Oh Love and Other Joys

Despite what I thought of all the rain last week, Kalea really took the time to enjoy it. This was day one of the week long torrential downpour. I didn't realize Kalea had snuck out back while I was washing dishes and she was loving the rain on her face. I took a lot of pictures. She would giggle hysterically when the rain hit her face, it was TOO CUTE. She is a handful, but she sure enjoys life and all the little things that us big people sometimes take for granted. After this picture she rapidly disrobed and let her "inner nudist" out so to speak. She is wild. I was trying to snap a shot of Brynlee being cute and a diaper came flying into the frame! I'm sure Freud could explain why my child so often likes to run around in the nude, but sometimes it boggles my mind. Especially in the cold and rain and even in the snow?!?! Who's kid is this?
On the topic of my wild child, she is a klutz and sometimes gets so confused about what I'm telling her to do. Case in point, this morning she wakes up saying "I hun, I hun" (two syllable words are not her favorite, she means "I hungry") anyways, even when we're carrying her downstairs the desperate plea echoes through the house. I sit her at the table and she continues, I show her the cereal boxes and of course she chooses her apple cinnamon cheerios- is there a better variety, I think not. Anywho, almost as quickly as I put her bowl down in front of her, it mysteriously jumps into her lap?! She just looked at me and said "I hun now, mom. I cold, brrrr" Um yeah, no kidding. Case in point number two, today she was playing with an old bracelet I had lying around, it was made from elastic cord and seed/bugle beads. I was contemplating stealing it from her later because I could probably still use it. So I asked her to be careful and to make sure not to break it because the beads would probably go everywhere...ahem... about 2.5 seconds later I hear a delightfully high pitched sing-song-y "I BREAKED IT!!! Mommy mommy I breaked it!" Sigh... She is such an adventure in parenting for me. Last night she and her friend almost got themselves run over, but I wasn't home and I don't feel like talking about it. Let's just say, I have always felt impressed that I need to watch her like a hawk, and in the last few weeks she has given Steve and I both a run for our money in the "vigilant parent" department. Joy.Shall we move on to the second hoodlum in my house? Brynlee is starting to follow her sisters' lead in the nudity department, along with most of the other unflattering things Kalea does. She likes the phrase "Go way!" and usually pairs it with an open-handed slap. It's awesome. On the bright side, this child listens to me- for the most part. I can always count on Brynlee to help me put the container of wipes away after I change her- it's the small things people! She has been growing little fangs for the last few weeks- all 4 of them at the same time! I know, you're totally jealous of all the fun that we've been having with that. She is generally pretty good even when she's teething, but we've had some "moments". I noticed today that they are all basically thru, and thank the heavens her runny nose is starting to subside. Someday I would really like to know why runny noses and my kids growing teeth are so inextricably intertwined, it drives me nuts every time. Brynlee is a fan of brushing her teeth, and when I say that I really mean it. She is such a good little tooth-brusher! She is also a very frequent tooth-brusher. She asks me to take her to the potty just so she can brush her teeth. Smarty pants. Oh yes and she has decided that she doesn't like to urinate in her diaper anymore, but she doesn't like to tell me. She takes her diaper off and pees in the same spot every single day- at least she's consistent. Curse Steve for trashing the little potty that Kalea refused to use, for Brynlee might be half potty trained by now if we still had that thing! Seriously, she's a superstar, a few weeks ago she was scared to death of the toilet- I have no idea why- now she loves to just sit there and make faces... one day soon she'll realize what it's for, I hope. Bryn also loves to hide from me. Whenever I try to change her diaper, even if I say nothing about it, she instinctively knows what's about to happen and will run for her life away from me. I promise my diaper changing skills are not as traumatic as my kids make them out to be. They are just strange little creatures. Anywho, that is the latest with them.
And as far as my money saving plans. Meal planning is going so good, in fact it's painless. We've basically stuck to the plan or just switched a few nights around, but other than that it's working! Today will be the first day in 2wks that Steve has bought any fast food, but only out of necessity. My grocery bill is infinitely smaller because of the meal plan, which is working out great for other expenses this month. I figured out we don't have to cut our cable because the promotion we're on with Shaw right now basically means we aren't paying for it- I know, we hit the jackpot with that one. When the promo is over in December I think we're just going to get AppleTV and be done with cable companies as far as tv goes. I ordered the kids' birth certificates the other day, I know, took me long enough. Anyways, I was ticked with AMA, they were such a rip-off. I know this because when I worked at a privately owned registry office, if a mom were ordering bc's for her kids, we would only charge her one "registry agent fee", since it's an extra $14 or so and it's only one transaction, we weren't out to make people feel like we swindled them. AMA charged me two fees, one for each birth certificate. I was thrilled...


