Tuesday, December 28, 2010

2011: The Year of Frugality

My own personal idol is Heather at Wanting What You Have. She's a stay-at-home mom to 3 kids and she and her husband achieved total debt freedom (even their mortgage!) about 3 years ago. This past year, she racked up a huge hospital bill from having her 25 lb baby (ok, slight exaggeration there, but he was over 12 lbs for sure) and has already paid it off. Not only is she my idol for her frugality, but also her organizational skills. I aspire to be more like her and someday, somehow get this house in order! I know keeping it in order is another story, but if I could at least go into my spice cabinet and not find AA batteries.....ah, to dream of such a world!

Anyhoo, Chris and I are going to take part in our own Frugal Challenge in 2011. He is naturally a pretty frugal person, with his only real weakness being fast food since it's so much easier to feed the kids in the drive thru. I, on the other hand, have many weaknesses. Just yesterday I bought myself a really cute turtleneck. I didn't need another turtleneck, but it was only $4.80! How could I resist?

So here are the ground rules for this challenge:

1. Necessities have already been agreed upon. For instance, I was able to clear my face moisturizer as a necessity, but the one I have that's also a self-tanner is NOT. Most personal hygiene items will be considered necessities but I was unable to talk him into allowing make-up and nail polish.

2. At the other's request, any receipt has to be presented. So if Chris goes grocery shopping, I might ask him for the receipt and check to see if there's gum on it (another one of his weaknesses). If there is, the amount for whatever non-necessity he purchased will be subtracted from his monthly allowance.

3. We are each going to have a $20 per month allowance to spend as we wish. We will not be questioned on how we spend this allowance.

4. Any purchases made that are non-necessities for the family (i.e. the occasional pizza) need to be agreed upon by BOTH parties.

5. Although we want this to go through 2011, we will have a 6 month check at the end of June. At that time, whoever has saved the most of their $120 allowance money (6 months x $20) wins the other person's savings. (So I guess if I get to the end of June and feel like I might lose, I will hurry up and blow the rest of my allowance, right? ha ha!)

Of course we expect to save alot more than just the allowance money, as this will cut out all unnecessary spending from our regular income as well. Anyone who knows Chris will think he has the upper hand in this challenge, but anyone who knows ME knows how competitive I am. So I think it's a toss-up on how this is going to transpire. I'll keep you posted! Wish me luck!

(Until midnight on Friday, I'm free to spend at will but darn it! I'm out of money because of Christmas! BALLS!)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Looking forward to 2011

Yes, I know I should be focusing on Christmas which is just a few days away, but as usual at this time I begin to get very anxious about the new year approaching. Many people dread making New Year's Resolutions because they feel like they never keep them, but I do enjoy the challenge of making them and TRYING to keep them, at least until the end of January.

I have quite a few resolutions for this year and many, many things to look forward to. I'm more excited about this upcoming year than I've been in a loooong time and I hope to bring all my dreams to life very soon! In the meantime, I've definitely been staying busy at home with the boys. They are practically bouncing off the walls these days and I can't say I blame them - this Christmas is going to be FANTASTIC for them, esp with the *surprise* visit from their Nana and Pa from Michigan. (SSSSHHHHH! They have NO idea!)

Chris is working all day on Christmas and I'm taking the boys out caroling in the neighborhood. What a fun tradition to start, don't ya think? We're having our Christmas on Sunday, so I'll be sure to get some pictures posted then.

Merry Christmas to all!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Another fan of the tree platform

Dope has found his favorite place to rest...something he gets too little of, with so many little hands so ready to pull his tail.

Happy Birthday, Sweet William!

On Tuesday we celebrated William's birthday. And I'm kind of exaggerating by using the word "celebrated" because it was pretty low-key. Everything had to wait until I got home from work around 6pm but until then he was fielding phone calls from our family in Michigan...

He got a few wonderful gifts, including a personalized video from Nana and Pa. He loved seeing his face on that dancing elf's body and kept laughing and saying "It's ME!"

His favorite gift was from Grandma, who ordered him this Batman Big Wheel Trike. It makes revving sounds and says "To the Batcave!" and he just loves it!

Unfortunately, his little brother loves it, too, and can't wait to get on it the second William gets off.(Luke is getting to be quite the little devil, by the way. He has taken to pushing the kitchen chairs to whatever he wants to climb up to, especially the kitchen counters. This way, he has free access to the computer, the phones and I even caught him playing with Daddy's Ipod the other day. So during the day Chris has to lay all the chairs on their sides to prevent this. William has been following his cue and now tips this trike on its' side when he's leaving it unattended. Pretty cute, huh?)

Birthday cake was next and I think he enjoyed his "day-day cake" almost as much as the presents. Well, who wouldn't? I put an entire stick of butter in it!


I will never forget William's homebirth and look back on that experience as one of the best of my life. The labor and delivery was really long and it was a hard delivery, too, but being in my OWN bed with him as he was breathing his first breaths was incredible. I loved that when his brothers woke up in the morning, they were able to crawl into bed with us and together we poured over every last inch of that little miracle! At the time, I was irritated that my health insurance was so bad that it basically forced me into having a homebirth. But now I'm so glad things turned out as they did and love that I have that memory.

Happy birthday to my William! We love you more than you will ever know!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Our Christmas Tree - Part 2

It's not often I brag on my husband but if there was ever an occasion to do so, it's now. He came up with this idea to build a platform tree stand and at first I didn't know at all what he meant. Then he used the magic words "tiered like a wedding cake" and the lightbulb went on.

He built this in two days....

He used mostly scrap wood from the garage but did have to buy a couple 2"x4"s. He bolted our existing tree stand to the top.

