Sunday, January 30, 2011

It is the LITTLE things...

As I run around here absolutely crazy busy I realize it is the little things in life that make all the difference!

Like baking 15 DOZEN cookies this last week and in the middle of it all finding time to clean the top of my fridge!!!
Sometimes it is all about finding the joy in the little things :)

So as I am sitting here struggling today with way too much to do, and way too little drive, I am reminding myself about the little things....

And just so you know I am crazy, here is what is on today's list:

*File 4th Quarter sales taxes for business (due tomorrow...)
*Do 4th Quarter Profit and Loss statements so I can do the task above and below this!
*File Partnership Tax paperwork for 2010 (also due tomorrow)
*Finish 2 major orders.... you guessed it... both due tomorrow!
*Make the list of everything I need to do this week to make a Princess Tea Party happen here next Saturday. Organize it so I am not crazy Friday trying to make it happen!
*Fill out all of the end of the month reimbursement papers for Nat's care.
*Write 1st of the month checks for workers
*Clean house
*Finish Laundry
*Make dress

We will see how I fare on this list....
I might even come back and cross things off... but then that would just be one more step so we will see!

Through it all I am going to keep peaking at the top of the fridge and remind myself that by taking baby steps I WILL get it all done!

What encourages you when you seem overwhelmed?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Starting To See Fruit!

About a year ago I resolved to get a grip financially. I thought I was a bit crazy for resolving this at that time, but I still felt it was the thing to do.

A year ago I was up to my neck defending myself against the enemy that I let in my front door too many times. I had to make HARD choices around restraining orders, firm boundaries and living life as a single mom. I faced bitter hatred by those enabling the addict in my life who were (and unfortunately still are) very angry that I chose to no longer enable. In all of this I also made the choice to be the sole caretaker of my children, and to loose the income that my husband contributed to the family. And in the midst of all of this I resolved to get in control of my finances.... see where the crazy comes in?

But I did it. We REALLY tightened our belts down. (Because we never have been too comfortable, we have lived on the brink for a long time)

Years ago the cable went. And the going out to eat often. And the movies. And pretty much all of the extras.

But last year I resolved to:
Not charge ANYTHING in 2010.
Spend ONLY $100.00 per month on food.
No hair dressers or professionally done pedicure/manicures.
Coffee out from my favorite little shops would be a seldom treat.
Only do Netflix or library for movies, no more renting other places.
Not go into anymore debt in 2010, I wanted to live within my means each month, no matter what those means were.
Give more, bless those less fortunate than us.
And be ready to attack debt in 2011.

And you know what?
I did it!

Charging: I charged gas a few times, but only when I knew i had $ coming in and could pay the bill before the finance charges applies. My charge card balances all went steadily DOWN in 2010!

Food: I have become the queen of free food, so much so that I regularly take free food to homeless and less fortunate friends. I feel completely blessed by the Lord in this area. And the truth is the kids and I eat yummy, healthy, whole foods regularly and NEVER go hungry. There have been times we were tight but God never once let me down!

The peti/mani was pretty easy to do. These were my indulgences before, but I skipped them. I know how to do my own nails, but I liked being pampered. I did my own and they looked fine. Audrey and I even spent lots of girlie time together doing our nails.  And God rewarded my diligence in this. Twice during the last year I was, out of the blue treated by friends for professional peti/manis, but I was able to stick to my not spending for them resolve! The hair was a bit harder. The kids I do fine cutting, but mine was making me crazy. I think I had it cut twice last year, which was pretty good. I did break down and have it done up really well recently, and I love how pretty I feel with it. BUT I did search out a great deal and use a coupon, so I don't feel too guilty! Sometimes liking what you see in the mirror is a good thing. Not vain, just uplifting.

Cute toes from home. Audrey did mine and I did hers! The added benefits here are mommy/daughter time, teaching my daughter she can do her own super cute, and she is getting pretty darned good at it too!
Coffee: I love me a good coffee drink, but I found I was spending WAY TOO much on it, even only going once or twice a week. In 2010 I cut it WAY down. Freecycle was also a great help in this, because I got an AMAZING espresso machine for FREE and have learned to make a pretty great latte at home, which is so much cheaper than grabbing one on the go! I have given myself a $25.00 a month coffee budget and this covers my supplies for home and if any is left over a treat from one of my favorite spots like Good Tides, Higher Groundz and Nautical Bean.

