Thursday, May 28, 2009

Kids Bowl for Free ( and grown-ups hardly have to pay anything!)

Our wonderful speech therapist sent me an email about this a while back but I paid no attention. However, our fourth grader is having a field trip to a local bowling alley and after working out all of the necessary accommodations/modifications, I had bowling on the brain. (When it seemed that we couldn't work things out for him to be able to participate because the 2nd floor alley didn't have ball ramps, we did a hard sell on why he should really choose something else. As soon as we had him convinced, everything came together so that he could participate with his class.)

Luckily, I'd saved the email (because I never think to throw anything out until there is just no other option) and found it quite easily. The alley closest to our home, which I know is accessible and has a ball ramp, was participating. I could sign up all of our kids (age limit 15 years) for two free games a day. I was thinking of rainy days in summer or days when I just need to take them somewhere with air conditioning. After I registered, an offer appeared for a $23.95 bowling pass for up to 4 adults (family members, babysitters, etc) for the whole summer. Since I didn't want to just sit and watch the kids bowl, I decided that it was worth it. Even if we just go a few times (or twice as a whole family) it'll work out.

The website shows locations across the country. You might want to check it out.

More money saving ideas are on Frugal Fridays at Life as Mom:

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Safety Fair

We just came back from the local safety fair in our neighborhood. I was looking at programs offered by our local Children's Hospital and found that they were doing bike helmet fittings (and giving free bike helmets) throughout the city. I put it on our calendar and asked my husband to take the twins because I hadn't gotten them helmets since they were in preschool. Then when I saw the neighbor down the street teaching her kids to ride big bikes I printed out another notice and ran it out to her. Nerdy, I know, but I would have appreciated it if someone did so for me.

On my way back from an appointment I stopped in and hung out with them for a while. It was really nice. The police brought motorcycles and their bomb squad truck and local service organizations and agencies had tables inside. We checked out the Cub Scout table and the kids were given hot dogs, popcorn, and lemonade from the Kiwanis. We were even able to get i.d. kits with instructions on how to save a dna sample (which I pray that we'll never need!)

This is an annual event, but we've never made it up there before. We got to see families that the kids used to go to preschool with and the boys really enjoyed themselves. Now they're checking the yard for rocks & sticks before Daddy cuts the grass for the first time this season.

Friday, April 17, 2009

What free camps are in your area?

Search Google & local newspapers for free camps for your kids this summer. Our three youngest really enjoyed a three week day camp at our Children's Institute and it was specially designed to accomodate a variety of needs. In our area, the water treatment plant offers a camp that teaches kids the science behind purification of water in an environmentally friendly way. There is also a free camp for kids called "A Starfish can grow an arm, why can't I?" We are looking into a video game design camp for our oldest -- it's sponsored by local technology councils and is free of charge.As you go to the outskirts of our community, there are even more choices available.

For more Frugal Friday tips, go to Life as Mom:

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Ways to get Health Care at little or no cost (or get paid for going to the doctor)!

There are ways to get health care even when you are under insured or uninsured. Some will only work for you if you live close to a large city, but some can apply to anyone. These suggestions are not meant to encourage you to take any medications you are uncomfortable with.

1. I'd encourage anyone with children to look into your state's Children's Health Insurance Program. It can usually be found just by googling your state name and the phrase. In Pennsylvania, all children under age 19 are eligible. For those with lower incomes, there are no co pays. There is a sliding scale for fees as your income goes up.

2. Check out the websites of stores nearby to see if they offer deals on prescriptions. Some stores even offer free supplies of basic antibiotics, while others have a wide variety of medications for $4 or less. Even if you are not taking prescription meds, check to see if any of your over the counter medications are listed. Sometimes you can get a better deal that way.

3. Look into clinical trials and studies. I'm not suggesting that you or your children become guinea pigs for questionable medications. But there are many studies that need control subjects and will give a physical as part of the screening process. There are studies that are looking at medications that you may already be comfortable with, but a new aspect is being studied. Other studies may not involve taking medication at all, but simply charting symptoms.

For example, my children were part of a study that was looking at how/why colds get passed between family members and why some children develop ear infections while some did not. This meant that the kids got very good physicals and hearing tests and then were seen every other week by a nurse practitioner. If they did develop colds or ear infections, standard medications were provided to us at no charge. I just had to chart symptoms and call if someone in the house got a cold. In return, we had nurses and doctors who made house calls and the same medications that I would have given my children had we not been part of the study. Some studies even pay a stipend for your time and effort. We did another ear infection tracking study when Daniel was an infant. I wanted him to get more checkups than I could manage with co pays and parking at the time. We did a study that was looking at ear infections in infants/toddlers and the small stipend helped pay for his diapers and a stop at the coffee shop for me.

