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Monthly Archives: January 2012

the happier side of finances

Yes, I said happy side of finances. It is achievable. I was THE most skeptical of all, but have recently discovered bill paying and saving can be easy and exciting.

Will and I married very young, we were 18 and 19 to be exact, and perhaps not exactly prepared for what was in store in life. We had some money saved up when we first married and it helped with setting up house and just to have in general. We didn’t have many bills and this made it easy to make sure everything was paid and on time for that matter.

Now fast forward to two children and a mortgage. Yikes! Now add-on car insurance, house insurance, hospital bills, much larger grocery bills.  Let’s just say I didn’t have a clue! It was always just making that payment deadline here, this bill was being turned over for collections and so on. Do you see the snowball forming?

Now fast forward to 2011, our hardest financial year since we have been married. I have never been as stressed as I was last year. It was our second year in our new house, we have a rental house, 3 children and one on the way, Dylan was finishing up at Grace Academy (private school at 400 dollars a month, ouch!), and many, many other bills.

There were a few months that I wasn’t sure how we could fit in groceries, let alone a credit card bill.  Thankfully God pulled us through and our marriage has never been stronger.  In fact we never even fought over the finances, as most couples report, for us it was an Indiana Jones adventure of, “Ok. How are we gonna pull this one-off?” Now, do not get me wrong we had our stressful moments, who doesn’t? But I wouldn’t pick anyone else to deal with that craziness with. What I am trying to say is my husband is incredible even when I feel like the world is falling apart, he is so incredibly calm and assuring. Ok, enough gushing over my honey. 🙂

This very month, January 2012, we started to make a plan to take back our life and pitch the stress. It all started when I was looking at one of my favorite websites, Pinterest, and saw a pin about money envelopes.  Now, I have seen this particular pin twice.  I said how cool it was and never looked back.  The second time I saw it, I decided to do a little more research. My research led me to Dave Ramsey’s website.  Oh, what a glorious day! I found some great info and started to think, “We can do this” and I printed off the Monthly cash flow budget worksheet and Will and I got to work. At first it was a bit daunting writing down everything you have to pay and figuring out exactly how to execute your plan, but we were optimistic.

First we looked at what our total estimated monthly income is and wrote that down. First thing to come out every time, no matter what, is our tithe.  So we wrote that total for the month, next was mortgage, groceries, so on and so forth. Then we divvied out of all these expenses which ones should be in the form of cash in an envelope. This is where it gets a bit tricky.  You decided on the monthly amount, say for instance gasoline. We decided 100 dollars a month goes to gas, I know it doesn’t seem like much, but we don’t go too many places. Anyway, we then had to break that 100 dollars into a weekly number because we get paid weekly. So each week we get out 25 dollars and put it in the envelope. That envelope is ONLY for gas and nothing else, no matter what. This is where I get excited because I love to compartmentalize things. We have quite a few envelopes, so we had to figure out how much money we need each week from the bank. We even have it narrowed down to how many 20’s, 10’s, and 5’s.  It works great.

The great thing about this type of budgeting is that every bit of your money is delegated to one thing each month.  We know exactly how much is going to be spent and where. Now, there are other plans we have in motion to start our savings or emergency fund, whichever you prefer. It will also help us pay off that last credit card, yay!

We hope to eventually get to the point where we have extra money leftover after all the bills and savings to start putting into a vacation fund. And we will get there, it just takes time to take back your finances. My favorite part is no more robbing Peter to pay Paul. This means no more random trips to Target and getting sucked into the “sales”.  : p

Ultimately, I have been stress free about our finances for two weeks straight. We are excited about getting rid of that nasty credit so we can focus on fun things and also have money for those unexpected emergencies. I highly suggest you check out Dave Ramsey’s website and start your financial freedom too.

the tale of the redhead

So if none of you know the story; my husband has always wanted a redhead.  This seemed bleak, as you all know I have black hair.  What are the chances of us having a redhead? Well, not as rare as you think. My first three kiddos were all born with black hair, completely black. Then they all somehow acquired blond hair of sorts. Poor Cecilia had blond hair with black tips for the longest time.

