Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Moving Along

These weeks seem to be flying by. We're moving forward. We're fixing the house and making plans. Time is continuing on in one big harried blur.

I keep asking myself, am I ready? Are we ready?  How will this change really affect our family? We plan on putting the house on the market in as early as 4 months. We still have so much work to complete. We still need to pay down our debt and save more money.

And on top of all this, my son. My beautiful 7 year old son. He is continuing to have problems in school; both socially and behaviorally. After many meetings with his teacher and now the school psychologist, we are having him evaluated for autism. I'm not surprised. In fact, this has been in the back of our minds since he was 18 months old. His pediatrician dismissed our concerns because he was advanced with his letters, shapes, colors and numbers and he answered when called. But ever since he started school, these issues are much more apparent. I am actually worried that they will not diagnose him with anything, because then he won't get services from the school; services he needs and the educators even admitted to that. I'm just afraid he will get swept under the rug. The date of the evaluation is July 18th. It seems light-years away at this point.

Just keep chugging along. That's what we have to do at this point.



Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Dear Suburbs, You are Making Me Fat

It finally feels like spring!
Here it is April 1st, and for the first time in what feels like years we have ourselves a gorgeous, sunny and mild day. We overslept this morning so I had to take Mason to school. As we were rushing to get out the door on time, I stopped and looked out the front window; just a gorgeous morning. One where I'd want to take a walk. Perhaps to school. But of course that wasn't possible.

So, we reluctantly trudged to the car, I got everybody strapped in and drove the whole 2 minutes to school. Then we had to do it all over again about 30 minutes later to take Hannah to school. After dropping off Hannah, I took Ethan to get coffee and a doughnut (well, the coffee was for me; he bounces off the walls as it is). Again, we could have walked there and then home again. Instead, we missed this beautiful morning, some exercise, an endorphin rush and some freaking fresh air!

Before we moved here I was healthy. I was back at my pre-pregnancy weight. I ran every morning with Mason in his jogging stroller. On a sidewalk. It was apparent soon after we moved here that we could not jog on the roads. We are literally stuck here unless we get in the car. We got a treadmill. That was okay for a while, but then it was tedious and oh-so-boring. I fucking hate treadmills. I feel like an asshole running on one. I'd much rather jog outside with, ya know, fresh air, trees, other people.

So, here I am the heaviest I've ever been. I'm about 15 lbs heavier than I was when we moved here, and coincidentally (or not), suburbanites are heavier than their city-dwelling peers. I still eat the same; I'm just not burning as many calories because every errand has to be done by car. I am still exercising when I can, but I notice it's more of a struggle to find time. Before my exercise happened naturally throughout the day without much thought because we'd walk to everything. Now I realize just how much that helped me stay healthy by comparing how much of an obvious struggle it is here. How many calories could I have burned this morning? Much more than it takes to push down on the gas pedal, that's for sure. Plus, walking makes me feel good. It makes you healthier, happier and even smarter.

I lost two opportunities this morning to get some exercise. The kids did too. The kids lost the benefit of exercise before school. We also lost time to talk and enjoy our environment without the obstruction of a windshield. I miss that way of life. I want it back. A slimmer, healthier and smarter me wouldn't hurt either.


Monday, March 24, 2014

Spring Break was No Break

This past week was terrible.

For starters, it was my spring break. I had a whole week off from school and I had made plans to take some much needed me-time while the sitter was here. I was really looking forward to it.

But of course, on Sunday night I started feeling sick. I got what Mason had, and then some. It was the worst chest cold (?) I had ever had. I had high fevers, chills, sore throat, dizziness, nausea; I thought it was the flu at first. It lasted all week. I was basically bedridden. I cancelled all my shopping and lunch plans. Other writing assignments were neglected. The housework was neglected. Then the kids all got sick, followed by Jason. We were cranky and miserable all week.

Then I had a meeting with Mason's teacher about--yet again--his behavioral issues (highly distracted, aloof, etc). So now we are setting up an evaluation at the children's hospital. Hopefully that will happen soon because though whatever issues he has are mild, he has them and they are starting to affect him academically.

