Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Frugal Friday: Money Saving Weekly Recap (Times 2)

 First, I want to thank everyone who has e-mailed or posted about their own dental visit anxiety.  It really made me feel less alone in my cowardice when it comes to facing the dentist.  Thank you :).

Right, so I guess I'll start there.  My dental visit.  Really, for not having been to the dentist in six years, I was expecting worse.  But, I do have a quarter of my mouth that is kind of a mess and I have one cavity that is deep enough that the dentist is concerned that it could be a potential root canal.  So, I go in next week and hopefully I'll just have to get a few cavities filled and be all right.  I'm hoping anyway as a few fillings won't cost me an arm and a leg, but a root canal?  Not so much.

Our weather decided to launch into winter the last few days.  Since it wasn't exceptionally early, I wasn't overly surprised by it, but it has definitely hammered home the need to get the windows insulated properly before the weather gets REALLY cold.  I got the son's room done a few days ago, but it is slow going getting the windows done as the son has been really busy of late and demanding a lot of attention.  I'm hoping to get the daughter's room done today, but so far I haven't gotten to that yet.  I'm still getting used to bifocals compared to the way my eyes were used to doing things and I've found that I get a bit disoriented (and thus suffer from eyestrain a bit) if I switch from near to far sight a lot as of yet.  It's getting better, but I'm still adapting.  I've only had my glasses less than a week, so I was told it would get better after a week or two.  Here's hoping :).

So, what else have I been up to the last couple of weeks?

Well, I e-mailed the Center for AAC and Autism looking for a program that I could use to add LAMP icons to pages in a word processing program and make my own worksheets and books for speech therapy.  They got back to me and, lucky for me, gave me some links to free resources that I could use to make worksheets and books happen.  I haven't had the time to really mess with the program a lot yet, but I'm super happy to have access to it.

I got the kids' work samples into our contact teacher and Alvah's Special Education contact teacher for the first quarter of school and both teachers were very thrilled with everything sent in.  I have to say that it ends up being a ton of work for me to organize, photograph and describe everything that we did, but at the same time I'm happy that they are happy with the job we are doing.  So, yeah for that being done for the quarter!

And now, onto other money saving things that have gone on the last couple of weeks.

1.  My husband and I went yesterday and got our flu shots.  We get immunizations free through our insurance, so I was happy to get that done for the year :).  My mother-in-law was nice enough to come and keep the kids company while my husband and I went and got our shots, which was really awesome of her and much appreciated!

2.  We have been trying to figure out what to do for Halloween this year as most local events are completely canceled due to Covid.  We went to the recycling center this weekend to get rid of the tons of cardboard that conglomerate around here and we found that the recycling center is going to have a Haunted Trail outdoor event on Halloween, which we are thinking about going to as it is outside with social distancing protocols in place.  We'll then have Halloween treats that we'll make and have at home as well, so hopefully the kids won't feel too badly about missing out on Halloween fun.

3.  Using the free Lose It app on my phone to track my calories I'm consuming in a day, I'm steadily losing the weight I've been trying to get off for a while now.  Yay!

4.  My husband took my son out by himself one day and they went and got to play around on heavy equipment at my brother-in-laws and got to go run around a farm as well.  Alvah did awesome!  He was able to steer some vehicles and was even able to back up a mini-excavator my brother-in-law had all by himself.  I'm hopeful that maybe we finally found Alvah's autistic "obsession" and if it revolves around driving heavy equipment that, at least, can definitely translate into a job when he gets older.  I am, to say the least, thrilled :).

5.  I loaded the Amazon Music app on my phone and have been really enjoying listening to a bunch of albums that are available to listen to for free through Prime.  The daughter and I like to listen to music while doing schoolwork, so it has been a welcome change of pace to listen to some of the albums versus listening to the like three albums I've actually purchased over the years *laugh*.

6.  Amazon offered me a 3.00 giftcard for writing a brief review of a product that I'd purchased.  I took about ten minutes of my time, wrote the review and got the 3.00 credit applied to my account.  I combined that with a 10.00 gift card I got for redeeming some credit card rewards and some Amazon associate fees (thank you to everyone who orders through associate fees on the blog.  It really does help!) and was able to get a few Christmas gifts for the kids out of the way for not much out of pocket.  With how much prices are rising on things, I'm grateful for every penny to help pay for things :).

