Thursday, November 14, 2013

I'm not dead, really.

Wow, blowing the dust off of this blog. Yikes!

It's been a busy year. I finished school-- I'm a Master. And a housewife. The kids started preschool and parents day out programs-- what a wild and welcomed change to our routine. Hubs has been traveling a bit more for work. And then just daily life with two kids and a house and trying to maintain a healthy marriage. Whew, I'm tired just thinking about it all.

That's why this couldn't be happening at a better time. I've been chosen to be on Crystal Paine's (Money Saving Mom) launch team for her upcoming release, Say Goodbye to Survival Mode: 9 Simple Strategies to Stress Less, Sleep More, and Restore Your Passion for Life.

Yes, please!

Stay tuned for more info about the book and our lives in general.

Up next: Disney World! First real family vacation, ever.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Gift Ideas for Kids

Here is a list of some of the kids' favorite Christmas presents from this year. Goose is 3 years od and Baby Boy is 1 year old so Christmas was wild this year. Lots of toys (read: way more than we need or have room for in our house) and lots of fun.

Goose's top 3:

LeapFrog Tag Reader -- she's our little insomniac and can use this to "read" to herself in bed after our father and I have already had our turns and read 1-3 books each. She loves feeling like a big girl. 

Brave! -- we've only watched this movie 8,000 times since Christmas. The kid is OBSESSED.

Disney Cinderella Castle Play Set -- And to think we didn't want to do the whole "princess thing"with Goose... How silly we were.

Baby Boy's top 3:

Guidecraft Rainbow Blocks 10 piece set -- At first I thought he may be a bit too old for them since he's used to playing with all of his sister's "big kid" toys, but these are perfect for our little dude. Tough and sturdy, but easy to stack and interesting. He loves to hold them up and look through the different colors. Funny little guy.

Pirate Ship Playhouse -- A favorite for both kids. They love to climb in, fill it with toys, and go in and out of the door. They've colored and stickered the sides and it has held up quite well so far. I could get their "auntie" for getting it for them (it's huge!) but they absolutely love it.

Little People Wheelies Loops 'n Swoops Amusement Park -- Again, a great toy for both kids. We finally got it put together this weekend and the kids loaded up their little Fisher-Price cars and watched them go. So much fun.

What were your kids' favorite gifts this year? What are some of your go-to gifts to give to kids?

Some of the products mentioned above contain affiliate links. I wouldn't spend the time to write the post if I didn't think the toys were worth sharing with you. If you happen to use the link to buy one, great, thanks! But just know that I'm sharing with you because I like the products, not to get a few pennies from sales of the products. 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

2012 Goals - Review

Since we're almost a week into 2013, I thought it was time to review 2012 goals. We didn't accomplish everything, but we made pretty good progress.

Monthly budget/financial progress meetings with J-bird -- This happened for a few months and then fizzled out. We got busy with my school, J's work, and life with two little kids.
Plan and realize another income stream -- didn't happen
Invest set amount in J-bird's Roth IRA (by end of January) -- done
Medical savings = $4,000 max out of pocket - $1,000 flex spending account balance = $3,000 -- didn't happen, but thankfully we didn't need it!
Emergency fund- hit set goal by May, it's 5 months of living at our current (with extras and savings) or 8 months of barebones living -- done!
Pay down balance on car loan -- woot! We're doing it and hope to have the car paid off in the next few months.
Fund kids' college savings-- $100 for each month of age for each kid by end of year -- totally didn't happen, but with grandparent gifts and a few deposits here and there, we're closer to the goal.

Emergency Preparedness Kit - assemble by March -- done!
Fence Repair - we decided to repair the hole in the fence for now (by June), and will replace the fence next year -- done! We had originally estimated $200 to repair it ourselves but realized how little time we have and paid professionals to do it in an afternoon for $400.
Trim Trees - we don't really want to spend money on it but it's a necessary part of homeownership (by March) -- done! $785 with a coupon
Paint Entry, Shoe Storage (February to April) -- done! Again, we paid someone to paint, especially the wall above the stairs, and it was done in an afternoon. Shoe storage from IKEA. Under $500.
We also opted to have the exterior (trim, doors, and shutters) painted professionally. It was worth every bit of the money we spent and will help to protect our home.

