Sunday, September 25, 2011

I Can Do All Things~

We were about to leave Van Suan Park today when Maxx suddenly had to poo. He won't go just anywhere so a few months back I bought a portable potty for him. He wasn't the biggest fan for months but there were no other options today. After some convincing and negotiating, I got him to agree to try it. At first, he sat there looking uncomfortable. With his knees practically up to his chest, he was sweating and had a tense look on his face. He wanted some space so I closed the door but left the window open. Then out of no where, I hear him singing, "I can do all things...God makes me strong." So friggin' cute. So I walk over to his side of the car and got a good whiff of success. He had a big smile and look of pride on his face. YAY!

This was the first time ever that he put what he learned from Sunday School into practice. Our church, Joy Christian Fellowship, just recently got a new Children's Ministry Director who began implementing a new strategy called Orange. I'm starting to really like it.

It's basically a strategy where you combine the two primary influences that impact a child's (yellow) and family (red) that every leader, volunteer and parent is on the same page working toward the same goal. In most churches, kids go to Sunday School and learn about God and often the lesson ends there. There's usually not a substantial connection or continuation of what they're learning at church, at home.

God is in our home but so far, just in a high level sense. I would love to do a better job of making God more real in our family but surprisingly, it's not easy. The preschool program is called First Look and it provides an activity for the parents to do with the kids during the week. It's so simple and Maxx is really getting it.

So a huge thank you to Miss Jane and Maxx's other teachers!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Cutting Costs

Could these 3 little ones really be sucking up all our money? Uhhh...yeah!

On top of the usual costs such as clothes, food, healthcare, diapers/wipes and the such, preschool's really the first big budget item we've come across to date and so it's only just begun.

According to this USDA calculator, our kids will cost us a total of $46k/year until they're 18. (I tried a couple of cost calculators and this was actually the lowest result. You can also adjust the numbers to include any exact costs you already are aware of.)
As for college, according to's calculator, it'll cost anywhere from $65-90k/year for each of my kids. There will be 3 years during which I will have 2 kids in college at the same time and 1 year, all 3. Um...yeah, no comment.

So while Gunn is working on bigger vision for our family's finances, I'm making some efforts to trim our current expenses further. I don't think our spending is frivolous so it's going to be hard to do this but I'm determined to make changes that will have real noticable results in our bank account.
In no particular order, here's what I got:

I'll still get a couple of special items but only if they're on sale. Fortunately, Iann's birthday is only a week after Maxx's so I can recylce all the boys clothes and get double use. I got a ton of stuff from a friend for Maxx & Ellie. It felt like Christmas. Thanks S!
>  I spend at least $150 about 4x/year for both M & E so I could probably save at least $500 here.

I nursed Maxx for 3 months, then supplemented for the next 3 months, then went fully to formula at 6 months. Ellie was almost completely a formula fed baby because there was just too much pain and difficulty. They say it's hard to go back to breastfeeding after not doing it for the last child. Well it's true but I am proud to say that I did it! And I'm so glad cause it's so much better for him too.
> They say you spend an average of $40 on formula/wk on babies. So in the remaining 9 months, I should be saving about $1500 by nursing Iann.

I need to cook and eat what we have in the fridge, freezer, pantry and garage (more storage) before stocking up on new stuff. And no more ordering in to satisy a quick craving. Sometimes I need to remind myself I'm not pregnant anymore!
> I'm going to ballpark the cost of all the food I have in my house at about $250.

This includes the best cuts of prime rib from COSTCO, angus kalbi from Hmart (Korean supermarket), meat/cheeses, various seafood, etc. My household tends to buy the absolute best quality for everything as well as expensive types of foods on a regular basis. Must save it for the special occassions. Good thing we don't have big drinkers in the house.
> This will easily save us at least $500/year.

Between and all the groupon-like sites, I have a few stocked up and there're always great deals so I'm hoping to never have to pay in full for a restaurant experience again...unless I'm not the organizer.
> If I estimate one date night/month, plus some of our special occassions, we should be able to save at least $350/year.

To be realistic, for Gunn, I'll aim to do 3 out 5 days/week. Sandwiches, pasta, leftovers...should be doable. Also, no more buying expensive lunches at parks, zoos, etc.
> Gunn spends $8 on average per day. If I'm conservative and estimate $3/packed lunch, then I'm saving $5/day which is $15/wk multiplied by 50 weeks (accounting for 2 weeks of vacation). Tack on another $100 for weekend family trips and you get $850.

