Monday, December 28, 2009

8 Numbers to Have in Your Cell Phone

  1. ICE Number—“In Case of Emergency” numbers are now suggested for your cell phone. Some phones have a slot pre-programmed into the contact list for you. For those that don’t…just put something like “ICE-Husband”. This is a number that emergency workers can contact in case of an accident or emergency of any type.
  2. Insurance Agent—You will won’t this one on your person if you are ever in an auto accident. Some people have also used it to avoid going to jail when they did not have their insurance card on their person during a traffic stop (although I will not promise this will work for you). A definite to have on hand.
  3. Pharmacy—Great to call in refills, call with questions about medications, or to check store hours when you need to run out for medicine late.
  4. Childcare—In case you need to call them because you are running late to pick your child up or need to make arrangements for someone else to pick them up for another reason.
  5. Boss—You never know when you will get held up on the way to work (highway accident, unexpected construction, family emergency) and need to call in to tell him/her you will be late.
  6. Roadside Assistance #/Tow Truck—Make sure you know how to get in touch with someone in case you are stranded on the highway. Whether it be a tow company, a local repair shop, or AAA, make sure you know who to call.
  7. Local Take Out Place—You’re running late home from work or just want to surprise the family with your favorite take-out. Make sure you have it on your person so you don’t have to find a phone book to call them for a pick up order.
  8. Doctor’s Office—Always good to have for questions, emergency appointment needs, or referrals.
Photo credit: mihow

Friday, December 25, 2009

O Come Let Us Adore Him

Merry Christmas to you all.
Now stop reading blogs and go celebrate the birth of the King of Kings!
photo credit: debsch

Monday, December 21, 2009

8 People to Remember at Christmas

I am going to use the characters in the Christmas story to discuss 7 groups of people that we need to remember here at the holiday season. Why only seven? Well, Jesus is the eighth and He doesn’t represent anyone but Himself.

  1. Jesus—The “Reason for the Season”, right? I won’t get on my soapbox about the commercialization of Christmas or the abuse of the holiday. I will just simply state that He IS the very reason for Christmas whether we acknowledge it or not, and it would be in our best interest to do so.
  2. Mary—Ahhh….how can we sum up Mary? She was a scared girl. She was asked to face a lot of hardship. She was called to carry a child out of wedlock in the face of a society where it was greatly shunned. She was asked to love a child that would be hated by His society. She was asked to give her heart away to a son who would be murdered one day by the very people He came to love. She was asked to do a number of tasks, and she accepted her lot in life humbly, obediently, and willingly. She gave her heart to a task that would one day break it. Let’s remember those who give their entire life breathing on this earth to following through with God’s place, regardless of how much they will sacrifice to do so.
  3. Joseph—Joseph was a man entrusted with a great task. He was expected to provide for his family as the man of the household. Greater than that, he was to take his meager occupation and use it to raise the very Son of God. He was called to be the father of the Son. He had a great task ahead of him with limited resources. He was the one that God entrusted His Son to while on this earth. He was given the task to be a role-model within his own means. Let’s remember those who are working hard to provide for their families and doing the best with what they have been given.
  4. 3 Wise Men/Kings/Magi—Remember when Jesus noted that to those who have been given much that much will be expected? The Magi are representative of those people. You see, they were scholars and very wealthy men in their day. They had been gifted with both talents and resources and both were used to honor Jesus for Christmas. They brought Him gifts acknowledging their submission as well as who He was. They were obedient to God and used their wealth to give to Him. Let’s remember those who, despite their wealth, can humble themselves before the King.
  5. Shepherds—This lowly group of men were considered one of the lowest caste in society. However, if you will note, they were the first to hear the news of Christ’s birth. God remembered the lowly and even honored them by sending messengers directly to them. They honored Him in turn by proclaiming the good news to all they came in contact with. I’m sure that those who would not have been told by the rich and powerful got the message that night when they might have otherwise never known. Let’s remember that the very least in our midst might be mighty members of God’s creation.
  6. Angels—The very messengers of God. His creation. They proclaimed in God’s glory the announcement of Jesus’ birth. We should remember those who have been called to share the news of Jesus. May they only use their proclamations to draw attention to the center of the festivities.
  7. Innkeeper—There was no actual innkeeper in the Bible, but we have always created one in the stories since there was an inn, so someone must have been running the place. It’s sad that since it was time for the census that Joseph & Mary were turned away due to an overcrowding in the tiny town of Bethlehem. Let’s remember those who are so focused on the busyness and chaos of this life that we neglect to see what is really happening in their very midst. They need our prayers for peace and calm.
  8. Donkey—The true ministry tool of this story. The donkey was a beast of burden and used to carry Mary, Joseph & their belongings to Bethlehem. Let’s remember that there are many ministries in the world working to bring Christ to a dark world in a very real, hands-on way. They are loving through tasks and deeds because that is what they have been called to do. As with the donkey, they might get no true high praise from men on this earth, but the recipient of their works will never forget them.

