Monday, May 23, 2016

2015-16 Year in Review

 As this school year winds down and activities are wrapping up, I've been thinking about what a successful school year this has been. Ryan is finishing up his first dual credit classes and will end the year with 19 college credits and a 4.0. He also took a year of Mandarin Chinese and really enjoyed it. He will graduate from high school June 1st and start full time on campus at Boise State this coming fall a few weeks before he turns 16. He received confirmation of the Presidential Scholarship from Boise State, the Opportunity Scholarship, an Elks Scholarship, and his Pell grant. He'll be living at home, so those will cover his expenses with some money left over for his mission fund and some of his summer activities. We also recently got confirmation that he is a National Merit Semi-Finalist. This year he also participated in the State Science Olympiad in Chemistry and got 1st place with his partner. He's applied for several fun summer activities and will be gone most of the summer with different activities. He will be doing an immersion Chinese program for 3 weeks at BYU, a weeklong program at BSU and in California with Idaho Aerospace Scholars, Boise Youth Spectacular, a weeklong rafting trip with BSU Honors program, a pioneer trek, and several other fun activities.
We all participated with TEACH co-op again this year and started having friend/game day on Tuesday afternoons for several hours each week. Most weeks we have between 30-40 kids ranging in age from baby to teen who come play for the afternoon. The older kids generally play board games, with Killer Bunnies being the favorite. Pre-teen boys either play outside or with Legos. Pre-teen girls can be found playing Littlest Petshop, writing stories together, playing store, or making up song and dance routines. The younger kids have made up games where they pretend to be wolves or puppies or play dress up or outside when the weather is nice. Some moms go run errands and others stay to visit. It's loud, crazy, and lots of fun. It is one tradition that the kids want to continue through the summer and future years.
Several of the kids continue to enjoy running. Tyler, Eli, Jeanisha, and Adam did cross country in the fall and track (plus Lincoln) in the spring. They are all part of Team Beef and ran the St. Patrick's race in March, 5 miles for Tyler 5K for the rest of them. Tyler also ran two half marathons, (one with me last September) and had times of 1:55 and 1:48 and the other kids ran 5K's.
Tyler is finishing up 8th grade. We used Harmony Educational Services program this year. He took English through BYU independent study. It was an okay option. The instructor feedback was pretty minimal and I didn't love the novel for first semester. It was good for him to have to be accountable to someone other than me, but I felt like I still did almost all of the teaching. He took World History through K12 and was able to be pretty independent with that class. We skipped most of the busy work, like note taking reading guides for every chapter and focused on the reading, tests, and a few projects. This program wanted parents to input a password constantly to “verify” student work, but once I just gave Tyler the password, the class worked fine. Now that he's finished that textbook, he is enjoying the Nextext Stories in History books. The textbook was fairly interesting as far as history texts go and he liked that he could work at his own pace, then turn in the offline stuff for me to grade, but didn't have to wait for me. He also took Pre-Algebra using mostly Life of Fred and Khan Academy, and it's been fun to watch the concepts of solving equations “click.” For Science, he liked using Sassafras Science and Quark Chronicles. He tried Apologia General Science but thought it was boring. Tyler also worked a lot on his art and drawing this year. He loves drawing animals, especially big cats. He did some piano, Heritage Choir, and took a beginning Spanish class.
Eli was 5th grade this year. He is finishing up 6th grade teaching textbooks, which seem to be about a grade level behind as he's covering what I would consider solid 5th grade level math. He did US History through TEACH and loves to listen to Story of the World. He's enjoyed Brainpop videos this year as well. He used audio books to read along with all 7 Harry Potter books and wrote his own 11 page story for a friend's Christmas present. He enjoys using a book called “Story Starters” that gives you either the beginning or end of a story and you write the rest. Unlike many writing prompt books, this one gives a solid 2-3 page story to get you started. Eli also enjoyed using the apps of Piano Maestro and Dust Bunnies and learning to play a good number of songs on the piano. In addition to track and cross country, Eli did Heritage Choir and the beginning Spanish class becoming proficient enough to pray in Spanish and figure out a basic story.
Jeanisha was also in 5th grade this year. She is using Life of Fred and Khan Academy for her math. She worked super hard on the Khan Academy challenge and earned an invitation to the final celebration party by being one of the top 3 in her grade during one of the 3 week “cup challenges.” She spent about 22 hours on math over that 3 week time span and was pushed to learn some pretty advanced math problems. She has been using Notgrass' America the Beautiful for US History and Sassafras Kids and Quark Chronicles and Brain Pop for Science. She loves making reports about different animals and is working on a story with several of her friends called, “Adventurers Wanted.” She's also written other stories on her own this year. She loves to read and play piano. She recently finished the Certificate of Achievement with great scores and earned 4 points (the maximum). Her sight reading and confidence with piano have really blossomed this year. She loves being challenged and her teacher is going to let her cover 2 levels again next year. Jeanisha had her piano recital and won the award for the most practicing for the year with 158% of her required practice time (7 days instead of 5 and more than 30 minutes a day) totaling over 5,400 minutes since the first of Nov. She was hesitant to try Spanish, but we have a great teacher and she has ended up really enjoying it. We have a great teacher who does a good bit of teaching through stories and it has been fun to watch them realize they can read and understand the stories.
