Sunday, March 29, 2009

Turbo Tax to the Rescue!

I went, I bought, I conquered! Turbo Tax is my hero. Not only did it guide me EASILY through the program, it found $200 extra dollars for us to get back! Woo-hoo!

If you're a procrastinator & still need to buy your Turbo Tax, Wal-Mart has the best prices. You can download Turbo Tax from their website, but we have a history of my computer crashing days after I finish doing our taxes, so I figure having the disk is a good thing!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Taxes in Texas are Taxing!

Does anyone remember the days of being able to file taxes on a 1040EZ form? It was LONG before Turbo Tax. For that matter, it was years before home computers were common. You didn't need a home computer. It was very straight forward: 1 side of a page, fill in a few spaces, attach your W-2 and wait for Uncle Sam to send you a check for being such a good steward! LOL!

Taxes started getting a touch more difficult the year I "retired" from teaching and took out my Texas Teacher retirement fund money (I was NEVER going to teach in a classroom again, but I did the following year in a DIFFERENT location). A few years later we moved to Africa and had to figure out how to file our taxes when we returned to the States. Along came kids and we added a few more steps.

Then came taxes for the year 2001. I became a Pampered Chef consultant that year. I became a "Business Owner" and a self-employed member of society. I joined the ranks of those who have to hold onto every little receipt and record miles driven to various locations. I have since learned about this cool little internet feature called Mapquest for finding mileage. The first year it was a learning process, but the following 6 years, taxes were a breeze. In fact, for a few years it was downright fun. I had progressed to Turbo Tax. I loved putting in the numbers and watching that little ticker showing a refund get bigger and bigger.

Around the 4th or 5th year, my husband's income had gone up, I was making more with Pampered Chef, but our expenses also increased. It seemed quite unfair that we were living just as we had before, or even more frugally, yet, before my Pampered Chef information was input, we owed on our taxes. Yes, yes, I know, welcome to the wonderful world of adulthood and life in America. Yes, yes, I know my streets are paved by tax dollars (though I highly suspect the streets I drive on use my sales tax I pay everywhere). Somewhere, though, with the numbers on the ticker showing on the "You owe" side, this became far less fun.

Typically, I've had my taxes done in February. Often, I've had them done the first week in February. Not this year. I have put it off until now. I gathered all my receipts (you know, the ones you are supposed to be taking care of all year and putting into your Quicken program so it does all the wonderful math for you, but if you are a highly disorganized home school mom with frequent illness and special needs kids, they end up scrunched in a purse). I categorized. I worked on my Pampered Chef program to pop up mileage and expenses for the year. I was ALL SET. I went to the store and bought the best bargain of a tax program I could find: H&R Block's Tax-Cut. It said it would import my info from Turbo Tax from last year's report. And it was $10 less than Turbo Tax! Woo-hoo!

Here is where it gets ugly. I put in my new program. It was not too difficult to install, but not exactly self-sufficient, either. It did not make it easy to input last year's data, but I figured it out. Then I started inputting info. It is NOT user friendly. I am guessing the program was designed by computer programmers. You may laugh at that, unless you are married to a computer geek. Then you are groaning and nodding a knowing nod. Turbo Tax asks questions as if you were sitting with a real person. It's like "Taxes for Dummies 101." This program is taxes for someone who could just as easily filled out the paperwork rather than wasting days trying to figure this thing out.

I thought I was through tonight, until I did the "error check." The program asked me what copy of my 1099-Misc I had. Turbo Tax never asked that. I put in a 1. It didn't like that. I put in a B (it says "copy B" on my 1099-Misc.). It didn't like that. I asked a friend who does accounting work who said to try 2, as 1 would be for the state. I tried that. It liked that. Guess what else? It put in my income as double from Pampered Chef and I went from getting money back to owing $400. THere was no way to change the info on my 1099 form in the program! So, I tried changing that back to 1 to see if it liked it. It did. Then I still owed money. I thought maybe it has a duplicate 1099, so I hit delete on the 1099 area. Then I was getting back a much LARGER refund.

