Friday, September 30, 2011

Recent News Story

Yesterday I saw an article, but didn't get to read it until today, that really had me shaking my head!
The article was about a teacher in San Francisco who apparently started docking points from his students' grades for saying "God Bless you." After reading the article, like so many other sites, there was a section for people to write their views and comments. This made me shake my head even more than the article! (I only read about the first 4-5 comments!)

The teacher's side of the story is that the he felt his students were disrupting class by continually sneezing and saying 'bless you.' He also felt there was no reason for them to be saying it since its original meaning and use no longer applies in our society. (Now its just good manners!!)

The other side of the story (I'm assuming the students) was that he was punishing them for doing/ saying something that is considered manners, and to many is so ingrained that it is a reaction.

The comments ranged from 'how dare the teacher offend the students' religious beliefs,' to 'how dare the media, etc. try to keep the teacher from controlling his classroom!' Really people think about it, most students have disruptive days. I remember being in classes where we would do something very much like this to the subs! (I don't remember an actual teacher pissing us off enough to disrespect them so much!) And I remember how upset they would get.

My dad always said there are 3 sides to every story; yours, mine, and the truth! And I think this is one of those stories! Common sense says the kids probably were being disruptive and took it to a level that upset the teacher, but instead of dealing with just the one outbreak, he punished the entire class, to include those who really sneezed and those who really were just being polite!

I think its sad that our society has come to such a point that this is actually in the news!!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

My Hand in God's

I grew up in a Masonic family. As such, my childhood and teenage years are full of Rainbow memories. One of those memories is of one of our competitions, called God's Rainbow. It is a beautiful ceremony that includes a poem that runs through my head various times a week. It is something that I can recite by memory and often helps me in times where I feel like I am losing control of my life! For your viewing pleasure I give you:

My hand in God's

Each morning when I wake I say,
"I place my hand in God's today;"

I know He'll Walk close by my side
My every wandering step to guide.

He Leads me with the tenderest care
When paths are dark and I despair--

No need for me to understand
If I but hold fast to His Hand.

My hand in His! No surer way
to walk in safety through each day.

By His Great Bounty I am fed;
Warmed by His Love, and Comforted.

When at day's end I seek my rest
And realize how much I'm blessed,

My thanks pour out to Him; and then
I place my hand in God's again.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Homemade Chicken Fingers and Shepard's Pie

Yesterday we had pancakes for breakfast, and while I was making the pancakes I started reading the recipes on the back and side of the Bisquick box (the real stuff, not the just add water kind!) and found a recipe for chicken fingers. It looked so simple and easy that I just had to try it!

Well, it was beyond easy and turned out super tasty! The hardest part was cutting the chicken up! And I made it from beginning to end, with a friend stopping by and raiding my pantry for food for charity, in a half hour!! But the best part was that you bake them instead of frying them, so they get a healthy food bonus!! I totally redeemed myself after the disaster that was Shepard's pie last week!!

Oh, did I forget to say how that went!?! lol Well, it was pretty bad! Actually, it was easy to make, and I think it would have been pretty darn good if there hadn't been too much garlic in it! Now, here is what I learned about garlic: You don't use as much of the garlic powder as you do of fresh garlic!! When a friend told me that, it clicked in my head that I had heard that before. Apparently, it didn't stick! lol I ate my bowl, but the boys both made faces at it and the house smelled like garlic all night! Needless to say it was a waste of a lot of food, since the recipe I made was enough to feed us 2 more dinners at least!! But, I will try it again, just without any garlic since I'm not a big fan anyway!!


Well, we are coming to the end of our deployment, which means I won't have extra money to put onto the credit cards. Going into the deployment that extra money is always the silver lining! So, since I will be setting the extra for this last month aside to help us while we get balanced back out and use to having a lot less money with an extra mouth to feed and and extra vehicle on the roads, I figured now would be a good time to see just how much got accomplished this year!! (Plus, I'm having a bad morning, I need a pick me up!) So here we go:

Card 1:
   - Nov. 2010 had a balance of $20,018.00
   - Sept. 2011 has a balance of $14,239.00
Card 2:
   - Nov. 2010 had a balance of $8,071.00
   - PAID OFF in April
Card 3:
   - Nov. 2010 had a balance of $7,800 (about since I can't see that far back online!)
   - Sept. 2011 has a balance of $5,144.00   

   - Nov. 2010: $35,889.00
   -Sept. 2011: 19,383.00

That's $16,506 paid off this past year!! Yay us!! Now, we still have a good way to to go, but I've done really well at not using the cards, or if I do paying it off immediately. If we can continue to do so, and pay the amount I've set as my monthly payment goal, we'll have it all paid off in 5 years. With tax returns and any other deployments, it can be sooner!!
As I've said in a previous post, it is a large amount, but we knew what we were getting into when we charged it, and still both of us will say it was totally worth it!! And I am not ashamed to show these numbers because I know it was us who spent it, I will never say its not our fault we have such a huge debt, and we are consciusly working to pay it off!! But, now I feel better knowing what I have accomplished this past year!!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Saying Bye to Credit Cards & Learning to Buy Wisely

