Saturday, February 28, 2015

Recent Budget Blessings

I watched my pennies very carefully during January and February. Recently we had a little relief in our finances. I'm praising God for these blessings.
1. We had a mess with one of the bills for one of Lamb 2's doctor visits from October 2013. Yesterday I received the refund I was expecting from the doctor. Our HSA reimbursed the rest of the visit. It's disgusting that it took over a year to straighten all this out, but I kept writing letters and it paid off finally.
2. Our church got a new treasurer last year and our HSA money was sent to our account, but somehow the wrong paperwork (or computer trail) went with it. So we weren't reimbursed anything from our HSA for several months even though we had several doctor bills last year. In January we finally began receiving HSA money again for 2015. In February we received the rest of the reimbursement for 2014 and also reimbursement for 2015 too. All but one doctor visit has been reimbursed by our HSA account. We have not been caught up on our HSA reimbursements since we moved here.
3. This is the month we receive our yearly Costco rebate. I'm glad it was $260 and embarrassed that we put that much money on our American Express last year. That is a lot of 1% to 3% spent. We pay it off each month so it turns out being free money to us minus the membership fee. I will be able to shop at Costco for free for the next several months if I watch my pennies while shopping there.
4. Ram finally took his old phone in so because he got reimbursed for that and because we watched our pennies so closely the last couple of months, our Visa bill was the lowest it has ever been. We charge almost everything on the American Express, but there are times that they don't take A.E. I don't know why our cell phone bill is still on our Visa, we should change that. But it was nice to have a low Visa bill for one month!
5. When we moved here we withdrew the Lamb's savings accounts from the MN bank. We never got around to opening new accounts for them. I finally opened up new savings accounts for them in December through L.C.E.F. Now that the budget isn't so tight, I added the amount they had in MN to their new savings accounts. I was glad to cross that off my to do list. They get 3.5% on the first $1000 invested. I will blog more about this great program later.
6. Because I bought something from Memoria Press last year I received a gift card from them at Christmas time so I purchased a Latin DVD for a few dollars plus shipping.
7. Ram did receive his Be Well reward for last year. It was not for the full amount but every little bit helps. I'm determined to get my full amount this year after not getting any last year. I've already begun working on this. We used his reward for some necessary items and a few treats too.
8. Because I'm caught up on paperwork, I have been able to find receipts when I need them. Recently one of our Lambs became allergic to a product he used and I had stocked up on it. I returned all the unopened packages and got a refund.
9. Ram won a massage and a coffee gift card at our church preschool auction. I bought $20 of raffle tickets so that was a pretty good deal. I won some doTerra at the silent auction. We will definitely use that plus it helped out our preschool.
10. February was rough for the grocery budget with Lent suppers, preschool fundraiser, stocking up for Lamb 1's birthday, preparing for company for Lamb 1's birthday, hosting treats after church one Sunday, buying Zaycon chicken, and stocking up for snacks for track practice days. I'm happy to report that I was $3 under budget including food tax. Plus ID is talking about dropping the grocery tax. March is going to be rough again, but I did it in February so I know I can do it!
11. We are blessed with good dental insurance so Lamb 2's chipped tooth and my 2 root canals were not nearly as bad as I expected. I did fine with ibuprofen and did not need to fill the prescription for pain meds so we saved $ there too.
12. I sent our info off to our tax lady so we'll see how those turn out and if those are a budget blessing too. I'm hoping all our medical miles and dollars help us on our taxes, but we just have to see.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Lamb 1 is sick

(Neighbor's names were removed from this sign Lamb 1 posted on the door.)
Today was supposed to be a very busy day. Lamb 2 and 3 were to go with Ram to our church supper. I was going to take Lamb 1 to Cub Scouts, leave Scouts early and sneak into church tonight. It was a special Cub Scouts tonight-dinner and skits and awards. We are disappointed to miss it.

About midnight last night Lamb 1 threw up. He had been complaining all day that his stomach was upset. I thought he had just eaten a lot differently the night before than we usually do-diet pop, more sweets, more fruit, and lots more gluten than we normally eat.

Then this morning he had diarrhea. He took a shower and I changed all his sheets including his mattress pad. I had a lot of laundry to do today. I cleaned their whole bathroom well.

So we sent notices to Cub Scouts that we would not be attending and Ram told the church ladies that we wouldn't be there tonight. Lamb 1 was very careful what he ate today-he did not want to repeat last night. The other two Lambs have a touch of this because their behavior has been terrible the last few days.

