Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Could it be???

Yes, I think it could! Sedona is set to go back to school tomorrow!!!! Her temp fluctuated a little, but stayed under 100 and at the end of the day it was 99.2! The doctor, the CDC and the teacher all agree that's good enough (especially considering her symptoms started NINE days ago and the original CDC recommendation was to "exclude" for 7 days after symptoms start). She was running like crazy all day too, she looks really good finally!

This might really be the end of flu road for us. Well, for this strain anyway....let's hope we don't catch the others! I could stand to never watch a 2 year old ask for a breathing treatment again, whenever she got wheezy, the poor kid would point at the nebulizer and say, "space mask! space mask!" and then hold the mask up to her face herself.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Road Goes on Forever and the Flu Never Ends

From the CDC website:
Epidemiologic data collected during spring 2009 found that most people with the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus who were not hospitalized had a fever that lasted 2 to 4 days
Uh huh, whatever. Sierra's lasted 5 days (5 days of serious fever). Sedona, is on day EIGHT. Yes, EIGHT. And I'm bitter, and I'm tired, and she walks around with her backpack on saying, "school? school?" Granted, it's a very low grade fever at this point and she had 2 full days last week with no fever at all, but it is over the CDC's guideline of 100.0. I'm gonna call the nurse in the morning just to say, "dude, what gives?"

And I could get started on a whole 'nother flu rant here, but I'll zip my lip and just send a *wink, wink *nudge, nudge out to Brandy and leave it at that.

I've worked with newborn babies for several years now and around the Holidays is always the hardest time to keep them well. The whole family wants (and has the time to) come visit, and I understand that, I really do. But PLEASE, if you are around any babies (especially newborns, but anyone under 2), be extra careful about hygiene. Wash your hands when you enter the house. Don't put the mother in the awkward position of asking you to do it, many are too shy to. Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer frequently while you are there. If you have had so much as a sniffle or a cough recently, stay away. I can vouch that adults or older children with minimal symptoms can pass the flu (or something else that's just as serious for a newborn) onto a baby and they are the ones who will end up with the full list of symptoms. It isn't pretty. I see too many babies back in the hospital around November/December because they spike fevers. It really isn't a good time of year to congregate around a new baby. This goes double for babies you don't know---don't get in their face and don't touch them. I remember all too well the horror I felt that people thought it was okay to be up in my baby's face (a preemie, at that!) during cold and flu season. Yes, they're cute, and they're not yours--it's not okay to get up close and personal. Admire from afar, the mother will appreciate it.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Are we there yet?

I don't know if my kids are just immune deficient, or we got the freaky, already mutated version of the flu, but this SUCKS. I had heard so many stories of people getting tamiflu, being sick a day or two and being all better. I'm hear to tell you, not everyone is so lucky!!!!!!! In fact, poor Sierra was so sick, the doctor even did blood work at one point "just to make sure nothing else is going on" (there wasn't, her immune system was mounting a response).

Now my issue is Sedona. She was completely fever free for 2 days. I was compulsively checking and she was staying at 98.4, 98.6. Then she started creeping up, I was getting a lot of 99.1, 99.5, a few 100.0. Still not technically a fever, but she was cuddlier than normal. Well, this afternoon, she finally started acting like she felt good again. WooHoo!! Maybe I can send them both to school tomorrow and take a well needed, no kids in the house, nap. I took her temp just to be sure. She was in shorts and short-sleeves. It was 100.5. Now it's technically a fever. Which means she has to stay home from school, and more importantly, what the heck is going on?!? I have a stethoscope, I know what pneumonia sounds like (well, full blown pneumonia, anyway)...her lungs are crystal clear. Surely any sort of bacterial infection would cause more fever than that? Why is she acting BETTER if her temp is getting WORSE? I so, so, SOOOOOO hope this is just the last hurrah and tomorrow is fine and she goes back to school Tuesday.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Wow, is it only Friday?

Has it really only been one week? Are we sure it hasn't been a month??

