Friday, February 25, 2011


How many of you have strict budgets you adhere too?  Do you use envelopes to save for certain things like a grocery envelope, clothes envelope, etc? 

I've never used the envelope method but I know people who do.  I think I'd just borrow from the other envelopes if I needed something.  I'm bad like that. 

Heck, just on Tuesday at a crab feed meeting I was paid cash for some Girl Scout Cookies I'd sold and not 5 seconds later I turned around and handed that $40 to another person to pay for a crab feed ticket for a neighbor.  My neighbor will pay me back but see how that money went in and out so fast?!

Many times Todd and I have tried to stick to a budget. We'll lay out our monthly goals, do well for awhile, then eventually fall into our bad habits. 

For example, we don't balance our checking account.  Who does that anymore?  Now that we have ATM/Debit cards and rarely write checks, I never truly know how much is in the account "for real".  I can go online and see how much is in the checking account or have my ATM give me a balance receipt, but we have certain bills automatically deducted.  Car insurance, mortgage payment, gas and electric, DirectTV, Netflix, FastTrak, school tuition, etc. At any given moment any number of dollars can be removed. Sure, the biller has told me in a letter when I set up that automatical withdrawel, which day they'll be taking my money, but do I have that information written down somewhere that I can access it?  No. 

Truth be told, we live above our means. Thankfully we do have retirement stashed away in 401K plans.  A percentage comes out of our paychecks before we even see the paycheck.  My company has a 401K plan, 401K match program, an ESPP (employee stock purchase plan), flexible spending program, all of which I take advantage of each pay period.  By the time I see the net check deposited into my checking account, the amount is severely pilfered.   

Something else we do which we've found is very helpful for us, is to set up our property taxes and home insurance payments to where they are taken out with our mortgage payment.  They're held in an escrow account and paid out by the mortgage company at certain intervals. 

In addition, we pay our mortgage bi-monthly.  So, if on the 2nd Friday we get paid, then the following Monday the mortgage (with all the above listed home deductions) comes out. The bonus to this payment schedule is since we're making an extra payment a year our principal goes down faster.

Still, with all I've mentioned we aren't great about sticking to a budget for things like vacations, food, clothes, hobbies and health and beauty costs.  We really need to improve these areas. 

If anyone has a great system they use I'd love to hear about it. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

3 sides

There are 3 sides to every story.

Your side
Their side
The truth

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Iz a hawt



In other news, I'm the coolest mom ever.  Really I am. 

Yesterday on Craigslist I typed in PB teen and found a lounge chair in ice blue for sale.  Originally $299 the lady said make an offer.  I immediately responded would she take $100?  YES!  PB anything, even used or with someone else's name personalized on it, sells for a lot of money. Yes honey, I know your name is Paula and the thingamajig says Amanda, but just go with it.  Mommy saved $20.00

This is the chair. Cute right?!!!  This matches Paula's new lamp perfectly. 
So at lunch today I headed over there. She lives in one of the "rich" areas of Silicon Valley called Almaden Valley.   Beautiful neighborhoods, gorgeous large homes, amazing views.  Houses EASILY go for over $1 million. Sucks to be me. 

She had the chair in her front entry way.  I thought the chair came apart and figured I'd just toss the cushions in various parts of my minivan. Well, it does come apart, but not easily.  She said only her husband has dismantled it so she couldn't help me with how to get them separated.

I get that.  My husband is the one who dismantles things at our house too. 

So I had to go back to my minivan and hide my 3rd seat so the chair would fit in the back. In order to even get the 3rd seat down I had to remove a ton of other crap so it will fit.  Live.In.Car. 

When I went back to the house to collect the chair she was still just in her socks so I could tell she wasn't going to help me lift this sucker. She did suggest the best way to carry it though.  It was heavy but I managed.

As I was driving back to work my brother called. He sponsored my 8 year on her school spell-a-thon and thought he and his daughter would swing by my work to drop off his check.  Turns out I was only 15 minutes from his house so I said I'd swing by. 

Driving to my brothers house off the freeway I was on you have to pass thru Saratoga.  Another "rich" neighborhood of Silicon Valley.  Beautiful neighborhoods, gorgeous large homes, amazing views. Houses EASILY go for over $1 million. Sucks to be me.  Again. 

