Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving wherever you are! I am very thankful for the big things in life: my family, our health, God, the freedom to homeschool, friends, my extended family, my church, and more!

But here are some random little things I am thankful for as well: cinnamon bread, my computer, warm electric blanket, two working vehicles, lipstick, books, my library card, coupons, pizza, scrapbooks, Cookie Cottage, homeschool catalogs, Facebook, my iPod, photos, vacations (big or small!), playing games with my kids, snuggles with Owen, hoodies, sunglasses, House Hunters, Sudoku, email, girls' nights out, and many, many more! What little things are you thankful for?

Monday, November 24, 2008

My Guy . . .

Fun little meme I picked up from Amy. This is all about my better half. :)

1. He’s sitting in front of the TV, what is on the screen?Depends on the season. :) Spring/summer - baseball. Fall/winter - football! And NCIS anytime.

2. You’re out to eat; what kind of dressing does he get on his salad? Fat-free French

3. What’s one food he doesn’t like? Shrimp (a favorite of mine!)

4. You go out to the bar. What does he order? Coors Light. Or an Amaretto Sour.

5. Where did he go to high school? Oliver High School in Pittsburgh

6. What size shoe does he wear? 10?

7. If he was to collect anything, what would it be? Steelers memorabilia

8. What is his favorite type of sandwich? Ham

9. What would he eat every day if he could? Ham :) Ice cream.

10. What is his favorite cereal? Raisin Bran (with extra raisins he adds to the top)

11. What would he never wear? Brown and orange (Cleveland Browns' colors, you know!)

12. What is his favorite sports team? Pittsburgh Steelers & Pittsburgh Pirates

13. Who did he vote for? McCain

14. Who is his best friend? Me? (I think.)

15. What is something you do that he wishes you wouldn’t do? Debate everything

16. How many states has he lived in? Three: Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Indiana

17. What is his heritage? Italian/Slovakian

18. You bake him a cake for his birthday; what would it be? Cherry chocolate. But he'd really prefer a cherry pie.

19. Did he play sports in high school? Yes. Baseball. He was a catcher!

20. What could he spend hours doing? Watching sports

21. What’s something cool about him? He makes wise decisions. He is funny and very quick-witted. He can juggle. :)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

More Meal Planning

Mpm This week's meal plan:

Monday: Taco Ring
Tuesday: Baked Spaghetti
Wednesday: Chicken Stir-Fry
Thursday: Thanksgiving & all the extras at my gram's house!
Friday: Dinner at my mom's to celebrate my brother's birthday
Saturday: CORN night (Clean Out The Refrigerator, aka leftovers!)

It's a busy week, so I've planned some family favorites and easy things I can do from memory. Have a great Thanksgiving and enjoy all of that yummy food!!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Alphabet Tag!

Just a quick A to Z about me! And I'm tagging Kristy, Heather, Staci, Jenn, and Kelly to do the same! :)

A-Attached or Single: Attached

B-Best Friend: My Husband, no question!

C-Cake or Pie: Strawberry pie. Yum!

D-Day of Choice: Sunday (preferably in the fall!)

E-Essential Item: My computer

F-Favorite Color: Yellow

G-Greatest Accomplishment: Passing my ATC exam, having a strong marriage & great kids

H-Hometown: Fort Wayne

I-Indulgences: M&Ms

J-January or July: July (though I used to LOVE the winter!)

K-Kids: 1 girl and 2 boys

L-Life is incomplete without: God, my family

M-Marriage: One of my favorite things. :)

N-Number of Siblings: 1 (My brother is so lucky to have me!)

O-Oranges or Apples: Apples. I love Gala especially.

P-Phobias or fears: Thunderstorms, ants, going to the dentist

Q-Quotes: "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to my death your right to say it."

R-Reason to Smile: I'm healthy and so is my family.

S-Season: Fall

T-Tag Friends: Kristy, Heather, Staci, Jenn, and Kelly

U-Unknown facts about me: I hate it when my socks get wet. Ewww!

V-Very favorite store(s): Target, any bookstore

W-Worst habit: Snacking when I'm not hungry

X-X-ray or Ultra Sound: Ultrasound (because x-rays mean something is broken, and ultrasounds usually mean you're having a baby!) :)

Y-Your favorite food: Just one? Hmmm....I'll go with mashed potatoes right now. But tomorrow I may change my mind. Curly fries are another favorite!

Z-Zodiac: Scorpio (though I don't put any weight in zodiac signs!)

And thanks to everyone who voted in my poll about blog design. The results were about 65%/35% for keeping it the same. I have decided to keep my blog the same since it involves some work and the majority like it as is. Thanks for your opinions! :) I appreciated it!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

How the Other Half Lives

I *adore* learning about how other people live and how different people can be! (Maybe I should have been a sociologist?) I guess that is why I am drawn to reading blogs and watching television shows like "House Hunters," "Wife Swap," "Supernanny," and lots more!

My current fave is "House Hunters International." If you've never seen it (and you're missing out!!), each episode follows someone (a couple, family, single person, etc.) as they look for a new home in somewhere other than the U.S. They tour three homes and then decide which home to purchase. You get an insider's look at homes in other countries and they also tell you the price in U.S. dollars. Too fun! :) Everything from fancy homes, to country homes, to small city apartments.

