Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Time is getting away from me!!

So, we have had some busy days over the last.... almost a week! I am working on a very long post. Last Friday was Andy's 11th birthday. I started to just write about the weekend fun, but that turned into remembering finding out I was pregnant and all that came during the pregnancy. I still have not finished it!
So, I'll give you a quick review of the last 5-6 days.
     Friday, boys went with Grandparents to In-Sync Exotic Wildlife Rescue in Wylie, TX. They got a private tour but the thunderstorms rained them out. We will have to back and finish the tour on another day. Then had dinner out at Olive Garden.
      Saturday morning was his last baseball game, he got an announcement by the MC and wished Happy Birthday by all in attendance, was last in the batting order so automatic home run! They got trophies and
pictures after the game. Then went to lunch with the Grandparents, then to pick out a birthday gift- new fishing pole and tackle! Finished the day celebrating our friend Chris's b-day at a park.... even in the rain!
Not very good at sharing in their sleep! LOL
      Sunday morning, Grandma calls and asks if the boys can miss church and can I pack them for a couple of days. They come pick the boys up and take they on a ride in the motor-home up to friends in Denison, TX. Marty and I go to church, lunch, back to church, to the store shopping for cookout planned for Monday, and clean up at home.
       Monday, Marty and I finish the prep for cookout, Grandma calls and wants to know when we can come pick up the boys? Not until after cookout, or they can join us! Great fun with friends (more like adopted family) and cookout ends around 8pm. Now off to go pick the boys up! Home, snack before bed and off to bed.
       Tuesday, was planning on going up to the church to work on Yard Sale prep, so I took Marty to work (leave home at 5:30am). Ended up sitting around talking to the neighbor most of the day. Off to pick Marty up from work, sit and wait for him.....(late added case- 1 1/2 hrs late!) off to Top Golf for Andy to practice for the KidSwing Golf Tournament. Got 1 hour in there and off to Scottish Rite for golf clinic, done there at 8pm, homeward bound and picking up dinner along the way!
       Wednesday, today.... I took Marty to work (again) and working on blog. I have some paperwork to do around here, then I am going to the church to work on yard sale prep. We have dinner at church tonight followed by an Ice Cream Social to celebrate the end of the year for Awana's and the beginning of the summer program, All Stars!

So, there is the catch-up since the last post! The boys spent the time up in Denison fishing, swimming, and driving a golf cart. Ryan says he worked on learning how to drive a golf cart, Andy learned how to crash one! I guess Andy hit a fence, gate, took a chunk out of a tree and almost ran into a pond! I think we'll have to start working on driving skills early! Sounds like he needs all the extra help he can get.

They are learning how to fish, Andy seems to be very lucky at catching them! You'll notice, they still wear matching clothing. Ryan is the one who insists, Andy just found it easier to go with the flow on that subject!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Shopping and saving money????

Saving on shopping puts money in the bank!
Most of you know that I LOVE COUPONS!! Using coupons and finding deals, I have a small stockpile of a few items. I have enough laundry soap to last the next year, enough dryer sheet to last the next 6 months, deodorant to last a year, and a few other stockpile items. I don't do the extreme coupon shopping, just collect items that we use when they are at a good price. I don't have enough room to do a huge stockpile and don't like to invest that much time and effort into building it! I just try to get the best deal I can for items we use.

I home school the boys, that means all meals are in the home! Marty does get lunch at work sometimes, but only about 2 times a week. That means I need food for 3 meals a day all 30 days of the month, for a family of 4. Over the years, I have worked out what my personal price point  (PPP) was for most items. Following that PPP and couponing, I can feed the family for around $300 a month. Lots of folks spend that each week. I stock up when the cost is lower than my PPP, and skip buying items when they're over my PPP. Simple, right?? Now that doesn't mean that each month I only spend $300, some months I might spend $400 other months only $100. By stocking up at the lower price, I have food to use up some months and only have to pick up a few perishable like milk or bread.

Here are some other basic rules I follow to keep that cost so low.

