The Trials of a Busy Mom

Month: March 2014

I can think of better ways to save $26 a month

On Monday we did a little yard clean up. Clipping dead stuff, raking leaves, etc. We filled up a couple of our garbage cans with yard waste, so I sent Megan and Jenna to take it to the green recycle place in Lindon. They loaded up the truck and off they went.

Half hour later I got a call from Megan. I had a had time understanding her. She was pretty upset. The truck had died and she couldn’t get it started, and she was stuck off to the side of the road on the freeway overpass. I told her not to panic, that I would be there in 10-12 minutes.

Car problems, argh. About a year ago we had a similar experience with the truck not starting when we were at the dentist’s office. You can read about that SUPER FUNNY experience here. It has been running fine, but didn’t pass inspection in November until we bought a new handle (due to that lovely dentist’s office experience) and a new emergency brake.
So it was $500 bucks in repairs so that the dumb thing would pass the safety inspection. I was ready to just let it go then, as I have been several other times through the years, like when we replaced the clutch about 5 years ago. But, it has run like a champ for many many miles.

But not that day. I got in the suburban and hurried down to meet her. When I pulled up, there was a nice man in his car parked in front of them. He had helped them push the truck over to the side of the road, and then said he would wait there until their parents came. What a nice man. Ryan got there at the same time as I did. Seems she had called dad first and he left work a bit early to come to the rescue. But it took both of us to help out. Me, because I drive the suburban. Him, because he got to drive the truck as I towed it back home. Megan got to drive the Kia home, and once we had the tow rope hooked up, she took off.

I have never towed a car before. Not super fun. Ryan had never driven a car being towed before. Also not super fun. We had an open phone conversation going the whole time, commenting on when we needed to slow down and stop, etc. The tow-ee is driving VERY close to the tow-er, and ther is a risk of being rear ended if you aren’t careful. Well, I am a careful driver, and we went pretty slow. The 21 minutes it took to get home felt much longer.


We got the truck home, breathed a sigh of relief, and then Ryan did some investigating to see if he could figure out what was wrong. His best guess is a cracked engine block (I think…help me out and correct me here, Ryan, if you are reading this) and that’s not something that would be cheap to repair. We haven’t done anything about it, haven’t taken it anywhere to see if it’s something else that could be fixed, yet. Maybe we will. I don’t know.

It will be sad to say goodbye to that truck. We bought that truck the first year we were married. Before we had kids, before we had a house, before we had anything, really.
We used to cram a car seat in the middle seat and take Cole on outings in that truck.
Both Cole and Megan have learned to drive in that car, and learned the valuable skill of driving a manual transmission. Everyone should learn that!
It has hauled countless truckloads of mulch, grass clippings, garage sale finds, tress and plants, and the list goes on.
No, it’s not much to look at, that’s for sure.

But it is 24 years old, after all.
We aren’t exactly sure how many miles are on it.
Funny thing about the odometer.


I don’t know if you can read it, but that first number is between the 5 and the 6. Some years ago the first number started turning with the other numbers, so instead of 175K it said we had 475K or something like that. So we don’t really know how many miles it has driven, but let’s just say it’s a lot. Over 250,000, I would think. That’s a lot of miles.

Since we aren’t driving it and don’t know if we will ever drive it again, I cancelled our insurance on that vehicle. That’s a savings of $26 a month, right there.

Not the most efficient way to save a few dollars.

Do not spray on things you like

It was a warmish day today (55 degrees, I think) and I already had the chickens caged up because Ryan had put fertilizer on the lawn and I would like to give it a day or two to settle before the chickens come out and disturb (hopefully not eat) it, so I mixed up a batch of round-up in the 3 gallon sprayer. As I was looking at the instructions to see how much of the concentrate to mix with that much water, I read, “Do not spray Round up on plants, trees or flowers that you like.”

Now that sounds really obvious, doesn’t it? Don’t spray weed killer on the plants you like. But as I am spraying those grasses and weeds, I ALWAYS end up spraying something I didn’t want to spray, especially in the early spring when the tulips and daffodils are just green.
Some of them are hiding in there with the grasses that I am trying to get rid of. Sometimes they get a squirt on them.

As I read that warning, I was trying to think of a great analogy with life and parenting. After all, conference is coming up in two weeks, and I have been listening to last session’s talks to get myself ready for conference. I’m sure Dieter Uchtdorf could come up with a wonderful analogy about that. Oh, wait, it’s not an airplane or related to travel. Ok, President Monson would have a great story about taking flowers to the widows and could have tied that in. Me? I didn’t come up with much. Except be careful where you spray, cause you will kill your flowers as well as the weeds.

