Thursday, January 31, 2008

National Wear Red Day

Hmm....I'm at a bit of a loss for updates recently. I don't want to just give a play by play of the weekends, but sometimes there's not much else to tell you.

So, today I want to draw your attention to heart disease and women. Tomorrow, 2/1, is
National Wear Red Day.

“Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer of women of all ethnic
backgrounds.” -
American Heart Association Website

Check it out and take precautions now!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Snow Tubing Pictures

Pictures from Aaron's birthday are here.

if they look sort of squished, I'm sorry...I'm looking into that, but I didn't see the problem until too late to work on it tonight.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Sam Drove!

You know, this is my 154th post. I feel like I hit the 150th post like 4 weeks ago and I should be much farther along than 154 by now, but I digress...

Anyway, I was writing to tell you all about my weekend. Friday night, I left work just a few minutes early. PJ and I went to the dealership where we picked up his truck (that was in for transmission work). I took his truck and he went to work at the bar (taking my car). I went home to Petsmart to pick up some dogfood (being lazy about the homemade diet right now) and then I ran to Kohl's where I scored a fabulous deal on a comforter set.

After that, I picked up the girls and we went home. Ethan was staying at his dad's house since his uncle was coming into town and I don't know why else, but it was fine. The girls and I headed home where we did our chores and ate dinner (ooo...lean pockets and stuff) and then they watched some TV while I watched TV in my room. I also did more chores (during commercials, of course).

Saturday morning, PJ and Sam went to breakfast. Ethan came home and then we all went to help Susan move (that's Seth's girlfriend). Jacob, Kim, and Tony were also there and we knocked out the moving in about 30 minutes. Amazing. Granted, it IS a one-bedroom apartment, but with all those helpers and well-packed storage pods, it went quickly. We had pizza and then cut out of there to do our next set of errands.

PJ stayed home while I took the girls and Ethan to run errands. Found a new jacket for Megan, exchanged a shirt for Samantha and found a new coffee pot (our carafe broke and we haven't been able to find a replacement carafe). Once we were home, I finished chores and PJ continued his work around the house. I took Sam driving before I started dinner. :O

Sam and I drove around a nearby shopping center. It has "regular roads" and parking lot roads in it. So we practiced parking and turning and using blinkers and backing up and then...dum, dum, dum...I let her drive home. She had to drive on a road with a DOUBLE YELLOW LINE for about 2 blocks. LOL. And then she was in our neighborhood. She even parked the truck in the driveway (which is a big deal since both other cars were in the driveway too). It was only a little scary, but she did a great job! She went to tell PJ about her experience and I started dinner. Joe came over for dinner and then left to go back to school (and he made it safely!). The rest of the us watched Supersize Me. If you're one of the 12 people who haven't seen it yet. Rent it. Watch it. Learn.

We made it an early night on Saturday since we had to get up at the butt crack of dawn on Sunday. We drove to PA to go snow tubing for Aaron's 15th birthday. Most of PJ's family made it. I stayed in the lodge and read, which was good because I think it was like 15 degrees outside and I stongly dislike the cold. Brrr! Everyone had fun though and then we went to Tina's house where we had yummy food and fun conversations.

We left last night around 6pm to get home and I think it was around 730 when we finally got into the house and unloaded all our stuff. Ethan went to his dad's since there was no school today for MLK, Jr day and I tried to get to bed early (HA!). It's bitterly cold again today. I'm looking forward to a spring thaw. Snow tubing pictures to follow soon. :)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Where There's a Will...

So, if you recall, we met with a financial planner a couple of months ago. One of the tasks he assigned us with was to get in to see a lawyer and finally get a will and whatnot done. Well, PJ and I finally did that today.

We met with a lawyer that the financial planner referred us to. He was a knowledgeable guy who's been in the business a long time. He had a lot of information and practical advice for us. Nice guy too.

We were asked to come with a brief financial summary and some ideas on who we wanted to appoint as trustees, executor, etc.

The lawyer asked us a series of questions and then we discussed our options. Our situation is more unique than the standard family since we're blended and PJ has a few stipulations already set up in his property settlement agreement (what you get when you get separated in Va).

The drafted documents will be mailed to us in the next couple of weeks and then we'll review and approve/edit them. Once that's complete, we'll head back to his office to sign everything and then we'll have to update some of our documents, like our life insurance beneficiaries. I'll be glad when we can finally cross this important step off our list. I feel like a huge burden will be lifted.

