Sunday, January 5, 2020

2019: A Year in Review

Ironically enough, I think last year was the worst year I had for consistent blogging in my entire time I've blogged on the internet.  But, looking back at the last year, I can't really fault myself letting blogging slide a bit.  It's been so, so busy and crazy this last year.   When I started looking back on the year for this post I was like, "Man, do I really have a lot to talk about?" and it turns out I surprised myself.

So, let's get to this last year.  The good and the bad and everything in between.

Big Events that Happened in 2019:

1.  We started home school with the kids.  It was a tough decision to make, but both kids are doing SO much better in home school than they were in public school, especially when it comes to anxiety and general mood.

2.  Speaking of home school, now that I didn't have to worry about keeping the daughter on the school's schedule and she could learn at her own pace, I got her tested for dyslexia and learning disabilities.  The test came back positive on the dyslexia front, so we'll be starting up tutoring for it this coming year. 

The daughter has really started to take off in home school and is actually catching up rather well when it comes to reading (she's slow, but she's not going at a snail's pace and getting frustrated every two seconds or so on a word) and I was thrilled when she actually started to want to get books to read for fun.  We've always struggled with her when it came to reading things for enjoyment, so I was really happy that she asked for books for Christmas on her own.

Homeschooling Alvah has been a bit of a bumpy ride as I tried to navigate through the dark, essentially to try and figure out where he was at academically and where to start him on a learning path.  We are getting there and he's enjoying his time at therapy (which increased a lot since public school is no longer in the picture) a LOT more and is really starting to make forward progress between therapy and getting schooled at home :).

2.  Another big thing that happened this last year was home repairs.  Lots and lots of home repairs.

We (well, I say "we" but it was all my husband's doing) got the old chimney torn down and the new chimney installed.  No mean feat considering a lot of it had to do with carrying VERY heavy concrete bricks down a ladder and then down a flight of steep stairs to get them down to the ground (actually we still have some out on the deck just because my husband got the bricks down to a point that he could get things done without the bricks being in the way).

I managed to repair a lot of sheet rock and got three rooms repaired and repainted before home school kicked in and I just plain ran out of time.  One was the downstairs bathroom (seen above) after we got the damaged old cabinets replaced.

The upstairs bathroom post new vanity being installed...

In other news, as time has gone on I find that the paint in the upstairs bathroom came out thin in places and I really need to go over it with another coat of paint.  Pray for me that I don't screw up the new vanity when I do it.  I'm not a naturally good painter and I'm always praying that the painting tape will not bleed through to show my goof ups.

I also bought that towel cabinet seen on the left there this year, which has ended up being a real great addition to the house.  I can actually store quite a bit of towels and other items in it (such as additional toilet paper and wet wipes and things) and it fits perfectly where I put it so you don't end up clocking yourself on it all the time.

And, lastly when it comes to painting and repairing (so far) is the den...

Which the den actually looks better now because I got some cleaning and reorganizing done, but I'll share shots of it later on.  Hopefully we'll be able to build shelves in the den soon so we can finally get books out of storage as with home school I can use all of the knowledge we can get our hands on to help me.

Now that the holidays are over, I'm really hoping to get back to repairing and painting as there is still tons to do around here.

3. My husband still loves his job as an electronic technician.

I just had to mention that as I don't think I'll ever get tired of him actually enjoying his job and the people he works with and everything in between with the job he has now.

4.  I battled my health this last year a bit, especially toward the end, but I am hopefully doing better now *knock on wood*.  But, I am looking at goodness knows how much in medical bills in the next bit, so I'm a bit anxious to see how that all shakes out.

5.  Shani, after a long struggle with cancer, finally succumbed in April.  I still miss talking to her and can still hear her voice in my head talking to me excitedly about this or that she read about children overcoming their speech challenges to live fulfilling lives or her filling me in on this or that all natural trend she'd found that she wanted to me to get involved with (every time I look at my 'H2O at Home' scrubbing pad and dish towels, I think of her).  She was an exceptional human being, and I still grieve for her loss.  The one comfort is that she was so sick and in so much pain, that at least she is at peace now and free of all of that and I am glad that I was able to tell her how much I loved her and how much she had touched our lives before she left for a better place.  I pray I gave her some comfort in her final days.

6.  My husband and I lost another friend to suicide this year.  He was a good friend of ours and it's still tough to believe that he's gone sometimes, let alone that he took his own life.  We grieve his loss and grieve for his poor parents, who are just wonderful people and are suffering so much.