Lamb 1 posted this sign on the door and the neighbor boy still rang the doorbell this afternoon. Lamb 1 yelled at him, "Didn't you see the sign?" A salesman also came today but he did not ring the doorbell after seeing the sign, just left his literature.

I am really hoping that we can all get a good night's sleep and that I do not get this before my scheduled dental work tomorrow!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015


We were invited to dinner with a family that has two children where the oldest is the same age as Lamb 3. I fed the Lambs peanut butter sandwiches before dinner for a couple of reasons.

1. Lamb 3 is picky and I wasn't sure he would eat very well at a stranger's house.
2. I didn't know when supper would be served and I didn't want starving Lambs while they were waiting.
3. I didn't want the Lambs to totally pig out and not leave food for everyone else to eat.

That ended up being good because it was awhile until we ate. Lamb 3 didn't really like it and ate very little besides bread and dessert. Lamb 1 and 2 totally pigged out when it was finally time to eat and also ate a lot of snacks before dinner. Even Ram was shocked how much fruit Lamb 1 ate before dinner.

As we were cleaning up the hostess said usually she prepares way too much food for company, but she made the perfect amount because there weren't many leftovers after dinner with us. I'm not sure if that was a compliment. The hostess seemed glad that we ate her food. I do know that life with three boys elementary school age is way different than when they were toddlers and completely different than families without boys. Although their toddler boy ate quite a lot too. No wonder why my grocery bill is so huge! I can only imagine when they are all teenagers...

Monday, February 23, 2015

Photo Deals

The lack of blog posts lately is because I have been working on some photo projects. In the last few weeks I have taken advantage of some photo deals at both Snapfish and Shutterfly. Creating these projects has taken a long time, but it has been so worth the time.

First I have to admit that I was a loyal Snapfish customer and never even tried Shutterfly until last month. I had trouble getting Snapfish's 100 free prints with their mobile app and after much effort trying to work it out with Snapfish I decided to give Shutterfly a try. I have all our digital pictures since 2003 uploaded to Snapfish so I'm not completely giving up Snapfish. They will still be the first place I go to make photo books, but probably not the first place I go to order prints.

Once I tried Shutterfly, it was amazing how many free/cheap deals came across my inbox that I had never even paid attention to before. Here is what I have created in the last month.
*Snapfish small photo book with our family pictures taken last August ($10 off coupon so book was just 2.99 plus shipping)
*Last summer I created a photo book for one of our former churches in MN that was having an anniversary. I sent the photo book to them but I never ordered copies for our family. I ordered two copies at 50% off. I thought this was a pretty good deal because it was half price off the whole book-usually their deals are buy two get one free but that only includes the first 20 pages. So this deal turned out to be buy one get one free. One copy is for our family and one copy is for one of the boys. I would like to eventually buy one more copy so all three of the boys can have one when they are older. I'll watch for another good deal to buy that third copy at another time.
*Because I spent enough money on those church photo books I got credit for a free 8x8 canvas. So I made a canvas with a picture of Ram and Ewe taken last August. I just paid for shipping. This was an incredible deal as they normally are $32.99. Snapfish is still running this deal until the end of February if you want to get a free canvas! (Note: Creating this canvas was more difficult than I expected, it is difficult to crop the picture to a square shape.)
*Then I began a project that I have wanted to do ever since we moved in this house. In our bedroom we have a table where I do my sewing and scrapbooking and Ram writes sermons when he is working from home. We never hung anything on the wall there because I had this idea in my mind. We already hung the free canvas in the middle of the wall. Then I began making collage posters. First I made one at Snapfish and with $5 coupon as Valentine's Day gift for customers it cost 3.99 plus shipping.
*Then I made two more collages at Shutterfly. I used a $20 off coupon from Kelloggs. I also purchased one 5x7 print so that my total would be over $20. I don't think I would have had to do this, but I wanted to make sure the deal worked. I paid 97 cents plus shipping for all that.
*I received 50 free prints for being a new Shutterfly customer, just paid shipping.
*I took Joyfully Thriving's advice and ordered 99 free prints, just paid shipping.

I still have two Shutterfly coupons left that I plan to use before they expire.
*Johnson and Johnson company gave a code for a free calendar at
*Joann Fabrics gave me a code for a free 16x20 print. I plan to use this to make a collage of our churches and parsonage in MN. They also gave a code for $20 off home decor, but I do not plan to use that code as $20 is not saving that much on those items that qualify.

