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T.V. Math

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I was having a conversation in a Ravelry forum about children and T.V. watching and did a little math with the current AAP “recommendations” on T.V. allowance for children over 3.  Now, I love movies and definitely have my favorite T.V. show;  I also  have wonderful memories of Disney movies, classic musicals and TGIF family nights spent with a special (delivered!) treat of pizza gathered around the television for a couple hours (in fact a majority of my and my husbands Christmas list is often movies and the new season of whatever)… but “Screen Time” – the time spent in front of anything electronic (cellphones, computer, video games, T.V., etc.) is definitely on my radar and I really try to challenge myself not to use it too much right now, as to avoid the “T.V. Baby Sitter” trap.  While I definitely understand it’s benefits to give Mom or Dad a reprieve, or as an educational tool** it does seem to be something that should be approached with caution.  So with that in mind I thought I’d just share a little math with you to consider when thinking about your kids and yourself!

1 hour a day t.v. =

7 hrs/week = approx. 1 average school day (9 a.m. to 4 p.m. non stop)
1 avg. SD/week x 52 weeks = 52 SD/Year
(52 SD/ year)/180 (average number of school days per year) = 28.8% of the school days in the school year only watching television.

Would you be okay with your child’s teacher setting your child in front of  a T.V. for over 1/4 of the time dedicated to learning?

2 hours a day t.v. =

14 hrs/week = One Saturday in front of the t.v. from 9 a.m. until 11 p.m. non stop
(One Saturday (9 a.m. until 11 p.m.)/week) x 52 weeks = 52 Saturdays of pure dawn till dusk t.v. watching
52 Saturdays/30 days (average month) = 1.73 months of dawn till dusk t.v. watching a year

1 – 2 hours a day doesn’t seem like much, until you start to add it up.

** Though I always like to point out the real baby Albert Einstein seemed to accomplish quite a bit without the infant-geared “educational” movies, books and CD’s that borrow his name (and so did baby Mozart, baby Beethoven; not to mention baby Newton, baby Plato, baby Da Vinci, etc.).

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The “Work Away From Home”-Maker

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Recently I’ve seen some very encouraging post across the internet about the subject of homemaking – people wanting to reclaim the dignity of the vocation and stretch its stereotypical gender roles.  All in all it’s a great movement; people want to be connected to their homes again, they want to be house-proud and able.  However, for every post I see about it there still seems to be one main vein of thinking – that a homemaker, whether man or woman, must make it their sole occupation to have the right to claim that title.

Well, I want to speak up for those of us who feel that they deserve a share of that title even if we find it necessary to work away from the home.

Now, I don’t claim to ignore that there are those who will always choose to work solely because it earns them more money and with more money comes more stuff and with that stuff they seem to find happiness.  I’m not speaking of those who can’t imagine life without thousands of dollars of spare income a month or multiple vacations, cars or homes or even weekly trips to the mall, the movies and restaurants.  I’m speaking up for those of us who work out of necessity, whose families couldn’t live more than hand(out) to mouth without some form of additional income.  Perhaps we have two student loan debts, perhaps we’re young men or women with entry levels jobs, perhaps we choose good honest work over high salaries, perhaps we’ve been sick without insurance, perhaps we have aging family members who rely on us, perhaps the alternative would mean unsafe neighborhoods and bad schools – but no matter the cause we choose to work out of a well thought out realization of necessity.  Many of us see it as a means toward an end – a few years of double incomes to pay off debt and save up – and for some of us it will always be a reality.

No matter our reason we, the “Work Away From Home”-Makers, still have the same goals you do Mr. or Mrs. Career Homemaker – perhaps its to raise children, take care of relatives, avail ourselves to charity and volunteerism or just keep a warm and welcoming home as a haven to others.  We still try to live frugal lives, we still stretch a dollar; in fact, many of us cook from scratch, craft and garden in our spare time.  While we find ourselves in situations out of necessity it is our priorities, not our schedules, that allow us to claim the coveted title of “homemaker”.  I believe that if we still prioritize our homes, families and children above our things, our social lives and other earthly experiences than we are still working toward the same goals.