I've found studies that interested me at, on posters while riding the bus, and tear-off sheets at the doctor's office. I've even found a few just by listening to the radio. If you want to be a control subject and not take a medication, search for "healthy volunteers". If you want treatment (medication or other interventions like therapy) for a condition, search for the name of your illness. I've also found allergy medication studies on Craigslist.

4. Schools and grad programs. Friends have been particularly pleased with cleanings and treatments from local dental schools. It's not free, but the cost is much lower than a private dentist. If someone in your family needs therapy (speech, physical, occupational, etc.), you may want to see if graduate students under supervision of a licensed therapist need people to treat. Try a search on the closest college or professional schools in your area to get started, then call and ask.

5. Free public health screenings. Check the bulletin boards at your library or the community events section of your newspaper. Many organizations such as the Y sponsor health screenings with services such as checking for diabetes or high blood pressure. Your local health department may have a website with scheduled events as well.

6. Speaking of your local health department, ours offers vaccinations to the public. At the beginning of the school year, they hold "catch up clinics" for kids whose immunizations aren't up to date. Some of these are no cost and some are very low cost. Our health department also offers visiting maternal and child nurses as well as support for children with special needs. Yours may have some great programs as well -- check it out!

For more great ideas, check out Works for Me Wednesday at We are THAT Family

and Frugal Fridays at Biblical Womanhood

Saturday, February 28, 2009

10 Things for which I'm Thankful

I was just thinking about some of the many things for which I'm thankful.

1. The ability to study the word of God on my own and understand the plans that He has revealed to us. I realize that copies of the Bible and the ability to read are not available to all girls across the globe.

2. The family that brought me up valuing Christ's church and encouraging me to make sure that my faith was my own.

3. The safe places I lived when growing up. Both my parents' house and our neighborhood gave me a sense of security that too many children lack.

4. The time that I've been able to have with both of my parents. When my mom died, I was torn between losing her for myself and my children's loss of a grandmother.

5. The good teachers that I had growing up and in college. Now that I'm a mom and in the education field, I appreciate this so much. I've tried to look up some of my old teachers to say thank you, but not all of them are so easily located.

6. The supports that made going to college possible. I do not believe that I "deserved" college through my own virtues and that other kids did not. I was blessed with the opportunity to have a supportive family and scholarships (from skills my teachers taught me). Mr. Miller, thank you for teaching me bassoon when I got bored with the saxophone!

7. Friends that I've been blessed with throughout childhood and adulthood. Even when my mom died a couple of years ago friends from high school reached out to me. I have friends now who share the same faith and with whom I feel I can share just about anything.

8. Skills that I've picked up from work experiences. Thank you, previous babysitting and nanny employers, for letting me practice on your kids before I had mine. Now that my oldest is past the age when I cared for others' children, I wish that I had even more experience. My workstudy job in college was in the Computer Center -- I was sure that would be a disaster, but I learned so much and gained in confidence as well. Even my short stints in a hospital and assisted living helped me when I needed to care for my mom. Now I am in a job that sends me to trainings and task forces that I never had to time to be part of before -- I love this part of the job!

9. My family. I'll have been married for 16 years soon to the guy I fell in love with when we were working on our college production of The Good Doctor. I have 4 boys who were wonderful babies and are too quickly becoming young men. I've been able to share with and learn so much from them and received plenty of love along the way. I hope that I'll be able to instill in them some level of the love and security my mom gave me.

10. The medical care available to me and mine. I've often thanked God for letting me and my children live in a place where both standard and specialized medical care is readily available. I've told my husband that if we ever had to move, I'm sure that we could settle in with a new church congregation and that we'd work things out for school for the kids. But what would be the most unsettling thing is finding new medical care for the kids. I don't know how I would have made it through some of the crises with out the encouragement of Dr. Chaudhari and Ann and Dr. Amy and our Early Intervention specialists. Thank you all for being there and telling me I was doing a good job when things seemed so bleak.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Planning for Summer

Well, we're in full planning mode for summer now. Daniel & Nathan went to the Summer Camp Expo with me and we found some more interesting programs. The emails to plan for sleep-away camp have started and the weeks are getting blocked off on the calendar. All of the boys will go to a week of sleep-away camp with us and we hope that the 3 youngest can get into the 3 week day camp that they attended last year.

