Cowgar Family Adventures

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Quick Updates in the Household...

We have a bit of snow on the ground today, just a light coating really. It really warmed up over the weekend, and Luke had another senior session booked on Saturday. She was referred from a few other seniors that Luke had done. Apparently there are still a lot of kids in her class that haven't gotten senior pictures done. They either don't care, will let the school picture get submitted, or went to a quick studio to get a headshot for the book. I figured we were done with senior sessions for the year, but we may not be.

The girls are doing well. They had a bit of a cough and runny/stuffy noses, but are doing much better. Hopefully we are done being sick for the year:)

With that senior shoot came a few last minute home improvements. We got some drywall mud on the dining room ceiling, and put primer on the trim. We also nailed down some shoe molding, and bought new curtains and hardware. Makes the room look nice, but it will look even better when it's finished.

We are planning on Lexi and Lilly visiting Nana and Papaw next month, and I am hoping that we can get some more home improvement items taken care of. We will definitely be painting the girls' closet and ceiling since they will be gone, and maybe touch up some wall paint. I would like to focus on the dining room and living room, that way they look nicer when the birthday parties start rolling around. Lexi's is in March, and Lilly in May. The kitchen seems to be a lost cause...I sometimes wish that part of the house would just fall off so we can claim it on the insurance and get a really nice one!

Right now we are trying to sort out all this photography business jargin, so we know we are as legit as a small business can be. Fun fun!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Charitable Donations in 2010

Along with this de-cluttering the house, I’ve decided we need to be more charitable as a family. Obviously, even though we couldn’t control our amount of debt for a while, we are doing well enough financially to accumulate stuff. I’ve decided to start locally for the most part. I think that will help the girls grasp the concept of giving easier when we can visit these places to drop off donations.

Other Mother’s
1821 Beall Avenue
Wooster, OH 44691-2343
(330) 264-7176

Other Mother’s is a store for baby/toddler/maternity items. They buy back your gently used clothing and other merchandise, and then resell it. This isn’t really charity…since they pay you for the items they decide to keep and resell, but if gives others who are on a budget a chance to get name brand clothes and really good prices. Plus, it helps us make a little money for debt payoff, and get rid of some clutter. I have a 31 gallon plastic tote waiting to be dropped off for them to go through. I’m not sure what they will take and what they won’t, so I’ve put in a variety of clothing and we’ll see what they are looking for.

Wayne County Humane Society
1161 Mechanicsburg Road
Wooster, OH 44691
Phone: (330) 262-0152

Obviously, the humane society helps out local stray animals that need homes. Their website has a wishlist of items they happily accept as donations. Anything from food and toys, to office supplies for the staff; they can use it all. I plan on setting up a small container, and as we find deals in the store on some of those items, we will pick them up here and there and when we fill the container, we can drop it off. The girls love animals, and I think they would understand that those animals don’t have homes and need someone to buy these items for them. I also think I may set up a small bank, and the girls can donate some of their money they earn from picking up toys and doing other chores. The humane society has a second chance fund that helps injured animals get the vet care they need to be well so they can get adopted.

Every Woman's House
Gault Liberty Center
104 Spink Street
Wooster, Ohio 44691
(330) 263-6021

This is our local domestic violence shelter. I don’t think the girls will understand that abuse takes place, but the idea that there are people out there that are less fortunate, and need items that we can provide is a more simple concept. They accept adult clothing, kids clothing, toys, small appliances and furniture, money, and anything else to help people get back on their feet and out in the world after going through this violence. We have plenty of kids clothing, and I’m sure Luke and I can thin our closets some, so I plan on doing the same thing we are doing with the humane society. A small container that we can add to and then drop off.

Pantene Beautiful Lengths
511 Wisconsin Drive
New Richmond, WI 54017-2613

So this isn’t so much a family thing, as it is a me thing. I had my haircut shortly after Lilly was born in 2007, with every intention of donating it. I wasn’t sure where, but I knew I had enough length to do it. I had my ponytail chopped and put it in a bag and it’s been sitting ever since. Most places for donating hair are related to making wigs for children, and we are doing so much charitable work for children, that I picked Pantene because they focus on women who survive cancer. They also have less restrictions on what has been done to the hair, and the length can be shorter than the foundations for children’s hair. I plan on sending out the ponytail that I have sitting around, and I believe my hair is long enough to do it again, so in the next few months, I need to budget in a haircut so I can donate again. With 3 daughters, I would love to be able to encourage them to do the same when they are old enough to make that decision. Lexi’s hair is long enough right now, but I know she wouldn’t quite understand, and right now they both love their long “princess” hair. I would probably look into Locks for Love, or another children’s donation place for them, since they are kids afterall. I’m thinking maybe when Lexi is 5 or 6 she would understand better, but I will see what their reaction is when I do it.

