Living on a Prayer…and Budget pt. 2

To quickly recap from part one; when starting a budget you need your essentials budgeted first.

*Food- we should be spending 9-14% depending on what source you read.

*Shelter-Depending on your income and outflow you may have to reassess where you live and/or your living arrangement.  Financial advisors will that no more than 25-28% (the opinion varies from site to site) of your income should go toward housing.  I am no financial advisor, but you may have to downsize or move if you are over your budget here.

*Clothing-While we need clothes…thank God for clothes…this one can be easy or hard to figure our just how much you need, especially if you have growing children.  However, after looking it up, conscience says about 4% of your income should be spent on clothing.

Let’s go back to food…my favorite: set a budget for your food allowance and plan accordingly.  I am a meal planner, have been for over 20 years now.  At first, t can be hard, but it quickly becomes second nature.  You can gather up old cookbooks, Grandma’s recipe box or look online at the endless recipe sites and start planning.  When meal planning, make sure when picking out recipes that they include regular products you either have already or will use again.  Sauces and spices for example can add up really quick especially if you will rarely use them.  Ask a friend if he/she has that sauce or spice and see if you can use it just for that recipe.  If so, make sure to give them some of the yummy dish you make.  That way they will more than likely let you use there pantry items in the future.

My grocery lists would/do include items we need all of time like toiletries, milk, bread, eggs, did I mention milk.  We have usually ate pretty much the same things for breakfast so that was easy.  For lunch Hubby took leftovers to works.  The kids either brought lunch or ate at school, it varied.  I also ate leftovers or made something at home.

Again, our grocery list didn’t vary much other than for dinner items. For that is where the planning helps a ton.  Here’s what I looked for: I had a few easy, quick meals for those busier than normal nights, meals that would stretch and I would try to vary the meats.  I tried to keep the favorites in there (I give my recipes a star rating to quickly identify the favorites) and add new recipes to try out.  Like I said living on a budget doesn’t have to be boring.

Now for the clothing.  Luckily, I don’t get bothered if I don’t wear name brand clothes.  My family has been pretty good about it too.  When the kids got jobs they tended to buy more name brands, but they too quickly learned how to find a good deal.  So, I am going to be completely honest…I love to shop at thrift stores.  I shop at stores ending in Mart as well, and some name brand stores (clearance racks and sales $$$) as well.  But there’s not much like thrifting and walking out with three grocery bags full of shirts that only costs $35.  Yes, that just happened last week!  It’s like treasure hunting.  Hubby mainly buys brand new clothes.  In his line of work he needs very sturdy, heavy duty clothes that are VERY hard to come by used.  However, the kids and I have gotten a good amount at the thrift stores.  Now I don’t buy undergarments or swim wear used.  EVER.  No matter how tight our budget is.  I also shop online for clothes.  Where we live we have a For Sale-(our city’s name) on Facebook.  It’s like an online yard sale.  I have gotten our toddler grocery bags full of clothes for under $40.  These types of sites/pages are great for reselling your kiddos used clothing too. There’s also this site I LOVE, LOVE: Thredup.  I have to not go there too often or I WILL go over my clothing budget.  They have name brands, if that matters to you, quality clothing for women and children.  With a family of seven, this is a game changer.  Their return policy is terrific too.  Okay, enough of the infomercial here.  I have also shopped yard sales, but not too often.  I prefer the organization of stores.  Hand-me-downs have been a blessing to us.

To briefly sum it up, there are many ways to save money and stick to your budget.  It takes a bit of time and effort, but it will be worth it and it will pay off.

 

Living on a Prayer…and Budget pt.1

If you missed my first post about budget living please go here.

Frugal.  Cheap.  Penny-wise.  Prudent.  Practical.  Thrifty.  Tight.  These are just some of the names one might call you if you watch your money and/or live on a budget.  Some are names to be proud of, some maybe not-so-much.  The word I love when it comes to money is not on this list is SMART.  Telling one’s money where to go puts you in the driver’s seat and ahead of the ball game.  Being smart with your money all comes down to a budget.

