Monday, March 30, 2009

Turbo Tax

I used Turbo Tax for the first time ever. The last few years we have been paying a CPA to do our taxes. He retired and sold his business so I thought that this year I could try Turbo Tax. I have the last few years of taxes as an example, so it made it even easier to do them. Last year was pretty much the same as the year before financially speaking, except for the hideous losses in our mutual funds, that is.

I loaded Turbo Tax on my computer and looked for updates (you should do this first thing! There were a couple of updates for both Federal and State). It asks you for your personal information (date of birth, occupation, dependents, etc). Once that is filled out you move on to the interview portion. It is divided into three categories: Wages, Deductions & Credits, and Other Tax Situations. In this section you can choose to 1) select specific topics, if you already know the income information that is to be entered; or 2) guide me through, which takes you step by step through each item.

In this section, there is a place that you can enter in your log in and pin for a participating employer to automatically download your W-2 information. If it worked, it would be really convenient, but it didn't work for me so I entered in all the information by hand. The categories in this section are: 1) Wages and Salaries; 2) Import your Tax Info; 3)Dividends and Interest; 4)Other common Income (1099); and 5) Investment income.

Then it takes you through an interview process where you answer questions and click in information. Fairly straightforward. All the information should be right on your W-2, and the questions also alert the program to other scenarios which may need special handling.

Each of those categories takes you through your W-2 and tells you which box to find the information. The program guides you through each step, and if you need help there is a help function. I was able to see other people's questions in a box to the right but was unable to see the answers. This may be a glitch in the program but you can also just open another window and go straight to the Turbo Tax webpage for help as well. Lucky for me that I have a relative who does taxes so I just called and asked my questions.

After the Wages section is complete, you move on to the next section which is Deductions and Credits. Here again it guides you through each item. This section has 10 categories which are: 1) Home; 2) Family; 3) Donations; 4)Cars and Other things you Own; 5)Education; 6) Medical Expenses; 7)Estimates and Other Taxes Paid; 8)Retirement Investments 9)Employment Expenses and 10) Other Deductions and Credits. Each category has a list of credits and deductions.

After this section is complete, the next section is Other Tax Situations which covers things like the Alternative Minimum Tax and a few other things.

The program will take you through a 4 step review, and a download for Audit support, should you get audited. That download was free with Turbo Tax Premier, which is the version I purchased. For an additional fee of $39.95, you may choose an option for a professional tax preparer to go over your return. I didn't choose that but it could be a good option for someone who had any questions or concerns. Now the Federal return is finished.

The Premier program also allows you to download one State filing for free as well. You choose your state and it will download the necessary forms. This time, the program puts in the information that you already entered from your w-2. It takes you through the screens just like in the Federal portion.

Once the State is finished, you have the option to e-file and print. The Federal e-file is included with the program, but to e-file the State, the cost was $19.95. I chose to pay the additional for the convenience, but you can print and mail it if you prefer. After you enter in the information for e-filing, the program will file your taxes and send you a confirmation email. Your refund (if you have one coming) will be direct deposited in your bank account in as little as 8 days.

I printed a hard copy for my records, and then I was finished!

Pretty easy, and I saved over $200 in tax preparation fees. The total cost for the program was $72.00 plus the $20.00 to e-file my state return.

If you haven't done your taxes yet, then you may want to consider Turbo Tax as an option--- I did see some negative comments about the program on the Consumer review site, but I have to say that my experience using this program was fine.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Once Bitten, Twice Inspired

Now that I have this fancy Cricut machine, I don't quite know what to do with it. I needed some inspiration and some ideas. Well, I found them at the Bitten by the Bug blog. There is a team of designers who can do fabulous things with their imagination and a little help from the Cricut. Prepare to be amazed!

Praying for Stellan

MckMama is the author of one of my favorite blogs, My Charming Kids. I found her blog many months ago and have watched the story of her youngest child, Stellan unfold.

Stellan is a miracle baby, or what MckMama calls, a

You see, Stellan was diagnosed with heart problems while still in utero, and many people began praying for him. The doctors had a dismal prognosis then, saying he wouldn't make it to birth, or if he did, then not much after.