Merry Christmas to you and yours.

Photo credit: bishopitalia

Monday, December 14, 2009

8 Christmas Movies/Specials We Watch

Tis the season to feed our Christmas-season-watching desire. What we will have to include?

  1. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965 - TV) - We watched this last Tuesday night with Patrick for the first time. A true classic with the RIGHT message.
  2. Mickey's Christmas Carol (1983 - TV) - Also watched with Patrick last Tuesday night. As the kids get older this will of course fade into the background (although the others cannot...I will not allow that). But while they are young and like Disney, we can tell a classic story through those characters.
  3. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989) - (after the younger kids are asleep, of course) - This is actually my family's "traditional" Christmas movie to watch together.
  4. Elf (2003) - LOVE IT! Seriously bound to be a classic.
  5. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966 - TV) - I haven't seen the movie version, but the cartoon is definitely a classic
  6. A Christmas Story (1983) - I hate this movie. Let me repeat myself. I. Hate. This. Movie. But Chip loves it, and Patrick is sure to as well, and those are two really good reasons that I will sit in while it plays across our screen.
  7. It's a Wonderful Life (1946) - By far a classic in the purest sense. I feel like this is one I have to watch or it's just not Christmas.
  8. Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964 - TV)/Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town (1970 - TV)/Frosty the Snowman (1969) (TV) - This must be listed as one because if you watch one, you must watch them all. The originals. I don't care so much for the "spin offs."
Honorable Mention:
  • Home Alone (1990) (the original one only...the others were pathetic) - We don't normally watch this one, but it is a good family movie and one Patrick is sure to love with all of its slap-stick type fun.
  • The Santa Clause (1994) - This one has good potential. It's a cute movie.
  • The Nativity Story (2006) - There was some controversy in the making of this movie that surrounded some of the actors, but after watching the movie last year (or maybe the previous year), I have nothing but good things to say about it personally. It takes some artistic liberties to fill in gaps where the actual Christmas story leaves some unknowns, but it seems very plausible in its telling.

Is it wrong that Elf and Christmas Vacation made the list while the Nativity Story only made an honorable mention? I actually feel really bad about that, but honestly the top 8 are the ones that we will see this year.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

One of the Best Example of Holiday Thoughtfulness

One time, about 10 years ago, my sister amazed me. Truly amazed me with her giving and thoughtfulness

Don't get me wrong...I'm not trying to imply she is not thoughtful or giving, but I watched her do something that never would have crossed my mind.

On Christmas Eve, she took an entire cooked ham, with trimmings, two gallons of sweet tea, and a red velvet cake to her local fire station. They didn't know she was coming. She just showed up with the meal around mid to late afternoon and gave it to them.

I was floored.

What an awesome way to thank those guys who had to work their shift on Christmas. Those guys who risk their lives to protect the general pubic. Those guys who obviously were going to be celebrating with their fire station family that night.

They make sacrifices every day. Sacrifices much greater than the money it took to buy the groceries for that meal. Sacrifices much greater than the time and effort it took her to prepare that dinner. Sacrifices much more than braving the icy rain encountered while delivering it.

I saw her in that moment not as the big sister that she has always been, but as someone who was truly generous and someone to emulate.
Photo credit: jamesacampbell

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

WFMW - Helping Baby Dress

With a new baby in the house, I am always looking for tricks to help me out in dealing with this little one. And although this isn't my first time around, I certainly can't claim to know everything.

However, I have discovered a "hack" to help me dress our daughter.

When putting on a shirt, she often likes to bend her arms or make them almost completely limp, making it hard to get her little arms through a long-sleeve and successfully out the other end. I found out though, if I just stick my index finger through the wrist of the sleeve and poke her hand, like any baby will, she will immediately grasp my finger with her precious little hand and hold on (for dear life it seems). I can then easily pull her arm all the way out the end with little effort and time on my part.

