December 28, 2007

Rubik's Cube

Anyone else use instructables or google to solve it this week?

December 26, 2007

Wii wish you a Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas. Hope you took time this year to reflect on Christ our Lord. We have had a wonderful time in Maine including a beautiful Christmas eve service.

We are enjoying the family in Maine. After a LONG plane ride which involved arriving at the airport at 5pm and arriving at our final destination at 5am (this is just Minnesota to Maine) and dealing with some cockroaches in our plane we arrived and put the trip behind us.

Now we are here for the holidays and a nice long visit. I suprised Serona and the kids with a Wii for Christmas. For the many of you who were in on the surprise and helping keep it a surprise - Thank you! They truly were shocked.

To those of you wondering - no I did not go crazy locating one. I purchased it back in the first week of August! Yes I kept it a surprise for that long!!! Thanks to showing up at one of Serona's best friends houses with box in hand asking if he would keep it until Christmas. A whole bunch of friends and family members were involved allowing me to keep the whole things a surprise.

Now the whole family from Sirah age 4 to grandparents in their 50's are enjoying playing games like bowling, boxing, Dance Dance Revolution and Guitar Hero to name a few current favorites. We have to dodge Ciarans remote control car to do so sometimes though.

We are doing much more than playing Wii. For one thing enjoying this lovely Maine high 30 degree weather! Sledding, Ciarans snowboarding and just being outside in the sun. Playing Carcassonne with grandma and grandpa last night was fun too. Hope you are enjoying your Christmas week.

Merry Christmas

December 16, 2007

December 15, 2007

Christmas Shopping

1978 Lucas Film Christmas Card

December 12, 2007

Our Family

Looking at my sidebar I realized I have not updated our family bio in almost 3 years!!! Some of this will be repeat information for some of you. For the others, welcome and enjoy visiting with our family.

There is Serona (the dad), soon to turn 33. He is a director of product management for a software company. He has two undergrad degrees in Political Science and Philosophy and a graduate degree in Communications, and is also a former debater. His interests are reading, writing and blogging, keeping up with current events, technology and politics, wine tasting, anything and everything Star Wars, and of course his Xbox 360.

Then there is me, Mother Tenn, also 33 and a Stay at Home Mom. I am fairy active in our homeschool co-op especially in planning field trips. My undergrad studies were in Environmental Politics and I have an MA in Communications with an emphasis on Social Movements and Argumentation. My current interests are: reading, blogging and writing,journaling (I maintain 4 journals actively: a prayer journal and a journal for each of my children), research (especially technology, current events and homeschooling), knitting and crocheting and when I find time water aerobics.

Next come the children: Rhiannon, Ciaran, and Sirah.

Rhiannon is 8. She is an avid reader and at times it is difficult to get her head out of a book. She loves horses and her horseback riding lessons. She has recently taken up sewing and 9 patch quilts. She enjoys history and hates long division. She is developing her friendships and doesn't understand why boys and girls don't want to be friends anymore. Her current favorite music is Relient K and Vivaldi (interesting mix). She is a very inquisitive and intelligent child and always keeps life interesting.

Next meet Ciaran, 6 and a half. Ciaran is full of energy and has a passion for nature. He still loves frogs with a passion, though his interest in nature has expanded to include other creatures and nature in general. He still prays at night "God thank you for making all things good and for this world you created. He enjoys video games just like his dad. His current favorite is Disney Extreme Skate for his Gamecube. He will do anything for a half hour of video game time. He is getting ready to start basketball and snowboarding this winter. He has a wonderful personality and is always smiling that contagious smile he has.

Then there is Sirah our four year old. She has a personality all her own and a comfort with that. She asks me "Is today a matching day?" She can often be found wearing multi-colored stripes, with a clashing shirt and something sparkly or shiny on her had - somehow it works on her though it would not for so many other people. She is the kind of kid that makes all adults want to have another one like her. But she has her fiesty and stubborn side too that she saves just for me and Serona, complete with hands on hips and sighing. Being a third child she is very content to do her own thing and just be around us. If a disney princess is involved she is all over it. She also loves her sisters horses, fairies, Bitty twins and being read to all day long. She enjoys playing "foods food" where she makes us cookies, tea, etc while we do school. She also really LOVES being my assistant in the kitchen and has the biggest servant heart of the family. She has been known to get up and make everyones bed in the house, or clean a room and then tell us about it. She has a genuine, loving personality and another great smile.

Rounding out our family are our Australian Shepherds, a five year old male and a 3 year old female. They are loving, patient with our children (I am amazed at what they tolerate from them, especially Sirah) though these same dogs are fiercely protective of the kids and very loud barkers. They love to run ruts and spend time in the yard.

