Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Our Month of Nothing Wrap-Up!

Wow, such an eye-opening month. So much so that we are making permanent several of the new things that we tried. And making more regular other experiments we tried as well. No we were not perfect; in fact, I was astounded by just how bad we were before. What? I know you think I’m all that and more, this hot, intensely farm-girl witty, dream chasing & catching chick that I am. But I’ve got some major issues to work on and I’m constantly finding new issues. That and I want to tackle my issues so my kids don’t have to grow up with the same ones that I fight.

So things we did well...

  • We cut our grocery bill almost 50% (not quite but almost) I think we saved over $575 on food and eating out over our regular month.

  • We cut our auto fuel bill by more than 50%. Many thanks to Prince Erik who only drove to work 5 days during September and they were all super good excuses like Dr. Appointments or off work-site meetings. The other days he cycled motorbike or rode the company bus.

  • I won’t know the difference in our monthly utilities until next month but I can only assume our water bill will be down.

  • Yes we decluttered a bit more, even took another load to the dump.

  • We made bread from scratch once or twice a week.

  • Cut our milk consumption from 9 gallons a week to 4.

  • And the kids took healthy homemade lunches to school every day.

Every one of those awesome changes I’m going to try my darndest to keep in place.

And through the whole month I had another FawnDear First. It’s not something I’m proud of. In fact I’m down right ashamed. It’s something I’ve known I’ve needed to do for more than a decade but haven’t quite figured out just how. I’ve given it the good old try several times over and nothing has worked. So what was that first??? For the first time that I can remember we spent less than we made. There I’ve said it. And it really stinks. Usually we spend and then rely on Tax Returns and work bonus’s to get us even or out of the money hole we constantly dig for ourselves and so far we’ve lucked out. But with a kid going to college in less than two years it won’t be as easy to walk that tightrope. I told you how budgets and I have a bad relationship. But I felt so good and felt some real power in the process of pondering true needs, I think this approach might be the one to take.

Things I still want to work on…

  • I’m still going to try and live by needs only. I quit our month of needs six hours early and took the kids out to a nice but inexpensive sit down restaurant and then asked them how badly they wanted to go to Disneyland? Then we talked about what it would take to get there. So sorry McDonalds but you didn’t fit into the equation. You won’t be seeing us anytime soon. The holidays will be much more frugal and thrifty as well. Christmas gifts will be more thought out and we’re skipping all the little knick-knacks that usually break one or two days after Christmas. The kids are on board and I’m determined to make this change permanent.

  • I still take too many little trips to the grocery store during the week. I think I averaged at least four times a week because I would run out of something. So I need to work on a more detailed menu and list.

  • I was so inspired by Owlhaven and all the canning she did this month and how her grocery bill budget was only $50 a week and she has 10 kids. Well she has inspired me to really give the large garden a good old honest try. I grew up with a huge garden so I know what I’m getting into. So we’ve started winter prepping our huge backyard so that come spring we can make our garden three times as big. I figure with the economy as wacked out as it is it really doesn’t hurt to acquire some new self-sufficient lifestyle habits.

I hope all you that played along had a great experience as well, and if things didn’t go as planned at least you’re more educated, and can have a better game plan on what worked and didn’t work for the next time you try.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Eleven Weeks till the Magic!

It seems I’m all about countdowns lately. Countdown to Christmas, to the perfectly organized home, to the most gorgeously fit body any mom of six could hope for, and for more dreams to come true.

Yesterday I ran my first full 5K since tweaking my hip last August and…


No Pain…

Not even a little tightness of muscle… I was feeling so good in fact I was able to do it in 32:25 (which puts me right back to where I was before the injury.)


Since I feel blessed…

’m signing up for my December Half-Marathon again…

And if I’m super good and can keep the needs only lifestyle up…

I should be able to take the whole family (It would be our family’s first as an ENTIRE group and probably last as an Entire group trip to Disneyland).

This year Disney’s theme is the Year of a Million Dreams and ours will be one of them.

Maybe Abner can cross swords with his Hero on Tom Sawyer Island…

And T-Rev and Evo-Man can pretend they are a few years younger so they can participate in the Jedi Academy.

And Lea, Princess and Hope can meet their Princesses.

And for me that would be worth the price paid to set in a car with the crazies for a few days.

