Friday, October 31, 2014

Mama's Got a Brand New Bag

I heard the James Brown song, "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" in my head Wednesday evening as I pranced through the parking lot of the Basha's Plaza. I replaced the word "papa" with "mama" and jived my way back to my car. Mama indeed found a brand new (to me) bag.

I went out for a bit of speed shopping on Wednesday evening after cleaning the house all day in preparation for my father-in-law's Halloween visit. We had been living in a vacation rental for the previous three weeks, and after returning home, there was a mountain of mess to deal with. The contents of our bathroom cabinets had been emptied onto our bed. The reconstruction crew had to tear out the vanity to get to the mold behind it. So, we have a new master bathroom vanity, but there was a pile of stuff everywhere that needed to be sorted and relocated.

In addition to that, all of our laundry had to be sorted and redistributed to it's proper place. Towels, kids clothes, underwear, it was all mixed up in the same jumble. The only thing sorted was clean and dirty. I knew which bags were which, so that would at least save me from washing clean clothes. I had been chipping away at the laundry since we moved back in, but the reality is that we continue to use laundry on a daily basis. I felt like I was drowning under the heap of clean clothes that was piling up. Wednesday was the day that everything was either put away, or just dumped into a storage bin and dealt with at a later date.

Suffice it to say that by the time 4;00 rolled around, I was ready for a break. (Sewing up Carrick's dinosaur costume earlier that day didn't count as a break.) So that's part 1 of the story.

Part 2:
Ever since we return from our three week stay at the vacation rental, I have focused on organizing all of our closets and drawers. The kids have plenty of fall-weather outfits. Corey is stocked with dress shirts, but needs some casual wear. I have plenty of tops, but my stock of bottoms is laughable. My solution? Host a clothing swap, of course! Several of my friends are in the same zone of "needing new clothes". One just lost a couple sizes from working out. Another is pregnant and is growing in size. It's been since May that we have all got together for a clothing swap, so I figured now was as good of a time as any.

This always happens to me. I know that a clothing swap is coming up, and then I find something that I just can't live without. Not like I go shopping and I see something, more like I find a gap in my wardrobe that is so huge that I can't possibly wait for it to be filled. I'm not even talking about clothes this time. Nope. It was a purse. After scheduling the clothing swap, knowing that my friends might being purses or handbags to the swap to get rid of, I just could not wait that long to get a new purse.

I have been carrying around a sliver, beaded clutch since the Oscars in late February. The local theater that shows indie films hosts the "Oscars" each year during the film festival. They show the live broadcast on the big screen, and you feel like you're in the front row with Meryl Streep. It's supposed to be this "red carpet" event, so every one dresses up. After attending the event, I never switch my clutch back to the tote bag I was using as a purse. I just kept my essentials in the clutch and pulled it out of the tote bag whenever I needed it.

But I'm tired of clutching the clutch, or tucking it under my armpit to go shopping. I also don't like carrying around the heavy tote bag when I go into a store. I don't need my notebook and water bottle with me everywhere I go. The time had come for me to get a real purse.

So, back to my whirlwind of cleaning:

I needed to get out of the house, recharge my batteries, and do some speed shopping. Corey consented to watch the kids, and I drove around the corner to the Basha's Plaza. First I hit up the newly remodeled Beall's Oulet. Nada. Then Goodwill...still nothing. Then I walked across the parking lot to a cluster of stores in an "island" in the plaza. A semi-new consignment store called Kaelyn's Kloset sells higher-end women's clothes and accessories. Nine West, Dolce and Gabana, and Calvin Klein can be found in this location, albeit secondhand.

I whizzed through the store and picked up five bags that looked like my style. I took them all to the mirror and tried them all on. I narrowed it down to three. Then I looked at the price tags. $20.00, $22.0 and $40.00. The $40.00 was a little out of my comfort zone for budget. The $22.00 one was just a good at the others, but slightly less comfortable on my shoulders. The $20.00 was the sweet spot. With tax is was $22.00 Fun Dollars. Yay!!!! Now I can put the rest of my Fun Dollars in my new bag and enjoy my weekend with family in comfort and style.

New to me Purse at Kaelyn's Kloset- $22.00
Balance this pay cycle- $74.00
Happy Spending!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Infrequent Indulgence

Even before I ate (80%) gluten free, even before I started watching my sugar intake, even before I cared too much about food in general, I stopped eating doughnuts. It was very easy for me to  look at a pastery and see the sugar and wheat for what they were: nutritionally void. My children have had maybe the equivalent of three doughnuts their entire lives. They are just something we don't spend our money on.

