Thursday, January 29, 2009

I'm counting on you

You know what we haven't done in a while?

Counted everyone.

I heard on the radio that they are beginning the process of hiring people for the census.

I worked for the census in 2000.

So I thought I'd share a little with you about the census and the people who work there.

The census happens in a couple phases. In the first phase, they hire the best of the applicants to set up the office, then they hire the next best to sort and mail everyone a form. Some people get short forms, some people get long forms. If you get a long form and don't feel the need to answer everything, if you will just answer a few items (in 2000, the required questions on the long form had an asterisk out to the side), they will leave you alone. Ideally, everyone would fill out the form and send it back in and there would be no need for a second phase.

But that doesn't happen. So we have a second phase. In this phase, the normal people they hired in the first place end up being supervisors and they hire most of the rest of the applicants who can range from slightly odd to did-you-come-in-as-Stephanie-or-Tim-today or what-medical-experiment-are-you-signing-up-for-next strange. And they send those people to your house to get you to fill out the form.

So if you'd like to avoid a visit from Stephanie/Tim, you might just go ahead and fill out the form when it first comes. It should be in your mailbox early next year. I'll probably talk about it again when it happens.

Some pointers to avoid being taken advantage of, things I actually saw happen or received calls about when I manned the phones in the evening at the office where I worked:

  • You do not have to pay anything. There are no late fees, if you are visited by Stephanie/Tim, because life got too busy and you didn't fill out the form, and he/she tries to get you to pay a fee, they are scamming you. Technically you already paid for it with your taxes. Want to eliminate some wasteful government spending, fill your form out when you get it in the mail instead of having someone come out to your house.

  • All census employees have a badge. If they make you feel the least bit uncomfortable about the questions, take their name down, you can call your local census office and report them. They will be dealt with, and we pretty much fired people for asking any questions not on the form.

  • The census does not want your social security number. Seriously. They don't. If someone claims to be from the census and asks for your social security number, it is a scam. Do not give it to them, and call the police. If they have a badge, call the local census office and report them, but also call the police.

  • Be nice, these people are not making much money. The hours suck, the pay sucks, they just want to know how many bodies lived in your house on Jan 1, 2010. That's it.

  • If you have a kid away from home, they should fill out their census to reflect where they live more than 50% of the time. So a kid away at college will tell the census that they live in their college town.

  • If you apply to work for the census, when they call to offer you a job, consider not cursing at them and hanging up on them as if they are trying to sell you a time-share.

  • The pay varies from office to office based on the cost of living and comparable jobs in the area. When I left College Station to come home for the summer, I transferred to a Houston office. I was demoted, since my shift supervisor position in College Station was not available in the Houston office. And in doing so, I got a raise.

The census is used to determine all kinds of things, from federal aid, to redistricting. It's kind of important to make sure that everyone in the country is represented.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

I probably wouldn't fit on their bus

Monday evening, Clinton and I settled in to watch "A Very Duggar Wedding" on TLC, well, on DVR. We also had DVRed the preparing for the wedding edition of the show.

Before you get all "OMG THOSE PEOPLE AND THEIR 18 KIDS ARE COMPLETELY INSANE!!!!" Let me tell you a dirty little secret. I like the Duggars. And I have a lot of respect for them.

They aren't your average family. They do some kind of unorthodox things. But, they are self supportive - my tax dollars are not paying for their food, or medical care. So I feel like the choices they make in raising their kids, are just that. Their choices. I wouldn't make some of the choices they have made, but their kids seem happy and healthy and that's all that really matters. And I also think they do a pretty good job of leading by example, they don't tell their kids one thing and then do the opposite. They aren't telling you how to run your life. They're just making the choices for their own. The ones that work for them.

Their kids are a little sheltered. So it's not so surprising that Josh didn't know what alfredo was when they were dining out, or that they didn't actually know what the waiter was talking about when he offered to do some tantric dancing at their wedding, or that the fact that the restaurant they went to had regular plates and silverware and glass glasses meant it was fancy. I wasn't surprised that they opted not to have alcohol or dancing at their wedding for religious reasons. I do think it's kind of weird how they made such a big deal out of the fact that their relationship was a courtship, not dating, and their first kiss was their wedding kiss. But it seems that their parents weren't the ones behind that decision, they were.