Movies: With the cable and dish going many years ago, the kids and I watch a lot of movies. We have an extensive collection, but it is always nice to mix it up. We made do with Netflix and the library pretty well. But then over the summer I got a used Wii system off of Craigslist (specifically to use in a behavior training program with Nathaniel) and learned that I could stream Netflix movies right onto the TV with that.... boy has that opened up our world of movies even more. Now I don't have to plan so far ahead to treat the kids, or to entertain them while I have a migraine and need to rest. So nice and still only costs me $12.99 per month! Awesome deal, especially if you think about $4.85 to rent a single movie form the store!

Living in our means was not always easy. There are many times I miss work because Nathaniel needs me at home, child support has NOT been consistent and unexpected expenses pop up. But through it all we hung though. There were very lean times, there were times that I had to seek community supports and there were times I did without things, but in the end we are FAR better off for it! Our trust in the Lord grew, our creative problem solving grew and today I am more financially stable than I was a year ago!

Blessing others: This is an area that I am so uplifted to be sharing with my kids this year, and I love how graciously and kindly they responded! Thank you Lord for placing on our path many ways to show your love in a tangible way to others in our shear of influence this year! May you continue to always provide those opportunities for us!

Which brings me to 2011 being a year to attack debt, and guess what???

I paid off one medical bill today!!!

Keep in mind, I am a mom to a special needs child and he is EXPENSIVE!!! There are many treatments that insurance doesn't cover, equipment and supplies he needs, gas to go to a million appointments and so much more so medical bills hanging over my head is a way of life. More than a $10,000.00 way of life. And I justt deal with it, slowly chipping away at bills until they are in a manageable range. But today I looked at the overall picture and felt confident paying one off in FULL!! What a great feeling to put that check in the mail today! I pray I have the opportunity to do that more and more this year!

The credit cards are getting to a 0 balances this year (I carry one gas card so I can leave for Doctor's stuff no matter what when Nathaniel needs it, one Visa for the same reason, emergencies do come up and I want the freedom to get Nat's treatment no matter what, and a Care Credit card, because many of his providers take that and they offer a 12 month no interest option, so with careful planning I can pay for his treatments without having interest :) ) and I am hoping to chip away more at that overall medical number, not add to it! I can't wait to living a much more free life with far less hanging over our heads!

So... if you have read to this point I think you deserve to learn one of my newest tricks... what do you think?

Here is a great new deal that I have recently learned and implemented in our life. We shop for the few groceries we buy primarily at Ralph's. Ralph's is local for us, and easy to use. It is also where I get all of our pharmacy supplies so it is easy to grab groceries while waiting for the pharmacy. So we have a Ralph's card and gain points on it. While I enjoy getting the reward point certificated I have found an even better way to use our points... for GAS! You see, if you have 100 points on your card and you put in your number at the Shell station before filling up they take 10 cents per gallon off of the price of gas! I know Shell is not the cheapest station around, but I have found that with the 10 cents off it does beat the cheap stations :) So I am happy to report that we are using this and saving money on gas.... which is so hard to do usually!

What ways do you cut back or conserve in your family?

Friday, January 21, 2011

A night of funks...

Yesterday was a trying one for me....
I was emotional, and tired, and overwhelmed, and just a tad lost in feelings of hopelessness (hear the sarcasm in the tad part??).

So OF COURSE that meant it was time for a trip to my favorite spot in the world!

And I remembered one of the reason I LOVE winter on the Central Coast....
The AMAZING colors God paints our skies this time of year!

So I raced on the beach with my children.

You know the son who was never supposed to walk? Yes, that one and his sister and I raced, on our FEET on the beach.

One of the things that has really been on my heart is false words and how they form us.

I was formed as a child by false, abusive words about my worth as an individual. It is still a fight in my heart daily to remember that my worth is not determined by the people who surround me here on earth, or any of their words, but my worth comes from my Father in Heaven, who made me with a purpose!

But other words form us too. And for many heavy on my heart, words of doctors count heavily in what we do and who me are. I am blessed to know (via wonderful blogs) MANY moms that had to strength, the faith and the supports to throw off words of doctors and believe in a bigger plan. But then I think of other expecting moms who don't know that there is so much more hope than the doctors give,  they don't have the strength or the faith, or maybe they don't even know where to look for the hope, and my heart breaks for them, the choices they face and the burdens they carry for so long. One of the things I am praying about daily right now is for doctors to SEE that EVERY unborn child is a gift, and God has a perfect plan for each and every one of them, then for the doctors to use their words to encourage, educate and give hope. (and please, I do know that there are some fabulous doctors out there that do just that right now, I am praying for all the others that don't :) )

At the beach we skipped rocks, talked about life and spoke to God.

