Thursday, October 4, 2012

Invoke your right to complain and VOTE

From my friend Jamie Hayes. Suck it UP PEOPLE! VOTE!

Anyone who knows me personally knows how passionately I feel about voting. It was the way I was raised; as long as I can remember my mom took me along to the polling station where she cast her ballot. Sometimes her party won, sometimes they lost but she always instilled in me the fact that change cannot come without action. Complaints rarely made things happen.
This county is filled with armchair political warriors who sit in the privacy of their own homes, shouting at politicians on TV, rarely getting out of that chair to make a difference, contribute one hour here or there to volunteer, not even getting out to say their piece and utilize that very important democratic right to VOTE.
Now here’s the kicker: many of my good friends and many of my family members don’t vote. People whom I love, adore and respect. Working, educated members of society who pay taxes, utilize public services, receive cheques and rebates from the government, do not exercise their very simple right to cast a ballot and have their say. This baffles me! Their excuses? Their parents didn’t vote, so they don’t. They don’t have the time. They don’t know who to vote for. The lines at the polling station are too long. One vote won’t make a difference. I don’t like any of the candidates. I won’t be in town on voting day. I have no way of getting to the polling station.
These excuses, my friends are complete and utter bullshit and I don’t accept any of them. Here is the honest truth: 61.4 percent of registered electors voted in the last federal election. In my town, Mission, last municipal election 7363 people cast a ballot for mayor-out of a population of approximately 35000. I was so angry and disgusted by this fact. How can people be so lazy? Why aren’t they voting? I asked around and was given the excuses above.
With the next provincial election coming up in May of 2013, and the American election looming, I’d like to tackle these excuses and perhaps try to convince non-voters to make the effort and exercise their right.
My parents didn’t vote This is unfortunate, however, you aren’t your parents and that is even more reason to get out and vote. Bring your kids to the polling station and instill the necessity to vote at a young age.
I don’t have the time I don’t know a single person who has an excess of time on their hands; I certainly don’t. I am a mother of pre-school age twin boys who take up 90% of my time. I have a husband whom I spend as much time with as I can. I’m small business owner of which I am CEO, CFO, manager, secretary, marketing manager and social media coordination. I sit on the board of 2 organizations. I volunteer in my community. I still find the time to read up on candidates and exercise my duty to vote during the 12 hours the polling stations are open on election day.
I don’t know who to vote for Lucky for you, leading up to election time, the candidates are featured in every newspaper, on every tv and radio station, have their own websites, and participates in public debates. Set aside ONE HOUR of your time and research the candidates so you can make an informed decision.
The lines at the polling station are too long I cannot argue with this. However, everyday people stand in long lines at Starbucks, so I’m sure people can do the same thing at the polling station.
One vote won’t make a difference Oh really? Think back to the US election in 2000 in which less than 600 votes in Florida sent George W. Bush to the White House. That’s 600 votes in a country with a population of over 300 million people, or .000002% of the American population.
I don’t like any of the candidates There have been past elections where I haven’t liked any of the candidates, but I don’t hate them equally. I simply vote for the one I dislike the least.
I won’t be in town voting day The solution in 2 words? Advance voting. There are always several advance voting dates to choose from to ensure you are able to cast your ballot.
I have no way to get to the polling station Walk. Take the bus. Ask for a ride. Or have a volunteer come from the polling station to pick you up. Many people who feel as passionate about voting as I do will actually pick you up and take you there and back.
Voting isn’t just your right, it’s your duty. There are people dying worldwide every single day, simply for the right to a democratic society, something millions of Canadians throw away like a used Tim’s cup every single election.
And if none of this is enough to get you moving, consider this: in 2009 the Taliban cut off the fingers of 2 Afghani woman for voting in the national election, due to the telltale ink stains left from using their fingerprint to vote. These woman knew good and well what would happen if they voted, but still went ahead and voted anyway, such is their belief that their choices must be heard.
Sacrifice one hour of your time to learn about the candidates and another half hour to place your vote.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

We are CHANGING lives ONE donation at a time!

My dearest Mattias...about age 1. Not a chubby boy at like Ben or Sam. He is more like Joe and his Dad. Slim Jims! And when I look at that funny, thoughtful face I fall in LOVE all over again. We all love our kids and fight tooth and nail for them. Go without so they have more. We want them to have a better life than we had...and let me tell ya...they DO! My kids have no reason to not have a good nights sleep. They are well fed, well educated, well travelled and can play any sport or instrument they want. I was not so lucky...and know what it is like to have dry puffed wheat for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Those were different times. There were few food banks and with my parents being home owners did not have access to any services. The same is true today. You can get an emergency this or an emergency that but you have to jump through hoops to do it. If you are working many jobs or have crazy hours that makes it harder.

The Do-Jo Exchange Society is officially official! We got approved by the government and opened a bank account and will soon have a web page! Can you believe it? In just over a month we have given 23 families food donation only....been approved as a Society..have a Board of Directors..have a place to keep the inventory..keep track of inventory...including a fridge and a deep freeze. The families we have helped are so GRATEFUL!. When you see the faces of those children how can you not try to help?

