Friday, October 29, 2010

My ticker

So in my effort to find more ways in which I can be ridiculously cheap studiously thrifty, I've started trying to pay attention to any areas where I may be thoughtlessly spending - that is to say, areas where I'm spending without really thinking about it. And it wasn't until recently that I had (what my dear husband would call) an "apostrophe!" (also known in the english speaking world as a epiphany! Ready? Here it comes.

Wait for it...

I spend a TON of money on things we turn right around and Throw.a.way.

Like what? Well, I'll give you some examples:
  • trash bags
  • paper towels
  • sandwich baggies
  • freezer ziplocks
  • baby wipes
  • dishwasher detergent
  • laundry detergent
  • hand soap
  • dish soap
Now, of course, each of these items has a use prior to it's disposal. Let's not forget for a moment that paper towels have HUGE value in my home. I GREATLY appreciate my ability to grab
one and wipe off my jelly covered child. Likewize, hand soap is very useful...

But the point I'm getting at is that these are things which we use - and then they are gone. These things are - da da da DA - Consumables.

And so I should be carefully watching my "spending" not only ON these items, but OF these items. (yes, this is self talk. I know you aren't stupid, you probably already had this figured out. I just need to get it out of my brain by way of my fingertips so it will STICK in my head)

So in order to get my consumables-spending (the amount of consumables I use in a day, not the number of dollars I spend on them - that's a closely related topic for another day) under control, I've come up with a concept - a word picture - That gets me thinking. I picture a digital ticker above my head. Every time I use something (something that will be DONE once I use it) That digital display ads to it the cost of that item.

Think about it - each paper towel, each baby wipe, each ziplock, dryer sheet, ounce of detergent, drop of dish soap - they all have a price.

By the end of an entire year I'm willing to bet I've "consumed" hundreds of dollars in consumables, most of which benefit me only in the sense that they save me time. And I'm not discounting that. Time is valuable. MY TIME is valuable. There are SOME things that are totally worth the money for saving my time. Disposable baby wipes would most certainly fall into this category. (This is where I could explain why, but you don't want the dirty details, believe you me. Suffice it to say I MADE MY OWN cloth wipes, and now they function as rags because I AM DONE using cloth wipes. Ahem.) Trash bags are another of these things, because there's no way I have either the time, energy, or desire to compost and recycle EVERY piece of trash we produce.

Maybe, like me, you're pinching your pennies. If that's the case, I encourage you to take a hard look at the things you consume on a daily basis (no, not food, silly. Yet another related topic for another day). Small changes add up to BIG change - our small change for the week is placing a stack of those under-utilized cloth baby wipes next to our paper towel dispenser. I'm going to do my best to grab one of those when I need to wipe up a quick mess, instead of grabbing something I'm just going to throw away.

What are you going to do?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Not-so-wordless Thursday

(room for a friend)

(Here's lookin' at you, kid)

(Halloween costume = meltdown in 3-2-1...)

(Dining with Daddy)

(Drive through leftovers? Not without a scolding.)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Let me sing

I've loved singing since I was a child.
I'm not sure I've ever been very good at it, but I thoroughly enjoy making music.

These are the lyrics to the chorus of a song that a friend introduced me to in college. Later, I sang it in front of our church in Pullman, WA. They're powerful lyrics to me, and maybe that's due in part to the point I was at in my life when they made their impression, but the song still resonates with me - it's words bring me back to some of my most formative college years.

So let me sing for the love Let me love for the lost Let me lose all I have For what I found on the cross Let me trust you with my life Let me live to give you praise Lord, let me praise you For the grace by which I'm saved Lord, let me sing
"Let me sing" from album "Clear to Venus" by Andrew Peterson 2003

Do songs ever do that to you? Take you back to different points in your life, different challenges and struggles? Music memories, to me, are similar to how a taste can remind me of a very specific Thanksgiving dinner, or how a particular smell can take me back to the birth of my son.

Powerful, those memories. Powerful.

Monday, October 25, 2010


If you own any appliances - you know, like a washer, dryer, dishwasher, refrigerator, furnace, hot water heater, or any of the like - you know they ALL have a reputation for one thing:


Plain and simple. You know it, I know it, we all know it. And in OUR family, about half of those things have had, shall we say, "issues", since we moved into our home two and a half years ago. As home owners it just comes with the territory, but these events lead me to wonder why I didn't take the utilities company up on their "appliance insurance". ah well, lesson learned.

Anyway, Our washer has had a few problems lately. I may or may not have previously mentioned that it would intermittently give me cold water when it was set to hot, and vise versa. Well, after putting it off for nearly a century (or 6 months) I finally called someone to come take a look at it. They were the same guys that I called when our refrigerator had "issues" over a year ago. Did I blog about that? Don't remember - but if I did I'll link up to it when I'm done writing here (nap time is precious and I'm not going to go wasting the last wee bit of it searching for a blog post that I may or may not have written.

