The Weekend

Last Thursday I took Bella to a church activity that she now attends twice a month. Its nice to be the one driving her because then you get some rare one on one time with her. On this particular night she was noticing all the different restaurants we were passing and she said something about T.G.L. Fridays. So I corrected her, “No honey its T.G.I.Fridays.” “I? Really? It looks like an L.” “Yes really. It stands for thank goodness its Friday.” “Thank goodness its Friday? Why would you be glad its Friday?!” Laughing a bit I said, “Well because Friday night starts off the weekend and most people don’t have to work on Saturday and Sunday so they look forward to that part of the week.” She thought for a minute and said, “Well Friday isn’t my favorite day. I like Wednesdays.”

I for one do not agree, but I guess I am glad that her weekdays are fun enough that she doesn’t live for the weekends. At least not yet.

This past Saturday was a busy day. First the girl’s had a birthday party at a local mini-golf place where they got to play in the arcade, feed alligators and play golf.

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And what is it they were feeding the gators? Hot dogs!

We had to leave the party a little early for Bella’s first soccer game of the season. She has the same coach this year, but he had to miss out on the first game so Anthony and another dad from the team filled in. Their jerseys are blue this year which is Bella’s favorite color – so she’s happy about that although she’s already told me she wants the green color next season.

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I didn’t get many good shots at the game (didn’t come prepared with the best lens for being far away), but I plan to bring my camera again tomorrow.  From now until June we’ll be out on the soccer fields every Friday and Saturday night. Bella is really loving it and now she has her little brother asking when he can play soccer too.

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7 Weeks and Counting…

…until SUMMER!

I am dreaming of the lazy days of summer. Not having to set my alarm or rush out the door. Having time for fun projects with the girls, or spending the afternoon laying around watching movies. Daily visits to the pool. Weekly visits to the beach. Tanned kids, popsicles in the afternoon, late nights and lazy mornings. Its all coming in 7 short weeks. I have been pinning on pinterest fun summer activities for weeks. I. Love. Summer.

But, I must say, I love school too.

When August rolls around I’ll be ready to return to the routine of school. Ready for the schedule, ready to meet new teachers, see my kids experience new things, ready to see what they’ll achieve in the coming year.

We have been at this school thing now for 4 years. Next year all 3 kids will go. I can’t believe ALL My children will be in school. I look forward to being free to volunteer at the school, being free to get my runs while they’re at school, but mostly I look forward to seeing what they can achieve. To see what interests they find, what friends they’ll make, and what experiences they’ll have. I see school as an adventure.

This year Bella has really excelled. She likes to tell me she doesn’t like school because “its too much work” but, then she goes and asks her teacher for additional assignments like a report on ants. Her reading has progressed to a really great level for her age and she plans to spend the summer reading a whole list of great books. Their school has a reading program called AR (Accelerated Reader) where they read books and then take tests over them and earn points. Each grade has a different point goal and the teachers encourage the students to participate and reach that goal. Bella’s goal this year was 50. She reached that by Christmas and to date she’s just under 150. I can’t believe next year she’ll be in 3rd grade. I have been told that the jump from 2nd grade to 3rd grade but I am confident she is up for the challenge. She is also playing soccer again this spring and I believe it is helping her gain some confidence in herself. Her first game is this Saturday and she is so excited.

Watching Natalie embrace school and enjoy Kindergarten to its fullest extent has been so much fun. She loves school. She loves her teacher. She wakes up each morning with such excitement and is always so sad if its a day off or she’s sick. She’s really blossomed into a good little reader, she’s beginning to like to write stories and her artwork is pretty great for her age. She also has been taking piano since school started and has amazed us at how well she is doing. I will write more about that in a few weeks when she performs in her first recital.

Ethan isn’t in school this year, but next year he will be. I can’t believe I will have all 3 of my kids in school. I worry about him in school because he has been such a handful, but I think he will do just fine. He is so excited to go and is already insisting that his backpack and lunch box be his favorite color – green. The only issue right now is he is insistent that I stay with him there. He doesn’t understand that I will go home and when I try to tell him that Mommy will come back to get him he just says, “No, you will just stay with me.”

