Sep 21, 2009

It's not easy being mean.

Today I left this message on my mom's voice mail. "Hi mom, its me. I just wanted to let you know to keep an eye out for two of your grandsons. I have a feeling they may be running away from home today and will probably be hitchhiking up to live with you. They have no clean clothes though, so sorry. They will be traveling light, I took all their belongings from the room they told me to clean since they lied. Let me know when they get there."

The back story to this message is simple: I told the two oldest boys, who share a room, that in 3 days the Realtor was coming and I needed them to clean their room to the level of spotless. They cleaned for a while and then told me it was done. So I told 2nd oldest to vacuum, after about 20 minutes I yelled at him to start the vacuum already and he told me that he was cleaning his room so he could vacuum because they messed it up a bit since they finished cleaning. Odd. Ok, whatever. You told me it was clean, twice... I'll hold you to it.

So this morning I head down to the crawlspace in their room to find a box to put cookies in to mail to my hubby and I exploded. Thankfully they were at school when this happened, and the baby slept through it... So I decided to clean it myself to teach them what "clean" looks like. Just a quick product review. Kirkland brand lawn bags are AMAZING. They are Costco's generic brand of Hefty bags and they hold well. I grabbed one of those brooms that you see on TV, the "amazing" ones that are a wedge on one side and bristles on the other, four trash bags, and set to work bagging up everything on the floor except big boxes, and laundry. An hour later... I was almost done, but had to leave for a doctor's appointment, so I loaded up all the laundry into the back of my van and 3 of the 8 laundry bags and head to my appointment.

Afterward, I ran over to my brand new storage unit and unloaded a total of ELEVEN loads of laundry, 3 bags of toys, garbage & books, a huge basket of books, and 3 tote boxes of toys. I headed back home and put the baby in her highchair for lunch and loaded up the rest of the toys (5 bags) 2 globes, 2 boxes of breakables and then proceeded to spread baking soda all over their room while I vacuumed under dressers, windowsills, cobwebs, and under the bed. My poor Dyson vacuum had to go over their carpet TWICE just to get it clean. Mind you, this is the room that they vacuumed just yesterday. I woke up the baby who had fallen asleep in the highchair while I was working and then took another trip to the storage unit. The oldest boy called to tell me he was sick, so I picked him up and banished him to bed. He explained that while waiting for me, he ate his lunch and started feeling better. I *should* have loaded his butt back into the van and taken him back, but I figured laying in an empty room was punishment enough and would be less fun then playing sick and getting attention at school.

In 10 minutes I have to leave to go get the 2nd oldest from school, he is going to FLIP OUT when he sees his room. I predict whining and tears from him. I will explain that I simply took care of all their trash that they left on the floor and maybe they will be able to keep their room clean if it is empty. If they keep their room clean, they will earn one container back at a time. Too bad they have so much dirty laundry, since that is what they will be earning back first... one basket at a time.

Sep 17, 2009

Moving, Moving, and More Moving

Wow, feels like my entire life revolves around moving. From the bids I am getting for our deck, bathroom outlet switch and cupboard door.... to the storage unit I rented today to move stuff out of the house that we won't need until Virginia, to the most awesome news of all..... IT IS SEPTEMBER!!! Which means the neighbors from hell are MOVING!!! YAY!!! They have been slowly moving stuff out for weeks, I am sure the homeowner would love that they are parking on his lawn to haul stuff out in true NFH form. Their garage is packed full with identical electronic boxes.... I guess no one can have enough DVD players and stereo receivers... right??

Today, the contractor that came by was giving me tips on maximizing my value and he said "your biggest downfall is going to be the tricked-out-hoopty next door. People are not going to want to live next to people who look like they live in the hood"... wow, he can peg them just by their cars... niiiice.

Monday, our realtor is stopping by and I am so excited to finally get some answers to the big questions... like how much can we get out of this house for, what do I need to do to make it marketable, and should we turn the nursery/office into a nursery, or an office? LOTS of work until Monday, there will be no rest this weekend!