One of the things I do is talk to God A LOT. So much so that I am sure He gets tired of my voice at times. But it is what gets me through the minutes, the hours and the days. I am trying so hard to not only model this for my children, but teach them too. Especially my little worry bug who always seems to be worried about something.

And I have a lot to talk to God about last night.

About a husband who is so lost in this world, and lets the enemy run his life. It breaks my heart, because no matter what he will always be my children's father and I would so like them to have a stronger, more balanced father than I did. But I absolutely know that I have no control or say in his choices. I just have to let go of it and hold it up to God.

About living in a society that just makes me tired with it's judgements, it's lack of relationships, it's sense of entitlement, it's every man is an island beliefs and so much more. My heart breaks daily for the direction our society here in the states is going. It is so sad, and I really, deeply believe that there is so much more to be had by being supportive, loving, giving and accepting. It is not that I believe in government controlled socialism, or dictated sharing, but more that each person would have a heart to better all, not just one's self. Oy vey, I just get tired thinking about it, but in my heart I know that there is a better way!

About the overwhelming job of being a single mom. I mean seriously, how do people do this? I am so tired every minute. I feel like my tank sits on empty as I try to be the best example, teacher, caretaker, house keeper, accountant, cook and so much more that I can for my children. How can I do all that I know I need to when I feel so lost, and lonely and just blah? How do others do it? I am sure someone has to have it down better than I do!

And there is so much more that I poured out to God, but I am sure you don't want to know it all. :)

I also spent a lot of time watching this little boy. He has been through so much recently, and therefore we all have been through so much, but I am amazed and humbled with how well he is doing. And heartbroken that I didn't know to make changes for him sooner. But that is a whole nother post all by itself (and I am working on it, but I am still praying over the words I use, for I only want them to share our story and give hope, not point fingers, condemn, judge, lay blame or hurt.So be on the watch out for the Nat update.)

Going to my place was the perfect choice.
I was able to breathe the rest of the night.
I was able to let go of much and give it back to God where it belongs.
And I was able to teach by showing how I deal with especially stressful days.

And I was blessed by the beautiful area I live!

What do you do on THOSE days? The ones that steal your joy and sap your energy? What do you do to get re grounded?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Today was a school holiday for us. I took the day off of my out of the house job, but I still had lots of work to catch up on here. I did a great deal of book keeping and paperwork (can you still call it that when it is all computer work now?) during the day while the kids did chores, played and had their tutor session. But then I decided we needed to get out.

In the past few weeks I have been trying to do simple, yet fun activities with the kids. Tonight we packed up the badminton stuff, a picnic and took off for a beach park.

When we first got there Audrey headed for the swings (even though she cried the whole time getting there that she did not like this park because swings were boring...) and Nat and Reb played badminton (Nat's newest obsession) and I set up dinner.

Dinner was simple, yet healthy and kid friendly. Food has been an issue in our house recently, and I have had a hard time being motivated to cook when I know the kids are just going to complain. Surprisingly tonight they ate it right up... all the while begging me for Chipino... silly kids!

After dinner mommy had a swing. I love swinging. I miss the days of heading to the park in the middle of the night to swing, pray and destress (not so easy to do now that I am a single mom..)! But tonight was fun, the kids even joined me for a while.

Then it was time for an after dinner walk.

To enjoy this beautiful place we live.

And watch God paint the skies. Not as vivid as the last few nights, but still pretty.

And maybe take a few pictures to make D homesick :)

Overall, a very simple yet fun evening.

And tomorrow the kids go back to school so I can get some real work done!! (as long as I don't start talking to my friends who I miss so much, or have to take a long nap to recover from the long weekend!)

A glorious day

Sunday was an absolutely glorious day!

The kids and I woke up for church. Somehow BOTH kids got completely ready for church without any problem and we were ON TIME! (it is NOT often that we get to church before the first song starts, but we did yesterday!) Service was wonderful. I always love worship, we are blessed with a passionate worship team that sings songs I love. While they had their technical difficulties yesterday they were still such a blessing to the body. And message was one that really resonated with my soul. But the best part? Kind words. I was complimented (which does not happen often in my world) and one dear woman commented on how wonderful my children were during service (an amazing feat in itself!), that truly warmed my heart.

After church I decided we needed to go do something fun and outdoors since I had spent so much time on the computer and working Saturday. So we headed down to Pismo to go to the Monarch Preserve. The day was in the 70s, bright and sunny. Very beautiful, but a bit odd for the middle of January!

