A Recipe from my Sister

My family just returned from a trip to Ireland. My sister, who is an amazing cook – especially when it comes to desserts, fell in love with some Chocolate Peanut Butter Caramel Bars she had in Ireland, and came home to figure out the recipe. This is what she came up with:

CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER CARAMEL BARS

INGREDIENTS

1 cup organic or regular creamy peanut butter, divided

3/4 cup butter, softened

1/4 cup sugar

2 cups graham cracker crumbs(or twelve 2 1/2 x 5 inch crackers)

½ a jar of Caramel ice cream topping.

½ package Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels

GRAHAM CRACKER CRUST:

2 cups crushed graham cracker crumbs (twelve 2 1/2 x 5 inch crackers)
1/4 c. sugar
3/4 stick butter

Melt butter. Blend in crumbs and sugar. Press into 9 x 13 inch pan. Bake at 350 degrees about 10 to 12 minutes. Cool before adding peanut butter caramel mix.

FILLING AND TOPPING:

  1. Melt peanut butter and caramel in medium, saucepan over lowest possible heat, stirring constantly, until smooth. Spread over graham cracker crust in pan. Let cool before adding chocolate topping.
  2. Melt chocolate chips in and spread over peanut butter filling evenly.
  3. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or until chocolate is firm, cut into bars.

Note: add more peanut butter or caramel to your taste.  The caramel topping sweetens the peanut butter but if you want more peanut butter taste, add another ¼ cup to the recipe.

Enjoy all!

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If It Happened to You

Increasingly, I have seen more news articles regarding a student getting in trouble at school for the way they look. From haircuts to exposed collarbones, students are being brought to task for being “distracting” to the other students. So, I began to think about how I would react, if this were to happen to my child.

Just reading the articles, I have been outraged by the stories of girls sent home, or made to wear “shaming” outfits, that spell out their dress code violation. Some of the outfits depicted would have been the most tame in my high school in the ’90s. It all reads very much like The Scarlet Letter – girls made to publicly shame themselves, because their all too alluring legs, cleavage or even collarbones are distracting their classmates. I just can’t fathom how this become something that is really happening in 2015!

I count myself lucky to have all boys. Until you see children being reprimanded for having mohawks, military style buzz cuts or for items printed on their t-shirts. (It’s weird that boy’s collarbones are not deemed too distracting for the classroom… hmmm?)

On top of this, my son’s junior high school has a dress code that only permits khakis, dress pants, button down plain shirts or plain polo shirts. Not even stripes are allowed! (These kids are easily distracted if stripes will do them in!) The initial investment into sound pieces at the beginning of the school year seemed more than worth it to not have to deal with arbitrary “distracting” styles dress codes. Just purchase what is on the list, in the colors allowed, and you can’t go wrong.

So, assume that you, as any normal supermom would, have put a lot of thought into what your child will and will not be allowed to wear. You have approved their haircut, and deemed their school wardrobe as fit for an educational setting. Then, the phone rings and the school has taken issue with your child’s style. What now?

Your first step should be to find out all the details of the school’s complaint against your child’s style. You should definitely request the school’s complaint in writing. If you are asked to come and pick up the child, be sure that you get all the facts before leaving school grounds. It always seems that facts can be muddled after the fact, so be sure you have the issue given to you in the most specific way possible. In my son’s school, students are not allowed to tie their shirts around their waist, so the issue may not be the clothes you bought, but how your child chose to wear it.

Misunderstanding of this nature can be clear up by explaining the dress code to your child again, and asking them to not alter their outfits in a manner not keeping with the dress code. But what if the school staff is not specific about the problem. All too often schools are getting away with reprimanding a student for being “too distracting”. How can you work with such a subjective complaint?

The answer is documentation. School administration tend to be some of the more litigation leery people to interact with. We trust them with our most precious children, and people expect a lot from our educators these days. Sometimes, documentation is all that is required to clear the problem up for school administrations. If you send a letter discussing why your child’s style is important, and should not be excluded from the dress code, they may drop the issue. Parents of the 7-year-old with the mohawk sent a letter from their tribal leader, discussing the haircut as traditional for Native Americans.