Sierra continued to get worse through Monday and Tuesday. She finally perked up some Tuesday evening and broke her fever Wednesday. Sedona started retracting Tuesday evening. Retracting doesn't really do it justice, her entire chest would sink in with each breath. She got a trip to urgent care, an RSV test (negative--doc agreed it's flu), a chest xray (which requires this bizzare and scary for kids setup), and a breathing treatment. She went home and had more breathing treatments through the night (thank you grandma for setting an alarm and calling to make sure my very sleep deprived self got out of bed through out the night). Wednesday morning, she was still mildly retracting and wheezing really loudly, so we went back to the doctor where I found out (thankfully) that she was now actually getting plenty of air into her lungs, just having to work way to hard at it. She was given a prescription for a one time dose of dexamethasone to take care of edema around her throat. worked wonderfully. But she needed 7mg of it, which required taking almost 1.5 tsp of a solution that was 30% alcohol. Blech! Poor sweet baby took some, cried and said no, then still took the rest voluntarily before crying some more. Now she's getting by with MUCH fewer breathing treatments. She also seems to have kicked the fever, but she still sounds bad.

Late Wednesday night, Josh finally made it home. Just in time for the first night in a week that didn't require multiple wake up calls for meds. I feel like every day in the last week has had about 60 hours in it. We ended up with 6 doctor visits in 6 days and all were on an "emergency" basis, none were planned follow ups.

And now........Josh has been offered a post-doc position. The lab is amazing. The research he'd be able to do is fabulous. The pay is really good. The health insurance is phenomenal. The cost of living is about the same it is here. There is ample opportunity to hunt for meat. There is a lady who works in the lab with her own apple orchard that could supply us with all the apples we want for canning. It'd most likely be a 2-3 year appointment. It's very far away, in a cold climate, and travel to/from there is expensive (especially times 4). Logically, we should take it---everything about the job is great. Emotionally, I just can't get on board with moving there. We have until the end of November to decide. If there aren't any other hard offers on the table by then, we'll take it, but we have a lot to think about and it's great and it royally sucks all at the same time.

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Whirlwind Weekend!

I last posted October 15. There's a good reason for that. October 16, things started to get dicey. We started out with a fever for Sierra. That progressed to a sore throat. By Saturday night she was screaming out every 30 minutes or so in pain. That was fun. Sunday morning Josh left at some un-holy, the sun wasn't even up, hour for an out of state interview (we carried the sleeping girls to the van and I dropped him at the airport....the girls did not go back to sleep when we got home). We had been to the doctor twice, called in to the nurse twice and still had no real idea what was wrong with Sierra. Sunday night was horrible. More screaming, lots of crying, I seriously considered taking her to the hospital at 2am. Few things in this world make you feel more helpless than having your 5 year old screaming and crying and saying, "I just can't take this! I just want it to stop!". Then today Sedona woke up with a fever. She was still happy, but the fever shot up pretty quick, so we made our third trip to the doc (to see a new one). She pretty much took one look at the two of them and said, "I'm very sure this is flu". Sedona got tamiflu. Poor Sierra is out of luck b/c she's already on day 4 (nevermind the fact that I took her in on day 1). Believe me, there are a lot more symptoms, medicines, drama, and sleeplessness involved in this story, but I'm just too dang tired to tell it. Sierra has gotten worse each day and I think she's finally slightly better tonight, so that's good. I have rocked this illness single parent style, which is kind of a confidence booster (but I will be SOOO glad when Josh gets home and I can take an uninterrupted nap!). I am very very very grateful to a few guardian angels that have done various things to make this easier on us.

So, oink, oink, baby! I no longer have to debate whether to get the vaccines or not, we can consider ourselves covered!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Food Storage

While we're on this low grocery bill kick, I thought I'd post a link to 2 blogs I've been finding interesting. The most useful is Everyday Food Storage If you peruse the site, there is a lot of really helpful information, like what you can do with powdered milk. The other is Food Storage Made Easy, which is a great primer on food storage for those who have never thought about it before. They give you baby steps to follow and build up your supply as well as tips on how to use it.