I was really surprised that they decided to forgo the not seeing the bride before the wedding tradition. Although considering how eager they were to leave and make sure their departure time wasn't disrupted, I understand their decision to take the photo prior to the wedding. I was equally surprised that the bridesmaid dresses were actually kind of pretty. Simple and plain, but not like prairie garb or anything.

I was kind of surprised that Jim Bob waited until the day of the wedding to have the birds and the bees talk with Josh. (HAHA, it's kind of like Legos!) But the things he said to him - that you will have conflicts, but you should work to resolve them, not letting the sun go down on your anger, respecting your wife and listening to her even if you don't know where she going with what she's saying, and being there for her in the small things showing that you care. Those are all things I can get behind. You don't get to be the father of 18 children with one woman, who is still happy with you without doing something right.

So, I'm going to admit, I like the Duggars. But I still wouldn't fit on their bus because I don't like skirts. And the girls in their family don't wear pants. I'd have to be a niece, because Amy gets to wear pants, and hang out with them, and even the little ones say "she's different from us, but we love her anyway."

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

On Beyond Bovine Trial #10 - Poblano Pepper

Long time no see.

I've been spending our time apart hacking up a lung every time I lay down. No nasal congestion, not many problems while upright, but lay down and let the hacking begin! So I went to the Dr. yesterday and got what I hope will be the cure.

I also spent a lot of time this weekend cooking new things, and I've got to tell you, of all the things I made, only one fits in the On Beyond Bovine trial. Which sucks, but I thought you should at least know that I'm not just trying vegetable recipes, I'm also trying new recipes all around.

On Thursday I made steak bites a la the Pioneer Woman. Finally, a good use for the large number of sirloins in our freezer. Those sirloins have been kind of tricky, because they're the full sirloin, not just the top sirloin or whatever, so within the one cut, they have so many different textures, it's been hard to find a way to cook them without over cooking them. I had actually resorted to using them to make pot roasts, but this recipe seems to be the answer to that.

On Saturday I made cream of poblano soup. This is a recipe I got from my friend Jennifer. Although, I didn't bring it in, so the one I'm posting here is actually off the web, but it's very close. Anyway, this one knocks poblano peppers off my list.

On Sunday I made biscuits and gravy also a la Pioneer Woman using a different approach than I usually do. It was good, but the gravy was a lot browner than I normally make. So weird looking, but tasty.

And on Sunday night I made Pastor Ryan's spicy orange garlic shrimp - which was on the Pioneer Woman Cooks website. It was tolerable, Clint liked it more than I did, It wasn't bad, but it didn't have the WHA-POW that I had hoped for. I don't know if it was because by that time I was super tired and not very hungry, but Clint and I have some tweaks we're going to do to it next time to see if we can make it better.

All in all, between this weekend and all the other recipes I've made of hers that he has loved, Clint should probably just go hang out at the gate of the Pioneer Woman's ranch and see if she'll feed him. I'm pretty sure that when her cookbook comes out, he'll be one of the first ones to buy it.

On to the Trial.

I so suck at taking pictures of this stuff. But I made cream of poblano soup this weekend.

I forgot to take a picture of the pepper before I cut it. But it looks like a pointy bell pepper. Or a giant jalapeƱo. Or some thing between the two.

I only use half the pepper in the soup, if I liked raw pepper, I could have garnished the soup with it, but I didn't. And I prefer tortilla chips, cheese and avocado for garnish.

You use the food processor to grind up some corn tortillas and flour to make the base for your roux. And since it was already dirty, I also used the food processor to blend the onions, poblano pepper and garlic, because I don't like chunks of pepper in my soup.

I had some help on this step.

Oh, and I didn't have any regular chili powder, so I used chipotle chili powder, and it actually tasted better than when I made it with regular chili powder.

The final product looked a little something like this, except mine had a LOT more chicken in it, I used closer to 2 cups (although I didn't measure it), when my recipe called for like 1/2 cup. But I like my soups to be hearty.
Clinton does like the cream of poblano soup. And I have made it before, so his reaction isn't that entertaining. Although something weird happened this time, it was a lot thicker and there seemed to be less of it. Last time I made it we ate, we had left overs, and I took some to my grandmother. This time, I was scraping the bottom of the pot, just to feed 3 adults and a tiny person. Maybe I used more chicken stock last time, but I swear I thought I was following the recipe. Who knows.


