Thursday, October 28, 2010

Frugality Philosophy

"Frugality doesn't necessarily mean giving things up. It means trading in things you don't value for things you do."

This quote has not only allowed me to feel more satisfied with my station in life, but also helps me catch myself when I start judging someone else's decisions of how they spend their money, what clothes they wear, what car they drive, what house they live in, or what vacations they take.  The beauty of America is that you have the option of choosing what is important to you and your family and then allocating your resources accordingly.

Changing your self-talk from "I don't get to do this or that" to "I choose to do this instead of that" shifts your emotions from powerless to powerful. You have the power to choose how you spend your time, money, energy, emotions.  You are not a victim of income, circumstance, or other people's influences when you decide for yourself how to allocate whatever you do have to what is important to you.

If you want to see how your spending/values compare to the Average American,  here is how the Average American consumer spends their paycheck.

I spend less than average on:
  • Professional grooming: I never get my hair professionally colored, highlighted, or permed. I get it cut, on average, 2-3 times/year at a salon that charges less than $12.
  • Expensive or vast arrays of makeup: I have 1 lotion, 1 foundation, 1 bronzer, 3 eyeshadow compacts, 1 mascara, 1 eyeliner, and 1 tube of lipstick and don't buy new ones unless the others are gone as in I cannot scrape one more wearing out of them.
  • Cars: I drive a 10-year-old car I've owned for 7 years with over 160,000 miles that is worth less that $1000 and am saving up for a minivan (not a stylish SUV). I never plan to have a car payment the rest of my life.
  • Professional concerts, CDs, or itunes: I attend local concerts, show choir competitions, and prefer audio books or talk radio to music anyway.
  • Home Decor: I rarely buy non-functional things for my house and most I do have were either carefully selected gifts or garage sale finds.
  • Fast Food: It is reserved for when we are traveling or meeting friends or family, but I never just pick it up to have for supper.
  • Jewelry: You will rarely see me wearing more jewelry than my wedding ring, and the things I do have are either 10 years old or were given to me to wear in a wedding.
  • Pampering: I have never had a pedicure, manicure, or massage that did not use a gift certificate.
  • Seasonal Decorations: For Christmas, I only decorate the living room and the sum total of any other "seasonal" items are a "Give Thanks" tile, group of fall berries, and 2 pumpkins that are currently sitting on my mantel.
  • DVDs: I never buy and rarely rent. I barely have time to watch the ones I get from the library.
  • Trendy clothes: Much of my wardrobe is 5-10 years old and I usually don't buy something if I think it will be out of style in the next 3. 
  • Fancy phones: My free Razor (or whichever AT&T Samsung thing I pick out to replace it) serves me just fine.
  • Housing: My house is no bigger than what we need and we live in a very low cost community. Small house= less to clean! And we have avoided making expensive upgrades that will not give us a good return whenever we have to sell.
I'm not saying that is is more virtuous or "correct" to spend less in these areas...they are just things I don't value that much and am willing to give up in order to fund other goals that hold more value to me, personally. Do I wish I could do/have all the things above too? Sometimes. But it doesn't do me any good to dwell on that, instead I think of the trade offs I have made.

I probably spend more than average on:
  • Food: I bake a lot and try to eat at home/pack my lunch, so my grocery budget is probably larger than average. There are also things I just can't compromise on, like bakery buns, name-brand peanut butter, and fresh deli meat.
  • Good running shoes: Once a year, I get the new version of the same "footbridge" Nikes. They cost much more than $30 tennies I could pick up anywhere, but my tendonitis and flat feet appreciate the extra attention.
  • Vacations: I value time away and although we haven't traveled as much since becoming parents, I still like to get away and see new things.
  • High speed internet: my nerves cannot handle slow connections
  • Kitchen Accessories:  I have a large collection of Pampered Chef items, real Tupperware, and various small appliances. I enjoy cooking/baking/decorating and consider it a hobby (but a hobby you can eat!)
  • Retirement: I'm positive I'm above average since  40% of working Americans are saving NOTHING for retirement. I am personally trying not to count on any of the remaining shambles of Social Security that might be left for my generation and desperately trying to put in more now to take advantage of compound interest
  • Gas: I commute over 300 miles/week and usually make at least 1 other 60+ mile trip on the weekend.
I'm sure there are plenty more examples, but my point is that I don't begrudge people who drive nice cars because they might trade in going away on vacations to pay for it. I don't think it's a waste for some people to buy jewelry or nice clothes or beautiful home decorations. I can appreciate them but am unwilling to give up the things I would have to in order to buy them myself.