So here is my training schedule if anyone wants to play along with my crazy dream. Yesterday was day one of week one. Today Hope and I are going to take a turn with the jogging stroller.

Sorry the charts a bit fuzzy. If anyone wants a copy I can email it to them.

Lovin' the Dreams!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Hassel-Free Holiday Week 2!

It’s begun, Da, da, da, dum, toodle-lou da do... The Final Countdown.

Last week I focused on collecting information for my mailing list. I’m about done making sure it’s current and should definitely have it done this week.

I also made a go at a simple quick Christmas picture, but who was I fooling. There is no way on earth I can take a simple quick picture of all my kids at the same time. The odds are greater that I’d win the lottery than get that perfect family picture. So today I just tried for the normal goof picture. How’s this? We Double-Dog Dare you to have a Merry Christmas!

Don’t worry - I probably will make another go next weekend at a more suitable holiday portrait – providing the weather stays reasonable. And maybe I’ll luck out and not dress my boys in the exact same shirts that they wore in our Christmas picture last year.

I don’t think they have wore those fetching clothes since last year either – maybe that’s why they looked halfway decent and devoid of stains. I still want to get a really nice family picture (might need to recruit a friend who either looks funny or can entertain my picky rag-a-muffins, so the picture won’t look like a torture session. But if I do a newsletter I think this here little snapshot might be o.k.

Here are some more pages for the Holiday Planner. Just click on the page and through the wonder of my husband's computer genius you'll be taken to a PDF file that you can print for your own planner. Thanks Honey! Or you can go to my other work in progress to see all the holiday pages at once.

The first one is a little Holiday Countdown To-Do List that would be perfect to start in January or even the day after Christmas this year in order to have the Ta-Da Holiday you’ve always dreamed of. I put this behind my Calendar in the Calendar section of my book.

This next little page is where you can keep track of your gift orders, be they internet or catalog.

I’ve also included a little Holiday Tradition worksheet for you to write down some of your family’s favorite traditions. Once I’ve written those precious memories down then go out and start collecting them. In my planner I have copies of the poem ‘A Night Before Christmas,’ I also have copies of some strange ritual my husband brought to us from his home and that is the famous reading of the poem ‘The Cremation of Sam Mcgee’. Yes, there are strange things done in the Midnight Sun but the queerest you ever did see… our kids get this morbid little ditty spouted off to them every Christmas Eve.’ No wonder they need therapy.

Here’s yet another page for your Holiday Planner but I’m not really doing anything with it before Christmas. It’s for after when I pack everything up. That way at any time I can find any Christmas bauble I want and I’ll know just which numbered box it’s stored in.

So this week for Christmas - Here’s is what’s on the To-Do List for, yours and mine, Ta-Da Christmas.

1. Gather poems and favorite holiday recipes to copy for my Holiday Planner. I’ve already got my poems but I’m looking to replace some of my Holiday Recipes with similar but healthier options. Some things are too sacred to fiddle with so the Danish Rice Pudding Recipe will not change. But I’m hoping to find a reasonable Thanksgiving Dressing or Christmas punch substitute.

2. Then I’m going to really tackle my bedroom closet (THE GIFT CLOSET) I know I bought some stuff last year on clearance after the holiday’s, but for the life of me I can’t remember what it was. So I’m going to do a little digging to find out.

3. Then I’m going to start compiling a Christmas Wish List on my Christmas Gift page (in pencil of course)

4. Oh, and finish finding those mailing addresses.

My NOTHING Lesson.

Don’t ya just love eye-popping experiences? This month I’ve had a few.

But to explain my biggest lesson for the month I’ve got to take you back to Two words that always elicit failure for me. ALWAYS! They are… ‘Diet’ and ‘Budget’. Don’t you think it’s appropriate that the word Diet contains the word ‘Die’ to a T.? And I don’t know what it is about sticking to a Budget that makes it near impossible for me to do also. So I can never rely on those words. If I ever Diet or Try to Stick to a Budget I will fail. I’ve proved it over and over again for the last umpteen years.

How then do I lose weight and get healthy and how in the blazes do I control spending???
For me it’s all about reframing my thoughts or trying to view the situation with a new perspective. So I'm taking the game to a different level. For me I always have to gain control over the mental level as well. So far it's working.

This last month has been the closest I’ve ever come to trying to stick to a budget, much to my husbands chagrin. I realized early in the month that if I focused on what I couldn’t get, well, it was much harder than focusing on what was truly a need.