When I was a kid, my mother worked Saturdays, only Saturdays, which meant that dad got to spend all day with his girls. My sister and I would wake up and stampede down into the basement to watch Saturday morning cartoons. Still in our jammies, we would laugh at Looney Toons, giggle at Garfield and snicker at Smurfs. Eventually, our dad would come down the stairs and announce that we would be going to Bent's Red Fox, the local grocery store. (I use the singular form of the word because there was only one grocery store in the town I grew up in.)

A trip to Bent's meant only one thing: doughnuts. My dad would let my sister and me pick out three of four doughnuts each. He would add to it to make it a round dozen. Then we'd head home to finish our cartoon binge-watching and gorge ourselves on sugar.

I don't hold it against my dad for our weekly treats, either. Our Saturday morning doughnuts were the few sugary things that came into our house when I was a kid. It was more of a bonding experience between a father and his daughters more than anything. I'm sure that if we were living in today's world (and somewhere other than a town with a population of 1200) we would have been eating gluten free scones or something.

Even though I don't take my kids out for doughnuts, I still allow for a doughnut every so often, like twice a year (and only for myself, not for the kids). One of those instances happened yesterday.

I had just dropped the kids off at school and was heading to work when my boss sent me a text to come in half an hour later than usual (and that she would still pay me for my regular hours.) I took the opportunity to  have some morning time to myself. I decided to stop at New York Deli and Bagel on the way to work. I rarely go into this establishment because I just don't eat much of what they serve: wheat and sugar. But this momentous day of going into work late merited some sort of getting a doughnut!!!!!

A Boston Creme, fist-sized, covered in chocolate icing and filled with vanilla pudding became my sweet indulgence for the morning. I am still buzzing from the sugar high as I write this 24 hours later. I also bought a small coffee to cut through the sugar as I ate it. I sat in the car listening to NPR, thinking back to my childhood days of delighting in doughnuts. Thanks, dad, you taught me how to enjoy this infrequent indulgence.

Boston Creme and small Coffee and NYDB- $4.00
Balance this pay cycle- $96.00
Happy Spending!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Wildcat Carnival

Almost every year since Carrick was born, I have taken him to the public school on the last Saturday in October for the Wildcat Carnival. This annual event draws a crowd of hundreds of parents and children from all over the Sedona and Verde Valley area. It's the school's biggest fund raiser of the year. They don't use the proceeds for sport team uniforms or new desks, they use all the money raised to buy curricular materials. The Wildcat Carnival literally funds our children's education.

The currency for the carnival is tickets. They are $.50 each, but if you buy them ahead of time, you get bonus tickets. Carrick spent his $10.00 Fun Dollars this pay cycle to buy 20 tickets, and he received 5 bonus tickets with this purchase. I also spent the last $10.00 of my Fun Dollars on the same purchase. All together, we had 50 tickets. Tickets are used to buy food, drinks, activities, games or a chance at winning a gift basket at the raffle area.  Every class is assigned a theme and the students all donate one new item that goes with that theme. The items are then assembled into gift baskets. I took a look in the office the day before the carnival and there were some pretty awesome gift baskets. Carrick's class's theme was dinosaurs. Some others included gardening, movie night, baking, games, hiking and children's books. 

When we arrived at the carnival, we started out paying 9 tickets for three slices of pizza. The kids were so excited about the games, that they had a hard time concentrating on lunch. Carrick requested a bag of popcorn while waiting in line for the bungee jump. Under normal circumstances, I would have explained to him that he should have had more at "lunch", but since the day was just a fun and relaxing time for us, I saved my motherly speech and just spent 2 tickets on a bag of popcorn. 

At the bungee jump, they put Carrick in a harness and he climbed up on the giant trampoline. Then one of the workers hooked both sides of his harness to clips suspended from two poles on either side of his trampoline. Then the worker raised up the clips and Carrick rose slightly into the air, dangling from the bungee cords, and then the worker gave him a tug downward toward the trampoline. He soared up into the air, with giggles flying out of his mouth. "More!!!" he shouted, so the worker gave him a harder tug, and Carrick shot up light a rock from a slingshot and he burst into fits of laughter. I couldn't even keep from laughing my self as I watched him shooting up and down. 

He also scaled the rock wall...all the way to to top. He marched right up to the guy working the ride and announced, "I'm 40 lbs!" (he remembered almost not making the weight requirement last year.) He fearlessly put one hand over the other and climbed all the way to the top. After pressing the siren, he let go and slowly descended on his harness with a huge smile on his face. 

In addition to the rock wall and the bungee jump, the kids played the duck pond, ring toss, bean bag toss,and mini golf. The bouncy house, and bouncy slide also kept the kids entertained. Lily tried her hand at the bouncy house, but was quickly overwhelmed by the motion. She's still only 22 months old, and much smaller than the other kids in there. She did, however, thoroughly enjoy the bouncy slide (as did I.) After Carrick went down three times, I decided to pay a ticket to take Lily down it. Hearing her bust up into laughter as we slid down was priceless. 

