Friday, September 30, 2016

Frugal Family Fun: Wesselman's Park

Parks are a great way to enjoy some Frugal Family Fun.  Wesselman's park is free to get into.  We had 30 minutes to kill in between appointments.  It was fun to burn off some energy and here some giggles while they were spinning around on the swings.  Today's fun was the best kind of frugal...FREE!

How does your Family have Frugal Fun?

Thursday, September 29, 2016

$125 Monthly Grocery Budget for a Family of 5...Say What!?!? ~ The Two C's

Once you decide How Often To Shop, you need to make sure you bring with you THE TWO C'S: CASH and a CALCULATOR.  

Bringing CASH is a great way to make sure you stick with your budget.  If you only have a certain amount of money with you, than that is all you can spend.  Dave Ramsey speaks about a cash envelope system and we do a version of that.  We relish the fact that we can't overspend and are living within (actually below) our means. 

One concern with cash is that it will disappear.  Either it will get piddled or lost.  If that is a concern of yours, go to the ATM on the way to the store.  This way, you will have less time to spend or lose the money.  

Another thing to consider is how much of your budget to take with you.  If you have a $125 budget, but you plan to shop twice that month, you should only bring with you half of the money.  Earmark the rest of the budgeted amount and put it away where you know it won't be spent.

A CALCULATOR is a great way to be sure you are only going to spend what you brought.  Making sure that you take the time to enter every single purchase.  When adding up, do not forget to account for tax on taxable items.  Also, try to get as close to the amount on weighed items as you possibly can.  For example, if bananas are 50 cents a pound, and you buy 2 and a half pounds, you would add $1.25 to your total.

Leave yourself a little wiggle room at the end.  You'd much rather get up there and have a total of $123.86 with a budget of $125 than get to the end and have to put items back because you do not have enough money with you.

If you are unwilling or unable to bring cash, a calculator can still be a way to ensure you stay within budget.  At the very least, you will be able to see how items add up as you fill up your cart and won't be shocked by the total at the register.

Next Up...The Other C 

Do you bring cash and a calculator when you shop?

Check out the other posts in this series: Say What!?!?!Exceptions, Plan Before You GoWhere To Shop, How Often I Shop

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

How'd I Do? ~ September 2016

September ends in two days...time has flown by!  It was a busy, but full month.  Here is how I did on my 2016 Intentions:

1. Catch up on the blog (including Disney!) DONE!!
2. Visit Grams B 2x a Month (0/24)
3. Finish Daily Dose of Knowledge: Bible with Brian Slow, but steady!
4. Visit each of Brian's grandparents 2x other than holidays (0/4)
5. Complete the 12 Months of Family Fun board we gave the kids for Christmas (4/12)
6. Cross off 35 things from my 101 in 1001 list (26/35)
7. Follow a strict budget Pretty much as strict as one can get!8. Keep track of all of Gavin's Appointments and Procedures in 2016 (See Below)
9. Work on my weight loss and do something active at least 3x a week Down 12 pounds!
10. Make Disney scrapbooks with the kids
11. Spend 30 minutes each day really playing with the kids Doing this!
12. Get at least 8 hours of sleep each night Most nights!
13. Drink at least 64oz of water every day Check!
14. Keep up our new bed time routine (Bible stories, down time, lights out at 8) We started reading the Bible as a family!
15. Get Gavin a wheelchair (Fitting 1/14, reordered 6/27) DONE!!!
16. Visit the Indianapolis Children's Museum 4x by November 30th (1/14, 5/3, 6/5. 6/6 ) DONE!!!

Busy Appointment Month:
9/2 - PT
9/7 - OT
9/8 - Dr. Bowersox
9/9 - PT
9/12 -Labs
9/13 - Labs
9/14 - OT
9/16 - PT
9/19 - Labs
9/20 - Dr. Neely, Sleep Study (Riley)
9/21 - Dr. Haggstrom (Riley)
9/22 - Dr. Bowersox
9/23 - Labs, Dr. Hege (Riley)
9/26 - GI Procedure Dr. Hon (Riley)
9/28 - OT
9/30 - Dr. Voyles, PT
How'd you do in September?

