Sunday, September 23, 2012

Christmas Panic Step 1 - Budgeting

Time for Christmas Planning Step 1 - Creating A Budget

At his old job, my husband received a bonus every year right before Thanksgiving - that was our Christmas budget. It wasn't huge, but it was just enough to pay the holiday expenses without us going into debt.

We won't be getting a bonus this year, and with everything that has happened, saving for Christmas just didn't happen.
We had some serious planning to do if we are going to enjoy the holiday rather than stress over paying for it.

First, a list of all the expenses -

1.  Gifts for the family - each of the 5 kids, me and my husband
2.  Stocking stuffers /Saint Nicholas Day (All the little stuff adds up!)
3.  Extended family(his family and my multiple family parties)
4.  Other misc. gifts (teachers, daughters' boyfriends, Secret Santa at work, etc)
5.  Cards and postage
6.  Gift wrap/ribbon
7.  Decor (this includes the tree as our old artificial tree was ruined in our move)
8.  Food  - special meals, potlucks, cookies
9.  Events - Polar Express train tickets, donations

Basically, everything we could think of.

Tsh, at Simple Mom, has a great Christmas Budget download available here:

Even though I wasn't extravagant with anything in our budget it added up to a shocking amount of money!
I went back and cut a bit here and there until the numbers in front of me seemed more manageable. It would mean we had to plan carefully and keep away from the temptation to impulse shop.
Then we made a savings plan so we could cover the expenses.

With that done, I headed to my "Inspiration Mecca" -aka Pinterest- and started pinning away!
(You can follow me on Pinterest here!

Next up- sorting the ideas, choosing which ones to tackle, and creating a calendar so these pinned ideas actually make it into reality!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Coming Soon! Crafting a Cozy Christmas!

As summer was winding down and autumn was fast approaching and everyone was loving on the return of Pumpkin Spice Latte's and pulling out boots and sweaters,

I started having panic attacks.
Full-on can't-breathe sleepless-nights panic
What would give me Panic Attacks with all the lovely fall-goodness surrounding me?


 ACK!! Christmas is 3 months away!!!! Holy CRAP!! 

With everything that has happened this past year, we are less than prepared to face the holiday!

So instead of indulging in autumn projects and Cornucopia centerpieces, (we don't host for Halloween or Thanksgiving so skipping fall decor isn't a tragedy) I am diving headfirst into Christmas Planning

Now I know, for many of you Extreme Organizers/Budgetters/Knitters/Sewers/Crafters out there, three months is NOT planning ahead, but for this mere mortal, I am hoping it will make the difference between doing what we can, and doing what we want.

With just 94 days to go I have to get crackin'!

Tomorrow, the #1 most important Holiday Panic planning tool - The Budget!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Digging Out From All Kinds of Messes

Again I've been MIA
When my husband lost his job the week before Christmas it was a horrible blow.
I wanted to be one of those inspiring bloggers who turned their challenges into triumphs.

I wish I could say I just pulled up my big girl panties and turned that lemon into lemonade.

But I didn't.

I stared with hate and malice at that ugly lemon until it had shriveled and putrefied on the counter of life. I pouted and threw hissy fits over the loss. I cried a lot. I lamented the past 20 years I have spent as a SAHM and my lack of job skills that made it impossible for me to make a meaningful contribution to my family's welfare. I wallowed in that for quite some time. I was the opposite of inspirational.

I did do my best for my family. In my daily life I stayed positive. Our family is even stronger for what we've been through and for that I am grateful.

Luckily, my husband happened into a job. We were watching the news one morning when there was a story about a new restaurant opening in town. They were holding a job fair that day to hire staff.  He told me he was going to check it out. He'd waited tables eons ago and he knew he could make more doing that than he was collecting in unemployment. Plus he hated just sitting around, and if he was waiting tables he could still go to interviews during the day. If nothing else came of it, at least he would get in a little interviewing practice. He went in and was hired as a server.
Well, one thing led to another and he's fast-tracked up the ranks and into management in a matter of a few short months. It's been stressful, but great. He has decided that he's having fun doing this job, he's feeling appreciated and valued by his bosses and really enjoys the people he works with. So the temporary job he got on a whim has turned into his new career.

Who knew?