Will and I also both have the recessive gene for red hair, my great-grandmother and one of his great aunt’s (I think), so not all hope was lost, but we just assumed it would never happen.

Then came Gavin. Our fourth little bundle of joy. At first we didn’t even realize what color he had, right after he was born I mean.  When they began to give him his first bath I gawked and said to will “IT’S BLOND!” He said, “what?’ We were completely taken aback. So, we were just thrilled with a little blondie and kept saying ya know it sure has some red in there.  This week at his one month check-up our doctor said “Oh I love his hair. My oldest daughter has red hair too.” Then we looked a bit closer and sure enough he has red hair!

Now I don’t know if you can see it very well in this picture, but I can. Especially when he is in the sunlight. To add to it, he has a bit of a raspy voice.  He is my own little Irish man, I love it.

As for school today…

Yeah, I don’t know.

among other things

The stress has already begun to mount as I have two assignments due tomorrow and another on Monday, not to mention the other things I have to do throughout the day, everyday.  “Everything will be fine,” I continue to tell myself.  I really know things are going to be crazy for a while. I just need some extra careful planning and I CAN DO IT!

time, letters, and ice cream

Today was our first official day back to school since Christmas break.  I was dreading it.  I knew that having taken such a long break could not be good for anyone.  But ultimately it turned out great. I was thoroughly surprised.  We went right along with our reading, Dylan didn’t miss a beat, and Cecilia is continuing quite nicely with her writing. Although, math was quite frustrating today, he is finishing up a unit on time and he just doesn’t care for it much.

Science on the other hand was great.  We learned about our fingerprints and why we have them.  Then we made ice cream in ziploc bags, it was delicious. Not to mention the kids had a blast making it.

On the other hand I still have a sick toddler.  Unfortunately her fever just will not leave this house, resulting in a very moody, already moody child. I am hoping for some relief very soon, for the both of us.

My personal goals today (and this week):

*Keep track of studying

*catch up on laundry

*work on Project life album

Here is hoping I can do at least one of them fully. 🙂

 

here we go again

I have to admit, the very long break has been quite nice, but now it is time to get back to business. I believe we have all settled into some kind of a normal life with the new baby and with the holidays behind us, we are ready to work. I am also included in this “we” that I speak of.  I also start back to my online classes with Liberty University and I am taking a new approach to my classes and hope it works well.  I have made out schedules for all my different assignments and will keep them compiled into one notebook, so I never get behind or wonder whats next.

Today was combined with fun and cleaning the house in preparation for tomorrow.  Unfortunately, we have a little sickling around here today too.  I am hoping that she is coming into the clear after a long day of resting and lots of fluids.

In all, I am ready and nervous about dueling schooling, but I am altogether optimistic.  Here is to a new year of education, I just hope the kids are on board. 😉

Oh, and by the way, I finally got that filing system under way! Yay! I still have some tweaking, but in all, I am happy with it.  My husband and I also got to work on our CD collection.  We have decided to keep everything digital, sad I know, but so much cleaner. We are almost done sorting them all out, now I am just making sure everything is on the computer, then we are off to Mckays, hopefully for a big payday of like twenty dollars. LOL. You know I’m right.

Anyway, I am off to eat some Bluebell Peppermint ice cream, do some studying, work on the new budget with Will (by the way we are starting the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace thing, will keep you updated), and maybe play some Words with Friends. Goodnight all and here’s to a great week!

smile

Yesterday was big for me. Okay, huge! I was able to organize all of my pictures on the computer. (Big sigh of relief) You have no idea how long I have been wanting to do that and just didn’t have the guts. I am sad to say that I could not figure out how to take a snapshot on my computer of my computer screen at the time to show you what I did, but oh well. Perhaps I am really good at describing things and you will picture it vividly. So, here we go.

