Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Mixed Emotions

Our neighbor is off her meds again.  She is paranoid schizophrenic, and for some reason, she has it in her head that we are evil.  She thinks we are in the mafia, that we're storing dead bodies in our (non-existent) basement, etc.  Her current complaint, which kept us up at 1am this morning is that we planted 4 little trees in our front yard right along the property line.  Now, when she complains, she doesn't write nasty letters or knock on our door and complain, at least not yet) - she goes out in her driveway and yells towards our house - really really loudly - usually in the wee hours of the morning.  We call the cops, and last night - they showed up a split second after she shut her door and holed herself up inside.  I have such mixed emotions because on the one hand, I'm angry that she's causing stress in our lives, I'm angry at "the system" that makes it really really difficult to get her the help she needs.  On the other hand, I recognize that it is a mental illness and that she truly has no idea what she's doing.  When she is medicated, she is a pleasant neighbor - I know that there is a good person inside there, and I want to help her.  These emotions pull me in different directions all day long. I want to plant more trees just to piss her off, but I know that that is not the right thing to do.  So today I just watered and fertilized my trees, and planted some lavender plants - it felt just defiant enough to feel like I'm doing something but maintaining my integrity in the process (I hope).  It's very difficult to keep the anger at bay.  In the meantime I have a fence guy coming out tomorrow to quote us on a fence around the front yard - at least then she can't get on to our property.  Ugh. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Trust Those Mama-Instincts

So the last several months have been a bit of a struggle for Anna and me.  She is a super smart, strong-willed, confident, sassy little thing.  We were having knock-down-drag-out fights over the most minor things.  She gets an idea in her head and there is no way to deter her from that idea.  Ultimately it would end with me being very frustrated and literally dragging her (kicking and screaming) to her room for time out where she would yell, scream, and throw things until it was time to come out.  She has a very hard time hearing no, and behaves as if the rules that have always been the rules are some sort of surprise every time she gets punished for breaking them.  As a mom just really doing her best, I was getting WORN OUT.  I decided I needed to go see a therapist just so I could get my feelings off my chest.  I know I can always be better, but I need someone to help me get there.  So I went to a guy at Kaiser and while I'm sure he is an excellent therapist, he was not for me.  However, the one thing he did recommend was that I take Anna to visit one of the child therapists.  So we've been seeing a therapist together for a while now and I really feel like we're getting somewhere.  Anna won't talk to him yet, but he has a lot of helpful suggestions for me - and I really feel like I am understanding her better, and life has gotten a little "easier". 

In the midst of all this, she had to go see the dentist for a large cavity in her mouth.  Miss Thing would not even sit in the dentist chair.  The had me sit in the chair with her on my lap so they could look in her mouth.  They discovered one tooth that was going to require either a polpotomy (a baby root canal) or extraction.  And several other teeth with various degrees of cavities.  His recommendation was that we go to a pediatric dentist to have the fillings done so that they could sedate her since she wouldn't even sit in the chair on her own.  So we went to the pediatric dentist, where, once again, she refused to sit in the chair.  Their recommendation: Full anesthesia.  Knock her out, let her sleep....all for the low price of ~$850 out of pocket!  Well, I was considering it until today... Again, one great thing came of that appointment: the dentist recommend we cut out any kind of gummy snacks.  This would mean fruit snacks, fruit roll-ups, gummy vitamins, etc.  We had a lot of stuff like that in the house.  But I decided we needed to do what she asked - otherwise Anna may be in for more of these appointments than we'd like.  So, bye bye gummy snacks.  I figured while we were doing it, let's cut out as much of the other sugary stuff as we can.  High-fructose corn syrup became my focus.  I've eliminated just about everything in my house that contained high-fructose corn syrup and guess what...Anna's behavior has improved dramatically.  She still has tantrums, and still struggles in some areas, but she is so much easier to reason with. We rarely have kicking and screaming fits and she's listening so much better!  I really feel that the high-fructose corn syrup was messing with her head!