Soldier’s Angels

This isn’t local, but this organization has the option of adopting a soldier, and/or sending care packages, and other kinds of packages. Luke and I aren’t very social, so adopting a soldier and writing to them every week doesn’t sound like the best option for us, so for now, we are going to concentrate on just putting general care packages together and sending them to our nearest warehouse, so they can be sent overseas where they are much needed and appreciated. Personal care items, magazines and crossword puzzles, hard candies, food, clothing, and all kinds of other stuff is listed on the website as acceptable donations. I can’t image Luke or I being gone for an entire year, so sending a little part of home to these guys and gals probably makes a world of difference for their moral. I think the girls are a bit young to understand the war, but supporting our military can be such a simple act of compassion, and I know the girls will enjoy picking out things and packing up the boxes.

I hope to get some boxes/containers together and get everything organized so we can officially start buying items next month. I need to find some simple ways to explain the organizations to the girls, and get them pumped about helping. Getting them excited and involved will help hold us accountable.

I’m on the lookout for other things we can donate to. I know after yardsale season is over, we will box up the leftovers for a goodwill donation, and I hope to find an angel tree or something similar for next Christmas.

I know this may seem counter-productive, since we are trying to tighten our budget and work our way out of debt, but good Karma floats around, and giving it out will surely bring some back, and I just feel it’s time we start contributing more in life. If all I have to complain about in life is debt and clutter, than obviously I have it better than others do, so I should have the means to help them. Maybe when the kids get older, we can actually donate time, but for now, stuff seems to be a better choice.

I'm Selling The Farm...

OK, not really, since I don't even have a farm. Another 2010 goal of mine is to PURGE this house. De-clutter as much as possible. At the same time, I am taking all of these purged items, and either boxing them up for a yardsale, or if I think I may be able to get rid of them quicker on craigslist, then list the items on there right now. I am swamped with baby clothes, toddler clothes, toys, home decor, and many other miscellaneous items. I've actually thought about making a list of things for people not to buy the girls for birthdays and Christmas, because we have too much of some things, like 3T shirts, or baby dolls. When we moved into this house 5 years ago, we had only our bedrooms to move into the entire downstairs, along with some misc. containers from the basement from our childhood years. Now we have expanded to an office upstairs, and we are bursting at the seams. I feel that my house is very UN-inviting to people, and therefore we don't get many visitors. (It doesn't help that the house is a construction zone as well)

So, right now I have a list going of things, and as they sell, I will write them on a spreadsheet with the price they went for. The spreadsheet is hanging on our bedroom door next to a big chart listing out our credit card debt totals, and I hope that this will motivate us to sell more and put that money towards the debt. We need to learn to live with less, because many other people do each day. We just don't need all of this stuff!! I have a pile in the dining room of stuff listed on craigslist, and boxes sitting around filled with yardsale items. I will do another toy and clothing purge after the girls' birthdays, so that will be around May, and that is prime season for yardsales to start. I'm hoping to do at least one yardsale a month from May-August, and then take some leftovers to goodwill like we did last year.

Health Check

Avery’s one month checkup went great. She gained 4 pounds (she is now 12lbs 15.5oz) and gained 2 ¾ inches (up to 23 3/4in). We don’t have to take her back until she is 2 months old.

We are all a bit sickly here. No fevers or anything, but our noses are runny/stuffy, and my head has been hurting. Nothing we can’t handle, just trying to take it easy as much as possible.