So, now that the big stuff is done (sorry to end on a depressing note there, but it took me a bit to get up to writing it) in overview, let's get to some other things that happened.

Equal Pro and Con :

I know, an odd way to do this bit, but these items are like a mixed bag, but definitely have some good mixed into them, so I figured I'd just put them in once. 
The House:   

Well, this year saw a lot of changes around the house, basically due to damage things sustained in the earthquake that were not immediately readily apparent (or were very apparent, but I waited to replace  or repair things until I could afford to do so).  For instance, our stove was acting really bad after the earthquake, but we limped it along until we couldn't anymore and then had to replace it.  I have replaced a ton of small appliances this last year and at least one recliner due to earthquake damage as well as dishes, baking pans, pretty much every TV we had in the house and other things.  Then other furniture we had for nearly a decade pretty much just gave up the ghost after a lot of years of repairing it to keep it going, so we replaced the love seat and the couch on top of the recliners.   
I'm expecting to have to replace a few more large appliances here soon, unfortunately, like my washing machine was full and running when the earthquake hit and ever since if you breathe in it's general direction it goes HORRIBLY off balance and I've spent many an hour taking out sopping wet laundry and having to reorganize it ever so carefully back into the washing machine for it to finish its cycle.  Not fun.  My husband is hoping to take apart, figure out what is going on and repair the washing machine, so hopefully he'll find time to do so at some point before something major in it goes.   
We still have a ton of things to work on and do around here to get the house up to snuff, but at least we are making progress and getting there.  Baby steps are steps after all :).
Also, when it came to the house, to get things replaced and repaired we ended up with a combination of a small disaster grant from FEMA to help us repair the chimney and then we ended up taking out an SBA (Small Business Administration) loan to try and cover the rest of the repairs.  We have just enough of the loan money left (I hope) to get the gutters done in the Spring and hopefully afford new person doors for the garage as the other ones are NOT in good shape after the earthquake and need to be replaced very badly.  As a result of the loan we have accumulated another 24,000 dollars in debt, which is on a 30 year repayment schedule, so yeah, trying to get that paid down and off in the next couple of years is a priority.  Hopefully I'll be able to save money here and there to do so *fingers crossed*. 
The mail:  
I know, this is an odd one to put down, but it did add an expense to our yearly expenses.  We got utterly tired of having to run down to the postal annex constantly to pick up packages for this or that (it's hard when I have to order things like Seventh Generation products from Amazon and having to run down to pick them up) and then finding that there was NO reason why our postal drop off person could not have put said package into the drop off lockers by our mail box.  So, when the Christmas lines started getting super long at the end of September, we decided we were done and decided to pay for package drop off service to a mail depot right down the road from us.  It costs us 80.00 per year, but has already been one of the best purchases we've made ever.  We are picking up packages in much better shape, lines are never super long and the staff is always super nice when we go in.   With home school and having the son in tow a lot when I have to go and wait in line to pick up a package, the service has been invaluable! 
Home School:   
Well, I ended up adding a bunch of expenses due to home school.  For instance now a days I have to leave the heat on in the kid's rooms during the day as they are, well, home, so that is going to increase the electric bill and between the kids being home for meals and growing like weeds, on top of the cost of living up here increasing with the cost of groceries and things, I've seen my grocery budget explode.  I'm hoping to find more ways to try and keep the grocery costs down in the coming months, but I'm not really sure if I'll be able to do it.  But, I always loved a challenge, so we'll see how well I do. 
On the pro side of the home school spectrum is, of course, the benefit I've seen with the positive changes in the kids.  Alvah no longer screams and cries when we head in the general direction the school is located in and is enjoying heading to therapy instead of dreading going to it as he knew he would go to school after therapy before and he's making slow progress when it comes to feeding therapy and other things at home, which every little step forward warms my heart.  
Armina's confidence continues to improve and she really is loving being able to move forward in learning at a pace where she can actually learn things instead of just worrying about getting through the next test.  It took her a while to get used to the fact that she's not in competition with anyone and if she doesn't do well on something and doesn't understand it that we can just do it over again in a different way until she understands what she is learning and there is no judgement attached when that happens.  I've noticed my anxiety has gone down a lot since the kids went into home school as well.  There were a lot of concerns I had with how Alvah was doing in school this year and was especially worried that they were not keeping a close enough eye on him and when you have a child who can be a random flight risk and has a life threatening doesn't help your stress levels, let's just put it that way.

So, now then let's get to more black and white pros and cons shall we?


