Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter 2014

Happy Easter from the Beavers!

 (Yes, this was the best picture we could get after church today. That's life with the Beavers.)

We were very "untraditional" with commercial Easter activities this year.  We didn't go to community egg hunts.  We didn't do Easter baskets.  We colored eggs today, but only 9 of them--and we used a dye kit that I bought at end-of-season last year.

Then, we had an egg hunt with those nine eggs this evening--plus some other plastic candy-filled eggs that I bought at end-of-season last year.  The kids had fun.  It was hilarious to hear their squeals when they would see one of the eggs that Eli hid.  The grass was just tall enough that eggs could hide in the grass and the kids didn't see them until they were on top of them.

Of course, the eggs I got last year were "egg"ucational (per the package) and had letters on them, so Elsie was calling out letters as she picked them up.  Then, once they got their buckets inside, they dug through and found the eggs that had the letters of their names.

I wish I had had time to do Easter outfits this year--it was a lot of fun to sew them last year.  But, alas, I have little energy right now, so that went by the wayside with the Easter baskets.  Elsie and Oscar were having a conversation after church about how the Easter Bunny didn't come to our house, and then when Eli was about to go out to hide eggs, she was so excited, jumping up and down saying, "Daddy!  You are the Easter Bunny!"  I'm okay with that.  (But I did tell her not to mention it to her friends...)

So, happy Easter!!


Saturday, April 19, 2014

Laundry Sanity

Laundry:  it never ends.

The more people you have, the more of it is generated.

At some time when the kids were little, I found some pop-up hampers and we used those for a while as the receptacle for dirty clothes. Then those ended up just being utilized as laundry baskets, and I found another pop-up hamper that I could use as a dedicated laundry hamper because it hung from the closet doorknob (found it cheap cheap cheap in the Target Dollar Spot).

And that worked.  Until the kids got bigger, messier, and their clothes took up more space, and then essentially broke the pop-up hamper under their weight.

After Christmas I was at Target looking for some solutions for toy storage, and they were having their big storage sale, and I happened upon the Lamper.  It's basically a tall laundry hamper that could double as a laundry basket when needed.  So, I bought one in black for the kids' room.

And then, I saw that they had it in teal.  And upon further research, I found that Walmart had it in white.  That gave me an idea.  Over spring break, I went and got one in each color (white, teal, black), and now these lampers are what we are using as our dirty-laundry-sorting system.  The system hasn't been in place long, but there are no and have been no dirty clothes on the bathroom floor for a couple of weeks, and I'm telling you that this is amazing, and a step in the right direction (not tripping over Mount Washmore on my way to the bathroom in the middle of the night)!

I've had various sorters before (one a pop-up tri-compartment thing from when I was single/unmarried, another one from FlyLady that I used when Eli was away at JAG school), but after being married and putting two people's worth of clothes and linens in there, they were too small, and Eli wouldn't use them.  I think I like having the three separate baskets because when one gets full, I just have to take it to the laundry room, put the clothes in, and then leave the basket there for the duration of the wash/dry cycle, and then use it to bring the clothes in to our room, (where, truthfully, they may or may not get folded...hey, baby steps here, baby steps) and return the lamper to the closet.  Also, the lampers are just the right size to have one full load of laundry in them when they get full.  And they're large.  And they're being used.  Need I say more?

The other sanity-saver in my life these days is one that I give all credit to my oldest sister.  We've been using it for a couple of years, but I am still amazed at the wisdom.  Stacey mentioned to me, back when Elsie and Oscar were little little, that when her two were little she used a shoe organizer to put their clothes in "tacos" to plan for the week.  So, I went out and got this self-standing 10-compartment shoe organizer from Target and have been using it ever since.

We fill the compartments with "tacos" on Sunday night after doing laundry on the weekend, and there are five outfits for Oscar and five for Elsie.  The element of choice is there, but I get to pair the outfits.  On school mornings, they wake up, go to the organizer and grab an outfit and get dressed.  The end.  You know, when we keep up our routines.  It's not perfect, but it's waaaaay better than sorting through the clean laundry pile that lives in our room.  :)

Something else that I tried this fall that worked well was to have only 7 outfits for the kids--seven pants and seven long-sleeved shirts.  Period.  So, yes, they wore the same clothes to church every Sunday.  Didn't bother me.  This worked great until it started getting warmer and each child, in each a separate week, came home two of the days with holes in the knees in two pairs of their pants.  I knew I could send O to daycare with holes in his pants.  But, it gets a little more tricky to navigate sending E to school with holes since there's this whole dress code thing.  Turns out that the elementary schools don't have as aggressive a stance on holes as the middle and high school--thank goodness.  Now we're into warmer weather, and shorts and short-sleeved shirts fit better in the organizer.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do when their clothes get too bulky for the organizer (because they've GROWN)--this system is just working so well for now!  So, if you have any ideas, let me know!!


