Tuesday, July 22, 2008

I just called to say I LOVE YOU

I love USAA! (I know I'm inviting a bunch of San Antonio hits again, but that's OK. They should know how much I appreciate them!)

Why you ask? Because...

1. they always are kind and patiently answer all of my questions when I call. (You know me - I always have a lot of questions.

2. the representatives always speak English fluently.

3. Totally free banking! No stupid fees for me letting them use my money. Why do people stand for that from other banks?

4. they refund my ATM transaction fees (and they started WAY before other banks did that).

5. I can deposit a check in prepaid envelopes in the mail or instantly online by scanning them from home. I don't have to go anywhere!

6. their checking and savings accounts are interest bearing (not just if you have thousands of $s).

7. their insurance rates are incredibly low. I have compared online with other companies and the comparison is laughable. We get a great deal!

8. I get dividends back on my insurance policies depending on how well the company does that year.

9. They have a great website - I can do everything online. FOR FREE!

10. And they are really understanding and human. They seem to have my best interests at heart and have compassion!

And it's this last item that causes me to write today. Last year we had a check written to us (a whole $4.80) that we deposited and then had it refused by the other party's bank. We were then charged a "chargeback" fee of $5. I saw the "chargeback" on my statement online and called my bank to ask what this was. Together we put the info together about what had happened and completely unprompted the gal on the phone with me said, "Well, that's silly that you have this charge. It's more than the check was worth! I'll just go ahead and refund that money to your account." I was shocked! I figured I would make the people who's check was returned take care of my $5. But USAA totally took care of it! They are awesome.

Then this week... We return from our trip to visit R's sisters and I checked my email. I received one from PayPal - all in Japanese (or whatever, Asian script for sure). I log in to PP to see what on earth this is, thinking it's one of those spoof emails. Well, lo and behold someone has hacked into my account (so scary!!!) and stolen $42.50 and paid an online gaming site with MY MONEY!!! Oh man, I felt violated and scared. I called PayPal right away and, of course, was sent directly to India. Thank heavens that PP protocol is to send fraud claims back to an agent in the U.S.! I would have had the worst time trying to explain what happened to someone who didn't really have an understanding of English (done that before - as I'm sure you have). I started the ball rolling there with my claim and went back to USAA to switch funds into my savings account to take care of this little blip. Well, I don't keep much in our savings since I get better interest in our money market account. But the evil teenage boy (total assumption, but I can picture him in my head!) who stole my money had already put our account into overdraft and there was a $29 non-sufficient funds fee already posted. Aaaaa! PayPal would refund the $42.50 but who's got to cover the $29? Me! Oh I was so mad. I stewed for a day or two and then I thought about my awesome bank... Would they maybe refund it? I decided to send them an email explaining that I knew it wasn't their mistake and they were totally justified in that fee, but as I wasn't responsible for that debit would they pretty please refund it? Well, the next day I get an email back - "Sure" and it's done! Most banks seem to look for opportunities to squeeze all the money they can out of you. But my bank is the opposite! They are so wonderful! So I am singing their praises! Rick has been so impressed each time we've dealt with them. Early on in our marriage he said that he didn't care if we got a better deal insuring or banking elsewhere - they had our loyalty for life. They are that fantastic! And, totally against my frugal nature, I whole-heartedly agree. I trust them absolutely and I am so grateful for that relationship!

Sorry if we are tacky like Gorilla Glue...

Yeah, I'm still too lazy to post my pics. I might get to it later today. Something for you to look forward to!

