Thursday, October 22, 2009

Fall fun in photos

Saturday after Meg and Drew had hockey (oh yes, it's THAT time of year again) we went on a quest for pumpkins. I was hoping to find a pumpkin patch to avoid going to Pumpkin Land but even in the middle of farm country there were no pumpkin patches to be found. So we ended up at Pumpkin Land. It has moved from its previous location since we went two years ago and I was pleasantly surprised. The new location is bigger, so even though there were a gazillion people there on a gorgeous, mild Saturday afternoon, it didn't feel that crowded.

Before I post the photos, let me tell you about Izzie and her little photo spread. Izzie LOVES lambs and sheep. She sleeps with two pink "shaky" lambies, one of which is a little more loved than the other (so thank goodness she has two). She cries when she sees a sheep in a book. Her addiction is a bit much, but she's 2 1/2 so we'll just go with it. Annie and I came upon the sheep first in the barn, and she immediately whirled around and asked "where Izzie?" She KNEW that we had to get Izzie into the barn to see the sheep. You'll see why as you scroll down.

(I love this silo)
(I know it's blurry but she's so happy!)
(Yup, she KISSED it!)
(We rode a tractor pulled wagon down to the pumpkin patch)

My photos are unedited. If I had a good few hours, I'd upload them to my editing program, Memory Manager (it's a Creative Memories program) and really heighten the colors.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Let's talk about money, shall we?

You won't often see me write about money on this blog. Especially my money. We are a one income family, originally by choice/necessity due to daycare costs, and we have to be careful with what we spend our money on. We are also a large family, which means that our expenses are on the high side. We don't eat out much, we buy in bulk to save in the long run and we ask our families to help with the big expenses for the kids like hockey (thank you grandparents!!!). We are working hard to pay down debt; I am still paying on law school loans and will be for some time. Having to pay mortgages on two homes for 2 years did not help our financial situation and set us back. But we're trying to get out from under our debt.

I can't say that we were always financially savvy. We are quite guilty of using the equity in our home to consolidate debt, thinking that we were doing the right thing by paying off higher rate credit cards (hence why we had to sell our house for such a loss this year; owed more to the bank than the home was worth). We've consolidated several credit cards into a single credit card at a lower rate, which was supposed to stop the flow of money out of our bank account. We try to pay more to our higher rate card each month, but that isn't always possible. Our kids need clothes, food and shelter and those things cost money.

So imagine my horror yesterday when I got a letter from one of our credit card companies (Citibank) yesterday telling us that our nice, low interest rate was going up to 29.99% effective November 30th. TWENTY NINE POINT NINE NINE PERCENT! Of course this is our card with the highest balance, by far. Now of course under the new federal regulations Citibank is required to allow us to opt-out of this rate change. What their letter doesn't tell us, but what I know from doing my research, is that 1) if you opt-out, you have to pay your balance in full within 5 years, 2)when you opt-out and your card is canceled, it can effect your credit score (go here if you want to read the article).

I'm pissed. I'm pissed because we made stupid money mistakes. I'm pissed because as we're trying to get things right financially, the credit card companies are making it HARDER for us. I've done my calculations and I know what it will take to pay off our card in five years. It's more than we're currently paying for our minimum payment, which then puts us further in the hole instead of gaining any ground. Someone needs to explain to me how we can get out of the recession if people can't get out of debt because the credit card companies are putting the screws to us.

I am well aware that if we we were a two income family, I might not be writing this post. At the time I decide to retire from the practice of law five years ago, the cost of putting two kids into daycare was almost as much as my weekly salary. Add in my work costs (gas, clothes, travel, etc) and I wasn't going to have much of a paycheck left. We've talked about me trying to go back to work (NOT in the practice of law thank you very much), and quite frankly, it isn't a scenario that works for us right now with so many small children at home and this economy.

I know we've made our bed (financially speaking) and have to lie in it. But I also know that we are trying hard to rectify our past money mistakes and that having the credit card companies raise our rates isn't helping. We're trying to take steps forward and they are pulling us back. Is that the new American way? Quite frankly, it sucks.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Smiling through the gray

It's a gray, gloomy day here in Maine, so I started thinking about the things that make me smile through the gray:

  • I love the twins in footy pajamas. I dug them out the other night because it's gotten COLD and they don't sleep under their blankets very well. They just look so warm and snug.
  • I love watching the kids color. We have a ton of coloring books and the kids just pull them out, grab our outrageously large bucket of crayons and go to town.
  • I love seeing the kids with books. Meg just finished reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Drew has stacks of books beside his bed and the girls are constantly sitting down with books. We got out our Halloween books the other day and I've just been reading them over and over to them (my favorite is Angelina's Halloween, but the kids like Ten Trick or Treaters best).
  • Coffee. What's not to love about coffee? Granted, a coffee delivery service as AndreAnna is often pining for would be great, but I'll take it hot and fresh from the pot each day.
  • Fall weather. Despite today's rain and bone chilling cold, I love fall. I love the changing colors around our house. Doug put up dried cornstalks from our garden on the posts on either side of front steps this weekend and now all we need are pots of mums and some pumpkins to finish the look.
  • Warmer clothes. Socks, sweaters, slippers all make me very happy.

So, indulge me. What is making you smile today?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Yes, Big Families CAN Go Out to Dinner

We don't often go out to dinner as a family. The main reason we don't go out is we're a family of 6~dining out is expensive for us. While I've heard rumblings that the economy is improving, the State of Maine is always last to experience such joys. We may get the first sunrise, but we always get the last of everything else. If we do go out, we stick to restaurants that we know won't break the bank, are places that the kids like to eat (obviously) and aren't just fast food. I mean, I can make mac and cheese and cheese quesadillas for a LOT less than it would cost at a restaurant.

With that said, we do take the kids out as special treats at times. Saturday we told the kids that if they cleaned their rooms with minimal fuss, we'd take them out for Mexican. We are not above bribing our kids with food for a change of scenery for us all (oh, and of course food we don't have to prepare and dishes someone else cleans up). We got to our favorite place and the wait was literally 2 minutes. If that's not a sign of the economy, I don't know what is (sometimes the wait there is 30 minutes). Anyway, as we were brought to our table, I was listening to another patron count how many kids we have. I'm sure we look like an armada coming into the restaurant, but the kids were being very well behaved. And they remained well behaved for our entire meal. Only Drew couldn't sit still in his seat; he was fascinated with a table of older boys seated behind us and kept turning to watch them. Other than that, no one yelled, spilled their drinks, threw food or any other tantrum that we often see at home. I was quite proud of them.

We get that "look" a lot when we go out to eat. That look of disdain from people, especially older people, that we've brought our kids out to eat. Last I checked, there wasn't a law against a big family eating out. If our children do have a bad behavior moment, they are removed from the table and brought to a quieter area to calm the heck down. But those moments are rare; for the most part, they're thrilled to be out somewhere else to eat and try hard to be on their best behavior. I'm not sure why people feel the need to judge. I suppose we all judge someone else at some point in time, but it really annoys me that people do that to my kids. We may be a big family, but we do have manners and they are expected to be used in public (at home, well, that's a post for another day). So to those to give us the "look"~buzz off. Big families can, and will, go out to eat.