Thursday, May 31, 2007

Swing kid

My relationship with Liam swings like a pendulum made of a spider's-silk strand.

There are times when his funny comments catch me just right and we laugh and giggle like two best friends.

Then there are times when he pierces my heart.

On days like today when he wakes up with a predetermination to wreak as much havoc in as many people's lives as he can. Baiting his little sister to do something naughty, tattling on her for a biting that never occured in hopes that we'll spank her so he can laugh at her berating, breaking a lamp and shattering the light bulb into dangerous shards all over the floor, just a spirit of general meanness.

My aching mind agonizes over what inside of him is so broken or so empty to cause him to choose such mean things as his way of escaping, assuaging his pain and confusion. I cry at not being able to get through to fix whatever is broken in his little spirit. My hugs, prayers, love, encouragement, teaching, agony doesn't seem to be enough.

But this one thing we have in common. He loves to swing, and although it tires me to the bone, I will keep pushing.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Road Trip

In less than a week, we leave for a road trip. I'm freaking out already.

The noise, frustration, and over stimulation really gets to me and sometimes I feel guilty, like we're torturing our kids. Strapping them into seats for hours on end.

But, since we and the kids are getting more and more comfortable road tripping, we've figured out fun things that we can all do to make the time pass more quickly, alleviate driver and passenger frustration, and make the journey as much or more fun than the destination.

We are, however, not fully equipped for the funness of the ride. So I'm blatantly asking for my local readers to loan us any of the things on this list you might have and be willing to let us use on a road trip.

  • Cigarette lighter outlet chord (1)
  • Rechargeable AA batteries--lots of 'em. We have a charger and 2 batteries, but need more batteries
  • Portable DVD player--it'd be nice not to take Dan's laptop
  • Little Touch Leap Pad w/ books and cartridges
  • My First Leap Pad books and cartridges
  • Etch-a-sketches (2)
  • Magna Doodle, size large (1)
  • Mini fridge
  • Hand held video games--kiddie appropriate
  • Lap pads (2) for coloring, snacks, reading
  • Seat massager for driver (& passenger)
  • Anything else that would be fun for kids for a car ride!

Thanks in advance for adding to our sanity and safety racking up lots of miles (and spending lots of $$$ on gas--ugh!)

Sunday, May 27, 2007

My two cents

First of all, we are proud of ourselves for owning our van. And not like video game "owning" it, but as in we wrote a check for the balance of our loan and paid it all off. 36 months early! Once we pay our tax ammendation (we should have it all saved up by July or August), we'll be able to focus on adding to our emergency fund and plumping up the retirement/college funds that have been a little neglected the past few months and move up a level in our ability to be generous with our things.

Second. We were shocked when our energy bill for the past month was almost half what it normally is. I thought there might be an overall 5% difference, but I never thought we'd save that much consciously being "green". Hanging laundry on the clothesline, compact fluorescent lightbulbs, burning candles at night, and just being very energy aware is what we contribute the savings to. Summer's the PERFECT time to hang out laundry--try it! It's kinda fun. I'm sure neighbors love looking at Dan's black CK undies and my hot pink Vickies collection!

I have more than $4 in change in my wallet for all the brown bags I've been taking to the grocery store and re-using to bag groceries. You get 5 cents back for each bag you bring to reuse...I'm saving up to buy Dan a hybrid...could be a while, honey.

The basement is about 1/2 way sorted, organized, and cleaned. Each night we chip away a little more. The ultimate (as in within the next 5-10 years...maybe sooner?) goal is to totally re-do the basement with some nice bedrooms, a useable bathroom, laundry room, storage and family room then move the kids downstairs and have the main floor all to ourselves. Yeah, that's probably me and the peote pipe spending too much time together...and if Greg's still living down there in 5-10, then Houston, we have a problem.

We've been total math nerds lately trying to make sense of, plan and budget for the church's new insurance plan--our third one in 4 years. Anybody else have a health savings account (HSA)? What are the pitfalls to watch out for and the gloriously wonderful things about it? We need some testimonials...

How are YOU doing on your financial goals? A lot of you have blogged about budgeting, simplicity, paring down, spending less, being more content, living within your means, etc. How are you doing? Whether you've earned a pat on the back or a kick in the pants, do share.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Personal ministry

We've cleared a space in our backyard for a shed to store lawn and garden "stuff". After paying off all our necessities, we were hoping to start saving up for materials for a shed on this cleared space in the back yard.

