November 29, 2012

Share the Wealth: Online shopping tips!

I recently realized that I have become quite the online shopper! Almost all of my Christmas shopping this year has been done online. I rarely make any decent sized purchase without first checking if there is a better deal online. Now, I am certainly not expert, but as I was giving my mom some tips this morning about shopping online, I realized that I do know a few little tricks that others may or may not be aware of that I could share!

First and foremost: Take shipping cost into consideration

My best "secret"? I almost never pay shipping. And when I do, it is because I am getting a heck of a deal on the item. I think one place where a lot of people go wrong with online shopping is that they forget to watch the shipping charges. And retailers know this! I so very often see, especially on sites like Ebay or Amazon.com, where a retailer will be offering a heck of a deal on an item but charging something ridiculous for shipping. I am no retail expert, but there are two obvious advantages to doing this: First, their item will appear on the search screen with a far lower price than their competitors. Second, if they catch a shopper who isn't taking the shipping charge into consideration, they will trick them into feeling like they are getting a really good deal when they are really making all their money on the shipping charges. 

The solution? The first and easiest way to make sure the item is still a good deal when adding in the shipping charges. If that movie is $5 cheaper than the stores, but the shipping charge is $10, it isn't a good deal! The second way is to watch for free shipping promotions and try to make your purchases during these times. More and more retailers are doing these as a way to compete. You do have to be careful here- I have noticed with some sites (such as Kohls and Children's Place) that their prices seem to raise when they aren't charging shipping. So again, make sure that you are taking the total cost into consideration and don't assume that you are getting a good deal just because you didn't pay to ship the item. Many stores also offer free shipping coupon codes or at a certain threshold (free shipping for orders over $50). I'll talk more about coupon codes later, but with the shipping thresholds, just be smart! Make sure you never make purchases you wouldn't have otherwise just to get to the free shipping! If you are close, you can always look on the store's site for items that you have been planning to buy anyway and see if they happen to have a good deal on that item as well. But if you are far from the threshold, consider just sucking it up and paying the shipping charges rather than ending up with $40 worth of stuff you don't need so that you could save $6.95.

Never buy without searching coupon codes

Make it a rule that you never checkout online before searching for a coupon code. Almost all major retailers will put out coupon codes occasionally that you can find online very easily. The easiest way to do this is to just do a simple google search: "Kohls coupon codes". Different sites will give you different coupon codes available for that site. You can browse if one fits your needs. This is also a great way to find free shipping codes! One thing to watch out for is that many sites only allow one coupon code, so you may not be able to get a percentage off and free shipping, so you need to figure out which choice will save you the most money in the end. 

One way that I really save on kids' clothing is to shop stores when they have out good coupon codes. Many blogs such as www.moneysavingmom.com or www.myfrugaladventures.com post when store have good coupon codes out so that you can check if there are any good deals. For instance, when Children's Place has 25% off coupon codes, I will check their site (especially clearance!) for anything that is a good deal with the coupon code. You never want to feel like you should make a purchase simply because of a good coupon code, but stacking these codes with a sale is a great way to hit awesome prices.

Use sites that compare prices

This has become easier than ever now that search engines have become so user friendly. I generally will just google search a particular item to see what the item is selling for at various stores. If you need something more user friendly, sites like Nextag.com for froogle.com are specially made for searching different sites for their prices. You do still have to do a fair amount of the legwork since these will not always account for shipping prices or coupon codes available, but it is a great starting point and will give you an idea of what prices are realistic for the item.

Amazon wishlists


Amazon wishlists are so helpful, especially when you are in the market for an item that you aren't in any hurry to purchase. For example, I have been wanting a particular toy for Delaney for awhile, but they are a little pricey. Since she is in no hurry for more toys, I am waiting until I can catch it at an excellent price. This is easier when I can check back frequently to quickly see the price the item is at. Though this won't tell me what the item is selling for at every site, Amazon tends to be the cheapest and most flexible with their prices, so it is a good place to watch.

Something new that I just learned about today is the search alert on Money Saving Mom. With this free tool, you can find an item on Amazon and set your buy at price for that item. This tool will email you when the item drops to that price so that you don't miss it! I do realize that there are probably at least 14,000 Smartphone apps that do this same thing, but for a boring phone user like me this is pretty exciting!

Cashback sites

This has got to be one of my favorite tips ever, and one I only learned about a year or so ago! Did you know that there are actual, legit websites that pay you cashback when you start your shopping at their site? There are probably a lot out there, but my two favorites are Shop At Home and Ebates. These are both very easy to use and I have personally received checks from both so I can tell you they are legit! If you get in the habit of always starting at these sites (always check both, but I can tell you that Shop At Home is almost always the better deal) you can really get some good, free money! Most sites average cashback around 5% with promotions going all the way up to 20% cashback! This doesn't all seem like that much, but if you do a lot of your shopping online like I do, it really adds up. I use Shop at Home the most and about every 3 months I will get a check of around $20 from them (your cashback all compiles until you hit the $20 mark). I know that isn't a huge sum of money, but at about $80 a year for something that is risk free and takes almost no time, that is a pretty good deal. I have actually installed the Shop At Home toolbar on my computer so I don't even have to try to remember to go to the site first- I automatically gives me the cashback anytime I shop somewhere that qualifies. 

I think that about covers all the little tricks I know- I am sure there are more? Do you have any awesome tips for saving money with online shopping?

Oh, none of these blogs paid me to talk about them. The Ebates and Shop At Home links are my referral links that give me credit for referring you if you decide to join, yada yada. :)

October 23, 2012

Book review: 21 Days to a More Disciplined Life

I have now been a stay at home mom for almost 6 months. It started out with a few weeks of tending to Jameson after his surgery, then the morning sickness started. The morning all the time sickness didn't finally go away until around late August, which means that I have only been able to just start getting the hang of this whole stay at home mom thing. I am discovering that there is a learning curve to this, which is something I HATE. I don't like to not be good at things, especially something that is so important to me. It didn't take me long to realize that what I was most needing was discipline and routine.