Just the thought of that word budget can send shivers down one’s spine, or get the audible groans from some in the crowd.  While for others it is a word bringing gleeful delight.  No matter which side of the budget fence you are on you need to be on a budget for the long term.  Hubby and I use Dave Ramsey’s budget method.  We got on a budget due to some unfortunate events (not related to the book).  I wish I could say we have stuck to our budget like a straight-A student.  We haven’t.  It’s more like we’ve been on the dean’s list, should’ve been in detention and everywhere in between.  However, we have stuck with it, reworked it here and there and are still making it work.  Here’s how we did it for over 20 years on virtually one income, while raising two kids and adopting 4 along the way.

Let’s start with things everyone needs: food, clothes and shelter. I am going to have to make this a two parter…talking about food alone takes up my word count!!

*Grocery Shopping-One of the first things we budgeted was our grocery bill.  Now our grocery bill included toiletries, diapers (some people will put diapers in their clothing expense category), cleaning supplies, etc..  Lumping it all together worked MUCH easier for me, instead of having to finger through three to four different envelopes and keeping the items grouped together on the conveyer belt when shopping all at one store.  I got a certain amount when Hubby got paid and had to stick to that amount for two weeks at a time.  I became a meal-planner.  It is second nature for me now.  I would sit at our kitchen table with my cookbooks, varying them each time, even trading with a friend to mix it up, and pick out different meals (mainly dinners).  Today, with the internet, looking up cheap meals is just a click away.  We ate a lot of casseroles, spaghetti, beans and rice, and just food that would stretch and would make a lot of leftovers.  During our lean years we didn’t eat out much at all.  I made and baked almost everything we ate.  We grew some vegetables and would’ve done more if we lived in a more garden friendly environment.  Where we live couponing doesn’t really help much, but I do use coupons only when they save me money.* (more on this later)  We even shopped at one of those food stores that sell slightly damaged (dented) food products for a fraction of the price.  This has been great for snacks and boxed items.  I watched the store sales and since we live in a smaller town I could go from store to store getting the good deals.*  Living on a shoe string budget or just a budget doesn’t mean you have to eat like a pauper.  We have eaten good tasting healthy meals for all of these years and there hasn’t been too much complaining.

Another help in the food department when you have a family is setting limits.  It’s good for adults too.  We haven’t ever let our kids just eat whatever, whenever, how much ever they want.  We set limits and have snack times.  We serve smaller portions at dinner.  This way there is less waste for those times when their eyes are bigger than their stomachs.   (Can we just say with some kids this happens more than not.)  Besides, they can always get more.

One more note about grocery shopping and buying food.  Buying healthier food can be more expensive and put a big dent on the food budget, but it can be done.  When a person eats healthier, fresher foods they fill up faster and the pangs of hunger don’t come as quickly as when they eat the cheaper, less healthy food choices.  It can take more time to prepare, cook or bake, but it is worth it of you manage it with your schedule.

*About using coupons and driving around from store to store, it may not be worth it.  This is where you need to put your detective skills to work.  Get that old calculator out and see if  using that coupon on the particular name brand item is actually worth the little bit you’d save versus buying the generic version.  In most cases the generic is just as good and will save you money.  (Every little bit helps.)  Learn what you can and can’t buy generic.  When it cost more in gas to go form store to store for that “great” deal then it’s not so great.  I know of a lady who will drive out of state (about 1 1/2 hour drive) just to get “cheaper” diapers.  That is NOT smart shopping.  Not only will she spend more on gas than she will save on the diapers, she will probably spend money on something to eat.  If she’s like me she’ll pick up other items that weren’t on her list as well.  However, if, like us, SAMs is that far away and Hubby works half way there already then it is worth the trip to save us some money on big bulk items we go through all of the time.

 

Ewww That Smell

I mentioned in my one of my last posts that I would talk about the ninos and their smell.

Well, here goes.

When our little guys and girl came to us almost two years ago they were coming from different foster homes. Chief and Nana were in the same home. The other boys were separated too. So four kids, three different homes. Yet they all had the same funky smell. They didn’t smell per se. It was their clothes. It took months to get that funk out. They all were in clean homes too and ours was a clean home.

I talked to another adoptive mom about it. How no matter what I used, how many scented beads I shook into the washer, their clothes still smelled. She said her boys did too. Stress related. She can actually tell when one of hers would be lying by his smell.

