Category Archives: Hodgepodge

Update on the Five Year Goal

When the five years started is up in the air. Is it when he started looking for union jobs? Is it when he got the interview? Is it when he started training? Is it when he started working? There’s almost a whole year between when he started to look and the day he started actually working. I guess that means our five year plan is more of a five-ish year plan.

It’s not about how many years the plan is. It’s having a real, long-term plan.

I thought, at first, it was all about the goal. I had this dream at the end of five years we would be in a different house, paying a mortgage, and living my vision of watching my kids play in our backyard. Mr. Brickie would be a full-fledged journeyman and in my wildest dreams he would be considered for transition into the actual union. After moving and deciding to ramp up the kids’ activities faster than originally intended and Mr. Brickie’s injury, the only part of the five year plan resembling the original is the job front. My estimate (which are always wrong) for when he will be journeyman will be around a year and a half from now. It’s definitely past the five year magic mark but stuff happens.

The point of the long term plan is to help make all the little decisions every day. Will buying this or that bring me closer or farther away from my goal?

Now that I don’t have a goal and home ownership has dropped down on the priority list like a boulder in the water things become more hazy and I think that has contributed to those less-than-ideal financial decisions (steam cleaner, chest freezer) that are really great for the now but I bought them because I don’t have a dream of having a home and I’m not thinking about my stuff in terms of moving it somewhere. We are going to buy a shed and put it up in behind our apartment so we can store bikes and other things that don’t need to be indoors. Right now our basement is jam packed and there’s just no need for that. As much as I love minimalism, I’m not getting rid of my kids’ bikes. We are in a position where minimalism is great but our problem is lack of storage space for things we really and truly use pretty darn often as well as seasonal items. I don’t have a bunch of decorations for the holidays but I have a few and I’m not getting rid of them because they make me happy.

I was hoping I would discover my new goal as I wrote this. The dream of having another house and the picture of our life I had in my head was strong and kept me going during some dark times. I don’t know what our lives will look like in five years. I don’t mean I’m not sure, I mean I honestly have NO idea.  I could be applying for my oldest to go to boarding school for her last two years of high school (A real possibility.) I could be dealing with my middle daughter being a volleyball prodigy and travelling all around the place for games. My youngest joined the swim team this year and in five years she may have five years of competitive swimming under her belt and be the best darn 11 year old swimmer on earth.

Or I might be writing posts like this wondering what happened to my life, unsure of where we are going next. That’s a dark thought, huh?

I should have titled this one, “I need a new goal. No wonder I can’t focus on anything these days. I’m like a ship without a destination just bobbing along in the sea.” But that would have been too long for a title, wouldn’t it?

Where will you be in five years?

 

Unpredictable Checks Make Life More Unpredictable

When Mr. Brickie was injured we had to wait a week to get a workman’s comp check. I was thrilled because I had never heard of workman’s comp and was all, “Wait, we’re not going to be destitute and homeless from this injury? Hooray!”

It came the next Thursday and we deposited it and our five month saga began.

So far the check has some on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and one time Saturday.

When we get paid, and it’s just enough to live on for a week, having the check spaced out more than a week means stuff goes on a credit card. Then you get the check and plan it out for the week and viola, you never go back and pay what you put on the week before.

I ended up using the $140 in cash back I had sitting on the Discover to help with that problem recently. I had originally planned to save it until we were closer to paying it off but that was a dream that happened before Mr. B was injured. New rules applied now and it got used early.

The last check is due this week and I’m hoping it comes today. Really I was hoping it would come yesterday because Wednesday seemed to be the 90% of the time winner, but no dice.

I hate getting checks in the mail. Don’t you? It would be so easy for someone to just take the damn thing. Or for the mailman to drop it. I have to go through every page of the fliers and furniture ads in case it slipped in there by accident. Checks in the mail give me anxiety but there wasn’t a direct deposit option to be had.

There are so many reasons I’m happy Mr. Brickie is back to work and direct deposit on the same day every week is absolutely one of them. Regular pay makes regular planning so, so much easier.

You’re not going to believe what this post is about. Except you will because it’s about money and writing.

Socially, things are hopping here at Casa de Decki. That friend I talked about a couple weeks ago called me and we had a heart to heart so that’s an issue put to rest.