First I made master files for each year, starting with 2005.  That’s when Dylan was born and ultimately when the picture-taking frenzy began.  So, I have master files from 2005 to 2012.  Now, in each of those files is a file for each month of the year. I got really lucky here because when I would scroll over the picture it would tell me the date I took it. Amazing! I think I could have jumped up and down from excitement. So, now I have everything chronologically placed and couldn’t be happier.

The next step is seeing what prints I already have and which ones I need to print out for scrapbooks and albums. Once I am caught up on the HUGE backlog of pictures then I will stay up to date each month of this year.  Basically that means I will try to upload pictures every week, then I will put them in the appropriate file and toss blurs, doubles, and bad lighting.  Then once January is over order those prints.

This is where the project life albums and materials come into play.  So much easier than scrap booking.  You pretty much put everything into pocket pages in a binder by month. So simple and fun!  Here is where you can get started: Project life

Now, this is my down fall at its best.  I am easily distracted when I have multiple things to do.  Add onto that the fact that school starts on Monday.  Aaah! Anyway, I decided a to-do list and a really good planner was needed to keep me on track.  I found super cute to-do list on a google search, to-do.

Then I found this beautiful, amazing, organized planner!

 

I first saw it on iheartorganizing and then I started seeing the huge buzz about how great it was. Now, a word to the wise, these suckers are not cheap, but I found a great deal.  It is an Erin Condren weekly life planner.  Not only is it absolutely adorable, with tons of designs available you can personalize it too.

Here is hoping that it will help me stay organized, or just keep from losing all sanity. Here I am again putting off that darn filing system.  I promise I will get back to it, at least I hope….that’s for another day.

Now, I am off to do laundry, get kids ready for Awana tonight, and study. Not so excited about that last part, but here is to a new year and staying ahead on my assignments. Prayer would be appreciated. 🙂

a new school room and other adventures

It was definitely an eventful weekend.  We had a lot of “want to’s” in mind, but obviously hours are very limited in the day with four kiddos 7 and under.  Yet, we were still able to accomplish quite a bit.

I have a great fault and that is once I get an idea of something I want to do, I want to accomplish every single project at once.  I often catch myself getting too far ahead of myself and saying, “Ok Jenn, chill!” Then I am snapped back to reality that I am not superwoman.

Anyway, the kids new school room table came in Saturday instead of the projected date of January 10.  Exciting! We quickly opened it up and got to work setting it up. We were able to find what we wanted at Ikea for 20 dollars.  Yes, you heard me right, 20 dollars!

A very simple crisp, clean white table.  Just perfect.  The next step was deciding where we actually wanted it.  Now, let me back up, here I go again getting ahead of myself. 🙂 This is what the before is. 

Not too bad, I know, but not at all what I was happy with.  It just wasn’t a good flow and all creativity was stifled.  Also the desk and table situations were not prime.  The picnic table was too small for any kind of work or painting.  The desk to the left there, well its slanted so everything falls off.  Anyway, we decided to go with this setup with the new table. 

So much nicer! As you can see the kiddos already love it! They are more drawn to it than before and that is my goal. I want a school room that my kids enjoy being in.

We also have more work in the school room, but that is set for later this week.

As for the rest of our weekend, I started to work on this monstrosity. 

Yes, I am ashamed to say this is supposed to be my craft closet.  Let’s just say that we never had a clear vision from the start and so the easy thing was to just “put” everything there to get an idea. In all actuality it led to a complete slump in my creative mind.  I despised this area in fact every time I walked past I had a pit in my stomach.  I would set things on top of the mountain of junk and just run the other way.

This weekend I decided to start the inevitable and begin to clear some of the mess. There was much to throw away and give away.  So, that was a start. 

This is just a start.  We are planning on putting a decorative wallpaper on the back wall, along with nice sleek shelving up the entire wall for storage.  We will also put some type of drawer units under the desk top for other storage.  I am excited about this project because that brings us to the next thing I decided to start organizing.

