Monday, May 25, 2015

Happy Birthday, Lamb 2!

Lamb 2,

I remember well when you were born the nurses that had to work Memorial Day weekend loved holding you and spoiling you in the nursery. This year your birthday is on Memorial Day. I'm sorry that you thought that meant our pool was opening today. Our neighborhood decided to open the pool one week later and then stay open one week after Labor Day. You will be glad after Labor Day even though you had to wait now.

I am so glad your birthday is finally here. Now I can say that my boys are 7, 9, 11 instead of saying almost 9 when people ask me how old you are. I know it is difficult to be the last boy's birthday and that even Papa's birthday is before yours. You weren't very patient, but we made it to today.

We are so proud of the progress you made at age 8 in vision therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. Nine is going to be great for you as you are starting to take off in your reading! We love you.

Mama and Papa

Friday, May 22, 2015

A great day to be homeschooled!

About a month ago I stumbled upon a blog that talked about a free program to get a Hot Wheels classroom kit. I had never read this blog before. I followed the links and signed up for a kit, commenting that we were a homeschool and I wasn't sure if we qualified. I honestly forgot about it and didn't have a confirmation number.

Lamb 1 and 3 are working hard to finish their math books so we can take summer vacation. Lamb 1 has been doing two lessons a day. Yesterday during the second lesson a huge package arrived. Once the Lambs read the outside of the box it was a mad dash to finish math so we could open the box. They quickly picked up a few things in the living room to make room and we opened the box.

The box was heavy for Lamb 1 to hold for a photo.
(Yes, I still have Easter decorations up. Sigh. Ascension Day came quickly for us this year.)

Mama, hurry and take the photo so we can open this!

Eventually the whole downstairs had track set up!

Soon they invited the three neighbor boys that are homeschooled over to join them.

I am still surprised that we received a full classroom kit. We gladly shared with the neighbor boys so it was like we are a classroom of 6. I heard great science questions and then experiments the whole time they played. It was a wonderful break for me as they were happily entertained for a couple of hours while I did the dishes and other housework without interruptions. They are excited to set this up outside this summer, they have plans to go down the whole sidewalk and invite all the neighbor kids to join them.

Soon they even set up track in the upstairs hallway.

After a couple of hours of Hot Wheels then they got out the duct tape and made Minecraft costumes and swords. Our Lambs were very popular because they have so much duct tape thanks to Aunt Hannah's gifts for their recent birthdays. Soon the public school kids were home from school and joined them. At one time there were about a dozen kids on my patio creating stuff out of construction paper and duct tape.

(Note to Mom and Dad: Notice our tree that we got from the power company and the new house built behind us in this photo. Lamb 3 is on our picnic table so you have a point of reference.)

Thursday, May 21, 2015

How the Lambs push the right button for Ewe

Ewe: "Lambs, come upstairs and help me please."
Lamb 2: "We will Mama. May I please finish reading this book to Lamb 3?"
Ewe: "Of course. Finish your book and then come upstairs."

Lamb 2 was such a late reader that I can't express how happy this conversation made me yesterday. My Lambs may get lots of extra privileges like staying up late if Lamb 2 continues this!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Lamb 3's surprise

At the first track meets this year, Lamb 3 ran the 50m and did not participate in any more events. He was content to play with small toys he brought while his brothers ran many events.
The final track meet it is spread over two days and they do give ribbons for placing in the top finishers for each event. Lamb 3 said he would also run the 100m for this track meet.
Ram was not able to attend the whole second day with us and met us there later. Lamb 3 decided on the way to the meet that he would not only run the 100m, but he would also run the 200m to surprise Ram.
About halfway through the running events on day 2 of the track meet it started pouring rain. We all ran up to shelter in one of the buildings, waited about half an hour, and then finished the meet while it was sprinkling, but not pouring. My Lambs put on raincoats when it started pouring. The coach said we really needed to finish the track meet when it was scheduled, it would be impossible to reschedule both for all the families involved and the time we could get the track.
By this time Ram had joined us. When it came time for the 200m, I didn't think Lamb 3 was going to participate with the rain. He decided he was still going to run it. For each event they run, the parents fill out a sticker with their age, full name, and event and put it on the child's shirt. After each event they remove the stickers from the shirts and attach them to a sheet with the official time. Ram was surprised that Lamb 3 was going to run the 200m and thought we needed to fill out a sticker since he was doing another event.
At this point, Lamb 3 unzipped his rain coat and showed Ram that he already had a sticker on his shirt. He got such a big smile to be surprising Ram by running 3 events over 2 days.
With the rain, none of my Lambs ran real well on the second day of the track meet. They didn't finish getting ribbons ready to give out when we left. Any more ribbons will be mailed. But we think all three Lambs might have gotten a ribbon for the 200m because so few people were left to participate after the rain. We are hoping that if he gets a ribbon for the 200m, it will encourage Lamb 3 to try more events next year. Now we impatiently wait for the ribbons to come in the mail...

