Tomorrow My Baby Turns One

This past year has maybe been one of the hardest years ever. Anyone who looks at you with a straight face and says two kids is twice as hard has never had two kids. It’s more than twice as hard. 

This year I have been pulled and stretched and softened by the gift of motherhood. This year I have learned more about myself than maybe in all the previous years combined. And this year, I got to watch my daughters grow up together. 

Holly is three, and tomorrow Melody will be one. She is a cuddle monster who loves laughing, exploring, and her sister. She doesn’t care for toys, because people are far more entertaining, and she watches everything you do with her crystal blue eyes. She can say “mama,” but saves it for when she’s really upset. No matter where she is in the house, she’s the first one to greet her daddy at the front door. 

She gets into everything. From dirt in the dustpan to spices in the pantry, to the toilet (I know. Eww…), she loves being part of the world around her. Smelling and touching and yelling and tasting and listening and moving. She loves to share, and she doesn’t understand why sometimes her big sister doesn’t share that love. 

But they love each other with a ferocity that astounds me. They have a built in best friend, a partner in crime, and as they’ve gotten older together they’ve definitely become partners. Some days I want to pull my hair out, and some days I feel like I have the easiest job in the world.

Melody loves snuggles and flying like a superhero. Melody loves reading (and chewing on) books, and dancing to music. Melody loves eating crayons and curry. Melody loves. And she teaches me more about love every single day. 

I can’t believe I’ve been blessed and entrusted with the honor of raising both her and her sister. Most days I feel like I’m failing, but then I see them love each other well and my heart swells all over again. 

I remember being so nervous that I wouldn’t know how to love her as much as I loved Holly. But it was so easy to fall in love with her. 

Photo by Tif Holmes

Love, as it turns out, isn’t a finite resource. It is as vast and deep as you need it to be, exactly when you need it to be. 

Tomorrow my baby turns one. And she is so very loved.

Photo by Tif Holmes

The Best Fall Freezer Meals

With the end of summer quickly approaching, I’m getting the itch to make some more freezer meals. After doing these for about a year, I know this is the best way for us to not go over budget, to make sure we eat healthy, and to introduce my kids to a wide variety of foods. 

After doing a month trying to spend as little as possible, I believe even more strongly in freezer meals for our family. Because there are some days where cooking is the last thing I want to do. Even as much as I enjoy cooking, there are some days we are just too busy/too tired to stand in the kitchen for an hour making dinner. On those nights, we have a few options: eat PB&J (which isn’t Dustin’s favorite), go out to eat (which isn’t our budget’s favorite), or pop some twice baked potatoes in the oven and make a quick salad/side. That means 5 minutes active cooking time, tops. That means our budget is saved. That means I go to bed without feeling guilty about eating.

In a few weeks, I’m planning out a big freezer cooking day. Dustin can hang with the kiddos as I cut and slice and dump and wrap and roll up some tasty meals for the months to come. Until then, I’ll continue emptying our freezer/pantry trying to use up everything we have left so we can start the season off right.

Chicken Noodle Soup. I made this one a few weeks ago, and was skeptical. Last year I wasn’t a fan of soups as freezer meals, because I was breastfeeding a newborn, and soup is hard to eat with one hand without scalding your newborn’s head. But we made this after everyone had the sick a few weeks ago and then tried it last week and OMGoodness YUM. Both kids had two helpings. And it was really easy to make. Winner winner, chicken soup for dinner. I need to make more of these. They are that good. 

Raw chicken photos are *super* appetizing, I know. But We eat this so fast I haven’t gotten to take a cooked picture yet!

Sausage Balls. Lots of people like these for football games, but served with some broccoli and a side salad, these make a delicious meal, too. And they are SO easy to make, I like to do 2-3 batches at a time. Get my hands all sausage-y once, and then bag up about 15 at a time. That’s more than enough for us for a dinner plus sides, which means about 20 minutes of active time makes about 8-10 meals worth. 

Twice baked potatoes. I cannot tell you enough how much these are worth it. You have to have your oven on for a while, because you bake the potatoes (twice), but then you bag em up, and you’ve got several meals worth of potatoes. I like to make these to trick myself into thinking I’m eating a lot of meat, when I’m really not. 

Taquitos. So, apparently I am notorious for over stuffing these, so my husband said they are actually “flautas” but I call them taquitos, and they’re tasty either way. I add cilantro, lime, green chilies, and pepper jack cheese to the chicken and cream cheese, and they are so good for lunch with the kids. Pair them with rice and beans, and you’ve got yourself a dinner fit for a fiesta.

White Chocolate Cranberry Cookies. We made these last year and they were awesome to have on hand. Portion control (because I can/will eat a whole pan of these if left to my own devices), they froze perfectly, and made me very happy when I was in my postpartum fog. 

