The Need to Entertain

I have six kids.  The three oldest are in their preteen and teenage years.  The three youngest are in their preschool/toddler years.  There is a BIG difference between the oldest three and the youngest three, when it comes to entertaining themselves.

The oldest three could play by themselves.  I have two out of the youngest three that can not. What makes the difference? Did my parenting change? Does birth order make a difference?  Or is personality a factor?  Maybe it’s our world today.

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Rainy Day Activities

 

(Photo from ourkidsmagazine.com)

I’m not sure if spring is here, or if it’s just a nice little teaser before winter dumps on us again.  But, after playing outside all day Saturday, it was tough to be in the house again on Sunday, while it rained.  Being cooped up all winter long is tough on kids.  Being cooped up on a rainy day, after getting a little taste of warm weather and sunshine, is just down-right mean.  Still, there are ways to enjoy a rainy day.  Below is a list of our favorites.  😉

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Please Take My Survey!

[wps-social-ninja global-settings=”1″ show-count=”1″ show-before-post-content=”1″ show-after-post-content=”1″ align=”left” social-engines=”twitter,googleplus,linkedin,pinterest,tumblr,facebook” layout=”wps-sn-layout-icon” /]I am working on a book – From Board Rooms to High Chairs: A Career Guide for At Home Moms, and need your help!  If you are a stay at home mom, please complete this survey.  I am looking for tips and strategies for managing your days at home, raising your kids.  If you are not a stay at home mom, please complete this survey!  You too have tips on raising kids and managing your days, so please do not overlook how valuable your input is!

I needed to limit my questions to ten, so if you have comments, tips, advice or stories that I did not touch on, please either leave me a comment here or complete the contact form below.

Thank you for your help!

Survey Link:  https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/S7LM9PC

 

Confessions of a Momma…..I Had to Choose Between My Boys

(Photo from http://free-extras.com/search/2/basketball.htm)

And a mom should never have to do that.

My worst nightmare goes like this:

Our vehicle plunges off of a bridge and into icy cold, deep waters.  I have just mere seconds to save my children – six of them.  There is no way I can save them all.  Who do I choose?  Who do I save first and then, who do I come back for after I save the first few?

Ugggh!!!  Awful!  I get chills just thinking about it! But it is an awful nightmare I have, and I hope I never actually experience it.

I had a mini-version nightmare this weekend. And it was a very good, happy situation.  But I was still forced to choose between my boys.

My oldest, a senior, was playing in a real, live, stadium. His basketball team had made it a few games in to the play-offs.  He was out of the high school gyms, out of the college gyms, and now in to a stadium.  A very neat experience.  If they won, they moved on.  If they lost, they were out of the play-offs.

It’s a huge deal.  His team had never made it this far before.  He was a senior.  They had a very real chance of making it to state.  If they lost, it would be his last game. Forever.  Nothing in the world could keep me from missing this.

Except, maybe, his little brother.  Who also had a tournament.  In a tiny little town, in a tiny little school.  His brother is 11.  He’s in 5th grade.  This is his last game of the season, and it’s a tournament.  He will get a medal if he wins, ribbons if he gets 2nd or 3d.  He will play another game next year.  And he does not grasp how important this play-off game is to his big brother.

In the 11-yea-old’s world, this tournament game is IT right now.  He is so pumped, so excited.  He put last year’s 2nd place medal around his neck, to inspire himself and his teammates to give it their all!

I can only go to one game. They play at the same time, in two different towns.  Ugh!!  Why do they do this to parents?  I shouldn’t have to choose!

After a lot of careful thinking, I rationally chose to go to the 11-year-old’s.  I had to leave my heart out of the decision, because, if I’m totally honest with myself, I wanted desperately to be at my senior’s play-off game.  Desperately.  He wanted me there.  Needed me there.  It was a huge deal to him, and to our community.  Everybody was going.

And that’s what helped me with my decision.  Everyone was going.  He would have his dad, his 14 year old brother, his 3 year old brother, his aunt and his cousin there.  All of his friends and the whole student body would be there.

My 11-year-old would have no one at his tournament – no one – to watch and support him, if I didn’t go.  In my eyes, his tournament was not as important as the varsity play-off game.  In his eyes, it was the only thing in his world – at the moment.  He needed me. And so I went.