We took our paw prints (the tokens the kids won at the games) to the prize booth before we left. Lily picked out a purple snake and a bead necklace. Carrick chose a yellow bulldozer to add to his car collection as well as a pair of binoculars. Carrick requested some extra time on the playground before leaving. I saw that there were seats in the shade next to the playground, so I let him and Lily run around for a solid hour. I hung out with some mama friends of mine, taking a breather in the shade. We were all exhausted from being out in the sun (even though it was cool and there was a breeze, the sun was still intense) and walking around with our children for several hours. 

Spending $10.00 Fun Dollars on Wildcat Carnival tickets was the best choice I've made with my money in a while. Carrick and Lily enjoyed themselves tremendously. I was more than happy to share this experience with them, as well as support the school Carrick attends now. It was great way to close this pay cycle.

Tickets to the Wildcat Carnival- $10.00
Balance this pay cycle- $0.00       Happy Spending!

Friday, October 24, 2014


Some people say that regrets are a waste of time. I would tend to agree, but only about dwelling on them. I believe that regrets serve a valuable purpose with our learning experience. If we simply discard the feeling of regret (or in this case, buyer's remorse), we loose the opportunity to learn from what happened. We obviously feel badly about something. Our job is to discover the root of the regret and to find a way to not repeat whatever gave us that feeling in the first place.

In my case, I failed to communicate with Corey about the spending expectations of our Pumpkin Train Excursion. If I had talked to him, I would not have made a snack run to Natural Grocers. I also would have planned for packing my lunch last Tuesday, and not relied to Fun Dollars to buy my work day meal at Wildflower Bread Co.

My regrets are not for the entire purchase at these establishments, mind you. There were parts of these purchases that I just did not enjoy. On my snack run at Natural Grocers I bought yogurt covered pretzels, 2 Pecan Pie Cliff Bars, 2 Spiced Pumpkin Cliff Bars, and a one quart carton of Good Belly Probiotic Coconut Water.  Yes, go ahead and scrunch your nose up. That last one tasted as good as it sounds. It was more like liquid coconut yogurt....I had to spit out the mother. You know, that live, fungus thingy they put in drinks to make them "healthy". (Sorry, kambucha lovers, I have never hopped on that wagon.) It was actually that last part of the purchase that I regret. Spending $3.00 on fermented live culture coconut water was not something I plan on repeating.

Similarly, I felt desperately hungry at Wildflower Bread Co. and failed to check the price on their yogurt parfait. I ordered a grilled cheese, and probably would have been better off getting a cup of soup to go with it. However, I picked up the parfait thinking it would make a good "later" snack in my work day. I could keep it cold in the refrigerator and eat it before picking up the kids from school. I would have fallen out of my seat if I had been sitting down when the cashier said my total was $11.57 for my grilled cheese sandwich and yogurt. Seriously??? $12.00 for two pieces of bread with cheese toasted in the middle and some yogurt??? Like I said, I had some regrets this pay cycle. Next time, I'll just get the soup and microwave it later.

I did make one purchase that seemed like a regret at the time, but looking back, I'm glad I made it. Last week, after seeing our family therapist, Corey and I scheduled "talk time". She could not believe that we didn't have any time to talk to each other without the kids around. I told her that was easier said than done. But since talking time was our "homework" for these next two weeks, we have made it a priority. One way that we managed to sneak in some talking time was by waking up at 6:15 every morning and talking before the kids woke up. Well, on Saturday, we slept in, so we made up for it by driving to Cottonwood for breakfast. kids occupied in the back seat, adults talking in the front seat. I was actually craving a skillet (potatoes and veggies sauteed with eggs on top), so when Corey pulled in to Denny's I was thrilled. I love their veggie skillet with eggs over medium. I poke the yolks and use it like a sauce over the veggies....mmmmm.....skillet......anyway....what was I saying???Oh Yeah.

Initially, I did not want to pay for this meal with my Fun Dollars. (Lines were still fuzzy about what was covered at this point due to our relocation.) But in the end, I ended up not regretting this transaction. It was worth $16.00 Fun Dollars (I also helped to pay for the kid's meals as well as half the tip) to talk to Corey and discuss important things going on in life right now.

Regrets are most definitely there to remind us of how we felt when things are not quite right. They are feelings laid down for us to learn from. Don't ignore them, or else you might find yourself drinking fermented coconut water.

Snacks at Natural Grocers- $9.00
Lunch at Wildflower Bread Co.- $12.00
Breakfast at Denny's -$15.00
Balance this pay cycle- $$10.00
Happy Spending!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Fuzzy Lines

*Sigh* Once again, Corey and I find ourselves in need of clear communication about Fun Dollars. This just goes to show you, even though you might have a plan, a budget or a "regular" with your finances and money, doesn't mean that the rules are always hard and fast. I think that our humanity makes us variable, and money tends to be more black and white than what our human condition allows for.