7.  I rearranged one of the bookcases by the loveseat in the living room that housed my cookbook collection and ended up moving my entire cookbook collection down into the den and moved the kids school books for the year upstairs.   This will allow us to be able to grab schoolwork and move about six feet to the kitchen table versus the daughter having to take numerous trips up and down the stairs with loads of books in her arms every day.  She's going through that awkward phase in development where she's really uncoordinated, so I REALLY didn't want her running up and down the stairs with heavy books in her arms and not being able to see well.  It was a lot of work getting everything shifted around, but I'm thankful to have it done :).

8.  We changed the filter on our water softener this weekend.  It was WAY overdue because of us not thinking about it, honestly, with all the earthquake stuff taking up our brain power.  Our water has HEAVY iron in it, so when my husband saw that the water in the salt tank was looking red, we knew it was way overdue to get the filter changed.  I'm glad to have that done and checked off of the "to do" list.  We only have to change the filter on the fridge and on the well once a year, so doing it in a timely fashion is definitely preferable.

9.  I put in a Subscribe and Save order with Amazon, taking advantage of sales they had for Prime Day to maximize my savings.  I ordered dish soap (we use Seventh Generation) as it isn't readily available at Carrs (which is my main store I shop at) and a few other things.  I was able to bury the five item threshold to get 15% off of your subscribe and save items so that should save me a bunch of money when the items ship at the end of the month.

10.  I was offered a code for ten free Christmas cards from Shutterfly.  I quickly went and designed the card and used the code to only pay 4.99 shipping on the cards.  Since this passes for me sending pictures of the kids to extended family, I was happy to get the cards out of the way earlier than I was expecting this year :).

11.  I had some recipes I really wanted to try.  Instead of paying out for expensive sauces and things, I went and found recipes for the sauces, found that I had nearly all the ingredients to make multiple sauces and all I had to order was a 5.00 spice versus spending a lot more than that ordering multiple sauces to make the recipes :).  

12.  For a fun Octoberfest type of meal I made soft pretzels, bratwurst and home made sauerkraut.  My husband loved the meal and I found that using Alton Brown's recipe for soft pretzels, but subbing out 1/2 of the flour for bread flour and then keeping the other 1/2 AP flour that the pretzels had the texture and crumb that I had been trying to get for years from the recipe.  I was super happy with the results and the husband has no problem taking leftovers to work for lunch, so double bonus!

And I'm going to call it good there.  I need to start worrying about getting dinner ready to go.  I hope you all had a great two weeks and are doing what you can to get through everything!

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Monthly Goals: October, 2020

The weather is getting colder every day here.  So far we've been barely above freezing at night, but this weekend it is supposed to start dipping into the freezing category.  So, it is time to start hunkering down and preparing for winter.  

This year I finally broke down and invested in some measures to help us insulate the windows and doors a bit better from cold breezes and things.  We've definitely noticed this year how badly some of the windows got shaken in the earthquake.  They were probably close to the best windows you could buy when they were installed.  Back in the early 80's.  Unfortunately, after the earthquake and just how old they are, we have windows that have gotten loose and lost their seals and as a result are just going to leak heat like nobody's business.  So, some of the goals I have this month are going to be centered around getting some insulation measures installed to hopefully help keep my heating bills down a bit this winter.  

I have accomplished a lot so far this month.  My husband has been getting on me to take better care of myself and to start getting health appointments out of the way.  So, despite the nerves and downright panic attack inducing levels of anxiety, I made myself a dental appointment for tomorrow for the first time in years.  To say I'm nervous about going is a vast understatement as I've had bad teeth since I was a kid (weak enamel combined with bad advice from my dad's dentist to brush more and I've had just continual fillings since I was like 12) and I just got my last dental bill paid off about a year ago.  So, yeah, I'm a yellow bellied coward when it comes to going to the dentist.  I'll admit it.  I'm also seeing a new dentist, one who works with our insurance and gives us a really good deal on procedures, so we'll see how it all goes.  Wish me luck there.