I did some researching, just a bit to see how studied this really is. Here is what I found:

http://www.calmclinic.com/anxiety/signs/body-odor

http://www.springdaleclinic.com/how-does-anxiety-cause-body-odor/

http://www.medhelp.org/posts/Anxiety/Aniexty-and-body-odor/show/5052

There isn’t really much info on kids from foster care “smelling”, but there is evidence that anxiety and body odor can be related. There are also other types of B.O. that golly, I really didn’t know existed. B.O. I’d rather not mention here.

Recently I posed this question/topic on a foster/adopt Facebook page. The result was better than the internet search. Yes, it really is a “thing”. No matter what kid. No matter the background. No matter the age. They all came with some kind of smell. Some reported taking a year to get rid of the smell. Other than the stress factor others suggested they kids diets as well.

It’s Monday…Best for Today

It’s Monday and I left my 15th of 17 doctors appointments this month feeling, well down, heavy, overloaded, maybe. I don’t know how many meltdowns our  Mr. Bubblewrap has had this month, but I do know that there is a marked decrease in them since he’s been on meds. I haven’t counted or kept track. If I would’ve known the doctor would ask I would’ve tried to keep better count. All I know is that whatever we are doing has helped. And golly, I am just plain happy that I have been able to keep track of what I have been able to this month considering the amount of medical and behavioral issues we’ve had.

It’s Monday at 4:00 pm and I just finished loading the dishwasher from last night’s and today’s worth of dishes.

It’s grocery shopping Monday, after 4:00 pm and I still haven’t put away all of the groceries from this morning’s trip.

It’s laundry Monday and while the clothes are clean, nothing has been put away.

It’s Monday and I need a day off.

It’s Monday and Hubby is working late after working this weekend.

It’s Monday and I am done with snotty noses, late night leg pains, sore arms and back from lifting the General again. Done with waxy ears that need their nightly dose of oil…all 8 ears! Done with bloody noses. Done with doctors appointments.

February is almost over and I couldn’t be happier. It was a rough, busy month that threatened to do me in. But with God’s help, and Hubby’s, I gained a bit more strength, a bit more patience, a bit more just let it go attitude.

It’s Monday and This momma is wore out. Popping in some chicken nuggets, making some man-n-cheese for dinner. Not the best but the best for today.

 

Overloaded Calendars

Do you have those months, weeks, heck, years where you are drowning in appointments, IEPs, school events, sports events, etc.? Have you had to cancel an appointment or two (or more) due to your unorganized and overlapping schedule? I have a solution that might help you.

This month I have 12, yes twelve appointments. Not to mention the church, school events and other things like that. Just appointments. Now I have always been more of an organized person, even as a kid. Can’t help it, just am. But months like these call out to my inner organizer to help sort out the business that is my life. I have to write it down or I WILL forget. I came up with this system, golly, I can’t even remember when, but it’s was years ago. Hopefully, it can help you as well.

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I HAVE to have a calendar where I can see it. So, on the frig it goes. How to pick the right calendar.

*Pick one you like to look at. Though the top half of mine usually gets covered up with notes from school, important reminders that I need to see or year, I will forget.

*Pick one with big enough date/day spaces to write all you need. I have literary filled those nice little rectangles up before.

That’s really about it. Now get some colored fine tip markers. I use CD type markers. There is no really reason for this other than that it what we had at the time I started and it worked so well I still use this type of marker.

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*Now for the colors: RED for birthdays, BLUE for church events, GREEN for school, ORANGE for appointments, PURPLE for dates, ladies nights, etc. YELLOW for those misc. items. I rarely use YELLOW as it is hard to see. I tend not to use black as it blends in with what is already on the calendar.

Using this color coded method helps me know what type of event is coming up at a glance.

The standard calendar worked for years. I needed nothing more. Along came the ninos…and many, many appointments followed. At first I tried using my smart phone. (Which I only got when we got the kids.)  I am not good at looking at my phone calendar or writing them down on my phone calendar. I ended up over lapping my appointments. I needed to change or add something.

Introducing the purse planner!!

