31 March 2008

A New Challenge

In the interest of saving money, I have been evaluating the way I do my grocery shopping. In the past few months, I have been increasingly frustrated by the rise in prices of essentials. I decided that this month would begin my quest to find better prices on the things we use in our house.

So, yesterday, I sat down with the newspaper, my coupons, and began my list. I know that one of my sister's rules of thumb is to buy things only on sale and plan your menu around these items. I also have decided that I may need to go to more than one store to achieve my goal. Armed with this resolve, I planned what I needed to do.

I created three lists: Target, Walgreen's, and Pick n Save. I know you are thinking, "Walgreen's?" Well, they have actually started a program where when you buy certain items, you get a coupon worth a dollar month towards your next purchase. I started with Walgreen's today, and I spent $60, but I had $31 in savings/coupons. Then I went to Target. I spent $45, and saved $20. I still need to do the Pick n Save portion, but I have already saved roughly $50 in purchases.

I have also found some great websites to help in my quest of saving money with the grocery areas. They are www.moneysavingmom.com , www.mommysavers.com , and www.tammysrecipes.com . These sites have a lot of good ideas and links to my other new-found passion-FREEBIES!!! There are lots of free samples to be had out there! I'll keep you updated to how the savings are going, but the challenge is on (and I am having fun doing it)!!!

29 March 2008

What Have I Done?

My friend, Sydney, likes to send me websites that she has found, and I try to do the same. She is the one who introduced me to Goodreads. That site is an addiction that I am still not over. For the record, my "to-read" list is up to 173 books. I have even joined a group to read 50 books this year. When I sat down to figure out what I've read so far, I only came up with one book! I am almost done with #2, but I have a long way to go.

Then, she sent another link to me yesterday- www.nablopomo.com . Nablopomo stands for National Blog Posting Month. Basically, you try to post everyday for a month to make it a habit. It looked like a good idea, so I signed up! Lately, I have been feeling like I don't have much to say, so I thought this might be a good idea to get me going again. I have a feeling that I am about to become addicted again...Thanks, Syd!

28 March 2008

Educational Musings

A few months ago, my sister called me because my nieces' school was potentially going to close. They attend WIVA (Wisconsin Virtual Academy), an online program. For both of the girls, this school has been a lifesaver. The reason for closing? The teachers' union had sued the school. Their underlying claim was that the parents were too involved.

Let me explain how WIVA works. Your work is assigned online. You have a mandatory number of sessions that you need to attend over the year. You can also have online conferences with your teachers when you need extra help. For a great deal of the day, however, a student needs to have self-disciple to finish the assigned work, and the parents need to help out. What I love about this program is how it has helped my nieces. One, who is ADD, is able to focus on her work without the distractions of a typical classroom. For the other, it has allowed her to have the modifications necessary to have a positive academic experience. As a former teacher, I am impressed with the curriculum and the program in general.

What is so amazing to me about this situation is that the teachers' union (WEAC) sued WIVA over parental involvement saying that parents are not certified and therefore not qualified to help their children. WIVA is a charter school. It is a public school with state certified teachers who, by the way, pay dues. They are the ones in control of the program, not the parents.

This reasoning has set such a double standard in our state. In our biggest district, MPS, many schools are failing. The students are not learning. The teachers' cry, "It's not us! The kids can't learn because of lack of parental involvement!" I am sorry, but you cannot have it both ways. WIVA is a successful school, and they spend literally thousands less per student than MPS. Luckily, the state has allowed WIVA to remain open. They have set caps, but that is a fight for another day.

This parental involvement issue brings me to another educational story. I read that in California they are trying to make it against the law to home school unless the parent is a certified teacher. Give me a break! While I would not personally home school, I see it as a viable option for many families. I do not think it is fair nor just to tell parents how they can or cannot educate their children. To me, these are just further examples of the "nanny laws" that the government tries to impose. They are trying to save us from ourselves-sorry, I don't need saving.

24 March 2008


When I was younger, Monopoly was one of those games that I loved to play with my siblings. I have great memories of counting the money, buying the hotels, and one of my siblings eventually winning it all. Peter received his first Monopoly game yesterday, and my how times have changed...

Last week, my mother-in-law called and asked if Peter would like Monopoly for Easter. Not having a copy of it, I thought this was a great idea. Peter's class has been working on money in Math (his favorite subject), and I thought this might be good reinforcement for him. Plus, he loves playing games, so I thought this would be a great one for him to play with his Dad and I at night after Drew and Michael went to bed.

Well, Peter got it yesterday, and although I know there are many different flavors of Monopoly out there, I assumed he would be getting the classic version. Wow, was I wrong! The latest version is the "debit card" edition where instead of using paper money, you have a credit card and the money is taken on and off by sliding it through the debit card machine. While I understand how the company is trying to modernize a classic, I think it is wrong on so many different levels.