Don't buy juice or soda when water's the healthier and cheaper option. And anticipate (iced) coffee cravings and make it at home to take with me on the road.
> If I cut out 1 juice/soda and 1 iced coffee/wk, I'd save over $200/year.

I've been cutting the kids hair at home and was going to only do it for a little bit since the kids are so young but I think I'll continue. All the practice has gotten me pretty decent anyways.
> $25/cut x 2 boys x 12 months = $600, $25 x 4 times for Ellie = $100....nets at $700/year

Until finances are in a better place, no more "wants" allowed. This includes toys for the kids as well as home goods and accessories for myself and electronics and games for Gunn.
Only exception will be gifts which we will cap at $50/occassion.

Many people I know have saved hundreds by doing this for car insurance.

Check out this article on 75 gas saving tips. Not sure how to quantify this but it's eco-friendly as well.

Ebay, Craigslist or Amazon baby and maternity items, as well as general household items. My things are in top notch condition so I should be able to get something decent. My dad is trying to clean out his place so I'll be doing this for him too. Maybe I'll get some commission. ha!
> With all the baby gear I have, I should be able to get at least $500 in a year's time.

But only until our finances are better. How we will determine when that will be? Not sure. But we haven't been on a vacation since we had Maxx and don't plan on considering any until Iann is at least 2. Before we got married we spent thousands every year on multiple trips. I definitely appreciate the luxury of going on vacations now.

If I'm going to buy something online anyway, might as well collect points for free money & gift cards later on.
> I should be able to earn at least $100 in cash and gift cards in a year's time. It's likely only this low since I'm trying to not do any shopping anytime soon.

When someone asks what gifts to get the kids, the answer will always be "college fund please".

I have the tendency to want to treat people often so sometimes I can be naive about it. I love to give and share but I need to do it "smarter". My friends and family think that some people take advantage of me in this way and that's not doing anyone any good.

Make our "loose budget" more detailed & review Amex bill and bank account balances on a regular basis. Reviewing the numbers on a regular basis keeps you in check because it's so easy to stray from a budget.

18. PRAY
Trust God with our overall finances.

Sometimes it's hard to think that all the little things will make a difference but I truly believe they will. The quantifiable savings above total to over $5k. Think about someone handing you a check for $5k one day and maybe that'll motivate you.

If you have any suggestions for any additional ways to save, please share!

Monday, September 12, 2011

1st Day of Preschool

Initially, I didn't research many schools cause I had heard so many amazing things about First Presbyterian Preschool & Kindergarten (FPPK), a cooperative preschool in the area. I was all gung-ho about our decision until I had Iann in June. Then I started stressing about the childcare situation for my younger 2 for the few times a year I needed to co-op teach. I hadn't really planned it out in detail. So unlike me, I know. I should've just trusted my gut though, because after looking into a ton of other schools, I actually ended up back at FPPK for various reasons, but I'm so thankful I did.

At first, the parent involved aspect of the school was a little intimidating but after going to "Back to School Night", meeting M's teacher and now the first day of school, Gunn and I confidently know that we made the right decision.

If you're thinking of what schools to consider, I very highly recommend FPPK. The things I love about the school are:
:: I'll be able to be fully involved in the crucial first 5 years of his life, which in this case includes school
:: Maxx's teacher is awesome. She's has years of experience like most others but there's something special about her. She really gives you confidence that you've put your child in the right hands.
:: FPPK caters to the sensitive child that might need some hand holding
:: The first week of school is a flexible adjsutment period which is so great for kids attending school for the first time
:: His classmates and their moms are the kinds of people I like exposing him to, specifically other families that feel similarly about coop schools.

I know it's only the first day of school, yet I just feel that good about it all...and I'm so not a feeler.

We had been talking about the first day of school for months and then more so these last couple of weeks. We also watched the school themed episodes of Blues Clues and YoGabbaGabba. He was so excited when I told him about his very own cubby with his picture, where he can put his new backpack and jacket. He loved the idea of a bathroom with a kid sized toilet. He wanted to see Sprinkles again, the class guinea pig he met on our February tour.

I wanted to talk it all up but was afraid to go overboard because as with any sensitive child, with everything, you have to find the right balance between too little and too much.