Well, Rick and I have been thinking over the state of our kids' rooms. Basically they are full of toys. I'm not sure how we accumulated so many so quickly! But we are really hesitant to buy them more - there's just no room! And I don't want to get rid of any to make more room - we have nice toys and they will be great for Lauren and Nathan as they get older. So here is what we think... (please don't be offended)

We would like to get our kids (and to have them receive from others) more disposable gifts. Things that are meaningful but don't add to our clutter. I'm challenged in the "keeping things tidy" arena as it is and it's like stacking the deck against us (since Nathan seems to really dislike cleaning too) to give us more things. Whew, I've admitted it! Yeah, I'm not really a true member of Rick's family since most of his siblings are crazy neat. But that's OK! I'm good at other things right? A little ying to their yang (or whichever way it goes - one is chaos, the other order I think). We can't all be the same (keep rolling here with the justifications!).

Anyway so we thought that maybe, if you are planning on gifting something to our little tykes, that you might contribute a little differently. For example, we would love our kids to participate in sports. But we really can't swing that financially. So maybe you could take whatever $ you were thinking about spending on a birthday or Christmas gift and go in with us for soccer, ballet, gymnastics or something. (Have I totally offended anyone yet?)

I talked this decision over with my mom and she was (or she faked it) happy to oblige us. This year she is sponsoring :) Ashlyn's gymnastics class. I signed her up this morning. It's only a little over a month, but I think it will be so fun for her! She knows what she's getting since we had to ask her opinion of the class that she'd like to sign up for but she is so thrilled! I wanted to do something for Nathan too, but I've missed out on soccer (the spots filled quickly) so I'm aiming for the next set of sessions - they start sign-up on Aug. 4th and I'm thinking (and so does Nathan) that we will go for basketball. Maybe Ashlyn would like that too but we'll have to see how our budget goes. I'd like to put them in a different class each session and give them a little exposure to a few different things. Then they can pick a fave and we'll do a bigger commitment to "their" activity. Maybe by then our annual raises will pick up the slack! Btw - it is so unfair that groceries and gas go up and up but our income stays the same. Ugh.

Or maybe instead of sports, a membership to the zoo or aquarium (yeah - that's stretching it a bit, those are spendy) but we're not thinking that you will bankroll the whole she-bang, just take whatever you were going to spend and maybe put it toward something different.

So that is what we're thinking for right now. Do you hate us? There was a big "discussion" at PYP this summer about how rude it was to include registry info on a wedding announcement. I was surprised to see that it was completely offensive to quite a few of the ladies there! Having received so many random things for our wedding, I am very grateful to receive registry information - it lets me know what the couple are in need of and what colors they are going for if I want to make something more personal for them. So maybe I am just a tacky person!

Ok - I've summoned up my courage and told you our plan. Hope you don't hate us!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Mixes for you!

Made this tonight for burgers - yay! I can't stand how expensive Onion Soup mix packets are!

Homemade Onion Soup Mix from Taste of Home
3/4 cup dried minced onion
1/3 cup beef bouillon granules
1/4 cup onion powder
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon celery seed

Combine the first five ingredients. Store in an airtight container in a cool dry place for up to 1 year. Yield: 4 batches (20 tablespoons total).

I didn't actually have bouillon granules so I gave my Cuisinart a workout and chopped up a bunch of cubes - those suckers are tough!

And another that I use since I don't want to run to the store when I get a hankering for Shelly's Angel Chicken...

Italian Dressing Mix
1 tablespoon garlic salt
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon white sugar
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1/4 teaspoon celery salt

In a small bowl, mix together the garlic salt, onion powder, sugar, oregano, pepper, thyme, basil, parsley, and celery salt. Store in a tightly sealed container.
To prepare dressing, whisk together 1/4 white vinegar, 2/3 cup canola oil, 2 tablespoons water and 2 tablespoons of the dry mix.

I read in this recipe's reviews that you can sub with red vinegar, olive oil and add dried pepper flakes for kick/variety.

PJ Pals

I like to spend $5 or so for PJs. I would love to spend less of course but that just doesn't happen - not even at WalMart. They are currently on sale (the summer shorts and T-shirt styles) at DisneyShopping.com for $5.09 after coupon code.
Codes to use:
"Shipfor5" gives you free shipping on $50 and "1699" gives 15% off your total. If this is something your kiddos would dig (princesses, Cars and Toy Story) then enjoy!