Bottom line: on Friday I will be buying Turbo Tax. And I hope anyone else using Tax-Cut has a much easier time of things than I did!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Birthday Bonanza!

March is the busiest birthday month around here! Besides Phil & I having ours, there are 4 of my "dork sister" friends with March birthdays including a birthday "twin". I also have a birthday twin friend in San Antonio, and we discovered the pastor's birthday is March 15th, and he was born the same year as Phil, so is exactly 4 days younger than Phil! Phil's grandmother's birthday was also in March. My Aunt Carol had a birthday on March 20th and my Nephew-in-Law Chris had one this Monday, the 23rd. I missed both their birthdays, so this is a special Happy Belated Birthday from us!

The reason I thought of all these birthdays is due to today's date. On March 25th, 1960, my Great Aunty Edna turned 50. She was my mom's aunt. What made this day doubly special is that on that date my brother Steve was born. He was killed in a car accident in 1978, but had he lived, he would have been 49 today and Aunty Edna would be 99.

To all you March babies, I wish you a very happy birthday! I ate a gluten-free cupcake in your honor last night!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Look what I can do!

Did you know I could balance sea otters on my head? It's true. Here's the picture to prove it.

LOL! I hadn't noticed how those sea otters were perfectly balancing on my head before! This was the girls & I on our trip to Corpus last year.

That's all the silliness for tonight. Good night!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Hold the Mayo, PLEASE!

Remember the song, "Hold the pickles, hold the lettuce...." C'mon, I know you're singing along! Had I known what I was getting to eat the other day I would have said, "Hold the mayo!" My Mom-in-law had been out of town & flew into San Antonio Thursday evening. We met her at Luby's, a local cafteria, for dinner. While I was looking forward to visiting with her and eating OUT, I don't get too excited about eating at the cafeteria any more. It's hard to find anything that I am SURE is gluten-free. I generally get the 3 veggie meal. It comes with the yummiest looking bread, but I can't eat it. Yes, you are supposed to feel sorry for me at about this point. Ha, ha!

Thursday, as I was looking over the food, I spotted fish that was BAKED, not fried. That means that I know there isn't a CRUST on it, but there could be gluten on the fish still or in the seasonings. I asked if they used flour on the fish (if I ask, "Is there gluten in that?" they look at me like I'm from Mars). The man told me no, so I decided to try it out & hope for the best. I don't think there was gluten, as I didn't get any of the symptoms of eating gluten. However, what was on it makes me nauseated to think about.

I do not like mayonaise. I don't mind it at all mixed into things like tuna salad or deviled eggs. I absolutely adore the Ranch dressing made with the little packet plus mayo & milk. I can TOLERATE mayo on a sandwich (well, in my pre-Celiac dx I could, now I only make my own sandwiches on rare occasions). But to actually TASTE the mayo by itself makes me want to gag.

When I sat down I thought this thick slice of fish looked a little odd. As I put my fork into it, I knew there was a coating of something on top of the fish. I think it was solid mayonaise. Not just a thin coating, but a big honkin' half-inch thick layer of MAYONAISE. The seasonings were on top of the mayo. I about threw up when I took the first bite, then immediately wiped off the mayo. Of course, that wiped off all the seasoning. I was able to eat the fish, but the thought of having fish soon is not appealing.

I have to say, it's a good thing I'm not Catholic because the thought of going through Lent eating fish every week, well, I think I'd be on a new diet!

The company was good, the veggies were delicious, and the lack of dishwashing was great. Next time I go to the cafeteria, I will definitely get all veggies and HOLD THE MAYO!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Just a little post

Just a quick post to fill in space on my blog.

Last week was Spring Break. I thought I'd use it to catch up on school work. Nope. The girls took an overnight trip with our neighbors to the beach! They went to Corpus Christi & got lovely lobster sunburns, but had a great time. One mom, 6 kids! She gets the Super mom award.

