Sunday, December 9, 2012

"How did we get here?" a guest post by Mike

The following is part of an ongoing guest post series titled Mondays with Mike.

"How did we get here?"

That was the question my wife and I were asking each other during the fall of 2008.  My heart was pounding as I was going through bill after bill, paying the minimums, and trying to get through to the next month.  During the previous six months we had moved from New York to Nevada and besides basking in the neon of the Las Vegas strip (which we really didn't do that often), we were swimming in an ocean of debt.

The problem with bad choices is that sometimes they work out.  The problem with them working out sometimes is that those are the only ones you remember.  It's kind of like gambling.  Do you ever hear anyone telling you they had a great time in Vegas when they lost $1500?  Of course not (unless they're a masochist); you only hear about the times that they've won.  Hopefully you understand where I'm going with this. 

Here are a few examples:

2001: Decided to put our honeymoon on a credit card - bad idea!
2003: Decided to buy a house with 3% down - bad idea that worked out.
2005: Bought(yeah right, financed) a car with 4WD, so Kate would be safe driving country roads to work- bad idea that we broke even on.
2001-2006: Put 20K on credit cards for dinners, gifts, work expenses, clothes, and general home needs - really bad and stupid idea!!
2006: We refinanced our house (because it was worth a bunch more) to pay off our credit card debt and do the smart thing of paying it off at a lower rate: Bad idea!! We didn't learn a thing and started charging again...
2006-2008: ran up another 25K in credit card debt and traded in (see 2005) for an upgraded vehicle.  I work in the auto business and during the fall of 08 the car market was in the toilet.  If you have the gumption, that is the time to buy.  We did (finance), and it worked out great, but that is only because I've worked in the business for just short of a decade and understood the cycles.  I would not recommend financing something (like a house or a car) on a hunch.

For those keeping score: 25K credit card debt, 15K car debt, oh, and just bought a house in really good housing market LAS VEGAS!!!

And that's when the crap hit the fan. You see, after our daughter was born in 2007 we calculated (correctly by the way) that it was cheaper for Kate, and better for our daughter, to stay home with our daughter than to pay for daycare,  and fuel our 4WD vehicle for an 85 mile daily commute. 

So, we were living on one irregular income, a mountain of debt on top of us, living in a new place with no family, and the auto business (which I work in) wasn't exactly humming along (see GM, and Chrysler bailouts/bankruptcies for reference). 

I was extremely scared for my family, my career, and for me personally.

Keep reading next week on what we decided to do about it...

What I Wore Sunday-- Volume 6

Linking up again with everyone in their Sunday best at Fine Linen and Purple.

I had to take the kids (ages 5, 2, &1) to church BY MYSELF this weekend TWICE.  I can't believe I survived.

Yesterday, the kids were very well behaved & well rewarded after mass with some yummy pancakes.  Today, their behavior almost resulted in a Mommy reward (like a stop at the liquor store), but I kept my cool (mostly), drank some coffee, and I'm finally feeling better.

I wish, wish, wish my husband had been with me this weekend because our church has the most beautiful display I have ever seen honoring Our Lady.  There is a HUGE Our Lady of Guadalupe print hanging, and it is surrounded by roses (floor to ceiling).  As we approached the altar yesterday (and came closer to the display honoring Our Lady), my two older kids and I were just speechless at how beautiful the display was.  It's that beautiful, and I promise to go back to church and snap some pictures of it to post later this week.  Stunning.

Onto my outfit.  I am attempting to winterize a summer dress by pairing it with tights, boots, and a cardigan.  It's getting chilly here.

You won't get any head on shots of me this week.  I'm not trying to be artsy.  My face is totally broken out, and I don't want any reminders of what my skin looked like this week.  Ugh.

The details:
sweater: Target
dress: Goodwill
boots: Nordstrom

Now go check out everyone else's outfits at Fine Linen and Purple!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Seven Quick Takes

Joining Jen for another round of Seven Quick Takes.

I planned on doing a post about Advent this week but never got around to it.  We've been having a lot of fun.  Our oldest is 5-years-old, and she is VERY excited about Christmas.  We set up our Christmas houses, nativity set, Advent calendar, and Santa countdown so far. 
Our Advent calendar is pretty cool for the kiddos.  Each day, the kids open a door to reveal a piece to a magnetic nativity scene.
 The kids love it, and I think it's sweet that Griffin's godmother is the one who bought the calendar for the kids.
I cannot take credit for this next idea at all, but boy, oh boy, is it a great one for the littles.  Maura attends Kindergarten at our parish Catholic school, and I was thrilled when she came home last week with a homemade Advent calendar.  Yowza.  Here's a picture.
 Each day reveals an age appropriate service task to complete, and Maura is just as excited about learning what she needs to do each day as she is about discovering a new piece to the magnetic nativity and finding Bam Bam, our family's Elf on the Shelf.


