Saturday, March 29, 2008

Earth Hour Celebration

To celebrate and observe Earth Hour, Kurt had a really fun idea. We turned out all our lights, cut off all the electric devices, put up a tent, lit some candles and a *campfire* and read our bedtime stories with flashlights. The kids loved it and we had a pretty good time too. :)

It was nice to have all of the distractions turned off and to know that we were joining millions of others to conserve energy for that one hour. Who knows, maybe we will make it a thing we do often. :)





Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Pray For Me

I am going in for surgery today on my knee. I will be going in for the procedure at 10:45... Pray for me and for Dr. Schaeffer to have an "on" day!

Ironic thing is... this will be the third surgery on my knee... One in 1988, then in 1998, now in 2008. Look out 2018, here I come!

My Virtual Living Room

I do this every now and then, take a photo of one of the rooms in our house and "re-do" it. Here is some ideas I have for our living room, which we have done NOTHING with since we moved in... what do you thinh? Too much? Too bland? Good/Bad color scheme?

HERE IT IS NOW


THE VIRTUAL REDESIGN

Monday, March 24, 2008

Diaper Free Zone!

Okay! So, Seth decided today was the day he wanted to start using the potty! As Brody and Seth are upstairs playing, I hear Brody start yelling down that Seth went peepee in the potty. Sure enough, he had stripped down and had used his potty. He has since used it again and all he wants to do is try to go on the potty. He is so excited! Yipppeeee!!!



So, this is a common sight in our house today! :) Man, I hope this kid gets it quickly and we can get a break from diapers!

Life Without TV?!

As I was reading her blog, I saw that a great friend of mine from High School has made the decision to get rid of her cable/satellite TV. She has two small children and stays home with them. I am so impressed with her decision! I would love to do the same, as I know it would save money and increase my time to get things done, increase my kids imaginations, etc... but I just can't imagine it! Isn't that sad?

If you had asked me "Are you addicted to TV?", I would have said No.

But now, even thinking about NOT having one seems CRAZY DIFFICULT! I suppose we could keep a tv just to watch DVDs, which would be fine for the kids. We get our news online, anyway, or from the paper where Kurt works. So, really, it wouldn't be THAT AWFUL. And just think of the space we would have in our family room if we took the tv out! There would be a lot more playroom!

Hmmmm.... this is something I will definitely have to think about. How much more time would I have every day if we didn't watch TV? How much more time playing and reading and cleaning and working? How much more time going outside as a family? Maybe we could just try for a week, or a month, just to see how it goes!

Hmmmmmm.... i will keep you posted!

If you are intrigued also, just do a google of "Life without TV" and there are lots of people who have done it and have written about it.

Happy Easter!

We hope you all had a wonderful Easter!

The night before, we colored our eggs with the boys. They really enjoyed it, although 50% of the eggs were cracked and dented after they got hold of them. It was still a great time, though!







For Easter Sunday, we had a fantastic day at church. Kurt played drums for each service and we both sang in the choir for all three services, also. It was a long morning, although VERY WONDERFUL! AFter that, we all had lunch and an Easter Egg Hunt at Mimi and PaChuck's house! It was a full day and there was much chocolate eaten!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Outside Today

While outside today, there was evidence that both of our boys are growing up so fast. First off, Seth wanted his Basketball Hoop higher. Apparently, he likes a challenge, and the lowest level wasn't any fun for him, so we bumped it up a notch.



Then, Brody wanted to help Kurt cut the grass. He likes to do everything daddy does, and was actually able to push the mower a bit today. He may think it is fun now, but just wait until it is one of his chores! :)


Our Little Handymen

Since we are really cutting back on our spending, we are always looking for things to do with our kids that are free. Lowes and Home Depot have these great sessions on Saturday mornings (the Saturdays vary) where you can go and make something with your kids. Today, the kids made a "Goofy Golf Windmill". Here are a few photos...





Beautiful Weather

We have finally had some beautiful weather! Last Saturday, we went to the Virginia Zoo with my sister and her family.







Thursday, March 20, 2008

How to find out if it is a hoax

To go along with my last post, if you ever receive an email or letter via snail mail telling you some story and asking you to take some action (even if it is as benign as forwarding an email to friends to help find a missing child), go to this website to see if it is a hoax. Just copy and paste the first few lines of the text into the search box at the top and look to see if it is a hoax. I have added this site to the list of sites at the right side of my blog.

