Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Reader Survey

Everyone seems to be talking about what they no longer spend money on, or how they are cutting back. Yet I know that, no matter how tight our finances are, there are certain things we choose to spend money on-- whether for luxury, idealism, or just-can't-live-without-it-ness. I'm really curious what these items are for other people.

So, what do you spend money on?

I'll go first. I buy fancy dish soap. It costs at least twice as much as the regular stuff, but it looks nice, smells nice, is easy on the skin and environment, and therefore improves my quality of life-- we don't have a dishwasher and so we spend a significant amount of time standing there washing dishes, smelling the soap. It's completely worth the extra $5 every 2-3 months.

On the more principled end of things, I buy nicer jewelry and shoes. This doesn't mean that I actually spend more money than most people altogether on these things. I have been known to save for two years, without having a watch to wear, in favor of buying the one I really wanted. Same with a pair of $100 earrings-- I just didn't buy any other jewelry that year (by the way, these would be next on my list.) I don't own many pairs of shoes, but almost all of them cost over $100. There is something very essential to me about having really good shoes that hold up and are comfortable but of course, stylish. And no buyer's remorse.... The other thing is that if I do happen to decide that I don't want to own something anymore, it still has value-- even after being used-- and I sell it on ebay!

In the can't-live-without category, Jeff and I love to eat out. We have a very small budget for this each month, and about 70% of our meals out are happy hour deals. If you are local, the best happy hour I have ever found is here. Whenever extra money comes our way, our first impulse is to go out to eat! We don't do fast food, and I try not to eat at places that serve food I could easily make at home, so we have to be super choosy about where we go to spend our precious dinner money. We could save good amount of money by never going out to eat, but we just enjoy it way too much to stop.

Addendum: For you Angelinos, our favorite happy hour spots there were Cafe Santorini and Ciudad (this one was actually my favorite restaurant, period)-- you should check them out!

There are so many things that we have to spend money on, but I am so curious what other people like to spend their money on, even when we're feeling some financial strain. Please share!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

"Failure" is the best medicine.

I have spent an embarrassing amount of time today on a blog dedicated to mistakes. I haven't laughed so hard in a long time, and although it may not be funny to everyone out there, I would like to share it in the hopes that at least someone will be as delighted as I am by this nonsense. That is, assuming that I am not the very last person to have found this site.

There were so many great videos to choose from......

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Mullins Family News Headlines:
"Toddler excels in preschool environment, Mother cries herself to sleep."
That pretty much says it all, but I suppose I can elaborate a little. We had a special breakfast for Mimi this morning, and she was SO excited for her big day at preschool. Once we got there, it was hard to get her to give us a hug goodbye, she kept pointing at things saying "I need to go do that right now!" Jeff picked her up this afternoon, and the teacher said she did "fantastic," which is now also Amelia's favorite word for the day. She stuck close by the teachers for the first half, then branched out on her own and made some friends. When I asked her whether the assistant said anything to her today, she spoke in a loud, direct whisper-- "Be quiet!" Somehow it's nice to know I'm not the only one... I greeted her at home with a Big Girl bouquet which she dragged around proudly until nap time.

As for me, I was so proud of Amelia, yet caught off guard by feelings of... devastation? This whole preschool thing has been a giant mixed bag from the beginning. I hadn't ever considered sending her before the age of four, and even then I wasn't sure I wanted her to be away from me at such a young age. Alas, so many of the things that I had imagined for my experience as a mother have turned out otherwise. I had wanted to have another child by now. I had wanted to have plenty of energy to spend on those children. I had wanted to be very healthy, not tired and sick. (See this post for more details.) Things haven't turned out that way, and it's necessary to move on-- but now and then I am blindsided by grief over these losses. In the meantime, Jeff's parents are once again taking care of us in incredible ways, and offered to sponsor her through preschool for a year in order to give me the opportunity to rest and recover, and for Amelia to have some great experiences and become more independent. We are completely pleased with the opportunity. But I still came home and cried a lot. And then I took a nice, long nap-- proving that this is working already!

Monday, January 05, 2009

A Big Week for Mimi

Today we went and visited Amelia's preschool classroom, and met her teacher. We have been talking about this for months, and her visit to the classroom was, I believe, everything she had hoped for. She spent about an hour with her teacher learning about the different types of "work" she'll be doing in class. Tomorrow she will begin with her regular schedule, four hours per day, four days per week. Of course, I have had all sorts of feelings about this big step. The visit today really helped me feel great about the transition, although I still feel a little anxiety about having her away from me on a regular basis for the first time.

The school she is going to is a Montessori, about fifteen minutes away. We visited several schools, and this one was very different in that Amelia seemed comfortable and excited to be there right away when we visited in October. I love all of the nature in the classroom, the gardening the children do and the huge play area outside. And, of course, the lack of plastic toys and that sort of junk. I am really happy that the classes are mixed in ages, so there will be older children taking Amelia under their wings. Jeff and I both appreciate the Montessori approach, allowing children to self-direct as they learn what interests them most, and having their activities be real-life activities-- thus termed "work." Today Amelia had a blast washing her face with cotton balls and carrying water from the bathroom in a pitcher to wash her hands in the old fashioned way.
Checking out everything in the room with her teacher.

Lately Amelia has had a lot more anxiety about being separated from me, so today's solo session with the teacher was very helpful. I am so excited for her to be able to spend regular time with other children. I never imagined that she would still be an only child at this age, but I am thankful for this option to give her more opportunity to learn to share her space and relate to her peers. As for me, I am a little giddy at the prospect of having four morninga a week to devote to whatever seems like the appropriate priority at the time-- whether it is laundry, a doctor's appt., work, or some extra sleep!
Finding her cubby-- it was really hard to get her to say goodbye and walk away from all of the excitement.

Growing up has been the big theme for Amelia this week. I didn't like the idea of sending her to preschool and then bringing her home to have her nap in a crib. We took it out, and I made a her cool "big kid" sleeping space. It took a little getting used to, but she is super proud of herself and seems to even be sleeping very well in it (this will be the fourth night this week, I may be speaking a little too soon.) I also got rid of her tin plates and other "baby" items. We'll let her keep her sippy cup for a few more weeks.... This is all a bit surreal, but I'm happy for her and am looking forward to this new season for our family. Think of Mimi this week, I'm sure she could use your thoughts and prayers as she takes these growing-up steps this week.
Mimi saying "Preschool!" to the camera.