Taking up a collection.

A few months ago our VCR died. Not terribly tragic. We can deal without the Princess Bride. We have other fun DVDs to watch. We have our rabbit ears and 6 stations we get most of the time.

Well, yesterday the DVD player bit it and today the blender. This is a travesty. No movies! That means no Letter Factory! Just when Nathan was really starting to learn his letters! And no smoothies! And it's so hot here! Arg!

That's a lot of electronics to have to replace with not a lot of available cash. Is this Emergency fund worthy? Hmmm.

I realize, btw, that I haven't posted in forever. :) I was waiting until we got back in town. I don't like to post that Rick is gone or that we are gone until after we come back in case someone takes it as an invite to ransack my abode. Rick was in Alabama (sorta offered a position there), then home, then we all went to UT/ID, then we had a day together at home before Rick took off to Minnesota. Now we're all home and getting caught up with laundry. And mourning our plants - to which the water was turned off for the duration of our trip. Perhaps we are not meant to landscape.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Free credit score and monitoring


Read about it here.

Friday, July 04, 2008

A button for Holly

On the right side (down near the bottom of all the links) there is a drop-down menu for you sweetums! Now you can take your pick of subscription services to update you on your favorite blog!

You're Welcome!

Oooo - yes!

My Coverwear blog ROCKS! It's 1 a.m. but don't you love it? And the last time I checked my blog is #4 on google when you type in Covewear. Woo - hoo!

And the new patriotic theme on this blog? Spiff, huh?

And thanks dad for the info on Bermuda!

Ok, gotta go to bed...

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Found a new toy in the garage, Dad

Dear Daddy,

Hey, guess what? I found a new toy today in the garage! It's really cool! You can ride on it like a broomstick or like a pogo stick - you decide! Plus it can also make a huge dust storm when you "boing" with it!
It's really quite versatile and I'm not sure why you haven't let us play with it before now! Since I just found it I'll make use of the fact that you're at work and Mom's inside with Lauren to play as much as I can. I have some experience with you both as parents, and I'm pretty sure that you will put an end to the fun as soon as you find out. But for now we're a "go!" and no one has said that I can't play with it - so I'll enjoy this while it lasts!

Your Loving Son,

(Taken by mommy all secret and stealthy-like through the kitchen window while telling daddy about it on the phone and laughing hysterically - just before she put on her parent face and had Nater put it back)

P.S. I showed this to the kids and N said "It's me with the pooh thing!"


We have had our first experience with hives! Check another one off of my list of things to do to be a REAL mommy!

  • Stitches: check
  • Headwound bleeding profusely: check
  • Tons of slivers to be removed with tweezers from screaming child: check
  • Fall off trampoline: check
  • Broken bone: check
  • Shiners: check
  • Free weight thrown at nose: check