Get to Alan's house and am accosted by the dog.  Try to avoid annoying dog and get to my cute little 23 month old niece.  I scooped her up and planted lots and lots of kisses on those soft, puffy cheeks. Soon after, Alan told her to show me her new balloon. She wrapped her little fingers around the red string and brought me her Valentine heart balloon. I asked "what shape is this balloon Allison?"  Her reply "iz a hawt".  LOVE!!!! 

I really do need to get back to work so upon leaving Alan tells Allison to give Auntie a kiss goodbye. She walks over to me and turns her head so I can lean down and give her a kiss on her cheek.  hahaha

We blew each other kisses and I was off. 

Great Day. Great Day!!!!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Day 2 in her bedroom!

Don't you hate when you think you have a lunch meeting where they feed you, then it turns out the meeting is tomorrow?  Yeah, me too. 

Huge news again. Paula slept in her own bedroom AGAIN last night. Today she proclaimed her bedroom feels the same way as my room. SAFE.  

Can you hear the angels singing? 

I was going my older posts today and found this one post from October 2008 on Paula and her sleep issues.  Needs Sleep

Seriously this bedroom problem has been going on for SO long.  I'm so happy for my girl.  

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentines Day Miracles

Today is a celebratory day for several reasons.

#1 - It's VALENTINES DAY!  A day to celebrate love, caring and Hallmark. heh

#2 - FREE DRESS DAY!  My girls were allowed to wear free dress today, which is a huge deal for uniform kids. On top they had to wear either red, white or pink.  I surprised them with V-day socks and a couple other treats too. 

#3 - CLASSROOM PARTIES!  The girls will be all sugared up today thanks to the classroom parties and exchanging of Valentine Cards with candies attached.  I sent the girls to school with Dollar Store heart covered zip bags filled with 1 Girl Scout Cookie each.  They chose the cookies themselves. Paula wanted Thin Mints in hers and Shawna wanted the Lemon Cookie's in hers.  Taped to the front of each baggy was a computer generated V-card with their name on it. 

#4 - ROSIE'S BIRTHDAY!  Today is our dog Rosie's birthday. She turned 4 years old today.  That's 28 in dog years. Rosie is a Lhasa Poo and a dear member of our family. We all forgot today was her birthday until this morning.  She received lots of hugs and kisses.

#5 - PAULA SLEEPS IN HER OWN ROOM!  This is seriously the biggest, most important event this decade.  My almost 10 year old slept in her room the entire night last night! 

Back history:  Paula is a worrier.  She's OCD on top of that.  She regularly sees the school counselor, and has since she was in 1st grade, to talk about her worries.  A couple years ago my daughter started having fears about sleeping in her room.  As a 3 year old she'd had worries too. As a 3 year old she was afraid of TIGERS in her room. We invented a Tiger Spray (water in a spray bottle with a fancy cartoon tiger on the front with a slash thru it indicating NO Tigers).  We sprayed the room down with Tiger Spray every night to rid the room of tigers.  Wet room. No tigers.

When she was 7 or 8 years old it got really bad.  She complained of shadows (close your eyes) noises (houses make noise) burglar's (installed an alarm system). You name it, she worried about it.  In addition to the worrying, she had a terrible sleeping pattern.  She woke up at weird times or couldn't fall asleep.  We resorted to Melatonin for awhile but it didn't help much.  For MONTHS my husband and I battled her fears trying everything from night lights, reassuring, sitting with her rubbing her back, bribing, threatening, alarm systems, becoming angry, growing more frustrated and finally in the end - defeat.  I told Todd I couldn't take another sleepless night with her coming into our room at some odd hour, listening to her crying when we forced her go back into her bedroom. She wasn't sleeping, we weren't sleeping.  I finally told him just spread out a sleeping bag on the floor beside our bed and let's be done with this.  She wins. 

Having your child sleep in your room havoc's with your sex life.  Just sayin. 

For several months she slept in our room.  We don't recall what happened exactly, but she did go back to her room and stayed there for a few months over a summer. Then one day, for no apparent reason that we could see, she was back in our room and it's been a year now.  There have been a few occasions in the last year where she did sleep her room. Like when my mom has visited and slept in there with her (she has a trundle bed) or when her BFF stayed for a sleep over so she, my daughter Shawna and her BFF were all in her room.