I instinctively store food. I'm not sure why, but I've always been a penny-pincher, my whole life. When you insist on using coupons and only paying sale price, you naturally build up food storage. My storage is far from perfect and the meal planning may not be too pretty, but I'm confident that if it became necessary, I could feed my family for at least several weeks just from what we have on hand. If you think food storage is just for "survivalist nuts", think again. Know anyone who unexpectedly lost a job? I know a couple of families that were living on one income and got laid off with no notice. Food storage is just as much about financial preparation as it is about disaster preparation. Economic Crisis is one of the "Reasons for Food Storage" given on the Food Storage Made Easy site and it's just as good a reason as any to make sure you're "saving for a rainy day" (that doesn't apply to just money, ya know)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Financial Dilemma

I have a dilemma on my hands. First a quick note about my budgeting system....in "real life" we have one checking account and one savings account that are used to pay all the bills. In "financial planning life" we follow a system very similar to the one outlined in America's Cheapest Family, which means I have a 3 ring binder with a piece of paper for each category. There are about 30 categories---groceries, doctor, dentist, school tuition, clothes, prescriptions, etc.....

So, after paying that $1600 dentist bill for Sierra, we had a big fat negative number on the "dentist" sheet that we've been whittling away at. To help that along a little bit, I moved $75 of October's grocery money into the dentist category. I've done a little grocery shopping and I currently have $16 left for the month (we only spend $150/month anyway). Here's where the dilemma comes in--there are some really fabulous deals this week and I can't decide whether to take advantage of them or uphold the budget. If I go shopping, this is what I'd get:

From Kroger:
5 pounds of cheese $10 (requires $10 add'l purchase)
5 pounds of ground beef $6.45
yogurt (usually about $2, so two packs would get my min. purchase, but I have several $1 off coupons)
TOTAL: $18.45

From HEB:
25 pounds of flour $5 (requires $10 add'l purchase, but I'm not sure I've ever seen it this cheap)
5 bags of single serving raisins $5 (we send these to school, one bag lasts 2 weeks and this is also as cheap as I've seen them)
Sun Crystals sugar $1.99 (to go towards min. purchase, I have a $2 off coupon)
Tuna Salad pouch $1 (have a $0.75 off coupon)
5# bag of apples $1.99
Bounty paper towels $1 (to go towards min. purchase, I have $0.25 off coupon)
TOTAL: $13.99

Which would give me a negative $16.44 on my budget sheet. I can't decide what to do. I really really don't want a negative number there, but we're not talking ice cream--these are staples at really good prices. Thoughts?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Busy Weekend

Sierra's birthday was this weekend. We had a couple of options....a small just family party, an "invite the whole class" McDonald's type party, or a party with just a couple of her friends. We opted for the just a couple of friends party. Since I am good friends with the mothers of her two best friends, we decided to try out a slumber party. I really lucked out on the budget front---The biggest expenditure was buying all the girls princess nightgowns, but then I found princess party supplies at Michael's for 70% off! That means each girl got a really great set of party gifts without me spending too much money. We spent about $15 on dinner--cheese pizza from Little Ceasar's (because they're 5 and they don't exactly have discriminating taste yet), and another $5 on breakfast (a dozen donuts). I made a small cake for each girl and sets of "princess sprinkles" were on that sale rack at Michael's, so they each got to decorate their own cake. They all had a blast, actually stayed all night (which shocked me, I figured someone would want to go home since this was a first for everyone) and I didn't break the bank. Yay!

Just a few pictures to share:
Sierra's last night as a 4 year old


Decorating cakes

Princess nightgowns all around!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Month of Meals

To help along this whole grocery challenge thing, we sat down and came up with what we will be eating for most of the month. Everything that is for dinner we already have on hand, and listing out lunches and breakfasts allowed me to calculate what I will need to buy for the rest of the month and get a better handle on how much is leftover for "extras" (like apples when they go on sale so we can can up applesauce). Here's what's on the menu:

4: Hamburgers
5: Baked Ziti (I already had this made up in the freezer, I made the ricotta myself when a gallon of milk was nearing its expiration)
6: Rice and Bean Casserole (also in the freezer...my own invention using the filling from these wraps, corn tortillas, cheese and homemade enchilada sauce)
7: Slow Cooker Thai Chicken and Rice (trying this one for the first time, I'm skeptical of the lack of coconut milk---I've never made thai without coconut milk)
8: Spaghetti and Meatballs with Garlic Bread (meatballs and garlic bread dough already in the freezer)
9: Little Caesar's Pizza because it's Sierra's birthday and she's having a slumber party
10: Grilled Cheese because I'm assuming Sierra will be tired and in a bad mood after all the birthday festivities and I'd rather avoid a dinner time battle
11: Meatloaf, mashed potatoes and corn
12: Chicken Pot Pie with biscuit topping instead of pie crust
13: Pancakes or Waffles and scrambled eggs
14: Southwest Chicken with Rice
15: Spaghetti and Meatballs with Garlic Bread
16: Cheese Pizza (already in the freezer, recipe from Cook's Country, built for freezing)
17: Country Ribs, Corn and biscuits (didn't know we still had ribs left, they're vacuum packed in the bottom of the deep freeze)
(This upcoming week is very busy and needs to sacrifice nutrition for the sake of not-complaining kids--my oldest still will not eat a single vegetable without complaining bitterly, we keep trying, but sometimes it's just not worth the battle)
18: corndogs
19: cheese pizza
20: pancakes and eggs
21: Grilled cheese
22: Spaghetti and Meatballs with Garlic Bread
23: Chicken Pot Pie
24: Bean and Rice Casserole
25: Breakfast foods of some sort
26: Curried Honey Mustard Chicken, Naan and Rice

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Popcorn

I'm still battling the strep throat (the meds knocked out the fever, headache and swollen glands, but left the sore throat and a foul mood), and Josh is doing a soccer game tonight, so I need to keep the kids calm and out of my hair for the evening. My solution? A Movie and Popcorn! And then it occurred to me that I've never posted about popcorn.

We were gifted a gallon of popcorn kernels a little while back, but we have no popcorn popper. A quick internet search turned up the best stove top popping recipe I've ever seen. Check it out. The premise is that by heating the oil, adding kernels, then turning off the heat for a short period of time, you bring all the kernels up to a similar temperature. When you return the pot to heat, you get all of the kernels popped at the same time, without burning any. It's just as easy (and better than) microwave popcorn, healthier than theater popcorn and a cheap, filling snack all in one!

My kids are currently parked in front of the TV watching one of our movies, with the lights off, their own paper bag of popcorn and their own box of apple juice. They think they're in the movie theater, this sick momma gets more time to rest and it cost about 75 cents total.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Perfect post

TennZenn wrote the perfect post today (well, perfect for me anyway). I can't explain it any better and I already commented over there, so I'll just leave a simple link.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Gone missing...

I guess I've been missing for a while! Life's been life around here!

I've been pretty down about our medical bills lately. Sierra has HORRIBLE teeth (and I "pinky promise"--as she would say--we have done everything the dentist has asked us to do to take care of her teeth). She had 5 fillings done earlier in her life and we found out in August that she has 9 more cavities. Two of those required caps being put on her teeth. We don't have dental insurance--it costs too much and covers too little to be worth it (even in this situation), so we gulped and paid a $1600 dental bill. I know, I know, it's kinda rude to talk money, but that is a gargantuan number in our family and I have to have it out there so it doesn't eat away my insides. Then we got all the bills from when Sedona cut her eye. I just love that the insurance company charges as if it's an unnecessary ER visit just because you weren't admitted---nevermind the fact that you truly needed emergency care after all the doctor's offices were closed. That was another several hundred dollars (which they called harassing us for when we just got the bill one week ago! HELLO PEOPLE! Give the postal service time to get the check there--sheesh!). Then Sierra got strep throat a little while back--another doctor visit, another copay, but thankfully good ol' $4 amoxicillin. Then I got the strep throat...another copay and since I'm allergic to the amoxicillin, I got to pay full price for azithromycin. Apparently our plan changed this year (which just started) and you have to pay the full deductible up front (they used to spread it out over the year, so they still paid a percentage of each prescription you filled. Also new toothbrushes for the entire family to keep from spreading the strep further (thank you to my doctor for that tip and a big fat sarcastic "thanks for nothing!!!" to the doc who saw Sierra for NOT telling me that!). It has also come to my attention that the flu has officially "blossomed" around here, so I'm waiting for that to pop up in our household. Though, I've also learned that the only one of us who would be prescribed tamiflu is Sedona, so I guess I can save the copay on any of the rest of us. Had a friend that was actually told they would not prescribe her 4 year old tamiflu because she was too old. Poor kiddo sounded horrible, so she took her to urgent care, where they DID give it to her, but still...

