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Archive for September, 2009

Lots of Updates

September 30th, 2009 at 12:55 pm

Yesterday, BM earned his yellow stripe in his martial arts class. It was quite a ceremony.

The irony is that he tends to goof off whenever I am there, and never practices. I mentioned this again yesterday and he said, "Teacher didn't say I have to practice." Oy vey! Though admittedly, I think dh discourages some of the practice at home - so he doesn't break his neck and such.

So the teach, after class, tells me how much she loves my son and blahdeblah. All I could think is Lord knows why. LOL. I don't go very often, so he must have some better days. Though dh, who takes him ever week, said she just wants our money. LOL.

Well, she clearly sees something in him. To put up with him. Wink (I am ashamed to admit he is really good at goofing off behind her back too. That might be part of it!)

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Reminds me, BM had an awesome progress report from school. He is challenged and happy. Last year wasn't bad, at all. But this year he is in his element. It didn't occur to me that superior behavior, effort, and attitude, would result from an awesome teacher and a "just right" challenging education. But it seems to be the unexpected side benefit.

I probably bring it up too much, but I feel so blessed with our school situation. As our school district falls into further shambles. Ugh! I just feel little else but lucky, for this school. I am definitely giving daily thanks, as I read the local news and talk to all the parents in the public schools. It's just a complete mess.

Lord knows, no one in my community wants to hear about a good school experience. Big Grin

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I've got lots of homework to do while the family is gone.

I figured I would take the time to get all set up at Alliant Credit Union.

T Rowe told me, "from their experience with said bank, the CD rollover would take another month."

On a whim today, I peeked at my T Rowe account. I really didn't expect anything. Clearly it's not there yet. But I had a strong urge to peek.

Wouldn't you know, it transferred yesterday?

Holy cow!

Suddenly I have got some homework to do!

I have about $2500 to invest. The other $4k stays in cash, to round out my ROTH Efund. I already invested more liquid $4k at awesome stock lows. The lowest days of the market this past year. I fared well. This CD rollover replenishes my liquid cash.

Today I peeked at the Dow. It was at 11,700 when I invested in the CD. Today it is at 9740, give or take. That is a solid 16% decrease.

I feel pretty confident that I will just plow it into my T Rowe Target retirement fund. I got a decent discount for waiting. I earned 5.5% in the interim.

I need to decide what to do with the cash though. Ugh! I will probably just leave it in cash.

When I made the decision to keep a portion of my Efund in my ROTHS, in order to max out a year I wouldn't have otherwise, the MMMFs paid decent interest rates. Now I have fewer options.

Lots to think about.

Also, did I mention I am so glad I didn't waste my money on a medallion stamp, for the rollover? I reasoned that the bank might not care. That reasoning could have backfired and delayed the rollover. Last time I rolled money over, Merrill or whoever said they didn't require the Medallion signature, but it turns out they did. But I risked a nightmare to save $10. Glad it worked out! My new rule of thumb is "brokerages care; banks don't." Which makes chasing CDs easier with ROTHs. I didn't want to pay a $10 fee for every rollover.

ETA: I decided to move some of dh's IRA into cash, and to deposit the whole chunk of my CD into my Target Retirement fund. Dh has Vanguard, and I think their MMMF has fared a little bit better due to their extremely low fees. It's done. I can always change my mind later!

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I don't think I am ready to jump back into bonds, but I am getting there. Cash isn't faring so well in my retirement accounts. I need more options. & I expect that in the next year, that I will want to expand into some "safe" taxable bond investing. As my cash reserves gets back up to snuff. I am definitely saving cash up for our next cars, in conservative monies and such. Thing is I don't know if I will need it tomorrow, or in 10 years! I am thinking bonds will be good middle ground. Bond funds, that is. I am sure I will be called too conservative, but I never would have invested that stuff in stocks before, and less desire to, now!

I have been reading up on the subject of bonds.

I found this article yesterday, and it pretty much summed up what I have learned, myself. But I thought it was good to share:

Text is http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-petruno26-2009sep26,0,670269.column and Link is
http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-petruno26-2009sep26,0,...

