Educating the Wheelers

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Chronicling the Experience of Educating our Children and Managing our Family

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Putting It Into Perspective

I've been feeling kind of discouraged lately on the finance front. And then I realized that the program that I use to track net worth is missing a few accounts that I've been moving stuff around into. And then I realized that many of the personal finance blogs that I read count the value of their house into their net worth, and we don't do that -- so that makes a huge difference in the number, too.

I'm feeling a little better about it all now. Heh.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Before the "Real" Homeschooling Begins...

Audrey has been learning up a storm lately.

She knows her alphabet [and can sing the song!] and letter sounds, knows the numbers 1-10 solid and loves to count things, and knows a huge number of general vocabulary words -- great since she lagged way behind in communication for awhile there. In the last few days, her favorite activity bar none has been playing with Tux Paint on her Dad's tablet computer. She has it totally nailed. She can start the program, use almost any of the tools or brushes and start new pages. She likes to draw faces, rainbows and umbrellas. She's not even 2! It blows my mind.

Me, Being Cheap

Everytime I finish a jar of pickles, my inner cheapie cringes when I pour the pickle juice down the drain. I decided last week to try to think of some ways I can put it to use.

I cut up a cucumber and stuffed it into one jar and made some "refrigerator pickles" -- after a few days, they were okay, but not great. Then I pulled a really, really cheap roast out of the freezer and when it was nearly but not quite fully defrosted, I cut it up into stew-sized pieces and marinated them in some pickle juice overnight. The next day, I made a beef stew out of it, and I thought that turned out really, really good.

I haven't thought of anything else yet.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Learning How to Cook All Over Again

I used to cook a lot before I had kids. And then after Audrey was born, I had to learn a whole new ballgame. Different recipes, different techniques. Nothing too elaborate -- and most importantly! -- something that could be broken down into a lot of atomic operations that were not too time dependent. For instance, there was a short period of time when I never cooked pasta because invariably I would be tied up in something when it was time to drain the pasta. This sort of thing reached its peak during 14-20 months, the clingiest, highest need period of her toddlerhood.

And then something magical happened a few weeks ago [Don't ask, because I'm not even sure what], and now not only can we get tasks done around the house, but she's a big helper. [Her first recipe mastered was guacamole. Oh, how she loves guacamole.]

But this now opens up a lot of new options for us, and allows us a lot more latitude in eating healthier and much more frugally. Right now, I'd say our food budget is down at least 50% from when I started really working on getting it down.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Always speaking too soon ...

So, after a good month or so of being really tight with money, I've spent more money in the last couple of days than the last 2 months. [Save for bills, of course.] Admittedly, it was stuff we had been planning to buy for some time, but actually pulling the trigger on most of it at one time felt weird. But this is good! This means that I've definitely turned that corner from buying things giving me a rush to buying things giving me the heebeejeebees.

A major part of this little mini-spree was getting hard plastic pantry containers for, well, just about everything. I've been battling a moth problem in the pantry for some time, and they were winning. These are some pretty tenacious Texas moths that have chewed through just about everything that I have wrapped or sealed my pantry items in. They chew through boxes, through freezer bags, thin plastic, you name it. I don't think they'll be able to chew through the containers that I bought today, though.

So Audrey and I spent the afternoon going through our pantry, chunking what's already been infested and repackaging the rest. I now have a lot of empty space in the pantry. Heh.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

I should also mention ...

Besides being a crappy blogger, I am also pretty crappy at the whole personal finance game, though I am getting much, much better. My biggest handicap is that I am chronically disorganized and thus can't hack a budget. Before I had my financial act together, I used to balance my checkbook by the "rhythm method" -- I knew that at certain times of the month I had more money than others, and spent by "feel." My only saving grace was that I made pretty good money.

But now that I'm married and quit my job to stay home with kids, that all had to stop. So we've instituted the "pay yourself first" model. Before our paycheck even makes it to our checking account, our maxxed out 401k has been taken out, a large chunk gets sent to Vanguard to hit our yearly maxes for our Roths, a chunk is taken out and sent to Emigrant for our emergency fund, and a chunk is taken out for our medical savings account. [We've got a midwife to pay in April!] Additionally, I earmark an extra chunk to go towards our mortgage's principal every month. [More about that another time.]

Our mortgage is only about 30% of what's leftover after all of that [and taxes!], so we are able to still play pretty loosey-goosey without a budget. But that only works because we're not big spenders in the first place. We're fairly introverted homebodies with a small handful of friends, so we don't have to keep up with the Joneses. We both have little hobbies -- for me, books; for Andrew, little gadgets -- but we keep that in check so it's not too expensive.

Something a Little Different

Oh, I am the very worst blogger. A few main reasons: I have a toddler and am pregnant with another; and most of the current homeschooling thoughts and ideas I have, I've come to realize that I feel they are still private. So I guess I'm not ready to blog about it all yet. Heh. Not that anyone reads this, but if they did...

The other main issue is that we know we're going to homeschool, we're very happy and comfortable with our decision. Not a lot of grist for the blogging mill. Instead, our big project right now is two fold: save as much money as we can, and make our diet significantly healthier.

Thankfully, these two projects help one another rather than hinder. We almost never eat out, and Andrew takes a lunch with him every day to work. We're also in the process of cutting out most processed foods and making more and more items from scratch. As Audrey gets older, she's able to start observing and helping in the kitchen -- even a few months ago, doing much involved kitchen work was almost impossible because she was still a little too clingy and too flighty to help.

Today was our first foray into using some of the powdered milk we bought. First we made some hot cocoa [yum], and then we reconstituted some regular milk and mixed it about 2/3 - 1/3 with some 1% we had in the fridge. I'm going to let that sit overnight and see how that tastes in the morning. Most of the milk usage in the house is in recipes or steamed up in the morning for Andrew's coffee, so I think we'll be able to make the switch pretty painlessly.