Thursday, December 22, 2011

Merry Christmas!

(Click the picture if you want to view a larger version of the "card")
Anyone out there still "reading"--I'm pretty sure given my lack of content over the last year it's not the most happening place...but in case you're out there, from us to you--Merry Christmas!!!
May you experience joy, love, and family while remembering why we celebrate!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

SOLD!

2 years, 5 months, and 9 days after closing on the house we currently live in, our first home is SOLD!
So thankful!
Happy Thanksgiving-month everyone!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Family Photo Shoot


We had a chance to take some family pictures last week, always so much fun!




Love these pics, love these people!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

New Beginnings

At the end of August I found my middle baby doing this:
My little baby doing this:
And my biggest baby doing this:

Where does the time go? Maybe if we can find some routine around here I'll get a chance to start posting again...maybe.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Someone else has already written the grocery-saving post...

My friend Jen (who really needs a blog, but to my knowledge doesn't have one) sent me a link to a website she found today. Specifically, she linked me to a page on the site in which the author took my no-spend grocery challenge to a new level. The author lived (successfully) for 100 days spending only $1/day. Wow! From what I can tell, his "family" unit consists only of himself, so if you multiply his $30/month x 5 we're still in that range, but $1/day certainly sounds more impressive!
Anyway, while browsing the website, there was a link to a page on "lazy couponing" as I read along I realized that the article basically outlines my grocery-saving strategies and my philosophy on couponing. I wouldn't have put any of it as bluntly as the author does, but the bones of it are nearly identical.

He states one of his basic philosophies on couponing/saving like this:

Second, you need to be willing to shop in a way that is in your best interest. While this sounds like something that everyone would instantly say “yes, of course I want to do that,” the reality is that very few people do. Doing so will likely require a significant change to how you currently shop. If you are reading this, the chances are overwhelming that you are currently shopping the way grocery stores and manufacturers hope you will shop, not in your own best interest.

He then outlines a very effective strategy for changing how you think of grocery shopping which at least in our family's case has drastically reduced our grocery bill (as promised):

The way that the grocery stores and manufacturers don’t want you to shop is to only purchase the very best deals available each week and nothing else. The way to accomplish this is to plan your meals from what you already have in your refrigerator, freezer and cupboards (your stockpile of food). When you begin to plan all your meals on what you already have on hand, then there is no longer any need to purchase anything at full price. In fact, the only time you need to purchase any item is when it is at the very best price you can get it.

This simple change in the way that you shop will instantly save you 50% or more. In fact, this change is far more powerful than couponing, although the addition of couponing will further reduce the amount you spend on food. If, however, this is a change that you are not willing to make, you are probably better off not even bothering to read any further. While coupons can still save you money without this change, the savings will be minimal and you will quickly grow tired of using them due to the seeming small amount that they help you save (Don’t believe me? Then why aren’t you couponing right now?) Once you make this fundamental grocery shopping change, you take the control away from the store on how much you spend each week and give that power to yourself.

You can go to his blog directly here or to his grocery challenge here. I'd still like to try my hand at outlining what we do and don't do to reduce our grocery bill, but as I can't seem to find the uninterrupted time to write it, hopefully this will point you in the same direction and provide inspiration and ideas that you can incorporate into your own saving strategies. Enjoy!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Belly Laughs

video
Someone thinks Daddy is hilarious! I love the sound of a baby laughing, I'm not sure there's a sweeter sound in the world, Annika's just in such a fun stage right now...
Stay tuned this week for the no-spend March recap and (hopefully) the grocery post. For now, I'm going to tuck in my big two who had a special stay-up-late night with Mom and Dad once Anni was in bed. :)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Week 1 Recap

March's first week is in the books, and our "No-spend" experiment went pretty well. So far, so good. I've gotten a lot of questions about our grocery spending, so I'm trying to put together a post, but I didn't get it finished yet--naps for the bigger two have been sparse recently and it's hard to write with three kids buzzing about, hopefully I'll have a chance in the next couple of days.