So yes........I feel like I'm drowning in medical debt even though it's all paid off (I gave the money to the people, but there is a big negative balance in this part of my budget book that I'm slowly whittling away at rather than putting money into a more fun category). So if we're gonna talk about frugal living and budgeting, let's be honest---my completely irrational instinct when I'm having trouble making ends meet is to just say "aww........what the h-e-double hockey sticks" and just start spending like crazy. Especially when it's a lot of doctor visits/medications that are the culprit, I really don't feel like focusing on anything but convenience, no matter the cost.

Gotta be realistic though. So, we've done a very small amount of eating out, mostly when I've scrounged 65 cents for a donut out of the car floor board, or we pick up a $6 ready to eat pizza and pull the money from the grocery budget. Josh has done a LOT of extra soccer games, which means he's been gone a lot the past few weekends, but it needs to be done for now. I did a session of freezer cooking with a friend this week---it worked out that I was able to contribute things I had on hand and get $15 from her and I have 6 dinners, 2 pounds of meatballs, bread sticks, biscuits, 10 big burritos, and two kinds of breakfast bars stored away in the freezer. Getting ready for the cooking session also required me to thoroughly inventory my freezer and there is some stuff in there I totally forgot I had. Plenty of veggies, chicken and I even found vacuum packed ribs. I'm seriously contemplating a little grocery challenge---I usually spend about $150/month, I want to cut that down to $50 for October. We have two deep freezers and the pantry's reasonably well stocked (plenty of flour, sugar, yeast...), we could eat for two months just on what we have if I was really motivated.

I should be clear about my little pity party....it IS a pity party. We aren't broke, we don't have credit card debt, we do own a house with considerable equity built up. We aren't those people that are having to rob peter to pay paul. If something really horrendous came up, we would have all sorts of options--both girls are in (a pretty expensive) school, when they don't really have to be, and selling the house (the market's still good here) would net us a nice chunk of cash pretty quickly. However, my extreme aversion to debt is the reason we are in a pretty good financial situation despite living on one graduate student stipend, and my mental health will be MUCH better off if I manage to come up with the moola to balance out the "medical and dental expenses" sheet in my budget book without draining our "rainy day" savings or pulling the kids out of school. So grocery challenge it is, since that's the only real wiggle room I have these days.

In honor of cheap food...updated garden pics!
The tomatoes are staked up now and still happy. We seem to be making up for our lack of rain over the summer, we haven't had to water in about 3 weeks.

The beans are going crazy. I never did thin them and I'm still wondering if I should or just leave them alone


The broccoli is leafing out a bit and waiting for cooler weather

As is the cabbage


And my little peas are poking up to say hello!

Apples are getting cheaper...hoping to see at least $0.67/pound so we can make applesauce for the next year.

And a few happy pics. Grandma was kind enough to pay for Sierra to be in music class this year. Unlike a lot of homeschooling parents I've talked to, I'm completely confident about teaching things like calculus, chemistry and biology, but I totally freak out about teaching things like music and art. I wanted her to have a solid music background and we have a good Kindermusik here in town. Sierra is at the age where she can enter their Young Child program. I've been very impressed so far, she and I have both learned new things. Her homework this week was to bring in something that has a beat or that she can play a steady beat on. My (science minded) idea won't quite work for class, but I wanted to show her anyway......a HEARTbeat, of course! ;-)

And here's Sierra making meatballs for me. The cold hurts my hands really badly, so she mixes them and forms the meatballs and I do the cooking--we make a good team :-)


And a few lyrics from a good ol' country song...

"The kids screaming, phone ringing
Dog barking at the mailman bringing
That stack of bills - overdue
Good morning baby, how are you?
{snip}
Well, it's ok. It's so nice
It's just another day in paradise
Well, there's no place that
I'd rather be
{snip}
But somebody had a bad dream
Mama and daddy
Can me and my teddy
Come in to sleep in between?
Well, it's ok. It's so nice
It's just another day in paradise
Well, there's no place that
I'd rather be"
(excerpts from Just Another Day in Paradise by Craig Wiseman and Phil Vassar)

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