I think that in some of these cases, you have to stand up for your child’s right to express themselves and not be censored. If you can not win against the school by making your case with letters and supporting documentation, you may have to get the law on your side.

If your stance is going to be your child’s constitutional right to free speech (via their hairstyle or clothes) here are some things to keep in mind:

  • The courts recognize a student’s rights to free speech. However, they also back the school’s right to control behavior by way of a dress code, so long as they have not set the guidelines for the purpose of censorship.
  • Your child’s expression cannot cause a disruption in the educational process. On the flip side, the school policy can not overly restrict the student’s freedom beyond what is required to meet the educational interests of the school.

If you have questions about whether or not your child’s school policy infringes on your child’s constitutional rights, you may wish to consult an education attorney that can advise you on the specific laws in your state. Keep in mind that there are specific forms of discipline that have been banned in schools in the U.S. These include humiliation and demeaning forms of discipline, like the dunce cap or writing repeated sentences. Some could argue that the dress code sweatpants are akin to the dunce cap.

Contacting an attorney may seem like a leap, but you should always know what your (and your child’s) rights are. That’s what I would do, if it happened to me.

You Are Enough

What does happy look like to you? Right now, you may be thinking of things that you need to get done and goals you want to accomplish. I remember when I was younger, thinking that I would be happy when… queue list of unobtainable standards. Once I looked like Cindy Crawford, I would be happy and could enjoy life. Once I had that car in the ad, my life would take off with possibilities. Until then, I would not allow myself to enjoy anything. Achieving your dreams is hard work, right?

I’m glad I dumped that way of thinking. It took the pressure off myself and it opened up opportunities I couldn’t see when I had my blinders on. I saw that I could obtain personal health, but I would never look like Cindy, I quit worrying about my status symbol car, picked up a $500 Chevy and was off to new places. Not allowing yourself to be happy while in pursuit of your goals is toxic.

Then I wondered if I’m still thinking the same way – only now, my unobtainable goal is being a supermom, and I have a million excuses why I am not or can’t be one.

Look around the internet and there is always a group that states their way is better and you’re doing it wrong. Some may be satirical (and hilarious!), but in the end, you have set the standard for yourself. For me, being a supermom means being pretty close to perfect. Since I feel nowhere near perfect, it perpetuates my view of my self as not yet supermom – a person who is striving to get there, but hasn’t quite met the criteria.

I do this to myself.

Part of my goals in writing this blog is to see all the effort I put into being a parent, so that I can have a more realistic view of how I’m doing. As I start to look at myself more objectively, I see that I expend an enormous amount of energy being a mom. When I’m physically present, actually caring directly for the kids, or when I’m on my break at work, and I’m looking for experiences we can enjoy as a family, I’m thinking about how to give them a childhood that will give them a leg up in adulthood.

Yesterday I told my husband that I’m not perfect. He immediately protested “Yes, you are!” and just that simple statement made me realize I am perfect, in a way. I’m the perfect person to take care of my family.

So whether the pressure on you comes from within or without, please realize that you are enough. You are the perfect person to care for your children and family. The fact that you are striving to be better shows how much you care.

In writing this post, I stumbled across #endmommywars, a movement to stop spreading judgement amongst moms and bring support to a group that needs it – parents. I also found this great post by one of the panel members, Erika Bragdon, you can find here. These are great tips to help with insecurity you may feel as a mother.

Remember to be kind to yourself. You are enough.

Also, add supermom to your dictionary:

Capture 

The Secret Diary of Agent Spitback

Preparing for Junior High School

Transitioning from class-centric format of grade school, into the realm of period scheduling is a big change and one that can be overwhelming. Kids need to make it to their next class on time, carry with them the supplies needed for their next class, remember locker combinations and handle the expectations of several teachers. But they can do it, and here is how you can help.

These practical skills will prepare them to be organized, independent and successful students in high school and on into college.

Study location: Designate a table or desk where your child always completes their homework. They will need a hard surface, so that they can complete their work neatly. Some people use their kitchen table, and that is fine, but I made sure that my son’s room had a small desk in it. It’s great for him, because he is easily distracted when around others, so the kitchen table may have too much stimulus for him to concentrate fully. Also, if homework time runs into dinner time, then your child has to put away their stuff, so you can eat at the table, and get it all back out afterward.