I love the simplicity of his design. Each tier is 4" tall so I'd guess this added about a total of 10" to the height of the tree. As I stated in my earlier post, we chose a smaller tree than we normally would have for our high ceilings because this was in the works.

Here's how it looked after we covered the base. Is it the perfect size or what? Last year we picked a very tall tree but getting a tall tree also meant getting a very WIDE tree, which didn't work in our small house. This way, we're getting the height but not the circumference.
There are several other reasons this platform is Christmas GENIUS!

1. We didn't have to cut any of the low branches off the tree to make room for presents underneath.
2. There are those two tiers for presents, so once they are all stacked up under there they won't be spread across the living room and it will look really nice, I think.
3. There's only a very small portion of the tree that's within the reach of curious little hands. (Not that any hands will even go near this tree - we specifically asked for the most prickly kind of tree they had and WE GOT IT!)
4. Chris wanted me to mention the SAFETY aspect of the tree. With a flimsy little tree stand, some people resort to wiring their trees to the wall to make sure it's not knocked over. There's NO WAY this thing is going anywhere.

We enjoyed decorating it last night and here's the finished product...

We're not big into garland and all the other fanciness - just lights and ornaments for us.

Chris is already talking about improving on the design and making us a new one next year when he has more time. I told him he could probably sell this one for $20. What do you think?

Our Christmas Tree - Part 1

It's not often between school and work that we all have a day off as a family, but this Sunday was one of those lucky days. Not only were we lucky enough to have a day to spend together, but we also had just gotten our first snow on Saturday so it turned out to be the perfect day to get our Christmas tree.

Cutting down our own tree is a tradition for us now and this is our 3rd year. Growing up in metro Detroit, there weren't exactly a plethora of tree farms so 2008 was the first year either Chris or I had done it and we were instantly HOOKED! In fact, 2008 also marks the first year Chris had EVER had a real tree! Amazing!

Anyway, here are some pictures. You might remember that we went WAY overboard last year with our 12' tree. This year we kept ourselves under control and stuck to about a 6 footer, especially knowing it would be elevated. (more on that later)

We bring our own saw. I think this is the only time it gets used all year.
The tree looks really small in this picture, doesn't it?

Chris just about killed himself dragging the overly huge tree out last year, so this one was a piece of cake for him.
Loaded up and ready to go home....just as soon as the kids are done on the sledding hill. Well, half of the kids anyway. These two were content to sit in the warm car sucking on candy canes.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Not a Fan!

We got snow this weekend - only about 4", but enough to cause some excitment in a house with four little boys. Growing up in Detroit, it was always a question of whether or not we'd have a white Christmas or not. Out here in southeast Wisconsin it's definitely not a question of IF we'll have snow by Christmas, but how much!

I had the four boys suited up and outside by 9am to play in it on Saturday and I snapped a few pictures of them. Here are a couple of Luke, who was not at ALL disappointed when I took him back inside. Does this kid need a Florida vacation or what???

He just stood there like that for a long time, until Owen pushed him down "accidentally" (right after I told him not to!) and then he cried and cried. Poor little guy!

Last Day of Truth (a little late!)

I've been putting off the last of the 30 Days of Truth because it's a difficult one for me. I'm supposed to write a letter to myself listing all the reasons I love myself. Why is that so difficult to come up with? If I was asked to list all the things I don't like about myself, I imagine that would be a million times easier. That's very sad, but I'm guessing that's also true for a lot of us. At any rate, here goes:

Dear Becky -
You are a child of God and HE loves you, so I guess you might as well love yourself also.

There are a lot of good things you've done in your life, not the least of which is bring 4 beautiful boys into this world. You have tried so hard to do what's best for them and continue to strive to be a great and FUN mom. It's difficult for you to have had to shoulder the bulk of the financial responsibily in the family, but somehow you've kept your chin up and did what you had to do to keep the family afloat.

One great thing about you is your optimism. You very rarely get too down, and even when you do it's just a matter of time before you pick yourself up, dust yourself off and find something to look forward to. You know that things are always changing and you believe for the most part they will change for the better, not the worse.

You laugh a lot and encourage others to. You are learning every day and trying to be more and more kind to others. You have dreams for the future that include helping people and making a difference. You have great empathy, especially for the elderly. You do your best to appreciate small moments and not to worry too much about what tomorrow might bring.

You believe in your ability to be a great wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend and co-worker and that belief keeps you motivated. You relish all the good memories you have and try your best to dismiss the not-so-good ones.

You have great teeth and are a friend to anything chocolate. :)

Love you!
Love, Me.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

A Confession

I have a confession to make: I'm a yeller. I come from an excellent yeller (sorry, Mom) who truly lost her mind on many occasions when she had four little children at home, and even many other times when we were older. I, too, have had a difficult time controlling my temper. I have yelled at my kids more times than I can count and I just hope that as they grow older the memories of me yelling will be dim.

I have been praying for patience for many years and I do believe I actually AM pretty patient. But I've recently realized that the most patient person in the world would still be stretched to their limit with these four boys. So while I continue to work on my patience, I also need to control how I handle when (not if!) I do lose it.

Last week I had a talk with the boys as we were leaving church. I told them I don't want to yell at them anymore, but that I need their help to make me realize when I'm starting to get out of control. So I came up with this...
(Seriously, how could anyone yell at this little guy???)

This is their new signal to me whenever I start to raise my voice. And it works both ways, when I need them to be quieter and settle down. I've told them if they expect it to work on me, it also has to apply to them. It's only been a week but it's worked like a charm and I thank God for giving me this idea.