It’s kind of the same principle I discovered when I realized that New Year’s Resolutions by themselves just don’t cut it and for the majority of people including me. They fail within the first two weeks of setting them.

So how can I make it really work? How can I achieve my health and finance goals without the failure that crops up when I view them as just goals.

For me Will-Power doesn’t cut it either. Never has - Never will. For me I can turn it all onto the simple Disney Phrase, ‘A Dream is a Wish your Heart Makes' (My cell phone ring tone, remember). Wishing isn’t enough, and Sometimes Dreams aren’t enough especially if they lack the secret Ingredient – HEART! What does heart have that will-power doesn’t? For me 'heart' means physical, mental and most importantly spiritual.

Well if the dream of being healthy doesn’t originate in my heart or the very core of my being, my spirit, well, it’s just not going to happen.

But I do believe that it’s there in my heart. I may have set-backs like a couple of brownies at a party, or buying one or two non-needs this month. But in my heart I really want these things. These are dreams that will come true. And I want them bad.

For me, myself and I sometimes my heart needs a little help and in that I turn to my Heavenly Father. I usually can't do it alone. I need to be accountable to him.

This month I’ve been able to view finances with new eyes as well. Although, I’ve still a long road to hoe, I’m a teensy, tiny bit better at seeing the blessing of simplicity. For me it’s trying to view everything I have as a gift from God: my health, family, home, knowledge, possessions, etc. If I can be a better steward of my blessings and gifts then I won’t be as wasteful of the things that I have, and I’m better apt to taking care of them. Plus I’m not as inclined to spend money for that which is of no worth. Like I said before I’ve got a long ways to go but I know I’m headed in the right direction. The key is staying in tune with my heart and viewing my dreams through it.

I wasn’t perfect this last month but I think I did pretty darn good considering the many months before. I’ll try and break it down for you in the next few days. I’m excited to make focusing on needs and my stewardships a bigger priority in my life. We are going to try and see how long we can keep a lot of the things we’ve learned going.

Just glad that THIS old dog can still learn a few new tricks every now and then.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Happy Food Nazi?

So it’s probably been about a month since I started the whole Accountability to the Max stuff with my friend Smiley. I’ve been food tracking, exercising myself into the ground and avoiding temptation to the nth degree. This last week I hit a minor rut. Minor because I know I’ll get over it but still a bit discouraging since I’ve been practically perfect. But yet, somehow, not.

With the whole month of nothing it seemed like I’ve been an extra food stickler on the whole family’s sugar intake. Never getting treats or even making them. Evo-man attended a party with ice cream sundaes and ate himself sick. I know if I withhold too much my kids are bound to do exactly that when they leave the nest. Hoard and consume the bad food because they never got treated to it at home. I did that when I went off on my own.

Then I noticed that since they’ve been off processed foods and sugar for a while when they do have it certain children of mine go off the deep –end, climb walls and essentially act like Hammy the Squirrel from ‘Over The Hedge’. My favorite scene (although not in this clip) from the movie is Hammy on Caffeine. That could so be Evo-man and Princess.

Don't you think the little critters hit the whole food, food, FOOD consumption thing right on the head. 'I Want my Cookie!'

This puts me in a pickle. Give them a little sugar – go a little (I mean a lot) nuts. Be a Food Nazi and they grow-up hoarding the sugar, bingeing and needing therapy. So I’m really trying to find the happy medium.

Yesterday I tried a Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip recipe that I found online and made some cookies with my kids. They were o.k. I think I’m going to keep looking for that perfectly healthy cookie recipe, if it even exsists. The taste of our homemade cookies was good but the grit took a little getting used to. So my princesses helped me in our baking experiment and I discovered yet another reason why I don’t have junk food in the house. If it’s there I’ll consume it.

Three cookies later I headed off to my Accountability Club and weighed in for the week. (Darn that Chocolate) I’m only down ½ lb since last week and I know it’s all those tempting little cookies fault. I have absolutely no will-power if they are in the house. after a long day of them sitting around, I finally pulled them out and made the kids finish them so I no longer have any around to tempt me. I do much better without temptation. UGH!

Once the month of nothing is over I’ve got to make it a point to take my family out for ice cream or a simple dessert and not bring the my hideous addiction back into the house for it to lay assault to my mental stability.

