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Friday, January 27, 2012

Update On Debt

I should be jumping in the shower right now so I can make it to my son's school on time for his Dance of the Dragon, but I am going to eek out this post really quickly. (Real quick? Really quick? Real Quickly?)

I posted a while ago about mine and Joe's journey into Financial Peace University, a Dave Ramsey program.

We have been to 2 classes (tonight is actually our 3rd class) and we are really pumped at our progress already.

Before the program even started, we had been making strides to pay off debt. For like YEARS we have been paying off or settling credit cards that we had run up HIGH balances on when we had life's catastrophes smack us in the face. We. like SO MANY others, believed that the best way to handle these emergencies was to charge them.

And now we are paying the price...literally and figuratively.

At 29% or more interest, that purchase we made 4 YEARS AGO is still kicking us in the arse.

Anyway...in my last post I told you we had $400-something saved up toward our $1000 Emergency Fund. Guess what happened?

AN EMERGENCY. I kid you not.

Our washer died.

And with our gargantuan family, a washer is not a frivolous item. It's a necessity. We do about 2-3 loads of laundry A DAY and that's conservative. It broke down during the week the whole family had the flu. And the kind of flu where you should NOT take any chances if you're feeling a little pressure...catch my drift?

So, we had PILES of newly "striped" Batman and Iron Man underwear that needed to be washed. Time was of the essence.

So, while it sucked that we had to fork over our hard earned cash, it was awesome that we paid CASH....we didn't charge it. And that is a huge first step on the road to financial recovery!

In about a week's time, if all goes according to plan, we will have our $1000 Emergency Fund in place AND we will be paying off about $8,000 (or roughly 10%) of our debt. That will free up about $125 a month for us. It's a wonderful feeling.

I know this is just the beginning, but we are learning and hearing from others who have become debt free that as you persevere and press forward with this proven program, you gain momentum and pick up speed.

Um...here's where I feel I must confess something though...

Dave says that until you 1) Save $1000, 2) pay off ALL your debt (including mortgage), and 3) save 3-6 months of living expenses, your foot should not leave the gas pedal. That means, no frivolous spending that is not budgeted, no big splurges, and you keep your eye on the prize...

Well, *ahem* we kind of veered off the path a bit.

I know, I know!! I'm hiding behind my hands right now...

It was SORTA an accident (but not really...)
A friend GAVE us a queen size mattress, box springs, bed frame and headboard. GAVE US. As in FREE.

We had a King size bed which was wonderful because of its size, it was also horrible because of its size. Our bedroom pretty much only had a bed in it and very little space for walking around.

So, we thought a queen size would be wonderful for giving us some more space.

And as we were discussing it, I thought, "Hey...this would be a great time to tear up the carpeting that the dog ruined in there!" So Joe agreed.

As he was tearing up the carpet, I thought, "Eureka! This would ALSO be a GREAT time to paint this hideous green and sparkly yellow bedroom. The one that we have lived with for 6 years..."

So, that's what we did...we tore up carpeting and painted. We put the bed together and we are now finishing up with making it look "pretty."

We spent $$ that was definitely NOT budgeted. And I do have the guilts. But I'm also very excited for the bedroom to finally feel nice.

Not that I'm justifying...

So...that's where we are. A work in progress. :) As always.

**I was not compensated in any way for this post. Dave Ramsey has absolutely NO idea who I am and if he did, he would be kicking my butt for going off the track with this bedroom makeover...

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

But He's My Dad

My life felt like a Country Song today. I got an awful call from my parents that my dad has been diagnosed with Esophageal Cancer.

That sucks.

Nothing sucks the breath out of your lungs quite like that.

You always know, intuitively, that as you get older and have a family, inevitably your parents age as well. And..no, no one can live forever...but this kind of news is never, ever expected.

I was stunned. I had a million questions all at once, but some I was afraid to ask. How do you ask your dad what his prognosis for recovery is or how long the doctors "give" him?

I know next to nothing about Esophageal Cancer except that cancer is a vicious, unrelenting, hateful, undiscriminating beast. Its ugliness has filled my life enough. It seems every day I am hearing tragedies about families diagnosed with or losing battles with cancer.

My parents were both so strong and upbeat on the phone. They were trying hard not to scare me and I knew it. And all I can think of now, in remembering how calm and wonderful they were, is how often I have belittled them and begrudged them the privilege of being considered good parents.

Or even good enough.

I have long been an ungrateful and thankless child and it totally sucks that it takes something like this to wake me up.

I can't even recount all the times my dad was there for me.

As a kid, I have such fond memories of him playing outside with me, helping me with school projects, training me for my elementary school's "olympics," watching TV together--just the two of us--singing in the kitchen (some made-up rendition of "On Top Of Spaghetti"), hearing his [loud] laugh, his monkey strength, knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that he could beat up anybody in the world and would protect me at any cost.