So, when I found out that my favorite blogger Crystal Paine from www.moneysavingmom.com was putting out the 21 Days to a More Disciplined Life, I knew I was sold! I was following her blog when she did this as a blog series but it wasn't something that I chose to follow at the time- the timing just wasn't right. But this eBook release was perfect timing!

Now, I will tell you that this is a bit of a hard book to review. It isn't really a book that is intended to be read cover to cover, but rather day by day following the indicated steps. Seeing as how I didn't get my copy until late last week, I was definitely not able to complete the full 21 days process yet! However, I can tell you that the book is well written and easy to follow. I love that she gave multiple real life examples and that she writes in such an encouraging way. After reading the book, I was so excited to finally get started. I have only  completed day one so far, but am so excited to see some results in my daily routines!

If you are interested in downloading a copy, here is a link! And best yet- it is only $.99 through Thursday, available in PDF and Kindle versions.

(PS- No, I am not getting paid for my review. The link is my affiliate link that earns me a portion on books purchased through this link). :)

October 1, 2012

Goals for the week: How I did in the week of a vacation!

I had such a good week! It could possibly have to do with the fact that half of the week's goals were met by having fun with my family, but I'll take a win where I can get it!


  • Continue to work on getting to bed by 10 am and be up by 7 am. I did such a great job at this! I even continued it through vacation, which wasn't as difficult since I was so exhausted at the end of each day and was excited to get ready for the day each morning!
  • Have house cleaned up prior to leaving for vacation Until I made it a point last summer to come home to a clean house, I totally didn't understand why someone would put time in to cleaning when they are trying to get ready for a vacation. But I tried it and discovered that it is AMAZING to come home to a house that can be relaxed in when you are worn out from vacation!
  • Get family packed up prior to leaving I have a little confession to make- I have actually started LIKING packing for the family. Weird, I know. But I have gotten it down to such a system that it isn't so stressful and it feels so good to get somewhere and know that I have planned for everything without toting along our entire house!
  • Stay within budget while on vacation I don't mean to brag, but we rocked this one! We actually came home with money LEFTOVER. We have never returned from a vacation with money to spare, and once upon a time, returned with a stack of credit card debt (I plan to post a blog about how we did this soon!)
  • Enjoy some family time during vacation!!!! We had a WONDERFUL time. It was such a low stress, relaxing, enjoyable time!

Goals for this week:

  • Keep up with daily chore list
  • Blog about vacation budgeting
  • Plan Sunday School class
  • Get list of words for language book to Lona (Delaney's speech helper)
  • Work on sight words with Jameson
  • Work on obtaining a location for playgroup 
  • Work on getting house prepared for new pictures

September 24, 2012

Goal Making Monday: Getting ready for vaca!!!

Did okay, but not awesome last week...

  • Keep up with the daily chore list (no, really!!!)- Almost did perfect on this! I got super busy toward the end of the week so I didn't finish great. But I have definitely improved!
  • Continue to work on getting to bed by 10 pm and get up before 7 am- Almost perfect on this, too! Just a few nights I didn't make it to bed on time! I also was up by 7 am every morning except the one where the kiddos were staying at grandmas- who can blame me???!!!
  • Do one craft with kids- FAIL!
  • Organize a playgroup to take place in the next couple of months (I have been a part of a mom's group since I started staying home and am feeling like it is time for me to start setting up some activities instead of just going to them! I can't really have it at home since I live out of town so I have to figure out a location. Hoping I can come up with something fun!)- I haven't set anything up for sure, but I am working on this!
  • Work on sight words with Jameson and speech temptations with Delaney- Only got to work on this a little, but did do it!
  • Prepare Sunday school for the next two weeks since I will not be there the last weekend of September
  • Drop off Little Britches items Thursday morning and work volunteer shift Thursday night
  • Enjoy some shopping at Little Britches with the hubby on Friday night followed by a late anniversary dinner!

Goals for this week:
  • Continue to work on getting to bed by 10 am and be up by 7 am.
  • Have house cleaned up prior to leaving for vacation
  • Get family packed up prior to leaving
  • Stay within budget while on vacation
  • Enjoy some family time during vacation!!!!

September 17, 2012

Goal Making Monday: The week that was eaten by Little Britches


This week didn't really go as planned. I really thought that tagging wouldn't take a whole lot longer and that I could get it out of the way and move on with the week. This just wasn't the case- it took me an entire day and a half! Now, this was definitely not committed tagging as I was also having to keep two children alive during the day as well. 
  1.  Find out the baby’s gender Monday night, go to dinner to celebrate! We found out that we are having a little girl which was a total shock because I was sure I was having a boy! We went to Chilis after dinner with a coupon for the kids to eat free and Shaun and I got the 2 for $20 combo. Since we had a few dollars left on a gift card, we ate dinner out for less than $20! I was pretty satisfied!
  2.  Finish tagging for Little Britches (has to be a priority- last day to enter is the 16th!!!) Done! Yea!
  3.  Take Delaney to a library story-time while Jameson attends preschool This is definitely going to become a weekly event. She absolutely loved it. It was a "Move and Groove" storytime so there was a perfect mix of songs and stories so it kept her attention well!
  4.   Initiate some "communication temptations" for Delaney around the house (She is really doing great on catching her speech up, these will give her more opportunities to use her words!)- We didn't get any of the formal things done I wanted to do, but I have been making more of a commitment to helping her speech on a daily basis and it is going great!
  5.  Prepare for toddler Sunday school and print off schedule hardcopies to keep at church 
  6.  Keep up with daily chore list- this may be a little difficult since I have to get tagging done! I’ll of course keep the house livable, but extra cleaning has to go on the back burner this week!- Heh, yeah, not so much. Shaun did help me get the house back to normal at the end of the week, but I really had to get the tagging done! So happy that I can get back to a little normalcy this week!?
  7.  Do one craft with the kids This technically got done. I asked the kids if they wanted to do a craft or help me make cookies and they wanted to cook, so that won out!
  8.  Do one school work/ coloring activity with kiddos Jameson really wasn't interested in "school work" this week and I want to keep it fun so I didn't push it. We did do a lot of coloring. I also am starting to work with him on his sight words so that kind of replaced this activity.
  9.  Start making it a priority to go to bed before 10 o’clock and get up before 7 o’clock (I was AWESOME at this when I first started staying home, but my morning sickness switched me to survival mode. Now that I am feeling better I need to start getting up earlier again! I can get so much more done when I get up before the kids!)- Um... I tried? E for effort?
  10. Attend the K-State game with the hubby! This would have been a much better time if a certain little in utero daughter of mine hadn't been kicking my bladder the whole game causing non-stop bathroom trips!
Goals for the week:

