Monday, August 31, 2009

30 Days Of . . . Something Different

Owlhaven has invited fellow bloggers to a $75 a week grocery challenge in place of her "30 Days of Nothing." I am joining the challenge with a twist--I am calling mine, "30 Days of Something Different" by combining the grocery challenge with 30 days of barebones spending.

As I pondered this, I realized I KNOW how to play this game. It was my reality show for our first fifteen years of marriage called REAL LIFE. We lived below the poverty line for so many years that when we finally hit the black we felt like kings! It will be a game now because I know that if I truly want/need to spend more during the next 30 days, I can. Still, it will be good to get back to basics and carefully assess where money is spent.

So why did I change "nothing" to "something different"? I learned long ago that most economic choices are my own. With the wise advice of my older sister I quit saying, "We can't afford that!" and instead thought, "We're making other choices right now." It was a freeing change of mindset. While it's true that for years we "couldn't afford" many items most Americans consider essential (like our years without a car and on top of it no snowboots, only tennis shoes, while walking everywhere in a cold, snowy city) I always had the choice to go back to work (which I realize is not the case for much of the worlds' poor and some Americans living in poverty--in no way am I trying to compare). For us, it was more important to have me home with our kids than to have what the extra money would buy. To many, we had "nothing," but in reality we had "something different."

Our 30 day challenge will be much the same. We won't spend money on entertainment but we will replace it with something different such as board games at home. We won't have Pizza Pockets but will have something different, such as homemade pizza. We won't drive to the mall, we'll do something different, like walk to the neighbor's yardsale in search of treasures.

Changing "nothing" into "something different" puts a new spin on living with less. It takes the "poor, pitiful me" out of the picture and substitutes a sense of ownership and power. It leads to looking for solutions instead of bemoaning the difficulties. It leads to seeing how others live in a whole new way because the reality is, even when we put a positive spin on it, it's hard to live with less.

My hope is that during this time we can convey this lesson to our children. Although we still live with a close eye on the budget, our younger children have lived a more material-filled life than our olders. It will be a good reminder to them of wants vs. needs and a chance to learn that "nothing" can actually be turned into "something different."

Feel free to join the challenge! Put in a comment and make this a community event!




Saturday, August 29, 2009

A Breath Of Fresh Air

I just finished my summer practicum at Head Start. I loved it. Working with 3yo is so much fun! It makes me kinda sad that when I work in the adoption field I won't actually spend my days with children.

I am now a free woman until fall term. Here are some of the things I hope to accomplish in the next few weeks:

1.) Give my children some attention. They seem to have survived a Lord Of The Flies summer and don't seem any worse for the wear--but still, Mommy guilt . . .

2.) Go on evening walks with Hubby. And exercise during the day.

3.) Prepare Vu for school. Yes, all the kids are going to school this year. Could be interesting. Yes, I'm worried Vu is going to freak. Yes, I hope I will be wrong.

4.) Cook. Real food.

5.) Learn to cook VNese food.

6.) Update my blog template.

7.) Go out to lunch with friends. And coffee. And breakfast. It is going to be so weird having all my kids in school--first time in 26 years!

8.) Cry that all my babies are in school.

9.) Journal. Think. Scrapbook. Blog.

10.) Read. Books I actually WANT to read. Sit.

Also, I have a plan I am scheming up for Sept. Hint--my plan is called, "30 Days Of Nothing." And it actually has nothing to do with what I just posted about the next 30 days. It is something different! More in my next post.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Back To School The Easy Way

I posted this two years ago but think I only had about five readers then, so thought it was worth repeating. Vu and Patrick are going to public school this year, along with the rest of the crew, so I'm madly trying to prepare. Yes, please pass the paper bag. I am hyperventilating. Again. This will be the first time in 26 years I will not have a child at home.

Back To School

We've been doing our back-to-school shopping

I will be the first to admit I was NOT born organized. In fact, the whole idea was foreign to me until I had (several) kids BUT the more kids we had, the more I had to LEARN to be organized. Here are some of the ideas that work well for us to make school run smoothly:

1.) Get up early. This is difficult. But so important.

2.) Have a master calendar and daily planner. Check every night before bed and every morning upon waking. And if you have dementia like me, several times in between. I also have a large bulletin board in the laundry room with master school and sports schedules.