I guess we should have. Things we do on a crazy whim have a way of working out better for us than the things we carefully plan. Sometimes you just have to trust that life throws things in your path for a reason. They aren't annoying detours, they are the signs pointing you in the right direction.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

From Have to Have Not

I've been away. Life once again got the better of me. Things were rolling along. I went back to school. Finally finishing my degree and knocking a biggie off my bucket list. My husband was inspired to go back to school as well. Things were a bit crazy, but we were trucking along. We were making major plans.
Then the rug was pulled out from under us.
My husband headed to work just before Christmas. He was returning after 3 days off. A few hours later he was standing at the door. He had been blindsided by a request to resign or be fired.
He resigned
He knew his current boss didn't care for him. Things had been rocky at work for awhile, he had even debated leaving, but we were so close to finally being on top of things financially he decided to stick it out.
Then this hit.
Of course they had "reasons", but they were the kind of things you could tag on any employee.
He had received a commendation a few days before.
He had some of the best numbers in the department.
He was in shock.
I cried for two days straight.
Who fires someone at Christmas without good reason? (a reason like he did something illegal or immoral)
I was panicked. We returned Christmas gifts so we could have extra money to get through this.
It sucked.
But the world did not end.
Our kiddos had an amazing Christmas and so did we.
Our family has stepped up to help us out in big and little ways.
We realized if we have to go through these crappy things in life, then we are blessed to be doing it together.
Things are still hanging by a thread.
Our saving were minimal.
My husband was out of work for nearly a year when the recession began. We had just nearly dug our way out of that hole and we have had medical and life expenses that have eaten up all the extra.
I'm not sure how we will pay bills. We are learning to live with less.
We have some serious decisions to make in the next couple of weeks.
I still cry sometimes.
But mostly I am grateful.
Grateful for my family who is always there through good and bad.
Grateful that this has made us closer instead of pushing us apart.
Grateful for the opportunity to really and truly discover what is important.

Friday, June 17, 2011

We're Here - The Move From Hell

I don't mean to offend anyone, but I have to call a spade a spade.
So we moved.
It was possibly the single worst month of my life. Everything that could go wrong did. It has been an epic disaster that we continue to slog our way through one day at a time. I'll try to bring y'all up to speed.

It was the day before the move. I was packing up all the last minute and "Ack! I forgot to pack all that!" stuff. It was late afternoon. Jeff was at work and the kids were being happily babysat by a movie while I packed. (Don't judge! Sometimes the tv babysitter is a true necessity!)

I realized I was running out of boxes so I paused the movie, packed up the kids and headed out to get a few more at Home Depot. It was a quick trip. It started raining on while we were out, so I ran the kids into the house then headed back out in the now pouring rain to get the boxes from the car. I was carrying the pile of boxes flat across my arms as I rushed to get inside and out of the rain. 
Before I knew it, I was propelling forward, out of control. Unable to see the ground due to the boxes, I had stepped on some of the gumballs that had fallen from the sycamore tree in front of our house. My ankle rolled and I went flying. As soon as my hand hit I heard awful cracking sounds. I had never broken a bone before, but I knew that is what had just happened. I sat there a little nauseous and shaking in the rain.
It took a few minutes before I could get up. I was soaked, muddy and in PAIN!
I made my way inside and cleaned up a bit. I called my husband at work. He could run by, (one benefit we used to have is we lived a block outside his jurisdiction)but they were short an officer that night so he couldn't come home. I took off my rings (it was my left hand). I debated waiting to get it seen, but with the move in the morning I knew that was going to be even worse. My husband came by and looked at it. He thought it was only sprained or bruised.
I looked at the time. The Urgent Care Center near us closed in a little over an hour. The copay for Urgent Care is $50, the copay for the ER, $250. I decided to go to Urgent Care even if it meant they sent me home with just a bruise.
I called my 18 year old daughter, who was on a date. I told her what had happened and asked if she could come watch the kids while I went and had my hand checked. She headed over (boyfriend in tow) and I went in.

A couple of hours later I was headed home in a temporary cast. My hand was still swelling and the pain was getting worse. It was definitely broken. I was under orders not to lift anything and to keep my hand elevated for the next few days at least.

This was taken 4 days after the fall. It shows the swelling, but not the bruising. that hadn't really come into it's full glory...

And we were moving in the morning.
And we had painting and cleaning that still had to be done.
And it was still pouring rain.

The next day things didn't improve. With all the rain most of our volunteer movers had mysteriously vanished. My brothers were busy working on the house, which was by now behind schedule and over budget. We still didn't have an occupancy permit. I couldn't do anything.

My poor husband and his good friend did most of the moving by themselves. Both of them were so sore by the end of the day!!! I felt awful for them! But it was a little funny to see the realization that they are indeed approaching middle age and cannot do everything they used to do!
The one good thing, my parents were out of town, which meant we could stay at their house for a few days since there was no way we could stay at the new place.

The new house was all kinds of a disaster. There had definitely been setbacks and miscommunication. It all involved family so that made it more difficult to deal with. It was filthy, still full of work stuff and things that had been stored over there. Work I expected would be finished was not, and I found out it wasn't going to be done. I discovered several major problems with the house I hadn't seen before. I realized two of the rooms we hoped to use would be unusable. I had to rethink how we were going to use the space.
I worried that this whole move was a huge mistake.