I had to distance myself from bus stop mom because she was lying about so much weird petty not-necessary stuff it seemed like she wanted to be called out on it. I’m not a fish, I don’t take bait. My neighbor took the bait and bus stop mom tried to explain away every lie one by one or call them misunderstandings until she turned it around and asked why my neighbor was focusing on such petty stuff.

Money-wise this is a blessing/curse week. It’s training for Mr. Brickie so he only gets a stipend check instead of a full paycheck. He does get paid today (or whenever his boss gets him his check) and that money goes toward next week’s budget to cover the hole not working this week will cause next Wednesday.

My abscess is still a tiny hole in my chest. I have a doctor appointment tomorrow morning and a professional will let me know it’s healing well. I think it’s healing well I wish I knew why that tiny hole won’t close. I’ll find out tomorrow.

I am going to try and do NaNoWriMo again. This time with short stories. I love writing short stories and haven’t because everyone says they’re so much more difficult to publish. Since I wasn’t getting anything published anyway I may as well write what I love and get the practice in. Maybe it comes from watching too much television. I love a succinct plot and a quick payoff. Or maybe my desire for fast outcomes is why I like watching television.

Or it could be that our current life plan is so long-term that the little fix of success I get from watching a good television show or reading a great short story fills the gap and allows me to stay strong while I’m living my real life.

Halfway through a five year plan is a boring place to be. Very little payoff and a whole lot of KEEP YOUR NOSE TO THE GRINDSTONE like we have for years now. I swear at the end of all this we are going to take a vacation. A good one, too. That day might never come but I dream about it. It’s one of the things that keeps me going.

Even though we aren’t where I want us to be financially there is a lot of comfort in having a life I like to wake up in. I get out of bed, take a half hour to make coffee and write up a blog post while the kids are sleeping and the house is quiet. I wake the girls up for school and continue writing. Once they are on the bus? I try to clean a thing, read a thing, and write a thing.

Mostly I enjoy the silence. This is the first time in so very long that I’ve been alone at all during the day I do not see a need to fill that space with something right away. I may not have a car but I still feel free. It’s pretty amazing.

——–FIVE HOUR DANCE BREAK——

You know, it dawns on me I haven’t told you I started drinking my Soylent again. I thought I smelled funny but it turns out that if you bathe regularly with CARDAMOM soap for a month you smell really …. weird. So I stopped the soap, forgot about the Soylent and started craving it about a week after my cipro wore off (anthrax-level antibiotic for the abscess which in some rare cases can cause death, AW YEAH)

I love the Soylent. It’s easy. I’m not hungry. It’s like baby formula for adults. You CAN eat it exclusively. You CAN eat meals. You CAN skip a day. Whatever. But it’s grown up nutrition from chemistry and I like it. I still eat dinner because it would be weird to bring a blender bottle to the dinner table. I’m not trying to give my daughters a complex, you know?

I also walked to my friend’s house a mile away. So I’m not totally sedentary yet. Good to know, right?

My husband has come home to me a glass of wine into life the last three days and hasn’t complained. I married well. He is tolerant and enjoys the extra attention.

What am I supposed to blog about when my finances are boring and predictable? I mean if you wanted to know about the blood in my stool from the antibiotic and how I had to spend $40 on probiotics because I don’t want to die I could tell you that but it’s a bit gross, right? Or how I had to google probiotics and wine to make sure I wasn’t going to kill the flora and fauna as soon as I took them…

Or I could tell you I’m going to write short stories for National Novel Writing Month.

They will be horror but not gory-horror.

I want to make people not be able to stop thinking.

Let’s see if I can do it!

On Food and Fooding and Always About Money

Now that we’re off the public assistance and I’ve been tracking our spending with that You Need A Budget program (happy birthday to me!) I’m able to tell you right now we are going to spend right around $1000 for food this month. Right now we are at $713.47 for groceries and $122.05 for eating out. For our family, $122.05 represents eating out four times this month. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad. When I see it as once a week it seems both good and bad depending on how you decide to argue it. I’m not sure. According to the May 2015 USDA food cost guideline numbers we are still hitting on the low end of spending for a family of five.

While we were part of the SNAP program our benefits for a family of five ranged from $426/mo. to $892/mo. the changes did not really mesh with income changes so I have no idea about all that. When we moved to our new, more conservative state we received $19/mo. more in assistance than we had been getting in our former state. I was surprised.

