Category: Family & Friends

From spouses to spit-up

I Think I Have Mental Whiplash

Finance-Small-Circle

Three Weeks Ago: WORK ALL THE OVERTIME

Two Weeks Ago: I think overtime is done for the season.

Last Week: Overtime is back!

Sunday: Phone call from Mr. B (the guy at the company who tells everyone where to go) saying work has skidded to a halt, tells Mr. Brickie to start calling around for work.

First, I’m about to dislocate my shoulder trying to pat myself on the back for not freaking out. Mr. Brickie wrote a list last night and is making calls right now to get on another crew. I know from last season and this season that it’s nothing personal and he did nothing wrong. I’m feeling okay and my hope is at a solid 9.

Second, he got this call while we were driving to an amusement park. Since he worked another 52 hour week last week we decided we could do a small splurge for the kids the weekend before school. While it did cross my mind to skip the amusement park and save that money, I realized that would not only break the kids’ heart it was also not totally necessary and might be an overreaction.

So we went and had a blast and the kids had so much fun.

The car insurance payment went through on the credit card, so while it’s great that I paid it down so there was room, it also feels like we worked really hard for not much traction. It’s just a perspective issue that, I think, will get better with a little time.

Today I’m taking the kids in to the dentist (they’re very excited, they LOVE their dentist) for a checkup appointment scheduled six months ago. I’m feeling great we will be able to get it in before we lose our insurance for three months.

The kids have been flossing but can’t reach (or can’t get the floss between) their molars. We’re going to ask the dentist about it.

Oh, speaking of the kids, I had the phone connected via bluetooth when I played the message from Mr. B. I did it so I could write down the address I thought he was going to give Mr. Brickie. Having it on speakerphone means the kids heard the message. They didn’t seem bothered but I had a feeling they might worry, so I explained what it meant and how daddy wasn’t unemployed, just between gigs, and they asked questions about how daddy’s job is different from having a job at McDonald’s. (I don’t know why but my kids always use McDonald’s as their job analogy. They used to want to work there as their first job so I just kind of roll with it because it makes for some great compare/contrast moments.)

Today will most likely turn into kind of a relaxed day for me. I can’t get much done with everyone home because they always get under my feet and I’ve kind of given up on trying to improve the house before the girls go back to school. I have clean kitchen counters and can maintain it but I am at the end of my 24/7 sandwich making, mess making, arguing, fighting, summer rope. Even though they read for an hour every day and do writing practice an hour a day and play outside and we go to the park and we go to the library there are just so many hours in a day.

Middle sister said last night, “Mommy, I can’t wait until school starts because you’re going to wake us up with the morning song again.”

Big sister, “Oh! I love the morning song! Yes!”

Little sister, “Morning song, morning song.”

I just smiled and said, “Of course I am.”

They cheered. I kid you not, they actually were like, “Yeaaaaaaaaaa” like the Muppets.

So there, at least, is a reminder my girls have something they love I have given them that didn’t cost any money at all. I guess I need to take some more time to remind myself that giving my time is what I do and, like everything else, you give money or you give time. (Yes, some people can give both and that’s fine, too.)

I’m going to go eavesdrop on Mr. Brickie’s phone calls and see how things are going. He always goes and sits in the sunroom to make calls so if the girls do start making noise there are three doors shut in between them and his phone calls. He likes to keep it professional, but that means I have to sneak behind door number 3 to hear what’s happening.

I hope he’s back to work soon.

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Realism ≠ Negativity

Warning: Possible incoherent rambling ahead due to frustration. I should be participating in Come Play in May but I am not right now because I cannot stop thinking about this. At first I was wondering if I should share it, but hey, self-improvement is the reason we’re doing everything we are with our lives and the finances so I guess this counds under that umbrella. Or something.

I managed to see a therapist three times before swearing off of the whole thing forever. Again.

My biggest problem? She had me journal and then insisted (I really mean INSISTED) I read her everything I wrote. I told her if she wanted me to read everything how was that different than her just reading my blog (because audience) and she said, “Because of the interaction inherent in the Internet.” <– you saw those quotes, right? I asked her what that meant and she said that I censored my thoughts because I have an Internet audience and I said, “But I don’t know you, either, so if I know you’re reading everything you know I’m going to censor that even more than I do my blog. I mean, I know most of my readers. I LIKE them.” Or, I would have said that if I wasn’t trying to process what she said and how those words seemed to mean something to her when she said them but I would be damned if I could figure it out.

That’s okay. I realized through the relaxation therapy we did together (even though I told her I do guided meditation every night before bed and am well versed with relaxing breathing and do it every day) but she just ignored me and then took me on this awful “meditative” journey to the beach. (I find that the beach is very romantic to people who don’t GO to the beach. I’m sure I’m wrong, but it feels that way to me because when I walk through the sand I look like a land hippo with gorilla arms trying to wade through unseen jello.)

Plus, her overwhelming desire to talk about my husband because she seemed absolutely incredulous that I could be happy and calm about him when I was an anxious wreck about other things. She asked me why I didn’t want to talk about my husband and I told her, “Marrying him is the one decision I have never regretted.” I even thought right after I said it, “I should write that down. That was a really cool thing to say!” It’s also true. She just gave me therapist-nod-half-smirk and I was like, “Whatever.”

If we are talking about the cause of my anxiety it certainly isn’t Mr. Brickie. He has been a calming influence in so many ways and I adore him for that and many other things.

The other thing she just kept bringing up was how negative I was. “You have to be less negative. It’s bad for you. Being negative is going to kill you.” When I responded, “Then how do you explain so many crabby old people?” She smiled her therapy smile and responded, “See, there it is again.”