Well that is when literally thousands of people began praying for him and, to show just how much they all loved this little boy, Stellan's name gallery was created. The pictures of Stellan's name in very creative ways are from people all over the world, a stunning example of how much he was loved and prayed for even before he was born.

He was born perfectly healthy. No sign of the heart troubles that had plagued him before birth. He truly is a miracle! In the last few months, we have watched him grow, and fallen in love with him.

But last week, things took a sudden turn for the worse. Stellan is currently in the hospital with severe abnormal heart rhythms that seemed to come out of the blue.

Could you just take a moment to pray for him?

While we are praying for him, Lauren, over at Knowing Norrah has organized Stellan's name gallery Part II so that we can once again show the McFamily just how much this little boy is loved and being held up in prayer. Please follow the links and add your own contribution to Stellan's gallery. Spread the word!

My daughter put her My Little Pony collection to good use! Here is our contribution to the Stellan Name Gallery, part 2:

Stellan's Prayer Blog

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Why a Crucifix instead of an empty Cross?

One of my favorite Catholic authors, Patrick Madrid, explains.

Archbishop Fulton Sheen summarized the reason for using a crucifix instead of an empty cross when he said, “Keep your eyes on the crucifix, for Jesus without the cross is a man without a mission, and the cross without Jesus is a burden without a reliever.”

Read the rest of the article here.

Lent is a Journey

Lent has a way of showing me that I have a long way to go. Sometimes I vascillate between being encouraged by the progress I have made spiritually and feeling discouraged that I have a difficult time sticking to my Lenten discipline.

It shouldn't be surprising that it is difficult, as we are Christians living in a world which opposes us daily. We are in the world yet living in ways that are contrary to what the world says should make us happy.

This world tries to pull us away at every turn. It is like taking one step forward and two steps back.

We live in a world which tells us the end justifies the means, even when the means is destroying human life. It tells us that stem cell research using embryos slated for destruction is a good moral thing to do. Never mind the fact that they should have never been unnaturally created and left in a state of suspension in the first place. Now that we have immorally created them, the world would have us believe that the best possible use for this situation is to do some good with them, thus giving the illusion of redemption. The world confuses the message and tells us that a life created and destroyed for a cure is justified.

The world tries to tell us that we can solve our problems with abortion. That women have a right which supercedes the right of their unborn child. The world confuses the message and tells us it is for the best.

We live in a world that tells us a love story about a vampire and a human is a good thing because the story supposedly has a few moral messages. That it is ok to follow your heart even when it takes you somewhere that you should never be. The world wants us to believe that.

The world tells us that it is ok to have a family with two moms or two dads. That marriage can be defined more broadly than just a man and a woman. The world wants us to believe that there is nothing wrong with this scenario.

This world would love for us to believe that an intrinsic evil can be redeemed if there is some good in it.

I tell my children that sin dipped in chocolate is still sin. It doesn't change it one bit, just makes it easier to swallow.

This is where I find myself in this time of Lent. There really is no middle ground to stand on. Christ says that "whoever is not for Him, is against Him." He tells us that this present world is "passing away." We cannot put our trust into something that is not stable.

The truth is that this world cannot redeem yet Christ can.

He can take tremendous suffering and even death on a Cross and turn it into our salvation.

That is why Catholics have a Crucifix in every church, visible to all. We can't lose sight of the message that it is through Christ and His sacrifice that we can live. The message of the Gospel is directly opposite of the message of the modern world.

In this time of Lent, we can be reminded that our sufferings, even the most difficult, can have meaning if we look to Christ and His example.

We have an advantage that Christ's original disciples didn't. We know that Easter is coming. As Father Corapi would say, we know how the story ends. The best thing about it is, that the ending of that story isn't an ending but another beginning!

So, even as I am reminded daily that I fail many times, I am encouraged to once again pick up my cross, journey toward Easter and the promise of new life, both here on earth and one day in Heaven.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Pony World

We made the gift bags with the Cricut! I cut out the images from the Paper Doll Dress Up cartridge (horse and horse shoes), the grass and the tags from Plantin School Book cartridge. Then Princess wrote each guest's name and glued the cutouts on the bags.