Also, our income would have kicked us off the program in either state. It wasn’t because of the move. I feared that might happen before we moved here but it didn’t. Also, the people in the offices here are so nice and so helpful it was downright confusing.

Back to food spending. This month I have budgeted $150/wk. toward food. At the end of the month, the budget will let me know how much I should budget for next month. There is, however, a $255 sneak attack that’s made our grocery spending as high as it is.

The groceries are what they are. I don’t buy name brands and we are about to cut down a lot on breakfast stuff because one of our big expenses this month that will roll through to next month is Soylent.

Yes, Soylent.

You might remember the Kickstarter back in 2013 (I do! I do!) or may have read the book or seen the movie (Fun Fact: Soylent is named after the book, not the movie. It actually makes a difference.)

It’s a nutritionally-complete food replacement.

NOT a diet.

A way for Mr. Brickie to have a decent breakfast. I have been researching it online (especially in the /r/Soylent forum on Reddit) to make sure we do everything we can to make it a smooth transition. Mr. Brickie has been skipping breakfast (bad for someone who has a physical job, no doubt) and, well, I’ve literally dreamed about not having to eat since watching Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (what? that wasn’t the message of the movie?) so it has it’s uses for both of us.

We will wean on slowly, of course. No jumping in crazy-style. Mr. Brickie will start on Saturday morning in case there are any gastro side-effects he won’t deal with them while he’s at work. I can start Friday morning because the package arrives Thursday and you have to let it sit in the fridge overnight for best results.

I’m not doing it to lose weight, I have been getting out of the house to the park and the pool and playing with the kids to try and stay active and healthy. I want to stop worrying about food. There is not one food I can look at and feel completely good about eating anymore. There’s always some flaw that makes it not a good choice. It’s really stressful. I see it the way I see getting off of Facebook. Walk away completely for a little bit and when you come back you can see things from a better perspective. Get a little distance on the issue.

Plus science is fun. I’m not going to lie. I’m so excited.

I will still eat solid food. After that month I was vegan and then couldn’t drink milk anymore? I know doing something funky can have long-term ramifications. So I will still eat food. Heck, I can even put stuff IN the Soylent if I want to make sure I get some chewing in (to release those lovely digestive enzymes) because it’s not a diet.

I see our grocery bill dropping in the areas of breakfast and lunch, but especially breakfast. I’m terribly picky about breakfast and the whole “can’t drink milk” means cereal is a distant dream of my past. I was eating Costco croissants and muffins but those are too greasy. I just want to not eat but not be hungry. So, no we will buy less of those things and the kids can have cereal and fruit and if I want fruit I can still have fruit and it might just work out.

You will be the first to know.

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Useless In Times of Prosperity

There are people who are awesome in a crisis.

I am a person who is awesome in a crisis. Like a specialty tool, I can be brought out to solve things when other people can only sit on the couch with their hands over their faces wondering why they have been chosen for yet another round in the “Oh shit” hamster wheel of survival.

When awful things happen, I shrug and do what needs to be done. A breakdown won’t help. The more pressure there is, the calmer I am. The worse the situation, the more focused I am. I can find a pinpoint of hope and worry the edges and peel away at it over months – years if need be – to let the sunlight in.

Since childhood I have been praised for my ability to handle a crisis. I did not blink when I took a box of turtles to my mother in the beautiful rehab facility on the hill. I smiled and was friendly and everyone thought she had a lovely daughter. When I got that same box of turtles from my daughter for Christmas, however, I almost lost my shit. The smile plastered on my face barely stayed and if my daughters were more observant in that wary way I was as a child they would have seen the slip.

I am beginning to feel useless.

The budget is done through November. I spent about ten hours putting it together. Now? Once a week I change the projected paycheck number with the actual and the only thing that changes is how much leftover goes to the credit card paydown. It’s a whole system and it’s done unless an emergency happens.

My daughters are getting through their last two-ish weeks of school and then it will be summer. So I don’t have to balance all the reading log signatures and the historical walking field trips that need jackets and extra snacks and they are signed up for camps for the summer and they have softball through July and they’re doing well so they’re on auto-pilot, too.

Dinners are planned in advance and a pork roast is thawing in the kitchen. Everything taken care of.