I'm not sure what others mean when they talk about sensitive children but I'm not talking about the kind of child or person that gets hurt easily and takes things personally...although that often comes with the pacakge. I'm talking about the kind of person who's senses are heightened. Maxx can smell, taste, hear, feel and notice things that no one else in the room does. It's almost crazy at times. Things click in his head sometimes that I'm so amazed by. I'm not an early developmental expert by any means but I don't think it's typical. Or the fact that he talks about his feelings so much for a boy. (I know, I know, I sound like one of those crazy moms that thinks her kids are the best kids ever. I can't help it today. hee.)

If you know me well, you know that I have a reason & method to almost everything I do. Working on Maxx's attachment issues was one of the areas I put some effort and it really worked out great.

M was a rockstar! I'm so proud of him and happy for him.

If you know our Maxx, he's come such a long way. He was at the high end in the range of attached children. He literally used to be stuck to me like glue and would rudely dismiss most other people. It took me about 9 months of staying with him at sunday school for him to comfortable enough to go alone. I know, forever, but this was a huge step and totally paved the way for being ready for preschool.

Maxx didn't even flinch when I said I'd be leaving and would come back for him when he's done. He barely said goodbye as he was reaching for some trucks. I guess it comes off like the typical situation where the mom is more anxious than the kid.

I love, love, love, love our Maxx. I would never trade his sensitivity for anything. It's a special gift he has that one day he'll know how to use to do something really great.

By the way, I received a ton of great advice from friends and family so I'm happy to share and answer any questions you might have about anything related. Of course, I'll likely be more helpful as the school year goes on.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Happy 100 Days!

On June 3, 2011 at 2:10am, the newest member of our family arrived...and today he's 100 days old.

In Korea, back in the day, it was a big deal for a baby to live to his/her 100th day, so it's Korean tradition to celebrate the 100 day mark with family and friends. So we had a little Doo/Lee family get together at our place today. It was seriously so simple but still left me pretty tired after cleaning up.

It consisted of the following:
. handful of balloons from my stash, strung up on my kitchen wall
. Iann's sock monkey (which I think totally looks like him)
. uber basic printouts i made last night at some ridiculous hour...for the frame & cake
. cake from our local korean bakery, Paris Baguette
. Korean rice cake from Yedang (a little pricey but there's not another place that makes it decent in the area)
. and for our main course...chinese food from Petite Soo Chow! Best in the area, hands down.

When my mom first suggested Chinese, I thought it might be a bit ghetto but money's now tighter than ever and it's as non-Korean as Korean "adults" will eat so, why not? I've ordered the typical take out dishes from there before so I know I needed to dress it up. Petite Soo Chow is one of those places where you need to know what the natives order to get the good stuff so I googled it and found some reliable seeming foodie blogs with suggestions and narrowed it down from there. I also dressed it up by plating the food on all white platters & matching serveware and made sure to time the pick up just right so the food would still be warm for the guests. It all worked out great. Food was awesome, it didn't look cheap but rather very presentable and most importantly guests enjoyed it. To top it off, my brother was generous enough to pay for it. (Thanks Jason!)

In addition to the pork soup dumplings, we ordered the spring rolls (stuffed with a chinese green, scallions and ground pork), sauteed shanghai bokchoy and garlic, jumbo shrimp in ginger sauce, sliced beef with spicy sauce & shanghai-style chow mein noodles with beef. Next time, I'll have to try these dishes at the actual restaurant. It can only be better, yum.

I love to host small get togethers but its so difficult now with three little ones. Between prepping, setting up, getting the family ready, serving, greeting, feeding/nursing kids, watching kids, cleaning up...I didn't find time to get myself ready properly, eat properly, take many pictures and have any real conversations with anyone. And this was with some help from my mom, sister and Gunn. Wonder if you can hire people by the hour to work small parties, heh. But yeah, I don't like it. I guess I just have to be patient and wait until the kids are a little bit older to really host much of anything. Yet another patience lesson as a parent.

So, net net, I don't have too many pictures for you right now until I get some more from my brother in law. (Thanks Scott!)

Happy 100th Iann.
We thank God for you completing our perfect family.
Umma (mom), appa (dad), hyung (older brother), & noona (older sister) love you so freakin' much.

More pics to come.
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