Our mandate is helping the working poor but we never say no to anyone with a child. I could care less if you are a crack addict with 6 kids...I'm going to beg and borrow and steal to get your family some food. The kids didn't ask for starvation...they are the innocents in this world and the 79 volunteers in the Do-Jo agree. We are NOT judge and jury. Most of the families we have helped are working, have had an unexpected cost in their budget and needed the top up of food until the next pay cheque. That is our MANDATE. Help those that are working get ahead. BUT...we have had a few that are on welfare and had their own unexpected situations. The kids got to go to sleep with FULL bellies! THAT is what the Do-Jo is about. The children!

Not to say if a single person needed help we would turn them away...on the contrary...we would help that person too...they just would not require the volume of food we do provide for families. The next board meeting is tomorrow night at my home but the general feeling to try and provide TWO WEEKS of food for the families so that they are one pay cheque ahead. And that is what we have done for the most part. 20 of the 23 families we have helped in the last 6 weeks have gone away with all basic staples, meat, cheese, milk, eggs, bread, fresh fruit/veg etc. The complete package required to get ahead. One Mom said she has NEVER had this much food in her house with two kids. Another cried her eyes out at the sheer KINDNESS of people and promised to give when she could. Another had her two year old squeal with delight that he got fruit cups.

It's the little things that count. A simple kindness to donate a few cans by many to create a food hamper to last beyond tomorrow. Our network is AMAZING! The most giving and thoughtful people in this little town in Canada. We are changing lives! One donation at a time. And those that receive can`t wait to give back when they can. They get that to pay it forward is what it is about. And a little kindness today makes it easier to do that. We are a community. A VILLAGE amongst ourselves. In this global world that makes me so happy!

Creating change one step at a time Big Momma LOVE to you all! XO 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Do-Jo Exchange Society is UP and RUNNING!

Here is the current Logo for the Society....many hands in a circle. That is what a community is. To me anyways. I opened a group on Facebook to help working families in the community and within two weeks we had 75 members and helped 12 families. Created large food hampers for each with enough to keep them going for at least a week if not more. Many had fallen on hard times. Life happens and if you are making just above the threshold for assistance you are out of luck getting anything from government programs. Some are in between losing their jobs and receiving benefits. Some had a large car maintenance bill and could not buy food for their kids until next payday. Some are in between receiving unemployment benefits and disability and need to feed their family. Some missed work due to illness and with rent due had no where to turn to for help feeding their kids.

The working poor in this country and many other Western nations has risen at staggering rates in the last decade alone. 

"At 15.1 per cent, Canada’s child poverty rate is higher than the 17-country average. More than one in seven Canadian children lives in poverty. Canada ranks 13th on this indicator and scores a “C” grade.

The Nordic countries—Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden—have the lowest rates of child poverty, with less than 5 per cent of children living in poor households. The relationship between social spending and poverty rates has become more obvious over time, so it is no surprise that the leading countries boast strong traditions of wealth distribution.

The U.S. continues to have the highest poverty rate among industrialized countries. Along with Germany and Ireland, the U.S. earns a "D" grade." (The Conference Board of Canada)

Just a little of the statistical information I have been researching for months. How sad is that? In my province of British Columbia we have the highest rate of child poverty in the country yet our biggest city is one of the most desired to live in around the entire world.

After the FB page was opened the donations started pouring in! I put a bin out front of my house and every day there have been multiple drops of food and toiletries. Have enough in stock now for a few families and when we need more I just post the needs and those that can give do. Registered the name with the government and have sent the required paper work to get non-profit status. Have a Board of Directors just as excited as I. The response has been astounding and can honestly say I am humbled and uplifted by the people in this Society and the recipients so grateful. We only ask that you pay it forward when you can and many that have become recipients have offered their expertise to others in exchange. We now have tutors, mechanics, computer techs, photographers and Grandmas making homemade soup.

We have all had times when money was tight....things went sideways...and by coming together as a community we can help each other! Give a hand up knowing things will turn around. And they will! A hamper and a hug says "We believe in YOU!" We do because we have all been judgement. Hang in there and know that if you need a little to get by we can help. No shame in the act of asking you are helping to create this community. We will know more what to keep in stock, what medications are not paid for and how much is needed to get them, what services are unattainable due to cost, what struggles are every day and what happens out of the blue. I know when I needed help with two small boys I had family...but many do not or have family that are unable to help due to their own circumstances.
The Do-Jo Exchange is not about karate. It's about fighting my grief and fighting the system that has forgotten about the working poor...that let those numbers rise daily without any thought to their well being or the children....those that fight every day to get ahead....those that have had a hard time asking for help..those that work their fingers to the bone...and who's kids hopefully have a kind soul watching them for subsidy...or just above. Those that have dreams of a better life and just need a little help to get not worry about groceries for see a LIGHT...and can give back when they can..because they WILL! A community of those that have been there...and those that are in it...and together we will change lives. For All of us!
If you want to donate or start a Do-Jo in your own community please email me at I can help you set one up in your own community. I hope you do..."It takes a village to raise a child." Let's not let any more people pass through the cracks...let's just fill in the cracks together.
Here is our pamphlet:

We are a group of local citizens that want to give back to the community with a special group as our focus. Working families in need.
Those that are in between paycheques, on maternity, on disability leave or laid off. Those families that find themselves unable to access services due to their assets or their incomes are just a little too high to qualify but are still struggling to make ends meet.
Need a few groceries to get by until payday? Need some Tylenol for your child? Short on gas money? Need clothes, a mattress, a table? Going back to work and need some business attire to get started? Need child care for a few hours to go to a job interview?
These are all areas we can help.
If you know a family in need, that just needs a little help now and then - We can HELP!
Contact Susan at or on Face book at The Do-Jo Exchange (donations greatly appreciated)

Sunday, January 29, 2012

2012...So far it SUCKS!

My Sam..and his first haircut 6 years ago....he was 2! A bald Blondie forever! LOL! I remember thinking will this boy ever grow hair? Will he be my very own Charlie Brown? LOL! He now has a very thick head of hair...still blonde....with the cutest ONE curl in the back. My one boy that got even a hint of curl. Lucky him that mullets are a fashion of the past! LOL!

I look at this picture and think of how my life was back many many small children...but I was HAPPY! Fell into a funk at Xmas...really really bad funk. The kind that makes you wonder if you need meds to come back. I cried for no reason...had pain in every part of my body...did not want to see ANYONE! Turned down get togethers...parties...lunch dates....hikes! Basically cocooned for a month. Got worried...but then gave into it. Let myself just turn inward....just give in to the sadness. And happy to say I am coming back to myself!

A much needed break of every day life! I needed time to grieve some more...and think HARD about what I wanted to do with my life. Have been at a crossroads for many years and am finally ready to jump in and shake it up!

I volunteered for a group that helps single Moms...but then I realized that some of the women being helped were looking for hand OUTS! Not hand UPS! There is a HUGE difference between the two. People looking for handouts will keep looking..rarely help themselves...feel the world OWES them..and continue a cycle of manipulation, usury and never give back to the community. Those that need a hand UP...are grateful for the help...go on to be self sufficient and give back to the community when they can. Asking for diapers when you have 3 jolly jumpers in separate rooms is a woman not ready to sacrifice to make a life for her kids. Really? How lazy can you be?

I know..WHAT? Where did the compassion go? Have plenty! But at this point...with my limited resources I am choosing to be choosy! Thought I would start my own non-profit for working parents. MUST be working or on maternity leave...single or together...the working poor have very few options for help in between pay cheques or for big ticket items such as furniture. Need meds for a sick kid? Need milk and bread to get by for a few days? Need clothes for the family? Was given some seed money and have a large network of like minded women....and it stalled.

I need help! I need partners to do this! I need people as committed as myself to helping the working poor and a place to do it. And...I am moving to another Province in the summer so do I start this now or wait? If I wait I must build up contacts there which will take years. Took me 8 years to build a network in this small town...enough to make a difference but am now leaving that network to start anew.

Want to call this non-profit the Do-Jo exchange...fighting poverty ONE donation at a time. Do for Dorothy my Mom and Jo for Joan my grandma. What do you think? Would you support this kind of NP? Would you go to a fund raiser for this kind of purpose? Do you think the working poor could use an organization that fills the gaps in between pay cheques and sources big expenditures? Any and all feedback is greatly appreciated.

Big Momma LOVE to you all XO

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy 2012! The Year is Over!

Happy New Year...Party on

Well...the year is over. We spent New Years Eve together as a family. The way I wanted to end 2011. My family makes me happier than anything else in this world. We went to a Pantomime with my extended family members. Great seats too...3rd row centre! The kids just loved it! At a Panto it is audience participation. You Boo the bad guys, Cheer the good guys, yell "Look behind you!" when the bad guy is sneaking up on the good guy. The lead female character is played by a man and vica versa. I had no voice the teens got into it. Then we all went out for dinner and then home. My brother popped by, my Dad (it was his 71st birthday) and our dear friend Greg. The kids stayed up and we hugged in the new year. Ty asked if this meant he was going into grade 2 now...LOL! Had to explain he will be but in September. Very low key...just talking with a roaring fire and some countdown shows on. Received many texts after midnight by my dear friends wishing me a Happy New Year...(some that made Nice to wake up feeling rested for

What have I learned this past year? Where do I start? Collaborative Consumption is on the rise! I belong to many swap/trade groups on Facebook. I found these better than the yahoo groups etc as there are more people and therefore more types of things to buy/trade/swap. When posting what you have they do want a pic of it so be prepared for that. They have strict rules about payment. If you are a no show 3 times you are out! Great stuff though.