3 ea Corn tortillas (6-inch)
2 tbsp Flour
1/2 tsp Chili powder [I used chipotle chili powder.]
1 tsp Cumin
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Black pepper
2 tbsp Canola oil
1/2 cup Onion, finely diced
1/2 cup Poblano peppers, fine dice
1/2 tsp Garlic, minced
2 tbsp Butter
2 cup Chicken stock
1/2 cup Half-and-half
1/8 cup Roasted & chopped chicken [I used more like 2 cups of chicken, and I shredded it.]
1/2 cup Monterrey Jack cheese, shredded [We probably use a lot more cheese than this.]

Cut the corn tortillas into ninths, place in a food processor and chop until fine. Add flour, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper. Blend until the tortillas become the consistency of cornmeal.

Place the canola oil in a stockpot on medium-high heat. Add onions, peppers and garlic. [I blend these so they aren't chunky.] Saute until onions are clear.
Add butter and let melt.
Add tortilla-flour mixture to the pan and mix to form a roux, stirring with a wire whisk. Do not let it burn.
While stirring, slowly add the chicken stock. Make sure to scrape the sides and bottom.
Add the half-and-half. Bring to a slow simmer and cook for 7 to 10 minutes. Do not let soup come to a hard boil.
Turn off heat and let cool. Add the roasted chopped chicken meat to the stockpot before serving. [My chicken was cold, so I left it on the heat until I added the chicken and let it warm through.]
Top each serving with shredded Monterrey Jack cheese, diced poblano pepper and crisply fried tortilla strips. [ You can fry the rest of the corn tortillas, or you can be like me and just buy tortilla chips and I also cut up an avocado.]

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A possibly not word for word, but you get the gist of it conversation while I make dinner.

Him: Hey, I haven’t seen our neighbor’s husband in a while. He seems to only show up on weekends. Do you think he works out of town?

Me: Maybe they’re getting a divorce.

Him: But he stays there when he shows up on weekends.

Me: Well the Iowa truck is back, and they left that U-haul on the street. Maybe she’s having an affair with that guy.

Him: But when he was here before, her husband was at home all the time.

Me: Maybe that’s why they’re getting a divorce.

Him: And he used to do all the yard work, but I saw her hire someone to do it last week.

Me: Maybe he’s dead and that’s a zombie you see coming home on weekends. You know, you don’t want zombies doing your yard work. They’re not very good at it, and the tend to just drop body parts all over the yard. Plus, anyone who has a dinner party in my dream in the middle of a hurricane, is just weird to me anyway. I’m just glad they finally moved the U-haul.


Me: Don’t you wish you had a blog?

Him: Like a video blog?

Me: You’re thinking of starting one right now, so you can tell your side of the story of living with me.

Him: Do you still want a reality TV show?

Me: Are you trying to end this marriage with divorce? Or do you think we could be the one couple to have a reality TV show and not end up divorced?

Him: What about John & Kate Plus 8, or the Duggars?

Me: I’m pretty sure that’s about the kids.

Him: What about Sharon and Ozzy?

Me: Are they even married?

Him: Yeah.

Me: Oh, I was thinking of the other guy, um... the KISS guy.

Him: Gene Simmons?

Me: Yeah.

Him: They're not married, but they've been together like 17 years.

Me: Oh, that makes such a difference. Let's totally do reality TV, we so won't end up divorced.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Landon at Girl Scouts

It was pretty much all about the cookies for him.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

My kid is just not that rambunctious

On Sunday we went to Whole Foods, I did not fit in because I wasn't wearing Birkenstocks.

Landon hadn’t had his nap yet, and he was kind of ornery. He didn’t want to ride in a cart, and instead insisted on walking down each aisle counting the lights. (He counted to 13 before he got stuck…he started at 7 instead of 1, but that’s neither here nor there.)

As we were checking out, Landon decided the play with the part of the cart that swings so that it can join other carts in the line. And I told him twice not to do it, and then decided that it wasn’t life threatening and he would just have to pinch himself and see that it hurt to learn his lesson (this is rather than pick him up and fight him about it, loudly). Natural consequences and all that.