The highlights:
-I got more done at home since my shopping time was greatly reduced. For the first week since Annika's been home, I really felt like I didn't have a pressing list of chores that were woefully neglected. (It's hard to credit all of this to No-Spend March (NSM) since she finally got onto a bit of a sleep/wake schedule this week as well, but it definitely was a factor.)
-I found the needed next-winter boots for Joshua, James, and Annika at 75% off. I went in for boots and didn't even look at the other racks, even though there were huge "final clearance" signs around. For me, that's progress!
-We went out as a family on Friday night. We made the monthly character-building variety show our church puts on for the first time and our kids had a blast! Quality entertainment for FREE!
-Saturday night James and I had a game-night with some friends while our kiddos played. Again, fun, quality time with people for no cost.
-We brought the kids on board as coaches. The first few trips into the stores (or past McDonalds in Lydia's case) brought pleas for desired, but definitely unneeded, items. So we explained how we were trying to focus on spending time together, but not spending money on items we already had or didn't need and asked the kids to remind us if they saw us looking at something we didn't need. Though saving money isn't the primary focus, we decided a bit of reward might be in place for the kids, so we promised them 1% of whatever we DON'T spend this month. Joshua is VERY focused on keeping spending down now...and they've stopped whining for extras.
-I went into Target to purchase a needed item and left with NOTHING else. Yep, just what was on my list...that never happens!
-I did use Craigslist this week, but only as a seller. Yay for switching unused items for ca$h! :)

The Lowlights:
-While purchasing needed boots for the aforementioned family members I fell "off the wagon" for the first time. I saw very cute, very cheap, but not strictly needed boots for Lydia for next winter as well. And I purchased them. Oops, first time, but probably not the last.
-I received an extra 30% off coupon in the mail from Kohl's this week. And there are great clearance sales going on in there this week. That may be my biggest challenge: a bargain hunter's paradise. Must. Not. Look.
-James' company's anniversary party is the 19th. It's free, check. We're swapping with friends for sitting, check. But, the theme is Red-Carpet Extravaganza, red-carpet attire is encouraged. I don't have any gala-wear. It's my one excuse per year to go all out and purchase something fancy. I'm not sure what to do. Any thoughts? For the sake of discipline, I want to stick to the no-spend rules, but I also really want something fun to wear. Anyone want to let me shop in your closet for the night??? :)

The Cuties:
I know at least part of my "readership" comes to this site only to see cute pictures of my little people. Here are a few of my favorites from the week:

She's into toys now
But, not quite as much as Lydia would like...
Working hard on sitting up
These two are too cute: hosting a birthday party for Ellie on a couch-boat
She hates being on her tummy, but she's getting better at it. :)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Why Hello, (No-Spend) March!

March is here and with it little signs of spring...for example, the monthly test of the tornado siren. My kids sat bolt upright and wanted to know why there were alarms going off at promptly 12pm. Not the most pleasant reminder, but it makes me smile because I know spring is right around the corner.
This little face also makes me smile.
Isn't she a charmer? Other than the fact she's decided not to sleep more than 3-4 hours at a time and to make a real fuss at bedtime, she's pretty much the perfect baby--all 13 lbs of her! That's right, she's now a full thirteen pounds in her birthday suit and 24 inches long. It's hard to believe that my little tiny peanut has gained over eight pounds (nine from her lowest weight) and six inches in the past (almost) five months. She's now in the 27th percentile for weight based on her birthdate (50th percentile if age adjusted.) Can you tell her sister is one of her biggest fans?
In other March news, we've decided to participate in "No-Spend March" as challenged by James' cousin, Joylynn. You can read about her reasons for seeking to eliminate a lot of the "extra" in her life this month in these posts. I love her heart for finding simplicity and realizing how much our stuff can control our time, thoughts, and happiness and I love the idea of seeking a simpler life and more meaningful interactions with those around me. I'm hopeful that reducing my dependence on things (and deal-seeking in particular) will make me realize again just how much I've already been given, loosen the grip the desire to always be acquiring more has on me, and help me learn to be more intentional when I do spend.
Here's the full list of the rules, both Joy's originals and our own as we've edited them for our family:

The Rules for "no spend" March
(you can modify to fit your situation if you choose to take part):

1. No purchasing apparel of any kind (clothes,shoes, accessories, cosmetics, etc...) for myself, [my husband, or my kids] regardless of how cute/inexpensive they might be.

2. No purchasing/acquiring (even if free!) items for our home such as furniture, decorative items, supplies to make something for our home (fabric, sewing stuff, paint, random pretty chotchikes...), organizational items, office supplies, etc...