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THIS my friend has helped tremendoously. I use the same color coded method. I started out using the markers but they bled through the pretty papers. No bueno. While in Durango, CO I found this totally cute, totally perfect little colored pencil set.

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I keep it attached to the front with the clip in the previous photo. With the same clip I hold  all of the appointment cards on the inside. Once the appointment is done I throw away the card. I keep the cards in case I need the number, or for some reason I forget to actually write it down. Which has happened.

To make this planner really work for me and not just be a lot of wasted paper bound together. I found one that I would actually use. It had to fit in my purse, check. It had to be attractive, check. I mean from the cover to the photos throughout where so me. I plan to hang the photos up when I am done with the planner. How’s that for multipurposing! It had to have big enough date space  (Again, I have been known to fill a day like a crazy woman.)

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It also comes with encouraging phrases, that somedays are timed just right.

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I have not used all that it has to offer, but have used the secondary calendar pages for notes. I keep a big rubber band as a place marker in this section. It also helps hold any loose paperwork I sometimes acquire at IEPs, Dr’s visits, etc.

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So, if you’re struggling to keep dates, appointments straightened out and not overlapping one another, don’t despair. Start with a standard calendar. There are SO many cute ones out there. Get some colored markers and start…to quote the cover of my purse planner: “The best way to get something done is to begin.”

Dear Sisters

“If there ever comes a time when the women of the world come together purely and simply for the benefit of mankind, it will be a force such as the world has never known.” Matthew Arnold, nineteenth-century British poet, and philosopher

Reread that quote and let it sink in.

Ladies, sisters…

What untapped power we possess and yet, we are such a bitterly divided group. I am saddened to see where we as women are today. How low we have sunk. This divisiveness has brought such confusion to our nation, brought such a swirling of thoughts in my mind. I think we have confused equal value for equality.

Let me explain.

I have six kids; 2 girls and 4 boys. I have always told our boys they can’t play rough with the girls. They have learned that girls need to be treated with care and respect. They are to be cherished not roughed up like they do to each other. When we have to add chairs to our table the boys get the ones with no backs, the girls, ladies get the ones with backs. The boys are being taught to hold the doors open for their mom and others. Their sisters to accept and truly appreciate that gesture of value. If taught they will more than likely treat females with value for the rest of their lives.

On the flip side, I have told our girls if they want to play rough with the boys then they need to toughen up themselves and risk the consequences. They can’t come crying that their brothers hurt them. If they want to get their own door (or decline offered help) then they better not get mad when their brothers don’t offer that act of value. They can’t have it both ways.

Are my kids equals, no? Do I value them equally, yes?

I don’t want my husband to think of me as an equal. I am not his buddy or his pal he can talk rudely to or expect certain male type things out of me. Do I want him to treat me with equal value and dignity, YES!!

Keeping that balance, no, finding that balance is so hard in today’s society. For men and women. Women want the right to flaunt their bodies as a form of art or some personal thing they got going on and yet get all offended when men see and treat you like an object. When a man values something (someone) he treats it with care and cherishes it/her. However, we need to act in a way that men and other wants to value us. We need to stop sending conflicting messages.

Our power as women is not in our female body parts or in flaunting female body part shaped costumes and demanding equal rights and respect. Our power is in our value. Knowing we are worth that value and valuing those around us.

Sisters, let us not confuse equality for equal value. Let us stop lowering ourselves by shamefully displaying our aggression, our hatred, and our private parts. Let us reach out and lift the sister next to us up. Teach your little girls they are valued beyond rubies and to accept acts of value from others. Teach your boys to value woman, to cherish them and protect them.

I am not saying girls/women can’t do things our male counterparts can. I am saying there are some things we shouldn’t do. Let’s get things back in balance. Let’s start valuing again.

My Two O’Clock Coffee

I cherish my two o’clock coffee, the only coffee I have all day.

I save it for when the kids are about ready to come home.  I save it when everyone is gone or asleep.  I save it for when most, who an I kidding, maybe half, of my day’s to-do list is done.  Just my coffee, half & half, stevia and me.  No matter if it’s cold or hot, it comforts my soul and awakens the brain.