THUS BEGAN A TWO WEEK PARANOID-MADNESS-FILLED EPISODE OF ME TRYING NOT TO BE NEGATIVE AT ALL.

The reason this is more difficult than you might immediately think is that I’m actually not a negative person. I’m a realist. My motto is, “Hoping for the best, prepared for the worst, and unsurprised by anything in between.” (Thank you Maya Angelou for that last part on the end. I really love that part.)

Preparing for the worst, however, means running all scenarios … including the negative ones. I’m very optimistic, I mean, have you read my blog? You all know I think I’m coming out of the other side of what we are going through right now and into a much better situation for my family. I really do. I mean, find me a percentage of people who are where I am at right now that are happier or more carefree.

This woman, though. The hubris of grinning at me ear-to-ear at the end of our first appointment to find out during the second appointment she has decided she’s figured me out (or something) would have been unbelievable if she hadn’t been doing it to me. I tried to go along with it and trust the system. I asked her what a positive person sounded like so I could model the behavior. She couldn’t come up with an example. She just kept telling me to focus on the positive because anything else was, I am not kidding, “BAD FOR YOUR ORGANS.” (not the musical kind, I have to assume).

I am jealous of everyone who has a therapist that helps them. One that gets you through things and lets you vent. I was hoping to get one of those, but obviously, I did not. I have no ill-will toward her but she was – for me – a very bad therapist.

She kept getting me in a catch-22. She would call me negative, I would try to explain why it wasn’t negative, and then she would gently chide me for overexplaining.

Now for all of you smart people or psych majors or both (they’re not mutually exclusive or inclusive categories, natch) I’m thinking she was just doing some basic cognitive behavioral stuff. But causing a traffic jam in my brain because you tell me I can’t have Option A or Option B but there is no way to learn what Option C is and there are no examples to be found but you have to have Option C or you will die from organ failure is nuts. To tell a person who is in therapy to only talk about things in a positive light and not talk in a negative way during sessions and the rest of your everyday life – including your thoughts – is nuts. I’m thinking to myself , “Are you sure you don’t read ALL THE BLOGS where people are doing that and how utterly unhelpful it is or maybe FACEBOOK where people are only sharing the most positive things for the most part?” Being fake does not make a person positive. It makes them fake and just crushes the negativity down.

But I didn’t say that because I wasn’t being negative.

Instead, I did the most positive thing I could think of and I cancelled my next appointment because the amount of negativity I felt after the last one is something I would like to never ever ever repeat again in this lifetime.

If you’ve read my post from a while back about not being allowed to try new churches anymore because of the disappointment I feel when they inevitably let me down? This was very similar. I guess churches and therapists are things I just don’t have good luck with.

My husband – in one of those rare moments where he just amazes me with his insight – said, “Of course if you look for someone else to fix you, to give you community, or make you someone you are not you are going to have a problem. Every church or therapist you have gone to was because you wanted something only you could do for yourself.”

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Take A Break for Thanks

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I make spreadsheets, pay bills, and write up financial forecasts.

I buy school clothes, supplies, and do Internet research about the school my girls will attend next year.

I cook dinner, keep the house passable, and spend time with friends.

I spend my life waiting for the next paycheck to make another small dent in the wall that blocks the here from the there.

I am focused. I am intense. I AM TIRED.

The thing is, the silver lining on my cloud is thick and bright. So I’m going to take a break from finance for a second and share why it’s worth it to drive myself into the ground focusing on every single penny every single day. My silver lining is my family.

My Girls

I want to do the things I see other moms on Facebook and Twitter do. I want them to go on horseback rides and take them to museums. I want them to go to summer camp and make lifelong friends.

But today? One turned on the Keurig when I woke up so I could make coffee. I got out yogurt and bananas and grapes and orange juice for the girls and we all sat and had breakfast together. They laughed and told me what they had built in Minecraft today. It’s this giant person with a sword that is entirely hollow and they put a spawn point in it and it’s entirely filled with cats. Probably ten thousand cats. We took a breakfast break to look and she had made nose holes for the cats to fall out of.

It was hilarious.

They are very good about their end-of-summer routine where they each get an hour and a half of gametime and then everyone reads for an hour and a half. (The older girls each spend 45 minutes reading to their little sister for her hour and a half.) This takes us to right about time to make dinner and then they help me make dinner and we sit and eat dinner as a family. I make lunch on demand when a kid comes and says they are hungry.

We have blueberry picked this summer and we have gone to the splash pad and we have gone to the beach and we have gone to parks and the library.

They do not complain about the places we do not go. They are always happy when we go places.  They are not demanding or spoiled or entitled.

I am so thankful for my flexible, loving children and I want to give them everything in the world, but I know that when they are old they will know I did the best I could with what I had and they will always know that there is not a moment where I do not love them with every bit of my heart.

Except the part of my heart reserved for loving…..

Mr. Brickie

I have a husband that is perfectly happy being the (mostly) sole breadwinner of the family. I have no pressure to get a job, there is no resentment that I stay home and take care of the kids and blog and make dinner. My house is messier than it has been in a year but he understands without me having to explain that it’s the end of summer and I’m exhausted and the kids want to go back to school and I’m getting them out of the house more to get that energy out because they know it’s a week until school starts and the countdown is on par with the Christmas countdown for intensity and fervor.

He was unemployed on our wedding day. I supported him while he got his degree that we thought would be the key to our success. It was not and he did everything from working at a coffee shop to becoming a licensed financial advisor and everything in between to keep our family afloat. He did not resent me when I was the sole breadwinner for our family and he did not mind if I made more than he did.