Several other things happened.

We had a major big-time financial setback that was mostly my fault.

Then, my 18 year old daughter, angry about the move, decided she didn't want anything to do with helping us, and she wasn't going to move in with us either. Her reasons were hurtful and misguided, and frankly, in my opinion, mostly stuff she used as an excuse for her real reason, which was, I have much higher expectations of her than her father does. I think highly enough of her to expect her to live up to her potential which, yes, requires work. I wanted her to have a summer job, to take classes at the community college and do some things to further herself. I think that a summer that consists of no more than sleeping late, taking a couple of vacations, sitting on her father's couch watching tv, playing video games and hanging out with her boyfriend is unacceptable. She thinks it is normal and I am out of line.
No matter what the reality, if I was right or wrong, or she was. It hurt me deeply.

Couple that with a huge amount of pain and the stress of moving into a disaster and I plunged into a major depressive episode.

I have had issues with some depression before in my life. It had been a really long time since I have dealt with it. It is getting better day-by-day. I am looking at seeing someone about it now in order to ensure that it doesn't happen again. It was really awful and scary.

My hand is getting better and I am able to do more.

I am moving forward and trying to make the best of this so-far-disastrous move.
("This will not become The Money Pit. This will NOT become The Money Pit." I chant to myself over and over - Positive thinking will reap rewards, right?)

I am determined to make this a Good Home.

Lately it has been mostly about cleaning (when I say this place was/is filthy I am NOT exaggerating! There is dust/dirt 3/4 of an inch deep in places)and figuring out which rooms will be used for what. I think we finally have that part settled.
I want to move on to the decorating as my budget and my kids allow, but right now I am overwhelmed and I seem to have encountered a major mental roadblock. I am working out how to best deal with it  For now, I have scrapped much of my color palette for walls and have decided to pretty much paint the entire house white with grey-ish beige (greige) trim. A consequence of finding out that much of our trim is pretty banged up, much is painted (perhaps at one time with lead paint) and I just need to make things clean and cohesive. I really want pale blue ceilings, but my husband hasn't quite gotten on board with that idea.

Due to my gimpy hand and missing sewing machine pieces, I missed the deadline for the Solids-Only Challenge my Modern Quilt Guild was having, but I am going to finish it anyway now that I can use my hand more. I was only able to complete a couple of the blocks prior to being knocked out of the mix, but I really like how they look so far. I do think there is probably an easier way to do this, but hey, it's all a learning process, right? I'll share my progress here shortly.

I'll leave you with some of the good things from the last few weeks that remind me why I love living in the city!
The kids playing in the fountain at Tower Grove Park. A gorgeous Victorian era park we can walk to that brings together people from all walks of life

The Zoo (Free!!!) and all the Forest Park attractions (also Free! Including the Art Museum and Science Center) an easy 5 minutes drive away

Concert at the Band Pavilion at Tower Grove Park

Weekly Summer Kids' Concert Series at Piper Palm House - also at Tower Grove Park  
This is just some of what we've been busy doing, and a bonus- I've just gone through just 1/2 a tank of gas in 2 weeks!

I'll be back more regularly now, though probably not daily. It is difficult, as the kids are sleeping in the room with the computer right now while we work on some issues with their bedroom.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Moving Madness

We have had a CRAZY week!
My second oldest had so much going on leading up to her graduation last night, including Prom on Saturday and all the rest of the end-of-the-year craziness that always ensues.
Of course, she looked gorgeous at prom and I couldn't have been a prouder mama at her graduation.

Now we are in full-on moving mode. My house is quickly filling with boxes and we are eating out more and more as we try not to move or throw away more food than we have to.
We are still saying prayers that the house will be ready on Sunday, but we do have a back-up plan just in case.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Epic Makeover Run Has Ended!

I found out first thing this morning that I did not make the cut for the Final 5 in Mandi's Epic Makeover.
I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little disappointed. It would have been awesome to have Mandi come and makeover my space! She has been so sweet through this entire contest that I am sure working with her would have been amazing!

All the remaining contestants look great! There is a contestant from Atlanta still in the running. I am pulling for her, since it's the closest to Saint Louis, so maybe I can road trip down and have the chance to meet Mandi!

I guess I'll just have to pull up these bootstraps and get crackin' on the decorating myself.
It will be fun! (or at least funny! A comedy of errors perhaps) I hope you will all stick around for the adventure that is the making of our Good Home!

What do you think is the feasibility of mainlining caffeine so I can stay awake 24 hours a day to make this happen...I can only work while the kids are asleep!
I mean this is what I am dealing with all day~
This is what my kids were busy doing while I was in the kitchen packing.
Yes, the cat is actually in there.
I can't leave them alone for 5 minutes with out some sort of mayhem.
I love it though.

I'm linking up with the Company Girls