Tuesday, August 26, 2014

How we made little/big changes and saving $20,000/year.

Over the past year, my husband and I have sat down and talked a lot about finances. The talk had mainly focused around our desire to travel {with the kids} across the country, visit new states, discover parts of our history, and feel free from this idea that money is an object that holds people back from their dreams. Unfortunately, it is just that. Money buys things. Money buys experiences. Money even sometimes {briefly} buys happiness. What money doesn't do though is have control over us. That is, unless we let it.
Now, before I go any further, I have to preface that although we are far from rich or even close to it, we do alright. Our family has never had to live paycheck to paycheck, we have never been on a budget, and we are able to vacation and spend without the stress of finances {for the most part}. For that, I am thankful.
However, that being said, I still felt like we were being tied down with bills, projects, and ongoing debt. I understand this is a season of our life---we're 27 and 28 with student loan debt, new cars to pay off, and of course a mortgage. Not to mention two children who didn't exactly come into this world for free,and certainly don't live in this world for free. I know, I'm preaching the choir of millions of people out there who live the exact same lives we do.
But we wanted to be free of all this.Sooner, rather than later.
We wanted to live less on things and bills and more on life. Go out more. Travel more. Give more. Specifically, this last part. To give. I have a lot on my heart on this topic and have written this post on giving so many times {in my head}, and need to actually sit down and spill it all out onto the keyboard. I'll save it for another day, but a lot of my reason for wanting to get rid of debt is so that we can live more of a life of giving. As we all should who are more fortunate than most of the people in the world.

What is money anyway really if you don't know where you will be 10 years from now, 5 years from now, or even tomorrow? What will it buy you when you're gone? How exactly will it provide us with happiness when it's simply a little green piece of paper?
I know those are just lingering questions that don't actually require an answer, but an answer that we all know far too well. Money shouldn't be anything but a means to something else, but man, it sure does hold a lot of power.

And so, my husband and I started making changes over the course of a year. Some big. Some small. But necessary changes at that. At times they didn't seem significant, and many times I would ask if it was really necessary, but I always came to the same conclusion each and every time: absolutely.

So what have we done?

1. We refinanced our home in 2013 & got a 15 year loan. - 1,000/month 1250 a year {savings overall in 15 years, monthly payment the same} Our interest rate went from 5% to 2.5% and so we decided to cut our mortgage to 15 years, and our monthly payment stayed the same! If we stay in our home for 15 years, we saving 150,000 in comparison to our first mortgage. Even if we do not stay 15 years, every monthly payment that gets paid means more money for the next home and less going to interest. Best financial decision we have made to date.

2. We switched to cloth diapering/cloth wipes. - $50 month savings/ $1200 total estimate . When Graham was about 4-5 months old I finally took the plunge and placed my first CD order. My first of two ever really. I had been wanting to make the switch not for the financial aspect, but mainly because we were trying to get rid of as many toxins in our family's life as possible. Disposable diapers being one of those. Thankfully, it came with a financial savings as well.

3. We sold Andrew's BMW and got a Honda Lease- $400 month savings/4800. I'm embarrassed to even say that we ever had such a ridiculous car payment, and for what? Amazing how kids {and growing up} really puts things into perspective. Not only did we sell our luxury car, but we went with literally the most basic Honda {which is super nice}, and are saving money on monthly payments as well as gas. My only regret is not doing this sooner.

4. We got rid of all the cable and kept basic only. -$80 month savings/$960 year.  It's almost been a year since we got rid of all our fancy channels, but I honestly couldn't tell you that I miss a second of it. We kept the local channels only package because it was cheaper with the internet, and now only pay $50/month for our internet and TV, in comparison to the $130 we were paying before. I know some people that pay $200+. So what do we do now? We got Roku {a one time $100 fee} and use logins of family/friends and pay nothing monthly!

5. We paid off a student loan. $50 month savings/ 600 year. I wish I could be sitting here saying we paid it all off. One day... one loan at a time.

6. Sold things that were cluttering up our house. $800 savings. From garage sales to instagram sales, we started getting rid of junk/stuff that wasn't being put to good use. Our goal is to do more of this throughout the year {and every year}, and donate whatever we don't sell.