Homeschool Highlights

Review Week ~ Letter Stamps: I've built in several letter review weeks for Lilah to make sure she really knows the letters we've covered so far.  They are typically weeks where we aren't able to get a full week of school in.  She played a matching game with upper and lowercase letters, played letter memory, did some review sheets, and used paint and stamps.
Indianapolis Children's Museum: Last week when Gavin and I were in Indy, we visited the museum.  We actually stayed for 5 1/2 hours one day.  It was a long visit, but the time flew by and we were able to do so many things we don't typically do.  We watched a few shows, explored some new areas, and just took our time,  It was so easy keeping up with one kid!
 Two of the new areas we visited were Science Works where they have a horizontal rock wall and the Space area.  Both were really cool and we plan to visit again soon! 
Writing ~ Fact Dog: We used this graphic organizer to come up with a topic and 5 facts.  We did the topic "chickens" together and then I showed them how to piece the facts together in a paragraph. This week, each kid picked their own topic and five facts.  Next, I will work with them to create their own paragraphs.
Alligator Frame: Gavin saw an idea to make animal frames around a picture in a magazine.  He decided to create an alligator to go around one of his pictures.  I was really impressed with how it turned out.  I love when they take initiative and create!
 B Week ~ Sorting Buttons:
Miss Independent: Macie is able to do a lot of her work independently.  I will always check in with her and help when needed, but I am so proud of how well she is working this year.  I've rarely had to fight her with doing her math which is a huge improvement from last year. She even steps in and will read directions to Gavin or Lilah if I step out of the room or am working with someone. Such a big helper!
Paper Creations: On Sunday, the kids went to town creating.  They grabbed paper, scissors, glue and tape and before I knew it, my table was covered in creations and the floor was covered in scraps!

B Week ~ Blindfold Art: When Lilah has a cool activity like Blindfold art, I make sure to include the other two.  It was so funny because they couldn't wait to get the blindfold on, but it only lasted a few minutes.  They were so anxious to see what they drew and what colors they used.  I reminded them how lucky they were that they can see and asked them what it would be like to be blind.  You could see all of their little brains churning away!

Library Art Class: I try to fit in random fun and FREE activities for the kids when I can.  Our schedule is insane, so I can't do it all of the time.  Today, I was able to take the kids to an art class at Central library.  They were so excited to go.  Right before, there is a read aloud time, but I didn't realize that, so we didn't go in until the art time.  The kids did monoprints and they really turned out awesome.  They also had them paint a cd for a project next week.  I originally wasn't sure how often we'd make it to these, but now the kids are hooked and want to go back!

What are some highlights from your homeschool this week?

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

My Loved One was Diagnosed with a Disability or Illness...What do I do now? ~ Child in your Home

The role of caring for a CHILD IN YOUR HOME is different than a spouse in many ways.  Whether they are ill or not, you are responsible for them until they are 18 (and often beyond).  It is also different if you are caring for or concerned about a child that does not live in your home (more on that to come).

Hearing that anything is wrong with your baby is devastating.  There is nothing anyone can say or do to make it better.  Often times, we are at a loss and need to GRIEVE before we can move on. Sometimes we don't have time to grieve and have to dive right in.

I have two children who have been diagnosed with disabilities.  Their disabilities and diagnosis are very different.  One is more physical and the other is mental.  I will talk about the differences on those in later posts.  Neither one is easy to deal with, but as I said, I am one to take things head on and get done what needs to be done.  

If you have a spouse or partner who will be helping you with your child's care, it is important that you are on the same page.  Some things to consider if you have a child in your home with a disability or illness are the following:

  • What are your goals for your child? (Healthy child, independence, etc)
  • Do one of you need to stay home or adjust your working situation to care for your child? (If so, who? Could one of you switch to a different shift to accommodate?)
  • How will you financially survive? (Can you live on one salary if needed? Pick up an extra job?)
  • What services do we need? (Speech, Physical Therapy, etc)
  • What specialists do we need to consult? (Oncology, Dermatology, etc)
  • How will we make sure our other children are taken care of? (Always a balance even if they are all healthy)
  • What schooling will be best for our child? (Homeschooling, special education classes, a different school)
  • How can we include our child in decisions about his or her care? (Depending on age and cognitive ability, it is important to include your child, especially if your goal is independence at some point)
  • Is our home equipped to handle their disability? (Wheelchair accessible, hand rails, etc)

Dealing with any illness or diagnosis is often a roller coaster.  There will be sharp turns, ups, and downs.  Some things may not apply to you right now, but will at a later time.  When my son was a baby, he had one doctor we saw every few months.  Now he has around 12 whom we see very often.