Schedule: Help your child to prioritize and plan their study session. To encourage your child, you can start with the easiest homework, leaving the hardest for last. This can backfire though, as your child grows more weary, the harder assignments become almost impossible. I worked with my son, and we came up with a great plan that works for him. Math first, as it’s his favorite subject, but is also the most time consuming. We leave his 30 minutes of reading each night for last, in fact, he normally takes his shower, crawls into bed and then does his reading. It makes the reading more enjoyable.

Staying on task: As I mentioned before, my son gets easily distracted. To be fair, our family isn’t really very conducive to studying right now. We have the 17 month old, who adores his older brother, wanting to play with him, and knocking on his door, something he’s just learned to do. Dogs that want to play in the evening, dinner time, chores to be done. It can be really distracting! You can use a timer for your child, is that visual will help them. I simply check on him while he studies. He uses his iPad for parts of his homework, so it just can’t be taken away, but he doesn’t need his phone, so I take that. I also take the headphones, so he doesn’t sneak and listen to music. To encourage his focus, I make sure that when he gets home, he doesn’t do homework first. He’s been in class studying all day! He takes the dogs for a walk, plays with his brother, plays his guitar, but he is not allowed to watch TV or play Xbox, as those activities can be huge time sucks!

Support: If your child has difficulty completing an assignment then reread the directions with them, and go over their class notes with them. My son’s school encourages our texting crazed children to use that technology to ask your classmates how they did the assignment. In the end though, if they tried for 30 minutes, and still are unable to complete the task, I simply send a note saying that my son tried, had difficulty, and probably needs a review. This is encouraged by his teachers because they want to know if something is going over their student’s heads. It is more important to get a good night sleep that to stay up late stressing!

Finally, just a word about school supplies. Children today have so much to carry around. My son likes to keep everything in his bag, that way he doesn’t forget anything and always has what he needs for class. Alternatively, if he can’t find it in his bag, he knows it’s good and lost. But I caution you to check how heavy your child’s bag is getting. Just because you bought a ream of paper for your kid for the year, doesn’t mean they have to carry around the whole ream. Only put into the binders the paper that is needed for the week. Keep folders and binders organized. Also keep pens, pencils and other supplies at home, so your child has less to lug around. I helped my son divide up his supplies, so that he has what he needs in his bag, and it’s not too heavy. I have encouraged him to organize his locker.

At some point, you just have to let them go forth and work it all out for themselves, but your guidelines will give them a starting point. have a great school year!

Sending Mixed Signals to Your Child

I was mad, and I was going to show it. “What I actually said was…”

I never got to finish what I was saying because just as my voice grew louder, aggravated by my husband’s inability to hear what I was saying, the baby decided to mimic me: “Argh-a-dada-ba-da!”

That is what I probably sounded like to my husband too. If I wasn’t so ashamed, I would have had to laugh. I just stared at the baby, who was unaware how his mocking me had affected me. He simply was copying what he was hearing, and what he heard was my yelling.

I have been more aware lately of the messages we are sending to our youngest family member. At just 17 months old, he is starting to pick up our ways of interacting and speaking to each other. I hardly want the baby to think it is okay to yell and scream at people. Lesson learned. For all of us. We keep our tone more docile now, and it’s nice that we aren’t all hollering to each other all over the house. Growing up, my family was like that. Someone would start a story, someone else would think that their story was better so they would interrupt the first person, being sure to speak more loudly to be heard. Before long, our nice family dinner would be all 6 of us talking as loud as possible with no one listening. This is a trait I never noticed about my family, until I left home for college and met other families, that conversed in a more civil manner.

I had a conversation with my husband about other poor habits we may be instilling in our little one. My husband loves to rough house with the boys – and we are a rowdy house of boys to be sure. One night, when my 10 year old stepson came to stay, the baby was so happy to see him, he swatted him in the face. I understand that I’m the lone girl in a house of boys, however, what happened next dismayed me. My husband and 12 year old son laughed. The baby thought it was great so he hit him again!