Here's some information for getting your own will done (and in general, this can be done with software at home, but our situation is a tad bit more complicated):

  1. An executor is the one assigned to handle all the administrative tasks after a death. This is often a spouse, however, if you both die, someone else must be named. If you don't name one, the courts will. This should be someone who is organized and who you trust to get all your affairs in order (funeral, general paperwork, taxes, bills, etc.). Make sure your executor can find all of your files and whatnot. If you pay your bills online, make sure they are left some directions with how to access those accounts!

  2. Once the executor is done with his/her job of executing the will(s), the remaining funds of the estate (if there are any) are then distributed. If a trust was set up, then the assests are turned over to the trust and trustee. A trustee should be designated to help distribute the funds of the trust to your survivors (in our case, our kids). The trustee should be someone who makes similar financial decisions. For instance, if your kid goes to the trustee to ask for the money to buy a car, will the trustee make the same decision as you would?

  3. In Virginia, you are not required to have an executor that's a resident of the state (misinformation I had received originally). The executor will have to appear in court wherever you resided sometime after your death, so keep that in mind.

  4. Wills are valid even if you move states, etc. The lawyer advised that you update your will at least every 10 years, but also after any major life changes. Generally, you can always call the lawyer to ask if a life change requires a will update. They'll answer that question free of charge usually. :)

In addition to the will, we're also having a power of attorney drawn up. This basically states that if either of us is unable to do something legal/financial, the other can do it. So, if I'm in a coma, PJ can sell my car (since he's not on the title, this would otherwise be an issue for him). These documents are particularly important for elderly parents to complete naming one of their adult children before they have a stroke or other debilitating problem that renders them unable to make decisions. The lawyer said that he received calls almost DAILY from family members needing a power of attorney for a sickened parent and the parent is not truly competent. It requires them to go to court and do a million things. In the meantime, the mortgage is not getting paid because no one can access the parent's checking account.

We're also having a Health Care Power of Attorney done. This gives the other spouse the power to make medical decision in the event the injured spouse can't. Ours also list various other family members as alternatives (in the event one of us has passed already). These are not only for life and death situations, but those are included of course.

Finally, we are also having a Living Will done. Neither one of us is interested in being kept on life support. So, this dictates that making the decision easier for our surviving family members.

No one likes to think about the inevitability of death, however, if you don't want the state to decide what to do with your estate, even if you don't have kids, you should look at getting this taken care of. If you leave behind family members (kids, siblings, parents, etc.), you will make their lives infinitely easier if these things are discussed in advance and then dictated legally.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Everyone can use this advice

I don't have a lot of my own news to update you with, so I thought I'd link you to an EXCELLENT financial blog that I follow. As a matter of fact, I'm going to add him to my blog roll.

Anyway, here he gives you 8 tips for getting control of your finances in 2008 (or really, at any time). His advice is spot on.

Go read it!

Yes, I know all those links go to the same place...that's because I think it's really important! Go check him out!

His blog is Get Rich Slowly.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Behind Door #2

So, on 12/31, PJ and I decided on the right Beater Car for Sam. She was eligible to get her permit on 1/3 and we knew we needed to have our ducks in a row. So, we did a little negotiating and found this puppy. Isn't she a beauty? Yeah, I know, she's older and a little banged up, but she is still running and at 17 years, that's pretty good. 1990 Nissan Stanza here.

Her "issues," if you will:

  • clutch is a little loose, but works
  • a bit of cosmetic damage inside and outside (but not bad for 220k miles!)
  • speedometer doesn't work
  • A/C doesn't work
  • Gas tank, hood and trunk releases don't work (new cables necessary?)
  • a very little rust on one panel
  • reverse lights don't work
  • passenger side front door handle doesn't work
  • door seal needs to be replaced (but it doesn't leak)
  • the stereo doesn't work and it's missing rear speakers, but don't you know we have an extra set in the attic? And an extra stereo too....cuz we're geeks like that. We're not in any hurry to fix the radio though (that's just a distraction for new drivers).
  • one directional tire was misinstalled
  • few extraneous electrical/engine tweaks needed...