Instead, I got accosted by a lady who was all “Ma’am!” (Again with the ma’am crap.) "An INJURY is about to occur!" As if I had been standing there picking my nose. I was all, "Yeah, I know, I told him." And she looked at me like I was stupid.

But you know what? He didn't pinch himself, because he's a careful kid. He always has been. When he’s upstairs in his room by himself and decides to come down, he yells from the top of the stairs, that he’s coming down, and that he’s holding on to the rail or that he’s on his tummy. At the very least, he’s alerting us, so that we can stand at the bottom of the stairs and catch him if we need to. He investigates things carefully, he doesn’t put strange things in his mouth, and he gets visibly upset if it appears that one of his toys is in jeopardy of being broken.

I’m glad she’s sitting at the door of Whole Foods, giving $1/minute foot massages AND looking out for all the kids whose Moms are too busy to notice them. Because if there’s a subset of this community whose parenting skills need to be called into question by someone who just looked up from a book 2 seconds prior to making that judgement, it’s the people at Whole Foods. [Tongue planted firmly in cheek.]

Monday, January 19, 2009

We lie to him, because we want him to believe anything is possible

One of the things Landon got for Christmas was a Buzz Lightyear glider. So we decided to take him out to the park on Sunday and test it out.

It's kind of cool, although I'm not sure we have it adjusted exactly right, because it doesn't go very far.

Anyway, Clinton showed Landon how to throw it. And he threw it straight at him, from like 2 feet away. And hit him. But he did say sorry.

He got bored with throwing it after a while. And asked to ride it.

Memories being what they are, I hope when he's an adult, he's not out looking for one of those airplanes that your 2 year old can ride on.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

UPDATED: Was there a recall on yesterday that I missed?

UPDATED WITH SCAN OF ELFIN WOMAN: Who is not so much elfin as I remember her, I thought she had pointy ears last night, now she's just big boob sexy comic book stereotype.

Because, I'd like to take mine back and trade it in on a less defective one. Probably not as much as Clinton would like to, but I'd like to none the less.

I stayed late at work yesterday to do a quick project for my project that was supposed to be over, but the client will not let die. Actually the head client guy just seems to be humoring the guy I worked with, because they are asking for things that are not normal deliverables. Anyway, I stayed late.

And I learned a few things.

  • Someone in this office is drawing large breasted elfin looking women after hours, enlarging them to 11x17 paper, making copies and then forgetting to take the original off the copier. If it's who I saw walking away from the copier just before my discovery, this does not compute.

  • I now know why my office doesn't seem very clean. Custodian came to my floor, left the backpack vacuum out in the hall near my office and never showed up again, and I was here until 9:15 or so. Well, he did show up once. He seemed to be wandering around drinking a coke.

That's not the bad part though. Clinton arrived home to a toilet that didn't flush properly. And after 20 or 30 minutes of plunging, and sewage, and running hot water in the bathtub to try to clear what he thought was a clog, he discovered that the clean-out cap was off and our yard was full of hot water.

This is the 3rd or 4th time we've called the utility district, so the guy with the truck, who has always been the same guy who comes, because it always happens in the evening, came out and about 85 feet out from the clean out he found the problem. As usual. It's cleared and things work well again for the moment, but he said since it's happened so much he's going to escalate it to the engineering department. Hopefully they find a fix for it, because it never happens at a nice reasonable time, you know, like when both of us are home and able to deal with it, or when the baby is in a good mood. Poor Landon, he just wanted to help, but Clinton didn't think he should be helping with sewage water.

This morning, when I woke up Landon, his face was in a puddle of blood. The air has been uncharacteristically dry here for about a week, add a toddler and a crusty booger he just wants out, but isn't awake enough to pin point his activities and poof you have a bloody nose! (And, yeah I should probably set up his humidifier again in order to avoid this.) I have said before that they should make peppermints on sticks like lollipops for just this reason. Peppermints will stop a nosebleed, but I don't like giving him a choking hazard so early in the morning. Luckily I found a candy cane leftover from Christmas, so it worked out, but it would seriously be neater if I could just find peppermints in lollipop form.