At this point I could be totally replaced by someone not-smart, someone entirely not-me. I have this really scary “my work here is done” feeling that makes me feel not just useless but like an imposter in my own home. It’s not that I wanted to be poor forever, it’s just…it’s what I’m used to. It’s part of my identity.

What do you fight when the fight is over?

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Bad Decisions I Have Made

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Yesterday, a reader (Hi Kay! I appreciate you!) asked me if I was overpaying my car payment because it seemed high.

It got me thinkng … I started blogging about finances after I made a pact with myself to stop doing things that were horrible, bad decisions. I’ve still made bad decisions since I’ve been blogging. The big ones were last Christmas when I got more credit cards to use for one holiday and looking for that post made me realize I glazed over the truth. I see myself saying I got an Amazon store card, but I ALSO got a Walmart credit card at the same time. I paid them back off after Christmas last year with the tax return.

This year I got all three kids a group gift for Christmas and then gave them stockings that were donated by a friend of mine. The group gift took one of my credit cards from 0 to max balance! Luckily, it was the card with the $300 balance. I got them the Skylanders game and we wrapped all the little people individually so they all had stuff to open. While $300 probably seems like a lot it is also the least I’ve ever spent on Christmas for three kids. So it’s an improvement for me.

That leads me to telling you about the most recent very bad financial decision I have made. I got the two older girls Kindle Fire tablets for their birthdays in January. I realized it was never on my radar to blog about and then I thought about it a few days ago and told myself no one would be interested. This morning I realized it would be stupid not to tell you I bought my kids VERY EXPENSIVE gifts for their birthday.

Maybe it was becuase I wanted to wait and make sure they were “worth it” before telling you about them.  Maybe telling you about the reading and spelling scores going from Fs to Cs and Bs thanks to educational apps will make it sounds like a less-awful decision. I don’t know. Every time I look at them I feel a little sick but I know that my girls have benefitted from them immeasurably and then I try to tell myself, “Hey, it wasn’t laptops, right?” So then I’m rationalizing my decision. I don’t know if the Kindles were a bad decision or not. I do know I saved $70 on them because I was like, “Sure I’ll apply for the card I won’t get since I just foreclosed on my house.”

Then I was approved. It’s a fee-free card with 3% back in Amazon credit so if I do keep a credit card this will be the one. I set up all my bills that could be put on the card onto the card (Internet, auto insurance, cell phones, renter’s insurance) and have a line item for that amount on my budget that’s {$240 – Credit Card Bills} and it’s actually scheduled for next week’s unemployment payment.

The month we didn’t have food stamps (EBT, SNAP, whatever) was a hard one. We found the local food pantry so several meals were covered that way. We had rice and pasta and ate everything in the house until all that was left was a loaf of funny wheat bread (I just had a slice for breakfast) and ramen noodles (which we will have for lunch) and then tonight I am so lucky we got the food stamp card so Mr. Brickie can go out in this weather (ugh this weather) and stock us back up on our staples. I will be so relieved when I can get back to making real food from scratch but until then we eat what we have and we are grateful for it.

All this to show you what might be my worst financial decision ever. The thing is, when I look at my credit card statements there are very few things that I don’t remember buying and usually when I don’t recognize one it’s Mr. Brickie getting gas. When I splurge I get a $19.99 Whirley Pop to make popcorn because I don’t have a microwave and pop popcorn about four times a week for the kids to take for snacks or to have when they want a snack. Or I get a $10 8″ frying pan because that way we can make five grilled cheese sandwiches at once and eat as a family. I know, it could sound like I’m explaining but it could also sound like I’m just rationalizing.

It’s a fine line I guess.

Life Expenses In No Particular Order
Payment Total Owed Estimated Payoff
Car $495.12 $6,839.49 April 2016
Utilities $195.00 n/a n/a
Rent (Savings) $260.00 $2,340.00 by November 15th
Auto Insurance $88.38 $444.74 renews May 2015
Cell Phones $88.96 n/a
Internet $37.99
$1,165.45
Credit Cards Listed In Order of Payoff
Payment Total Owed
Macy’s CC $25.00 $86.12
Target CC $25.00 $217.68
Amazon Store CC $35.00 $537.72
Walmart CC $25.00 $755.23
Capital One CC $35.00 $1,180.07
Amazon Visa CC $25.00 $2,328.11
$170.00 $5,104.93 <– embarrassingly large number
Money
Cash $81.00
Checking $262.03
Rent Savings $260.10
Emergency Fund $214.88
$737.01

So my emergency fund is looking a bit wrecked because of car problems, but also that direct sales thing where everyone gave me cash, I had to pay with a card, and that’s where the $81 in cash is coming from that’s on my desk.