3. No going on Craigslist, to Goodwill/other thrift stores, other retail stores except to buy necessities (as outlined in #4), perusing estate sales in the area, etc...

4. Money will be spent on necessities (mortgage, tithing/other giving, utilities, gas for the car, groceries, medical care if needed, am I forgetting anything?)

5. *Money will also be spent on "experiences" as already accounted for in our budget (a $50 total that can include eating out, going to a museum, renting from the Red Box, etc...).

All of these rules are designed to a) create healthier boundaries on how I spend my time and money and b) allow some freedom for spending within those boundaries. Not too extreme on either side. Which is exactly what I'm going for.

And our addendums:

1. We're going to slash our grocery/household necessities (T.P., laundry detergent and such) budget in half. For us that means $100 for groceries, $50 for necessities.

2. We're still going to purchase (if found) a couple of end-of-winter-clearance items we've previously decided on and budgeted for. (Boots/snowpants for Joshua for next winter and a snowblower.) Even for the "no spend" cause we think it's most prudent to buy these at the end of the season instead of the beginning of next winter. :)

3. We're going to try to keep our entertainment free this month. We too usually have $50/month for the purpose, but we're going to try to get more creative with "fun" and see what we come up with. Hey, by the end of the month it might even be warm enough to peruse the (free) zoo!

4. We're going to try to throw-out/recycle/donate/sell/give-away at least one item in the house that's not being used every day this Month.

Thanks for the inspiration, Joy. I'll try to post weekly on how I'm doing and look to blogland for encouragement and accountability. Anyone else want to join? If you do, I'd love to hear about it.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Bye, Bye February (a.k.a. Sabbatical Pt.1)

So much for being better about posting this month. Tomorrow is March 1st, hard to believe!
February sped past for us, mostly thanks to James' three-week long sabbatical leave and an [eventually] two week long stay in Barbados.
Barbados was amazing--gorgeous weather, perfect scenery, lots of family time...
Beautiful, huh?




The only not-so-fun part was when Annika decided to make the trip more dramatic, We arrived on Monday and by Saturday she was running her first fever, irritable, congested and somewhat lethargic. (As an aside, how do kids only get sick over the weekend, even in a foreign country on vacation???) By the next morning she was breathing rapidly and grunting/retracting part of the time. Not too fun anywhere, particularly in a place where you don't know the medical professionals, let alone know who is good.
We consulted the first doctor our condo complex recommended on Sunday afternoon. He told us that we hadn't told him anything that concerned him, just to treat the fever with Tylenol and that the breathing fast was likely from the elevated temperature. He also mentioned in the course of conversation that they're "just basically chicks at this point." Huh? Needless to say we didn't really click.
Monday she seemed somewhat better, but the fever and labored breathing returned late that evening, so we got an appointment with a different doc the next morning. Thankfully, this woman was on top of things and was able to give us answers and treatments. The diagnosis: RSV, severe bronchiolitis, and a double ear infection. :( Thankfully after a couple of breathing treatments and a number of prescriptions, she was feeling better quickly. Unfortunately, our flight was scheduled to leave early Wednesday morning. Yeah, that didn't happen--the doctor was adamant that Annika wouldn't be flying anywhere until at least Friday. So, the rest of Tuesday was spent trying to redo all of our travel plans. We got it figured out, but it was not cheap. Thank goodness for travel insurance and for the decision to purchase it!
By Wednesday Anni was feeling much better, so we were able to enjoy a couple more days in the sunshine without worrying about the little one so much.



Our return flights went smoothly with the exception of our first experience of airsickness (Lydia) and a crabby lady seated way too close. :(
We spent last week trying to catch up with ourselves. Thankfully, James had last week off so we could re-acclimate a bit more slowly. We enjoyed the extra time and got to a number of the projects we'd been meaning to do, but had been unable to find time for.
We're back to "normal" this week, Daddy was out the door to work first thing this morning, the kids and I are here on our own, and I have a feeling after three weeks with James around this day may seem VERY LONG. Wish us luck!

Friday, January 21, 2011

A Month Already?

Wow, it's been a month since I last posted, sorry about that. I'm in a stage where I feel if I get a chance to shower I'm doing well, blogging has fallen a bit down on my list. Not for lack of posting material, it's been a very busy month...

Anyway, here are a couple of new pictures of the kiddos.

Almost Laughing
First time in the snow
My cuties
Precious!
Annika's Dedication