Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Making a Change: 28th Day Check-In

So... It has been 28 days since I set my goal to kick my old habit (overly controlling of everything in my life) an form a new habit. If you are behind on this, read my original post here

Before I give you an official update, I wanted to mention that shortly after deciding to make this change, I saw a commercial for Esurance considering the idea of a control freak actually being more of a control enthusiast. Ehhh, why didn't I think of that?!?! Instead of changing, I could just reframe how I am in the most positive light! 

Okay, that's now how this story goes!

Becoming less controlling is much easier said than done. I have taken a few steps forward only to land myself a few steps back. The main point is that I am growing and changing! I just need time and patience. Thankfully, my family gives me both.

After completing this challenging activity with the husband, we redefined our household duties. I gladly gave up having the hubby pack his own breakfast and lunch each day for work as it gave me some extra sleep time each morning (which I desperately need). 

The other day, I texted my husband this picture (isn't she a doll):

My text to him said: "Loving my lunch date! Eating a PB&J sandwich, frozen fruit, and pudding cup." I proceeded to ask what he had packed that day only to learn he took a pudding cup. Yes, just a pudding cup. Now that isn't enough for him to eat, nor is that the healthiest option. *As a side note, this isn't acheap lunch   option either and is a special tees in our house (I bought clearances out). Read more about our financial situation here.

Needless to say, I grabbed our daughter and ran a sandwich to him. He is still packing his lunches but I am paying much more attention to what he is packing!

I am focusing mostly on letting thugs around our house be a bit messier than I would like them to. As I get overwhelmed with the piling dust, unwashed dishes, and hear laundry beckoning I start the washer, I tell myself, "these will get done... eventually. For now, I am ______." I take several deep breathes and focus myself to whatever I was doing.

It's getting easier and easier everyday! I find that I am less stressed when I am not constantly running like an energizer bunny and making a gazillion lists to cross off! 

How are you doing with your goal(s)?

Monday, November 25, 2013

Saving Money on Holiday Gift Shopping

It's that time of year again! Oh yes, the time of year filled with cold weather, snow (maybe), family, friends, music, hot chocolate, stories, love, and laughter. Oh yeah, I can't forget to add PRESENTS. 

For those of us who wait last minute for holiday shopping or go on Black Friday, shopping can be an overwhelming, costly, and crowded experience! For those of you who are following me as my family reaches our goal of becoming debt-free (catch up HERE if you missed that), I thought I would share some tips we use each year:

1. Budget for gifts.

Be honest. How much can you really afford? Then, spend no more than that amount.

2. Plan ahead.

I budget for holiday gifts in both November and December (we don't start any earlier than that). Each month we have allocated $30 for gifts, including baby shower gifts, birthdays, weddings, graduations, and miscellaneous events. For November, we were able to budget $300. Total! I have only spent a fraction of that so far and the month is almost over.

3. Make a list.

Who are you buying gifts for? Write everyone down. This may seem silly, but with our families, who we buy gifts for generally depends on which side of the family we will be with that year. It is also easy to forget that a coworker or friend may stop by with a little something for you and you will want to reciprocate.

4. Keep a running gift list.

Have you ever noticed the one(s) closest to you are the hardest to buy gifts for?!?! That was my problem. Then, I would impulse buy items at the last second hoping they would love them because I spent buckoo bucks on them. It doesn't have to be that way.

I am guessing these individuals are the loved ones that you love dearly and spent as much time as possible with. Start a secret list (I have a hidden Excel sheet) and keep it updated throughout the year of items they like and would want. 

For instance, during summer a few years ago, my husband nonchalantly mentioned that a fish finder for his boat would be cool. I added that to the list and bought it 6 months later just in time for Christmas. He loved it! 

5. Do your research.

This is especially important for expensive items. Know how much they should cost, if there are better brands, and how to know you are getting a good deal. I typically start with asking others for more information. I then use the Internet to educate myself on the products. Then, I look at the biggest retailers for that item and compare prices.

Also, always check for coupons. Even saving a few dollars is money saved!

6. Make a gift or 2.

For any of you who are rolling you eyes and saying "I am not creative" as you read this, I disagree. I believe everyone has a creative side. You just have to become inspired and create a vision and plan for what you want. Use Pinterest and Etsy to give you ideas. There is nothing wrong wth recreating an idea based on someone else's masterpiece.