Little/Big Changes

Okay, so here are the things we are trying over the next few months, keeping in mind that we will probably not do things perfectly but these are some of the things that I've tried before that have worked really well, and a few new things. All of which were in the book I mentioned in the other post.

1. Meal Plan: I think this is the biggest and hardest change for me because it means that I have to actually cook every night (or close to it). I know, how the heck has my family survived? See #2. Along with that, the plan is based on what's "on sale" in the flyers. It might sound crazy but it works, today I bought 2wks worth of groceries for $105, which is a far cry from the usual. Also, I gave myself a time limit to be in the store and get the heck out so I literally only went in for what I needed and didn't even glance at anything else. This also means I needed to make a detailed list. I did but I forgot it at home, so I am sure I forgot something and I am sure I could've done it for a bit cheaper if I had gone to multiple stores, but I didn't have the time, so I went to the store that had the most things I needed on sale. Make sense? I will do way better next time.

2. No Fast Food: I know it sounds pretty simple, but if you're anything like us, you do really good for a few months and then you look at your bank statement and add up what you spent on fast food lately, and it makes you sick. Sometimes fast food is cheaper, like a Little Caesars hot'n'ready pizza is $7, but the cheese alone for my homemade pizza is $9, so we've justified take-out. But we have never felt sick after eating homemade pizza, so sometimes the expense of homemade is worth the extra $$ and a settled tummy.

3. Grow Your Own: We got a garden plot at the community center so that we can plant some vegetables. It's going to take some effort to go and actually tend to it, but the fact that I can spend a few dollars on seeds and have yummy garden veggies through the summer makes me happy. That means I'll be saving money at the grocery store, but it also means that we'll be spending some of our free time teaching the kids some pretty cool stuff- not that it will sink in quite yet, but they'll be excited about it next year we hope.

4. Less TV: Through the summer I usually cut our cable, it saves us a bit of money and TV in the summer is usually not that great anyways. Actually, it's not ever that great, it may not get hooked back up. This would probably mean that I would never watch "The Bachelor" ever again, I guess that's one way to kick the habit, haha.

5. Clean Out the House: It's good to know what you actually already have before you go buy multiples of it. Case in point, last summer I bought the kids a bunch of sunscreen on sale, then mysteriously it vanished. So instead of cleaning out the hall closet and finding it, I went out and spent another $10 on sunscreen. We found the original sunscreen two days later, we now have 3 different kids' sunscreen. Also, when you clean things out you find stuff that you can sell or give away/donate to a good cause, etc... We got an awesome gift for Christmas called "box-office". It's basically an external hard-drive that you can put all your movies on and then you don't really need to keep the dvds you have. This means we can sell them and make some cash, it also means we don't have to worry about the kids getting into them anymore. In the book it talks about how people with less cluttered spaces usually earn more/stay out of debt, etc... kind of interesting. Once you clean things out you're left with what you need/use and that helps calm your mind, blah blah blah. True, Steve is much better at this than me, he tends not to get emotionally attached to things, I have attachments to the weirdest things.

6. Fill-up on Cheap Days: Our local gas stations have cheap days during the week, I'm betting yours do too. Steve and I try to only fill-up on the cheap days ONLY. At Centex our cheap days are Wed/Sat/Sun and we just found that at the Domo down the street cheap days are Mon/Tues. This means that most days of the week we can get gas 3-4 cents off/litre which is great. There's always the Superstore gas station if we miss it where we can fill up and get superbucks too, and Costco is usually cheaper as well, it's just a bit more of a drive to get there.