And right now I really want that $100 bucks from Smiley. So this week I’m just going to have to dig in and figure out the whole healthy lifestyle without sending my family members into therapy because of my self imposed, anti-sugar priggish self.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Hug an Angel

Last year on Thanksgiving weekend our kids participated in the Seattle Children’s Marathon benefitting Children’s Hospital. We ran in a group called ‘Team Mara’. I knew Mara’s grandparents because they were members of my church and the most amazing people you could ever hope to meet. To be honest I’ve never met little Mara but she has made an impact on my life and touched our whole family.

Today heaven became a brighter, happier place because Mara went back home to her Heavenly Father.

You’ll probably remember me mentioning little Sadie on my blog. Sadie and Mara both have the same kind of terminal brain cancer. Mara held on for a little over a year and Sadie putting up a good fight. It’s so hard to see these little princesses and their families going through a parent’s worst nightmare. But both families are so strong in their faith and hope you can’t help but have your own faith strengthened.

This year the kids and I will be at the Seattle Children’s Marathon again running in memory of Mara, and we are still working on our 1000 acts of Service for Sadie. The world is a much better place because these two angels graced our lives with their stories.

So hug your kids, tell them you love them, and send off another prayer for the Adams and Huish’s families.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Best Holiday Planner - By You, For You!

O.K. Here is my Holiday Brain. Why's it the best? Because I tailored it to fit my family and style. It might not be the best for you but hopefully you can get a few ideas on how to make your own Hassel-Free Holiday Planner.

Without this little number I’d have to call Santa and tell him to skip us. Last year was stressful because I didn’t use it. The year before when I did devour its pages, I did much better at surviving the holiday chaos. And this year, well this year will be our best Christmas ever since I’m starting earlier than ever. Of course it’s not stressful working on Christmas stuff right now, it’s stressful when I leave it all until the last minute.

Can I just add that I’m excited as all get-up right now just envisioning my little (because I’ll be at goal by then) self relaxing over the holidays – For Once. Kicking up the fuzzy slippers, sipping Low-sugar, Raspberry flavored Hot Chocolate as I curl up on the sofa with my kids watching the good Old Holiday movies. Sipping just a little because I’ll be trying to maintain my weight loss, not gain it back.

So here is my Holiday Planner. I’ve gotten great ideas from several different websites which I’ll link you too, and some of the pages are my own. I started my planner years ago after getting the idea from a Family Fun Article. Over the years I’ve added my own twist, gotten new ideas and found new resources. This simple planner had even been given out to family and friends for an Early Christmas Gift and extra easy copies can be pulled together quickly for school fundraisers, church craft days etc. Hope you have as much fun with it as I have.

Beware you can get super carried away especially if you’re a scrap booker fanatic. Before you know it this planner can start to get all elaborate. Maybe if you’re doing it for your self and you have the extra time then go ahead and make this a little marvel worth all the drooling admiration of your friends. But for me, well, the simpler the better. Especially if you’re giving them as gifts, then your friends can embellish the pages and sections to fit their own tastes.

Basic Supplies Needed

1. One - 1 in. wide three ring binder. Wider if you love paper.

2. Six dividers that can either be tabbed pockets or 8 ½ X 11 photo page protector sleeves. (Of course you may choose to have more or less than 6 sections depending on what you wanted to get from your planner. I like sticking with a simple six. –

~Mailing Lists
~Gift Lists
~Memories & Traditions
~Crafts & Decorations
~Holiday Recipes, Menu’s & Party Planners

3. Heavy weight paper. Some of the pages in your binder you will use year after year so the thicker the better.

4. Three Rings holed pencil pouches, pockets that can be sealed or zippered shut to hold memorabilia or recipes, or shopping lists.

5. Decorating Supplies – festive pens and stickers, stamps and what-not’s.

6. Decorative Holiday Scrapbook Pages (that you can get from most craft stores) that you can use for your binder Cover-art or even your divider pages.

So here are some pages to get you started.

My Calendar pages that you can decorate to fit any month.

My Mailing List.

and The Holiday Gift List.

Just click on the page and if I got my computer set up right (cross your fingers) you'll be able to link to the page to print it out. Once I get my Holiday pages set up you can find them all here.

I’ll be posting more of my pages over the next couple of weeks as I start to get my Holiday Gears a-Going! If you can’t wait and really want to just make your own then you can find a whole load of pages at Organized Christmas as well. I printed out their pages but don’t use even a quarter of them – but they may work for you. There really are some great ideas and food for thought never hurts.

