How Murphy Saved Us from a Car Breakdown

de6af65947574bd3a8b80002c92ff97fThus far, 2015 has been the Year of Murphy.  You know, that cycle you go through every once in awhile where endless, unexpected expenses keep cropping up?  Yep, that’s where we are in 2015.  Month after month of unexpected expenses.

First, there were the 18 medical and dental appointments.  In 2015 alone,

  • PB & J Girl had 8 cavities filled,
  • Bookworm had 3 cavities filled,
  • my husband had 3 cavities and a crown put on,
  • I had root planing and scaling, cauterization, a root canal and a filling filled (all on the same tooth!), and
  • Bookworm got phase 1 of his braces, which is a mouth expander.

The medical bills totaled roughly $3,500 out of pocket.

So, now that our teeth are all shiny and healthy, Murphy has set his sights on our 11 year old van with 152,000 miles on it.  (You can see why Murphy would set his sights here.  :))

But here’s the thing.  It’s a good thing Murphy’s in town because he saved us from breaking down on the side of the road!

A few weeks ago, I was on the highway when the engine light came on.  I took it to our repair shop, but they couldn’t see any obvious problems.  They reset the light and sent me on my way with instructions to come back if the light came back on.

It did, about 10 days later.

Of course, this was the day before my mom was supposed to fly into town.

Our car stayed in the shop for two days, and we had to rent a car so we could drive to Phoenix to pick up my mom and so my husband could go to work.

$117 car rental?  Check!

The repair shop thought the problem might be the timing belt.  When they got in there, they ultimately discovered that the water cooler tank had a crack in it.  The repairman said it would have been just a matter of time until we would have been stuck on the side of the road in an overheated vehicle.  Praise God that that didn’t happen, especially as the temps are warming up here.

In the end, we replaced the water cooler tank, changed the timing belt, replaced the faulty sensor (that was causing the check engine light to go on), and replaced all four tires as they had advised us to do four or five months ago.

$1,600 repair bill?  Check!

The good news is that between selling some extra curriculum around the house and raiding the last of our emergency fund, we didn’t have to go into debt for this repair.

The bad news is that I had to buy a new mouthguard because I clench my teeth at night.  Our insurance doesn’t pay anything on mouth guards, so I’ll owe $600 next week for it.

I should be able to sell some more curriculum and use some of my freelance money to pay for the mouth guard in cash.

After that, we are completely tapped out.  The emergency fund is gone, the curriculum is sold, there is nothing left.

Murphy, thank you for the faulty sensor that helped us discover the water cooler tank crack, but now it’s more than time for you to go home!

Can you commiserate?  Is Murphy an unwelcome visitor in your home, too?

A Mom’s Guide to Navigating Event Conferences

c7e2a61c887a40c180b9df6bd3e2a5b4I’ve gone to several conferences, and for someone like me who is introverted, conferences can be challenging.  If you feel the same, here is some advice:

An event conference might not seem like the kind of space a mom is going to feel comfortable in, but it doesn’t have to necessarily be uncomfortable. Great for networking, for learning more about a particular topic and showcasing innovative new ideas and happenings, event conferences can be great for moms for a myriad of reasons. What’s more is the better prepared you are beforehand the more likely you are to get a lot out of an event.

Let’s take a look at what moms can do to feel comfortable at event conferences and navigate their way past the heavy networkers and self-promoters in order to get to the good stuff.

Research Beforehand

Doing a little research before an event, moms can brief themselves as to who is likely to attend an event as well as plan out what sessions they’d like to attend and what rooms they’d like to spend the majority of their time in. A little homework can also prepare them with a little background on the types of people they’re likely to meet, helping them feel less uncomfortable and avoiding awkward questions that perhaps might not go down well.

Stay in Your Comfort Zone

If you’re an introvert and really struggle to go up to people and introduce yourself, then seek solace in the fact that you really don’t have to do anything you don’t fancy doing. Moms who would rather stake out a spot to the side of an inviting looking exhibition display can do exactly that and not sweat the small stuff on having to delve into crowded networking rooms or make sure they’re sat down for every speaker session.