So if there is someone out there who wishes for the day they can say “I’m a full-time homemaker”, but feel they can’t because they work away from home, to you I say – claim it, tell people that you are a “Full Time Homemaker with a Full Time Job”, a “Working Homemaker”, however you want to claim it, do so.  As long as your priorities are on making your house a home, as long as you strive to manage that home with economy and efficiency and to give your family the most of yourself  that you can than be proud.  Let’s stop the nit-picking over the details of how we do it and focus on our shared priorities in our lives.  We are Homemakers – we are people, men and women of every type, who wish to make a house a home for those we love.

Simple Parenting – Two Quick Book Reviews

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Okay, I’ll admit it – if there’s one thing I thought I’d do when I became a parent it was to become a voracious reader on the subject and to my surprise the only thing I picked up during pregnancy was the “What to Expect” book.  That was it.  I could drone on on the whys – a combination of reading too much made my the anxiety part of the my ante-partum depression worse and a post-pregnancy decision to trust my instincts. 

However, about 6 months later, I was ready to do a little more reading.  I didn’t go for the “how make a genius” books, or anything on how to make them better, faster or better.  I wanted something that could help lead me, as a parent, to help form their lives to the best I could.  With this in mind I turned towards the one of the pinnacle principles of my life – voluntary simplicity.  VS, for those not in the know, is simple the conscious decision to make do with less – what this implies personally varies from person to person.  For some it’s just turning off the television a couple of nights a week, while for other it means chucking the T.V. and just about everything else to the curb.

I already felt like I had a pretty good grasp on how our lives would reflect these ideals in our parenthood.  Ben and I had already talked extensively about toys, clothes, activities, etc.; but I wanted to find something that reinforced my crazy idea that I might not permanently damage the child by not giving them everything and letting them do everything as well.

Two wonderful sources I found were “Living Simply with Children.” by Marie Sherlock and “Simplicity Parenting” by Kim John Payne and Lisa M. Ross.  I’ll let the officials give the low down on the books.

“Living Simply with Children” -“Raising children ranks as one of life’s most rewarding adventures. Yet between Mom and Dad working full-time jobs, endless carpooling of overscheduled youngsters, and the never-ending pressures to buy and consume, family life can be incredibly—needlessly—complex. What if you could find a way to spend more time with your children, replace unnecessary activities with meaningful ones, and teach your children an invaluable life lesson in the process? Living Simply with Children offers a realistic blueprint for zeroing in on the pleasures of family life:

• How (and why) to live simply and find more time to be with your children
• Activities and rituals that bring out the best in every family member
• Realistic ways to reclaim your children from corporate America
• Helping children of any age deal with peer pressure
• Raising kids who care about people and the planet
• How to focus on the “good stuff” . . . with less stuff

Including sections on limiting television, environmentally friendly practices, celebrating the holidays, and tapping into the growing community of families who embrace simplicity, this inspiring guide will show you how to raise children according to your own values—and not those of the consumer culture—as you enjoy both quality and quantity time with your family.””

“Simplicity Parenting” – “Waldorf educator and consultant Payne teams up with writer Ross to present an antidote for children who are overscheduled and overwhelmed by too much information and a fast-paced consumer culture that threatens the pace and playful essence of childhood. Payne claims that a protective filter should surround childhood, rather than the competitive, stressful adult world that has encroached on childhood’s boundaries, preventing kids from developing resiliency with a sense of ease and well-being. But Payne is not a doomsayer: he presents a wealth of practical ideas for reclaiming childhood and establishing family harmony. In chapters covering four levels of simplification—environment, rhythm, schedules and Filtering Out the Adult World—Payne explains how parents can tackle extraneous stuff and stimulation by reducing the mountain of toys, limiting scheduled activities, providing valuable downtime and employing such pressure valves as storytelling and periods of quiet. According to the authors, limiting choices and activities will lead to kids who are more secure and less stressed, and to parents whose days are calmer. With fewer choices, Payne explains, families have the freedom to appreciate things—and one another—more deeply. Though simplicity parenting may seem a stretch for some, others will find that Payne’s program for restoring creative play, order and balance is long overdue.”