I'd like to hope that just sending Shawna in there to sleep would help the problem, but unfortunately Shawna isn't tough enough to ward off the bad things.  Even at my parents house where she does sleep with Shawna, she hasn't always made it thru the night without coming to sleep on our bedroom floor.  On a day to day basis she sleeps in our room.  She doesn't even like to be upstairs at night if one of us isn't up there with her.  Like if Todd wants to stay downstairs and watch a movie with me, she's all worried being up there without us. 

For her 10th birthday coming up in March, I told her we'd update her room. She'd been complaining for awhile how her room was too childish. She has princess shelves, princess lamps and Hannah Montana bedding.  She said she hoped that with a more grown up room she'd be able to sleep in there. I hoped so too. 

I decided rather than give her everything ON her birthday, I'd slowly surprise her with the new items for several weeks making the excitement last longer for her and me.  :)

Paula is very into PEACE.  She loves the word, the sign and everything it symbolizes.  Pottery Barn Teen has a great, but expensive, PEACE bedroom line.  Periodically I've checked EBay for items and found a couple affordable pieces. I won a new, but not packaged, duvet cover which I've had in hiding for a few weeks now. 

Last week I went to Marshall's and found a bright blue lamp for her to replace her princess lamp.   I also found a Ralph Lauren PEACE sheet set.  Her walls are purple/lavender so I'm pairing it with a fun bright blue shade.  The bedding I found is perfect.

Last weekend I surprised her with just the lamp.  OMG you'd have thought she won the lottery.  Not that she's even allowed to play the lottery. 

Yesterday while she was in the shower I put on her new bedding.  I'd already pre-washed them that day, I just needed to do the make-over while she wasn't around.  When she came out of the shower she witnessed this new bedding. (I took these pictures this morning)  See the lamp?  Also, I had to strategically place her stuffed animals and purple blanket JUST SO because of her OCD.  Or I'd get yelled at. 

SQUEAL'S of joy.  THANK YOU MOMMY, THANK YOU MOMMY!  I LOVE IT ALL!  Also, she really wanted to try to sleep in her own room tonight.  Yay! 

I told her if she slept in there all week she'd be rewarded with something.  (not sure yet what that something IS). 

Each night she and Todd read a book together.  Right now they're reading the first Harry Pottery book. Normally she reads to him while she's laying in her sleeping bag on our floor. Last night Todd sat by her bed while she read.  Lights went out at around 9pm. 

Paula did come downstairs at 9:45pm saying the house was making noises and she was hot and sweating.   She also wanted some warm milk to help her sleep. I immediately got worried this wouldn't work.  I suggested she open her window to cool the room off, since in my bedroom we have the window open and the fan on. We like it freezing in our room. I also reminded her that her clock radio had bird, ocean and other noises to choose from. She drank her milk and up she went.  I crossed my fingers. 

I checked in on her at 10:45pm and she was sound asleep with her window open, fish light on, bird sounds on. 


This morning when my alarm went off at 7am I looked and saw She stayed in her room ALL NIGHT!!!!  I want to scream this from the rooftops.  Seriously.

I quickly went into her room to close her window. I knew the heater kicked in so she'd want her room warmed up.  Turns out she'd closed the window herself in the night.  Later she told me she discovered the wind blowing into the room was making the door rattle.  
She was SO EXCITED and proud of herself.  "Mommy, can you bring me the phone?"  I knew she wanted to call her dad who was already at work. While laying in bed she called her father.  "Daddy, I slept in here ALL NIGHT.  It's because I'm surrounded by PEACE.  Literally."  Heart her

Today she has her weekly meeting with the school counselor.  She told me how she's SO excited to tell how she slept in her room. 

She also said she'll never forget the date she slept in her room.  Valentines Day. 


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A different reality

Yesterday I left a comment for a post on thespohrsaremultiplying in regards to expectations we have with our children, based on our own childhood.  Her post resonated with me because I too had certain expectations and dreams of what my life married with children would be like, and subsequently what my children's lives would be like based on that dream.  Life has turned out differently, but in a good way.  I want to share my comment here. 

I had your same vision once, but am living a different reality. My reality is better than I thought it would be given some of the choices we made.

I grew up in N. Calif in the Beaver Cleaver family. My dad worked, my mom was a SAHM, my brother is 4 years younger than me. We lived down the street from my elementary school, walking distance to all schools, including the Jr. High and High School. I played with my friends in the neighborhood and participated in sports at all the schools I went to.

Both sets of my grandparents lived 3 hours away my whole life.