So those are my 6 big/little things that are going to help us in the next few months. The trick is any money we save goes towards "the debt". This is a trick, if you think it's not, you haven't been in debt. Other months when we've done really good, we've just used the extra money to get a few more groceries or grab a burger. The book says to put it aside in an account that you can't access and then every month make an extra payment on one of your debts (the one with the biggest interest rate) with the money that you saved on everything else. Scary, in a good way, but it takes a lot of discipline and will be the biggest challenge.


What Happens When I Read

I read a fantastic book last week, well scratch that I read TWO fantastic books last week- thanks for letting me borrow your Kindle, Dad :)
1. Heaven Is For Real
2. And this awesome book from Trent Hamm

The first one was uplifting and put me in a different frame of mind as far as how in tune little kids actually are. There were some things that didn't jive for me doctrinally, but I didn't read it to pick it apart, I read it because a child's perspective of a "heaven experience" is, to me, a clearer picture of what to expect- not that I'm going anywhere anytime soon, but I like hearing about it.

The second book was so timely. I think we have probably all dealt with a truckload of debt at one time or another in life, whether as single people or married. This guy wiped out his HUGE debt load in 2 years. I figure since it took about that long for Steve and I to rack up the debt that we are so... joyfully (note sarcasm) paying off, we can probably achieve the same kind of financial freedom that this guy did, if we make some seriously drastic changes. Not like we haven't done that before, but some changes are easier to make in summer months than winter, etc... I wish I had read this book a few months ago since we are coming up to some pretty expensive months with the family reunion approaching and gas prices being retarded high, but oh well. What I liked about the book is that, this guy, Trent, isn't a certified financial planner or any of that, he's just a guy who pooled some great resources and came up with a plan that really worked. I'm so impressed and I am sure that if he can pay off the amount that he did in just 2yrs, we can pay ours off in at the most that amount of time. Who knows? I wish I were getting paid for plugging his book, haha. Anyways, it's a great book if you're looking for motivation or ways to start small, and he shares some great personal insights that made me laugh out loud, since I have definitely done some of the things he talks about.
Here's what I've learned so far, debt sucks. I never understood why my parents said "The early years when we had no money were the best". Having no money sucks. It's good in the one respect that we are learning lots and bonding over our misery, but it's not fun otherwise, like when the vast majority of your monthly paychecks are paying off things that you realize aren't all that important or meaningful in the first place. We were so financially handicapped when we got married, I can't even begin to sum it up in this post. That is not happiness! Debt really is bondage, that's not just a phrase people use to scare you from putting things on credit cards. It is stupid- and I hate using that word, but it is. I'm completely fed up with it, so we're making changes. We are doing great at paying it all off but we can do so much better and get it paid off so much faster by changing just a few really simple things. Yay! I'm excited, so much so that I think my enthusiasm is scaring Steve, but he'll get over it. Seriously. We got a wedding invite to one of Steve's good friends' wedding, which is happening in June, in California. I went online and found a smokin' good seat sale but we can't take advantage of it because of our other financial obligations. That sucks. That makes all the stuff that we are paying off worth so much less in comparison to how much fun it would be to have the freedom to go surprise a friend on their wedding day. Really. Don't do it. Do not spend mindlessly, it is not as fun as you think and it will not make you happy. You will kick yourself in the pants over it.
One of my favorite quotes from the book is,
"Experiences always trump things. Experiences do not require maintenance. They do not take up space in your home. They stay with you in your heart. Fill your life with experiences. Chase the things you've always dreamed of doing, and leave the things on the store shelves where they belong."
That could not be a truer statement for Steve or I. There are a few experiences that we are paying off that we feel not so bad about, but that's because those experiences were worth the cost. And if we had the wiggle room we would just suck it up and go to that wedding, but we don't have that wiggle room right now. It's amazing how many of our favorite memories are not at all attached to the things that we are currently paying off. Does that make sense? Here's a good example. The year I graduated my parents took me, my 2 siblings and my grandma on a month long trip to England, The Netherlands and Denmark. On this trip we were able to see my maternal grandmother who we hadn't seen in person since Stephen and I were really little, think 5 or younger. We met aunts and uncles and cousins who we didn't know, we celebrated Nan's 80th birthday, we stayed with friends that my Mom grew up with and enjoyed authentic fish and chips and all of that. We visited the Netherlands, staying with a family who my Dad had taught the gospel to, we went on canal tours and walked endlessly down cobblestone streets and retraced some of the steps of our ancestors. We went to Copenhagen and stayed 2 streets away from where my Grandma's grandfather first heard the gospel being preached. We visited cathedrals and chapels that our ancestors were christened in and regularly worshipped at, and searched the most beautiful graveyards for any family markers we could find *ahem, none*. We spent time with each other, we drove each other mental, we laughed hysterically, we took wrong turns and got completely lost, we tried to speak English in England and weren't understood. We heard string quartets play on dimly lit, cobblestone streets. We saw street performers, fireworks and the most beautiful sunsets. We made friends. We shared bedrooms. We bonded with our Grandmothers, one of whom passed away a few years later. That's one trip that incurred quite a bit of debt for my parents even though we stayed mostly with people that they knew, but they didn't feel bad about that debt at all. It's one of those experiences that you can't put a price on because it meant so much to each of us. If we go into debt in the future you can bet it will only be for a house and if we have to, for a life-changing experience or two.
In hindsight, our "old" selves really didn't do our "present" selves any financial favors. Those choices have ripped us and now our kids off a little bit. We could be having some pretty cool experiences if we had just thought things through a little better, or gasp, listened to other people's advice. HA! I hope that if any of you invite us out in the next few months that you aren't totally offended if we say no or hesitate or suggest doing something that doesn't involve money. Really, I don't want anyone to be offended or to think that we don't want to have fun with you, we are just squeezing the budget a little/lot. After reading that book I just felt like we owe our "future" selves and our kids a bit of freedom and there's a big tab to pay off before we can say yes to every idea or offer that comes along, even if it doesn't seem like that big of a deal. Oh, and if Steve says things like "I'll ask Alli" or "Alli says I can't" or "The wife says no", now you won't have to wonder why :) Okie dokie? Yay. The end.Link