7. Can you buy pre-loved?

In many instances, the answer here may be "no." Those times where the answer is "yes," you will most likely get the best deal. In our house, toys would be one on this list (like a play kitchen, wagon, or sleds). My child is too young to know the difference or care. In fact, she will most likely be more interested in the wrapping paper than the gift itself.
8. Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Okay, I am the first to admit that I LOVE the rush of all the people on Black Friday! I go every year just for people watching. Okay, you caught me, I shop occasionally as well.

Only buy during these times if you are 100% sure you are getting a steal of a deal. This goes back to researching the product and knowing your stuff!

9. Keep in mind Black Friday, Cyber Monday, ads, and the general gift-giving spirit can persuade you to spend WAY more MONEY than originally planned.

Again, make a budget. Stick to that budget. The overall atmosphere of the holidays can easily pull you into a web of buy, buy, buy. Don't fall for that trick. Really, what is Christmas all about?!?! As a Christian, it isn't about me. It is about the birth of our lord, Jesus Christ. 

10. Realize the best gift you can ever give, is your time.

As I lost my grandparents many years ago, I can honestly say I don't recall a single present they gave me. Although, I know they had given me tons over the years, nothing is jumping out at me now in this moment. What I do remember is the relationship I had with them. They challenged me, loved me, accepted me and, most importantly, let me do the same for them. 

So, take full advantage of this holiday season and spend time with your loved ones! Thank God for the day you are given! I promise you, you are more concerned about the gift you are giving than the person receiving the gift is.

Have a happy holiday season everyone!

What shopping tips do you have?!?!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Birthday Gifts for the Hubby

So the hubby turned 29 this month! Wowza, does that still seem old to me. Okay, I have a much harder time with birthdays than he does! Next year (the Big 3-0 for him) will be killer for me, good thing I don't turn that number for a few more years!

This is his first year with a child so I wanted to get him a gift from his family (2 dogs, daughter, and me) and a personal gift from just me.

Both gifts were ideas fueled by Pinterest and Etsy. Being frugal like I am, I decided to buy one and make the other myself.

This first gift was only from me. I wanted to give my husband a reminder of my love for him. I truly believe the best thing we can do for our daughter is love each other and lead by example the work and effort it takes to make a good marriage work. This little gem was purchased here and says:

To my husband, my love, and my best friend: This is ou happily ever after. thank you for choosing me. You are a great father and provider. Kelly P.S. I love you

The next gift is much less serious and much more fun! It's yard Yahtzee or Yardzee as our household is calling it! I enlisted my brother, a Rockstar at woodworking, to take scrap wood and make 3.5 x 3.5 inch cubes. He then made them to look like dice for me.

I was able to find some Yahtzee scorecards enlarged to fit a sheet of paper. I printed them and then laminated them (lamination paper came from Office Max for less than $4).

The weather has been too cold to play this game outside yet, but that didn't stop us! We played this game on the floor in our basement. We used an empty beer box to shake the dice. Yep, we are that classy!

I must not forget to mention that we started my husbands day off with a Dairy Queen ice cream cupcake... Now life doesn't get better than this:

Happy Birthday to my Hubby! Thanks for letting me enjoy another year with you! I can't wait to see how you finish out your 20's!

What gifts have been you favorite to give/receive this year?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Breastfeeding? Why you should cloth diaper for at least the first 6 months…

If you are choosing to diaper your child in disposables, that is fine. If you are at all hoping to breastfeed, I would like to share with you why you may want to consider cloth diapering for the first 6 months of your child’s life. 
Essentially breast fed (EBF) baby’s poop is water soluble. That’s right, WATER SOLUBLE! That means, you will do the same thing with a disposable diaper as a cloth diaper (toss in a trash can, generally known as a wet bag), except you will throw the cloth diapers in the laundry every couple (2-3) days. In terms of cloth diapering, this is as easy as it gets. No scraping the poop, rinsing the diapers, dealing with examining the dipes, you just toss and wash!

Let’s crunch some numbers, considering one would only cloth diaper for 6 months. Why 6 months? Well, at 6 months, you may be starting solid foods and then cloth diapering becomes a whole new ball ground. It isn’t as bad as I am making it sound, but the poop isn’t as easy to deal with.