& though the bond funds I've seen recommended have not fared as well as my cash the last couple of years - the truth is they are faring FAR better now. So I may spread out my Efund a bit. Don't worry, I am playing it ultra conservative when it comes to the Efund. At this point I just have more reading and research to do.

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MIL just bought a pile of Sears pics of the kids. So as school picture time has arrived, I tossed it all in the recycle bin. Eh. I am not a huge fan of school pictures - not in the digital age.

So um, they had pictures at preschool. & dh and I joked that they would probably be awesome and too cute to pass up.

Boy, did we nail it! LM came home with a shirt yesterday with his picture on the front - a shirt which advertises his preschool and the photographer. Lovely. But it's probably the best picture I have ever seen of him. I haven't seen prices so I guess will see. We will buy the cheap package. Blah!

BM? Terrible picture last year. I bought it because it was Kindergarten!!!!! It was so sentimental. No doubt he took an awesome picture this year. We will find out soon enough.

It doesn't help that in all these "free" pictures I have from MIL, that she had them in some hideous outfits. The pictures are cute, but the outfits ruin it for me. I am extra appreciative she let them wear jeans last year. Wink She buys pictures because in this digital age, we don't see the point. Of course, she way over buys, and I am stuck with a million pictures I don't want or need, anyway. Which is all the more reason I don't pay for the stuff. !!

Struck Gold - Alliant Credit Union

September 29th, 2009 at 09:47 am

I got a promo e-mail a while back from my professional association, about their "partner credit union." I peeked at the rates and was impressed. What struck me was the interest rates on the kiddy accounts, at the time. That's a tough one. I like that the kids can go to the bank down the street, but it pays them pennies. Maybe we will earn interest elsewhere, and pass on bigger interest rates to the kids. I don't know.

I also looked up the branches and nothing terribly close to where we live. Eh. Plenty in the Bay Area which we pass through a lot. & don't get me wrong, my old CU had one branch in a city I probably never set foot in. But, I have gotten spoiled with a branch just down the street from my house, at our current CU. Everything there is awesome, but not so great on the rates. We use Ally for online savings, but they are starting to lower their rates a bit. They are still good, but I think the writing is possibly on the wall there. (I've heard mixed things about how troubled they are, etc. But regardless, they are in the midst of a complete restructure, and I have certainly noticed declining interest rates).

I saw this particular CU mentioned again and thought, "isn't that the one I heard of already." I delved a little deeper, and I am totally signing up.

Savings rate is 3%. $5 minimum. I will transfer most of my Ally (currently at about 2%) money over.

Better: They offer no-fee HSAs with 3% interest. Um, did I read that right??????? I have been shopping HSAs for ages. The fees and low returns on cash investments, have kept me out of the HSA market. I am still "out" due to tax reasons, but I am sure I will eventually be "in." Seems like a good place to start. If we can go one year without any medical expenses, it is possible the HSA will be the better tax way to go, for that year. & I will need the money for near-term medical expenses, for sure. So not interested in investing it beyond cash.

Best: They have a trust application. They seem to understand and cater to living trusts. Go figure. I was starting to think those would be impossible to fund, beyond our home.

I've got $1k in my trust savings at my current CU. It took forever and a day to set it up. But the interest rates is so dismal, I don't keep any real cash in there.

I have lots of paperwork to fill out. But I thought I would share.

The CU is actually based in Chicago (I was surprised to read). So you can join if you live or work in some of the areas surrounding Chicago. OR, if you belong to one of these organizations:

Text is http://www.alliantcreditunion.org/membership/eligibility/organizations/ and Link is
http://www.alliantcreditunion.org/membership/eligibility/org...

Not sure what the odds of most of you qualifying, but FYI!

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My professional association has awesome insurance rates (life and disability). But most of the rest of the deals they seem to offer are rather ho hum. Usually they cost more than what we are already paying for certain services, etc.

But this looks like quite a deal!

I wasn't even really looking, so I am excited about the find.

Net Worth Update

September 29th, 2009 at 07:51 am

Net worth is up $27k, today.

Since my annual goal is $25k-$30k, that isn't half bad.

I am still at the whim of Murphy and the market for another 3 months though. No need to get too excited. Wink

My cash is up $6k for the year.
Kids' Investments up $3k (2k market; 1k contributions).
Retirement is up $16k (about $11k contributions and $5k market).
Paid $2500 off mortgage - regular payments only.

