are mostly better, but didn't want to push it by visiting us this weekend and picking up the kids. Against my better judgement, I agreed to take the kids down for M/T, as it is the *end of the world* according to all sides, if the kids can't go down for a few days. Oy vey. I suppose it is the path of least resistance. But I draw the line at making the rest of the family scramble to cover for MIL, while they are still recovering from illness, etc. They may have time to make up at work, etc., too. I know I certainly do.

I could have met MIL halfway, but haven't seen my parents in forever, it feels like. So left around noon, spent a few hours with them, dropped off the kids, and was home by 9pm. What a day...

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I wrinkled up my nose at getting out the frozen meals, with the kids gone, and me perfectly capable of cooking. But, I am starting to think maybe we should just dig in. I could prolong "real grocery shopping" for perhaps another week. Though I think for the most part, those frozen meals will be more useful next week. I told dh I would do a lot of chores and kid chauffering NEXT week, with the kids home and busy with school. But, after that, after his doctor appointment, after the 6-week mark, he is going to have to step it up so I can earn some overtime. I don't mind cutting him some slack, for now. But I know he is capable of watching the kids W/Th/F/Sat. & we can utilize daycare also, so he doesn't push it too much. Might not be the cheapest route, but nice to be able to take care of ourselves, all the same. & to not rely on so much generosity.

So, dh is fat dumb and happy with no responsibilities for 2 days. He is feeling just fine, though not up to a lot of errands/driving.

I would be perfectly happy with daycare options this week, but dh really hates to pay for daycare. I will have to make sure he rests enough and isn't just being *cheap.* It's just his hang up.

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In the meantime, dh is driving me nuts!

Today it's a $1400 TV, and he couldn't possibly wait a couple of weeks to buy it. (Though I promised him a $1k TV - as enticement to fast recovery - I didn't expect our HMO to bill so much so fast. Part of the reason was I thought I could leverage our gift until the bill materialized months/years later. Still may be possible for the balance. But there goes the gift money... We also agreed to a $1k TV. We are rapidly approaching $2k territory with sales taxes and a stand, etc.)

Dh was pissy and exclaimed, "I thought we were saving up for these things!" My reply? Um, I took a possible 10% pay cut by my boss saying he is cutting our retirement benefits - maybe, my overtime bonus is up in the air due to dealing with this and the economy, our medical deductible doubled and we will no doubt use it up all year, and dh just talked me into a major cable/internet upgrade - before all this. HELLO!

So yeah - that's the short version. He is driving me a little nuts.

Dh is ultra conservative and responsible. But in his world, he has always saved 100% of his income. There is some barrier to reality that drives me a little nuts, ever since he has not worked. Though this stuff is a drop in the bucket when mommy pays all of your bills, or when you live on 2 incomes, it's a whole different world on one income. I am frustrated he doesn't seem to *get it,* 8 years later. I don't know how someone so conervative and good with money could be so clueless on some level. But, he has never had to live on a tight budget. It really comes down to that. You could learn it all, and still just be spoiled rotten, on some level.

Anyway, once I laid it out for him, he dropped it. It will be the end of that. I should consider myself lucky. BUT, I just don't understand why I have to lay it out for him, all the same. The medical bills and lost retirement benefit weren't a clue that a $2k purchase would stress me out a bit???

Something about TV, and his brain goes out the window! Egads.

Tax Update

February 13th, 2010 at 04:17 pm

Is it absurd that I feel like I am filing insanely late? I usually have my taxes done before January 31, and file sometime around Feb. 1. Big Grin

But, life has gotten in the way, and this is my first opportunity to sit down and finalize everything.

I will hold off pushing "send" since I think that I have more charity receipts laying around.

I also need to open a regular IRA to roll my work retirement into. My boss is closing the plan. I just have no idea what I want to invest in. Ugh. But if I open a regular IRA with $1080, this got my taxes down to $0. ($800 refund Feds; $800 due to state). & makes our retirement contributions about 17% for the year. Woohoo. I am contributing for 2009 to get the immediate tax break. That, and I don't need a tax break for 2010 - I have medical bills galore for that...