Thrift stores are wonderful as well. Mind you I had to go to two other communities as mine is quite small and I found it hard to find the sizes I was looking for. Value Village is pricier than most but the one in Maple Ridge has the sizes I need for my two hefty boys. Got tables from MCC and plan on getting a "new" couch from there. A sofa cover is great for covering those flower there were some 1970's inspired prints that made my eyes water! LOL!

I have developed a large network of hand me downs from other Moms. We swap bags and add to them and pass them along. This has been my best source for clothes, jackets, winter boots, skates etc. Even stuff for me! LOL! One Mom was giving away a king sized bed and another Mom I knew was grateful to have it. Another Mom needed "work" clothes and I gave her some of my Mom's stuff. A lady at school needed girl clothes and sourced out some for her just in time for Xmas. It's all about networking and connecting. Some in my network are beyond generous....give away some very nice stuff. Grateful for their generosity and kindness. They have helped so many people they have never met. I wish I could send them all on a tropical vacation to thank

Craigslist, Kijiji, The Buy and Sell, Ebay, Amazon etc have been excellent too. Many gently used items. Never made it to Toy Traders but hear it is excellent and will check it out the next Bday.
The stuff you have that is kind of stained/torn etc can go to any thrift store marked rags. Old towels, blankets, sheets can go to any animal rescue place. Old boots make great flower planters. Paper plates can be composted. Holiday wrap is recyclable now too. They can process the dye and coating with the new process plants (depending on where you are of course). Tin foil, batteries paint, light bulbs, computers, appliances etc can all go to the recycling depot.

Fair trade items (see prior post) are beautifully made and one of a kind. Be careful of shipping costs and of sizing. Local artisan items are great too. Still have those soaps I got in Galiano. Love them!

My entire thought process has changed this year. I think twice before buying anything...even if it is second hand. Do I need it? Do I want it? If I bring it in the house am I getting rid of something else to make room? How much stuff does a person need? Decided to sell my punch bowl, some serving dishes etc. Downsizing! I'm digging the minimalist for my Xmas is so busy...full of every Mothers day present etc from the past 13 years. Every "ornament" has a story.

I know the pic is dark..taken from my phone. But you get the idea about my tree.

I've learned that grief becomes a part of you. It changes how you view the world and the people in it. Good and bad. It hits you when you least expect it AND makes you stronger. I am far more concerned about the welfare of others than ever before. My Grandma always said to do something for others to overcome the sadness in life and I sure get it now. I joined a group that collects and distributes clothes, diapers, food etc for low income families. The founder posts what is needed and the members source out what they can. Preparing a food hamper tonight to deliver tomorrow. That is better than wallowing in the grief. It gives it a direction and hence lets it GO! Found something that helps others while helping me at the same time. Funny how it works that way.

 "In helping others, we shall help ourselves, for whatever good we give out completes the circle and comes back to us.”

I'm going to continue on with the no retail as much as I can. I have saved so much money, met so many caring, thoughtful people, learned so much, travelled more and enjoyed every minute of it (well for the most Will build my network as much as I can and pass along as much as I can. "Many small people, in many small places, do many small things, that can alter the face of the world."

Can't believe this is my last post! Thank you all for you support, encouragement, feedback and kind words. It's been wonderful to connect with so many people and share ideas. I wish everyone LOVE and JOY in 2012 and beyond.

Big Momma Collaborative Consumer LOVE to ALL! XXOO

 (Will pop in from time to time to share new ideas, sites, groups etc.)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

I got around buying Christmas Cards..tee hee...

Just had to share this picture of the fog on the weekend. If you look closely you can see Bella and my Joe. It was so creepy walking in the woods with pea soup fog. The kids and I LOVED it! LOL!

Have been busy preparing for Christmas. The house is decorated in and out. I must have 12 arrangements about the house and the tree and the mantle and the outside lights. I wonder when I did it all? It's such a whirlwind really. This week is at the school for the Christmas store. Parents donate gently used items and the kids get to pick a present for Mom and Dad and get it "professionally" wrapped by one of us kids love it! I enjoy it too. When that little boy finds the perfect dusty candle for brings tears to your really is fun and most of the stuff is pretty good.

Instead of giving out cards this year I did up a Christmas letter that I had to print out in black and white...including office supplies were an exception given my job. I had a pack of cards from last year I found but will save those for quick hellos. I shared a bit of what I learned this year but will elaborate further in a later post as I have learned A LOT this past year and if requires more than a quick reference.

Here is the letter:
It's been a busy year for all of us with many changes. We started the year on a quest to avoid buying retail until 2012. There have been a few exceptions to the rule but for the most part we have stuck to it. Of course Ron blew it the first day when on January 1st he decided he needed sweat pants and went to Urban Planet. UGHGH! LOL! There have been a few more bumps in the road...and a few complaints from the kids that they did not give out goodie bags at their Birthdays...But along the way we have learned of some really great second hand clothing shops. Found second hand furniture as well. Have embraced online swap and sell sites and the kids were on board for the most part. It's made us all really think about our impact as consumers and to get back to basics.

