Just Write

March 29, 2010

Back on the ladder again…

Filed under: Uncategorized — ladyelmo1 @ 10:28 pm

I’ve learned a lot in the last few months.  How to be a mother to three girls instead of just two.  How to maintain a marriage with a husband who is gone most of the time.  How to steal coupons without being caught.

How to drywall.

Now for those that know me, hearing that I’ve learned how to mud and tape drywall is akin to learning that the family dog has learned to speak Chinese.  We are both uniquely unsuited to the task.  Home repairs just aren’t my bag, baby.  But a month or so ago I finally decided that the drywall fairy was NOT going to show up at my house at any point, and my husband “doesn’t do” drywall. (Normally that would not fly, but he’s also working all the time, so I gave him a bye.)  This leaves my 74 year old MIL and myself.  Meaning, this leaves me.

So, one Sunday morning I got up early and hit the interwebs, looking for instruction. Once I found it I realized something important – mudding and taping is a lot like frosting a cake.  Well, shit, I decorate cakes for a hobby.  I can do that!  Apply goopy substance, in a layer that is hopefully close to uniform, and smooth.  Only this is easier, I was thinking, because you can actually push against the wall.  You have to have a very light touch for a cake, obviously.  I of course, hadn’t factored in the damn ladder.  (Or sanding, I definitely wasn’t prepared for that.)

So what’s the big problem?  Well, there are many problems, but the biggest one is that I’m afraid of heights.  And not in a “I just don’t like being on a ladder” afraid, I mean afraid in a “It was a good thing I was wearing that dust mask while sanding the ceiling, because it stopped me from hyperventilating” kind of way.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – if God wanted me to be able to reach the ceiling, he wouldn’t have made me 5’3″ and afraid of heights.  I’m thinking this is His way of correcting the only one of those two variables that it is possible to fix at this point (without putting me in a taffy pulling machine, of course).  I also hate having my hands be dirty and the whole dripping joint compound in my hair just skeeves me out. I’d hire someone if I had any money, but I don’t.

I worked every night after the girls went to bed.  I worked every spare minute for three weekends straight.  I neglected my kids and my husband.  I dreamt about my drywall knife trying to kill me.  And, finally, the kitchen, hallway, breakfast nook and MIL’s bedroom were taped, mudded, sanded and painted.

It is, quite possibly, the crappiest drywall job ever.

And I’m not done.  Though to be fair, I’m almost done.  I’m at mile 24.  The Wall.  I’m at the point where, if I never, NEVER have to do this again, it will be too soon.  But there is still more to do.  I have to finish Mom’s bathroom.  It’s a small room and I keep telling myself that I can power through it, no problem.  But I just don’t WANNA.

So, why do I have to finish it?  Well, in an effort to save what I’m hoping will be a huge amount of interest, we are trying to refinance the house.  I have an appointment with the banker in a few days.  Guess what was one of the first questions he asked me (he got us the first mortgage, and knows most of the sordid story of the addition disaster)?  “Is it done yet?”

Sigh.

Being an honest person, I tell him the truth.  “Well, there is an unfinished room at the end of the hall that we use for storage, and the bathroom isn’t done.  The drywall is up, and it’s functional, but that’s about it.”  “They really like it to be 100% done,” he tells me, “but maybe it will be okay”.

Sigh, again.

Someone hand me that drywall knife will you?  Handle first, please.  That one has a temper.

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March 24, 2010

March, the most expensive month

Filed under: budgeting, Debt, family life — ladyelmo1 @ 9:56 pm

I know the month isn’t over yet, but we get paid this week and I’ve reviewed what is left for bills, so it’s time for a budget recap!

In our family, as in most I expect, birthdays tend to be grouped around each other.  Around here we have two major groupings –  the summer grouping (June/July) and the spring one (February/March).

Unfortunately the spring grouping, coming on the heels of Christmas, is also the biggest.  In one month long span (February 20 to March 20) we have: my sister, my mother, my husband, my niece, my best friend’s son, my mother-in-law’s anniversary (yes we still celebrate it, even though she was widowed in 1998) and my daughter’s birthday.  I also have a good friend whose birthday is March 21, but we don’t exchange gifts or cards or anything like that.  He’s not into it.  A friendly punch in the arm and a “ha ha, you’re older than me!” typically suffices. Oh, and one of A’s school friends had a party back there someplace.