What are some of the pages you think you couldn't live without?

Yes & No!

I had some more eye opener's this week with the whole nothing thing. I was coming into today fairly confident that I had come in under the grocery spent total of $150. But no! When I added up the little shopping trips, here and there, to the grocery store it was $205. So this next week I’m going cash only for groceries to see it that helps me keep better tabs on it. I can honestly say that all food purchased was an absolute need or something to stock up on the food storage. I know $60 was spent on really good sales to cushion some of our food storage.

I was also able to get Evo-man two pair of pants for school at the local thrift store for less than $6 and they don’t even look used. Hopefully he won’t notice when I slip them into his closet.
My biggest light bulb (DING, DING, DING, DOOONNNG!!!) moment for the week was when Prince Erik installed some more security stuff on the computer so that we could better track how much time the whole family was spending plugged in and what they were doing. Well zap me with a lightning bolt! The worst computer time sucker was me. I didn’t see that one coming.
For example my pirate day - last Thursday. I thought I was up and doing stuff. Like canning that Pear Butter that took 3 ½ hours, changing laundry, driving to Value Village, picking up kids from school, etc. Sure every now and then I’d run check email, or look up pirate lingo. But at the end of the day when you added all my hours on computer, the time added up to was over six hours. That was a reality check. Kind of like running into a light pole you didn’t see standing there. Running not walking. Enough to ram some sense back into your head banging. Before - I couldn’t understand why I felt I was working so hard and getting so little done. I had this secret time zapper sucking me dry and I didn’t see it. UGH!

I guess I'm offically addicted to spending time on the computer. Why can't I be addicted to something productive like cleaning or exercising? Or not addicted to anything at all. Why do my passions get the better of me?

So this weekend I was reading about Trenadolls trip to her last organization class and I was disappointed it didn’t tell me to throw out half my knick-knacks, clean the light fixtures, or organize the spices. Instead it said.

4. "Anytime you say 'yes' to something, you automatically say 'no' to something else." Translation = Don't fool yourself; there's always a trade-off. Bonus related quote: Say 'No' to say 'Yes'!

So I took that advice and made myself a challenge. Sooooooo, judging by the unequal time I’ve been giving the passion of my dreams and the computer I’m switching it around now. I’m saying NO to the computer between the hours of 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. and saying YES to my dreams of decluttering, losing weight and having a stress free Christmas. And I’ve got proof that it works.

Thursday’s kitchen time…

Saturday’s kitchen time…

Hooray - The Canning is Done!!! Now I can get rid of those pesky fruit flies.

And bonus… more clutter for the Thrift Store.

I noticed that Busy Mama did the same thing a week ago and has had marvelous results.

I’ll still get to see my blogging friends but not during the day when I should be spending time with my family.

I’m hoping for an amazing week.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Bloomin' Pirate For a Day - Beware!

In honor of...

My entire post will be in Pirate Prose.... Ahhhhhrrrggg! (Due to the difficulty of reading pirate, I'll offer my un-proper English translation)

Preservin' fruit be a pain. The blaggard short in the ole Stove-top belayed me best efforts at saving some grub (pears). Three n' somethin' hour for 5 pints of pear butter. - Tis enuf to make yer blood boil. There's but nine more scurvy batches of booty to preserve before we's can swab the gangplanks of the fruity Grog. (I tried canning and the short in the stove-top extended one batch of pear butter by over three hours. I've probably got nine more batches to go before I can clean my sticky floors.)

Then the ole Dryer keelhauled an' took aboard some addled crew of screeching banshies (started making horrendous metal scrapping noises) to pierce the eardrums of any good Buccaneer. So the crew's britches have been flying in the breeze of the cabin. Why not on deck? Tis foul weather topsides. Neptune summoned a billy of a storm thus rendering useless the lines.
Capn' Erik ain't holdin' well to the blimey mess. It's shipshape or walk the plank. Avast, we be praying for some fair winds. (The dryer started making really bad noises, so I hung clothes to dry all over the house because the wet weather is back. Prince Erik isn't happy with the new decor - he even tried taking the dryer apart himself.)