We went to Qualicum Beach for Spring Break with my brother and his family. A wonderful time exploring and relaxing. The sea lions at Fanny Bay were a hoot! Englishman Falls were a natural wonder and the Horn Lake caves a challenge to explore with our helmet lights and all the rocks.  Bella came home smelling like dead crabs and matted everywhere! Oh what a ride home..GAG! The challenges of the cocker

We spent the start of the summer exploring Alberta and Bella this time. Visited our family on the colonies and loved every minute of it. The kids were in the cow barns at every stop and learned more and more about farming. Ron and I enjoyed the company of family and of course the delicious FOOD! Yum! I got to fulfill a lifelong dream to visit the Columbia Ice was amazing! In Jasper we saw many bears and enjoyed the scenery....but the next morning we all woke up and just wanted to get HOME! We drove the 10 hours home that a very happy Bella and a very put out cat. Krypto forgave us the next day so all was good.

We got home in time to say our final goodbye's to my dear Grandma Poi Poi at the age of 92. A very tough time as it had not been a year since we lost Mom...but we pulled together as a family, put one foot in front of the other...and continue on.

The boys and I went to Galliano Island for a week with my sister and her girls. It was BLISS! So relaxing. The kids explored the beaches and I read many novels in the sun. Our backs hurt from lounging so much...LOL!

Ron came home at the end of summer for the funeral and we left for Kelowna the next day for 5 days on the beach. Rented a boat and explored the lake. What a beautiful part of the world. We will return one day. We did learn that the north side of the lake requires going up and down a cliff.....good thing we hike! I bet we did the stairs 12 times a the water was warm and the dock ripe for jumping off!

School started and it's been a world wind of activity. Busy with the PAC at school. Ben started high school and loves it. He was ready for the independence. He continues to be the kind, hard working young man we expect. He has his friends over for sleepovers and I affectionately call them "The Stomachs in the Basement." The only time I see them is when they come up for food and is in Grade 5 and doing very well. He is making new friends and learning how to use an I pad to help him in school. He is growing up so fast and asking the hard questions..gulp...but thanks to Ben I'm is in Grade 3 and really improving his reading this year. He is still all charming as can be. He is making new friends this year too. The kind that get him playing outside a lot. Yippy! Ty is in Grade 1 and is a complete funny little man and very smart. His drawings are quite good but he loves to tell knock knock jokes all love their teachers...phew! And they all seem to be happy. Our after school time is spent with friends, hiking, making muffins, drawing or just snuggling watching a movie. Took some time off of sports to regroup this year. It's been really nice not to have that crazy schedule. Baseball starts in the Spring and we will be there 4 days a week so I'm grateful for this time.

I got to go to Mexico with my best friend for a week in husbands. Ron did great looking after the boys. I don't think any of them missed will do that again...LOL!

Ron and I will celebrate 14 years married this year on Dec. 20th. He will be flying home on the day. Hope we can sneak a night out together...which is usually dinner at the pub and playing Keno....lame I know but it's a night without kids and sometimes we win enough to cover the babysitting and dinner always ask us what our secret is. I mean...let's face it...We are POLAR opposites philosophically. He thinks Stephen Harper is brilliant and I'd like to run him over with a truck(kidding)....but you get the point. I guess we just have the same core principle of kindness and I have SUPER human also puts up with my "bleeding heart"...which has not changed since we met of those things that you loved about a person when you met but after time really annoys put up with his inability to clean up after making a sandwich and his loose budgeting skills. :)

We have learned a lot this year. Well, I have learned a lot this year...Ron and the boys just go along with me. It helps to be the only female in the house. They can all argue their side and I get the final I let Ron think he does! By not buying retail we have managed to squeeze in two extra mini worth it! We are also saving for our dream vacation to Europe. The whole family for a month. Will take a few years but we will get there.

That pretty much sums up our year.  We feel so grateful to have such wonderful, loving, kind people in our lives.

Hoping 2012 proves to be full of Joy and Love for everyone.

Ron, Susan, Ben, Joe, Sam, Ty and Bella
(In keeping with the no retail quest please accept this letter in lieu of an Xmas card. It's in black and white as I am allowed office supplies as an exception and my printer is not coloured. Revenue Canada prefers this....Red and green are too much colour for the government I guess. .lol...and if you didn't get an envelope we are saving our pennies for Germany. With the four cowboys in tow Ron and I will need Steins as opposed to )
I know...tongue in cheek kind of stuff but it was fun to reminisce.

I do have to declare another 2 days of retail. I found Sam the helicopter he has wanted for 2 years on sale half price. Needles to say the Playbook is coming to ME! LOL! I bought some tupperware at HUGE discounts (Got my aunt's name from the hat and she had to have the salad spinner and got the beach toys for my cousin who is 18 months) I also ran out of flowers for the arrangements so went into the loonie store to pick up a few pieces. Here is my latest creation for the administrator at our school (a ROCK for all us parents)

(the base is wrapped in newspaper so it doesn't fall over but the vase was beautiful..donated by my Dad)

So we are at 37 days of retail in almost 12 whole months! What a year! Will be adding two more days to that I'm sure as I have a few more gifts to buy for family members.