Remind Yourself of Your Reason for Being There

A lot of moms can get carried away by putting pressure on themselves to start acting like something they’re not at event conferences. Stay patient and sure of your reason for being there. Simply want to make friends? Keep that in mind. Enthusiastic to learn and listen to speakers? Focus solely on that.


There’s no need to ask any more of yourself at an event conference than need be. It’s not a matter of life and death if you don’t meet a single new person or exchange any business cards. Just get what you want from the event.

Share Your Experiences and Insight

Everybody has a story to tell and something to share that can be of great value. Just because you might not be at an event for strong business reasons doesn’t mean you don’t have anything useful to contribute to discussions or great questions to ask. Be confident in yourself and engage in an event where you see fit.

Event conferences can certainly be daunting for the uninitiated, but with a little bit of preparation, they can be comfortable, fun and a great way to meet new people. For moms looking to expand their contacts or learn new things, events are a great way to do so.

Menu Planning for April 25, 2015

I want to get a lot of curriculum planning done for the upcoming school year (which we will probably start at the beginning of June), so I want to have easy upcoming weeks, mealwise.  The plan is to double or triple the meals I make this week, so I’ll (finally!) have a little freezer stash of meals again.

Here’s what’s on the menu:


Lunch–pork roast, Japanese potato salad, green beans

Dinner–Slow Cooker Stuffed Peppers (x1 for the freezer)


Lunch–Tuna patties (x2 for the freezer), leftover potato salad
Dinner–Crockpot Hamburger Veggie Soup (x2 for the freezer)


Lunch–Sloppy Joes (x3 for the freezer) with diced potatoes & carrot sticks
Dinner–leftover pork roast


Lunch–Steak salad; homeade garlic bread for the kids (using this recipe with GF bread)

Dinner–Hidden Liver Meatloaf (x1 for the freezer); veggies from the freezer


Lunch–Eggplant burgers, rice, veggie
Dinner–Chicken Apple Sausage & Kale Soup (x1 for the freezer)


Dinner–stuffed acorn squash with ground turkey and greens


Lunch–Beef and Broccoli Stir Fry
Dinner–Spaghetti with Jamie Oliver Spaghetti Sauce (x5; 4 for the freezer and one for the stuffed peppers for tomorrow night)

For more menu planning ideas, visit Menu Planning Monday and Gluten Free Menu Swap.

Our Homeschool Week in Review for April 23, 2015

My mom flew in for a visit two weeks ago.  We were supposed to drive and visit her near Easter, but thanks to our now $5,000 in unexpected medical and car expenses, we had to shelve that plan.  We wouldn’t have been able to see her again until her December visit, so we’re very glad she could come.

Because my mom is here, we’re doing light homeschooling.

Trying Out a Unit Study Program

The kids and I are trying out a unit study program for the Review Crew, and so far we’re loving it!  We do a little work on this each day.   I love teaching all three kids at once, even if it’s only for a small portion of the day.

Burning Out

Bookworm is finishing 5th grade, but he’s not in the same place in all subjects.  For instance, in phonics and geography, he’s finishing up the 3rd quarter.  (Yeah!)  But in grammar, we had to take several weeks off from our regular book so he could learn to diagram sentences.  He’s just finishing the 2nd quarter in that subject thanks to this delay.

It really drives me crazy when we’re not in the same place in all subjects, so while my mom was visiting, I just had him work on those subjects he’s “behind” in.  I hope to be done with his schooling by late June, but we’ll see.

Meanwhile, the girls are doing English, math, and another program we’re trying out for the Review Crew in addition to the unit study.  PB & J Girl is doing great in math, which I love to see.  I struggled in math, especially in high school, so I like to see her off to a strong start.  Cuddle Bug loves to be read to.  She can sit for a half an hour or more listening to chapter books and asking good questions, but PB & J Girl?  Let’s just say read alouds are NOT her thing.  Hopefully that will change.

Field Trips Galore

While my mom was here, we went to visit two places we’ve been wanting to see–Sabino Canyon and Tumacacori National Historic Park.