Going by the Oh Katy website (my diapers are not Oh Katy), they recommend 12-24 diapers for a newborn. Since I am on the Oh Katy website, I will stick with their brand for examining the costs. I will consider using pockets (there are many kinds of cloth diapers out there, read more about my personal experiences here). The cheapest way to cloth diaper is to buy used (check Craigslist, Facebook cloth diapering groups, etc.) or at the very least on sale (most brands have frequent sales). I would recommend buying used.

Oh Katy set of 24 diapers (with inserts): $16 each for a total of: $384

Using disposables for 6 months: estimated cost here is $60-85/month, depending on the brand you use and how often you change (we changed much more frequently in the beginning than we do now, once your little one regulates it gets easier). We will go half-way at $67.50/month. 

Grand total for disposables for 6 months: $405

**Difference: $21

Wait, wait! Before you say that saving $21 isn’t worth it, let me mention you would save even more! Cloth diapers hold their value very well and, after 6 months, you could then switch to your preferred diapers (either continue with cloth or use disposables) and sell your cloth diapers! Who can say they did that with disposables?!?!?

So let’s say you resell your 24 diapers (with inserts) for 50% what you paid: $192

***Difference: $213 in 6 months

Now, that is a little bigger chunk of change and would be worth it for me!

Is that difference worth it to you?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


As a new mom, I am quickly learning that we are provided with millions of moments to
feel guilty! Those feelings can also be linked to "I am just not good enough." 
These nasty thoughts sneak right on in at any available opportunity. During mornings when I am not quite ready for my child to get up, but she is. When I am multitasking and realize I lost a special moment of playtime with my daughter. As I workout and grocery shop after my baby's bedtime only to realize my husband and I could have used that time to reconnect. During a chocolate feast (I do love chocolate) only to recount its been days since you worked out long enough to earn this many extra calories!
Let's face it, raising a family is challenging. You are pulled so many different directions; you begin to feel like you can never win. I have had those days, too.
If you are anything like me, these moments of negativity spread like wildfire to all aspects of my life! I lose my positive perspective and let myself mentally degrade who I am and my downfalls. I have to squash these thoughts as soon as they enter my mind or it becomes disastrous.
God gives us the ups and downs in life for a reason! We can learn from them as we learn to manage and redirect our thoughts and feelings!
I remind myself to think about how I am just having a bad day, not a bad life! Truth be told, I Love my life (with a capital L). Being a mommy and wife is a pretty sweet gig! So, I take a moment to focus on the positives and thank God for the day I have been given.
So move over negative thoughts! Bring on more precious moments with my family as I balance day-to-day duties of running a household, working, and taking care of myself!
How do you manage your feelings of "not good enough?"

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Power of Facebook... and other Social Media Networking Sites

As I was speaking with a friend today, we started discussing Facebook. She mentioned to me a mutual friend of ours and how PERFECT her life looked. At the time, I agreed. It wasn't until my drive home that I started to think about the realty of social media sites.
You choose to be ANYONE you want
You are able to choose what pieces of your life you expose to the world.
For example, we all market ourselves on Facebook in ways that match how we want others to perceive us. For instance, think of someone you know that puts tons of information that you know isn't true. Like that person always making a big deal about how they love being a parent and you happen to know they are rarely with their child. Yeah, that gets under my skin, too.
You get a choice everyday of what information you want exposed on social media sites!
Facebook is not good when you are feeling sad, depressed, and/ or down in the dumps
Hop on Facebook at any time and you can see how amazing everyone else's lives are. This can also help you amplify how cruddy your life is and provide a constant reminder of what you are missing.
The good thing about Facebook is it can keep you connected to other people that you rarely see! Keep in mind though, social media sites don't make up for that need to touch (hug, hold, kiss) others that we all share as human beings. Nor does it always facilitate that deeper connection that we all desire periodically.
So put down the phone and let the computer sleep (it deserves a rest I am sure) and go live life for a minute without social media sites involved!

What do you think you will miss?!?!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Managing Good Self-Care for Yourself- It IS POSSIBLE with an infant

When you have a newborn, you find yourself stuck in a tunnel where you think you will NEVER have time for your own priorities again. An infant has needs. all. the. time. You live on their schedule and their schedule only. Rest assured though, you can still MUST take care of yourself. As a caregiver, you will be the most effective caring for your little one’s needs when your needs are met, too. Here are some tips:

1.   Plan to take care of yourself.

Make sure you know what your current needs are (I need a shower, I need a nap, I need exercise to feel good about myself, you get it). Then, make those needs clear to those around you and ask them for help! Keep in mind, asking goes over much better than telling. BUT, make sure your needs (within reason) are getting met!