Anyway, PJ can fix almost all the problems himself...granted he needs a little time to do that all, but the car runs and with the exception of the reverse lights not working, it's legal. We have inspection next month, so we'll have to get those lights working by then. In the meantime, Samantha can practice shifting in the driveway.

Samantha DID get her permit on Friday, 1/4. Look out Virginia, Sam's gonna start driving. :)

In other news:

Happy Birthday to our January birthdays...I think it's only Aaron, Sam's cousin. Since he's in West VA and they allow kids to get their permit when they're 15, Sam was REALLY glad she passed the permit test on her first try so she could get her permit before Aaron. Aaron will be 15 on Jan 19! We'll be snow tubing in PA to celebrate (I promise to have pictures!).

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Only YOU Can Prevent Forest Fires!

You and PJ, that is.

Near the end of the holiday vacation, but before New Year's, PJ and I were at home. I know we were both showered/dressed to leave the house, but I can't remember the time of day (mid-day at some point).

PJ looked out our kitchen window and saw a little bit of smoke in the neighbor's yard. It was a thin column of smoke, like you might have for a small campfire. PJ commented on it. Now, outdoor fires in residental areas are illegal where we live. And on top of that, there's like a 13" rain deficit, so while the ground wasn't parched (had recently had rain), it wasn't a good idea. I commented on how these types of fires could get out of control very easily and PJ pashawed my comment.

PJ continued to watch. I was doing something in the kitchen (computer stuff? grocery list? I can't remember). Then PJ started to get more interested in the fire. He commented that it appeared to be a lot smokier now and then he said the little old lady next door was running (as much as an 80-yr old grandma can run). I thought he was just pulling my leg, but he said she really was running. I went out on the back deck to see what I could see and I could see that there was some fire, but I couldn't tell how much.

We saw the neighbor-lady carry out water in a dog bowl. And then in a tupperware container. PJ realized this wasn't going to solve the problem and he leapt into action grabbing his trusty 5-gallon bucket (the one he uses for the fish tank) and ran to the neighbor's house.

He made his way into the backyard (through a gate, no sense ringing a doorbell in this case). He saw that the wood retaining wall had caught on fire. He tried the hose, but being winter, the outside water was off. He ran up the back steps to the house to the kitchen sink (their kitchen is upstairs, like ours). He hadn't seen anyone yet, but he went ahead to fill up the bucket in the sink. Well, the water pressure gave him a trickle. He was beyond frustrated, but since he still hadn't seen any homeowners, he didn't feel right about heading to the tub to fill his bucket up (the situation wasn't dire enough yet).

The homeowners did show up (we don't know where they were, in the basement???) and one of them unlocked the basement door so PJ could turn on the water (they weren't tall enough). Then PJ got the hose and extinguished the fire. Damage was only to the retaining wall, but no one was hurt and no major property damage.

Thank goodness PJ was paying attention! The neighbors brought us food on New Year's Day. And though they try to teach me Spanish with each visit, I haven't gotten much farther than "gracias" or "adios." **shrug** At least we like our neighbors, even if they are trying to burn down the neighborhood. :P

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Death of a Tree

We used a tree bag this year. It was our attempt at preventing needles from littering the house when it came time to remove the tree. Well, let's just say it was fantastic! :) We're using one every year! The tree was debagged at the curb and the trash guys hauled it away and it'll be recycled into mulch or something. It's already gone...we're officially un-decorated for Christmas now.

Christmas Pics are here!

Our Christmas with the kids - 12/22

My Mom's - 12/23

Yasha's - 12/25

Mom & Dad's (Judy & Pat) - 12/25

My Dad's - 12/26

A Birthday Story

So, on Dec 20, we went to a funeral. It was a Thursday and it was a pretty rough day. D.O. was young and well-loved and it brought back a lot of memories and it reminds you how precious life is.

After the funeral, several of us (a lot) met up at TGI Fridays to catch up and tell stories and whatnot. I had some things to take care of and left around 5. PJ said he wasn't staying late and that I'd see him later. It was a pretty crappy evening as I spent a lot of time reminiscing and whatnot. PJ got home around 930pm. I was getting ready for bed. He said he'd been out doing last minute birthday shopping and that he stopped by Glory Days. I was irritated he was home so late, but I figured he had just needed more time (than me) to process everything and decompress from the day, etc., etc.

