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Archive for August, 2015

Quiet Saturday

August 30th, 2015 at 12:02 am

Today we:

- are eating all of our meals at home, even though it's a weekend and sometimes we eat a meal out on the weekend. We only have $8.37 left in the dining out budget (we committed to a breakfast out next weekend, but that is September). Tonight: tostadas. Mmmm...

- went to the pool. It's the next to last weekend, and the weather was iffy, but we got pool time before it started pouring rain, and then played a game that was a combination of 4-square and ping pong! We used our last two guest punches taking F's friend and our coach. Next weekend there is an ice cream social Sunday with lots of pool games.

- did a load of laundry and hung it to dry before the rain came.

- checked "track package" a million times for F who is very keen to get her bribe/reward tomorrow "before 8:00 pm" according to Amazon.

- vacuumed the house, cleaned the litterbox, cleaned the birdcage and assorted other household chores. D did some yardwork thinning out the arugula which has taken over.

- invited F's friend L over to play. This means a fun day for her without having to spend money!

- finished knitting the first slipper sock. Now knitting the foot of the second one. And then I need to reacquaint myself with mattress stitch in order to sew the bottoms on!

- made a frugal grocery list for tomorrow's shopping trip. We have $90 left in the grocery category. Pasta with red sauce and courgettes, fish with green beans and roasted cauliflower, taquitos with a salad, chili with chips/avocado/sour cream, something from the freezer with a salad, baked potatoes and broccoli.

And now it's 6 pm... quiet evening at home!

Yes, I Bribed My Child

August 29th, 2015 at 12:59 am

I'm not proud of it, but I'm not ashamed either. And maybe it wasn't a bribe; maybe it was a reward.

My poor 10 year old is just having such a hard time with separation anxiety. And she missed day 1 of the class field trip. We drove all the way out and she was told by the teachers that the parent drivers needed to leave in 5 minutes and if she could stay that was good, but she'd need to decide immediately. So she left in the car with me. Luckily it was not as dramatic as the day before at school when she screamed and screamed at dropoff and then called me at 10 am and said she felt sick and then cried on the phone.

We vowed to try the next day for day 2, but I could see she was deflated. And anxious. Really anxious. Only now, it wasn't even about anything. She was just anxious about anxiety.

I told her that we'd try tomorrow, and if she was able to stay then she could pick out a toy. After she read a book and did math on Khan Academy (because it was still a school day and I didn't think being allowed to skip the school trip to play all day was a good idea even if the teachers basically forced her to skip the trip by not giving her enough time to work up the courage to stay), she got on Amazon and found a playmobil set she really wanted. She shyly asked me if it cost too much.

Hell, yes, it cost too much! But I figured if this was something to look forward to and a motivator, than it was actually cheap. I said yes, and she started getting very attached to her playmobil set, even printing out a photo of it to carry in her pocket, and then Istarted worrying that she wouldn't be able to stay for day 2 of the class field trip. And that then she'd be even more upset.

So we started practicing square breathing, which is the only anxiety-reliever that actually works for me.

I worried all night and didn't sleep. I wanted that too-expensive toy her so badly! I knew if she could do it, it'd be a big step forward for her self-confidence.

I drove her back out at 8 am, and we did square breathing the whole way in the car. And then she started weeping quietly. And then the super nice older teacher saw her and came running over. That teacher called over F's best friend K and we stood and talked for a few minutes and we explained square breathing to K and the nice teacher. And then she said "I can't do it" and my heart was racing, so I started square breathing. And then she did. Then we were all square breathing.

And then she said "I'm staying" and I left. Quickly. I almost cried with relief in the car. There was no screaming, and she was still there. On the highway, my phone rang, and I was so relieved to see it was my electrical engineer and not one of the teachers!

Then I got a text and it was another teacher saying "All the girls are so glad she's here!" and then a photo of F in the middle of a bunch of other 5th graders.

When all of the parents went to pick up the kids, one of the 6th grade girls said to me "L and I eat lunch with F and K and A every day. F is so sweet!" F confirmed that she and K and A (also 5th graders) go eat in the 6th grade class with the two 6th graders. And another girl came to say hi and told me she was glad F made it.