These collages that I created have some of my favorite photos of the boys. I still have plans to make one more collage and then I will be caught up. I plan to hang these collages around the canvas of Ram and Ewe along with some 5x7's of our family too. I will be watching for more photo coupons to finish this project. I love the idea of having these favorite pictures by where I sew and scrapbook.

Pay attention to your e-mails from companies like Joann Fabrics and Kelloggs because you may just run across good deals like this! Also pay attention to the expiration dates on these deals or you will miss them. I try to quickly scan the daily e-mails from Joann and other companies and see if there are any deals like this before I delete them. Most e-mails end up deleted, but there are good codes once or twice a month that make it worth being on some of these e-mail lists.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Not my fault!

Yesterday I canceled school due to Lamb 2's doctor appointment and the public school kids having President's Day off. I figured it was a good time to sit down and get all my papers in order for our tax lady.

I began filling out the checklist and I couldn't find the mortgage interest statement. I then spent a couple of hours going through my papers looking for it. I was very frustrated, I have never been this organized with my paperwork as I was this year. I thought it was just going to take a little while to fill out the form with the numbers I already entered in my spreadsheet.

I finally gave up at bedtime and told Ram we would have to call them tomorrow and even if there was a fee get a new one. It was not filed where it was supposed to be nor near where it was supposed to be.

When we called them today, they answered that they were mailed in January but the post office was about 3 weeks behind due to weather there. I hadn't misfiled it, I never received it! With almost 60 degree days here recently, it never crossed my mind that weather was holding it up.

He was able to give me the numbers that I needed over the phone but I'm going to try to wait for the statement to arrive to give all the correct info to my tax lady. I wish I hadn't wasted so much time looking for it yesterday, but it was a relief that it wasn't my fault. Hopefully it will arrive this week and I can get everything to my tax lady soon.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Lamb 2's Vision Therapy Evaluation

I did not realize when I made this appointment several months ago that today was President's Day. I couldn't get a parking spot because VT had extra patients with no school today. But we did get into the Dr. on time.

Lamb 2 had his best times ever at today's evaluation! His reading test started at 137 seconds before he had VT. Today was 77 seconds. In December he read like a 6 year old. The score today was 60th percentile for a 7 year old! An 8 year old score would be 55 seconds. A 9 year old score would be 48 seconds. We could tell we still have work to do, but huge progress has been made. I was so pleased that he reads like a 7 year old today, improving a whole year of reading in just two and a half months.

On the pattern block activity the doctor was satisfied with his December scores as he was about 50th percentile. Today he did even better and scored 58%. This test is scored in the 8-11 year old range. I am very happy with his score today.

The one area that was not improved was Lamb 2's smooth eye movements. The Dr. would like us to do activities with him to work on this. When we got home we added table hockey and tennis games to the iPad to help him with this.

The Dr. also recommended in homeschool doing activities for speed to prepare him to do testing at VT. The Dr. really thinks his nose surgery helped his scores today-he didn't need to stop and take breaths during the test as often as before which sped up his reading. I am going to need to think about activities for speed for him. Perhaps I'll make up worksheets with words that I know he knows and have him read those worksheets as fast as possible. Since he can't read yet that is the best I can think of right now.

The Dr. also reminded me that our goal with VT was to get him over the hurdles that were stopping him from reading like an average child. After VT they do not expect him to be a perfect reader, but they expect those hurdles to be gone so that he can take off in his reading. Today's evaluation was to make sure that he was taking off and not stuck at one level or even going backwards.

The doctor wants to see Lamb 2 again in May just to make sure that he is still improving.  We took little treats and thank you cards to his therapists today and they really appreciated it. We will continue to work on reading in homeschool and add in a few extra activities in play time like games on the iPad and playing with pattern blocks.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Celebrating Valentine's Day

Last year the night before Valentine's Day I got caught up on dishes, changed the tablecloth, and set out several treats for the Lambs. I was determined to make the day special since we homeschool and our Lambs won't have memories of classroom parties. I wanted them to wake up to surprises at their places at the table. I blogged about what we did last year here.

