Year in Review

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2014 has gone by in the blink of an eye.  So many things have happened this past year.

This is actually one of my favorite posts that I write all year.  I like scouring my past blog posts to put together a little summary of our year.  Let’s take a look back at what happened:

January: I started the year being out of town to take newborn photos of my super sweet niece!  As always, I also started the year with a no/low-spend challenge.  Bandit had surgery at the beginning of the month, but everything turned out fine!  And we got a new faucet!

February: I made some goals for the month.  I enjoyed a few snow days!  We also got a new garbage disposal (the faucet wasn’t the whole problem).  I took my first step to getting $5,000 of my student loan forgiven.  And I bought lots of clothes for Miss C at a consignment sale!

March: I made a list of goals for March.  Sadly, I had another miscarriage.  But I did get a lot of painting (of cabinets) done!

April:  Another month, another list of goals!  Bandit scratched himself open and blew our budget. And I got my appendix taken out!

May: Apparently May was not much a blogging month for me.  I told you about some grocery savings.  I updated you on my long (but not terribly interesting) absence.   And I ran some errands and got stopped on the road by a traveling house.

June: I turned 30!  I also started using some rebate apps when I grocery shop!  I was productive for at least one day during the summer.  And I went to the grocery store again.

July: Apparently I did nothing, as there was not one single blog post from the month of July.  Oops!

August: I bought myself some new clothes!  I was very happy to go back to work, after a very tiring summer with a toddler.  And I moved from 1st grade to 2nd grade!

September: I got back to making a list of goals.  I started scheduling my days, which I still do, and which keep me sane!  For one day, I felt like a rock star!

October: October was a super busy month!  Managed to make a list of goals.  We paid off our car!! I photographed a wedding! I got a new laptop. Miss C turned 2!

November: Of course I started off with some goals.  Bandit continued to be a naughty dog.  I got $5,000 of my student loan forgiven!!  Hubs got some expensive new tires for his car!  And I started some new habits that I am very proud of!

December: I attempted to make a Christmas budget.  I gave thanks to some random things.  I was busy.  I complained about how much assessing goes on in public schools.  And we are ending the year with some large purchases.

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Recent Money Woes

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This year whenever anyone asked us what we wanted for Christmas, Hubs and I replied “money.”  We have been working on updating our kitchen, one small step at a time.  I have almost finished all of the painting of the cabinets, and we will replace outdated and nasty appliances one a time, as we can afford them.

Since we have been married, we have had a counter microwave.  It has worked well, and we will keep it when we replace it, but we are not thrilled about it.  We have wanted an over-the-range microwave, but to do this, we will need to adjust the cabinets above our oven.  I have not painted those cabinets, because of it.

Anyway, we decided that the money we got for Christmas, along with the money I have gotten from my piloted program at school, we would use towards a microwave.  We ended up getting a lot more money than expected, and we came in under budget for our Christmas this year, so we decided that we would also get a treadmill with the money.  Here is the breakdown, as I had figured it out:

$746 (Cash, extra money from Christmas, money from piloted program)
~$300- Microwave (Ended up being $300.66)
~$320- Treadmill (Ended up being $342.32 with a 2 year warranty)

This leaves us with $57.02.

If you read my blog earlier, then you know that our tv died.  We are now looking at buying a new one.  We are coming in under budget for December by about $100, so I am willing to put that towards our tv.  We also have $60 in our “house” envelope that we will put towards it.  That brings us up to $217.02.  I told Hubs that I am willing to use about $250 from our savings to go towards the tv as well.  If you are keeping up, that means we are at $467.02.  Some other miscellaneous money I have available includes:
Paypal (~$45)
Rebate apps (~$65)
Change jar (~$50)

Total: ~$160

Absolute tops of how much we can spend on a tv is $627.02.  I do not want to spend that much, and Hubs is being really good trying to find them for under $400.  (I do love that he is on the same page with me about spending money and making large purchases.)

(I also have an upcoming photo shoot in February, but won’t count that money until it happens.  I also want to save all of my photography income this year to hopefully fund a new lens.  I don’t want to come reliant on it.)

Basically, we will be able to replace our tv, but not with something as expensive and nice as the original one.  I told Hubs that if we use the money from savings and are down to not much emergency fund, then things are going to be pretty tight for quite a while.  No eating out, no coffees for me (once my gift cards/gift certificates are gone), no extras really.