Monday, May 18, 2015

End of Year Events

Piano Recital for Lamb 1 and 2
Last Sunday School before summer break
Final Track Meet Day 1
Final Track Meet Day 2
Last Cub Scouts for Lamb 1 before summer break
Church Preschool Graduation
Last Confirmation Class for Ram to teach before confirmation
Lamb 1 finish math book
Lamb 3 finish first 1/2 of math book

When all these events are completed, then I will declare that summer vacation is officially here for our family! I will attempt to update this list as we complete more.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Milestones Today

1. Lamb 2 read along while we sang the opening hymn in church and sang along. This was his first real reading along during a hymn. The hymn was Be Still My Soul. Since it repeats "Be Still My Soul" several times he could look ahead and figure out what the next phrase was during that phrase.

2. Lamb 1 was officially invited and attended his first youth night at church tonight. He will begin confirmation class in the fall. It hit me tonight talking to the youth leader's wife that we are beginning a whole new area that we haven't participated in before, especially that Lamb 1 will attend many of these events without Ram or Ewe. Higher Things, here comes Lamb 1, and then our other Lambs soon!

3. Lamb 3 requested insisted that we plant bell peppers in our garden. This weekend he ate several bell peppers from the store. This adds to the few other veggies he eats. He tries other veggies but the bell peppers are one that he eats now.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

My current frugal life

My friend, Kristen, recently posted about what her life is like now here. That got me to thinking about recent choices our family has made to be frugal. Here's a glimpse into my current life.

Since we moved here Ram usually shops at Costco twice a month with a list. We almost always combine errands to buy gas at Costco instead of another gas station. Even for trips we fill up at Costco on the way out of town and the way into town. We often buy gas at Costco without going in to shop.

Each week I shop at an average of 3 stores for what we don't buy at Costco. Some weeks this means stocking up on toilet paper and printer paper at Staples. Some weeks we need items from Walmart or Target. Most weeks I hit two main grocery stores. About once a month we shop at a cheaper grocery store and stock up on items that we need that weren't on sale at the other grocery stores. This year I am attempting to stick to my food budget including paying food sales tax. I frequently do rebates on Staples paper and on alcohol (to make vanilla or for a treat). I do the Staples rebates online so I don't pay postage.

I buy chicken and ground beef from Zaycon. I split chicken with a friend so buy it more often. I use the whole ground beef case myself, rationing it out so it lasts longer. I buy organic if it is on sale, but I shop close to home, not drive to Whole Foods. Recently I bought organic carrots on sale, but I don't always buy organic carrots. We are heading in the direction of eating Paleo, but don't buy very much processed marked gluten free foods. A normal Paleo meal is baked chicken and veggies, not something extravagant.

In the past we did Bountiful Baskets, but they changed the location and raised their prices. We have not participated in BB recently. We will still participate a few times a year, but not regularly. In MN we were often given garden produce and we also had a garden. We haven't been as successful at gardening here nor do we get very much produce from members and friends. I do use what we are given. I also pick blackberries and watch sales for other berries. We bought some plants to try again this year. We do get lots of strawberries and raspberries from what we have planted.

In MN we made our own bread, yogurt, and ice cream. We haven't done that here as we no longer eat very much of those. I still make my own kombucha, vanilla, and granola.

I have been more conscious of our utility usage. I check the thermostat more frequently and evaluate if we really need the heat or A/C on. (I have loved the last several weeks without using either!) I remind the Lambs to take short showers. We waited to use irrigation water to water our lawn instead of turning it on earlier in the season with city water.