It killed me.  My family kept me updated on the varsity game.  I prayed and prayed that they would win – that I didn’t just miss my son’s last game ever.

My 11-year-old got third place!  He was so happy and excited!  He played well – he is going to be a good little basketball player when he gets older.

My sweet, understanding senior lost his game. They are done for the season.  And I missed it.  I was crushed.  (Not more than he was, I’m sure.  But still, it hurt.)

What could I do? What would you have done?  Please, let me know.  Leave me a comment and describe any similar situations you have had, and how you handled it.

(And any terrifying dreams you may have!)

Thanks!

Staying Home Alone

The later elementary years in a child’s life can be so awkward.  Kids this age are caught somewhere between a child and an adult.  Their work at this age is to start putting aside their childish ways and move towards becoming more adult-like.

With that work, they have more responsibilities than their younger years, and also more freedom.  They get more homework at school, more classwork, and harder assignments.  They also are now allowed to roam the halls on their own, rather than walk single file in a straight line, with their teacher, from point A to point B.  At home, they receive more chores and are expected to help out the family more.  But they also receive later bedtimes and can start staying home alone.

With all of these new freedoms and responsibilities on your middle-schooler, how do you know when he/she is old enough, or ready, to stay home alone?

If you are looking for a “golden age” that children need to be, to be allowed to stay home alone, then please, stop searching.  There is none.  “Only a couple of states have laws that specify the age when a child can be left home alone, including Maryland (age 8) and Illinois (age 14).”  (FindLaw.com)  If you are looking for some general guidelines, though, you can check out your state Department of Health and Human Services web page or contact your county social services agency.  Most states have general guidelines for what ages kids should be to be allowed to stay home alone, and for the ages of babysitters.

In Minnesota, the Department of Human Services has written guidelines as follows:

Children age 7 and under should not be left alone, anywhere, for any period of time.

Children ages 8-10 may be left alone for up to three hours.  FindLaw.com is a little more restrictive, stating that children this age “should not be left alone for more than 1½ hours and only during daylight and early evening hours.”

Children ages 11-13 may be left alone for up to 12 hours.  FindLaw.com suggests that children, aged 11-12, “may be left alone for up to 3 hours but not late at night or in circumstances requiring inappropriate responsibility.”

Children ages 14-15 may be left alone for up to 24 hours.  FindLaw.com states these children “may be left unsupervised, but not overnight.”

Children ages 16-17 may be left alone for over 24 hours with a plan in place concerning how to respond to an emergency. (Huh.  My big boys will be thrilled to hear that!)

(Isanti County News)

Most daycares offer childcare up to age 12.  There’s a reason they do that – most county social service agencies “recommend that children under 12 years of age not be left home alone.”  (Childcare Aware)

Of course, there are other factors, besides age, to consider, as well.  You need to assess the maturity level of your child.  Every child is different, despite his or her age.  My second oldest child was far more mature, at age 11, than my 11-year-old is right now.  Personality and maturity make a difference.

When thinking about the maturity level of your child, keep these things in mind:

  • Is your child responsible?  Trustworthy?
  • Can your child create his own meal safely?
  • Can your child use the phone, in case of an emergency?
  • Will your child complete all the chores given to him/her?
  • Can you trust your child to follow general household rules, even when no one is home?
  • Can your child safely entertain himself?
  • Does your child scare or startle easily?
  • Will your child remain calm during an emergency?
  • Would your child know what to do during an emergency?  (i.e., he gets hurt or there is bad weather, etc.)
  • Will your child check in with you periodically?
  • Does your child have common sense?

Is your home safe and ready for a child to be left alone?

  • Are guns and bullets kept separately and locked up?
  • Alcohol is out of reach or locked up?
  • Medicines, chemicals and cleaners are in their original bottles and/or labeled appropriately?
  • Smoke detectors are installed in all bedrooms and on every level in the home, and working appropriately?
  • Your home has a fire extinguisher and first aide kit, and your child knows how to use both?
  • Your child knows how to properly use the microwave, toaster and oven?
  • An emergency phone number list is left by the phone?
  • Your child knows how to operate the home security system,  if one is installed?
  • Your child knows where the flash lights, candles and matches are, in case of a power outage, and knows how to light a candle, if needed?