So, I will just file my taxes with that figure, and pretty much means I should just open a Vanguard fund - since I can invest as little as $1k. I can always change my mind and roll things around, later. I think it's time for me to open a Vanguard account!

I will probably invest this money a tad more conservatively, which I suppose makes sense, since it gets taxed on the back end. LEt all the aggressive stuff be in the ROTHs? Since it shouldn't be taxed again? Will have to ponder it. This will put our ROTHs and regular IRAs at about 50/50. It's been that way for a while, but I haven't had any control over my work retirement before. So, now I have to think about it all a lot harder. It's overwhelming to suddenly be in charge of such a large chunk of change!

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I've got to whip out the kids' returns now. I think part of the reason I like the UGMA accounts for them, is they are well under any taxable limit for now, and I can easily report their (non-taxable) dividends on my tax return.

BUT, their balances grew enough in 2009 that I was able to move them over to some mutual funds with bigger minimums. So, sold their old funds, and triggered capital gains or losses. Not sure which - I haven't looked. Probably losses, after the storm of 2008. So, now I have to file 2 more tax returns. Ugh!

Note to self: Don't trade their mutual funds willy nilly!

I actually just put them in some "Retirement fund" that gets more conservative with time. Putting the target date when they turn 18, or something along those lines. So, I don't foresee a lot of trading anyway.

I think I didn't want to be reponsible for messing up their investments. I just set it to "easy." It's one thing to mess up my own retirement, but their mutual funds are about 99% funded by gifts. I am just playing those safe!

Anyway, all our investments are tax-deferred, or in cash. Their taxes are more complicated. Lucky them!

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In other news, we got the house back to ourselves! Big Grin It was kind of nice yesterday.

I figured I would work all morning and go check on them at lunch. Considering the last few days, I am sure they will be fine. Though the kids would probably love a trip to the drop-in daycare place, all the same. May do that for dh. I think the gameplan is to try not to expect much of anything from him for 2 more weeks. Next week will be easy with the kids gone. I told him the week after I would drop off BM at before-school daycare to give him a break in the mornings. But, at the 6 week mark, I won't be so nice. I think it is crossing the line to our usual "he is not a morning person" thing. Whereas, I can't work near the overtime if I am getting kids ready and busing them to school, etc. So, I told him I would do everything until his doctor appointment March 1, and then he is going to have to start getting BM to school. He always gripes about it anyway, so I think at this point he is just milking it. But if he is supposed to take it easy for 6 weeks. I won't be so nice once March rolls around and work gets extra crazy!

Credit Report Update

February 13th, 2010 at 03:38 pm

Details:

FICO - 780

Credit Utilization - 9% - Grade A

On-Time Payments - 100% - Grade A

Average Age of Open Accounts - 3 years - Grade D

Total Accounts - 4 Open/9 closed - Grade D
(1 mortgage + 3 credit cards - soon to be 2 credit cards...)

Hard Credit Inquiries - 1 - Grade B
(Mortgage refi inquiry)

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I only share to re-iterate my griping about credit card myths. (Or, over-simplification of the rules). Dh and I both had scores well over 800 for a time, but this was due to having a traditional auto loan (for one month - but our scores spiked upwards due to that one month loan) and I think also because we had much older mortgages. With the refi, our scores are back to the high 700s. Our current mortgage is only one year old.

Anyway, considering there is no difference between a 780 score or a 850 score, I prefer to just keep things simple and only keep 2 credit cards open at a time. PArticularly after my ID theft. I don't like the idea of more cards open that can be breached - and that I might not even notice...

Anyway, I share to say that obviously, length of credit and number/type of accounts, are really the lowest part of your credit score. Have you ever applied for a loan with a credit score over 750? Lenders salivate over that.