Perhaps that warning should pop up in our heads before we say something rude or sarcastic, especially to our kids. “Do not spray on things you like”. Even if you are mad, even if they deserve it. Even if they come home from school and their bad mood immediately kills the happy mood in the house. They do not need us to spray bad or angry words at them. We do, after all, like our kids. Hold your tongue. Share kindness and love with them, maybe that will help their bad mood.

Last night, it seems we were all doing ok, until it was time to get ready for bed. The girls all went upstairs. Some to get ready for bed, one to pick up her laundry. Some kind of shouting and shoving ensued, and before I knew it, doors were being slammed, and there was some stomping away. Big Sigh from Mom. Didn’t we just have family home evening and go on a bikeride and then watch brother bear together? Didn’t we just learn that you need to forgive your brother because you never know when he might be turned into a bear? Come on, people. Good night and good riddance, I thought to myself. But I couldn’t let it go. Someone was hurting, and I needed to see what I could do to help. I went to the door slammer’s room with a peace offering of a cookie. (I had hid the cookies we made the day before because, frankly, if I don’t hide them, they are GONE in about 10 minutes and then we have no cookies for lunches.)
“Hey,” I said, “What’s wrong?”
Hmm, that’s not much to go on, but I tried to comfort and reassure that we loved her, even if it didn’t seem like we did, and even if we weren’t pleased with the door slamming and the stomping.

Do not spray on things you like.

What do you know, I DID make an analogy. Not like you’ll hear in conference or anything, but it’ll work for the blog.


I didn’t take a substitute job today because I didn’t want to. I just wanted to do some spring cleaning at home, and enjoy a bit of time without anyone else there.
So, once I got the kitchen cleaned up a bit this morning, I put on my painting clothes (no, there will be no pictures of me in my painting clothes, thank you very much) and went to work on a project I started back before the Taiwanese girls came.


I think I know why I like painting so much.
Just think.
For about $4 in paint, I can take a small piece, and with a few afternoons of work, I can transform a table, or a dresser. I can take a plain or ugly table, and make it cute again.
With a little more time and money (ok, quite a bit more time and money), I can change a room. I love that. I can change it.


Here’s the table before I started. I took it out to the porch to sand it because it had some water damage and needed quite a bit of sanding.
See that cute kitty who was helping me?
Good kitty. I’m sure she was wondering what I was doing.
This table was actually given to me by a friend. I quite liked it in white but decided since I was going to paint it I might as well paint it a cute happy color. If I don’t like it I’ll just give it to one of the kids for their rooms.

I wish I could transform other areas in my life with just a can of paint and a brush.
Don’t like your hair? Paint it.
Don’t like your body? No problem, let’s just paint it up nice and we can make it younger and thinnner, with no aches and pains.
Aren’t happy with a relationship with a friend or a loved one? There’s a paint for that.

But darn it. Life is not fixed by a can of paint.
To change your life, your body, your relationships, that takes work, and effort, and commitment, and sometimes tears.

Maybe that’s why I love the transformations I can do with paint or fabric so much.

Zoo day and more!

On Saturday we took the family plus our guests to Hogel Zoo. It’s been several years since we have been to the zoo.
I guess it just got too expensive, too crowded, too far away? I don’t know. But since we had 8 people, we just bought an annual pass, so we can go again a few times this year.


First we found Taiwan on the rotating water earth ball.

We loved seeing all the animals. At each animal, we would ask the girls how to say the name of that animal in Chinese, and we would practice trying to make our mouths say those sounds. For example, elephant is dà xiàng. But we of course say every one wrong, so the girls got a good laugh out of our trying.

My favorite animal is the giraffe, which in Chinese, is cháng j?ng lù. But you have to make your inflection go up and down or else it’s some other word. There’s a reason I don’t speak Chinese.

The one animal name we WILL be able to remember without looking it up is the tortoise. Oogway. Yep. Like in Kung Fu Panda.

See the resemblance?


Look harder.


Even though it was colder than we would have liked,
(Brrr when the wind was blowing)
we had a fun time.

The kids were mostly not whiny.



We even rode the $2 per ride Carousel, which I have never let my kids ride. I know. When we have exchange students we splurge, since we are getting paid to host them, we use that money to do fun things as a family.



When we left, John really wanted to go to the This is the Place Heritage Park. Since we bought an annual pass for that one last spring, we only had to pay $3 for an extra guest, so we took the girls over there, too. There isn’t much open until the spring season starts in April, but we still enjoyed our visit.

I don’t know if the girls understand much about the pioneer history here, but we explained some. And the train conductor’s tour was interesting (this driver went slower and told us more about the different locations) He even took our picture to put on the Pioneer Park Facebook page.