Yes, pictures.  I would say just what I have printed out comes to over 2,000 pictures. I have to organize them! It drives me crazy thinking all those pictures of my gorgeous babies are in folders.  I went through and threw away a lot of duds, blurred beyond recognition, and half prints.  I also organized them into categories.  I plan to make individual scrapbooks of each child through their first year, then I will put all other family pics into family scrapbooks. Yay! I cannot wait. I also need to organize all the hundreds of pictures on my computer and start getting prints to put in the scrapbooks.

I got some relaxation time on top of all that organizing as well. This week brings some more organizing and cleaning and I will continue to keep you posted.

 

back to school

I originally started this blog as a means to keep track of our homeschooling adventure and have somewhat strayed.  Lets get back to the task at hand, shall we? In the midst of the homeschooling talk, we will also keep with daily life and the organizing train we have already started. More about that later.

I want to make sure that I post things pertaining to homeschooling for a few reasons. First off to let everyone know that we are actually doing school and surviving, such as my family and friends.  But I also want to make sure that I show other people who do not home school, or perhaps strongly disagree with it, that it is do-able and fun.  Maybe I can be an example for someone who suddenly becomes a home school fan, rather than finding it “weird” or anti-social.

Trust me when I was in high school I thought it was strange, perhaps even a little “old timey”.  But once I got to know some homeschoolers, heck some of my closest friends, I realized they are so incredibly normal!  Now do not get me wrong, there are some interesting people who home school, but there are interesting people who don’t home school.  My point is just because I home school my children does not make us bizarre or overly religious people, that don’t believe in girls wearing pants or cutting their hair. We wear pants and cut our hair! So there you have it, normal homeschoolers.

So, today was a first for me.  I turned in my son’s grades for the first semester.  I was a little nervous at first thinking, “They trust me to do this.” Then it dawned on me, they trust me to home school the kid, so I have to grade him too.  Anyway, with all the fear behind me I sat down with pen in hand and started the process.  5 A’s and 2 B’s.  Wow, that was easy! Fact is he is in first grade.  He can appropriately do the work and cooperates well.  Since I am the one controlling all factors of the schooling process, why wouldn’t he do well?

Needless to say, another simple process related to homeschooling.  Grades go in twice a year, once in January and once in June.  Simple.  You write out the grades and the amount of days school was done (typically 90 days per semester) then you sign and send. Love it.

Now we have taken an extra long Christmas break, mostly for baby G. I didn’t know when labor would happen and I wasn’t sure how long it would take us to adjust, typical new baby fears. I am also in the process of re-organizing our school room (the new table gets here Tuesday) and I want it to be done before we start back.  The start date is targeted for Monday the 16th, that’s when I start back as well. I figured why not have everyone on the same schedule, makes it easier for me anyway.

I am also starting the savings for all our curriculum for the next school year and I cannot wait to get it in.  Dylan will be starting 2nd grade and Cecilia Kindergarten.  She is so incredibly ecstatic it makes me excited.  Dylan’s curriculum will be based on history and can I just say, he is going to love it. We will be learning some great stories from our history and also reading some of my favorite books, like this one…

One of my all time favorite books in the world! I cannot wait to read it with him.  I do believe this is the first book to make me cry.

Cecilia’s curriculum also has a lot of good reading.  Which is good considering I am planning to teach her to read this school year. She has been begging to learn and I say its high time. She needs some more work on the letter sounds, but she is coming right along.

In all I would say we are doing really good with school.  I am actually more than ready to get back to work and I am excited for the 16th.  I have a lot of fun things in store for this semester and will keep you posted.

Now I am off to work on some organizing, will post soon.

a little side note

While it does look like my previous post that I quickly sorted through all of those things and ta-dah, I’m done. Well, no that is not the case. That was a project done throughout the course of the day while nursing and caring for a newborn as well as dealing and tending to other children.