Happy, crazy Big Momma love to you all! XO

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Have been in Thrift Store Paradise!

I like to make fresh arrangements at Christmas. I walk the woods and pick up the stuff the wind blew over or take a few specimens off the tree...carefully and I never take too much. Then I put the greenery in a vase and put in fake flowers, birds, holly etc to finish it off. I went to MCC in Abbotsford and Mission and found LOADS of the fake stuff in bags for $1. Some of the things I won't use but I'll just re-donate it back! It's GREAT! They also had board games still in plastic for $1. Stocking stuffers and books for 50 cents. I walked out just today with two huge boxes of stuff for $42. Woohoo!

This is one arrangement I made for Ty's teacher.

This is one I made for my mantle.

Recycled vases, recycled materials and fresh greenery. No retail! But there is some....gulp.....I found these gorgeous butterflies at a loony store. Butterflies represent growth and change to me....they are a symbol of my Joe and how he went from being cocooned to being the bright, funny, smart boy he is today. I HAD to get them...and put them in the arrangements for his teacher and dear Mrs. Workman. Taking the hit! It's a personal touch that Mrs. W will completely understand. I did hers in blues and silver too. Her favourites. The pics did not turn out though.:(

I also needed a new coffee table and an end table and took a trip to the MCC furniture store...scored two solid oak tables for $50. The coffee table needs a new coat of varnish but that's not hard to do. I'm not one for matchy furniture anyways. Here's a pic of my groovy bookshelf made for my Mom's mom by her much younger boyfriend(18 years younger ;)) in 1968.

I couldn't buy that in any store and it means the world to me that my Aunt let me have it. A piece of family history. And is it not super groovy? LOL!

I do have to say...Xmas is a crazy busy time for us ladies. For the most part we do everything. One Mom said to me.."Stop doing it! I bet he pitches in next year!" LOL! Ummmm....hard to pitch in when you are 3,000 miles away. But I get her point. It's really ME pressuring ME. I just want this time of year to be wonderful and magical for my kids. Not the toys per say...the decorations, the goodies, the music, the time making things together, the walks in the woods.  For those overseas, Christmas in Canada is a wonderful time of year. There is a feeling of giving more so than any other time. It's happy, fun, busy, colourful, musical...the kids believe in Santa...and despite the threat of no presents with bad behavior...are off the wall with excitement! LOL! It's family time! Friend time! It's that time of year when you re-evaluate your priorities (well for some) and really think what is important to you and what you will do in the next year to make the changes you seek. Or maybe you are just happy with the way things are. Good for you!

I'm truly happy with my life for the most part. At a time in my life that I know WHO I am and act accordingly. Truly love my family and true friends. BUT....I feel the winds of change and a big move coming up this next year. Will fill you all in when I know more. It's time for the kids to know their Hutterite family better and for my husband to be home more. :)

So my last score was 33 days of's now 35. I shopped at a loony store and got a few things at Fields yesterday..Ty fell in LOVE with a blanket...what can I say? He's just too dam cute some times. :)

Big Momma love to you all...and may the force be with you the next few weeks as you prepare for the BIG day. XO

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Went to the MALL! And on a serious note....

A sign at a kiosk in the mall. LOL! My friend Shannon and I howled with laughter. First time I have been to a mall in 2 years? Something like was fun! I was just going to look then saw La Senza and decided to replace a few worn out bras and yes...bought myself NEW pajamas. Taking the hit...I love them so and they will be wrapped for Xmas. Had to have the greasy Chinese food much for weight watchers! LOL! And am I ever tired! Who knew shopping was this exhausting. :)

And on the serious note....The consequences of bullying! One of my kids has been targeted by a group of girls! The administration is on it....and hoping for the best. I'm very sensitive to bullying as I was bullied as a kid...until age 10 when I kicked the snot out of a kid...tee hee. But it can have very serious consequences if left unchecked....suicide the worst of it.

I decided to consult with some professionals in the field and will share their information.

First I called my best I called a child psychologist. She gave me lots of information. So here it is:

The basic elements of bullying are:
  • Unequal power: One child has more power than the other child (or at least it seems that way to the children involved)
  • Hurtful actions: Physically or psychologically harmful behaviour takes place
  • Direct and indirect actions: The behaviour may be face-to-face or behind one's back
  • Repetitive behaviour: The hurtful actions keep happening so the child being hurt finds it more and more difficult to escape
Not only is it repetitive it ESCALATES! Parents need to go to the school, identify the culprits and get some intervention. This does not always work. In many cases the child has to change schools or is home schooled. Can you imagine the psychological trauma for these kids? It is even worse if a child exhibits any kind of homosexual tendency...the boy that likes pink can be targeted as young as 6! "Why can't a boy like pink and be straight?" I asked. He most likely is straight she explained. what triggers a bully? Their feelings of inadequacy. I know one of the kids bullying my son....she comes from a good family...or so I thought. Do you really know what happens behind closed doors? I'm hard pressed to believe these kids feel inadequate. I'm still not convinced.