I try to keep the cost for every meal under $5.00 for the whole meal, not per family member. That means I have to be careful to buy meats at lower costs.
Buy in larger packages and make more than 1 meal out of it.
I don't meal plan for everyday or even for each week, I buy items that I can make into a meal at anytime. Our daily cravings change so having a variety of foods to choose from keeps everyone happy.
I buy items that I can make quickly or that I can put into the crockpot.
I will buy an item that is not on my list if it's a good deal!
I will shop at different stores to get the best deals. The savings can add up to more than the cost of gas.

So now, here are some of my Personal Price Points.

Meats- in general I try to stay below $3.00 per pound.
   Chicken- bone-in below $1.00 per pound
   Chicken- boneless below $1.70 per pound
   Ground Beef- below $2.70 per pound
   Steaks- below the $3.00 per pound
   Pork- chops and loin  $2.50 per pound
   Ham- bone-in below $1.50 per pound
   Ham- boneless below $2.50 per pound
   Fish- close to $3.00 per pound
   Block or shredded- below $4.00 per pound  (watch the package size and do the math)
   Slices- below $2.50 a pound
Dairy products- Butter, sour cream, cottage cheese, cream cheese- below $2.00 a pound
Milk- Below $2.60 a gallon
Produce- all below $1.00 per pound or $1.00 per meals worth (That means some things like lettuce might cost $1.50 per pound but I can get at least 2 meals out of it.)
Canned Veggies- below $0.60 can (This is where shopping at the Dollar Tree can help.)
Canned Fruit- below $0.80 a can
Paper towel- below $0.50 per roll
Toilet Tissue- My real target is as close to $0.01 per sq ft. But lately the price is higher at $0.02 per sq ft. (This is easy math, 100 sq ft package= $2.00 or less)
Laundry soap- as close to $0.05 per load (34 load package= $1.70)
Condiments- Ketchup, BBQ sauce, salad dressings, ect. Below $1.00 per bottle
Dry Pasta- below $1.00 per pound
Mac-n-cheese- $0.35 per box

Frozen items is harder to put a PPP, they vary in meal size and value to your needs. This is where my meal cost price point comes into play more. If I still target under $5.00 for the meal yet am wanting to buy a frozen Lasagna for an easy meal night, I might look at coupons and sales to find one around $7.00 or less for the larger family size. Then I have to look at cutting my meal cost for the rest of that day to make up the difference. Lunch might be cheap sandwiches at a meal cost of only $3.00 to offset the dinners higher cost.

Shopping at different stores, what deals can you really get???

I enjoy shopping and saving money, I get more excited to see a total savings of 50% or more than opening gifts on Christmas morning! When Dollar Tree started taking coupons in the Fall of 2012, I was delighted. I was able to stock up on different products at a huge discount! They carry Hefty brand baggies, there are coupons out for $1.50 when you buy 2, that means paying only $0.50 for 2 boxes at the Dollar Tree.
I shop at the hispanic/ ethnic stores for great deals on meats and produce. They put dry pasta on sale regularly, it's usually a 7oz package size but at a sale price of 3 or 4 for $1.00. That make the price right around $0.60 to $0.75 per pound. I have gotten some great deals on cereal there too.
Drug stores are great for finding deals on paper products and cleaning supplies. I have also gotten awesome deals on frozen pizza and Splenda at these stores. Pay attention to their coupon books, you can "stack" at these stores as well for extra savings!
Big box stores, well I don't do much shopping at Walmart, yes they will price match but the hassle you might go through is now worth it. I can get a better deal elsewhere most of the time. Target is a great place to shop, but you have to know your prices and do your homework before you go. They offer coupons to print from online, and mobile coupons. You can "stack" coupons, use a "Red-card" for extra 5% savings, and bring your own bags for $0.05 off for each bag used. Another way to get extra savings is to fill your prescriptions there and sign up for the RX Rewards. For every 5 prescriptions filled, they mail you a 5% savings card. It is only good for 1 day, but multiple purchases in that day. The "Red-card" is either a credit card (you can apply online) or a debit card. The Debit card is easy to get, take a check into the service counter and ask for a Red-card, they will scan the check and issues you a temporary card, the card will come in the mail. You will use it like a debit card, mine used the same PIN as my bank debit card. I have noticed that it takes a few days for it to show up on my bank website, so be careful not to overdraw your account. The best of all, you can stack all these savings together!
Office supply stores can be good to find paper products and coffee. Sometimes you can get deals on cleaning supplies as well. And of course, paper and ink for printing coupons. I also sign up for the rewards programs and get coupons. I used one to buy a paper cutter to cut coupons.

