Wednesday, April 30, 2008

How'd It Happen?

Last night, I did something out of character. Something I said I wouldn't do. I've said it before, I always buy on sale. Not everything. But I never buy clothing (especially for myself) that isn't on sale. I like to rack up the savings. It feels like an accomplishment to me. Almost a game. To see how much I can save on an item. But last night, I threw all that to wayside. I attended a clothing show at a friend's house. When she gave me the invitation, she said, "Please come. You don't need to buy anything. Just come have a glass of wine." She was talking my language. I needed a glass of wine after Joe's trip. Heck, I needed two glasses! So I went. And I had my two glasses. Sat through the unveiling of the Spring/Summer collection of CAbi clothing. Then, I found myself trying on a few items. Next thing, I know, I'm writing a check for two of those items. $137 later, I'm scratching my head. Wondering 1. how it got to be 10:00. I'd said I'd be home by 8:00. 2. How I was going to explain this. And, 3. Did someone fill my glass a third time without me knowing?
Well, the reason it was 10:00 is because there was a presentation (unveiling) of the line. I wasn't expecting this. I thought the whole night was a drop-in thing. I decided to go early, at 7, so I could leave after my 1, maybe 2, glasses of wine and make it back for American Idol. Didn't happen. As for explaining my purchase...I'm working on that. Truth is, the items I bought are really cute. I can get tons of wear out of them. I can wear them together and they will mix and match with lots of stuff I already own. They just happen to be more than I spend when I shop. But is that entirely wrong? Don't I deserve it? Maybe the answer is yes but the responsible side of me is throwing a fit. She's saying, "Hey, you're trying to CUT expenditures. You're paying mortgages on TWO houses. This was NOT smart." And I know she's right. And, it's just what Joe will say when he sees the check book. Oh, how I'm not looking forward to that. I left saying, "I'll be home at 8. I'm just going to have a glass of wine. I'm not buying anything." I was two hours late. I had two (maybe 3?) glasses of wine. And I did make a purchase. Today, I'm eating my words. Hopefully, in two weeks (when the clothes arrive) I'll be looking really cute in my new outfit.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Weekly Menu - The Importance Of

I love to cook. It's an art, I believe, to find a recipe I think my family will love and recreate it. The reward is my family enjoying a meal I really put my heart into. I start my process on Sunday when I begin my Weekly Menu, which I've been doing for several years now. I live by this for the week. Sometimes I stray. Plans change. A day goes bad. At which point I'll either re-arrange the menu or beg my husband to bring something home. But for the days that don't change, my Weekly Menu is a lifesaver! Each day of the week is listed along with any special happenings that may interfere with cooking or enjoying the meal. For instance, Scouts, Sports Practices/Games, Orchestra Rehearsals/Concerts, Student Council, etc. are all noted next to the day. This helps when I'm deciding what that night's dinner should be. I don't want to decide to fix a labor intensive meal if I'm also going to be carpooling children around all afternoon. And, I should note, that although we are a very busy family, most weeks, we eat a home-cooked/fixed meal every night.

And it should also be noted that my kids eat strange things (as far as kid's eating habits go). I've never changed what I fix before I know my kids won't eat something. I've never treaded lightly on this endeavor either. My kids eat spinach, artichokes, asparagus, all kinds of meat and seafood. I do have one who will not touch a bean. And no one in my family likes raw tomatoes. But my rule is and always has been "You must try something before you can say you don't like it." And know, Mom doesn't give up on a food after you say you don't like it just once. There must be multiple attempts at palleting something. I don't want to raise a child who becomes an adult who doesn't eat anything.

So, without further ado, here is this weeks menu (4/27 - 5/3):

Sunday: MR2 dinner (Weekly dinner with two other neighbor families. I call it MR2 because one of the families' last name starts with an M. The other two start with an R. The total number eating at this event? 13! 7 kids and 6 adults. We rotate this and this week Stefanie is cooking.)

