Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Obsession: Part 1

When I started my sophomore year in high school in 1992, I was one of those people who associated with people from a variety of cliques but was never really close with anyone. In ninth grade I had a good friend Kim, but she started dating someone at the start of sophomore year and we didn’t talk as much. The lunchroom in the high school was the stereotypical set-up from a John Hughes movie where people congregated with like people. There wasn’t a table for nerdy girls with a touch of goth who liked to keep up with the school gossip. I could have sat with several acquaintances, but I didn’t quite fit in with any of their social circles. And the noise in the cafeteria was a bit over the top. Hence, I spent most lunch hours in the hallway. There ended up being a bunch of us who started eating, socializing, and doing homework in the hallway sitting on the floor, backs against the walls. It wasn’t always the same people, but there were usually at least five of us who would laugh and talk as we did homework and ate our lunch.

I have always found it interesting to people watch, even when I was younger. Since we were in the hallway, we got to see lots of people amble to their lockers while they gossiped with friends. I got to find out who was dating whom, observed a few almost fistfights, saw teachers yell at each other, all that good stuff you don’t get to see if you’re in the cafeteria during lunch.

Every day the same guy started walking by. He had two other guys with him. You know how some people you know the name of even though you don’t have any classes with them? That was PK. He was some sort of legend around the school. Not a legend in a good way though. He wore black, often a black trenchcoat over the black clothes, and he was weird and unpredictable. The two guys that were always with him weren’t legends. I had no idea what their names were at the time, and the group of us named PK’s two friends The Followers. Because they seemingly followed PK around all the time.

I’d be lying if I didn’t admit PK was intriguing. He was a senior, was one of those guys that looked way too old to be a senior, had the black goth-like attire, and the guy had Followers. So he obviously had some sort of charisma.

After a month of seeing PK and his Followers walk around during lunch, I started getting more curious. One day PK wasn’t there, and it seemed like his Followers were aimlessly walking around without their Leader. I got the attention of one of the Followers and invited him to sit down with us. His name was SA. And then I proceeded to quiz SA on PK. I didn’t find out much. But the one thing that did happen was that SA would either eat with us or stop by every day after that, and we became good friends.

One day PK came by while SA was eating with us and motioned for SA to go with him. SA said no, which I’m sure ticked PK off. How dare his Follower have a mind of his own?

Time started to blur. SA became an almost permanent fixture of our group. PK knew who I was. As in, if he saw me in the hallway between classes, he may nod at me or acknowledge my presence. He didn’t usually acknowledge anyone’s presence, so I suppose I was moving up in the world according to PK.

PK was odd, definitely odd. But he didn’t quite scare me back then. He liked to play mind games. While I’m not a mind game pro, I learned what got under his skin. And I tried to keep from him what got under my skin because I knew he’d try to purposely push my buttons if he knew what would work.

One day I was working on my homework while listening to the lunchtime conversation. I was sitting against the wall. All of a sudden I saw black pants in front of me. I knew PK was standing right in front of me. Who else wore black khakis to school and would stand quietly right in front of someone? PK was trying to irritate me, so I kept doing my homework and not acknowledging him. Soon he was distracting everyone else, and all the chatter stopped as they watched to see how this would play out between PK and me. PK was staring down at me, and everyone else was staring at both of us. He very slowly knelt down until his face was a few inches from mine. At that point I had to look at him. It was completely unnerving because that was as close as I had ever gotten to someone of the male persuasion thus far in my 14 years of life. I was very nervous about what he would do, but he seemed to genuinely smile. I swear he had kind eyes at that moment.

PK: Hi
Me: Hi
PK: Whatcha doing?
Me: Homework

Then we had another long look at each other, his face still just inches from me. And he got up and left. That was it. My friends started making fun of him after he left. I sat there not knowing what to think.

Our interactions continued in the following months during lunch. And then The Day happened. He had his hands in his trenchcoat pockets, and they were up a little so that his coat appeared like it was a cape. He had some Followers in tow. I was starting to stand up since it was almost time for class. I got the impression PK was in a very odd mood, so I was watching him carefully as my friends and I chatted. He came up to me and said in only the way that PK could say something, “Today’s my birthday.” So I responded with Happy Birthday. It turns out he was turning 18. I would have expected he was turning 19 or even 20 by how old he looked. Then he comes extremely close to me and says in a lecherous way, “What are you going to give me for my birthday?” Cue heebie jeebies.

“Nothing. You wish.” And then I walked away. Why was I mean? First of all, he was acting like an ass on purpose to impress his friends. Second of all, I knew it would irritate him. If you use me as some sort of easy target, then you reap what you sow.

As I walked away, cue taunting from PK’s Followers and my friends. The next day was the pivotal moment. Coincidence, or did I tick PK off & what happened was his retribution? I am 99% sure what happened the next day was due to what I said when he asked me what I was going to give him for his birthday.

The next day I was walking down the hall with a friend at lunch. PK is coming toward us, carrying a tennis racquet and dressed in shorts. I'm presuming he got done with PE, but who really knows? I was talking to my friend, and as he approaches PK lifts up the racquet. He looks like he's going to bop me on the head with the racquet, so I try to block him by putting my hand on his racquet. The next thing I know I'm facing the wall with the tennis racquet under my chin and with PK pulling it tighter. Breathing was becoming an issue. My friend tried to get PK off me. Finally a teacher started coming down the hall, and PK released me. He walked away.

So that point I was a tad freaked out. I went to the group we usually hang out with at lunch and told them that PK practically strangled me with a tennis racquet. Then PK appears...again... and tells me next time I won't be so lucky and pulls out a switchblade and flicks it at my hand (you know how you can push a spot on them and the blade pops out). He does it in front of the whole group.

Creepy? Scary? Just write it off? I really didn't know what to do at that point. He wanders off as the bell rings, and I try to act like nothing has happened. By my last class of the day, I heard several versions of the incident being whispered about. Of course, the victim of PK's weapon-wielding wasn't mentioned. Of course, because I was a piddly sophomore and a wallflower. While it is entirely possible that I'm exaggerating the extent to which the whole school knew something happened between PK and some chick, let's just say you could hear people talking about it in the halls. People I didn't even know were talking about it.

I didn't say anything about it to anyone other than my carpool buddy. Her mom picked us up from school, and my mom drove us to school. The next morning my friend was talking about it, and my mom expressed some curiosity about it. So I tried to explain that he was a wacko senior who had a lack of social skills and a knife. Thought nothing of it.

I was summoned out of biology class by the principal. Apparently my mom called him saying that someone threatened her daughter with a weapon at school. He wanted to know my side of the story. After I told them, they brought the whole security squad in and summoned PK out of class, searched him, found the switchblade, and expelled him.

I suppose it was fitting that PK's parents picked him up as my friends and I were eating lunch in the hallway. He gave me the death stare the whole way out of the building.

You ever have a moment where you just realize that you're done? I had been contemplating entering the Running Start program. It was a relatively new program where you could go to community college for your last two years of high school and earn dual high school and college credit. For example, if you needed a history class to graduate, you could take one of a handful of history classes at the community college. As long as the class you picked also qualified toward an AA degree, you would get "credit" for both high school and college at the same time. While I had been interested in the program, I knew that I would lose touch with high school friends if I started. But after the PK incident, I decided I just couldn't deal with high school crap anymore and went to see the school counselor to ask how I could apply. I was approved, and I said sayonara to high school after my sophomore year.

You thought my obsession story had ended? Ha, we still haven't gotten to the good stuff! Part 2 to come.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Obsession: The Prologue

Two different things occurred on the same day recently that had the same theme: Obsession. Obsession is an intriguing concept. Most of us use the term more freely than I believe it is intended. I know I do.

When you confront real obsession, it takes your breath away.

I’m going to try to capture my one real experience with true obsession over several blog posts. Yes, it’s a departure from money & Julia’s poor eating & my fruitless attempts to lose weight, which this blog tends to revolve around more often than not. For some reason, I feel compelled to go there.