Today, we were offered this shed. At no cost. We just have to take it apart, transport it to our yard, and reassemble it.

So, is anyone willing to donate a few hours of hard labor to our shed project? We'll feed you and your family, thank you profusely for weeks and possibly months to come, count it as personal ministry, and send in a request for a few extra jewels in your crown.

Are you in?

Monday, May 21, 2007

An indulgent piece of writing: cryptic but at least well-written

I've taken a bit of a roundabout on my spiritual journey and found myself perpetually at an amusement park. Feeling like I'm filling myself up with cotton candy and greasy fries and fizzy soda, which is really nothing but sugar, dirty grease, and air leaving me feeling really empty, really low, really malnourished, thirsty for so much more.

Meeting all kinds of people--some new and some I've known for a while. Some to strike up a conversation with and relish the banter as we wait in line together. Some to develop a continuing friendship with and ride the rides, eat, rest, recreate, be together. And still others to avoid at all costs. Or endure. Sometimes going with a crowd I know I don't belong with, don't want to be with, yet going about with them for a time nonetheless. And always disappointed when I get alone and realize that I'm disappointed after being with them...again.

I'm kinda tired of the roller coaster I've been riding on for do I even keep track of time?

Every now and then I finally feel courageous, excited, anticipatory, confident, a tinge of joy, ready to ride. Suck the marrow out of life. Change the world. Then it just takes one small interchange, or lack of interchange, one strange look, perplexing letter or e-mail, awkward silence, unreturned phone call, audio or visual lack of support, befuddling choice by a person or entity that seems to go against all reason, logic, God plan and I find myself shaking, locked in the same bathroom stall...again...sobbing my eyes out silently so no one else hears me and wondering why I am stuck in this banal place.

Did I choose to be here? Did I do this to myself? Was I assigned this place? How long must I stay? Where would I go? Am I supposed to rise to the challenge and conquer it? Am I being tested? Am I being told to move? Or do I just keep doing the circuit of rides and carnivalistic relationships that is this not-so-fun fun park?

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Garage is the new basement

We are spending the next few days moving everything that is currently in the basement into the garage. We plan to spic n span the basement, re-arrange it, then sort and organize everything that we need to keep. Which isn't much. We have waaaaay too much stuff. The rest will remain in the garage for a garage sale!

I know some of you have recently done garage sales as well--if you have leftover stuff that is still boxed or priced and you would like to get rid of, lug it over or we'll come get it and put it in our garage and add it to our sale. Boxes or bags you've been planning to take to Goodwill or wedding presents you've yet to use, horrendous or horrible birthday or Christmas presents, we'll take anything. Donate it to a good cause.

What is this good cause, you ask? Well, we haven't decided what the money's going towards yet--maybe building materials for a shed? Emergency fund? Gift to church? A cookout with all our friends? Who you? We are not only taking your "stuff" to sell it, but we're also taking suggestions for a good cause for all the money we'll rake in...

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

bombs away

I've been and am in the midst of reading a lot of heavy, heady, meaty, weighty, deep, and researhalogical type books recently and needed a "light read". Dan was making suggestions and said "try this one, she drops the F-bomb". Well, that caught my attention. A CHRISTIAN book with the F-bomb in it? I was intrigued.

I only made it a few pages before I fainted into a hibernation-like deep sleep, but so far she's a very entertaining writer...and I haven't gotten to the F-bomb(s) yet.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Amen and thank you Jesus!

This week our pastor preached a sermon called "The School of Contentment". About halfway through, he stopped so we could listen to a few minutes of a radio talk show featuring financial guru, Dave Ramsey.

Dan and I just had to laugh as we listened, and said "no wonder Jeff was so interested in our Dave Ramsey stuff that night he was over for dinner!". Let me back up and give you a frame of reference...

Before Thanksgiving, our parents started asking for our Christmas lists. I always struggle with this as I'm too pragmatic. Anyway... my biggest wish was a computer as the one we use now is actually my brother's and it's a dinosaur--more than 7 years old--and very unreliable and slow. My dad called and told me to pick out a laptop for around $1,000. I started shopping and the greedy bug kicked in...I wanted more and more and more and more "necessary" options on the laptop.