So, I love summer, I love school. But whenever one is coming to a close I am ready to move on and enjoy the next part of the year. And as far as the year goes I need to make a new resolution…take more pictures. I can’t believe I have been bad at that this year, but I guess with us running this way and that I just haven’t taken the camera out as much as I should. I need to capture these kids how they are now…today…because they are pretty darn amazing. I can’t wait to spend my summer with them.

Getting Things Free

I know I haven’t blogged in forever. My once a week goal is not going so well, is it?

Starting over, again. We’ll see how it goes this time.

So I opened my blog today determined to blog and leave it open until I did. I figured I’d tell some really cute story about my kids, or talk about how proud I am of them. B/c I am! But, my thoughts today have been on my new obsession: Getting things free.

Maybe it isn’t an obsession, but more of a challenge. With gas being so high I have been sticking to home a lot as a way to save some money, but also I have just been watching what I spend in general. I am couponing again after some what of a hiatus (which when I think about how much I spent instead of saved it makes me sick). I still use savingsangel.com. And love when I see items for free, I practically want to run to the store to grab them, whatever they are. But I have yet to reach the status of “Extreme Couponer” like the show, and am not sure I want to be. But, I have come to the conclusion that there are many ways to maximize my spending power in other areas of necessity (and some wants). So I am trying to participate in all that I can and use the rewards for needs instead of silly little extras.

What am I talking about?

Things like mycokerewards.com provided us with a free movie and dinner for Valentine’s day. (Granted we didn’t use them for Valentine’s day, or even yet, but I included them in the card to Anthony as my gift for him, so I count it as Valentine’s day.) Oh, and yes, I do consider time alone with my husband a need and not a silly little extra.

Recently I have discovered, or actually rediscovered, Swag Bucks. Its a website where you do different things (daily polls, play games, search the web, take surveys, etc) to earn points. You can then exchange points for merchandise and gift cards. My exchange of choice will be $5 Amazon gift cards which go for 450 points. In 3 days I have enough for 2 of them. I don’t have a specific goal in mind, but I do plan on using these gift cards towards Christmas and I’d like to have at least $200 in gift cards from Swag Bucks to put towards Christmas this year. But I may raise that goal depending on how much I am able to earn in the first month.

If you’re interested in trying this out go here: http://www.swagbucks.com/refer/jcraiker

Speaking of Amazon there is also a new feature for trading on Amazon. Its reselling your books and movies (maybe other things I am not sure) directly to Amazon. They credit your account and send you shipping labels. All you have to do is put it all in a box and send it to them. Easy. The other week I calculated how much I had I wanted to trade and that alone was nearing $200. Not too bad for just getting rid of a few things around the house we no longer wanted or used. This too is in the plan to go towards Christmas so that would be about $400 I don’t have to save up for for Christmas. Or “free.”

The last thing is that I made a goal in January to have the coming 2012-2013 school year supplies cost us nothing. $0. Three kid’s school supplies at no cost to us, with the exception of change from the bottom of my purse, and seriously, I rarely use cash so there is hardly any change at the bottom of my purse. The idea came to me when I received over $20 in store checks from an office supply store I frequent to get Anthony’s office supplies (he works from home in case you didn’t know). When I was trying to decide how to use it it dawned on me that my children’s school supply list is posted all year long and has not changed in the 3 years we’ve been attending the school. And that while the items would be priced higher this time of year I could still shop the sales but use the store rewards I receive to get the items at no cost to me.

So I started school supply shopping in January. I watched sales so that the reward checks would take me as far as possible. And now I’ve started to watch more closely how I shop for Anthony’s office supplies to maximize my store rewards. I have finally started recycling his toner cartridges (man, I feel bad for just throwing those things away for many reasons), and I get rewards from that. Plus if you watch the sale circulars there are times you get higher rewards for that than others. I will buy different brands of items so long as the item is comparable in quality and price if there is a reward attached to it. And I am careful to watch my rewards checks as to not let them expire, while still holding out with the best deals to use them for.

To date I have all but 6 items on their lists. Out of pocket cost? $0.24. Literally change from the bottom of my purse. And in my book that is still free b/c I NEVER use that change (until now).  And I have $25 of rewards waiting to be spent. I’m certain I can get the last 6 items on their school supply list along with getting the supplies we’ll need at home for homework, etc. And, if I am really good with future rewards in the coming months they may just all get new back packs too, so long as it is FREE to me.

Anyone else have some awesome reward program they use to get free stuff? Tell me about it!