Adam was 3rd grade this year. He loves reading, mostly non-fiction, and is a walking encyclopedia, especially when it comes to animals. He also qualified for an invitation to the Khan Academy celebration by working on math for many hours. He's using Life of Fred and Khan Academy for his math and really enjoys listening in as I explain high level concepts to his siblings and usually catches on pretty quickly. He was one of the first kids to be able to pray in Spanish and loves learning more vocabulary. Adam is addicted to the piano. He can't walk through the family room without stopping to play at least a little. His obsession started with Piano Maestro, an app that is basically a video game that uses the real piano as the controller. You get points and ranks by playing the notes correctly and getting your timing correct and as you advance levels, the songs get harder. He has become extremely good at sight reading and Jeanisha is now teaching him the lessons and scales she was taught last fall. His goal is to catch up to her and her goal is to stay ahead. Both of them thrive with a little competition, but they are also really great at encouraging each other.
Lincoln was 1st grade this year and his reading skills have grown by leaps and bounds. His desire to read has also increased. He used a program called Headsprout that seemed to really boost his skills and confidence in reading, along with regular reading lessons in Teach your Child to read in 100 easy lessons. We're now working through the Pathway readers (Amish reading texts). Lincoln wanted to participate in the Khan Academy challenge, even though the lowest grade available was 3rd. In the first 3 week challenge, he completed all of Early Math and about half of 3rd grade math which earned him an invite to the party. It was a lot of work because I needed to read many of the problems to him, but he amazed me as he just continued mastering topic after topic. He hasn't memorized his higher multiplication tables yet, but he would persistently draw a picture and “count out cards” to solve the problems. Lincoln hasn't went to spanish class, but he listens at home and has picked up an amazing amount from listening to the other kids practice. He has also enjoyed running with track and practicing for races. He has learned to recognize when he has an abundance of energy that is going to make sitting still to learn difficult and will ask to go run a couple of laps before he needs to sit and focus.
Cumorah is 4 ½ and eagerly awaiting her 5th birthday when she is convinced she will be able to read. She has proudly learned her letters and sounds and is beginning to blend words. She is still in speech therapy and works really hard. She loves to color and draw and practice writing her letters. She likes to play outside and climb on the geodome, jump on the trampoline, and swing. She lives for Tuesday “friend days” and Sundays when she gets to see her other friends. She loves bedtime stories and showing off tricks outside. She also loves practicing piano and making up her own songs to play.
Benson is 3 ½ and still working on potty training. He does great when he wants to, but can just as easily decide he is busy playing and isn't going to bother. He is feisty and energetic and can be very stubborn. He likes playing outside and tries to be the boss. He loves animals and can identify many obscure animals. He also loves being outside and the first thing on his mind each morning is getting outside to search for eggs.
Vilate is 1 ½. She loves nursery and being outside or watching the kids outside through the window. She is teeny tiny and has finally managed to pass the 19 lb mark. She loves to draw and color-- on anything and everything. She also loves candy and will find any candy or gum the kids don't hide well or leave down anywhere she can get it. She has a super sweet and cuddly personality and has most of the kids wrapped around her finger. All she has to do is hold out her hand and they will give her whatever they have that she wants. She says a few words, but mainly mimics Cumorah practicing letter sounds.
“Baby boy” is due June 9th and seems to be growing and moving fine. He's pretty active and his brothers and sisters are eagerly waiting his arrival. He will eventually be Lincoln's buddy and Lincoln has big plans for teaching him how to wrestle and sword fight. (We have had “buddies” for many years. The older kid has to be 8 and show they are responsible, and the younger kid 1 before they are officially buddies. Ryan and Adam, Tyler and Lincoln, Jeanisha and Cumorah, Eli and Benson, Adam and Vilate are the buddies. The older buddy gets to help buckle their younger buddy in and out of carseats, find shoes, get dressed, etc. in return, they get any of the younger buddies leftover treats or food, get to “help” with ipad games, etc. It's been a great system and they all have extra close relationships with their buddy that come from serving someone.)
Stephen was released from the young men's program and is now serving in the Elder's Quorum Presidency. He is making fun “story maps” at work and still really enjoys putting the data into visual forms.
I've kept busy with homeschooling, helping the boys with Scouts, and shuttling kids to activities. I did go away on a mom's retreat for a weekend in February and enjoy the Tuesday afternoons visiting with friends.
Overall, it's been a good school year. All of the kids have made great improvements academically, built great friendships, and developed talents. We are looking forward to a somewhat slower summer.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Helps for homeschool burnout

A mom on a facebook group posted about feeling burnt out with homeschool and managing a household and meeting the needs of her kids. After I wrote my response, I realized I wanted to save it, so that I can fall back on my own advice when I hit a slump. 