This year I did grocery shopping the day before Valentine's Day. I decided to not buy any candy and instead I splurged on beef. Last night we took the Lambs plus one of their friends to a hockey game. On the way back to the friend's house, Lamb 3 had to go to the bathroom. There was no place to stop so when we got to the friend's house I told him we would hurry and go to the bathroom there. He told me he wasn't able to wait and he didn't have to go any more.

We got home after 11pm and discovered then that Lamb 3 was a mess and needed a shower immediately. I helped him shower and put his clothes in the washer. Then I took a shower after helping Lamb 3. Lamb 2 was jealous that Lamb 3 got a shower and decided he also needed a shower. Finally everyone was in bed at midnight.

This morning I had a meeting at church so I got up quietly hoping everyone else would sleep in after the late night before. Right before I left, Lamb 1 came downstairs excited about his surprises that he was sure I would have left out for Valentine's Day. Oops, I started the tradition so I better continue it.

I dug out the candy hearts I bought on clearance last year and put one at each of their places. I dug out lollipops that Grandma brought them after her trip to Maine last fall that I had never shared with them. I opened the envelope from my mom and put each card at their places at the table. Everything saved the day and it didn't look like I had ditched forgotten this tradition. I did not clean up the kitchen last night nor change the tablecloth so these treats were set at their places and some of those places were messier than others.

Then I opened e-mail and looked at a few blogs. I tried to not be disgusted that one blog I read posted pictures of what all they had done for Valentine's Day even though she was posting pictures of what all they had done before I even got out of bed. Oh yeah, there is a time difference, so it's not as early there as it is here. But a big sign, treats for all the kids, and heart shaped pancakes? And posted pictures at 7:30am on a Saturday? Big sigh here from Ewe! That sigh is because that is what I would have done a few years ago, but didn't happen today. Plus I'm not sure my BOYS want me to do too much for Valentine's Day. Plus we never would have done all that and also posted pictures of it before noon!

When I got home from my meeting I made the raspberry ganache pie that was requested by the Lambs for Valentine's Day dinner. It had plenty of time to chill. I also began supper right away so I wouldn't be rushed at supper time. I made Erin's beef rendang.

The Lambs spent the afternoon playing outside in the beautiful weather and I talked to my neighbor for a little while. Then we ate supper early (delicious!) and the Lambs played outside some more. When they came inside I trimmed everyone's hair and they watched Nascar. We ate pie before bedtime.

It was a wonderful, relaxing Valentine's Day! Sometimes celebrations work out even without tons of planning by Ewe ahead of time. Since we only have male Lambs everyone was happy with how we celebrated Valentine's Day, even me with my big dreams of how I want our celebrations to turn out.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Ewe's medical adventures

I had my physical last week. They want me to repeat my pap. It wasn't abnormal but it didn't test correctly. It will be free, but I need to find time in our schedule to repeat.

I thought I was having my root canal yesterday, but it ended up the dentist wanted to spend time testing different teeth and figure out exactly what was wrong. That testing showed I definitely need one root canal and I probably need two. It was my choice if I wanted to do one and see if that helped the other tooth or do both root canals now. I chose to do both and get it done. That is scheduled for a couple of weeks unless I get in so much pain that it becomes an emergency. I still can't believe all this since those teeth are completely healthy, it is the nerves.

I had high blood pressure at the doctor when I had my physical. I think it is just going to the doctor-"white coat blood pressure", but it could be all this other medical stuff happening to me now. I went to the chiropractor this week and that should help my blood pressure. Now I need to find time to regularly check my blood pressure. Ram thinks if I get the root canals done that will also help. I hope to get this taken care of soon because our family doctor took another job and is done at our clinic in June. I don't want to deal with this with a new doctor. We were so blessed with this doctor for three years and we will really miss her.

Everything else at my physical and lab work came back normal. I plan to begin exercising when the Lambs begin track in a couple of weeks. I plan to walk the track while they have practice. None of my medical problems are major, but they all take time to deal with. Last year we helped Lamb 2. This year I'm attempting to take better care of myself.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Our daily routine

Last year we focused on Lamb 2. The best comparison I have is it was like a part time job for me. I was very busy taking him to therapy 4 hours a week. We also had exercises to do at home with him. I wrote reports to communicate between all his different doctors and therapists. I paid medical bills and called insurance and doctor's offices when those bills were incorrect. I kept track of medical miles and medical bills paid for taxes. This was all in addition to homeschooling 3 Lambs; taking the Lambs to piano lessons, track/cross country; and helping Lamb 2 practice piano/review music flashcards. Last year made a huge difference for Lamb 2 and I would do it all again if we had to.