Run Kalea Run... No Don't!

We had playgroup yesterday at one of the community lakes in our area, it was fun. Brynlee went to my Mom's so I could just worry about one of my kids and so she could play with the little girl my Mom is day-homing right now. Win-win! Kalea was pretty funny yesterday, I dunno what goes on in her little head sometimes. A bunch of the kids were running around in the tennis court area and she would not go inside to join them for the longest time. She just sat on a bench and kept yelling "I sit here!" I even went over to explain to her that it was okay if she wanted to go in the tennis area too and she would not look at me, total attitude and just "I sit here!" over and over again. So fine, I walked away and rejoined the moms, every once in a while glancing back to the bench to see that she was still there. I guess I must've got distracted in conversation but my other friend noticed that our kids had disappeared with one other. I stayed with her little one while she went and retrieved our kids from the top of the waterfall at the lake... Um, scary? Just a little and then I find out that guess who was the closest to the top contemplating who knows what? Oh yes, that would be my child. Great. Thank goodness she listens to other adults, cuz if I had found her she probably would've jumped right in. It was hard enough to get her to go to the park when we got there since she saw the lake and instantly had her hopes up to go "Swiiiiim swiiiim", now she knows where the waterfall is and can fixate on one of the two options the next time we go. I wish she would just go back to enjoying the swings (which she now will not go on) or trying to climb up the slide in bare feet, how do I convince her that those two options are way more fun than cliff jumping and swimming in lakes???


A Home Business Adventure

I don't even know how to start this, but I figure, meh I'm sure everyone has or will try something like this at some point, so why not try it now? I think this one could actually be pretty successful though. Curious? Shelf Reliance has partnered with In Case Of to bring THRIVE food storage to Canada. Pretty cool. They have great options for food storage that you can incorporate into your daily meal planning so you're actually using your food storage and learning what you can do with it before a life event happens that causes you to need to crack it open. I'm actually really impressed with their product line, it's pretty extensive and includes a lot of things that you don't see very often in the "food storage world". Since I'm a food storage novice I figured this will be a great way to get a jump start on it and help others build theirs while I'm at it. Right now they're trying to get consultants signed up so when they launch in a few weeks they're ready to go. There are also great perks to signing up now before the product is launched. If anyone is interested in becoming a consultant, hosting a party, or learning more check out the website(don't order anything yet though or you'll miss out on awesome deals) and shoot me an e-mail allison.stringham@gmail.com
We're excited to see where this goes, especially in the community. More to come on that soon.