In other news, I hate eBay. Luke sold a lens and a camera kit. He agreed to ship out of the country, so the lens was paid for and shipped to China, and now it looks like the guy is trying to take us for a ride saying it wasn’t as described. The part that stinks is that it is cheaper to just give him a partial refund, then to have him ship it back. We know that the problem he is saying doesn’t exist, and we have high resolution pictures of the lens showing the areas he is talking about, and there is nothing there. Luke will probably just give him a partial refund, so his eBay record doesn’t get tarnished, but I hope Karma bites this guy for taking away money from someone else. The camera kit, on the other hand, hasn’t even been paid for yet, and the guy only has 1 day left to do it. Not how I wanted to start paying off debt in the new year. We have a couple more things that would probably sell faster on eBay, so we will continue to use them for now, but their fees, along with paypal’s fees are so ridiculous!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Moving Along...

We decided to put a bed rail on Lexi's bed. She sleeps in a the bottom bunk, and Lilly's bed is a trundle on the floor, and 2 of the 4 times Lilly has had a night terror, we have found Lexi in her bed. It worked for 2 nights, but then last night we think Lilly had another one, although Luke had her calmed down in less than 5 minutes. Hopefully this really is helping...

Avery has her one month appointment tomorrow afternoon, so I will update with all of the details later tomorrow.

Luke sold a camera and lens, so pretty soon our first credit card on our snowball will be paid off!!! We are awaiting our tax forms which should be coming between now and the beginning of February, so we can start that process. I'm not sure what our numbers will be since that Obama tax went into effect, giving more back in each paycheck, and we had Avery, so our tax return is a mystery number for us right now.

I'm trying to put us on the envelope system for groceries, dining out, home improvement, and thrift/gift savings. Hopefully having the cash on hand and seeing it disappear will help keep us on our budget a bit better.

I pulled both of our credit reports from I pulled our Experian reports, and we can pull from the other two throughout the year. All for free since we aren't getting our score with them. I am going to start working on our "Everything Important" binder again. I haven't touched it in over a year, and it has important information in the event that Luke and I both died, people would know where to find our login information, credit details, work information, insurance information, and a listing of valuables and whatnot.

That's about it besides the normal housekeeping...

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Night Terrors

Ever heard of them? Thanks to a board I frequently lurk on, I have heard of them, but never paid much attention to the details...until now. Here is some basic info from


"I think my child is having night terrors."

It's the middle of the night and you are awakened by your child screaming from his bedroom. You rush in to see what's wrong and you find him sitting up in bed with a blank stare but very agitated. You try to wake him, asking him what is wrong but he doesn't respond, he just keeps screaming. You are scared and don't know what to do. After a few minutes, your child goes back to sleep and in the morning he doesn't remember the episode.

Characteristics of night terrors:

* Your child seems frightened, but cannot be awakened or consoled.
* Your child may sit up in bed, or walk around the room, screaming or talking senselessly.
* Your child doesn't acknowledge you, his eyes may be open but he seems to stare right through you.
* Objects or persons in the room might be mistaken for dangers.
* Episodes usually last between 10 and 30 minutes.
* Usually occur in children 1 to 8 years old.
* Your child cannot remember the episode in the morning.
* Usually happens within 2 hours of falling asleep.
* Night terrors are harmless and each episode will end on its own.

Why does a child get night terrors?

Night terrors are an inherited problem and occur in about 2% of children. It is as if the child is having a bad dream during deep sleep and cannot wake up. Night terrors are not caused by psychological stress, but they seem to be associated with being overtired.

What should I do when my child is having a night terror?

1. Help child go back to sleep.
Do not try to awaken your child. Turn on the lights so that your child won't be confused by shadows. Remain calm, talk in a soothing tone, "you are okay, you are at home, you are in your own bed, you can go back to sleep". Again, speak calmly, and keep repeating these soothing comments. You can try holding his hand or snuggling him, but if he pulls away don't persist. Don't try to wake him with shaking or shouting, this will only agitate him more and prolong the attack.

2. Protect him from getting hurt.
Keep you child away from stairs, windows or sharp objects. Try to gently direct him back to bed.

3. Educate your caregivers.
Be sure to warn babysitters, family members, or others who might be caring for him at night. Explain to them what to do in case of an attack, so that they don't overreact.

Can night terrors be prevented?
The following exercise has been shown to stop night terrors in 90% of children. For several nights, keep track of the time between falling asleep and the onset of the night terror. Then, wake him up 15 minutes prior to the expected time of the episode, get him out of bed and fully awake for 5 minutes. Do this for seven consecutive nights. If the night terrors recur, repeat the seven nights of awakenings.