Maybe I watch it too often, though, because today Riley asked if we could watch an episode for school. My answer? "Absolutely not, Riley. Not during school time! We need to get your work done!" "But mom," she replied, "we're studying France right now and maybe they will be looking for a home in France!" Ah, my sweet daughter! She gets an A+ today for logic! :) (Oh, and I did check; there is an episode coming up on Friday that looks at homes in Paris! Oh la la! We will definitely have to watch that one soon. I've been to France twice and love it there!)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Our Kids . . .

are really cute! And sweet. And good-hearted. I'm totally biased. :) I love 'em. I need to remind myself of that on the occasional difficult day. So, here's a sweet reminder of the littlest (but biggest!) loves of my life:

Riley: Kind, honest, a cheerleader, helps without being asked, silly, polite, quiet, loud, great student, loves to read, loves to do devotions with mommy(!), is beginning to actually understand football, my favorite daughter (as I tell her often!).

(Rocking out to Guitar Hero w/her new haircut)

Quinn: Huge-hearted, serious, awesome pray-er, great giggles, tries really hard to obey(!), wears his heart on his sleeve, loves to be around me (even when I'm upset with him!), big helper, loud, cute sly smiles.

Owen: ornery, strong-willed, lots of hugs & kisses, silly, likes to play, likes to climb, is working on talking more and saying "yesh" (yes), big cuddler, did I mention absolutely ornery?? Oh, and strong-willed? (Today was a great day with my kids! I wrote this a few days ago but was having trouble posting it with the pictures.)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Cold Nights = Warm Meals!

I'm participating in OrgJunkie's Menu Plan Monday now! (She has a great blog, btw!) I hope to do this on a more regular basis now that we are dining in more often. I meal plan just about every single week, but don't post it too often here. Here's our (dinner) plan for the week (main dish only):

Sunday: Kielbasa
Monday: Chicken Divan (Riley's favorite!)
Tuesday: One-Pot Salsa Beef Skillet (Brad's night to cook)
Wednesday: Breakfast for dinner! Waffles, bacon, applesauce, & OJ!
Thursday: Crockpot Ribs & Mashed Potatoes
Friday: Movie night & dinner at church (where we eat hot dogs and popcorn)
Saturday: Couples' Night In at our house - we will enjoy a potluck! Who knows what all we will have? :)

What are your plans for the week? We are planning lots of WARM meals as it is starting to get very, very cold here! Brrrr!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Cooking In and Staying In

By now I'm sure you've noticed that the HappyGoMommy! family loves to eat out. We do! Everything from chain restaurants, to carryout, to local little restaurants. Well, we've decided to see if we can go without eating out (including carryout!) for an entire month! We are not doing this because we need to save the money (though that will be nice), but rather, to see if we can actually not eat in restaurants for a month! This was a family idea, and I'll report later on how we're doing...!

I picked up groceries today for the next week and decided to include some fast family foods that we normally don't do - prepackaged chicken fajitas, frozen pizzas, etc. - in addition to all of the ingredients for my homemade meals. My theory is that if I have a few super-quick and low-mess foods on hand,we will be less tempted to dine out! When I do cook (usually most nights a week), I usually prepare my meals from scratch or mostly-from-scratch, and I do complete meals (dinner, side, veggie, fruit, bread, etc.). My sweet husband has also decided to prepare dinner once per week to give me a night off. He loves trying new recipes as much as I do, which I really appreciate! :) We have lots of cookbooks and recipe magazines around our home!

Do you have any meals that are super-simple to do when you are crunched for time or not wanting to prepare a full meal? If so, I would love to hear about them or receive your recipes.

Of course, this doesn't include eating out at friends' or family's homes, so feel free to invite us over if you'd like!! :) I'm sure we would appreciate the change of scenery, not to mention the conversation and good company. :)

Friday, November 7, 2008

You Say It's Your Birthday . . .

Today was my birthday! Yay! I had a great day with my family and enjoyed the day. We usually take school off when it is anyone's birthday (in the family!), but we decided to still have school today and do our school work. The kids were great for school and we got a lot accomplished. We are currently studying Europe and spent today learning about Norway. After that, we met my parents and Brad for lunch at Casa's (a local Italian restaurant - yum!!). I received some nice presents from my family (thanks!).

My sweet husband surprised me by telling me to enjoy an afternoon out and he would take care of the kids (including gym class) and straightening up the house. Yay! I headed off for a relaxing afternoon of reading & browsing at Border's, followed by shopping at the mall (thanks for the shopping money, Addie!), and getting my driver's license renewed (oh for joy! At least it was a good photo day!).

After hanging out with my family at home later on and opening presents (thanks, babe!), the five of us headed out for dinner. Very good! The kids wanted to go out for ice cream afterwards, but because Owen was starting to get fussy, we simply came home and had homemade sundaes for dessert! Much easier! I also came home to hear my favorite niece and nephew singing for me on my answering machine - too cute! Finally, our family spent some time playing games (of my choice!) and we played until I won. :) Yes, it took several games!

Thanks to all for my birthday cards, facebook comments, and gifts! I am especially thankful for my friends & family!

Monday, November 3, 2008


Be sure to vote today! Not sure where you vote? Or the voting hours? Call your local Republican or Democratic headquarters. Then go vote. Need a ride? Give me a call and I'll take you (if you live in IN of course!). :) No matter what happens, this is a historical election for our great country. I'd tell you who to vote for (if you don't know by now!), but you need to make your own informed decision. Now, go VOTE!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Sunday Night

Here's how a routine Sunday evening (my favorite, btw!) goes around HappyGoMommy's house:
Dinner - usually homemade pizza by Brad - yum!

Straightening up the house - kids have to help, of course!

Playing games with the kids - usually dominoes, cards, or "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?" (which we usually are!)

Baths & bedtime for the kiddos

And finally, our time! Brad and I enjoy some football and enjoy hanging out for the rest of the evening. :) A great time to relax at the end of a weekend. I am usually folding baskets upon baskets of laundry while we watch a game and catch up on our lives with each other.
I love routines - though I also enjoy change! - and Sunday afternoons and evenings are especially nice. I think I just like them because they're comfy. :) Happy Sunday!