Corey and I have been using the Fun Dollars system for almost 2 1/2 years now, and apparently we are still finding out that it needs revisiting from time to time. As you might know, we are currently living in a vacation rental managed by our rental company. Our house needed some repair work done that required us to relocate temporarily. As a result, we have found ourselves living with the attitude that we are on a mini-vacation. We are not in our normal environment, yet we are required to continue with our daily activities as though we were right at home. Carrick doesn't stop going to school, I don't stop going to work, groceries still need to be purchased, dishes still need to be washed. It's vacation, yet it's not vacation....the lines are a little fuzzy...

To add to the mess and the confusion of changing our day-to-day routine, we have not been sticking to any sort of dietary restrictions. We have opted for more fast/convenient food for the sake of easing the burden of living in someone else's home that we will vacate in a short time. We didn't want to buy lots of things that would potentially make messes in the refrigerator, or gunk up the stove top, for instance. That meant more boxed/prepackaged food than what we are used to. We have ordered out pizza without paying for it with Fun Dollars because it's just been a part of our grocery irregularity. There have been many times in the past three weeks that we have done things that were not paid for with Fun Dollars that under normal circumstances we would have used them., like eating out, or drinking wine.

We decided a week ago that we needed to do something as a family.  We had heard about a pumpkin patch excursion on the Grand Canyon Rail Road on Father's Day. When we went to Williams for the BBQ Cook-off, they announced it during the train ride. So we bought tickets to ride to the pumpkin patch tickets last week. Corey said nothing about using our Fun Dollars to pay fort the tickets. I would have happily paid for my half with Fun Dollars, and I would have spent my money a little differently this week as a result.

Because the precedent was set that we didn't use Fun Dollars to buy our tickets, I never asked if this was a "Fun Dollars trip" or if this was like a mini-vacation for our family (using money from the family fund). I assumed that because of our past behavior of random spending in the vacation house, somehow the expenses after the tickets would not be part of Fun Dollars. Assuming is never a good idea. Clarity is much more preferable. That said, I can't tell you why I made this assumption and didn't clarify with Corey the financial expectations. I think I just wanted to claim ignorance, and hoped that would suffice.

Yesterday, we left for Williams, AZ right after church was over. We had a 3:00 p.m. departure from the depot. There was just enough time to stop in Flagstaff for a bite of lunch before traveling west. Corey ran in to Arby's and bought sandwiches for us. I didn't know it at the time, but he used his own Fun Dollars for this purchase. I think if I had known that, I would have thought differently about what was yet to come and set my ignorance aside.

Our train ride and time spent at the pumpkin patch was enjoyable. The kids got to run around, choosing the "perfect pumpkin". It was sunny as well as drizzly, an ideal October day. Carrick even entertained everyone by standing on a hay bale practicing his karate. Lily walked around waving and saying, "Hi" to every one. Upon our return to the depot, we spent some time decorating our pumpkins, then drove across the rail road tracks to a park. The kids were able to let off any pent up energy before the hour and fifteen minute ride back to Sedona.

While Corey watched the kids, I walked up the block to the Route 66 Diner (located on the old Rte. 66.) I was starting to feel hungry again, and I knew that a ride back to Sedona would be too long for me or the kids to wait for another meal. I ordered an appetizer of seasoned fries and chicken strips. I used the debit card, thinking that we were on family money, and not Fun Dollars for the trip. When I came back to the park with the food, Corey asked me how I paid for it. He questioned why I didn't just use my Fun Dollars. He pointed out how he paid for Arby's, which was news to me. I shrugged, and wrote it off as an "early dinner", a perfectly acceptable purchase with grocery money.

This morning, when I asked for change from an earlier meal we ate out this week, Corey was shocked. He still thought that I should have paid for the Rte. 66 snack with Fun Dollars. I was reciprocally shocked that he was still nagging me about this. Our morning could have gone a little smoother if we had just communicated better in the first place. I was unclear about what was covered with Fun Dollars (especially after all our random spending these past three weeks) and he was unclear about my lack of clarity! The lines that we drew for what our Fun Dollars should cover were fuzzy. They needed to be revisited.

I felt bad about not using my Fun Dollars in the first place, so I returned the change I was owed, and added a little to it to make up the difference. It was not what I had planned for my spending, however. This eats into what I would have used to add to my Fun Dollars New Years Giveaway. The good news is that is still a couple months away. I still have time to make up for it. Next pay cycle, I will just put in $20.00 Fun Dollars instead of $10.00 Fun Dollars.

The other good news is that we are set to move back into our regular house this week, so things will return to normal....or as close to normal as they come.