It may be easier for your older children to distinguish the nuances of these interactions. It seems ridiculous that such a sweet cherub would a) be vicious and/or b) hurt anyone with his baby smacks. But the baby doesn’t know why you’re laughing, he just knows he likes it. And he will see no reason why it wouldn’t bring laughter from you again – say at the park. With someone’s child. So, we all know the golden rule, if you don’t want your toddler to hit, don’t hit. If you don’t want them to yell, don’t yell. You also can’t laugh when they go off on their tirades of baby language gibberish, or swat at someone.

With that being said, are there mixed signals we send to the kids, that maybe aren’t so obvious? Normally, we think about this when children are small, since they seem to mimic all of our behaviors. What about older children? When I was growing up, my parents never drank coffee, instead opting for tea, as they were used to doing in Ireland. By the time my younger sister was entering high school, my mom had a cup a day, which she normally picked up from Dunkin Donuts. I don’t drink coffee, not ever. My sister, who moved to the West coast, now regularly gets Dunkin Donuts coffee sent to her via mail. Wherever we go, she is always on the hunt for a good cup of coffee.

Now maybe drinking coffee isn’t a big deal. If anything I feel freakish amongst my office mates when I divulge that I don’t drink coffee. But what about driving habits? My father taught all of us how to drive, including my mother. But we rode in the car with my mother the most. So, despite being taught very technical aspect of driver from a CDL license holder, I drove like my third-time-is-the-charm driving test flunking mother. Several speeding tickets in my youth and huge insurance rates finally broke my poor driving habits, although I still yell at other drivers, just like my mom.

As the children grow older, they become more attuned to your daily habits. Do you workout? Or are you a card-carrying member of the couch potato club? Do you make poor choices when deciding what to eat? Do you spend money frivolously? Do you take time to read? Really, it can be any habit – good or bad – that your child will pick up from you. There are many articles about smoking parents are more likely to have kids that smoke. I don’t think that I have ever seen a parent that would wish for their child to start a smoking habit.

When debating the role-model parenting style, many people wish to point out that some actions are things that adults do, like drinking alcohol, and are not meant for children. Therefore, as an adult, you should be free to do as you wish. I disagree for the main fact that even the adult things I do, I still try to be a role model. My parents drank socially, and many of my drinking habits come from what I watched them do as a child. I don’t drink alone, I don’t drink and drive, and I don’t get wasted. These come from distinctive childhood memories, seeing my parents drink responsibly.

Children can also learn a lot for you messing up, and when you do mess up, own it and apologize. So, instead of launching a much deserved tirade at my husband, who doesn’t listen, I apologized, lowered my voice and repeated what he hadn’t heard, several times. Maybe the baby will mimic my sweet apologetic tone when he get older and messes up.

In the meantime, I’ll just do my best supermom act, until I make it to supermom status.

Helping Children Achieve Goals

Sigh. “I need to save some money.”

My 12 year old is under a lot of stress. As we drive down the road, he tells me of his money woes. He feels the pressure to start gathering the funds he will need to own a car.

I feel I’ve been doing well teaching him about money, despite my recent stumble into debt myself, letting him know about saving, and the actual cost to things. Like insurance. Maybe he knows too much, to be thinking about his financial goals for 4 years from now. I am also proud he’s thinking of his financial future – 4 years from now!

My son’s paternal grandfather passed away when he was only 4 years old, but the two had a strong connection – cars. This child’s first word was “Vroom” followed swiftly by “Papaw”, the affectionate name he had for his grandfather. It was decided that Papaw’s ’95 Chevy Silverado and ’68 Roadrunner would be given to my son. Now, the truck has been kept on the road, and needs a new clutch. My son doesn’t think he will have any problem saving up the funds to get that fixed, in fact, he could probably do the repairs now with his money in his savings account. But the Roadrunner is another issue entirely. It’s a project rebuild car – that Papaw himself barely found time to work on. This summer, while at his Dad’s he worked on the car every chance that he had.

IMG_0577IMG_0580

He dug out all the chrome parts his Papaw had ordered for the car, and put them on the body. I didn’t have the heart to tell him he’ll have to take them all off to paint the body, but he’ll figure it out. My son envisions a future (4 years from now) where this Roadrunner and his Papaw’s old truck sit shining in my driveway. He’ll be the envy of all the neighbors because he’ll have such spectacular vehicles. Affording this dream is his primary goal.