My Two Cents –

“Living Simply with Children” – Earned a place on my bookshelves for the later years.  Henry isn’t exactly active outside the house yet, or interactive in the ways necessary for the examples in this book so this will sit on the shelves for a couple of years, but I’m glad to have it in my arsenal.  The author gives great advice for parents who already practice VS or are new to it; she gives step by step instructions on laying out goals and activities as family.  And has a wealth of sources for developing meaningful activities within the home. 

My only qualm with this book was that the author gave no examples for VS homes where both parents work.  Though it’s a touchy subject in many circles, two working parents are often a reality nowadays and particularly will often be a reality for those just realizing they could live more on a little less.  If you, like me are part of a two working parent home, don’t dispar there is still a lot of good advice nestled in this quick read.

“Simplicity Parenting” – Simply put, I loved this book no question about it.  My qualms with the first book were met in this one.  Kim John Payne aims his book toward every lifestyle – one working parent/one SAHP, two working parents, multiple children, only children, single parents, etc. and I was so pleased to see so many realistic examples (given from his own experience) of his ideas at work.

Dr. Payne touches on many subjects – the first and largest being the need to limit toys.  Straight up, less in more people – he and I see eye to eye on useful and engaging toys.  For those who have grandparents and other relatives who love to give gifts he offers the simple and realistic idea of toy and book home libraries to keep rooms and playspaces uncluttered.

Other subjects are the simplification of activities (your child does not need to be in and do everything – they’ll be happier and you’ll be happier), the simplification of food and meals (family dinners are a must and limiting the their food away from over processed, extreme, unrealistic flavors helps them develop healthier lifestyles), the importance of routine (he offers up wonderful ways for even the fast paced-career having parents to help establish calming routines), and the need to limit exposure to media and the adult world (he’s not an advocate for keeping them from reality, but letting them grow up as they should).

One interesting claim of Dr. Payne is the success he’s had with his ADD/ADHD patients and the success he’s had using the techniques of simplification and routine to give these children a little more control over their already over-stimulated minds.  He does not claim to cure the disorder, but rather gives advice for non-perscription based help in managing it.

This book might not be of interest to anyone with the mindset that their children will be deprived, no questions asked, if they are ever denied any toy or belonging or that they will fall behind without enrollment in every sport, lesson and activity.  If you think this already, this book might not be for you.

However I do feel renewed in a few of my own parenting goals:

  • Limiting toys and books – not a total deprivation, but rather an active examination of what is useful and beneficial.  We will continue to focus on toys and games that have multiple uses and application and which foster imaginative play and concrete learning skills.
  • Boredom is okay – let your kids be bored.  15 minutes of whining could lead to making Transmogrifiers out of cardboard boxes.
  • Peaceful rooms – keep your rooms peaceful and organized, limit the items in the childs room so that it is a relaxing haven for them to retreat to.
  • Limit activities – Our personal resolves rest somewhere around here – When old enough to take part in all these activities they will allowed to have music lessons, Boy Scouts/4-H/Similar group, and one sport per season.  This will be open to change depending on the child’s interest and skill – concessions will be made if they show to be particularly devoted to a particular activity.
  • Family Life and Routine – Not too long ago I would have run from the idea of welcoming routine into my life, I loved jumping from one project to the next and now I find myself working hard to secure a day shift for just the opposite reason.  We want to have a routine within our family – days and nights for activities, errands, family time and adventures all worked in together, but also time to be along, to be quiet, to work, and just to be together.  I’m determined to have family dinners be a focal point of our lives as well as night-time routines; also into the mix are traditions that come with the seasons and holidays.
  • Let my kids be kids – I want to strive to allow my children to enjoy their childhoods, it’s such a fleeting moment in a person’s life.  I don’t want to keep reality from them, there are appropriate times to talk about the big subjects – birth, death and everything in between, but I don’t think my kids need to see pictures of death and war on a regular basis.  I don’t think they need to know about every up and down, every worry and concern that their parents deal with – sometimes it’s okay to be happy when they’re awake and save the worry till they’re sleeping as little minds are often too quick to accept the weight of the world on their own little shoulders.  It’s a fine line, but one I want to walk with an aware and conscious mind.

