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Archive for January, 2017

Better than Back Surgery

January 28th, 2017 at 12:11 am

I am writing this while sitting in a very straight chair with a towel rolled up behind my back and very perfect posture. With my feet on a book (I'm too short to have my bum all the way back in the chair and still have my feet touch the floor). This is what the dumb physical therapist said I have to do.

He isn't really dumb. He's probably really smart.

I've seen other PT's and had the same back pain (lower right side) for 2 years! Since I did penalties in kids v. adult soccer (which should not be a thing because at a certain age F was waaaaaay better at soccer than I am).

But the pain stayed.

I casually mentioned at my annual physical that my back was still messed up but not super painful and I could teach weightlifting and run and all sorts of things. It felt stiff, like I had to bend over and stretch it out a lot.

She sent me for an xray right after my physical, and my spine is like a weird curvy S. She also gave me a paper to go to PT (again, but this time a different place). My friend who is an orthopedist said they are really good there.

So after 2 years of this, the new PT does some physical "tests" and I can't remember his diagnosis but I think it was a bulgy disk (or maybe it was a slipped disk). I can't remember because I was in shock: he was telling me to sit in a straight chair and not a mushy sofa or my comfy bed with this hard towel for two weeks. And the towel in the car. And these back exercises every two hours. And I can't jump rope or jump at all or run or teach my weightlifting class for two weeks. I work out pretty much every day.

Two weeks isn't a long time; I know that. But I was in denial. I was negotiating. Can I do situps? No. Can I jog? No.

I can walk. My friends are so awesome. They have all offered to walk me (like a dog!) so I don't go crazy.

I also can't bend over. Bending over (which I was doing a lot to "stretch it out") is exactly the wrong thing. My back doesn't move at all in the other direction, so my every-two-hours exercises are supposed to get things moving the other way. Like cobra pose which I've never been able to do (that should have been a clue!).

I was depressed and cranky for the rest of the day, and part of this morning. And then I noticed that I can actually get a little higher up on the cobra and my back hurts less, so now I've decided that this is an athletic pursuit in itself. I am going to be the best PT patient ever!!! (And the most compulsive).

The dumb PT says 6 to 8 weeks to heal. He put it into perspective by saying that it's either that or I keep the disk bulgy and slippy and get to the point where I can't exercise at all.

Frugal Things from this Week So Far

January 26th, 2017 at 01:39 am

1. I am entertaining myself this week by attending a lot of kids' sports games! It's actually been really fun watching F play basketball and indoor soccer. And the games have been amazingly suspenseful! They sell popcorn and nachos at both, and we haven't bought anything. F doesn't even ask, and good for her, because that stuff is gross!

2. I wanted a candy bar all day, and I did NOT buy one! Yay me! (I still want a candy bar).

3. Dinner is burbling away in the crockpot. I put it on this morning (chili) and even asked D for help (again, yay me! I don't often ask for help). He opened the cans while I made F's lunch. This will make dinner and also a dinner for the freezer.

4. I called my client to remind him of the additional services I requested (this is in addition to the other project where I already got the additional services). He told me to write something more formal and send it in; I found an old request, copied it, and now it's ready to complete tomorrow morning (somehow getting it ready is half the battle - it should only take about 15 mins. tomorrow when I'm back in the office).

5. I bought a birthday gift for F's friend online. No shipping, and I don't have to run around to different stores. It'll come Friday, and the party is Sunday.

6. My mom sent a check to pay for their part of TurboTax which we share. She also sent some money to help with F's school; it will help a ton since there is a gap between when we pay off our mortgage and when we need to give F's new school a down payment. My parents are good to me!

7. We got a gift voucher for $50 to a restaurant that I've always wanted to try from someone D helped out with some computer stuff. He wasn't expecting anything back, so what a nice surprise! I'm thinking maybe Valentine's Day lunch?

8. I was charged for a routine medical test when it's normally covered by insurance. The testing place said that it was not coded properly, and my doctor said that it was. My doctor asked me to bring the bill by, and they'd take care of it. I almost just paid it, but then I thought... no, this isn't right. I'm glad I didn't just pay (it was $100) without thinking. PS - the test was normal!

