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Archive for September, 2018

New Baby and Too Much Cancer in the Family

September 30th, 2018 at 06:50 pm

My husband's niece had a baby girl yesterday, though I doubt we'll ever see her. MIL sent a picture, though and left a gift with MIL to give her. It'll probably come back to us, but we made the effort. We asked if she wanted us to come up to the hospital or not, but got no response.

This is from the violent side of the family that we broke ties with on Thanksgiving when they physically threatened us. This is the second niece on that side to get pregnant very young and out of wedlock and lives at the poverty level. Her older sister is also pregnant again, from the same guy, still not married, living at the poverty level. He seems to be over his substance abuse issues for the time being.

On the other side of the family, my nephew's pregnant wife has leukemia. They are going to take the baby at 32 weeks and then do intensive chemo on his wife. There is a very real chance that his wife won't make it. Her mother also has cancer, but in the brain and isn't expected to survive. They haven't been married very long and now my nephew is at risk of being a young widow after less than a year of marriage with a premature baby and a five-year-old he is in the process of adopting. And the baby will have a higher risk of cancer because of both mother and grandmother having it. Not to mention there is also cancer on his side of the family. The baby shower was yesterday.

My husband's aunt's cancer is back, too. It is breast cancer, but it has spread to the lungs and they are saying 2 months to a year. She is very old, though, in her early 80's and also has a bad heart. It is a little different there, because we were expecting end of life to happen. Not quite the same as when you are in your twenties. Still just as tragic, though. It just sucks.

It is like when it rains it pours with cancer. A couple of decades ago cancer seemed so rare. Now you can't throw a stick without hitting someone who has it or who is dying of it.

I worry about MIL, though. FIL hasn't been dead a year from cancer and now her sister is going to die of it. Can we please just have some joy now? I am tired of all the crap.

Medical, Medical, It's Always Medical

September 28th, 2018 at 01:09 pm

I've been losing my financial focus a little bit lately. Taking care of Mom and shlepping her back and forth to physical therapy and taking my daughter to multiple doctors appointments and blood draws has been very draining and we have gotten fast food twice this week because of it. I had one day where I could barely move because I sat in waiting room chairs for 3 hours the day before. Rheumatoid Arthritis is a painful disease and I think I've used more painkillers this week than I have in a year. I've also been drinking caffeine which is not a habit I want to get back into, but it feels like it is the only thing that is keeping me going.

So far, these are the things that are wrong with my daughter:

Granuloma anularae
Gastroperesis
Hypothyroidism
Adrenal Insufficiency
Nearly legally blind in one eye
Brain damage from the skull fracture a few years ago, though she has mostly learned to work around that, it affects her reading and her ability to process numbers quickly
PCOS and/or Endometriosis
Hip Dysplasia (born with)
Depression and Extreme Anxiety (controlled with drugs)
Some as yet undiagnosed auto immune disease (blood markers for something, but they don't know what)

It is expensive to be this ill. I am hoping we can get her on disability at some point, that point being before she is 26 and gets kicked off our health insurance. Maybe sooner. That way it can help pay for her medical bills or to purchase an insurance plan for her. She is unable to function well because of the pain and exhaustion and frequent vomiting from the gastroperesis that leads to dehydration and malnutrition. Some days the medicine helps, other days it does not. She has to be super careful on what she eats and her choices are quite limited.

I do not think she will ever be self-sufficient and be able to leave home. Every time she seems to be getting better another malady turns up and she gets worse again. But at least they are finally finding things. Things that are not easily treatable, but still, having diagnoses helps mentally.

Car Insurance Due and How We Pay it in Full

September 21st, 2018 at 02:39 pm

I got my bill recently for the next six months of car insurance. I have been setting aside $100 a month every month in the Car Insurance Fund. The bill is $567.14 if paid in full. I save $67.66 by not paying it month to month, because they charge a convenience fee each month to do it that way.

Now, it still feels like I am paying month to month, because I have a line item on the budget for it each month and it still disappears from my checking account, but I would much rather do it like this and save that extra money. In order to get ahead like this, a couple of years ago we used some money from our tax return to pay the six months in full and then started saving each month after that. I know some budgets are tight so it would be hard to pay each month and save for the fund, but by doing it like this we didn't have to. We were able to immediately start saving into the fund that month.