There are a few resources available for parents contemplating leaving their child home alone for the first time.

Child Care Aware provides a Home Alone Checklist to determine whether your child is physically and emotionally ready to be left home alone for any period of time.

The University of Minnesota Extension website has a webpage that focuses on a child’s physical and emotional readiness for being left home alone.

And finally, at the national level, the Child Welfare Information Gateway has a factsheet from 2013 providing guidance on leaving your child home alone.

There is no perfect way to tell if a child is ready to be left home alone.  If you feel your child is ready, do some practice runs.  I always started out leaving my boys home alone for only a half hour at a time.  I would make sure there were neighbors near by and Grandmas or Aunties who were able to be reached by phone in case of an emergency.  I would be sure to be within my normal, regular daily routine as well, i.e., at work, running errands, etc.  You don’t want to let your child stay home alone for the first time if you are away on a business trip.

If your child does well with short, little intervals, then slowly start increasing the amount of time he can be left home alone.  If he starts to struggle or panic, back off.  He’s not ready yet.  I have an 11 year old who will text me and ask if he can eat supper, and what can he eat for that supper.  If I don’t answer, he won’t eat.  Clearly, he is not ready to be left home alone for any significant amount of time.  Kids need to be able to think independently and make some decisions for themselves.

Ok, so your child has successfully mastered staying home alone for any given period of time.  Is she ready to babysit?

The Minnesota Department of Human Services has provided guidelines for what is considered appropriate ages for babysitting:

• Children under age 11 should not provide child care.

• Children ages 11-15 who are babysitting are subject to the same time restrictions as being left home alone (listed above).

• Children ages 16-17 may babysit for more than 24 hours with adequate adult back-up supervision.

Again, you need to assess the maturity level of your child, if she is babysitting, or of your babysitter, if you are hiring one.  If the babysitter passes the maturity level test, then you need to take a look at the child(ren) being cared for.  What are the ages of the children?  Are they close in age?  Are there twins or triplets?  How many children are being cared for?  Do they have any special needs?  Is there anything about caring for these children that may be difficult or challenging?  If so, can the babysitter handle those challenges?  Is more than one babysitter needed?

Caring for children and leaving children home alone is not a cut and dry situation.  If you have any questions or concerns at all, contact your local social services agency.  Each county has one.  There will be a child protection worker at that agency that can tell you what the guidelines are for where you live.  If you need help in assessing whether or not your child is ready, the child protection worker can help you with that as well.

 

RESOURCES

Child Care Aware    http://childcareawaremn.org/families/successful-child-care/leaving-children-at-home

Polk County Public Health    http://www.co.polk.mn.us/vertical/sites/%7B4649BB22-31C0-4F09-8D7C-B36D1E78E519%7D/uploads/10-11_yr-National.pdf

Isanti County News    http://isanticountynews.com/2012/04/25/is-your-child-old-enough-to-stay-home-alone/

Find Law    http://family.findlaw.com/parental-rights-and-liability/when-can-you-leave-a-child-home-alone-.html

 

(Photo from Pinterest.com)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Confessions of A Momma…..I’m in Love with My Son

And I have been.  Since the day he was born.

I admit, there were some rocky points in our relationship.  No doubt.  I never met a more stubborn, persistent, absolutely contradictory person in my entire life.  Seriously.  He’d argue, just for the sake of arguing.  And to prove it, in one argument, I told him he’d probably tell me the sky was white if I said it was blue.  He immediately left the argument at hand to pursue a new argument about just how white the sky actually is!  His brother and I just sat and laughed.  What else could we do?

Oh could he ever be frustrating.  And exhausting.  He used to talk from the minute he got up until the minute he went to bed.  Every day.  He was so stinkin’ full of life and fight!  Those years when he was little, life was a roller coaster.  I would  go from being so totally wrapped up in his little charming eyes, to so absolutely furious that I was outside, screaming on the front porch in pure anger, to so frustrated that I was sobbing out of desperation, and back to being so totally wrapped up in his charming little eyes again….all in one evening!

I’d vent, to anyone close to me, about how frustrating he could be.  They’d laugh and agree.  They’d seen it.  Well, some of it.  He was a good kid, after all.  He knew when to put his public face on.  But, after venting, I’d wind up talking about how incredibly adorable he is.  And how charming he could be.  And how, once he realized how cute he was, and learned how to turn the charm on, he’d be unstoppable.