This could save you from sending something along that shouldn't be.

Here is the link for www.snopes.com

Foreign Debt Payment

I would never in a million years have thought that someone would fall for one of these schemes, but then I realized that these awful, conniving people wouldn't be wasting their time trying them on the ENTIRE American public if there weren't some people sending them back their information and money.

Just in case, I thought I would mention it in my blog.

If ANYONE ever sends you an email saying they are from some foreign country and work for some division of money for that foreign government and are trying to find you to give you a bunch of money, you do realize that this is a con. Right? I receive so many of these that I just automatically delete them and can't believe someone would waste their time with this kind of thing. BUT... there may be a few of them that actually have somewhat decent grammar and spelling(I haven't found one yet in my inbox) that may get the email address for someone who is gullible, or down-on-their luck financially who is just looking for an easy million, and they may actually convince someone to take part in this scheme.

So, I am doing my part in letting the people that I love know... don't do it. Really. If there were millions of dollars to be GIVEN away to unsuspecting Americans, don't you think our government would have figured a way to get to that money first? ;)

Tell your mom and dad, tell your grandparents, tell your friends. Just to be safe. I would like to think that everyone I know would know just how bogus these deals are, but ya never know!

And just to see an example of one of the letters, here is an email I have received. I have also received snail mail that looked like someone had taken a lot of time and care to make it look very official. Be aware.

(PS- my favorite part in this letter below is about us "dealing with all those fraudsters that have been frustrating")
__________________________________________

OFFICE OF THE SENATE HOUSE
FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA
COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN PAYMENT
RESOLUTIONPANEL ON CONTRACT PAYMENT)
IKOYI-LAGOS NIGERIA

Our Ref: FGN /SNT/STB
THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA
FEDERAL HOUSE OF SENATE
OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT SENATE

ATTN: Beneficiary,

We, the entire members of the Federal House of Senate, on behalf of the Federal Republic of Nigerian Government, Under the auspices of the civilian Head of State, President Umaru Yar'aDua and the Governor of Central Bank Of Nigeria , Prof Charles Soludo held a meeting last week concerning unpaid payment,allocation/compensation list of contractors,inheritance,next of kin and lotto beneficiaries that originated from Europe, Asia Plus Middle east and Americans,On going through files yesterday, we discovered that your file was dumped untreated, so at this juncture, we apologize for the delay of your payment and to also ask that you put a stop to all communication with any office now and pay attention to the appointed office below for you to receive your payment accordingly.

Now your new Payment Reference No.-321009871, Allocation No: 6890132 ,Password No :AB911001, Pin Code No:01977 and your Certificate of Merit Payment No :103, Released Code No: 0763; Immediate Telex confirmation No:ws0014433 ; Secret Code No: XXFGN013 ,Having received these vital payment information,therefore You are qualified now to received and confirm Your payment with the Federal Government of Nigeria immediately within 24hrs.

Now you are directed to contact the Office of the Paymaster General Federal Republic of Nigeria (Barr Greg Thompson) (CONTACT PHONE NUMBER 0092347039574527)to state to you what it will take to process your payment and also you are required to reconfirm the following Details, this is to avoid mistake while transferring your overdue payment to you.
1.YOUR FULL NAME
2.PHONES AND FAX NUMBER,
3.FULL ADDRESS
4.YOUR AGE AND CURRENT OCCUPATION.
5.SCANNED COPY OF I.D

Contact Person:Barr.Greg Thompson
Email: barr_gregthompson102@live.com

Contact him to know what it will take for your funds to be processed for immediate transfer and forward your Details to his office to avoid transfer mistake.

NOTE : We have mounted our security network to monitor every in-coming call,if we find out that you are still dealing with all those fraudsters that have been frustrating , I shall stop and cancel your payment immediately.


Best Regards
SENATE PRESIDENT
Secretary of the federation
(Federal Republic of Nigeria)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Fantastic Side Effect!

Since we have only been buying the groceries we need, and not all the other stuff that we thought we really wanted, I have been losing weight! :) Combined with the weight that I had lost earlier in the year, I am 15.5 pounds down! 2 pounds since we started our new budget plan.