So not only do I save that $67.66 off my bill, I also end up with a cushion of $32.86 sitting in the fund to start off with since I am slightly oversaving. Of course I don't know what the six months after this will cost, so if it goes up, we have that cushion, plus the next one if necessary to add to our in full payment. A little insurance on our insurance, if you will.

I do the same thing with other funds. Like right now I am saving $100 a month in the Computer Fund. I could get 12 months same as cash or I could save for several months ahead of time and have the money sitting there ready to go when the next computer or camera or phone other electronic device goes belly up. If the money is there, I can still choose to do the same as cash option, knowing I can pay it off at any time, or I can just pay it off.

Some people aren't so good at paying it off in the allotted time, but we have always been. I figure we might need it to jolly our credit report along at some point, since we are using so little credit these days. If we ever finish the debt payoff and save up enough to put a down payment on a house again, we will need a good credit score. So even if we do the deal and pay it off after three months, it activates the credit report. But the point is, I don't want to have to do it that way. I want to use it as a tool, not have it use me.

I think it is good to have sinking funds like this. It keeps you from being walloped by an unexpected, but really what should be expected, expense. We all know our cars will have insurance due every six months, but to many it is just a big surprise every time it happens because they don't budget for it. We all know computers break down, that Christmas comes every year, that the kids will need clothes and shoes. Budgeting as we go, so we don't get smacked with the expense, just makes sense. And it helps prevent using credit cards and getting further into debt, which is the most important thing, at least for us.

Payday Report for 9/21/18

September 21st, 2018 at 02:22 pm

I did not go down to the last dollar this time. I have about $250 left in checking. There may be one more autopay yet to come through and then anything else I am holding on to for upcoming medical bills. DH was wrong about the last paycheck not having overtime on it. It had 10 hours. This one is a true representation of base pay with no OT and all of the various insurances and the 401K being taken out.

$268.77 Tithe
_400.00 Grocery Envelope
_400.00 Medical Fund
_100.00 Household Envelope
_352.30 Autopays
__56.83 Life Insurance DH
__45.30 Life Insurance Me
_100.00 Adults Blow Money
_120.00 Kid's Allowances
_100.00 Clothing Envelope
_100.00 Holiday Envelope
_100.00 Laptop Fund
---------
2232.31 Total Money Out

Mom, Preliminary Grocery Planning, and Cooking Lessons

September 19th, 2018 at 09:06 pm

Mom's surgery went well, though she is in quite a bit of pain. I saw her yesterday afterwards, but she called and told me not to come today. I had not planned to go until after dinner, and by then she was just too tired and hurting and wanted to just sleep. So I will go up and see her tomorrow unless she it too tired and sore again. She's supposed to come home on Friday, so hopefully the pain will be manageable by then. She doesn't want to take Oxycodone because of hallucinations or Hydrocodone because it makes her feel unclear in the head. We'll see what she ends up actually coming home with.

The grocery ads came in the mail today so I started a preliminary grocery list. It is not a good sales week except for meat. They have whole chickens on for $1.49/lb, top round roast for $2.99/lb, wild cod for $6.49/lb and sirloin steaks for $5/lb. So that means I will likely go to Costco and TJ's for veggies.

I usually throw a whole chicken in the Instant Pot twice a week to make broth and then my daughter eats the meat as chicken is about all she can stomach. I use some of it, but mostly she is living on that chicken plus white rice and broth all week. It's bland enough for her to keep it down. I make the rice with some of the broth, too, so it has some flavor.

I hope to find a flank steak on mark down as I'd like to teach my son how to make beef teriyaki this coming week. Failing that, Costco should have one decently priced.

DS and I are doing Home Economics. Part of that is he is reading the Dave Ramsey books, but another part is cooking. The first Unit in my cooking course (designed by me) is Wok This Way and is teaching him to make all the different stir-fries. So far he has learned Black Pepper Chicken, Chicken and Broccoli, Chinese Pepper Steak, and Garlic Chicken and Green Beans. On the agenda is the Beef Teriyaki, but I'd also like to do Mandarin Chicken and Mongolian Beef and what is basically Almond Fried Chicken without the almonds. We don't like almonds, but we like the crispy chicken and the Chinese brown gravy. We sprinkle sesame seeds on top instead.