The IL Tax Refund is going to pay off the lowest two credit cards and the rest will go back into the emergency fund. Then, when I get paid on the 9th from Scentsy that will also go back into the emergency fund and that will bring it back up to about$ 875.

I took my eye off the ball.

The joy of being you (the reader) instead of me (the writer) is you get to armchair quarterback what I’ve done and what I should do going forward. I wish I could go back and unpay those bills from Illinois and just let the gas and electric companies chase me and call me and have that $800 go toward the credit cards. I think, though, if I had I would wish I had done things the way I already did.

Sometimes choosing a path doesn’t mean choosing the better path it just means moving forward.

I am going to get through this. The kids are already signed up for an activity this summer and that’s paid for thanks to their amazing sponsor who I am a huge fan of. I will spend my time and energy on that with the three girls and every overtime check Mr. Brickie gets this summer is going to pound out those debts because we are THIS CLOSE to being out of debt. Overtime checks at his new 60% apprentice level will be big and I LOVE paying bills.

So stick with me through this mucky, dark, gross winter of discontent and poor decisions and you will be able to watch me make good decisions as soon as I can actually afford to.

Also, Miss Kay reminded me of something I want all of you to know….I welcome questions and don’t mind answering them. If you’d rather keep it private than put it on blast in the comments just shoot me an email at jennydecki at gmail dot com and I’ll answer it in a post.

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Patience | I Am A Strongman

Patience is a muscle.

We are born with no patience and squall the moment we have a need. Lucky for most of us there was someone there to provide for those simple needs. Food, clean diaper, close contact, sleep. We cried for these things and they were magically delivered.

As we grew we learned patience. It was a hard lesson to learn because young children want everything right now but eventually begin to understand caregivers have needs, too. The muscle begins to get toned and defined and we are able to wait in line for lunch without running madly to the lunchlady and insisting on being served first. We wait our turn.

I think the most difficult part is when we realize patience is a choice. We can get a credit card and buy something we want right now, or we can save up the cash and buy it in a few days/weeks/months. We can date someone for years or we can get elope in Vegas. Almost every decision we make has an opposite choice that can be made and in many cases one of those choices requires patience.

When Mr. Brickie and I realized we hated marketing and couldn’t participate in an industry we disliked so deeply, we realized it was going to causea huge problem financially. In order to come out the other side unscathed, we needed a plan that involved years of patience. I don’t think either one of us had ever done anything before that required YEARS of patience. It takes years to go from a 40% bricklayer apprentice at about $17/hr. to a Journeyman at over $40/hr.

Years that would see us lose our house and move to a new state. Patience, we learned, does not mean sitting silently in wait like a crouched tiger ready to strike. It can also look like chaos and failure and fear. Patience can involve transition after transition and you weather them all, knowing the goal is still farther down the path and requires still more waiting and breath-holding and furious scribbled charts and lists of incoming and outgoing cash.

In the middle there are other decisions that require patience as a choice. I have not always been successful in flexing my patience muscle. I still have $200 in the savings account from the fundraiser but I signed up for a credit card because after a cash-based low-cost Christmas I had no spendable cash and couldn’t look my kids in the eye and say, “No birthday gifts for you guys, sorry, maybe next year.”

Should I have been patient and made my children understand low budget Christmas AND low budget birthdays? Yes. Very much so. Am I happy I got $70 off my Amazon purchase and now have a credit card that gives me 3% cash back on Amazon purchases with no annual fee? Yes. Very much so. It means the other credit card will get paid off and put in a drawer somewhere because it only has 2% cash back. Sometimes I’m not sure if I’m rationalizing my decisions so I can sleep at night or if I actually make good choices. Patience can sometimes leave you feeling like you’re sitting alone in the middle of nowhere and the only voice you hear is your own echoed back to you in distorted, low tones on the wind.

