Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Nov. bills

I just paid all Nov. bills, except:
$400 tax money ($1,200 is due Feb. 1st)
$100 home insurance ($300 due in Jan.)

I actually made enough to pay all the bills, but I was behind last month, so about $300 went to that, plus I had to pay $150 to have furnace repaired.

I really need to get an emergency fund again.

Praising God though that all utilities and such are current!


What I earned / spent last week

Sunday- $0
Monday- $100 check in mail
Wednesday-$298 childcare pay for 2 weeks
Saturday-$60 babysitting

Sunday -Nov. tithe to church
Monday- $85.00 dog food and groceries at Wholefoods and
$7.00 boys dinner at Wendy's
Wednesday-$22.00 Rite Aid on Misc., $4.28 on homemade chocolate covered pretzels, $1.00 ebook, $45.00 water bill, $80.00 Oct. internet / phone / cable bill that was overdue, $6.40 library fine
Saturday-$40 gas for car

Making ornaments

We were gifted with glass Christmas ornaments and some crafts supplies, so Josh and I made ornaments last night. It was fun, and they came out so cute. I can only show you Josh's as the others will be gifts.

We put glitter and bells and a snowman in Josh's. I put more bells around rim and added a ribbon to hang.



I would like to pay all 2011 bills by the end of the year in full, to do so I will need:

$127 owe dentist
$750 owe Mastercard
$125 owe Kohl's
$600 owe tax money (due Feb. 1st)
$200 owe home insurance money (due quarterly, I think next payment is due in Jan.)

$1802 I am sure this will not happen. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


p.s. in all of this I still know I am so blessed and am so gratfeul for everything we do have.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Home Ownership

For many years, it was a desire of mine to own a home. Although it seemed I waited a long time to do so, in reality it was just a short time. I bought my grandmother's home two years ago in 2009. I had just turned 30 a month prior to the purchase. This was a pretty ambitious purchase for a 30 year old, single mom of two.

This home was such a blessing from God. Even today their are days that I look out the window into my yard or sit in my home and the pure joy of it is overwhelming. I could not be more grateful.

That being said, I have to mention how naive I was going into home ownership. We have had many unexpected's occur so far.

Days after spending our first Christmas here we had a torrential rain that made its way straight into our living room (I was using garbage can to hold the water and it was half full in half a day.) Come Feb. or March the entire roof was built out and replaced to correct the leaking (I did know about this before buying the home.)

Last year I spent many days without hot water, as my unit worked as it felt like it. The pilot went out almost daily and became harder and harder to relight. This went on over 3 months. I took many cold showers and washed my hands too many times with freezing cold water. Eventually I was able to replace the unit.

This year my dryer and dishwasher both still sort of work, but not really. The dryer drum has come separated from the dryer and things get lost in there or stuck and have to be pulled out (leaving said item covered in rust.) The dishwasher (even after me cleaning out filters and such a few times) is no longer cleaning dishes. If I put in a full load, maybe 1/4 of it comes out clean.

Now I can live without a dishwasher and dryer. The newest problem, however, I can not.

Last night I went to turn the heat on (it was 61 degrees in the house, I usually keep it at 64.) Nothing happened. I upped the heat. Still nothing. The furnace was not starting. I took the covers off the furnace to see if anything was switched off. I also made sure gas was on to entire house and to the furnace. It was. Still nothing. So we all bundled up and went to bed without it.

More upsetting over not having the money to pay the repair man or thought of needing a new furnace (worst case scenario), is not having someone to call who can carry the stress of this newest crisis. The burden is all on me. Or is it?

God gave me this home, He helps me pay each bill every month, He knew that yesterday the furnace would not work. Not only does He not want me to carry the stress alone, He wants to carry all the stress Himself. Although I can't see it right now, He already has a solution to this new problem.

Now, that does not mean I should do nothing. I need to work hard to maintain the home He has given me. I need to not spend my money foolishly, so I can save for an emergency fund. I need to educated my self on the repairs I can do. I need to invest in some tools so I can do those simple repairs myself.

But above all I need to pray and put my trust in Him.


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

I am thankful for:

my family
my friends
Lady (our dog)
freedom to homeschool
that we have more than enough of what we need


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Calories and walking

I never really cared about counting calories, but I thought I might try and track as I have a goal to lose weight before my wellness week in April 2012 (and hopefully will be able to amp up my exercising after the wellness week to further my weight loss / healthy me goals.)