Dear Husband...Again

On the occassion of blunt force trauma to the head #2 exactly a week since blunt force trauma to the head #1, I can be nothing but even less surprised by your um... good fortune? I'm glad that you are such a fun Dad, I love going to the park and playing with you and the kids. I like that when I feel like sitting on a bench and watching I can revel in the joy that is watching you interact with them on their level... I think you can play with them on your level a little more often though. Like, you know how the park is full of those stupid little rocks that make your shoes slippery, it's okay to slow down a bit and let them have more of a chance of catching you. If you do slow down that little bit, you'll have more of a chance to catch yourself in mid-flight with those big old hands God gave you. Thus preventing happy wife from having to hear the most gut-wrenching SMACK of adult head hitting wooden platform and turning into emotional mess wife. Seriously, if I never have to hear a sound like that again, I will be one happy lady. It was horrible and if our friends hadn't been with us I would've been bawling my face off instead of just those few anxious tears. For reals. Oh and remember how even you cried? Yeah, that had to hurt. You're grounded from the Park and the backyard... and from going out anywhere on Tuesday nights- they seem to be your achilles heal... Relieved that you don't seem too concussed...
Yours in sickness and in head injuries :D


My Cherubs

I think Mother's Day and Father's Day are kind of hilarious celebrations/break days. Maybe because something always happens wherein Mother or Father inevitably has to pull up their bootstraps and, gasp, parent those little cherubs who have made them worthy of a "day off". This year for Mother's Day, I did not get breakfast in bed, or even cuddles in bed.
We woke up to a pukey Brynlee and a rip-rearin' ready to bust out of the house Kalea. It was actually pretty classic. Steve did a great job of dealing with projectile all morning while I took Kalea to church. It was nice to not have to deal with that all day long.
When I got home, I took off my pretty Sunday clothes and put on my "Mom with a sick kid" uniform. Happy Mother's Day! We spent a good portion of the afternoon keeping Kalea away from Brynlee so she doesn't catch whatever Bryn has. So far it has worked. Steve took Kalea to his sisters' for Mother's Day dinner and I cancelled our dessert plans with my family. I spent most of the afternoon cuddling my little sick-o. Not gonna lie, I love snuggling with her. Brynlee is not a really cuddly girl anymore, she's starting to get super independent and doesn't sit for too long- I wonder where she gets that from? So I took full advantage of her sickness, and thanks to all the baths she had, she had that yummy baby smell in her hair. It was intoxicating. She's still not feeling right, but that's okay, I'm enjoying our extra cuddles and all the naps she's taking.
These girls are getting to be so much fun. I am loving the ages that they're each at, and the different fun they bring.
Brynlee thinks every new thing is the best ever, ie. in the photo of her naked above, she thought stripping down to nothing and splashing in flower troughs was SO great.
Kalea is starting to use some really fun new vocabulary, coupled with her almost-3-going-on-16 attitude, it's awesome. For example, the other day Steve asked her to do something and got no response, so I echoed the request and she very matter-of-fact said "No, I Princess Kayee-uh" and continued playing with her dolls. I dunno how to not laugh at stuff like that, or how to follow through with the "do what I say" after she's just responded in that way, especially when it was actually quite a polite response compared to her usual "NO! Go way".
Somebody help us! LOL
I'm a MOM. I'm trying hard not to take myself too seriously in this "role of a lifetime" and just enjoy it. So far so good. I think I'm finally relaxing into it more, it's taken a little while, but I think I'm satisfied with the job I'm doing. Can I say that? Meh, my blog.
I just want to remember that even though not everyday has been sunshine and flowers, it's still been something. I'm so lucky to have these little people around me everyday. Even when I don't feel like being poked, prodded or bit or hit or slobbered or puked on.
I'm lucky I get to be home and experience that, and in retrospect I don't miss my other life as much as I sometimes think I do.
Ultimately, at the end of a chaotic day I get to check-in on those crazy sleeping kids,
and just take them in.
They are so amazing, I can't believe they are mine.