So, there's my "frugal living philosophy" in a nutshell.

No, this is me in a nutshell. "Help, I'm in a nutshell! Get me out of this shell!" ~lame Austin Powers reference

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Office: Who to be for Halloween?

Ryan is having a hard time figuring out who he wants to be for Halloween this year.  He doesn't want a repeat of the lame-o pumpkin costume of last year, but which character from The Office fits him best?

Dress shirt, tie, flipped-up hair and solitaire, and you've got Jim Halpert:

Checked shirt, sweater vest, loafers, and a little "Acafellas" and he becomes Andy Bernard:

Short sleeves, tie, glasses, and a Workspace with blinds, and he could be Assistant-the-Regional Manager, Dwight K. Shrute:

But, since Halloween costumes are supposed to scary, maybe he should just throw on some overalls, an oatmeal colored undershirt, a beet rake and a beard, and the best bet might just be Cousin Mose:

Leave a comment with your vote for which look from The Office he should rock this year!

 P.S. Please excuse my horrendous lack of photoshop. And yes, I did use a Helvetica "D" to make Dwight's glasses and a Papyrus "C" for Mose's beard. Picasa improv, at it's worst.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Reasons I Never Get to Bed on Time

Young Me, Now Me by zefrank
I'm thinking of restaging a particular "Iowa Dairy Princess" picture from when I was 4.

How to Use an Apostrophe by The Oatmeal
What do you do when a word ends in "z" but is supposed to end in "s"? Can you say, "I like that new Snackerz' wrapper?"

New Dress a Day
Considering the only piece of adult-size clothing I've ever attempted to create was a pair of flannel pants in Home Ec that were actually physically unwearable, this is more fantasy than possibility.

This is Why I'll Never Be an Adult by Hyperbole and a Half
INTERNET! Forever!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Unposted status updates over the past few days:

Cobo says "Congrats, Abbie & Wade for running a great half marathon in Des Moines! Someday we'll see you race!" (Sunday 12:00pm)

Cobo is disappointed there's no volleyball league tonight, but glad to go home, take Buddy Boi and Whiny for a walk and finally find time to work on show choir! (Monday 7:00pm)

Cobo is awake and hacking and trying to get Ryan back to bed. If you know me, you know this is SERIOUS since I actually forced down half a dose of Robitussin (and shivered while doing it). GACK! (Tuesday 2:00am)

Cobo called in sick and is back in bed after seeing Ryan and Adam off. Here's to sleeping until 10:30! (Tuesday 8:00am)

Cobo is working from home for a half day and feeling miserable, yet surprisingly productive (Tuesday 11:00am)

Cobo checked off retirement and college savings planning on Dave's list of Baby Steps and is in bed before 10 for the first time in weeks...maybe this is the reason I get so run down! (Tuesday 9:00pm)

Cobo still feeling miserable, coughing, headache, and exhausted...but duty calls! See you at work, y'all! (Wednesday 6:00am)

Cobo can't wait to see that smiling blond boy whom she has the privilege of parenting! (Wednesday 6:00pm)

Cobo is listening to a dozen Junior High kids run around the yard playing horseshoes, roasting s'mores, and having fun at "catechism". (Wednesday 7:00pm)

Cobo ate 2 s'mores and only regretted 1 of them. (Wednesday 8:30pm)

Cobo is watching Vanilla Ice host a reno show on HGTV (diy network snpecial preview) and the ridiculousness of his facial hair simply astounds me. Why do you they keep calling him "Rob"? It's "Vanilla" to you, punk.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

15 Teeth!

The only good pictures I have that show most of Ryan's teeth also depict a crying and/or screaming child, so to avoid DHS knocking on my door, I'll post a happy, yet less teeth-revealing, picture instead.