We were all really looking forward to Lamb 2 graduating from all his therapy. He has a checkup scheduled with vision therapy on Monday. If that goes well he will be done with VT completely. In January he had a checkup after his nose surgery and everything was well with that.

The first few weeks of 2015 I took a chance to rest after being so busy last year. Then I began getting caught up in several areas of my life. Last year I did not participate in our health insurance rewards program at all. This year I've already had my physical and I have made plans to get all reward dollars offered. I hadn't done very much school planning since last September, this year I am planning out each week. In homeschool all 3 Lambs are accomplishing a lot this year. I have begun decluttering-I cleaned out my pantry, freezer, refrigerator, and a few kitchen cupboards. Some of that was never done since we moved here 3 years ago!

I have begun some decluttering projects that I have never done before. I organized my recipes that I printed out, especially the Paleo ones. That was just a put them in a binder job, eventually I want to weed through and try recipes and throw them out if we don't like them. I am going through every single cookbook and deciding which ones to keep and which ones to get rid of. This is a huge job as I inherited a lot of cookbooks from both our moms. The cookbooks that I decide to keep, I'm writing our favorite recipes in the back of them. I now have a collection of several Paleo cookbooks and I needed better organization to find recipes in them.

In addition to the decluttering I am hoping to start doing some spring cleaning here soon. We have lived here 3 years and that is long enough to need deep cleaning in some areas of my house, especially after it didn't get much cleaning last year.

What surprised me though was it is the every day little things as part of my routine that has made the most difference this year. Most of the time I am caught up on all the dishes and laundry now. This is huge for me to go to bed with the counters clean even when we aren't expecting company! I am blogging more frequently. I am caught up on paperwork so I'm not dreading getting things ready for our tax lady. I have read more books in the first two months of this year than I have in the last two years. Ram and I have read aloud several books to the Lambs in the last month. I am getting enough sleep for the first time since Lamb 1 was born.

The Lambs have also really loved this change of routine. After they finish their school work and practice piano they have all afternoon to play. Some days they go to the neighbor's backyard that they also homeschool and they have three boys close in age to our Lambs. Some days they play board games together. They have pulled out some games and toys that I didn't see them play with for a really long time. Some days they tinker around in the garage with their tools and scrap wood. They are ready to play with their neighborhood friends when they get home from school. I have allowed them to stay up later when they are playing together nicely. Most of the time their room is picked up and organized so they can find things now.

Some people thrive with a busy schedule, but I am not one of those people. Sometimes our schedule is not under our control. I couldn't help being busy when I had 3 Lambs ages 4 and under. I couldn't help being busy when we needed to help Lamb 2 last year. I can't help being busy when I volunteer at church for a week of VBS. But I am much less stressed and a better wife and a better mother when our schedule is not packed. Remembering what our life was like last year helps me say no to the Lambs getting involved in one more activity and I can say no to one more volunteer job. The entire family is happier when that happens.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Dreaming for trees

The local grocery store is having a Monopoly contest again. We tried to participate last year and the only thing we won was more Monopoly tickets. I do shop there about once a week but never spend much to get very many tickets. They just began this contest and we are trying again this year.

The Lambs were really into this contest last year and they wanted to win a backyard makeover the most. They are not offering the backyard makeover this year so they discussed what they did want to win. Lamb 2 wants to win the jet skis. They all want to win the vacation home.

I mentioned that perhaps if we won the vacation home we could buy a home in Ewe's hometown and have a place to stay when we visit her parents and eventually a place to retire. That is where we vacation the most. At first that didn't sound like a good idea to the Lambs. I asked Lamb 1 where he would buy a vacation home. He answered he wanted a home in the forest. What? He answered that he hasn't been to the forest for YEARS...

And that is what my Lambs dream of now that we have lived in the city in ID for 3 years. Boise is known as "The City of Trees". Compared to many other parts of ID we have a lot of trees. But compared to my Midwestern home, we don't have that many trees. Our home came with 2 young trees and we have planted 4 more young trees in our yard.

When I told this to Ram he questioned what they thought about all the trees in his parents backyard. We have visited them in different seasons throughout the year. I answered that they aren't the same as Midwest trees. Plus they want trees to climb and trees to build tree houses in. They can't do that at Ram's parents.