Julie B Beck gave a talk once in our stake and talked about how you can't work all three shifts. You have to take some time off. My first thought was that as a homeschooling mom (I have 9 kids at home, and I'm pregnant) that was impossible. My husband pointed out that if she had told me to do MORE, I would have figured out a way to do it. But, because she told me to do less, I was saying it was impossible. That has been several years ago, but I think of it often when I start feeling overloaded and it is usually because I have been working all shifts, up with a baby or sick kid at night, then doing school, and dinner, and housework. . . . . I've found for us, doing school year round helps because then I can take breaks or even just lighter days when I need. We always take advantage of the good weather in the spring and fall and the kids spend a lot of time playing in the backyard. I also try to ask myself if my discouragement/frustration could be hormonal, nutritional (I tend to become anemic very easy and then I'm tired and annoyed and grumpy), or spiritual. I do a 5 point evaluation on each of my kids regularly where I just ask myself if their needs are being met Physically, Socially, Spiritually, Emotionally, Mentally. I find doing the same for myself helps me figure out what I need. This year we've added a friend day in the afternoon on Tuesday. Kids play while the moms visit. That has also helped me-- at this stage-- because my kids know they have to work really hard on school on M and W and the house has to be clean Tues morning for this to continue. At other stages, it would have stressed me out and not been helpful. Pray, evaluate, and figure out how to take a break. I've found that I can take an occasional break for me from the work of schooling without the kids taking a break. I let them work on websites like prodigymath or sumdog which feel like games, not math. The older kids take a 2-3 days book binge and the preschoolers get an educational movie marathon (Wild Kratts, Magic School Bus, Leap Frog. . . . . ) I may nap, read, clean, . . . . . it doesn't really matter as long as I am getting a break. In the past there have also been times, usually when pregnant or nursing a newborn, that I just hire someone to come do part of the cleaning-- usually bathrooms and mopping, the jobs I hate the most. It's usually about $40 and SO worth it. I also simplify my cooking and only do super easy meals for a while (spaghetti, breakfast for dinner, chicken and rice with precooked chicken, crockpot meals. . . ).

Sunday, February 7, 2016

"The" Cookie Recipe

This is our favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe. It makes a big enough batch that I don't even have to double it. :)

1 cup butter
1 cup shortening or coconut oil
2 cups white sugar
2 cups brown sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup water
3 cups oatmeal
4 cups flake cereal (Corn Flakes, Honey Bunches of Oats)
4 cups flour (we use whole wheat)
2 tsp. soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups nuts, chopped (optional)
1 bag chocolate chips
2 cups coconut

Cream together butter, shortening, and sugars. Add eggs, vanilla, and water. Beat well. Add in oatmeal, flake cereal, flour, soda, salt, and mix well. Stir in nuts, chocolate chips, coconut. Drop by spoon onto greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Yields about 10 dozen cookies.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Why I homeschool

I was asked to write up "Why I homeschool" for our local homeschool group newsletter. Here it is.

Why I homeschool (according to those who think I will ruin my kids.)

I'm too lazy to get out of bed and get my kids up in the morning or have a regular bedtime.
I don't want to have to clean my house all by myself.
So I have built in babysitters for the younger kids during the day.
So I don't have to cook dinner or bake treats.
So I can brainwash my kids about religion.
So I don't have to fight the nightly homework battle.
To have control over my kids.
So my kids don't have to use textbooks and can just read all day.
To make my kids be geeks and nerds.
To not worry about grade levels.
To shelter my kids.

Guess what, they are right!

I homeschool because I'm too lazy to get out of bed and get my kids up in the morning or have a regular bedtime. TRUE: I enjoy our late night talks when my kids open up and the early morning cuddles when they all come lay on my bed and talk.

I homeschool because I don't want to have to clean my house all by myself. TRUE: I want my children to learn the skills needed to run a household, to work hard, and to work together.

I homeschool so I have built in babysitters for the younger kids during the day. TRUE: I want my children to have relationships with each other. The older kids get to be a hero and role model while learning how to work with and take care of younger children. They can still play make believe and other childish games because they are playing with a younger sibling. They also learn responsibility and leadership skills.

I homeschool so I don't have to cook dinner or bake treats. TRUE: My kids are becoming great cooks and won't have to survive on ramen noodles in college or on their missions.

I homeschool so I can brainwash my kids about religion. TRUE: If my kids are going to be “brainwashed” into learning a specific world view/political view, I want it to be what I think is important! And, because I feel that the gospel of Jesus Christ is the most essential knowledge, I am able to focus on that and incorporate it into our daily learning.