Total monthly savings: $1580 month {$680 actual, without including mortgage interest}/  $19460 year.

There were other little changes that we made in our lives that helped us financially, and we continue to be amazed by the things that we thought we needed and when it was gone we barely even noticed, nor missed it. There are also things that we have been doing for years that continue to save us money in the long run– kids' college funds and our retirement fund.

A little confession here– during one of our "talks" about our dreams for the future, we got to a point where we wanted to make big changes fast– we are talking getting all debt paid off in a year---no car loans, no student loans. In order to do that, we thought about selling our home and moving to Oklahoma {where our in-laws live} for a year and working out there and putting all our money from working into paying off these debts that we felt were dwindling ever so slowly.

Obviously we didn't do that, and have no intention of doing so. Although it does seem lovely to have everything be paid off in a year, we decided that we needed to be patient and with the changes we have already made, we should be reaching this goal within the next 5 years.

Five years seems like a long time, but in the grand scheme of things... it's nothing.


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Life, pictures, and more.

You know, there's a lot that I want to talk about lately. There are a lot of thoughts bouncing around in my head that I keep telling myself to write down, and yet, fail to do so 95% of the time. I wish I had good reason, but I'll just leave it to the cliche saying of... writer's block. Except, I'm not a write, so call it what it is.


I want to write about all these thought out ideas that I have in my head, but instead, I resort to what is easiest and most convenient for me: lists.

Maybe one day I will get back to writing again. To actually writing. Maybe one day I'll get back to scheduling my posts— it is after all what saves me and keeps me going. But that has been a while, and I've almost forgotten how to.

So here we are, another day, another list. And, I'm okay with that.

There's a crazy sunflower growing out our house and it's almost the size of our basketball goal. Elliana planted the seed a couple of months ago, and to say it blossomed is definitely an understatement. It's been great though to see her excitement every time we pull into the driveway. It's also been a great learning opportunity to talk about how the plant needed the sun, soil, and water to grow. And we got plenty of water this summer, that's for sure.

I also have to remember to plant the seed next time somewhere where it isn't such an eye sore. Because seriously, look at that thing!

So these two munchkins and their imagination has been out of control lately. I find them talking about the most random things, acting out different episodes of their shows, and just being the funniest of characters. In real life, in our home. The picture above is of them being "pirates" on their ship {the table} and Elliana is pointing to the shore. Earlier, she even used a headband with a big flower on it, and covered one of her eyes—eye patch. It's seriously the most precious thing I ever did see.


I may have ordered these kids infinity scarves in every color. Really, I wanted to. How could one resist? And obviously I need matching ones as well so that we could wear them together. I only have so many years left before she tells me... no.

We do a lot of walking around, and it's been really interesting since Graham started preferring to actually walk over the stroller. They know they have to stay either on the sidewalk {when there is one} or right next to the grass, and they do really well with it. I'm always right next to them {except when it was important to snap a picture, obviously}, and it's actually a lot easier and more fun that way also.

This whole mom of two business is finally showing moments of ease. Less physical labor, as I like to say.

E experienced her very first roller coaster ride, and let's just say she is exactly like her mama. A lover of the thrill {but hater of the heights}. She did the whole arms in the air and everything. Pro.

So, I had thought I ordered my photo book from vacation, and turns out I never hit the complete button for the order. Well, that's a good thing because right now they had an addition 20% off sale {on top of the 50% off and free shipping deals and $10 off for everyone}, and I ended up only paying $77 total {including taxes} for my book that originally cost $200. Seriously, AMAZING.

Also? I totally use the auto-populate feature so it took only 10 minutes for the book to be made, then spent 10 minutes going through to make sure heads weren't chopped off. 20 minutes and 110 pages later with 600 pictures and only $77 out of pocket? That's a win-win for me.

Andrew had his fantasy football draft this weekend, which means only one thing... football season is here. Which means another thing.... I won't have a husband on certain days of the week=too many. Man, I so wish I was into this sport. Sadly, I am not.

