September 2008

Every Monday Carrie at Money Saving Methods posts the latest and greatest free Photo deals. I have signed up for a gazillion of these and have yet to take the time to upload and order photos, but I have hope that someday I’ll follow through!

I thought one of the deals she lists was worth passing on, so here it is. Shutterfly is currently offering 50 free 4×6 prints including FREE SHIPPING to all new people who register. So, if you’re not already a Shutterfly member, and you’re better at following through with this type of stuff than I am, follow this link here.

I love, love, love the site Southern Plate. She has all kinds of great Southern recipes, and her posts are absolutely hilarious. You can really hear her “Southerness” coming through. She never apologizes for the amount of butter, sugar, and cream that are in her recipes.

Today she posted a casserole chart that she developed. Super cool. You just pick out the ingredients you have (using categories for Starch, Sauce, Cheese, Meat, Veggies, Topping, and Seasonings), follow the basic instructions, and Voila! A Casserole. Perfect for crisp fall evenings after you’ve spent 2 hours mowing that plethora of leaves off the lawn. Yay for food that warms your belly!

Super exciting news from an Alaska Family Council email I received last week. If you’ve never heard Ravi Zacharias, you’re missing out. He makes my brain hurt (in a good way). This would be an event worth gathering a group to attend:

Renowned Christian Thinker Ravi Zacharias In Alaska On March 5th, 2009
The Alaska Family Council is honored to bring Razi Zacharias to Anchorage on Thursday, March 5th, 2009. What a blessing this will be for the Body of Christ here in Alaska and for those seeking to find answers in a fallen world.

Ravi’s stimulating presentation of the Truth of the Gospel is something you will not want to miss !

Ravi Zacharias International Ministries is a global team of twelve itinerant speakers with offices in six countries: the United States, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, India, Singapore, and Canada. Founded in 1984 by Ravi Zacharias, the vision of RZIM is fourfold:

  • Evangelism that focuses on skeptics, cultural influencers, and critical thinkers.
  • Apologetics that addresses current issues and the needs of society.
  • Spiritual Disciplines that focus the mind and heart on the glory of God.
  • Training that comes alongside the church and concerned Christians across the globe.

The primary mission of RZIM is to support, expand, and enhance the preaching and teaching ministry of Ravi Zacharias, distinctive in its strong evangelistic and apologetic foundation, intended to touch both the heart and the intellect of the thinkers and opinion- makers of society with the Truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We address the intellectual and essential assumptions of our culture, realizing that for some, the door to the heart is through the mind, and for others through the imagination.

RZIM is committed to reaching this generation around the world-in the university, the arts, politics, business, and the church. Through open forums, community outreach, youth apologetics, various media and social awareness, we seek to remove the barriers to the Cross for the skeptic as we prepare Christians to give a reason for the hope within us.

Yesterday was the first day I have noticed the boys interacting with one another (without my help). As Jimmy was playing in his toy corner, Jakey crawled over and began playing too. Shoving small cars in his mouth counts as playing, right? I know, it’s a small thing, but it brings such a big smile to my face. I like to daydream about when they’re older and they’ll make forts out in our woods and pick raspberries and pretend they’re adventurers. I know I’ll be breaking up arguments, but I look forward to it anyway.

I have such fond memories of my own early childhood. Our family of 6 lived on 4 acres in Oregon. My three brothers and I would roam our woods, pretending we were in the army. We had a wide assortment of uniforms, camouflage, and gear obtained from a fun used militaria store near Portland. We even had a foxhole trench near the road where we’d hunker down and spy on passing vehicles.

Too much fun. I can’t wait until my own boys are old enough to start making these memories.

You may have already heard of this deal. If not, check it out.