If we include the new CD player for Hubs’ car that we got before our trip to Chicago for Christmas, this makes 4 LARGE (over $200) purchases for us in about 1 month.  This is UNHEARD OF in our world.  I am happy to say that even with these purchases, we are paying them outright and will have no additional debt!  No extra payments!

So there ya have it!  An update of our purchases.  I need to redo our January budget so we can really pump up how much we are putting into our emergency savings fund again.  It needs to be built up and built up fast!

Have you had any unexpected, large purchases lately?

Today’s To-Do

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So long story short… Our TV is dead. (No one’s fault except the manufacturer’s.  Boo!)  This means I plan to be super productive this week!  The only thing I have that will distract me is my book.  I have been trying to read before bed each night, to try and get back in that habit, and I have finally gotten into the book that had been on my nightstand for weeks.

Here is my to-do list for today:

*Scrub both bathrooms (I only got one done, but I am calling it a success)
*Clean kitchen
*Fill box for Goodwill
*Take down our “Christmas tree” (It is a tiny one)
*Vacuum living room
*Balance checkbook
*Update January budget (as we will now have to buy a tv)
*Read
*Blog again
*Get resolutions ready

I think those are all doable things!  I have finally “finished” laundry.  Until we decide to give up clothes completely, I will just have to settle with never actually being completely done with laundry.  As soon as I think I am going to be done, clothes from that day get tossed into the laundry sorter.  At least I am caught up enough that I have less than a full load.

I have a lot to update here on the blog, so I hope to be back tonight with an update about some big purchases we have decided to make (aside from the tv.)

I hope you have a productive day (or a relaxing day if you would rather). 🙂

Right Now I Am…

*Happy to see a light at the end of the laundry tunnel.  2 days of laundry, and I am down to 2 loads left for tomorrow.
*Thankful that the busyness of the holidays are winding down.
*Loving that Miss C sings along with “Let it Go.” (Her toddler version is adorable!)
*Enjoying some homemade fudge that was a Christmas gift from a family member.
*Fighting to keep my eyes open to finish this blog post.
*Happy that we were able to celebrate our niece’s first birthday today!
*Looking forward to lunch with some fabulous ladies tomorrow!
*Ready for a week of no real responsibilities or plans.
*Watching Life Below Zero on National Geographic and am quite happy I do not live in Alaska.
*Ready to sign off and go to bed!

I hope all of your holidays have been happy!  I hope to have some more interesting posts coming in the next few days!

Relaxing Day

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Today I did nothing.  I think this may be the first day like this this year. Here is a run down for the nothing I did today:

*Woke up at 7:45
*Laid in bed snugging with Rose and looking at Facebook
*Played a lot with Miss C
*Grabbed Subway for lunch
*Played a lot more with Miss C
*Got caught up on the DVR
*Watched some shows with Hubs
*Vegged on the couch in my pjs
*Let the crock pot cook dinner
*Played with Miss C
*Directed Miss C as she picked up her toys
*Blogged

I did do a few daily things, as I would have been very unhappy with myself if they weren’t done.  I did balance my checkbook for the day and paid a couple bills.  I also got the table cleared off after dinner and have the dishwasher running.  That’s it, though.

I did hear a nagging in the back of my mind that I should clean or do laundry or vacuum or do something productive, but I really wanted to relax and do nothing on my first day of Christmas break.  I spent so much wonderful time with Miss C and Hubs.  It has truly been a perfect day!

I should probably get back to the snuggles on the couch.  I don’t want to miss out!

*Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net*

Balance

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I have been in a funk all day.  You would think I would be so excited about the last day of the semester and winter break starting, but I’m not.  I am definitely happy about the time off and the time I will get to spend with family, but I am not feeling very spirited lately.

Yesterday within about 2 hours I received news of immense joy and news of utter heartbreak.  Neither of these items affect me directly, but they affect people I love.  Trying to keep balanced with a roller coaster like that is nearly impossible.  Unfortunately the heartbreaking news is from someone who I am very close to, and it has really remained on my heart today.  I tried to push it to the back of my mind and enjoy my last fun day with the kiddos at school, but my mind and heart was with my friend all day.

I am so lucky that my husband is one who helps keep me balanced during times like this.  He reminds me of what is important and of the blessings we already have.  He helps me focus on the good in our lives and not dwell on the negative.