On the way home, the girls were pretty tired.

We were all pretty tired, and even a little sunburned. So we had a couple of hours at home before we loaded everyone up and went to dinner at the girls choice for their last evening out in America–In and Out Burgers. I don’t know why this place is such a big deal, but everyone seems to love it.

We had a fun time.

Sunday morning the girls got loaded up nice and early as we had to get them to their meeting place at 8 am. Off they go back home. We had a great experience hosting this time, and we hope the girls remember fondly their time in Utah. So we say
zài jiàn

to our Taiwanese girls. We hope to meet again.

Guests from all over

It started in 2009. A lady from the ward asked if we would like to host a Japanese student for a week. They were going to host, and it’s always easier if you have another family to share the driving, so she recruited me. We talked it over as a family and thought that sounded like a fun experience. That family actually backed out and didn’t host, but I guess I should be thankful to her for introducing us to this hosting thing.

We were sent Urichiro (Yes, I probably spelled that wrong), a quiet, shy boy from Japan. We remember that he was a slow eater, tiny bites, and he was worried that he would have to eat huge amounts of food. We did not make him eat huge amounts of food. We tried to take him some fun places and do some fun things with him. We had a great experience.

That same company also does a program with Chinese girls in the summer, and the coordinator called in 2010 and asked if we would be willing to host 2 girls for two weeks. We said we would, and Daisy and Vivian came to stay with us. I guess they are given American names, or they chose their own, when they start English class.

I remember the coordinator told us that she was going to place these two girls with us, that they were special. One was beautiful and the other was from an important family, they were both from a private school. Can you tell which one was which?

Since then, we have hosted several more students.
There was Kodai. He’s the one who brought us our favorite frisbee called the “Dojeebee”.

He was here for our wettest, most miserable Halloween ever. Poor boy had no idea what trick-or-treating was or why we were making him dress up and go around the neighborhood in the POURING rain.

In 2011 we hosted Chinese girls again. Phoebe and Coco were their names. They were a little younger, just as shy. I think this year was the most frustrating because I couldn’t find a decent carpool, and had to drive the girls and my kids, who were buddies, back and forth to Provo so many times.
But it was still a fun experience, We went to a cast party for the play we were in, Thanksgiving Point farm and dino museum, bowling, out to eat.

I think the kids like hosting because for once, we go and do fun things almost every day. We do get paid to host the girls, but with a big family like we have, that money only goes so far. One trip to Park City for the Alpine Slide takes about a big chunk, but we have fun while they are here. Sadly, our conversational Japanese and Chinese has not improved.

That fall we hosted Kazuki from Japan.

We took him to our favorite Mexican restaurant, Los Hermanos, along with our ward Halloween party.

And bowling. There always must be a bowling activity.

Lest you think we ONLY go bowling when we have exchange students, I must point out that is false. We do go bowling at other times, when the kids beg and plead enough. They really love to bowl. I wish it were cheaper or there were a bowling ally closer to us, we would go more.

In 2012, I was tired of the whole DRIVE to Provo thing, so we decided to go with a different program, and hosted Marie from France.

Marie just came and stayed. No school, no schedule. It was a little different, but still fun.
She was here longer than the others, too. Three weeks. She was a good sport, and lots of fun to have around.

Of course, we can blame our acquiring a cat on Marie. Ryan was out of town, and this cat started to show up. Marie said we had to feed it. So we did. And she is now our cat.

We even took her camping. Worst camping trip. Rain, rain, rain. But she wanted to fish, and thankfully my uncle Keith took her out to the lake and she caught a fish.

Right after Marie left, we got a call from another coordinator to let us know that our year long exchange student had been approved, and we would be getting a girl from Germany in August. We had no idea what we were in for, but all the other experiences had been good, so we got rooms ready and Larissa came just before school started.

It’s a different experience welcoming an exchange student for the whole year. They are here for the chores, the meals, the homework and school and boring stuff, not just the fun stuff. But Larissa is such a cute girl, she made everything fun. We were quite blessed to have her with us that year. Cole left for college, so with her, we still had five at home.
She immediately made friends, even had dates.

It was fun to have her in our family, and I think she will be a good friend for ever. It was very hard to say goodbye when she left, and we are looking forward to having her come visit again this summer.

While she was here, we skipped on hosting a Japanese student, but we did host Chinese girls again in the summer of 2013.

Xio and Yiou didn’t take American names like the other girls had, but they were fun.
It was a bit different to go from a member of the family to “hosting” again, but we got used to it. This time none of the girls did the buddy program, and I did have a carpool (thank goodness!) and they moved the host school to Orem, so it was a shorter drive.