Bucko Evo-man scrapped his last pair of trousers. So me matey Hope and I be goin' on a voyage to pillage Value Village's port plunder of some more respectacle Bosun britches. (Everett is down to one pair of school uniform pants that fit him and since it's our month of nothing but needs I headed off to Value Village to see if I could find some more. Update - found 2 for less than $6.)

Tis in a hurry we be, before the hands turn up. Gangway! Beware the Wild-eyed Wench (me) baring the wee curly haired lass should you come upon her on the seas. (The house is a mess and I'm in a bad mood)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

You'd Better Watch Out!

You'd better not Cry.
Cause we've only got
99 more days until Christmas.
And since this post is going out late it's more like 98! Ahhhhhhhhh!
Amazing mom to all boys over at Beacon of Hope gave me a stressor yesterday when I saw her post. I was immediately reminded of my dream not to have a wacked out December again after last year’s chaos.
Now I’ve only got 99 days to pull my Christmas/Holiday act together. That and I’ve got to remind my kids to pull their act together so that Santa doesn’t do this.

So I’m adding a new dream to my dream list. Be ready for Christmas by NOV 1st. And since this is a needs only month I’m focusing on non-$ things I can do now to ensure…

And Goodwill to all my family members.

This year I want to be ready early so that I can really celebrate Christmas with the kids. I'd kind of like to actually sit down with my munchkins and watch…

And A Christmas Story (what would Christmas be without a good Double-Dog Dare?)…

And most importantly so that I can teach them

what Christmas is really about...

And what it’s not about.

So what can I do now that doesn’t cost $?
This week I’m going to collect all the mailing addresses to family and friends that I can find and call those who I’ve lost touch with to get that info. So if you’re a long lost friend or family email me your address cause chances are I’ve lost it already.
We are also going to try and take a decent Family Christmas picture. Don’t laugh – It can happen. I know usually the experience turns out more like the one in the movie…

But if I start now and we have an off day – I’ve got 98 more days to get it right.

And lastly this week I’m pulling out my old Holiday planner. Maybe I’ll even link up some of my pages so that you can get your own planners going. YEP! That's right this year I'm saving Christmas in our house.

So who’s with me and wants to celebrate the Christmas Season non-stress style?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Nothing but Still TRI-ing Week 2

Our second week of nothing but needs was nothing short of another eye-popping, awakening experience. I almost felt a giddy-high every time I walked into a store – grabbed the tiny shopping basket and walked out with Needs only. ‘Ha,’ I would think to myself, ‘you didn’t get an extra red cent out of me today – you big advertising junkie.’

There are so many things right about this week – T-rev helped me hang some clothes-line rope from our deck to a cedar tree in the back yard and so I’ve been trying to use the dryer less often. The tiny ropes, the chairs in the dining room and front room, have been draped with drying clothes all week. I try to use the chairs and couches only as drying racks over night or in the early morning when I don’t think company will be coming. I think it might drive P.E. nuts if it was a constant though. So I’m trying to figure out what else I can do to hang-dry clothes.

Prince Erik has been having fun making bread nearly every night in our bread-maker, looking up new recipes on the internet, some work other’s don’t. Give him a new cooking assignment and he’s a kid in the candy-store. How did I luck out with a cooking man? He’s also made some amazingly yummy homemade granola, whole wheat pancakes & waffles. Oh, it’s so good. The only downside is that grains and carbs are my total weakness. So this week I probably just maintained my earlier weight-loss. I’ve been super good at avoiding 99% of the baked goodness but the temptation is driving me bonkers. Fresh, still warm, homemade wheat bread with a giant slab of butter – my stomach is growling just thinking about that slice of heaven I keep denying myself.

We also wanted to get one more Sprint Triathlon in before the cold liquid sunshine comes back for the winter. Last year we did one and we were going to repeat for this year. Only problem was the entry fees were $70 a person and we really wanted our teenage boys to get their first Try and a Tri. But I wasn’t about to spend $280 for four of us to do it. So I did the next best thing.
This is where you get a glimpse into my manic exercise self. I organized a sprint Triathlon for members of my Sisters of Strength group, family and friends. I made and hung directional signs, begged Mrs. Candyman to host the event at her little private community park.

And Ya know we pulled it off with about two weeks notice. I didn’t participate in the race because I ran it, kept times, cheered and tried to make sure none of the little munchkins fell in the lake while parents were participating. We had B – bring her kayak and offer swim support, and L.C. an amazing local, professional sports photographer surprised us by showing up to capture our event. You can see some of his amazing pic’s here.