Our conversation finally compromised that if we did win the vacation home we could buy a home in Ewe's hometown as long as the home had lots of big old trees. I really doubt we will win anything in this Monopoly contest, but we can dream...and in our case we dream about trees.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Our 13th anniversary

We were at Ram's parents celebrating Christmas with them on our anniversary. We received some nice presents from them on our anniversary.

We received a framed collage of some of the photos we had taken in August. 

The day after our anniversary we got a babysitter and went out to eat at a really nice restaurant. At dinner we discussed our honeymoon-where we ate, our carriage ride, and going to the symphony. Talking about memories is fun. We had a great anniversary!

Monday, February 9, 2015

December Pictures

Our whole family went to the hospital for a tour before Lamb 2's nose surgery in December. Lamb 1 was too "cool" to do some of the activities but Lamb 2 and Lamb 3 enjoyed the tour. Here are a few pictures we took that day.
All 3 Lambs weigh a total of 175.8

Lamb 2 and Lamb 3 got a hair net and mask to practice with and keep

It was so nice of the hospital to let the Lambs know what to expect on the day of Lamb 2's surgery. They do surgery tours by appointment and I was glad that we asked for a tour.

Lamb 2 had a checkup in January and the doctor thought everything looked good. He had to continue the nasal spray for one more week after his appointment. Then he was finished with Dr. appointments and medicine.

He seems to take less breaths while talking. I am very curious how swim lessons go for him this summer after this surgery. I am glad we had the surgery for Lamb 2 now.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Friday, February 6, 2015

Our 2015 Grocery Budget

When we lived in MN we went grocery shopping at a big store about once a month. I had no grocery budget, it was more important to buy items when we got to the city. It was not unusual for us to spend $400 at Costco because we only went to Costco about 3 times a year. When we got to a big grocery store we usually spent over $200. We did weekly trips over the border to SD to buy produce. We had to buy special items to feed Lamb 1 a dairy free diet. One good part was most of the time we lived in MN we received WIC. Also the members were very generous at Christmas time with giving us meat. I remember talking to a Looper then and being embarrassed because I had no idea how much we spent on groceries. Our pantry was always very well stocked, but I had no idea how much we spent to stock it.

When we moved here we are so close to Costco that it is not unusual to go to Costco every week or two. Thankfully those trips are usually under $30 since we go so often. I'm so close to stores that each week I usually shop at two different stores to get the best prices. I began in 2013 keeping track of what we spend. I didn't have a budget during 2013 or 2014, just kept track of what we actually spent.

I broke down what we spend into specific categories. The grocery category is just for what we eat and drink. It does not include items used in the bathroom (toilet paper, soap etc.), items used for cleaning (laundry soap, dishwasher soap, etc.) or items like baggies. It does include food I buy to take to church potlucks or church fundraisers which is often some parts of the year (Advent and Lent). It does include berries and produce for canning  even though I give most of that jam away as gifts. It does include treats like candy for the Lambs and when I occasionally buy pop to have with homemade pizza. If I ever participate in rebates those are subtracted from what we spend. Usually we end up using our yearly Costco rebate from American Express on food, but I do not subtract that from the total-I'm looking to see how much we spent on food. It does not matter where we purchase the food-whether I buy it at the grocery store or farmer's market-if it is something we eat or drink it gets recorded in the grocery category.

Especially when we began eating closer to Paleo I knew groceries were going to cost us more. I also knew the cost of groceries went up. I'm happy to report that I saved an average of $15 per month in 2014 vs. 2013.

Ram and I had a long discussion about our grocery budget in January. We decided to set the grocery budget the same as we spent in 2014 with a few differences. I have kept track of how much I spent on food and how much sales tax on food cost me separately. This is because we get a $100 tax credit per person in our house because we have sales tax on food. I was curious if we spent more than $500 a year on sales tax. In 2014 we spent $444 on sales tax on food. So we "made" $56 from the state of ID. This made me think if we could spend less on groceries we would spend less on sales tax and we could "make" even more money on this.

So my grocery budget for 2015 is the same as we spent last year but will include sales tax this year. If we spent the same as last year I would have $37 less a month even though the amount is the same as we spent last year.

I don't want to blog how much my amount is. It is quite large each month because I want to have dollars budgeted when I buy meat from Zaycon or when the entire health food side of the grocery store is 25% off (usually twice a year) or when Costco has something on sale that we use often and could stock up on. Many of my friends in the Midwest would think the amount is way too high. But we no longer get many food gifts from members. We don't have a garden here. We pay more for groceries here than we did in the Midwest too.