In the meantime I did get a couple of other little projects done around the house I have been wanting to accomplish. First being the toys and such under Dylan’s bed.  I found some great storage bins to help with that. The other project being the girls hair “stuff” and jewelry re-organized.

Dylan has acquired many toy weapons over the years and I must say it has been quite difficult to find storage that I liked for them. Then I came across these adorable bins at Target.

I decided to grab two and I may go back for more.

Here is the before under his bed.

 

And of course I made him do the work. 🙂

And here ya go, all finished.

 

Next was onto the girls hair drawer.  This drawer has given me much grief over the past year.  When we first moved in I had set it up all nice and organized and over the next few months, it just got worse and worse.

I shudder at the sight of it!

Next I made piles of everything.

And sorted through it, to get this!

Now, while sorting through the thousands of hair bows, pony tail holders, and headbands, I realized there was a lot of stuff we don’t even use. Why was I letting it take up valuable space?

This is the pile of things we found 1. Don’t use. (baby head bands, she is now two) 2. Things that don’t work in their hair (don’t stay, too small, not enough stretch) So, we decided to sort those things out and just keep what we need.

After all of that we ended with a beautiful result.

Hair heaven! Isn’t it just bliss? I have to admit I love being able to sort things into compartments, maybe that OCD I spoke of?

I also went through their little bit of jewelry and sorted it in the next drawer. I also plan, one day, to put shelf paper in the bathrooms and kitchen. Just for added color a pizzazz.

Along with Cecilia’s precious make-up. 🙂 And the headbands fit nicely in here. These projects took me about 10 minutes each. So, just goes to show you, put about 20 minutes a day toward something and you can have a great end result.

Now off to make dinner!

 

beginning stages of taming the paper monster

Today I started my paper war.  I mean this very seriously, it is such a dislike of mine that I have put it off for years. I will admit I have always had a difficult time finding a system that truly works for us. We always end up with crazy piles of paper that end up taking over my desk, the car, and the kitchen counter. I absolutely despise anything not kitchen related taking up space on my counters. Perhaps I’m a little OCD. 🙂

So, first things first. I found a great magazine article in Better Homes and Gardens, that just about made me scream from excitement. A paper management system that was so easy and do-able, why didn’t I think of this?  I am very guilty of getting mail or paperwork and then piling it somewhere and forgetting about it or not being able to find it. That was getting very old, especially if it was extremely important paperwork, like a paycheck!

This article gave such great steps and for different types of paper organizers, I happen to be a stacker or piler.

The idea is to have a paper processing center and to make sure you use it as soon as you check the mail.

All papers, once opened, go into an inbox.

like this

Then you need something they call an action file. Which is basically somewhere to sort out whatever is in the inbox.  They had a few different ideas and I liked this one best because I like to stack things. I picked these up at Target for just 1.97 for a 2 pack. Because I only needed three I decided to use the fourth one for storing my printing paper.

Then you label these as do now, do later, and pending.

Now it is important to know the meaning of each of these files.

Do now is for anything that should be dealt with in a weeks time. Such as bills, permission slips, or RSVP’s.

Do later is for anything that can be dealt with in three months time. Like vacation fliers, refinancing offers, or a catalog you want to buy something from.

Pending is for items awaiting response. Things like receipt for a mail ordered purchase that hasn’t arrived.

I found these cute labels in my mountain of scrap booking stuff and thought they would work great!

I taped them on and voila!

Finally came the part where I could start the piling. 🙂

And all of this…

Went here.

Now whatever is left in the inbox needs to be filed right away. Anything that was garbage or junk went into my new little friend. 🙂 I have been meaning to obtain a paper shredder for far too long now.  It is so exciting to put that paper in and hear it being destroyed. It’s the little things.

However I haven’t gotten my new filing system up and running, yet. I plan to start on that tomorrow and then I will hopefully have all this crazy paper under control.