We do not have a perfect storybook relationship. We argue. We yell. When I yell at him he has a tendency to sometimes yell at the kids and then I have to call a family meeting and air out what’s happening so the kids can understand what’s going on. I make sure if the kids see the fight they see the resolution and he goes along with it because he gets that he’s raising girls who will be women and they will marry a man like him more than likely and so he needs to be the man he wants his daughters to marry. (Don’t get skeeved out, you know what I mean!) When he was in the room and the kids somehow asked about Ellen being married because we were talking about marriage and one of them pointed at Ellen on mute on TV and asked who she was married to he did not bat an eyelash as I explained about Portia and googled the wedding pictures.

He takes that pressure and tries to be that man. Which is great because that man I want my girls to marry? It’s not the one I married. It’s the one he has become.

I know to the tips of my toes that there is no more perfect partner for me on this earth. He is smart enough to keep up with me without being so smart he becomes smug and unflexible. He trusts me. He listens to my stories like a girlfriend (even though sometimes it’s tough for him to stay awake) and comforts me with hugs when I am sad.

He is the most optimistic person I know. While I run around yelling about the sky falling he just does what he can and knows its enough. He falls asleep in about 30 seconds at night. Wait. I kind of hate him for that sometimes so I guess I’m not thankful he falls asleep so hard and so fast it’s more I’m thankful that he isn’t up all night worrying because that makes for not great work performance. Or something.

He rarely reads my blog because he already knows everything in it. He acts as interested in stories about my day as I am about stories of his day.

Finally and probably most importantly he let me change his mindset. He was raised in a white collar family and learned that a degree and a job with a suit was the goal. When I sat him down and showed him the evidence of what made him happy and floated the idea of a blue collar job he listened. When I asked around and learned more about it he listened. He went to every Union Hall in a 50 mile radius and applied. He followed up.

He still occasionally thanks me. (Not for getting him the job because he did that all on his own. He thanks me for paying enough attention to see what made him happy and finding a way to make that happen in the world. He doesn’t say all that, he just says, “Thank you” with this one look on his face but I know what he means.)

So while my blog is mostly about being poor and struggling and trying to claw myself out of the pit we are in, I have so much to work for. Museums and vacations and horseback rides with people who love me.

I am poor but I have so much.

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Anxiety, Fun, and Family Time

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Did you know I have an anxiety problem?

You could say I’m wound tighter than a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs, sure, or you could say I have a medically diagnosed anxiety disorder. You could remember me as the lady you know who went to the ER for a panic attack, but I’d prefer you remember me as the woman that made you smile. Who among us wants to be known for our weaknesses? I want to be known for the positives I bring to the table, not the problems. That being said, this post is dedicated to my biggest problem. Anxiety.

Since my friend loaned me her car for the summer, I have used it to go to the library and all the parks. I’ve visited family and gone to pretty much all my safe places over and over.

Then over the weekend I had the bright idea to bring the kids to the beach in Michigan without another adult. Well, there was the possibility of another adult that actually turned into another adult being there with me, but it was all up in the air before going and up in the air is my personal nightmare. I like plans and knowing where I’m going to be and when. It makes me feel safe.

The night before, I had everything pre-packed. Breakfast would happen in the car and each child had an individually prepared bagel and cream cheese in a baggie in the fridge. Water bottles were packed in an inuslated bag in the fridge so they would stay cold as long as possible once removed. We had a bag of pretzels and bug spray and sunscreen ready to go. Towels and extra outfits in another bag. I had a checklist and made sure everything was taken care of. (Like I said, I’m a planner.)

Mr. Brickie filled up the gas tank the night before.

The first bump in the road happened when my alarm went off at 6:30am. I got up, had a cup of coffee and prepared for my kids to wake up. My original plan was to leave the house at 7am. I went over the week’s budget and paid the bills for the week. I had another cup of coffee. At 7:30 I sent an email letting our family member know I was going to be running late because my kids all decided today was the perfect day to sleep in. The kids woke up – one right after the other – around 7:45am. I hugged them, told them to shake off the sleepies and get in their bathing suits so we could go.

They were happy to oblige. I’ve actually never seen my kids get ready for anything as fast as they got ready to go to the beach yesterday. It was magic.

The drive there was bliss, because it was still early enough the construction hadn’t backed the roads up. (We went to Michigan on Sunday and it took us over 2 hours to get there because of construction and backed up traffic. It was a nightmare. It also took just under 2 hours to get home taking the backroads, but it was still preferable because there is a certain sickening smell to the expressway when it’s a crawling almost-parking-lot like diesel and desperation and asphalt. Gross.)

We stopped for potty breaks and the parking pass at the family member’s house and the we were off to the beach. The girls helped me carry the stuff and we got down to the beach. It was about this time I realized we forgot the beach shoes, because the MI beach is rocky. I also completely forgot to put sunscreen on everyone. They are all fine. I (of course) look like my skin has been put on a grill because I’m bright red.

About a half hour after we arrived our family member showed up with her chair and sat with us. She was kind enough to take some of the beach pictures in the collage because I only took two. I was far too focused on watching my three daughters frolic in the small-but-angry waves coming at a constant pace. The girls loved it. From a not-mom perspective, the waves were really amazing and middle sister taught herself to body surf and couldn’t get enough. They all managed to stay close enough to one another I didn’t freak out completely and I just watched, and kept watching, to make sure no one went under at all.