I'm looking into the Digi-Pen camp now that Drew is old enough. I'd love to get him into the Computing Workshop summer program at Duquesne, but our school district won't approve funding for it and it's a bit (no, a lot) too expensive for us to manage on our own. So I'll keep my fingers crossed for Digi-Pen & keep my eyes open for other opportunities. Drew will also be old enough for some of the high school/teen summer programs locally this year, but I don't know as much about those yet.

I'm not sure if we'll go to any medical conferences this summer -- the one I'm interested in is right before sleep-away camp. We're not due to go back to the NIH until next year, which disappointed the kids quite a bit. They love the Children's Inn and the rest of the place as well.

I should only have to present at a couple of workshops during the break. My goals are to keep clearing out stuff that the boys have outgrown, replace the carpeting, and rearrange the furniture. It seems like during the school/work year it's just a matter of scrambling from one week to the next which is really my only conflict about being at work. I also want to put my garden in again. I stopped when my mom was sick and didn't pick it back up, so this year I think that I'll make half the previous size & only put in the things that we totally loved. Probably just basil, tomatoes, watermelon & cantaloupes, squash, zukes, & cucumbers. If things get too hectic then I'll see if we can get added to the CSA delivery route.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

A great day

We are blessed to have 3 different congregations within an hour's drive and we have worshipped with all of them at one time or another. We just started meeting with the church at Eastside -- we thought that we would stay with the group we knew and loved at Tomlinson Run, but there were several weeks in the last month that we could either take the parkway to meet at Eastside or not be able to go to services at all. Eastside just started meeting in the last year and we were meaning to go and visit. After gathering with them for several weeks when the roads were bad, we realized what a weight it was off of our shoulders to cut our drive time in half. I think that if we had visited Eastside in the middle of the gas price spikes, we might have made the decision sooner. But I am glad for the time that we spent with our sisters and brothers at TR.

Anyway, Bible class and worship were both very intense, in a good way. We are studying the Psalms in class and then a sermon on what the scriptures have to say about fasting. Both parts really encouraged me to concentrate and that's just what I need. Sometimes I have trouble staying "on task" when I'm trying to make sure that all four of my boys are doing what they should. Then I feel like apologizing to God for not being totally focused on worshipping Him. Other moms can make it look so easy!

I made sure that I planned for an easy meal when we came home so that my guys could watch the game. I'd put the barbeque chicken in one crockpot and green beans with bacon & onion in a smaller one. I got everything ready for the swiss & bacon (hmm - a recurring theme here to get plant materials consumed) potatoes and the honey butter biscuits. I'd have pineapple for fruit. Before I got dressed for services, the chicken and green beans were already starting to smell great.

We nearly had a mutiny on our hands after worship. We were invited over to eat with two families, but I'd already fixed our dinner at home. Eric and I conferred about picking up the crockpots and bringing them over to our closest invitation, but we ended up just letting our oldest go -- it was to my friends' who have twins his age.

So right now, the three littles are enjoying their weekend video game/computer time and Eric is parked in front of the tv -- it's Steelers 10, Cardinals 7.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

My husband is so sweet

I'm taking a class in Family Development to get that credential. I had class yesterday and although I did my assignments, my printer at work decided not to recognize me or my officemates. I tried to print at home and could only get the top section of each page to print. I know that there's something you're supposed to do when that happens, but I couldn't remember what. So I just emailed my assignments to my advisors.

When I got to class, I heard that one of my advisors would be there late in the day to go over portfolios with us. I didn't want to be there without my papers to go over and I didn't have my laptop or even my flashdrive with me. So I couldn't ask someone to print the stuff out quickly and I couldn't leave to go to the library because you don't leave this class -- they serve breakfast and lunch so that you can be there all day and get your course hours in. We just get a couple of 15 minute breaks and that wouldn't have been long enough for me to have gotten somewhere and back.

I called my husband on a break and told him what had happened. My class was being held downtown and he works about 7 blocks away. Even though he already had to leave work early to be home when the kids got off the bus, that sweet man printed my stuff out and left work with enough time to bring the papers over to my class. And it was COLD here!

He is so sweet!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Tuition Exchange Programs

We have 4 children and would like for all of them to attend some form of post-secondary education. Although they can each qualify for $10,000 a year for 4 years from the Pittsburgh Promise if they choose a qualifying institution, I'm thinking that will be something to use for room/board/books and won't really do much for tuition.

