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Oh hey…

It’s been over a month since I posted here. And not for lack of trying! Everything from technical difficulties to stomach bugs and a self-care breakdown took precedence over the blog this month. Sometimes life demands that we take a step back and take care of ourselves, and this month was one of those months.

So instead of posting some of the things I’ve been thinking about posting (I’ve got some ideas for some posts for this next month, so maybe we’ll finally get back to some kind of schedule soon!), I thought I’d do a best of March post. Share some of the best things I’ve found, some of the lovely things that have happened, and other non-stomach bug related topics. So pass the Pedialyte, and let’s get started!

1) Contigo straw cups for kids. We’ve been searching for the best cup to take in the car since Holly learned to drink out of a cup, and y’all. I think we’ve found it. They’re big enough for me to not need to refill them every five minutes, and they DON’T LEAK. I mean, whether the straw is closed or open, no amount of vigorous shaking from me has gotten anything out of these cups. Yet, both girls can drink out of them. I’ve been singing their praises for weeks now to anyone who will listen. Any cup that allows me to give my one year old milk in my backseat without sacrificing my car to the gross car smells that come with “car milk cups” are winners. And this cup has been my favorite by far. Plus, they’re really easy to clean, which means I’m much more likely to put milk in them. No one wants to fuss with a toddler cup for half an hour just to get it taken apart to clean it. This cup is my best friend in the car.

2) Baby sunglasses. Holly wasn’t into sunglasses until recently, so I didn’t have a lot of experience with the cuteness that is baby sunglasses, but now I’ve seen them and GOODNESS. Melody loves them, and so now we all wear our specs in the car and feel very cool indeed.

3)The Chronicles of Narnia . Don’t judge me, but I finally sat down and read ALL of CoN this year. It was an easy, thoughtful read, and I know I’ll go back to those images again and again. It was the kind of story that you never want to end. But this month I said a temporary goodbye to Narnia, though the images will stay with me for a long time, and I will be counting down the days to read this with my girls.

4) Tank and the Bangas- (some of this album is not suitable for little ears) NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest picked the world’s coolest band this year, and I have been dancing to their music during nap time. They put on a fabulous show, and their first album makes me just as happy as watching their videos on YouTube. Which you should definitely do, because so good. So very good.

5) Instagram Stories. If you follow me on Instagram, you may have noticed that I’ve been sharing the food we’ve been making for dinner. We’re trying to cook healthier, which has forced me out of my food comfort zone. The result? Food I can’t help but share! I will eventually branch off into other stories, especially as I begin reading again (part of my self care that I skipped and missed desperately was reading, so I’ve definitely been working to get that back into my day). If you don’t follow me on Instagram, why not? I post fun kid pictures and food pictures and occasionally other things!

6) The Artist’s Way. We’re on Week 8 (we’ve stretched some of the weeks to be two weeks long to make sure we did the exercises), and so many things are happening because of it. I’ve left the house without the kids more this year than I have in the past three years combined. I’m writing and performing original music again. Dustin and I talk more about what our realized dreams would look like, and what small steps we can take every day to make them happen. I’ve been better about hearing my own ideas and not immediately dismissing them. Even with some of the loops this past month tried to throw at us, doing this journey with my friend Sadie has been a positive change in our home, and I am so grateful for it.

What about you? What have you been up to this month? I missed sharing things with you. Let’s hang out again soon.

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Year of “Better”- February

About a month ago, I shared how instead of doing resolutions, I was picking a word of the year and trying to implement a few small habits at the beginning of each month, to try to be in a significantly better place in December 2017 than I was at the end of December 2016.

Last month, I was focused on fixing my budget, reading a few minutes every day, and drinking a glass of water every morning. How’d I do?

Well, we started using the EveryDollar app, and I am still desperately trying to share my experience with the app with you without giving away our entire real budget. I have a great review written, but it’s more fun with picture of the app, right? Anyway, last month was our first month using it, and I am really proud of what we’re doing. We’re talking about money in a more concrete way, and I had a handy chart to refer back to when we were planning this month’s budget. Even with extra doctor appointments we weren’t planning on, and a few other expenses, we were able to keep a zero dollar budget, and it revealed some very interesting things about our spending habits. We also only went to Sonic twice in the month of January, which is basically a miracle, since we were previously going there once or twice a day. Now it’s truly a treat, and I enjoy it much more this way.