  • Keep up with the daily chore list (no, really!!!)
  • Continue to work on getting to bed by 10 pm and get up before 7 am
  • Do one craft with kids
  • Organize a playgroup to take place in the next couple of months (I have been a part of a mom's group since I started staying home and am feeling like it is time for me to start setting up some activities instead of just going to them! I can't really have it at home since I live out of town so I have to figure out a location. Hoping I can come up with something fun!)
  • Work on sight words with Jameson and speech temptations with Delaney
  • Prepare Sunday school for the next two weeks since I will not be there the last weekend of September
  • Drop off Little Britches items Thursday morning and work volunteer shift Thursday night
  • Enjoy some shopping at Little Britches with the hubby on Friday night followed by a late anniversary dinner!

September 10, 2012

Goal Making Monday: Geez that was a busy week!

Last week didn't go too well. I wasn't feeling too great on Monday and Tuesday due to a combination of pregnancy making me super tired and my allergies being OUT OF CONTROL!!! Normally I just push through these kinds of things, but being pregnant I think it is really important to listen to your body so I decided to take it easy. The rest of the week was crazy busy! Luckliy my wonderful hubby helped me with a lot, but I still didn't accomplish a few things. Oh well!


1. Keep up with my daily chore list- this was apparently a week of just "Keep the house livable" and that was only accomplished because Shaun helped out a lot
2. Do at least one school work activity with my kids This was Jameson doing a school work page and Delaney doing some coloring- that works!
3. Do at least one craft with the kiddos When I went to Dollar Tree to get some final things for Sunday school I found some cute little crafty things. I got a ton of stickers since they have been all about the stickers lately and I think that pulling them off the sticker pages helps with their fine motor development so I am following their lead! We made some cute little bags with stickers and glitter glue, which cost about $3, and I still have a ton of stickers, glitter glue, and even one bag left, so it was actually even way less than $3!
4. Read more of "I love you Rituals" Got a bit more read. I am loving some things in this book but I am not really on board with others, so it is sometimes hard to get into. But I am working on it! 
5. Spend at least two hours tagging for Little Britches- I only ended up spending maybe 45 minutes on this- yikes!
6. Get meal plan and grocery shopping done for the next two weeks
7. Prepare toddler Sunday school class and do last preparations for Mountains of Faith Sunday school
8. Give my little boy a wonderful 4th birthday We had his party a couple of weeks ago, so this was just kept simple. We ended up going to Pizza Hut for dinner since Pizza is his FAVORITE! Then we had cake at home and opened a few presents. I think he had fun! 
9. Prepare for and attend Kansas State football game with the hubby! Had a great time and what an awesome game!
10. Prepare for and attend the Kansas State Fair with my family! We had a wonderful time! 
11. Get in some outdoor time with the wonderful weather we should have at the end of the week! I hoped to get more of this in, but it didn't happen partly because it was so busy and partly because it was a lot hotter than it was supposed to be! But we did go to the Blue Valley high school game on Friday and the kids had a blast!

Goals for this week:
  1.            Find out the baby’s gender Monday night, go to dinner to celebrate!
    2.       Finish tagging for Little Britches (has to be a priority- last day to enter is the 16th!!!)
    3.       Take Delaney to a library story-time while Jameson attends preschool
    4.       Initiate some "communication temptations" for Delaney around the house (She is really doing great on catching her speech up, these will give her more opportunities to use her words!)
    5.       Prepare for toddler Sunday school and print off schedule hardcopies to keep at church
    6.       Keep up with daily chore list- this may be a little difficult since I have to get tagging done! I’ll of course keep the house livable, but extra cleaning has to go on the back burner this week!
    7.       Do one craft with the kids
    8.       Do one school work/ coloring activity with kiddos
    9.       Start making it a priority to go to bed before 10 o’clock and get up before 7 o’clock (I was AWESOME at this when I first started staying home, but my morning sickness switched me to survival mode. Now that I am feeling better I need to start getting up earlier again! I can get so much more done when I get up before the kids!)
    10.   Attend the K-State game with the hubby!

September 3, 2012

My baby is 4 today!

Today my little boy turned 4 years old. I seriously can't believe it. Four years is really a long time! It is the number of years between leap years. It is the number of years we will wait for the next summer Olympics. It is the number of years we attend high school. Just think of how much can happen in 4 years! But at the same time that I am astounded that it has been four years since he came into my life, I can't believe that in just four years I have learned so much from him.

This little boy has given me so much in his 4 years...

On that wonderful morning reading that little plus sign on the pregnancy test, he gave me the greatest joy I had felt up until that point in my life.

In those first several weeks of pregnancy, he helped me see that "morning" sickness is probably the most misnamed term in the English language.

Through my entire pregnancy, he taught me how much you could love and fear for someone you had never met.

That first time I felt those amazing kicks and wiggles, I learned just what it feels like to have a life growing inside you and depending on you.

During my labor he sent me through more ups and downs and scares that I had ever before experienced.

The first second I saw him he showed me how just when you think you can't love someone more, BAM, everything changes.