Pizza Sauce. Budget Bytes pizza sauce continues to be my hands down favorite, and I found a huge thing of crushed tomatoes at CostCo for nothing. Thirty minutes of simmer time is going to give us plenty of pizza sauce for a quick alternative to delivery pizza which, let’s be real, isn’t all that good compared to the kind we make at home anyway.

Chili. Nothing says Fall quite like chili. Some people put chili in the freezer cooked so that they only have to nuke it and eat it, some people put it in the freezer uncooked. Me? I do a little of both.

Pumpkin purée. I love the smell of pumpkins roasting in the oven, and love knowing I’ll be able to have pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin pie shakes, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin butter, and all the other pumpkin perfection I want. Sure, I also use canned, but there’s just something magical about the homemade kind. Seriously. 

Apple sauce. I cannot wait to go to the apple picking festival later this month to get us some apples. I’ll make a freezer ready apple pie or two, some yummy apple butter, and then homemade roasted apple sauce. Because it makes your house smell amazing (and you don’t have to peel them, which means all that extra fiber in the skin isn’t wasted).

What are your favorite go to Fall meals? Think any of them can be frozen? When I get ready to do my freezer cooking day, I’m thinking about live cooking on Instagram and/or Facebook, so make sure you follow me on one/both of those pages. Yay! Can’t wait to cook with you!


Why I Stopped Making Heart Art

If you look at the top right corner of my blog, you’ll notice that I haven’t added September to my 365 Heart challenge. Or finished August. After quite a bit of soul searching, I have decided to start a new 365 Art Project in a few months, after I’ve had time to REALLY explore what I want out of it. Just to say I’ve done it isn’t really enough for me. Here are a few of the many reasons I’ve decided to stop for now and try again in a few months.

  1. I jumped in too quickly, and didn’t have real rules. I mean, yeah. I wrote a whole post on the rules that I was definitely going to follow, but then I immediately began editing the rules to suit me. I knew I would change some of them, or clarify them a little as time went on, but I edited the original rule post after three days. 
  2. The last few weeks, I was cheating my posts. A lot. I would do about a weeks worth at a time and then post them all at once, giving myself the excuse that I was really busy and this way worked better for me. In reality, I would make several days worth of posts to get caught back up, and then feel completely drained. I was expending so much energy fretting about not making posts that were interesting enough and then days would go by and I’d have to create four posts just to get caught up. That’s not make something 365, that’s make seven somethings once a week. 
  3. I got a little busy (read: lazy). I mean, I really did get busy, but not THAT busy. I just told myself I was, because saying “Hey! You’re spending too much time evolving Pidgeys!” Just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
  4. I said yes to too many things. I like to have a project. It keeps me motivated. But I’m doing 101 in 1001, was doing a pseudo no spend month, was working on other projects, was still trying to write blog posts, and still be a mom and a wife and do preschool homeschool and keep my house relatively neat. AND do the heart art. I had to let a few things go last month to get caught back up, and to fill my well enough to WANT to do projects again. I say yes to things too much, and the person I say “yes” to complicated crazy ideas the most often is ME. Quit that, me!
  5. My personal life complicated things. I’m not going to go into it too much (maybe one day), because a lot of what happened isn’t my story to tell, but this month things surrounding my community got crazy, and not in a good way. Suddenly sketching a Pikachu heart or other lighthearted hearts just didn’t feel right. There were days when I made heart art and hated myself, because I was trying to be discreet. Drawing tiny paper hearts felt irrelevant and flippant, and so I stopped.

But I wouldn’t call this attempt a failure, not at all! I learned so many cool techniques, had a lot of fun, and grew as an artist (after a few months of drawing a heart, some of those pieces didn’t look half bad. And some of them were still a hot mess). 

I thought about taking my abandoned project down, but then I thought no. It is okay to try something and not succeed. What is NOT okay is to stop trying. So my heart art remains as a reminder that it’s okay to try and try and try. So I will try again, in a few months. Until then, peruse the gallery, enjoy the ups and downs, and whatever your personal heart art project is, don’t stop trying. 


The New Normal

Summer is basically over. I mean, sure the heat will linger until November out here, but the season, the feeling of summer? It’s long gone. So what now? Summer as I get older means different things. It’s a time to relax, to loosen the schedule and routine (and then CRAVE it again because my stars and garters is there anything scarier than a toddler without a routine?). To go on adventures, to spend time outside. To smell like sunscreen and sweat and chlorine. 

I am excited for this season to end, just as I was excited to see it arrive. I am ready for Fall. I am ready for back-to-school sales and quieter playgrounds and crisper air and earlier sunsets. I am ready for pumpkin spice everything and changing leaves and (for us) quieter days. I am ready for routine.