Coffee and I go way back. Growing up coffee was not the drink of choice in our house. If it was a hot drink it was tea. Black tea, many herb teas, but no coffee. Then I got married. Hubby was a coffee drinker, still is. I didn’t even like the smell. He’d brew himself some coffee for this workday early in the morning. The smell which would filter its way through the rooms and to my nose was not a comforting, refreshing smell. To me, it was more of a strong, bitter smell that I couldn’t wait to burn away with scented candles.

Then ever so slowly I started to like and even love the smell of coffee brewing in the morning. When entering a coffee shop I’d take those deep breaths you see coffee lovers take. However, that’s as far as I could handle coffee. Until one fateful dinner at a former pastor’s house, I tasted and liked coffee. Now I had tried hubby’s coffee many times, but our pastor’s wife had flavored creamer!! I probably had 1/4 coffee to 3/4 creamer at first, but I liked it. I slowly worked up the ratio of coffee to where I now drink it with 1/2 and 1/2, no flavored creamers. Ever since we started to eat cleaner flavored creamers is one of the things we gave up.

Here’s where I am at today:

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I have my one cup of coffee around 2:00. Any more than that and the caffeine loses it’s kick. Ever since Hubby and I took a mini getaway to Durango, Colorado I am hooked on cold brew coffee. It is less bitter and acidic than traditionally brewed coffee. It has a very smooth taste as well. There are a few different methods to make your cold brew: here and here for example. There are also a  number of containers you can use for this process. If you look at the photo above the smaller, fancier container I bought through amazon.com. They taller one at Walmart. I prefer the Walmart one. It is very basic and easy to use. The suggested number of days you can leave your cold brewed coffee in the frig varies as well. For me, I found that after the 4th day the coffee tends to taste too bitter. You can warm up your cold brew as well. To get my daily dose of coconut oil in I simply melt it into my hot coffee. (My lips are so smooth afterward.) Also, to change it up a bit, when traditional brewing after you add the coffee grounds in sprinkle some pumpkin pie spice onto then brew as usual!  Yum. I still need to try that with the cold brew method.

Tell me how do you like your coffee? What are some healthy, money saving tips for a good brew?

Whack-A-Mole

Yikes…! Where does the time go?

I have had so many good blog posts formulating in my head. So many.

Posts about our holiday break, raising a big family, helping kids overcome and thrive, setbacks…you get the picture.

BUT, I am a mom. A mom of 6 children from toddlerhood to adulthood and all in between.

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To be honest, this year started like last year ended…full of emotions. We have had every type going on here. And me, I am trying to keep myself in control and reset my mind. Some days we are just surviving, barely hanging on. Playing Whack-a-mole as the kids take turns having issues. You never know who or what is going to happen.

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There are the boys. These boys…LOVE them to pieces, but they can really twist and turn the tides of the household dynamics. Let’s see we have one who was doing SOOO good only to go back to what we call foster mode (total emotional chaos, absent-mindedness, etc.), one doing super good, maturing and functioning on all cylinders (which doesn’t always happen). So good I called my mom. This one even gave me a hug! Another got tripped and broke his leg. (another post for later). We have lost wallets, tensions on high, sometimes overly aggressive boy behavior and Hubby and I trying to navigate our way through it all without losing it ourselves (which as humans we have). Can I repeat when one (just a certain one) of ours goes into the foster mode it really throws us all.

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Then there are our girls. One is preteen and still trying to find her way and place in our family. She finds it and then I think becomes uncomfortable. Our oldest, well, is great but for me learning how to have our, sort of still new, the adult relationship can leave me wondering if I am doing too much or too little. Overall the girls have been more help than not.

So this year is slowing coming together and slowing down I am trying to readjust some of my thinking patterns. Trying not to be so reactive. Trying not to change (fix) those in my immediate life. I am giving them to God and trying to let Him do the work I can’t. Letting God make up for all of these times I fall so very short. And learning grace again.

Okay, off to do laundry, dishes, my hair, laundry, make an appointment, oh did I mention laundry?

Can I Get a Rewrite, Please?

Murdering Your Darlings is the title of a current podcast I am listening to. It is a writing podcast. By murdering your darlings, the author (who speaks with an academic British voice) is referring to going back and rewriting your old work, work you may have shelved.