2.   Realize you are not alone.

First, you are not the only mother to have ever felt this way! Keep that in mind!

Who are the ones that are there to help you? Write their names down! Sometimes, just seeing a list of those who support you can help you to relax and calm down. Use their help! For me, I always feel guilty when I leave my little one, even for a quick grocery store trip. Learning to be apart, even for short periods of time, is not only good for you but also for your child. 

3. You just had a shock to the system.

Giving birth (no matter how you do it), meeting your child for the first time, entertaining family/friends, and adjusting to a newborn all while caring for a newborn creates a shock to the system! Cut yourself some slack, you aren’t perfect but you ARE doing the best you can.

4.  Sleep is a good thing.

This is common sense, I think?!?! Actually sleeping is much trickier to do in this situation. Babies have their own schedule and pay little to no attention to the social norms of day/night schedules. 

If you are like me, when you do get a window to sleep, you will have trouble shutting your mind down. List after list will be created during quiet, free moments. If you are like my husband, you will get so used to a “stay awake always” routine that you can’t fall asleep. 

I must say that getting some extra sleep makes a huge difference. If someone is willing to get up with your little for one night, TAKE it! Even if you end up getting up, like I typically did, I found that I slept so much better just knowing everything didn’t fall on my shoulders! So go lay down with your hubby for a bit, even just a “rest” can help you feel better prepared to take on that next diaper change!

6.   Calming/Coping strategies are a MUST! 

Think about and write down what calms you down (exercise, walks, breathing exercise, baths, anything and everything). Go ahead, I will wait. 

Now, do those things! Not just one time, make it a habit!
Realize that the way you do those things now may look much differently than the way you did them before baby. For instance, I used to run and work out majority of the week (5-6 times each week). I could have worked out at any time but I almost always ran/walked in the evenings shortly after dinner. Now, that is baby’s bedtime and would never work. I am not a morning person. I also can no longer take leisurely hour walks. So I find compromises… I walk about 40 minutes with the dogs 1-2 times/week before I get my little one from daycare. This is best because the weather in our area isn’t always suitable for being outside with a baby. I also run or use my elliptical about 1x per week; although for much shorter periods than before, I am still satisfied to get a workout in!

7.  Change Environments Regularly.

This may seem like a no-brainer, but I can tell you that it becomes way too easy to NOT leave the house. Travelling with a little one is so hard because so much pre-planning (diaper bag, diapers, bottles or breastfeeding stuff, pacifiers, weather appropriate outfits and blankets, etc) is now involved. I found myself only leaving the house for doctor’s appointments, which was still only 2-4 times a month. 2-4 times A MONTH! That is not very often. 

I don’t particularly love all the prep work that goes into getting into a vehicle with a little one so I found that walks worked best for me. Some days though, I just sat outside (while the little one was napping if it was too cold for her) and listened to music or showed our baby the world. That was just enough change in environment for me!

8.  Take care of yourself.

Are you getting this gist throughout this whole post?!?!? You have to take care of yourself in order to benefit your relationship with your spouse! Make sure you know what your current needs are (I need a shower, I need a nap, you get it). Then, make those needs clear to those around you and ask them for help! Keep in mind, asking goes over much better than telling. BUT, make sure your needs (within reason) are getting met!

9.  Find good family moments.

In the chaos of all the emotions you and your hubby will be feeling, there are soooo many GOOD moments! Take time to note these special moments. For me, the best moments were when we were all (my husband, dogs, baby, and I) together having tummy time with baby on the floor. Such sweet moments! Enjoy those moments wholeheartedly. DON’T think about anything else. Just focus on these special times.

10. Remember those family moments frequently.

See 9. Keep those moments in your mind all the time! Think about them constantly! It will keep you in a positive mindset. Also, make sure you enjoy all aspects of baby time; I already miss some of those moments that have changed. For instance, now that I have been sleeping at night again for about 2 months, I do miss those quiet moments of rocking my baby in the middle of the night.
11.   “This too shall pass.”