So I will begin to write. Not sure how long this will take and how many posts it will be.

Fundraising Blahs

I haven’t blogged in several days. I’m toying with some entries in my head, not sure I want to go there but I likely will. So my mind has been occupied by that, and I’ve been reading, doing puzzles, and irritating my husband when not playing with Julia or trying to get her to eat.

We got our first fundraiser attempt as a parent. Oh, how I hate fundraisers! Please, just charge the amount it really costs to teach my child upfront. I’ll pay it. Don’t make me hawk crap on the side. I tried to keep an open mind as I went through the 3 different brochures of crap that they want us to buy ourselves and then hawk to our friends/family. Overpriced crap. Crap you can light (candles), crap you can eat (cookie dough and candy…like I need that), and crap you can hang (Christmas decorations). And how much of the proceeds goes to the school? Yeah, it omitted that part.

Julia tore up the order form as she was playing with it. Oops, guess I can’t order anything now. ;) I’m sure this is only the first of many hundreds of fundraising attempts that I’ll be bombarded with from my own child.

Friday, September 25, 2009

I did it!

I ran 16 minutes tonight. And I didn't die. I thought at the end I just might because the Mammoth Hill was waiting for me for the last minute, but I got through it. I haven't run this much since 9th grade when they forced you to run in boot camp....errrrr, PE.

My reward to myself was some peach water and a bath. I'm a simple girl. Naps, baths & food. You can get me to do anything if you dangle any of those three at me.

Tonight was an open house at daycare. S and I are so proud of Miss J's improvement. She loves most of the teachers there, and she is absolutely head over heels for her new teacher Rosemary. She is simply amazing.

We went through all of the classrooms and listened to all of the different teachers talk about the curriculum and what they do. Julia felt comfortable enough to play and laugh as she wandered away from us. It makes us so proud because Julia pretty much hated the first year of her life. She would scream for hours all day long. She was extremely disagreeable, wouldn't eat and hated if we were more than a foot away from her. The infant teacher keeps commenting how the Julia of today (who does the chicken dance to amuse the other kids) is a completely different girl from the one in January.

Rosemary did say that Julia is clingy with her. I think she's less clingy than she was with the infant teachers, but Rosemary wasn't her teacher back then so it's hard to definitively say her clinginess is getting better.

On the whole, she's one of the more sociable kids in her class. She loves carrying around dolls and burping them, she's eating more purees for Rosemary, she's learning sign language, saying a few words, and affectionate with almost all of the teachers.

The lone exception is with Jessica (who used to be her toddler teacher for 2 and a half months). When we went into Jessica's new classroom, Julia didn't want anything to do with her. Every other teacher she was playful with, but she avoided Jessica like the plague. And I learned that she will switch to that room at 18 months and be in that room until 2 and a half. I'm already having heart palpitations at the thought. I will bury my head in the sand and hope that Jessica gets another job by December and then they move Rosemary back to the other room.

I will live in denial until December.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Lost pacis and passed out runners

I got a new computer. I've named it Sidney. Sid for short. I like that I can unplug it without it dying. That's a nice feature for a laptop. :) And I like that it doesn't take 10 minutes to connect to my e-mail. And it has a number pad, so I can amortize my heart out. Miss J is quite taken by Sid. Must keep Droolmonster away from Sid.

Yesterday I completed Week 3 of Couch to 5K. Tomorrow starts Week 4. In week 3 I ran for 9 minutes. In week 4 I run for 16 minutes. Ouch! That's quite an increase. I think I may fall over in the street tomorrow night when I attempt the run.

Pay no attention to the passed out chubby woman sprawled out on the concrete. That's why I run at twilight or in the dark. Less chance of people pointing and laughing. I think I run like Phoebe on Friends, plus I'm overweight. Bad combo.

I don't have much of note to talk about. I'm not even watching any prime time TV. I only watch Big Bang Theory, and I missed that due to falling asleep on Monday. Hulu and CBS don't show it. I saw a short clip on Youtube, but Warner Brothers took down the other parts. Why is every other show online except that one?

Julia just lost her paci. It sounds like Plinko from the Price Is Right as it falls through the slats. Why must she sleep with her face smushed in the crib slats? It really doesn't seem like a comfy sleeping position. We were out of pacifiers this evening, and I went hunting under her crib. There was a clump of 5 of them under there. They must fall through at the same exact place where she smushes her face. Crazy girl.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Purging the mind

It is late, and I should be in bed. Well, I am in bed with my very sickly laptop. My mind is still active though. Here are tonight's random thoughts and issues:

1. I spent 2 hours looking at laptops tonight. You know me, I'm a nerd. There's a bazillion different laptops out there, and no one store sells the exact same laptop. Each one has a slightly different processor and features. I'm getting too absorbed in the details if I've been on the Intel site looking up differences between bus speeds of different processors. My main issue should be figuring out whether I want one in the $600, $800 or $1,000 price range. My last two computers were Dells. I think they suited me fine, but part of me mainly wants a big change. I think I'd like to try an HP or a Toshiba. Oh, and #1 on my priority list is to get a number pad. How can I amortize things without one? I am silly. I do have a number pad that connects via USB, but that's a pain to cart around.

2. Price reduction on the house we liked. Awesome view, awesome deck, one less bedroom, not a lot of storage space. If it had one more bedroom, one more garage, or at least a bonus room, we'd have an offer in. Since it doesn't have any of those, we will continue to wait and see what comes on the market.

3. When we came into this marriage, I was the one who had never had a Kraft single. S was the one who never had "real" cheese (he lived overseas in Africa and Pakistan). It's funny how we've introduced each other and made huge switches in preferences. I prefer "fake" Swiss cheese slices in wrappers now. S likes the big ol' blocks of cheddar. Julia is quite fond of either, but I think the fake Swiss wins out. It was on sale last week for $1. She's practically eaten it all. I think real Swiss is a bit much for her yet, so I will scour the stores for fake Swiss and see if I can find a good deal on it.

4. I finished Week 3, Day 2 of the Couch to 5K workout. I'm up to running for 3 continuous minutes. Never thought it would happen. So far I like the program even if a couch isn't involved.

5. I ate crappy today. Didn't go over my points that much, but I made very unwise choices. I bought all that soup last week and should eat that instead of cake. When I get close to weigh-in day, I'm reticent about eating too much sodium. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

6. I channeled Ellyn Satter today successfully. (Ellyn is this kid food guru whose mantra is kids will eat when they're hungry. I have problems with this theory, but I've been trying to let it go and listen to my inner Ellyn. Mostly unsuccessfully except for today. Hey, I'm trying to improve.) I've been giving Julia a sippy cup of milk intermixed with a bit of juice for months now at every meal. And she only drinks it if she hasn't drank any bottle within the past several hours. It has been so discouraging. If daycare offers her water or juice, she WILL drink that. So today I gave up on the milk with meals. She can have juice or water. It turns out she drank her sippy cup today. The first day in ... oh ... forevvvver. Yeah, she didn't have as much bottle as usual to compensate from the increased liquids from juice. Oh well. Right? Isn't that what Ellyn would say?

7. I love the toddler teacher. She is doing so great with Julia on feeding, sign language, and general learning. As much as I hate being a pain in the butt, I'm glad I complained. Rosemary is sooooo much better than Jessica.

8. I got a response to my question about the Monarch software! When I go into work tomorrow, I'm going to see if his suggestion works.

9. True story. Someone called me for my help on a spreadsheet. I gave the person instructions and said, "Press the Enter key." I was asked, "Where's the enter key?" Some people should not own computers.

10. I have never watched an episode of American Idol. But with Ellen as a judge now, I might just tune in one day.

11. Hulu is awesome.

12. Youtube is awesome.

Lucky 13. I need to get to bed.

Luckier 14. I need to buy some new bras. Minimizer types. I have one bra I like, and it's a minimizer. I saw some online, but I think I should try them on in person first.