I realized to maintain my weight (which I do not want to do) I need to eat about 2,100 calories. I read to lose about a lb. a week eat 500 less calories every day (and to lose 2 lbs. a week eat 500 calories less, and exercise off 500 calories.) So I am aiming for about 1,600 calories, with most coming from wholefoods in least most processed form. I am also trying to eat as little meat as possible. That is so I can lower my cholesterol.

I found a free online calorie, food, and exercise tracker here. It is really cool.

Yesterday I ended up eating 2,100 calories, but I did walk an hour, so at least I burned some of those off.

Today I am at 1,400. I still have to have my ground flax mixed in juice, so I will be at about 1,600 today (if I can resist the late night urge to snack.) Plus I walked over an hour today.

I started walking about a month ago. I walk about 3 days a week for about 45 min. I walk at a brisk pace as I bring my dog, Lady who is very eager to explore (ok, she walks me. lol.) According to my pedometer I walk about 5,500 step each walk, or almost 2 miles.

The positives since I started walking:
-I lost 2 lbs
-I am tired at night and want to go to bed about 11
-getting up between 8-9am these walk days help me to get more accomplished those days and I am calmer those days with kids
-bonding with mom and Jason's grandmother (my walking partners)
-Lady is getting exercise
-Josh is getting more exercise

I will say I am so grateful for my mom or Jason's grandmother coming over 3-4 days a week to get me up and walk with me. This has been a huge blessing, as I just don't walk on my own.

Do you count calories?
Do you walk? If yes how often and how long?


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A day in my life


went to bed at 1:20am
woke up at 7:45am
took dog out
feed and watered dog
threw on clothes
brushed my teeth
8:00am walked in mist with Jason's grandmother for an hour (6,000 steps or 2 miles)
came home, contemplated going back to bed
took a shower instead
Josh woke up while I was in shower, he needed to pee (we only have one bathroom)
got out of shower and got dressed
made Jason get off couch (he was sleeping there because he is pet sitting a cat and didn't want to leave it alone all night)
sent him upstairs to sleep a bit more, but not before giving him his medicine
made breakfast for Josh (cereal with milk, a banana, and peaches)
went online
talked with Josh
got hungry
feed cat (we are cat sitting)
made my breakfast
10:30am ate breakfast (homemade bean burger on 2 slices wheat bread, topped with avocado, with a side of peaches, also had pomegranate juice with 1 tablespoon ground flax mixed in)
thought about going back to sleep
did some school work with Josh instead
made Jason get up and have breakfast (cereal and a banana)
went online
did some laundry
Josh and I made homemade sushi
1:30pm ate lunch (the sushi and 1/2 a Wholefoods brownie)
posted pictures on facebook of homemade sushi
blogged about homemade sushi
did more schoolwork with Josh
checked on Jason's school progress
helped Jason move cat stuff (we are cat sitting) to keep Kaiden out of it
3:00pm sister dropped off Kaiden
fed sister sushi (she liked it too)
fed Kaiden lunch (some sushi, a peanut butter sandwich, and applesauce with ground flax mixed in)
played with Kaiden
more laundry
straightened up kitchen
4:30pm had a glass of nog (coconut milk non egg nog) with 2 tablespoons ground flax seed mixed in (so yummy)
regretted giving dog left over beans this morning (pu Lady)
5:00pm put Kaiden down for nap
finished schoolwork with Josh, after he threw a tantrum (fun!)
made dinner (baked potatoes and cooked peas)
got Kaiden from not actually napping
checked Jason's schoolwork progress (not too much since I last checked)
set table
ate dinner at table with Josh and Kaiden (Jason got mad and went back in his room)
cleaned up Kaiden
cleaned up table
wrote down everything I ate today with calories (1,800 so far)
gave boys snack
8:30pm started Josh to get ready for bed
got Kaiden ready for bed
9:00pm Josh bed
watched Lost with Jason (we watched season 1-4 over summer and now are watching 5, we never watched when it was on tv years ago)
11:00pm ate a bowl honey nut cheerios with almond milk
realized I ate now just 2,100 calories(YIKES) and broke my no eating after 8pm goal
11:30pm went to bed

and this was a no drive stay home day (walks are ok)

What does your day look like?


p.s. Kaiden is my 17 month old nephew. I watch him Tues., Wed., & Thur. 2-10, Fri. 9-12 & 3-overnight, & Sat. am-6

Homemade sushi

Today I made homemade sushi for the first time. It was super easy, as I used a frugal recipe from Penniless Parenting.

They took very little time to make and I didn't even use a sushi mat or anything. They tasted good, even my sister and Joshua agreed.

I didn't use any fish, but I plan to get some salmon for next time. I used carrots, cucmber, and avocado in the center.