F was still clutching the paper with the photo of the playmobil set on it. She asked if she would be able to get it. Um, yes - I already ordered it! It's coming on Sunday!

She said the day was really fun, and they did some great activities, even though the zip line was canceled due to thunder. She felt like part of the group. And maybe Monday dropoff at school will be a little easier? Maybe I'll sleep tonight, to.

So - I bribed my daughter. She might have stayed today anyway, but if the bribe (reward) helped, than I'm ok with it if only for the huge boost in confidence.

Mortgage Principal, Back to School, Coaches, Hot Lunch - Aaack!

August 27th, 2015 at 10:12 pm

Mortgage Principal:
We paid off a whopping $856.71 on our mortgage principal this month. We are still set to pay off everything in Oct. 2019 even if we don't put another dollar toward principal. Of course we will, though!

Back to School, Back to Anxiety:
F is having more anxiety with the start of school. She is working on it, though. We've been seeing someone and insurance covers it, so it's only $10 each session, but I'm beginning to doubt how helpful it is. The dropoff separation anxiety was so bad, though, that the school psychologist finally stepped in and since she was able to witness it, had some very constructive ideas.

Another Day, Another Coach:
We are hosting another soccer coach this week, and it's kind of a two-fer... he came with his girlfriend. We'd asked her to dinner, but then she didn't have anywhere to stay. She's a soccer coach, too, and her flight back to Ireland is Sunday. She needs to be in Denver by then. First she had no idea how to get there (there isn't a train system here like Ireland or the UK or the Eastern US and you have to go south to Albuquerque to get a bus to Denver). The bus leaves at 3 am! And she missed her bus last night even though they were there super early (long story). So we've been feeding two coaches for now a third night... a bit of a strain, but she's such a sweet girl!

Camp Coach Reimbursement:
We get reimbursed for feeding the coaches who come to camp (not for the ones who are staying with us now, though). We received our $80 check and I'm going to put it toward groceries rather than our mortgage. Our grocery budget was stretched pretty thin this month now that we've had THREE coaches in the same month! We don't have enough left for this weekend's grocery shop without this money. What's good: with the money we have plenty. Also good: lots of food in the freezer to build on.

Stupid Hot Lunch Program:
The hot lunch program at school this year is super confusing. It's also expensive. And F had it on Monday and hated it. She hated chicken tenders; really?! She looooves chicken tenders usually. She said they were gross. The sweet potato fries were gross and not actually fries. The sauce was gross. The caesar salad wasn't good. And the choices of drink didn't include chocolate milk which is a huge treat she only used to get for hot lunch. So.... I am going to invent my own hot lunch at a cheaper price. I never buy convenience foods, but I am going to go to Whole Foods and get a veggies sushi or a slice of pizza and a cookie from the individual cookie thing and a chocolate milk and send her with that. Maybe not the most cost-effective, but cheaper than the hot lunch program, and I need that 5th day each week to be easy, because I am stuck with the 5th day even though we split the task of making her lunches.

Mortgage Snowflakes, Knitting Progress

August 19th, 2015 at 04:56 pm

There were lots of mortgage snowflakes this month (and one more to come)...
- $325.52 from Irish house rent
- $150 budgeted
- $5 craigslist sale
- $78 ebay sale
- $77 gym payment
the mystery addition to this should be about $210! It's more Irish rent money. We can only take out 300 euro at a time, so we do a 200 euro withdrawal every two months as well. So this adds to this month and next.

Knitting: I am furiously knitting myself slipper socks before the cold weather starts! My old pair pretty much disintegrated.

Still Paying Back (A Few Negative Categories) and Stockpiling

August 17th, 2015 at 08:27 pm

I'm still paying ourselves back on a few negative categories:
- household repairs (the remainder of the restuccoing project)
- medical unforeseen
- medical

All other categories are positive. Some have money in them because they're building up for annual purchases (like the camp category and our HOA fund. Also F's camp fund and the fund for the pool we join each summer.