We are Christian environmentalists, social justice advocates, vegetarians, right-leaning, techies, outdoors loving, geo-caching, non tv watching, attachment parenting, extended breastfeeding, crunchy granola, readers, researchers, life-long learners, Guinness and wine drinking and sometimes funny and enjoyable to be around. So come get to know us and stay awhile. We love having you.

December 5, 2007

Bills...Papers...More Bills...

This blog post actually started as a comment over on Phil's blog. But it started to get too long for a comment and I figured it made more sense here. In his list of chores he dislikes his number one is paying bills. I can relate as it used to be very near the top of my list as well.

I used to make a pile of bills to pay, and another pile of things to do, people to call, etc. Then I had a pile of things to file and I had stacks of paper and it seemed to take hours and I was grumpy about my bills and making ends meet and would worry and tie myself in knots. Serona and my kids could probably have told you the day I did bills as I was unpleasant. I went to a friends house one day and saw she had some folders on her kitchen counter I asked about them and she told me it helped her stay organized for kids activities. I thought I can do that and with my bills too.

About four years ago though I started a new system and it REALLY worked for me and now not only do I not mind paying bills but it would not even make my "chore" list because it never piles up. I share it because it is easy to use, I have recommended it to many friends who now use it and it is very simple. Also it is a great time of year to consider starting.

I took my friends idea and went another step further. Being a former debater I immediately think of these 32 pocket expanding files. when I think organization. So now each year in December I purchase a new one for the next year. I tape a piece of white paper to the front and write the year. Then 32 numbers. Next to each number I write the title of what will go in that slot. I place this on the center island in my kitchen where it stays year round.

When mail comes. I stand at that island counter - I throw out all catalogs, junk mail, credit card offers, etc right to recycling (behind me) or trash (next to me). Then I open all important mail and sort as I do. Anything that needs to be filed, paid, dealt with immediately etc. I immediately file anything that needs to be in its slot (medical statements, insurance statements, kids new calendars, church stuff, etc) - next I look through my need to deal with if I can't get to it at that moment it goes in my number two file which I check every few days when I have some spare time. If I can deal with it I will. Last I have my bill pile. I log onto my computer (also right there on the counter) and into my online bill pay. I open my bill pay and pay all my bills then.

Wait you say but what if you can't pay them all now but need to pay some after next paycheck (say in two weeks) or in a month. Well we are in that position too but my bill pay lets me postdate any payment I want. So I log in fill in the payments and type the date I want the money sent out of my account. I can even write checks to individuals and small companies and my bank sends them a check for me at no additional fee.

After all my bills are "paid" at least my responsibility for paying them is done. I file them in their slot. Done. Now you may cringe at the thought of doing "bills" every day but really that all together takes me 5 minutes, maybe 10 if I happen to get a lot on the same day. That is just a few more minutes than most people take to do their daily mail. And I no longer have really long grumpy bill times. Occasionally I really can't get on the computer and pay, or I want to question a bill, or check where I am going to get the money to pay for it, then I toss them in the front slot for bills and pay them next time I get my mail.

I have done this faithfully for 4 years now. The key to this working is two fold. You MUST keep it in a central location and you must use it regularly. After all this time I can tell you a few of my favorite things about this

1. Bills don't feel like work
2. I have a better grip on and understanding of my finances because I am in them daily
3. I am surprisingly organized now
4. I can find almost anything paper related in under 10 minutes. We recently had to find a credit card we opened in 2003 for just a single purchase. I went back to the 2003 file and found it filed under credit cards. I can find warranties, receipts, etc as long as I know what year I purchased it in - even I can remember something like that.
5. Taxes are easier
6. I save money because I have very detailed records of everything from cc and debit purchases to utility and energy use at my fingertips.
7. I am not grumpy about bills anymore
8. My kids are learning organization and how to use the system
9. I get rid of more junk mail because if I don't have a place for it - it goes in the trash or recycling
10. It is really easy and quick. This post is long and detailed so it makes it sound complicated but it really isn't.

When I shared this with my friends several asked for my folder list. Yours will look different based on your paper use in your life. But this can give you an idea of what I use it for and some of it does change from year to year. Here is 2007

1. Bills
2. To Do
3. Taxes
4. Homeschool
5. Active Kids file (I put church, current sport calendars, etc) then move them when season is over to trash or individual kids file
6. Serona Work
7-11 individual credit card and banks (citibank, discover, etc)
12 - Student Loans
13 - Mortgage
14 - utilities (water, trash, electric, etc)
15 - Phones (home and cell)
16 - Auto and Home Insurance
17 - Medical
18 - Household Expenses
19 - Serona
20 - Tenniel
21 - Rhiannon
22 - Ciaran
23 - Sirah
24 - Stationary, Envelopes and Stamps
25 - Craft/ Activity Ideas
26 - 401 K
27 - Stocks
28 - Travel
29 - Legal Records
30 - Warranties
31 - Receipts

So now I don't mind doing bills and we are fairly organized.