My husband and I both have to work. Our first house was small but on a nice size lot in a cul-de-sac. We loved our neighbors and hung out with them all the time. After both my girls were born (ages 1.5 and 3.5 at the time) I HAD to move. The place shrunk. I could not live through a remodel. I knew it. My husband knew it. We found a HUGE house in a ~so-so~ neighborhood for a killer price. The house was going into foreclosure. It needed work but we were up to the challenge. My husband is very handy. I’m a bit of a neighborhood snob and this is not my dream neighborhood. It’s eclectic, many really nice houses and many dog houses too thanks to inheritance of some homes and rentals. My kids do not attend the local public school, like I always thought they would, because I had too many fears about the education they’d receive there. It’s rated a 6 out of 10 year after year. The principal lives across the street from me.

My kids do not play with the neighborhood kids. They don’t even know more than 2. We live on top of a hill so they can’t ride bikes, or scooters in the neighborhood either, like I did as a child. They do ride in our long driveway and backyard sometimes.

We choose to attend a Catholic school starting in preschool (lowest tuition prices for private schools) where we have made strong relationships with the families there. It’s a great community of people and the teachers LOVE the kids. My kids LOVE the teachers. My kids, ages 8 and 10 now, participate in the parish (Oakland Diocese CYO) sports program doing volleyball, basketball, track & field and soccer through the city rec. I can’t say more good things about the school community.

We drive the girls to the local school to ride their bikes and roller blade and scooter. They have a very close relationship to my parents who moved 3 hours away before they were born. (ironically)

My kids don’t live the life I lived, but their life is really good. REALLY good.

Sometimes different works out.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Documenting February

The first week of February was busy. With Catholic School's Week over and theme week finished my family and I are moving to a much needed mellow pace.

I do have some new pictures to share though.

Last week on Wednesday I babysat my 20 month old niece Allison. My brother and his wife went to see a comedy show. Lucky me!  She's tons of fun and cuteness. Very active and talking a lot. Look how long her hair is getting.  She turns 2 at the end of March.  So cute!

You may have heard how California has been having some amazing February weather.  I'm a native N. Californian and since I was in high school (1980's) I can remember warm February's laying out in my backyard sunbathing.  If you have to come here in winter, come in February! 

Warm weather brings on great sunsets.  Two days in a row we had amazing sunsets. I took these pictures standing on my front porch.  We live in a canyon. 

Sunday my girls and I went to Santa Cruz for the day. My friend Kim invited us to a beach house she has access to thanks to her stepfather.  Kim and I have known each other since we were in our mid 20's.  We worked together, then lived together.  She has two great boys.  Zachary is almost 13 years old, and Niklas is 11. My girls and her boys get along really well.

The beach house is down the street from the ocean not too far from the famous Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. 

Kids, I'm convinced, are impervious to the cold.  The ocean here is cold at approx 50'F. I think once they get numb they just don't notice anymore.

Here is our fun day. Below is Shawna, Paula and Niklas.

I can't tell if Shawna is holding a rock or pile of sand. 


Making the fort of all forts. This thing took a few good hits from the waves and still survived.

Look at this view!

The kids found a Sand Crab. It was "HUGE"

The thing about the beach is it's always entertaining. This guy was juggling up to 8 Frisbee's at at time.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Fun School Day's

This week is Catholic Schools Week where if you go to a Catholic school many do theme days all week. 

At our school each grade chooses their own theme, they decorate their door and dress up in the theme on one day.  Yesterday was THAT day.  2nd grade was PJ's and 4th grade choose zoo animals.  Shawna's was easy. Paula's I had to shop around a bit. 

Today was Blow Your Top Day. The kids can decorate their body from the neck up. I braided the girls hair last night after their showers so today their hair would be puffy and frizzy. We put in a pony tail high on thier head (for Paula) and sprayed red and purple hair color in a alternating pattern.


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Why do I do it?

Let me start by saying I like kids.  I do.  But I prefer adults.  I love my kids, and I love many of their friends. Kids like me.  I'm always getting "Hello Mrs. TwoGirlsForMama" and hugs from the girls who know me. The thing is, in a group setting kids stress me out.  Kids in groups are loud, hyper, chaotic and loud. Did I mention loud?  They never stop moving.  Or talking. 