It took him a long time to realize how cute he was.  Which is funny, really, because he grew up listening to me talk about how cute he was day in and day out.  I’m not prejudiced or anything, just because he is my own son.  Those who knew him would vouch for me –  he was absolutely adorable.  🙂  And I guess most wouldn’t call him adorable now.  Handsome, maybe.  But to me, he will always be absolutely adorable.

Why, after all these years, am I still in love with him?  Because he is still so stinkin’ full of life and fight!  Thankfully he has learned how to channel his….er…..gifts…..  A little more than in his younger years.  His stubbornness….oh yeah, that’s still there.  It shows up in the form of persistence.  He told me at the beginning of the football season that his goal was to play Varsity.  He is in the ninth grade.  You just don’t walk on to the field and expect to play varsity in ninth grade.  At the end of the season, not only was he playing varsity, but he was starting varsity.  Stubbornness?  Persistence? Call it what you want.  It works for him.

Contradictory?  Argumentative?  I’d like to call it persuasive.  He knows what he wants and he is going to get it.  He’ll start out by asking for what he wants.  If he’s shot down, he’ll dip in to his other skills.  He will start with reason.  When that doesn’t work, he’ll argue.  Watch out there – he has years of practice.  He’ll beat you.  And if he’s discovering that he’s on the bottom, about to lose the argument, he’ll pull out the charm…. and you just lost.  Of course, the effect is better on females than males, but I’ve seen a grandpa or two fall victim as well!

And exhausting?  Absolutely!  I get exhausted just watching him now!  He go go goes all day long.  It’s just one adventure to the next.  And at the end of the day, you will hear all about it.  He still talks a lot.  🙂  He has so much to say!  But it is so fun to listen to now.  His thoughts and theories and stories are hilarious!  He has an amazing sense of humor.  And he is still so full of life.  Oh, if I had just an ounce of his energy!  His eyes twinkle – literally – when he is excited (and cloud over when he is angry!).

I love to pick him out on the basketball court. That tall, dark handsome one?  Yup, he’s mine.  The one dodging players and doing summer saults?  Yep, I claim him.  That one that is so crazy passionate and energetic about everything he does?  Yep, that’s my boy.  That one that absolutely cracks me up?  Oh yeah.  I’ll claim him!!

(Photo from creativefan.com)

 

Last Night’s Supper…..Egg Lasagna

This is actually a supper we had, not last night, but Tuesday night.  It all started because my husband said, “I wonder if we can make an egg lasagna….”

I’m here to tell you, you can!  😉  And he did.  I apologize for not having any pictures of it.  The next time I make it, I will take a photo and add it.  This is how he created it:

 

1 box of lasagna noodles

1 package of bacon or roll of ground sausage  (I imagine you can also use ham)

12 eggs

a variety of raw vegetables, if desired  (we used spinach, onion, green pepper, broccoli and cauliflower)

a variety of shredded cheese

 

Sauce:

 

2 tablespoons finely chopped onion

6 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 quart milk

1/2 teaspoon Montreal Chicken Seasoning

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons drippings

 

Boil one box of lasagna noodles until tender.  Rinse and drain in cold water.  Set aside.

Fry the bacon or sausage. Crumble. Save the drippings for the sauce.  Set aside.

Scramble the eggs.  We added spinach to ours while scrambling.  Set aside.

Using 2 tablespoons of drippings, fry the onion and stir until transparent.  Stir in the flour, cooking over medium low heat for about six minutes, or until the mixture bubbles and turns golden.  Stir in milk.  Add the seasonings, cook, stirring, until thickened.  Set aside.

In a casserole dish, first place a small amount of sauce on the bottom of the dish.  Layer lasagna noodles, sauce, scrambled eggs, crumbled bacon or ground sausage, any vegetables of choice and cheeses.  Be ample with the sauce and cheese.  Once you have your top layer of just lasagna noodles, add the remaining sauce and cover with cheese.

Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Delish!