Snack at Williams Rte. 66 Diner- $13.00
Balance this pay cycle- $46.00
Happy Spending!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Fashion Fun

I know I said Lily didn't need any more clothes, but that didn't stop me from spending some Fun Dollars on three dresses for her. I met with a friend for a playdate this week, and she handed me a bag of clothes for Lily. Most of the items were things that she either bought for really cheap, or were hand-me downs from other moms. Because her daughter was the second to wear everything in the bag, she didn't want any money for the clothes.

But then she pulled out a dress with the tags still on. An adorable pink and white organza dress with a pink cardigan. I have a weak spot for cute clothes, whether they are for Lily or Carrick. I could not say no. This dress was just too cute. Then she pulled out another dress, Cheetah print with a black jacket, still with the tags on it. The jacket came with faux fur on the collar...have mercy! It was too cute!

As if that weren't enough, my friend had yet another dress! A gorgeous red satin with a wide black sash. It looked very senorita. This one also had the tags on it. Three new dresses for Lily. "How much for all three?" I asked. She wanted $24.00, but all I had in my purse was a $20.00 and a $1.00. I gave her both and we called it even.

I as soon as we were home from the play date I washed all Lily's new clothes and organized them into outfits. There were like 6 pairs of jeans in that bag! Not to mention the dozen or so shirts. There were leggings, jackets, jammies and t-shrits too. The bag was overflowing with clothes. For three dresses and a bag of clothes, I was happy to pay $21.00 Fun Dollars. It was better than shopping. I got more for my money, and my kids got to play instead of whine in the shopping cart.

I will put the red and pink dresses away for Christmas, and let her wear the Cheetah print one this fall. If I keep that one until Christmas, she might outgrow it by then. But the other two are on the big side, so she can wear them longer.

Three new dresses for Lily (two are Christmas presents)- $21.00
Balance this pay cycle- $59.00
Happy Spending!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Love and Money

Why is it so frightening to sit down and look at finances? I have felt the need to get a better perspective of our financial landscape now that I am employed, but I just can't bring myself to actually do it. Every day, I say to myself, "I should do this" and every day, it doesn't happen. Maybe it's because we're not living in our house, maybe it's because I want to contribute more, or maybe I'm just scare of what I'll find.

I talked to a friend of mine the other day who had just gone through her own family's finances. She told me that they were actually better off than she thought they were. While I was happy for my friend, I got this knot in the pit of my stomach at the same time. It was a knot of guilt, like I should be taking the same action.

Historically, Corey has always handled the finances in our family. Almost everything is in his name, he makes up the passwords, makes all the payments, and has all the account info somewhere. It feels so daunting to have to visit all the websites and log in to get all the information needed for an accurate financial picture. I think that's part of my aversion, the time and effort it takes.

Am I just lazy? Or does my ignorance some how excuse me from actually feeling the pressure of earning more money? As long as I don't know the real numbers, I still have some degree of separation between me and the realities of our family's money.

 I know we are not struggling, we still have a nest egg from selling the house. But now more than ever, we need to be smart about our spending and finances to keep that egg in tact. We would be foolish if we acted as if we won the lottery. The last thing I want is for us to deplete the money we worked so hard for.

I think this weekend, I will sit down and crunch the numbers. I need to let go of the fear of facing our finances.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, I was speaking with another friend last week about their financial landscape. This particular friend lost their job this year and has been collecting unemployment for several months. Adding to that,  they don't really know how to pay off the debt they have already accumulated. In spite of having no job, they somehow manage day to day to keep up with the basics of food and shelter. I don't think I could begin to wrap my brain around being totally unemployed. That seems scarier than sitting down with the numbers.

So, to help out my friend, I am sending them $20.00 Fun Dollars. It's not a whole lot, but it might pay for some groceries or something. I figure when there's no occupational money coming in, any amount could be helpful. I hope they are able to find a job that works for them in the near future.

Stay strong, and know that you are loved.

$20.00 to help out a friend in need
Balance this pay cycle- $80.00
Happy Spending!

Monday, October 13, 2014

I've Got the Urge

With the change in weather, my closet has somewhat transformed from sandals to boots, bikinis to jackets, and tank tops to sweaters, almost overnight. We had temperatures in the 80's last weekend, and now we are at a cool 65 with wind. I was literally swimming last weekend and now I am sporting a Gap hoodie. Even though we are not at home, I have started to feel like this "new" place is our home, and yet my closet is no where near appropriately outfitted.

When we moved I brought along some hot weather clothes and some cool weather clothes for all of us. But over the past week, the shorts have been stashed in the suitcases and I had to make a few trips to our actual home to restock for cooler weather. As it turned out, Carrick and I had some work to do on our fall wardrobes. I have way too many tops and not enough bottoms and shoes to go with them. Much of what I owned from last year was worn out and donated. Carrick has grown so much that many of the sale clothes I bought him last season when winter clothes were on clearance are too small. His ankles stick out below his pants and his shirt sleeves have to be rolled up to hide the fact that they are too short.