That about sums it up!

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ROTHS

This year is the first year, probably ever, that we are contributing monthly, in order to max out a ROTH. My old method was to lump sum when I did my tax return (when they were deductible IRAs anyway. We just put away whatever made the most sense. & we have done less of that even, since having kids).

I am thinking ahead as January fast approaches. I can automatically contribute to my own ROTH in Jan, Feb, Mar, April and apply it to the prior year. I am trying to decide if we should plump as much as we can into 2009. (We still have a second, spousal ROTH, to consider). In past years I have done this, with dh's earning prospects so up in the air, etc. My goal was just to put as much as possible into the ROTHs, because who knows.

As we get on better footing, I am thinking of just letting 2009 go and focusing on 2010. Thing is, I think we can max out $10k for 2010. Certainly if we have 16 months to do it!

I had a thought about the flip side. The flip side is all we need is a $5k unexpected windfall, and we could regret not attempting to max 2009 first.

The thing is I also think the odds of $5k falling out of the sky, are pretty slim. Our parents are both facing their own financial setbacks, and even my employer seems to be facing financial pressures (a stark contrast to the abundance of the past decade. Not that I am worried about my job, but not expecting a huge raise or anything).

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I almost forgot to mention. I got a notice about some new push to insure children in our region (health, dental, etc). Sometimes the poverty guidelines for our area shock us. I know many would read my blog and not be impressed with our spending. But in the region, I knew very few families who could live as well as us on $50k, a few years back. (Though admittedly, we relied on savings a lot during that time).

In lower income times I look at the aid we were eligible for and often wondered about it. If we retired early, we'd be eligible for all sorts of aid. It always bothered me that those things tend to be based on income more than assets. It probably has come up a lot because we have settle for lesser income with small kids, and likely will in the long run as our assets grow enough to supplement our income, etc.

So anyway, I clearly do not expect to get free health insurance for my kids, but I look it up anyway. What is the income cutoff? about $70k for a family of 4.

Seriously???? My income is like $75k. I easily pay $5k a year for health insurance for the kids. It would be the same to ask for a pay reduction and to take the free health insurance.

Gah. Talk about tempting.

I know for the long run, I am much better off pressing on, and paying our own insurance. I won't sweat it. I mostly share because it amazes me that on my income we are so close to eligible for any kind of aid. It's absurd. The area is expensive and my income is below the household median, so that's how it goes.

I guess with time I realize these things are rather flawed. A family with 2 incomes who make $70k can be in a pretty precarious financial spot in an "expensive" area like this. But, one family living on one $70k income by choice. Should that same family be eligible for aid? Hmmmmmmm. The two aren't really the same, at all.

Anyway, I told dh that was good to know, if we ever faced less income or job loss, etc. It's good to know there are options, because health insurance is darn expensive! It's certainly been the biggest pain in our side, financially, the last few years.

I would probably be more outraged if we qualified for help. So I am rather glad we don't. Makes you wonder who is paying for this. We are, somehow. With our insane health insurance premiums, for one.

An Interesting Weekend

September 28th, 2009 at 01:13 pm

This last weekend was interesting.

I got my long-awaited 3-day weekend in my favorite area of the state.

And...

Not sure it's my favorite area any more.

Anyway, we had a very nice time. No doubt about it!

I budgeted roughly $500 for the weekend. Not really sure where we came in. Will see as everything hits the cards in the next couple of days. & I will tally it up.

We decided to drive down along the coast since we had plenty of time. The bad side was there were few choices for lunch. Our planned fast food stop became a $30 gourmet meal. (A salad and a hamburger? Split? Water in a cup?). Thank goodness for the GPS, lest we missed the only food for miles. The thing was awesome for the trip. (We knew it would be since we borrowed the in-laws' so much, in the past).

Saturday we made up for it. We went to an Italian deli I had heard about. We primarily went for the gelato. But OMG, we both had the best sandwhiches we have ever eaten. For $6.95! Mine was so huge I could have finished it for dinner and been content. I always think of as food as the most expensive part of traveling (particularly with the kids). So the deli was quite a find!

We ordered pizza in one night and had an excellent Thai feast the next night. So I think we struck a good balance.