The best part was – for the cost of maybe one of us entering a real Triathlon – Abner, T-rev and Prince Erik got to do the race. And it was Abner’s and T-rev’s 1st One. They were awesome. However our distances weren’t quite at the Sprint Tri Level. I’m guesstimating the swim was 450-500 meters (more than a sprint). And they're Off!

The water was warmer than it looks, it was the air that was a bit nippy.

Here's Abner completing the Bike portion of about 11.6 miles. Poor kid did it on a big old heavy mountain bike and the course did include some good hill climbs.

T-rev powers through the end of the 2.1 mile run. (both bike and run were short but still a realistic tri).

And our winners of the 'Over-The-Hill' Tri were Mrs. Candyman (homefield advantage) and Mr. BigBE.

But we had the most perfect and beautiful September morning I can remember in a long time.

So I added up the money this morning and sadly it was around 309.60 which I was flabbergasted at seeing. But we did have to buy some more basic’s like yeast, sugar and gluten because of all the cooking we’ve been doing, stuff for our Private Tri, I purchased four more boxes of fruit to can, and the odd and ends like light bulbs, wipes etc. I was really hoping for a smaller number, but I realize that it isn’t as bad as it sounds. This coming week I really want to keep it under $100 though.

Prince Erik did have to take the car to work twice this last week because of off campus meetings but I would give him errands to run for me so I wouldn’t have to go anywhere. But can I say he’s done marvelous at taking the company bus.

Well that’s my ubber-long week summary – I’m still feeling great about the whole month of needs and really want to try and improve what isn’t working as well as continue what is.

Bonus from blogging. My kind neighbor gave me a pair of hair clippers that she was going to sell in her garage sale so now I can go attack some more head of bushy hair.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

My Oily First

I did it. Another Fawndear first.

And once I made it through the foreign land know as the GUY’s Auto Store it was all, should I say this, – EASY!. Well I saved approximately $7 by changing the oil filter on the Excursion myself. To be honest I broke even. Because I used that $7 to buy a funnel and a filter wrench. But when it comes down to it – I saved a bunch more because I acquired a new skill and still have half a large case of oil that hasn’t been used. So my next oil change should cost approximately $4.95 or just the cost of a new filter.

Of course when I went to the auto supply store the guys there were rolling their eyeballs as I utterly demonstrated my amazing knowledge of the vehicle that I drive.

‘I’m looking for an oil filter for my Gas Sucker out there in the parking lot,’ (It was in full view by the way.)
‘What’s your vehicles make, year and engine size?’

‘Well, heck it’s the biggest thing I think Ford makes, and we bought it eight years ago – new. The engine’s real big.’
‘Is it a V6 or a V8?’
‘I dunno? Ahhhhh, where would I find that out?’

‘You have to go look at the engine and it says on it what size it is.’
‘So I just have to go look at the engine and it will say?’
So I went out popped the hood on the tank and looked at the engine. No where on it did it say what size it was. Fortunately for me there was a kind soul from my church in the store at the same time.
‘Oh that’s a V8 engine.’

‘How can you tell?’
‘It just is,’
How in the heck can you tell the size of an engine just by looking at it?
So I go back into the store and mumbled my way through the engine size. Instead of pointing me to the aisle I needed, I think the employee was so embarrassed by my lack of auto language he just went and picked out the filter for me.
I think they purposely make you feel so stupid about not knowing auto terms that you’ll be too intimidated to try and actually work on the vehicle. That’s their secret weapon. They don’t want you to know how blasted easy it is to actually change the oil filter on your car.
So once I got down to it. I had to shimmy a little but found that I could actually fit under the big beast. It might be harder to change the oil on my husbands little commute car. Might have to lose a few more lbs. to fit under it.

At first I thought this looked like the oil pan. Kind of looks like what I'd expect it to look like. But it's too clean.

Then I remembered what Susanne said about her husband draining the transmission on accident. I guess that’s the expensive, typical rookie mistake. You think they could help you out and have the word Oil next to the nut you’re supposed to unscrew. I mean they tell you up top where the oil goes in. Wouldn't it make sense to tell you where it comes out?

So after some looking I guessed that this messy drippy area was the oil pan.
And when I unscrewed the nut – well, let’s just say, good thing I had a dishpan under the nut .
So I followed the instructions that I ‘Googled’ and Easy-Peasy! I was done with the whole gooey experience in less than ½ hour.