Last month I was also able to finish six books, as well as start two more (I’ll talk about one of them more in just a little bit). Last year? I finished one book. One. Book. That’s embarrassing. I look forward to seeing what the total is at the end of the year (and I am definitely in love with the cute spread I have for my completed/started books of 2017. I don’t remember who originally posted it, because I saw about fifty of these on Pinterest, but I’m pretty proud of mine. My visual art skills are basically non-existent, as evidenced by my failed 365 art project from last year).

And as for drinking water every morning? That was a big fail. Whoops. It started out so well, but at the end of the month I had fallen off the water wagon. I just hate water so much. I know I feel better when I just do the thing, but I just prefer drinking everything else today. I actually made drinking water in the morning one of my goals for THIS month, and so far it’s going a lot better. I’ve figured out what I have to do to get me to gulp it down (hint: it involves a reward of the caffeinated variety).

This month, in addition to trying once again drinking water in the mornings (and everything else I did last month), my goals are to read with the kids every day and to write out my morning pages.

Reading with the kids is something I love to do, and they truly love it too, but lately we just haven’t been doing it consistently. I love when they snuggle up next to me while we read. I love when they bring me a book and ask me to read it to them. And I love that it’s an easy way to restart a cranky day, but sometimes I forget about it and turn on a movie instead. While I totally dig watching movies, I think an appreciation of listening to a good book is important, so I knew I wanted to build this habit again. We’ve been reading at different times throughout the day, as well as attending story time at our library. I hope to continue these visits (which teach us how to sit down, usually include a snack and a craft, and let us interact with lots of other moms and kiddos) as well as our habit of reading throughout the day. Right now we’ve been reading a treasury of Beatrix Potter tales, our Good Night and Good Morning yoga books, and Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, along with several other picture books. When the weather gets warmer, I’ll definitely want to bring back our daily book picnics. Just a blanket, a huge stack of books and fresh air. Until then, snuggle time on our couch is a welcome way to spend our day.

Morning pages are something I have been doing off and on for the past ten years. They’re a tool taken from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, and I have a love/hate relationship with them. I love them because they show me things I need to change in myself and in my life, and hate them for the exact same reason. Change is hard. This time it’s especially challenging, as I’m actually going through The Artist’s Way right now with my dear friend, Sadie. 

We’re about a quarter of the way through right now, and some of the exercises we’re supposed to do are especially hard. Especially since I’ve read ahead enough to know that coming up very soon is an exercise called “Reading Deprivation.” GULP. Dustin and I talked about it, and now he knows it’s coming, so he’ll be holding me accountable, too.

Other things I’ve added in this month are: artist dates (another tool from Cameron’s book), dancing with the kids more, getting the clay and crayons out, playing piano, and drinking chamomile tea with lavender every night before bed. With just a smidgeon of honey. It’s delicious and fills me up with the warm sleepies. It also means I’ve been getting better sleep, which means I’ve been happier about waking up super early to do my morning pages before the kids wake up. Everyone wins!

How are your resolutions going? How is your yearly focus going? Let’s keep each other motivated! I love hearing from you.

PS. Some of the links above are affiliate links, which means I do receive some compensation if you click on them. Please know that I only recommend products we truly love. Thanks for helping us keep the lights on over here!


I’m Drinking Free Starbucks Right Now

So, one of the sweetest things my husband does for me is he occasionally kicks me out of the house. In a loving way. But he knows when I start getting stir-crazy, and he takes care of dinner while I walk around a store without the kids, or go get coffee and write, or go get coffee and people watch, or go get coffee and stare into the abyss without any children touching me or asking me the hardest why questions I’ve ever heard. There’s a big difference between questions like “why is the sky blue?” And “why is everyone on tv so angry?” And “I hurt my bottom. Why won’t you kiss it better?” And while I was totally prepared for the science questions, nothing could have prepared me for the questions about politics, her body, and everything in between. 

As an introvert, I know I need time to myself, but I’m often really bad about giving myself that time. So sometimes Dustin kicks me out of the house. Because he loves me.