Then this weekend was a family get-together. We never see each other and my dad flaked once again. He just seems he doesn't care anymore. The kids ask about him. He doesn't want to visit and he doesn't want us to visit him. So, fuck him. There was an argument on the phone and I told him he is dead to me. Mature? Perhaps not, but I don't give a fuck anymore. It's been years since mom died and I've tried and tried to get him help and to bring him back to reality and the family; he won't have it. It is too emotionally draining and I'm done.

Now, it's Monday. The sitter is here. I just finished school work and of course, Now I am feeling much better (though still hacking up a lung). Last week was awful and tiring both physically and emotionally. I hope this week is much, much better.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Bad Blogger

I logged in to type a post because I started feeling like I've been neglecting this blog, and was surprised to see that I haven't posted in over two weeks. Is time really flying that fast? It sure doesn't feel that way with this winter.

The truth is I am lazy and my life is boring. I live in the middle of nowhere; It's been horribly cold and snowy; School sucks; I have three kids; my husband is gone too much, and I'm lonely and tired.

I guess I could whip up some more recipe posts, but really, how interesting are those unless you are purposely looking for recipe blogs? The truth is, in my head I have a whole helluva lot of material. I guess I'm just hesitant to post it because it will be a lot of negativity. And whining. And swear words. Lots and lots of those.

But this is my blog after all. So, from now on, to keep this blog somewhat active and for therapy's sake, I will just post whatever I want. This is my journal; my way to deal with living in this exurban hell. I'm going to bitch about this place a lot. I'm going to bitch about my husband's commute and how being a mom (or parent, for that matter) can really suck sometimes. I'm going to vent. I'd also like to think that some of you out there can relate, and sometimes there is nothing better than that.


Thursday, February 27, 2014

New Hair!

I've barely blogged the whole month of February. Nothing much has happened--in fact, the whole month of February has seemed like one long, hellish day. Every day it's the same: cold, snow, ice, frigid cold. And even though March starts this Saturday, it will continue to be cold and below freezing well into the first week of March. At least.

I've also been busy with school. Lots of school projects that involve writing that suck my desire to write for fun. I hate, hate, hate school. I just have to make it through the summer and I'll be done; at least for a little while.

I did manage to finally fix my overgrown pixie cut. Last February I chopped off all of my long beautiful hair and went super short. I posted about it a while back and said I was going to update on my growing-it-out project every now and then. Well, here's is my update. I went yesterday and had my mullet hacked at until a bob was formed. Here is the result:

Before 

After!




I love it! I instantly feel normal again. I couldn't wear my hair down for so long because the ends were so fried and the way the cut was growing out looked awful. I just couldn't bear to get it trimmed because that would mean going shorter and it was short enough. So, I just put it up every single day for months. Now I can actually put the elastic bands away for a while.

So, there you have it. That's my boring update. 'Til we meet again.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Things I Won't Miss: Digging Out

This winter has been hellish so far. In total we've gotten a few feet of snow in just a couple of months, and more snow coming on Thursday. To say I am over it is an understatement.

Worse than the frozen mountains of snow that just will not melt, is the act of getting the hell out of it. There is nothing worse than shoveling your walkway and driveway in the frigid cold. I'm tired of it. I'm tired of freezing my ass off and spraining my back. I'm tired of it even having to be on my radar. I'll gladly let the super and/or the city handle it. Think of it as job security.

I hope this is the last winter we will face out in the far suburbs. Fingers crossed.

A suburban man and his shovel.



This was taken in January of 2011: One of the snowiest winters on record.
That bump was our patio table. Shoveling was really fun that year.





Tuesday, January 28, 2014

(Almost) Debt Free!

This morning I got to do something I've been dying to do for almost five years now: I closed my credit cards and cut them up. The balance on the cards were zero. Zero. Finally! If you've suffered with the crushing weight of debt, then you understand why I am so elated.