Yes, you read the headline right. Ryan is 12.5 months old and has 15 teeth!  He had 8 on top/ 4 on bottom by his first birthday and last week he got the two bottom canines and the left bottom first molar. That makes a total of 8 on top, 7 on bottom with only the 2nd molars and one bottom 1st molar to go! Since the second molars are supposed to appear until around 23-24 months, we might have a big break in teething. Ryan has teethed very well, not drooling excessively and being in general good spirits.

I'm just posting this as a record (I know I'll never keep his baby book updated) because I, too, realize that it makes no sense when parents brag about their child's "accomplishments" that involved nothing but biology and time.  "Look at Junior! His fingernails grew!"  "My baby is SUCH a good pooper!"  "Great Job, Pumpkin! You graduated to a new shoe size!"

So, CONGRATS, Ryno...and don't be offended if someone says "See you later, gator!"

Crocodile Dentist

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Saturday Fun

Saturday we headed for Hometown for lunch with Adam's parents and then Adam and his dad were off to watch their alma mater destroy their county college rivals in football. Ryan and I stayed behind and had lots of fun with Grandma!

First, we went to the nursing home to visit my grandpa. Ryan only took a few steps for Great Grandpa, but he was fascinated with the walker and attempted a parallel bars routine that made me think we have a future Li Xiaopeng on our hands. It was a nice visit and we were happy to see Grandpa doing well.

After a walk to the park (and going strong and goofy with no nap), Ryan rediscovered his love of riding horses (both bouncy and rolly).  He can only push himself backwards on the wheeled horse, but squealed in delight when we pushed him forward to chase their dog around! Watch out, Lexi, this is only a sign of things to come!

We decided to get on the road by 6:30 so Ryan could have a bath and some stories before bed, but I'll let you take one guess if that ever happened since the following picture was captured exactly 2 blocks from Grandpa & Grandma's!

Happy Fall!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Ryan's First Steps!

Ryan has officially taken a few steps on his own!  We worked on it during my lunch break at my mom's the last two days and I captured 2 short videos tonight. (Tricky when you're alone!) He just started standing on his own for a few seconds yesterday and we taught him how to put his hands up and then take a few steps toward us.

I'm so proud of our little walker!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

It's like a uniform

I can't get over the fact that this hat makes Ryan look like he's just searching for his next opportunity to skip class to play hacky sack and/or sit cross-legged playing an acoustic Jason Mraz song.

All he needs is a scruffy beard and he could be a celebrity.

Okay, this last picture totally ruins where I was going with this post, but it made me laugh. I was looking for an image to illustrate the Jason Mraz point and a Google search of "acoustic guitar hat" turned up this picture:

Thank you, Google, for taking my search literally. 
Also, I am not joking when I say I used to own that shirt and am 45% sure this guy's name is Tim.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Don't Cry Over Spilled Milk

Nuby 2 Handle Straw Cup, Colors May Vary, 8 OunceSince Ryan is getting pretty good at using sippy cups, I stopped by Walmart to pick up a few more styles to try so we'd have some backups for when his go-to cup was in the dishwasher or left at daycare. He definitely could not figure out the Nuby Flip N Sip since he insisted on tipping it up to drink and wouldn't suck through the straw with it right-side-up. We'll save that one for later.
My frugal voice told me to just try the $0.97 Parent's Choice plain blue sippy cup. And my frugal voice talks louder than my "Oh look, cute turtles and molded hand grips" voice, so we took that one home as well. I optimistically filled it with milk, figured out the "rabbit=it leaks when you tip it over/ turtle=you have to suck it to get the milk out" hyroglyphics on the insert, and presented it to Ryan. He dabbled with it for a while on the floor but was more interested in whacking Nika with it than drinking, so I decided to dump it out and wait for later. The "snap on" lid pretty much flew off in my face when I finally pried it off and soaked my shirt, pants, and kitchen curtains with the remainder of the moo-juice. But, silly $0.97 voice told me to give it another shot at supper.