And then there are categories with a lot of money in them; I'm afraid to transfer the balances to the negative categories, and I have no idea why. I mean, if some emergency came up, then those would be negative categories instead, right?
- Utilities has $228 in it. I want some money in there for winter when the bills are higher, but even in winter, our bills are under $115, and I have a budget of $95, so I don't need to keep that much in there. Spring bills are about $50 and summer bills are under $30.
- Auto registration has $93 in it, and we pay about $40 in March for one car and $50 in December for the other car... we put in $10 per month. Quick math problem... we can take out $73 and still have enough built up for both December and March.
- $58 in Entertainment; I put in $50 per month and this covers our netflix subscription plus any fees to museums, etc., but I doubt we're going to do much since school starts Wednesday and we have soccer every weekend.
- $128 in Gifts for Others - We'll probably spend some of that at Christmas, so maybe I should keep it in there, but I put in $31 a month, so that will build up more
- $97 in pets - yes, there could be an emergency, but then this could be the negative category. That's what the emergency fund is for, right? All of our pets have a ton of food and treats, and both just went to the vet for well exams, so no expected expenses for the rest of the month.

Eat from the Pantry

August 15th, 2015 at 05:06 pm

Our coach left this morning - oh, F is so, so sad! I think he was the best one so far... like the perfect big brother for F.

I've been spending the morning washing sheets etc. But I don't care - we invited him to come back asap for our city's Fiestas! There is another coach that is here not only part of the summer but also Fall and Spring, and he'll be here for Fiestas, too, and they're friends.

Tonight we are going to our friends' house for a summer afternoon potluck. I am bringing a flourless chocolate cake because I always have the ingredients for flourless chocolate cake on hand!

I need to go to the store tomorrow, but we've got a lot of food still in the fridge, so it's an eat-from-the-pantry meal plan.

What I have: celery, a cucumber, half a watermelon, half a cantaloupe, frozen chicken, some eggs, half of a head of lettuce, whole head of cauliflower, rice, four cans of soup, a few sausages and hot dogs in the freezer, enough turkey burger in the freezer for turkey burgers (plus we have buns in the freezer!), french fries in the freezer, three meals worth of white chicken chile in the freezer... wow, it's a lot!

We need a couple of staples: olive oil, butter. Also some fruit - peaches are on sale and so are cucumbers and mini tomatoes.

Here are the meals I can think of for the next week and a half or so:
- tortilla espanola (I have eggs and potatoes, so I think we're set)
- mexican eggs with salad (need to buy more corn tortillas and green onions and eggs, a couple of courgettes would be nice to have alongside)
- white chicken chile from the freezer with a salad (need a head of lettuce)
- big salad and toast (using the rest of that head of lettuce, probably should buy some more carrots)
- soup with garlic bread
- general tso chicken with rice and cabbage (can use the other half of the green onions I buy for Mexican eggs and a cabbage would be nice since it's not expensive)
- roasted cauliflower with sausages/buns
- turkey burgers with french fries

It's that time of year... Chore Check-In

August 14th, 2015 at 10:18 pm

When F was a baby, D and I each worked half time. So that meant that we worked 4 hours each (plus more in the evenings after F was asleep) and were each alone with her 4 hours a day. We often met for lunch as a family for what we called the "switcheroo."

Each year in August, we'd meet and discuss the schedule and rearrange as needed. Maybe she had her baby music class on a Tuesday morning and I wanted to go to that, so I was with her on Tuesday morning. Maybe D had a standing meeting on Wednesday afternoon, so I was with her on Wednesday afternoons. We also talked about various chores and who did what; that got revised each year as well.

As she got older and was in school, our work hours increased. In the beginning, D picked her up from school some days and I picked her up others. We still did our chore check-in before the new school year started. We made a whole schedule, and now there were other things on the schedule like soccer (which she started at 4!).

Then D got a full-time job. I was scheduled for dropoff and pickup, which I love, so it's ok. D was tired after work, and I was home with F by 4 pm most days, so besides doing a little extra work while she did her homework, I would get her a snack, undo the lunch box, maybe empty the dishwasher...

Then D got full-time allergies. He couldn't really dust anymore. Vacuuming was out the question. He wasn't feeling well most weeks, so I took over cleaning the mirrors or the front of the fridge/oven/dishwasher.

After the job and allergies started (around the same time) we didn't do our annual chore check-in. Well - it's time to do it again (because I am starting to feel like I am a home-maker but with a full time job, plus D's allergies are a lot better after the shots).