Overall I highly encourage you to read either of these books whether your kids are 18, 8 or 8 months.

Financial Expectations

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Wow!  Hello visitors from Notes From the Frugal Trenches… I don’t know what I said, but I hope a couple of you will stick around.  Since it was my comment on financial expectations that gathered such a large migration I thought I’d take a  minute and expand a little.  Pardon if I don’t give exact facts and figures… I’m just not that kind of gal 😉

You can catch up on our current living situation Here.  and Here. To expand more on our plans since that post we are working under the idea that (unless we find another offer too good to pass up) we are going to buy the house we’re sharing with my folks when they retire.  Hopefully in the next year or so.  Housing prices in our area are kind of ridiculous – what my parents paid for a duplex in the mid-90’s will get you a really shabby condo/apartment today – so the deals are few and far between.

So here are my Financial Expectations

1) Housing – Having a good roof over our heads is incredibly important.  It’s why were living the way we are instead of just paying too much money for an apartment or shabby condo.  With the idea that we are taking over this property in a couple of years we are helping with repairs and updates.  We also exchange general chores and maintenance for rent.  Since we moved in we’ve been able to save about half of what I’d like to have for a down-payment and that with not working for almost 3 months because of pregnancy and about 4 months of myself making minimum wage.  Sometimes it’s hard and feels like we’re so behind everyone else our age when the “I should have”‘s strike, but you can read here about my realizations that the modern idea of having the house, the car, the everything before you’re 30 is really quite a new idea and not necessarily good for our generation.

2) Bill Paying – Here you can read about how we’re almost out of consumer related debt, except for those pesky student loans.  Since I’ve been back to work we’ve put the equivalent of a good mortgage payment to finishing paying off this lump and when it’s done it’s done.  We’ve decided any future cars will be paid for in cash, along with furniture, vacations, etc.  While we do keep a credit card open it is truly just for emergencies and the limit is low enough to pay off in about a year or less of penny-pinching.  The rest of our bills always come out direct deposit so they’re always on time and I keep a calendar of the due dates and amounts to check against my checking account balance.  We  are big proponents of “if we don’t have it we don’t spend it” and it’s amazing how much that frame of mind keeps you out of trouble.

3) Investing – While food and the essentials are on the list, this is what I’d rather share.  I’m all about investing in our future.  This comes in many ways.  One way is new to us do to better jobs this last years in investing in terms of insurance and retirement.  Both my husband and I have retirement accounts now – I can’t remember his specifics, but my employer puts in 10% for my 5%, this means 15% of my income each year gets put in a retirement account.  We’re also insured, not just health insurance though I’d be lying if I said the reason I got into the place I work wasn’t due in part to their health insurance plan (for the first time, I don’t have to pay for my family’s health insurance) to throw out a number that means we get about $400 a month back into my husbands paycheck.  Between that number and the number we’ll no longer be putting towards debt is our housing payments – mortgage and utilities.  The other way our jobs help us to invest is by offering us insurance in case of emergencies.  We are now covered so that if anything were to happen to me, my husband or both of us the remaining members of our family (the one spouse and child or just child) could live comfortably without the income we give.  It’s comforting to know that if something tragic were to happen to my husband and I that Henry would have access to money that we’d spend on him anyways and not be a financial burden to his guardians.