First and foremost, credit cards? We are trying to teach the boys the importance of paying for things outright, not using credit. They may call this the debit card edition, but to a child, it is just a credit card, and there is no understanding of actually using cash to pay for something. You are also losing the mathematical value of the game because you have this little machine that looks like a calculator that does the math for you. If you are adding to the person's card, then you swipe the plus side. If you are spending, you swipe on the minus side. This whole concept was so disappointing!

Also, they have renamed everything! OK, I understand that some people might want Wisconsinopoly or Super Mario edition Monopoly, and that is fine, but I want the classic! Gone was Park Place and Boardwalk. It was replaced with things like Texas Stadium and the Arch in St; Louis. Instead of paying Luxury Tax, you pay interest on your debit card! Come on! There is just something familiar about the classic...and I intend on buying it...if I can find it.

More Writing...

In the past couple of weeks, I have been doing more writing. My friend, Sydney, introduced me to a site that is for aspiring writers. It is a freelancing site, where you can write on a variety of topics (thousands really) and they give you some of the ad revenue. They also have contests, where they will list 25 topics under a general heading, and depending on how your articles rank against the others in the given topic, you could win anywhere from $75 for first place to $5 for fourth through sixth place.

Now, I don't think of myself as a writer, but I do think that I have things to say. Luckily, one of the topics this week is Catholicism-something near and dear to my heart. I am enjoying seeing my thoughts form on the given topic. I have written 11 articles so far-six under the Catholicism title, and the other five in various areas. Again, I am by no means a writer-I'll leave that title to Lisa and Sydney, however, I am enjoying the experience, and the opportunity to share.

21 March 2008

My friend is an entrepreneur!

I am so excited for my friend, Sue. She made the decision to stay at home with her daughter, and has been busy helping to care for her ailing mother. She has had a rough year of it, and it seems like she is turning a corner!

What I admire about Sue is her creativity. She has embraced the role of "Susie Homemaker" (sorry for the joke, Sue!), and taken it to the level of trying to have a business of her own. A few years ago, she attempted to make a go of her own Pampered Chef business, but try as she might, I don't think it allowed her the freedom to express her creativity. What she has done now is come up with her own product, and she is able to market it herself.

If you have a moment, please check it out! Her website for her delicious treats is:
http://www.etsy.com/shop.php?user_id=5699924 . Her blog is also posted on the side of mine. Sue-good luck in your new endeavor! I wish you success-you deserve it!

19 March 2008

Easter Blues

I've been in a funk lately. That's why I haven't blogged in a few days. It finally came to a head today, so I thought I'd write about it...

I have a case of the Easter blues. It may sound a bit odd, but I think I can explain. Easter is earlier than usual this year, falling on March 23rd. Last night, Andy and I saw on the news this piece about National Bakery. It is one of those good, old-fashioned bakeries with homemade bread, rolls, and treats like you can't imagine. So, we are watching and they show an Easter nest. It is cake covered in frosting and coconut to look like a nest, and there are jelly beans in the center to look like eggs. I've never had one (that I can remember), but Andy did as a kid, and was talking about how much he loved them. I decided to run down there today and pick one up for him.

As I was driving, it all hit me like a ton of bricks. I passed St. Luke's hospital where my Mom died, and my Dad spent a lot of time while he was sick. Then, I made the all too familiar turn onto 16th street, and it occurred to me that I had not been there since Dad was alive. It doesn't help that we are approaching the second anniversary of his death on the 29th, as well as my parents' anniversary on April 4th (it would have been 49 years for them). Mom and Dad used to love to stop by National Bakery. In fact, it was automatic after one of Dad's treatments or doctor's appointments.

So, I am in there thinking about them, and thinking about Easter. They had samples of stollen (a sweet bread that has candied fruit in it and frosting on the top). This was not necessarily a favorite of mine growing up, but Mom always had to have it for Easter. The funny thing was, I took a sample thinking of her, and I could hear her say, You need some butter on that stollen. I know what you are thinking-butter? on frosting? If you knew my Mom, you'd know that is exactly the way she liked it.

Well, we are 4 days from Easter, and I miss my parents, A LOT. But, if we are an Easter people like my Mom always said we were (are), then this weekend should remind me of the fact that even though they are not physically present, I will be with them someday. I am so thankful for what my parents taught me, especially giving me the gift of my faith.

11 March 2008

Influenza-It's an epidemic!

So, last week, my sister came down with influenza. Now this is not stomach flu (I always feel the need to explain this), but the yucky, achy, fevered, coughing kind that lands you in bed for days. Mary had it last week, as well as her son, Tim. I knew it was just a matter of time...