Monday: Shrimp & Snap Pea Salad (pg. 27 of Everyday Foods, May '08 issue)
Broiled Mango

Tuesday: Sloppy Joes
Raw veggies (probably carrots, broccoli, cauliflower)

Wednesday: Teriyaki Pork Tenderloin
Snow Peas

Thursday: Left Overs ( I try to incorporate left overs into our dinner planning each week. Of course, sometimes, they make perfect lunches and there aren't any. I got the idea from HomeEc 101. They call it CORN which stands for Clean Out Refrigerator Night. I must say they get more inventive with their leftovers than I do. I just throw them out there and let my family pick what they want. These gals throw them all together and actually whip up a "new" meal. I'm not that inventive. I need a recipe to follow. But good for them!

Friday: Chicken & Asparagus Crepes
Fresh Fruit

Saturday: Date Night

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Stimulate This!

President Bush is having the tax rebate checks mailed early. They will start going out on Monday. Now before you get all excited and try to figure out just what you're going to spend your "free" money on, keep this in mind. You will be taxed on this money next April. My advice, figure out what that amount will be, set it aside - a money market account or interest bearing savings account would be great - and do something equally as smart with the balance. I've heard people say they were using the money to go to Disney, buying this or buying that. My thought on that is this, think about what you've already bought (and are still paying on) and PAY IT OFF. Now, I know, this isn't very exciting. You'll no doubt have to watch your neighbors sport new items and all you'll have is fewer bills in your mailbox, less headache every month when you're trying to figure out how to make all your payments, and, oh yeah, more money left in your checking account because it's no longer going to pay those bills. Now, use this money to stimulate the economy.

I have long thought America is falling short on the American dream. Sure, we can dream it and achieve it. But with work, people. Not with credit! There are so many people living beyond their means. It makes me sad. While I'm on this soap box, I'll confess, we do have a balance on a credit card or two. Things come up and that's our recourse. I'm not talking designer clothes, dinners out, or anything extravagant. No trips to far away lands, or Disney. I'm talking life. So, our balance isn't high. But it is there and I wish it wasn't. Now with two mortgages, it's a bit harder to pay it off. But it is going down. Next month is our last payment on my car. We'll then own both of our cars. The money that would have gone toward the car will now go toward our debt.

Bush originally wanted us to stimulate the economy by buying more. Now he wants us to use the money to buy the food and gas we need daily. I suggest we make cutbacks on what we spend on both. Use coupons for food, shop for the best prices on groceries(this internet site is great for both), join local co-ops if you have them in your area, in short, do what ever you can to save money on your groceries. As far as gas goes, drive less. Combine errands. Pick one day to get as much done as possible or at least group errands by location and tackle them by side of town. Ride your bike instead of drive for short trips when you don't need a trunk or have to transport kids. Ride-share and carpool. Do not, I repeat, do not use this check to pay for gas. The gas problem isn't going anywhere, your rebate check will be gone before you know it. And you'll still need to gas the car and eat. Why not put actions in place to help you long term? Stimulating, isn't it?

Friday, April 25, 2008

Give Me A Break!