Patience is lonely, sometimes. I can’t go to fun events because my money has to stay in my bank account for rent or a car payment or gas and electric. Now that we are in between states and cancelled our food stamps (SNAP) in Illinois we don’t have an appointment until February 9th with Indiana and we might not even qualify because I’m just not as well versed with the public aid system here in a state I didn’t grow up in or become poor in or live poor in. In the meantime there is the food pantry we can go to bi-weekly and we are grateful, but nervous.

Patience is anxious when you start to make six quarts of tomato sauce with a pound of ground beef so the flavor is there without the expense. It is anxious when you want to sign up for the low-income YMCA membership but have to be patient because you won’t be able to afford even the drastically reduced rate until after the tax refund comes.

It might sound like I hate being patient, but I don’t. It is an active form of meditation. It is a chant in the back of my mind, “Good choices now will give my children a better life later.” If children learn what they live, mine will learn that losing everything does not destroy you. Starting over is not a curse. A budget is like a bonsai tree – shape it and gently guide it but do not be hasty or make large changes suddenly. I keep my budget taped to the wall next to my computer.

Patience is an antidote to financial shame. Spending money I don’t have to go out with friends and family might feel good in the moment but will create shame later because something else will have to be ignored or skipped because I made an impulsive decision. If I keep everything open with my family and even with you, my dear financial friends, then there is no shame because you can only shame me for my secrets. You could judge me if you wanted to, that’s okay. You can even take a moment to exploit my situation to make you feel better about your own. (You know, that whole I appreciate my legs because some people don’t have any. As if a person can’t appreciate legs without someone legless having to help a girl out.)

I’m fine if my situation makes someone else feel better. I’m thrilled if my stories help another person to make a budget for the first – or fiftieth – time. I have to tell you, though, patience can make time just hang and then suddenly you don’t remember any of the waiting and all the little memories are gone, too, lost in the memory of the waiting feeling.

I’ll be damned if I ever let myself forget how low the lows felt and how high the highs felt.

Even if I have to go back and read it to remember.

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Today We Are No Longer Homeowners!

I know you’re probably cringing for me because it’s such an awful thing this whole foreclosure business but really we’re past that and on to the celebration of starting the new chapter in our lives.

A chapter where people are kind.
A chapter where we aren’t crazy dirt poor.
A chapter where my daughters are blooming from being planted in fertile educational soil.
A chapter where things only get better. (I mean on the whole, I’m sure emergencies will still occur.)
A chapter with hope as the underlying message.

With the weather being so awful-cold he hasn’t worked yet this week so rent is going to be a struggle this month but he’s going to try and figure something out (as am I).

It’s okay. We’ll get there.

In the meantime? No albatross around our necks and $120,000 less debt. Our Net Worth has improved drastically overnight.

Have a great day.

(Technically the court date was Tuesday, Jan. 6th but today is our first full day of being not-homeowners!)

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Learning to Let Go…

I am not an enlightened person.

I’m in the forgive but don’t forget camp. I hold no ill will to anyone for anything that’s happened to me pretty much ever because holding anger only hurts my heart and does not move me closer to solutions.

You know me, I’m all about the solution to the problem.

Really, when it comes to letting go I’m a champ, except when I’m not. You see, I have kind of an awesome memory. It’s not photographic (probably not even photogenic!) but it works by association and looks an awful lot like file cabinets. If someone asks for something or needs something I check the file cabinet before saying, “Yes!”

I’m not sure if that is “Setting Appropriate Boundaris” or “Holding on to Past Grudges” and I have this sinking feeling that it’s a matter of perspective.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions, but what are remembering past grudges and using them to form “Healthy Boundaries” but holding on to the past with good intentions?

Is it obvious I find it confusing?

What matters more: The action, or the intent?

I let go of a lot in 2014. A house, a town, SO MUCH ANXIETY! I don’t plan on flipping the script and becoming a hoarder, but I’m certainly not actively looking to let go of anything else at this time.

Maybe sometimes the best thing to do is relax and not let go.
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It’s Like I Ran Away to Join the Circus

I’m afraid to look and see how long it’s been since I’ve written.

Immunizations, the wrong math books, applying for a preschool lottery, and a scentsy party have all happened.

Later this week I’m going to a yoga(!) class and to coffee with a dear Illinois friend who is bringing her child over the border for a birthday party.