We will also do a baking unit (doughnuts, bread, rolls, pie, cinnamon rolls, English muffins, lemon poppy seed muffins, cornbread, brownies, cake, cookies, croissants, biscuits), a pressure cooking unit (mostly Instant Pot), a casserole unit, a meat and potatoes style unit, a Mexican unit, and an Italian unit (pizza, penne, spaghetti, ravioli, tortellini). Some things will overlap, like Enchilada casserole or baked penne casserole which each could be classified in two groups.

We do about two lessons a week right now and I build it into the meal plan. It feels good to know he will know his way around the kitchen and we are really enjoying the time together and I appreciate having the help in cutting up the foods and cleaning up. I also like knowing he will know how to make better than restaurant quality food for much less money than restaurant prices. Having a second major cook in the house will be great, too, on the days when I don't feel like cooking or my hands hurt too much. DH can make a few things, but his repertoire is limited. DS is going to be able to rule the kitchen when I am done with him!

Lots of Medical Expenses Forthcoming, But Then What Else is New?

September 17th, 2018 at 10:44 pm

Well, I made it through two of Monkey Mama's long posts without being logged out, so I am going to attempt to actually post an entry today. There hasn't been too much going on financially, but that's because we haven't been billed yet. Once things run through the insurance and we get billed, I expect we are going to take a big hit in the next couple of weeks. But our out of pocket max on the new insurance is $2400 per family, so it'll be capped at that.

So last week on Monday DD had an appointment at the gastroenterologist and she decided that DD needed to have a gastric emptying test, which is a very long test in a freezing cold room with a gamma camera. That may take DD's deductible and out of pocket max right there. For those who have no clue what this test entails, they feed you radioactive egg whites, 2 pieces of white bread and jam. Then they put you in one of those doughnut-shaped machines, but it is not a CT scanner.

They take a picture of your stomach to start for a minute, then later they do it for 30 minutes, then wait an hour, do it again for a few minutes and repeat like that until 4 and 1/2 hours are up. All the little specks of food glow on the camera and the computer counts how many there are at each interval. The room is kept cold to keep the camera cool. I really could have used a blanket. And the waiting chair was atrocious. It took me until today to have my back, hips, and tailbone feel normal again and the test was on Thursday.

On Tuesday last DD and I both had dental appointments while DH had one on Monday with the new dentist, which we didn't actually have to pay anything on because we have dental insurance now. DH had a $50 co-pay, but that is it for the year on co-pays for normal services. He's going to have to have a crown though, and that will cost us $670 out of pocket, but at least they cover half. He will need some cavities filled at some point as well.

I do like the new dentist and the new receptionist, but I am very grateful that my hygienist is the same person. I get anxious at the dentist and I don't like change. But I really like the new dentist a lot. He reminds me of Dr. Sweets on Bones, but without the curls, even though he is of East Indian descent. Facial structure, nose, and eye shape are almost identical. He's a very nice man, too. And I got a clean bill of health on my teeth. The only part of me that isn't falling apart, I guess.

On Friday I took DS to the eye doctor. We have vision insurance now, but we still had to pay $179 out of pocket between the exam and the glasses. That's okay, though, it is still way cheaper than $480 and I knew it would cost something. It'll be a couple of weeks before his glasses come, though.

My rheumatologist cancelled my appointment and couldn't rebook until November. I mean, seriously? She had another family emergency. She has A LOT of those. This is the fourth appointment in a year and a half that has been cancelled due to that. She's younger than I by about 15 years, so I doubt it is aging parents, but you never know.

Tomorrow is Mom's surgery, but she is driving herself there. We will pick up the Jimmy when we take her walker up later when she is out of surgery and in a room. They don't want the patients bringing their stuff up when they go in because they say they don't have any place to store the stuff. I find that less than believable considering I've seen some of the storage areas, but whatever. That's what they do. Mom should be in the hospital until Friday.

On Wednesday, DS goes to the dentist and then on Thursday I have to take DD in for labs. Next week starts 3 days a week of taking Mom to PT and DD has appointments that week for the endocrine doctor and the gynecologist. Endocrine doctor thinks DD has PCOS, so we will bring that up with gyno. Maybe we can actually get something done about it, but doubtful.