I also went and got my eyes tested this week as my glasses I bought just a couple of years ago, the frames aren't holding up well and I've been having problems reading more and more and getting eyestrain headaches.  So, I found out that my eyes had gotten worse (shocking, I tell you) and I decided after a lot of debate to get bifocals.  I was even able to get a good deal on progressive bifocals so I don't end up with the line through my glasses, which would drive me nuts.  Hopefully the new glasses work well and I stop getting so much eyestrain.

I got the speech therapy class for LAMP done already as well and have been spending a lot of days digging up speech therapy materials to start the son on next quarter (starts next week).  I laminated sheets, dug up old binders to use to sort and organize things, started to get learning materials for next quarter worked out...it's been crazy busy on the home school front.

So, yeah, anyway, let's get down to the list of goals for this month before I walk through them all *laugh*.

Monthly Goals for October, 2020

Household/Organizing Goals:
  • Use insulation kits to insulate windows.
  • Put insulation strip under the garage doors and figure out what needs to be done to insulate around the garage doors.
  • Continue to reorganize kitchen (getting there ever, EVER so slowly)
  • Get den cleaned up
  • Start to reorganize bedroom so I can hopefully get it painted in the next couple of months (here's hoping as I really need the bedroom reorganized so I can fit the Christmas tree in the den somewhere!
  • Start to organize folders better (I need to start getting things better organized so I can find things easier)
  • Work on getting freezers organized a bit better to try and free up some space to put up lunches for the husband to grab (I am determined to cut down on spending this winter and hopefully keep from accumulating more debt, or, better yet, to hopefully pay off some debt as well).

Homeschool Goals:
  • Get a blog post together on the first quarter work we've done (I want to share some of the things that have worked for us and what we are doing around here to hopefully help others).
  • Start speech therapy activities in earnest with the son (here's hoping I can do this!)
  • Start making some personalized worksheets with LAMP icon sequences built into them to work into schoolwork (getting everything done that I need to get done with speech therapy has been a constant race of late to try and get as many ducks in a row as possible.  I've been insanely busy of late).
  • Find good places to put up laminated sheets detailing activity sequences with LAMP ties in in different rooms (I found ones that go in the kitchen, bedroom, by the door for when you go someplace and in the bathroom, so I want to get those hung up).
  • Make Halloween craft with the kids (more on that a bit later if it turns out)
  • Finalize plans on crafts to do for Thanksgiving (I'm planning a bunch of pioneer types of activities for the kids to do for fun.  I'm really looking forward to it!).
  • Get work samples in for both kids this weekend (they are due next week).
  • Figure out grades for both kids for quarter and get those submitted to the homeschool
  • Go to speech therapy appointment at the end of the month to touch base with the homeschool speech therapist.
Diet Goals:
  • Continue on diet and keep my calorie counts at or below what "Lose It" tells me I should be at.  Drink plenty of water (so far I've completely given up everything but coffee in my diet, otherwise I'm just drinking water, so I think I'm doing okay so far :).

Gift Giving Goals:
  • Get the rest of the husband's Christmas gifts in and get them hidden well (he's terrible about being able to just stumble across gifts you get him and inadvertently ruin the surprise).  
  • Get two gifts planned for husband made.  I was able to do check this one off this week.  Shutterfly had a code for 50% off plus free shipping on most of their stuff.  I did the math and found that the 50% off code plus the free shipping actually saved me more money then waiting for a free item code and having to pay the shipping on the item (shipping to Alaska isn't cheap what can I say).  I had spent months trying to find what my husband wanted in the way of a couple of coffee mugs with some of his favorite things on them, but I couldn't find anything even close.  So, I just made the mugs instead.  Hopefully they turned out okay (they got shipped, but won't be in until next week).
  • Make skirts for the daughter.  I want to make her one for each day of the week for Christmas as she loves to wear skirts (unlike me *laugh*), but this is going to hinge on me getting the den cleaned up and being able to access my sewing machine (which is currently buried under stuff *sigh*).
  • Continue to try and figure out what to make for the son for Christmas.
Paperwork Goals:
  • Get phone interview with Department of Disabilities out of the way (for the son's TEFRA renewal)
  • Keep on top of insurance paperwork
  • Organize paperwork that have filled out so far for 2020 (I have it just kind of piled right now)
And there you go folks.  Some of my goals for this month.  Unfortunately, it seems like things keep coming up and I end up having to add more and more to my goals list, so we'll see how long it grows to in the weeks to come.  How about you?  Getting ready for winter?  Up to anything around your place?