As a family we are required to do 39 volunteer hours at my girl's school so I volunteer for adult things. (My husband helps out too.)  This year, for example, I am the Crab Feed Volunteer Manager, School Board Member/Chairperson of the PR/Marketing Committee, 4th grade Parent Club (aka PTA) Snack Mom and the Box Tops Coordinator.  Do you see the pattern? 

I do not volunteer in the classroom, I resist (but do get guilted by my children once in awhile) chaperoning on field trips.  I don't help with the Halloween day games in the school gym, nor do I help at the school book fairs or Christmas Boutiques.  I avoid groups of kids when I can.   

This avoidance means I dread my kids birthday's. Why?  Because they want a party with their friends.  That means lots of little children.  I'm usually okay when it's another child's party. I just stand back and let the birthday child's mom run around like a chicken with her head cut off.  Although truth be told, those moms are always cool and collected which annoys me a little.  If the party is only 2 hours I'm great. Pool parties I do not like.  They give me an eye twitch as I watch children just barely slam their heads into the side of the pool as they jump off crooked or barely land on another kid.  I usually have to leave early on those parties. 

But, being a mother, a good mother, means sacrificing (lets be honest) EVERYTHING, which means I have to throw my kids a birthday party and have other children in attendance. 

Many times I've arranged birthday parties at local places like Pump It Up, bowling, ice skating, Little Gym, and a couple others.  The idea here is the space is large, usually a teenager or other adult is paid to do some of the organizing of the children and the mess is left there. 

This year, however, I decided I'd throw the party at my house.  I'm a glutton for punishment apparently.  I limited the guest list to only half the girls in her class, would only do 1 craft, and my husband would set up the Wii and dancing in the garage so the grown-ups could drink mimosas and enjoy each other's company.  Great plan right?! 

How could this plan fail?  Well, let me tell you. 

First, I am not a crafty person. There are mom's who like paint, glitter, glue, scissors in small children's hands...that's not me.  So finding a craft I could do took time.  I settled on a purse project.  Wal*Mart sold a 3-pack skirt purse in pink, blue and green.  The packaging demonstrated bling via iron on decor.  I didn't want ten 7 & 8 year olds around an iron.  Hello!  So I went with puffy fabric paints and fabric markers.  Good idea right?  Wrong. 

First, after I got home I read the directions on the puffy paint.  Dries in 4 hours. party is only 2 hours.  Also, that meant we could only do one side of the purse. No biggy.  But, guess what happens when ten 7 & 8 year olds do designs in puffy paint?  They GLOB it on.  Hearts, smiley faces, circles, all done in HUGE, puffy paint globs.  My plan was to hang the completed artwork on a clothes rack with clothes pins.  Only my daughter Shawna's decor (she wasn't the only one) was so globby (this is a word right?) the hearts and faces were dripping down the skirt purse.  I had to literally put hers flat on the top of the rack so the paint wouldn't run off. 

My plan was to remind the children upon their departure, as I handed them their skirt purse, that their skirt purse wasn't completely dry and to hold them flat, face up.  Well, one cute child took hers off the rack while I was distracted (surprise there!) and was holding her globby (it's a word I swear) puffy paint side towards her pants.  As she's moving she swings it back and forth covering her pants and tall boots with puffy paint.  *Gasp*

Shawna's skirt purse dried by Monday.  The party was Saturday.  There should be a disclaimer that reads Dries in 4 hours if your not 7 & 8 years old. 

Next problem.  Cake.  Apparently a vast number of children don't like chocolate cake.  Who knew?!  I made my daughter, per her request, a bear cake. The theme was Glitzy Glammer, but she wanted a bear cake.  It's 2 round cakes, chocolate chips for hair, butterscotch chips for part of the mouth, cupcakes for ears, candy and marshmallows for eyes, licorice (or gel icing) for eye brows.  I have a cake book for dummies. I'm not creative, but I can copy candy cakes.  Since it was a brown bear I did chocolate cake and chocolate filling and chocolate icing.  Death by chocolate. 

One girl is allergic to chocolate - it gives her headaches.  The others, well, they just don't like chocolate.  They loved my cake design.  Mr. Bear looked great. But I had maybe 4 children out of 10 eating cake. 

Also? The adults also didn't want cake. Why?  Dieting! 

The good thing is my daughter LOVED her party.  The parents can never tell how stressed or frazzled I really am.  Mimosa's helped.  It ends and away they go. 

Ahhh relax. 

Unfortunately for me, my other daughter's birthday is in early March.  *shiver*