The husband has steadily increased his income every year working his new job, due to a guaranteed pay raise every year.  It's not a big increase in income, but it IS an increase, which every little bit helps! 
Dental bills:  
You know, I look forward to the year I don't have to mention dental bills.  I know it won't happen, but hey I can wish.  The pros when it comes to dental bills this last year was definitely being able to pay off my long standing dental bill that I had been paying on for nearly five years.  It was a relief and a joy to get that paid off finally. 
Credit Cards:  
I, at one time, swore I would never possess another credit card, but this last year I've found the benefit from having the few we have.  I like the rewards programs that credit cards have now as charging things and then paying off the credit cards has allowed me to rack up a decent amount of money the last year in credits which allowed me to purchase Amazon products, gift cards for both Amazon and restaurants and the like.  It's a nice little bonus I have to say and I do like that when I had to purchase things for home school (like the "All About Reading" beginning stages), which cost a pretty significant chunk of change up front, but I would get reimbursed for with the home school later, I was able to put those purchases on credit card, put in for the reimbursements and then wait for the money to come in before paying the credit cards off.  If I had to pay all of the purchases I made out of pocket up front, it would have really, REALLY hurt the balance in the checking account, probably to the point that I would not have been able to do it. 
SBA Loan:  
The definite pro to the SBA disaster loan we got was the low interest rate and the long repayment period, which makes the payment doable every month and will hopefully allow me to pay down the loan ahead of schedule.  I also have to say I've thanked God for that loan more than once as it has allowed us to replace and repair things without panicking about where we were going to find the money to do so.


Dental Bills:  
I guess I should put "orthodontist bills" instead, but since I am hoping to finally get to the dentist myself this year (the first time in a lot of years) and figure out what it is going to take to get my mouth up to snuff, I decided to lump everything together.  Definite con we found out a few months ago is that the daughter has to go in for bottom braces here soon, which is going to rack up another dental bill to pay off.  Hopefully having dental insurance (which I am grateful for!) will make a difference this time around.  I can pray anyway. 
I did find a dentist for myself in town that will work with our insurance and supposedly you can get things like a cap done for free after insurance and their lower prices.  So, I am definitely going to give them a shot and see if I can slowly start to get my teeth done without being out a ton of money. 
Another bright side is we went to the dentist for the kid's six month check up and they are both doing good.  No cavities, all adult teeth are coming in nicely and the dentist remarked how clean both of the kids teeth were, which was good to hear. 
Well, a pro here is that now with the chimney being replaced we have more than electrical heat this winter (yay!).  The downside is that with the earthquake taking the chimney out, budget billing got completely screwed up beyond recognition, so I had to turn it off for at least a year.  So, bills this time of year are definitely hurting.  
Also on the utility end we found out from our phone company that our bill will be going up 3.00 about per month with a "rental fee" for our modem.  Basically it's a rising cost of doing business increase, but it's still an increase. 
We are going to watch our mortgage go up about 100.00 per month this next year, primarily due to a hike in property taxes.  It can't be avoided, but it's going to be rough having to a bill go up that much every month. 
We still have a ton to do around the house when it comes to repairing and replacing things, so it's going to be another busy year.  Hopefully we can get it done without stressing ourselves out too badly or going into much more debt.
Really, when it came to finances last year it was astounding the amount of money we ended up having to spend to repair things, but we at least we moved forward instead of taking two steps backward.  I'm facing the oncoming year determined and hopeful that we can hopefully get the rest of the things we need done and start to move forward financially again, but we'll see how it goes.  At least I'm not facing the year really depressed or traumatized like I was last year, so hey definite improvement!

So, silver linings for 2019!  Let's do this!

1.  With the kids in home school I'm watching my kids become way happier and more confident in themselves as human beings and while it is definitely a challenge making sure we get out and do things to get the kids around people and get socialization (which luckily with the home school we ended up with it has been actually a  really great environment to do that), it has so far been totally worthwhile and I'm really, really glad we made this choice for our kids.

2.  Not mentioned before, but I still want to mention it.  My half sister, who has been wanting to live a normal life for a lot of years (she has delays which prevent her from doing so) finally left home and is living with a very nice family until she can learn all she needs to learn to move into her own apartment and take care of herself.  She's going through a lot of growing pains and a lot of struggles as she goes through this coping period in her life, but I think she's where she needs to be and I'm very proud of her for tackling the challenges bravely and working really hard to achieve her goals.  I'm also very proud of my other half sister who started a new full time job recently and still finds time to have a good relationship with her sister (she hasn't seen much of her in a lot of years) and she even bought her own home, which for a woman in her mid twenties, I am impressed with all she's accomplished in her life so far.  She has learning disabilities and things she has to overcome on a daily basis, so I'm definitely proud of her for everything she's done in her life so far.