But this year is going to be different. For lots of reasons. We’re going to start using a morning basket, and working on our lowercase alphabet with Holly. Melody gets lots of snuggles, lots of reading time, and lots of practice walking and playing. I am getting back to playing the piano, and am starting to get regular writing days, thanks to my sweet husband who knows I need this as much as I like doing this. After over a year of regular blogging, I start getting antsy when I don’t have a regular writing time. 

And I am NERVOUS about not having that writing time every day. I am nervous about beginning to try out homeschooling with a baby and a pre-schooler. I am nervous about potty training and making sure both kids are on the growth chart and that they are learning enough and eating enough of the right things. I am nervous about making sure they get enough play time and that they get enough snuggle time. I am nervous that I’m too scheduled and then too flexible. I live my life now in a state of mom nerves. 

I am doing my best. My opinions and my methods sometimes shift as I learn something new, but I am always doing my best.

I am sitting at the park watching the kids play with Dustin on the playground. I am drawing up the schedule we will try to follow next week, knowing it will change. I am giving myself grace to admit that I enjoy spending time writing and planning, and that I need the routine as much as the kids do, even though I know that the plans I make will definitely change. I am watching my daughter go down the slide and thinking about a season not too long ago when she was scared to go near the slide.

I am embracing our new normal. Goodbye summer. Hello school. Hello changes. Hello normal.


Five Favorite Money Saving Apps

One of my favorite money-saving tricks is to passively earn money for stuff I already do. While I’m definitely not getting rich using these apps, I’ve earned enough over the past six months to feel like these money-earning apps are worth my time, and maybe yours too.

(Disclaimer: We both earn a little something extra if you sign up with my referral links below. My reviews of these apps, however, have *nothing* to do with that bonus, though.)

  1. Swagbucks– I probably look up about 30 things a day, and by putting my Swagbucks app where I can see it, I occasionally win Swagbucks, just by searching for things I’m already looking up. I can also use the app to take short surveys and watch videos to earn extra, but just using the app for searches gets me plenty of gift cards. I usually trade them in on Amazon, but they have tons of options available. AND I hold out for the $25 card. It’s less expensive than getting the $3 cards, even though it takes longer. Swagbucks is one of my most reliable ways to earn a little extra. Last year, we got almost all the girls Christmas presents through Swagbucks, and the year before, we got EVERYONE’S gift off Amazon, courtesy of my Swagbucks gift cards. They add up fast.
  2. Ibotta– Last year I wrote all about how to save money on groceries and I mentioned Ibotta several times. But for a good reason. They send me cash a few times a year, just for buying things I’m already going to buy! With their generic products, I regularly earn a dollar or more back, and then I get extra for participating in challenges with my team and buying non-generic products. My favorite way to save is to combine my Ibotta app with coupons… I’m not a big coupon clipper, but I’ve gotten things free+ money back several times. And who can beat being paid to shop, amirite? 
  3. Shopkick– Oh man. This app is so much fun. It turns shopping into a scavenger hunt, and oftentimes just walking in the store gives you a bonus. I love shopkick and how quickly I’ve been able to earn rewards on it. And with the holiday shopping season right around the corner (stop it. It’s August.), I know they will roll out some extra special offers. They did last year! We regularly go walking through our mall, and Target is my BFF. Sometimes, if I just need to get out of the house, we go on shopkick scavenger hunts through Target/Walmart. As long as I leave my debit card at home, it’s a funny way to earn a little extra. I’m saving up for a BIG Target gift card, which will make Christmas shopping for the kids this year extra fun.
  4. Reciept Hog– I’ve only had this one a few months, and it’s quickly becoming a fast favorite. Upload any reciept (grocery, clothing, school supplies, restaurant, etc.) and earn points for Amazon or Paypal. The longer you wait to cash out, the better, so I haven’t cashed in yet, but I’m well on my way! Plus, that little pig is adorable. I can’t stand how cute it is.
  5. Walgreens Rewards– Got a Walgreens reward account? Got a fitness tracker (I have a Fitbit, and I love it!)? Then connect them and walk your way towards a little extra money in your pocket. I earned $10 in about 3 months, just by walking, something I was definitely doing already. I used my first gift card to help stock up my Ultimate Sick Day kit.

These are my five favorites, but I know there are more out there. Anything you use and love? I want to know about it! Every little bit helps, and while these apps aren’t going to make you rich, it’s fun getting a little extra cash in your pocket without too much extra effort. Feels like free money. 🙂

***So I am sure you noticed that some of these suggestions are affiliate links. I only recommend stuff I actually use and enjoy, and signing up with my link means we BOTH get a bonus, which means we both get free money even faster. Isn’t that neat? So sign up for one (or all!) of these links. Time to start saving for Christmas now, so it doesn’t sneak up on you! Thanks for helping support Morning Goodies (and Santa!)***