3.) Keep a master box of extra school supplies. I buy extra supplies in the summer when things are on sale. Poster board is a very important supply. I've learned this the hard way trying to find a store open at 11 pm for a procrastinating high-schooler. If my kids need a supply not in the box they are to write me a note and put it on the fridge.

4.) Keep a small school box full of supplies for homework and readily accessible where homework is done. If there is more than one area, have more than one box.

5.) Have a daily homework time for elementary school kids. My older kids fit it in on their own.

6.) Have a desk folder for school info--all those things you get at back-to-school night with teacher e-mails and class schedules. Keep a separate folder for each child.

7.) Make a breakfast menu or at least plan what will be for breakfast the night before. We were a cold cereal family during our years of having a new baby in the house so no guilt from me. It can help just to get out the boxes and bowls.

8.) Make lunches the night before. I usually pack the things that won't get soggy and make the sandwiches the morning of.

9.) Sign and return papers right away. If my child comes home from school and hands me a permission slip for a field trip, I immediately sign it, get money for the event out of my purse and return it to their backpack. Otherwise, it is too easy to forget or bury it on my desk.

10.) Lastly, my MOST SUCCESSFUL SCHOOL ORGANIZATION TIP! Have a check-off list to use in the evening. Direct the children to the list so you are not forever asking the same questions over and over i.e. "Did you brush your teeth, did you . . ." All you need to say is, "Have you finished your check-off list?"

Ours is posted on the side of the fridge. It is for mental check-off only because I have never had much luck at real check-off lists. It is only intended for my elementary age kids.

1. 6:45 Start bath/showers
For the record, my kids do not bathe every night. Nobody has died from lack thereof.

2. Lay out clothes
They lay out what they will wear the next day including clothes, socks, shoes, hair accessories

3. Put backpack by front door (make sure homework is signed)

4. Do a housesweep
No actual sweeping involved--they look all around the house and pick up their things. They also spend a few minutes picking up their bedroom.

5. Have a snack if you have time
(They need to be done with all the above by 7:45 to have a snack--it's a very good incentive!)

6. Brush teeth

7. Read


Daddy usually reads a bedtime story and favorites continue to be books by Bill Peet or Sonlight recommended read-aloud, such as the kindergarten books which my boys love! (On the link click "Individual Items" to see all the titles for that age group.) Most are available at the public library. A good incentive for a child who needs to read but does not like to read is to let them choose to go to sleep or stay up 20 minutes later reading on their own. It works!

Then, it's tuck-in time. I enjoy spending individual time with each child even tho I would often like nothing more than to climb into my own bed. I never regret the time spent talking with them about their day and giving them a blessing, backrub and cuddles.

Finally, it's time to collapse myself and start all over the next day!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Tightwad Fun

While moving, I came across some old issues of The Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn. For years, I was determined to become the twin of The Great Queen Of Thrift (notice the past tense).

Now, I am a tightwad failure, tho I do consider myself to be striving for a simplified life and I probably spend less than most mothers of two.

As you can see, I still believe in cheap fun:





And I still enjoy reading about thrift even if I'm not as hard-core as in my previous life (aka life on a military paycheck):


Sunday, August 23, 2009

Home Is Where The Heart Is . . .

Our housewarming party was SO MUCH FUN!

Our realtor and lender (awesome people) were kind enough to throw us the party:


Our realtor's husband was our BBQ chef--what a great guy!:


A friend of Kim's made this wonderful cake:


We are so blessed by our family, friends, old neighbors and new neighbors. I was so caught up in enjoying the crowd I didn't take any pics--luckily, my kids did!







All the kids enjoyed our rec room--especially the popcorn machine and THE CLAW candy grabber:


They also had some fun with hide-and-go-seek and wrestling:

a game of hide-and-go-seek


And what's a party without Guitar Hero?

We like our new house:

But we LOVE all our friends and family. Thanks to EVERYONE for making our new house a very special HOME!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Teaching Adopted Children To Play

One of my big surprises in adopting an older child was that Vu didn't know how to play. I assumed he would have an even greater imagination than other children because of lack of toys in the orphanage. Instead, I discovered a child who could imagine himself in imaginary terms but rarely use concrete objects in imaginary ways.

As an example, he could pretend that he, himself, was a Power Ranger, but he couldn't play imaginary games with a toy Power Ranger. True, he might have fun moving the super hero around but he wasn't able to play out imaginary drama with words and actions.

