Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Amelia's Birthday in a Nutshell

The Gift:
Hot new wheels.
So we went to the zoo to practice riding it, however we got distracted...

June 15, 2009

June 15, 2006

I guess you could say we are making a tradition of it. Amelia really wanted to ride the camel at the zoo on her birthday, but when we found out they were closed Monday's, she settled on the carousel. It's fun to see the change that has taken place in 3 years between photos.
The Dinner Request:
Tuna Noodle Casserole. Boring? Maybe. Is it her favorite? Definitely!!
and The Puppy Cake!
Amelia wanted a puppy dog cake, so I put my creative juices to the test and this is what came of it. Pretty good, huh? I was impressed with myself. I even made the cake from scratch AND the frosting. Now I bet you are really impressed! I was exhausted when the day was done, but all in efforts to make sure a little girl felt pretty special on her birthday. I think she did. Now I just need to figure out how to deal with a 4 year old in the house.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

I Don't Even Know What to Call This Week

What a week we have had here at Simper headquarters! Sheesh. All I can say is I'm glad that the week is over.

It started with an emotional break down on my part about being unemployed, topped with feeling totally guilty for procrastinating plans for my daughters birthday present. Thanks to Walmart and some very loving grandparents to contribute to her birthday fund, we were able to get her what I think is a pretty good birthday present. (I think she suspects, but I'll leave all of you in suspense until tomorrow.) So that relieved the stress a bit.

Then we had a really interesting turn on Wednesday. The car dealership where we purchased our van 3 years ago called and begged us to come in so they could give us an offer on our car. We just laughed. Now, we had been getting letters from them and other dealerships asking us to come in because of the high demand on our Mazda MPV (they quit making them the year we bought ours.) and we had just been ignoring them. With the phone call we decided we were curious what they would offer for it, so we agreed to amuse them at least that far.

Anyway... we dropped the girls off at a friends house and went to the dealership. The sales people jumped on us like hawks and started fighting over who got our van! (continued laughter.) Later we found out that they had been very short on sales, and the MPV's were sort of like having bait on your lot for more customers because they aren't common anymore. So 1: they wanted us to buy a new car and 2: they wanted to buy our car. We amused them for about an hour while they gave us offer after offer trying to sell us their new Mazda 5 in exchange for our van. We weren't even tempted until we were walking out the door and the salesman began groveling on the floor and pulled so many strings the offer started to look somewhat tempting. Ok, I know what you are all thinking... YOU DON'T HAVE A JOB!! We told them that and ourselves that, but when the deal came out that we wouldn't increase our payment by much, lower our mileage to where we had a new warrenty on a new vehicle AND he started throwing in 4 months of no payments on a car... I have to say we were tempted. We bit the bait. It made so much logical sense for now and in the future I couldn't resist. Judge all you want, it made sense and still makes sense (all except for the not having a job part... hmmm maybe that's why our economy is so in the pits!! They're getting so desperate they are throwing new cars at the unemployed population now!!) Have you ever done something because it made lots of logical sense but sounded completely stupid? That's how we felt. We did it to get out of a very upside down loan and avoid the pending repairs on our van we knew were around the corner. And hey, we got a pretty sweet ride out of the deal!

So 4 hours later, we took our new Mazda 5 home and said goodbye to my van (which I still miss sometimes, and Amelia was pretty upset to let go of. Now she very much likes what we are calling our "batmobile", its not really a van, but its not a car so that's the best we could come up with for her to call it.)

Oh, and did I mention that in the middle of this I had to come home to pick up the girls and in the process locked my keys in the house, which meant I had to break in (which I've been successful doing before.) However this time the window decided it didn't like me... one push and glass flew everywhere. So after a very long day at the dealership we had a mess of glass to clean up and Dallan got to spend the next day repairing a window. Oh, and did I also mention that we completely forgot about a wedding reception we were supposed to attend that evening? Yeah, I think I'll just chalk that whole day up to the pregnancy!!

The rest of the week had accumulating pressure that we were supposed to give talks on Sunday, today. Ugh. I actually decided I'd love preparing talks if it weren't for the fact that all day I'm chasing two pumpkin heads around the house and by the time the house is quiet to where I could think and read, my brain feels like a bowl of mush. So preparation was minimal until yesterday for both of us.

Oh, I forgot one of the most exciting bits of the week! Friday, Dallan was napping on the couch (after all that work I made him do to fix the window, he really deserved it!!) and the phone rang. He had interviewed last Thursday with a company in Utah and they had promised he would hear from them sometime the following week. It was like waiting on pins and needles for that phone call. And Dallan was a champ! I don't think I've ever seen him get that alert after napping that quickly before. The phone call turned into a second phone interview followed by more waiting. The good news is we are fairly certain he did well, and we are fairly certain we can expect another call next week. Do we really want to move to Utah?!? We've sort of always thought about it, but now it seems like a potential reality and I'm kind of nervous to really accept it. But only time will tell. We've learned before not to count chickens before they hatch.