9. I sent the list of materials to Home Depot for the treehouse I'm helping design for the 6th Grade. It's their gift to the school. We'll be building on March 2nd, but I want to be ahead of the game. I called Home Depot yesterday, and they said I could email the list, which saved me a trip down there. My engineer helped with the structure, and I have a contractor who'll help us build! I've spent a lot of time on this, but I'm really touched that so many people are helping out. The kids have already raised $600, and they have a bake sale planned for Friday.

10. The spelling bee was supposed to be last weekend, but it snowed and was postponed (to this Friday). We were so happy, because F wanted to march last Saturday morning. The march here in Santa Fe was wonderful (we marched in the snow around the plaza and to the capitol). So now she can do both, although I'm not sure she's that thrilled about the bee. It's just not really her thing. She's a great speller, though; to me it's sort of odd to be really good at something you don't like. Ah well. After the march, some friends wanted to go get a bite to eat. We resisted, and got F a starbucks instead (so we spent some, but not as much as lunch would have been!)

I Whined a Little Today + Meal Plan

January 22nd, 2017 at 10:32 pm

First - here is my stupid whine: wah, wah, everyone I know has a better car than I do! Wah, wah, all I want is heated seats. And a USB socket so I can plug my phone in and listen to the music on my car's stereo. Wah! I wish I had an SUV; not a big SUV, just a small SUV.

The reality - My car is fine. It's got a good safety rating. It runs fine. Oh - and it's paid for! When I was whining, I realized that a lot of the nice cars that I see up at school are probably leased, or still have loans on them. So I'm happy with my car again.

Here's the other thing - I don't have a lot of food budget left for this month. This is partly my fault - Sprouts was having a gf sale, so I stocked up. This was a smart move, I think, since these are products I use and they were much less expensive. They're not fancy things, just basics: tortillas, bread, pizza bases and flour.

I have to be careful about the budget, though.

Here's the meal plan for the next little while to accomplish that:
S - soup and cheddar bay biscuits
(this is a soccer practice night, and we don't get home until 8! - need something easy; I will mix up the dough for the biscuits before we leave)

M - fish with aioli and broccoli
I already have the broccoli; need to use it before it goes off. Dinner is about $9 for the three of us; one of our more expensive dinners.

T - pasta carbonara with salad
Basketball game night; easy and inexpensive dinner (turkey bacon $3, pasta, 4 eggs and some parmesan - about $6 total)

W - chili with cornbread
Soccer practice night. Will have this bubbling away in the crockpot, and make the cornbread when we get home (it's an easy recipe! Since I have turkey burger, I'll use that, but last time I made it veggie; I may bulk this out with some carrots and corn). This will create two dinners: one for the freezer.

T - crustless quiche with salad
This is a basketball practice night, but if I do the prep ahead of time, D can transfer this from fridge to oven as we're leaving the practice. I chop up olives (already had a can in the pantry), cheese (I have some herbed goat cheese on hand), sundried tomatoes (those are in the pantry, too) and lots of eggs - makes enough for dinner and lunch the next day. And vegetarian.

F - lettuce wraps
I got bamboo shoots and water chestnuts on sale the other day. Add to that shitake mushrooms and a little bit of chicken (with soy sauce and other stuff I already have on hand). We all love lettuce wraps.

S - Tostadas
One of our least expensive dinners - corn tortillas, refried beans, a little sour cream, a little salsa, a little lettuce. Vegetarian.

S - cauliflower cheese
Already have cauliflower, need an extra cheese, maybe broccoli. This is a soccer practice night, and we'll need to eat lat. I can make the cheese sauce and have this oven ready to go when we get home (oven timer!). Another vegetarian dinner. Will probably serve with toast and butter.

M - mahi mahi burgers with chips
We usually make the burgers on the bbq; hope it doesn't snow!