Oh, how I wish I could go back to certain portions of my life, certain moments, and rewrite them. Like when my firstborn was little, I would not have been so hard on her or hard on Hubby for having a different parenting style as me.  Or the many times I fretted about things that I really shouldn’t have.  There are so many hindsight moments in my life when in my older age, I look back or after going through something rather difficult I realize,”I could’ve handled that better” or “that wasn’t so bad”.

More times than I care to admit I have heard myself tell someone, “If I had a crystal ball…to see how far we/they have come” in reference with our ninos. I may not have been so affected by their behaviors.  I could surely use some rewrites for the last almost two years.

Not to get too deep here, but I think it’s what we would do if we really got a chance to rewrite some of our past stories, moments that really matter.  Why we would tweak it here and there. I know some people would leave it as is. Our past is who we are no matter good or bad. We build on those choices, those moments. While we technically can’t go back in time and rewrite our history we hopefully learn from them.

The author in the podcast stated that “the best test is to read your story out loud, and read it to someone.” He went on to say that, and I paraphrase, more or less in my own words, if it doesn’t sound quite right then rearrange some words or sentences until it sounds smoother, more cohesive. Man, I don’t know about you but there are parts of my story (and I am a pretty open book) that I do NOT what read aloud by me or anyone, especially to someone.  Thank God for God’s forgiveness and grace right here. However, it does make me stop and take note that I can look back in time and rewrite my future by not repeating the not so positive choices I made in my past.  I can even rewrite the positive by making it even better.

On ending a novel, the podcast concluded, there are many ways one could choose.The open-ended version of like Anton Chekhov “And so it began to rain” or “have multiple endings, one that offers closure or a conclusion or something else.” Here is where the writing challenge was assigned. To read a story, “and locate the moment when a fissure is planted in the narrative. Some gap between scenes for example. Your aim is to write a story that fills that gap, stays with the original subject and to do so using the author’s narrative style and the point of view.” He gives further instructions to “try to bring your story to a close after 1500 words, but attempt to end it like Anton Chekhov. Give it an open ending.” I like that, especially when applied to life. Locate the fissure and basically rewrite it, giving it an open ending. Because life is open ended.

This December

I have, to be honest.  December loomed big on our mental calendars this year. With foster kids or kids who have experienced trauma in their short lives holidays, birthdays, celebrations and/or big events can be triggers.  For us, November is our wedding anniversary and Thanksgiving.  December started right off with us adopting our four ninos at 8:30 in the morning (yes, get seven of us courtroom ready and there by that time!!!), next day was one of their birthdays, throw in all of the regular Christmas time activities, sprinkle in house hunting, top it all of with a child who got triggered by all of the aforementioned and BAM! you have the December from hell.  Seriously, it was the hardest December for us ever.

You see our now nine-year-old son suffered the most trauma and came with the most pressing behaviors of the bunch.  Tantrums, shutting down, self-harm, every emotion in the book, lying, pooping in his pants (he has no physical problems), screaming, hurting others, failing school, totally absent-mindedness, unable to focus, forgetful, hurting our littlest dog, major fears, calls from school…it goes on, was what we were dealing with, not all on a daily basis but very much more than one per day, everyday.  Then came December!!  We had been warned about triggers, but getting a warning and living it are two completely different animals.  It ALL happened in a huge way in December.  After ten poopy pairs of underwear in under three weeks, we gave up counting.  No amount of time outs, time ins, very early bedtimes seemed to help.  No amount of hugs, reassurance seemed to help either.  No one had answers for us.  We kept praying and stayed steading on our course.

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This December, this year, has been so different.  NO, I repeat, NO poopy underwear!!!!!  I cannot tell you how much that upended our home and lives.  Most of the above behaviors are all but down to normal levels.  He has come so very far this year.  I wish I would’ve had a crystal ball to see where we, where he, is right now. It is so nice to be able to get to know him, who he really is without all of the trauma induced baggage that was slapping us all in the face.

Our Mr. Bubblewrap is so sweet, a true gentleman, a quiet leader, a very perceptive young man.  He is funny, sensitive, smart and a pleasure to be around.  The house is quieter when he is not around.  This young man is going to have a second Christmas (gifts) in January if he keeps it up!