I had been reading about strong-willed children and read that celiac disease can also cause behavioral issues in children if left untreated.  I spoke with her doctor about it and he said it would be worth checking out - only it would require a blood test. Oh dear, really, you think I'm going to get her to sit still for a BLOOD DRAW?  Oy.  Well, my sweet friend Erin offered to take Anna for me because it was just really stressing me out.  So Erin took her and told her that the people in white coats were scientists and they needed to take a little bit of her blood so they could study it.  Anna marched right in there, put her little arm out on the table, watched the "pokie" go in her arm and take her blood and never flinched!  So, now I know that she's capable of doing difficult things without all the dramatics.  We all know our kids act out more for us than others, and Anna has never been any trouble for her teachers at school or church - so it makes sense, but now I know what she's capable of!  (Blood test was negative for celiac, btw)

The dentist called last week to schedule Round 1 of her treatment for her cavities.  We discussed the possibility of using nitrous oxide (laughing gas) for the treatment but I told them that after her superstar behavior getting her blood drawn I didn't think it was going to be necessary.  I told them I'd be more than happy to have that as an option should she need it.  So I told her I was not going to be able to be in the room with her for her appointment, because clearly I invoke the drama within her.  So I took her back to the room and had to pry her little hands from my neck, but I plunked her in the chair and headed to the waiting room.  About 5 minutes later, the assistant came out and said that they were able to calm her down enough to sit in the chair, and that they needed my consent to use the nitrous.  I said, "Have you tried to do any work on her?"  Answer: "Well, no, we wanted to do the nitrous first so she would be calm enough for us to work on her".  I told her that I would prefer that they try to do some work prior to using the nitrous.  She takes the message back and promptly returns to the waiting room and asks me to come back and talk to the doctor.  So I meet her right outside Anna's room, and I can see Anna in the chair (but she can't see me) chatting quietly with the other assistant.  She is sitting perfectly still, not crying, just interacting with the assistant.  Doc says she "highly recommends using the nitrous up front to create a calm, peaceful environment so the child is not traumatized.  We need to do 4 fillings that are very minor, they are the smallest cavities and we want her as calm as possible, because if she can't do these 4 fillings with nitrous then we'll know that she won't be able to do the more difficult ones and we'll require full anesthesia."  Ummm, aren't you looking at this the wrong way? I thought that we had agreed that we would try it with nothing, THEN do nitrous if she has any trouble.  Why not give the kid a chance?  Why go straight to DRUGGING HER when you don't even know how she'll react.  She is sitting still, so go for it.  She tried to convince me to do the nitrous for a good 5-10 minutes when I finally insisted that she move forward without it.  I told her that if she totally freaks out, then we can reschedule for another day and use the nitrous, but I feel in my heart of hearts that she can do this - she needs to prove it not only to me, but to herself.  She reluctantly agreed to try it without.  So she asked me to remain standing by the door to see how she would do.  They laid her chair back, put a bib on her, put little safety glasses on her, and went forward with their work.  They were so good with her, explaining what every tool was, showering her with compliments and stickers, turned on a movie on the ceiling, etc.  After about 5-10 minutes, they turned to me and said "You can go wait in the waiting room, she's doing great." D*&% right she's doing great!  I TOLD YOU SO!!!  (That's what I said in my head).  I quietly returned triumphantly to the waiting room.  After about 10 minutes the assistant came out and said, "She's doing so well, we'd like your permission to do two more teeth"  UMM, YES!  Do as many as you'd like!  So, needless to say, I'm ridiculously proud of my little girl today.  She got 4 fillings without any nitrous and without any numbing agent of any kind.  We scheduled another appointment for the other teeth that are a little worse, and they'll need to give her a shot of a numbing agent, but I think I've convinced them that she's a tough little cookie and won't be requiring nitrous next time around.  I just thought it was so odd that the pediatric dentist just resorts to nitrous as an automatic necessity.  They were really really good with her - why not go with that?  Why drug them unnecessarily?  Very frustrating.  But I am sooo glad I stuck to my guns and didn't let them do it.  Score one for Kristie!  Score 10 for sweet Anna!  I'm so proud of her!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Savings Account??

We have a savings account.  Well, we've always had a savings account - we've just never been able to keep anything in it!  I had to post a picture - a screenshot of our Chase account, which we opened specifically for the purpose of getting out of debt.  Recap:  Last February I opened a Chase Credit Card with 0% interest for 15 months.  I transferred our CC balance to that card with the goal of paying it all off within that 15 months.  Starting balance: $13,160.00.  We set up the Chase checking account to receive a direct deposit totaling $700/month that would go straight to the CC.  We officially made our last payment on March 1st. 12 months!!  We are going to continue to have the money deposited into the checking account, then promptly transferred to the savings account.  So the screenshot below shows a balance in the SAVINGS account - and a $-.07 balance on the credit card.  Notice also, the statement showing that the credit card account has been CLOSED and is UNAVAILABLE for use.  :-)  This makes me happy.  I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone who purchased pies from me, or brought me sewing projects, or payed me to babysit your kids, or just plain cheered me on along the way.  Every little extra bit helped, and we witnessed SO many miracles through this process.  I am soo excited to be here - it sorta felt like we'd never see the day!  WOOHOO!!!