Dear Husband

Today you had a funny lapse in judgement. Thinking that a hook (drilled into the side of our house) for hanging plants could hold your body weight. Actually it can, it just has to be screwed in with longer screws- which we figured out after it attacked your head. It's that child-like side of you that I love, throw caution to the wind and just see what happens! I actually loved most the tone of your voice when you called your parents' house to see if someone could drive you to "urgent" care. I love that we are grown ups calling our grown up parents to take us to get stitches, that's hilarious! Just another batch of stitches to add to the list, at least we know you'll have a sweet scar to show for it! Seriously, please leave the chair hammocks to the kids to play in from now on :)
Your not-overly-shocked-wife


Overshare and What the What?!

K guys, seriously. Why do people put things on facebook or other social networking sites that you normally wouldn't bring up in conversation face to face with someone? Like for example, I probably wouldn't bring up having "the runs" in a conversation with anyone face to face, but let's post about it on the internet. There is a weird smell eminating from my fridge, but sorry no details on exactly what grossness it resembles, that's just awkward.
Also is anyone else receiving absurd amounts of spam mail that reads "Put more power in your dinger"? I don't even have a "dinger". Or mail about metal hip/knee replacement lawsuits? I guess I could jump on board that gravy train, oh wait, at the ripe old age of 27 I don't have any metal body parts yet. There's always the Zoloft and Prozac lawsuits I guess, although I think I'd need proof of taking those drugs before I could join the suit... But back to the dinger... no nevermind...


Just My 2 Cents

How we react to things like this says a lot about our own humanity. I'm happy to live in a country where our elected leaders make statements that they received the news of Bin Laden's death with "sober satisfaction". That's a good way to look at it, in my mind. This isn't the ultimate end of anything. There will be more terrorism and more innocent lives lost as a result, just because you get one big player doesn't mean it's all over. As for all the tit for tat comments that have been happening, and the comments on "there were videos of them cheering on 9/11", I think it should be really clear by now that the videos of "them" cheering when 9/11 happened weren't videos of level headed, God-fearing, good-doing people, those videos were of people cheering who have a distorted and radical belief system, who delight in doing awful things in the name of God and under the banner of "religious freedom". I don't necessarily trust the sources of every video put on TV, so I dunno that I would judge all of Islam on those videos. But they will judge all of us based on our reactions. It's interesting that those of us with all the freedoms in the world, and all the knowledge that we have would put the bar so low for ourselves and accept that it's okay for us to behave that same way, it's borderline barbaric in my mind. And so that is my opinion and I thank God everyday that He is the ultimate judge and that I don't have to worry about deciding what happens to these misguided individuals. For me, I know I'll be judged on the contents of my heart, and if the Lord intends for my heart to be pure, then I'm not going to hold hate in it, and I won't be delighting in the death of another child of God.


For Reals

So a wonderful longtime friend has tagged me in one of those awesome games of blog tag that I try really hard to avoid. As in, I avoid participating in these things the way I avoid spicy food and dog turds at the park, I either push it to the side of the plate promising to get to it later or gingerly step over/around it putting it entirely out of my mind. Nevertheless, since the aforementioned friend is such a good influence, I will follow her lead.

*Let's all take a big breath before we continue*
3 Things I Like About Myself... ewww

#1- I am a really good teacher. And I mean that in the sense that I'm not scared to get up every Sunday and teach a lesson at church. I actually find it easy. I like asking questions and playing the opposition once in a while to get a deeper response. I like to get people thinking more outside themselves and I like to promote decent discussions about the basic principles of the gospel. That's fun... for me anyways.

#2- I am honest. I like that a lot about me. I am honest with others but with myself too. I think that's hugely important in life.

#3- I make good choices. That reads funny. What I mean is that I have a consistent pattern of good choices in my life, and although I might not have seen the beauty of that when I was younger, I can definitely see it now. It's great to look back and have few regrets about major decisions like who I spent my time with or what I spent my time doing. I'm glad that I've kept commandments and covenants because they've anchored me and given me power to progress in life, they have never hindered me or held me back from anything good/great/wonderful. Huge blessings have come into my life because of my ability to make good choices.

1 Picture I Really Love

Now I get to tag people... let's keep in mind that there are no tag-backs in this game :)
1. Sarah with the Fantastic Symphony
2. Jacqui who is also raising an "energetic" child
3. Tara who used to think she had no talents even though she was always super organized & crafty & athletic