I gave him some plans to increase his income. His current saving account is filled with money from relatives in Birthday cards and extra chores he’s completed around the house. He knows how to mow – but mowing season will soon be over. He’s pretty handy with a snow shovel, and if this winter is anything like last winter, he could make a fortune! I also suggested he babysit – he is great with his little brother, knows how to change diapers, make bottles, and play appropriately with little children.

After thinking on his problem, I got some ideas, other than just increasing his income, that may help him get a handle on these big plans he has. What he needs is a project list. When I’m planning anything, I start with a project list and a budget. He should prioritize his two projects – the truck and the car – separately. In my opinion, the truck will be more likely to be put on the road, in a timeline acceptable to him. So, he needs to take a look at what parts the truck will require. Even these need to be prioritized, into items that are really needed, like the clutch and new tires, and those he wants, like fancy rims. How much does it cost to transfer the title? Register the truck? Insure it? How much gas is this guzzler going to drink?

Same for the Roadrunner. What parts of the car are currently viable? What needs to be replaced? After sitting in a garage since the 70’s, this car is going to need a lot of work. It may be something that he will work on through his twenties. He even admits that the project itself is more having something he and his dad can do together, which helps me to know that his ambitious dreams aren’t using all his brain power. He is reasonable enough to know the Roadrunner is a huge undertaking.

Maybe this is too much for a soon to be 13 year old to be worrying about. That thought certainly crosses my mind. These seem to be very grown-up concepts my son is trying to master, not just the financial, but mechanical too. But then again, if you know a pre-teen, motivation can be hard to find in their sulky little bodies. They seem to be made up of eye-rolls and sarcastic barbs for their parents. I certainly prefer his furthering his mechanical aptitude than playing Xbox all the time.

Also, this is a perfect chance to teach my son how he can achieve any goal he sets for himself. You see numerous articles all over the internet that teach you how to take your goal and break it into actionable steps. Each completed step brings you the confidence that you can reach that goal. You can apply this to pretty much any task you set for yourself: athletic training, financial goals, organizing, etc.

I sincerely hope he achieves his goals, despite these not being my first picks for my baby to drive when he gets his driver’s license. I thought my Camry would be a safer, more economical first car for him. But if he accomplishes what he has set out for himself, he will be the kind of responsible person that won’t be reckless behind the wheel, and will work hard for gas money, so he will be able to enjoy the spoils.

“I Can’t Do That, I’m Watching the Baby…”

Me: “Is the laundry done?”

Husband: “I didn’t have time, I was busy watching the baby.”

Me: “Is your homework done?”

Son: “I didn’t have time, I was watching the baby.”

Apparently, my 17 month old is a big huge time suck. No one can do anything around the house, because they are watching the baby. But what is it exactly they are watching the baby do?

If you’ve been around a baby for even a few hours, you realize they hardly ever stop. They don’t just sit around, hanging out. They are into everything, exploring, practicing their walking, talking and whatever else they have recently found out their bodies can do. My baby recently found that he does a very good downward dog, and frequently stops in the middle of what he is doing to perfect his pose. I’m sure this gives him an interesting perspective, viewing his world upside down, as he peers through his legs.

So, it seems to me, that having a person around you with so much energy, can either drain your own, or you can use it to keep you going.

When I get home, the productivity of the household shoots through the roof. Honestly, sometimes I just want to sit, and channel surf, and sometimes I want to take a power nap. Who doesn’t? But now that the baby is older, I find his energy can catapult me into more activity. Everything is new to him, and exciting, and watching that excites me.

So, that laundry my husband didn’t have time to do? I take the baby down to the basement with me (it takes about 5 minutes to navigate the stairs) and we do the laundry. He likes to pull the clothes out of the basket and throw them across the floor. We go over colors and I try to teach him to sort them. Sorting may take a few years, but he’s learning his colors. He also has an affinity for putting things into containers, so when the dryer is done, he helps me get the clothes into the basket. I did the same with my older son, and now he does his own laundry at the age of 12. Now if I could only teach either of them to fold…

Do homework with my other children can be a challenge, because the baby loves to gather papers, throw them around the room and scrunch and rip them. Forget the dog ate my homework excuse, babies can destroy homework quicker than you can blink. But sometimes the kids get reading homework, so why not have them read passages to their baby brother? The baby is starting to echo the sounds he hears, and reading aloud helps the older kids with their reading comprehension. Because now, they aren’t just gathering information through reading, they are telling their baby brother a story. Even if the baby’s attention wanes after 15 minutes, it was a good 15 minutes spent.