And other than my hands – I remained spot free. Next time I'll wear my cleaning gloves. Eat your heart out Jiffy Lube!

I can’t tell you how easy it was for me. You bet I’ll be changing it myself and saving that extra $15. And I won’t be pressuring myself to buy an extra this or that like the good boys down at the garage. Maybe once a year I’ll give them the simple honor of doing it for me – just so I won’t have to crawl through ice or snow and they can vacuum up my kids crumbs too. And I’ll put my Mommy Lube sticker in the front window too. With the Return Date of ‘ ‘Whenever I darn well feel like it!’ and the recommended mileage.

Prince Erik had a look of horror on his face when I told him that I’d done it. He had known I was going to do it but I think he was surprised that I attempted it while he wasn’t around to hold my hand. What with him being the expert of changing it once or twice in his life, and all. He’s probably afraid that I did something wrong and the road is going to be getting a new oil slick soon.

But, By-Golly I did it and I did it correctly! And I’m pleased as punch with how easily I figured it out. Hummm, what do I attempt next???

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Life Lessons from a Fourth Grader

Seen the news today, or yesterday, or last year, or seven years ago? Bad things happen. And they happen to good people too. Seven years ago today, my world was rocked, and not in a good way. We were reading morning scriptures with our kids when my mom-in-law called and told us to turn the news on. I have to admit I was hard pressed to pull myself away from the television and life came to a standstill as I watched with horror the aftermath of the World Trade Center Disasters. September the 11th is to this generation, what I think December the 7th was to our grandparent’s lives. And it affected everyone whether we knew someone personally involved or not.

I would get my kids off to school and then worry about terrorists blowing them up there. The streets and skies were eerily quiet and there was only one thing on people’s minds. ‘What kind of a world do we live in and what does the future hold for our kids?’

My (then) fourth grade son Abner helped me refocus on all that is right with the world. Within a day he helped draft a letter asking his Principle if he could ask the students at the school to help raise money to help the firefighters and rescue people associated with the tragedy.

The Principle agreed and he put canning jars in every classroom with this picture on them asking students to bring cold lunches and donate the money or change they would have spent on hot lunches so we could help people affected by the attack. Loose change started flooding in and within a week those little elementary school kids had donated close to $2,000. We then took the money to a bank which was matching the funds and donated it all to the Red Cross.

So what did this fourth grader teach me? One person can make a difference and make the world a better place. That person can be me, you, or even a little fourth grade boy.

Too often when I see the news and see enormous disasters in some foreign lands, I find myself trying not to care. It’s easy to overlook how many people’s lives have been snuffed out or families have been broken. I think I’m desensitized to it all a little bit. So how can I help people so far away that I don’t really even know?

First, I try to care. Whenever I remember or especially if something happened recently I try to give a few bucks to the Humanitarian Fund my church has set up. I know there are so many good organizations out there that contribute as well. If everyone just gave a little it would add up big time. Those little grade-schoolers taught me this. I’m not going to sell my home and live out of our tank and donate it all but I will donate something.

I participate in races that raise money for good causes. I donate time to help out. In the case of a sweet Sadie an angel going through brain cancer our family is donating 1,000 deeds of service. I know it's not much but the world will be a better place because of her.

Sometimes I just have to try. I probably don’t make that much of a difference like yesterday I didn’t make any difference. But I did try to donate blood for the first time in 4 years. They want my blood since its O-neg. And they keep calling and I keep meaning to go. Yesterday I went only to find out my iron was too low and I couldn’t help after all. So I’m upping the iron supplements so that I can probably try and again in a month or so. And I will try, because that’s the key. Not giving up.

And when I don’t have the funds, or blood or physical time to help someone out I do what I think helps the most. I pray. Because I believe there’s only one person who can really heal the wounds the world has inflicted on itself, or give peace to those who need comforting or are going through tough times. I’ve seen many miracles in my life because of the prayers of so many others.

I hope this post doesn’t sound like I’m some charitable all-knowing angel and I’m patting myself on the back because I’m thinking I’m all that and more. Heavens No – I know I’ve got a long way to go and a lot to learn and by-hoot I want to make a difference and really help other people but I’m only going to do it a little bit at a time. Because my son taught me that a little goes a long way.