Monday, December 31, 2012

Goodbye 2012, and Goodbye DEBT!!!

So the last time I posted about our debt..WAY back in July...we were at $7,863.  Today, December 31, 2012, our balance is $694.  I had really really really hoped to have it completely paid off before January 1, 2013, but all things considered, it's really amazing that we've come this far.  For example, in November, we had a busted pipe under the house.  It was leaking nasty water and who-knows-what-else under our foundation.  It looked like a swamp under there.  It was a $3,000 job to remove the gunk and replace the pipe.  THANKFULLY, our homeowners insurance covered the majority of it and we ended up paying about $200 out of pocket.  It was another miracle.  The plumber said that he RARELY sees an insurance company pick up the tab for this type of issue. 

We have had so many experiences like this that have just really been incredible.  2012 was good to us, and I have a feeling 2013 is going to be even better!!  HAPPY NEW YEAR!!  (Look for me on January 15th when Eric gets paid again - I'll be doing the Debt-Free-Happy-Dance!!)

I just want to thank everyone who bought pies, cinnamon rolls, crochet goodies, sewing services, etc, etc.  We really couldn't have done this without you!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


Our "Debt-Free by 2013 Plan" is in full swing!  We have been so blessed.  Here are the numbers:

April 2, 2012: Balance $10,026.00
July 10, 2012: Balance $7,863

Truly incredible.  So, many miracles are taking place.  We are going to have to cut back on our payment this month because we will be taking a roadtrip to Arkansas.  Not what we had in mind for this year, but my Grandpa, who just turned 90, is getting baptized.  Miracle.  Grandpa has always been incredibly supportive of my Grandma, and the church, but has never had much interest in being a member himself.  He met some sweet sister missionaries who were able to wiggle their way into his heart and teach him the gospel.  I told Eric I wasn't missing this for the world, and I felt very strongly that we all needed to be there.  So we're gonna make it happen. 

In the meantime, I decided that I wanted to make some blackberry pies to sell to benefit our Debt-Free Plan.  I figured I'd have enough berries to make about 10 pies.  I figured at $10 each I'd make $100 to put on the credit card.  At first the sales were slow-going (advertised on Facebook), and then I had to turn people away. :-(  I just took the 10th pie out of the oven and still have ripe berries to make 2 or 3 more pies...and the blackberry bush is still exploding...Miracle.  The blackberry bush has new blossoms...Miracle.  Blackberry bushes only blossom once.  Seriously.  Call me crazy, but I think that since Heavenly Father is so supportive of our Debt-Free Plan, He has made the blackberries over-produce so that I can sell more pies.  It is truly miraculous. 

Our latest bounty

I am so grateful that we can witness miracles, even today.  Pie, anyone?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Easter in Vegas

Last week, Eric found out that he was going to need to travel to Las Vegas for work. He was going to fly out Sunday evening and return Monday evening.  But the non-stop flights from Vegas to Fresno on Monday weren't lining up the way he would need, so his boss suggested that he drive...and take his family along!  We had such a fun weekend.  We left Saturday morning, got to Vegas around 3:00, and the girls immediately wanted to go swimming.  The weather was warmer than it has been in Fresno - probably in the upper 70's.  We took a quick dip in the pool then headed out to Circus Circus for dinner.  We ate at the buffet, where I gorged myself, then headed up to the kids gaming area.  They have a little setup in the middle of the room for circus-type performances.  We could see the ropes and nets for a trapeze and thought that would be really cool to see.  Well, they do different performances every half hour, and the performance we got to see was a couple of roller-skaters doing tricks on the smallest roller-rink stage I've ever seen.  No trapeze for us, but that's ok - the rollerskaters were pretty incredible. 