We have the kids' Halloween costumes already and they have worn them no less than 10 times around the house. Now, I want to share, but I will try to hold off. These are outfits that Elliana picked for her and Graham, and I imagine that next year Graham will want to pick his own. No worries, he basically did this year as well.

I'm partial to them, but I think they are pretty darn cute and I'd give them all the candy in the world.


G man went to the dentist for the first time {third time for E} and he cried {as expected}, but overall did well. Both A+ reports, so this mama is pretty happy.


I cannot wrap my head around the idea of it being September soon and that we are going to be knee deep in all things fall.

Can we say.... Pumpkin Spice Latte....
You know, that only means that.....

Christmas is coming!!!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Friday, August 22, 2014

Flip the script and a chance to win $50 TARGET GIFT CARD!

Content and/or other value provided by our partner, Target.

When I go to work, I feel like I catch myself playing with the medical ABC's. Asthma. Bronchitis. CHF. COPD. Diabetes. Ejection Fraction 5%. Fibromyalgia. GBS. Hypertension. I sit there as I write a laundry list of disorders and diseases for a single person’s medical history and wonder how it's possible that our bodies are capable of going through all this. In amazement, I'm reminded over and over again of how important our body is and how crucial it is for us to take care of it, how things can go wrong quickly, and how the decisions we make have on the outcome of our health.

Working in the medical field has truly opened up my eyes. Sometimes I think that in today's age that the old tend to be healthier than the young. Often times it's non-compliance that gets the young ones in trouble. They feel fine. They look fine. So why should they follow a strict plan written out by the doctor or take medications as prescribed? Little do they know what is going on internally that may cause devastating long-term effects.

When it's time for our patients to leave us and get back on their feet, it's important for us to educate them on not only taking their medications, but understanding what they are, how they work, and the significant side effects to look out for. I do the same with my own family, friends, and neighbors. I guess that's the nurse in me: worrying about those that I care about, and understanding at the same time how bad things can get when we don't take care of our bodies appropriately. 

That's where Target Pharmacy comes into the picture.

Filling your scripts at your local Target pharmacy has quite a few perks that many people may not know about. By switching to Target, and filling 5 scripts, you can save 5% off your total order.  Flipping our script was one of the best decisions we ever made for my husband who takes cholesterol medicine. Also, if you like the option of shopping while you wait for your prescriptions, you can sign up for the text alerts and will be notified as soon as it is ready. There are generics for $4, and to top it off, J.D. Power ranked Target Pharmacy, “Highest in customer satisfaction among mass merchandiser pharmacies.” 
Have medications that you fill monthly? Know someone that does? Be sure to tell them about Flip the script, program and all the great perks that come along with it. Anytime I am able to save money while shopping at Target is an automatic win-win for me.

Another motivator to make the switch is one lucky winner will have the opportunity to win a $50 Target gift card. You simply have to answer one question to enter, and there are also some bonus entries that go along with the rafflecopter below.

The question is: 

If you were to switch to Target pharmacy, which perk would you enjoy the most?

  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The best chocolate chip cookies I ever tasted.

Chocolate chip cookie recipes are one of those things where you go through a million before you find a really good one. It seems strange and unusual for something so simple, but it's true. I, myself, have probably tried over 50 different recipes that swear they are the best, and have been satisfied but not completely convinced. Perhaps it's because everyone's palettes are slightly different and something as simple as a change in sugar quantity completely throws things off.

Whatever the case may be, I, my friends, have found myself my favorite chocolate chip walnut cookie recipe to date.

Chocolate Chip Walnut Recipe
Original recipe found at allrecipes.com

Makes a dozen cookies, double recipe for 2 dozen. 

1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 stick of butter {1/2 a cup} softened
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon hot water
1.5 cups of all-purpose flour
1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips
2/3 cup of chopped walnuts


1. Preheat to 350

2. Cream together the butter, white sugar, and brown sugar until smooth. Beat in the egg, then stir in the vanilla. Dissolve baking soda in hot water. Add to batter along with salt. 