Anyway, if you are still reading... the talks ended up going quite well, the girls were very well behaved for a family in our ward, better for them than for us! I really want to work out a deal with them because I really think we all benefitted from the meeting more today. They weren't screaming, so the congregation got more out of the meeting, we weren't mentally screaming so WE got more out of the meeting and the family they sat with has an 18 year old son who usually sleeps through sacrament meeting and playing with the girls was enough to keep him awake so HE got more technically out of the meeting. See how we all win in this situation. I just wish speaking didn't have to be a part of the equation. And let me just say, having to play the organ AND talk is a less than desirable calling. I felt like I was playing musical chairs! (no pun intended).

And now the day and week is over. And I get to look forward to celebrating a 4 year olds birthday, along with another week of swimming lessons and hopeful of more job news.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Garden Success

We started our garden in February this year hoping to beat the heat. Near the end of march we started enjoying the fruits of our labors. First it was peas:
Then we started getting zucchini in April and have been having zucchini through our ears, making zucchini bread (the girls favorite), pasta with zucchini, zucchini casseroles... that has been a fun and HUGE success! We got to eat (well, Amelia ate) a handful of strawberries before they burnt in the heat. And today we finally harvested our corn! It wasn't much, but it turned out MUCH better than our corn last year because we got some! I was sad that it wasn't good corn on the cob eating's, but tonight we turned that beautiful home grown corn into some good homemade corn chowder. Wow, was it tasty! Talk about enjoying the fruits of our labors.

Now, come on watermelon...

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Wrong Motive

Oh, but it feels so right!!

We are on day 2 of potty training Lucy. Now, I was (and am) a big believer in just waiting until the child expresses interest to potty train. However, this time a different motive came along and I decided to run with it. It's called panties are cheaper than diapers. I know, its wrong of me, but it seems to be working (sort of...)!

Lucy has some friends who have started to potty train that are around the same age, we were running out of diapers, and she does ask all the time to sit on the potty, its just nothing has ever come of it. I'm too impatient to wait for her to do something interesting and most of the time I really don't want to take her diaper off when she requests to sit on the potty. She could be ready, right? Was it just me that wasn't ready for 6 months of long waits in the bathroom, bathroom stops every 10 minutes, cleaning up mess after mess and one load of laundry after the other? (Why did I want to do this again? Oh yeah, money...)

So yesterday she ran around pantless most of the day. We had two very successful attempts on the "tinkle bowl" as she has started calling it. The first came with a very surprised look on Lucy's face. I don't think she was expecting it. We basically drowned her in juice and water every time she wanted to sit on the toilet, and when she was successful she got a piece of chocolate. However the rest of the day we were cleaning up messes on the carpet and tile. So not a bad day one.

Today we spent the morning at a water park with some friends, so that really didn't count as training time, and then came home for a nap. So day two didn't really start until 3:00. This time she got to wear big girl pants around the house. Wow! She felt so big and proud, it was cute! And then the ah-ha moment hit. We had just sat down for dinner, soup and smoothie (both tinkle inducing...) and she had an accident in her chair. With her pants being wet she seemed rather surprised, we ran to the toilet but nothing more happened. So, we went back to the table. A few more sips of smoothie and I noticed Lucy look down at herself, I asked if she needed to use the potty and got a confirmation. SUCCESS!! Pants dry and tinkle in the toilet. The ah-ha moment finally came! She then went back to dinner and 10 minutes later, jumped out of her chair and said, "I need to go potty" so we ran and success again! Ah, maybe my motive won't be so wrong after all, she simply needed a nudge in the right direction. And a motivated mommy.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Free Summer Meals

We learned this week of the school districts in the area serving free breakfast and lunch to children. "What a great idea!!" was the reaction I gave. At least for lunches, its a perfect way for me to get the girls a good lunch and save a few dollars while we are in this unemployment phase. So we went yesterday after our swimming lessons and the girls had lunch at the local high school. It wasn't much, and each plate probably only cost a little over a dollar of food, but the girls were fed and happy and it was surprisingly food they liked!

Now, I write this, one to recommend it to anyone looking for a little money saving this summer, and two because I was just reading some comments posted on the website listing the schools that are participating. Wow did it make my blood boil! Every one of them, it felt like they were casting stones. Probably every one of them employed and living in a cushy home, never having to think about penny pinching. It just brought to mind the story in the Bible where Jesus states to the crowd, "He who is without sin, cast the first stone".