Of course I took my camera, because that is just me, and I am so pleased with the cool pictures we got!

Catching those FAST flying butterflies with a camera was very hard, but here are a few cool shots. (Remember, you can always click on the pictures to make them bigger!)

Nat and Audrey were so sweet together.
Here they are looking up at the butterflies and Audrey is helping Nat stand steady while he looks up.

The walk was a bit long for Nat. I could have taken his chair, but instead I wanted him to get some exercise so we just took it slow. Audrey had been running ahead with Kaia, but then she circled back to walk with her brother. For kids that fight like cats and dogs it was nice to see her caring about her brother. Then when we were taking pictures Audrey was upset about the sun in her face and Nat was comforting her then.

This picture was a labor of art for Lorena to set up for me, but I like it :) She had to get the kids (and one is heavy and has a hard time climbing!) onto these logs, while I waited on the bridge to get the great angle.

Best buds. So sweet.
It has been a long time since the girls have gotten to hang out together outside of school and it was fun to see them together today.

Everyone was into taking pictures today... well everyone but Lorena, but she hates it when I put shots of her on the blog :)

And this was just cool.

When I got home and started editing the pictures I remembered that Lorena and Kaia went with us last year too and wanted to see how much the kids had changed in a year, so I went digging back to find the shots from last year.
Much better attitudes this year from the looks on their faces. And Nat has really filled out in a good way. Last year was so hard to get the weight to stick on him! And I think it is really funny that Audrey has the same log sleeve shirt on! Cute comparing.

But then I saw this.

And that is really cute!
 I hope that they stay sweet friends for years to come!

After we got home the kids did chores to earn TV time and chilled together. It was a quiet evening where they played in the living room watching TV on the Wii and I got to edit pictures and talk to a dear friend who is miles away on line. The kids even fixed themselves dinner! (yes, for one it was left over pizza I had made and for the other it was blueberries, string cheese and a banana, but they did it themselves and it was sweet!) As I sat out in my front yard listening to the ocean crash and watching the beautiful sunset I realized that my children had not fought once during the day, we did what needed done and I was relaxed and happy at the end of the day. And things like that make every moment it on the long journey worth it!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Merry Christmas

A little late... but I wanted to share our Christmas card with those of you not on our mailing list.

Not quiet as pretty in a picture as in person, but it still is good :)

If you were not on our mailing list this year, but would like to be next, please message me your address so I can add you :)

I hope that each and everyone one of you had a blessed time with your loved ones this Christmas!

New Traditions!!

On Christmas Eve we started a new tradition! Or at least  we did something that I HOPE the church board will let me make a new tradition!

I felt a pulling on my heart in November to cook Christmas Eve dinner for ANYONE who wanted to join us, and I also wanted to take some of that meal to those who were less fortunate than us. I took the idea to my pastor, who was generous enough to take it to the board for me. Thankfully we received full blessing to use the church facility to cook dinner and throw the doors open to anyone who wanted to join us! I had a great team of helpers and God provided a fabulous feast for us! I think I will even brag a bit and say that in the end we were able to do everything that we did for less than $50.00 spent! (Well as long as we don't count the fire alarm that went off, but that REALLY was not our fault and I am praying that they did not charge the church for that call!!!)

I had my camera that day... but I was so busy I kept forgetting to use it!The few pictures I do have are from when the kids remembered to pick it up and take pictures! So forgive me... but we were BUSY!

We got to the church around 7 am to start cooking everything. We planned to serve at 3, be done by 5 and cleaned up by 6 for candlelight service that night. Ambitious, I know!

I was ESPECIALLY PROUD of the kids. Bri started out at the house with them at 7 am, by 10 am they were ready for the day and at church with us (with NO IN HOME since it was a holiday!) and they did FABULOUS all day! Those kids were at church from 10 am to 730 pm and they never once lost it! I am so happy with them. Bri did a great job of packing a bag of tricks for Nat. Audrey and Josie both left the Diva-tudes at home, and Nathaniel ROCKED it! He even showed Brianna for the first time ever that he could completely cath himself that day! (He has been self cathing for a few months now... when the mood strikes! It has NEVER struck before on Bri's shift!)

We did GREAT at having dinner ready on time!!! There was only one thing that wasn't done, but it all worked out great!