At one point middle sister went out pretty far to the buoys with a couple kids from a blanket over. The girl she was with seemed very kind and went slow with middle sister so I wasn’t too worried but I kept an eagle eye on her knowing I would have to haul ass out in that water and grab her if something went wrong. Yes, there was a lifeguard on duty. Maybe I should have taken comfort in that, but I always assume if something happens to my kids I need to save them. I think that’s normal, right?

So, to kind of test the waters I get up and start to wade into the water. The first thing I notice is I”m sinking into the rock-bottom of the lake. About three feet in there’s a sharp little downslope that goes down about a foot and when my foot went down it just kept going into the rocks. Up to my knee. So here I am, in the water that’s now up to my chest because I’m under the ground, holding little sister’s hand because she’s scared of the waves but wants to be next to me, with my left leg still on top of the rocks so I’m almost in this weird scissor position with my legs spread out at, like, a 60 degree angle.

Then a wave hits.

All hell only breaks loose in my head for a second and I go under to hold little sister up because of course she fell and I’m stuck where I am because my leg is surrounded by little rocks and this isn’t fun anymore and I’m really thankful there’s a lifeguard because I don’t know that I could get to my daughter but maybe doing a belly-float-doggy-paddle I could and really if there was an emergency I’d try because I’m a pretty strong swimmer but for now I need to get my leg out of the rocks and so I have little sister back up to a safe, shallow place and pull myself up onto my knees and I’m thanking all that is good and holy for the beach pants my cousin got me for my birthday because they are the only thing keeping me from having about a million tiny cuts on my calves from being on my knees on rocks. Now my body decides to try and float because I’m not wedged in the ground like a pinwheel.

Then a wave hits.

Fwoomp! I’m on my face and my leg goes up and big sister is pointing and laughing at me. I realize I probably look hilarious so decide not to exact revenge on her at a later date. Little sister runs at me thinking my flailing means I’m having fun and she wants to join in and when she wraps her little arms around my neck I have a moment where I’m pretty sure my kids want to drown me and I look out to the beach in between waves and see my family member in her chair relaxing and looking out at the horizon and I thank the lord for the lifeguard again and wonder if she often has to save people in a foot and a half of water.

I use my arms to drag myself half out of the water because anywhere I try to put my feet they just sink into the rocks. I have a moment where I wonder if this is because I’m big but then realize I’m mostly floating (that’s why I can’t stay upright because I”m floating in the wave-water) and so that’s more of a wackadoo theory than a potential reason for my foot going straight through the rocks to the other side of the earth.

The kids (and the rest of the beach) aren’t staring at me so I must not have flailed that badly. I feel pretty successful at not drowning and walk confidently back to my foldy-chair about five feet away from the kids. I decide we need to go to the pool more because holy crap that was terrifying and if I never sink into the earth up to my knee again that would be awesome. My heart rate goes back to normal in a few minutes and I spend another couple hours enjoying the girls playing in the water, screaming when waves hit them, grinning from ear to ear.

They are happy and I am smiling and we leave after about three hours all out of breath and laughing.

We stop back by our family member’s house and the girls shower off and we have sandwiches and I’m so thankful for a few moments to relax before we leave to go school shopping.

YES. I KNOW. I WENT SHOPPING ALONE WITH MY KIDS.

This is normal. I know. You will never hear me say I’m doing something special when I’m doing something a billion other moms do all the time without any issues. The problem is me. I get so nervous. I get so out of sorts. I get so scared.

But I was also on a roll after beach time so we stopped at the Lighthouse Mall (it’s an outlet mall) and went to Old Navy for jeans and shirts – Round 1. The girls were fantastic, jeans and shirts and bonus flip flops were purchased for everyone and when Mr. Brickie texted me I didn’t even notice until an hour later when we were back in the car and I was asking Siri to get me home and he was home! He asked me to text him when I passed an exit about halfway home so he could preheat the oven for pizza. (We had already decided the night before dinner would be “frozen pizza night” because there was no way I was going to cook after the beach and shopping!)

I texted him back (using the voice function, NEVER looking at the screen always at the road!!) and when we saw the road starting to get congested and traffic starting to back up, I got off and took backroads the rest of the way home. The girls were happy to show off their new clothes, I was happy to be home, and Mr. Brickie was SHOCKED I went shopping after the beach. He thought the beach would be more than enough for me for one day.

I told him that passing by the mall on my way home was too much and I couldn’t NOT stop. It was right there.

We had dinner and I am still basking in the glow of accomplishment today.

Also, as an added bonus there is no dry skin on my feet. Walking all over the rocks and sinking in them with every step left my feet baby soft!

Is there something most people find easy that you find terribly difficult?

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I Already Met My Goal

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Yesterday my Facebook friend Francine (who I am honored to be FB friends with) sold out of her cookbook Blue Ribbon Baking from a Redneck Kitchen on QVC in 8 minutes.

I cried when I heard her wonderful news.

Francine is an inspiration to me. She always wanted a cookbook and she worked so very hard to get where she is and she went on The American Baking Competition and I was so sad when she came in 2nd place, but she took that 2nd place and made it into a victory.

I think she’s wonderful.

Through tears last night I pointed at my monitor and sniffled and asked, “I wish I had a goal like that because achieving it must feel amazing.”

In a rare moment of “who are you and what have you done with my husband” he looked me dead in the eyes and asked, “What did you want more than anything else as a kid?”

“I wanted to be married. I wanted my own family.”

He smiled at me in that know-it-all way that he thinks makes him look like a serene monk but generally just makes me want to smack him and said, “Maybe you really don’t have NO goal, maybe you just already achieved it.”

All I could say was, “Oh.”