Yesterday we spent a few dollars at Burger King, and filled up with gas. (We piled up on leftovers for brunch, before we hit the road). The drive wasn't so bad. Though taking a cat nap at my folks' house helped, before the last leg.

I did get to sleep, and kayak. Watched some movies with dh, read a little. The relaxing weekend was a success. I find these days I can even go a day or 2 withou missing the kids too much, with helps. By Sunday, dh and I missed them terribly though.

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Today I transferred over $500 from savings, to pay for the trip. I think that shores up my negative 9/30 checking balance. It should work out.

We did receive $150 for our anniversary, and will probably deposit $100 in the bank. That will help too - but I will just deposit it with my paycheck.

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This morning as I made sure all the bills were paid and all is well, and transfers made for the 30th, etc., I pondered upcoming expenses.

I almost forgot about my pesky vehicle repair. Ugh. Dh said he would call about that when he returns from Florida - since they said if we need the part, it is backordered for a month. Well, it was a few months ago anyway.

Seems fair. Would like to pay for that in November. Though, it's not certain it will be a pricey repair. It's just likely, I guess. But we will take it in this month, in case it takes a month to get the part. Want everything kind of settled before the Holidays.

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Apparently we missed a 100+-degreed weekend. Phew.

We had perfect weather by the beach! Lots of clear, sunny days (rare). Phew! We lucked out! Though we certainly saw plenty of fog, too.

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Back home, after another scorcher today, it looks like weather will settle around 75 degrees.

One day it's 100 degrees. The next we will probably be turning up the hot water a bit, and digging out blankets for the beds. Not much in between I guess. September was "summer" through and through, for whatever reason. That is rare too.

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Anyway, back to my favorite area of the state. Well, I hadn't made it down there in about 10 years, and yes, things have changed much.

On the way down I was telling dh about Ima Saver having lived in a RV for a while and how it was no longer her dream. I told him I was sure if I lived on the beach any length of time, it would lose it's allure. Particularly around here. We have cold beaches.

It's funny how wise those words were. On the way back up I told dh, "It's not like I remembered." I remember the area being this amazing place I wish I could live.

Instead, I think we have found a much more appealing home in Sacramento. It's funny how much has changed in a decade. I told dh that I know I have said it before, but lord knows why our area of the state is so cheap and looked down upon. I have officially converted. I rather live here than the beach, yes. It is so much more beautiful here, and there is so much more to do. Maybe I like that we are so central to everything. The beach, San Francisco, Tahoe, etc.

I had a nice time, but there is definitely no place like home. Big Grin

Dh and I also reflected a lot, on our long drive, about our low-cost-of-living haven, and how it has turned out for us. I think our move has turned out better than we had ever imagined.

We talked about our friends and family and how difficult everyone's lives seem in comparison.

We definitely made the right choice!

I wasn't a blogger here in 2002 when we made such a life altering decision, to move. But at the time, we were bitter. We were bitter that we could not justify paying for the high cost of living in our hometown. We were smart enough to realize it was a losing battle. But the decision did not come with great joy. The joy was shallow. The joy was that we could actually afford a single family home, etc. It helped to lessen the blow, of leaving everything we knew and loved, behind.

Bitterness has given way to serious contentment, with time. True joy, beyond anything material. I share because I know there are many, many people out there who struggle in extremely high cost areas. Who struggle if they should move, etc. If you do your homework, it can be extremely rewarding. I have a lot of friends who moved up North who aren't happy. But they are WAY farther out from their family and I think the weather factor is pretty shocking. (The "up north" move wasn't near in the realm of cost savings we found, either. We were lucky to be able to make a far simpler/smaller move for far more cost savings). From that, I know it can go both ways.

I guess I Feel lucky too, that we ended up happy with our move.

I think my parents went through a similar metamorphasis. All I remember is them longing to get back to the mid-west, when I was a child. These days, they could live anywhere, and they rather just stay put. I feel like our own journey has become very similar.

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Well, I am now gearing up to be "single" for a week, since my family is leaving for Disney very soon. It is definitely not boring here!

September

September 23rd, 2009 at 07:44 am

I mentioned earlier, that I was short a lot, in checking, for the month of September. Excess spending just kind of snowballed from my dad being in the hospital and everything, in the spring and summer.