My budget per month for gifts is insufficient for March.  Umm, by a lot.

Have I mentioned yet that it is also the month that Girl Scout cookies come in?  Yeah, that wasn’t in my budget either.

Oh, and my favorite yarn store went out of business.  Exactly HOW am I supposed to just walk by 50% off designer yarn, I ask you???

So we went a little off track this month.  Hmm. Yeah, that’s like saying you are a “little” pregnant.  Or that Michael Jackson was a “little” weird.  Or that Friendly’s new breakfast specials are a “little” fattening.  Seriously, have you seen these things???  French toast with ice cream between the slices and whip cream on top?  Might as well eat a stick of butter on top of a cheese danish with a side of lard.  Sheesh.

The truth is that DH and I are really bad with keeping to a budget.  We can talk ourselves into buying anything, and our reasons are sound, but still.  Even if it is on sale, if you ain’t got no cash, you should NOT be buying.  (See yarn comment, above).  But it gets worse.  Neither of us can say no to the other.  Those of you who know us will not be surprised by that comment.  You see, I was not going to buy as much at the yarn store as I ended up buying.  But he came in with the girls after R got fussy in the car waiting for me, and when he saw me hesitating over buying a pattern book HE added it to the basket.  Why???  Because he likes to buy me things.  Why??? Because he loves me and that’s what he does for people he loves.  Why??? Be-CAUSE, Mindy, that just what he DOES, alright??? (Ok, I love you, bye-bye!)

Now, I was right to hesitate about buying that book, I had already bought enough yarn to last me until next year, but I can’t seem to argue with him, especially when it is something nice like that.  And I don’t mean that I won’t, I mean, I CAN’T.  Arguing isn’t really something we do. I’m no good at arguing with him; he makes this puppy dog face and I cave.  We’ve never been prone to arguing with each other anyway, and especially now, when we only see each other four days a week.  I bought a book for me to make him happy.  What kind of twisted logic IS this anyway???

And so here we sit, again.  Over budget at the end of the month. At least I didn’t drag out the credit card at the yarn store, but it’s gonna take some creative footwork for me to balance our cash flow for the next couple weeks.*sigh*  We’ve got to get better at this.

Okay that was the bad news; on to the good news:

  • I paid off our car loan with our tax refund!  YEAH!  Last year, after DH’s primary job messed up his withholding, a lot, we ended up owing money to both the Feds and the State.   And not a little money, either; it was huge.  And then the f-king state penalized us for the fact that our withholding was too low!  Bastards.   But we got a refund this year from both, and thanks to the insane medical bills due to R’s birth we got a big one.  I was also able to put a chunk on the next debt on my snowball list.  Yipeee!  That feels good.
  • With only one more trip left to the grocery store this month I’m pretty sure that we will be UNDER budget in groceries.  That has never happened that I can remember.  Okay, my fridge is empty and the shelves are looking pretty bare, but there is meat in the freezer and enough to get us through for at least a couple weeks.  I shouldn’t count my chickens (heh, I’ve got two in the freezer), but I am cautiously optimistic.  Thanks to the frugal cooking books (see the reading list).  Also, the store is having a special associate shopping day this weekend (the grocery store is DH’s other job) so we’ll get 25% off all store brands.  That includes produce and meat by the way.  Sweet.
  • There is only ONE birthday in April!!!  Thank goodness.  I even SEE another cake and I’m gonna explode.

Seriously, search “Mindy Animaniacs” and watch a YouTube episode.  Her “Ok I love you, bye-bye” cracks me up every time!