So then I made a few phone calls. Talked to a special education teacher that shared with me the rate of suicide among bullied youth.  Suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth aged 10-24, following motor vehicle collisions. 10? Are you kidding me? Around 2.5 to 3 per 100,000 from the ages 10 to 14 and up to 13 per 100,000 for 15 to 19 year olds. 42% of boys in grades 6 to 8 reported that they had bullied in the past two months. Bullied...not the victim. Huh? Cyberbullying is the most significant influence to the increase in youth suicide. That scares me. With the age of Facebook and Twitter and all these nasty sites that post anything without thought to the person involved...makes one want to move to the bush and cut wood for heat. Tongue in cheek but then how do we control it? How do we help those hurting?

After listening to the experts I have come to one conclusion...YOU as the parent are the one that can make the difference. Mirror compassion to your kids. If you see them getting out of hand on the playground...reprimand them! If you see any kids displaying bullying it to the school. My girlfriend said to me "The hell with reporting it. I'd take that little bugger by the ear and bring him home to his parents." LOL!

Which brings me to the adult version of bullying. I'm on the playground last week. It's just me and two other ladies and a bunch of kids. I go to move towards them to talk and they BACK AWAY! Granted I don't know them but I talk to everybody. I text my GF and faintly hear.."Don't talk to her...she hangs with that group that wife swaps." WHAT! I didn't react and kept mind reeling! There were further whispers...caught a few snippets! WOW! What a bunch of gossipy BULLSHIT! So NOT true! So it happens in adulthood too...and if I ever see them again I will confront them. How dare they make judgement on me about untruths about others? Maybe one of their girls is one of the bullies at school? Bullying by children is making more sense to me now.

So my score is 33 days of retail this year. It will climb with Xmas but am taking a trip to Toy Traders in Langley in the next few weeks. Used toys! Lots of them!

Big Momma Anti-bullying Love to you all XO

Kid friendly resource.

This link has an online support group.

How to stop Bullying.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Budgeting! And my crazy system that took years to perfect...sort of.

My girlfriend read my post yesterday and told me I should share my budgeting skills. None of the purchases I make are on credit. Or if they are I pay the credit card company the same day.

The above pretty much sums up my finances about 5 years ago. My husband works 5-6 weeks away and is home for 2-3. He doesn't get paid the weeks he doesn't work so there are times when I don't see a pay cheque for 3 to 5 weeks...depending on the amount of time off. In the beginning this was hard to manage as we always had weekly or bi-weekly pay cheques and I could budget quite easily with consistency. When that was taken away I fell into the credit trap for a few years. With no income for 5 weeks and having to pay for everything still I turned to credit cards to make up the difference and within a few years made a huge hole for us to get out of. That's when I put my accounting skills to work and revamped our finances.

So I came up with a crazy system that works for us. It doesn't work for everyone. Though I do have simpler systems I can share with you all if you are interested.

I set up "jars" so to speak in various bank accounts and tax free savings plans. Here is how I break it down:

1 - Pay yourself FIRST! Ideally 10% of your income but even 2% is better than nothing. If it's $5 a week so be it. Plan for the future. My Grandma taught me that all my life and have been pretty good about it. With my first accounting job I started an the tune of $25 a month...but hey! I was 21 and making peanuts.

2 - Pay all the basics - Minimum DEBT! Rent/mortgage, utilities, insurance, life insurance, car payment etc - the have to be paid or else bills. I count School fees in this category. Tuition/Preschool fees etc. I also count sport fees in this category too but budget for it throughout the year(see part 5).

3 - Budget for groceries and stick to it. I can't take $150 a week and stick to it. It makes me crazy if I have to buy extras like TP or laundry soap. I take a monthly budget and make it work. How you make it work is up to you. Cook from scratch, coupons, bulk..etc...

4 - Budget for extras like gas, oil changes, clothes, shoes. I budget about $125 a month for these. I may spend only $49 one month but carry over the balance to the next. Sometimes I go over...especially when all the boys need shoes at the same time..ughg! But then I watch for the next few months to keep on track.