I also can not find the answer to this anywhere - but recently learned that good credit stays on your credit report for 10 years. I did not know this, but makes sense since absolutely nothing has dropped off my credit report, ever. Some of my first credit lines were closed a decade ago though. Our very first mortgage ever will drop off soon, too. I just wonder if that info factors into your score somehow. The reality is that I have almost 17 years of good credit reporting on my actual credit report. I can't find anything that says whether that counts toward your FICO or not. Maybe, no one knows for sure. But I Don't see why it wouldn't. I mean, can you really get an excellent FICO rating with only "3 years of credit history"? Hmmmm.

Anyway, I know credit card companies are going to be re-introducing annual fees, people will be asking in the forums if they should keep their cards, and everyone will say, "YEs - you have to for a good FICO score." That just drives me nuts!

Myths About Taxes

February 10th, 2010 at 01:16 am

This article came to my inbox today.

Myths about federal taxes
http://www.mercurynews.com/business/ci_14358598?nclick_check...

Was a good one, though this barely scrapes the tip of the iceberg.

Rain Rain Go Away...

February 9th, 2010 at 04:29 pm

More rain here. Though overall, looks like our nice sunny weather is starting to return. I saw lots of sun in the forecast. Thank goodness!

We do need rain, but considering how full all the rivers and resorviors are, well, we don't need it all at once!

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I got an e-mail from another parent with a list of names of children in BM's classroom and a reminder to give everyone a valentine card. Ugh! Just what I need.

Funny thing is when I got home, MIL told me that I had already bought some. "Huh?" BM and dh both told her. I saw them sitting out later and realized what they were talking about. We had bought the really flashy ones on sale after Valentines, last year. I forgot, but BM remembered? Just, funny.

So, the kids are set. Grandma can help them put them together tomorrow.

AND, I suppose I should go stock up on some more after Valentines Day, again.

More, making it look like I spent a fortune when I didn't...

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Funny conversation on the radio about Valnetine's Day. A debate how all women really want flowers and gifts and are lying if they say they don't. Hell, V-Day could have come and went without me noticing, but for the kids.

I think the thing for me, is that it is nice when dh surprises me with a gift, yes. Which is kind of why I am not into the "giving a gift" to each other every flipping holiday. It's nicer when it's just a random surprise. Those are nice. But feeling obligated to "buy something" 12 times a year is just ridiculous. We aren't big consumers, so it just isn't our thing.

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This week is an easy no-spend week. Gased up the cars and stocked up on food and cooked over the weekend. SO, I don't foresee any spending for another week. Even the V-Day cards are taken care of...

I haven't had the urge to eat out, one little teeny tiny bit. I think with all the frozen meals given to us, we just have such a wide variety of food to choose from at home. More than usual. Coupled with the fact that dh is mostly bed ridden still... I suppose I could get the urge to take the kids out, but I have been working so much, I rather spend some time with dh then ditch him for some greasy food.

Since MIL has refused to cook anything we have ingredients for (I Don't quite get), I did end up cooking everything up this weekend. I am exhausted, but still appreciate her help, regardless. Some things have been a little frustrating, but it's hard to complain about someone who has dropped everything for 3 weeks to take care of dh and the kids. Anyway, dh seems to have perked up a bit to have some "Real food." The good home cooking he is used to! Which I suppose is the other thing - dh rather have a nice 15-minute meal at home than some take out. IT's not really that inconvenient. In the end I only spent about 2 hours cooking (4 meals) this weekend. I am just trying to get dh well - so eating in 100%, it is.

I suppose if dh returns to work that we will be more likely to employ this method - to cook all the meals for the week on Sunday night. I was able to squeeze it all in the fridge. A couple of hours of cooking was no biggie. We could certainly all chip in when dh is well, too. (& in the end, most of the stuff we cook is pretty easy and fast). I just often wonder how committed we will be to home cooking if we both worked. I am starting to think it's not that big of a deal - has become habit over the last decade.