T - asian meatballs
This is a basketball game night, and this can all be made in the crockpot and rice cooker. We already have turkey in the freezer and some jasmine rice (I mix it with plain white rice). Also have green onions on hand.

W - french dinner
This dinner is basically cheese, crackers, olives and a small salad. We splurge on boursin cheese. Perfect for another basketball game night, and another vegetarian dinner.

T - roasted veggies and brown rice
We already have cauliflower and red onion. I can buy a few assorted veggies. I can pop the veggies into the oven with the timer and time to rice in the rice cooker, since this is also a basketball game night. Vegetarian meal.

F - posole from the freezer and peas
This will carry us through to the next shopping day...

Budget Wins!

January 20th, 2017 at 11:22 pm

I've started like 3 entries and discarded them all. I don't have much to say. I've decided that's a good thing!

So I will make a list of frugal things I'm accomplishing so that I can remind myself that I'm still focused on our goal.

1. Made muffins (didn't buy them!) for the bake sale today.

2. F didn't even ask me for money to buy something at the bake sale; she brought her own money.

3. Watching shows for free online (we haven't had a cable bill in years).

4. Two more grocery shopping trips this month; I'm going to try to eat out of the pantry so that I don't use up the rest of the grocery budget.

5. Managed to make dinner every night this week even though F had basketball games Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and an indoor soccer game tomorrow (I have a plan for tomorrow's dinner, too). It was about having a plan in place so we weren't tempted to eat out.

6. Re-reading a book that I read ten years ago and loved.

7. Asked for additional services, and decided to ask for what I really needed rather than go low to please the client. I figured the owner (the City) could try to get my fee down. Well, they didn't. They accepted it outright!

Stupid, Minor Complaint

January 15th, 2017 at 10:37 pm

OK, this is not even that big of a deal, but I just want to get it off my chest...

So... the holiday season is over, and we did pretty well. But with presents and teacher gifts and all of that, it is definitely something you have to manage. Now that it's January, I would think that we can relax a little bit because there aren't so many parties and events and things... but NO!

#1 - F had testing last week, and there was a sign up for a "treat" and a "healthy snack" each day. I just hung back and didn't sign up, because I am always the one who signs up for everything, and I thought "let a parent who never signs up bring something." After all, economically almost every other family in the class is more well-off than we are. On Monday the PA Pres came up to me and said "We have gaps! Please sign up!!!" I sighed and told her to tell me what to bring and I'd sign up for it... so it was yogurt smoothies from Trader Joes. About $20 worth. Not a huge thing, but puts a strain on our grocery budget. Actually I budgeted it toward school supplies in the end.

#2 - Love Lunch for Valentine's day. I have a lot of work right now, so I told F to please sign us up for something EASY and NOT EXPENSIVE.

#3 - 6th grade is raising money to build a treehouse as their legacy for the school, and I am helping them with the design, and helping build it. But I still have to make 24 pumpkin muffins for the bake sale on Thursday! Ack!

#4 - The 6th Grade Ski Trip just after Valentine's day - oh my. My child doesn't downhill ski. Another friend of hers doesn't either. I told the teacher I'd take the two girls snowshoeing or something like that, and bring them to the Lodge for lunch with the rest of the class. She said "Or you could get her some private lessons before the trip." OK, so let's say we had the money for private lessons (!!!! We don't!!) - she still wouldn't be at the skill level of the other kids, so she'd be alone on the bunny hill anyway, not with her friends. Would rather have her be with her friend L who also doesn't downhill. F is a VERY good x-c skier, and she loves it; L might want to try that with us instead of snowshoe. But why this exclusionary trip? And why the expectation of parental spending on lessons?

$5 - My good friend L called me in a panic because next week is Harry Potter week at her daughter's school. Harry Potter week? Huh? Anyway, she's a single mom, and she just spent all sorts of money at Christmas, and she doesn't have the means to buy a Hermione costume. She asked if we had one (F went as Hermione a couple of years ago, but it was cobbled together from my old graduation gown, a tie of D's, an old tartan skirt I had in high school, a Hogwarts badge printed from the internet). My child was fine with that, and likes to make her own costumes, but I thought of my other friend whose daughter was Hermione a few years ago, and asked her if my friend L could borrow the (store-bought) costume. She said of course! I love my friends! So they are coordinating today.