Lily on the other hand is well stocked for the cold months (but most of what she owns is also back at the house). She has a tub full of clothes I have snatched up at clothing swaps and from friends who gave us hand-me-downs. Not to mention the ample amounts of cute girl clothes I find at Goodwill that are still in great condition.  I am going to have a blast going though her bin and arranging coordinating outfits from all the random items I have collected.

So this weekend we went up to Flagstaff in search of Carrick's Halloween costume, and for a few staples at Target. I was also keeping an eye out for boy clothes that were budget-friendly. Kohl's didn't have quite what I was looking for, but we did leave there with a pair of pants and a shirt for Carrick. At least it was a start...After our Target run, we drove across town to the mall. I only went to JC Penny's because I found what I was looking for there. They had a sale on their Okie Dokie brand (for toddlers, that thankfully go up to size 6). Mix and match pants and tops were $5.00! Now that's what I'm talking about! I just hate paying $10.00 for pants that he's only going to wear for a few months. It's an age-old struggle that almost every parent encounters; not paying too much for clothes that will be outgrown, stained, or ripped in a matter of months.

I was also disappointed after our search at Target and Spirit Halloween for Carrick's T-Rex costume. Neither place had one. After we left the mall, I made a pit stop at their newly-relocated Goodwill. There I found several items I could piece together to create a T-Rex outfit. (Part of my plan is to re-construct some Incredible Hulk hands into claws and feet.) A little creativity with $9.00 saves us from the $40.00 it would have cost us to buy it online. 

That's really what it's all about when looking at a wardrobe. Taking stock of what you have, seeing what goes together, and filling in the gaps using some creativity. Some things you buy you might splurge on, other items you might want to pinch pennies. That's kind of where I'm at right now. I am in the process of taking stock and evaluating what I've got. It is so gosh darn hard to get through this stage, though. I want so badly to just go out and spend all my Fun Dollars on a new wardrobe.

The shopping spree yesterday only added fuel to my fire. I thought for sure that taking care of Carrick's fall wardrobe would satiate me for the pay cycle. It didn't. It only made me want to look for things for myself. The really silly part is that I should really be waiting until we are back in our actual house before I go too crazy buying new things. I'm not even working with my regular closet. At this temp home, I have a walk-in closet. At our actual home I have two three-foot long bars to work with. Kind of different arrangements....

I want to be smart with my Fun Dollars. I want to make wise purchases with them. I don't want to just impulsively buy clothes that I may or may not need, that I may or may not be able to  fit into my closet. *sigh* Restraint....That's the name of the game.

Friday, October 10, 2014

So Proud

I'll keep this one short and sweet. I am so proud of my son. He told us all week about his upcoming field trip. It was to be his first ever. His class was set to take the bus over Mingus Mountain into the outskirts of Prescott to Mortimer Farms. Each child would get the chance to choose a pumpkin from the pumpkin patch. It sounded like so much fun. If I wasn't scheduled to work (and get my much needed hair cut) I would have volunteered to go as a chaperone. 

I signed his permission slip on Monday night and sent it back to school with him. On Wednesday night, our family was in the car, and Corey and I were discussing the field trip. He asked me if we had paid the teacher yet (it was a $10.00 admission fee.) I told him, "Not yet. I was kind of hoping Carrick would pay for it with his Fun Dollars." I was half joking when I said this. 

Carrick heard our discussion and piped up incredulously from the back seat, "I am paying for it with my Fun Dollars!" as if I were talking crazy talk to imply that he wouldn't!

Carrick is second from the left in front. 
I don't know if I have ever been prouder of my son, volunteering to pay for his first field trip with his own Fun Dollars. I must be doing something right...

Set aside New Year's Fun Dollars Gift Money- $7.00 (plus $3.00 to make it an even 10 from selling some kiddo stuff online.) 

Balance this pay cycle- $0.00
Happy Spending!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Kids Will be Kids

Cafe Jose, Plaza Bonita, India Palace, and Szechuan are basically the four restaurants in town where we are the most comfortable dining out with our children. We dine out at Elote and Wildflower Bread Co. perhaps once a quarter, but not as frequently as the other places. Pizza Picazzo's is also on the more "child-friendly" side, but if we have a hankering for pizza, we usually satisfy it with some sort of carry-out.

The truth is, Sedona has a struggling food scene. There are only a handful of choices anywhere along the dining spectrum. We only have 3 or 4 choices in each category: Fast food, Mexican, Italian, Asian, diner, bistro. The only restaurant type we have plenty of is pizza. With at least eight pizza places, Sedona is maxed out in that department.