Friday morning, my Drew woke up with it. After five days, he is headed back to school tomorrow. Michael came down with it on Sunday (which by the way was around the time that Mary's husband, John, and the rest of her kids living at home came down with it). Drew was sick, but not too bad. He only ran a fever for 2 days, and really is doing well now. My Michael, on the other hand, has been downright sad to watch. Sobbing, clingy, no energy. It really is hard to watch such a little one be so sick. On the other hand, I am loving the extra snuggles that I am getting because of it. What am I not enjoying? The fact that now, I have it too!

04 March 2008

The end of an era...

It was announced this morning. Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Farve is retiring. This news truly saddens me. Every time I hear a report on the radio, my eyes tear up. Brett has been our quarter back for 17 years. He led the team to the Super Bowl after decades of losing seasons. He has 3 MVPs (I still say he should have won it this year!), and countless records. I think what saddens me most is the loss for my boys.

My son, Peter, caught the football bug this year. Our family is big into football. My Dad played and had a college scholarship to Ripon (he didn't go, but he did have that accomplishment). My brothers played at Marquette High. Andy played in high school, and our nephew, Peter, played for TCU, scoring the championship winning field goal in 2005. Football is in our blood, and so it was natural, that my son, Peter get in on the fun.

At the end of last season, I remember Andy saying to Peter, "Look at that player. That's Brett Farve. He is one of the BEST players that you will ever see." Now he's done, and I am sad. I think part of the way I am feeling is just the feeling of loss of some of the world's greats. I know that Brett's not dying, but he will be out of our field of vision. I really feel like the youth of today have fewer and fewer role models to look at.

I felt this way when Pope John Paul II died. He was MY pope (I love and respect Benedict XVI, but he doesn't have the way with the people that JP II did). I grew up with him, and he was a role model for many of the youth, including myself. When I was in college, studying in Rome, I was fortunate enough to have him lay hands on me and bless me! Now he's gone, and I miss him.

I also felt this way when my Dad died. I mourn for my loss, but I also mourn for the loss my sons will experience. Dad was a great man, and it saddens me that my boys will never know him, except through what we tell them.

I just want my sons to have some examples of good strong men. That is what Brett represents to me. He's not perfect, but he is an example of a good, strong man. I know there will be other quarterbacks, but Brett, you will be missed!


Last August, Andy and I decided we were going to do something we really hadn't done in all of our married life-have a budget. Don't get me wrong, we would sit and pay bills at the beginning of the month, and put all of our expenses in a spreadsheet, but, to be honest, anything that was left over was pretty much fair game. And so, every month, the money ould come and then it would go.

It was around this time that I had heard of a book called The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. I highly recommend this book, and his plan. The best part of his plan-the envelope system! Every month, we physically set aside certain amounts of cash for certain purposes. For example, we now have a birthday fund, a clothing fund, a Christmas fund. Gone is the panic of my boys going through a growth spurt, and they need new clothes. Gone is the thought of whipping out the credit card for Christmas. If we don't spend a particular envelope in a given month, that's OK. It just accrues for the next month. Actually, I love when that happens!

The result of all of this has been great peace! I never thought I would like a traditional budget, but it is a great thing. I highly recommend this book and this plan!

01 March 2008

Mommy Time

When Andy and I started out family, we knew I would stay home with our children. At the time, I was excited to be ending teaching in the public school system. That is a story for another day. Suffice it to say, I was a good teacher, and loved the students, but for me, the public school system was just way too political.

Andy used to say he worried about me being bored because I was home. With 3 boys, there is rarely boredom. There can be, however, a lot of chaos. It gets especially bad during the winter, and this year has been a doozie! We have had right around 80 inches of snow this winter-far more than we have had in years. We have been cooped up a lot-not good for a stay-at-home Mom who also works from home. This past week was particularly bad. Andy had to work late a couple of nights which meant that I didn't have the help that I have come to depend on at bedtime. By Friday, I really felt like I was climbing the walls. So, today I had some Mommy time!

I was able to do something that I have wanted to for years. I went and signed up for a cake decorating class. This is something I have always wanted to learn for myself and my family. In fact, about a year ago I suggested it to a friend to try. She is another stay-at-home Mom, and I was trying to give her some ideas to keep busy and maybe pull in a little extra cash. She is doing really well at it, and I do think that she will succeed in this endeavor. For me, though, I don't want to do it as a business venture. I just want to do it for me. I used to think that when people talked about Mommy time or making time for themselves that they were being selfish, but, boy, do I get it now! I need this for some sanity, and I am really excited about it! I think that my boys will be very excited with the results: leftovers!