Lilly has woken up last night, the night before, and a night in December, completely hysterical. She displays almost all the characteristics listed above. It's heartbreaking to watch her. She just stares, screams, covers her ears, and talks. I have no idea what she says, except for when she yells for mommy and daddy. Last night we spent about a half hour just sitting in her bed with her, holding her and rocking her, until she settled down and went back to sleep. The one in December, Luke was taking out trash when she started, and not knowing anything about a night terror, I tried to wake her up and call her name. It didn't make one bit of difference. She also stiffens up and shakes, almost like a constipation episode or something. It really is quite bizarre to watch.

I'm not sure if we are going to try Dr. Sears method listed above. We haven't talked about it yet.

Yesterday was just quite the day that we are running in zombie mode right now. Between Avery being crankier at night before we can get her to go down, Lilly's night terror, and stressing with Lexi because her new thing two nights in a row is being afraid the tub in draining while she is in it, which ruins bathtime. We got 15 minutes into the movie National Treasure and that was the end. Maybe tonight we can retry.

We have Jayden's birthday party to go to today. Tomorrow will be my brother's party and our nieces, Daleen and Luke's dad's birthday was this past week as well. January is full of birthdays!!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A Synthetic Battle...with Clothing

It's winter, it's cold, so we all want to stay warm, so we dress warm. Thermal underwear (long johns) are a must have Ohio accessory in the winter. Nana bought a pair for both Lexi and Lilly (Joe Boxer brand) for Christmas. They are tight fitting, since they are meant as a layer under your clothing. The girls used them for PJ's a few nights ago, and stayed in them all day running around the house. They took a bath that evening, and upon getting out, were covered in a red spotted rash. Lilly more than Lexi, but Lexi had taken off her pants part of the day, and Lilly's pair fit a lot tighter since she is bigger (and she is more active). They hadn't eaten anything out of the ordinary, so I took a look at the tag on the long johns. 40% Polyester... So I google polyester allergy. According to that research, it looks like both girls had a slight reaction to it. Then it clicked. Luke has red bumps on his legs that get irritated in the winter and after getting out of a warm bath. We figured it was the drier air. He lives in his long johns during the winter, and of course his are 23% polyester, and 54% acrylic!! He is having a reaction too, and we never realized it.

This is how it works. Polyester, acrylic, nylon...all of those synthetic fibers, are plastic. They are used a lot in winter clothing since it acts as a barrier to keep heat in. Well it also keeps moisture in (aka sweat), and that helps irritate the skin. I also came across a little research that suggests that these plastic fibers emit small doses of estrogen through some chemical process, which can lead to increased chances of developing certain cancers...etc.

Since I am a semi-crunchy hippie as it is, I've decided to pay a lot more attention to the clothing we wear. Most of what we have is 100% cotton, but I've come across some things, like sweatpants and sweatshirts, and basically more winter type clothing (including coats) that contain most of the synthetics.

I am going to start with the girls' shirts, and get rid of everything that has more than 10% synthetic in it. (This will help with my de-clutter project as well) I may keep a few nicer sweaters for special occasions, and they can wear an undershirt made of cotton, and they won't be in it long. They have so many shirts, and I won't need that many when Avery is that big, since there will be just one of her in that size, instead of 2 like I have now. They have sweatpants and winter PJ's that contain polyester, but they fit a lot more loosely than those long johns did, so they are OK for now.

In the future though, when I buy clothing for the family, I will be checking out tags. I am also going to let family and friends know, that if they would like to purchase clothing for the girls for birthdays or Christmas, to please check the tags, because I just don't want to take the chance that they may not be able to wear it. Besides...staying away from synthetic is better health wise, and for the environment.