Now, onto coupons!!!

Coupon policies are different for each store. But there are a few basics to remember, Use a coupon if it is a better deal, and don't buy something just because you have a coupon. Buy the products your family is going to use, exception is when you are buying free or close to free for donating. Check the expiration dates, but also if it is with in a day or so after expiration, ask the store if they will accept it. I have been able to use a few coupons for great deals after expiration by asking first.
Most of the time you will only get "face value" for your coupons, that is a $0.50 off when you buy 2 is worth $0.50. But when your store has a doubling policy, that coupon can be worth $1.00 off 2 items. In my area, Dallas/ Ft. Worth, there are 2 stores with doubling and tripling policies but there is a catch!
Tom Thumb, a Safeway store, will double coupons up to $0.50- i.e. worth $1.00, and will triple $0.39 or less coupons. The catch, only the 1st like coupon with double or triple. So, if you have 2 or more coupons that are exactly alike, only 1 will double. Now you can do separate transactions to make both double, but that doesn't work if the sale is a Buy 1 get 1 50% off! You also have to pay close attention to the numbers in the bar code of the coupon, sometimes the coupon might look different but have the same number, in that case the 2nd will not double.
Albertson's is another store the doubles and triples. They triple only $0.35 or less coupons, and double the rest up to $0.50. While they have a benchmark for triples at only $0.35, they triple like coupons up to 4. And I have never seen a coupon with an odd value of $0.39! Albertson's also give a bag credit of $0.05 per bag used, so bring your bags with you to save more.

Stacking??? What's that?

Some store put out their own coupons, you've seen them in the paper, gotten them in the store and can recognize them because they say "Store Coupon" at the top as opposed to "Manufacture Coupon". Some of those stores allow what's called "stacking". It means that if you have a store coupon for a product and a manufacture coupon for the same product, you can use both on the product. Recently, I had a Target coupon for $3.00 off when you bought 3 Bounce Dryer sheets. I also had a manufactures coupon for $3.00 off when you buy 3 Bounce Dryer sheets. Target had small packages containing 34 sheets, for $1.97 each. By stacking the coupons, I got all 3 packages for free.

Where to get coupons???

There are many sources of coupons, most known way is from the Sunday papers. These days you can also print them from on-line locations and get them from the stores themselves. In the stores you will find them at displays, tear pads and blinking machines, and even "peelies" (on the product where you peel and use at the check out.)
You can also get E-coupons, electronic coupons that are loaded to your store rewards cards. I do some of the e-coupons but am very careful about the coupon values. If I load a $0.75 off coupon to my Tom Thumb card and then find a $0.50 off manufactures coupon, it is a better deal to use the paper coupon since I know it will double. I primarily only load coupons with a value of $1.00 or more to my rewards cards. Even then you have to watch for them to be good off 1 product and not off 2 or more. Example, e-coupon value of $1.00 off when you buy 2 is not as good as 2 paper coupons valued at $0.75 off 1.
E-coupons can be loaded through a stores website and sometimes extras through You pick and choose your coupons and then load them, they usually are available for use within 2 hours.
I have asked folks at church to bring me their unused coupons. I even have 1 person that brings me her grocery ad's because she gets ad's for some stores I don't. I can then price compare and plan a shopping trip to a different part of town if the deals are good. That brings us to the next point!

How to read the ad's and find the deals!!