Now, I don’t take my family for granted. I feel joy every day not only for those who live under my roof but those family members who let me into their hearts beyond my roof. I am thankful for days like yesterday where we go blueberry picking as a family and then sit in the shade and relax in the field for a little bit just enjoying each other’s company. I am thankful for friends who give me the opportunity to take my girls to the beach in Michigan on a weekday so the crowd isn’t painful and overwhelming.

Sure, we’re going to have to move in probably less than a year. I don’t know if we are going to rent an apartment or a house and I’m only 90% sure I even know the town we’re going to end up in (because things happen and we’re going to be somewhat at the mercy of the court system) and I have no idea how much the foreclosure is going to destroy our credit. I feel like I’m playing a very dangerous game of beat the clock when it comes to my husband working and saving and paying down debt and being able to afford food now that we make too much money for SNAP benefits but make less than we used to make when we qualified plus the amount of the benefits.

There is a lot of uncertainty in my day to day life.

The things I can rely on, however, are:

  • Good morning hugs.
  • Being told, “I love you.”
  • Someone smiling at me as if I were the only person in the world.
  • Kisses.
  • Giggles.
  • My husband lighting up when he walks in the house after work and sees me.
  • Dinner at the kitchen table together.
  • Stories.

I have a family that loves me. Both related and unrelated. I have the things that money can’t buy and I worked (and continue to work) very hard for those things. Sure, they don’t reward me with a paycheck and I don’t ever get to punch out and go home after a hard day…but who cares?

Instead of constantly wondering what my passion is and thinking “I should have a goal.” I am going to focus more on appreciating the goal I have already met. Someday I might have a new goal but my passion for my family – my people – will always be a primary focus. Without them, everything else is hollow.

There is nothing wrong with different people having different goals. I support my online friends in all their goals and I know that other people have the same goal as mine with other goals in addition. Maybe I’ll get there someday, but I don’t want to strive for something I can’t see when I can pour my love and effort out right here where it’s needed most right now.

On a totally unrelated sidenote: The town’s building inspector truck just pulled up in front of my house and stopped. I have no idea why. Every few days I see a truck from either public works or the building inspector’s office stop in front of my house for a couple minutes. I have no idea what they’re interested in but I haven’t gotten a letter yet. It is a little off-putting though because for the next few days I’m going to be nervous when I check my mail. I mean, I never see them stop in front of anyone else’s house on my block. Weird.

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Well That Was Short Lived

Oh that beautiful paycheck. The one that will live in my brain(heart?) forever.

It probably won’t happen again.

It could, but why be optimistic when we can all nod our heads and be realistic.

Yesterday and today Mr. Brickie worked a totally legit 8-hour day. It also looks like he won’t be working Saturday. That means he will still (hallelujah) get a check this Wednesday with overtime on it (8 beautiful hours of overtime) but unless something crazy happens he will go back to a solid, respectable 40 hour week. Which I am fine with. I mean, do I want to hurry along his next promotion? YES. Do I love when he makes a bunch of money? YES. Do I like that he’s really crabby when he’s home after working all those hours? NO.

I’m willing to put up with the less-than-stellar attitude but man, I also won’t miss it when it’s gone.

This non-overtime period is also great for his poor body that he’s been using to work like a dog for weeks now, but it’s less awesome for our bank account. I’m okay with that because, man, you just can’t count on overtime and that’s okay.

I still have our original budget for the month based on $750/wk. (I ultimately felt like doing one with herds and piles of overtime would jinx everything so I just did that one quick one to share the best case scenario and then chucked it in the bin.) I’m not sure if his check will even be $750 but, again, that’s why I’m using a priority-based budget instead of a zero-based budget.

The only real difference is that the last line says “Everything else goes toward the credit card” at the end instead of having a pre-filled amount.

If the hours shoot back up I will let you know but right now we paid what we were supposed to pay on the 30th (past due electric & gas, Net10 cell phones, and extra on the CapOne CC) and are up for paying the credit card minimums and the extra to the CapOne CC on the 6th.

Once you have your budget for the month all written out, you just have to glance at it and remind yourself what’s coming next. There is a comfort in knowing what you are doing with your money in between now and the end of the month.

I know there are a lot of people who know budgeting is good but think doing it in the brain is good enough. It’s really not. I can track an investment account to within a dollar with my brain but the budget being written down is what changed my life and my finances for the good.

I will never be an inspiring success story because I haven’t done anything amazing. I will not have been fast about changing my life and my finances. I am the turtle. Sure, in the children’s book the turtle wins but that’s because it makes a better story. Hares win all the time in the real world. My job is not to compare myself to the hares. Or the turtles. I am running a one-family race and our finish line is different than everyone else’s. It’s ours.

Every week we get a little closer. It’s a good feeling.

The Pros and Cons of Online School Shopping

school-suppliesWhen I was young, I had to be bribed to go shopping.

I hated trying on clothes. I didn’t like or understand fashion, and looking cute was never something I cared about. (Yes, this turned out exactly as you’d expect. I was horribly teased most of my life. Now? Surprise! I know fashion like you wouldn’t believe and have three daughters who love fashion. Nature? Nurture? Who knows. I still don’t care about fashion and basically live in Old Navy v-neck t-shirts, jeans, and capri pants & jeans.)

All this to try and convey how much I hate shopping.

Mr. Brickie does all the grocery shopping for the house. Yes, all of it. Even now that he works 58 hours a week. I am incapable. The rows of stuff overwhelm me and cause me to end up standing in the middle of some random aisle just trying to catch my breath and minimize the overwhelming panic. He, of course, is a saint for being willing to do the shopping for a family of five.