I saw my dad as most little girls see their dads...he was my hero. He was the smartest person I knew and he could do anything.

Looking back as an adult, I know now how much my parents sacrificed for us. I know the heartache they felt with every ungrateful word I said and every time I acted embarrassed of them. I now understand how they loved my sisters and I and tried to provide us with a better life.

And I still see my dad as that same guy I used to have to crane my neck back to see...that 5'5 giant. :)

The guy who used to take us sled riding and make dinner, and wrestle with us.

He's my hero; He's the smartest person I know and he can do anything.

Including beat this diagnosis.

I love you, Dad!
xoxo

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Hangin' By a Chronos

Boy have I been chomping at the bit to talk with you all.

I read a blog yesterday by Glennon Melton called Don't Carpe Diem. Maybe you read it? If not, I'm amazed since it seems every single Facebook friend I have posted and shared it. It was shared over 76, 000 times on Facebook alone! 76 THOUSAND times.

If you are part of the 1% who has NOT read this...I urge you...go NOW and read it. And pretend I wrote it because I sort of did. I mean...I think she somehow mind-melded with me and took every single thought I've ever had about parenting and arranged it into this amazing and articulate masterpiece.

I was mentally kicking myself thinking, "Why didn't I write that??!"

My sister offered one possibility: Other than the obvious: I'm not Glennon Melton.  I'm too hung up on the need to tie things up with a bow so that I don't come across as too negative. I've been feeling my posts on here of late were pretty negative anyway. And you KNOW there will ALWAYS be that bonehead who has to be antagonistic and tear you to shreds about bemoaning any part of parenting.

Every time I want to be negative...or REAL, as I feel it is...I'm so afraid someone will think I am not grateful for my beautiful kids or I'll offend those who would give anything to have babies. What about those who are opposed to big families (for whatever inane reason)...I hate to give them the satisfaction of a smug,  "I told you so" attitude.

So, yes, the voices in my head are many. And I'm tired of listening to all of them.

In fact, I'm in a bit of a funk lately.

Seems that's typical for me in pregnancy. I get exceptionally moody and extra hormonal. I get the baby blues early and want to shut myself in a cave...I'm a breath of fresh air to live with.

And I tend to dwell on Chronos moments more than I should. You don't know what Chronos is? Then you obviously haven't read "Don't Carpe Diem" yet! Go ahead...I'll be here when you get back...

See? Wasn't that a good read? Don't tell me...you laughed. You cried...Right? Go ahead, share it on your FB page. I'll wait for that too...

Anyway...I was telling my sister how my Kairos moments tend to kick in at night, after I've rushed the kids to bed. I've held onto every vestige of patience I have waiting while they fight, put on pajamas, dig for 10 minutes for the perfect toy to have in bed, wrestle, brush teeth, play in the water, tattle on whoever wronged them, pick out a library of books to "read" in bed, tell me 22 last minute stories about the boy who sits next to them in school, and generally drive me mad. I threaten, I breathe heavy, I regain composure, I tuck in, I kiss them goodnight, I pray with them, and then...just when I am tip-toeing out of their rooms...looking at the light in the hallway like I'll one day look at the light surrounding St Peter, all hell breaks loose.

M cries that he wants a different book, L needs a drink, E's head hurts, R wants to tell me one more story about his day, and I look over to find the baby standing up in her crib, jumping up and down with not a care in the world...nor any sign that she will be going to sleep any time soon.

It's THOSE moments when my pleasant demeanor breaks and my "Goodnight-Mommy-Loves-You-Angels facade falls apart and I lose it.

I yell, "I said Good NIGHT! It's LATE! Mommy needs a BREAK!" And then I start barking orders and the peace and magic of the sweet bedtime is broken.

I usually end up apologizing, but by that time the damage is done. THAT'S how they will remember bedtime being. Not a soft kiss on their forehead and a sweet, whispered 'goodnight' but a guttural, animalistic, Linda Blair "GOOD NIGHT!"

And then I finally slink downstairs to the solace I've been pining for...okay so what if the dinner dishes are still on the table and the sink is overflowing with lunch dishes, and there is macaroni and cheese all over the floor, and toys strewn from here to there and everywhere, and our front door looks like a Payless store with everyone's shoes thrown haphazardly all around...it's my solace. I choose to ignore all that, the laundry in the basement, the baby banging her bottle off the back of her crib upstairs, M's weird bedtime chanting ritual, and I sit down. I take a breath and I enjoy the moment that no one is yelling at me or ordering me around or needing something from me.

And then...the guilt sets in. Those nagging voices that tell me how mean I was to the kids and how I will one day miss these days when they are all so little and at home with me. I feel the tears burning my eyes and my throat feels tight. I'm sure I've caused irrevocable damage--yet again--by being so short tempered with those little babies. I feel awful that I blew off R when he wanted to share something from his day with me. After all, it will be in no time at all when he won't want to tell me anything.