A Book & A Blog

I read a great book this past week and thought I'd share about it. Scratch Beginnings was written by Adam Shephard and in it, he writes about searching for the "American Dream." It is a true story of his life in 2007. He starts out with just $25 and heads to a southern city to see if he can succeed. His measurable goals were clear: at the end of the experiment (one year), he wanted to live in a furnished apartment, have an operable car, have $2500 in cash, and be in a position where he can continue to improve his circumstances (by going to school or starting a business).

The book is written in a very casual style, and if you can get past the language that some of the people he meets along the way use, it is a great read! You get a behind-the-scenes look at shelter life, being homeless, and trying to find a job without an education or degree. I think it gives a good look into how some of the poor live. Although some people have complained that he could not know what it is like to be truly poor, because he is a white male, college graduate (though he did not rely on that), with no dependents.

If you have heard of - or read - Nickel and Dimed, this is his rebuttal to that book. In that book, Barbara Ehrenreich discusses how the pursual of the American Dream is hopeless. I recommend you read them both and make your own conclusions. :) Let me know if you do - or if you have already read them!

And about a blog - I know I have mentioned this site before, but because I like it so much, it gets another mention! :) Have you checked out The Simple Dollar yet? Trent runs a GREAT site and his advice is excellent. I appreciate all of his advice and am trying to incorporate more of his tips into my daily life. Check it out if get a chance & let me know what you think!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

BOO! Hope you are enjoying your scary day. :) We are enjoying a very pleasant day here in the Midwest. School went very well (always a good thing for a Friday!), and we are headed to Trunk or Treating this evening! Too fun. My kids are dressing as an angel, giraffe and Scooby Doo. And in case you don't see me today, here is what I have on:

I'm looking forward to a fun weekend of early birthday shopping (for me!), dinner with family, church, working outside in the yard, and getting some inside chores done as well. That, and catching up on some reading as well! (And trying not to swipe candy from our kids' buckets! Oh come on - you know you do it, too!!)

Hope you have a great weekend wherever you are! What are your plans for the Halloween weekend??

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Catching Up!

Hello friends! I have been busy lately, but all has been well. We are just plugging away with school, church, work, and life in general! The weather here is getting colder - my favorite time of year! I love leaves, cozy sweatshirts, hayrides, and everything associated with fall!
I haven't posted about school in awhile, so I thought I'd post a short update of our year so far. I will also begin catching up with the Homeschool Memoirs posts again soon! I've been so busy homeschooling that I haven't posted about homeschooling. :)

We've really had a great year so far this year, and we are already over 1/4 of the way done for the year! We have finished studying North America and deserts, and have moved on to South America and rain forests. It's been fun!We're also plugging away with math, language arts, science, Bible, music, & more. The kids have done awesome at Bible quizzing this year, and we just registered for Upward Basketball (Quinn) and Cheerleading (Riley), which will begin soon.
We've studied: latitudes, longitudes, banyan trees, buttresses, multiplication, punctuation, direct quotations, and capitalization. We've made sand art, cakes out of globes, and forest canopies, as well as had a Mexican fiesta and gone on field trips!

Brad and I enjoyed a weekend away this weekend on a marriage retreat. It was a great time away to focus on our relationship and each other. Always needed when lives are busy! Sarah Palin was in town over the weekend, but we didn't go to the rally as it wouldn't have made for a very romantic evening. :)

I would love to post photos, but I am having difficulty with Typepad uploading my photos....argghh! I hope to have it working soon!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Vote '08

I had the opportunity to go to a Sarah Palin rally on Friday and jumped on it! Brad was willing to handle the kids & our volunteer obligation Friday night (church movie night), and he strongly encouraged me to go. Thanks, babe - you rock!
I have wanted the chance to go to a political rally in the past, but didn't want to see Obama or his wife here in thanks!

So when I heard Sarah Palin would be in Noblesville, less than two hours from my home, I decided to go! I picked up my tickets from Republican headquarters the first morning they were available, and it's a good thing I did. They ran out shortly thereafter!

I asked some friends to join me, so there were four of us gals (good friends & fellow homeschool moms) who headed down on Friday afternoon. We left before 1pm, stopped for a quick lunch, and were in Noblesville at Verizon Music Center by about 2:30. (The rally was scheduled to begin at 4:30.) Traffic was great, but it was crowded when we got there. (Side note: Verizon used to be called "Deer Creek," and the last time I was there was to see a Hootie & The Blowfish concert - years ago!! And back when Noblesville was still very rural!)

We stood in a long line for over an hour to get in & through security.....everyone was wearing cool political shirts and you could also buy buttons, bumper stickers, shirts, etc., while standing in line. We made it through security with only one of us having to be scanned with the wand (way to go, Rikki!). We found great seats in the front half, sat down, and waited for it to begin.
After a little while, I decided to go closer to get some pictures and realized we could stand right in front at the rail! I called one of the gals (yes, from a distance of only 30 yards or so - yay for cell phones!) as I saved us a spot and they hurried down to join us. We had a great spot to see Gov. Palin come out & speak. Lieutenant Governor Becky Skillman spoke and country singer Aaron Tippin got the crowd fired up before she Gov. Palin came out.

She spoke about lower taxes, less government control, and restoring our country. She was a great speaker & certainly had everyone fired up! She also quoted John McCain's famous line from the debate this week - "If Obama had wanted to run against George Bush, he should have run four years ago!" I certainly think she is tough enough to be the next VP. I wouldn't want to be on her bad side.

After she spoke, she came out to the crowd for awhile and we had the chance to shake her hand, talk to her, and have her sign our tickets.