You all know my my husband travels. When he took his job, he didn't travel quite so much. Over the years, he has proven himself, gotten promotions, and increased the number of places he MUST go. In this same amount of time, I can count one time I've been away from home. He swears, when traveling for business, he's not having fun. But something about eating good food for free and not having to share your meal with a young child or listen to the bickering, whining, complaining or witness the teenager roll his eyes, makes me wonder what the *&^@ he's talking about. Who cares if it's FUN? It's FREEDOM. I know he's there working but come on. He has a bed to himself. No little feet coming in in the middle of the night just to let you know he/she had a bad dream. No said body climbing in the bed and falling back asleep all the while pushing his/her feet in your back and subjecting you to the sounds of him/her sucking on his thumb/her finger.
Today, this was all highlighted. Joe left on a pleasure trip. He actually got off work early, met up with three friends, and drove to North Carolina for the weekend. Their hope is to spend the weekend exploring new mountain bike trails. He spent many nights searching trails on the internet. He was well prepared. Now, he hasn't ridden in a few weeks and even that expedition was the first in months. So, I'm sure I'll hear all about his aches and pains for days after his re-entry into family life. Also today, I had coffee with a friend. She is quite often taking trips, leaving her kids with her husband. Today, she asked me to join her on one in August. In my mind, I was trying to figure out how in the world it would work. It's a Thursday through a Sunday. How would Joe do it? The kids will not be in school in August. What would he do with them? Would the house be a complete disaster when I returned? Probably. I was sick this week. A stomach thing on Wednesday. The house fell apart. Granted, it didn't have far to go. But it got there. And there it stayed. No one lifted a finger. Of course, there were plenty of complaints but no action. I reached my breaking point Thursday afternoon, after a day of compiling a list of members of our neighborhood swim team and all of their registration information, and assembling and mailing 106 newsletters for my son's orchestra. As soon as Joe got home, he asked, "So, were you in bed all day? The house looks like you were in bed all day." (I know, GASP! HE SAID WHAT?!)
So, I need a break. I most definitely cannot wait until August. But, instead, this weekend, I will transport two of my children to separate birthday parties, prepare for a third one early next week, get the third child ready for soccer out of town (to be transported by another family), and just try to survive without screaming too loudly. No promises. Just hopes.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Happy Earth Day!

I had hoped to celebrate Earth Day by planting some new plants in the yard but alas, the weather is cold and threatening rain. I did other things instead. I had my annual physical. Preserving my self instead of Mother Earth. I did have to drive there (in my non-hybrid vehicle). Then, I joined the local Freecycle site. I had high hopes for this alternative to buying everything new and throwing away the old. However, once I was accepted as a member and read over the recent posts, it seems there are many more "wants" than "don't want anymores". And, the things they want, I don't have. We'll see how this plays out. The premise of it is quite intriguing to me. A lot like Craigslist without the exchange of money. I love Craigslist. We outfitted our cabin with items found on Craigslist. Well, that's not entirely true. We added some items we found on Craigslist to what we had saved over the years. Joe equated himself to the crazy guy who decides to build a boat. He saves all kinds of stuff for the boat. The neighbors think he's a nut but he continues to save. One day, he builds his boat. And the crazy man wins. Well, this is what happened with our cabin. We saved so much stuff for a cabin that we had to rent a storage unit. Family and friends, no doubt, thought we were nuts. Years later, we found our cabin. the storage unit was emptied and everything found a new home at our second home. And the crazy people win!

But this is supposed to be a post about Earth Day. I do have a quick trip to make to the grocery store. In honor of the day, I will be sure not to leave my canvas grocery bags at home. Instead I will leave this post to put them in the car. That way, I'll just need to remember to take them into the store!

