Feeling Disconnected

My family lives on a busy road, where most houses are on at least two acres of property. In fact, the neighbor on one side of our house has 136 acres!

When we moved into our house in July, 2009, the house on our other side was still being built. It wasn’t purchased until the winter of 2013, and we finally met the buyers that April. They were a childless couple in their fifties (I’m guessing), who had just moved to the northeast after living in Arizona for 25 years. They were very nice, and we exchanged contact information. (A wooded area divides our properties, so just stopping by isn’t as easy as it sounds.) I emailed with the husband a few times about getting together for dinner, and the wife stopped by and chatted with me several times over the summer. As the cold weather moved in last year, neither of us were outside much. We lost touch until I saw the wife outside shoveling their driveway in February, and stopped by to chat. (I remember it vividly, because the snow in their yard was up to my knees!) She was shoveling by herself because her husband had recently hurt his back. We chatted for quite a while, and that was the last time I spoke with her until about a week ago. Twice in the last couple of weeks, I passed her in her driveway while heading out for a run. We waved and said hi, and I kept running.

Yesterday, she walked over to our house, rang the doorbell, and in between near-sobs, told us that her husband had died in June.  The kidney cancer he’d had several years ago recurred in his bones and brain. It was discovered a week after I saw her in her driveway in February, and nothing could be done. He died at home on June 11th.

I cannot get over the shock of realizing that someone living in the house next door to me suffered a terminal illness and died more than two months ago, and I had no idea that any of was happening. Then, I passed the wife twice, waved and kept running, without having an inkling as to what she was going through. I’ve never had an experience that so powerfully demonstrated the need for me to connect with the people around me.

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Packing Luches

As I prepare for my daughter to start kindergarten in a couple of weeks – yeeks!! –  one of the things I have to figure out, is what to do about her lunch. Should she bring it or buy it? Lunches at her school are quite inexpensive, and the school offers many healthy options. However, being a school cafeteria, it also offers its share of not-so-healthy options. To ensure that my picky eater has healthy things I know she’ll eat, at least in the beginning, I’ll be packing her lunches for her to bring.

Both my husband and I also bring lunches to work, which can mean a lot of waste – money and trash. I pack several snacks for each of us – cut-up veggies, pretzels or crackers, and sometimes baked goods for breakfast on the go. Just the two of us can go through 8-10 plastic baggies each week! I buy them in bulk and with coupons to get the best price, but they still add up to quite a bit of waste.  And then I came across this study by ECOlunchbox, which demonstrated that the typical American family wastes $400 and 4,320 pieces of trash per year on disposable lunchware. As a result, I’ve been considering options for packing lunches without using plastic baggies.

A couple of the options I’m considering are:

three-in-one-new-2_1

The ECOlunchbox Three-In-One Stainless Steel Food Container Lunchbox

cube

The ECOlunch Stainless Steel Solo Cube Lunchbox

ecolunchbox-oval-salad-yogurt (1)

The ECOlunchbox Stainless Steel Oval Food Container

All of these products are available at Abe’s Market, one of my favorite places for eco-friendly products. Abe’s is offering FREE shipping on all orders through 8/24/14. AND, if you shop Abe’s via Ebates, you’ll earn 4% cash back on your order.

Do you/your significant other/your children buy or bring your lunch(es)? Do you use disposable lunchware? If not, what tools do you use to cut down on waste?

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Our Family Summer Vacation

Tomorrow we’re heading out on our longest-ever family vacation, five days on Cape Cod. I’m a homebody at heart, so travel has never been a huge priority for me. As new parents, we didn’t even really consider taking vacations with our daughter, assuming that it would be anything but relaxing to travel with a baby or toddler. In recent years, we’ve taken a couple of overnight trips, but not very many and never for more than one night. Last year we planned to take a five-day trip to Maine, but my husband had back surgery in June, and ended up having to use his summer vacation days to recover, instead.

So, this trip will essentially be our first family vacation. Given that our financial situation is not great, it’s going to be a cheap one. We’re lucky enough to have generous friends and family members who both rented houses on the Cape during overlapping weeks, and who invited us to stay with them. We’ll spend the first 2.5 days and 2 nights with my sister, brother-in-law, and nephew, and the second 2.5 days and 2 nights with our good friends and their three children. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone, and to spending some relaxing time, laying on the beach!