A letter from my dad to Matthew

Dear Max,
This is what happens when you have big brothers! Don't listen to them, they are evil. Remember this, they do not have any money for ice cream, if they did they would already have spent it. Even if they cross their heart and hope to die they can't get you a pony, where could they get one? Don't fall for that one, and know that they have no permission to allow you to stay up past your bedtime, only Mom and maybe Dad have that ability. Do not listen to them it will not be really, really, really fun, no matter what they tell you. A promise to come back in just a few minutes is not an enforceable contract! Neither is a promise to pick up the dog poo on your day. Danger always lurks behind a double dog dare. Anything involving shovels, BB guns or jumping off anything with a parachute made of a sheet should raise a red flag in your mind. Remember these rules because if you forget them later on they'll be saying "I'll hold your beer, go for it." Watch out for girls, too. The girl that came by later and made the boobs in the sand in front of you did not have your best interest in mind. I will try to have more advice for you as I see that you may need it. Love Grandpa
[caption id="attachment_1287" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Matthew in the sand"]Matthew in the sand[/caption] (Click for full sized)

Sep 11, 2009

PSA: Lower your interest rates!

If you have a loan (credit card, auto loan, mortgage) call them and see if it would be worth it to refinance or lower your interest rate. About once a year for credit cards, you can call and tell them that you have been an excellent customer, with a strong history of paying on time, and you may even want to mention you are looking for a lower rate even if it means taking your business elsewhere. Especially now, with so many companies hurting for money, lower interest rates, and wanting to keep the customers they have, you may find it much easier to lower those rates.

I just realized today the power of credit unions, vs. banks. I currently have my minivan financed at a credit union for 8.75% for a vehicle I purchased 18 months ago. I decided today that I do not like that rate, and so I looked at the lowest rates my bank of 10 years had to offer... 5.25%, not bad. I called my credit union that hold my loan to see if they would negotiate refinance and they said they could offer me 4.99%, fantastic! With the numbers crunched, if I went to a 60 month loan (I have 66 months in my current loan), I would still manage to lower my monthly payments by $150 a month and pay it off 6 months earlier than I would now. They took my application over the phone and I should have an answer in a few hours.

In the past, I would do this same thing about once a year with my credit cards, and usually while I was on the phone I would have my answer. I could usually lower my interest rates by between 1-5% with a 15 minute phone call.

Other things worth trying... I have successfully had my satellite bill lowered by a customer service rep, I have had my DSL provider give me a "new customers only" rate by calling and asking. I have had credits given to me by my cell phone company, and my residential phone company. Calling your insurance company is a great way to see if they can find ways to lower your automobile or your homeowners insurance. I have had my electric company give me ways to lower my energy consumption, or tell me of improvements I can make to earn an energy rebate (I got $250 for sending in the receipt to my dryer).

Haggling is hard, but especially in mom & pop businesses, it is easier to get a discount. Yesterday I bought a new (better) tank for my carpet cleaner to replace mine that was cracked. I was told the tank would be $50 and I said "wow, those are $35 on amazon.com!" And the sales person said "well, if you order it online you will pay shipping, but I can sell it to you for $35". You don't see that at big corporate chains. I also got a few dollars off my purchase of cloth diapers yesterday... not because I asked, but because I was dealing with the owner of a small business and she felt like giving me a discount. Sometimes it pays to avoid the national "rollback" business and support your neighbors.

Once, I went into a toy & hobby store with my brood, and just because I told my children not to touch the models that someone worked very hard on making, the sales person gave me a "15% good mother discount".

Deals are to be had in all economies, but right now is probably the very best time to find discounts and sales. Don't be afraid to ask, the worst they can say is no. And remember, they best way to get something for 100% off, is not to but something you don't need just because "it was on sale".

Sep 3, 2009

How I spent my summer vacation

*Now, with working pictures!!*

Wow, what a whirlwind of the last 3 months. I had a GLORIOUS summer. First vacation was up to Glenwood Hot Springs a few hours northeast of here in Glenwood Colorado.

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The drive was gorgeous, the kids loved all the tunnels and the hot springs were amazing. The pool was a city block and so comfortable. Sophie fell asleep floating in my arms several times.

The next weekend we went to Canon City about an hour from here to camp in these amazing little one bedroom (sleeps 6) cabin with a full kitchen and bathroom. We stayed at a Yogi Bear campground, so the kids were super busy with activities and contests. Austin did an essay for a contest on his dad since we were there for father's day and made me cry.