Sunday, Anna woke us up with, "The Easter Bunny came!!"  The kids had left a note at home for the  Easter Bunny asking him to find us in Las Vegas.  They were thrilled to have a little Easter egg hunt in the hotel room.  After breakfast, we went to church in Henderson.  We met up with a friend of Eric's from college so it was nice to see some familiar faces.  Sunday afternoon we just hung out in the hotel room for a couple hours, then headed out to the monorail to take us to the MGM Grand for dinner at the Rainforest Cafe.  We stayed at the Marriott right by the convention center so the monorail station was literally right across the street.  The girls were begging to ride the "train" so it worked out nicely.  They loved it.  They loved everything...their little eyes and minds just took it all in.  So here are some shots from the Rainforest Cafe.  I took all the pictures with my phone, so not the best quality.  Silly me forgot the real camera.

Haylie with her souvenir cup and toy

Ian didn't get his own souvenir but Haylie let him play with hers.  Oh, and funny thing, every 20 minutes in the Rainforest Cafe, there is a thunderstorm complete with lightning and the animals go a little cuckoo...Ian was not a fan.  We had to get him out of his high chair and hold him each time it happened. So cute.

Anna with her souvenirs

Eric was pretty excited too!  ;-)

So on Monday Eric had to actually work (you know, the reason why we were in Las Vegas...) so the kids and I headed up to the Las Vegas temple.  It was beautiful, of course.  We walked around the grounds for a bit, until we all realized we needed to go potty.  Thankfully, there was a church building right next door and people were there, so we got to go in and use the facilities! 

Cute kiddos in front of the temple

This is the view of the temple from the church building.  Gorgeous.

This house was across the street from the temple.  I love Victorian homes, and thought this house was just beautiful.  Can't really see the turret behind the tree on the left, but it was adorable!!

We still had a little time to kill, and I couldn't find any parks around so we headed to the next best thing...McDonald's Play Place.  :-)  We played at McDonald's until Eric was ready to be picked up.  Grabbed some lunch and headed home. 

We stopped at a rest stop somewhere in the middle of the desert.  Haylie was pretty intrigued by the idea that we were in THE DESERT.  The girls have been watching a cartoon on Netflix called Oscar's Oasis.  It's a little gecko that is in the desert always searching for food and water. (reminds me of Scrat from the Ice Age movies - very cute)  Anyway, now we were in the desert like Oscar!  So I snapped some shots of the kids roaming the desert hills...


Haylie and Ian

I can't help but feel like this trip was another one of those blessings I talked about in this post.  I feel like we made this commitment to be debt free, and once again Heavenly Father blessed us with something that we didn't think we'd be able to have for a while (a nice vacation as a family).  Eric's generous boss paid all the expenses with the exception of gas, and our own entertainment/souvenirs. He does get reimbursed for mileage, which will more than cover the cost of the gasoline.  It's pretty amazing.  I feel so lucky and blessed, and grateful to be right here, right now. 

And now, back to the grind...