We have our old cell phone plan that we were grandfathered into. We have to pay for our texts and we don't have unlimited talk time. Ram and I rarely send texts, but we do when necessary and we also reply to texts we receive. Even paying for texts, we save a significant amount compared to the latest cell phone plan. We do not have a home phone. I do not have a Smartphone. We have done our research and for the time being we are keeping this plan and saving dollars even if it means a little more planning ahead of time on my part without a Smartphone. Some months I have to watch talking during the week, but most of the time we have plenty of weekday minutes because we talk when we have unlimited weekend minutes.

I always check the almost expired section at one of the grocery stores. Last week I got 32oz plain yogurt for 45 cents. This week I got two Simply Cranberry juice for 30 cents each. We eat those items in the next few days before they expire. Sometimes I buy frozen cookie dough there for 50 cents or less and immediately put it in the freezer and have something fast for when I need to bring something to church.

I am continually cleaning out clothes/toys/books that the Lambs have outgrown and try to resell them at the used kids store. Almost all the Lambs clothes are either presents from Grandma or purchased with credit at the used kids store.

We do not have cable TV, we only have "free" TV with an antenna. We have never used Netflix. We only went to the movie theater once last year using gift cards.

We primarily use American Express in order to get the rebate but we pay it off each month. This rebate pays for our Costco membership each year. We also use a AAA Visa which pays for most of our yearly AAA membership. We began using Bing Rewards this year and get $5-10 per month. We participate in our health insurance rewards to earn Amazon money. We are busy getting our exercise and eating our fruits and veggies for this. A lot of this reward money is spent on school books, but we use some to get treats for ourselves too.

We homeschool but I create most of the curriculum, we do not use a custom system. We do not participate in a co-op, but the Lambs do participate in track and field and take piano lessons. The Lambs would like to do a lot more sports and lessons, but we are at a good balance now both in time and finances.

We rarely eat out unless we are traveling. We use Amazon Local deals to occasionally get frozen yogurt for the family. The only time we have had pizza delivered here is on the day we moved in to feed our helpers.

We are not part of a fitness club or the Y. We exercise by walking or biking or swimming in our neighborhood. Ewe walks during track practice. We have a high HOA but it pays for our internet and our pool.

We were blessed to buy our house for a good price and a good interest rate. We try to pay extra on the principal each month. We were blessed to be able to purchase a new minivan so we have free maintenance on it for a couple of years.

Cow's milk is a treat at our house, not an every day drink. Often if you come to my house there is no milk in the fridge.

We combine errands when possible. We recently purchased plants for our garden by stopping by the garden center on the way home from the eye doctor.

We were able to get a shade tree for our backyard for free from the power company. It is growing well and we look forward to the shade for our bedroom in a few years plus hopefully a lower electricity bill.

I pay attention to my e-mail and participate in Shutterfly deals like free photo books. I don't do every deal that comes across my inbox though-we only need so many magnets even as gifts. I remain on some e-mail lists like Joann Fabrics just to get deals like this.

Last year we replaced our washer with a more energy efficient one. I have noticed a big difference in water usage and also use less soap. In the past I have made my own laundry soap but decided to use soap on sale since I use so little now. I do less laundry since more fits in a load.

We use a lot of coconut oil. We buy two kinds of coconut oil. Louana coconut oil from Walmart is cheap and used as body lotion and as cooking oil at our house. We also buy nicer coconut oil such as Tropical Traditions and use it in cooking where we would taste it such as in granola.

We try to go to the chiropractor once a month which I believe keeps us all healthy. When we skip months we either get sick or I can really feel it. Paying for the chiropractor does mean a cost once a month but I believe it saves us money and we feel better.

Last year I was better about keeping track of our spending than ever before. I enter in receipts and bills paid immediately on a spreadsheet. I have been bold to take back receipts when I catch it didn't ring up correctly. When family members have become allergic to unopened products I found the receipt and returned the items to get my money back. I wasn't always like this-especially when the Lambs were little. But I know being organized saves money and is worth the time.

I'm sure there are more ways that we are frugal that I didn't list here. After you do some things long enough they become habit and you don't remember that others don't do things  your way!