Sometimes, I have had to learn this lesson over and over again. As my little one changes, I learn to balance the joys with the challenges. During challenging moments, remind yourself this stage will not last forever. In fact, the stage may be over and done with before you learn to manage the issue. The first time I learned this lesson the hard way, my child was falling asleep every time she was put into the swing, bouncer… well anything that moved or vibrated her. I felt guilty that I was letting her sleep so much and was concerned she would think that was the only purpose these items served. Boy, was I WRONG! 2 months later, after worrisome nights about this issue, I can’t for the life of me get her to sleep in one of those toys now! The problems you face today may not even be an issue tomorrow.

12. Stay Positive and Laugh!
This can be hard to do when you are tired and/or frustrated. Seriously though, can’t you think of one thing that you could say that is nice? Maybe just think of the many things you appreciate in life. What about your child? There has to be oodles of positive things to say! Negativity easily puts us all in a funk. It happens, too easily, but it doesn’t have to be that way!

Commit yourself to staying in a positive mindset. It definitely makes all the difference, I promise! Lastly, laugh at yourself! I can't be the only one that has ended up with baby poop all over me!
What advice do you have that I didn’t think to add?

Professional Photos: Saving MONEY

Everybody loves a good picture, right?!?!? With the holiday season quickly approaching us, we are probably all preparing for (or at least contemplating) family photos. I love receiving holiday cards in the mail with everyone’s best pictures! Unfortunately, hiring photographers can get pricey very quickly. I wanted to share with you how my household keeps that cost under budget.
Let me start by saying that, for my household at least, formal photos aren’t saved just for holiday cards. With a newborn, in a span of 6 months, we have wanted at least 4 different periods of professional photos (maternity, newborn, 3 months, 6 months). Add in a family photo session for our Christmas cards and we are talking 5 times we could have worked with a photographer!
The first issue I seem to run into is that I always seem to have a friend (or a friend of a friend) that is always telling us they would like to do our photos. Maybe it is just my luck, but those individuals seem to be outrageously expensive in comparison to other photographers. I do try to rotate them in, but I don’t feel I have to commit to the same person every time!

Here is my biggest money saving tip: Do them yourself! Here are a few of mine (all done by me, with assistance from the hubby):

We have a camcorder (purchased a few years ago) that can take pictures. I use this. I then use editing programs (Instagram and/or InstaFrame) on my phone or on my computer (Paint) and then send those pictures to my photo developing sites (Shutterfly or Snapfish). It’s that easy! Okay, maybe not, but let me give you a few tips:

¨       Spend time thinking seriously about what you want the picture(s) to look like. Consider how many people (or animals) will be in the picture. Consider what background will look perfect.
¨       Research online pictures that are similar to what you are wanting. These will guide you as you take your photos.

¨       If you want a nature background, spend some time exploring local areas around you. Find a spot that inspires you!

¨       If you want a solid (indoor) background, look for materials you have around the house that can be used. For instance, I have used a solid, neutral wall, a Moby wrap to create a background, and a piece of treated wood (was being used for another project). 

¨       Look for additional materials that can add to your photo that you already have around your house. For instance, I have used a bucket for my child to sit in, a pumpkin for my child to sit in, Santa/elf’s hats, road signs, etc. The list is endless, just be a bit creative and open-minded!

¨       Take TONS of pictures on the day of. You will be surprised when pictures you didn’t think you would like turn out to be your favorite when you start editing (happens to me each and every time)!

¨       Be patient. Sometimes a do-it-yourself shoot will take a bit longer than a professional, it will get faster as you learn!

As I mentioned before, I do use other photographers, too, occasionally. I wanted to mention that as I am rotating photographers, I still focus on getting a bargain. Here is how I do that:
¨       Like the photographer’s page on Facebook or get email notifications and watch for specials. Compare those specials with locals in the area to make sure they are competitive. 

o   Register to win any special offerings they may have! I actually won a newborn photo shoot this way (valued at $175).

¨       Find Facebook groups that sell items in your area or look on Craigslist for specials new photographers are offering. Individuals just getting started normally have great deals! I had one that offered as many pictures that could be taken in 1 hour, with all photos edited and copyrights released, for $50! The great thing about going through Facebook is you can see their work BEFORE you commit!

How do you save money on professional photography pictures?

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