So yeah, it's been a big couple of weeks for medical stuff and I don't know what most of it will cost, but at least there is a cap. October brings DD's endoscopy and colonoscopy and DS's consult with a sleep doctor and possible scheduling of a sleep study. Plus lots of shuttling Mom to PT. Prayers that I don't go insane taking care of everyone but myself would be lovely!

I am looking forward to payday on Friday. I don't like only getting paid every two weeks. I know I will eventually get used to it, but I still don't like it. Even though everything is going fine with the budget and running smoothly. It is just weird and I hate change with a passion, as you all know.

I made up some TV dinners tonight. I made turkey meat in the Instant Pot and a combo of sweet potatoes, carrots, red potatoes, onions and green beans in the Power Cooker XL and a thin gravy in a skillet and then mixed it all together in some of those Glad plastic containers. I came very close to it tasting like the Stouffer's Fit Kitchen turkey dinner. We had some for dinner tonight and then I froze 3 dinners and put one in the fridge for lunch tomorrow.

My nutrition has been slipping lately or I've often gone to eating just once a day because of the stress. I have a couple of days with Mom gone where I can do some big batch cooking and get some stir-fry TV dinners in the freezer as well. Then when I am taking care of her and don't have much time to take care of me, I can just heat these up and eat them without worrying about it being garbage food. These will give me some lunches, at least. I do well on two meals a day, but really not on one and snacking on junk food.

Mom has also bought TV dinners this time. She refused to get them last time because she thought I could just cook her dinner every night from scratch after cooking for my family every night. IF she would eat what I made for my family, no big deal, but she's picky about what she eats, so she wanted me to cook our meal and then a whole other meal for her. After also cooking her breakfast and lunch. I don't have the energy for that. She also likes things that take a long time to prepare and a lot of baby-sitting the stove. I hate that type of cooking.

So at least she is eating the TV dinners, and I only have to make her breakfast and lunch and then dinner is easy. She also bought waffles, so I should only have to toast them and make a couple of fried eggs for her breakfast, which is easy. Lunch will probably be some kind of grilled or hot sandwich and soup, which is also easy. I'm just glad she finally realized just how hard it is on me, physically, to take care of her. Not to mention mentally, though she will never get that.

Okay, that turned into quite a rant, but sometimes you just need to vent.

Two Week Meal Plan

September 7th, 2018 at 02:04 pm

I made up another two week meal plan to go with my two week shopping plan. I also made my plan based on what I have on hand and what is available in the garden right now. There is a good chicken sale this week so we will be having a lot of chicken stir-fries. There is also shrimp and cod on sale and pot roasts. I will buy two extra for later in the month as I can't beat $3.99/lb on those.

Day One:
Beef Pot Roast
Baked Potatoes
Roasted Zucchini
Fresh Plums (from the garden)

Day Two:
5 Spice Chicken Stir-fry with Vegetables
Rice
Fresh Plums

Day Three:
Chinese Pepper Steak
Rice
Fresh Plums

Day Four:
Char Sui
Herbed Potatoes
Green Beans
Cantaloupe

Day Five:
Baked Chicken
Mashed Potatoes and Gravy
Broccoli
Cantaloupe

Day Six:
Sirloin Steaks
Jamaican Stir-fried Cabbage
Roasted Potatoes
Pears

Day Seven:
Garlic Chicken and Green Beans Stir-fry
Sweet Potatoes
Pears

Day Eight:
Spaghetti with Meatballs
Garlic Bread
Salad
Apples

Day Nine:
BBQ Meatloaf
Sweet Potatoes
Green Beans
Canned Pineapple

Day Ten:
Homemade Pizza
Cole Slaw
Fresh Plums

Day Eleven:
Tacos
Canned Pineapple

Day Twelve:
Penne Pasta with Sausage, Zucchini, and Tomatoes
Fresh Plums

Day Thirteen:
Fish and Chips
Cole Slaw
Pears

Day Fourteen:
Shrimp Scampi
Vegetable Skewers
Roasted Root Vegetables

Payday Report for 9/7/18

September 7th, 2018 at 01:54 pm

This paycheck had the real numbers on it of what the base pay will be. No overtime. So after I get the next one I will know for sure how much income there is in a month. I am hoping they are splitting the insurances 50/50 and not taking it all out of one paycheck. If so, then we'll be bringing home more than I thought, but it still won't compare to all that overtime. Hopefully in October there will be OT again.