Friday, April 18, 2014

Debt Snowball Visual -- 2014

Okay, because I have better things that I should be doing (you know, like getting together sub plans for my impending maternity leave), I have instead been going back and reading all my debt updates since we started with the debt thermometers in October of 2011.  One of my posts from June 2012 has a picture of the debt snowball tool from (free 7-day trial).  Looking at that picture, it got me to thinking that I should post an updated picture, particularly since we paid Eli's loans off last fall.  So, here it is (click to enlarge):

The orange line that dropped off the map was the first of Eli's loans that we paid off (law school).  The blue line is the one that we are paying on now (undergrad), and when we pay it off, we will be debt-free, except for the house.  If you look at that blue line, you notice some dips and drops that ultimately alter the payoff date--these are times when we paid more than the minimum snowball payment (orange's minimum payment + blue's minimum payment).  Told you March 2014 was a good month, haha.

Also, in going back and reading, I saw my goal about being debt-free by 35 or by the time Elsie starts kindergarten.  Well, I turn 35 in June, so that's not going to happen unless we experience a giant windfall...and we did Kindergarten registration last week, so Elsie will start Kindergarten in August.  That one will be close.  I just looked at loan totals today, and we have around $13,200 left.  I absolutely plan to have this paid off before the year is over (maybe even cancel the commercial Christmas traditions?), so perhaps I should amend that original goal to say "when Elsie is in Kindergarten", because she will be (time flies).

When we're done with all these debt shenanigans, I will definitely post a picture of our completed snowball.  :)


Saturday, April 5, 2014

Little Craftspeople

I'm excited that E & O are at the age where they can do activities that require some fine motor skills.  This morning, we braved Hardee's for biscuits (along with all the gray-haired people in Opelika) and then headed over to the Home Depot for our first Saturday morning Kids' Workshop.

A couple of weeks ago, the Home Depot people came to Elsie's preschool class and they created bug catchers--I just remember the look in her eye when she talked about how she had to hammer the pieces together--it was sheer joy.  She got a little badge for her project, but we didn't have any place to put it.  Then, this week, we got an invitation to a little friend's birthday party--at the Home Depot.  It's the second weekend in May, and the kids will be completing a project.  Granted, 3.0 should be here by then (fingers crossed) so Eli will probably have to take the kids.  And if we're in labor at the hospital that day, then, well, we'll have to find someone who will take them.

But, back to today:

It was crowded, and I'm awkwardly shaped, so that made sitting on buckets and bending over two-by-twelves-cum-workbenches very uncomfortable, but it was a great experience.

The painting was a success, but then we had very wet projects, so we  brought them home and finished them once they dried.  Of course the one shot where they both were semi-normal looking, my cell phone camera wouldn't pick up the light.

Who am I kidding?  This is more like normal:

I mean, look at these precious faces.  Am I blessed or what?

Cheers.  :)

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April 2014 Debt Update

Wowza, what a month!

March was very busy.  Eli was gone with the Army (which means more $$ to pay on debt) a bit, and there were some other financial decisions that helped us to make some headway with our debt.  So much so that we're almost done with our FOURTH DEBT THERMOMETER!!
Fourth 10K Chunk, started 9/24/13
  fundraising ideas
Fundraising Thermometer

So, this month, we were able to pay $3162.52 on our debt.  Yes, that's right.  Over $3,000.  A huge chunk of that was an insurance policy that we cashed in after reviewing our coverage.  And then the rest of it was the aforementioned $$ from the Army.  We probably won't have another cash windfall like this before we pay off all the debt, but it sure does feel good to get some momentum early in the year!  If we keep the focus, we are on track to be debt-free before 2015!

It has been fun to talk about what we are going to do when we get out of debt.  It comes up more and more frequently.  Obviously, we are going to be following Dave Ramsey's baby steps (next step is the fully funded emergency fund)--but what kinds of things have we put on hold for the last several years?  That's where our conversations are leaning.  I know this sounds strange, but I'm really excited about funding an IRA.  Just sayin'.

This week also marks the last week of our FPU refresher course.  We were supposed to be done at the beginning of March, but we had two snow days and one spring break day, so we had to spread the calendar out.  It has been good to sit and listen to the messages again.  Some little things I have forgotten, and some I liked better the first time around (things Dave went into more detail in the 2008 FPU course).  All in all, I'm glad that we decided to attend again.