Then, this week I read a guest post by Leanne of Life Happens When on A Knotted Life.  Leanne did a very similar craft (a paper link chain) with each link marked with an act of service with her 4-year-old son.  Leanne even generously lists a month's worth of age appropriate service ideas.  I'm bookmarking her post for next year.


We are an Elf on the Shelf family, and both Maura and Griffin having been having a lot of fun finding our elf each morning.  Maura & Bam Bam (our elf) have even been exchanging notes, which Maura loves.

Why, yes, Bam Bam is straddling our dusty chandelier.  I've been busy, okay?  And we're running out of hiding spots.


We haven't bought our tree yet.  Nor have we put up our lights.  But our neighbors across the street did.
I thought we left the bright lights of Las Vegas for a quiet suburb, but I guess I was wrong.

Let me tell you a few things about this light display.  Yes, that is a light up nativity scene.  I am totally jealous.  I've been looking for the old school, glowing lawn nativity for a few years now, but they are pricey. 
You should also know that the lights on the upstairs bedroom windows FLASH on and off ALL NIGHT LONG.
You should also know this is one of those houses that plays Christmas music outside ALL NIGHT LONG too.

Last night, Mike woke up with genuine concern about the flashing lights in our bedroom.  I had to remind him that it was only our neighbors' lights (that they never turn off).  Our bedroom is kind of like when Kramer lived across the street from the glowing Kenny Rogers Chicken sign.

I suppose it could be worse.  We could live across the street from this guy.
Even Our Lady has been admiring the lights of part of a Christmas village in our daughter's room.

You should check out Cari's post about this too.

Now, go read everyone else's Quick Takes.  Have a great weekend everyone!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Oh fudge.

On this year's Christmas cards, I wrote that our 2-year-old, Griffin, was becoming more verbal.  He is.  He is learning to say all sorts of things, like...

"door open"-- when anything opens-- a door, the refrigerator, his diaper, etc.
"milk"-- an all purpose word to describe any & all liquids (including milk, water, juice, a pond, the ocean, rain, etc.)
"Mommo"-- mommy
"let's roll"-- indicates a desire to go somewhere
"beautiful princess"-- a descriptive term reserved for females wearing anything that resembles a dress (including skirts, long coats, an apron, a nightgown, a tunic, and princess dresses, of course)

You get the idea.

However, some of Griff's new words have us trying to shut him up at all costs.  Did I mention that he is the LOUDEST kid ever?  No volume control.

Case #1:
It being the Christmas season (OK- Advent), we keep seeing a lot of nativity scenes on people's lawns, the store, etc. which results in Griffin yelling "Jesus!" as loud as he possibly can over and over and over again.  Slightly embarrassing.  He also does this at church, which is equally embarrassing.

Case #2:
The other day, Grif said something (while I was changing his diaper) that ended with the letters "ock."  I was really taken aback (because he said it a few times) & even spoke to Mike about it, asking him, "You didn't say (the word in question) in front of Griffin, did you?"  Of course, Mike hadn't.  I knew Griffin was trying to say something else (but couldn't figure out what) until I remembered Grif's favorite part of his favorite movie-- Elmo's Potty Time (which he watches daily).

Go ahead & watch.

Did you catch that?  Some of the kids call their poop "ca ca."  I'm guessing that's what Griffin was trying to say when I took off the diaper.  He just left off that last (and oh, so essential) short A sound.  Phew!

Case #3:
I was putting Griffin to bed last night.  We went into the bathroom to brush his teeth, and he tripped over the step stool in front of the sink.  I almost died when he said, "Oh sh*t."

I mean, come on.  He was using the correct context & everything.  Suddenly, my body got really hot as I tried to remember if I had said the obscenity in question recently, and I was pretty sure I had.

So, my 2-year-old was swearing, and I was surely the worst. mom. ever.

Then, when we went into his room, he stepped on a toy and said, "Oh sh*t," again.  Except this time he kept saying it while holding his foot, and I realized he was saying "Ouch," (with more of a -sh ending than a -ch ending).  But, yay, I was off the hook!!!!

Here is a video of him saying "Owsh," while simultaneously running around me in circles.

"Owsh" from Kate on Vimeo.


Monday, December 3, 2012

Quid pro quo Joe's (a guest post by Mike)

Hey gang!  For those of you who have been reading for a while, you may remember that a few months ago, I asked my husband, Mike, to start writing on my blog on Mondays.  You can read his first and only post here.  Unfortunately, we got busy.  Life happened, right?  Anyway, Mike is going to try his best to post on Mondays again, and I'm going to call his posts-- you guessed it-- Mondays with Mike.  So, if the men in your life are looking for another male Catholic blogger to read, forward them Mike's posts.  I'm going to try to get him on Twitter, so he can start interacting with #Cathmen.