Here is the result:

The gift bags had yellow shred in the bottom to look like hay. We tried to keep to a horse/barnyard theme, and here is what they contained:

When filling the gift bags, I tried to stay away from too much candy. I couldn't resist the Nerd's Rope or the Cow Tails, though!

The kids get to meet the ponies, this one is Rosie!

On to the riding ring. We had half the group go out and half stay in the barn for games. We played Pin the Cutie Mark on Rainbow Dash, Bean Bag toss, played on the rope swing and blew bubbles. Everyone was busy so they didn't mind waiting for their pony ride!

Being the Birthday Girl, Princess was one of the first to ride:

I know you can't tell from her expression, but she was having so much fun!

Cake, ice cream and present time!
Princess wanted a carrot cake, how appropriate for a pony party!

Group shot:

Everyone had a great time!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Counting to Six.







Spring has Sprung!

I love the Google image today!
Here it is another rainy day. My daffodils have come up and the magnolia tree is starting to open, hinting that Spring really is starting to spring! I even spiffed up the background on my blog! I love Spring time and all the beautiful flowers and watching the bare trees fill in with leaves. On our doggie walk this morning (at 6:30 am no less!) I heard lots of birds chirping and even a few frogs croaking. The winter is coming to an end and the busy-ness (or business!) of nature is beginning!

Class Auction Project

This year I was on the 5th grade auction project committee (can you call it a committee when there's only 2 people, I wonder?) Each year, every class comes up with a hand made project done by the kids, which hopefully ends up going for lots of money at the auction. There is a lot of pressure to come up with something that is unique and appealing to a lot of different people. Our committee decided to do a project that had been done in the past, since it was popular the last time around we hoped it might be again.

We ordered a fire pit from and took out the granite around the edges. We added a layer of hardiplank, which is fireproof, for a base where the tiles would go. The space is just perfect for 20 4x4 tiles, and then the four corners for a total of 24 tiles. Then, we had each student paint a Northwest theme on their tile. The tiles were taken back to the ceramic studio where they were fired. The next step was creating a layout, numbering the tiles and placing them in permanently with thin set and grout.

Here is the result:

Auction project 2009

The top to the firepit is resting to the side. All in all, this project went together very easily! We are happy with the result and hope that our project brings in lots of money for the school.

Here are some of the other projects:

Kindergarten Picnic Table

See the next picture to find out what the letters are made of......

A close up... The words are created by the kids! Isn't that cute?

A tile table top

Advent Plate

And a herd of colorful cows:

Update on the RSVP Post

The RSVP deadline was Wednesday. By Tuesday night, I had only two responses: one who couldn't make it and one who could. I was thinking that I might need to change the plans from a party to a private lesson. I called the pony lady to see what she could do. As luck would have it, she wasn't there at the time, so I left a message. Immediately after that I got another RSVP, this one a yes. I was up to three now but it got better. This lady has twins, the other daughter is in the other kindergarten class. I told her to bring them both. So, I was up to 5 kids (including my daughter) I went from thinking we might have to cancel to thinking it would work out. That afternoon, I called all the remaining parents and left messages. I heard back from most of them and, including siblings, we have a full house with 12 kids coming. The best part is that there is only a 40% chance of rain tomorrow. It's been a really rainy and wet week so I don't know what to expect. But I'm so happy that we have enough kids to have a party! Let's hope for some sunshine tomorrow, at least from 1-2:30.

Monday, March 16, 2009


Does anyone RSVP anymore? I'm curious, because I sent out invitations to my daughter's sixth birthday party which will be held next weekend at a local farm. What we decided to do is invite all the girls in her class, since the party venue can accomodate about 8-10 children. We thought to invite the whole class might end up with too many children. However, now I'm worried that we won't have enough. Or any.

Ok, so it is spring break starting on Friday. I get that.

However, I did say on the invite to RSVP either way.

I am stressing a little today because we haven't gotten one response yet. Well, we got one but they're not coming. So, we haven't gotten any positive responses yet.

This is what I'm thinking.

If I don't hear from anyone by the RSVP date, should I assume that they are not coming? Should I call each person and ask?

Most people understand that even if they aren't coming, they should still call and let the host know. It is difficult to plan a party and figure out gift bags, games, prizes, etc. if you have no idea how many are coming.