He really didn't want to be cleaned up. He kept saying "Enough!" But he did get to have candy before breakfast, so he finally gave in a little. On the way to school, sucking away on his candy cane, he had already sharpened it into a shiv like instrument, and he jabbed the inside of his cheek. "Mom, dat hurt!" "Well, bite it off and chew it, so it won't be pointy anymore" "Oooooh, dat good." And he only ate about an inch or inch and a half, so he's not set up for a big sugar crash either.

This evening, I have all kinds of blood stains to look forward to trying to clean off of various articles of clothing and sheets. Because it's not enough to bleed on your own sheets and pajamas, you then need to wipe your nose all over your ready to go work mom, so she has to change clothes, and roll around on her bed as if your goal in life is to have her wash the sheets that were just put on the night before. I guess I don't have a lot of room to talk, I have a blood stained stuffed armadillo from precisely the same kind of behavior.

Maybe there will be a recall on today too.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

I'm contacting MENSA as we speak

Last weekend, while perusing the aisles of the evil empire, I found plastic place mats for Landon. We bought 700 of them. Okay, maybe just 7 or 8.

They have everything from letters, to numbers, to space, to dinosaurs on them. And he likes to look at them, and they keep him relatively busy while we're working on getting dinner on the table. Which is not a bad deal for $1 each.

Last night I handed him the number place mat and he promptly counted to ten. In order. Which is new, because somehow he used to not count in order and still come up with the right number at the end and it was hard to tell him he was wrong, because he wasn't.

Anyway, he counted. In order. To ten!

And then I busted out the camera. And he refused to do it. At least not all the way. Because he is narcissistic and likes to see himself on the camera, he does about half a monkey trick and then it's "Mommy, see Nannan!"

So here he is, counting baseballs. There are 8, so he counts to 4 twice at some point and then to 6 before his ego gets a hold of him and he MUST SEE HIMSELF.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

When you make something good

I've spent the last week typing up recipes.

342. So far. I have roughly 10 to go before I'm down to a confusing bunch of recipes.

Here's the deal. These are recipes from the recipe boxes of 2 deceased family members. And if I've learned anything from this process, it's the following:

#1 - If your family member cooks something you absolutely love, ask them for the recipe while they are still alive. You may not be able to find it after their death, and if you do, you may not get complete instructions. See #2

#2 - Just because you know how to do it, doesn't mean the next person to read the recipe knows how to do it. I have 20 recipes specifically, in which the writer either left off an amount of something, or instructions, or the NAME of the recipe. Is this a marinade? Is this a salad dressing? I do not know. I have 7 recipes I will have to blindly make to find out what the heck they are and then name them, if I can't find someone who recognizes them as something they ate.

#3 - When you pull a recipe from a magazine, mark the one you pulled it for, or the one you used. I know that I have extraneous recipes in my collection, because a magazine page containing 7 recipes was in the box, but it didn't indicate which one it was cut out for.

#4 - Just because an appliance, like a crock pot, comes with recipes doesn't mean you used all of the recipes. Once again. Mark the ones you tried and liked. Same applies to stacks of recipe cards, if you used it, mark it.

#5 - Take the time to write it down. I know that a lot of cooks make something good, Something that everyone loves that they make. They don't make it the same way every time, they don't really have a recipe for it, take the time at least once to write down what you do as you do it (or have another person write it down as you do it.) Ideally, then take it out the next time you make it and see if you can write down any variations. If you don't do this, your recipe will die with you, and what will they make at your memorial party if they can't make the dish you made the best and bitch about how it's still not as good as when you made it even though you gave them the recipe and how much they miss you?

Your future grandson's or nephew's wife will appreciate it. Trust me.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Irrational fears

Just before Christmas, I parked my car, and we drove Clinton's car for most of our time off. And throughout the week, as we drove up the driveway behind my car, I noticed that my car was starting to lean a little bit. And a little bit more. And finally, it was pretty clear that I had a flat tire. I assumed it was a nail or a screw in my tire, and I went to look at it to see if I could see where it was and if it was pluggable. I didn't see anything (and found out later that I'm really glad I didn't find anything and you should be too.)