(More photos to come soon!)

Why am I supporting McCain/Palin in the election this year? Because I strongly believe in less government and more personal responsibility. I am pro-life and pro-one-man-one-woman marriage. I don't believe socialism is a way to make our country strong enough to fight other countries. I believe in clinging to God, unlike other candidates. :) I believe in change and hope - through a leader who has experience and knowledge to get us there.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Book Giveaway Winner!

Congrats to Kay! She left this comment on day 10 of my Saving Smart! series:

I have truly enjoyed reading your money saving tips! I came across your blog via 2p's and it couldn't have come at a better time in our life. As for my favorite tip, day 8 and Fridays to pass it on to the kids would have to be it.....although none of them were bad :)

I used this site and it randomly chose #4, so comment #4 wins! Kay, email me your address as well as your choice of which book you would like to receive, and it will be on its way to you! Thanks again for all of the positive feedback on this series! Happy saving!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Saving Smart! Series: Day Ten

Well, friends, this marks the end of my Saving Smart! series. I'm glad so many of you have liked it and thank you for all the feedback! To mark the end of the series, I am giving a away a free book! Simply leave a comment (on this post) letting me know which day's tips you most enjoyed, and you will be entered to win!

I will draw a winner from all comments posted by the end of Wednesday (October 15th). If you win and already have the books or aren't interested in them, you can bless someone else by passing it on to a friend!

And now for my last tip of the series! Today's tip is all about passing it on. Passing it on to your kids, of course! If you have had financial troubles, break the cycle and teach your kids wisely about money so that they do not also struggle!

Teach them how to give, save, & spend wisely.
Let them have their own piggy bank or bank account and make sure they understand how much to save, spend or give.

Teach them how checks, credit cards and debit cards work.
Make sure they understand that when mommy takes money out of the ATM, it's not just some money machine that freely gives to everyone!

Teach them how to use coupons.
Give your kids the coupons to hold as you shop and ask them what the new price of an item will be once the coupon is applied. Show them the total savings at the end of the shopping trip on the receipt!

Give your kids an idea of how much money your family earns.
ie: "To pay for these new jeans, daddy would need to work for two hours."

Teach them how to budget their money wisely.
This is especially true if you have kids in middle school or high school who have more expenses.

Let your kids choose where they want to give their money so you can truly know their heart!
If they want to help animals, let them. If they choose to give to a needy child at school, let them. If they want to save to buy a new bike for a poor child down the street, let them!

~~~~~This is Part Ten of my Saving Smart! series. Be sure to stop in each day from October 1st through October 10th for more money saving tips and advice. For specific money saving questions, please email me.
"For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." 1 Timothy 6:10

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Saving Smart! Series: Day Nine

Today I want to discuss humility and savings. Not an easy topic, I know. Humility is defined as: "the condition of being humble, showing lowliness, meekness, or submissiveness." Now, I don't know about you, but it is hard to be meek and submissive!

Often times, those who are struggling financially are not going to let you know about it. Even your closest friends may not have told you about their struggles. Or perhaps you are the one struggling, but are too proud to let others know of your struggles. Humility is discussed often in the Bible, and the humbled WILL be rewarded. One of my favorite verses on humility comes from Proverbs (where else?): "When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom." (Proverbs 11:2)

If you are struggling financially, please do not be too proud to ask for help. You will likely have a chance to "pass it on" when things are looking better for you financially. So many people are eager to help others; often times, they just don't know who needs help and how to give help. Two of my money-saving tips involving humility are:

Be willing to accept hand-me-downs and donations.
Let others bless you!! Everyone needs help occasionally. We have been blessed with many hand-me-down items (furniture, kids' clothes, etc.) over the years and now enjoy passing on our things as we are able!

Be willing to trade & barter.
Need someone to babysit your kids but short on money? Ask a friend to do it for you in exchange for a home-cooked meal for her family. Teach piano? Offer to teach a friends' children in exchange for her help cleaning your home. Have a handy husband? Have him trade his help with a friend in exchange for help building something (if he's not a builder). You can also trade your work for free items (Know computers? Offer to help an organization with their needs in exchange for something free from them.)

There are lots of things you are good at that you could swap with a friend to save you both money!

I hope today that if you are in need, you will be willing to humble yourself and ask for help. And if you are fortunate enough to not be in need right now, look for ways you can be a financial blessing to others who are struggling!

~~~~~This is Part Nine of my Saving Smart! series. Be sure to stop in each day from October 1st through October 10th for more money saving tips and advice. For specific money saving questions, please email me.
"For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction." 1 Timothy 6: 7-9

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Saving Smart! Series: Day Eight

How is your budget going? Are you staying on track with your spending? One of the things that has helped us greatly to live within our means for the past ten years is using cash only (and occasionally our debit card).

We were first introduced to the "envelope system" by Larry Burkett (of Crown), though Dave Ramsey also recommends it. We pay for nearly all of our things (except items like utilities, mortgage, etc.) using cash. It's simple! It also helps keep us from overspending.

We use the envelope system - and have for years - and here's how it works: You place cash in each of your spending envelopes (budget categories) at the beginning of the month (ie: $500 in groceries, $20 in gifts, etc.) and when the money runs out, you stop spending!

On the rare occasion that we use our debit card (for example, at the gas station when precious kids are in the car!), we simply take the money out of its envelope later and deposit it back into our checking account. We also have been known to take money from one envelope and move it to another, but again - our budget stays the same as at the end of the month,;we have still only spent the alloted amount (just perhaps in different categories).