That is incentive for anyone, huh!? :)

I feel so incredibly powerful and strong!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Calculator in WalMart

I'm gonna toot my own horn here for a quick post. Earlier this week, I went to the store to buy groceries. When I looked at our budget (which is becoming quite a big word around our house) I saw that we only had 54 dollars budgeted for the rest of the week for groceries. So, I put together my list of meals for the rest of the week, what the kids needed, etc... and headed off to Wal*Mart... WITH MY CALCULATOR.

Now the old me would have been slightly embarrassed to be seen walking around with my calculator while grocery shopping. Also, most times I really didn't want to know how much I was really spending...

The outcome: I bought enough for 3 large meals (leftovers are a must now) all the kids snacks and drinks... 33 items for $50.16.

I was so proud of myself! I bought a lot of stuff that was on sale, generic items, and also put back a lot of things that I deemed as just *nice to haves*.

So, I challenge you... take your calculator with you next time. You will be amazed at how it helps you spend a LOT less!

:)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Growing Veggies

My ever-wise friend mentioned that she is going to start growing her own vegetables to save money this spring/summer. I think that is a FANTASTIC idea and would love to make my weed garden actually produce something beneficial this year. Anyone have any advice on what to grow, when, how, etc...? Any good resources online for how to grow your own garden? This is exactly the kind of thing we need in our lives right now!

The Debt Monster

We are making big changes to get out of debt and change our lives. We feel we are sacrificing quite a bit, but it will definitely be worth it to live within our means. The flip side of that is that this is going to be a long process. We no longer use our credit card, and will hopefully never use one again, but paying that down is going to be a big bear, especially when we are just trying to keep up with the interest rate!

For some reason, this is just something that people don't talk about. Maybe we are embarrassed, ashamed, don't want others to know we have debt, whatever the reason may be. I think it is something that we NEED help with from our friends and family. Debt stinks. Big. It can be depressing and there are times when you can feel truly hopeless, like a big old irresponsible dope. If my friends were feeling that way for ANY REASON... I hope they would tell someone and get some much needed hugs and a sympathetic ear! Who cares if it is a self-inflicted problem. Believe me, I bet there are more people out there with THE SAME problem, just nobody wants anyone else to know!

To get to the point, this is me, saying to my friends and family, that debt stinks and I am feeling somewhat depressed and frustrated, even along with all the great changes we are making to make our situation different. I hope that a year from now, I will be feeling completely empowered, proud, relieved, and FREE! And, I hope by this time next year we will be able to GIVE away as much as the debt that we carry right now! Wouldn't that just be INCREDIBLE!?

For all of you out there with the big debt monster in your bill stack... I love you and here is a big, virtual *HUG* and feel free to return it to me... I could use one today!

:)

Flashlight Egg Hunt

We went to the neatest thing the other night, a flashlight Easter Egg Hunt at my friend's house. There were 44 kids (I think) there and it was so much fun. It was extremely well organized, the little kids got to go out first and have a more time to look before the big kids ran out and snagged up all the easy ones. Here are a few photos...





Tonight is the night!

After much searching, both online and out in the real world, Kurt and I are purchasing our used car tonight. Yippppeeee!

For those of you who don't know, we decided to sell our 2005 Honda Accord, pay off the amount we owed, take the extra, and buy a used car out-right so we could get rid of our 404.00 car payment every month.

We looked at a lot of clunker cars and were about to give up that there could be any decent car out there under 6000 when we found the one we are buying tonight!

We saw it last night, Kurt test drove it, checked it all out, and are meeting with the owner today to make the transaction.

We are getting a 2003 Chevy Malibu. I will post photos tomorrow after I clean it all out and get it all nice and spiffy!

Yay! What a crazy month this has been so far!

Sunday, March 09, 2008

The newest Frugal News

Okay, so Kurt and I are really going at this spending less/saving and giving more thing. We did something that I wouldn't have DREAMED we would have done a month, or even two weeks ago.

We sold our Honda and paid it off. As of right now, we are a one car family! AAAAAaaaahhh! As we were trying to decide if that was the right thing for us and how would that work, etc... we got to talking about how warped our American mentality is. Our conversation turned to "Good Lord, what would Saidi and his family say about this..."

Let me give you a little background...