I also said that I am making "pay myself first" a priority, and how it all seems to work out in the end. Not exactly worried about it!

Dh had a good sales run this month. However, a $50 items did not sell on ebay yesterday. He had a high minimum because it's the type of thing that can sell for too low, once in a while. I think he will easily sell it before the end of the month.

But assuming that doesn't sell, I currently face -$200 in the checking. Which is not bad. It was -$500.

Dh's family is big on cash anniversary gifts, so I won't be surprised if they give us $100.

The -$100, that will probably remain, will probably transferred from savings, as "emergency expenses."

Phew!

I will be so glad it wasn't the original -$500 or so I saw at the beginning of the month.

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Credit card bill for this month is rather benign. We are up to $1200, and I think all I have is $60 due for karate. That leaves about $250 for gas and groceries. We budget for about $1500 on the card, monthly. We pay EVERYTHING on the card.

We will take $500 out of savings for our beach vacation. I will probably transfer it over Monday, so that there is enough in checking for all the 9/30 payments (mortgage and health insurance). I'll probably be $100 short otherwise, as mentioned. Speeding up the transfer makes it easy. Actually, gives me another month to come up with $100. Now that I think about it, I may not need to transfer money from savings at all. Which is how it all snowballed in the first place).

I don't want to jinx it, but September has been rather low key. Phew! Even with our rather impromptu beach weekend, our expenses will probably be under $4k for the month.

I am not sure what October will bring. The rest of the fam is going to Florida (on MIL's dime). BUT I am sure there will be some expenses there. But, with them being gone, it will be pretty low spend here for a week. October can go either way. We already have halloween covered though, so that is good.

In November, we should probably get my car taken care of. It still has a potential $1k repair. November is just kind of slow at work and probably a good time to get it taken care of. I just needed some time after all the car repairs of August!

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I finally give up. One of the few things I spent any money on with my kids was their nursery. In the grand scheme of things it wasn't a lot, but I did spend in the realm of $200-$300 for the crib bedding and decor. I have been trying to sell it for a year at $40, $30, $20, $10. At $10-$30 I had PLENTY of interest, but just interest from a LOT of really flaky people.

So I give up. My posting expired, and to the donation pile it goes. Some charity comes by every other week or so, so I will set it out next time I get a pickup notice.

I guess not very many people want a sophisticated leopard print theme for their nursery. I LOVED it, and it was worth every penny. I had just hoped to get a little something for it. *sigh* Hardly spent so much on anything else *baby.* But most everything else was extremely re-saleable.

De-cluttering of the last year is complete! Yay!!!!! Now it is time to hit the closet, as I also mentioned. Time to go for another round! Hopefully I will have the motivation and energy while the family is gone. I am taking 2 days off work to enjoy the peace and quiet. Here's to being productive. (Fall gets me in the de-clutter mood, not sure what it is!) I assume true fall weather will arrive in October, and will help. Though even in this heat I have been eager to de-clutter.

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That's the long and the short of it. Boring can be good. Big Grin

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We treated out last night since BM lost his tooth. Main reason being we have been encouraging him to wiggle out his "stuck" baby tooth. We had been promising frozen yogurt since his new permanent tooth already came through - many weeks ago. Spent $30 on fast food and frozen yogurt. Was a nice treat!

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I got a cheap tickets promotional e-mail, and perused airfare prices. Nothing tempting, which is good. I perused Vegas and Denver airfares, etc. But I looked at Kaui airfare for next summer, and almost fell over. Looked at spring and fall too. I think if I ever see $500 tickets to Kuai again, I will bite. They don't even sell tickets for September 2010 yet, though. But I'd go in May if I saw a good price. Big Grin I can usually find cheaper tickets to Oahu. But I think Kaui adds a fair amount of cost. I barely saw anything under $800 per ticket. !! Though, yes, I saw $500 per person tickets, earlier in the year.

I will start keeping an eye on things and set up a price alert - maybe for May or September airfare. I didn't really want to decide anything until next summer. But it doesn't hurt to start pricing things. I think if I saw a good price I would nab it though. I got the Hawaii itch!