Anyway, so I’m all about crazy ways to save/earn money, and usually I spend it on sensible things. But I’ve recently decided that it’s okay for me to sometimes use this extra money for something silly for me. One of my favorite ways to earn extra is using shopkick on my phone. I walk in a store, go scan a few items, and easily earn about $10 a month. I earn more than enough for me to go treat myself to coffee a few times a month. You can link your debit/credit card to the app if you want to earn even more (but I haven’t done it yet! Don’t tell!). And because I also have the Starbucks app, I also earn “stars” when I use it to buy myself a treat, and after a certain number of stars, I get a free beverage. But I also got a free drink just for Valentine’s Day because I had the app and money on my giftcard, which is how I happen to be sitting here drinking a “free” coffee, that I earned from a free giftcard, that I earned from walking around stores I already go to. 

If you’re interested in earning free gift cards just from walking around Target, Walmart, and other places you probably already go to, download the shopkick app here (it’s an affiliate link, which this time means the app gives us BOTH a small reward when you use it, but  I only share stuff I really use and love on my site. Using my affiliate link means you help keep us both caffeinated!)


I Finally Tried EveryDollar

So, when we first got married, one of the things we recieved was tuition to a Total Money Makeover class. This was the best thing ever, and I wish we were also financially able to pay it forward. We’re getting there. One month at a time. But we’re still learning the best way to budget. Mostly because we have a fluctuating income, my husband changed jobs just over a year ago, we had another baby, and because there’s always something new to learn about how to save money and where to spend money. I’d been doing our budget on paper since we took the class, but recently, I goofed. Pretty big. And so I knew I needed a better system. I had the EveryDollar app installed on my phone, but I hadn’t really used it much. Now I’ve tried it, and I think this is the system for us.

Here’s how it works (for us):

You enter all your income streams in for the month. If you’re not sure about how much to enter because your income fluctuates, add the bare minimum you usually make. If we make extra money one month, I add an extra income line that says “EXTRA” or describes how we earned the extra income, so that it can be included in our “Every Dollar” budget. 

Then you add all your bills in. Insurance, rent/mortgage, electricity, internet, debt. All the things you definitely have to pay for. Then you see how much is left, and allocate those dollars into categories like groceries, restaurants, clothing, savings, and gas/oil for your car. You can even add categories if you need to, but I found it had categories for things I hadn’t even thought of. After that, you just keep moving the numbers around until you’ve allocated every single dollar into a category. This is your Every Dollar budget, but it’s still pretty flexible. I found that I had severely underestimated how many times we had to fill the car up, so we’re trying to drive less, because when you run out of money in that category, you’re supposed to stop. Next month, I’ll have a better idea of how much we spend on gas. But if I really needed to, I could pull money out of one category and put it into gas. Just as long as I don’t “invent money,” doing it this way helps.

Every time we spend money, cash or card, I pull my phone out and a) take a picture of the reciept for Reciept Hog (they pay you a small amount for shopping), and then b) log that purchase into the appropriate category on my app. There’s is an Every Dollar PLUS option, where you can sync up your bank account to the app so it knows where you spent money, but I prefer this way… it makes me make sure I’m staying on target with our budget. When we run out of money in our grocery budget, that’s the end of the grocery budget. We will have to survive on the food we already have (which is probably plenty of food) until the next month.

The app tells you how much you have left to spend, the percentage of income you spend in each category, and how much you have left to spend.

Playing with the app for about ten minutes shows you everything you need to know (it’s pretty user friendly), and it’s free to download for both Apple and Android. There is a paid version, and maybe one day I will bite the bullet and try that, but until then the free version is wonderful, and is helping us track every dollar we bring in or send out. 

The only thing I have a problem with is how easy it is to fuss with my budget all month long. On one hand, that can be helpful. If I budget $100 for a bill that ends up only being $80, I should tell that extra $20 to go somewhere else, so we don’t waste it on something silly. On the other hand, that means if I decide to go crazy and buy a ton of extra groceries, I can *technically* pull money out of other budgeted categories to make sure I’m not over in any one category. I’m trying my best not to do this, but it sometimes happens. And I also learned that I had been rounding a few of our bills down (by a dollar) to make the numbers easier to work with. This means that on a few occasions I went “over” in a category by a few cents, but it was just as angry as when I accidentally typed “$72.70” instead of “$7.27.” This just means next month I’ll use less round numbers, which will make our budget more accurate anyway. Because I do *not* want to go over budget. 