$319.93 Tithe
_500.00 Utilities
_400.00 Grocery Envelope
_400.00 Medical Fund
_100.00 Household Envelope
__91.91 Internet
__36.00 Garbage
_100.00 Car Insurance Fund
__50.00 Car Maintenance Envelope
_100.00 Gas Money Envelope
_120.00 Allowances
_325.89 Credit Card
_500.00 Monster Mom Loan
---------
3318.73 Total Money Out

Monster Mom Loan Payment

September 7th, 2018 at 01:45 pm

$27,500.00 Beginning Balance
-__,500.00 Payment Made
------------
$27,000.00 New Balance

We won't make as much progress this month due to the lack of overtime, but I am hoping to squeak out another $500 in two weeks time.

Still Waiting on Insurance Cards

September 6th, 2018 at 10:39 pm

I have never had an insurance company so slow to send out cards before. Every other insurance we've ever had the cards have come the week before they were to become active. DH was able to print out something that would do for the short term from the website and then he reordered cards in case they got lost in the mail.

We've had two doctor's appointments so far this week. DD had her six month check up with the opthamologist to check her eye pressure and make sure there was no sign of the eyeritis. He also slipped an eye exam into the mix. She needs new glasses badly. Her one eye has slipped from -175 to -350. So we are waiting for the insurance card for vision benefits so we can get the glasses made.

DH has a dental appointment tomorrow and has printed that info out as well, and he is going to have the receptionist put it in for all of us, since DD and I both have cleanings next week and DS has one the following week. That way I won't have to deal with it. He's also taking care of the pharmacy when he picks up my prescription tomorrow.

It's a little frustrating, but we are managing to get our ducks in a row despite somewhat poor management on the parts of the three different insurance companies.

Homemade Tomato Soup in the Instant Pot

September 1st, 2018 at 09:28 pm

I made tomato soup from scratch for the first time today. I had a big glut of tomatoes from the garden and what was left over from what Mom brought home from eastern Washington. I made it in the 8 quart Instant Pot and it was really good. I don't even like tomato soup and I liked this soup. I thought I'd pass along what I did.

Ingredients:
1 small yellow onion, diced small
2 stalks of celery, diced small
1 cup shredded carrots
1/2 cup red bell pepper, diced small
2 heaping tbsp minced garlic
salt
pepper
Italian seasoning
Tomatoes cut into wedges
2 cups broth

I started by putting the pot onto saute mode and sauteed the onions, celery, carrots, and bell peppers for 3 minutes, added a few shakes of salt, a few shakes of pepper, and 8 shakes of Italian seasoning and stirred. Then I sauteed for 3 more minutes and added the garlic, sauteeing for 30 seconds more.

Turn off the saute feature and add enough tomatoes to go up to the fill line. This was probably about 10 pounds of tomatoes. Add two cups of broth. I used chicken broth. Add one tbsp of salt and 1 tsp of pepper.

Put on the lid and set it to sealing. Select the stew button (meat/stew on some models) and bring the timer to 50 minutes. Cook. When the time is up do a quick release of the pressure. Remove the lid with the steam going away from you.

Use an immersion blender to blend the tomatoes up. Taste and adjust seasoning. I we ended up adding two more tsp of salt and 1/2 a tsp of pepper, and 1 more tbsp of Italian seasoning.

Ladle into pint jars and pressure can for 20 minutes. This makes 8 pints. Or you can can half, like I did and to the remaining soup add 1/2 cup of milk and 2 cups of fresh basil, blending again until smooth.

Both versions tasted really good to me and the kids and DH all loved it. I am happy, because now I can can up more soup when I get enough tomatoes. As they get ripe in the garden, I can core them and cut them up and then throw them in the freezer until I get enough. That way, I don't have to leave them setting out for the fruit flies to hatch out on. I have already canned all the diced tomatoes and wedges that I am going to this summer, so this will use up the rest of what I produce really easily.

As a side note, I canned the soup in the 8 quart Power Cooker XL electric pressure cooker. It has a canning feature. I have been very happy with it. I have only used it to can broth before, but it has always worked great. I like not having to baby-sit the process and it works well for small batches like this, where I won't have to drag out the big canner.