Thankfully, it was a very small/mild reaction, and it seems to be clearing up just fine. No swelling, no complaining of itching, no seeping sores...just a red bumpy rash, mainly around the thighs and waist, where the clothing would be tightest on them.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Financial Goals for 2010

We know we have accumulated way too much debt over the past couple years (a few kids, a miscarriage, buying a car, and having a money pit for a house doesn't help). I am tired of the stress it causes me (I stress about everything), and it's getting to the point in life where we need to get our stuff together because Lexi and Lilly are getting to an age where they will remember things that happen, and I don't want them to remember a bunch of negatives in life. We are going to loosely follow Dave Ramsey with our debt snowball. We also need to make our credit look as good as possible, because our land loan will require a balloon payoff next in April 2011 (It was supposed to be a loan that wraps into a construction loan to avoid that balloon). We will have to find a way to get a loan to take over that loan so we can keep our land (where we will build one day), so we can't mess up our finances this year! Here is our credit card debt list in the order we would like to pay them off. (I am doing a combination of small balances first and higher interest rates first)

Debt as of December 31, 2009
$602.52 FirstMerit 11ish%
$808.74 Circuit City/Best Buy Chase 0% until Nov 2010
$4,323.59 Luke's Bank of America 16ish%
$4,192.29 Holly's Bank of America .99% until June 2010, then 10ish%?
$3,912.64 Luke's Discover
$7,415.67 Luke's Chase
$21,255.45 Total Credit Card Debt End 2009

The First Merit card will be paid off with e-Bay proceeds from camera gear Luke is going to sell. He is putting them on auction starting the 7th, so hopefully by the end of the month that balance will be gone, but that card will be kept live since that is our overdraft protection card from the bank.

The Circuit City turned Best Buy card is the remaining balance on Luke's a700 camera. It is 0% until November, but since it's such a small balance compared to the other cards, it is next to go. I hope that a bit of extra from the e-Bay sales, combined with craigslist selling, babysitting money, and some odd job money will get that card taken care off by the end of March. That card will then be canceled, because we don't need a Best Buy card.

We aren't sure what our total federal tax refund will be this year. I had Luke up his allowances to they took out less, then that Obama tax thing took out even less than what we were claiming, but we had a baby as well, and I'm pretty sure we are considered dirt poor now by the government, so we will get at least what was put in, even after claiming Chris' rental income. Dave Ramsey suggests a $1000 starter emergency fund, but we never made our shuttle vacation last year, and this year NASA is planning on retiring the current shuttles, so here is my plan.

Put $500 into savings for the emergency fund. Give up hope on getting tickets to the NASA Causeway to be as close as possible to the shuttle for launch, since the tickets are in such high demand this year, we will be lucky to even get them. We also won't be tied to a specific launch that may get delayed again and again, since tickets are good for the launch mission, and not the date. Plan trip as cheapily as possible for a possible Florida shuttle launch vacation, seeing the launch from Titusville or Cocoa Beach, and renting a BIG A** lens for Luke's camera. Hopefully we get enough back in taxes to cover the trip in full, but this is one thing we have both agreed that we can charge, because we are space buffs and this is our last chance for this to happen. I haven't come up with an as cheap as possible scenario yet, but I am going to start working on it.

Anything that may be left over in taxes will hit his Bank of America card next. It's not the next lowest balance, but it's the highest interest rate card we have, and I want it gone. I am planning on pulling both of our credit reports soon, and I am going to pick some credit cards that we can close and cancel as we pay off. Not sure if this one will stay open or not, but I will detail that after looking over the credit reports.

Any extra money coming in from the photography will hopefully get split between Uncle Sam, the business, and debt. Any extra money from babysitting, odd jobs, and selling our stuff will mostly go to debt. If it's an odd job Luke did, he will get a portion of that money to put towards camera stuff for the business. It will help keep him motivated to sell things.

All of this while trying to find money to put towards the house will be a nice challenge (the budget allows $50/month for house fixing). I'll have to post a finalized budget, but I think I may hold off until the beginning of February, after these e-Bay auctions and whatnot.

Good Luck to us!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!

Alexis and Lillian slept through it. Nothing special to them...I don't think they even realize it's a new year.

Luke and I played Lego Batman for the Wii. Since we canceled cable TV, it's not like we could watch the ball drop.

Avery rung in the new year taking a dump! That's right, we were doing a diaper change when midnight struck.

Our goals for 2010 are to stick to our budget, payoff some debt, declutter the house, and finish up house projects enough that we wouldn't be embarrassed to list the house with a realtor...because right now, it looks like a construction zone in some areas. I will reflect on these goals later in more detail, to help commit ourselves to them better.