One night while Dan and I were just about to order my new laptop, I threw him a curve ball. I admitted that I was kinda sick about ordering the laptop--I mean, how in the world could I spend money on this when we would not spend our own money on it because we still had a deck and a van to pay off. I felt like money given as a gift had to be used even more responsibly than our own money. That night I made a tough phone call where I told my dad I wouldn't be ordering the laptop and gave him my reasons. He told me that he was going to send me a check in the mail the next day and let me do what I chose with it as it was a gift.

When we got the check, we took it to the bank and immediately deposited it and sent it off toward the debt we owed on the deck. I never even think about wanting the laptop anymore. Dan and I had some tough conversations about anticipating money from our families and our deep desire to "make it on our own" and not to have to lean on them or ask for help--even in "emergencies".

When we were visiting my parents the following February, we asked if we could sit down with them one night and share our financial situation and ask them for some advice. We flat out told them we didn't want them giving us money to bail us out of life situations that had happened to us, but that instead we really wanted them to teach and mentor us on how to be good stewards and fiscally responsible so that we could handle whatever comes our way on our own. They gave us some great words of encouragement and reassurance that we were indeed on the right track, but might need to step up our game if financial independence was really our goal.

A week after we got home, we got a package. It was the Dave Ramsey "Get out of Debt" starter kit--complete with the "Total Money Makeover" book, and three CD's--one about getting out of debt, one on financial peace, and another with software for keeping track of your finances. My parents purchased and sent this to us to give us a little guidance to get us started on our journey to radical financial freedom.

I sat down that night and read 104 pages of the book. It made so much sense! Poor Dan, I was just like a zealot! A few weeks later he, too, picked up the book and he burned through the entire book from cover to cover in two days--it's so well-written and entertaining! On the wings of enlightenment and inspiration, we took up our stances and circled the ring as we prepared to battle the money monster. What gets me is we did the Crown Financial Study about 5 years ago, but that was more of a theological foundation whereas Dave gives you practical steps for action to go ahead and DO something.

Although there was some snazzy software for bookkeeping, I suggested we try the old pencil, paper, checkbook and calculator method. Kind of a return to basics and simplicity rather than being distracted by all the bells and whistles technology offers. We also decided to receive paper bills and write physical checks and mail them to pay our bills so that we were both seeing every bill and statement and there was a written record of every payment and transaction, and any errors could only be blamed on us, not the bank or computer or technology. We got pretty radical. But it's been worth it.

Taking Dave's practical suggestions to heart, we've been doing and sticking to our pencil and paper budget since April 1. Since that time, we have saved our first $1,000 emergency fund, been able to pay off our deck, and pay off our mini van. We have one debt left to go--our tax preparer last year goofed up our social security payment, so this year we corrected that, amended our taxes, and need to back pay a year's worth of ss payments. We have this money in the bank, and are planning to pay it off after we return from our Africa trip in June. Then our only debt will be our mortgage payment, and we will be able to breathe! Until something breaks...and it will. I'm sure it will.

Thankfully, we started and were somewhat aggressive about investing in our retirement funds, 401K plans, IRA's, kids' college funds, life insurance policies etc. at the beginning of our marriage 7 years ago. So we are feeling like in the next 3-6 months, we will be free from the stress and bondage of money.

Jeff's sermon on contentment was perfectly relevant to us both. We kept looking at each other, laughing, and both of us had to hold back a whole lotta "Amens" that we wanted to shout out right there in church. Could you imagine two white people amening???

We've both had to enroll, re-enroll, join the remedial program, then do summer school over and over again in this area, but it's getting a little easier each time around the block. It is amazing what contentment looks like to us--it is something neither of us would ever imagine. Ever. I'm sure that we'll even have to re-enroll again as Dan and I know this will be a life-long commitment-we struggle every time we see someone else with a new toy, upgrade, professional haircut, or hear about trips or dinners out. It ain't easy. And we don't have it all figured out. Boy, we sure don't. And we still have some pretty voluminous "discussions" about money. And I'm sure there will be more.

We have already loaned out one of our Dave Ramsey CD's, but the book and other 2 CD's are up for grabs. And Jeff's sermon was timely and relevant, so be sure to give it a listen. And if anyone else coughed up the $2 to buy the Dave Ramsey CD they sold after the service, could we borrow it from you? Thanks!