Happy Earth Day!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

What A Difference 15 Minutes Makes

Yesterday I read on MotherLoad: The blog how important it is to take time for myself. As our lives get busier and busier, we have to carve out small pockets of time for just us. To re-energize. I have had a very hard time finding just where to begin my whittling, much less carving. For years, my husband has told me to wake up earlier. Not so much to find time for me but to get all my chores done. I'm so not a morning person and 6:15 seemed early enough for me. If I couldn't get everything done between 6:15 and 11, it obviously wasn't important enough to me. So why would I wake up earlier than 6:15 to get it done? Well, I'm also not a night person. It's all I can do to hold my eyes open through a 10:00 show. No matter what it is. Obviously, I won't stay up later to get more stuff done. And, I find it difficult to do this stuff while my dear husband is laying around watching TV at night. So for years, things have been left periodically unattended. I say periodically because I do take care of them. Just not on anyone's schedule other than my own. But yesterday's urging was different. This was a coaxing to find time for myself, not my chores. I'm proud to say that last night, I set my alarm for 6 AM, put the coffee on Auto Brew, and hit the sack. No, I didn't make it through the 10:00 show I was watching. All was going well until Porter entered my room at 4:17. He'd had a bad dream. He climbed into bed with me, taking his father's place. (He's in DC this week.) I was left listening to him suck his thumb (yes, he's 8!) throughout my remaining hour and and 43 minutes of sleep. I must have gone back to sleep because when the alarm went off, I jolted to attention. Determined to follow through, I threw on my robe and slipper socks and descended the stairs to kitchen where I had to wait for the coffee to complete it's cycle. Note to self: Set Auto Brew to an earlier time tonight. So, other than waiting on my coffee, how did I spend my extra 15 minutes? I read a magazine. Real Simple. It came yesterday and all I was able to do then was flip through it. I actually read an article. Something I haven't done in ages. At 6:15 I woke Porter and we began our normal schedule. Although I was a bit more bushy-eyed and productive. Then, I took the advice of a fellow reader of the MomAdvice blog. She doesn't allow her kids out of bed until 7:00. Obviously this won't work for all of my kids. Porter's bus comes at 6:45. Jonathan already gets up at 7:00. Millie, however, will wake up around 6:30 and beg for me (not Daddy) to come get her. She's four and quite capable of getting out of bed by herself and walking downstairs to me. But everyday it's the same. "Maaaaahhhhhmmmmmyyyyyyyyyyy!" Today, I walked into her room and told her I'd be back at 7:00 to get her. It was still too early for her to wake up. And, SHE WENT BACK TO SLEEP! So in reality, I had 15 minutes before Porter got up and 15 minutes between when he left for the bus and when Millie and Jonathan got up. That's 30 minutes! Half and hour! One TV show (as I've always explained time to my kids)!
I hope I can continue with this. I'm sure it will take me a little time to get used to waking up so early. I'll probably get tired earlier. But once I get used to it, imagine difference it will make!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Jonathan's Dynamite at 13

This past week, my oldest son turned thirteen. He entered the dreaded teenage years. He's on his way to adulthood. That slow, am I ever gonna get there, track to adulthood. The one you think you've finished long before you really have. I cannot believe thirteen years have passed since he was born. I remember that night (and very early morning - he was born at 12:35 AM) of labor like it was yesterday. Which I think says something for my memory. Even at 40, I'm doing OK.

It wasn't just his entry into teenhood that amazed me. He also took part in his school's talent show. The talent he chose to showcase was performing the Napoleon Dynamite dance. So, clad in a curly blond wig, large metal frame glasses, jeans, a Vote For Pedro tshirt, and boots made out of the inside of his rollerblades, he performed without pause, the dance he'd watched on Youtube and learned within a two day period. Not only is he a really quick study but he has absolutely no fear of performing in front of people. I have no idea where this trait came from. I can attribute his webbed toes to his father, his facial features to me, and his sense of humor probably comes from both Joe and me. But this no fear thing has me stumped. It also has me very grateful. Memories of the sheer panic I'd feel every time I had to simply answer a question out loud in class are still clear. I would have never been able to perform the Napoleon Dynamite dance in front of my school. But he did and he did it magnificently. The cheers are still playing out in my head. In fifth grade, he gave the graduation speech at his elementary school. We still run into people who heard it and continue to say how good it was. He just has that something special. Someone told me he thought Jonathan had a future in either politics or ministry. Time will only tell what the future holds. He is extremely interested in medicine so we'll just have to see. In the meantime, he's Dynamite!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Challenge Accepted!

I caught this bit on the Today show the other day about buying green. This guy has actually written a book about replacing the products you use everyday with more green items. He's talking everything from using reusable containers for packed lunches instead of plastic bags, up to buying more Earth-friendly cleaners instead of your usual brands. Now I have to say, I am a creature of habit. Doing the same things I've been doing for years is easy. Not only that but I love to get a bargain and aren't all these "green" products more expensive? Now throw in the bizarre loyalty I have for certain brands and this is not an easy pill for me to swallow. Yet I listened, rather intently. I was beginning to sway. Then Matt asked the question, "Won't buying all this stuff be expensive?" To that came the reply, "You don't have to do it all at once. You're going to run out of stuff. When you replace it, choose a green product." Well this was like a huge light on the dark future that awaits us all if we don't jump on this bandwagon. It's that simple. Baby steps. No huge outlay of funds.