We took them to Temple Square to a concert, bowling (of course), to ice cream, even hiking.

It was a bit of a difficult time to have exchange students because I was in the thick of a play at the Scera theater. We brought the girls along to a dress rehearsal. Next time we host, remember not to do it at the same time as a play.

2014. I read in the Lone Peak email that they were looking for host families to host girls from Taiwan for a short stay. I called about that to find out more information, and it sounded like something we could do. We only have to transport the girls to Lone Peak. Their group has taken them places and done all the fun things that we would normally do with them. They have gone cross country skiing (the girls did NOT like that one), shopping, temple square, Music and the Spoken word, they even had a square dance last night.

We ended up with three girls this time. Everyone else has two, but I told them we could take three if we needed to. I cleaned out two rooms for them, but they are all together in our guest room/Cole’s room. There’s a queen bed and a twin in there, so I guess they just felt happier all together. They are Jessica, Cindy, and Cathy. And I can tell them apart now. We have taken them out to dinner, to a movie, to Thanksgiving Point, and we had a game night with another family in our ward who the parents both speak Chinese.

Yesterday after school we made sugar cookies and they had a blast cutting out cookies and then frosting them. I don’t know if they get to cook much at home, but they thought it was fun.

Then they had an activity with their group at night where they were square dancing. Today they went to school at Lone Peak, and after school they are going to eat the world’s first KFC and then go to the Jazz game. I love that they are doing fun things with their group so we don’t have to feel responsible for ALL the fun stuff, especially right now while school is in and we are busy. I think tomorrow night will be bowling, then Saturday we have the whole day with them before they leave on Sunday.

So,unless I have forgotten someone, in five years we have hosted….

3 Japanese boys
6 Chinese girls
1 French girl
1 German girl
3 Taiwanese girls

for a total of 14 exchange students. We have learned from them, and have enjoyed welcoming them into our family. Hopefully we show them a good picture of what it’s like to be an American, and they go home with fond memories of us. Someone asked me why we do this hosting thing. To give my kids experiences. I can’t afford to take my family all over the world, but that doesn’t stop us from meeting people and possibly making friends with people from all over. There is SO much that we can learn from hosting students from other cultures. I want to teach my kids tolerance, how to be nice to people they might not know so well, how to control their rude behavior at home when there are guests around, and that it’s ok to be different. And if we get to have a bunch of fun in the process, then that’s even better.

She’s almost famous

Megan had one of her art pieces selected to be in the Springville Art Museum’s High school show. I don’t have the stats on how many submissions there are and how many are selected, but I think each school can send four pieces, and they must be selected by the art teacher, not the student. Not all the pieces that are entered are on display, either, so it’s an honor to have your piece shown. I remember many times going with my family to the art museum to see the high school art show. After all, my dad was an art teacher for 30 years.

There are so many wonderful pieces! Of course, there are also a lot of pieces of art that just make me go hmmm. What?

We finally found Megan’s fish piece in the basement. On her little artist’s description it says, “I was inspired to make this piece because our family drinks a lot of soda and my mother’s favorite drink it Diet Coke. I had a lot of those cans lying around so I decided to make a fish with scales out of the aluminum cans.”

So she’s really dedicating the piece to me, right?

Besides Megan’s piece, here are a couple of my favorite.

The secret life of Bees. I wonder if that’s actual honey in the jar. Can’t be, right?

This is body armor made for a Renaissance fair.

I like this 9 tailed fox, too.

Besides the high school art, the museum is full of fun and beautiful things.

Right now they have a display of James Christensen. I love his detailed and whimsical art. I wish we had had more time to look at all the pieces, but the museum was closing and we had to go.

After we left, we drove around Springville just a bit to see this.

Where does one get one of those in Utah, I wonder?

We also had to stop so I could take a picture of this house with this amazing whimsical sculpture out front.

Ok, it’s not just a house, it’s an auto body or detail shop or something, right there on main. But how cool is that?

It was a lovely afternoon drive and fun to see Megan’s art in the same building as some of the masters. Lovely, of course, until everyone got SO hungry they were all crabby in the car on the drive home. I had one package of fruit snacks to share with them. Because I’m prepared that way.

February was…fine.

It’s the end of another month, time to give an accounting of my progress toward goals of being, having, and spending LESS

Shape up. I did go to the gym a few times before cancelling my membership. Can’t afford to pay for a membership I only use 4-5 times a month. I’ll just have to go walk outside, use our treadmill. Of course, cancelling a gym membership is no simple task, but I’m hoping I’ve gotten that taken care of now. No amazing progress, though.