3. Stir in flour, chocolate chips, and nuts. 

4. Drop by large spoonfuls onto ungreased pans. Bake for 12 minutes, let cool for 15 minutes before transferring to plate.  

You know what I'm also thinking about? Throwing in some peanut butter chips into the mix. Wouldn't that just be phenomenal? I think so.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Reliving 5 Years of Marriage

This past weekend, Andrew and I celebrated 5 years of marriage. Although it may not seem like a long time to many, and just a tiny milestone in our love story, it is a big deal and leaving a mark on this date was just as important to us as the day we got married five years prior. Andrew and I used to always be big into buying gifts, expensive gifts, and showering each other with presents—the bigger, the fancier, the better
As the years went by though, and especially once we got married, we realized that the little things were what made the biggest of impact. Love letters. Handmade gifts. Surprises. It also made more sense since we did not separate our finances. We don't say who makes this much and that person makes that much—we, as a married couple, make this x amount of money, and our money is viewed as ours, not his or hers. So, instead, we decided that trips, dinners, and little surprises would be what we would expect on things such as our anniversaries, Valentine's day, and so forth.
Andrew's surprise to me this year started out with a letter at midnight telling me that the first part of my surprise would be waiting for me when I got home from work and it would be the start of reliving our wedding night all over again. So imagine my face when I walked into our bedroom to find my wedding dress {that I hadn't seen in years} and his suit lying there on the bed. And to be honest, my first thought was---how in the world am I going to squeeze into this wedding dress. My next thought was..I get to do really wear again. 

Random side note here, when we were leaving Maui and packing up our bags, I had my wedding dress hanging in the closet and when Andrew did a last minute walk through, he found it said "You almost forgot this!" In which I replied, "I didn't forget, I just don't want to drag that thing back with me!" He was shocked and couldn't believe I didn't want my wedding dress, and said if I wouldn't take it, then he would.

Although I never really had any use for it before, I certainly did now 5 years later.
So when Andrew came home, we quickly fed the kids and did our usual night time routine. Except this time, they were in bed sharp at 7. I made sure we had a wild fun day with no naps {for the oldest} and they were nice and tired when no complaints.
We turned up the music next, and got to cooking—something Andrew and I love to do together and have done since we started dating.  Next, we put on our outfits and I had to giggle when I couldn't zip my dress up all the way. 
So here we were in our wedding dress and suit and it was just like we were back in Maui again. Well, except we didn't say our vows again, we didn't have our sweet little old guitar player, and we didn't practice Hawaiian traditions. Not to mention the setting wasn't exactly the same.

We did however talk about that day and night, look through our wedding album, took out our wedding champagne glasses that we drank out of the night of our wedding, and drank even the exact same champagne. Andrew made the same Ruth Chris dinner that we obsess over---steak, creamy spinach, and carpaccio. Honestly, it was better than any restaurant food, and I'm not just saying that because my husband made it on our wedding anniversary. I mean, maybe it was that really good tasting bottle of champagne.
What I do know for certain is that as great as our wedding day was 5 years prior, it doesn't come near to comparison of our lives today. Our lives that are now one hundred times richer and fuller because of our two sleeping babies upstairs. 
But without August 15th, 2009, and without January 30th 2006, those babies may have never been here. 

Happy Anniversary to my husband. A love worth celebrating.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Five years of marriage.

Today is 5 years of marriage. Five years. I still cannot believe that it's been only five years since the day we said our vows, yet at the same time, I cannot believe it's only been five years. It seems as though we have been married forever, and I also feel like I don't remember {nor want to remember} a life without Andrew by my side.

I wrote him a letter, and although I won't include that letter in this post, I will include a snippet of all the things that we have been through in 5 years. The big things, I should say.

We graduated from Purdue.
I got my first big girl nursing job.
You went on to go to graduate school.
Got pregnant.
We bought our first home at the age of 23.
Had Elliana.
I switched working days to nights.
You graduated with a masters in public administration.
You got your first big boy job.
Got pregnant again.
Had Graham the day after Christmas.
Went to Hilton Head Island 3 times, twice with two kids.
Bought 3 cars {really 4 if you count the first one 6 months prior} and learned a big lesson on car buying.
Celebrated some really great holidays and birthdays with those we love the most.
And tackled this parenting gig together.
Not always agreeing, and not always with smiling faces, but we did it... together. Just like we do everything else in life.
So to you my husband, my best friend, my soul mate, and my better half. I love you more than the day we said I do, and I never had imagined that could have been possible. It is.