I homeschool so I don't have to fight the nightly homework battle. TRUE: I want to preserve our evenings for family time whenever possible, so I structure our days so that most school work is completed earlier in the day. I can also cut out a great deal of busywork and review of mastered concepts.

I homeschool for control over my kids. TRUE: I am able to better control the media and books they are assigned and exposed to. They will have plenty of time in life to read or watch whatever they want, but while they are in my home, I can introduce them to good literature and media and help develop an appetite for things that are virtuous and praiseworthy. I can also “control” who they become friends with by introducing them to other good kids who have similar values instead of just the kids who happen to live nearby.

I homeschool so my kids don't have to use boring textbooks and can just read all day. TRUE: If a textbook is boring and dry, we can find a better way to learn the information. I read all day in public school, I just had to hide it. And most of the stuff I remember didn't come from fill in the blank worksheets and textbooks, but from real book and things I found interesting.

I homeschool so my kids can be geeks and nerds. TRUE: If a geek is someone who is not afraid to be smart and a nerd is someone passionate about something, that is exactly what I want for my kids. Whether their passion is math or running or coins or famous people, I want them to be able to explore and be excited about that. I want them to know that being smart is good and that it's okay to have different interests then their friends. They don't have to be on the soccer team just because the other kids in their class are if their passion is math not sports.

I homeschool because I don't want to worry about grade levels. TRUE: I want my kids to learn and master the material. If that is faster than public school in one subject, great. If it is slower than public school in a subject, that's fine too. We can keep working on something until they understand it instead of just moving on. We can also cover what they are interested in (and will actually remember) regardless of which grade level they are supposed to learn it in.

I homeschool to shelter my kids. TRUE: I want to build their flicker of a testimony into a bonfire before sending them out into the world where Satan will use every possibly means to extinguish it. This doesn't mean that they never interact with any one and never get to share their testimony or the gospel. It does mean they don't have to fight a battle with the world before they have time to put on their armor and learn how to fight for truth.  

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Jan 2014

If life would just slow down for a bit, I'd have time to actually record what is happening! This fall/winter has been a whirlwind of kid activities, lessons, school, and just regular life.

Stephen is still in Young Men's with the 14 year olds and working for the Dept of Agriculture like he has done forever. He ran a marathon last August after lots of training, but unfortunately tore his minicus, a little cartridge part in his knee and gets to have knee surgery to fix it here in the next two weeks. Tyler and I only ran reasonable distances, like a half marathon in May. All the kids from Adam up did cross country in the fall and several of them did races ranging from 2 miles up to the 13 that Tyler did with me. I love that it's a relatively inexpensive sport that all of them can participate in at their levels.

We did two co-ops in the fall and the kids had violin and piano lessons. I also started learning violin and it's fun to be now be able to play, slowly, several primary songs and have them be recognizable. Not beautiful yet, but not as screechy as they were. I'm a counselor in the Primary Presidency and I love doing sharing times for the kids. We have a HUGE primary (150 kids) which makes it hard to keep enough teachers and leaders and really get to know the kids.

Ryan worked hard last summer taking high school Earth Science A and B, so that he could take Biology and Physics during the school year. Physics was the class he really wanted! He did great this summer and first semester and loved the online format of the classes. He's taking several other high school level classes right now (he's in 8th grade) and will have 14 credits by the end of the year. The plan is for him to earn at least his AA degree while still in high school and he'll start dual credit classes next year (PreCalc). He's been super involved in scouts and has enough merit badges to become a Life, and is just waiting until February for the six month time period to pass. His loves are still math and science, and anything dealing with fire. He will volunteer to build a fire in the basement anytime I will let him and loves to just sit and watch it or lay in front of the gas fireplace to do school.

Tyler is 6th grade. He still LOVES running and biking. He enjoys math and reading, but would prefer to clean over school work any day. He loves jobs like sweeping where you can see what you've accomplished and putting things in order. He also loves the rewards he gets for being a great  helper! He likes being outside, even when it's cold and taking care of the animals. He gets so excited still to collect the eggs.

Eli is in 3rd grade and finally starting to be more confident with school. He is choosing to read books for fun and gaining confidence with his math. He LOVES playing with the babies, especially chase and peek-a-boo type games. He also loves being outdoors and has started to enjoy running with Tyler. He has gained a lot of confidence this year as he's learned new skills with jobs, working outside, school, cooking, and sewing. He loves eggs for breakfast and cooking them up for anyone else that wants some each morning.

Jeanisha is also in 3rd grade. She loves making games out of school and encouraging the others to "race" and get their work done. Some days she will convince them to work under a bed or in a blanket fort and "hide" to surprise me. She also loves to cook, especially things like brownies and other treats. She is learning to make several dinner items and follow recipes without much help. She also learned to sew and enjoyed making pajama pants and a matching shirt, mostly by herself. She loves playing board games, but does not like going outside when it is cold.