In spite of all of this, I was still just in a funk today.  I did manage to get in a good, long run this evening, which I thought would help.  It was a great run, and I felt great about it, but I am still just feeling pretty blah right now.  I hope that a good night’s sleep, doggie snuggles, and some time with friends and family will help.

Since I am off work and our schedule is a bit more relaxed than normal, I may not be as consistent with my blogging.  I hope you are able to relax this weekend and find some joy and revel in it.  If not, then maybe just some good, loud singing will help.  It always makes me feel better (although I am not sure everyone appreciates it).

Wishing for…

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SNOW!
(image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net)

We are supposed to get somewhere between 1 and 3 inches of snow over night.  I really hate when there is snow, but not a lot.  If it snows, I want enough to cancel school!  I am sure it will snow, but I am also sure there will not be enough to cancel school.  Boo!  At that point it just becomes a nuisance and makes it impossible for me to run in the mornings.

Today was actually a fun, relaxing day at school.  We did holiday stations, which means that all the 2nd graders mixed up into groups and went from one station to another station, doing fun activities.  I made an ornament in my room with the groups.  There was a room with partner reading, a movie, board games, computer games, Lexia (reading games on the computer), and reindeer games in the gym.  I think the kiddos enjoyed the fun, and I really enjoy getting to work with all of the 2nd graders.

These two weeks before break are absolutely crazy!  The amount of end of the quarter assessing that we have to get done in two weeks is insane.  It is exhausting for the kids to be assessed so much, and exhausting for the teachers, as many of the assessments have to be done one-on-one.  Here is a run down of assessments I have to get done in the last two weeks of school:

MAP reading (takes an hour to an hour and a half– can be done whole group)
MAP math (same as MAP reading)
DIBELS (takes about 7 minutes per child– can only be done one-on-one)
LARRC assessments (only done on 6 students.  Takes about 10-15 minutes per child and can only be done one-on-one)
Sight words (Assess 224 sight words for each child.  Takes about 15 minutes per child and can only be done one-on-one)
DIBELS math (Done whole group, only takes about 15 minutes)
Math chapter test (Done whole group.  Takes about 30 minutes)

If you think about the fact that I have 21 students, and I have to assess about 15 of them (other teachers help with 6 of them), it comes out to a lot of assessing that has to be done one-on-one.  For DIBELS, we have a sub for an hour and a half that we assess.  That’s great, except that you end up giving the sub work that is not necessarily what you would do.

My LARRC assessments are for the program I am piloting.  Another 2nd grade teacher also has to do it.  This means about an hour out of one of my days to get it done.  We put in a movie, so we can pull kiddos out one at a time.

Sight words end up being over 2 hours of assessing, but it can be broken up into smaller chunks.  This has been getting done while my kiddos silent read or partner read.

On days that we do MAP assessing, brains are fried, so activities are pretty light and fun.

Add into all of this: a speaker (hour and a half out of a day), a full day field trip (arranged by the PE teacher), a pajama day earned by students (do not try to assess on pajama days… it does not go well), a music program later this week, winter workshop shopping for the kids, and everything else that needs to be taught by the end of the quarter, and you have one hectic two week period.

I am counting down until break, and it’s mainly so that we can have a semi-normal schedule back in January.  If you think the crafts and movies are just to get the teachers and kiddos through the week, that is part of it.  The other part you don’t see is the amount of assessing that is going on behind the scenes.  I think assessing is a necessary evil, but I sure hate how much time and energy it sucks out of teaching time and learning time.

Random Ramblings

Looking at the poll that I posted yesterday, it appears that most of the people who read this blog (or at least most of the ones who voted) mainly like posts about my daily life.  That should seem easy enough, but I feel that I get redundant or boring with those posts.  I did get votes for each type of post, so it sounds like I will just keep chugging along with how I have been doing things all along.

There isn’t much to write about on a day to day basis, as my life is not nearly as exciting as you would expect.  In fact here is a picture of what is going on over here at the moment:

*I just finished balancing our checkbook.  As normal, we are about $75 over budget.  This will be taken care of, as part of it was Bandit’s vet bill.  The dogs get money in their “long term savings account” (aka yearly shots, meds, etc.) in about a week.  I just won’t deposit their $82 for the month, and we are covered.

*Christmas shopping is done.  I have about 75% of it all wrapped.  I started with a lot of enthusiasm, and that wore down quite quickly.