Monday, April 2, 2012

Debt Free by 2013

So, remember my post about how I'd been feeling really anxious about something...and I thought it had to do with my house?  I think that was only part of it.  I think the other part of it was that it was time for us to start thinking more about getting out of debt.  It started when I got a credit card offer in the mail from Chase.  I usually just throw them away, cuz let's face it, the last thing we need is another credit card!  But I think I was inspired to open this one up.  It offered 0% financing on balance transfers through May 2013.  Let me back up a few years.  In 2006, we had just bought our house, and we did something stupid.  We let the dumb salesman in the door.  He sold us a water softener.  Stupid, stupid, stupid.  It's been 6 years now and I still want to punch myself for letting that man in the door.  You know how "they" say that it is hardest to forgive yourself?  It's true.  Anyway, we put the balance on a credit card.  Not long after that, the economy started to take a nosedive.  Times got tough.  We started using the credit card for things like groceries and other "necessities".  At the time, we really thought we didn't have a choice.  Long story short, here we are six years later and with more debt than we'd like to have looming above our heads.  We made the commitment about 2 years ago to stop using the card.  And I'm proud to say we've stuck to our guns!  However, interest charges have made it very difficult to pay the balance down.
 I was not going to post exact amounts here, but you know what..I think I will.  I think I need to get it off my chest, put it out there as part of the healing/forgiving myself process.  It's embarrassing and I'm ashamed, but I want to use this as a way to track our progress and maybe have some cheerleaders along the way...please be gentle with me.  :-)  On February 28, 2012, I transfered $13,160.00 to the Chase 0% interest card.  It was my goal to have the balance paid off by May 2013.  15 months.  That was going to be really pushing it on our current budget.  I talked to Eric and we agreed that we would really place our focus on the debt.  Other "wants" would just have to wait.  Tax returns would go straight to the balance.  Eric's end of year bonus would go straight to the balance.  Anything extra we might get...straight to the balance.  It is amazing what that kind of resolve can do to change your perspective on things.  Identifying wants vs. needs.  Planning the grocery list based more on survival than what looks the most delicious.  *I love to try new recipes and make delicious food...but we agreed that we'd put that on hold and keep it simple.  My first trip to the grocery store after we made this decision, I spent $20 less than my average.  The 2nd trip to the grocery store...I spent $60 less than my average!!!  I canceled our Costco membership a couple years ago - I guess partially blaming Costco for some of the debt (obviously not Costco's fault, but you know...)  I've realized that now that our family has grown quite a bit since then, that bulk shopping will actually benefit us I'm going to get a Sam's Club membership to help us save even more on groceries.  $40 for a membership will be so worth it in the amount I will save buying pull-ups and snacks there rather than Winco.
  Okay, so another little side note.  It's gonna get a little spiritual up in here.  Not one week after we made our decision to put everything we have towards the debt, Eric's boss called him into his office.  He said, "Eric, I want to give you a raise."  I think, if I'm doing my math right, it turned out to be about an 11% raise.  Our first thought was, "Think what that will do to help us make our payments!!"  And then it struck me that this was a blessing straight from Heaven.  It is my belief, and I know it now more than ever, that Heavenly Father knows each one of us individually.  He knows our struggles, He knows our strengths, and most importantly, He knows our hearts.  I believe that He knows how badly we want this to happen, and He paved the way for us through this raise.  I am so grateful for my faith, and for my amazing blessings!  (Oh and hooray for my husband working super hard and earning the raise!!!)
 So with the raise, I have sorta' changed our goal...I want the debt gone by January 1, 2013.  9 months from yesterday.  Here's the kicker...I really think we can do it!!!
  Moving on, here are some things we've done or are doing to save money:

  • After we got the credit card, we received an offer in the mail from Chase, that if we opened a Chase checking account, they would give us $150.  Sold.  $150 more to put towards the balance!
  • We will be taking the difference in pay from the raise and having it directly deposited into the Chase checking account.  That way we won't see it - we will continue to live off the budget we've had, and imagine that money does not exist.  All of it will go towards the balance.
  • I read on our power company's website that you could earn a 20% credit on your bill if you save "x" amount of energy through the winter.  I lowered our thermostat and just got an e-mail letting me know I earned the credit!  Seems small, but every little bit helps!
  • I will not be cutting my hair again until we are out of debt!  I'm in desperate need of a haircut, but I'm sacrificing!!! So if I look like a ragamuffin for the next 9 months, you know why! ;-)
  • Plan simple menus ahead of time, shop only for the items needed and refrain from grabbing extras.  It is amazing what this has done for me!
  • Every time I think about buying something that is not a necessity, I write down the cost of the item, and I refrain from purchasing!  It is interesting to see how the dollar here and dollar there add up to something pretty significant.
  • I've sorta' made a game of it...see where I can save whole attitude about money has is invigorating!!!
  • We canceled our home phone - we're paying enough for our cell use having two different phones! 
  • We haven't paid for TV in years.  We had Dish for a while, several years ago, but have not had it for quite some time.  We pay $7 something for Netflix and nothing else.  Sooo worth the savings!
  • We pay our tithing to the church.  10% of everything we earn goes to the church.  I know we are majorly blessed for this.
  • I'm keeping a 2013 Debt Free Bucket List...I'm writing down all the things I want to do or buy when we are debt free.  It gives me something to work towards, something to hope for.  It will be so worth it to wait for these things.  And some of the items are so simple, it seems silly, but it will be so much sweeter after our hard work.
  • I buy my shampoo at the Dollar Tree.  Yup. There, I said it.  VO5 happens to be one of my favorites.  Is it the best shampoo? No.  Does it clean my hair?  Yup. 
  • I'm selling cinnamon rolls for next Conference...locals let me know if you're interested!
I know there is more, but I'm having trouble thinking of it now.  So here are some numbers showing our progress so far:
February 28, 2012: Balance $13,160.00
April 2, 2012: Balance $10,026.00

We just got our tax refund so that took out a very large chunk!  This is very very exciting for me!!!