So, I called these guys, and they came and fixed my washer. After they left, I began to notice (that day, actually) that the selector knob was - how shall I say - slipping. It wasn't turning normally. You'd really have to be here so I could show you what it was doing, but that really isn't the point of my post. So, knowing that my "service charge" was good for 30 days, I called the appliance guys again and told them of my predicament. I mentioned that the problem began just after they left - not that they were the reason for the problem, but that maybe the knob hadn't been tightened down after they put my washer back together (they took the cover off after all).

There was a gentleman on my porch in, I kid you not, 15 minutes. Although I assumed this was a simple issue (like I said, maybe the knob just wasn't tightened down) I was wrong. Turns out the gears were worn down and the "timer" dohicky needs replacing completely.

My face went blank.

I mean, I know things come in threes, but seriously? TWO washer repair bills along with my root canal and various asundried other totally random bills in the SAME 30 days???

And then Troy, from Appliance Technology, informed me that they would be making this necessary repair for free. Including the part. Free.

And this, my friends, is why I am writing this blog post. Should you ever have the need for appliance repair, I have the guys for you. Not only did they work tirelessly on my refrigerator a year ago (a task which took a few weeks and a lot of problem-hunting) They are also reminding me of their commitment of quality service with integrity by fixing my washer.

Appliance Technology
3743 N 63rd St
Lincoln, NE 68507-1808
(402) 467-4966

There you go, friends. I realize that none of this post is particularly helpful to those of you who don't live in Lincoln, but I couldn't end my day without giving these guys (who represent a small, local, family owned business) some mad props. Very helpful, considerate, professional, and above all, honest.

And isn't that what we're all looking for in any repair-person? Honesty? I tend to think so.

(update: no, I never blogged about how our refrigerator fritzed out on us three times in 2009. I was away during my post-partum-depression blogging hiatus. Things were a little hairy from June to October 2009, I'm not gonna lie!)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - er - Thursday

(in case none of you finds it interesting to see my son cover himself in home made yogurt, I should tell you that up until very recently he has been allergic to all things dairy. These pictures mark a HUGE event in our home - and Levi couldn't be happier.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Something I will post more about later

So I sat down at the computer yesterday afternoon with a LOT on my mind. I have recently been struck with just how critical and judgemental of a person I am and after Tuesday morning bible study (MUMS) at Berean I really wanted to write down all of my icky feelings so I wouldn't forget them.

Do you ever do that? Write thoughts and feelings and "ah-hah" moments down so you don't forget and then continue on in your normal ways? Anyway...

I wrote a LONG LONG LONG post that didn't really seem to be going anywhere and, in the end, I didn't publish it. I saved it.

Criticism, critical opinionated eye rolls, and even in some part critical thoughts about how others choose to do things, are hurtful. ("choose to do things" could easily be expanded to include "choose to act/own/buy/wear/work/etc etc) Whether I realized it or not, I'm quite sure that the scoffs of "seriously?" under my breath have often been recognized.

So my question is, why do my thoughts so quickly become critical and judgmental? Initially I would wonder if I feel insecure deep down and have some inborn need to justify my actions etc. - but while I'm sure that's true for some of the areas in my life, I think there's more to it than that.

Anyway, more on this later. As I continue to search it out myself.

A simple Autumn treat my kid will actually eat

I found this recipe recently in an issue of Parents Magazine. Levi Loves it. Jonathan begs for it. and it has 5 ingredients. Sounds like a win, win, win.

Oh, and it's cheap. Make that a win, win, win, win.

Shortcut Pumpkin Bread
Yellow cake mix (we use Best Choice/super-saver brand which is dairy/soy free)
The eggs and oil the mix calls for
One cup pureed pumpkin
One cup mashed banana

Mix all ingredients together well
Pour into a greased loaf pan
bake at 375 for 50 minutes

Presto! Pumpkin bread.

Now, for the fine print - I actually add chocolate chips to mine. Call me a rebel, but if you want the truth they come by Jonathan's insistence. So don't blame me.

Monday, October 18, 2010

NOT ME Monday

"Not Me Monday" was started by this blogger, whose posts I adore reading. I don't think she did a "not me" post this week, but whatever she wrote I assure you it's worth reading.

Ok, on to the not me-ing.

Let's start with an obvious one. I did NOT seriously neglect my blog over the past couple of weeks as Levi has shifted from two naps to one. You know me better than that. You know that I'm a highly organized individual who always has a spare moment (AND the mental faculties) to write something coherent.