Now, there are a few places that might be child friendly that we have not patronized. When eating out, Corey and I must be judicious with how we spend our time and money. We don't want to shell out $50.00 somewhere and have a snarky waiter who is bothered by the fact that our kids are kids. I don't like going places where people look at us as if we are putting them out somehow by attempting to be in public with our children.

So, the aforementioned establishments receive our Fun Dollars on a regular basis. For starters, the food is consistently awesome. Not every restaurant where we live can claim this. But this chosen handful has shown us time and again that we spend our money there for a reason: the food is always delicious.

The other reason we even bother being seen (or heard) in public at these places is because the staff is not only welcoming to our family, they enjoy our children being children. At Plaza Bonita, almost all the servers have kids of their own. They talk to our children. They let them play in the restaurant, and give them high fives on the way out. At India Palace, they always bring our kids Mango Lasees free of charge. They help them out at the buffet, and are very kind about returning them to the table if they somehow escape. At Cafe Jose, they have watched our son grow from infant to big brother to kindergartner. They are more like family than wait staff. (The same goes for Elote.)

Last Monday, we took both kids to Szechuan. Carrick and Lily were particularly ornery that night. After we sat down, I tried in vain to get them to play with the new coloring books and stickers I bought them. They were not interested in anything except being loud. I was sooooo not in the mood. Corey got up to ask the owner (with whom he is acquainted) if we could sit in the small room for private parties located separately from the dining room.

"The kids are loud," Corey explained.
The owner replied, "So the kids are loud..."

He wasn't bothered by it, so why should we be bothered by it? Our server, the oldest woman who works there, immediately brought out two dishes of rice for the kids to nibble on. She knew what they needed. She knew they were just hungry kids. Bless her. She even brought out a dish of cherries they use for garnishes for "dessert". The kids were thrilled.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, I had the opportunity to enjoy a kid-free lunch the other day at Hiro's Sushi. I had actually invited several friends out to join me, but since it was last minute, they all had plans. I even refused to call Corey to join me. I wanted to try out the whole "solitude" thing. Carrick was at school, and Lily fell asleep on the way back from Cottonwood. I put her in the stroller and ordered my favorite: the Firecracker Roll. Eight bites later I was done. I savored every mouthful, determined to enjoy my lunch all by myself.

The truth is, without the chaos and confusion of the kids, without having to hide the salt and pepper from Lily, without having to wipe up a spilled drink, eating out is kind of boring. I like my kids. I like the excitement they bring to the table. Yeah, I'll take lunch with the girls or a date with Corey any day of the week, but on a daily basis, I like to eat with my children. My kids are who they are, and I am proud to be their mama. If they're too much for anyone else, who cares? Get over it. Kids will be kids.

Dinner at Szechuan (my half)- $20.00
Lunch at Hiro's Sushi- $14.00
Balance this pay cycle- $13.00
Happy Spending!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Bee Yourself

This weekend we started the hunt for Carrick's Halloween costume. I considered making his costume this year, but since we are without the "regulars" of home, I thought it would be smarter just to buy one. Lily has had her costume for months now. She inherited a Bee costume from a friend of ours. As soon as I saw it, I also knew that I wanted to be a Bee with her.

Yes, I'm kind of a sucker for matching, or coordinating themes with costumes. When Carrick was her age we bought him a tiger costume. I wore a white tank top with gold tiger stripes and bought white cat ears and a tail. Corey wore our friend's cheetah print Snuggie and wore cheetah ears (that I made from old black cat ears). We were a Collection of Cats that year.

I'm sure that Carrick won't want to be a Bee, or a flower, or a butterfly or a gardener, or anything related to what Lily and I are wearing. However, he is perfectly happy doing his own thing, and to "be himself". He loves to express his creativity, and wearing a costume is just another form of his creative expression. I think he may end up dressing as a t-rex or a race car Driver (again) this year.

Our costume hunt began at Goodwill. Corey was up exceptionally late the night before attending to wedding transportation. I wanted to give him some quiet time in the house to catch up on sleep, so I took the kids out on an "adventure" bright and early.

I found my own Bee costume at Goodwill for $4.99. It was the only Bee outfit that wasn't size Large. It was labeled "As Is", meaning there were no wings or antennae. I found a pair of wings separately for $.99. Yay! A Bee costume for $6.00! I can make antennae with a headband and some pipe cleaners, no problem.

While we were searching for Carrick's costume, the kids ran off to the toy aisle. While they were gone, I took that opportunity to grab two items without Carrick's knowledge. We didn't find the costume Carrick was looking for (turns out he does want to be a t-rex), but we did score some fantastic dress up items. They had a cowboy hat in really good condition for $1.99. I also snagged a breastplate with a Dragon on it.