A few months ago I wrote this post explaining why we were struggling with debt. The main factor was the sudden and catastrophic cut to Jason's salary. We were not expecting that, or the realities of expensive homeownership. We were bad off at one point; we considered a short sale or even bankruptcy. I'm glad we held on, though looking back I don't know how we did when it all seemed so bleak. Maybe we didn't even hold on--maybe we just gave up and were floundering along. Regardless, Jason's new job was the lifesaver in all of this.

We started paying off all the hospital debt, and now that is all gone. We paid off a debt that was in collections, more credit cards, 2 out of 3 student loans, and today three of my maxed-out credit cards. It felt so good to cut them up. We still have a small amount of debt left, but it will all be paid off by next January. It feels so good to be able to see that tiny pinhole of light at the end of the tunnel turn into a floodlight.

If you are in debt, I feel your pain. It is immensely stressful. You need to sit down and make a detailed plan on paying off your debt each month while staying afloat.  Here are the steps that we took:



  1. The first thing you need to do is lessen your monthly utilities/bills or even get rid of some altogether. Take a look and see what you're spending your money on every month, and ask yourself it is really necessary. Do you really need both cars? Maybe you live in a very walkable area with reliable transportation and don't even need a car at all. Do you need the biggest, baddest cable package? Could you budget your groceries better and use coupons? What we did was trim our weekly budget, downgraded to the cheapest cable (for a while we even got rid of cable completely and used Netflix on our Wii to supplement any lost shows), got the cheapest internet possible, downgraded our minutes on our cellphone package and even got rid of Jason's phone since he already had one free though his employer. Every penny counts. Literally. 
  2. If you have any debt that is small or already close to being paid off, focus on paying them off first. I know some people disagree with that and say you should only focus on debt with highest interest first, but we found that to be disheartening. When we paid off that first "small" bill, it felt like a HUGE accomplishment and that gave us more motivation to keep going. Not to mention it also freed up a small amount of cash every month to throw at the rest of the debt.
  3. Next, throw any extra money at debt with the most urgency (collections, high interest credit card, etc). While throwing extra money to pay off the most urgent debt, pay the minimum on everything else.
  4. Don't pay off hospital bills or student loans first; they usually carry little to no interest. Save those for last.
  5. As you slowly start paying off debt (yes, it will be a very slow process), start stashing a little in a savings account whenever you can. It doesn't matter how little; just start saving.
  6. If you have a setback and need to use credit cards again, don't panic. We had to resort to that a few times, but we just paid it back when we could. Just forge onward.
  7. When you pay off you credit cards, it might be a good idea to at least keep one open until you have a decent savings account. You never know what kind of emergency might require a large sum of cash. 
  8. When you come across a large sum of money like a tax refund or bonus, unless you would be able to pay off a debt completely, use some of it to help pay off urgent debt and put the rest in savings! In the past we've made the mistake of just throwing our refund at all credit card debt, which didn't even pay it off completely. So then after the money was all gone, though we chipped at the balances a bit, we were still stuck with large monthly credit card payments and no money in savings. It didn't really help much because: SURPRISE! More unexpected house expenses or hospital bills soon followed and instead of using cash we should have stashed away, we accumulated even more credit card debt.
  9. Keep chipping away at the debt and don't give up!! 


That last tip is crucial; do not give up. At times it may feel like you are not getting anywhere--believe me, we've felt that way many times. You can and will do it. Stick to those tips above (or follow your own plan) and I promise you one day you too will be also gleefully cutting up your credit cards over the trash.









Thursday, January 23, 2014

Lipstick on a Pig

We need to sell this house. We need to put it on the market this summer. We need to at least break even. We need to get motivated and finish the remaining upgrades and renovations.

We need to. We need to. We need to. Ugh.

Okay, if you've been reading this blog for a while you know how much I loathe this house. I guess calling it a pig is a bit harsh; it's a nice house. I just see it as a huge strain on time, money, energy--basically everything--and can't help but to think less-than-loving thoughts about it. I love these four wall as a home--one where we've added to our family and made memories for the last 5 years--but that is about it. That is as far as the love goes. The lack of love also means the motivation to do these remaining tasks is very low. I know we need to do them to sell the house, but I just find I don't give a shit and just want to unload it onto someone else who will actually love it and appreciate it. 