Fast forward to my birthday (12/26, in case you forgot to pay attention)...PJ and the kids brought my birthday gifts to my dad's house. I opened them there and I got some pajamas, socks and fondue forks. Now, I'm not trying to come across as greedy, but I thought, "He didn't come home that night for this?!" And based on my Christmas presents, I know that the kids and PJ had all been to Victoria's secret, Bed, Bath & Beyond and the mall, so I knew those gifts were not gifts that PJ had been out shopping for the night of the funeral. I didn't say anything because I was happy with the gifts and saying something certainly would have made me sound ungrateful (which I wasn't). Besides, I figured he might have stopped to get one item, but mostly he had probably just spent more time hanging out with everyone than he was willing to admit to. Having a fight about that wasn't high on my list of fun things to do on my birthday.

We left my dad's not too late and got home...I took Megan to the store to redeem a gift card and we ran a couple other errands. Sometime after dinner, PJ started questioning me about items that were on the table (because where do we store all this new Christmas stuff??!!). I turned to talk to him and low and behold what do I see? A bag, from a jewelry store. And in it were a pair of earrings and a journey pendant necklace. PJ redeemed himself. :) And then, of course, I had to tell him the story that I just told you and he got even greater pleasure out of it all. He spent some time congratulating himself. LOL. He's a good guy. And he wasn't out all night at the bar as I had started to think he had been. HAHAHAHAHAHAH! Phew!

Friday, January 04, 2008

Where did December go?

Since I don't have time for a full update yet, here's a little bit about the last couple of weeks. I promise you that soon you'll hear all about Stanzas, fires and a few other things.

On 12/22, we celebrated Christmas with the kids. We had breakfast casseroles for dinner (lukewarmly received) and then opened gifts. We sent each of the kids on a scavenger hunt for their final gift. It was fun!

On 12/23, we celebrated Christmas with my mom, Bo, my sibs and their families and some of Bo's family. Delicious food and fun gifts! We celebrated mine and Nickel's birthdays too.

On 12/24, I worked a half day and PJ was off. He ran some errands and whatnot. I don't remember what Ethan did...oh I think he went to see I Am Legend. That evening, Ethan and I went to church and then we just hung out.

On 12/25 (Christmas day, for those of you following along at home), we went to Yasha and Kirk's for brunch at 11am. Then we left to pick up PJ's girls by 2pm. Then we headed to Pat & Judy's house for a Christmas celebration with PJ's family (all the sibs and whatnot). Good times, good food. We also had birthday cake. When we got home, the three kids who haven't yet gone off for college found out that they were also getting new computer desks (pics coming soon). They assembled them right away.

On 12/26 (hey! that's my birthday!), we went out to visit my dad, stepmom and her boys. Jordan had already left for work, so we missed him. Heidi and Kurt had already left too. Rob, Dawn and Nickel were there though. We ate, opened gifts, had birthday cake (again, 3rd time!), birthday gifts and played some CatchPhrase. Finally we left to get a few more things done at home. The girls went home that evening.

On 12/27, PJ and I must have done something...I can't remember what. Ethan hung out with a friend most of the day.

Early on 12/28, Ethan flew out to CA with his dad for a visit with family out there. He'll be back on 1/5...he's having a blast. PJ worked on 12/28 at the bar too. I played his new xBox 360. LOL

On 12/29, we went out to dinner with Joe and some friends and then was out way too late. Except for being tired, I was fine the next day (the benefits of being DD).

On 12/30, we went to watch the game at Andy & Lyndsey's house. The Skins won, which made everyone there very happy (and I don't care).

On 12/31, we hosted a dinner party where we played CatchPhrase AGAIN! Fun though.

1/1 was spent recuperating and cleaning up. I was very tired, but otherwise no major issues.

1/2, unfortunately, saw us both back to work. LOL

Our Christmas decorations are 98% removed and put away. The house is almost back to normal...tonight I'll hopefully finish that up.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Happy New Year!

Well, it's 2008. I've been a little MIA lately...the holidays are just hectic and now that we are resuming normal activities I can think about posting updates and stuff. Unfortunately, I'm not really ready to post a lot of information...heck, I haven't even dowloaded the pictures from Christmas yet and we celebrated on 12/22!!!! Phew!

Anyway, just wanted to pop on and let you know I was alive and updates would be coming soon. Happy New Year to you all and I hope 2008 is a fantastic year for you!