 

If you make this for supper at your house, let me know what you think.  My husband created this dish, just to see if he can.  We all loved it!  Do you?  Let me know by leaving a comment.  🙂

Last Night’s Supper….Breaded Ranch Chicken

I have not posted last night’s supper in quite some time.  I promise, I’ve still been cooking!  😉  I seriously just haven’t thought about it. But this chicken was so good that I felt the need to share!

It is an old Taste of Home Recipe that my mom gave me years ago.  My boys told me that I need to make our chicken like this all the time.  Fine with me – it was so super easy!!

3/4 cup crushed cornflakes

3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 envelope Ranch Salad Dressing mix

8 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (2 pounds)

1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted (I actually used 1/4 cup)

 

In a shallow bowl, combine the cornflakes, Parmesan cheese and salad dressing mix.  Dip chicken in the butter, then roll in cornflake mixture to coat.  Place in a greased 13-in. x 9-in. x 2-in. baking dish.  Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until chicken juices run clear.

 

Yield:  8 servings

 

 

YUM!!

Coming to Terms With Graduation….

Graduation.

A time to celebrate. A job well done. A bright future full of possibilities. A right of passage. The ending of one era and beginning of a grand era. The smell of the spring air, the bright sunshine. Birds tweeting in the background. The jibber jabber of all the happy family and friends, the quiet talk of the unsure graduates.

I hate it already.

What am I going to do?

This sweet baby, this totally bouncing little bundle of joy that took my world and shook it upside down, some 17 years ago, suddenly no longer needs me?!? He’s suddenly all grown up? Look at him! Have you seen my baby lately? He’s a man. When did that happen?!?

What right do they have, leaving us, after all these years? We’ve invested our hearts and souls, blood, sweat, and sleep (or lack of!) in to them and their lives for the past 18 years. And now, all of a sudden, we are no longer needed? Not fair!

“Ah”, my 17-year-old would tell me, “I’ll still need you, mom. I’ll need some money for gas, someone to cook me a meal every now and then. Car insurance, cell phone. You’re still needed.” He’d just grin at me.

But the daily hugs, the good-byes at the door, the “drive safe” every time he leaves the house (even his three-year-old brother tells him that now!), the “when are you going to be home” – all that, is going to end. I can’t see texting back and forth or calling from college to report every time he is leaving the dorm room and returning again.

His quirky sense of humor, his quick reflexes that take a cheap shot at his brother when antagonized, his general overall grumpiness when he’s hungry….these things will be missed on a daily basis. The way he drops everything to drive trains with his three-year-old brother. The way the one-year-old twins run to him for hugs when he gets home and good-bye hugs when he leaves again. The way his dad curses him out for dragging snow in to the garage again.

He’s hardly home anymore. He has been preparing us for the day he leaves for college for a good year or two now. And yet, it’s still going to suck.

Some moms will miss that little bit of control, I think, that they have over their kids when they still live at home. They’ll miss knowing what he’s up to, where he’s been, does he have his biology lab done, that kind of stuff.

I gave most of that up a long time ago. He’s a good kid. He doesn’t get in to trouble. He follows the rules. Generally. He does his homework, goes to work, shows up where he needs to be, when. He meets his curfew (sometimes) and always shows his mom and dad respect. I know he is going to be okay in college. I don’t worry about him.

But I already miss him. I already miss those hugs I won’t get. The laughs I won’t hear. The growls of hunger I won’t see. I miss the train tracks he won’t build, the balls he won’t throw, the tackles he won’t make. I already miss the dishes he won’t do. The laundry that won’t be washed. The football games that won’t be watched. The stories he won’t tell. The picking on his brothers that he won’t do. The little sound of “mmm!” when he’s surprised that something tastes good, or his exclamation of “Ohhh cookies!” when he comes home after a tough practice. He won’t be here every day to share all of those little bits of him that I love so dearly.

Sure, if we are lucky, he will come home often on the weekends. Probably to see his girlfriend. He’ll come home for holidays. I’m sure he’ll buzz over to his girlfriend’s. Maybe he’ll text me; even call me? (When he’s not talking to his girlfriend.) Maybe an email once in a while? He’ll be home for summer break, right? Hanging around the house, when he’s not working…or visiting his girlfriend.

 

I’m starting to think the girlfriend has to go…..

 

 

 

You know who you are…..And I know you read this…..

 

 

 

 

 

(Just kidding! I love her dearly!)