March 22, 2010

In which I discover that “couponing” is a state of mind…

Filed under: couponing, saving money — Tags: , , , — ladyelmo1 @ 10:33 pm

So I’ve spent the last few days reading blogs and books about couponing and saving money at the grocery store and jazz like that.  I’m starting to dream in coupon.  Obsessive? Maybe a little.  I’ve taken to stealing the coupons from the Sunday paper that gets delivered to the Town Hall. (Though it isn’t REALLY stealing is it?  I mean, no one else is taking them and they are right there on the break room table, waiting for me!  But I feel guilty; I tuck them under my arm when I leave the break room and I keep waiting for someone to review the security camera tapes and lead me away in handcuffs.  I work for a Town, remember.  Our security cameras display directly onto monitors at the police station – no picking wedgies while walking down the hall in MY office I’ll tell you!  I know stealing mail is a federal offense, but what about stealing coupons???  It could be argued that they are money, after all.)

So today I’m thinking I need to lay off the sauce for a while.  Then I get this email at work, from Staples.  4GB flash drive, normally $30 on sale for $14.99 PLUS they will mail you a $10 gift card rebate. Okay Staples, you have my attention.  Then I remember that Staples also emailed me a 15% off coupon the other day.

Yeah, guess where I went after work.  Total out of pocket after coupon = $13.38.  After I get my gift card = $3.38.  Awesome.  I can fit ALL my pics on this thing.

But here’s the thing that leads me to the “state of mind” comment – two weeks ago, before I started stalking the frugal blogs, I probably would not have even noticed, or put the two together.  But since I’m “training my brain” as it were to recognize the deals in the grocery flyer, this one just jumped out at me.

Now, the really, REALLY important question – did I NEED a 4GB flash drive?  Actually, yeah I did.  My external hard drive is acting funky, and I’m suddenly not trusting it to keep all my photos safe.  A good flash drive has been on my mental “need to buy when I find one cheap” list.  But the danger in stalking deals is the temptation to take advantage of deals that feature things you don’t actually need; and then, even though you are not spending much money, you are spending money you don’t need to.

And that ain’t gonna pay off the credit card.

March 21, 2010

In which I become the mother of a five year old…

Filed under: family life — Tags: , , , — ladyelmo1 @ 10:10 pm

So my middle daughter turned five this weekend.  Saturday, to be precise.  The first day of spring.  The year she was born it was Palm Sunday too.  I have no idea when, or even IF, that will happen again in her lifetime.  It was kinda cool.  I even made it to church the following Sunday for Easter.  ‘Cause I’m stubborn like that.

We had a group of her friends over Friday after school.  Thank goodness it was a nice day out, and they could play outside, because those little buggers blasted through the stuff I had planned to do in like 1/4 of the time I had allotted for them.  It was amazing; I’ve never seen kids move that fast. Why can’t they get ready for school like that???

I had a spring theme planned out.  I baked chocolate cakes in individually sized terra cotta plant pots, frosted with chocolate frosting so they looked like they were full of dirt.  I then had little pink carnations, inserted into these cool hersey’s chocolate twizzlers I found, “growing” out of the pot, and then I put a gummy worm somewhere.   They looked awesome.  I had more plant pots for our craft – the kids painted them early on in the party and then before they left we planted seeds in them.  No birthday candles though; I had a horrible vision of burning carnations and screaming kids.  And chocolate really stinks if you light it on fire.

Saturday, her actual birthday, was quiet in comparison.  Just us and my mom came up in the afternoon.  It’s a good thing too, since I was pretty sick most of the day.  I don’t know what it is this year with me and birthdays.  For the 8yo’s birthday I came home from the hospital with a new baby and recovering from an emergency (and very unwelcome) c-section, so no big party for her!  And now, sick for the 5yo birthday.  Oh well, I guess they need SOMETHING to tell their therapists later!

Speaking of therapists, I’m gonna need one soon. The 8yo picked out this gift that I swear was designed by sadists bent on world domination.  It’s called an IDOG AMP’D and it is uniquely designed to drive parents certifiably insane in the shortest possible time.  The premise is that you plug your music player (ipod or whatever) into the dog and it serves as a portable speaker.  Ok, I’m game so far, and really when I allowed this to be purchased, I thought that was all it did.  Play music and move to the beat.  It even taps its foot, which is kinda cool.  But no.  It also barks, whines, growls, wags its tail and has LED lights on the front that flash to the beat, or at random intervals.  Still not enough to drive me crazy – my tolerance is pretty high.  But the piece de resistance is this – this sucker has a very needy AI program.  Anyone remember Furbies?  Yeah, like that.  It doesn’t “play” music according to the literature that came with it; it ‘feeds’ on music.  And if you don’t “feed” and play with it often enough, it gets “lonely” and depressed and won’t play with you anymore.  So now the 8yo is obsessively turning it on and plugging in the ipod in order to “feed the dog”.  Several times a day.  Loud.  And then bitching at me when I ask her to turn it off; “But mama, I’m FEEDING the dog”.  It isn’t even her toy!  Argh.