Also, funny little sidenote….no one has ever looked at him funny or said anything when he used the EBT card at the register. They’re also really nice to him when he goes into the public aid office. He gets pats on the back and support from the workers. I shit you not. Maybe it’s because he’s really polite or maybe it’s because he doesn’t seem defensive. Whatever it is he has done a much better job navigating the government than even I have and I thought I was doing a bang up job back when it was my responsibility. (Another post is coming soon about grocery budgeting because since he’s working now we’re about to lose our EBT benefits. As we should. I’m not complaining but it will be a reality that the extra money we have right this second is about to go straight toward groceries.)

So, taking all that shopping mess into consideration and pretending I didn’t just spend a paragraph talking about EBT use and public aid this post is about school shopping. As an Amazon Prime member, there are two times of the year I go nuts on Amazon.com and those times are school supply time and Christmastime. The world gets shipped to my door. The picture in the header isn’t everything. We got three more boxes and six mailers in addition.

We also got the biggest frustration I’ve ever dealt with on Amazon.com when I checked my credit card balance and saw that I was somehow double-billed. I went into the online chat and asked what was going on and eventually found out there was more than one of certain things in her list. I realized I needed to open all those boxes and check them against the orders.

Now, I’m a savvy Amazon shopper. I check quantities and delete things that aren’t fulfilled by Amazon whenever possible. I want to make sure I can make returns easily if I need to.

I was double charged and double fulfilled on multiple items and there was one order listed that was $278 that was entirely a duplicate except for one item. Now, when you order on Amazon you have to actually go through and hit the order button so I’m still not sure how this happened. After talking to the customer service people I realized I was going to have to return all this extra stuff.

Unfortunately, with returning so much stuff I couldn’t say it was defective or was in addition to what I purchased. The only return reason that made sense was, “Accidental order.”

So I’m going to end up paying something (probably) for returning all that stuff. Shipping charges. I will probably call and try to get that charge reversed but won’t even know what it is for a few more days.

Also, even though I personally remember removing all those “Not fulfilled by Amazon” choices there they are on my kitchen table with their own very specific and annoying return practices.

I’ve decided to keep them. I mean, can you really have too many Crayola products in your house? We had an art box but it’s been around a few years and there are a lot of dry markers and broken crayons. As for the loss of money that this will entail the time and gas and frustration saved by not wandering aimlessly into Target or Walmart to pick up everything on the school supply list is worth the mistake.

Next year I will make smaller orders over time. I have a feeling such a large order is more likely to have a mistake happen (although I have no proof or actual evidence to believe that) and fixing it is difficult and annoying. Being on a chat and having someone list off almost fifty items in the space of an Instant Messenger chat box? Straight up rage inducing.

Again, maybe that says something horrible about me that I would rather people not know but even at a straight up $50 loss it’s still better to order my stuff online and have it delivered than go to the store and shop. Especially with the pros that enjoy nabbing the last package of crayons or the last pink eraser. I just don’t have it in me to fight people off like that.

So here is my new art supply stash. I had no idea there were Ultra Clean markers now. Since the 4yo will be using them on the regular, that might come in super handy when she decides to use the red as lipstick again. (Yeah, maybe she won’t. Let’s live the dream together.)

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Six washable markers

Two packs of colored pencils

….and a partridge in a pear treeeeeeee!

Mr. Brickie had a great idea. He says other than the one pack for the young’un we should put the others up for next year. They won’t go dry if you don’t open them, right? Either way, there are things we can do with markers, so if I’m going to have stuff in my house I can’t return, let it be things that are used to make art because my girls all love art and coloring.

I mean, hey, it could have been filler paper, right?

How do you go about buying your back to school supplies? I know some people were shopping at a particular retailer because they were donating money to kids who didn’t have school supplies. Maybe I should just ask the girls’ teachers if there are any students who don’t have markers or need colored pencils and then use this as a way to give.

I’ll figure something out. Of course, now that I mentioned the giving that’s what I’m going to lean toward because I love donating money, it makes me feel special.

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A Nice Financial Surprise

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You remember me trying to figure out what Mr. Brickie’s check was going to be after the raise with overtime, right? If not you can check it out but it might make you feel really confused because I was crazy confused while trying to do the math.

I won’t actually have the pay stub until the mail comes this afternoon (Oh, what’s that? You get your mail in the morning? How NICE for you. Yes, I *am* jealous.) but the check itself was direct deposited and my guess of $891.59 was wrong. The check was $1013.43.

Yes, I screeched. It was a happy screech and then I looked like a cartoon character grabbing my priority budget and scribbling changes wildly based on the new numbers. I know that maybe for some people $121.84a week extra wouldn’t make much of a difference but for us this is a life changer. That’s almost $500 extra per month which is huge. HUGE. We can use that money to pay off debt and save, save, save.

Please remember: This blog is written in real time. When I say we WILL this or we will be debt-free by THAT DATE it is accurate as of the moment it is written. If an emergency comes up or something changes, I will blog about it! 

In redoing the budget that extra money is going to see us credit card debt free by the end of August. That includes the $300 in school supplies I bought on Amazon.com and the $462 that will go onto the credit card automatically for auto insurance. Everything. It includes everything.

It will open up September to save for Christmas and my girls’ birthday parties they want this year. (One is “Turning Tween” as she calls it. The other is having her “Golden Birthday” and so they are both beyond jazzed and asked if they could just this once have a big party.)

As much as I want to push all extra money after those credit cards toward the car or buying a second car (because y’all the freedom having a second car has given me is beyond amazing and I don’t know if I can go back to not having access to a second car) it’s important to me that the girls have something very nice now and then to keep in the memory bank. They don’t really know how much they are sacrificing compared to other kids. In fact, they have cell phones (because of our Freedom Pop debacle) and electronics and books. Really, I’m not sure if they know we are poor.