When they got back, I pulled that muscle in my back/neck that I mentioned & lost a day just being on the couch.

They both had another sleepover somewhere in there.

Bottom line: we got zero school work done. I suspect we'll have a busy summer doing work!

Phil & I had birthdays. He turned 52 & I turned 25. HA! HA! I turned 44. My mom was already a grandmother at my age. My brother is about to be a grandfather at Phil's age. We are obviously late bloomers as our kids are just 10 & 12!

I'm going to play accident victim tomorrow. There is a company in San Antonio called BRC: Biodynamic Research Corporation. They restage accidents, sort of. They record data to be used in legal suits concerning accidents in cars, planes, and even on bikes. They use cars that are as close to the make & model of the original as possible. They use "surrogates" as close to the make & model---um, I mean as close to the measurements of the victim as possible. They pay quite well for you to sit in a vehicle & even more to use your vehicle (we've been blessed to use ours twice, and I also was the surrogate for those sessions). This means I need to get to bed so I can get up early.

Bethany has the sniffles & is having a hard time falling asleep. If you happen to check in tonight, please say a prayer for her to feel better quickly. Thanks!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Stiff Necked

"I have seen these people," the LORD said to Moses, "and they are a stiff-necked people.

Exodus 32:9

Noah Webster's Dictionary

(a.) Stubborn; inflexibly obstinate; contumacious; as, stiff-necked pride; a stiff-necked people.

If an ox was hard to control or stubborn, it was "hard of neck," or stiff-necked. Hence, the figure was used in the Scriptures to express the stubborn, untractable spirit of a people not responsive to the guiding of their God

I just did a quick search at for the term stiff-necked. I found 19 references. Then I looked up the meaning. I did know what it meant, but I wanted something easy to cut & paste! I must say I have never heard the word "contumacious" in my life. I knew what stiff-necked meant years ago, but I saw the word lived out when I had an EXTREMELY colicky baby. Our first child screamed non-stop when she wasn't nursing. She did NOTHING by the book. We now think part of that could have been food issues (through my milk) or just autism already showing itself. It could even have been from something I was exposed to in Africa (we were in Nairobi when God put her inside of me!). Most babies have wobbly heads (think weebles), but this child would stiffen her neck, and push against me trying to hold it so carefully. She was set on crying, for whatever reason, and was the perfect picture of STIFF-NECKED! Not that she was stubborn and non-responsive to God. In her case she was frustrated for some reason, but I saw the word illustrated.

Our next child was the wobbly type who wanted to be cradled and rocked. However, as it turns out, she is our TRULY "stiff-necked" stubborn kid! LOL!

While this all sounds like it's leading to some great spiritual lesson I've learned, I really just decided it was time to blog & I have the worst muscle pain ever in my neck & upper back right now on the left side. It's in the part between my neck & shoulder (what do you call that part? is it part of the shoulder?). I could hardly sleep last night. I've been trying to take meds & rest today. I just had Phil pick up a prescription for muscle relief that I take for fibromyalgia but was out of today. I'm feeling very STIFF -NECKED tonight. Hopefully it is only in the physical sense!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Twins Arrived!

My friend Leona had her twin girls this past Saturday, February 28th. You can read all about it on her blog: They are BEAUTIFUL, healthy girls and are ALREADY HOME! Truly a miracle.

We also had an arrival at our house yesterday. We welcomed Lily and another yet to be named creature. The girls are in a zoology class at our homeschool co-op & this semester is all about Swimming Creatures of the Fifth day. These are the animals God created on the 5th day to "team with the waters," (I THINK that's how it's worded---they're the swimmin' critters!). Part of the class involves raising tadpoles. We brought ours home yesterday. These are our first pets EVER. Living in a rented house and living with a man who really doesn't care for animals as pets, we've never been able to have a real pet. I'm pretty sure the "no pets" doesn't apply to tadpoles. These aren't pets. They are a school project. I'll have to get pictures & put them on my blog as the 'babies' grow and change.