Yesterday the baby got the whole family moving. upon coming home from work, on one of the most gorgeous days we’ve had in a while, the baby was keen to go outside. He walked around my car, checking out the wheels, we checked the mail, even though it had been brought in hours ago, and went to check on the dogs in their pen. I had my older son bring out some dog treats, so the baby could give them to the dogs. Since he was outside, he decided to muck out the pen. Shortly after, my husband, wondering where everyone had gone, came out and noticed some weeds growing into the fence of the pen, so he decided to pull them out. Within 15 minutes, the pen was washed out, and trimmed back, and the dogs were very happy with treats in their bellies. Thanks to the baby.

On the weekends, when I get into my house cleaning routine, the baby helps me with almost everything. He likes to sweep the floor. He’s terrible at it, and the floors may not even look done when we finish, but who cares? We got the most of it and the baby is thrilled he got to use the broom. He helps pick up his toys in the living room so I can vacuum, and yells at me over the vroom of my Dyson. I can only guess he’s telling me I missed a spot.

I think he was the most help to me when I cleaned out my basement. Because he is so curious, he just seems to find things, things I forgot I had, or didn’t know was there, and I decide if it’s trash, donate or keep. He doesn’t have a very methodical way or going through our stored items, but his randomness keeps the daunting task interesting, and keeps me from retreating to the bedroom for a nap with my little one.

It is a very different style of house keeping than I’m used to. Every Saturday morning, I used to turn on every light in the house, and start at one end and work through to the other, shutting off the lights as I went. It was very thorough. Now, we start in the kitchen, wind our way to the living room, meander into the bathroom, making a pit-stop in the bedroom. It all gets done in the end, because you know… I’m watching the baby.

Show ME the Money!!

If you have ever considered peer to peer lending, let me tell you about my experience and some lessons learned.

1. Know your credit score first

It is a huge waste of time checking what your rate will be, if you don’t know your own credit score going into these websites, or if you are not honest about what your FICO score truly is. If you search for loans under the assumption your credit score is 720, when it’s actually 670, what shows up will be loans that you can’t have.

I have credit cards that give me my FICO score for free each month, but with the creation of free websites such as creditkarma.com, there really is no reason to not know your score. I didn’t learn this recently, I always check my score before asking for credit. And if your score is below 640, you won’t qualify for many of these sites.

2. Income inflation

Don’t inflate your income thinking that you will receive better offers. Most places request either check stubs or tax returns to verify your income, so even padding it a little bit can change the terms of your loan offer, or worse, end up in a declined application. Again, a big waste of time. Some income requires certain types of documentation, like I had included my child support in my income, however, you can only do that if you have a court order showing the amount you receive each month. I had to edit my application.

2. These people work fast

I started my search at Lendingtree.com just looking around at what was out there. I hadn’t even fully formed the idea of a debt consolidation loan in my mind yet, and I hadn’t even heard of peer to peer lending. Some offers came up that looked great, and had worse terms than the credit cards I wanted to pay off. While I was still looking at my results, I got a call from one of the lenders. I was surprised how quickly your information gets sent off to these banks. The person calling me wanted to review my loan options, then said, “Sorry, it looks as though you don’t qualify. Keep us in mind for your future loan needs!” Just like that, they were gone. I also received a few emails immediately stating that I was not eligible. Most of these places are doing a soft inquiry on your credit, and once you try to process the application, they do a hard inquiry (the kind that hurts your FICO score) and make a final decision.