It is a real bummer that the foreclosure went through when it did. The way we save and the money he’s making right now? We could more than pay the mortgage. Timing just isn’t going to work the way we hoped and we will have to move next year (hopefully next summer) and we will probably move to Indiana because the cost of living is lower and it won’t add but fifteen minutes to Mr. Brickie’s commute. We know people who are renting now and they are happy and have a guy who rents houses so we are going to go through a friend of a friend (which always makes me feel special because, “I know a guy…” is awesome lol)

Now it’s time for the grind. No more surprises until the next raise. If he keeps working overtime, will happen 10/23/2014 and that is the absolute soonest it can happen so don’t write that date down in pen because I have it written in the lightest pencil possible … things happen and clinging to a hope as if it were a fact is a recipe for despair.

So today with the magic-big check we have to take out $150 for Mr. Brickie to buy a new pair of boots. He’s been dealing with $20 Walmart boots that last 2-3 weeks because we didn’t have a chunk for a better pair. He tried last week to get a $42 pair at Payless he thought were stitched instead of glued. That would make them last longer and be a better long-term value. Unfortunately those stitches weren’t real and the boots fell apart in four days. So he needs good boots.

Here is how we spent this week’s check (we are switching back to a zero-based budget):

$1,013.00 Check
$200.00 Living Expenses
$150.00 Work Boots
$161.00 Utilities (past due)
$95.00 Net10 (cell phones)
$407.00 CapOne CC Pmt
$0.00 Leftover

After so many bummer surprises and so many weeks of not having enough money today I feel really good.

I feel lighter.

Of course my good mood might also be attributed to the mile walk I took this morning. I know, I said I was going to yesterday and I did it today. I did it before I had coffee to make sure it was going to get done. It didn’t take long but I am doing my best to commit to #wycwyc (What You Can When You Can) and getting in more hugs, more dishes, more walking, and more smiles whenever I can.

I’m doing kind of a Baby Step approach to the money that’s coming in. Pay off debt first, then save 3-6 months of expenses. I’m a little nervous because when winter comes … I’ve heard it’s going to be a crazy-mild winter which means Mr. Brickie will be working but it’s possible he won’t work during the winter again which means a combination of unemployment and working where and when he can get it.

I hate to always be looking toward the next possible problem, but I want to have a plan and be prepared.

I’m so bad at balance.

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Feeling Inspired and Wrapped in Cotton

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Big shout out to Johnna for sharing this on FB =)

I have been in the slumpiest slump that ever slumped.

First, though, let me tell you the amazing thing that happened to me. I am not the girl who wins contests. Cool things usually don’t happen to me. Getting to the point where I am anticipating Mr. Brickie’s check tomorrow like a lotto ticket clutched in my hand took years of research on my part and years of hard work on his. Things don’t fall in our laps.

I’m not trying to be whiny, I just don’t have that particular kind of luck. (Yes, I believe in luck. I’m a little superstitious, too.)

So two weeks ago when a friend came to my door I didn’t think anything of it. She placed an envelope into my hands, hugged me, and said she had to go. She’s in school and is a quirky person to begin with so I just roll with it when she does things I don’t understand instead of questioning it. I turned to Mr. Brickie and said, “Um, she left me an envelope and said I had to take whatever was inside.”

He gave me a look somewhere between, “Huh?” and “Is it a badger?” I’m sure I looked just as confused.

When I opened the envelope there was a note letting me know the car parked in front of my house was reliable and insured and I was to use it to take my kids to the park, library, wherever for the rest of summer. A car key slid out of the envelope.

My friend lent me her car for six weeks so I wouldn’t feel trapped at home anymore.

Can you believe that?

I smooshed all the worries and warnings that immediately popped up in my brain back into a dark spot in the attic of my mind and locked the door to keep them contained. I texted, “Thank you.” because I did not trust myself to speak. I don’t ask for help. I’m not good at accepting help. This time, though, I knew the only right answer was appreciation and thanks.

Because for six glorious weeks I have a daily reminder in my driveway that I am that girl. The one who is appreciated. The one who is heard. The one who is free to leave her house and go wherever she wants.

So far we have been to the park multiple times. The kids are thrilled and think it’s a new adventure every time. I’ve tried to go to the library a couple times but my fear at watching three kids in a library keeps me driving past the library to the park. I’m doing the best I can.

Back to Feeling Slumpy

Did you know you can feel completely drained and thankful at the same time? I did not.

It seems that even eating good quality food and sleeping good quality sleep I am still feeling just overwhelmingly blah. Happy, but blah. It’s a muffled sort of goodness that is not entirely unpleasant.

My dishes are only half done. My living room is only mostly picked up.

I feel like I’m only half checked-in to life most days right now. Is this normal for a wife who has a husband working six days a week? Is this caused by an overwhelming sense of fatigue taking care of three kids day in and day out? Or is it something more?

I wish I had a threapist that wasn’t crappy. I read an article somewhere online today about someone who was working through some issues with this ah-mazing therapist and I was like, “Where is one of those I can talk to?” I get the bad-breath guided meditation therapist that tries to trample my boundaries during the second visit. Gross. (I actually have a long list of examples much like that one. I have bad therapist luck. <– see, superstitious.)

I want to get up and put on my shoes and take the kids for a walk, but it just feels so overwhelming. At the park, I don’t get on the equipment because I’m not insane. Mr. Brickie does but I get nervous about park equipment so I stay clear. I think I need to just start from square one and pop in a Leslie Sansone video first thing in the morning and let that wake me up for fifteen minutes before coffee. Not because it’s exercise, but because it will get my brain firing and blood pumping and make me feel mentally better.