The answers above will change, so just keep talking about them and making sure you are on the same page.  All you can do is your best.

Next up...the role of a parent with a child NOT living in the home.

If this tip was helpful, check out the other posts in the series: Our StoryInternetGrievingLearn Your Role, Spouse

Monday, September 26, 2016

4 Truths and a Dare

TRUTH...They may or may not have caught me snoring for a few minutes during Gavin's sleep study.

TRUTH...Even with a crazy schedule last week, I'm down 10.5 pounds!

TRUTH...This blog has had almost 16,000 page views in the last month!

TRUTH...Gavin has a GI procedure today and an MRI of his brain scheduled in November.  Although he's pepped up a bit, he's been super lethargic for weeks and not quite himself.  Lots is going on and I'm praying for answers.

DARE...I dare myself to post a Medical Madness update on Gavin this week.

What are your 4 truths and a dare this week?

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Food, Football, and Fun

Gavin found a cool cookbook at the library and he wanted to plan a special menu with it. I declared last Sunday a stay home and cooking day.
 On the menu was a football cheeseball, triple berry punch, pretzel bites, southwest quinoa bowls, and chocolate fruit pizzas.  The pretzel bites didn't turn out as well as we'd hoped, but everything else was a hit!

 The kids really are great helpers in the kitchen.  I am able to give them jobs and they will go with it.  Every now and then it got a little hectic, but I know it won't be long and they will be self sufficient in the kitchen.

 I got out my football tablecloth that used to belong to my Grandma Wolf.  I also used some of my football dishes to make it extra special.  

 Lots of memories were made that day.  It was definitely a day full of good FOOD, Colt's FOOTBALL, and family FUN!

Family Bible Time

For a while now, our goal has been to have a Family Bible Time in the evenings.  We were reading the daily mass readings and saying our bedtime prayer.  We would pray the rosary on Sundays because we'd already heard the readings at Mass (hopefully).  This was working for a while, but was hit or miss due to our Mitchell Madness and I kept feeling called to something different.

After praying about, talking to Brian, and getting some inspiration from a few blogs I read, I came up with a new plan.  We decided to read the entire Bible from cover to cover as a family.

That is a huge goal and we started doing research on various plans.  I also had originally wanted each person to have their own Bible to follow along.  Well, that was a lot harder to achieve than one would think.  Finding a good Catholic Bible reading plan was difficult and even finding affordable Bibles that the kids wouldn't tear up seemed impossible.

So, we settled on me reading the Bible every night.  We decided not to have a specific plan, but to start at the beginning in Genesis and read 3 or 4 chapters a night and see how it went.

Many plans have you reading from three different parts in a Bible every day.  Brian and I started a plan like that a few years back and actually did it for quite a while.  However, we thought jumping around would be too confusing for the kids.

We obviously know that the kids aren't going to understand everything we are reading.  Sometimes, the Old Testament can be quite scary.  But, we feel very strongly that they have exposure to the Bible and anything they absorb will be better than nothing.

Being that they are so young, I've given them each a notebook that they are allowed to color, write, or draw in while I read.  This keeps their hands busy and they are creating some beautiful work.

We started a week or so ago and are most of the way through Genesis.  It is going really well and the kids are excited when they hear about people we've talked about before.  I don't know if it will take us 1 year or 5 years to complete, but we are going to keep plugging along.

As a reward for completing our goal, we hope to go to the Creation Museum and Ark Encounter.

Does your Family have a special Bible time?

Saturday, September 24, 2016

That Time When...

...Gavin's head was wrapped to look like a minion!

Gavin's sleep study was this past week.  The nurse we got was awesome!  Since he came in wearing a minion shirt, she covered up the wires on his head and made it look like a minion.  She even wrapped up Pandy too!

Have you ever had a time like that?

Friday, September 23, 2016

Frugal Family Fun: Indianapolis Children's Museum

Because we were foster parents for a period of time (and actually still have our foster parent's license), we got a FREE membership to the Indianapolis Children's Museum.  We originally thought we would just get free one time passes and were shocked to find out it was a whole year's membership.

Indianapolis has an amazing children's museum, but it is three hours from our house.  However, we are in Indy all of the time because that is where Riley Children's Hospital is. We have been able to visit several times this year and actually went there a few times this week.