To keep our spirits high and motivation strong, I've made a timeline on what when we need to get done and when. This helps put things into perspective a bit.

January:
  • Not doing a damn thing. 

February: 
  • Fix the flooring in the kitchen ( we found a gap and need to fix it)
  • Do the base molding/trim. 

March: 
  • Finish main bathroom (There's not much to do here other than refinish the tub and get a new toilet)
  • Buy new toilets for all three bathrooms.
  • Update master bath (verrrry frugally)

April:
  • Take down acoustic tile and put up new ceiling (Jason is so sure we can do this ourselves. We shall see) 
  • Rent dumpster and clean out our garage (Currently our two-car garage has been a storage/dumping ground during slow-going renovations the last few years. It's really bad).
  • Crown molding

May (moving outside now):
  • Plan new shrubs
  • Paint anything old/nasty/peeling/boring
  • Make the window boxes look awesome
  • Clean-up the yard
  • Powerwash the house and patio
  • Flowers. Lots and lots of flowers.

There's the list. I hope it happens just as it says, and I hope to hell it goes as smoothly. We need to really buckle down and focus on getting this all done in order to sell this for what we want. Luckily we have no specific deadline on when we need to move, so even though we want to be out of here by January of next year, we will stay here until we can get what we need to at least break even. Hopefully that won't be too long. 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

This House Hates Me

Remember in my last post where I was complaining about house repairs? About the recent plumbing, washer and dishwasher issues? And how I was bracing myself for the next surprise?

It didn't take long.

Apparently it was a power surge that fried our dishwasher's panel. The repairman said he would call us back Monday with the cost of the part, and then we'd go from there. We may just be better off buying a new one. There goes $400 more dollars that we should be saving.

Oh, and our new coffee pot we just bought last month was fried too. I thought I'd have to trudge myself half-asleep to Dunkin Donuts but Jason figured out if we pushed two random buttons simultaneously, it would just suddenly start working. So, yeah. Another coffee pot too.

This house is out to get me.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Things I Won't Miss: Household Repairs and Maintenance

Remember that movie starring Tom Hanks and Shelley Long? The one where he and his wife unknowingly purchase a total piece of shit thinking it's their dream home? I remember that. I thought it was funny; I was only a kid when I saw it. Surely houses don't just fall apart like that, right?

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

Look at those smiles. We were like that at first too:"Yayyy! OUR HOUSE!"
Suckers.

Now, as an adult and homeowner, I want to hug the writer of that script in commiseration. They probably wrote it based on the reality and the pain-in-the-ass that is homeowning. Of course the movie is exaggerating a little. Maybe. But it does capture the endless repairs and issues that just seem to come up and bite you in the ass when you least expect it. This is why home repairs is the thing I will not miss the most.

There were numerous things that needed repairing throughout these past 5 years. Most happened without warning and usually when we really, really needed the money. Of course. Then there is the regular maintenance that is crucial to keeping your house livable: pumping out the septic tank (lucky us who live in the country), boiler maintenance, roof repair/cleaning, chimney sweep, power-washing your siding/deck, yard work (and allllll that entails), and seemingly on and on. Just last month we had that plumbing issue, and then a week ago the washer drain was overflowing due to ultra-cold temps and a line leading to the septic that most likely isn't below the frost line. And today our dishwasher just died on me. After I loaded it up and filled it with soap, of course. So, there goes more money. I swear it is impossible to save any money with this curse of a house. Then tomorrow it'll be something else. And then something else.

Blah.

I don't know if these issues are as common in every home as it is ours, or if we did in fact buy a money pit. If this really is the norm, then my mind if officially blown and I have no idea why everybody thinks owning a home is so fucking great.

I can't wait to let this house be somebody else's problem.
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