So this past year while Will has been deployed we have been using the extra money to pay down our credit cards. This is a major feat seeing as how high they were. I am not ashamed to say they were around $30K since we knew what we were doing when we charged them up! I still consider it a very good investment! We had all the cards paid off when I got to Germany, but when we found out they were closing our base and we'd be heading back to the States within 6 months we tried to fit in as many 'must see' places as we could! Obviously, none of it was saved for, but seeing as we didn't know if or when we'd have such a great opportunity again, we went and put it all on credit cards!

No, we didn't spend $30K on travelling. After we moved to Washington, we bought a house and immediately started working on it for little upgrades. Then we found out I wasn't going to have such an easy time finding a job. This was for two reasons, lack of experience (Everywhere in my field required 5 years experience for an entry level job!), and the economy tanked within 2 months of our buying our house! We also were told not long after getting to WA that we wouldn't likely be able to have kids without major medical intervention. (IUI or IVF) All of a sudden we went from having a plan for getting rid of the debt within a couple years to having even more in the form of a brand new home that was suddenly seriously upside down and BAM, I was pregnant!!

Needless to say we didn't have all the extra money we were counting on to pay down the cards in the form of my having a career- they more or less just sat for 2 years! But, now we've gotten rid of the house, moved, had another baby, and are most the way through a deployment! And I'm proud of what we've accomplished this year! One card is paid off, one is down by half, and the last is even down a little! I'm paying them off/down in order by highest APR. This still leaves us with a considerable amount of debt, but we've gotten rid of about half of it! And if we can plan right and not use them, we'll have them all completely paid off inside 3 years! (unless we go through another deployment- then it would be shorter!) And best of all, without having to go without too much that we're use to having!

While I don't plan to go as far as to say we'll get rid of them and never use credit cards, I plan on using them for major purchases and only when I have a plan for paying each purchase off. In other words, they will be our own personal lending authority.

Now for how I've been learning to spend wisely. I am really proud to say that this past month or so I have gotten everything planned out for our trip home in December. While its not cheap, I'm pretty proud of how well I have done in planning so that we can have a great trip at a great price and without breaking the bank! So here's the breakdown:

We are driving from KS to FL. The trip is a little over 3000 miles round trip! Obviously with a 2 year old and a 1 year old, it will be a long drive, so we are breaking it down into 3 days each way. I have broken the trip down so I know about where we will be stopping each day and looked into hotels there, plus estimated gas prices. All together for the trip alone we are looking about $1000.

We will be boarding the dogs, which will be around $600.

 Our hotel in Clearwater is $500.

And our Disney trip all together, including our tickets, hotel, and most our meals is $900.
I know you're asking how are we doing 4 days in Disney, staying on the property for only $900. Well, Disney loves the military and this year's Salute the Troops is a 4 day park hopper pass for $160 or something like that, plus they are doing 40% off at any of their hotels!! Add Sea World's Salute the Troops is a free day admission, so we'll be doing a day there also!! Pretty awesome huh!?! We do love Disney and Sea World and couldn't manage going if not for these discounts!

That rounds out at about $3000!! Thankfully, the Disney part is already fully paid for!! That puts us down to $2000!! So, I have the next 3 months to save $1000, and the last $1000 will come from regular pay for the month of December and beginning of January. (I say beginning of Jan. because I pay for the dogs when I pick them up the first week of Jan.!)

Now, this does mean I won't be putting much extra towards the credit cards, but if I don't set the money aside now and choose to put the extra on the cards, we'll just end up putting part of the trip on the cards and being back where we are now at the beginning of January!! lol Did you follow all that!?

I have also figured out gifts for everyone and how we can get decent gifts for cheap! Here's the list minus what we're doing for the parents since I don't know if the Moms read this!
     - Keirnan & James: Keirnan is getting a Tag Jr, James is getting 2 fridge magnet toys. These total under $100. We're not going big for them since we're taking them to Disney and they are still both small enough to not know anything else. (I hope to actually keep them from ever expecting too much!)
     - Grandparents (x3 sets): Personal Calenders- free I have enough Pampers Gifts to Grow points to get 3 of these calenders from Shutterfly!
     - Parents (x3 sets): Free! Well, not technically free, but we paid for everything in pieces over the past year or so out of regular pocket money!
     - Other family and friends: Ok, I still have to figure it out, but I have a few ideas and if I start now it will come out of pocket money!

Overall, I'm really proud of how I'm pulling all this together! Add to it, I've already got the family's Halloween costumes and got them all on major sale and with a free shipping code, so the 4 costumes total out at about $100!