5 - Discretionary income...this is what you have left over after all that. I have to set aside a % to cover weeks we do not receive a pay cheque and keep a defined amount in that account at all times. If it means not going to the movies so be it. I also have a holiday account and a Christmas fund. This is a personal preference as we like to travel and I refuse to use credit ever again to finance Christmas. I also have an account just for home renovations/maintenance. It can dwindle quickly so we put off projects until the account has the funds to do it.
After I set aside monies for these 4 accounts then I have what is truly our discretionary income. Sports fees first. Then Ron and I decide how much we need for the week/weeks ahead. He can have unforeseen expenses so I know to keep my allowance lower than it is enough for the kids to go swimming, go to birthday parties, have some treat days or a night out for dinner. Stuff like that. We order pizza on Friday...or I make it. Those little extras come from the discretionary fund. Do I ever have any extra at the end of the week? Sometimes...but usually when the kids are

6 - Anything left over goes straight to can put an extra partial payment on your mortgage...a little more on the line of credit...a little bigger payment on the credit card. You decide but do put EXTRA on the DEBT every MONTH! I can't emphasize this enough. Minimum payments will not reduce your debt in a timely manner and you will be paying so much in interest for that dinner out it will cost you thousands in the end. I know...I've done it! If you have many credit cards carrying a balance get a low interest line of credit to consolidate...cut up all but one (for emergencies or online shopping or car rentals or hotel rooms) Unfortunately one needs a credit card for some things.

The average consumer debt for Canadians was over $90,000 last year! OUCH! And that is not your mortgage. "A $1,000 charge on an average credit card will take almost 22 years to pay, and will cost more than $2,300 in interest ($3,300 total) -- if only 2 percent minimum payments are made." (Debt Help Canada) 

It's a balancing act! No doubt about it. It has taken me years to perfect and I still sometimes have to rob peter to pay paul. But I get back on track and try to keep disciplined.

I have counselled many people on how to budget and some need to physically have the jars in their home with the cash in it. It works for them. And once they got the system down and realized that those daily Starbucks coffees were costing them a trip to Disney Land they are shocked and grateful for the system.

You got to treat yourself sometimes a little each week and go for a pedicure! ;)

Hope this helps. If you want one on one help just email me and I will be glad to send you my cost.

PS...down 9.8 lbs with weight watchers. Woohoo! Gained a bit in back on track.

Big Momma Budget LOVE to you all! Xo

Monday, November 21, 2011

How am I going to do Christmas without retail?

I don't remember if I shared this T-shirt yet. My Dad got it for me. Pretty much sums up how I feel about our economy. Globally even. Which kind of makes my quest to avoid retail more important. How to live a simpler life that we don't give out hard earned wages to the giant corporations? And with Christmas coming up....what do I buy for the kids? Where do I get used games etc? How do I give them a great holiday with the same Christmas morning excitement?

So I came up with a plan. Really you ask? LOL! They each get TWO new items. Including my husband. I went into Liquidation World and they had Wii stuff really cheap so I got Ty the Tony Halk skateboard game (complete with skateboard) and Joe the Wii sports adapters and a new Basketball (more on that later). I got Ty a soccer ball and my hubby a HUGE coke bottle piggy bank (we are saving up for Germany - which will take us years and many fills and rolling of change but it will be so worth it) He wants to see his family's farm from's still there! On the same day I ordered from Toys r shipping right to your door! I got Ty the leapster Ipad thingy...he has a quick temper and I was not going to buy him an ACTUAL Ipad. And I ordered for Sam a Blackberry Tablet (not cheap but on sale for $200 from the Source).

So that leaves one more new for hubby and 2 more new for Ben....the stomach in the basement wants a recliner for his room! LMAO! He has a chair that we somehow got from somewhere. Old blue recliner with the springs sticking out at the bottom. I figure...whatever! He's 13...what more does he need? Apparently a nicer all new bedding. Yep! My 13 year old asked for all new bedding. That will have to be bought new but I do think I can find him a chair either on Craigslist, Kijiji or the auction.

And guess what hubby wants? A CHAIR! A recliner! LOL! Priced them out...really expensive! So I am willing to offer him a compromise. We need a new couch. An unnamed son jumped on the one we have and broke the leg....split it into 4 parts. My couch is being held up with two of text books from accounting school...LMAO! You can even see the study notes sticking and I looked at couches last time he was home but we had one day. So we will find one when he gets back and was thinking of getting the kind that has a recliner on each end. That way he gets a recliner and I get a couch!

But I did find the most special present for him in Mexico. We discovered an artist that sculpts the most whimsical, funny Mexican characters and fell in love with one in particular. At the time they wanted $500 for it. YIKES! I went back to the gallery with Loesha and IT WAS STILL THERE 3 years later! And discounted to $150! HAD to buy it.

By Rodo Padilla...a very popular Mexican artist. And it's art so it doesn't count. Ron is going to FLIP! WOOHOO! (the pic doesn't do it justice...or we have really bad

So my last score was 31 days of retail. Have to add one more...I get a lot done in a brings us up to 32 days of retail this year. Will do my best to find Ben a chair used..but in decent condition. Will try to find a couch at the auction even. You never know! One can only try!

PS. Joe had is very first basketball game last week. He was SOOOO nervous. But he did GREAT! I cheered so loud I lost my voice. He scored a basket and was a great defense man. They won the game! A reminder that life is what you make it...don't let fear be your guide. Joe doesn't...and never ceases to amaze me and inspire me to try do the same.

Happy Christmas shopping BIG MOMMA LOVE to you ALL! XO