We also invest in what comes into our homes.  This is the part that always seems to go against frugal living, but we’re not afraid of spending money if the money is well spent.  While we’re always on the look out for a good deal, we invest in the things that fill our homes with the hopes that each couch, dresser, plates and cup that we buy will live a long and useful life.  In the last couple years we’ve made it a point to only buy furniture with longevity in mind – a $150  quality (often vintage or antique) bookcase or dresser will often cost less in the long run than multiple $30 cheap versions of the same thing.  While we are big proponents of consignment store clothing, we still look for quality and often wait for end of the season sales to stock up on things for the next year so that we won’t have to run out and buy a $25 swimsuit for the kid because we got one for 40 cents, bare or never worn, at the consignment shop the previous year.  Purchases that cannot be thrifted are bought with forethought and reason and usually after months of searching for just the right thing – take for example my $40 leather satchel purse; I looked for this for about a year until I found exactly what I was looking for at the price I wanted.  It’s a quality piece that I intend to use until it falls apart and is reincarnated into a new cow and then I’ll probably wait, track it down and use it again ;D.  Even things that fall into the “want” class are bought on considered basis – movies, books, music are all considered for their longevity, purchasing only the ones that we feel we’ll enjoy for years to come.

In a nutshell our financial expectations are fairly basic – a roof over our heads, basic needs always taken care of, etc.  We take care of these things first, don’t beat ourselves up if an expense comes up and takes a chunk out of the account or we don’t stick to our budget 100% all the time.  We take care of the needs first, but don’t deny ourselves the occasional want.  And while sometimes it’s hard to shut off the voice that tells you “you have failed because you don’t have a fancy job, a huge house and your kids does have a million toys and never will” we are 100% that we are setting the stones for a really good life down the road.  In fact it makes us more secure in our marriage knowing that we are working toward similar goals and have a trusting relationship with our money and how we spend it since financial troubles are one of the largest reasons for marriage failure.  Just like FT and her friend we have things that are more important to us (security, a desire to grow our family, etc.) than having a fashionable wardrobe and all the latest gadgets and so far it works for us!

Uncouth

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Forgive me, I know it is uncouth to speak of money and finances, in front of friends.  However I’d like to take this moment to bask in our bank account.

Please, before I continue let me point out, we are in no way wealthy or really even well off.  What I’m about to confide in you have come from just under two years of determination and sacrifice.

October 2009 after being inspired by “Your Money or Your Life”, and by my husband getting a promotion, I decided we were going to get out of debt… completely out of debt and the sooner the better.  We had two types of debt, school loans and consumer.  The school loans I knew we’d have until we didn’t have anymore, but I could do something about the consumer loans.  The CL were a combination moving expenses, wedding expenses, and a car – the majority was the car, about 75% – luckily I can say that very little to none of our CL was just a racked up credit card of “just because I NEED it” purchases.

So here’s my moment… currently in our bank account we have more money saved than the total of the CL two years ago and we have about three months left until we have no CL at all.

That’s right in two years – with job changes, moving cross-country, purchasing a second car and baby – we will have managed to not only pay off our CL, but save an equal amount of money.

Currently I’m basking in the glow of my bank account and damn proud.

Let me reiterate – this was not accomplished without sacrifice and the majority of the money we saved was due to our current living arrangements with my parents – but it can be done and once you’ve cleared those debts and realized how much extra work went into it it’ll be that much hard to “just spend” in the future.

Now I feel like we’re that much more on our feet and prepared for the future – student loans will continue to be paid off, daycare costs will go down with age and our paychecks will get larger.  We might not have everything we want, but we have what we need.

Now to continue to plan for the future – the biggest hurdle is home buying.  We live in an area that is not cheap – what my parents paid for their first new duplex in this area almost 20 years ago will get you a rather cruddy condo and being that Iowa is a mainly rural state the cheap country housing is often negated by fuel costs.  Even if we get to follow thru with my desire to purchase my parents home when they retire there’s still a large chunk to be saved.

So there’s still a long ways to go and sometimes I wish I could throw in my fiscal responsibility towel along with my caution into the wind and go out and purchase the first house I love even if I can’t afford a good down payment or if they mortgage will make me house poor for twenty years.  But for now I feel proud and accomplished and who knows what tomorrow will bring.

Busy Weekend

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First off – Happy Fourth of July to all my USAmericans!  Sadly, though I had the weekend off, today is just another day back at work!

