Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Celebration Season Has Arrived!

In our family, we tend to have "clumps" of birthdays/anniversaries/holidays, and we are in the midst of a very thick clump right now.
At our address alone (so, not counting any extended family!), from June 18th through July 23rd, we have FOUR (4) birthdays and one anniversary (ours!). Other than the anniversary, there was not a whole lot we could have done to change this; of course, the anniversary happened first, so...
That can be complicated (and expensive!) enough, but when you begin throwing in aunts', uncles', and cousins' birthdays in there, our calendar begins to resemble a work of abstract art.

To give you an idea of the "evolution" of this particular season (and my anxiety!), allow me to present a brief timeline of events:
June, 1994-We are married! Who cares if our anniversary will occur two weeks before my birthday every year? Doesn't that just mean he has to buy me an extra-special piece of jewelry?
June, 1995-Our first child is born just 5 days after our 1st anniversary! Things have come full-circle! Of course, with this baby's birthday looming so close to mine, I may have to take a back seat in the gift-receiving department.
July, 2000-Our third child (and first daughter!) is born EXACTLY 2 weeks after my birthday and EXACTLY one month after her oldest brother's 5th birthday! Hmmm.... Two kids' birthdays a month apart, with my birthday thrown smack-dab in the middle... This could be interesting.
July, 2007-When the OB scheduled my c-section for 5 days before our daughter's 7th birthday, I began to panic (and not due to the surgery!). How the HECK were we going to do parties, cakes, presents, etc????? (If you've read my other posts, then you know that I am a list-maker and this kind of thing throws even the best of us into a major tizzy!)

I am relieved to report that two years later, the kids are thoroughly enjoying this birthday-cake-filled month. And, me? I am just happy if someone else makes dinner for me on my "day of days". Really.

The Christmas Holidays have also been a bit crazy since our fourth child was born (early!) on December 23rd, 2002. His actual birth day and his first birthday (and those Christmas mornings) were not exactly fun for him or me, but we have learned how to separate and really enjoy both events.; it DID take a bit of work to convince my son that the Christmas Tree was not his Birthday Tree, though!
And, now, we are happily faced with an addition to the season of clumped occasions this coming December! By my best estimations this new baby will arrive the second week of December, a mere two weeks before his/her brother's 7th birthday and Christmas. The panic has not begun to set in yet.

For now, I'm just trying to focus on how it will be "so much fun" to send out birth announcements with a holiday theme, adding another Christmas stocking to the collection, remembering to make sure that Santa knows that he has to leave a gift for the new baby, and so on.
THAT is the lesson I have learned in all this clumping: if you cannot keep your focus on the fun things for which you should be grateful, then you will become a bitter Mommy who resents the day(s) her children were born.

Yes, birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays are all expensive and busy things. But, all of them commemorate a special event in our lives; events that have probably changed us permanently, and hopefully for the better!

And, my kids may roll their eyes when I refer to them as my Summer Babies, Spring Babies, or (gasp!) Kissy-Christmas Babies, but I know that it makes them feel special and loved. I have even caught them using some of those terms when they refer to each other (e.g. "He's one of the Summer Babies").

So, I say, "Bring on the clumps!"!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Feeling Crunched?

I am.
And, by "crunched", I mean "crunched".

As we all know, the U.S.'s current economy has not been doing very well lately, and does not look as if it will be improving any time in the near future. Blessedly (VERY blessedly), my husband's job status has not been adversely affected by the current economic recession, although the company he works for is very much feeling it's effects. Because of this, my husband has had to lay-off some employees (SO much easier said than done) and did not get an annual raise (no one did, as it sounded like a better deal than getting laid-off!).

Of course, at the time we learned about not getting a salary increase this year, we were just grateful that my husband still had a job (still are!), and I really did not think it would have a huge impact on our daily life. WRONG!

I am not sure how or why, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to figure out how to buy all the things we need (not want, need). Not that it was ever super-easy to do this, but it was not this difficult, either. And, EVERYTHING seems to cost more, too! Clothes, food, electricity, gas.......

Lately, it has forced me to really analyze and define my lifestyle, and decide what is a "luxury" and what is a "necessity". Here is what I came up with:

-Obviously, food is a necessity, but we could make-do with generic brands all the time, instead of throwing a few name brand items in the shopping cart. Easy. I can probably save a minimum of $30 each shopping trip.
-The newspaper subscription that used to cost us $5 each quarter, just increased to $17 a quarter (!); not a huge sum of money to pay every few months, but it is definitely a luxury item that I can live without.
-OK, I am admitting that I have a cleaning crew come into my house every other Friday. It costs me $80 each time ($160/month) and I am guaranteed a clean house. For most people this is a HUGE luxury, but most people do not have 5 (soon-to-be 6) kids running through their house, so I deemed this one a "draw"; neither luxury, nor necessity. However, I will be cutting it down to just once a month, as it forces all of us to thoroughly clean prior to their arrival, and I am physically slowing down for the next few months.
-Weight Watchers Online. Not exactly a "necessity" when you're pregnant, so I will be saving that $17 each month until the baby is born.
-I am reducing the minutes on my cell-phone plan. I do not even use all the minutes I currently have, and because I have a teen that only texts, I end up using that feature a lot more. I figure I can save at least $20 each month.
-Walking to more free things (pool, library, concerts at the park, etc) instead of driving. Also, taking advantage of cheaper public transportation fees (our city's trains have summer specials for families) when I want to take the kids into the city for something free/cheap, but different (art exhibits, etc). You have no idea how it pains me to even say the words "public transportation"; I am a spoiled girl.

Believe it or not, we do not really have anything else in the "luxury" department: no one is signed up for any sports or music/dance lessons, no vacations, we buy clothes at Target/WalMart, etc., only have 1 car, my husband got the cable company to reduce our monthly fee (just by asking!), no bad habits to support (I knew clean living would pay off, eventually!).

So, that does it for reducing costs. Unless, I can convince the gas and electric companies to reduce our rates; and, do not think that my husband has not already asked them.

Which leaves me with bringing some more money into the budget. Obviously, besides our commitment to having a parent stay at home with the kids, at this point the day care costs for 4 kids to go to day care/day camps would far, far outweigh any money I could make by getting a job. So, the kids and I got mildly creative, and began going through all the old toys in our basement.

Allow me to preface this by saying that my children have some very generous relatives, who lavishly shower them with birthday and Christmas gifts. Even my kids will admit that they cannot play with all of the toys they receive. So, we are selling a huge lot of them on Craigslist for rock-bottom prices. I have sold things on Craigslist before, and if you do it wisely, it can be a very nice experience. I was truly amazed at my kids' excitement at the prospect of selling their toys until I overheard my 11-year-old whisper to his 6-year-old brother, "If we make enough money, then maybe Mom will buy us a Wii!". OK, maybe some people are missing the point, but they'll figure it out soon enough.

There are some things which I cannot control and which are inevitable. Things such as: growing children's insatiable appetites (especially after swimming all afternoon), a child's ability to outgrow all his old clothing in a few weeks (while simultaneously destroying that clothing which could be handed down), car and mortgage payments, inflation, and the need for toilet paper.

I did occur to me that if I could somehow learn to control even one of the above items, I could make a lot of money offering my services.......