You can learn more about the envelope system here:Crown Financial MinistriesDave RamseyYou can also purchase your envelope system here:Crown Financial Ministries (we own and use this one and it holds up well!)Dave Ramsey

Or, simply hit your local Target and pick up a generic expandable envelope for cheap! :)
If you decide to try cash only for a month or so, I would love to hear how it goes!

~~~~~This is Part Eight of my Saving Smart! series. Be sure to stop in each day from October 1st through October 10th for more money saving tips and advice. For specific money saving questions, please email me.
"Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, 'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.” Luke 14: 28

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Saving Smart! Series: Day Seven

We're into day seven already & I've heard from so many of you that you are enjoying this series! Thanks to those of you who have commented and/or sent me emails. I'm glad to see you like it! :) What other topics would YOU like to see addressed? Please leave me a comment & let me know what you would like to know more about. If you will also help spread the word about my series, I would be grateful! Thanks to those of you who have also put links on your blogs.
Today I've got ideas for low-cost family entertainment!

Try your local parks & rec department. Not only do they offer low-cost kids' activities, they also generally offer free family activities as well (music in the park, picnics, etc.)

Help your kids have a lemonade stand! It's a great, all-day activity that will teach them the value of a dollar! (And yes, have them pay for the supplies from their earnings as well....great economics lesson!)

Use your local library. We live in an area where we are fortunate enough to have fabulous libraries and library programs! Hopefully you have a nice library as well. Many children's and young adult's departments at libraries offer lots of free programs. If not, you can always check out free movies from your library.

Just spend time at home together. Too often we think our kids need to go somewhere or that we need to spend money to have a good time. What our kids really need is for us to simply spend time together. Institute a "Family Fun Night" (thanks, mom & dad!) wheree family members take turns planning the nights' events (games, walks, dinner menu, craft project, etc.) Even the little ones can have a turn planning!

Check out Lowe's and Home Depot's free kids' workshops.
Home Depot offers a FREE kids workshop on the first Saturday of the month at ALL of their locations! Click here for more details. The kids all get to build something on their own at each workshop. It is geared toward 5-12 year olds.

Lowe's offers a similar free workshop for kids of all ages on Saturdays. You can view the projects online and even sign up online also. Click here for more details.

The following activities are for my local friends as I am more aware of local activities. Hopefully you can find similar things in your area, too. :)

In the summer, ride the trolley downtown for FREE. In the winter, ride the carousel at the mall for just a few dollars (pricey, but good for an occasional treat).

First Sundays at the Art Museum.On the first Sunday of each month, enjoy free admission from 12pm-5pm to the art museum as well as craft projects, hands-on activities and more!

Jefferson Pointe Toddler Tuesday.Tuesday mornings at 11am in the food court. Free, fun activities you can do with your toddler.

Storytime at Anchor Room bookstore. Thursdays at 10am. FREE!

~~~~~This is Part Seven of my Saving Smart! series. Be sure to stop in each day from October 1st through October 10th for more money saving tips and advice. For specific money saving questions, please email me.
"Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, 'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.” Luke 14: 28

Monday, October 6, 2008

Saving Smart! Series: Day Six

Today's tips aren't exactly ways to save money now, but they WILL save your family money! And face it, now that we are grown ups, we need to be responsible! :) So start your week off right and if you haven't done these steps already, make plans to do so this week!

Write a will.
It's not morbid; it's necessary. It is one of the best ways you can take care of your family, especially if you have children. Don't think that if you don't have much money or many assets that you don't need one - you still do! Don't think it's something you can wait until you are 50 to do. It's simple to write a will, and relatively inexpensive considering how important it is!

Get life insurance.
Dave Ramsey recommends life insurance equal to 8-10 times your salary. Other professionals recommend six times your salary. Shop around for great rates on term life insurance & find a great rate. Even if you are a stay-at-home-mom, you should have life insurance on yourself. If your husband is the sole provider and you pass away, he will still need to take care of all of the services you take care of (and really, we're worth at least a million dollars, right?!).

~~~~~This is Part Six of my Saving Smart! series. Be sure to stop in each day from October 1st through October 10th for more money saving tips and advice. For specific money saving questions, please email me.
"For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." 1 Timothy 6:10

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Saving Smart! Series: Day Five

A perfect savings post for a Sunday morning wouldn't be complete without mention of grocery coupons! Groceries are a large expense for all families, especially with so many prices on the rise today.

Grocery shopping is an area where everyone can cut prices somewhat. How much you are able to cut depends on the time & energy you want to put into it. I spent about an hour last week going through my coupons and getting ready to go to the store. I saved $20 with my coupons that day, thus making $20/hour. Not a bad hourly wage! That's pretty good, and that wasn't even a good week for me! :)

Here are my top tips for saving at the grocery store:

Know your prices!! You can't save money if you don't know what good prices are to begin with.

Shop the sales. Stock up when items are at their very lowest prices.

Purchase an extra freezer (it's worth the price!) for storing meat, bread, milk, leftovers, extra meals, etc.

Buy generic when you can. We have even used generic diapers for six years with no problems! That's three kids combined - I don't have a six-year-old in diapers! :)

Use coupons! Use them wisely. If you really won't use a product, don't purchase it simply because you have a coupon for it (unless it's a super deal & you are planning to donate it!).
I highly recommend using The Grocery Game to save money on groceries. It is an online site that will do the work for you. It takes the sale ads in your town and combines them with your coupons. It then tells you when items are at their very best price. It is $10 for eight weeks for one store (all states are represented), and you will more than make up the $10 you spend for the service!! I have used The Grocery Game for over a year and it has saved me a lot of money. You can try it for only $1 for one month. If you decide to use it, please use my email address ( as the referring friend (I simply get extra weeks if you do.)

Shop the loss leaders. If you go into a store just to purchase the ground beef and applesauce that are both at rock-bottom prices, stick to just those items!

Shop with a list and don't shop hungry.

Try to shop without your husband or kids if possible; extra people will want extra items if you take them with you!

Use Angel Food Ministries. Angel Food Ministries provides groceries at low cost to families who can use the help. It is not a handout; it is not food stamps, and you don't need to be poor to qualify. Everyone needs help from time to time when money is tight or it is a bad month. You purchase a box of groceries from them for $30. Once you buy a basic box, you can purchase additional boxes of a variety of things (meats, desserts, etc.). Their quality of food is very good, and they have locations all throughout the US.

What is your best money-saving tip for buying groceries? Some people recommend doing once-a-month-cooking, cooking with a friend, or meal swapping. I'd love to hear your ideas!