Please, schools, have some compassion. Not everyone has the means to partake in these activities that cost money! Not everyone wants to! Maybe the activities could be more experience-based (crazy hair/pajama day or something)? Maybe they could be spread out more... Maybe we could have January off?

The good news is, we have enough that this isn't a huge problem, and I have wonderful friends who are kind enough to help out another friend they don't even know.

Still Working in the Mortgage

January 15th, 2017 at 03:03 am

I've been so busy! I've had pretty much zero time to post.

But here are the updates:

1. Still paying down mortgage principal. We have about $16,500 to go... it seems so near, but it's still a lot of money!

2. D's mum took her other granddaughter on a big trip, and she gave us the equivalent amount for F to go to soccer camp. We can now pay ourselves back a little more for that big trip!

3. We're starting to think about a trip during Spring break... this will be a driving trip in our own state: White Sands, Carlsbad Caverns, Three Rivers Petroglyphs, the Solar Observatory. Maybe a stop at the UFO museum in Roswell (although it's totally stupid) on the way home.

4. We got pizza last night, but we've been saving as much as possible, and buying very little.

5. We spent $16 today to use the tubs at a local pet store to wash our dog. We can't wash her at home (too big! too hairy!).

6. I've been stretching every night. But I still think I need to go to PT again. I am going to make an appt. Monday with my GP and see what she thinks.

7. Got $70 from the gym. I am loving teaching there, but they don't have a license for the class I just got recertified in. So I'm contacting another gym to see if they're interested in getting a license. It's a great class, and I've always wanted to teach at that gym. It doesn't hurt to try.

8. Meal plan is a good one this week, I think! I had to arrange it to account for basketball games on Tue, Wed and Thursday!

9. I made up the difference in the IRA limits last year, and now I owe that money to our own accounts. There is plenty in there to cover it, but I track it to pay it back.

10. I've been working on two different projects: one is a library/town hall renovation and the other is an addition to a fire station. I can't wait to bill the clients! I should be able to bill the first one soon. And I'm submitting an additional services request for the second one. One of the subdivisions that I do architectural review for has had a ton of extra work (including weekends sometimes).

Meal Planning in the New Year

January 3rd, 2017 at 01:44 am

School starts again tomorrow, and I have to say... I'm sort of sad! I had a lot of fun with D and F! (D went back to work today).

We managed to pack a lot into the winter break. Today was another basketball practice; the coach's daughter is one of F's best friends, so she came home with us after practice. We stopped at Starbucks on the way back from taking F's friend home because we got a gift card from the family of the girl we take to basketball practice during school. F got a strawberry cream something. She's still got one more drink left on the card; after that - no more Starbucks unless she wants to buy it herself.

When F was at practice, I went to Sprouts and bought the rest of this week's groceries. I did not succumb to the pretty "christmas pretzels" that were on sale in a barrel by the register. I still have a third of a cake in the freezer from Christmas dinner!

The meal plan for the rest of the week:
- posole and a salad (leftover posole will go into the freezer)
- leftover cock-a-leekie pie from Christmas (I put it in the freezer) with salad
- roasted veggies and rice
- grilled cheese and tomato soup
- sausage/lemon pasta (I need to think of something green to go with that - maybe peas)

I am toying with revising my meal planning technique. Right now we do one chickeny/turkey dinner, one thing from the freezer, one potato or egg thing, one bready/cheesy thing and one fishy thing. I am wondering if it might help with the budge to divide it up differently: one mexican thing with tortillas, one thing using rice, one potato thing. I don't know. I need to think about it.

Meal planning is always even more important when F has practices, and for January she has both basketball and soccer (indoor!).

Meanwhile, I am going to go make the lunch plan for the week for me and F. I've always planned F's lunches, but mine (even though I take my own lunch from home every day) are a little more free-form. I'm going to try planning for me, too.