During that first attempt at nursing him I felt that first sting of defeat as a mother realizing that maybe it wasn't going to work for us.

In those first twenty minutes I ever spent away from him while the nurse bathed him he showed me just how much you can miss someone when they are just steps away.

That first successful nursing session showed me what it means to persevere and use your stubbornness and absolutely unwillingness to accept defeat or compromise for good.

When I had to readmit him to the hospital for jaundice he gave me that first deep, deep ache in your heart of your child being sick and there being nothing you can do about it.

With his first smile he showed me how no amount of work, frustration, or lack of sleep can compete with seeing true joy on your child's face.

On that first day of work after having him he instantly gave me that drive to start making myself a stay at home mom so my days could be spent caring for him.

His first steps gave me that crazy mix of joy in my child's achievements mixed with fear of their failure.

When his speech developed to off the charts levels and I was receiving compliments for how well spoken he was, I got that first amazing pride at knowing that I had done right for my child and that I done best by guiding his natural abilities.

When I learned that he had a motor skill delay I felt that absolute devastation at knowing that I had failed my child at nurturing him to develop him in the areas in which he most struggled... but as we worked on these delays and he became stronger and more able I saw the unmistakable signs of a child who refused to fail at something and felt true achievement in becoming better at something by working at it.

When I saw his excitement over meeting his baby sister I saw from a third person perspective that link and bond that you only find between siblings.

As he grew and started to play more with other children, I felt his sting of rejection as children with whom he wanted to play were intimidated by his extremely friendly and outgoing demeanor. As he found kids that more matched his personality and enjoyed interacting with him I felt that joy of his acceptance.

Watching his care and compassion for others in pain reminded me of how important it is to have concern for people with whom you have no personal stake.

I have been reminded through his play of how wonderful it is to allow our imaginations to take us to places we may never actually go.

As we prepare his first day of preschool, I feel that pride in knowing that my child is ready for this next big step in his life and the sting of knowing that this is his first formal step away from me and toward an independent life.



Jameson, you are such an incredible gift in my life. You are such a compassionate, smart, determined, amazing little boy. You have given me such joy. You will always be the little boy who made me a mommy and taught me more about life in four years that I learned in the previous 23 before you were born. You give me constant joys, laughs, challenges, and overflowing love that I never knew were possible all rolled into one. I won't always be a perfect mommy, but you will always be a perfect son whom I will always love, even if I don't love your choices. I pray that you are able to achieve everything you want in life and that God will grant me the wisdom to be whatever you need your mommy to be.


Goal making Monday: First Week? Not too shabby!

Let me first say this- I am SOOOO wishing I would have started this sooner! I found myself to be much more motivated this week! Even when I just wasn't feeling like getting things done, I got my butt in gear so I wouldn't have to report that I bombed my first week! Plus, I was even more motivated on things that I didn't have on my goals sheet! I definitely didn't do perfect, but I think I did pretty well!

1. Make final organizations to Sunday School curriculum and get delivered to the education building
2. Take kids to a play group/organized activity (this ended up being a playdate with my friend who was in from out of town. I was planning to do something with more kids, but my desire to spend time with my friend and her little boy trumped my original plan, and I still achieved my goal!)
3. Keep up with daily cleaning list. I definitely didn't do perfectly on this as I didn't do all of the additional daily tasks, but I did keep up with the regular daily chores which is a big improvement!
4. Do at least 2 "school work" times with kids- This didn't really happen so much. I tried to get the kids in on it once, but they both just wanted to color, so I let them do that instead.
5. Use cups at meals to get Jameson accustomed to using cups for preschool- Achieved this for every meal we ate at home! He is doing much better with cups now!
6. Start reading "I love you Rituals" recommended by Lona, the development specialist helping Delaney with her speech-  Well, I did "start" it, and by that I mean that I read the first page! Eek! I did decide to download it on my eReader since I just hate reading a "real" book now! How ridiculous am I???
7. Do at least 1 craft with kids- Didn't get to this. Oh well!
8. Get packed/prepared for Daniel's wedding this weekend!- Not to brag, but I totally get a gold star on this one. I felt super organized and even left a mostly clean house! See what I mean about being more motivated this week???
9. Buy Daniel and Ashley's wedding gift- Ended up order this online to pick up in the store and my mama ended up picking it up for me! Huge help for me! Though, with the chaos of being a bridesmaid, wife to a groomsman, and mother to the flower girl and ring bearer, the gift never made it inside! I guess they will be getting a late gift from us next week!
10. Head to Burlington on Friday and pretty much be at Miss Ashley's disposal for the weekend! :)- I had SUCH a blast with this wedding! I really enjoyed hanging out with Ashley and her bridesmaids and spending sometime with my family. Their wedding was beautiful, and I cried SEVERAL times. It was such a fabulous weekend!

See? I didn't do too bad at all! Here are the goals for this week!

1. Keep up with my daily chore list
2. Do at least one school work activity with my kids
3. Do at least one craft with the kiddos
4. Read more of "I love you Rituals"
5. Spend at least two hours tagging for Little Britches
6. Get meal plan and grocery shopping done for the next two weeks
7. Prepare toddler Sunday school class and do last preparations for Mountains of Faith Sunday school
8. Give my little boy a wonderful 4th birthday
9. Prepare for and attend Kansas State football game with the hubby!
10. Prepare for and attend the Kansas State Fair with my family!
11. Get in some outdoor time with the wonderful weather we should have at the end of the week!

August 27, 2012

Goal makin' Monday: Jumping on the goal making bandwagon!

I have now been a stay at home mom for about 4 months now, and you would think that by now I would have a handle on things. Um... wrong! I am feeling so disorganized these days! The first reason being that I am only now getting to some normalcy! I spent the first couple weeks caring for Jameson after having surgery, and a few weeks after that my morning sickness started. I am only now starting to get to more of a situation where I can get a sense of routine or feeling like I am accomplishing anything. And now that I am here I am so ready!