~~~~~This is Part Five of my Saving Smart! series. Be sure to stop in each day from October 1st through October 10th for more money saving tips and advice. For specific money saving questions, please email me.
"For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." 1 Timothy 6:10

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Saving Smart! Series: Day Four

Today is Saturday! What are you doing? Want to find a quick hundred dollars? Take some time on a day when you don't have much planned, and try some of these tips to add some quick money to your bank account. Then, use the money wisely that you've 'found' to pay off a bill, save, invest, or give away!

Call your insurance agent(s) and ask what kind of discounts they can offer you, or if they can lower any of your rates for various things (accident-free, low mileage usage, combining home/auto, etc.). It pays to ask and be assertive! If they offer a lower rate, ask them if there is anything else they can do to get it even lower.

Sell your junk on ebay! (Say it with me….“One woman’s junk is another woman’s…”) It is easy to set up an account on ebay - and many items you have sitting around your house that you no longer need would quickly sell on ebay! (That reminds me....I currently have several items I need to just get busy & sell!)

Call your utility providers & ask to be put on the budget plan. When you are on a budget plan, you pay the same amount amount every month throughout the year based on your yearly average. (If they try to charge you a setup fee for this, or a monthly surcharge, ask if they will waive this fee.) This method is easier to plan for, especially when you are making your budget. You will save money with this in the long run because you can better plan your spending!

Review ALL of your medical bills. Ask for bills to be itemized (they should provide this at no additional cost) so you can check items line by line. Look for duplicate charges and ask about anything that is vague. It's your money; know where it's going!

And last but not least, hold a garage sale. Keep your expenses down – but definitely place an ad in the newspaper & put signs in your neighborhood – you need to generate traffic. Hold your sale with another friend or family if you can. Have your kids sell their items as well and teach them the value of money as you go. Take all of your items that don't sell and cart them off to a donation center (Goodwill, a women's shelter, etc.) and write it off as a donation.

~~~~~This is Part Four of my Saving Smart! series. Be sure to stop in each day from October 1st through October 10th for more money saving tips and advice. For specific money saving questions, please email me. "When I have money, I get rid of it quickly, lest it find a way into my heart." -John Wesley

Friday, October 3, 2008

Saving Smart! Series: Day Three

Thanks for joining me for my Saving Smart! series. Yesterday's post was lengthy and serious, so today I'm easing up and chatting about birthday & Christmas presents for kids & families. (In honor of my youngest son's second birthday today! Happy birthday, little O! Love you bunches!)

Don't have kids? No problem! You can use these tips if you buy gifts for kids or families.

Like others, we are often asked for gift ideas for our kids. Like many of you, we have lots of toys and clothes for our kids (or can easily and inexpensively get hand-me-downs).

These are not necessarily inexpensive gifts, so.....How do these tips save money? These tips will save families money in the long run and be more valuable than plastic toys that will no longer be used, will get broken, or be thrown away.

So here are some creative ideas for gift giving that will be appreciated by kids & parents alike!

Gift memberships to the local family favorites: the local zoo, science museum, art museum, a children's museum, amusement park or swimming club. Even better? Spend some time with your child by taking them to one of these places on their birthday when you give them the gift!

Give the gift of money but designate it go to a specific activity: piano lessons, gymnastics classes, T-Ball, Little League, art classes, horseback riding class, summer camp, etc.

Give the gift of time for busy families! In nearly all families, dinnertime is busy time! We try to eat all of our dinner meals together as a family, but like others, we are crunched for time some evenings. Purchase gift certificates for families for nearby restaurants or fast-food places, or purchase a gift card for the family for a dinner prep place (such as Super Suppers, Dinner by Design, Supper Thyme, etc. You can find a complete list broken down by city & state here.).

Give a gift the kids will look forward to all throughout the year. Magazine subscriptions are a great idea as all kids love to get their own mail! You can find fun things for kids from preschoolers through college students. Simply match the magazine to their interests (nature, dolls, cars, games, etc.) and they will enjoy a fun little gift all their own each month!

~~~~~This is Part Three of my Saving Smart! series. Be sure to stop in each day from October 1st through October 10th for more money saving tips and advice. For specific money saving questions, please email me.
"When I have money, I get rid of it quickly, lest it find a way into my heart." -John Wesley

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Saving Smart! Series: Day Two

This is a big one! We're going to tackle budgets! Yep, that dreaded b-word that so many people despise!

We've used a budget since 1998 (amazingly, that corresponds to the year we got married!) and it helps us stay on track and spend less that we earn. I love helping families create budgets and getting a handle on their spending!

Many people think of a budget as restraining and difficulty, when really - once it is set up - it is easy to use and gives you MORE freedom because you know how much you have to spend! You not only NEED a budget, but - and here's the kicker! - you need to FOLLOW it! (That is the tough part!) Having a plan for your money helps ensure you aren't wasting away your money little by little.