It is nice to have 2 electric pressure cookers, too. While I prefer the Instant Pot, it does not have the canning feature. Once I get a new inner pot for the XL, I will be much happier. The IP's stainless steel inner pot fits in the XL, so I will order one of those. The non-stick coating that came on the XL scratched off withing the first 2 months, so I only use pot-in-pot cooking or the canning feature on that one. With the other kind of inner pot, I will be able to fully use it again.

Birthdays Behind Us and Surgery Ahead

September 1st, 2018 at 09:03 pm

Well, we've made it through the glut of August birthdays and now I don't have to worry about any until mine in February. Now the money that will be funneled into the Holidays/Birthdays Envelope will go towards Christmas, at least through to December. Right now it has $100 in it. My budget for Christmas is $500, so I just need to save $100 a month to meet that.

I don't think we are going to go to the ranch for our turkey this year. I think I am going to go to the young man we buy our chickens from instead. We seldom go to the ranch anymore as the gas is a little too expensive. If I have a rabbit to sell we will go, but that is it lately. We just really need to stick to our budget and that includes gas money, so going to someone in our own county instead of the next one over saves us a half a tank of gas. Our gas budget is $100 a month and I don't really want to go over that.

It's official that there will be no more overtime on this particular project, so I don't know if we will be able to make progress on the debt payoff in September.
I mean we'll be able to do the $500, but I don't think anything beyond that. This project is wrapping up, though, and then there will be the next one which might have some OT.

This next paycheck will be the first one with everything being taken out of it, but without any OT on it, so I will be able to see what the real base paycheck looks like. I have numbers pretty close to it, but I'd like to have the exact ones. It's the accounting nerd in me.

DH and I have to go through and allocate our 401K money to one of the plans, so that is on the agenda for tomorrow. I hope there is one without bonds in it, because I don't feel like bonds are worth it at this stage of the game. If not something like only 10% in bonds would be good. I wish there were more options, like with the IRA, where we could pick each mutual fund that we want, but there should be something decent in their choices. Most plans have at least one option that is for good growth.

We also need to finish going through our IRA. We only have 2 of the four funds picked out that we want, so it is sitting in those for now. It just takes time to research the funds and we haven't had much of a chance to sit down and look while he has been working all of that OT.

Our new insurance cards have not arrived yet. I hope they do soon as DD has an appointment with the opthamologist on the 4th, DS has a physical on the 6th, and I have a dentist appointment on the 11th. I have never had an insurance card not be here the week before the insurance kicks in so I am starting to get nervous it won't be here before we need to use it.

In fact, I can guarantee it won't be here in time for the 4th since there won't be any mail on Monday. Here appointment is at 3:30, so there is a chance the mail will come before that, but it doesn't always. It depends on if it is our regular carrier or a sub. DH will have to email the details so I can at least give the doctor's office the info that will be on the cards.

September and October are going to be full of appointments. Not just for my immediate family, but my mother has her surgery on the 19th and then the following week starts PT three times a week for two weeks and then twice a week for several weeks after that and I have to drive her, at least for six weeks. She is having her other knee done. This is her left knee so she will be able to drive sooner, supposedly.

I am still annoyed with her for refusing to go to a nursing home to recover for two weeks. She knows how difficult it is on me to take care of her and my daughter is in no shape to help. My husband is taking off the second half of the day the Friday she comes home so he'll be around for the first few days when she's at her worst, but after that I'm on my own. I barely make it through the day taking care of myself and my disabled daughter, but she doesn't care how much of a load it adds and it frustrates me.

This is her third surgery in a year's time and I wouldn't be surprised if she doesn't try to slip the other shoulder in before the year is up and her doctor retires. I swear I will have a nervous breakdown if she does. If one of my sisters would help it would be manageable, but nope. It would interfere with their lives too much. Even the one who actually lives here in town. I just really wish she would have had them all done at once and gone to nursing home to get better. It would have been a lot less stressful.

At least this time I will have my diet in order. I just hope taking care of her doesn't make me stress eat. But right now I am firmly in control and I am determined to stay that way. I have lost 15 pounds and she is not blowing this for me. I won't let myself get derailed again no matter how crazy she makes me.