 

(Photo from visualphotos.com)

 

Paying off Christmas Debt

 

Tis the season to start paying….fa la la la la, la la la la!

According to CreditDonkey.com, 37% of Americans (in 2013) used credit cards to pay for Christmas gifts.  (I had a little trouble finding figures for 2014, and I’m sure 2015 isn’t out yet.  But I can imagine it wasn’t much lower in 2015.)

A lot of folks do not save for their holiday spending.  They put it on credit.  Or, if they do save, they put on credit whatever they spend over and above what they had saved.  And come January, those bills start rolling in.

The average shopper spends $882 on Christmas gifts.  (AmericanResearchGroup.com).  I can assure you, bigger families spend more.  And this is just on gifts.  There are hidden costs of Christmas as well, such as travel, food, decorations, clothing, beauty costs (nail and hair salons), electrical costs (someone has to pay for all those lights!), heating costs, as it is starting to get colder, and charitable giving costs.  November and December are very expensive months for most Americans.  And a lot of time, that goes on the credit card.

So what do you do if you have credit card bills coming in now?

Pay them, pay them, pay them!  Hopefully you didn’t have a balance before.  Unfortunately, seven percent of consumers are still paying off holiday debt from 2014.  Now they add 2015 to that, and their credit card balances just keep growing.  We don’t want to nurture and protect these babies – we want to cut them off!

And here’s how:

  1.  Pay more than the minimum balance.  If you can’t pay each credit card balance off in full, pay more than the minimum balance on each.  If you pay just the minimum, you will be paying those credit cards for years to come.  The interest will kill you.  Say you spent the average $882 for Christmas and you charged it.  If you paid only the minimum, for a whole year, never actually paying that balance off, your gifts will cost you an extra $127 (in interest) by December 2016.  (check out wisebread.com)  How many gifts would that extra $127 bought for your friends or family?  Maybe you could have treated yourself to a relaxing spa with that money.  Instead, you handed it over to the credit card company.
  2. Use the snowball effect.  If you can afford to, put a lot more money towards one credit card than the rest.  Say you have three cards with a balance on them.  One has a balance of three hundred, (minimum payment of $10) one of five hundred, (minimum payment of $20) and one of $1,000 (minimum payment of $80).  Pay more than the minimums on all of them, if possible, but on the $300 one, pay a lot more than the minimum.  Put everything extra that you can afford to on that $300 one.  Say the minimum payment is ten bucks. Put $80 on it, (or more!) if you can.  You will pay it off quickly.  Then, take that $80 and add it to the $20 you are paying on the $500 credit card, giving you a total payment of $100.  When that card is paid off, take that $100 and add it to the $80 you are paying on the $1,000 card, giving you a total of $180 every month.  Your payment snowballs as it pays each card off.  You don’t fork over any more money each month.  You simply take what you were paying on one card and add it to another, paying off your debt faster, building momentum with each payment.  Very much like a snowball.  🙂
  3. Put any “windfalls” towards the debt.  Did you receive any unexpected money?  Someone give you a gift?  Or maybe you received a large refund of some type.  Maybe something finally sold that you had on the market for a while.  Or, maybe you won the lottery.  🙂  Don’t blow all the money, telling yourself that you “deserve” a break, something fun for once.  No you don’t!  You deserve to live debt free!!  Take that money and put it on your credit cards.
  4. Do not add to the debt.  If you have a balance, and you cannot pay your whole balance off every month, then stop using your credit cards.  If you need your credit card for every day purchases, such as groceries, than somewhere within your budget, you are living outside of your means.  You have a serious issue that needs addressing.  If you are using your credit card for shopping sprees, stop!!  You don’t need those items. Wait until you can afford to pay cash for them.  You will never pay off your credit card if you keep adding to it.
  5. Contact the credit company to negotiate a lower interest rate.  If you still have last year’s Christmas on your card, and now you have added this year’s, then it’s time to take some serious action.  You need to pay that baby off.  Sometimes you can contact the credit card company and negotiate a lower interest rate, allowing more of your payment to go to the actual balance and less of your hard earned cash going to the credit card company itself.  Be careful, however, if they offer you a lower pay off amount.  Taking that lower payoff amount will get you out of debt sooner, but it also hurts your credit score.

(Photo from blog.gulpfish.com)