So, heeeeere's Mike---

In order to thank Kate for putting up with my career over the last few months, I scheduled a hair and facial appointment for her today.  It took me the last two months to work it into the budget and save for it, but today was her day.  After she returned, we talked about how her vehicle needed service, and we needed a few things from the store.  So now it was my turn to have a little “me time."  Here I am, driving a Yukon XL, with a Guinness hat on, listening to lithium (XM34), and going to get the oil changed.  The shop was less than 5 minutes from our house, and they provide great service, so I was in and out.

Onward to Trader Joe’s:  I love that store, but I always feel like I’m surrounded by a bunch of people to put this delicately…let’s just say, I don’t feel they have the same “values” as our family does.  Did I mention that we have a “CHOOSE LIFE” license plate frame, a John Paul II one decade rosary hanging from the mirror, and a magnet for the Catholic school our daughter goes to on the back of the Yukon?  No? 

So here I am, listening to Sublime, driving my gas guzzler (although it is 75 people miles per gallon currently; and I can give you the math later if you want), wearing my Guinness hat, empty car seats behind me, looking like a Catholic billboard and going into the hippieland parking lot.  My only saving grace was some nerdy glasses which Kate likes and is reminiscent of something you would find in the Obama campaign office. 
Yep, those are the ones...

And then it happened, the fear set in that I was being watched.  Remember, we live in California, which in case you didn’t know isn’t exactly a pro-life state.  That kid collecting the shopping carts certainly couldn’t be pro-life.  After all, he was a teenager.  That old guy driving the van behind me might be, but he’s probably lived in Cali too long and has been corrupted.  I knew I was sunk and would surely get some looks.  Of course I didn’t care, said a Hail Mary, realized I had judged, and went to purchase the few items we needed.

As always, the employees were extremely helpful (the pesto was under the hummus, and I couldn’t see it), and I made my way to the checkout.  The checkout girl couldn’t have been any more than 21 years old.  She asked very politely if the family had any plans for the weekend.  I said we were probably going to the Christmas tree lighting.  Upon saying "Christmas" I felt a wave hit in my stomach and was ready to be martyred for being so insensitive. 

Instead, she asked, "How many children do you have?"
"We have 3," I replied.

"Really, wow, what are their ages?"
"5, 2, and 1.  They’re pretty young, but we love it," I said, trying my best to be confident. 

"Well, you know you need to have a fourth, right?" 
 I’m sure I looked like this:
She continued, “Yeah, each one needs a buddy for amusement parks, to look after each other, and you need even teams.” 

You could have knocked me over with a feather.  I felt so good afterwards.  When you think the worst of people, and make silly judgments, God has a great way of smacking you straight. 
"Judge not dummy!  I made them too."

Sunday, December 2, 2012

What I Wore Sunday-- Volume 5 (the I got caught in the rain edition!)

Hey gang!  Joining all the fine looking ladies (& men?) over at Fine Linen and Purple
for another edition of What I Wore Sunday.

So-- did you hear the news that Jen Fulwiler wrote a great piece on the What I Wore Sunday series over at National Catholic Register?  You can read her post here.  I have to say that I agree with Jen, planning my outfits for Sundays has helped me to be more prayerful and focused during mass.  And, I'm not wearing jeans as much, which I think is good modelling for the kiddos. Unfortunately, her post also generated some negative comments about the link up.  Some commenters felt participants were putting on a fashion show (which is not the participants' intentions at all).  I mean-- did you see my Sarah Palin look-a-like outfit last week?  Ms. Palin is a beautiful woman, but I don't want people confusing me with her at Sunday mass.  Now, that would be a distraction.  You betcha.

But seriously, I would say this link up is about a few things.  First (and most importantly), as Catholics we believe in the Real Presence, so we are dressing with the intention to see God.  Secondly, we are showing others how women can dress both beautifully and modestly.  Third, we are all are trying to stretch a dollar.  I get so many great ideas from other women each week on how to shop my own closet, which I'm grateful for.  I think my Sunday default outfit before this link up was jeans and a nice sweater, but the other ladies in this link up have taught me to be more confident about my dressier clothes by teaching me how to wear them.  So, thank you ladies.

So, without further ado, here is my "I got caught in the rain outfit." Seriously, the rain is coming down so hard, Mike is considering building an ark.


The details:
red coat: GAP (10 years ago)
grey dress: Goodwill (tag says it's from Target)
pretty brooch: birthday gift from Mike's grandma
boots: Nordstrom (yes, I wear them every day)

Now go check out everyone else's outfits & have a great Sunday!