(I did not just misspell coherent - three times - before I got it right)

I have not given my toddler motrin every night for the past week+ in hopes that he'll quit this middle-of-the-night tooth-ache waking. How do I know his teeth hurt, you ask? Well, I just know. And you know me, I certainly wouldn't give him Motrin, or any medication for that matter, unless I knew exactly what I was giving it to him for. I would NEVER, you know, just give him Motrin on the off chance that his teeth were waking him so that I might, you know, be able to get a full night's rest. I know children shouldn't be given medication that often, or for that long.

It was not my toddler who I found lying prostrate in the mud (voluntarily, I'll add) out at Roca's pumpkin patch. It was also not me who allowed him to soil himself in the dirt and mud forgetting that I had not brought a change of clothes. Not me.

I did NOT go on a date with my husband last night (a wonderful date, might I add), leaving our son with dear friends, and come home to realize I hadn't put ANY diapers in our diaper bag for him. Come to think of it, I did NOT wonder why he was not in a target diaper when he came home and then just figure it must have been easier for Rachael just to grab one of Teagues to put on him. (thanks for that, by the way :)

My child did NOT awaken in the middle of the night because the power went out. Who does that? How did he even know? Well, It is also not my child who is addicted to his sound machine - so addicted in fact that it's absence awakened him. I was NOT up most of the remainder of the night rocking a very confused toddler who simply would not be put down to save his life. My loving husband came in at 5:30am to relieve me, and I did NOT take him up on his offer to grant me an hour and a half of needed sleep while he rocked the confused toddler.

Finally, I did NOT find my son reading his "hooray, I obeyed" book TO an adoring crowd of stuffed animal friends this morning. My little ball of energy doesn't sit still nearly long enough to read a story with or to anyone, let alone long enough for me to photograph the event.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The house of one nap

You wouldn't think that going from one nap to two (Levi, not me, in case that wasn't obvious) would make a HUGE difference in my day. But it does!

I figured I'd just get right to the point of my post. It all started back in - oh - The end of May I'd say. Levi would take two naps every day for like a week, and then there would come a single day when he simply wouldn't go down for a second one. As the weeks went by we had more and
more days like this until sometime in the middle of September we were having more one-nap days than two-nap days. To make matters worse, that ONE nap (on the one nap days) was quite short. It was only the standard 60-75 minutes. One short nap = a cranky toddler.

Fast forward to this past week and all of the sudden I have a toddler who has started sleeping 12 hours (instead of the standard 10.5) at night and napping 90+ minutes smack in the middle of the day. I guess I always thought in the back of my mind that he would get it all ironed out, but it seemed like it was taking forever.

Needless to say, I'm happy that I'm now left with a very happy kiddo who sleeps well at night (for the most part), and takes one very decent nap during the mid-day. The only downside is that now I don't have my time in the morning to blog.

I know, you're sitting there at your computer singing a song of pity for me. You're playing your tiny finger violin all the while thinking "you should be THRILLED to have a toddler who sleeps and naps at reasonably tolerable, and also predictable intervals!" and rest assured, I am. No,
really, I AM! But like most humans on the face of this earth, I dislike change because it makes me uncomfortable and it breaks my routine. Do you follow? What I mean to say is that I'm not so much complaining, as I am making a valid excuse for my lack of blogging... and by all expectations, my future lack of blogging.

As for what has been going on recently - I have begun to redefine the word "busy". Life with a toddler is much different than life with an infant (and I suspect life with a toddler plus any other children would be exponentially more busy). Levi and I spend the majority of our mornings these days out and about. We run our errands, We go to the Childrens Museum (one of this
country's best), we go to the zoo, we play with our pals at the park, we visit friends at their homes, hunt down garage sale treasures, and all sorts of other things. For the most part, I do my best to tire the boy out.

By 11:30 we are home for lunch, and some time around 12:30 (sometimes as late as 1:30 recently, as he has been *GASP* sleeping until 8:00am) Levi takes a nap. This nap, all depending on how well I tired him out, can last from 90 minutes to 3 hours. Needless to say, I do my VERY best tiring him out.

Once awake for the afternoon, we usually have some cuddle time in our rocker where he likes to nurse and be quiet while mommy catches up on Oprah's latest. Then, we're off again, out of the house to run an errand or visit a friend. On days where there simply isn't another errand to run we try to keep as busy as possible with chalk, and crayons, and bubbles. We play with water, sticks in the yard, and anything that rolls. We go on nature walks, visit our next-door neighbo
rs, or walk to the Library. Sometimes we Skype with family in Seattle.