And poor E. How callus of me to disregard her headache. After all, I've had my share of migraines that no one cared about and I know how miserable they can be. Poor L. He didn't have a lot of juice at dinner. I'd sure hate to go to bed thirsty and not be allowed to have a drink.

So the guilt and the voices drive me up, out of my seat. I tip-toe back upstairs and into the boys' bedroom. I get L a drink of water and I tap R on his skinny little arm and say in a whisper, "Hey, Buddy! What was it you wanted to tell Mommy?" I smile serenely and rub my finger over his soft little cheek. And he starts to tell me his story. But it's not in the library-worthy soft whisper and tone that I used. It's in his full-on "Have I got a story for you" voice. I wince at how loud it is and sharply shush him. The shush gets M's attention, who rolls over abruptly in his crib and starts yelling that he wants a toy. Then L asks if he can get more water, and in doing so, gets E's attention across the hall. She, in turn, starts yelling to me that her head still hurts. I sigh very heavily and hold my head like it may explode at any moment. Because it very well may.

And then...I do it again. I yell to everyone to get quiet and get in bed,  in a voice Johnny Cash would have envied. And then I repeat all the same motions as the first go-round of bedtime...complete with the guilty walking of the gauntlet where I collapse on the couch downstairs feeling worse than I had the first time.

Moral of that story: Do your apologies the next morning.

No seriously...the moral is...I don't know the moral. That's just where I happen to be right now. I'm beaten. I'm tired. I'm done.

And yet I know it will all start again in just a few short hours. Plus, this house needs to be picked up before the husband gets home and utters the unforgivable. "What did you do all day? This house is a mess!" And I have to add murder to my list of sins for the evening.

And I'm reaching into that reserve of mothering-ness that we're all supposed to have somewhere. I think it got lost along with my waist, my desire to cook and sew and do my hair and makeup every day.

And I think, "This sucks."

Why can't I carpe diem better? I feel the diem keeps carpe-ing my ass instead.

And then I get hateful and think things like this about perfect strangers, "I hate you all. Get off my planet."

And I reel it back in...slowly I refocus and try to spin my head back around.

And I remember those other wise words I've heard parents with grown kids say...."Your kids won't remember those times you snapped at them. They will remember more how much you love them."

And I hope to God they're right!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Happy New Year! And All That Jazz.

Isn't this the post where I'm supposed to launch into how wonderful our holidays were and what my New Year's Resolutions are?

I just don't have the energy.

Our holidays were wonderful. I'll give you that.

They were also exhausting.

For 4 weekends straight we got together with family. Often on both days of the weekend.

I love my family. It was just very tiring going here and there.

Add to it the manic Christmas morning with 5 million  toys and 12 lbs of wrapping paper...mixed with, 180-piece gifts the kids received and you'll have a better understanding of why I want to hibernate.

It's 106: in the afternoon and here I sit in my PJs, hair unwashed, face a bland, empty canvas, and I have zero desire to change any of it.

Joe had the flu. Joe gave me the flu. I volleyed between laying in bed and on the couch for 24 hours straight, stopping only long enough to slap together some PB&Js and then crawl back to bed. The kids were pretty much unsupervised that entire time. I'd yell from the couch to make sure our almost 1 year old was okay. But there was nothing, I mean nothing that could have gotten me off that couch.

Not free Coach bags
Not chocolate
Not Jake Gyllenhaal-shirtless or otherwise
...I don't think even a frggin bomb could have moved me.

I was that sick.

It happens about once a year.

And now it's working its way through the kids. I have every confidence that it will work it's way back to moi...just as everyone else is happily on the mend. And then you'll see the fine print of our couch embroidered on my face once again.

New Year's here was uneventful. We celebrated at home with the kids. We made pizzas, had ice cream sundaes and then had a sparkling wine toast at 10 PM. (Maybe even a skosh before 10, but the kids have no idea.) Then Joe and I sat up watching riveting TV waiting for midnight.

It was somewhere during the 20th episode of Dog the Bounty Hunter when I turned to find this:


You're going to have to use your imagination and lean your head to the side...this dadgum picture won't rotate like I want it to and I'm ready to put my fist through the computer screen after trying for 10 minutes.

So anyway...there I am, enthralled by another episode of Beth Chapman's cleavage and 20 foot fingernails, when I look over to say something to Joe...and I found that. What a vision.

We did manage to see the ball drop. And then we went to bed.

Where are the days when we just getting started at midnight?

I'm getting so old. It's very depressing.

Even more depressing...I'm watching the clock to make sure I can post this and STILL get in my nap before the kids come home from school. What's become of me?
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