Barnum & Bailey (the circus folks) give away a free circus pass to each baby born in the U.S. The program is called Baby’s First circus, and one ticket is given away to each baby (12 months and under). To sign up, click here. To see when they’ll be in a town near you, check out the show’s schedule (Alaskans, don’t bother, they’re not headed here in the foreseable future). I figure we’ll get a ticket for each baby as they’re born and then maybe someday we’ll get to see the circus. Although I may have already lost Jimmy’s ticket. Hmmm… Where in the world did I stick that thing?

Today the State of Alaska kindly deposited some hefty moolah into our account. Thanks AK. In honor of this payment, and the thousands of similar payments appearing in bank accounts throughout the state, I’d like to repost an April blog tidbit. Kiddos and Saving for College:


I’ve been having a lot of fun (yes, really) the last couple of years researching college savings plans and investment tools. I’m sharing what I’ve learned for two reasons (1) I want to be able to look back and recall this info and here it’s convenient, and (2) many parents put off this decision until their kids are already in school, and by then they’ve missed out on several years of a growing investment. So, given that a parent decides to begin saving for their kiddo’s college (or future), where do they start? Here are the options:

1) A 529 savings plan

Benefits: this type of investment grows tax-free (contributions to the account aren’t deducted from your federal taxes, but distributions to pay for school aren’t taxed – yay). Also, the beneficiary can be changed. This is handy if one child decides not to attend college, the money can be used for another child (ouch). Or, the money may be rolled over into an IRA when the child reaches a certain age (not positive on this one, I just remember reading it somewhere). One benefit that many parents find attractive about a 529 is that the account remains under the control of the parent, not the beneficiary. So, if Johnny goes nuts and wants to spend his college savings at the University of Underwater Basket Weaving, mom and dad have the power to keep his hands off the investment. Many 529 plans also offer a “prepaid tuition” option, where contributions to the account go toward purchasing credits to be used in the future (but purchased at the current tuition price). With the increasing cost of tuition, this is an attractive account (although prepaid plans generally grow at a slower rate than their regular 529 counterparts).

2) Coverdell ESA

Benefits: Earnings grow tax-free. The biggest advantage that I see from this account is that withdrawals can be used toward not only college expenses, but qualified k-12 expenses as well. This puts a Coverdell ESA as a good option for parents who are planning to put their kids in a private K-12 school. If you’re going to pay for the schooling costs anyway, why not get some benefit out of it by pulling it out of a Coverdell Account? Contributions to the account are limited to $2000 per year. The account can also be transferred to a different child.

3) UGMA/UTMA (custodial account)

The investment options here are endless, as a UGMA/UTMA is basically just a mutual fund (or portfolio of funds) that is opened in a child’s name. The scariest thing about this type of account for many parents is that a new beneficiary can’t be named on the account, and once the child reaches the age of majority (usually 18 or 21), the money is theirs to do with as they please. The greatest benefit of this type of account is that the money is not restricted to college costs. It can be used for anything (gambling on the stock market, down payment on a house, mail-order bride). Because of this flexibility, the tax benefits are not as great as that of the 529, but it still offers some benefit over just opening a portfolio in the parent’s name. The first $900 of unearned income (interest) is tax-exempt, the next $900 of unearned income is taxed at the child’s rate, and the rest is taxed at the parent’s rate.

4) IRA

I’ve read a lot of conflicting advice about using this tool for college purposes. If you’re interested, do the research. Some people like this option, but I’ve run out of research time, so you’ll have to do your own )

Things to consider when choosing a plan:

  • Is it important that I be able to change the beneficiary? (If yes, then don’t choose a UGMA/UTMA)
  • Am I comfortable with my child using the investment as they wish after reaching the age of majority? (If No, then a UGMA/UTMA is out)
  • Do I want to use this investment for any k-12 expenses? (If so, consider a Coverdell)
  • Do I want my child to be able to use this investment for more than just college? (If yes, consider a UGMA/UTMA)
  • Do I want my child to be eligible for Federal Financial Aid? (If yes, then research these considerations, some investments count as the parent’s asset, and some the child’s)

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