Faline and I, with the help of a brother from church, prepared the base meal, then people could bring what they wanted to add, or bring nothing but themselves! Faline and I prepared 2 20 pound turkeys, a HUGE ham, an equally HUGE pork roast, green salad, dressing galore, green bean casserole, yam casserole, candied carrots, mashed potatoes, bread, lemonade, coffee (or Bruce did, but we took credit!), pumpkin pie, apple crisp, a pecan cranberry pie and of course, pink stuff. Whew.... that was A LOT!

I thought that we had a great turn out for a first time event, and look at those smile... people were enjoying themselves! And these pictures were taken right at the beginning before things got busy again!

I really felt like it was a blessed day with friends and family and a time to come together to celebrate the birth of our savior. It felt so good to use my hands and my passions to bless others.

About half way through the meal we packed up 18 meals to go and I took the girls and our friend Garrett over to the local homeless camp. We had gifts that the kids had packed up (simple things like shampoo, soap, gum, and homemade bread and cookies all packed in gift bags) and the food to share.

I really felt like our time there was a blessed time. There were friends we have come to know over the past many months, people I met when I did my gig at the gas station last spring and people I had never met before. We hung out, the girls played with the other kids, Garrett got his football out and started a game with the guys and I sat around with the women smoking and talking. The air was filled with hope, laughter and joy.

While we were there a officer from the city force stopped by to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and handed stickers out to the homeless children there. At one point he took me aside and thanked me for what we were doing. I was a little speechless.... I was only doing what God put on my heart to do and loving people.. it is what I do everyday, but to this man (who I greatly respect) it was special. I was glad that God touched MANY that day, not just the homeless we were hanging with!

It was hard to pile back into the car and head back to the church, but I knew we had dishes to wash and clean up to do before candle light service started. So we gathered around and prayed for those dear folks, then headed back to clean up. When we got back I was so touched by the number of people pitching in to help. We could have never got through all of those dishes without Phil, Susie and Chris. The other Chris was a blessing lugging load after load out to our cars and the kids even pitched right in!

Then we sat down to Christmas Eve service. It has been MONTHS since we all sat down to service together. Seriously. The last time I had all four kids, Faline and I at service was 4th of July! It greatly touched my heart to have the kids all together worshiping our Lord on the Eve of his birth.

All in all, Christmas Eve was an ABSOLUTELY BLESSED night for us and I hope and pray that we get the opportunity to do it again next year!

Christmas Cooking

In the week before Christmas is seems like we did nothing but cooking!
We had our wild weekend of Christmas activities, followed by a wild week of Christmas cooking, followed by the actual event. It was fast, furious and fun.

First we said good bye to one of our in home staff members that week, so she brought cookies to bake and decorate her last night with us.
Audrey diligently decorated each cookie. She was very into this activity.

Nat on the other hand only wanted to make each of his cookies look like a ball of some sort...
Golf Ball,
You name a ball, he wanted it!

But it was a simple and fun activity to do with the kids.

(and PLEASE do not look at the backgrounds of the pictures... my house was in SHAMBLES, but come on, it was just days before Christmas!)

The finished masterpieces!

The next day I needed the kids to stay busy while I finished up tons of things I had to do (you know, prep for Christmas Eve dinner, wrap presents, finish teacher, staff and doctor gifts and all of that..) So I found these cool kits at Trader Joe's and had Reb do them with the kids while I worked around them!

Audrey, once again, was totally into it.

And I did FINALLY get Nathaniel engaged in the activity too!
See my end of the table? I was baking bread and wrapping presents while watching them :)

Caught you girlie!!
Looking at these pictures I am noticing the kids are wearing the exact same pjs... but REALLY these were two different nights! And yes, my children own more than one set of pjs each!

The finished people!
Nathaniel, while resistant to start, ended up having a BLAST with this activity! Reb.... oh what to say? I am going to be so LOST without this guy in a few months! I ADORE him and can not imagine our care team without him. Insert heart break here! But his gingerbread person is ADORABLE! And darling Audrey, so proud of her creation!

This was seriously a great activity! I am going to have to look for it again next year :)

I baked lots of loafs of bread while the kids were busy....
After all we have LOTS of doctors and therapist we work with ALL the time!

And I finished off the homemade canned Apple Pie Filling for teachers, in home staff and special friends. I was very please with our very inexpensive, yet yummy and useful gifts this year.  Banana bread made out of boxes of bananas that were given to us, and Apple Pie Filling made from more free apples! And they looked cute too I think :)

I did not bake cookies this year like I usually do, and I kind of missed that, but to be honest this was so much easier and I needed easy this year!