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Last Week’s Frugal Highs

Happy Monday! Last week flew faster than any other week did this summer! Here are my frugal highs:

  1. Received a payment of $142.47 for items purchased via my Amazon store.
  2. Dropped off a bunch of outgrown fall clothing at the local children’s consignment store. (If you’re wondering why I’ve been making weekly trips to the consignment store, it’s because they accept different seasonal items and sizes at different times.)
  3. Scored three boxes of CVS-brand OTC medications for $0.37, using ExtraBucks I earned taking surveys.
  4. Sold the toddler rail from daughter’s bed on Craigslist for $10.
  5. Enjoyed a great (and free!) weekend hosted by friends – dinner at one house Friday night, and a day at a lake house on Sunday. (I baked desserts with ingredients on-hand for both of these gatherings.)
  6. Watched a few more episodes of the third season of Six Feet Under borrowed from the library.

What about you? How was your week?

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Giveaway: The Perfect Cupcake Set & Class

giveaway

GIVEAWAY! One lucky winner will get a 55-piece Ateco Stainless-Steel Decorating Set PLUS free enrollment in the new online Craftsy class The Perfect Cupcake! In this online class, you’ll learn how to combine creative cupcake flavors, fillings and frostings with gorgeous decorating for out-of-this-world treats!

Only residents of the U.S. and Canada are eligible to enter.

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Weekend Plans

Happy Friday!! My husband has been working quite a few hours this week, in an attempt to get everything done before his upcoming week off. We haven’t seen much of him, so we’re excited to have some good family-time this weekend.

Tonight, we’re having dinner with friends at their house. I’ll be making my favorite brownies this afternoon to bring with us. The host husband is starting a French wine importing business, so I hope he’s looking for testers. :)

Saturday is supposed to be gorgeous here – high of 79, 0% chance of rain – so my husband will probably take our daughter swimming at the state park pool. It’s one of their favorite father-daughter activities. With my few hours of alone time, I plan to organize my pantry and make another treat for Sunday, when we’re driving 1.5 hours to visit friends at their lake house. If the weather holds up, boat rides on the lake are definitely on the itinerary!

What about you? What are you planning for this weekend?

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Lots of Grocery Savings!

Both Checkout 51 and SavingStar have added new offers for saving at the grocery store.

Checkout 51

SavingStar

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My Biggest Reason

I just read this post by Grayson Bell, and thinking about it brought tears to my eyes. It asks readers to identify their true, personal reason for wanting to get out debt. For me, the answer is easy: my daughter.

Sure, I hate the idea of interest eating up our money, or the stress that being in debt adds to my life, but doesn’t everybody? And, yes, it bothers me that we’re not able to save as much as we should be for retirement, or to make desired improvements to our house because the money needs to be put toward debt repayment, but these are not things that truly motivate me to pay it off. (Honestly, would we be here if they were?) There’s really only one thing that makes my stomach drop and my eyes tear when I think about our debt-load. My daughter. She’ll be five this fall, and like most kids her age, she thinks the world of her parents. She thinks we know everything, have all the answers, can solve all her problems and ease all her pain. No one has ever – or ever will again – think I’m as cool and as smart as this child does. It’s too much for any parent to live up to, and I know that. But when I think about sharing details about our family’s finances with her when she’s older, I want the reality of that day to live up to her image of me today.

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A New-Found Respect

My daughter is starting kindergarten in a few weeks. Other parents who know us have been asking me if we’re sending her to kindergarten this year for months, because she has a fall birthday. In our state, the cut-off birth date for starting kindergarten is 12/1, meaning that parents of kids with fall birthdays sometimes struggle to decide whether or not to send their not-quite-five-year-olds to kindergarten. My husband and I talked about “holding her back” a little bit, but ultimately decided to send her this year. The pros and cons of this decision is a whole other post. But suffice it to say, with two years of preschool and one of pre-K under her belt, we think she’s prepared enough to start this year.

books

That being said, there are some kindergarten skills she hasn’t fully mastered yet, so I bought a kindergarten readiness workbook, and recently started working on it with her. Doing this has given me a whole new respect for homeschooling parents! Trying to stay patient, keep her on-task and motivated, and not get dejected when she struggles with something I know she can do, have me ready to tear my hair out at moments. Fortunately, she really enjoys doing the workbook, so that helps make the process a lot smoother.

Do you homeschool young children? If so, what tips can you share for maintaining my sanity? And, I’m curious, what’s the kindergarten birthday cut-off date in your state?

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Quick Share: CVS Advisor Panel

I’m not a very active player of the “drug store game“. However, I do a quick check of the weekly sale fliers, and occasionally dip my toe into the game. Today I purchased three CVS-brand OTC medications – sadly, cold season isn’t that far away – for $0.37 out-of-pocket. The total came to $20.37, and I used two, $10 ExtraBucks coupons I received for taking part in the CVS Advisor Panel. (Not an affiliate link.) In the past couple of weeks, I’ve taken two surveys, which probably took me a total of ten minutes, and after completing each, I received one of the $10 coupons.  If you’re a CVS shopper, consider joining this panel. The surveys don’t come too frequently, but they’re a great way to earn some easy credits.

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