Saturday, May 12, 2007


There is something about our bike path that stimulates neurons in certain areas of my brain that I often purposely do not allow myself to access.

After walking by the waterfall and taking a minute to listen to the rushing water and allow my spirit to feel cleansed and calmed, Addison and I headed out for some brisk walking.

As I walked by 3 lilac bushes, I pined for a sprig. I had an inner dialogue with myself arguing over whether or not it would be stealing to break one off. I looked around for the owner of the lilac bushes, wishing they would magically appear so I could tell a tale of how these are my mother's favorite flower and how I miss her so and how having one would be a beautiful concession on his or her part. But alas, I walked away flowerless, and unsettled.

I think I had too much Hollywood while Dan was gone. I watched a bunch of indulgent movies that basically promoted the line of thought of "why must we deny ourselves? We only get to live once? You should make this life as happy as you can."

If I hadn't chosen to follow Christ, would I too live within that line of reasoning? As His emulator, why can't I do or have things that make me happy just for the sake of denying myself? Must I really only eat 2 squares of chocolate so that I am not abusing my 'temple'? What a waste that would be if I died in 2 months and it didn't matter anyway? Indulgent thinking that started making me feel sick, but led me to a place of healthy catharsis. Exploring my heart and mind to be sure I truly believe what I do, finding freedom in the way that I choose to believe and live and freedom and power in knowing that I am not a pre-programmed and unfeeling robot. I do get to choose how I live.

As I walked by some Lily of the Valley flowers, their scent did something to me. Smell is a powerful stimulant and this particular scent is a summation of the essence of my childhood. Beautiful, sweet, happy, pure, hopeful, to be cherished, remembered. Again I wanted to pick one so I could bask in the scent and revel in memories all the way home. But again, these flowers weren't mine, and I have a whole patch that are all my own in my backyard. Why is it that what we don't have is so much more compelling than what we do have? So much more tempting? Seemingly better when in reality it is exactly the same?

So many thoughts, so little time and energy to walk them out on the bike path...

Tuesday, May 08, 2007


About a year ago, we gave our neighbor a pile of this...
so we could buy this.
Today we sold this (see above) to get back this...

and this...

Dan accused me of "flipping" both of our Jeeps. We bought the Jeeps at a combined total of $4,700 and sold them for a combined total of $10,050. The sale of these two vehicles has allowed us to nearly pay off the mini van. In just a few months, we will no longer have a car payment.

We're pretty giddy.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

This one so frickin' takes the cake

It looks like a scary cow-pie crater or a massive donut...but it gets better.

Totally custom, baby!One pimped out birthday cake.
I am cakemaker-- Ka-chow!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

I got a raise!

Stay-at-home mother's work worth $138,095 a year

Wed May 2, 3:00 PM ET

NEW YORK (Reuters) - If the typical stay-at-home mother in the United States were paid for her work as a housekeeper, cook and psychologist among other roles, she would earn $138,095 a year, according to research released on Wednesday.

This reflected a 3 percent raise from last year's $134,121, according to Inc, Waltham, Massachusetts-based compensation experts.

The 10 jobs listed as comprising a mother's work were housekeeper, cook, day care center teacher, laundry machine operator, van driver, facilities manager, janitor, computer operator, chief executive officer and psychologist, it said.

The typical mother puts in a 92-hour work week, it said, working 40 hours at base pay and 52 hours overtime.

A mother who holds full-time job outside the home would earn an additional $85,939 for the work she does at home,

Last year she would have earned $85,876 for her at-home work, it said. compiled the online responses of 26,000 stay-at-home mothers and 14,000 mothers who also work outside the home.

(Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst)

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Hung out to dry

100 feet of nylon line- $4.99 (as opposed to $15 buying it by the foot at $0.15 per foot)
2 garage door pulleys- $6.98 (as opposed to buying "real" pulleys at $14.99 each)
Wooden clothespins--free! (It is always good to ask if anyone has extra they'd like to get rid of)
Learning to tie a Zeppelin knot-priceless! (we love the internet!)
The second load of laundry is hanging out to dry. It really is quite easy to do--unless you have 2 kids "helping"...