The best part is 6 pieces was about 200 calories, and it was only under $4 to make three rolls (enough for 3 people.)

Have you ever made sushi? How did you make it? What did you put in, or on sushi?


Homemade bean / veggie burgers

I made these super easy and frugal bean / veggie burgers the other night. Yum.

1/2 cup dry lentils
1 large potato, grated finely
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 cup bread crumbs (homemade works great)
1 egg
2 tablespoons soy sauce (I used Bragg's)
dash salt

I soaked lentils overnight in a glass bowl with 2 cups filtered water. The next day, I combined all ingredients, except lentils. I mixed. Then I added lentils and mixed again. I formed into 4 patties, and baked in oven at 400 degrees for ten minutes, then I flipped burgers and baked another ten minutes.

The lentils were organic, but the other ingriedents were not. I know white potatoes are not that healthy, but I was gifted with ten pounds, so I am trying to use them up. Plus it is only 1/4 a potato per patty. It cost about $1.00 to make the 4 patties, and I suspect with all organic ingriendients it will cost about $2.00. That is reasonable.

They taste good as well.

I am going to make another batch tomorrow, but I am going to substitute ground flax for the egg, plus I am going to use fresh garlic, and add shreadded carrots as well. I also think I am going to puree the lentil beans before adding to mixture. I also might add mung beans, as I now have lentil and mung beans soaking.

Does anyone else make bean / veggie burgers? If yes, how do you make them?


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Shark Vac then Steam

Back in March I wrote about my Shark Vac then Steam. I foolishly bought off an infomercial, and spent $390 for two units with shipping and extended 2 year warranty. Having buyers remorse quickly after purchasing I called company to return. I was told I would have to send back at my expense, would not be refunded the super high shipping I spent to get units to me, and their was a restocking fee. So I ended up keeping one and gifting my sister with the other unit.

I did like how easy unit was to use and my floors looked good in about 5 min., this would make doing floors daily possible.

Fast forward 5 months and my unit stopped working. I let it sit. I cleaned out container and filter, yet still the vacuum barely sucked, and the steam stopped coming out.

I called today to evoke my warranty. Surprise they were more than happy to accommodate, if I paid to ship unit in and sent them $20 to ship it back to me, then if damage was covered under warranty they would repair and send back. Or for $39.99 plus tax they would just ship me a brand new item with my original warranty (which expires March 2013) still valid.

It would cost me $20 to ship it to them and the $20 they wanted to ship it back, so I just paid another $42 (with tax.) Hopefully the new unit works more than 5 months.

What a waste. Never buy anything from an infomercial. EVER! I saw the same unit at Costco after I bought for like $130. And I could have returned it there for a full refund if it stopped working.

So far I am out $429.59. Two units from Costco would have only been $260, $170 less than what I paid, plus I would be out nothing once I returned since the unit stopped working.

That is a very costly mistake!!!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Fresh Wreaths Make Great Gifts

The boys and I are selling fresh wreaths. These come to you directly from Wreaths of Maine. You choose the shipping week. You can order online directly or through me. Either way shipping is only $3.95 per wreath.

Nine styles and prices to choose from. These make great gifts! If you order as a gift they will enclose a free gift card with your personalized message.

If you order online please enter #4903 Rebecca Rivera at checkout so we get credit for the wreath.



Sunday, November 13, 2011

Still hurts

Today Jason's dad is visiting. I don't like to post too much about him (or Josh's dad) those are really their stories to tell.

But on my end I am feeling a bit stressed about it. He has not been here to see Jason in over a year. It saddens me that my boys do not having the dad's they deserve. But these visits create stress and anxiety in me, and in Jason. In fact Jason did not really want this visit. But I have tried very hard over the past few years to put my feelings aside and continually reach out to his dad and encourage him to be a part of Jason's life.

As I sit here preparing today for his visit I am struck of the feelings that this visit arises in me. First, I am sad. The honest truth is I wish that I was in a Godly marriage and so desperately want that for my boys (a dad who loves the Lord, me, and them.) Second, I am a bit mad. I am mad that he doesn't do more to show his son love. Also I am mad that I am parenting alone. It is such a hard job, especially with the special needs thrown in.

Now, don't get me wrong. I do not have love feelings for his dad. If I am honest with myself, I can say I never really did (it was more of a lust relationship. This was when I was just 17 and did not know Christ.) And I have forgiven him for all he has done (although it is still a struggle as he still does things that I need to forgive, so just by forgiving him for the past doesn't just end it.)