I sit down with a pad of paper and the sale ad's. As I go through the ad's I write down the store name, and then list items that I think we might need, things that are at my PPP or better, and things that I know we need. As I go through each store ad, I make a new column for each store. If I come across an item at a better price at a different store, I write down the new price under that store's column and then go back to the higher price and draw 1 line through it. Only 1 line! If later in the week when I am out shopping and find most of the items I really needed at other stores but still have 1 item listed at a great price at a store I haven't made it to, I can then make a decision if it is worth my time or gas to travel to that store or pick it up where I am at for a higher price. Example; I put tomatoes down for $0.88 per pound at Sprout's, but I have found everything I need at Albertson's and they have tomatoes for $0.99 per pound. I will probably pay the $0.99 a pound for tomatoes and not drive halfway across town to get only tomatoes at the cheaper rate.
The other thing to keep in mind is prices off multi packs. If you buy soda, you will see prices for 6, 12, 24 or even 30 packs. This is where you have to do the math. Take the price and divide it by the count. You might think your getting a better deal buying the larger count but in reality the better deal might be on the medium count package.

So, I have given you just the basics. If you have questions, PLEASE ask. It might, probably will, spark more helpful information.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Spina Bifida..... What is it?????

So, I had promised a few years back to write more about Spina Bifida and what it is. Well, I'm finally getting around to it! 

Wikipedia says, is a developmental congenital disorder caused by the incomplete closing of the embryonic neural tube. Some vertebrae overlying the spinal cord are not fully formed and remain un-fused and open. If the opening is large enough, this allows a portion of the spinal cord to protrude through the opening in the bones. There may or may not be a fluid-filled sac surrounding the spinal cord.

Other neural tube defects include anencephaly, a condition in which the portion of the neural tube that will become the cerebrum does not close, and encephalocele, which results when other parts of the brain remain unfused.

 Spina bifida malformations fall into three categories: spina bifida occulta, spina bifida cystica with meningocele, and spina bifida cystica with myelomeningocele. Spina bifida can be surgically closed after birth, but this does not restore normal function to the affected part of the spinal cord. Spina bifida is one of the most common birth defects with a worldwide incidence of about 1 in every 1000 births.

Myelomeningocele;  This type of spina bifida often results in the most severe complications. In individuals with myelomeningocele, the un-fused portion of the spinal column allows the spinal cord to protrude through an opening. The meningeal membranes that cover the spinal cord form a sac enclosing the spinal elements.

So, now you know what the technical description is.... Andy has Myelomeningocele. It is a hole in the spine and the cord/ nerves come out the hole, and then go back in. They are damaged during pregnancy as the amniotic fluid becomes acidic to those nerves around week 25 of pregnancy. The actual opening happens  during the first month (weeks 3-4) of the pregnancy,  before most women know they are pregnant. Before I knew I was pregnant!

What causes Spina Bifida???

 Lots of different things are believed to be the cause. Medications such as some anticonvulsants, diabetes, having a relative with spina bifida, obesity, and an increased body temperature from fever or external sources such as hot tubs and electric blankets may increase the chances of delivery of a baby with a spina bifida. Research has shown the lack of folic acid (folate) is a contributing factor of neural tube defects, including spina bifida. Supplementation of the mother's diet with folate can reduce the incidence of neural tube defects by about 70%, and can also decrease the severity of these defects when they occur. The recommended amount of folic acid for women of childbearing age and women planning to become pregnant is at least 0.4 mg/day of folic acid from at least three months before conception, and continued for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Women who have already had a baby with spina bifida or other type of neural tube defect, or are taking anticonvulsant medication should take a higher dose of 4–5 mg/day.

Ok, so now we know what it is, how it's caused, but what problems does it create???

Physical signs of spina bifida may include:

Leg weakness and paralysis
Orthopedic abnormalities (i.e., club foot, hip dislocation, scoliosis)
Bladder and bowel control problems, including incontinence, urinary tract infections, and poor renal function, Neurogenic bladder resulting in the need for Intermittent catheterization several times a day to empty the bladder,  constipation requiring medications and sometimes surgical interventions.
Pressure sores and skin irritations
Abnormal eye movement
68% of children with spina bifida have an allergy to latex, ranging from mild to life-threatening. The common use of latex in medical facilities makes this a particularly serious concern.
The spinal cord lesion or the scarring due to surgery may result in a tethered spinal cord. In some individuals, this causes significant traction and stress on the spinal cord and can lead to a worsening of associated paralysis, scoliosis, back pain, and worsening bowel and/or bladder function.