Monday, September 21, 2009

2 Year Anniversary!

I just realized that in the past 3 months Julia has gained 2.5 pounds. That's amazing! I think her second year of life is agreeing with her a lot better than her first year of life. She has a little bit of thigh chub and a little belly now. She's eating more solids. She loves cheese and she's taking yogurt again (the red Yoplaits). She also loves gummy fruit snacks. She will throw out her pacifier and chase you around the house if she sees you with fruit snacks. She loves iced tea, and she's starting to be a little more adventurous with tasting foods. Veggies are a miss, but we offer them to her. We're holding steady at the 50% milk/50% formula in a bottle mixture. We still have sippy cup challenges, as in she knows how to use it but refuses to. Once we get to 100% milk, we'll have to be a bit more aggressive with the sippy cup.

Today is the 2 year anniversary that we knew Miss J was coming into the world. We started trying September 1 of 2007, and I was thoroughly convinced it would take a long time. Thus, during September I inhaled paint fumes, had my wisdom teeth taken out, and rode every ride at the Puyallup Fair at least once. My impatient husband pestered me, so I took a test even before I should. I threw it away because it was negative. Then I passed by the trash can and if you looked hard, you could see a second line. I thought both lines should be of equal darkness if it was indeed positive. Since I had forgotten about it sitting there for half an hour(because I didn't think there was any chance of a positive result) & it said you can get a false positive if you leave it sitting there too long, I thought not much of it and pulled it out of the trash just in case. I casually showed it to my dear husband when he got home, and he broke it to me that I was pregnant. I still was in denial, and then I made him take a pregnancy test. His didn't get a faint line - in fact, there was no line at all. We celebrated by going to Target to get prenatal vitamins because that's how we roll.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


It seems too hot to be this close to fall. Even so, the trees aren't fooled, and they're starting to turn.

I love fall. By far it's my favorite season. It seems as though it's everyone else's favorite season too. Summer is by far my least favorite season. Winter is okay except that my husband complains endlessly about how cold I want it inside. Spring is okay for about a week. Fall, my sweets, is several months of being treated like a queen and being surrounded by pumpkins, Halloween candy, earlier nightfall, the smell of wood stoves throughout the neighborhood, and footie pajamas being a novelty again.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Call me a quitter

I'm about halfway into the month where I was going to track expenses, and I've decided that this attempt is like every other attempt. I realize that, for the most part, we don't spend much on outlandish things. Utility bills, groceries, gas, etc. Nothing terribly exciting or wasteful. And I figured out the difference between what used to be our "normal" and our new "normal" is Julia's stuff: medical expenses, formula, Simply Thick liquid thickener, her food, etc. So I suppose the exercise taught me that our new normal includes different types of expenses than we used to have. Therefore, I think I'm going to postpone itemizing everything. It gets tedious to remember to jot things down for this blog.

Of course I'll still devote some posts to money issues.

I'm so excited because this week I actually got brave enough to look at my 401(k) account. It's been a lonnnnnng time. I picked good investments, but for a long while I kept losing more than I was contributing. At some times, ignorance is indeed bliss. Imagine my surprise when my balance was much higher than expected. Yay for good market returns for the past few months! And I hit a wonderful 401(k) milestone, which made it all the sweeter. I have more in my account than my husband has in his account. We are extremely competitive with each other, and I revel in having more than him. We're not at ALL competitive!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Lots o' Things

#1 Julia has surpassed 20 lbs!!!!!!!! Oh yeah, baby, that's what weekly feeding therapy + major daycare intervention will get you. I want to eat a Reese's to celebrate! The bummer is that Julia has stalled in the height department. The doctor's concerned but will wait to see if she improves by 18 months. If not, then lovely bone and hormone tests will ensue. I tell ya, it's always something. And of course there's nothing you can do when it comes to helping them gain height. Back to the good stuff... we're definitely seeing weight improvement. She's no longer considered failure to thrive! I want to delete my failure to thrive group membership, but I know that's just jinxing it.

#2 The ear tube surgery went well, and she seemed perfectly normal (or even a little better than normal) today.

#3 She got bit at daycare AGAIN today. I wonder if these kids pack heat too.

#4 On the way to the doctor appointment today, I went through 4 school zones + got blocked by school buses TWICE! I had to pick up the bottle cooler before picking up Miss J, and the elementary school bus stop is right in front of my house. Yes, this will be great once she goes to elementary school. But right now when I'm trying to get to a doctor appointment on time, it sucks to be stuck in your driveway waiting for a full bus to unload. Then after I picked her up, I got blocked in the daycare by another bus that was unloading. That one was on a main road, so not only do you have to wait for all the kids to unload, then you have to try to make a left across a busy street that has just been blocked by a school bus for 3 minutes. I can't believe we were only 4 minutes late to the appointment.

#5 School pictures. Seriously? She's 1. They're already hawking this crap. And you have to buy them before you see them. I am still irritated about the Easter pictures. Without my knowlege, they took her Easter pictures and put her in an outfit they put all the other infant girls in. The outfit wasn't washed between kids, and a few hours later she got hit with a stomach virus. I swear it was because of the germ tainted communal outfit. Ugh!

#6 Occasionally at work we get fed lunch. If we're at a meeting and the meeting spans lunch most notably, and sometimes we also get fed if there's leftovers from a meeting you're not actually attending. Today I realized that I'm a lunch snob. I went to a meeting, fully expecting to have the *usual* catered lunch, and lunch ended up being tortilla roll-ups (you know the deli meat, cheese rolled up in a tortilla), oreos & grapes. It's a fine lunch, but I'm used to fancy salads, meat dishes, steamed veggies, rice or pasta, gourmet cookies and pastries. So it was kind of a letdown. At least tomorrow I'll know to lower my expectations for the meeting lunch.

#7 I did Couch to 5K, Week 2, Day 1 today. And I LIVED!!! In total there's one more minute of running (9 minutes instead of 8 minutes). The big change is that you run longer for each interval although there are less intervals. Dude, I reversed my neighborhood path to avoid running up a mammoth hill, and now with the interval change I have to run my last interval up a mammoth hill. UGH!!!! Well, I'd rather that happening at the end of the run instead of the beginning.

#8 At the meeting today we had a presentation by someone from a state agency. This guy came to the meeting wearing jeans, an untucked polo shirt, and Timberland boots. While I admit I'm a very casual dresser, if I were to give a presentation to a group of 25 people outside of my organization, I would wear something more professional. Heck, khakis + tucked polo shirt + loafers would suffice just fine. I don't think I'm asking for that much.

College Savings

If you have one child or more, have you considered the cost of college? It's incredibly expensive now, so just imagine how expensive it's going to be when your child(ren) will be going.

There are two financial debates as it relates to college expenses for children.

1. Is it the parents' responsibility to pay for the costs of their children's college education?

2. Should the parents prioritize their children's education over their retirement?

I fall into the NO and NO camp. S and I are making a conscientious choice to pay for our child's education because we are pretty sure we are on our way to having a solid retirement. If we have leftover money after the bills are paid and we save for retirement, then we think we should save for Julia's future education.

If you are barely making it, then of course your child's education will take a backseat to everyday expenses and your retirement. However, I encourage you to take a look at your expenses to make sure you're trimming your budget as much as you can.

Once we decided that we were going to pay for Julia's education, I looked at each state's 529 plan. While each state sponsors one or more 529 plans, you're not relegated to using the plan that belongs to your state. Particularly with states with income tax, there can be advantages to using your state's plan. Washington doesn't have state income tax & I don't particularly like Washington's plan, so I was happy to compare all of the plans.

529 plans come in two general categories: prepaid tuition (Washington's plan) and plans with investment choices. A 529 plan with investment choices is very similar to a Roth IRA. You put in after-tax money now, and it grows tax-free as long as you use it for an educational purpose & abide by the other withdrawal guidelines. The tax-free compound growth is awesome! Plus, if she doesn't need all of the money for college, we can change the beneficiary on the plan and give it to someone else in the family or use the money for college education when we're older. Yes, S and I both have master's degrees but would like to get more education in our later years.