Things seemed to go fine at first and Ryan took a few drinks.  Towards the end of the meal he started the "I throw/you pick up" game and one particularly enthusiast throw resulted in the lid of the cup flying off (ref said the ground caused the fumble, so no turnover) and the virtually full cup of milk flew EVERYWHERE.  See below.

Wait, it's kind of hard to see the milk puddles/splatters/drips in this picture, so I'll go ahead and label them for you.

Much better. 

Also notice the detachable top to his tray (the one serving as his plate and holding all his beef/vegetable roll-up) has indeed become detached and ended up on the floor shortly after the Great White Spill. At the time of the picture, Nika had done her best to destroy the evidence, but my bucket of Lysol has a good memory. I did not cry or even get angry, which is surprising because spilling milk on the floor was a cardinal sin in my house growing up. I think it was because it makes the just-cleaned floor really sticky. I avoid that problem by not having a just-cleaned floor. Some people call it poor housekeeping, but I call it planning ahead.

So, $0.97 cup may never see the light of day again and I readily ripped open the cute turtle Playtex cups the next day.

Moral of the story: Always bet on the turtle.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Band Geeks

Saturday evening we attended our first-ever marching band competition as non-band members.  Back in the day, you could count both Adam and me in as band geeks. Adam played trombone all through high school and sold his precious instrument when he graduated (either that or solicited donations to watch him drag it down the street behind his car--I can't remember if he carried that through or if it's just one of those fantasy sequences).

I was a proud drummer in the Junior High Marching band (holla if you can still play the snare part of Magnificent Seven!) but was reduced to bells/triangle/chimes player my freshman year.  That's kind of another story, but the short version is I had a new band director who thought only boys could play snare and bass drum and girls should play the easier/prettier instruments. When I wanted to try out for NW Iowa Honor Band, he only let me audition on xylophone and timpani and I think it shocked his socks off when I was selected as a freshman and given a snare part. I ended up quitting at semester before the Honor Band performance because I felt my 4th period could better be spent in class than playing exactly 4 notes on the chimes in "Take My Breath Away"--the entirety of my instrument assignments for the Winter concert. Thank goodness he only lasted a year, but it turned me off to band for the rest of high school.

By Junior year, I got talked into joining the flag corp (main selling point=it got me out of P.E.) and participated in that for 2 years. And by participated I mean I wore black spandex and a stretchy gold sequined head band and waved a flag and/or homemade rings with streamers on them in semi-unison with 7 other girls who took it about as seriously as I did.  We were really not good, but it wasn't totally our fault since we had no choreography, advisor, or director and were pretty much left to our own devices (i.e. made trips to Cenex for Laffy Taffy and Crystal Light when we were supposed to be practicing in front of the windows). We did have fun, but good we were not.

My best memory of Senior Marching Band was being targeted by unknown hooligans launching water balloons at us from a nearby junk yard, watching the director chase a classmate around the football field on foot, and all of us getting in trouble by the principal for someone whistling at another school's flag girls out the bus windows (it might tell them sometime if they automatically assumed the whistlers were being sarcastic in their cat-calling). Good times.

So I guess what I'm saying is, I was far from a model band student but was willing to give "band fan" a shot for the sake of supporting our school.  The event in Orange City was well-run and was a fun atmosphere. I enjoyed our school's show and thought they did an excellent job!  (And their flags would wipe the floor with my old crew). Ryan's not a huge fan of sudden large sounds and the subtleties of the formations are kind of lost on him, but he was a trooper and hung in there for 4 bands. Maybe when he's older we'll stick around for the fireworks!