Neurological complications

Many individuals with spina bifida have an associated abnormality of the cerebellum, called the Arnold Chiari II malformation. In affected individuals, the back portion of the brain is displaced from the back of the skull down into the upper neck. In about 90% of the people with myelomeningocele, hydrocephalus also occurs because the displaced cerebellum interferes with the normal flow of cerebrospinal fluid, causing an excess of the fluid to accumulate. In fact, the cerebellum also tends to be smaller in individuals with spina bifida, especially for those with higher lesion levels.The corpus callosum is abnormally developed in 70-90% of individuals with spina bifida myelomeningocele; this impacts the communication processes between the left and right brain hemispheres.
Several studies have demonstrated difficulties with executive functions in youth with spina bifida, with greater deficits observed in youth with shunted hydrocephalus. Unlike typically developing children, youths with spina bifida do not tend to improve in their executive functioning as they grow older. Specific areas of difficulty in some individuals include planning, organizing, initiating, and working memory. Problem-solving, abstraction, and visual planning may also be impaired.
Individuals with spina bifida tend to have better reading skills than mathematics skills. Children and adults with spina bifida have stronger abilities in reading accuracy than in reading comprehension. Comprehension may be especially impaired for text that requires an abstract synthesis of information rather than a more literal understanding. Individuals with spina bifida may have difficulty with writing due to deficits in fine motor control and working memory.

Social complications

 Compared to typically developing children, youths with spina bifida may have fewer friends and spend less time with peers. They may be more passive in social situations. These children have also reported feeling less close to their friends and feel they do not receive as much emotional support from their friendships. However, not all studies have found social difficulties in these youth compared with their typically developing peers.


There is no known cure for nerve damage caused by spina bifida.To prevent further damage of the nervous tissue and to prevent infection, pediatric neurosurgeons operate to close the opening on the back. The spinal cord and its nerve roots are put back inside the spine and covered with meninges. In addition, a shunt may be surgically installed to provide a continuous drain for the excess cerebrospinal fluid produced in the brain, as happens with hydrocephalus. Shunts most commonly drain into the abdomen or chest wall. However, if spina bifida is detected during pregnancy, then open or minimally-invasive fetal surgery can be performed.
Most individuals with myelomeningocele will need periodic evaluations by a variety of specialists:
  • Physiatrists coordinate the rehabilitation efforts of different therapists and prescribe specific therapies, adaptive equipment, or medications to encourage as high of a functional performance within the community as possible.
  • Orthopedists monitor growth and development of bones, muscles, and joints.
  • Neurosurgeons perform surgeries at birth and manage complications associated with tethered cord and hydrocephalus.
  • Neurologists treat and evaluate nervous system issues, such as seizure disorders.
  • Urologists to address kidney, bladder, and bowel dysfunction - many will need to manage their urinary systems with a program of catheterization. Bowel management programs aimed at improving elimination are also designed.
  • Ophthalmologists evaluate and treat complications of the eyes.
  • Orthotists design and customize various types of assistive technology, including braces, crutches, walkers, and wheelchairs to aid in mobility. As a general rule, the higher the level of the spina bifida defect, the more severe the paralysis, but paralysis does not always occur. Thus, those with low levels may need only short leg braces, whereas those with higher levels do best with a wheelchair, and some may be able to walk unaided.
  • Physical therapists, occupational therapists, psychologists, and speech/language pathologists aid in rehabilitative therapies and increase independent living skills.

Spina bifida is one of the most common birth defects, with an average worldwide incidence of one to two cases per 1000 births, but certain populations have a significantly greater risk.
In the United States, the average incidence is 0.7 per 1000 live births. The incidence is higher on the East Coast than on the West Coast, and higher in white people (one case per 1000 live births) than in black people (0.1–0.4 case per 1000 live births). Immigrants from Ireland have a higher incidence of spina bifida than do natives. Highest rates of the defect in the USA can be found in Hispanic youth. Although, the rates are only partially accounted for because some fetuses are aborted when tests show signs of spina bifida.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Return to blogging! Now what?

Now that I have returned to the world of blogging, I wonder if this title/ blog name is the best? I can't seem to think of our family in any other way than, "The RN travel family!" So, for now, I am keeping the name the same. So many of our friends and family think of us as always on the move. We still are on the go alot, just more locally instead of cross-country!