This whole party planning thing is just way too stressful. If I invited the whole class, then they would all come. I invited just the girls, and it looks like we may not have any. I have to wait two more days until the RSVP date.

Here's a thought.

Next time you get an invitation, please just call right away and let the host know one way or the other. Don't wait until the very last minute, or worse, after the RSVP date has gone by. What if I cancel the party thinking no one is coming and then they all call on Thursday?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Six Years Ago Today

I was in the hospital L&D, being induced. I remember watching CNN, the big news story that night was the return of Elizabeth Smart, who had been missing for months. I remember praying for her safe return through most of my pregnancy. It was nice to watch good news for a change! The doctor started the pitocin at around 8:30 p.m., and my Princess was born a little after midnight. It was my first and only delivery with an epidural.

I had waited all day for a bed to open up so I could have my induction, meanwhile, across town, unbeknownst to me, another mom was also waiting. I paced all day. My bag was packed, the house was clean. There was nothing to do but sit and wait. It almost seemed like the clock was ticking backward, there never has been a longer day than that day. Each time the phone rang, I jumped out of my chair, hoping it was the hospital. The morning turned to afternoon. At one point I was near tears as I thought I might never get that call. But it happened. The phone rang and I wasted no time dropping the boys off at the babysitter's and heading to the hospital. It was about twenty minutes total. Imagine my dismay when I saw a very pregnant lady checking in. I thought she was taking the bed that was reserved for me! How dare she go into labor? She, meanwhile, was thinking the same about me. It turns out she was also scheduled for an induction and also waited all day for a phone call!

After we both were checked in, we were sent upstairs to wait for a room. That is when we started telling each other about our day in waiting, and that we had the same doctor, and another odd coincidence. She was having a boy after two girls, while I was having a girl after two boys. We chatted for a while, and then got settled in our own rooms, which were adjacent to one another.

I was started on the pit first, and then she got her IV. It was funny how the doctor was literally bouncing from her room to mine, relaying messages from one to the other. "How is she doing?" one of us would ask. It went on like that for a couple hours. Sometime after midnight, the doctor told me to rest up for some serious pushing. What she didn't know? At that moment, my baby was already crowning and almost out on her own! Because of my epidural, I couldn't feel any of that going on! It was soon discovered, and in one quick push, she was born. It was a pain-free birth from beginning to end.

My new friend in the next room began pushing shortly after that, and her little boy was born about an hour or so later.

The next morning, we each visited the other to admire the new arrivals. We exchanged detailed birth stories and addresses.

Because we moved across the country before my daughter's first birthday, I haven't seen my friend since the day we were discharged, but each year on the kids' birthday, we each send the other a card with a picture and a note. I always thought it would be funny if when our kids grew up, somehow they ended up getting married! What a story that would be!

In the meantime, we enjoy the yearly picture and update. I really look forward to that!

Memo to the Birthday Industry

Ok, so I'm planning my daughter's 6th birthday. I go to the store to get printable invitations, and I need about 13 or 14. They come 10 in the box. So I guess I'll have a few left over. Then, I go to get the paper goods. 8 napkins come in a pack, but the plates come in 12. Can you tell me why? The party favors are the same way. Some are 4, 6 or 8 in the pack. The gift bags come in 12, so I had to buy two packs of those. The bubbles came in a 24 pack. I'm going to end up with all sorts of extras from buying different quantities. This is really driving me crazy!

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Tale of Two Spiders

I am in the throes of cleaning out the junk in our basement, which means piles and piles of clothes and toys are right now in various stages of sorting before we pack them all up and take them to the appropriate place.

That is when I came across this:
This toy kept the boys very busy when they were younger. How it works is: you pour different colors of goop into the molds, put them in the 'bug oven' and wait for it to set. It's the boy version of the Easy Bake, only instead of cupcakes, you get creepy little bugs and spiders. Did I say they loved it? We had a whole bag full of their creations, as you can see:

Don't they look realistic? When I came across this little bag of bugs from the past, it reminded me of an incident that happened around the time all these were made.
One night, we returned home from dinner, and as I was walking down the hallway, I saw what I thought was one of these:

It was sitting right in the middle of the hallway! Those boys, they never pick up after themselves, I remember thinking.