Friday, October 2, 2020

Frugal Friday: Money Saving Weekly Recap (Times 2)


It has been so busy the last couple of weeks, I honestly can't believe it's just been two weeks have passed.

So, what have I been up to?

Well, there is homeschool of course.  That's been taking  up a goodly amount of time.

1.  Then I went and got the kids their flu vaccinations (they are covered by insurance, so I'm counting that as a frugal savings, really :).

2.  I took a six hour online course in LAMP Words For Life via Zoom last week.  It has been more than a few years since I had to take an actual class on something, so having to get up at 4am to complete a six hour course that started at 5am was, in a word, rough.  But, I got a bunch of valuable information from the course and am also getting a manual on LAMP as part of taking the course, so I am completely happy with the money I spent on the course and have already implemented some of the tips the course covered and have found they are helping Alvah navigate the program better.  Like I said, completely worth it!

3.  The color printer and new I-Pad mini (to use as a new talker for the son) that I was able to order through the homeschool came in and we picked those up when we went in for Alvah's first speech therapy e-val with the homeschool.  I was really, really impressed with the speech therapist that works through the homeschool and can't wait to work further with her.  I haven't had that in depth of an interview on communication since we got Alvah diagnosed with autism through the neuro-psychologist when we was two!

4.  We attended the "Special Edition" of the fall festival at our local U-Pick farm.  It was an outdoor event and people were really great about keeping proper social distancing and things.  Even the special needs kids were actually really well behaved about leaving people their personal bubbles since they had so much room to run around and all kinds of different activities to do.  We had a blast and I'm so glad the weather cooperated this year.  I was even able to run into a friend of mine who was volunteering at a food booth that I hadn't "seen" in years (we talk via Facebook from time to time, but hadn't seen each other in ages).  I'm so glad we were able to go as the kids really needed to get out and do something for a change.

5.  Covid has finally started going through my husband's workplace and as a result of possible exposure (the husband has been really careful to wear a mask and keep that social distance between him and others) through a contractor the husband went and got his first Covid test.  Luckily it came back negative, which was a relief as I have a couple of appointments next week (dentist and eye doctor) and was worried about the results.

6.  It turns out that the Clonodine the son was on might not have been helping him to sleep any more, but it was controlling his Pica (eating non-food items) as the more he came off of the Clonodine's effects the worse the Pica was getting.  So, I rescheduled his appointment with his psychiatrist and got in for an early appointment day before yesterday and we both decided it was best to put him back on the Clonodine just for the sake of calming him down and helping with the Pica.  He took some Clonondine last night and so far today we are doing good, so I'm hoping that the medication at least helps him with that aspect of his autism as Pica is a really worrisome condition.

7.  I started using the app "Lose It" and loaded it onto my phone.  It is a dieting program that helps you count calories and does the equations for you to help you lose weight in a given amount of time.  I on the one pound a week program and am working on losing 20 pounds (15 of which I gained when I went on Valtrex and Prednisone with the staph infection last year and just can't seem to lose no matter how hard I try).  I do well with structure when dieting, so I'm finding the app really cool and am doing well at it so far.  The only diet I've been on before this was the low carb/diabetic diet when pregnant, so this is a COMPLETELY different way of dieting that I'm having to get used to.  I'm getting there, but am still fighting the knee jerk reaction that I shouldn't eat bread because it has this many carbs in it, even though calorie wise it really isn't that bad to eat a sandwich *laugh*.

8.  I used some free computer paper that my husband was given by a friend who was moving a while back to print off a TON of speech therapy materials for the son.  I bought some LAMP materials through Teachers Pay Teachers and one of the things I bought was vocabulary cards that you could use and there was over 100 pages of cards to print off.  I am looking forward to using the cards one at a time to start to teach the son some basic vocabulary on LAMP starting next week (at the same time we start quarter 2 work with him :).  