So that's What Works for Me. Go visit We Are THAT Family and see what works for everyone else!

Photo credit: Victoria Bjorkman

Monday, December 7, 2009

8 Items for the Kids’ Medicine Cabinet

To go along with last week's list of items you should have in your own medicine cabinet, I am adding this week's list to include items especially for children's health care.
  1. Tylenol/Ibuprofen--Children's strength.
  2. Nasal Bulb--Unfortunately, teaching children to blow their nose is not always easy.
  3. Petroleum Jelly--Use this to lubricate rectal thermometers or to prevent chapped lips/cheeks on babies.
  4. Thermometer--Age and usage appropriate of course. Rectal thermometers are the most accurate, but not always easy to use. Oral are perfect for older kids. Ear thermometers are not terribly accurate in infants. Underarm or forehead are the least accurate although can give you a good idea of their temperature.
  5. Stomach Meds--Age appropriate of course. You can buy kids' Pepto for older kids. Mylicon or similar anti-gas medicine for infants is almost always necessary to have on hand.
  6. Medicine Dropper/Syringe--For easy of giving babies and small children their medicine. Once they leave the toddler stage, they are probably fine to use the dosage cups that come with the liquid meds.
  7. Saline Nasal Drops--Since most medicines are no longer allowed for children under 4, this homeopathic remedy is a good cleanser for the sinuses without introducing chemicals.
  8. Pedialyte--Great for rehydrating after stomach bug, when child hasn't had an appetite due to illness, or just to re-energize on a hot day.

Would you care to add anything?

Photo credit: nathansnostalgia

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Our Financial Status - Update #2

So a second month since my confessional post has passed and I am here to update you on how we did this month so you can hold me accountable! As a reminder, you can see how we did during the first month here.

After last month, I predicted that we would be over budget this month on both gasoline (due to traveling to see family) and groceries (as we were hosting Thanksgiving) with the hopes to offset them in other areas. Let's see how we did:

As a reminder, I'm not showing you actual amounts spent, as I'm not comfortable posting THAT much financial info about ourselves. The amounts shown are how much either over or under that we were in those areas noted.

INCOME: On budget.
The number actually show $201 over budget due to being reimbursed for some spending (rebates, credit card cash back and buying some things and getting paid back for them). So since these were all associated with having to spend money first, I am not considering them "gain." =)

Gasoline: $82 over budget. As I noted above, I had expected this due to some extra traveling.
Groceries: $25 over budget. Also expected, but not nearly as far over as I would have thought, so I consider this a bit of a "win".
Restaurants/Fast Food: $131 over. Yikes! This is really a tough one for us obviously. We had some company and went out to eat a couple of times, so I guess that's why we were so badly over. Need to stick to this one better!
Baby Supplies: $16 over budget. I was well below budget last month ($34) so this isn't a big deal. There were a lot of great diaper sales going on and I took advantage of a couple of them. So this should set me up to be in really good shape in this area for a month or two. =)
Pharmacy: $63 over budget. We were a bit sick this month. Also, I went to the doctor and was given a new prescription that costs more than my last one, so I will have to update our budget to reflect this change.
Doctor: $40 over budget. Since both of the kids went to the doctor last month, we were one copay above our budget. I thought we would "catch up" this month by not having to go, but I had an appointment this month that I had forgotten was scheduled, so although there was only one appointment in the family, I didn't have any money in this area of our budget prepared, so we were over one copay again.
Home Supplies: $54 over budget. We had to buy a water filter for our fridge. I had not anticipated this (things like this slip my mind usually). On the plus side--this reduces the money we spend on bottled water and other drinks (because we can drink water in their place).
Coffee Shops: $10 over budget. These aren't necessarily "coffee shops" but usually stops to convenience stores (that's just how I categorize them in Mint).
Veterinary Services: $139 over. We had the dog boarded while we traveled and she was groomed while she was there.
Gifts: $200 over budget. We're doing birthday and Christmas shopping.