Adam is in 1st grade and becoming a fluent, independent reader. He is mastering his multiplication tables because some of the online "games" that he loves, like have started giving him that type of problem as he's mastered lower math. He loves to basically teach himself with computer programs and amazes me what he just figures out. Technology and the way it scaffolds kids is amazing. He also did cross country, but tends to run in a kind of la-la land as he is looking at everything around him more than he is actually running. He's very observant and loves being outside. He is also in a very black and white stage and takes everything very literally.

Lincoln is a bundle of energy who has decided he should be called Linc. Apparently, I messed up when I named him. He told me that Jesus tells the parents what the name should be and sometimes the parents get it wrong. He is pretty adamant about it. He is very independent and I've learned it is pointless to try to teach him something before he's ready. It's a huge fight until the day he decides he wants to learn something and then it's just done. He's just recently started asking about learning to read, but if you ask if he wants to learn his letters and sounds, he'll say, no I already know them, I just want to read this book. He has done a preschool a couple days a week down at the high school and loved it. The teacher/child ratio is about 1:1 and he says he likes it because he doesn't have to clean up and he gets snacks. He also told me that most kids have to be parent sized to go to school there, but he is so smart, he was able to start going there when he is 4. He is diffidently not lacking in confidence!

Cumorah is 2 1/2 and having difficulty learning to talk. We've just finished ALL the evaluations for her ears and her hearing is fine. For some reason, she only says vowel sounds and won't even try to say most words. She is doing speech therapy and we're doing sign language. She understands perfectly what she is asked to do and does a pretty good job of communicating what she wants or needs even without talking. She is a tease and super silly and loves making the kids laugh. She is also sweet and cuddly and thinks she should be able to do anything they do. She like playing pretend, especially with baby dolls and toy food. She likes drawing and writing in all the kids' schoolbooks if they don't put them away.

Benson is  1 1/2 and he's not talking either, but I think a big part for him is that he points and someone jumps to get him what he wants. The audiologist termed it "older siblingitis" He loves to dance and be silly. One of his favorite things is when I am using the Blendtec and he runs over and wants lifted up to watch it. For some reason, he thinks it is the coolest thing. He loves farm animals and whatever toy someone else is playing with. :) He also loves riding in a laundry basket as the kids push him around the room. I think he would ride for hours if they would keep pushing. He also loves balls and has a pretty good arm.

Overall, life is busy, but very good. We have lots of silliness, giggling, teasing, and playing on a daily basis. Along with school work, discipline, cleaning, cooking and doing different fun activities, there is never a dull moment.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Money Management and Budgeting Class

This is the handout from a class I taught tonight at Relief Society. You just miss my stories. :) 

Money Management and Budgeting 101

RULE 1: Always pay a full tithe! The promise of help from Heavenly Father is more valuable than anything else you could buy!

RULE 2: Make a plan for the financial future you want.

RULE 3: Use a budget and discipline to create that future.

Some people argue that a budget is too restrictive. It takes the fun out of things. The gospel is also restrictive, with rules and guidelines that appear to limit our freedom, but in reality give us much greater freedom in the future. A budget and money plan do the same thing.

President Tanner: It has been my observation in interviewing many people through the years that far too many people do not have a workable budget and have not disciplined themselves to abide by its provisions. Many people think a budget robs them of their freedom. On the contrary, successful people have learned that a budget makes real economic freedom possible” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1979, 121; or Ensign, Nov. 1979, 82).

Part 1: Money Planning
If you don't have a plan, you will wander endlessly and never reach your ideal destination.

Step 1: See debt as a 4 letter word. It is your enemy! Make a commitment and do all in your power to avoid debt.

Joseph B. Wirthlin: Remember this: debt is a form of bondage. It is a financial termite. When we make purchases on credit, they give us only an illusion of prosperity. We think we own things, but the reality is, our things own us.
Some debt—such as for a modest home, expenses for education, perhaps for a needed first car—may be necessary. But never should we enter into financial bondage through consumer debt without carefully weighing the costs.
We have often heard that interest is a good servant but a terrible master. President J. Reuben Clark Jr. described it this way: “Interest never sleeps nor sickens nor dies; it never goes to the hospital; it works on Sundays and holidays; it never takes a vacation. … Once in debt, interest is your companion every minute of the day and night; you cannot shun it or slip away from it; you cannot dismiss it; it yields neither to entreaties, demands, or orders; and whenever you get in its way or cross its course or fail to meet its demands, it crushes you.” 2

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin (1917–2008) taught: “All too often a family's spending is governed more by their yearning than by their earning. They somehow believe that their life will be better if they surround themselves with an abundance of things. All too often all they are left with is avoidable anxiety and distress” (“Earthly Debts, Heavenly Debts,” Liahona, May 2004, 42).