I analyzed a lot of the 529 plans offered by the various states, and for our situation we picked the Iowa 529 plan. It's handled by Vanguard, which is one of the financial institutions I regard highly. It has relatively low expenses as well. Plus I liked their investment choices.

We've been contributing for about 3 years now. We started before she was even conceived, and I named myself the beneficiary. When she was born, we changed her to be the beneficiary. There are annual gift tax limitations, $13,000 this year, so be prepared if you want to gift something over this amount and spread it over 2 or more years.

A 529 plan is a great way to save for college. Personally I do like the investment plans over the prepaid plans. However, we chose really aggressive investments and are paying the price with a 20% decline in the investments due to the market. We're holding tight despite the losses because we know the market will pick back up at some point. Plus she has 17 years before she will need the money.

I don't have the time to go over all the other great things about 529 plans. However, this website is great and will give you tons of information:

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

3 Things

1 - My computer is in turmoil. It took 10 minutes to log into e-mail. My PHONE retrieves my e-mail faster. My laptop is almost 4 years old. I wanted to squeak a couple more years out of it, but it looks like that ain't happening.

2 - Julia is doing okay after getting her tubes put in. She had a rough half hour after waking up from the anaesthesia, but a good nap + some food helped tremendously. We the parents are in a ton of trouble with the in-laws for not telling every person in the family that Julia was going for the surgery. In our defense, we only scheduled it on Friday & S's parents were traveling. After being talked to like we are little children who did something naughty, I'm not feeling particularly up to offering to buy them plane tickets up here for Christmas.

3 - I think I'm going to hell. I went to Fred Meyer after work because they had some in-store coupons. An elderly gentleman (as in, completely hunched over and walking about 10 feet per minute and completely gray) was buying milk. He was soooooooo slow. He literally took half-gallons of skim milk out of the milk case one at a time at a snail's pace. He bought 10 of them, complete with opening the milk case, taking one out, closing the door, putting it in his cart... 10 times. He bought 5 gallons of milk. That's a lot of milk. I thought maybe he had grandkids, but most kids drink 2% or whole. Maybe it's just him and a wife, maybe older grandkids? Who knows. But 5 gallons of milk in however long milk is good (2 weeks?) is a LOT of milk. It was an extremely long time to wait for him to get done so I could get S's milk. I tried to wait patiently, as he was quite up there in age & he couldn't help being slow as molasses. The poor guy had toilet paper and ex-lax in his cart. Here's where I'm going to hell: I wanted to tell him that if he didn't drink so much milk that maybe he wouldn't need the ex-lax.

I don't know about you, but I hate unsolicited advice from other grocery store patrons. So I didn't say a word, but I thought it. And it is true advice - dairy messes up with some people's intestines.

$57.89 in groceries today. Well, $9 worth of toilet paper on sale, $15 for formula, $3.50 for 60 ounces of shampoo, plus $30 in groceries.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Stocks vs. Mutual Funds

I like investing in mutual funds. My main obsession is with the "Target 20_ _" mutual funds. Pick a target year to end, and you're set. The mutual fund automatically changes its stock vs. bond allocation so you don't have to worry about a thing. Love it.

The financial planner in me loves individual stocks as well. It's kind of like trying to find the next "hot thing" in a pile of mediocrity. I like donning my talent agent glasses and trying to find the next Will Smith. How do you do this? You look at fun stuff like betas, average annual return, debt-to-equity ratios, profitability percentages, and then you get out your crystal ball on what the future has in store for different market segments. And then things go topsy turvy, and you try to sound intelligible as you try to justify why you thought Washington Mutual was a good buy in August 2008. True story.

The upside with individual stocks is that you have a larger potential for gain. The downside, of course, is that you have a larger potential for loss. Plus, there's the babysitting factor for stocks you want to keep for the short or mid-term.

Yes, folks, if you want individual stocks in your portfolio, you must babysit them. Check up on them at least once a week, see what's going on with the company, the new products coming out, the "buzz," their last quarterly earnings and profitability.

For over a year I haven't checked on my individual stocks. Folks, I have forgotten the individual stocks that I have. I know I have some Microsoft, some Procter & Gamble (thank you, Tide and Charmin users!) and ... some others I can't remember because I'm having a bit of a hard time remembering my Sharebuilder password.

I will be checking in this week and going through those stocks. First step: Logging in. Second step: Seeing what stocks I own.

Yeah, I've been a sucky stock babysitter.

C25K Week One Completed

Do you know what weekends are great for? Baths and naps! I'm a simple girl. Give me a tub full of bubbles (and water of course!) and ample sleeping opportunities, and I'm happy.

On Saturday I finished the second workout for C25K. My mantra for the Thursday night workout was: "I hate this." My mantra for Saturday was: "You know, I don't particularly like this, but there are worst things I could be doing." See, so there was some progress. Tonight I did the third workout. The first three intervals are awful. The music is awful, plus you have many, many long intervals to go. A tolerable song starts at the beginning of the 4th interval and continues to the 5th interval, so that makes it more tolerable. And then you only have 3 intervals to go after that, so it's the downhill slide that gets you through the rest. After the 6th running interval, the narrator says that you should be feeling it but "not feel tired or out of breath." WTH? If a non physically fit person is running for 6 minutes - even if it's spaced out some - I think it's normal to feel tired and out of breath. I sure was tired and out of breath.

When I walk through my neighborhood, I always go on a specific path, but I realized that the C25K just doesn't "jive" with my path well. For instance, one of the running intervals started at the exact moment I'm starting to climb a mammoth incline (okay, it's a hill). Talk about setting yourself up for failure. I found on my second workout that if I reverse the path I usually do, it works much better. I'm not running at the precise moment I have to climb Mt. Everest. With the path change, I climb the mammoth hill right after I finish my last run. It's not pretty, but at least I can walk up it knowing that I completed the hard part.

Tomorrow is Julia's outpatient surgery for ear tubes. Hopefully it goes well, and she feels okay afterward.

$5.78 Groceries
$50 Outpatient Surgery copay for Tuesday

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Christmas Angst and Giveaways

Groceries: including 4 lbs chicken, 10 containers Yoplait, bananas, Julia food (Gerber stuff) and other food I can't remember totaling $24.33.
Gift: $25

I have subscribed to quite a number of blogs, and I do love it. Even if I only check in once a day, I have oodles of blogs to read. Sometimes when certain people post I feel like I need to grab some popcorn and get ready for a fun time. I guess it's like when a new book by your favorite author comes out. (Hey, my life isn't all that exciting. Good blog reading is about the highlight of my day.)

What makes me sigh are the giveaway posts. It's a way bloggers earn exposure, I suppose. They have some product and you get a chance to win it if you promote their blog by promoting it on your blog.

I suppose if I had something worthwhile and was into blogging for actual exposure and revenue, I might take pleasure in giving away crap that's just taking space around my house. Or stuff that a manufacturer sends to me in the hopes that I will give the manufacturer exposure. But at this point in my life, I just find the whole giveaway thing nonsensical; however, I read all those posts because I think there's something important I might miss if I don't.

You know, the idea of giving away stupid crap taking up space in my house is starting to look very appealing.


It is only September, and I am already quaking in my clogs about Christmas. Oh how I wish I could go into hiding for Christmas.

1 - I am the worst gift giver ever. I like practical gifts myself, so I tend to give practical gifts. Most people hate practical gifts. Fine, then I'm cool with making people cookies as gifts. Oh, cookies are practical and you're on a diet? Blah. Gift card? Gift cards aren't 'personal' enough? Oh, for heaven's sake!

2 - I don't ever know what to get for my husband. Yes, I know him. I know his likes and dislikes. But that still doesn't make it any easier. Friends and family are in that same category. It doesn't help that I don't like to shop. I rarely wander around stores aimlessly, so I don't happen to ever bump into anything that would be just perfect for ____.

3 - I never know what to get for my mother. She never wants anything or needs anything. And she gets mad if you don't give her what she wants. Yes, she has stopped talking to people over the Christmas gifts people give her. It's a lost cause, which probably created all of my Christmas angst to begin with.