Ram and I decided that I am not ever allowed to go over my monthly budget since it is so large. What I do not spend in that month is not rolled over to the next month. So I do need to watch my monthly budget closely especially if I want to buy Zaycon that month. If I do spend the entire amount then we will eat out of the pantry until the beginning of the next month.

Each quarter we are going to total how much I was under budget and donate that to charity. This is a big incentive to me to stay under budget. At the end of 2014 I wanted to donate to several LCMS missionaries that are our friends. In January I was $59 under budget so that will be given to charity.

I am going to need to watch my budget closely in February. Lent suppers begin and our preschool fundraiser is this month. I know I will buy Zaycon chicken this month. Today I did grocery shopping and spent almost 1/4 of this month's budget.

I know everyone does their budgets differently. I'm a little ashamed to admit that I didn't have a budget for my first 13 years of marriage. So far our 2015 plan is working very well for us.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Legislative Day 2015

Since we moved to ID I have wanted to take the Lambs to our state capitol building. We have stood on the steps during the March for Life, but we hadn't been inside. Yesterday was Legislative Day for home educators so we attended. It was interesting to see what they did and perhaps in a few years we will also participate. All the Lambs enjoyed seeing the capitol building. Lamb 3 insisted that we take the steps to go to every level to see as much as we could.
I forgot to have them take their coats off, but we dressed up to go to this. The students presenting wore business attire. Lamb 2 wore a bow tie and Lamb 3 wore a tie. Lamb 1 wore what he wears almost every Sunday!

Students had displays all the way around the 4th floor. This one was a Hobbit scene. He asked the Lambs if they had read the book and told them he highly recommended it. Then he explained how he made the display-it was much more complicated than it looked. The boys were very interested in this display because it had Legos. It was definitely a boy kind of book report. This is the kind of display I see my Lambs doing in a few years. The students were friendly and ready to share about their displays. Socialization was no problem for these homeschooled students!

This is one of the reasons why homeschooling is so easy for us in ID. Homemade pies were provided those that serve us at the Capitol. They even had gluten free and sugar free pies. Lamb 3 really wanted a piece of pumpkin pie but they weren't for us. I'm sure the lawmakers remember their piece of pie when it comes time to vote for education laws.

They also had homeschooled students playing piano and other musicians throughout the day. Perhaps that will be a possibility for Lamb 1 to play piano for this.

Looking at the ceiling from the ground floor. There are stars in the middle.

The second level had displays of the history of home education in ID. It was interesting to me that the "dark times" of home education were exactly when Ram was being home educated in ID. We are so thankful to the brave home educators that fought for our rights that we have today. It was also a good reminder to not take homeschooling for granted.

Also it was interesting to me that I would not be required to teach Lamb 3 until he turns 7 and with a spring birthday that wouldn't be until next school year. 

Standing on the bottom floor looking at the ceiling.

Afterwards we took the Lambs out to eat for pie since we couldn't have any there. Lamb 3 had chocolate cream, Lamb 2 had cherry a la mode, and Lamb 1 had blueberry a la mode. Trying to decide what kind of pie was almost as good as eating the pie!

The Lambs weren't thrilled about this field trip, but they cooperated and made the best of the afternoon. It accomplished what I wanted it to-they saw where the governor's office is, saw the capitol, and saw what is done on Legislative Day. Perhaps we can participate or at least make a pie in future years.

*Note for my homeschool friends in other states: ID is a very friendly state for homeschooling. We need to educate our children from ages 7-16 in the subjects that are usually taught in the public schools. That is it. There is no paperwork to fill out each year. There are no required hours of instruction. There is no mandatory standardized testing. Curriculum is decided by the parent. We are given tremendous freedom but I take that seriously. We occasionally have field trips or take a day off, but from September-May they do school work 4-5 days a week. They do all the school subjects routinely taught in the public schools plus religion and Latin. I think I am stricter on this than many ID homeschoolers after coming from MN and after teaching in the classroom. We are thankful for the freedom especially last year while Lamb 2 had so much therapy that some of his schoolwork was postponed. This year all three of them are doing more school work than last year.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

It is worth asking questions

When Ram had his major surgery in 2010, Ram's dad gave us the advice to never pay a medical bill until we also had a statement from the insurance company that matched that amount.