I needed new rims and tires anyway, because there's a whomp whomp sound when I drive, and our mechanic said that 3 of my rims were slightly bent and that all of my tires were out of round. I've known this for some time. Actually, he also said it wouldn't cause any problems to drive it as it was for a while, just that it would continue to make the weird noise. I did intend to buy the new rims and tires at the end of January anyway, I just wasn't quite ready for the expense. But after looking at the tire itself, I didn't think anyone would plug it anyway. Clearly I needed the new tires.

So, Clinton got on-line and bought my rims and tires, as it was cheaper to have them sent to us than to buy them anywhere around here. And on Friday, while I was at work, he put them on my car. And they are awesome.

So I asked him, stupidly, if I had a screw or something. And he asked if I was sure I wanted to know. And I stupidly said yes. And he said "bones." There were 2. With fur. And I don't even remember hitting an animal. He asked if I wanted to see them, and I declined that offer, which saved you from a picture of them, because if I had to look at them, you were going to have to look at them. So you're welcome.

I don't have many irrational fears. but I have a few.

1) Hitting an animal (alive or roadkill) with my car and then having one of their bones poke a hole in my tire, leaving me with a flat tire.

2) Seeing a garbage bag on the side of the road and then noticing a body part in it, leaving me on the side of the road waiting for police to report having found a dead body.

3) Being stuck in traffic for 24 hours straight with nothing to eat or drink and no stores open.

So, now that 2 of my irrational fears have occurred already (#3 happened when we evacuated for Rita.) That means that I am totally avoiding any and all debris on the side of the road, I do NOT want to see a dead body, thankyouverymuch.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

I'm pretty sure that permissive parenting is where Elvis got his start

Today, January 8th, is the birthday of Elvis Presley.

He was born in 1935 in a small house in East Tupelo, Mississippi. He was an identical twin, but his brother was stillborn. He had no other siblings and his parent drank a lot. His father was in trouble with the law multiple times for various infractions including forgery and transporting bootleg liquor.

He was a well-mannered and quiet child. He got his first guitar at age 11 and was taught to play by his uncle. He had wanted a bike, but they couldn't afford the bike, so they got him the guitar.

He stood out in the conservative deep south of the 1950s with his relatively speaking long hair amongst all the buzz cuts. His rebel appearance didn't match his demeanor at all.

In 1956, just after his birthday, he recorded "Heartbreak Hotel/I Was The One." It was released as a single later that month and became number one by April, selling more than one million copies.

Pricilla was 14 (he was 24) at the time they met, in Germany, and began their relationship. At age 16 her parents allowed her to visit America for 2 weeks, after a second visit that Christmas, they decided she could move to America for good. She was to live with Elvis's parents and be privately educated to finish her senior year. They finally married 7 years after they started dating and had Lisa Marie less than a year later.

Obviously there is much more to Elvis's life than this, but since I am connected to him by 7 degrees, I thought I should at least say a few things.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Dave Ramsey makes me mad

Not because he's wrong.

But because people are paying him bazillions of dollars and all he's doing is doling out common sense. Even he says so.


You want to be out of debt?

Quit spending so much money. And pay off your debt - piece by piece until you're done. There's no magical elf trick to it. It's not easy, or we wouldn't be in the situation we're in now economically.

I don't agree with everything he says, but I do know that everything he says's just not my preferred order of business.

His steps, my comments:

1. $1,000 to start an Emergency Fund. Part of me thinks this is a decent idea. At the same time, $1000 towards a high interest credit card will save you more money, and if you have an emergency you can use your credit card, in that case, you will have saved however many months of interest since you gathered the $1000.

2. Pay off all debt using the Debt Snowball. Debt snowball means to make your payments as normal, pick one thing to put extra money towards, when that's paid off you put that payment towards your next debt that you want paid off. His suggestion is to line them up according to balance, because paying off a small balance feels more rewarding that paying a chunk of a big balance. This one I agree with, except, in some cases you may want to address the higher interest rates first.

During this step, if you can't pay cash for it, and it isn't an emergency, you don't buy it. Period.