The long and short story of the immunizations is advice. If you can, have your medical records faxed to you instead of to a new doctor. It’s better to have your own copy than rely on two sets of people you don’t know to get something done that seems impossible every time I’ve personally tried to do it. Now I have a faxed copy of the girls records saved in the cloud forever. Or until the cloud implodes. Whichever. I also have a backup copy on my hard drive but come on, everyone knows hard drives are so 2000-and-late. Pfft.

The Math Textbook Story

The math textbook story is super simple but when I try to tell the story it turns into something that sounds more like a tall tale told drunk.

The old school had five tracks. Two levels of intervention the regular middle-of-the-road level and then two levels of enrichment learning. It seems genius. Five slots means everyone has a better chance of getting their personal, specific learning needs met. Big Sister was in accelerated math (same year, just faster, so a slightly advanced class they told me) and Middle Sister was in a very advanced class (she was working a grade higher than her own, they told me) and it seemed to work out because they both had “The Zebra Book” so the 4th grader working fast in her grade and the 3rd grader working a year ahead SHOULD have the same book. It made sense.

One of the first things the girls told me after they moved was about the new books they received. They were super excited at their beautiful science and social studies books and they oohed and aahed over their reading and writing workbooks. Then Middle Sister said she had the same math book as she did in the old school and again, that made sense to me, it even made sense when Big Sister said she got a different book because the new schools aren’t tracked and there is only one “High Ability” class per year in the new school. She’s working a year ahead too, I thought, I should get on some resources so she doesn’t fall behind if she’s going to get a slingshot to new math concepts.

I asked Big Sister what her new math book looked like. She said it had a peacock. I couldn’t find one with a peacock and asked her, “Does it have the poof on its butt or its head?” She replied, “It’s head.” I said, “Oh, that’s this book.”

everyday-math-4

The first thing I noticed was this book has a giant four on the cover.

For 4th grade.

The grade Big Sister is in.

Which then led me to try and figure out what grade the zebra textbook was. The book both my kids have been using from September to this point where nothing makes sense and Common Core is supposed to make this absolutely not happen when you move to a new state.

everyday-math-3You see that giant 3 there, right?

Yeah, this is when I looked around and realized I don’t have any wine in the new house and I was going to have to get through this without help. I looked and looked to see if there were different versions. I found the California version but then checked the girls’ workbooks they brought home and they don’t say Illinois version on them so that couldn’t be it.

But…but…how did my 4th grade daughter get a new 4th grade textbook that’s different from her old common core 4th grade textbook? Super simple. Both my kids had 3rd grade books last  year. I know because I went through the stuff the brought home from the old school and found their journals and opened them up to see a big ol’ THREE staring me in the face. Now, you might be thinking (I know I am) HOW did I miss that for half a year? HOW?

1.) When they said my child was in accellerated math they really meant she needed help and she was in a year behind text. I was blinded by my own mother’s heart.

2.) They brought home photocopies of pages in the workbooks almost exclusively. Rarely did I see a workbook in the house.

3.) I never thought to double check to make sure my 4th grader wasn’t using a 3rd grade textbook. I assumed my 4th grader was doing 4th grade math.

I still think I must have something mixed up. I’ve googled questions to get help with answers, I’ve done numerous searches to find answer keys for something I didn’t understand (I said I liked Common Core, I never said it was easy for me, lol) and never, ever, ever did it come to my attention my children were working out of 3rd grade textbooks.

Seriously. I don’t think I’ll ever get over it. When my memory is gone and I’m sitting in a chair staring out the window more gone than present I will still mutter about those damn Zebra books.

I wonder if this is happening anywhere else? I don’t see anything on Google for people’s children using the wrong grade of books and basically keeping it from all the parents on a mass scale. I’m not going to ask because I’m done with being the difficult parent. I’m certainly not going to become the difficult parent that isn’t even part of the school system anymore.

Maybe people are too busy fighting about common core to notice if their kids are using the right books for their grade. Common core is supposed to mean 4th graders across the country are all learning the same thing the same year. So even though my kids were using Common Core textbooks they might or might not have been learning what other students of the same grade are. On the bright side, at least they’re bringing home different homework sheets now. It was getting straight up boring last year when Middle Sister would bring home a worksheet and then Big Sister would bring home the same worksheet the next day.

I like a little variety in my homework helper duties.

Work Update

This week has been a training week for Mr. Brickie. Great because these classes are required to get his promotions, but bummer because instead of four days of work at over a hundred take home dollars a day he gets a stipend check for $250 at the end of the week. It’s a sacrifice but one we’re (mostly/somewhat/reluctantly) happy to make because it’s part of the overall plan.