I am exhausted, indeed, but I am playing much more "single mom" than "2-income household" with dh unable to help with anything.

Frugal Triumphs/Failures Today

February 7th, 2010 at 04:05 am

What a Day!

Been on go-go-go mode all day, but for an hour of quiet time I demanded from 2-3 pm today.

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This morning I took dh's car with the intent to fill it up with gas. Was going to hit the regular gas station on the way home, but had a 1/2 hour to kill between when aerobics ended and when the bread store opened. Decided to get gas.

Bad idea!!!

I didn't want to drive to far, but utilized the GPS to find something. Not much I recognized, but for a 76. Decided to go thinking maybe that was a cheaper gas station. Price was $3.05, but lord knows the last time I got any gas (it's been weeks). I thought, "yuck," but figured that was the going rate.

To my dismay, I drove past a Chevron later with the price of $2.93. Usually Chevron is the worst, so I wasn't too happy about that. I also found a Valero closer to the bread store. To remember for next time...

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I took the van shopping later and filled it up too. The gas light turned on both the vehicles, just as I approached the gas station. How's that for timing?

I felt that dh's car has been getting terrible gas mileage, but he doesn't agree. !!! Will see... I have never had to fill it up below 300 miles (10 gallon tank). But now it is twice in a row around 270. I suppose it's not a huge difference. This time bothered me more because I have only been driving freeway with it. We can push it 400 miles on the freeway. Ugh. Not that I drove it that much freeway - getting 400 miles form one tank only happens with big trips. But I am not thrilled to see the gas mileage drop either. I have no idea what that could signify (maybe someone has an idea of what would cause reduced mileage?). We had a service in between the 2 bad runs, so I can't say it's anything simple like oil or air filter - it didn't make any difference.

Anyway, used up our last grocery coupon - so filled the van with $2.60 per gallon. Phew!

We won't spend enough on groceries any time soon to get another gas coupon, but we haven't been driving much anyway. When dh is up to driving he will be up to bigger grocery runs. Need to spend $50 or $100 for the grocery store's gas coupons. I suppose it will work out. Heck, I'd have one more coupon but he gave it to his mom. Fair enough.

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Later in the day I took the kids shopping.

At Target I got toothpaste with a $1.50-off coupon. I also stocked up on some pepsi, and bought a toy for the birthday boy. We had bought 3 of these pirate ships for like 75% off from Amazon a while back, and debated giving one of them to our neighbor at his party today. BUT, was already earmarked for other people, so I finally decided to go find something.

Struck gold with a super hero transformer toy thing. $30 full price - but on clearance for 1/2 off. Feel like we are on a roll. I love buying gifts that look way more expensive than they are. Big Grin

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WE also picked up some groceries. Not all the thought, planning, and couponing that dh always puts into it. But I did go for the "old meat" that was 50 cents off (I am cooking it all this weekend anyway) and lucked out with a few sales. Phew.

I mostly got tomato sauce and meat. We didn't really need much - and I already stocked up on bread today...

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I suppose my only frugal failure was that expensive gas. Ugh. Live and learn.

Bread Outlet Run

February 6th, 2010 at 06:12 pm

Today was a Hallelujah day.

Since no work this weekend, I decided to run to aerobics early in the morning. Dh felt up to giving it a try. (& when I got home, still seemed okay - kids didn't push him too hard). Hallelujah!

Oh - was going to run to the store, but his mom offered. I said, "okay," since I was so tired, anyway. Didn't think twice about it. Came home to some weird hamburger buns! Ugh. In the end, they didn't taste so bad, but the kids whined the whole time, and then dh whined when she left. Oy vey.

SO, I told dh *I* would do all the grocery shopping from now on. LOL. I didn't think about it at the time - lord knows why. I already told you about her interesting grocery choices.

SO, I told dh I was going to run out and get some normal bread, since she bought the god awful sandwich bread again (not quite sure what it is - but it tastes terrible!).