Each comment complaining that THEY were paying for these LAZY children's parents to eat, and that the parents are ALL probably already on welfare assistance already where again THEY are paying for them to get more groceries than they need so why aren't the parents home making lunch and breakfast for their children since THEY have already paid for them to have groceries!! One comment after the other saying things like this!! Now, I admit the welfare program in this country could use a bit of help, it is very far from perfect. But I saw a girl I know, and know the family situation of, walking home yesterday from the high school, where I'm sure she was getting herself lunch because her parents were recently divorced and both are working. Who knows if she would have gotten a meal that afternoon if it weren't for this program. And who knows how many families are simply in our situation of not knowing when the next paycheck will be and just wanting to save some pennies and get their children some food.

Casting stones, that's all I have to say. Don't cast a stone about something until you have felt that desperation yourself, unless you yourself understand from ALL angles. Anyway, I just needed to vent about this because I for one am thankful for just the little help this gives to our family and many others this summer to save a dollar.

If you are interested and live in the East Valley, check out this website for a list of schools participating: Free School Lunches

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Food Storage: Meal Planning

My brother requested I share some of the knowledge we've gained about food storage from our great opportunities to use it. It got me totally excited to share about it!

About a year ago, I started taking seriously the council to have a 3 month supply of the things your family eats on a regular basis. Our pantry could maybe have held out 1 month of food before it was empty at that time, so I wasn't really sure how to go about things. Finally, with the help and experience of others I refined a system that works well for our family.

First, I created a menu of around 30 meals we make a lot, that also store well. ie: spaghetti, chili and corn bread, noodle casseroles and assorted rice meals are some that are on our menu.

Once I had the menu written up (and I did this in a spreadsheet) I listed next to each menu item the ingredients and the amount needed of each ingredient. This gave me an accurate shopping list and inventory check sheet for my pantry. I multiplied each of the 30 meals by 3 (to create 3 months worth) some meals that we make more I did more of, and those we eat once a month I stuck to just 3 times.

One example of this would be:

Meal: Beef Taco Skillet
Ingredients: Tortillas (can freeze or make out of flour, oil and water.)
Tomato Soup 1 can = 3 cans
Salsa 1/2 cup = 1 1/2 cups
Ground Beef 1/2 lb or 1 jar of canned beef = 1 1/2 lbs.
Cheese some (can also be frozen)

So I made my list and added things up and now I have an accurate list of what should be in my pantry to allow me to make 3 months worth of dinners for my family.

I always make sure I have a little of everything on hand. When I notice a good sale on a particular item I will buy either the whole 3 months worth of that item or a significant part of it depending on what the budget will allow.

Other tricks we've learned, there are powdered versions of a lot of different things. Dry milk, for example stores beautifully and works really well for cooking. My girls love things with syrup in the morning (I mean, what kid doesn't love things smothered with sugar?!!), so I always have enough sugar and a bottle of mapeline flavoring so we can make homemade syrup. (the dry milk is very helpful for pancakes, waffles and muffins.)

Powdered Sour Cream is something we recently learned about and it too works very well in casseroles and even stroganoff gravy! I know there are ways to store eggs and make egg substitute, but I have not yet ventured there. And then the basics of having flour (wheat and a wheat grinder make this go MUCH farther and make for tasty homemade bread products), sugar, some yeast in the freezer, and salt are also musts in that 3 month supply.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Just Keep Swimming

When life gets you down, you know what you gotta do? Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming...
Dory has become our family mascot for this incredibly applicable to life saying. All we can do some days is just keep swimming.

Yesterday Dallan went to work only to find that his company, where he has been working for a very short 5 months, was struggling to meet their financial goals this quarter, so they decided to cut budget by cutting the most recent hires employment. Ugh! It came as a shock to both of us, but maybe because of our recent experience with this shock (only 9 months ago) we seem to be handling it much better. Although, no one likes to feel "dumped", and that's really what it feels like, we just keep telling ourselves to keep on swimming!

So I thought I'd seek out the positive things in all of this. Maybe I'm doing this to make myself feel better, but maybe also with a slight hope it will help others to see the positive things in their own trials, because they are always there:

1. Financially we are in a better state because of the frugality and savings lessons we learned the first time around.

2. We get a second chance to test our 3 month supply of food. (I mean, how many people get to TRULY refine their system with a second test run in a year?!)

3. Dallan gets a chance to refine his resume writing skills and interview skills once again. That's a possitive because there is character building that comes with this!

4. Our family gets another simple reminder that our lives are in God's hands, and we get a chance to act on faith.

5. Our testimony of tithing will be strengthened further.

6. We get to strengthen our family relationships by spending a lot more quality time at home as a family.

7. I'll get more opportunities to use my wheat grinder and pasta maker!

8. We are truly greatful we actually HAD a job for the last 5 months, and that we took care of many of the medical needs the family had while on insurance.

Well, there are more, but I hate to make my posts carry on too long. I just know that there is a reason for all things, even when things are hard. I also know we grew a LOT last time around and actually look forward to the growth and knowledge that will come this time around because of this trial. Maybe in the long run we won't look back on this as a trial either. Hopefully we'll be able to look back on it as a blessing in disguise.

Here's to counting all those MANY blessings!!