The days before the move where we were sick and throwing up like crazy and barely able to walk? Those were the dark days. The very darkest. Since we first realized we were going to get foreclosed on and prayed the timing would work out that he was making enough to live on by the time we needed to leave the house. Originally we thought we would be in the house until April, 2015 until an investor bought it instead of the house going back to the bank. So that’s where that fundraiser came in.

There is still almost $500 left from that fundraiser. It was spent on first month’s rent and security deposit here at the new place, the movers, renters insurance, gas for moving that was not the movers, and that’s about it. My goal is to keep the $498.97 as the beginning of an emergency fund.

At the last union meeting, Mr. Brickie cashed out his HRA health savings account so we received that $260 in the mail yesterday. I deposited that lickety split.

Today he received $379.14 for a partial work week last week (he was moved to a new job site with the same company)
There was already $111.77 in the checking account.
The HRA check for $260.14 will fully clear in the bank account tomorrow. ($200 cleared today. My bank is funny.)
Thursday he will receive his $250 training stipend. (I’m not sure when that will clear in the bank account once it’s deposited.)
That all adds up to $1001.05

It might be enough. It will be enough if he works all next week. He’ll get paid for that work on Christmas Eve (I love direct deposit. It doesn’t care about the day before holidays.)

Of course the sticking point is he will only work at his job on Friday of this week which means next Wednesday he will get a paycheck for one day. About a hundred dollars. So I have to save a hundred from this week’s bounty to cover living expenses (gas, tolls) for next week. Planning ahead is important when you have a job like Mr. Brickie’s.

The bills this month I really have to watch out for are the rent ($775 due 12/15) and the car insurance ($187.37 due 12/18 ) … we haven’t seen a gas/electric bill yet. That will come sometime this month and be due in January. There is an Internet bill (and boy howdy does Comcast stink. I can’t stream a video and go on facebook at the same time, what the hell is that about? Even writing in the WordPress backend is laggy and stuttery! I’m sad.) that’s also due on 12/18.

It’s going to be close but it really looks like it’s going to be close on the right side of being able to leave that savings alone.

Right now it’s a race to Taxmas. We have had some serious conversations and right now it’s looking like we might use a giant chunk of the tax return to pay off the remainder of the lease through next November 15th.  It seems like absolutely the safest (smartest?) choice. We will cross that bridge when we come to it because a vague plan is good but counting chickens before they are hatched is bad.

I’m trying to walk the tightrope.

Overall, he thinks this company is going to keep him around and working much more than previous years. It will make a huge difference in our bottom line if that’s the case. My fingers are crossed, for sure, and he already has a job to go back to after training on Friday. He’s already heard that this job should go through January and there’s an indoor component which means weather won’t be a factor! He has also heard whispers about another winter job on the horizon.

Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

The Kids (but really all about me)

They love the new school, they love the activities in town. I think the #1 thing that has made the kids’ transition successful is me. I’m not tooting my own horn, I swear, it was just not this easy to get along with other people where we used to live. Everyone here being friendly helps me – as Indiana Jen – get out and do more things. My anxiety was directly linked to how my interactions with others went when I left the house. I’ve been here since November 23rd (the first night I slept here for real!) and the girls’ first day of school was November 24th. We have only been here EIGHTEEN DAYS and I’m more comfortable making phone calls, have taken all the kids to the doctor, picked up the kids from school, and talked to one of my neighbors. We have been to a Christmas event at the local high school. I have talked to the superintendent of the school district. My daughter participated in Hour of Code and wants to join the coding club that is starting at the elementary school.

Seriously, you guys, I moved to a neighborhood that cares about its residents. I’m sure there are groups and cliques, but it’s not clique-ish. Sure I’ll never be someone who remembers where everyone hung out in this town when they were in high school, but I won’t be not invited because of it. Each new person I meet here is like a reminder I wasn’t the problem. I feel like a Mom Butterfly who didn’t realize she was anything more than a Mom Caterpiller. Sluggish and crawling and so low here on the ground watching other moms soar with their children.

I wondered how they did it. Not anymore. I just get shit done now. It’s okay, if I make a mistake someone will be kind and help me. It makes all the difference in the world.

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