I am not usually wallowing in sadness, but it still hurts. As I reflect on the pain of having a child with a man (really a boy) and then having him betray me by cheating and then leaving for that woman (really a girl); I want to tell young teens how valuable sex is and that the pain of that sin will be with them their entire life. Yes, I am a stronger woman and I have learned many lessons through my life circumstances, but I still carry those memories with me.

As a teen I would never have imagined that choices I made would affect me at 20, 30, and beyond. But God knew, and He gave me instructions for living in the Bible. The Bible says that sometimes our children will suffer the consequences of our sin
Exodus 20:5 – “You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me.” (NIV)
Read some great thoughts on that here.

What I need to do now is continue to go to God in prayer, ask for healing, ask for Him to spare my children some of the consquences of my sin (which he has done so many times already,) and try to live each new day for Him completely, as His ways really are the best ways.


This was me in Dec. of 1996. I had just turned 17. I was a freshman in college. I was dating Jason's dad. One year later in Dec. of 1997 Jason was born.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Fresh wreaths make great gifts

The boys and I are selling fresh wreaths. These come to you directly from Wreaths of Maine. You choose the shipping week. You can order online directly or through me. Either way shipping is only $3.95 per wreath.

Nine styles and prices to choose from. These make great gifts! If you order as a gift they will enclose a free gift card with your personalized message.

If you order online please enter #4903 Rebecca Rivera at checkout so we get credit for the wreath.



Family Shoot by Janet Vignes Photography

A good friend of mine now has her own photography business. She took photos of us last year and offered to do so this year as well (for free.)

She is such a blessing to us. Here are a few of the shots:

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Reader Question

I got this comment from a reader, Becky (great name.)

"I have a question for you: do you think a mother needs to have a passion for learning/teaching in order to homeschool her children?

My son is only 15 months, but I'm already thinking about whether I will homeschool or not. The thing is, I have never been passionate about learning. School was easy for me - I was able to get A's and B's with almost no effort. I did one year of technical college and was glad to be done with homework forever :)

I'd love to hear your thoughts!"

Thanks for your comment, Becky, here are my thoughts.

I think homeschooling begins the day your bring your child into this world. With books you read, songs you sing, including the child in all you do. By asking questions and delighting in finding the answers. I am sure you are already doing that. Do you find joy in your child discovering a caterpillar for the first time? Or by drawing his first masterpiece (hopefully not on the wall)? This is all learning.

If we are called by God to homeschool then He will give us the joy (maybe not right away) but we know we need to do His will (because our ways just don't work.)

I would venture to say what you did in school was not learning, therefore you had no joy for it. It was probably a lot of busy work. I did a lot of that too.

I can tell you without a doubt that much of the learning we do brings me joy. Just yesterday we went to the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, PA. We have a family pass and try to go once a month. We had kids ages 6 to 15. They all had fun, but all learned something as well. The moms too. And no, not everyday can be spent at a hands on educational museum. But everyday can be spent joyfully.

I actually enjoy my children and want to be around them. I believe priorities should be God and then family. By being with my boys all day we have a great bond, plus so do they with each other. Yes it is hard and they do fight, but I get the best part of their days.

Beyond having joy daily, You get to define what school and learning is. Not the government, not the Superintendent, but you. Only you know how your child will learn best and only you truly have his best interest at heart (I know their are wonderful teachers, I know many, but they still will never love your child as you do.)

My goals in homeschooling are:

-raise Godly men of Godly character
-have my children's hearts (after God)
-teach them to love learning (learning should be a life long process that brings us joy!)
[I can't teach them everything, no public or private school can either, but I can teach them how to learn and do so in a way that that want too as well.]

Some added perks to homeschooling:
-being able to pray, use Bible, and sing to God all day long (my kids hate when I sing, so it has the added benefit of annoying them. lol)
-sleeping in
-learning in your pj's
-being there when you child gets something for first time
-hugs all day (still get them from my 13 and 8 year old)
-going to museums when barely anyone else is there (or going on vacations, day trips, etc.)
-no homework (yes,we are technically learning all day, but we don't have to do worksheets and etc. after a long day at school.)
-allowing your young child to use curriculum with God as center, young children are so easily influenced that if they read at school that the world was created by the big bang theory, they usually will believe it (that being said with my kids as they are older we explore other options and then compare them to what God's word says.)

I would encourage anyone considering homeschooling to pray and check out Proverbs. The entire book is about not educating, but discipling our children. That is what God calls us to do.

So, Becky, my additional advice to you is to find joy in everyday learning now, and by the time your child is school age you will realize you have been homeschooling all along.