Potty train Goose -- done, done, done!
Build a new computer (J-bird) -- done and he's so happy with it.
Move Baby Boy to his own room - he's practically ready now -- done
Scrapbook the kids' lives (really just use up what supplies I have so I have more space at my desk) -- yeah, right. I had no time for anything in 2012. Maybe next year...?
Work on improving blog -- right... life is so much busier with 2 kids than we had imagined.

How did you do on your 2012 goals? Did you set goals for 2013? We're working on ours now and hope to have them finalized soon.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Pregnancy & Infant Loss Remembrance Day

Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Not a day that anyone wants to know about. If you've experienced a loss in any way, I'm sorry you had to go through it. It's not fair.

As we prepare for Baby Boy's 1st birthday celebration, I can't help but think about the pregnancy before him and what our family would be like if things had been different. Baby Boy was always supposed to be our child and be in our family. He is such a mellow little dude and definitely helps bring balance to our family. I was meant to be his mother, but I can't help think about the baby that came before him too.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Why We Do Birthdays Big

As I am in the midst of preparing for Baby Boy's first birthday (really not preparing like I should, just thinking now... ack!), I thought this article from Money Saving Mom was interesting and timely. The guest blogger shared that they only planned on throwing large parties for the 1st, 5th, 10th, and 16th birthdays for their children.

I'll admit I can go a little over the top and it can be stressful to prepare for birthday parties, but we've made it a point to have a big, somewhat ridiculous themed party each year for each kid. We determine a budget and come up with a theme and I spend a few months before the big day thinking of decorations and color schemes and food, and I make it work by shopping clearance bins, thinking outside the box, and decorating with lots of (cheap) colorful balloons.

Why do we do it like this? Am I a Martha wannabe, a Pinteresting mama? No, I'm not even on Pinterest and I get frustrated even looking at Martha tutorials online. Pretty but a bit too complicated for me most of the time.

We make it a priority to "do birthdays big" because we came so close to losing J-bird. And we were pregnant with a baby whose birthday we'll never celebrate. And we've experienced grief and loss through the death of friends and classmates. Early in our relationship, J-bird's roommate was killed in a terrible accident. His death greatly affected us both. So many years later, we still correspond with his mother and, with each note, we read a sentence or two that provides a painful glimpse into a deep, dark sadness. A mother without her only child. An unimaginable pain.

... "Do not regret growing older, it is a privilege denied to many."...

It all piles up after a while. All of the disappointment and resentment and fear and loss.

Life can just be hard and dark and sad sometimes.

[Wow, I can so quickly take a simple post about birthday celebrations and make it so sad and serious... Let me tell you, I've got a knack for it.]

Birthdays are big at our house because every year is a gift and cause for great celebration. Our children are wonderful, happy, bright lights. We like having a house full of people, people who love us and our children, to help us celebrate their wonderful lives, and we're more than willing to spend the money and do the work to make it happen.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Surprise, it's not as bad as I thought it'd be.

The anticipation and dread surrounding this semester were worse, so far, than reality. So thankful. The babies have been great and the time with just their dad has been good for all three of them. Classes are going well (minus one silly group project) and we're surviving. Just this semester and my final project and I'll be finished with grad school. Debt free, to boot.

But now my mind turns to, "What next?" I'll have a master's degree and still be a housewife. A very well educated housewife. I'm fine with that, but what about my husband? We've discussed when I'll return to work and I still can't make a decision about when (no time soon) or what I even want to do. I know my place is at home with my babies and I am thankful every day that I am able to do that financially and otherwise. J is just concerned that I will get bored or I won't be happy. School fills a void for me, provides validation, that I don't get from staying at home in sweats with two crazy kids. So what then?

I plan on reading. I've got a growing Amazon wish list of books that I add to as I read about them in magazines. Reading for me, not because it's on a syllabus.

I plan on scrapbooking. Goose's baby book is still not complete, and Baby Boy's... well, it's woefully empty. Sorry, baby. The second kid really does get the shaft. Speaking of, we have to print some pictures to hang before his first birthday. Our home is still a gallery of his sister.

I plan on organizing. Our house is disastrous and I want to really go through every room and donate/sell a lot of items. Keep what we love and toss the rest.

I plan on sleeping. Going to bed before 1 am would be awesome. Sleeping for more than 6 hours each night (on a good night) would also be great.

I plan on teaching. There are a number of learning activities I want to do with both kids. I just need some time to put them together.

I plan on trying to figure out how the next season of my life will look.