President N. Eldon Tanner (1898–1982) taught: “Those who structure their standard of living to allow a little surplus, control their circumstances. Those who spend a little more than they earn are controlled by their circumstances. They are in bondage” (“Constancy amid Change,”Liahona, Feb. 1982, 46).

Elder Ezra Taft Benson said: “Let us live within our income. Let us pay as we go. … Let us heed the counsel of the leadership of the Church. Get out of debt!” (Pay Thy Debt and Live, Brigham Young University Speeches of the Year [28 Feb. 1962], 12).

Step 2: Build an emergency fund of $1000 to $1500. Go crazy. Sell things, work extra. If you don't have at least a small emergency fund, you are at the edge of a cliff waiting to be pushed off.

Step 2B: Pay down consumer debt. Use a debt snowball. Starting with smallest debt first will give you momentum. Restructure debts to reduce interest rates, sometimes you can get a lower rate just by calling and asking. Destroy the cards so you don't just buy more stuff. Or freeze them in ice. Make them very inaccessible. Be cautious about closing accounts as that can affect your credit score. There are many other versions. Print it off and put it somewhere where you will see it everyday, on your mirror or the fridge. Consumer debt is like a fire that needs put out!

President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008) taught: “Set your houses in order. If you have paid your debts, if you have a reserve, even though it be small, then should storms howl about your head, you will have shelter for your wives and children and peace in your hearts” (“To the Boys and to the Men,” Liahona, Jan. 1999, 66; October 1998 general conference).

Step 3: Build a buffer and live off last month's income. (Your emergency fund can be part of this.) The freedom from this is amazing and life changing! Same money, different timing = freedom and empowerment! You can pay all regular monthly bills on the first. No more paycheck to paycheck or worrying about checks clearing.

Step 4: Build a savings of 3-6 months of income. This can be saved in a conservative Roth IRA, CD's, or regular savings account. If you don't have a Roth IRA, start one. They are a great savings vehicle. Another option is to open one CD per month and roll them over, so one is always available in case of job loss or other emergency, but you earn a bit more interest than regular savings.

Step 5: Set up retirement/long term savings. Roth IRA's, rental properties, 401K. . .
*If your employer has a 401K with match, start this step earlier to not leave free money on the table. I like Roth IRA's. You can withdraw the money tax free in retirement. You can withdraw your principle penalty fee at any time. You can't touch the interest until retirement except in certain cases of “hardship.” If your income is lower than $60,000, you may also be eligible for the saver's credit on taxes (form 8880) which is an instant return on your investment of 10-50%. You can use this year's tax refund to make last years IRA contribution, you just have to put the money into an IRA by April 15th. If you are in a high tax bracket, a traditional IRA may be better because you get a tax break now, and pay later.

Step 6: Pay off mortgage early.
ICCU offers a Freedom Mortgage: 10 years no closing costs. Other banks have other options. Long term savings are substantial.

Part 2 Budgeting
Spencer W. Kimball said “ with regard to family financing in the home. Every family should have a budget. Why, we would not think of going one day without a budget in this Church or our businesses. We have to know approximately what we may receive, and we certainly must know what we are going to spend. And one of the successes of the Church would have to be that the Brethren watch these things very carefully, and we do not spend that which we do not have.” One For the Money pamphlet

I use, and love, a software program called You Need a Budget You don't have to have the program, but it saves me a good bit of time each month and makes budgeting easier. It makes the rules I follow automatic and I feel it's worth every penny! I can update/check my budget on my phone and import transactions and verify everything cleared. They have great support and free classes. However, you can also use a spreadsheet, paper and pencil, or an envelope system. The system itself doesn't matter, having something you'll use does.

We tell our kids to decide in advance not to smoke, do drugs, be chaste, etc so they are making the choice without being influenced by peer pressure or hormones. Budgeting is making the money decisions in advance so the retailers/advertisers aren't deciding how to spend YOUR money for you.

If you haven't used a budget, start by tracking your spending for 30 days. Every penny. Carry an index card in your wallet. This will help you have a starting place for your categories and know where the leaks are, so you can plug them or decide to keep them. $3 a day is $90 a month or $1095 a year, and almost $110,000 at 7% interest for 30 years. The goal isn't to cut out all pleasure or treats, it is to spend consciously. Sometimes, the chocolate is worth it.

Rule 1: Pay tithing and fast offerings first, pay yourself second. Paying yourself can take many forms: paying past debts and releasing yourself from bondage, saving for a down payment on a home, saving for retirement. Basically anything that increases your net worth qualifies. You are paying for freedom in the future. Freedom to avoid debt, retire, travel, and be able to go where the Lord needs you to go. I don't want to have to say, “Sorry Lord, I can't serve a mission, I chose to have nice things on credit instead.” Having nice things isn't the problem, having nice things before you can afford them is.