Clean out. The tiniest drawer right by the sink wasn’t closing. What is the deal, here? I thought.

I looked in there to see what was blocking the drawer from closing, but couldn’t see all the way to the back.


This is the drawer that we keep sponges and cleaning brushes in. I reached back there and pulled out sponge after sponge, paint brushes, toothbrushes, etc. A WHOLE LOT of stuff had fallen out of the drawer and gotten wedged in the back and side of that little drawer.

I took it all out and got rid of a bunch of it. That drawer is happily closing now.

I cleaned out our linen closet. My goodness how did we get so many sheets, towels and blankets?

It was quite a mess as I was cleaning it out.

And we took a load to DI. But when it was done it felt so much better!

I haven’t purged any other rooms, although I did a big clean up of the family room after the kids had been down there playing and the infomercial filming rearranged everything. Today I need to clean out Cole’s room because we will be hosting not one, not two, but three exchange students from Taiwan. So not only Cole’s room, but Megan’s room, the bathroom, and the family room all need to be cleaned and ready for company by tomorrow when they come. I also have to get curtains up on those windows. These girls are from a big city and would never change clothes next to a window, even if it’s a basement window. Add that to my list of things to do today.

Ok, hosting students for two weeks doesn’t really simplify things, but it’s a fun opportunity, and we think it will be fun.

It will cost us to feed them and entertain them, but their program does pay us for hosting them, so we plan to use that money in our entertaining. It’s fun for us to go out, too, so it’s a win-win. The kids are excited to go bowling and go out to Los Hermanos for dinner and to get frozen yogurt. I’m not sure what else we are going to do with them. They have a lot of things already scheduled with the group, so we don’t want to duplicate those. They will be going to Music and the Spoken Word, shopping at City Creek, go cross country skiiing, go to a Jazz game, and some other fun things.

I worry a little about what to make for them to eat, and will have to make them breakfast every day (something I don’t do for my kids much anymore) and pack them a lunch on certain days. I don’t know if our regular “sandwich, chips, snack” routine will work. Have to find out if they eat sandwiches.

Less busy? I tried out for a play this month. I know, it totally goes against the whole “Less” thing, but it was possible to fit it in before the bells concert time, and they actually had roles for women over 30. Drowsy Chaperone, have you heard of it? It looks super fun. However, I didn’t get in. I didn’t get a call back. I didn’t even get a “thank you for auditioning” email. Nothing. Kind of rude of them to not let me know anything, actually. Kind of good that I didn’t make it, though. I guess.

Spending less? We thought we had payed off our car at the end of last month. But they didn’t ever send us the title. Ryan went in to check and it turns out we owed them 96 cents. Were they going to tell us that we still owed them 96 cents? I guess not. Probably just charge us late fees when we didn’t pay our bill this month. But he paid them the 96 cents and now it’s our car. We own it. I plan to reevaluate our insurance now and see if we can lower that bill a bit.

We are still working with our budget, mostly sticking to it. I went over a bit on my food budget and had to use my personal money. There are always things that we hadn’t planned on and we have to adjust a bit, but we are doing much more than we were in the past. We are working on paying off our debt, and it’s very exciting to see the progress that we are making. In addition to teaching my chime choir (yes, that IS a job), I sub occasionally to earn just a bit of extra money. Just enough to pay for daughter’s AP tests this month.

Our emergency fund is not fully funded, but it’s good to see it growing. I am working on saving money in small ways. I use coupons, shop sales, and save my change. I have cut my eating out and impulse buys a LOT. I am selling 1-2 dozen eggs a week to friends who want local fresh eggs. Hopefully as it warms up, the chickens will step up their egg laying and I can sell more. (and they will stop pooping on the porch!)


They should be cheaper to feed in the warmer months, as well. Hopefully they scrounge more bugs and weeds and eat less pellets.

Of course, as it warms up, we have to worry about lawn care, fixing our lawnmower, gardening, and maybe getting another tree or two. Each season has it’s own expenses, and it’s sometimes hard to foresee what those are going to be.


Living in Utah county there are so many wonderful free activities, so we can still do a lot with the family and not spend a ton of money. We went to the Sacred Gifts exhibit at the BYU Museum of Art. What a wonderful experience! They are switching out four of the Carl Bloch paintings. These paintings are amazing.

To see them up close is really amazing, and I’m so grateful that BYU worked so hard for so long to get these paintings on loan. If you haven’t gone to see it yet, schedule a visit. In fact, maybe we’ll take the exchange students. Maybe.

So, that’s the wrap up. I don’t feel like I made much progress, but it’s always a one step forward, two steps back, then one more forward kind of thing.

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