As soon as we were unpacked from Yogi I packed up the 4 kids and two large dogs and drove 1200 miles to visit my family. I got to spend a few days in Montana with my oldest sister and her 5 little ones (sorta, two teens, a tween, the youngest two are the most adorable twin toddler girls!!) After that I went to my parents land in Idaho where we spent the 4th of July on the beach, picked huckleberries, and enjoyed each others company. My grandparents came over from Montana to see us and it was so wonderful to see them again. Then we headed back to Spokane were we went back and forth between Spokane and the cabin in Idaho for the rest of the month. I also got to see my other sister and her two kids who are just amazing kids. My niece writes music and plays them on the guitar and athletic and confident and just a remarkable young woman. Here are a few pictures of our time in Priest Lake:

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Two days after we returned from Idaho, Bobby came home from Iraq for 3 weeks. Our anniversary is July 28th and he flew home the afternoon of the 27th so with the help of my friend Tracie I was able to plan an amazing little getaway. We went to a super nice restaurant in town and then I surprised him with an overnight stay in a gorgeous suite at a 4 star hotel at the Cliff House in Manitou Springs. They had a bottle of wine and chocolate covered strawberries and a rose waiting for us when we arrived.

Then we were off for our family vacation to Disney World!! The kids had NO idea where we were going so when we missed our flight they were super bummed. A night at the Hilton near the airport and all was forgotten.

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When we finally made it to Orlando we had so much fun. The weather was hot and muggy but we did not mind. The park was crowded and the lines were long but we barely noticed. By the end of the day we were so happy we had rented a house and had our own rooms to go to and a full kitchen so we could just grab a bowl of cereal and crash for the night. We spent two days at the Magic Kingdom.

My husband and kiddos.

All of us with Mickey & Minnie.

All of us with the chipmunks.

Then we spent a day in Epcot, which really was not enough!

Us w/ Stitch.

Bobby & I.

Us w/ Daisy.

We also spent a day at Animal Kingdom, where my camera battery promptly died and a rushed day at Hollywood Studios because we were having a little get together with three families who live in Florida whom I have been friends with for seven years. Talk about a fun night!! The kids got along great, the men folk hit it off instantly, and we girls had a blast talking the night away.

Bobby's vacation was over before we knew it and the boys headed back to school. Austin and Christopher are both in middle school this year and Matthew is in his last year of preschool.

They are enjoying school, except Austin had a problem with his math teacher. She was bullying him and talking down to him since day one. She seemed to single him out. Anyone who knows Austin knows this kid is a golden child. Today he *asked* me if he could put my laundry away for me and folded a basket of laundry without being asked and then put it away. The same child I heard tell his brothers "lets keep the kitchen clean, mom worked hard on it today". Well his breaking point was when he was sitting on his feet so he could see his math book, he's short like we are and the desks are bigger this year. The teacher yelled at him to sit on his butt and when he explained he could not see if he sat that way she told him "maybe you need to have your mommy send you in with a booster seat?!" Austin did not say anything, but went to the principal to demand a new teacher because he was tired of being treated like dirt and then having her demand his respect. The school still has not called to tell me of this incident or to apologize, but I have not called them either as I kind of fell like this is Austin's battle, not mine and he is handling it like a true warrior!

Christopher has his ups and downs. On one hand he is helping out more to earn money to replace games he lost of Austin's, he mowed the lawn for me tonight. On the other hand he is having problems with doing what he needs to do in a timely matter (getting ready for school, completing homework, etc) and he has had a few outbursts here and there that are uncalled for.

Matthew is having a hard time with preschool this year, he's having some major separation issues and clings to me at drop-off. Once I leave he is fine, but man he wrenches at my heart strings. Today I was listening to music and he said to me "I sure like this song about them living in a lallow sub-barine!!" He's a funny boy.

Other than that, we are trying to adjust to Sophie's moods. She's getting 4 molars in right now and her 4 front teeth are still trying to come in the rest of the way. If that is not bad enough, because of teething she is getting horrible bleeding diaper rashes so both ends are hurting her. She is talking up a storm and says "here you go" "go bye?" "yogurt" "mommy" "Austin" among all her other words. She's a smart little thing and made her toy say bye-bye by cycling through other sounds until it came back to bye-bye again when I was pressuring her to wave bye-bye to me.

Bobby and I are doing well, 5 more months until he gets home and I am just trying to stay busy to help move time. I am also trying to get healthier and keep my house cleaner. I am trying to get into the habit of going to the gym on M, W & F when I drop the kids off at school. I have already started to see and feel changes in myself.

So, if you have made it this far, here is my massive update of why I have been MIA. I am hoping be around a little more now that school has started. If you want a link to *all* my Disney pics the link is here.