The theme of our day is "busy". Why? because This little dude has more energy than he knows what to do with. Without an outlet for said energy I end up with a very crabby toddler who whines and hangs on my ankles while signing "nurse" and saying "MUH?" (which loosely
translates to "milk-time", our phrase for nursing)

So, in short, don't be surprised if the theme of my blog ends up being "I'll-update-it-when-I-get-around-to-it" and blogging subjects are less interesting, and more informative.

Some day I'll get around to typing up the rest of my costco/supersaver/target price comparisons. Some day. For now, I leave you with a very cute picture of two very cute kids I saw at the pumpkin patch. So cute, I even took one of them home!

Monday, October 4, 2010

A post in which I remember I cannot place my faith in dollars.

It was not long ago that Jonathan and I were in Washington, living in Pullman. He was attending WSU, earning his masters, and I was working full time+ as a restaurant manager/catering coordinator. While things were by no means rosie all the time, we really did "have it made". We gave to the Lord, paid 350 a month for rent, had a few minimal bills (phones, insurance, electricity, internet), and bought just enough food to survive on. Everything else we threw into the bank, usually before we even had time to read the numbers on the paycheck. We're savers by nature (we find it difficult to spend money on ourselves) so it wasn't particularly difficult.

Fast forward to 2008. We moved to Nebraska where Jonathan was offered a job. By the grace of God, I also was offered a job. As planned, we tithed, paid our bills, and threw everything else in the bank. It was similarly as easy.

We bought a house; and even though we were now certainly spending more each month, we were still able to throw all of my paycheck into the bank. And I would say it was still relatively easy in the sense that we didn't feel like we were "strapped".

Fast forward to 2009. We had a baby. I quit my job. We stepped out on faith, knowing that we had been able to successfully live within the confines of Jonathan's paycheck in the past, and praying that it would also be possible to do so with a little one. We knew this would not be easy. With prayer, we made choices which would effect us financially (such as cloth diapering), we made choices which would effect us socially (such as reducing our budgeted allowance for eating out and entertainment). We made lots of choices. Together, those choices, the many prayers which preceded them, and the grace of God for which we are truly unworthy, this little family of three has been plugging along month - after month - after month - debt free.

And that was the goal. Right? To live on Jonathan's paycheck. Or was it...

I mentioned before that Jonathan and I are, by nature, savers. We have a difficult time NOT saving. As such, it is difficult for me NOT to see money going into savings each month but rather to be SPENDING ALL OF IT. It scares me. It makes me feel unsafe. It makes me feel uneasy and I DON'T LIKE IT. To be brief, I like to save for the sheer joy of saving. (How dumb is that?) So to say that it was my goal to live debt free would be - truly - fibbing. My unspoken goal was to live within the confines of Jonathan's salary AND to save money on the side.

Fast forward to September, 2010. On my list of expenses to pay are a plane ticket home to WA (our August trip, the bill for which I paid off in September), baggage fees, and one, nay TWO trips to an endodontist who is NOT covered by my insurance - one trip of which included an $875 root canal. ACK! As you may have guessed, without breaking the law I cannot fit these items into an already stretched budget. I simply cannot. And so, without further adeau, I would like to introduce you to: September 2010, the month when Jonathan and Melissa overspent their budget by $506.44

My eyes get big when I see that. I'm ashamed. Totally. And, on top of that, I'm fear full.

Except I'm not telling you the whole truth.

You see, savers that we are, we do indeed have an emergency account. We can (and will) transfer money from this account to cover the overage. But that very act makes he shiver in my boots. What if we spend our emergency account until it's dry? what if we continue to experience circumstances which force us to spend spend spend? What if Jonathan contracts some kind of weird flesh eating bacteria and has to be sent to a state-of-the-art hospital in Pa Pa New Guinea". WHAT IF? WHAT THEN?

The voice of reason becomes so quiet when I'm balancing our budget, that sometimes I almost cannot hear her at all. She speaks of thinks like "faith", and "provision", and "wisdom". As in, when we have faith, and ask for wisdom to make wise financial choices, God will provide --> even if his provision is not what we expected, even if his provision does not come in the package we desired.

So here we are in October. September has passed and yet I find myself continuing to worry about things I have little control over (read: I worry about the possibility that I may have to go back to work, that we may have to find a day care, that we may not be able to afford to raise more children...), but I do know this: If I place my faith in the dollars remaining in our emergency fund I will ultimately be dissatisfied, frustrated, and full of yet more worry.

(here comes the pep-talk)

The truth is, we can't plan for the unplanned, we cannot prevent the unexpected, and (despite my deepest efforts), we cannot fix things that are not yet broken (I'll explain our great bath-tub leak another time). So here I go, off into the depths of October, with a greater determination to live with what I have and purchase only what I need, but at the same time not to look at the unexpected necessities as God's unfaithfulness towards us. Rather, to look at them as opportunities to place our faith where it belongs.