4 - One year my mother asked what we wanted. She insisted on getting us something. So I told her a set of bowls we can microwave. We did get microwavable bowls. They were kinda funky - that green tinted glass. Not so much a fan of them, but they work. See, we're not on the same wavelength. I'd like to pick out my own bowls. She'd like to pick out her own toaster oven. Let's just not exchange gifts anymore.

5 - Due to my awful gift giving and persistent angst over Christmas, I keep suggesting we do NOT exchange gifts. With S's parents, we've made that agreement before. And then they give us blue silk pillows for our green couch, and we don't have anything to give them. ARGH!

6 - I know, it's the thought. And gosh I think hard about all this. The family politics, the appropriateness of gifts, the stupidity that gift giving takes center stage to the religious holiday.

7 - I would love to model that it's the holiday season of generosity and helping out the less fortunate that makes it so wonderful. I'd like to take Julia to help in a shelter. I'd like us to go visit someone who is in a nursing home that doesn't have grandkids. Hmmm, Julia's probably too young for the homeless shelter, but I bet she isn't too young to take her to the nursing home. We could pick a person off the tree and bring them cookies and a new blanket. I like that idea.

Now if I can solve my other Christmas dilemmas, I'll be set.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Couch to 5k

Today Julia had her ENT appointment. $20 copay before I forget. Julia is a classic case for tubes in her ears, as expected. Outpatient surgery next Tuesday. We survived the horror of the endoscopy, so compared to that, we're not particularly worried about this surgery. The horror of the endoscopy was that she didn't eat from 7pm until noon the next day. By the end, she was just laying there without enough Julia gusto to even scream or complain. That, my dears, is a scary sight. Seeing Julia too weak to even protest being accosted by doctors and nurses is absolutely horrifying because Julia's feisty attitude is what makes her Julia.

Today I started the Couch to 5k program (C25K for short). Has anyone done this? Since couch is in the name, I kinda thought the program went like this:

Week 1: Lay on couch
Week 2: Contemplate getting up from couch
Week 3: Put your shoes on like Mr. Rogers and take a 5 minute walk
Week 4: Up it to a 10 minute walk
Week 5: Up it to a 15 minute walk

And somehow by Week 9, you're running a 5K. Whattya think?

Okay, I knew that was a delusional fitness path. But I did think the couch was involved in Week 1. The impetus to this plan is NOT running. I hate running more than I hate taking Julia for an endoscopy. The impetus is that I need to get fit. And walking is not doing it for me. My body is used to walking. I could walk 10 miles and not really feel it. I need to up the ante on my exercise program, and doing the horrific running had to be involved to start getting more aerobic benefit.

Stupid butt running.

S downloaded me a podcast that follows the C25K program. It's 30 minutes with warm up and cool down. And I freaking DID it tonight. And you're thinking, "Wow, you sat on the couch and contemplated getting up. Congratulations."

Oh, my dears, Week 1 of the C25K doesn't have anything to do with a couch. I really wish it did because I can make butt implant marks on couches like no one's business. No, couches were not involved. It was a 5 minute warm-up, many intervals of running and walking & then a 5 minute cool down. I RAN as in RAN for 8 minutes (spaced out of course). WTH???? Where's the couch part? Running 8 minutes is practically like running a mile. This is a stupid exercise program if you're running a mile out of 3 miles right off the bat.

The podcast is very helpful, but the music is horrid. I'm not a fan of electronica/raver music with a tad of Gregorian chant. The raver music is what my acid dropping friends listened to back in high school and community college. Ick. And the Gregorian chant is not appropriate ... ever. When I worked in the gynecologist office, the office manager would play the Gregorian chant throughout the whole place. Seriously, dude, not cool. So the music is not my favorite, but the cues to walk - run are helpful.

Another reason I like this exercise plan is that you only have to do it 3x a week. I can do 30 minutes of torture 3x a week.

Have I mentioned how much I hate running? If this program gets me to actually run a 5k, then anyone can do it.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Brand Name vs. Generic

For the most part, I don't have a lot of loyalty to any one brand of product. Hubby likes Heinz ketchup. We buy that at Costco in the 10 lb vat. It's too pricey in the bottles, so we get the big ol' vat of it & he funnels it into bottles.

Despite price, what are the things you make it a priority to have even if they cost more?

I do like my contact cleaner (Bausch & Lomb). I tried the generic, and it really irritated my eyes.

I like the Huggies Body Wash for Julia. We're out of it right now, and I'm trying to find coupons for it. That stuff smells sooooo good!

As for other baby products, I usually always choose the cheapest. Diapers I get the day after Thanksgiving, and I try not to pay more than 10 cents each and have absolutely no brand loyalty. I should have enough to get us to this Thanksgiving - that was some pretty good estimation last year. It helped that Julia got the diapers other kids outgrew at daycare. For wipes I try not to pay more than $1 per refill pack. We have a lot of wipes, but I have this compulsion that if I see them for less than $1 that I must buy them. I try to use the oldest first.

As for food, other than Heinz ketchup I don't have brand loyalty. I go by price alone. Being able to be flexible based on price saves money.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Bibs and Speeches

Julia refuses to wear a bib anymore. Velcro, snap, doesn't really matter. The only type we haven't tried is tie bibs, but those kind of seem like strangulation hazards. The bib must come off! The bib is then used to cover her sippy cup. We don't get the significance of this behavior. She actually tries to take off her shirt too, but she isn't coordinated enough to get arms out of most shirts.

Onto the touchy speech issue. Usually I try to stay away from meaty topics while blogging. I realize there's a difference of opinion in the world, and I do want this to be a fun blog. I personally like to read brain candy, so I try to write brain candy.

But I feel that I must. I'm not particularly intelligent or insightful on the topic. And a lot of things I'm still trying to figure out.

However, I do not think Obama's speech to children is part of the socialist agenda to brainwash them.

I'm sure there are about 5,000 ways to pick it apart from every angle. Doing so is not what I'm attempting.

As a kid, I remember there were only 2 times where the President infringed on my life as a student. 1) The Presidential Physical Fitness Test. What a load of crap that test was. But the President would give you a certificate if you passed. I don't know how I passed it, but I got that paper certificate just like most of the class. Even as a kid I remember thinking that it seemed odd that that the President promoted athletics like that but never seemed to promote academics. 2) During the 1992 election we had a 10th grade project on the election. It was a several month project.

Here's my random thoughts on this speech and public schools. Yes, I am Democrat. Yes, I voted for Obama. Yes, I think GWB is a butt. So, yes, I am biased.

- I think addressing the public school children of the country is one of the privileges the President can take. Even if it was my least favorite President GWB, I wouldn't have a problem with it.

- I would expect such a speech to be completely generic. Kinda like a pep talk or commencement speech. To think it would be anything that even resembles brainwashing is kinda stupid (unless people think brainwashing includes advocating for education and goal setting).

- People who think a short speech could result in brainwashing are insulting to kids' intelligence levels.

- I know there is a contingent of the country who disagrees with public schools. To heck with Darwin, sex ed, etc. And they should be able to home school or put their child(ren) in schools that support their beliefs and control what comes into the learning environment.

Those are my thoughts. I suppose the far right put up with the far left complaining for 8 years, and now it's time for the tide to turn the other way. I am so glad S's parents aren't staying with us right now. I may have not been able to contain my eye rolling and attitude when they send multiple sentences with socialist, Obama & brainwashing for days on end.

Zonked and ready to go to work

Sometimes weekends are just literally exhausting. Work can be exhausting, but in a different way. Cleaning, recleaning, rushing here & there & everywhere, and not having time to say more than a sentence to your own husband should be OUTLAWED on a weekend. At least I got a nap in today. That was nice.

Next weekend I don't want to do ANYthing. But that's going to be violated because my stepdad will be in town. Maybe we can get my mom and him to watch Julia for a few hours. That would be good.