*I made pasta toss for dinner tonight.  I was very close to just eating out, but I knew in the back of my mind that I had a thawed chicken breast ready to go in the fridge, and really didn’t have an actual reason to skip out on it.

*The kitchen has been cleaned up.  We keep having too many dishes to fit in the dishwasher each night; therefore, we end up with a few on the counter waiting for the next round.  It bugs me that there are always dirty dishes.  But apparently it doesn’t bug me enough because I don’t plan to hand wash them.

*Rose is currently lying down in a dog bed that is meant for a much smaller dog.

*Bandit is sprawled out all alone on the couch, with plenty of room for Rose, if she wanted to join him.

*Miss C is lying in her crib, sucking her thumb, but not sleeping.  She enjoys unzipping her jammies at night, so we now have to put a safety pin on the track of the zipper, on the inside of her jammies, so she does not unzip them or take them off.

*I haven’t run in 3 days.  I have set my alarm to wake up early the past two mornings, but I went back to sleep instead.

*I cut about 4 inches off my hair on Friday (well, not me personally, I went to someone to have it done), and either no one noticed or no one thinks it looks good.  I have only had 3 people mention anything about it.  This is bothering me much more than it should.

*I am so beyond ready for this week to be over with.  The kids are bouncing off the walls, and I am just over it.  I am tired of the assessing that goes with the end of the quarter.  I am tired of the disaster that is my desk.  I am tired of herding cats.

*I honestly  have the best friends ever.  Coffee with two very wonderful friends this afternoon was so good for my soul.  I need that more often.

I am sure there is much more happening, but that is a bit of what went through my brain this evening while my fingers were on the keyboard.  I really need to snap out of my gloomy mood that I have been in lately.  That is usually my clue that I really do NEED to run tomorrow.  Wish me luck, and let’s hope I don’t just turn off my alarm when it screams at me in the morning.

Time

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(photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net)

I seriously can’t believe it is halfway through December.  Time is just flying by.

It seems like just yesterday I did a recap of my November goals.  I honestly haven’t even thought of goals for December, and at this point I probably just need to start thinking about new year’s resolutions (my favorite time of year)!

Things are still going well, but I just can’t seem to keep up with my to-do list.  By the time I have a moment in the evenings, I am exhausted and all I want to do is veg out.  I have gotten quite a few things done this evening, but I am up later than I wanted to be.  I really wanted to get up and run in the morning, as I have not run since Saturday, but between being tired and the horrendous wind happening outside, it may be a good day to try an indoor cardio workout.

I did manage to get some laundry done and get the kitchen cleaned (minus the dishes that couldn’t fit in the dishwasher).  I also *finally* got our fall decorations put away.  Yes, mid-December and we still had pumpkins hanging around the house.  I am not getting out Christmas decorations this year, and I am quite happy that I don’t have to deal with putting them back.

Well, hopefully I can find some time later this week to write an interesting post.  I need to update you on some financial things, and I would like to get into more of a routine of my blogging.

In order to help me figure out my blogging routine and what I want to focus on, please take a moment to respond to my poll.  If there is any extra information you would like to add, feel free to leave it in a comment.  Thanks!

Busy

Today I…

*Got up early and ran 2 miles
*Got to work an hour early and still didn’t feel ready for the day
*Got a lovely gift from a co-worker: a beautiful dozen farm-fresh eggs (which I left at school)
*Repeated myself a billion times
*Tried to remain calm in the face of children brimming over with holiday excitement
*Did not use my plan time as effectively as I should have
*Forgot to pick up milk in the town I work in, so I had to take Miss C out in the cold
*Am happy I even remembered that I needed to pick up milk
*Started a load of laundry as soon as we got home
*Tried a new recipe and actually had some success with it
*Cleaned up the kitchen while Miss C played after dinner
*Bathed the munchkin
*Folded a load of clothes while the munchkin played in the bath
*Snuggled with Miss C and Bandit during Mickey Mouse Clubhouse
*Completely fell asleep while snuggling during Mickey Mouse Clubhouse
*Read a story with Miss C before “tucking her in” (She doesn’t lie down when you put her in her crib.  She just wants to stand… she will lie down when she is ready.)
*Sectioned out and put some meat in the freezer so it wouldn’t go bad (I have meant to do this each evening since Sunday)
*”Lesson Planned” for next week
*And now I have blogged for the evening