I also got the decorations and table ware for James' birthday party on clearance for $50! I still have to figure out what we're getting him for his birthday, have to get the goody bag stuffings, cake, and other food, but think I can keep that pretty cheap!

That leaves What to get Will for his birthday and Christmas!! He wants the front windows of the truck re-tinted because we had to take the tinting off in Germany. So I need to price that and then just figure out Christmas!! Eek!! He's the hard part! The rest is easy breezy!!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

My First Attempt at Homemade Bread

I got this recipe from a friend of mine and was so excited to make it!! Well, I think I managed to lose count and put an extra cup of flour in! Oops. I think this because it was so dry I had to add 1/4 cup of water extra just to be able to knead it! lol But I figured I would go ahead and not waste the dough and see how it did with the minor modifications!

It came out a bit heavy and a little under done in the middle, but is still pretty good! So, besides eating around the under done section and only being able to eat a little at a time, I am really impressed with how I did with my very first ever by hand bread! I can't wait to try it again!! lol You can go ahead and laugh at me Sharon!!

I have really found an enjoyment in the kitchen I never thought I could or would! I figured I would be happily handing the cooking back to Will when he came home, but I think I will probably keep most of it for myself! Well, I kind of hope at least a few times a week it will be a joint effort! Especially since I still haven't managed to get the timing right on sides!! They always come out too late or too early compared to the main dish!!

Fall is Here... At Least for Now!!

What a beautiful day it is outside! Last night was girls night out and we went to place in Manhattan that I've heard a lot about, but never tried. It was super yummy!! James even stole a piece of my steak and gummed it to death!! lol Keirnan stayed at Jen's and got some 'man time' with her husband Dustin!! I was sure he would pass out on the way home, but nope- he was wired!! Apparently they had a great time!! But, we sat outside last night at the restaurant and it was just lovely out! A sign of what was to come!

This morning it was a bit nippy out when I let the dogs out, nice and crisp! I was so happy!! And about an hour ago I was able to turn of the a/c and open the window!! I think the high today is around 77!! I love this weather because I am both most productive and most relaxed on days like this!! So, this morning I made banana nut muffins for breakfast and had a nice chat with my mom!!

Now, we are skipping church today for the first time since the beginning of June, I'm quite proud of myself, but after our late night last night, I wanted James to get both his naps today and decided God would understand!!

When James gets up, we'll go to Sonic for lunch and they have a nice playground for Keirnan to run around on. Plus, I can get him a slushy to hopefully help his mouth a little! I figure we'll play there through lunch and until nap time before coming home! While the boys are taking their naps (Because Keirnan will take one today!) I am going to make some bread using Sharon's recipe!! I'm really excited to try it out! And I need to get some laundry done!

After nap we're having a skype date with Mom and Grandma, then dinner and a possible skype date with Will!! Its been a nice relaxing morning, gearing up for a busy, but good afternoon!! Now all I need to do is figure out what we're doing for dinner!! Since its Sunday and I need to make our meal plan for the week!!

I know this weather is suppose to stick around for most of the week, but I would so love it if it decided to hang around for the rest of the month!!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Sears Heroes at Home Program

First, this is an amazing program Sears does each year, where they give gift cards to registered military families to help with Christmas! I learned about this program last year after the registration was closed so this is my first year doing it! I am so thankful for Sears putting this program together, and to the people who donate to it!! I am not basing my Christmas around this, and if I don't receive it such is life, but it would be a big help!

This year, they did the registration this past Wednesday and apparently there were some issues and even though people were able to register, there were enough who bitched and complained to the point that Sears dumped that registration and re-did it this afternoon!

The issues this week with it made me embarrassed to be a military wife for the first time ever! These ladies got all over Sear's FB page and either bitched about it not being fair because they couldn't get through to register, or telling those that were bitching to be grateful because there are starving people in Africa, yada, yada, yada and taking a holier than thou approach. I personally feel that while the latter have the right basic idea, they are just as bad as the former for attacking the others!! Overall, it made me sick to see these ladies taking a gift that is being given to the military community as a whole and making it about them and expecting this gift! This is a gift, it is not a right, it is not anything that you should feel you deserve to get!!

So, today we went through the registration craziness again! In 25 minutes they had hit their 20,000 person limit and called a halt to registration!! Needless to say it was very hard to get through and a bit of a clusterf*uck!!

Now, here is the fun part!! lol First, Sears will go through the list and using the application time stamp from the Internet (gotta love technology!) they will pull the first 20,000 applications received. Second, they will match them up with DOD records to make sure the people are, in fact, military families. After this is done, they will send an email out saying if you are going to be getting this gift or not!! So, even though I got my application in, I may not get the gift card! And until the beginning of December I won't know how much I'm getting! (Last year a friend said they got about $200!)

So, it has been a fun first half hour in the military's favorite game- Hurry up and wait!! lol