Somewhere, some mad toy designer is laughing at me.  And not gleefully like Robin Williams in “Toys” (motto: Laughter is a state of mind.).  I’m talking mad scientist laughter.  MWA-HAHAHA.

In which I discover that couponing may not be as hard as I feared…

Filed under: couponing, Rite Aid, saving money — ladyelmo1 @ 9:20 pm

I did pretty well at Rite Aid the other day.  Total before coupons (but with sale prices) = 70.26.  Total after coupons = 41.76.  PLUS a $25 rebate check that is in the mail, PLUS I qualified for a $5 rebate on the “Princess and the Frog” that I bought for the 5 year old for her birthday for a Grand Total of $11.76. 83% savings. Super cool.  Considering it was mostly Benadryl and Band-aids.  I now have more character band-aids then Carter had pills.  Anyone gets a paper cut, there’s gonna be a Barbie band-aid on it, pronto!  My poor husband.  (Though I think I’ve got some Scooby-Doo in there somewhere, and there may even be a Spiderman or two left from when the 8 year old was a fan so he’ll be okay.) I’m considering letting the girls use them to decorate themselves with, like they do with stickers.

March 18, 2010

in which i try my hand at couponing…

Filed under: couponing, Rite Aid, saving money — ladyelmo1 @ 10:13 pm

And since when did couponing become a verb,  you ask?

Since it became a competitive sport.

Seriously, read around some of these coupon blogs. It is no longer just cutting out the occasional coupon for something that you use, now it’s something that eats time and energy as you try to add up deals, sale prices and rebate offers to put together the best possible deal.  And all these blogs brag about their deals.  Which is fine, I understand the motivation there.  I’d brag too if I bought $400 worth of groceries for $.99.  But learning how to do this takes more than reading about others’ successes.  Apparently, it isn’t something that can be taught, young grasshopper.  You must learn by doing.

So start your engines, ladies and gents.  I’m not sure I’m going to be all that good at it, but I’m trying my hand at Rite Aid tomorrow.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

Why am I doing this?  Well, cause I’m broke of course.  Like most of the rest of you. My dh works about 65 hours a week between two jobs.  I work full time and am in charge of all things kids and house while he’s gone.  We built an addition on our house recently that… well let’s just say it didn’t go well (like to the tune of 50% over budget and counting).  We are in debt – a lot of debt.  We are working our way out, slowly, and every little bit helps.  So we’ll see how I can do with “couponing”.  I like competition.  Oh, and saving money.  I like that too.  A lot.

Someday I’ll get drunk and tell you the story of “Dipshit and the Great Addition Disaster”.  In harmony.

March 17, 2010

No subject, just write

Filed under: Uncategorized — ladyelmo1 @ 11:31 pm

So I saw a bumper sticker on a car today that said “Just write”.  It had something else written underneath that, but in letters too small to read from another car.  What kind of sense that makes, I just don’t know.  Wouldn’t it make sense that, if the primary goal of a bumper sticker, stuck as it is to the butt of a car, is to be readable by someone in another car, it’s most likely intended reader, the letters would be large enough to be seen from more that 6 inches away? (There, diagram THAT sentence, why dontcha?) But anyway.  Been thinking about starting a blog, and that bumper sticker seemed like a good sign that now was the time.  Matthew Perry said “There are signs everywhere” in Fools Rush In; so here I am, rushing in.  That and the title made me laugh.

No, I don’t typically believe in signs.

I like to write, and one of my favorite authors once said that to be a writer you need to write.  Every day. So I’ll give it a whirl, though with my life, i will never NEVER keep up with writing on this thing every day.  Once a week seems like a good goal.

No one is ever actually gonna read this crap anyway.

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