Today's expenses:

$17.89 Target: 24 oz can of formula & 216 baby wipes (Target brand & I had a $1 off coupon for each)
$1.10: cheeseburger at McDonald's for Julia. She didn't eat more than 1 bite, so I had to finish it. Oh well, I had been wondering if she would eat a cheeseburger. Now I know.
$14.18: Fred Meyer. I shopped their sales and in-store coupons: 2 gallons of milk, loaf of wheat bread, 3 cans of tuna, 10 cans of chicken noodle soup, 10 oz of deli turkey slices, 1.5 pounds of nectarines, 1 lb of broccoli

Sunday, September 6, 2009


Sunday Purchases

$26.63 Gas for my car
$33.26 Costco - 4 food items: ketchup, chicken, ground turkey, salsa

We had friends come down today. It was great to see them! And we looked at two houses this evening. We really liked one of them. It does have a water view, an awesome deck, a nice master bedroom, a Mt. Rainier view, one of the best neighborhoods in the area. Oh yeah, it is niiiiiiiiiiiiiice. The kicker is that it's only 300 square feet bigger than what we have, 1 less bedroom, and the kitchen needs updating.

The landscaping is freaking incredible. We suck at yard maintenance, but at least it has a sprinkler system.

Oh what to do, what to do.

Julia's eating has trailed off, as expected. It's not as bad as it was a few weeks ago, but it's not close to her recordbreaking Friday.

Saturday, September 5, 2009


Yeah, I know it's the long weekend, but I'm flipping tired. This quiet long weekend we were supposed to have has turned into 3 days of having people over. I am fundamentally antisocial. The kind of person who could literally live in a cave for a year and be perfectly happy as long as I have food.

This whole "entertaining" thing is tiring. Plus I talked to a lot of people on the phone today. Talking with multiple people + entertaining = exhausting.

I think I'm ready to go back to work.

Cleaning the house this morning, tonight, tomorrow morning, tomorrow night, Monday morning playdate means sterilization of toys so Julia toys don't infect others with Julia cooties, cleaning up after that, hosting Labor Day dinner with my mom, cleaning up after that.

Too much cleaning for one weekend. Why isn't having piles of laundry and dirty dishes around yourself socially acceptable? Because it is real life, or at least my life.

$16.40 for lunch out today. No coupons - aw shucks.

I really do like seeing people. Don't get me wrong. I think what kinda sucks is that long weekends are usually a napping treat. Today I didn't get a nap, tomorrow I won't get a nap. The only chance for a nap will be on Monday after the playdate and before my mom comes over. I'm really looking forward to that window of time. However, it may be just so that I won't be able to fit it in depending on the state of the house, my mind, etc.

I want a nap during the day!!!!

I'll take it for what it is

I think my child was abducted 3 days ago and replaced with one that exactly looks the same but eats. Yes, I tell you, EATS! Now I'm not going to extrapolate to say she's "cured" - it's way, way too early for that. It could just be some growth spurt and she'll go back to her non-eating ways soon enough. I just have to say that having a kid who eats for 3 days straight relieves a lot of stress in my life. I think it's actually a domino effect. Because she has been eating well for 3 days, she's not (gasp) hungry all the time. Which leads to her disposition being a whole lot better. Yeah, she'll throw herself down onto the floor and kick and scream, but the reason she does that is she can't have the toy she wants at that moment. She does her toddler tantrum, S and I walk away, and a minute later she's recovered from the apocalypse and comes to find us with a smile on her face. What I'm talking about is the cranky, disagreeable disposition hasn't made an appearance.

I'm not extrapolating any more than that. I'm taking it for what it is. It has been a wonderful 3 days. Not only in the three days has Julia been drinking amounts that surpassed anything she has drank when she was 4-5 months old (before any solid foods), but she also has eaten 300-500 calories worth of food for each of the 3 days. Probably a "normal" kid eats more than this, but I look on in amazement when a "good" day used to be considered half a cereal bar and 10 little pieces of cheese (maybe 80 calories total, and that was spread out over a whole day).

It is a long weekend, and we're not daycare. The thing with daycare is that Julia sees lots of kids her size sitting down to eat the same thing. S and I sit with her at meals, but our food usually doesn't look like hers (i.e., it's not cut all up into bite-size pieces). So I'm not holding out much hope that we can maintain it this weekend. Plus, a good streak with her is always followed by a crash and burn. The crash and burn is always bad, bad, bad.

Now I know it sounds like I'm being a pessimist. And I am. But behind that pessimism, you know I am hoping that she's indeed "cured." She just turned 15 months. Could 15 months be when her body decided to get its act together and actually voluntarily eat? I have heard that milk intolerance can hang around til 15 months in a small percentage of kids. Something about it takes longer in some kids for their gut to mature. See, now I start thinking and getting my hopes up.

So, again, I'm trying to take the 3 days for only what they are. It's not really working well though.

P.S. I turned comments off for this post. I can't bear to read positive comments about what a turnaround this is (as nice as they are, thank you, you always have encouraging comments). If she does go back to her old ways, it will actually be depressing for me to read them. Does that make any sense? I know, I'm strange. Deal with it!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Spendy Friday

I got an oil change this morning, my first in my new car. $15.38 with coupon.

Pizza at Pizza Hut for dinner tonight and leftovers this weekend. 2 stuffed crust pizzas, buy one get one free with coupon. $14.29

We finally got our roof cleaned and some light repair done. We have a cedar shake roof. Why oh why oh why do they make these types of rooves? (Right, rooves? It looks weird though. Roofs looks better, but I think it's rooves.) Anyway, they're a complete fire hazard and have to be maintained. We've had the house 10 years, and this was the first time we've done it. I got $75 knocked off the price with the power of negotiating. $656.40 Finally. It took 6 months to find someone to do it whose license wasn't suspended and who has reasonable rates.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Are you married?

I've been married going on 10 years now. I live in my isolated little vacuum of a world where I go to work, go to the grocery store, and amble about my neighborhood on walks a few nights a week. I haven't been to a bar in years.

Today at the grocery store a man comes up to me as I'm looking at chicken. "I know you!" Stunned, because no one ever recognizes me even if they've seen me a hundred times, I look at him. I KNOW I've never seen this dude before. I don't forget a face, and the only places I inhabit are mentioned in the above paragraph. Believe me, I don't get out. So I smile and say, "I don't recognize you offhand."

Then he says, "I do know you from somewhere." Pause. "Are you married?"

Now I must admit that I'm off in my little world a lot, and I have been out of the dating scene for almost a decade, but it even sunk through my bewildered brain. I was getting hit on!

And I look, errrrrrrr, down at the dude since he's short. And he has a big earring in his ear. It's about a 1 carat...something...likely cubic zirconia...I don't think it was a real diamond.

So not my type.

If someone's going to hit on me, can't it be a guy who would come sort of close to someone who I'd actually date?

I don't get hit on much. I don't know what par is for a married woman. I probably only get an unsolicited male offer once a year or so nowadays. I think it's kind of low. Back in the day, when I rode public transportation, I got hit on quite a bit. I was younger, skinnier, cuter, not married. That's all true. But it's also true that if you're a female riding public transportation and are less than 400 pounds, have your front teeth, and aren't sitting in a pile of your own poop... you're going to get hit on at least once a week. It's a simple fact. I just report the facts.

I've never been hit on by anyone "good." It was never my thing to strike up a conversation with some random person in public and then go out on a date with him. What if he was nuts? I wouldn't find that out til I was alone with him. I have to do a background check on him before I even consider a date.

I have had my share of "winners" that have hit on me. S loves to hear about them. Personally, I think it makes him feel better about himself.

- There was the mentally unstable, halfway house dude on the bus. That was a year long adventure in avoidance since he rode the same bus as me to the community college.

- There was Paul. Long story, but he attempted to strangle me at Decatur High School and was expelled for pulling a knife on me. Another crazy dude.

- There was the homeless guy in DC. Granted, I didn't have a coat and didn't realize the subway was closed until 6am. He offered to "keep me warm" kind.