As I reached down to pick it up,


it SCURRIED into the hall closet! It was real and I was totally freaked out!

It was actually one of these:

A huge wolf spider.

Now, I wasn't expecting what I thought to be a plastic spider to go running, but once I realized it was real and it was IN MY CLOSET, well, I didn't sleep very well that evening! We never did find it and now just thinking about it makes my skin crawl! These spiders are so big that you truly can't step on them to kill them. They are as scary in the real life as they are in that picture, just trust me on that.

I like the plastic ones so much better. But still, I think it's time for them to move on.

Catholics Mobilize to Fight Proposed Bill

Catholics across the State of Connecticut mobilize to fight the irrational, unlawful, and bigoted Proposed Bill #1098/2009

This past Thursday, March 5, the Judiciary Committee of the Connecticut State Legislature, which is chaired by Sen. Andrew McDonald of Stamford and Rep. Michael Lawlor of East Haven, introduced a bill that directly attacks the Roman Catholic Church and our Faith.
This bill violates the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. It forces a radical reorganization of the legal, financial, and administrative structure of our parishes. This is contrary to the Apostolic nature of the Catholic Church because it disconnects parishes from their Pastors and their Bishop. Parishes would be run by boards from which Pastors and the Bishop would be effectively excluded.

This bill, moreover, is a thinly-veiled attempt to silence the Catholic Church on the important issues of the day, such as same-sex marriage.

The State has no right to interfere in the internal affairs and structure of the Catholic Church. This bill is directed only at the Catholic Church but could someday be forced on other denominations. The State has no business controlling religion.
The Pastors of our Diocese are doing an exemplary job of sound stewardship and financial accountability, in full cooperation with their parishioners.

For the State Legislature — which has not reversed a $1 billion deficit in this fiscal year — to try to manage the Catholic Church makes no sense. The Catholic Church not only lives within her means but stretches her resources to provide more social, charitable, and educational services than any other private institution in the State. This bill threatens those services at a time when the State is cutting services. The Catholic Church is needed now more than ever.
We reject this irrational, unlawful, and bigoted bill that jeopardizes the religious liberty of our Church.

We urge you to call and e-mail Sen. McDonald and Rep. Lawlor:
Senator Andrew McDonald: Capitol phone: (800) 842-1420; Home phone: (203) 348-7439E-mail:
Representative Michael Lawlor: Capitol phone: (800) 842-8267; Home phone: (203) 469-9725 E-mail:

Saturday, March 7, 2009


I've noticed a really odd thing. My little blog, of whom I have officially six followers (and thank you! Because without you I would wonder if anyone read my blog!) but otherwise it gets a good deal of surfers looking for information on PNEUMONIA.

It makes me feel kinda bad, because my post on pneumonia isn't all that helpful, unfortunately. I wonder if they are searching 'pneumonia' because they actually need medical information. I also wonder how many people get kidney stones and pneumonia in their household all at once, like we did. I thought it was a unique situation, actually.

This past December, every member of our household (excluding myself) came down with pneumonia. I don't know what the odds of that are, but because of the fact that at around the same time, I noticed the google searches that led people here, I remembered that this previous event happened-- the triple combo of Kidney Stones, Pneumonia, and Allergies, which caused me to write this post.

It certainly wasn't fun the first time around and it wasn't fun the second time around either.

However, because of the timing of my finding my blog entry, I remembered the fact that the kidney stones happened at the same exact time as the pneumonia-- and guess what? It happened again. The same symptoms my husband had before. Only this time, the doctor diagnosed it as a kidney infection. I wouldn't have remembered the fact that this happened the same way before, except for those googlers who came here.

But then I began to think there might be a connection between the two, because does lightning strike twice? I don't know but it seemed to me, who maybe watches too much Grey's Anatomy, to be something I could go on.

And so, I started a Google search of my own. And I found out that there IS a connection. Surprise, surprise. I found out that the bacteria which causes the upper respiratory infection that ended up turning into pneumonia, is also responsible for causing other infections, including kidney infection.
This is what I found:
"Acute glomerulonephritis usually follows a streptococcal infection of the respiratory tract" and

"There are many different kinds of infections that lead to glomerulonephritis, including pneumonia"
(and in going back I did notice that prior to that we had Strep A in the house, which had a contributing factor to the pneumonia, I am sure)

And this: "Pyelonephritis is a serious bacterial infection of the kidney that can be acute or chronic. One of the most common renal diseases, acute pyelonephritis is a sudden inflammation caused by bacteria. It primarily affects the interstitial area and the renal pelvis or, less often, the renal tubules.