Dave also advocates living as if in poverty while doing this (rice and beans, beans and rice). It takes a special person to live like that for any length of time, if you set yourself up doing something you can't sustain, you will fail. I suggest breaking out your excel skills (or calculator skills) and creating a budget where you write down every income and every bill you have. Over estimate your bills, underestimate your income, as you spend anything not included add lines to make it essentially your check register. Adjust amounts as they are received or spent. My file right now will tell me if I spend $50 today, whether it will have ill effects as far ahead as the end of 2012. So if you line up your budget, you can figure out when things will be paid off and you can decide for yourself if it's worth cutting back on extravagances so as to pay debt off sooner.

3. 3 to 6 months of expenses in savings. Having been laid off in the past, I now know how important this fund is. But I do agree it should come after debt is paid off.

4. Invest 15% of household income into Roth IRAs and pre-tax retirement. For this one I disagree with the placement. I think it should be #1. Even if it's not 15%, you should be putting some money away for retirement. At a minimum, if your company matches your contributions, you should put enough to maximize the free money they are giving you. That's a possible 100% return on your investment depending on your company's policy, you cannot get better than that. The sooner you start putting this money away, the less you have to put in. It's called compound interest, people.

5. College funding for children. Yes. Your kid might not be the next super sports star with all the scholarships. And although we all know he's a super genius, that doesn't guarantee him any scholarships. At least allow for a state school. At the moment there are programs in place where if a kid gets student loans, then graduates in 4 years with a B average, they forgive a certain amount of the loan. This isn't something you can count on being around later, but if it is, and you've saved this money, have the kid get the loans, if the portion is forgiven, you then pay off the balance and you should come out ahead of the game.

6. Pay off home early. This one is debatable. One one hand, you can write off the interest on the mortgage loan, which means you will probably be able to write off other stuff, since then you'll be itemizing. But the mathematics are that if you pay $4000 in interest in a year you will get a whopping $1000 back in your taxes (that's a 25% tax bracket, and your mileage may vary.) So you just spent $3000 to save $1000. So, yeah - pay off the house.

7. Build wealth and give! Once you are totally debt free, you will have more money to do things like give back to organizations that have helped you and your children through the years.

So my steps look like this:

1. Invest 10-15% of household income into Roth IRAs and pre-tax retirement, at a minimum maximize any matching that your company does.

2. Pay off all debt using the Debt Snowball, small balances and high interest rates first. Also call all debtors and see if you qualify for lower interest rates.

3. 3 to 6 months of expenses in savings

4. College funding for children.

5. Pay off home early.

6. Build wealth and give!

Oh and if I were to recommend a book, one whose advice I tend more closely to that Dave Ramsey, it would be Smart Women Finish Rich by David Bach. He has other books, like one for couples, and not having read it, I'm still sure it has nearly the same information, but is more geared towards couples.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Christmas Present Ideas for the Crafty

Last year we had Landon paint mats and gave frames with pictures to each of his grandmothers and great grandmothers. I don't have a picture of these on this computer, but I chose 2 or 3 coordinating color paints and used his hand like a sponge to sponge paint the mats. (If you received one of these and we told you he painted them, then he totally painted them, I'm just kidding about using his hand like a sponge.)

It took a long time to think of the project for this year and I sat on it for a long time, thinking it might not be as big a hit as I wanted it to be. But it was, so here's my secret, feel free to use it and if you have something crafty for me to do this year, let me know, I'm totally out of ideas for now.

If you have even the minimal amount of skills on a sewing machine, you can totally make these:

That's a handprint wreath appliqued on an apron. This particular one has the handprints of all my mother's grandchildren. That's several prints per child, it's not like I'm hiding extra children or my sisters are bunnies or anything. Big hands in the back, little hands up front. It tried to do it with just 2 fabrics and there wasn't enough contrast, so you do need 3 fabrics minimum.

And had I not fallen in love with buttons that cost $4 for 2, I might have added some berry buttons. But once I fell in love with those and realized that 2 bunches of buttons that would eventually fall off would cost more than the total of each project I decided that no, I wouldn't do that. And then, I couldn't allow myself to even consider a lesser button and therefore opted for no buttons/berries.