Over on Carla’s blog she introduced me to the concept of #wycwyc and at first I had no idea what it meant. Turns out it means to do What You Can When You Can in terms of almost anything. Fitting in exercise, meditation, and everything else. I think it’s another way of saying baby steps. Today I just feel like I can’t do anything. Well, except feed the kids breakfast, keep them from fighting, set timers for their turns, make them lunch, sit with them and talk to them about their day while they eat lunch, brush the youngest’s teeth while the older ones are brushing theirs, take out the recycling, figure out what we’re having for dinner (I plan the list at the beginning of the week but then based on my energy for the day I pick an easy/medium/difficult to prepare meal) supervise and help the two older girls do dishes, make sure the youngest is brushing her hair, sweep, and wait what time is it?

11:47am? Wait. It’s not even noon?

SEE. I think I’m such a lazy beast but if I break down my morning I’ve done stuff. Not all the things and not even most of the things but I haven’t done nothing and I certainly haven’t been sitting at my computer doing nothing but hanging out with the cool kids.

I guess I don’t have a proper way to how much is a good amount to do. When I ask myself, the only answer I hear back from the depths of my mind is, “More.” My mind has been known for not being super-helpful in the past but I give her a pass because she’s really good at budgeting.

Does anyone know how much should get done in a day? (Suggestions are always welcome!)

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Hair Dye Conundrum — August Budget Done In Advance

Today’s big conversation in my house was my daughter’s hair.

It’s a light brown and she wants it to be black. She’s been telling me she’s goth for about a year now and black and red are her favorite colors. The black hair request was not a surprise. My feelings about the request went about like this…

  • My daughter is going to look like Wednesday Aadams! WooHoo!

wednesday-aadams

  • It’s only hair. But wait. Would I be this supportive if she wanted pink or purple hair? Am I only supportive because she’s picking something I think is fantastic on a personal level?
  • She has picked a “normal” color “found in nature” … does that make it more acceptable?
  • Are my reservations based solely on what other people will think of me being the mom who let her daughter dye her hair?

She had spray-in black hair for Halloween last year and could not stop looking at herself in the mirror. She loved how it looked. So I’m not shocked by her request. This is probably the first time I’ve looked at my situation and my instinctual choice, I feel, goes against the normal grain of society. “No died hair until 13!” my brain screams.

Facebook has been, overall, blissfully supportive and some very respected people agree with me that it’s only hair.

What do you think? Let me know why you think so, please, because that truly helps me make a logical argument in my own brain. Thank you.

On To The Budget!

I have our August budget sketched out. It’s more like a flow chart, because there are a couple things that can be changed if necessary. This month the six-month auto insurance payment needs to be taken care of. I have it set to auto-bill on the credit card so my goal is to pay off enough space on the credit card for the insurance to safely bill. Right now there is $232.83 on the card. I also have to take into consideration the $40 a week that bills onto the iPass toll account.

Here is the current plan for the next five paychecks. I still don’t know how much his check will be next wednesday so when you see ??? listed, it means the amount left over after designated bills are paid. I’m assuming a $750 paycheck because that’s about what he makes now with all the overtime. If overtime stops, that number drops like a rock. With is raise, it could be higher. Stuff isn’t super stable right now and when that happens, you do the best you can with the information you have.

July 30th – Pay past due ComEd ($133.85), past due Nicor ($26.36), and Net10 ($95.00). Leftover to Credit Card ($289).

Aug. 6th – Pay minimums on Macys.com, Kohls.com, Walmart.com, and Amazon.com (Total $100). Leftover to Credit Card (≈$450).

Aug. 13th – Car payment ($495.12) and leftover to credit card (≈$50).

Aug. 20th – ComEd & Nicor (Whatever the current bill is, don’t know yet) with leftover to Credit Card.

Aug. 27th – Put aside cash for Net10 ($95) with leftover to credit card ($450).

The entire balance on the credit card is $1020 and this plan has a payoff on the card of about $1439 but then there will be the $461 charge for auto insurance and the $40 a week for iPass and at the end of the month my domain payments and hosting ($14.95) go through. So I’ll end the month with a balance but a small one.

Alternate Bill Payment Option

On August 6th, I could pay off the two lowest-balance credit card balances (Kohls $182.97 & Macys $81.98) which would lower the overall amount that goes toward the big credit card but would eliminate two credit card balances totally. I think it’s just playing with numbers at this point and probably doesn’t matter.

Also, I could switch the payments on Aug 13th and Aug 20th if I need more cash sooner on the credit card for the auto insurance payment.

I absolutely know that my readers who are Dave Ramsey fans are cringing and probably peeking through their fingers at my plans of using credit cards to further my financial goals. I guess we are just going to have to agree to disagree that no matter how poor I have been I have been I have never gotten out of control with credit. I have argued myself that it only takes one mistake to drop into a whirlwind spiral of failure and late fees. I agree.

What Do You Think?

Is it better to pay down the big credit card all at once or knock out the smaller credit cards so there are less cards overall to deal with? This is just an opinion question so if I take your advice and mess something up I certainly won’t blame you. I just trust my readers (I have very smart readers. I’m lucky.) and would love to know your thoughts.

I’ll keep you up to speed on what the new paycheck looks like and how we are paying down debt. Oh, also, you might want to check the sidebar where I have listed all my credit debt. Because financial oversharing is my jam, that’s why!

Oh, hey, also if you know someone you think is on the ball with their budget, feel free to send them over to share their opinion. I’d love to hear it!