Here is to us and the next 70+ years of marriage to come. I love you.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

August Parragon Book Buddy

Last month, I shared a really fun random facts book that we received as part of our participation in the Parragon Book Buddy club. After diving nose deep into that book, we were excited when a new book arrived at our doorstep that left my child screaming {with joy} and jumping up and down saying "Look mama, look, it's Jake the pirate, and Mickey, and Doc!"

Why yes, baby, I see that.

Then she spent the rest of the afternoon going page by page and "reading." When there was an activity to be done, she'd come up to me and we'd go through it together. Sometimes it was matching, sometimes it was a puzzle,  and every time it was something that made her stop and think. Rattle her little brain. I love when books do that. Not only have stories behind them, but also give them a chance to learn something new or practice what they already know.

When I say that child couldn't put the book down, she literally wouldn't part ways. When it was time for us to go out and play, she took the book with her and sat in the shade reading. It really was one of those moments where you stop and take in the scene. Wasn't I just holding this newborn in the hospital, and now she is sitting on the porch looking through a book.

They did a great job naming this book—Big Book of Fun. It really is that and more. 

And for the older kids {I'm saving ours until Graham is a maybe 3-4}, there is a great paper planes book that has different design planes that the kids can make and fly. Really neat, and definitely one of those things that get me excited to watch my little man grow.

Monday, August 11, 2014

The best part of waking up is.....

Because it's late, and because I've worked 3 nights in a row, and because my brain only operates in list format during times like this, I'm going to just jot down things that I don't want to forget about vacation. Things that may no matter or seem significant to someone reading, but things that are definitely of importance to me.

Memories are a pretty cool thing. They allow us to hold on to something that is already gone—an event, moment, or person in time. It's great that we have the technology that we do today. It makes me wish I had some of these childhood memories of my own to look back on. I know, sap moment.

But more importantly, my list. And pictures.... yes, there are finally pictures.

*Our beach set up gear grew yet again this year. A wagon, two large tents and one small tent, 5 beach chairs, a cooler, towels, beach toys, and beach bags full of sun glasses, lotions, and more. Seriously, we have this going to the beach every day all day down.

*I have two official obsessed with the beach babies. Beach bums. Especially Elliana who literally spent all day at the beach and would just lounge in the ocean, run around in the sand, and never want to go home. Graham also loved jumping in the waves and boogie boarding and just being a complete bum.

*No matter how many family members including your own husband are watching the children while you try to snooze on the beach, it's just absolutely impossible not to wake up every 2 minutes and make sure you can see the kids.

*The four of us slept in a king size bed and it totally made me jealous. We now sleep in a Queen size bed and I tell you what... big difference.

*Card game of choice all weekend: Euchre.

* The kids stayed up so late a few nights that I wondered their sanity. You know when they get to the point that they become tired belligerent. Yes, that. They were simply trying to hang with their "friends" and just can't do it as well as they can.

*Andrew and my dad were at the beach when there were two sharks spotted in the ocean. Everyone had to get out for quite some time until they passed. Pretty darn crazy as they there knee deep.

*In between beach runs, pools, and showering, my children while waiting did a whole lot of THOMAS THE TRAIN watching. I mean seriously, it was insane and driving me crazy inside. However, it was vacation and we barely brought any toys with us, so Thomas it was. What happens on vacation stays on vacation.

*We didn't go out to eat once. We cooked all three meals at home every day of the week and it felt good.

*My mom and I found a TJMAXX while we were there. Need I say more?

*Snacks were our biggest lifesaver. And let me tell you.... these folks sure know how to eat!

*And for the 3rd year in a row, the planned "go to the beach at night and take big family pictures" never happened. When you spend all day at the beach and then come home to shower and eat dinner... you want nothing else but to put the kids to bed, pour a drink, and crack jokes with my family.