Speaking of the this weekend, boy was it busy.  Not crazy hectic busy, rather just full and productive.  We did a lot of cleaning, gardening and shopping.  We have quite a few containers of things for the Goodwill and the consignment shop and nice organized closest again.  We hit up the farm supply stores for some essentials as I’m turning my mother on to the benefits of bulk buys for essentials.  We also got our canning supplies!  I’m so excited to be starting down this road in the next week or two!  I also harvesting my first bunch of oregano (drying in a dry basement closet) and basil (chopped up and mixed with a little olive oil in the freezer)!

One little sidetrack – can I just say how much I love home/farm supply stores.  While they’re just as jam-packed with things as any Wal-Mart I love the feeling of being surrounded by goods that really serve a purpose when shopping.  I like that I can ask the employees for things like stakes, fencing, pickling lime and zip-ties and not be given a blank stare.  I like seeing that people other than me buy clothes to last more than a 4 month fashion season and raise animals that would never fit in a handbag.  I ::heart:: farm/home stores!  Do you?

The coming couple of months are going to be busy!  The garden is really starting to come alive.  I’ll have my first zucchini by the end of the week, and we seem to be winning the powdery mildew battle and I should have cucumbers still!  Except for a strawberry plant slaughter by a friendly deer everything is going so well! There are going to be things to harvest, family to visit and a Little Bear (aka Henry) to encourage.

As you can see he started on mushy foods this last week and there’s no turning back – he loves the stuff and while we have a nice little supply of organic baby foods my goal is to be making most of it.  So next week I’ll be in the kitchen pureeing carrots, sweet potatoes and peas like a mad woman.  I can’t get a graphic to post so please go HERE!!! for a great list of foods that are low/high in pesticides!

We’re also in the market to get a chest or standing freezer and were out pricing the  other day and came across this failure in product description.  It made us laugh, perhaps a little to loud.

 

How was your weekend?

 

Molly Makes {A Baby}

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No I haven’t made a second one… yet… that’s long in the future.

But today marks the 1 year anniversary of finding out that I had made a baby.

I had an inkling that I might be pregnant, in a “it’s a long shot” kind of way when I bought a box of three pregnancy tests on my way to work on June 1st last year.  I hid them in my purse like I was carrying illegal substances across a border, terrified they’d fall out of my bag at exactly the wrong moment.

Before my show for that day (Pride and Prejudice) started I snuck myself and purse off to the bathroom and took a test.  Hm, I thought, that looks like the faintest of + signs.

During intermission, 2 hours later, I decided to double-check, no way that could be a plus sign.  Hm, that looks like a stronger + sign.

At the end of the show, 2 hours later, I took the last test.  Well, that really looks like an actually plus sign.

My hubs picked me up from work and I convinced him to stop at the grocery store for “Milk” and once again snuck some tests into my purse (paid for of course) and into the bathroom I ran with my purse when we got home.

I took another test while the hubs gathered up our clothes, because it was Laundromat Date Night and I’m not kidding the + showed up before the test had finished “Loading”.

I went into the living room, told Ben to close his eyes and stick out his hand and placed the 4th test of the day in his hands.

After the shock and amazement wore off we went to the Laundromat, did our laundry and started to pick out names.

—————-

For anyone who followed my old blog or know me personally you might recall how tough pregnancy was for me.  We went through a lot of huge life changes while pregnancy was wreaking havoc with my emotions, thru ante-partum depression, and physical health, thru 5 months of constant morning sickness/nausea that never totally went away for the entire pregnancy.  Today is more than the day I first day I told Henry I loved him, though it was the first thing I said to me belly after reading the first test, it’s a day of celebration for myself.

When I was 16 I had what can only be called a premonition.  I remember it clearly, I was walking down the front hallway of my high school, when  I had a thought implant itself into my brain and never leave.  Something was going to happen when I was 27 and I was going to be lucky to turn 28.  I used to think I’d be in a car accident or get cancer, but it turns out it was my pregnancy.  I turned 28 a month after my son came into this world.

Though it might seem extreme and little cliché, I do feel like I’ve been given a new lease on life not only thru my son, but because I made it, I survived the last year of my life and I’m damn proud!

So today I will pat myself on the back a little and give extra thanks to those, my husband and my parents especially, for helping me weather those truly dark days.  I couldn’t think of a better reward for such a success than my little boy.