Other than those few things? I love it.

I should add that I’m not getting paid or sponsored to talk about this app. I just really like it, and think it’s helpful. As a household who follows the Dave Ramsey method about 80% of the way, this app is exactly what I was looking for. Simple, easy to use, shows me exactly where my money is going, and reminds me that we don’t only spend money on groceries and bills (I am forever forgetting that I go get coffee every other week, and we occasionally leave the house in cars that need gasoline to help them go). I will be using this app along with my pen and paper budget (I like to see when bills are due so we don’t pay late fees, and I like to track our emergency fund and how much we’ve paid onto our debt), and I think this combination is a winner.

What’s your favorite budgeting tool? Tell me about it in the comments! I love learning more about budgeting and financing, and I’m always excited to find new tools that make it a more integrated part of my life.


Word of the Year:2017

This year is the first year I’m trying a word of the year, and so I wanted to spend a while making sure that the word I chose was the right word for me and my family. I thought about choosing something like “rest” or “refresh,” but those words didn’t seem quite right.

Last year was a rough year, for many reasons. And in my conversations with Dustin, I kept coming back to the idea that I just wanted this year to be better. I want this year to be better. And so we continued to talk about what we meant when we said we wanted our year to be better. We wanted to take better care of our finances, our relationship, our bodies. We wanted to nourish our minds, declutter our house, and be a force for good in the world. And I was having trouble coming up with a word that summarized all the things we wanted to make better in our lives, homes, and hearts. And then I realized I was inadvertently repeating my word of the year. This year, my word is “better.”

During one of our conversations, Dustin told me that the key for our family was to not try to improve everything all at once. That would be doomed to failure, because inevitably we would miss a few things one day, and then slump back into our old habits. So every month, I’ll be focusing on a few habits every month, trying to slowly build them into our routine. This month, I’m recommitting to our budget (I know. You’re shocked), trying to read for just ten minutes every day, and drinking a glass of water first thing every morning. I’ve written down a few things for next month, but I think the best way to stay focused on these goals is to look at them a few days before the next month starts, and look at where our family is, to see what changes need to be made right then.

I think breaking this into small, bite-sized pieces I’ll more likely to succeed than if I simply said, “I’m gonna work out more and do better” on January 1st. I’m also really glad I wrote down an action plan for the months to come.

A few of the things I know Dustin and I are going to be working on is consistently working out, reorganizing and decluttering our home, spending less time on our devices and more time doing things that we love, and recommiting to prayer/journaling/meditation (we each have done a combination of these things, and would like to find a way to do all of them more consistently). 

And how has it worked so far? With the month more than halfway over, and me committing to drinking water, reading, and budgeting, I’ve

-read two books (and half of another one!) which is already one more book than I completed in the whole of 2016. I can’t wait to see my grand total for this year. 

-I’m drinking a glass of water every morning, which has helped my energy level considerably and made me a less crabby person. 

-I’ve started using a new app to help track our finances. I’ll be sharing that with you on Friday, provided I can figure out how to take screenshots of it without giving away our personal finance information.

But beyond those things, because I’ve started focusing on doing better, I’ve also:

– Practiced piano consistently (and put on a concert in my living room!)

– Written something every day, because I’ve had more energy and haven’t needed to nap when the kids go down.

– Decluttered various cabinets and drawers in my house, and made a plan to continue these efforts throughout the year.

– Woken up earlier than I have since my youngest was born, so that I can journal and drink that water and pray before the kids get up.

And while I haven’t been as consistent with those habits, those aren’t the ones I’m really focusing on this month, so I don’t beat myself up if I sleep in a little later or don’t get to declutter anything one day. Those are just a few things I know I will want to add in consistently as the year goes on. 

So my word of the year for 2017 is “better,” and I am looking forward to seeing what “better” looks like a year from now. Did you pick a word this year? I’d love to hear what you picked, and how your implementing it as the year goes on. I’ll do occasional updates as 2017 goes on, to stay focused.

P.S: The photos used in this post were taken by the fabulous Tif Holmes, who came to our house over the summer and shot these. I love them all, and really loved working with Tif (she’s taken some of my favorite pictures of my family). To book a session with her, visit her website. She’s wonderful. 🙂