& dh, being well rested, asked why I didn't just run to the bread store. Doh!

I suppose it works out that the bread store is by my aerobics class. I hadn't been there in ages, and I only stock up on the bread (& cookies and donuts) when I am working out.

They were clearing out some Holiday cookies, so grabbed some of those, and some donuts, for work. Seems to be a good compromise. I can eat one or 2 cookies or donuts, but don't get stuck with the whole thing. For a buck a piece, it creates much fellow employee goodwill. Big Grin

Of course, then I spotted the iced oatmeal cookies. YUM!

Then, got some tortillas for a buck, and some free bread. I am up to "2 free items" again.

So, was nice to get some "normal food," and I feel so much more relaxed having been able to go to aerobics/yoga. I snuck off to the gym once this week too (with the kids), so has been a good week. There is no gym daycare tomorrow, but may drop the kids off at the drop-in childcare place for a bit so that I can go to the gym. They better get used to it anyway.

I did so much walking at the hospital that I figure I really only had one week of NO EXERCISE. The week I was sick anyway. Phew... Feels good to get back into the swing of things - it really helps my stress level. Most people may hit the gym to lose weight or stay fit - but I do it to stay SANE!

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I am planning to cook 3-4 meals this weekend, so I better get cooking...

Sitting Out Another Challenge...

February 5th, 2010 at 10:48 pm

Because it's not challenging? Big Grin I will eat in 28 days, easy, this month. So again, not really playing along. (Not tracking things that I would do regardless - no real benefit for me).

But I didn't post this just to be snotty. I did want to say that I think Fern's challenges are GREAT! & I do look forward to see what is next. I think it's realistic to try to set a new frugal goal every month (or every few months, or year, etc., etc). Once you master one frugal habit, it is time to acquire another. This is what I like about the challenge - focusing on some new frugal habits every month.

I am just a very "one at a time" person. So the approach appeals to me. I can only make one life altering change at a time, personally. Not like I can make 20 goals in one year and do well at any of them. I'd rather just set one new goal every year - slow and steady wins the race.

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I redeemed another $250 from Chase. I suppose this means I will remain a Chase customer for a while longer.

Sad thing is with all the medical bills this month, I am almost a quarter of a way to another $250, already. Yikes!

Dh already sold off $50 in Wii accessories, so between the 2 windfalls, that recoups the $300 Wii we bought for his mom. (He's got another $50 or so of unwanted games to sell, too, from the purchase).

I was going to use the $250 reward check for taxes, but since I am opening a regular IRA in the end (for work reasons), I whittled my tax liability down to $0.

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This weekend I need to gas up the cars (haven't for weeks?), get some groceries, and buy a birthday present. I rarely buy anything, and since dh is laid up, it has been a long no-spend record.

His mom has been driving the kids to/fro school (& has been picking up things like milk/bread/fruit). I suppose dh does more driving than I realize - since I find it unreal I haven't gotten gas in so long!

& I don't need much from the store - some toothpaste and some salad? Big Grin Dh already bought food (in January) for 4 meals I need to cook this weekend.

I suppose it is possible that we will save a large chunk on groceries and gas this month. Then again - will probably end up going to childcare. So maybe it will even out. But the expenses have been much more manageable than I imagined. Phew. I suppose March may shift the other way. Will see...

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Oh yeah - don't remember why but applied for some Transunion Settlement about 2 years ago??????? I saw my receipt rather recently and rolled my eyes about how I never heard anything.

Anyway, today I was able to redeem the settlement - 9 months of credit monitoring. OF course, due to the ID Theft Alert on my credit, they have to mail me some code.

In the interim, I had actually signed up for Credit Karma. It is free and gives me enough information to know if something isn't quite right. (Has a FAKO score, and tells you how many accounts you have, inquiries, etc. Any change to these numbers and they send me an alert. Which is better than nothing - and much better than waiting to check once every 4 months). So, I have enjoyed that free service. I keep forgetting to mention.