I'm not sure who liked it more. My mom, who I gave it to and then promptly took it back because I hadn't gotten it embroidered yet. Or my mother-in-law who opened it and then I demanded that she not only embroider her own, but also her mother's and my mother's. I suppose Mema may have liked it best, since she not only got to keep it, she didn't have to do any work on it. And yes, I did price getting it embroidered by a non-reciever, it wasn't a bad deal, but do you think I finished them in a timely manner so that I could have that done? Of course not. And do you really think I could have had it done before I did the wreath? No, because then they'd all be getting these in 2012 and they'd still say 2008. Just ask all the fabric I bought in 2006 to make fabric bowls that's still in my sewing closet.

If you're lacking in the sewing department, I think you could totally paint this and it would still be cute. You may need to drug your child so that you have control of his hand, but it could work. Not that I advocate that or anything...maybe your child is more compliant than mine.

I'm still thinking about what we'll be doing for 2009, but part of me thinks it should involve something like this:

For the record, this is my favorite art work that Landon has brought home. It's the first one that I really feel like he had done on his own for the most part. And yes, it took me about 3 minutes to realize what it is.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Monthly Newsletter #27

Dear Landon,

This month marks your third and best Christmas so far. You had an extreme interest in Santa Claus. (Tanta Caw) Santa Claus items, Santa figurines, heck you even seemed to enjoy standing in line to see Santa, and the idea of sitting on his lap to tell him what you wanted for Christmas. Yup, you were totally down with the idea of it. Execution, not so much. Because we waited for so long in line, we couldn't just walk away. I'm in the picture this year. Next year, you're on your own or we don't do it at all. I'm just saying. Oh and presents. Now when you see wrapped boxes you know what they are and that there's some loot inside and that loot might just be for you.

On Christmas morning, when you woke up, my plan was to bring you down to our bed as normal, and let you have your wake up time. You finished your first bottle and I was trying to turn on the tree on the way back from making your second bottle so that when you came out it would be all pretty, when I heard you behind me. "Pwezents? Op-eh pwezents?" You are all about "Op-eh pwezents." In fact, it might have been a good thing that I didn't get all the presents wrapped prior to the day before each one got opened, or you would have been terribly upset. You know you can't just have presents lying around unopened.

You really raked in the loot, and as we did last year, we took about half your toys and put them up for later. This allows us to not be over-run by tiny plastic things and for you to have "new" toys every three to four months. Santa was good to you, in that he gave you some really neat stuff, but he misjudged your height a little, so the tricycle he gave you will be good to go in a few months I'm sure. You just need maybe another inch or two. Although, not being able to peddle hasn't stopped you from performing circus trick on it.

Your father and I took Christmas Eve through the end of the year off of work, and we cashed in on your school vacation weeks, so we spent almost a week at home together after the dust settled from Christmas. I'm really glad we took the week after rather than the week before because despite your nap strike and the ensuing fits, we've been able to spend quality time playing with some of your new toys. And, since you're all about helping, we got a few things done around the house. I actually got the Christmas decorations down prior to Valentine's Day. It's a record! We finally put the blinds back up on the new windows, so you can stop waking up on weekends at the butt crack of dawn. And even though it's been great, returning to our regularly scheduled naps and bedtime is going to be possibly even better.

Beyond Christmas, you have a continued curiosity in everything. You are learning new words every day, and are always asking "whaas sat?" Which is great, if you would LISTEN TO THE ANSWER! But instead you just repeatedly ask "whaas sat?" over and over and over again until someone distracts you with something else.

You continue to be very polite, adding "weh-come" (welcome) to your repertoire. You were already saying "teen-coo" (thank you) and for a while you were saying "teen-coo, weh-come." But it seems you may have already separated them and say them at appropriate times. But if someone hands you something and you say "teen-coo," and they do not say " you're welcome," you occasionally begin chanting "teen-coo, wehcome, teen-coo, wehcome, teen-coo, wehcome, teen-coo, wehcome."

Daddy's been working on teaching you a few other very important key phrases, like "rock & roll." We'll be driving along and you bust out the devil horns and start saying "wok a woh." It takes you some time to get the right fingers up, and you generally have to use your other hand to make them move into the right positions, but you work diligently at it until it's right and then begin chanting. We also occasionally can get you to say "I ahhsun." (I'm awesome.) But generally you're more about the rock and roll.

It's been a fun month, and you are awesome.