Memberships are a great way to enjoy frugal fun with your family all year long.  There is typically an initial investment, but we often make that back after a few trips.  I always figure out how much one trip would cost our family and then figure out how many trips to the place we would have to take in order to recoup our costs.  In this case, we didn't have any cost at all!

Brian was able to go with us the very first time and Grandpa even joined us once.  Gavin and I spent 5 1/2 hours there earlier this week.  The kids and I love our time there and I'll relish the memories made.

How does your family have frugal fun? 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

$125 Monthly Grocery Budget for a Family of 5...Say What!?!? ~ How Often I Shop

Once you've figured out where to shop, the next step is figuring out HOW OFTEN TO SHOP.

In the past, I've shopped weekly, every other week, and monthly.  When sticking to the $125 grocery budget, I shopped once a month.  I've found the less I shop, the less I spend, and the more likely I am to use up what I've got at home.

This may be difficult for some to imagine.  However, if you've followed the previous step of Plan Before You Go, going once a month is totally doable.  Go with a plan and knock it all out at once.  Besides saving money, you will be surprised how much time you save.  With three little ones, I know that the less time I spend in the grocery store, the better!

You may be thinking, how do your items last all month?  Here is how we made accommodations for those items that have a shorter shelf life:
  • Milk: I would buy 2 gallons of milk at the beginning of the month and find the latest expiration date possible.  Aldi is good about having later dates.  We don't go through a ton of milk and are mostly water drinkers.  When the milk was gone, we'd wait until next month.  When my kiddos were younger, I'd save a few dollars out to get a gallon of milk later in the month.  Milk is also freezable and my kids say it still tastes good.
  • Bread: We made almost all bread from scratch.  This means that bread going bad or running out wasn't a problem.
  • Fresh Fruits and Veggies: We would buy as many fresh fruits and veggies as the budget would allow.  Aldi typically runs great produce deals each week.  We used up the fresh stuff first.   Once fresh stuff was used up, I'd have a few cans of fruit and some frozen veggies that could be used at the end of the month.  For the fruit, I make sure it is in it's own juice or water so it's a bit healthier.  
  • Other Dairy Products: Once we used up what was bought for the month, we'd do without until the following month. 
Next Up...Cash and Calculator

How often do you shop?

Check out the other posts in this series: Say What!?!?!Exceptions, Plan Before You Go, Where To Shop

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Homeschool Highlights

Writing Ideas ~ Nonfiction: 
Gavin's Writing Samples: I love that Gavin is doing most of his writing himself and sounding out more words if he can't find it in the room!
Creeping Caterpillars: When we were at our Third Thursday Science class last week, a lady brought out some caterpillars for the kids to hold.  I believe they were called Tent caterpillars but she called them kitty caterpillars because they were so soft.  They were quick, too!

Fishy Business: The science class this month was actually about fish.  The kids made these adorable fish seen below and learned so many fun facts about fish.  They were excited to tell me how fish breathe under water.  The fish below are from left to right, Macie, Gavin, Lilah.
E Week ~ Egg Carton Art:  These caterpillars were super simple to make and turned out cute.  They are from left to right, Macie, Gavin, Lilah.
 Lilah's Word Families: Today, Lilah and I sorted the words she is reading into word families.  Every week she is adding new words to the list.  She is really all about sounds right now.  She sounds out her word family words and every time she hears a word, she stresses the first sound trying to figure out what it starts with.  I love this early reading stage!

What are some highlights from your homeschool this week?

Monday, September 19, 2016

My Loved One was Diagnosed with a Disability or Illness...What do I do now? ~ Spouse

If your SPOUSE is the loved one with a disability, it is quite different than if your child has a disability.  I've learned this first hand.

If your spouse is sick, it changes everything.  Depending on the illness, it may effect your income, strain your relationship, and cause your whole household to be flipped upside down.

With my children, I can make the phone calls and appointments myself.  Insurance will speak to me about anything.  I can talk to all doctors and nurses about their care.  I also drive them to the places and force them to follow all of the doctor's orders.  This is not the same with a spouse.