Mortgage (very predictable)
Credit Card Payment (What we've set aside)
Life Insurance (very predictable)
Auto Insurance (very predictable)
Pest Control (very predictable)
Television (very predictable)
Late Fees (yes, they were zero, and that is the plan)
Newspaper (very predictable)

Babysitter/Daycare: $135 under budget. With Thanksgiving holidays and Patrick being sick, we used sick days instead of paying for those days the kids weren't in school.
Utilities: Water bills was $5 under budget, and our electric bill was $130 under budget! We have to plan for the extreme hot and relative cold, so I have budgeted $200 to heat/cool our house as an average. Since our bill was only $71 this month (!), we saved big money!
Clothing: $54 under budget. This is set up as a rolling amount, as we do not buy clothes every month, but when we do, it is more than one month's budget. In other words, after buying Abigail and Patrick some clothes this past month, we have $54 that will roll into next month to accumulate until we need to spend more on clothes.
Auto Service: $30 under budget. This should help make up for being $63 over budget last month!
Make-up/Toiletries: $9 under budget.

So all in all, another decent month. I expected being over budget in groceries and gas, but completely did not anticipate we would do so poorly in eating out. Sigh...still a weakness I guess. It seems we made up for it in areas we were under budget though, so in the end it is okay. If we can just get rid of that eating out problem, we can send more money to credit cards!

Speaking of which...we have not put anything else on the card that we paid off last month. It is actually stored away and we will close it as soon as we have more room on other cards and know we don't need it for an emergency. We have "snowballed" our payment and sent the month we didn't need for Card #1 payment and sent it in addition to the regular payment to Card #2.

On an unexpected note, we have closed Card #2 and will work on paying it if off from here. We got a notice that our rate would change to a variable rate on December 1st. Not wanting a variable rate on ANY loan, we opted out, which closed the card and will allow us to pay it off at our current rate. It's a good thing, as there is no possibility of us using that card again.

We are looking into refinancing our home under a program the VA loan people have going on (we have a VA loan now). It will result in a lower monthly about $250. We can then sent that amount to paying off debts and get them down faster.

Also in the upcoming month--I will be reimbursed half of my medical deductible from having Abigail. This is just a perk from my employer. =) We are going to put 2/3 of it in savings to help build it and use the other 1/3 to pay for our Christmas gifts this year. Hooray! It will actually show up as an additional credit card payment though because we've been shopping some great deals already (while not overspending, of course) and I just turned in the paperwork on Tuesday to get the reimbursement, so I should have it soon.

For December, there will be an additional credit card payment for this reason and we will once again probably be over in gasoline due to traveling. Hopefully it won't be too bad though because I won't have to commute to work for about 1-1/2 weeks. =)

What else can we do to help ourselves? Any suggestions?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

WFMW - My Frugal Christmas Gifts

This year the purse strings are tighter than normal. Chip still has not found a job ( seems NO ONE is hiring around here right now) and we're still trying to attack our debt. So in our efforts to control spending this Christmas we are having to be a lot more careful about where our money is going. I typically give small gifts to all of my employees (6 of them) and my boss. We have some good friends I'd like to give gifts to. And there are three people that are work friends that I will exchange gifts for. This is all in addition to our family gifts, which are also on a tighter budget this year.

So I have decided that all of those other people are getting the same thing this year...homemade goodies. All of the ingredients will be on sale this holiday season and they are cheaper to make in bulk than just as a few. These are the items that are currently on my list of possibilities:

Super Brownies (some of my friends will wonder why I didn't make these if they aren't included!)
Red Velvet Cake Truffles (YUMMY! I will do them in white chocolate and may try to get creative and drizzle them in red)
Fudge (probably peanut butter to avoid too much chocolate in one place)
Haystacks (my mom used to make these. So good and so easy)
Pies in Jars (I just found this recently and fell in love with the idea!)
Peppermint Bark (how holiday-ish)
Snowballs (LOVE these)
Peanut Butter Blossoms (Patrick loves to help make these)
Dipped Pretzels (love sweet and salty together)
Dipped Ritz Sandwiches (one of my childhood favorites at Christmas)

That's all that is on my mind at the moment. I am not guaranteeing that I will do them all. Those are just possibilities. And I can mix and match for different people...they don't all have to have each variety. And luckily--none of them read this blog, so I know there is no threat in them finding out early!

What do you think? Do you have any favorites I didn't list that you would recommend?

I think this will work for me this holiday. Head over to We Are THAT Family to see what gift-giving ideas others are coming up with!

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