Saturday was a warm fall day and we took our little Pumpkinhead to Pumpkinland

First, we navigated the Munchkin Maze.

Then, we checked out the Pumpkin Facts.

Next, we looked at all the fun animals: ducks, chickens, bunnies, kitties, puppies, goats, llamas, and a pony-like thing with curved hooves. Ryan (and Adam) liked the yellow lap puppies best!

Then, we took our little farmer inside... see how he measured on the pumpkin scale!
(Seems pretty accurate! He measured 29-3/4" at the doctor's office too!)

 Buddy Boy wasn't into the shopping very much...
But he liked looking at the bumpy pumpkins and gourds.
Also, could my colic look any worse?

After a quick picture by the mums, it was time to head to the marching band competition!

Maybe next year we'll check out the big maze and pick our own pumpkin out of the field, but this year it was a fun quick stop and just enough for this one-year-old. 

Thanks, Pumpkinland, for the fun afternoon!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Grandpas & Grandmas

Along with 3 Aunts, 2 Uncles, 2 Cousins, a Great-Grandma,  a Great-Grandpa, and cousin (derg) Milo, Ryan was lucky enough to have both sets of grandparents at his party!

Ryan and Adam's dad sharing a laugh. (Not an unusual sight for these two).

After all the festivities, Ryan took a bath and got in his "Wildly Cute" Moose PJ's and took a picture with my parents before we all headed home to bed.

Thanks, Grandma, for hosting the party!

Thanks to all of our wonderful family who came to help Ryan celebrate. We love you all and are thankful for the large role you have in Ryan's life!

Birthday Presents!

Ryan did a great job opening his first birthday presents! He tore the paper like a pro and dug in to find his new toys, books...and a stuffed rhino!  Thanks, everyone, for the fun gifts!

Baseball Cake

For Ryan's "smash cake" I made a baseball by baking a Funfetti cake mix in a Pampered Chef Classic Batter Bowl (bake for 70-75 minutes), then shaped it a little with a bread knife and frosted with vanilla frosting. The laces are Rips Whips that I snipped and stuck into the frosting and it's all anchored with some buttercream "turf".  I loved being able to use the "You are Special Today" red plate that has been a tradition in my family since we were little.

Want to know what Ryan did with the cake? See video and photos below. He really digs in the last 30 seconds, so you can skip the singing if you want!

Target Field Baseball Stadium Cake

 Ryan was a big helper mixing up his cake!

 I made the "Old Fashioned Devil's Food Cake" recipe from Chocolate from The Cake Mix Doctor in a 9x13 pan. Then, I cut it in a rounded diamond shape for the field and two more rounded shapes to stack for the bleachers. Then I ate the outside corners that were left :).
The cake was frosted with buttercream frosting (Wilton's recipe, except I use half vanilla/half almond flavoring) and I used Lindor white chocolate truffles for the bases.

 The "fans in the stands" are mini M&M's and the home run line is a Rips Whips. The scoreboard and Minnesota sign are just printed and stuck in with kabob skewers. The jumbotron screen says "You are Hereby Circled" and Ryan is holding a sign that says "It's My 1st Bert-Day!"

 The back of the stadium bears the Twins logo in frosting.

The party-goers seemed to enjoy the cake and we are enjoying what's left of the infield!

My favorite comments of the night were:
"I want the baseball cake." ~Emily 
After handing him a slice of left field: "Sweet, that's where Delmon Young plays." ~Wade 
"What is the difference between Chocolate Cake and Devil's Food? We are so discussing this in the teacher's lounge Monday." ~Abbie

Friday, October 1, 2010

1st Birthday Outdoor Photos

Friday was a gorgeous day, so we stopped by the park for a few outdoor photos. 

*If you don't see 10 pictures, be sure to click "Read More" to see all the photos if the post was truncated*

Put me in, Coach! I'm ready to play!

I bought an old milk stool at the 2nd hand furniture store in town and we stopped in front of the library for a few last photos!