It wasn't until I read Deborah Gray's Top Ten Hints that I discovered this is common behavior for older adopted children. Learning to play is a skill that is inadvertently taught through common games in healthy families. Somehow I missed this point in Gray's extraordinary book, Attaching in Adoption (a must-read for all adoptive parents).

After reading the article I set aside time everyday to teach Vu how to play. We would play with our toy kitchen, our Playmobile figures and cell phones. Later, we fit in play more naturally.

It wasn't until I was taking this picture . . .


that I realized Vu now KNOWS how to play pretend. Very well.

Vu told me he was building a big castle and the pirates were coming and they were going to fall into the water. He told me the ninjas (sand blobs) were yelling, "Chop the bridge! Chop the bridge!"

Can you believe that a year ago he still didn't even understand the concept of playing in sand? Amazing.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Your Mama's So Fat . . .

she has to drive a 15-passenger van . . . just for herself!

I know, that isn't funny. Except that it is. Especially because I do drive a 15-passenger van.

I am told our new neighborhood used to be very quiet and boring. No longer. Our family now provides noise, entertainment, and an occasional freak show--all for free! Here's what we woke up to one morning . . .



For those of you without teens, "tagging" is what teenagers do to each other in the middle of the night to show affection. At least, that is what I am told. In truth, I think it's what teenagers do in the middle of the night when they are bored. All I can say is that it beats being TP'd.

Lizzy's car looked like this:



My "sexy beast" looked like this:



I didn't understand the "your mom goes to college" until Lizzy reminded me of this clip from Napoleon Dynamite:

Funny thing is, we've been busy making friendship bracelets here. I would be happy to make one into a keychain if anyone would like to donate to my college fund :-)


I actually just finished up for the summer so I am a free woman for the next couple weeks, which hopefully will mean more time for blogging! Lots to catch up on!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Our Wedding Video

Ha! Okay, so you know that wasn't us, but those people know how to have some FUN!!!

We don't even have video of our wedding. Video cameras had yet to be invented!!!

I do have pics tho and here is the happy couple. The guy in the picture really is Eric--with hair! Tee-hee-hee! (Our younger kids find it amazing that their dad not only had hair,but lots of it. And he had just had it cut the day before!)

I was only 12. Which is why I look so young.


Saturday, August 15, 2009

Pssst!--Edited--Key To A Happy Marriage+Friends Video

Hey guys it's Lizzy. :]

Today is my parents 28th wedding anniversary! And they're spending the day getting ready for our house warming tomorrow. Not ideal-- so as a tiny surprise I wanted everyone to wish them a happy anniversary!

My parents are the best. I couldn't ask for better ones. :]

So here's to you guys! Happy 28 years!


EDIT by Ann--Awww! Such a sweet surprise! We were so busy getting ready for our housewarming party (FUN!) I hadn't even checked my e-mail! We had a nice anniversary and even snuck dinner in. 28 YEARS! That's a LONG time. I like to say, "We haven't killed each other . . . YET!" LOL! Sometimes I wonder how we ended up together. Let's just say E-Harmony wouldn't have paired us up! Can you spell OPPOSITES ATTRACT?

We are very different but we're also great friends. I've discovered the key to a happy marriage is to try to change oneself instead of changing the other person. Eventually,there gets to be a middle ground where best friends are found.

I always think of my husband when I hear this song. My guy is definitely still a guy and always will be!

Here's to another 28! Thank you Lizzy and friends for your sweet surprise!

Friday, August 14, 2009

This Girl Knows How To Throw A Party!

My sister Texas (aka Amber, aka Martha Stewart) knows how to throw a party!
Here, my sister makes the sweetest toast comparing marriage to a box of chocolates where she ended up with the best chocolate covered carmel in the box.
For her 20th Anniversary she put on a true cowboy hoe-down! My horse riding, cattle ranching, true American cowboy Grandparents would have been so proud!

Our family can get a little wild so it's best to post signs like this:
Ha-ha! That sign actually came from the Pendleton Round-up years ago but we still get a kick out of it and my sister has it hanging in the bathroom at her cabin.

Lots of family and friends came running for a GREAT time, including Paul and my nephew!



Our older boys weren't able to make it. Sometimes I wish they were jobless bums.

But we still had fun!





It's always fun to see my dad:

And to hang out with my other dad too--and my mom and lots of nieces, nephews, and cousins!





This cousin is a HOOT!

My photography skills are improving!

Uh . . . maybe not.

Life Is Good.
Especially at my sister's cabin with family, friends, music, and laughter.