For the past six years, we have sponsored (which means we give money to) a young boy and his family in Malawi, Africa. We write letters and send small gifts, and he writes back to us. He likes to draw us pictures. We get his report cards from school and the program (World Vision) sends us information about his parents and his sister. In the letters, we aren't supposed to talk about any of our material things because most of the families there have NOTHING.

Here we were at Carmax making a *serious* decision about whether we could SURVIVE with ONLY ONE CAR. There are millions of people in the world, including Saidi's family before we sponsored them, with not enough to eat, without clean water, with disease and illnesses with no money for medicines... and Kurt and I were deliberating about having ONLY ONE CAR. Perish the thought. We felt rather humbled as we came to that part of our discussion and realized that having one car is just what we may need for this very moment, even if it lasted for 3 days, it was enough to bring us out of our crazy "we need more to survive" mentality. Living in this country of plenty, we become so warped as to "what we need".

We eventually do plan to buy another car when we find a good deal, but we want to take the money from the sale of the Honda and buy a small, used car in full. Hence, no car payment...

And that brings our current monthly savings to...

Drumroll please...

$896.00/month!

Incredible.

By the way, if anyone is looking for an enriching way to reach out and truly help someone in need, you can sponsor a child through World Vision. Just check out their website. It is amazing to see a child grow and know you are feeding, clothing, and helping their family to survive for the same amount of money that we can blow here with one meal out at Red Robin!

Monday, March 03, 2008

Current Status of Our Frugal Life

Okay...

So, just by making some hard, hard decisions and making a few phone calls, each month we will save $492.00 so far! We won't be paying child care or house cleaning anymore. We went down in all of our plans for DirecTV, our phone, our internet connection. We got rid of Netflix.

So, just those changes got us $492 more a month! Now, we will work on getting rid of our car payment!

:)

Yipppeeeee!

(I may need a lot of encouragement through this from all of you, my friends and family. Help me keep my priorities straight and remind me that it is all just STUFF)

Saturday, March 01, 2008

How can we live frugally?

Kurt and I have been meeting with a Christian Finanical Advisor for many different reasons. First off, we need to live more within our means. I admit it. We have a lot of work to do. We want to save a lot more than we are. We want to have ZERO debt. We want to tithe and donate more than we are to charities. Right now, we are doing it, but it isn't the priority we want it to be.

Soo.... we are looking for ways to drastically change our lives so we can feel we are more in control and living comfortably, while also giving as much as we can to others.

Some things we are discussing:

* The possibility of having one car or Kurt carpooling to work.
* The possibility of trading in our Honda and then buying a car (5-6K) straight out so we have no car payment.
* Downsizing our home
* Getting rid of child care and having the kids home with me while I work
* Getting rid of our land line phone
* Getting rid of Netflix
* Downgrading our internet package
* Finding more income (both Kurt and I)
* Having a huge yard sale with all the stuff we have that we don't need (about 50% of our stuff is just stuff)
* Having ZERO budget for eating out, all meals from home
* Making large meals that make lots of leftovers, then freezing them
* Stopping off first at the Dollar Tree store when we before we go grocery shopping (they have a LOT of stuff that we buy for full price at Food Lion)
* Cutting our heat back 2 degrees
* Turning off lights/TV/etc.. when not in the room

Anybody know of any other good ideas for living frugally? Up until now, we haven't been living as we should, so we aren't used to this mindset.

Any ideas are welcome! What works for you? What is something you heard or read about?

The Big Kurthuna

:)

This was another fun thing to do at Great Wolf Lodge...

video

The Great Wolf Lodge



Poor Kurt. His birthday has either been right after the birth of a child or a child's big milestone birthday for the past 3 years, and we haven't done much to celebrate with him. I decided this year we would do something big and have a bunch of fun for his birthday.

I surprised him with an evening and 2 days at The Great Wolf Lodge.

That place is incredible! It is a beautiful resort and has a fantastic waterpark indoors. The kids had fun, we had fun, and it was a wonderful time for his birthday!

Have birthday, Kurt! We love you so much!

Here is a slideshow page I put together if you want to see photos...
Great Wolf Lodge Photos

Brody's Birthday Party



Since Brody was sick for his birthday party, we had to wait a few weeks to go to the Jumpin Monkey. Here are just a few of the gazillion photos the my mom, sister, and I took!

The kids had a ball!