We use an Excel spreadsheet for our budget (email me if you'd like a basic template I created), but you can use anything from pen & paper, to Quicken. (Can I just add a simple statement in here about married finances? Brad and I have counseled many couples on the dangers of having two separate checking accounts and the importance of making family money family money. If you're married, it all belongs to both of you, regardless of who earned it or who earns more! Really, friends, you are sharing everything else - you need to be on the same page about your family finances. The sooner you can make this adjustment the better! We have run the gamut on this - at varying points in time, I have earned more, Brad has earned more, and we have both earned the exact same!)

First things first - know how much income you have coming in each month. We don't even put payroll taxes on our budget - we just use our net (income after taxes) amount and put that on the spreadsheet. This way we can easily see how much money is flowing into our household in any given month.

If you don't have a handle already on what you are spending each month - save all of your receipts for a month (or write down everything you have spent, even that $.65 soda at work) and put them all in a category at the end of the month. Sample categories include: clothing, entertainment, gifts, car insurance, child care, electric bill, phone bill, mortgage, car payment, etc.

There are lots of ways to create your budget & track your spending, but one of my absolute favorites is the Spending Plan Calculator from Crown Financial Ministries. If you are just getting started with a budget, this calculator could not be any easier to use! Just enter your income, tithe (if you tithe), and taxes. It will give you a simple budget plan based on percentages and your income. You can easily adjust it if necessary. For example, we don't have any car payments, so that category goes down significantly for us, leaving us with additional dollars to put in another category.

If you put together your budget and have money left over - good for you! Use it to pay off bills or save even more. Have a goal in mind for the money you are saving - right now we are saving towards a replacement car and a new home.

If you don't have enough money to cover all of the expenses on your budget, you have two options. 1.) Cut your expenses. Eat out less, make less trips to Target(!), cut down on your cellphone plan, etc. If you find you can't cut back enough (and I'll give you lots of tips over the next few days), then you are left with option 2.) Earn more money. Ask for a raise, take on a second job, etc.

If you are carrying debt and are trying to pay down your debt, I highly recommend you follow Dave Ramsey's advice and - while paying minimums on all of your debts - use any extra money you have to put towards your lowest dollar amount debt. Once that is paid off, snowball that money into the next smallest debt and get it paid off...and so on. We became debt-free this year (except our home) and it is a great feeling!

Revise your budget each month for the first few months as it is a learning process. Once you have a solid budget in place and are following it regularly, you will want to review it with your spouse once or twice a year (more if your income or expenses greatly change for some reason).

I'd love to hear about your experiences of using a budget - or not - and how it has worked - or not!

~~~~~This is Part Two of my Saving Smart! series. Be sure to stop in each day from October 1st through October 10th for more money saving tips and advice. For specific money saving questions, please email me.
"For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction." 1 Timothy 6: 7-9

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Saving Smart! Series: Day One

One thing our family enjoys is eating out together. With a family of five, the cost can add up! Here are some ideas to help you save money when eating out.

Order water for your drink. Drinks can add up! Many times soda prices are not listed on the menu, and many kids' meals don't even include a drink. We can cut out five drinks and (with tax & tip added on top of it) save upwards of $10 doing so!

Split a meal with your spouse or oldest child. Restaurant portions are huge and we usually end up with leftovers anyway, so instead - save the money & split a meal. It just means the next day's lunch won't be leftovers from your favorite restaurant! :)

Join restaurants' online mailing lists (like TGI Friday's, Applebee's, etc.). When you join, you will usually get a coupon for a free appetizer or dessert. Save even more by making the appetizer your meal! They will also send yo coupons for a free meal or dessert for your birthday (be sure to sign up everyone in your family!).

Order from the kids' menu to save on money AND calories! Be careful, though, some restaurants will add a fee if you are adult ordering the kids' meal. And don't be dishonest about it; simply explain that you are ordering for the smaller portion.

Frequent restaurants which offer FREE kids meals and let them know how much you appreciate them doing so! Big props to O'Charley's restaurant here in Fort Wayne. Their kids' meals are free every. single. day. Nice!! (Just don't head to these restaurants on your date nights! Remember, those are nights to have a break from all kids!) :)

I'd love to hear any other tips if you have them! Please leave a comment with your best dining out tip. Happy savings!

~~~~~This is Part One of my Saving Smart! series. Be sure to stop in each day from October 1st through October 10th for more money saving tips and advice. For specific money saving questions, please email me.
"For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction." 1 Timothy 6: 7-9

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Money Doesn't Grow on Trees!

And for that very reason, I'm running a simple "Saving Smart" series right here on my blog starting tomorrow, October 1st, and running for 10 days! :) We'll cover ways to cut costs on everything from kids' clothes to eating out, to wills and budgets. I have spoken to many groups about saving money and ways to budget and will be sharing some of my tips with you here. This is simple personal finance at its finest - nothing about stocks, 401Ks, bonds, or Wall Street. Just simple, mom-to-mom finance tips you can easily implement.

You won't want to miss it! Please spread the word and check in each day! And if you have something specific you would like me to address, please email me or leave a comment. Thanks!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Pardon the Interruption . . .

For this political post. :)

I love politics. I enjoy debating. I love hearing other's views and sharing mine. I'm a Christian-Conservative-Right-Winger, but also lean very strongly towards Libertarianism. (Not sure where you stand or what your views are called? Take this very, very short quiz to find out.) I want LESS government involvement and MORE personal responsibility in this world. Go figure. It's really not that complicated!

I'm disgusted (like many) at Washington D.C.'s role in the current banking "crisis" and wish they would let capitalism run its course. Yes, that means companies will fail. Yes, people will lose money (ummm....that's why stocks are still called "high-risk," "low-risk,"'s still a RISK!). Yes, many will be unable to get loans. GO FIGURE. Many people have been borrowing and spending more than they should anyway. God even told us in the Bible that borrowing is bad.