???????????????????????????????I loved Sabino Canyon, though for a person like me who is petrified of heights, the trip was a bit unnerving.  We took a trolley/tram through the canyon and saw some breathtaking scenery.  There are 9 stops along the way where you can get off and hike around a bit.  I was fine for stops 1 through 8, but the ride between stops 8 and 9 made me break out in a cold sweat.  The road is only big enough for the trolley, and on one side, there is a steep drop down the canyon wall.

???????????????????????????????When we made it back down to stop 8, we got off and hiked around a bit.  The kids loved it, and we had a pleasant day, weather wise.

We’ve been enjoying visiting missions now that we live in the Southwest.  We visited several when we went to San Antonio last fall, and we visited San Xavier when my mom came last Christmas.

???????????????????????????????This time, we got a guided tour at Tumacacori.  As part of our unit study, we just finished learning about the gold rush.  Once inside the mission church, our guide showed us all of the damage that was done to the structure.  One large crack was caused by an earthquake.  Some other damage was caused when the roof was pilfered after the mission was abandoned.  And the side back walls of the church, which have large gouges, were damaged when people looking for gold started literally chipping away at the church walls looking for gold!

???????????????????????????????While we were there, we watched a woman make tortillas (which my husband and mom got to sample), and we also saw a woman hand making baskets.

Overall, it’s been a fun two weeks!

My mom just flew back home today, so we’ll be back to a normal school load this upcoming week.

I shared this post at Field Trip Friday.


How I Feed My Family of 5 for $6,500 a Year–Week 15 (April 10 – April 16, 2015)


I’m WAY over budget this month thanks to our bulk beef and pork orders.  I also stocked up on some gluten free oats this week.

In the next few weeks, I’m going to really have to tighten my belt, which should be a little easier now that we have meats in the freezer.

This year, I’m aiming to spend $6,500 total for food for my family.  That amount includes groceries only, NOT toiletries.  We rarely eat out, so the food I buy to prepare at home is what we eat.
Since my husband is paid bi-monthly, the goal is to spend no more than $500 every 4 weeks.  (I don’t calculate the amount spent on a monthly basis but on an every 4 week cycle.)
We try to eat organic veggies and fruit as much as possible, and we try to buy meat that is grass-fed and organic.  We have multiple food intolerances, with the biggies being gluten, corn, and dairy.

Here’s what we bought from April 10th to April 16th:

Sprout’s Trip #1 – $16.84


Sprout’s Trip #2 – $28.86

Sprout’s had GF Old Fashioned Oats for $3.99 a bag.  That’s almost 50% off, so I stocked up.  (I also got a rain check, so I’ll be able to buy more at this low price when we run out.)  We’ll use it to make Breakfast Mueseli.  The cereal was for my mom.


Safeway – $2.99


Whole Foods – $13.96

Since my mom was here, we ended up taking some picnic lunches with us to various destinations, so I bought more expensive “sandwich” foods that I wouldn’t have normally bought.


Fry’s – $22.03


TOTAL this week: $84.68

TOTAL for this 4 week cycle: $716.63

Remaining for this 4 week cycle: $-166.63 (My mom will be here to visit for 2 weeks this grocery cycle, so I am including an extra $50 in this 4 week cycle to accommodate for that.)

Remaining from the 1st 4 week cycle: $8.65
Remaining from the 2nd 4 week cycle: $1.76
Remaining from the 3rd 4 week cycle: -16.40

Total Deficit or Surplus for the Year: $-172.62

A Recap of This Series:

Week One $241.72

Week Two $185.88

Week Three $59.80

Week Four $28.95
TOTAL for Cycle One: $516.35 (My mom stayed with us for a week, so we raised the grocery budget to $525 to compensate.)
Week Five $378.48

Week Six $57.47

Week Seven $53.80

Week Eight $8.49

TOTAL for Cycle Two: $498.24

Week Nine $323.25

Week Ten $106.62

Week Eleven $40.28

Week Twelve $46.25

Total for Cycle Three: $516.40

Week Thirteen – $271.56

Week Fourteen – $360.39