I was thinking about it, and I feel like one of the things that is holding me back is that I am very much living day to day and don't really have a plan. I have tried to develop a sort of routine to our day, and it works some, but living out of town means that any time I have to run into town for anything it takes an entire morning or afternoon, which makes strict, day to day routines very difficult. This is why I thought that goal making would be more productive for me. I tried goal making awhile before I started staying at home but I found that I wasn't making accomplishing my goals a priority. My favorite blog, Money Saving Mom, posts her goals every week as well as an update to keep herself accountable. I love this idea but felt a little weary about posting all my goals for the world to see when I might not achieve them. But then I realized, that is kind of the point! If I let a goal fall behind, I will be much more likely to make sure it is for good reason if I know that I have to answer to somebody eventually! You will probably notice that some of these "goals" are a little lame, but that is how badly I am needing to have a list of things to accomplish- I am not even accomplishing these little things! Yikes!

So without further ado, my goals for the week:

1. Make final organizations to Sunday School curriculum and get delivered to the education building
2. Take kids to a play group/organized activity
3. Keep up with daily cleaning list. (Side note: if you are like me and need a LOT of direction on cleaning to do each day, I highly recommend the site I linked to. You do have to pay for the list but it is worth it! I feel so much less overwhelmed and organized- when I actually follow it! Right now it is $4 since it is only for the end of 2012, so it would be a good time to try it out if you are interested!) 
4. Do at least 2 "school work" times with kids (Worksheets, etc. They actually really enjoy this but I have to give the idea!)
5. Use cups at meals to get Jameson accustomed to using cups for preschool (bad, I know, but Jameson hates using anything but a sippy and I never really pushed it since I enjoy the lack of mess!)
6. Start reading "I love you Rituals" recommended by Lona, the development specialist helping Delaney with her speech
7. Do at least 1 craft with kids
8. Get packed/prepared for Daniel's wedding this weekend!
9. Buy Daniel and Ashley's wedding gift
10. Head to Burlington on Friday and pretty much be at Miss Ashley's disposal for the weekend! :)

Do any of you make goals for the week? If so, do you have any suggestions for me!?!?!

August 20, 2012

A little boob rant

Anyone who knows me even a little knows that I am very passionate about breastfeeding. I had wonderful experiences nursing both of my children and very much look forward to nursing this next little guy/gal. I firmly believe that anyone who wants to breastfeed should be given full support and every opportunity to be successful.

I think most people (reasonable people anyway) support a woman's choice to breastfeed whether or not they choose it for themselves. However, there is this weird phenomenon in our culture where we fully support it going on... as long as we never have to actually KNOW that it goes on.

What is it with our aversion to public breastfeeding? I just don't get it. Just to be clear- I understand why it can give you the squirmies as that is how you were probably conditioned. We are just leaving a time when it was actually considered superior to give formula since it was scientifically designed for babies (since apparently nature failed at that??) and where it was considered something done by women who couldn't afford formula. I have even found myself to feel a little unease in the presence of a mother breastfeeding in certain situations. The line you cross when you officially are added to my "list" is when you do something that makes that mom feel uncomfortable whether it be complaining, staring, a rude comment, etc. Even though breastfeeding in public is something that is protected by law in most states, these moms aren't protected from the cruelty of those around them. She is doing the most natural thing for her baby so why should she be made to feel that she is doing anything wrong?

I have heard a whole host of "valid reasons" for why women breastfeeding in public is inappropriate. At the risk of offending people, here is a list of these reasons... and why I think they are ridiculous:

1. It is indecent to be exposing so much in public.
     Unless you feel it necessary to walk into Victoria's Secret and complain about their billboards of half naked women then you have nothing to complain about. And even then, those women are almost naked for the purpose of selling underwear- a nursing mother is nourishing her child. I personally was always more comfortable with using a cover in public- that is just me, and I was also very lucky to have babies who were willing to stay under that cover. This is simply not the case for many babies, and some mothers just don't want to use a cover due to one reason or another. Are there women who are a bit brazen about their nursing and trying to make a statement? Maybe a few, but this is the exception, not the rule. And I guarantee you that in most cases that momma sitting on the bench is showing less skin than that teenager across the park wearing the skimpy tank top and daisy dukes.

And at the risk of moving too far off topic, let me take this opportunity to reiterate something- breastfeeding in public is not only natural, it IS a right protected by law most states. This means that even if it bothers you- TOUGH. And if you are an employee at a public place (restaurant, store, etc) it is NEVER within your rights to ask the woman to cover up or leave as long as that woman and child are in a place where they would otherwise be allowed to be. I am so tired of hearing and reading stories where a mother is asked to cover up or leave due to customer complaints and the employees claim ignorance of the law. Why is this not something covered in the training of these employees? I know that I never knew of this law until I started nursing so, sadly, it isn't common knowledge, so why aren't employers educating about this if for no reason other than to protect themselves from a lawsuit? I get that employers have a lot to teach new employees, but the law simply isn't that complicated: If someone complains about a nursing mother, tell them that they are protected by the law. Simple.

2. I don't want my children to see that.
     For this I just have to ask why? We were once at a public playroom when a mom starting nursing her infant. Jameson never noticed and Delaney just kept pointing and saying "bayee!" (baby), but had Jameson noticed it and started asking questions it wouldn't have bothered me in the slightest. If your child does notice a baby nursing, what exactly is so uncomfortable about explaining that the baby is getting milk from his mom? And if you are concerned about them seeing body parts that you don't think they need to see, then kindly refer to number 1. :)

3. Urinating/defecating is natural but that isn't considered appropriate to do in public so why should breastfeeding just because it is natural?
     This is the one where I have to really take a deep breath before I answer because you just compared the nourishment and need fulfillment of an infant to the release of bodily waste. You know what would make a good comparison to relieving yourself in the middle of a restaurant? A mother changing her child's diaper on the table during the appetizer and then leaving the diaper next to her fork. You know what? That is gross and offensive. Go ahead, complain about that action. It presents health concerns that could potentially affect all those around them. But please, please explain to me how the a child eating the dinner that his mom produced is putting you at risk?