Rule 2: Give every dollar a job. Start with what you have now. Don't budget Monopoly money. (Money you hope to get, but don't currently have.) This is best done WITH your spouse. Have a budget meeting at the first of the month. One person can put it together, but the other signs off on it. Essential obligations first, freedom accounts next, disposable money last. Question every category at first. Is this a need or a want, can we reduce it? Reduce or eliminate the wants if they are less important than the big picture goal. Watch for hidden fees.

Rule 3: Save for a rainy day. Freedom Accounts, budget category where positive balance rolls forward until needed. Start with things you know, car insurance, Christmas, school clothes, deductibles. Then move onto saving for the less regular “emergency” expenses that aren't really emergencies. Every appliance in your home, every piece of furniture, and every part of your car are breaking down and will need replaced. If you are not saving and planning to replace them, you are living beyond your means. Each time you use your brakes, you are one time closer to needing new brakes. Ask about discounts for paying 6 months or a year upfront if you can. Build rainy day funds to get there. You pay it anyway, but changing the timing, you save. Cash is king!

Rule 4: Roll with the punches. Whack-a-mole is normal! Make conscious choices about where you will move the money from. If I overspend on groceries, I will have to take it from vacation or clothing or something more fun. If you consistently overspend in one area, adjust the budget. It is a tool, not the master.
Part 3: Teach Your Children
Give children opportunities to earn money. Teach them to save and make a plan for their money.

Kids need to learn the principles of working for money, saving, and budgeting.
Our kids have 3 “accounts” for money they earn or are given as gifts.
Spending money can be used for whatever they want, candy, toys, whatever. Mom and Dad have no say in how it is spent, but it earns no interest.
Short term savings may be for things like scout camp, saving up for a special toy, etc. Spending must be parent approved, and we pay 1% interest each month. (Set up to give the interest monthly via ipad app IAllowance.)
Long term savings are only for mission, college, or buying a home (or other approved future items) This money is held in an online savings account and we match it 100% when it goes into savings.

Part 4: Miscellaneous

Don't forget things like life insurance, wills, etc. Once a year or if you have a big life change reevaluate everything dealing with finances and make sure it is up to date. Pick a time/date for your review. Your anniversary, a holiday. I do it in March, after I finish taxes, before all my insurances are due. I get quotes from at least 3 companies before I renew. I like insurance brokers (Premier, WW Deal) who can run my info through several companies.

Ways to save:
Cutout “ stupid taxes.” (Mine is library fines.)
Do a spending fast. Stay out of stores as much as possible. Use a list and stick to it. Plan meals around sale items or what is in your freezer. I like to do this every February.
Make being frugal a game. Put savings toward something fun. Make a plan for “extra” money.
Put back one item from your cart or shop with cash. Specifically at Costco for me.
For Costco, only take in the amount you plan to spend. Leave the rest of your money at home or in the car. If you find a killer, must have deal, you will have to make an effort to go back for it, which gives you time to evaluate whether it is really worth it and usually, it's not.
Look for free money and take advantage of it. Rebates, free days at museums/activities, coupons.
Keep it in front of you. Subscribe to emails, listen to podcasts, post your Debt Snowball or goals where you see it, have a monthly budget meeting, enter transactions at least weekly at first. . .

Good books/resources:
Free Courses on Personal Finance through BYU
Personal Finance Manuals from BYU (free online)
Richest Man in Babylon, story format, good for discussion with teens (Short, quick read. I have a pdf copy I would be happy to email you, or the library has it).
Dave Ramsey's books and website
Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn (Some great ideas, some extreme ideas)
Mary Hunt's books
YNAB forums, blog, and podcasts. Great hints and success stories. Great tips and ideas here, but quite a bit of foul language. He makes you look at money and retirement, especially early retirement, differently.

Free workshop/classes Feb 13th in Boise:

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Wyatt's Memorial Service

My sweet baby grandson passed away unexpectedly last Sat. His viewing and memorial service were held earlier this week. I was able to write up and share some memories of Wyatt and those he touched, and my dad was able to share some words of comfort. We sang several hymns including "Lead, Kindly Light," "Jesus wants me for a Sunbeam," "This Little Light of Mine," "I Am a Child of God," "Families Can Be Together Forever," "Nearer, My God to Thee," and "I Need Thee Every Hour." At the end, we released 64 balloons to commemorate the 64 days that he lived. It went as perfect as a memorial service could.