- There was the dude who just got out of the Walla Walla prison for armed robbery. I was out with a friend, and he wouldn't leave me alone. Gotta give him props for being honest about his situation.

- Random drug addicted men who try to strike up a conversation over the years.

- And now the dude at Winco who was such the mack daddy with the faux bling in his ear and around his neck.

If someone is going to hit on me, why can't it be a "normal" person? Ah, probably because the "normal" ones don't try to strike up a conversation with a married lady. Gotcha.

Probably the best of the bunch was when I was out walking at lunchtime, and a guy who was running (I assume he was on his lunch hour) stopped next to me and asked me out for a mocha. I promptly told him I was married, and he said it was worth asking, and then jogged away. He seemed kinda normal for someone who would ask out a complete stranger. Could have been Ted Bundy 2.0, I suppose.

So how often do married women get hit on? I have no idea what is average.

Grocery Shopping

I browsed the mall at lunch yesterday and found the cutest little dress for $5 on clearance. $5 here, there and everywhere can be my downfall, so I resisted. Thus, no cute little dress for Julia.

Our fridge is starting to look like Old Mother Hubbard’s closet. Bare, bare, bare. Whenever I open the fridge, it seems like all I see is Smart Balance fake margarine crap. The in-laws bought that and left it here. Other than that and milk, it seems like the fridge is a wasteland of old condiments.

How do y’all save money at grocery shopping? Way back when (5 years ago maybe), I was the queen of the coupon clippers. We got the newspaper every Sunday, and I religiously cut out a zillion coupons. Nowadays I don’t seem to be much of a coupon clipper. We don’t get the paper anymore although sometimes we get a smaller paper for free on our driveway. If there are coupons in there, I always look through them but rarely cut them out.

One thing I’ve noticed since I’ve semi-started the no gluten, no dairy, no peanut, et. al. diet is that most coupon items are for processed food. You know, coupons for Spaghetti-o’s, General Mills cereal, kids’ snack food, etc. The exact stuff I’m not supposed to eat. The stuff I AM supposed to eat (produce, meat) usually doesn’t have coupons available. Those items do go on sale, particularly seasonal produce, but there usually aren’t coupons tied to them.

Nowadays I really just shop the store sales. We get 3 different grocery stores’ advertisements every Tuesday, and I go through them writing out my list at each store. If there’s only 1 or 2 things on sale at a particular store, I usually don’t go that store. There has to be several things to make the trip worth it. Basics that aren’t on sale anywhere that week I buy at Winco, which is a grocery store that’s typically the cheapest in the area except for sales. Fred Meyer, a store only in the Northwest, has ads that run Sunday – Saturday, and I look at their ad online every Sunday morning. If they have sales, I go that morning in order to make sure I can get their in-store ad with coupons before they run out. And I go to Costco too if there are store coupons. So basically I shop at a combination of 6 stores for groceries. I like to keep my options open!

One thing that’s a big bummer: Stores up here don’t double or triple coupons. BLAH! So there’s not as much incentive to use coupons.

If it’s not on sale that week anywhere or not a good price at Winco, we don’t buy it. But…I try to stock up on staples when there’s a good deal. You can usually find boneless skinless chicken for $2 or less a pound somewhere. The same goes for a gallon of milk. We’re not into special meats, so we rarely have steak or anything like that. Lots of chicken, ground turkey, turkey burgers. We’re poultry people. We also eat a good amount of fish when it’s a good price. Sometimes there’s a good sale on canned beans or frozen veggies, and I scoop up as much as I can.

I feel like I should be doing more cost-cutting in this area. Recently I subscribed to a blog that points you to online coupons and how they can be combined with sales, but many of the stores talked about aren’t around here, and the coupons – you’ve guessed it – are for processed food.

I went to Winco today and spent $32.43. Produce, beans, Julia food (applesauce, mixed fruit, icky processed meat, toaster strudel, etc.), bread for S, eggs for S, paper towels, frozen veggies, big ol' can of V-8, and some other stuff I can't remember.

The place was flooded with people that had 2 or more carts full of food. It was only when I got to the checkout it dawned on me. Today is the 3rd. Welfare checks go out on the 3rd. DOH! It's good that people on welfare go to Winco to get more bang for their buck. But dang it's awful to shop there on the 3rd of the month.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A very good question

N posed a very thought-provoking and appropriate question. If our parents are making unwise choices with their money, how do we bring it up without insulting them? This question is so appropriate to my situation. I am stymied. I really don't know. Anyone have good suggestions?

I hope you don't have to deal with this uncomfortable subject with any of your family members.

This Christmas thing is an excellent example. S's parents said they were coming up, and now they say they can't. Why? Because the air conditioner broke. I looked at S with a puzzled expression on my face. Huh? He said that was to be taken as they couldn't afford to fly up for Christmas. So they wanted us to come down there.

First of all, their air conditioner breaking is not the reason they can't come. That's why most adults have a savings account. The reason they can't come is that they spent way too much money this year on vacations and consumer spending after they took out a bunch of home equity loans and are adjusting to a huge mortgage payment. Plus they have a ton of medical bills. The air conditioner breaking is what put them over the edge.

Second of all, it doesn't make sense to fly 7 people to Arizona. It makes more sense for us to pay for their airplane tickets to fly up here.

Which leads me to: how in the heck do we offer to pay for their flights up here without insulting them?

Which then leads me to: why can't we have an open and honest conversation?

I was raised in an environment where it was okay to say that you can't afford something. People don't look down on you. If you say it's not in the budget, people accept it and move on. So I'm free and loose with saying that, even now. I don't have any shame in it.

I know S's parents are different. They are ashamed, and thus they blame it on the air conditioner. They don't want to admit that they can't afford it even if it's true.

S's parents always harp on us about not taking vacations. Frankly, S and I don't like taking vacations. Going away is stressful dealing with travel arrangements, navigating unfamiliar territory, being away from the comforts of life. Hence, we've never really taken a "vacation" as people traditionally define it - i.e., going to Hawaii or the islands or whatnot. If we have a couple of days off from work, we putz around the house, go out to eat, and play board games. It's what we like to do. S's parents cannot fathom how we haven't been on a cruise, gone to Hawaii together, gone to the mountains to go skiing, etc. They define fun one way, and we define it another.

Neither of us are right or wrong. The funny part is how insistent they are that we need to get away. It's as if they are adamant that we need to define "fun" how they define "fun."

It really seems as if S's parents are tied to this consumer lifestyle, and I'm not looking forward to when it all comes crashing down. If at all possible, I'd like to nip it in the bud before it comes crashing down. I don't want to give them money (because that would literally be throwing money away and they wouldn't learn anything from it anyway), and they have too much pride to take it. It seems so fake to say, "Oh, we bought a house. Could you help us by living it?" Really, come on, that would be such a charade. Must we dance around the issue like that?

We've tried to have conversations with them in a benign way. They say it's none of our business, and they're fine. Gotcha, you don't want to talk about it.

Right now there's the short term money issue of paying for their flight at Christmastime. Then there's the nasty long term issue of their financial situation.

So, as N asked, any ideas on how to proceed???

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Tot Update

Thought I'd give a quick update on Little Miss J. I haven't written in her baby book in a while, and I have to put these notes somewhere before I forget.

We're on Week 3 of the new teacher at the same daycare. Things seem to be going better with the bottles and feeding diary. For the past few weeks, Julia has been sleeping through the night. I think it has to do with daycare doing better with the bottles, so she doesn't need to wake up to eat anymore. Whatever the case, it's nice to have her sleeping through the night most nights.

Bottle aversion seems to be lessening. She's not screaming when the bottle's in her presence. She still doesn't hold her bottle, but she's getting better about willingly opening her mouth for it if it's sitting in front of her for 5-15 minutes. This is progress! It used to be a complete fight, or we'd feed her when she was asleep. Most days she's taking 16 oz or more. Wahoo!