Here is how we do it:
- list all of the household chores in 7 categories: daily, every other day, weekly, monthly, two or three times a year, annual, every so often. These are chopped up into smaller pieces. Like we don't just say "laundry" because maybe I will put them in the wash and take them out and hang them, but D can fold them or put them away.
- we each highlight which chores we're ok doing and which we have really high standards for so we need to do them ourselves.
- figure out what to do with what is left.

Maybe all of this comes naturally for some couples, but my fallback position is do everything and D's is hang out in the living room watching football (soccer).

We need to make sure we don't skip this really important annual check-in.

And here is the financial part of this: we don't have a house-cleaner or a personal assistant, or whatever else people have to make all of this work.

What do you do to divide up all of the various chores that go into running a household?

Homeowners Insurance Policy

August 13th, 2015 at 07:28 pm

So having finally paid off our Dublin house, we now need to tie up some loose ends. I made D make sure that we are not still paying the mortgage (it was an auto payment). Also, Ireland requires a life insurance policy for mortgages, so D was paying 62 euro a month for a policy that would pay about 192,000 euro.

Contrast this to our US life insurance policy for him that is $22.90 a month for $500,000.

The surrender value of the life insurance policy in Ireland is 3000 euro, so we will surrender the policy and keep the US one.

Now we need to make a plan for the 3000 euro. I think it will be half into flights to the UK for next summer and half into emergency fund.

So, now we really can start thinking about next summer's trip to see D's family with a holiday over there for the second week.

Spent a Ton

August 11th, 2015 at 11:07 pm

I don't even want to think about it. I spent like $100 today.

A lot of it was household supplies. It seems like I run out of everything all at once, but some things I didn't need to buy quite yet. The thing is, I was down at Target, and I don't want to go down there again in a week. That was about $70. (Anti-eye wrinkle stuff, toilet paper, paper towels, tinfoil, paper plates, napkins, new underwear for F, face soap for me).

I also bought about $30 in extra groceries for the BBQ we're having at our house tonight for the four coaches who are running the soccer program F is in this week. I offered to host at our house, which is totally great! I love having people over. Three of us are hosting coaches, so the other two families will bring things, too. But I got hot dogs, buns, french fries, cookies, paper plates and lemonade for the kids (probably the bulk of what we need to feed everyone). I think K is bringing watermelon and a salad... T is bringing beer/wine/ice.

Whatever they don't eat, we'll eat in the next few weeks... I made sure that I got things that we like. The hot dogs and buns can go in the freezer if we don't eat them all.

I am hoping that the grocery budget is just fresh fruits and veggies for the next few weeks - that's a challenge to myself! Eat from the pantry!!

Things We're Buying and the Declutter Calendar

August 8th, 2015 at 07:48 pm

Just random thoughts for today, some financial/some not...

1. I bought a new mouse for using at the house with my laptop since the old one broke. Bought with office credit card since I need it for working from home (really only need it to use Autocad). The scroll thingy is sort of weird (smooth rather than clicky; I preferred clicky). This is the updated version of my old mouse. I guess I'll get used to it.

2. I got the mouse at Staples. We were also there to get some plastic/acetate display pockets for F's sports illustrated womens world cup covers. My "framing" idea is to put them in the acetate, then use a big bulldog clip and hang on the wall in a grid pattern. Much cheaper than framing, and she can keep the covers on the magazines. But they didn't have the pockets or the bulldog clips. I went home and ordered on Amazon. Can't believe how irritating stores are; I'd much rather shop online.

3. We ordered 8 more salad plates because we use those most often and always run out before we run the dishwasher. Ordering more plates was on the Declutter Calendar for last week, so I'm a little bit late.

4. We are leaving in a few mins. to go to a horse show (free!!). It's the last weekend. I'll let you know how it is.

5. Here are the other things on the Declutter Calendar for this month:
week 1
- change water filter
- declutter hall closet
- reorder plates and bowls that are broken
week 2
- wash car
- dust tops of all framed pictures
week 3
- clean out paper stacker thingy
- wash and rehang white curtains
week 4
- clean shower and apply rain-x
- weed

The Soccer Coaches are Coming!