Raw Sauerkraut

Even though I despise hot dogs, I do enjoy sauerkraut. I had no idea though that most sauerkraut you buy is void of most nutrients. Raw, uncooked sauerkraut on the other hand it a superfood. You can read more about it here

Wanted to eat very little processed foods, I decided to make my own sauerkraut. It was super easy. Back in Oct. when we visited Lee Turkey farm I actually got two heads of cabbage (we picked them ourselves, so cool) for $1.00 each. Great deal.

I made a coleslaw with raw apple cider vinegar with the first head. The second I have been fermenting into sauerkraut. I just ate a cup full and it was good.

Basically it was super easy.
I washed the cabbage.
Then I cut into tiny pieces.
All the recipes I found online talked about putting it in a crock, which I do not have. I almost bought one, but in the interest of frugality I made due with what I had.
I put about 1/3 of the cabbage in a large canning jar, adding seas salt every few layers. Then I covered with filtered water, leaving about 2 inches of nothing above water. Make sure all cabbage is covered. Then I put cheesecloth, and then plastic wrap over the top. To hold it in place I put the rim of the canning top (but left off the lid, air needs to escape.)
I put the other 2/3 in a glass wine container I got from a friend (I wanted a glass container to make sun tea in.) Once again I covered cabbage with sea salt and filtered water. Then, I covered container with cheesecloth and plastic wrap, then rubber banded the two in place.
Every few days I check to assure all cabbage is below water line.
Occasionally I have stirred. But mostly I have done nothing.
It has been fermenting about 3 weeks now and already taste good.

I will let it continue to ferment, eating some as I please.

Have you ever made homemade sauerkraut?


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Please Pray

Our youth Pastor, Josh, discovered today that he has cancer. He is being transferred to a hospital in NY tomorrow to have surgery to try and remove one of the tumors on his spine. He is 39 years old, married, with four kids ages 6, 4, 4, and 4. (the kids are all adopted, so not triplets, a set of twin girls, and a 4 year old boy.) He was otherwise in good health, and only had pain in past three weeks. He had no idea he had tumors in his body.

Pray for complete healing and peace for his family!



Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Nov. budget

10% tithe
$ 38 offering to Compassion Child
$ 22 offering to Solutions Pregnancy Center

$400 mortgage
$400 taxes
$100 home insurance
$ 70 gas bill (budget option)
$ 100 electric bill (budget option)
$ 50 water bill
$ 50 sewer bill
$ 80 internet / phone / cable
$ 90 car insurance (phone in before 12/8)
$120 gas for car ($30 a week)
$ 32 Jason writing class
$ 50 Mastercard
$ 30 Kohl’s charge (to pay in full)
$350 Food (human and dog)

I should make exactly this much this month. Not one penny more (actually about $50 less, but will tweak as needed.) Praying for no emergencies.

How is your Nov. budget?


Oct. bills

I have paid all Oct. bills except:
$108 electric bill
$70 gas bill (due already)
$80 cable / internet / phone (due Nov. 11th)

I had money for electric bill, but my car broke down on Monday (snapped brake line) so I had to use that money to pay mechanic instead.

My Sat. job owes me for a few weeks (probably about $180) so I will use that to pay the electric and gas bills. My Sat. boss said she sent me a check the other day so I should get any day now.

At the end of the week I should only be behind by the $80 cable / phone / internet bill (which technically isn't due yet.) Not too bad.

This month my property taxes were due ($1,200.) I also had this money.

If I have no emergencies this month I should be able to pay all my bills.

Praise God!


Operation Christmas Child

Operation Christmas Child is a ministry through Samaritan's Purse that sends shoeboxes filled with toys, school supplies, hygiene items, hard candy, and the gospel message in the recipient child's language.

They get the shoeboxes from people (like us) who fill them and send to distribution center.

Our church participates in this project every year. Last year we filled and sent 48 boxes. This year our goal is 100 boxes.

If you would like to help us meet that goal we are asking for $15 to sponsor each box ($7 is for the shipping.) You can send to my church:

Calvary Baptist Church
491 Lloyd Road,
Aberdeen, NJ 07747
put OCC in the memo line of your check

or you can paypal me a donation (I promise it will be used for a box):

Or you can find out about drop off locations in your area and make your own box, or you can send a donation directly to Samaritan's Purse through their website.

If you can not find a local drop off site, mail completed boxes to:
Samaritan’s Purse
Operation Christmas Child
801 Bamboo Road
Boone, NC 28607

This is a wonderful project to be involved with, and one that young children can really understand. They can actually pick items to put in the box.

Would you please help send a gift to a child in need this Christmas?

All monies are due by Sat. Nov. 12th (so we can assemble boxes and get them shipped to NC, so they then can get shipped all over the world.)