and the list goes on!
Now we can add Hives.
Thursday: Nathan had a fever of about 101, a tummy ache and had no appetite at dinner. (Rick figured that this might be a cousin gift since Matthew had a fever the night we arrived - who knows!)
Friday: Nathan felt a little better but woke up from nap with WELTS like I had never seen before. He said they itched. I called a nurse I know who told me that a cool bath with oatmeal might help. I was so encouraged to hear that he wasn't dying! The red puffy marks were all over one of his legs so I thought that he had just run into something in the backyard. But in my secret over-reacting mommy heart I was waiting for him to die from an allergic reaction because I had no Benadryl (remedied now) or Epipen and I was going to have to lose my only boy and who knows if I get another one 'cause my family only makes girls, etc.
Well, the oatmeal bath worked wonders and Nathan thought it might just be the best thing he's experienced in short term memory. (He and Ashlyn both have been clamoring for another one).
Saturday: Again, after nap, Nathan wakes up with itchy splotches. But now they're on his cheeks and arms. I am freaking out. Whatever it is - it's back! Even though he's worn long sleeved shirts and pants, has new sheets, hasn't been outside... What is it? My confidence from yesterday's defeat vanishes and I imagine swollen tongues again. Maybe he can't eat Brie! Maybe he's really not mine!
So I take him to the after-hours clinic - even though it's more than double our normal copay. They see him right away (don't know if they weren't busy or if God just loved me extra that day) and I explain in my Erika way all that's happened. I start with the tummy ache and fever and end with the spots that afternoon (even though they seem to be disappearing from his face - I swear they were there! Oh wait! Now they're on his leg?). I thought, because of their proximity in time that the fever and spots might be related. Ha! She (doc) said I was right! Ha! Vindication! And he'll be fine. The hives (that's what they are!) are probably induced by a virus and he'll be fine a couple of days. So I whip Benadryl and the cream that I bought at WalMart the previous day after the oatmeal bath out of my diaper bag so I could get her opinion of what and how much to give. (No directions on the Benedryl for anyone under 6). Yeah - I'm a prepared mommy. She says topical stuff will do no good (since hives migrate) but I can give him Benadryl if I want. Half a dose. Yay! I love kids who aren't really dying! My day went so much more smoothly after that!
Sorry about the pic - I can't get it to post the right way. I've tried 3 times now. You'll get the idea.

Hey mom - Rick told me I couldn't call you at 10:15 last night (silly him). When were we in Bermuda and why? Did we ever buy the house in the excavation photos in Falls Church? And don't worry - I covered all old people nipples in the bath tub pics.

Totally my children!

We love Brie. Yup, as in the French cheese. Halleluia! They really are my kids!


What? You say you're sick of tummy time pictures? Too bad! That's what I can do right now. Check back in a few months and I'll see what I can do for ya!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The Lone Star State

You ain't Texan unless you have a tin star on your house somewhere. They sell these at Lowe's down there.

Cadillac Ranch

Well, we sure enjoyed our trip to see our new nephew. The (big) boys got to be manly and pour cement pads and shoot guns, the kids got to play with cousins and we had such a nice time remembering how lucky we are to be a forever family - we're all a little different but with the same goals and dreams for our kiddos and doing our best to be the best we can be. It was inspiring for me to go spend some time with the fam. I mean that in two ways - it was a nice feeling to be with D&L and it was also motivating and validating. I love to be around people who make you feel Good and want to be even Better and help you know that the things you sacrifice are Worth It.

Highlights from TX - part five

Pics of the boys (Rick will love me more than ever, no?) and more boys and our little fam with Grams and Gramps. :)

Highlights from TX - part four

Fun uncle Dan!!! Nathan and Matthew (or Rick and Doug?). The two new cousins - 2 months apart. Doug and Lauren - I'm gonna have to Photoshop that phone out...

Highlights from TX - part three

So here we have more ball (with another guy who loves his fam), Chris having a grandma snuggle (hope grandma doesn't mind I snuck a shot), and a few shots (pun intended) that I KNOW my family will adore and want to make their new computer wallpaper.

Highlights from TX - part two

Here is Ashlyn with Kevin (Doug's #2) and Doug with his sweet Christopher. And I loved this - Doug went out and played ball with my kids. His kids weren't out playing but he went out just be with my little tykes. That really touched me. :) He really loves his family. ALL of his family.

Highlights from TX - part one

I realize there are a lot of pics of Lauren - but that's why you're here, right? To see how quickly she's growing? :) Well, I'm just posting the pics in the order I took them so you will see some variety in the other posts! The kiddo that's not mine here is Doug's oldest Matthew.

Finally in Texas

Wow - so here we are in Texline. One of our many stops on the way to Doug and Linsey's. You know - every time I write her name I second guess myself. Is there a "d" is it an "a" or an "e"? I just can't remember. But you know who I mean!
We ended up getting there just after 11pm after more than 9 hours in the car. Apparently Garmin is not familiar with Texas.
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