I had signed up dh for the settlement too (& Credit Karma), but I think we have switched e-mails so many times since, not sure he will be able to redeem his so easily. I just got an e-mail notification to an old e-mail I still use. I'll have to tell him to keep an eye out for it, and that it is legit.

Still Recovering...

February 4th, 2010 at 09:05 pm

I suppose it's been a bit busy, though I am still recovering more than anything. No infection. I did tell dh that I have sympathy ear pains (I can't hear out my right ear most days - same as his bad right ear). He doesn't like that though. I suppose since mine is just temporary. But really, what are the odds?

Doctor said that I may be like this a few weeks. Goodie!

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MIL and I have not killed each other yet. Big Grin In fact, the weeks have been flying by - even when I was home sick most of last week. This week faster I suppose, as I try to dig myself out of this hole at work. Ugh!!! I can't work this weekend since the office is being cleaned. I certainly don't mind, but am a little frustrated since my weekend childcare may dry up after this point. MIL has been here the last 2 weekends, but last weekend I Was sick, etc., so didn't work. On the flip side, it's been nice to rest and get over this evil virus.

I did take the kids to the drop-in place Sunday, so I could get more rest (& MIL too). I was relieved to see it was open. Heck, it was hopping. Lucky they didn't turn us away. Dh and I were discussing, and I can maybe pay for 4 hours care, and then bring them home and let them watch a movie or do something low key for a couple of hours. The daycare is expensive, but the overtime should more than cover it. Will be nice to have options, though we have had daycare offers, and I will take those too. (Mostly people apologetic that they can only help on the weekends. Um, I will take it??? That's when I really need help, with busy season and all).

The reason MIL and I haven't killed each other though, is she has been sleeping at a hotel room. I think the space has made it bearable. For me, anyway. I am not home all the time, like the rest of them...

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I haven't offered MIL any money for gas or food (she has done some grocery runs) because I know she would refust. Trust me, she'd REFUSE.

BUT, dh ended up buying a Wii for her the other day. She was going to reimburse us. Paid $300, but expects $100 back from selling off games and accessories. IT cost more than my mom's, but MIL Wanted a balance board.

We had gifted my mom's since it was closer to $150-ish in the end. We don't do many big gifts for them. They certainly treat us well enough.

So, I told dh last night to just give the thing to his mom. I think it works out. Might be an even trade with gas and groceries and EVERYTHING for her 4 weeks helping us. We have certainly saved tons more with her help and not having to hire more help.

& now the kids are ultra spoiled. Wii at both grandparent's house!!!!!

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I may luck out and get my $250 Chase Freedom rewards, another time. The day to redeem should be tomorrow. Woohoo! I told dh that we could just use the check to pay for the Wii.

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I suppose I have a huge *to do* list for the weekend. Besides tons of cooking, I need to get our taxes finalized. Since the kids had some mutual fund sales, I think I have to file their taxes separate. Blech. I probably won't get a chance to file until the following weekend. (At work, but not on work time - why the weekend will have to do). But I need to print out all the final numbers for our deductions, from Quicken, etc.

I need to open a regular IRA for my retirement rollover, and stuff like that.

& maybe I will get around to posting my January numbers. January was kind of *normal* with some extra gas, hotel, and HUGE medical expenses thrown in. I think February will be kind of low key and non-spendy since it's a short month and we only have full charge of the kids for one week.

Since our HMO historically has taken many years to bill things (if ever getting around to it - still some outstanding bills from years back) then I think our cash position will get pretty strong this year. Phew! Cash is doing good right now. Childcare will cut into my overtime pretty severely this year ( & even moreso - lack of doing overtime due to home duties). BUT, I can't help but wonder if it would be a lean overtime year this year, anyway. Seems the economy is affecting my boss a bit this year. Maybe this is a good year to cut back. May find out on April 15th there is no overtime bonus. Who knows...

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I suppose I didn't say specifically - but dh is still recovering very rapidly. He's doing great!