Cup is waning. Daycare has been much better about the bottle, so she's not drinking as much from the cup. The therapist doesn't want us to push the cup til her liquids got up. Her liquids seem to be pretty good now, but the dilemma is that Julia isn't fond of milky liquids from the cup. So right now there's juice in the cup instead of milk or formula.

Solids aren't going so hot either. She's likely filling up on formula instead. I've started to put whole milk in her bottle. Hopefully thinning out the concentration will help her become more interested in solids.

As of last week, she weighed 19 lbs, 12 ounces. She weighed 19 lbs, 7 ounces a month before that. She's gaining, albeit slowly. She had a big gain between 12 months and 13.5 months - over a pound! She was in the 9th percentile last week. Now that she's turning 15 months this week, she's going to slide down to probably 5th or so.

Next week we have an ENT appointment for her. She passed her hearing test last week, but there was fluid in her ears which made her score lower than they would like on a couple of the tests. Not quite an ear infection right now (though she's had her share of those). We're thinking we're going to have to get tubes in her ears. We definitely don't want her ear problems to be the reason she's not talking much. Plus, we want to curb the ear infections if we can.

It's hard to tell definitively, but we seem to be hearing more sounds from Julia. Like today she said the "p" sound - she kinda said "up" after we said it ten times.

Every kid is so different. Julia's way ahead on her gross motor skills with her twirling around and getting good at trying to put on her shoes. She's on target cognitively. Lagging a bit in speech and lagging a ton in eating.

Never would have thought MY kid would be ahead in motor skills and behind in eating. I'm the person who gashed up her legs because she couldn't manage walking down 2 lousy steps, and I have a PhD in eating. Go figure.

Searching for the middleground

When S and I got married, we had mandatory premarital counseling at the church. Premarital counseling may be the wrong term. We each filled out a quiz, and then we met with the family minister Robin to go over the results. Through this exercise we didn't find out much that was surprising. The area that had all sorts of warning flags on our quiz results was family background. We were raised very, very differently.

And for some reason S and I do okay despite being raised by polar opposite parents. They are opposite in every way, which causes us to lament on almost a daily basis, "Why can't they be somewhere in the middle?"

S's parents are the meddlesome, suffocating types. My mom is the extremely detached type. A compromise would be nice.

No offense to S, but his parents think he is, ummmmm, not right. Yep, he is "not right" about pretty much everything. They are the correct ones. His older brother is almost always correct. His sister is mostly correct. And poor S is misguided and not quite "with it." It's funny because everyone S works with and is friends with thinks he's super smart. His previous boss thought he was in Mensa. Well, his parents are ardent Republican who abhor dissent. Plus S is the baby of the family. Put those two together, and he's fighting a very uphill battle for one iota of respect in his family.

In contrast, my mom thinks he walks on water. And let me tell you, my mom doesn't like anyone. But she adores S. He's the son she never had. She will do whatever he says. It's freaky to see the lieutenant colonel (my mom) take orders from only one person in the world: my dear husband.

We have a very weird parental set-up to begin with. Then when you overlay money onto it, it just gets even stranger.

S's parents made good money when they were working, and they decided to retire in their early 50s. Now if you can retire in your 50s, I applaud you. The problem was that they retired on a fixed income but still spent money like they were working and making 3 times more. They've been retired almost 15 years now, and the well has pretty much dried up. They have high expenses (freaking high mortgage, home equity loans, credit cards, car expenses, etc.) and a relatively low monthly pension.

Then there's my mom. The frugal queen. She makes good money, mortgage-free, and lives like a college student. I introduced her to Craigslist a few years ago, and she literally buys everything off Craigslist or at the Grocery Outlet (remember the expired egg beaters????). She has furnished her whole house off Craigslist - except for Brown Flowers, the couch from 1976 that she still has. Let's just say that my mother does not need to work, and she could afford pretty much anything she wanted. But she chooses to live like she's one step from being homeless.

S and I wish his parents were more responsible with money, and we wish my mom enjoyed her money a little more. There's got to be some middle ground.

We're waiting for the inevitable to happen. S's parents will need help at some point. Honestly I think it will be sooner rather than later. I've picked up small bits of their conversation to each other, and what I hear makes me very nervous.

I won't let family go without food or shelter. They will have some place to live and food to eat. S and I even talked about buying them a small place nearby. I wish they were more responsible with their money. Some of their family members are very well off, so S's parents join them on all these vacations that they can't afford given how much debt they have. I guess they don't want to admit to others that they just can't pull it off.

I have a harder time giving them money to live. They seem to spend so freely now that I would have a hard time watching my money go to their vacations. That's why I'd rather pay directly for their necessities instead of just giving them money. At least if we bought them a small house, we'd get the equity in the house.

Watching your parents grow older sucks. At least we only have to worry about S's parents financially. His siblings are fine. My mom is fine.

I am glad that you can't inherit debt. That would really suck if you could.

A great way to save for the future

Happy September! I really do love the start of fall. Okay, okay, it isn't technically fall for 3 more weeks. I'm impatient, per usual.

Food: On Sunday I made a pot of veggie soup. It was a big ol' can of V8 and 2 bags of broccoli stir fry veggies. I guess I could fake some optimism about it. It was pretty good, tasting like V8 and broccoli with some other veggies. It was kind of filling, and I know it's healthy. I should add some beans or meat to it to add a little protein & iron, two things I desperately lack in my diet.

Money spent today: $750 for September daycare. I cancelled my Target online order since there weren't necessities in there. If they would have shipped it, oh say, 4 weeks ago, I wouldn't have had 4 weeks to mull it over before cancelling.

If you work, do you have a 401(k) or 403(b) plan available to you? If so, do you use it? A good number of companies match up to a specific % of your income if you choose to contribute.

Why I Love 401(k)'s:
1) Since it's an automatic paycheck deduction, you don't miss the money.
2) You can often get free (employer's) money out of it.
3) You force yourself to live on less now.
4) Compound interest is your friend.
5) Lower your taxable income now in a traditional 401(k). These contributions evade the almighty taxman today. The taxman will be at your door when you retire, but you can never truly avoid the taxman with any financial product. Contribution limits this year are $16,500.

Now if you have a Roth 401(k) option through your employer, this is a little different. A Roth 401(k) operates much like a Roth IRA only with higher limits.

What's unique about a Roth 401(k) and Roth IRA? You will pay taxes on the amount of contribution now, but you will never be taxed again if you follow the distribution rules. This means you can leave that money in for 50 years and not pay a dime in taxes when you withdraw it! That is extremely appealing.

We don't know what's going to happen to tax rates in the future. They could go up; they could go down. Personally, I predict tax rates will be going up in the future. Our country is in all sorts of mayhem, and it will likely need to raise taxes to pay for its infrastructure in the near and long-term. That's why I think Roths are the way to go right now. Tax rates are fairly low now, so you can pay your taxes now and reap the rewards later when you don't have to pay taxes at withdrawal.

I also think Roths could be phased off if too many people jump on the bandwagon. Congress could realize how much it is losing in future revenue if people shelter their money in Roths.

If you have both a traditional and Roth 401(k) available to you, what should you do? Well, my recommendation is to hedge your bets and put some money in both. Remember, your total contributions for 2009 cannot exceed $16,500. So you can't put $16,500 in each (not that many of us even have that kind of extra money laying around).

I personally put about 2/3 of my contribution into the traditional 401(k) in order to lower my current taxable income, and then I put 1/3 of my contribution in a Roth 401(k). While I pay taxes on that 1/3, I know that it will grow tax-free for as long as I have it. And that thought puts a smile on my face!

So what if you contribute the maximum of $16,500 to your 401(k)? The latest statistics suggest that only 7% of people contribute the maximum to their 401(k) accounts. So what do we do if we're in that other 93%?

Contribute up to the employer match, at the very least. This is free money! And contribute any additional that you can. Whenever you get a pay raise, increase your 401(k) contribution by a corresponding amount. You might object by saying that you need the money to live now. I will respond that you can tighten your financial belt more than you think you can, and your reward will be living the life you want in retirement with a nicely padded bank account. And who wouldn't want that?