3. Don’t take the first offer

I fumbled the first loan offers I had received. I was trying to decide between Prosper and Lending Club, both had competitive rates, and good reviews if you check them out online. I had settled on the loan from Prosper, so I called Lending Club, and asked them to cancel my application. Then, when I spoke with Prosper, the change to my income (to remove the child support) had altered my application, it was cancelled and only after I cancelled it did I find out that they won’t offer you the same loan again. My next loan offer had a 2% increase to the APR, which made the Lending Club loan a better deal, the one I had just cancelled. I thought I would have to wait for 2 weeks for my loan applications to clear the system before applying again. Not ideal.

However the operator from Lending Club had given me a brilliant idea: I could reapply under a new email. It seems like cheating, but since she had suggested it, I gave it a try. My new loan offers didn’t look to great, so I tried again with another email. All of a sudden I had a loan offer that was better than the original offer I had planned to take from Prosper. This loan offered 6% less APR than my original Lending Club loan offer, and 3% less APR than the one from Prosper.  I don’t understand why this works, but this is the best tip: If you aren’t thrilled with the offers you get, try again under a new email.

4. Read everything

This is not your end-user agreement with Apple, these are financial documents. Read everything. Depending on your location, you may receive slightly different loan documents, but read all of them. They tell you everything about the loan, including how much the loan origination fee will be (normally 5% of your loan) and the fact that they take this fee out of the amount you finance. For example, a $6,000 loan with a 36-month term would have an origination fee of $66.60. You’d receive loan proceeds of $5,933.40 (loan amount of $6,000 minus the $66.60 origination fee). Those documents will tell you if there is a penalty for paying your loan off early. Also, when your first payment will be due, and the method of payment. Some places have the payments deducted right from your bank account, some places charge a fee if you send in an actual paper check, and some places have grace periods of up to 15 days that you can be late on your loan.

I think if you follow these tips, you too can have a nice experience applying for and receiving a peer to peer loan. Always remember to never borrow more than you need, and make sure the loan payment will fit in your monthly budget. Comment below any tips you think I left out.

Couch Cruising

As part of our weekend activities, the family went out this past weekend in search of our next couch.

I bought a love-seat when I purchased my home back in 2011, but the family has grown considerably since then. I got a really great deal on a clearance 3-piece set for $400. I thought I had struck gold. Now, movie night build up my guilt as my husband and I snuggle on the love-seat with the littlest one, and the older children find room on the floor. It bugs me that everyone can’t have a seat. It has to be a really great movie, for the kids to stay sitting on the floor. Most times they get up and saunter off to their room, and we all know why – no one wants to sit on the floor!

It is also uncomfortable when we have guests. After the baby was born last year, my mother and sister dropped by to see him. Of course, I let them sit, and I just ended up standing there, hovering. It was awkward.

So, this will be a great improvement to our living-room, our comfort, and our social life!

In the store, I felt lost. I really do not know much about buying furniture. My first apartment in college, my roommate had furniture, I just brought my bedroom set from my parents house. In the first house I rented, I had the futon from my parents basement as a couch, and a table that my landlord had in storage, that she was nice enough to let me use. We have all been there, in the beginning when you are getting old furniture for free, buying used furniture and filling your space with mismatched pieces.

Now, if it was a car, I’d know exactly what to look for, and even if I didn’t, do you know how many car buying guides are available online. You can get advice from anywhere. Furniture buying advice can be a little less useful. I searched for reclining sectionals and found a guide that explained that you had to ad a few inches to the size of the piece, to account for the reclined position. Thanks, that’s super helpful.

I had asked the salesman to put the name of the couch we were interested in on the back of his card, so I could look it up and do some couch research this week. He just wrote “Menwa” or perhaps that scribble is “Manwa” – either Google search turns up no information. I think he didn’t give me the name of the brand of furniture, but rather the style. This could be in error, not understanding what I was asking, but it could have been on purpose. If I had the brand name, would I learn terrible things about the piece, and learn it is not the couch for us?

It’s so important that we pick the right piece, as I plan on having it for a long time. My older sister lucked out and found a great couch at a discounted price, because someone had custom ordered it and then never picked it up from the store. We all laughed at her and her huge couch, but the laughter has died down over the years, as the couch is now 18 years old and still is going strong.

Now, I know what you are thinking, “Didn’t she just post about being in debt?” Yes, I did. We did not buy anything this weekend, as I not only want to do some research, but also, we will be saving up to pay cash.

