Moving Right Along ~ by Sam

Well, we have not kept up as well as we should with our blog.  I’ll see what we can do about that.  I want the kids to post more, but they are all so busy!  It’s nearing the end of the schoolyear, and we have one going in to middle school and one going in to high school in the Fall, so that’s been two new schools to find.  We have had really great luck with that.  Hallie will be attending her #1 choice high school, a visual arts magnet, and Kaia will be attending her #1 choice middle school (the same one Justice attended), which has a phenomenal music program.  So, now that they have been accepted and all of the paperwork has been submitted and they are officially enrolled, we call all relax a little…I mean, except for those of us who have to prepare for middle and elementary school culminations, or take AP exams, and finals, and turn in project, and participate in final concerts, dance performances and other school events.  Eh, whaddaya gonna do?  We’ll rest when we’re dead!

Justice was accepted to the California State Summer School for the Arts, which is a HUGE honour.  She will be going away for 4 weeks over the Summer to study music.  I am not sure how we will get along without her, but she won’t be far away…and she is a big girl (16…going on 17)…but, you know…I’m the mama.  I will NEVER be ready.  *sigh*  So excited for her.

Hallie will again be attending Camp Bravo, a theatre camp, for one week during the summer, thanks to exceedingly generous grandparents, and Kaia will be attending Twilight Camp (a Girl Scout day camp) for one week, as well.  I am glad they will all get to do things they love over the summer.  Oh, and Kaia won that scholarship for private music lessons, too.  It’s going to be a great Summer.

It sounds like we will be sticking close to home over the summer, which will give us time to work on some home improvement projects, as well as save us a little money.  You know how I feel about saving money.  $$$ 🙂

Recently, we were able to secure health insurance again.  It is not cheap, but it’s hard to put a price on peace of mind.  I have chronic health problems, and, in September of 2012, I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia.  But I haven’t really had a regular doctor, so it was just like…oh.  um…okay.  I mean, I did a lot of research on my own, and I have tried some strategies (some helped, some didn’t), the clinic doctor who diagnosed me tried me on a couple of medications that did not work out for me, before hitting on one that helps a little bit.  So, that’s something.  Anyway, having insurance means that a) I can have regular checkups.  I had my first mammogram since 2008 or 9.  Given my family history, I should have been having them much more often, but, to be honest, I was afraid they’s find something, and then I would have a preexisting condition and be uninsurable.  Now, I don’t have to worry about stuff like that.  b) We are able to explore things a little more in depth, confirm my diagnosis, and make a treatment plan.  I have had quite a lot of lab work done ~ something I could not afford to do without insurance ~ and am awaiting results (first batch were okay; second round of tests were just started today, so we’ll see).  In short: Insurance is a big expense, but, in my opinion, totally worth it.  The next step is for Shane and each of the girls to schedule a physical, because it has just been too long since they’ve done that.

Okay.  So.  I really came to talk about a couple of nice, money-saving things we have done recently:

1. I found a cute little shelf to hang on the wall in Justice’s powder room.  It cost $2.99 at the thrift store, and it actually cleaned up nicely.  We were planning to paint it, but, after cleaning it up with a little furniture polish, we are just going to hang it, and decide whether or not to paint it when we paint the room.

2. I bought an avocado tree.  It was on sale for about seventeen bucks, I think, which seemed like a really good deal.  I got a smaller variety, which will top out at 20′ high and about 10′ wide, since we have a small yard.  We originally worried about planting such a big tree int he back yard, because we didn’t want to lose much of our tiny little space, but we decided a) as it grows, it will provide some shade, and help cut energy costs, b) we love avocados, eat them often, and they are expensive, c) we really miss the avocado tree we had at the little house we rented before we bought this one, and d) it’s not like we’re in the back yard playing football.  Trees are nice.

I have also been reexamining how we shop.  I kind of fell in to that thing of shopping at stores with which I am most familiar, even if they are far away, and not the cheapest option.  I do still like to shop farmers markets when I can.  I prefer to buy local produce, and support local farmers, and, often, I can find organically grown fruits and veggies there at a better price than I would find them at the store.  It’s not always the cheapest option, but I think it is important.  So, I am trying to look for deals there, and shop in season, which helps.  I have also discovered that Costco is stocking more organically grown fruits and vegetables.  I have been getting our bananas and sweet potatoes there, because they have the best price I have found on organically grown ones.

Now, I will admit, I don’t always buy organic.  I know it is best for the environment and for our health, but, sometimes, it is just not in our budget.  That’s why I like when we can trade produce with friends who garden at home.  It saves us a lot of money, so we can feel a little better about spending a tad more on what we do buy.  This season, we are taking a break from the vegetable garden due to the rampant pest problem (‘though I keep being very tempted to pick up some zucchini plants), but we will still have fruit to trade.  Mulberries are already coming in, and it looks like we are going to have TONS of guava, so, if you’re local let me know if you want to trade.  Some time ago, I found a list online of what they call the “dirty dozen,” which lists the 12 most heavily sprayed crops.  The idea is, if you can’t afford to buy all organic, you might want to look for organically grown varieties of those 12 fruits and veggies.  I will try to come back and post a link.  I printed up a list to keep in my wallet, but I lost it like 3 wallets ago, so I should probably print it up again.

I have been shopping at the 99 cents only store for some groceries (surprisingly, I often find organically grown salad greens and berries there), and the local Food 4 Less, which is the grocery store nearest our house.  They have great deals on some staples, and I save gas by not having to drive to a farther away store, which is good for the budget and the environment.

We are in a drought situation here in sunny So-Cal, so we have had to become rather miserly about our watering.  My top priorities are the fruit trees, the bananas, the raspberry and blueberry, the herbs…you know, the stuff we will eat.  I will admit that the roses, jasmine and the little flower garden along the driveway and at the back wall get watered.  I water the flowers once a week, and most of them were chosen because they don’t require a ton of water and do well in our local conditions.  The roses were here when we moved in.  I don’t know if I would have chosen to plant roses, but they are beautiful, and we often cut and bring them inside, or bring them to others as gifts. In the longrun, they are saving us the expense of buying cut flowers, and I really can’t see a reason not to keep them.  The grass, on the other hand, is really not a priority. I mean, grass is nice, but, let’s face it, during a drought, a nice lawn isn’t all that necessary.  Our front lawn is doing okay, because we have sprinklers set on a timer to water the mulberrry and guava trees that also grow there.  The grass just happens to get water, too.  The backyard looks a little sketchy, I’ll admit.  I do give it a little water ever now and then, because I don’t want a bunch of dead grass out there creating a fire hazard, but I guess I am trying to strike a balance.  Our water bill is still quite low, so I guess we are doing okay.

I guess that’s it for now.  I recently purchased a deal on LivingSocial to have all of the ducts and vents in our house cleaned for $49.  I also purchased two music lesson packages ($99 for 8 lessons) for Hallie and me.  Hallie has been wanting private voice lessons, so that’s how hers will be used, and I am going to pick up an instrument, because I have been told that, for the sake of my brain health, I need to keep challenging myself to learn new and unfamiliar skills.  Stay tuned for more news about that latest development!


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