 Storms out this afternoon, golf trip canceled! Andy was to have some simple lessons at Scottish Rite at 6:30 after a practice time at Top Golf. He is participating in a tournament on June 17th. I am adding a link to his fund raiser page! We have been trying to get him involved in sports/ activities that challenge him and help him gain confidence. He has been having trouble with a self-defeating attitude. Thinking that because of his Spina Bifida, that he can't do everything the same as other kids, so why bother. NO MORE! He is a highly intelligent kid that should be able to make his own way of participating.

So, other than all that.... This week is going ok. We have ants getting into the house, landlord supposed to come spray! AWANA at church is finishing up, now onto the summer program! I keep adding items to the shopping list, no idea when I will get to the store to get anything. Andy's birthday is on Friday, not made any special plans yet. I haven't even figured out what to get him! Ryan is easy, but Andy...... no so easy. I need to start on dinner, originally we were going to eat out in between golfing stops.

Tomorrow, I will try to focus on some of my frugal tips and shopping helps. I have been asked by different people to teach a class, so I guess if I start putting it together on here, you all can let me know what you think.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Change is in the air!!!

They tired of traveling!!!
So, I know that I have not been doing very good at updating and posting, but life has been changing..... A LOT!
After 18 addresses in the last 6 years, we have decided to settle down, in 1 location! We made 3 trips to the Dallas area over the last 6 years. We have ended up at the same church every time, it's family.
In January, we decided to take a leap of faith. We wanted to settle down and stay in Dallas, but Marty was having trouble finding a job. Some said he couldn't start soon enough, others just couldn't seem to get the right people to look at the right paperwork. So in March, we said we were just going to make a way to do it. We cashed out an old 401K and rented a townhouse. Moved in the 1st weekend in April. Marty got a permanent job and started within 2 weeks.

While for the last 8 years he has been working in Pediatrics, he found a job in an adult day surgery clinic. He works 5 days a week, 6am to 2:30pm. Has 1 day a week he is on-call and works late if needed, and will have 1 weekend every 7-8 weeks on call. It's been hard getting used to the different lifestyle. We all are not used to him being gone every day of the week. He is getting used to being busy everyday!

Andy has been participating is recreational therapies and activities. First there was Tues night dance class for 8 weeks, this week is the last week for Baseball every Saturday morning, and starts Tuesday night Golf lessons for the summer! Most of the activities have been offered through Scottish Rite Hospital at no cost. The Baseball is a Miracle League for $40 for the 6 week season. He also is going to Spina Bifida camp in June. With all the traveling we have done over the last 6 years, we have never been in a location long enough to sign him up and stay long enough for him to attend.

Both boys will be attending pre-teen church camp this July! I am working with a few of the adults that are going to handle Andy's needs while there. 

Ryan took a profession of faith and was baptized back in December! Both boys have now been saved and baptized at the same church by the same pastor. That pastor decided to move on, and the church deacons asked him to move on, back in February. Marty and I have plugged ourselves in to lots at church. Marty is on the search committee for a new pastor, is a team leader for yard mowing/ maintenance. And I am on a few committees, Children's and finance. I became the Awana secretary in January and take care of the choir music closet and prepare the choir folders for Sunday service. I was nominated and appointed the yard sale chair person as well! Soooooo much to do!

My folks are currently in town visiting, staying in their RV. It has been 2 1/2 years since we had seen my dad and 1 1/2 years since my mom was able to make a trip to visit us. They are only going to be around for these 2 weeks or so, but it's great to see how happy the boys are to spend time with them.
Last year, we got an assignment in Wisconsin. We spent 6 months up there and were able to go spend about 10 weekends with Marty's folks. We took the opportunity to clean out some of the storage, put some things into storage and get some items out of the storage. I still need to plan a way to get back up there and completely empty it out and bring it all down here!

Ok, I think that is enough of an update for 1 day! I have a little more time to update this blog now, and plan on doing so! I have been up-ing my game when it comes to couponing and frugal living, so I will share more on that too. Bye for now!