As Fate would have it, this week I ran out of a product that I use often, try to buy on sale, and have been loyal to since...well, forever. Bounce. It's one of those products I use without thinking about it. Kind of like zipping your pants. You do it so often you don't remember doing it at all. Anyway, Monday was laundry day. I used my last Bounce sheet on my second load. For my third load, I was scrounging the couch cushions where I sometimes put a sheet to freshen the room. I found one, only one. But there were loads and loads awaiting Maytag submersion. The fourth load dried Bounce-free. Yuck. I now know why I use a dryer sheet. But must it be Bounce? Just because it's what my mother used and I began using when I first starting doing my own laundry, must it be the brand I continue to buy? Today, I worked on discovering an answer to that question. With grocery list in hand (one that explicitly listed Bounce), I almost grabbed that orange box. But, wait! There was a green alternative a few boxes down. Sun & Earth. It was orange too. So I started the comparison. It was actually less expensive than my old stand-by. So I bought it. And when I got home, I used it. Upon opening the box I can tell you there was a dramatic difference. The sheets have a brownish tint to them. (Must be the lack of dyes.) They are also not as easy to remove from the box. And once you do, you have to separate them into two. There is actually a perforation. This is to keep them from clogging your dryer vent. (Remember those emails that went around about someone's friend who's dryer caught on fire from a dryer sheet clogging her dryer vent? I always thought it was a hoax. Maybe not!) My clothes came out static-free and soft. Not as soft as with Bounce but that's OK, these puppies will bio-degrade in just 21 days. Now, I must know, if I cannot use all 80 sheets in 21 days, will the left-overs disappear?

So I have thoughtfully joined the coalition. Don't know where it will take me exactly. But I do know it's gotta be much better than where I'd be if I didn't jump aboard.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

To Tell Or Not To Tell

That is the question! You know when you're eating dinner with someone and they get a piece of spinach caught in their teeth? It's uncomfortable to witness. You start licking your teeth, sub-consciously, trying to send them some telepathic message. I recently watched a show about this. It is amazing how many, when put in this situation, do not tell the person about the attention-stealing green cling-on.
This past week was Spring Break here in Charleston County. We took the kids to the mountains. While on the road, I noticed lots of bumper stickers. I'm not really a fan of bumper stickers. I have two, Touched By Adoption and a Georgia "G" decal. Both are in my window. It's the verbose stickers that I don't like. Sometimes I laugh because they can be funny. But, let's face it, if I'm driving a car, I really don't have time to be reading bumper stickers. And, do I really care how people in traffic feel about everything they insist on sharing? I mean if we're trying to sway public opinion, there must be a better way. I'd rather meet you for a coffee to discuss it than have to read it on the tail end of your car. But I digress...
Remember back when Bush was running for President? He had those "W" stickers. First it said "W for President" then it changed to "W The President" and then some got the "W Still The President." Do you know after all these years of a mistake-ridden presidency, folks still have these stickers on their car? Now, I'll let you in on a secret. I never voted for Bush. Don't really understand why anyone did to begin with, much less a second time! But it's a free country and I guess that's just how democracy works (or at least that's what we found out!). Anyway, do you think those folks who voted for him are proud that they did? Do you think they're proud of him? I ask because if I had voted for him, I would imagine that after this nearly complete (thank God!) second term, I'd have lost a bit of pride in his job. If I'd put one of those stickers on my car to show my support for him, I'm quite confident that I would have removed it by now. So, do you think these people know the stickers are still on their cars? Or, have they become like the attention-stealing green cling-ons? An uncomfortable thing no one wants to admit is there? I think we should start letting them know it's there. "Ummm, excuse me Sir, I know this is embarrassing, but you've got a little something stuck to the back of your car...."