So look for future posts about furniture shopping and resources to find the right piece for your space.

DEBT

No one ever wants to talk about debt, but it’s all that is on my mind this week, so I can’t really write about anything else. There have been a lot of things that have happened over the past two years, and never has it been as my husband and I thought it would be. Having lifted myself out of debt before, I knew all the warning signs as they came, I simply ignored them.

That’s right. I willfully ignored my bad spending habits and put my family into debt.

In my home, I control the finances. I have more experience than my husband, and better credit. I make the budget, and when we break from that budget, I have the final say. Therefore, I could regale you with stories of how the kids really needed gym shoes and I was supposed to get a payment that would take care of that bill before interest was charged, but I didn’t get paid, and I didn’t pay the card off, and now I’ve paid $100 for $60 shoes.

It’s embarrassing and disgraceful, but what would be worse would be if I stuck my head in the sand and did nothing about it. It would take until 2019 to pay off these bills and I put nearly a quarter of my income towards paying debts.

The thought occurred to me to take out a personal loan to get my family finances back on track. But as they say, you can’t cure debt with more debt. Taking this drastic step would require a level of commitment of which I’m not sure we are capable. It is hard to leave behind our devil-may-care attitude behind and head into a more spendthrift place. You see, if we take this loan, and don’t change our ways, we will be in the worst place possible. We cannot afford this loan payment and carry debt on our cards. We wouldn’t even be able to make the monthly minimum payments.

Therefore, the credit cards would need to be shredded. No, I’m not going to stick them in ice, I have very hot water at my house and could have that card out in no time. The cards would have to be destroyed to make sure that we couldn’t slip into our old ways and buy that shiny thing we wanted. We would become a cash only household, and that frightens me. It shouldn’t – but it does.

My first round with debt was in my 20’s. I receive credit offers in college and having access to magic money proved too great a responsibility. I charged up nights out in the bar, dinners with friends, movie tickets – you name it. Anything you weren’t supposed to use credit for, I did, and they didn’t even have cash back rewards back then!

By the time I was 25, I contacted an agency to get myself out of debt. I chose a debt management plan, which closed many of my accounts and I spent the rest of my 20’s building my credit back.

It worked! Then in 2011 I bought my own house, on my own, because my credit was so good. By the time I got married in 2013, I was in about $700 worth of debt. I didn’t like debt, since my experience had shown me how quickly it snowballed. I had a plan to pay it off by January 2014.

As it turned out, my husband was laid-off just after our wedding. (Nice wedding gift boss!) He found small jobs here and there, but he didn’t get back into full-time work before we had a baby in 2014. By then, it seemed like a good plan for him to just stay home and watch the baby while I worked, so we wouldn’t have to pay for daycare.

I love that my husband gets to stay home with my little one, and he loves it too, but it was a mistake. More accurately, our spending like he was days away from finding his next job was a mistake. Not only did I not pay off that $700, it rapidly ballooned to $7000! I took out a loan from my retirement plan to cover the debt, not wanting to go further. But we never changed our spending habits, and the effort was for naught as my credit cards continued to carry a balance from month to month.

Back in the spring, I sat my husband down and let him know how I had mishandled our finances. He had nothing but faith in me that I could turn it around, but as we entered the summer, our spending increased like never before. For the first time we had all the boys staying with us for the month of July and I found myself putting groceries on credit cards.

I knew we were in trouble. I let my husband know that soon, we wouldn’t even be able to cover the minimum payments. We had let it go to far. Continuing in this manner for even one more week could possibly sink us. And just like that, the spending stopped. Mind you it has only been 8 days, but we haven’t spent any money at all.

My husband asked how long it would be this way. Three years. Three years of paying for the follies of the past two. He has taken more hours at work, and I’m up for a promotion that would come with a nice raise. I’m also doing well selling our excess from the basement, of things we no longer use or need. That may help us pay it off sooner. I can’t explain how much more scary the debt is this time around. Last time, I only had myself to worry about. Now, with my whole family looking to me, I don’t want to let them down. If I had only said “No!” more to the things we couldn’t afford. That’s all water under the bridge now, and we have to move forward.

I’ll keep you updated on how this goes for us.