Although I wouldn't press moms to work if they are able to be at home, our family had reached the point where this was the right decision for us. One of the great things about my job (besides having the same schedule as my children) is that they all qualify for free tuition at the University of Pittsburgh. It doesn't matter if it's Mom or Dad (or another guardian) who works there as long as you are able to claim the child as your dependent.

That gives them a choice of campuses and a huge selection of majors, but it doesn't mean that it will match the choices all four boys will make. An even greater benefit is the Tuition Exchange Program -- a list of colleges that will honor Pitt's tuition program for employee's dependents if they have been employed for at least 12 months. I've heard of many people taking a job in the bookstore or cafe for a low stress & limited commitment way to help their kids go to school. There are variations on the program, but it sure gives my kids a lot more options if they want to minimize the cost of their higher education.

Check out the link at

For even more money saving ideas, check out Frugal Fridays on Crystal's blog

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Lots of Catching Up

Well, we had a full day off yesterday which is a whole lot easier on me than a 2 hour delay. With a 2 hour delay I just lose time from work and don't really have time to get much done at home and I have to get everyone off to school when they think that they should actually be able to read one more chapter, sleep 10 more minutes, or turn on the tv.

Since we had a whole day off yesterday I did 9 loads of laundry and got them all folded/hung up/sorted/delivered and mostly put away. But with 6 of us, that's just a dent in the great wall of laundry that exists -- I went about a week without being able to use my washer. I stopped having other people do the wash because they don't seem to notice that things must be pretreated and checked before drying.

When I got back to work, there were so many requests that I couldn't get halfway through and I am out of the office for a class tomorrow. To top it off, we already got an email letting us know that there will be a 2 hour delay on Monday (for the safety of the students). No matter which way the SuperBowl goes, there will likely be some drivers out who should have stayed in bed. So I won't even be able to catch up with a full day Monday.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Best Bow & "Arrows" for kids

We have 4 boys who love the archery range at camp -- it was my favorite, too. We let our oldest have a bow of his own when he was 10, but he was only allowed to practice when his little brothers were safely in the house. The littlest ones' birthday was coming up and we found a great gift -- marshmallow bows & arrows!

They use miniature marshmallows which makes them far superior to the Nerf products. I can get a bag of ammo for $1 and if they're a little stale, so much the better. The bows come in two designs - classic or camo -- so we got one of each for the twins. Check out the video here:

We got ours on sale at and we are thinking of getting the marshmallow guns for the two oldest (and maybe a couple of more for Mom and Dad). The guns look more like a loaded caulk gun than anything you'd be scared for your teenager to carry around. I would have loved having this gift when I worked at the Computer Center at Chatham. However, working in an elementary school means that if I brought this in, it'd be confiscated 'til the end of the year...

For more great ideas, check out Works For Me Wednesday at Rocks in My Dryer!

The Steelers had a schedule conflict

Yesterday we had an inservice day that I wasn't too excited about, but it was great! The only problem was that when it was put on the calendar, some of the Pittsburgh Steelers were supposed to be there, but it seems they had a conflict and just had to be in Tampa :) So Franco Harris was there live and rest were video. I was thrilled to see a clip of my oldest playing violin in the first Pittsburgh Promise video and I hope that they'll make it available on the website so that my husband can see it. We had been invited to come film a clip as a family this summer but it was when my husband came down with pneumonia so to at least see Drew on screen was quite a surprise. There's an article about the event here: and on the school website here:

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Washer Delay Cycles

are good for more than just managing the time that you run the washer. They're also good for the clothes that you find need pretreating for longer than just the 5 minutes when your kids finally bring their laundry down. Stuff that you know needs a while with pretreater can be tossed aside for the last load after you spray it. Then put it on delay for however long you have -- I usually do an 8 or 12 hour delay so that I can put it in the dryer the next morning.

This does two things for me -- the stains have a better chance of coming out & I only have to double check one or two loads to see if stains remained before drying the laundry.

For more Works for Me Wednesday, check out Rocks in My Dryer

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

No trip to the laundromat yet

Well, I managed to find at least 4 uniforms per child (I'm glad that it's a short week!) and so I don't have to make the trek to the laundromat just yet. I'm going to search for the problem with the washer so that maybe I can make the repair department understand what's going on. We'll make our decision based on whether we think we can make the repair ourselves, the cost of the repairman coming out, or renewing the warranty (which I don't want to do).

I think this is a good week to wear all of my hand washables that I've been saving up to do.....