4. If you need to breastfeed when you are in a public place you should just go to the bathroom/nursing room.
     Eat in a bathroom?... gross much??? I don't know about all of you, but I personally don't enjoy eating in the bathroom, especially a public one, so what makes you think that a baby would want to do that? Not to mention that it would be very difficult to do in a sanitary way! And even on the rare occasion that the establishment has provided a nursing room, why should the mother have to leave what she is doing because you might feel uncomfortable about what is going on? Really, really think about it, and then tell me how that makes any sense.

5. Nursing is an intimate time for the mother and child and should be done in private
     I can see where a person could feel this way- if they have never actually nursed long term. Don't get me wrong- I loved nursing. It creates a special bond with your child comparable to nothing else- but that doesn't mean each session is a Hallmark moment. Infants nurse every 2-3 hours-sometimes more often. While some nursing sessions are an amazing experience in bonding with your child, some are just about feeding the kid!

6. Just pump milk and bring bottles to feed your child!
     All I have to say to this is- WHY??? Let's say you are going to party where they will have your favorite beer on tap for free. Do you go through the hassle of packing your own cooler of bottles, pack it with ice, and lug it along? Of course not! That would be ridiculous! So why would you expect a baby to do this? Sure, pumped milk is a perfectly wonderful food for a baby, but fresh is the best! Not to mention the amount of inconvenience that you are suggesting to the mother so that you do not have to endure that squirmy feeling.

Bottom line? Breastfeeding makes you uncomfortable? No problem! Your opinion is in line with the culture in which you were raised. But that is your problem to deal with, not the problem of the mother!

I would love to hear what you all think on this topic. I realize it is somewhat controversial, but please realize that I am not really sway-able on this topic nor am I really interested in hearing disrespectful comments and will deny posting them. If you have something nasty to say about breastfeeding, feel free to share it with your buddy and have a good laugh. But if you have something respectful and constructive to say or would like to share your positive/negative experiences with me I would love to hear it!

August 5, 2012

Happy 2nd birthday, Miss Delaney!

I can't believe that today we are celebrating Delaney's 2nd birthday! I would say that I can't believe that the little girl born two years ago today is now the crazy little blond running circles around the living room, but really, it is pretty easy to believe. That little girl was absolutely wild in my belly- she would constantly keep me awake at night and cause me all sorts of pains because she just wouldn't chill! And unlike her brother, when I would push against her in my belly she would aggressively push me back! She waited until the last possible second to flip down into the correct birthing position on her own, and decided that it would be funniest to do it when I was preparing for my doctor to have her turned. My labor with her wasn't moving on it's own so I had to have pitocin started, but when she decided to come out, she was coming out! No doctor there yet to catch me? Ah well, someone will probably catch me, right? And when she nursed the first time, she just gazed at me in the most wonderful way like she was thinking "Oh. This is mommy. I could learn to like this lady." She hasn't changed!

Laney is our wild girl! She is absolutely unpredictable. You can constantly see the little wheels turning just trying to plan out her next adventure.

She does not take anything easily. If she is wanting something and you won't get it for her, or just aren't prompt enough, she will figure out on her own how to get it. And if you tell her "no" to something, she will plead her case in her best "Laney-ese" babble and fervently attempt to get her way.

She still does things on her own time. Planning to head out the door to go anywhere requires planning at least an extra five minutes because it is just unacceptable for anyone else to put her shoes on- it must be done by her. While most of her development has been on time or ahead (pretty far ahead on motor skills), her speech has been delayed for awhile. Then suddenly, a few months ago, she decided that she could really start talking. Her speech development person is amazed each week by how many new words she is saying. I am pretty sure that those words have been sitting there this whole time, but since she wasn't ready to use them, she just didn't see the need.

And her total dis concern with doing things the "safe" or sensible way? Hah! I have absolutely no idea how this girl has not landed herself in a cast or cat scan yet. While most kids are adventurous and have limited understanding of the danger of a situation, it is like she knows but just isn't concerned. If something seems like a fun idea to her, she decides that the potential of getting hurt just isn't a big enough deal to make her avoid the activity. Even when she does end up in tears from doing something, a kiss from momma is all she needs and she is back to her fun!

And this little girl is just as loving as the day she was born. She gets upset when people leave without giving her a hug and a kiss. And it must be both. And if it was too long after the hug and kiss before that person leaves they must give her a second of both. Laney just loves people in general. And she loves her mommy and daddy and grandparents. She lights up when we walk in the door, even if we were just gone for a minute or two. And she thinks that her brother is the best thing EVER. If brother does something she MUST follow. And even though she lights up when Shaun or I walk in the door, on the rare occasion that she is separated from Jameson for even a short time, it is like everything is right with the world again she has him back. Their bond has me so excited to watch her become a big sister. Though she is a jealous little thing, I think she is going to love getting to have a "bay-ee" around and getting to help.

Before she was born I couldn't imagine what it would be like to add another person to our family. Now I truly can't imagine life without her. I am so blessed to have this crazy, stubborn, loving little ball of energy for my baby girl. Happy birthday, Laney bug! I am so honored to be your mommy and, though I would love to keep you little, I can't wait to see what your future has in store for you!


July 18, 2012

Sharing the wealth: Give yourself some grace

Thanks to my recent announcement, you hopefully are aware now why I have been mostly MIA for the past several weeks. If it isn't clear to you- let me break it down for you:

I have had some pretty awful "morning" sickness. I use quotes around "morning" because it was rarely just a morning thing. I pretty much had food aversions all day with my most nauseous time varying between mid morning to evening. Because of this, our menu planning/grocery shopping/actually cooking at home thing has suffered pretty miserably. Shaun has been amazing with housework and such and has been willing to do whatever he can to make things easier for me, but he is unfortunately not the world's best cook, which means that we have been doing a lot of eating out and eating processed foods.