Memories of Wyatt:

 Wyatt Haydes Quintana was born Feb. 15, 2013 at 2:30 am to James and Melynda Quintana on his Grandma Donna's birthday. He weighed 5 lbs 9 oz and was 19 ½ inches long. He was a perfect, beautiful baby with his daddy's blond hair.
From the moment of his birth, he was surrounded by friends and family who loved him. In addition to his parents, he was blessed with two older brothers, Jason and Jesse who adored him! He was lucky to live next door to his Grandma Donna and Grandpa Vino Quintana and to have numerous cousins, aunts, uncles, and other loved ones near by. He was Grandpa Vino's “little big man” and brought joy to the entire family.
He had a wonderful, happy personality and beautiful, frequent smile. He started smiling much earlier than he was supposed to. He loved attention and did his best to make sure everyone was always paying attention to him. He loved to reach up and hold onto his mom's hair.
Through last Wednesday, he seemed perfectly healthy and happy. Thursday morning, his dad found him not breathing and unresponsive. James rushed him next door to Grandma's house where Donna did CPT and brought his body back to life. He was taken by ambulance to the Twin Falls hospital and then life flighted to Boise. He was in critical condition and the doctors and nurses worked hard to save him. Over the next three days, those who loved him watched with roller coaster emotions as he beat one challenge after another. Doctors determined that there was a problem with his digestive system and performed exploratory surgery to find the problem, which ended up being that his colon had died as the result of C diff and E Coli bacteria. They removed 2/3 of his colon on Thursday and did another surgery on Friday morning to remove the rest.
Because of his critical condition, he could not be transported to the operating room, and both surgeries were done in his regular hospital room, a first for most of the doctors and nurses participating. There were other procedures done to Wyatt that had never been done on a baby that young and small, including the vacuum device on his stomach and dialysis on his kidneys, both of which were very successful.
I talked to the surgeon yesterday and she wanted to reaffirm how much they had learned from little Wyatt and how that knowledge will save not only other babies needing dialysis or a stomach vacuum, but other patients as they now know they can do surgeries outside the operating room successfully. He will touch and bless the lives of many, many people for years to come.
During the time Wyatt was fighting to live, he also healed many broken relationships. Contact was reestablished with friends and relatives who had not spoken in a long time. We can honor Wyatt's life by doing all we can to maintain those relationships and build on what he started.
Hundreds, if not thousands, of people were touched by Wyatt as they read his story on Facebook, prayed for him, and held their children a little closer. He may have also save his little cousin who tested positive for C diff and is on antibiotics.
In the end, while his body was being healed, doctors learned that his brain had died from the lack of oxygen and determined nothing else could be done. It was time for him to return home to his Heavenly Father. He passed away at 8:50 pm on April 20, 2013. He was 64 days old.
Melynda and James offered to donate his organs, but fortunately, there was not a baby needing them at that time.
Wyatt's life was only 9 weeks, but the lives he touched and will continue to touch cannot be numbered and will last forever.
Wyatt's full name, Wyatt Haydes Quintana means, “light in the darkness.” He truly lived up to his name and was a light to those around him. His light continues to shine as a beacon, leading us back to Heavenly Father again.
Thank you Wyatt for blessing us with your light! You will be forever missed, always loved, and never forgotten. We love you!

Words of Comfort:
The scriptures teach us that before we were born into this life we lived
in a pre-earth life or a preexistence. In this preexistence there were
basically 3 groups. I will tell about the middle group first because that
is the group that all of us here today were a part of. This group were
pretty good people who generally did as our Heavenly Father or God
wanted us to do but sometimes we wavered. So we come to earth
to get a body and to prove to Heavenly Father that we will keep his

The third group would not do what Heavenly Father wanted so they do
not get to come to earth and get a body.

The first group is the group that Wyatt is a part of, these are the
ones who were very very good so they do not need to further prove
themselves. They just need to come to earth to get a body then they
can go back to live with Heavenly Father. At the resurrection they will
be reunited with their bodies which will be perfect. Wyatt is promised
that he will go to heaven.

So Wyatt came here and got a body, then he was ready to go back
to God. When his soul or spirit left his body and went to the spirit
world he was greeted by family members who were already there.
He was greeted by his uncle Jason, his cousin Jesse Driesel, who both
passed away as babies, his Aunt Amber, his Aunt Tina, his great great
grandpas Jack and Duane who passed away on the same day 26 years
ago. We know this from people who have had near death experiences
and have come back to tell us that they were met by family and friends.

They tell us that they were very happy and it was very peaceful their,
and I know that Wyatt is happy and is being well taken care of and that
he is just waiting for the rest of us to join him.

As I prepared these remarks I kept coming back to the idea of what
would Wyatt want me to say. So after much thought and prayer there
are 3 things that I know Wyatt would want me to tell you.

1. James and Melynda, he would want me to say thank you for
giving him a body and for loving him.
2. He would want me to tell you that his passing away was neither
one of yours fault so please do not blame each other for his
leaving and please be kind to each other and love each other.
3. The last thing he would want me to say to everyone here is to
please live our lives so that we can all be with him after this life
is over. He will be with Heavenly Father and he wants us to all be
there with him.