He went to a birthday party last year that had "Lords and Ladies" as the theme. The party favors were foam swords and home-made shields. The shields were cut out from cardboard, and spray painted. The handles were made from bubble wrap and duct tape. He has played with his shield so much that the handle has broken. Lily put her teeth to work biting out the foam in the sword and spitting it out, so it too is out of commission. He loved both of these toys so much, that I want to repair the shield, replace the sword, and give them both with the breastplate as a Christmas Gift. ( We do re-gifting at our house for Christmas, which is a whole entry in itself for Fun Dollars.)

After our costume finds at Goodwill, we walked down the sidewalk to the newly remodeled Beall's Outlet. Lily found (yet another) pair of sandals. They were two sizes too big, so they will fit her next summer. I also found a set of hair bows for her. Lily's picture day is coming up, and she didn't have a blue hair bow to wear with her dress. I am so excited for my little girl's first picture day. She likes getting dressed up too, not with costumes, but with her everyday outfits and shoes to match. She likes to "be herself". There have been several dress-up dresses that she has inherited, but she's not as interested in them as she is her regular dresses.

When we returned home, Corey was up and at 'em, though still groggy. We were able to enjoy a relaxing day together as a family. We hit up the pool and hot tub, the kids played in the grass under a willow tree, and we grilled out on the patio for supper. Now that we have settled in and Corey's weekend of managing 4 weddings is over, we are able to enjoy being on "vacation" three blocks from home. We are able to "be ourselves" in our new environment. Thank goodness!

Costumes at Goodwill- $9.00
Hairbows and sandals at Beall's Outlet- $6.00
Balance this paycycle- $47.00
Happy Spending!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Comfort Mode

I have gone into Comfort Mode this week. It's a state of being when I just focus on taking care of myself and make life as easy as possible. Rules about eating, scheduling, and household expectations are set aside so that bigger things can receive attention.

Smiling on the outside, but strained on the inside.
Life as a NICU mom, living in Comfort Mode.
I remember going into Comfort Mode after each of my children were born. They were both premature and had to stay in the NICU. I didn't care about anything else except my availability to my children. I took naps, I ate food I didn't normally eat, and I certainly didn't bother cleaning the house. I remember feeling almost zombie-esque; just floating through my days, walking around, but not really present.

Emotionally speaking, this past week has felt a lot like when my kids were in the NICU. I feel like I have spent all of my energy dealing with issues that seem bigger than me at the moment. It's been a while since I've been tested like this. I know there will be a light at the end of the tunnel, but right now, it seems like it's only a pinpoint in size.

Without going into too much detail, Corey and I saw a family counselor on Tuesday of this week. The wounds and grief from his mother's passing have bubbled under the surface long enough, and the time came to bring everything out and lay it on the table. For those of you who have not experienced therapy sessions, it is exhausting work. I personally feel like I missed a night of sleep after working though such enormous emotional issues.

Then, going home and doing our "homework" for therapy allowed me no break to recuperate and regain my emotional strength. After two days of homework,  we were hit with yet another curve ball.
I went to pay the rent on Wednesday, the day after we started our family therapy, and informed our rental company of some water that looked like it was coming from under the shower. We noticed it the night before,but as it turned out, it was a much bigger issue than a leaky shower. A line from the water heater had apparently been leaking for a while, and it was only just now noticeable. As a result, there is water damage that needed immediate attention.

On Thursday, after a plumber inspected the situation, he determined that a home restoration specialist would be needed. The vanity in the master bathroom needed to be torn out in order to reach the problem area. In order for that to happen, there needed to be asbestos testing because of the age of our house. To be safe, the rental company gave us a place to stay so that the children would not be exposed if there were any health concerns.

While I am grateful for a place to stay and a healthy family, moving out of our house suddenly after the emotionally trying week I already had seemed like the icing a very bitter cake. I physically had no energy left. I had no penitence left. I felt strained, like I couldn't keep going. But I had to.

Oh yeah, this all happened the day before Picture Day at school. Thankfully I had enough wits about me to remember to pack his Picture Day outfit.

After our second night in the vacation home we are inhabiting temporarily, I am starting to feel like I am regaining some sort of footing. I don't feel like I've been run over by a truck, I'm not exhausted, I'm not short-tempered. We found out that this relocation will be anywhere from 2 weeks to a month, so I may as well get comfortable. Having a hot tub to soak in at the complex definitely will help with that.

Burger King (twice this week)- $15.00
Bottle of Bogle Ancient Vine- $10.00
2 Fiji Waters and Chocolove Salted Almond bar at Natural Grocers- $5.00
Sprite and two Lay's Potato Chip bags at Circle K- $3.00
Coca-Cola at Circle K- $1.00

Balance this Pay Cycle- $62.00

Happy Spending!