With my morning sickness starting to resolve, I am really looking forward to getting back into the menu planning and bargain shopping that is not only a smart financial move for my family, but has us eating so much healthier and is a fun hobby for me as well!

This past several weeks we have rarely stuck completely to our food budget (luckily my nausea and exhaustion have left us staying at home most days so we were able to pull from our gas budget to cover the difference). We have eaten out more times than I want to think about. My constantly changing food aversions have left us almost always waiting until the last minute to decide what we were going to throw together (or go pick up) for just about every meal. A (big) part of me is not thrilled with how these weeks went. Knowing that it would be hard for me I really tried to prepare well- I had about 20 meals made in the freezer for those nights that I just couldn't cook. What I didn't factor in was that I would have a spaghetti sauce aversion that made 4 lasagna casseroles useless. I also had forgotten how serious my poultry aversion is, so the chicken and noodles and cooked shredded chicken have also been pointless. 

I was really trying to continue with my menu planning utilizing my freezer meals and planning meals that Shaun could at least do part of the cooking for. That worked until I was about 8 weeks along (my morning sickness started at 6 weeks). This is when I realized that my kids were having peanut butter sandwiches for just about every meal because I didn't have the energy or food tolerance to make them anything else. I decided that it was time to buck up and accept that we were going to have to add chicken nuggets and similar items back into our meal planning, and just sucking it up and eating out when nothing we had here sounded good.

Now that I am starting to feel a LITTLE better, I am so excited to get back to normalcy, but during this time, I have actually learned a lot! Ever since I started really watching our food budget, we have had it pretty easy. We haven't had a lot of super crazy things happen and haven't experienced the burn out many do since it is a hobby for me. I really had to grasp something important to sticking to a budget- give yourself some grace!!!

Have I overspent blown my grocery budget this last few weeks, yes. Is this a fact that I love? Of course not. But I still had the money to make up for this when the most important thing has not been my budget lines working out perfectly, but a pregnant momma getting calories into her body that she could hold down (I actually lost about 7 pounds over the course of about 2 weeks). Normally I would not keep spending once my food money was gone- that is the point to the budget. But that was just not the priority.

I think we all have times when out budget isn't a priority- a family emergency, illness, or we are just burnt out and need a break from toting coupons. When you are doing everything you can 99% of time it leaves wiggle room for that 1%. I did what I could to save money, like primarily shopping at Aldi. We also ate from our pantry whenever possible.

Sticking to a budget and making smart grocery choices is super important. But from time to time, life will happen. If you beat yourself up about it and focus on how you went off track, you will begin to resent your budget and it will make it much harder to get your goals back in focus. Instead, focus on what you did right and how your 99% of the time commitment got you through. If you totally bombed, figure out how to get back on track and what you need to do to be better prepared in the future (because it WILL happen again!)

Now, I need to plan a mega shopping trip- my cupboards are BARE!!!

An exciting little bit of news...

For those of you who didn't catch this on Facebook...


Yup! Around the end of January 2013 we will be welcoming a new little blessing into our lives! We are so excited! This first several weeks has been super rough which is why I have been a blogger slacker. Plus, my nausea mixed with no energy mixed with a constantly changing appetite has meant that we have eaten out a LOT and my shopping trips have been really nothing to brag about (I am working on a post about all this drama to post soon!)

June 9, 2012

A Day out with Thomas, and why this was so significant for us.

When it comes to family activities, we are all for the free/cheap fun. I have discovered that my kids typically will have just as much, if not more fun without costing us much or any money. So when I saw the price tag on the Day out with Thomas tickets, I was more than a little hesitant. The tickets would cost a little more than $60 for the family, not to mention that gas money for the two hour car trip. And while that may not seem like a lot for some, for this frugal momma, it was enough to make me more than a little uncomfortable!

After a lot of discussion with the hubby, going back and forth about it several times, we realized that events like this are why we wanted to get our budget under control. My son, Jameson, is absolutely nuts about Thomas the Train. There is not a day that goes by when he doesn't play with his trains, heck, the kid has a Thomas the Train bed! This was not something that would just be a fun outing for the family- it would truly be a dream come true for my little boy.

A year or so ago, something like this would have resulted in one of two scenarios:

1. We would decide not to go because we couldn't afford it since we had no money in savings and be bummed that we couldn't get this experience for my kiddos.
2. We would go anyway, put it on a credit card, and I would feel guilty about it the whole time.

But this time, the money was there. We have been saving for a mini-vacation for our family this summer. Based on our preliminary figuring, it is going to be a pretty inexpensive vacation that we had over-saved for, which meant that we had plenty that we could pull from that budget column to pay for the tickets. Also, we have been really good at conserving our gas this week, so we would have plenty in the gas budget to cover the extra gas for the trip.

Since we have gotten such a grasp on our finances, we were able to easily pay cash for the whole thing. Again, I realize that while $60 isn't much to some of you, others might actually think we are crazy for dropping that kind of money on a 20 minute train ride (since the other activities were all free). But you know what? We had the money because we have worked hard to save it, and we created family memories that we all, especially Jameson, will not soon forget. Want more convincing? Let these pictures do the job:

Posing in front of Thomas- and of course I took my own pictures instead of buying theirs! Duh! You couldn't have expected me to go totally crazy :)

Crazy girl coloring.

Chugging along the track!

Showing off their tattoos!

Waiting for the bouncy slide

Jump!

We met Sir Topam Hatt!

Crazy drivers!

More posting with Thomas!

Petting zoo 

Showing me his ticket for the train ride

Sassy girl

So excited to be walking up this train aisle!

I love her "cheese" face

This smile made it ALL worth it!

Me and my little train nut

So silly!

Amazing family memories- worth every penny!