If your spouse is capable, sit down and have a conversation with him or her about your role in their illness.  It would be good to consider the following:

  • Will you be included in decision making regarding care? (I hope yes)  
  • Will you be able to speak to doctors if needed? (Ask your spouse to fill out paperwork at doctors' offices for them to share information with you)  
  • Will you go to appointments with your spouse? (It's often good to have a second set of ears at appointments)  
  • Who is going to handle the insurance and bills? (File for Financial Aid if needed) 
  • How will the illness effect the rest of the household? (Children, finances, household chores)  
  • Does your spouse need accountability to take medications? (Medications are often a huge key in recovery or leading a more stable life) 
  • Would counseling help us through this? (Individual or as a couple) 
  • Do you need to get paperwork in order for worst case scenarios? (Wills, Trusts, Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care)
  • How much will you share with loved ones and friends? (Who will do the sharing?)
  • What care do you (your spouse) need that you aren't currently getting? (Therapies, equipment, etc)
  • What do you need from me as your spouse and best friend? (Love and support)

Because you are dealing with your spouse, it is important to treat him or her with a great deal of respect.  This is crucial in order to maintain a healthy relationship.  It is very difficult at times, but you have to remember why you fell in love with him or her in the first place.  Encourage them, stand by them, and celebrate the good moments, no matter how small.

I am amazed by how many people tell me how "inspiring" or "beautiful" it is that I am staying with Brian through his illness.  I look at them in disbelief and say, "Of course I am!"  I signed up for marriage " sickness and health, til death do us part..." and vowed before God and our loved ones.  I don't take that lightly and would like to think that if it were me, he'd do the same.

Next up...the role of a parent with your child living at home.

If this tip was helpful, check out the other posts in the series: Our StoryInternetGrieving, Learn Your Role

4 Truths and a Dare

TRUTH...Gavin was stuck 8 times last week and they still didn't get any blood.  I told them he was taking a break until today.  Someone came to our house this morning to draw his labs and got it on the first try!

TRUTH...We will be at Riley on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and next Monday.  I'm going to be catching myself coming and going.

TRUTH...We've already done 38 days of school.  Today is number 39!

TRUTH...I'm sad I'm going to miss Macie's soccer game on Tuesday night.

DARE...I dare myself to stay sane with all of the trips back and forth to Riley in the next week.

What are your 4 Truths and a Dare this week?

Sunday, September 18, 2016


IF you were to be granted one wish, what would it be?

While it would be nice to have money, etc, I know what my one wish would be.  I would wish for Brian, Macie, and Gavin to be healthy.  Health is honestly everything.  You can lose it all, but if you are healthy, it's easier to rebound.

Health issues rule our life.  When I was pregnant with each of my babies, every night Brian and I would pray for a happy healthy baby and a happy healthy mama.  It seems like such a simple request.
If you have healthy children and a healthy spouse (which I hope you do), praise God for that.  Consider yourself lucky and blessed and do not take if for granted.

What would you wish for?

Saturday, September 17, 2016

That Time When...

...Lilah had a caterpillar crawling on her face!
We were at our Third Thursday Science class at Wesselman's this week.  Before the class started, a lady came out with a container of tent caterpillars and started handing them to kiddos to hold and let crawl around on them.  They were quick little boogers and in no time one was up on Lilah's face!  She kept it there long enough for me to snap this precious photo.

Have you ever had a time like that?

Friday, September 16, 2016

Life Lessons from a Simple Science Experiment

The kids and I did a simple science experiment the other day.  It failed.  We followed the instructions and did everything like we were supposed to, but it just didn't work out.

I used to get upset by this.  Now, I use it as a lesson about how things don't always work out and there are often many failed experiments before getting it right.

Often times, great discoveries are made during the "failed" attempts. Microwaves, velcro, and x-rays are a few examples of this.

This not only applies to science, but also life.  So many times, we do everything "right", but do not get the expected or wanted outcome.  It can be frustrating and upsetting.  We can feel like giving up.

The lessons we can learn from a science experiment is that we have to keep trying until we get it right, while also looking for other great discoveries in our failures.  You never know what may come out of the rubble.

Have you ever discovered something great in one of your failures?

Frugal Family Fun: Animal Fun at the Library

Last Saturday, we went to an animal program at the library.  It was put on by the zoo.  Three docents came and brought four animals: a guinea pig named Keto, a Jacabon pigeon named Romeo, a prehensile tail skink named Oscar, and a Kenyan Sand Boa named Nya.  They kids learned about them all, were able to pet a few, and also got to explore some other animals artifacts.  They had an ostrich egg, snake eggs, animal pelts, and some skulls to look at and feel.  

Our whole family was able to go, learn, and enjoy time as a family.  The best part is that it was totally free!  We are always looking for frugal ways to have some family fun and the library is a great place for that!

How does your family have frugal fun?