I also printed off an online user manual for LAMP that walks through how to customize the program as needed.  I'm going to take some old binders we have around the house and use our three hole punch to make a couple of books out of the materials for our new, more intensive, speech therapy sessions.  Here's hoping the son takes it well and we start to make some progress!

9.  Since the earthquake I've been buying non-stick cooking spray because my Misto bottle got smashed and punctured during the event.  I finally, after spending too much money on bottles with too little spray in them, broke down and ordered a new oil spray bottle from Amazon.  It should be in Monday, so hopefully that'll work out well and I'll be able to save some money not having to buy cooking spray.

10.  I rearranged the kitchen, finally.  I tried to draft it out beforehand, but the husband was always too busy to help me and honestly I suck at drafting, so I finally just rearranged it one day last week.  It isn't perfect, but it is a start.  I was able to weed out a bunch of different dishes we don't use anymore (like toddler cups and things that just end up getting buried in the back of the cabinets), really condense down my plastic cups and dishes (now that Alvah is better about not smashing things on other things I've switched him more to glass plates as I like them better) and just hopefully help things to fit better.  So far, so good.  I'll take pictures of the finished project when I get a few moments.

11.  I watched a ton of new things on Amazon that were free with Prime to watch since the son wasn't sleeping at all.  

12.  I started the process of renewing the son's TEFRA insurance for another year.  They gave me little to no time to get the paperwork in, so I e-mailed it to our Care Coordinator and asked her to send it in via secured e-mail (it gets time stamped that way).  I then asked why we needed to fill out the paperwork as Medicaid was supposed to be extended six months, at least by the letter the Medicaid office sent out at the beginning of quarantine.  Turns out that while one branch of the government with TEFRA is extending out six months, another branch isn't, so be sure to check in with your care coordinators if you have federal Medicaid disability insurance to make sure everything is kosher, folks!

13.  I started making a list of monthly goals for October (there's actually quite a few).  I'm hoping to finish it tonight and post it up in the next couple of days.

14.  I was offered a ton of bonus reward points at Carrs if I spent so much in one shopping trip.  With all of the different bonus rewards, and the fact that we aren't going very many places right now, I needed to redeem some rewards before they expired.  I redeemed enough rewards to get 7.00 off of my next shopping trip.  I used the 7.00 to help pay toward produce purchases we made last week.  

15.  Instead of turning the heat on in my bedroom at night, I just threw another blanket on the bed instead.  So far it's working to keep us warm enough at night and will hopefully 

16.  There was a sale on squash last week for .99 lb for different varieties of squash.  I was able to get two delicata squash for cheap.  After trying different varieties of squash last year I found that I really liked this type of squash, so I was thrilled to get a couple of them to roast later on.

I also took advantage of a sale this week and got 6 cans of Lindsay olives for .99 per can.  It was a maximum of 6, but since the regular price on olives at the moment is kind of crazy, I was happy to get some cans for a decently cheap price.

17.  The store stopped carrying Rockit apples or they are out of season, out of stock, or something.  These are my husband's favorite snack to take to work, so I am going to work on baking and cooking different things for the husband to take to work with him over the weekend.  Hopefully I can keep him stocked up on snacks and meals so that he doesn't feel the need to eat out, as that derails our budget really fast.

18.  We decorated for Halloween using decorations we have saved throughout the years that the kids have made or things I bought on clearance for cheap in the past (such as the Halloween wood decoration seen at the top of the blog post).  We are now very festive and ready for the Halloween holiday.

Oh, and speaking of Halloween, a few people have e-mailed me and asked for suggestions on what to do for Halloween since Trick or Treating and large gatherings are out in their area due to restrictions and what not.  Personally, we are going to have a "Sleepy Hollow" themed Halloween party around here, based on the foods and fun that the characters in the Disney version of "Ichabod Crane" was feasting on at the Halloween party (I need to try and afford a few slices of ham by Halloween *laugh*).  I'm going to read (or the husband is, depending on who the kids want to read to them) "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow", the original one by Washington Irving, and other festive things.  I think the kids will have a lot of fun and we don't have to worry about going anywhere :).

And there you go folks.  A few things I've been up to the last few weeks (and believe me there is more, but that's at least a portion of it).  I'm tired, really tired, but feeling like things are starting to get accomplished and I'm getting more of a handle on things.  Here's hoping!