Monday, January 19, 2009

Today's totally unbalanced menu

First off, my husband does not voluntarily eat anything that he can recognize as a plant unless it is deep fried. Second, I do not deep fry. Third, I've tried the Angel Food program and although it is a lot of food for the money, it too often is food that I can't get my family to eat. Don't get me wrong -- there's nothing wrong with the quality. It's just that the chicken is too spicy for my kids to eat without complaining that their mouths are burning. Then there are just some foods that I'm not used to cooking so they don't make it into the routine menus at our house. So I end up with a surplus of some foods stocking my freezer.

So I pulled some of the sausage (English style and Italian) and put it in my fridge a few days ago and am cooking them today. The Italian I put together with whole grain penne & sauce to bake and then I will top it with a bit of cheese when I reheat it. I had half of a loaf of bread so I made the french toast casserole that I tried over the winter break : My kids and my husband ate it so it's a keeper. That will be paired up with the honey (English style) sausages and fruit for brunch when they all wake up. I still had room in the oven, so I wanted a recipe that would cook at about the same temperature and use up some eggs, so I made a pan of Ghiadelli double chocolate brownies for my husband. He doesn't have to share, because there's still birthday cake left.

Brunch: french toast casserole, sausage, fruit, juice/milk

Dinner: Penne & sausage bake, garlic bread, salad for those who will eat it!

Time for all of my appliances to die?

I love, love, love my front loader washer -- except when it decides that it doesn't like a certain task like the wash cycle. Or the spin cycle. Or any combination thereof. Not being handy with fixing things, we went ahead and bought the extended warranties on our appliances. The washer would stop working, and we'd call for a repair. With no laundry in it, it would run fine. Now the warranty's out and I've been playing with the same load of laundry for a week. Not a good thing in my house.

The week before Christmas my microwave decided to just stop. When we bought it a few years back, I know that it only cost about $50 (we'd had to replace it because my oldest ds put a mini (individual sized) bag of popcorn in on the regular popcorn timer and we could not get the smell out). I didn't get the warranty because it didn't make any sense to pay what a new one would cost to get the coverage. We've done pretty well without it, but I did start to see that I was more likely to do a drive through run if I knew that I didn't have anything defrosted. With the 6 of us, 5 drive through runs will pay for a microwave.

I looked them up and checked some out at Wmart when I was picking up the stuff to make a Shadow the Hedgehog cake. We can't fit our glass dishes into the smallest ones, and I don't need a high end one because it's basically to speed up dinner prep for me/frozen diet meals or snacks for the kids. So for a couple of dollars (literally) more, I can get the stainless steel with a super easy to open door or save a few bucks and have the kids struggle with the door. Luckily, I just saw that Target has the one that I wanted (the Emerson stainless) on sale this week for $55.

My hardworking dishwasher has had a leak FOREVER. While it was under warranty, they came and checked it out and couldn't/didn't fix it. It's portable, so we just use a towel on the floor and move it back into place. I asked for it when I was pregnant with ds #2 and I'm so glad that I did. The NICU nurses noticed how chapped my hands were from scrubbing and boiling the medela parts and shared that the dishwasher could sterilize the stuff just fine! If it was good enough for the NICU, then it's good enough for me. But that was 10 years ago, so our radar is up for a replacement in the near future.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Goals for the year

It's a good time to look at my goals for the year. My most important one is to grow closer to Christ. It's been too easy for me to let some of my good habits slip as our family's life has changed over the past few years. My next goal is to be healthier for 2009 so that I can be there for my family. I'm also looking to continue my education through opportunities available to me through my work. I'm currently taking a course for Family Development Workers and then I want to enroll at Pitt. I had signed up for an informational session but it was canceled. My most frustrating area is home management. I had hoped for the opportunity to be at home for a year after my youngest went to school full time, but it just didn't seem to be wise at the time. Now that I know the rigors of working outside of the house and keeping everyone fed and clothed, I think that I could be much more effective at managing my time if I could be home. But God gave me just about the best job I could hope for in allowing me to still be there for my children and I believe that I just need to apply myself to get the other areas under control.

Updated to add: I just read a great post on getting started & making priorities at home. It's from Like Mother, Like Daughter and I'll include the link here:

Long weekend

Long weekend -- the kids had a day off Friday due to the severe weather and are off on Monday as well to honor Dr. King. I had to go in on Friday but am off on Monday with them. I'd hoped to get caught up on the laundry, but the washer went wonky again. It stops when it gets to the spin cycle. Every time we'd call the repairmen out, they'd check it with no laundry in it and say that there's nothing wrong with it. Guess I'll just pick out a week's worth of uniforms and work outfits and head to the laundromat. At least with the cold, the clothes won't sour as I take them home to put through the dryer.