I compare the bailouts to parenting. As parents, we commonly hear that kids need to fail. They need to learn from their mistakes. Parents should not coddle their kids. We should let them learn and grow and not hover. It's the same way in our economy! Unless we allow companies to fail, they will not learn from their mistakes and we will be right back where we are now in the future.
If you are confused about what's going on in our economy currently, I would love to answer your questions. Even respectfully debate with you if you feel differently. :) One of the best things I have read on the subject comes from Joel Stein, a writer for the LA Times. I agree wholeheartedly with his column. You can read it here - and don't worry, it's very understandable even if you don't understand what is going on. :)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

100 Things About HappyGoMommy!

Just so you know what makes me tick. :) And because I am way behind in posting! Let me know which fact # surprised you most about me!!

1. I love life.
2. I love God and thank Him every day for the life, health and family I've been given.
3. I had a fantastic childhood.
4. I once had a splinter in my backside from scootching along the bleacher seats in fourth grade.
5. It was about an inch and a half long.
6. I stepped on a sea urchin in Barbados while on a mission trip.
5. To get the spines out of my toes, the native hospital put hot candle wax on my toes, let it harden, and peeled off the wax, thus pulling out part of the spines.
6. There were 13 spines in my left foot.
7. They applied hot candle wax to my toes multiple times.
8. I don't like shots.
9. I really, really don't like going to the dentist.
10. I have an amazing husband who is an awesome father.
11. We have three great kids.
12. One was a surprise. :)
13. I wish we had more kids.
14. I am eternal optimist.
15. I love to read.
16. We homeschool.
17. I've been married since 1998.
18. Eighteen is my favorite number.
19. Three is my husband's favorite number.
20. I don't think my kids have favorite numbers yet. :)
21. I slept with a stuffed, white teddy bear until I went away to college.
22. I graduated with honors from Slippery Rock University.
23. Yes, there is such a school.
24. No, it is not in Arkansas.
25. I organized a group of women to play Bunco and we loved it but no longer meet.
25. We didn't know know what to call ourselves - "Bunco Babes?" "Bunco Bimbos?"
26. It was really just an excuse to eat and talk and eat and laugh and talk some more (and eat some more).
27. I love my friends.
28. Everyone in my family likes to cook and watch Food Network.
29. Especially Ace of Cakes.
30. I like control.
31. I can be bossy (goes with the control thing).
32. I have been working very hard to be more submissive to my husband.
33. Yes, it's Biblical.
34. And no, he's not making me. :)
35. He doesn't have control issues. :)
36. I am a Certified Athletic Trainer. A medical professional.
37. Nationally certified, state licensed and everything. (Well, I was....but I just recently let it expire because instead....)
38. I chose to be a mommy & NOT go back to athletic training. Ever.
39. I stay home and teach my kids.
40. It's much more fulfilling. :)
41. And I don't have to wake up to an alarm clock! (Even though I do most days.)
42. I met my husband skiing. He fell and grabbed my boobs. He says it was an accident.
43. I don't think so. :)
44. I love the Steelers. (If you don't follow football, just know this: the Steelers are five-time Super Bowl champs!)
45. Yes, I really understand football and can follow the game.
46. Baseball, too.
47. I got great lessons from my cute hubby. :)
48. I scrapbook.
49. I wish I made more time to scrapbook.
50. I absolutely love to snuggle with my kids.
51. We are a (mostly) one-income family and because of this, I like making our money s-t-r-e-t-c-h.
52. I like to save lots of money.
53. But it would be fun to win the lottery. :)
54. Too bad I don't play!
55. I've traveled to almost all of the 50 states.
56. And France, England, Mexico, Canada, Barbados and Wales.
57. Mostly due to family vacations growing up.
58. I really want to go to Africa.
59. And Alaska.
60. I can say the alphabet backwards.
61. Quickly! "Z, Y, X, W, V, U....."
62. I like to use my laptop.
63. And blog - though I don't do it enough!
64. I love politices.
65. I'm not a fan of Democrats.
66. Or socialism.
67. I believe capitalism works and is best for our society.
68. I like to budget our money.
69. I enjoy listening to Dave Ramsey and hope to see him live someday with Brad.
70. I don't mow.
71. I enjoy raking leaves and trimming shrubs.
72. I hate pulling weeds.
73. I love getting mail and sending cards.
74. My birthday is November 6th.
75. Really, it should be a national holiday. :)
76. I am very fortunate to have both of my parents still living, as well as three of my grandparents.
77. I like logic.
78. I love logic puzzles.
79. Especially Sudoku!
80. I rarely do dishes, but...
81. I do laundry nearly everyday.
82. I plan to go back to work someday.
83. I just can't figure out what I want to do - I love everything!
84. I love the smell of freshly washed kids.
85. I love family events and spending time with my extended family.
86. Are you still paying attention? If so, thanks for reading this far!!
87. I place a high value on honesty and don't like being lied to.
88. I also place a high value on committments and following through on your word.
89. I read too much. (Is that possible?)
90. I especially love magazines - everything from Newsweek to People to Mothering to Above Rubies.
91. One of my favorite things to do is go out to eat with family or friends and spend time chatting!
92. I'm very thankful that I live in such a homeschool-friendly area.
93. But I really wish I lived somewhere more beautiful (like Colorado, Utah or Washington!).
94. I'm addicted to Facebook.
95. I've been with my husband for over 13 years. Still goin' strong...
96. I used to be a camp counselor.
97. I lettered in band, speech and football in high school!
98. I'd like to live in a home in the country.
99. We are working towards that goal as a family. :)
100. I wouldn't trade my life for anything!