June 2, 2012

Shopping trips

There were two things that pleased me greatly about my shopping trips this week:

1. Because I have been finding some awesome deals lately and have gotten more proficient at basing my meal plans on what I have, I had very minimal amount of shopping to do.
2. Shaun came home from work early, so I got to go grocery shopping BY MYSELF!!!! Pretty much the best gift that man can give me.

Anyway, here are the deals:

Ray's



10 packs of shredded cheese: $.98 each (no, we have not gone through my major cheese stock up from a few weeks ago, but cheese has a pretty long shelf life and when you catch it for under $1.00 and it fits in your budget, you stock up!)
2 packs of boneless, skinless chicken breasts: $1.68/lb

Aldi



Ground turkey: $1.49 each
Tortillas $.99
Cantalope: $1.29
Pineapple: $1.29
Blueberries: $1.49
Tortilla chips: $.99
Crackers: $1.69
Graham crackers: $1.49
Pinto beans: $.99
Kidney beans: $.59
Butter: $2.29

Dillons



Brown rice: $.70
Black beans: $1.59
3 ears corn: 3/$1
2 containers sour cream: $1.25 each

In total I kept all my groceries under $50 for two weeks of meals! I will have to make other stops for produce and milk, of course, but building that stockpile really helps!

June 1, 2012

Menu plan

Lunches
Leftovers x5
Snacky lunch x2
PB Sandwiches x2
Homemade mac and cheese
Cheese quesadillas
Eat out one day
Pasta and sauce
Speghetti


Dinners
Friend's wedding
Lasagna casserole (from the freezer)
Pork chops
Italian chicken (from the freezer)
Breakfast for dinner
Chicken and noodles (from the freezer)
Build your own haystacks 
Beans and rice
Hamburgers
Crispy chicken wraps
Crockpot chicken tacos
Pizza x2
Roast

May 22, 2012

Homemade yogurt

I recently decided that I wanted to take a shot at homemade yogurt. Both of my kids absolutely love yogurt, but I have two issues with the store bought kind:

1. It is pricey even when you buy the store brand!
2. I can never find one that is both non-fat and doesn't have sweetener in it for the kids, so I either end up compromising and choosing a non-fat one (which I hate because I want them getting the milkfat for their little brain growth!) or buying a more expensive brand (which I hate- duh).

I heard awhile back that you can make yogurt in the crockpot and decided that it was high time I tried it. And you know what???? I am so mad I didn't try this earlier! This is probably one of the EASIEST things I have ever made. Period! And it is so tasty! Jameson is still getting accostomed to the thinner texture, so I want to try some ideas to thicken it, but here is what I did. I got the recipe from this site.


What you need:
  • A crockpot
  • A bath towel
  • One half gallon of milk (they recommend starting with whole milk since 2% or skim will be thinner. I plan to try these out once I get the hang of the thickening agents)
  • 1/2 cup plain, active culture yogurt (this is just the starter. After you make your first batch you can use your own yogurt as starter! There is also a starter available at health food stores, though I have never tried this method).
  • That's it!

 Now, before you get started, this involves almost no work, but a lot of time. You will want to start this about 5 1/2 hours before bedtime or first thing in the morning. If you do it at night it will be finished the next morning. But you will only work on it a total of MAYBE five minutes!


First, pour the entire half gallon in your crockpot (PS- mine isn't dirty- promise! Just stained from being much used!!!)

Turn on low and let cook for 2 1/2 hours. 


After 2 1/2 hour has passed, unplug the crockpot and leave sitting for 3 additional hours. This allows the milk to cool to a temperature that will not kill the active cultures in the yogurt.


Next, pull 2 cups of the warm milk from the crockpot and put in a bowl. Add the 1/2 cup yogurt into the milk and mix well.


Pour the milk/yogurt mixture back into the crockpot and stir well.


Put the lid back on the crockpot and wrap in a bath towel. Sit in a spot where it will be as undisturbed as possible. Let sit for 8 hours, or overnight. If it sits for over 8 hours, it won't be a huge issue, it will just be a tangier yogurt.


The next morning, open your crockpot and be astonished at your thickened yogurt! 


You can choose to flavor it now or with each serving. This time I made one cup that I premixed with the honey just to experiment! Honey is a great sweetener for it, but you can also do fruit or flavorings. I also have seen suggestions of jam or jello mix, but I haven't tried these personally.


This was the result! Two 32 oz containers plus about a cup leftover. These two containers of yogurt would have cost me $1.79 each from the store. Because I used yogurt from my previous batch for a starter, I don't really count that in the cost, so my only cost was the $1.00 for the milk! Even if you don't get lucky and find some marked down milk, it will cost you about $1.99 (in my area, anyway), which is still almost half the price for much tastier yogurt!

Enjoy!!!

May 21, 2012

Shopping trips- Target, Rays, and Aldi

I thought I would go ahead and get these posted since I am not always so good at getting stuff posted in time. Plus, I figured that if I post them now you would still have time to get some of this before some of the sales wrap up!

I actually hit up each of these shops this morning while I was killing time in between a dentist and eye doctor's appointment (yes, I had a very medical morning! I wanted to get both in on the same day so I only had to worry about getting a sitter once!)

Ray's


Bananas: $.29/lb (on sale all week with no limit!)
Milk: Each marked down to $1.00 (I plan to use a few of these for the homemade yogurt I will (hopefully) blog about soon!

Aldi 


Pineapple: $1.29
Strawberries: $.99

Target



Glow bracelets: $1.00 (These were fabulous last summer on the fourth of July to keep the kids entertained while we waited for fireworks).
Three boxes of pasta: On sale for $1.00 each, had a $1.00/3 Target coupon= $2.00 for all three
2 bottles of  bug spray: $4.29 each (normal price), had 2 $2/1 Target coupon (no longer available) and a $1.00/1 manufacturer's coupon= $1.29 each (note: Bug spray is something that, assuming you don't use a ton each summer, you can get by with NEVER paying full price for!)