"Causes and Risk Factors of Pyelonephritis: Doctors believe that the bacterial infection causing pyelonephritis may sometimes develop elsewhere in the body and travel through the bloodstream to the kidney."

SYMPTOMS of Pyelonephritis

No matter what the underlying cause, the symptoms of acute bacterial pyelonephritis are often the same. The first indications are usually shaking chills, accompanied by a high fever and pain in the joints and muscles including flank pain. Attention may not be drawn to the kidneys at all.

In acute infections, the symptoms develop rapidly, the fever noted first, followed by possible changes in the color of the urine, and then tenderness in the flank. As the kidney becomes more inflamed, pain, loss of appetite, headache, and all the general effects of infection develop. This type of kidney pain differs from renal colic pain of kidney stones in that it is continuous and does not come in waves, stays in one spot, and may be worse by moving around."
If that sounds like what you have, and or you googled and came here for information, then you might want to google both Pneumonia and Pyelonephritis.

To sum up: my husband probably never actually had kidney stones. Both times he had pneumonia followed by an acute kidney infection. A course of antibiotics cleared it right up. I hope that helps.

Lent Links

How's Your Lent Going? Take a minute and read this article. Lent is only as effective as you let it be! Spiritual growth takes some work!

Readings and Meditations for Lent and Holy Week Great resource. I am still busy checking it out.

Forty Days and Forty Nights Biblical references for forty days of Lent

Lectionary Readings for Lent, Years A,B,C --A handy table

Open Wednesday-- A wonderful resource! I've been going to this site for years. Love it! Features printable Scripture pages for each Sunday, activities and more.

Monday, March 2, 2009

You Might be Catholic If.....

Many years ago, I had come across a list with this title and while most of it was true, it was also funny! I searched but couldn't find the original list. So I decided to make my own little list:

You Might be Catholic If....

When cleaning out your car, you find an assortment of items such as: holy cards, a Rosary, saints medals, a purple candle from Advent, or a collection of Mass bulletins.

You make the Sign of the Cross while passing a church.

You say prayers for the souls in Purgatory when driving past a cemetary.

You have a Holy Water font by your front door.

You practice natural family planning.

You have all of Scott Hahn's books.

You have a name for your Guardian Angel.

You pray the Rosary every day.

When you hear an ambulance siren, you pray a Hail Mary for the person inside.

You have a bottle of Holy Water in your purse.

You have read St. Therese's Story of a Soul many times.

The bookmarks in your computer have more than 50 Catholic sites.

You ask St. Anthony to help you find things. Daily.

You know that a vocation is more than just a job, it is also a calling.

You can quote Mother Teresa extensively.

Your TV is tuned to EWTN most of the time.

You celebrate your Confirmation Saint's feast day.

You are a Godparent to at least two children.

Your idea of current events is reading Catholic World News.

You have a drawer full of dried palms from prior Palm Sundays.

You regularly go to Confession.

You can name the seven Sacraments without blinking.

You know at least two nuns that still dress in religious Habits.

When you stub your toe, you "offer it up" for the souls in Purgatory.

You have a statue of Mary in your house.

You have a statue of Mary in your garden.

You coordinate your Sunday dress in liturgical colors.

You have a favorite pew.

You have a pro-life bumper sticker or two.

Your refrigerator is covered in prayer cards and Holy cards.

You have a Divine Mercy picture on your wall.

You have a Crucifix in each bedroom.

You know the patron saint of your profession.

Your car radio is tuned to the Catholic station.

You would never dream of missing Sunday Mass or a Holy Day of Obligation.

You know which days ARE Holy Days of Obligation.

You wear a crucifix, holy medal, or scapular. Or all three.

You are known on a first-name basis at your local Catholic bookstore.

You understand Latin.

Your favorite priest is Father Corapi.

You create lists titled, "You Might be Catholic If"