Recently a lot of blogs I read have talked about little ways to save money. I was reminded of this advice from Ram's dad as another way to save money. We met our deductible last year in March because of Lamb 2's therapy. Almost all doctor visits should have been completely free for our family from April-December. Once January began we started receiving bills from hospitals and doctors a few times a week. Each time I receive one of these bills we call the doctor or insurance about it. So far we haven't owed for any of these bills. Either the doctor didn't file it with insurance, didn't file the correct number with insurance, or didn't wait long enough for insurance to pay it.

The one exception is a bill from October 2013 that I did receive a statement that insurance would not pay it so I paid it. The doctor says that the insurance told her they would pay it. Since it became so confusing the doctor refunded half of my money I paid. If insurance pays it I will get more of a refund. I don't think insurance is going to pay it though. In this case I took the time to write a letter to the doctor's office about what was happening. The doctor considered my case and refunded half of my money which was better than none.

I have learned it is worth the time to make that phone call to either the doctor or insurance or both. Don't automatically pay medical bills. If you do and you deserve a refund, it will take a long time to get that refund. And if you don't make that phone call and it wasn't filed with insurance correctly, they won't even know if it was incorrect.

Also, don't panic when you receive an $800 bill. Call and ask about it before trying to figure out how you are going to get money to pay that bill. Ask all your questions when you make that phone call instead of getting stressed. (Of course I'm telling you about this as an example, not that I would get stressed out about an $800 ER bill for Lamb 1!)

If you find out that you really do owe for that bill after talking to insurance, be sure to pay the bill promptly or you will owe more. If you are unable to pay the full bill talk to the billing office. I have found hospitals bend over backwards to help you make your payments. When I knew that we were going to have a lot of bills for Lamb 2's OT and speech therapy, I talked to the finance office before 2014 began. Lamb 2 and 3 ended up getting a scholarship for their therapy. This was another time that a phone call and filling out some forms paid off.

While we are on this topic, I kept track of every medical mile we had last year for tax purposes. One round trip to vision therapy was only 4.6 miles but times $0.235 times 90 VT sessions equals almost $100. That's only VT, not speech or OT or other routine doctor visits. It took discipline to record this each doctor visit and time to type it up at the end of the year. I will continue this even though we don't have nearly the amount of therapy as we did last year. Every little bits helps!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Christmas Photos

I heard one time that you should take down all your Christmas decorations before the Presentation of our Lord Feast Day which is today. When our Lambs were younger it took the pressure off of me to give myself that long. I decided that I should probably post Christmas photos today too.
Lamb 1 was Joseph. This will probably be the last year that he dresses up as a character at our church. Next year he will be in confirmation class. He will probably be a reader, but not in costume.

2014 Sunday School Christmas Program

Shepherd-Lamb 3

Shepherd-Lamb 2

Just for fun-Rudolph-Lamb 3

Christmas Eve 2014 at our church

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Start Times

The local elementary schools don't begin school until after 9am due to the bus schedule. I was so surprised last fall when the neighbor kids came over to play with my boys at 8am on school days. I did allow it at the beginning of school because the kids get home from school so late that there isn't much time to play after school. Once the weather cooled down that morning play time stopped. I'm not sure what I will do when it warms up again because I like to get going on our school day.

Our church is at 10am with Sunday School following. Eventually we would like to add an early service but we are not there yet. We don't get out of there until after noon. I have to serve a big breakfast on Sundays before church or my boys can't make it through church.

Every day of the week we could sleep in and begin everything we do later. It is frustrating to me to not get going earlier though. It becomes a rush to get lunch on the table when everyone is starving. If we don't begin early enough, we can't finish our school work until after lunch.

It makes me want to force myself to get up early and get work done. I'm going to have to make myself a to do list to try to accomplish before going to church on Sundays so the entire morning doesn't get wasted before church. That seems wrong, we shouldn't be doing chores on the Sabbath Day. I'm not sure what the answer is for Sunday mornings until we add an early service.

The worst is when we have doctor appointments early in the morning. The nurses usually laugh when I say 9am appointments are early for me. I usually begin school in my pajamas and get dressed later in the morning during a short school break. So to be dressed and drive to the doctor in the morning is a challenge for everyone in our house.

Living here is such a contrast to living in MN. They were farmers that fought over having the early or middle service time, no one wanted late service. Here not much begins before 9am.