3.  Since quitting public school the kids are a LOT healthier at least when it comes to stomach bugs, colds and flu.  Which has been a great side benefit for me for sure.

4.  We had a really great Christmas and the family all loved the gifts they got from each other as well as from others.  We found time to do gifts for extended family (and got to see some extended family we hadn't seen in forever), contact teachers and therapists and had a lot of fun this year.  We were even able to do a gingerbread house, which was a LOT of fun for the kids and made me feel good that we were able to do activities that we hadn't been able to do last year.  And we were able to try some new recipes and traditions this Christmas, which was a lot of fun and educational at the same time :).  I was really pleased with how the Christmas season went this year.  Super busy to the point I nearly forgot to breathe, but fun all the same!

5.  I may have needed to get reading glasses this year, but at least I didn't need bifocals yet :).

6.  It's been a real joy watching the kids loving their swimming lessons and it has been a huge treat watching my daughter discover a love of swimming to the point she's seriously thinking about becoming a life guard when she gets older.  Considering how terrified she was when she started swimming it shows how far she has come and how great her teacher, Ms. Tina, truly is :).

7.  We have had a roof over our heads, food on our table and clothes on our backs.  After the earthquake, fires last summer and now flooding this winter (ice dams gave way on Willow Creek and is flooding homes and it hit just a few days before's terrible)  there were other families who were not so lucky.  I definitely count my blessings in that regard.

8.  I was able to give this year with food donations and other things and more than I have been able to give in years because of the way things worked out with Amazon messing up food orders (so I ended up with extra things and kind of different things that I didn't expect to purchase) and just the way things like mail in rebates worked out (which I sent in for the rebates and then saved them to donate later) and other things.  I was never more thrilled to do it as so, so many people have been angels to me over the last few years that I pray that hopefully I was able to make someone's day even a little bit brighter and give them hope in the middle of despair.

So, yeah, 2019 was a decent year overall I'd say.  Lots of changes, LOTS of work, but forward progress.  So, upward and onward to 2020!


  1. S\Despite loss and sadness - you so happy and blessed. May 2020 be an exceptional year for you and your family.

  2. you had a very busy year and I hope that 2020 is filled with much happiness for you

  3. Super awesome to see hear your kids are thriving in Home School. I am a huge advocate of homeschooling. Some kids need less stress than the traditional school gives them with lumping everyone in the same groups. Individual studies and time to learn and explore the things that interest them and that they excel at while still getting the yucky things out of the way. (this coming for a person who hated math until I became a nurse and then it all made sense to me) Besides schools are just little germ factories. We volunteered at a grade school across the street from our Church and I came down with whooping cough!!!. My immune system is severely compromised I found out but that was a trying three months staying away from people and trying to get past it. It will be interesting to see if your daughters stomach challenges ease up since it seems like the stress of school might be a trigger for her. As for foods to feed your now at home kids I bet they would like to learn to cook if they haven't already taken on that challenge. It is so great for teaching math and basic skills that all adults will need some day. Take care and glad to see your blog up today.

  4. Glad things are coming together. I imagine after an earthquake you will see things will still need to be replaced as you use them. Homeschooling seems to be working well for your kids.

  5. I loved reading your "year in review" - thanks for sharing. Overall it seems like a "seesaw" year where the bad was really bad (losing people you love) while the good was really good (homeschooling, SBA loan, repairs).

    Sending you best wishes for a HEALTHY, profitable, and happy 2020.

    1. A "seesaw" year...that really does fit it perfectly. Thank you and happy new year!

  6. You have had a super busy year and have accomplished a lot - so give yourself a pat on the back! All the best for 2020 - hope that you and your family continue to thrive and grow in so many ways. Good luck with the home schooling - you are a brave soul but it sounds as though it really was the right decision for both your kids. Hope they appreciate their super mom! :-)

  7. I am sorry for the loss of your friends. Suicide especially is so painful. Well done with the home schooling. We taught our two children at home and it was so enjoyable.

    1. Thank you for the condolences. And yeah, I'm finding home school can be a lot of fun :).

  8. Erika, I am so sorry for your loss of Shani and your other friend.

    1. Thank you, Jo. Grief is so odd. You'll feel completely normal and than something comes up and you think, "Gee, Shani would love this!" or "We should totally e-mail Mike about this." and then you remember they are gone and it's rough. I still, to this day, do the same thing with things my dad would love to see and he's been gone nearly a decade.