August 7th, 2015 at 11:45 pm

Soccer camp starts next week, which means that we get to meet the coach we are hosting on Sunday evening. Except I just got a call from the organizer, and we may be hosting TWO coaches! This is great and a little terrifying.

One can stay in our spare room of course, and the other can either put a futon in there or take F's room (she said "I hope he's an Arsenal fan" - there are Arsenal posters and memorabilia all over the room!). F always sleeps in our room anyway. It'll make things a little more complicated in terms of having to move things around (she'll need access to her clothes and she'll want to move certain toys down to our room, too.

Also means making three lunches in the morning. And extra food at night, so I need to make a careful meal plan.

I was thinking:
- white chicken chile
- tostadas
- tortilla espanola with a salad
- pasta with bacon and peas and goat cheese
- maybe risotto? maybe lemon crumbed fish?

One night we're having a barbeque with all four of the coaches at our house, but it'll be potluck. I'll get hot dogs and buns and fun toppings (chile, cheese, relish, etc). Maybe with french fries...

Soccer Season

August 5th, 2015 at 10:53 pm

So... soccer season has started... I can't believe it! F's first practice was Monday night, and she has practice tonight as well.

When she practices, I run around the old horse racing track (the fields are in the middle of what is now a derelict racetrack). It's flat, it's packed dirt, it's 1.1 miles - perfect! I have my running stuff ready to go.

F is feeling very anxious about me running, worried that something will happen to me. Yes, she is still seeing someone, and I think we're making progress. But I AM going to run tonight.

No game this weekend, which is good because I want to go to the pool and hang out and relax. Next week is soccer camp for F. Then school starts the middle of the week after that. And at the end of that week - first tournament!

So - a lot of soccer.

I'm pretty happy to get my running in while she practices; free fun! (If you can call it fun). My other exercising happens at lunch time.

How do you fit in your exercise? It's not easy with work and all of the other obligations we all have!

Trip to Denver!

August 5th, 2015 at 12:15 am

We just got back from a long weekend in Denver! What a great trip! There are some things I would have done differently, but it was a lot of fun and not too expensive.

What we should have done differently:
- We chose a hotel on 16th street... in the end it really didn't matter that we were in the heart of Denver. If we go again, I'll pick a nicer area and a hotel with a pool that doesn't charge for parking.
- The mermaid show at the Aquarium was recommended to us. Not that great, and the food was not that great either. To me that could have been skipped and we could have eaten somewhere better.

What we did right:
- We drove (and we specifically drove our more fuel efficient car that uses the less expensive fuel). I filled up the car before we left and spent about $18, then put $30 in the car while we were gone and came home with 3/4 of a tank of gas still in the car.
- We chose street parking lots rather than the $35/day that the hotel charges for parking. We saved $50! Walked less than a block.
- We ate lunch at the Aquarium to see the mermaid show, but didn't go to the Aquarium itself. We have an Aquarium here.
- Botanic Garden was worth seeing though not incredibly cheap. But beautiful!
- We visited the Denver County Fair - super fun! F made a Peeps Diorama, and there was a scavenger hunt. We didn't eat there, and I'm glad; fair food = yuck. But D did try a cookie made with ground up crickets that they were letting people sample. Again.. yuck.
- We met friends who live in Denver for a nice meal out at a Korean place. I was stuffed! D got a beer, which he normally doesn't do out, but hey, he's on vacation. They had unlimited sides and the food was really good! We don't have a Korean place here.
- Hammond's Candy Factory tour - FREE and they gave us each a giant lemon candy cane at the end. The tour was short, but fascinating, and totally worth doing!
- Colorado Rapids soccer game - my friend's son is the event manager for the Rapids so we got free tickets, 8th row, to a sold out game against the LA Galaxy! So much fun!!! We even saw two of the British soccer coaches that stayed with us during the summer when they ran the camp F did. She was so excited to see them!!
- Stopped in Trinidad, CO on the way back down for lunch - that might have been one of the best meals we had, and it was only $22 for all three of us. If you are ever in Trinidad, stop at the Daily Grind. They even had gf bread, so I had a sandwich, too.

We fit a lot in a three day trip. Since we didn't have airfare or soccer tickets to buy, we decided to splurge a little on food... usually I bring food, but we wanted to eat out.

The dining out budget is almost gone for this month, but it was worth it!