P.S. I found $500 RT tickets for May. But I will hold off. It was flying out of Oakland. Which works for me, to save $600!!! I think this is why we never spend much on airfare. We have 4 major airports at our disposal. Of the 4, one will usually have some pretty discounted airfare. You can never tell which one. Last time we went to HAwaii, starting in Sacramento was pretty cheap. As of today, that would be the most expensive starting point. Will see!

Tooth Fairy - ?

September 22nd, 2009 at 06:45 pm

How much does the tooth fairy pay at your house?

$1 seems reasonable from what I have heard. Just curious.

Hallelujah! BM's tooth fell out. Well, dh had to "yank" it. There wasn't much to yank. It was bothering him today, and hanging by a thread.

As I mentioned, the other tooth had already grown in. It hadn't changed in about 6 weeks, so I just mentioned to dh that we should at least make a consult appointment with the dentist.

BUT, now there is no need! No sooner than I spoke the words, and it decided to come out on its own. Phew! $1 is no big deal - we saved a lot not going to the dentist!

Fall Fall, Where is Fall?

September 22nd, 2009 at 05:21 pm

I read somewhere that Fall started today (is that correct?)

I am trying to talk myself into aerobics class, though it's the last thing I want to do in the 100-degree heat. Ugh!

The room is air-conditioned, and I will be fine when I get there. Just not real motivated as I sit in my stuffy office. Blech.

That's my whiny evening update. Big Grin

Tuesday Tidbits

September 22nd, 2009 at 09:32 am

I read this article, and sent it to dh, and told him I appreciate he didn't spend much money on all this crap:

Text is http://www.pfadvice.com/2009/09/21/how-i-practically-stole-a-wii/ and Link is
http://www.pfadvice.com/2009/09/21/how-i-practically-stole-a...

!! I was surprised when he said the commenters were harsh and that the Wii was a decent deal for new. Which makes me even more relieved. All I know is we have game systems out our ears, and I didnt spend a dime on most of it. Phew!

I noticed it the other day when I realized that seemingly out of nowhere that LM had amassed like 30 leapster games. & when we went to San Jose and BM pulled out 2 game systems and a MP3 player out of his overnight bag. Most people who don't know us from adam, I assume would think we waste a LOT of money on this stuff. When we discussed it last night, dh reminded me that a lot of our games came from Scholastic, etc., too. I don't really know where it all comes from. I just know it doesn't come from my paycheck!

I couldn't help but feel that dh should write that article though. How about a Wii for free, accessories and games galore, too. Now, that is a steal!

As with anything, it's relative! I just couldn't relate to the artcile, one bit.

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Our 9-year wedding anniversary is this week. (More importantly, we have been together over 14 years!). I think this year is a little more meaningful to us since we know SO MANY people divorcing this year. We feel like more of a rare breed than we have before in our young lives. I think we tend to take our anniversary for granted. This year we maybe have a bit more to celebrate. Last year we cleaned out the garage to celebrate. This year we will relax by the beach. Big Grin

Next year I want to go to Hawaii, but that might have to wait until year 11.

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I think the locals have abandoned summer, though it is a 100-degree week.

We went for a 12-mile bike ride on Sunday. It was nice, though hotter than I preferred. But the usually busy lake and recreation area was eerily quiet. It was like everyone had given up and assumed fall would have been here by now.

I do hope we can enjoy our next bike ride without melting!

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Updates on my dad. He went to the emergency room yesterday (it had actually been quite a while, phew). I haven't heard an update so I think all is well. His blood pressure had gotten low and he fainted. They keep changing around his medications at this point, due to side affects like these. In addition to his blocked arteries and such (Recent developments), he has always had kidney problems, and is actually lucky to even be alive past childhood. But all these medications keep messing with his kidneys, which is another concern. But literally, he was in the emergency room like every day for a time (always nothing). So I am glad it has been a while, though I feel myself worrying a bit more.

For a time I was thinking I probably should have just gone to Florida with the fam. But with this recent development, I am relieved to stick close to home. Their trip is just in a couple of weeks.

In other news, his employer has been a real PITA. My dad REALLY has wanted to return to work for a while (6 weeks???), but they keep giving them the runaround. I keep waiting for news there, but there isn't much to report.