*I stilled passed out at like 8:30 a couple of times that week. Can't help it, I'm an old lady.

And lastly....

"The best part of waking up... is Andrew in my arms." Name that tune

Okay vacation, if I look at anymore pictures or videos, I'm going to cry. So I will stop there. The last of my vacation posts will be the vacation video that I do every year... and that one might not make it until maybe September.


Thursday, August 7, 2014

Nap time confessions. The best kind you know.

It's been a while since I had the opportunity to put the kids down for a nap and be able to blog {usually because I'm napping with them due to work that evening}. But since I am off, and since I have no other household chores to attend to {ha}, I am going to write down a couple thoughts. That is until my kids wake up.... my bet is going to be G man first. So.
1. Found this questionnaire to do every year with the kids. I'm trying to put a little book together for the kid's birthdays, and I am going to add this list of questions to it. It will be really cute to ask them the same questions everywhere {and some I am going to add/change}, and see what their answers are as the years go by.
2. Vacation. I have my vacation album finished and on its way to my doorstep. Pretty good for only 5 days post vacation. Speaking of, I want to finish our vacation video this week as well as the end of our posts so that I can really take on August by storm without anything holding me back. And until I finish something... it's always on the back of my mind.

Speaking of August, we took a walk to the park today and it was/is so beautiful outside. August to me, so far, has felt like fall. And I'm totally not complaining.

3. Husband's hair. So I shared this picture on Monday after E's soccer practice and I had a little chuckle when I read so many people didn't recognize Andrew because of his hair. I always mess with him about his "pretty" hair, but seriously...I love it. I have to agree with the ladies and say that he pulls it off well.
4. Halloween. Yes, we are already making those plans and I kind of sort of want to be that family that has a theme. However, that's in the big girl's hands. She got to pick her costume last year, and we plan on giving her options this year as well. Perhaps if she picks something fun we can all join in. Graham is going to be a mama's boy. Funny me, he is that already 365 days a year. 
5. Homemade mayo. I cannot believe that I am about to confess that I made my own mayo. With my hands. Using only 5 ingredients. And whisking for 12 minutes. Whisking. Pretty sure I will be churning butter in no time. Now, to be completely honest, I am no a fan of mayo period. It's probably been 5+ years since I even purchased mayo so this definitely will not be a common occurrence, however, since I was making homemade chicken salad, I thought it would be worth a try. It turned out good {I think}, but I mean it's not like I have anything to compare it to.... I don't even remember what mayo is supposed to taste like. And by it turned out good, I mean the chicken salad. Like I said, not a fan of just mayo. 
6. I wish I had the money. There's a big sale on Zulily on Prada...I know, totally random, but I mean the bags are gorgeous, and the deal is great....but I need about another 1700 discount before I would even consider buying the bag. Doubt that will ever happen.
I do, however, have the money for this sweet fruit infuser that is on sale right now! I need to drink more water, and my friend had one of these and they really do work. I'll give it a try.

And this awesome Sperry sale! They have them for men and kids too.

7. Fun activity to do with kids. This morning, during our school time session, we did a little fun activity with Graham that I shared on instagram. This activity helps with learning the concept of size and big versus small. I simply used a shoe box and cut out different size holes. I then gathered different objects such as pom poms, buttons, caps, jewels, balls, etc. Then we spent 10 minutes where I would help Graham and ask him which hole the objects would fit in, which objects could go in the smallest hole, smaller vs. bigger objects, and so forth. We would start with the smallest size hole and then if the object didn't fit we would say "TOO BIG!" and move along. He really caught on pretty well, and then I let the two of them just have fun and and stuff whatever they wanted in the holes. It was a great learning activity and it sure did keep their curious hands busy. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Thoughts on the Vacation Drive

One of my favorite things to do when we go on vacation is to recap our trip through words, pictures, and video. We only video a few times a year, take real pictures maybe once a month, and write down the events of our lives not nearly enough, so by doing this once a year, at least I know that we will have something to look back and watch as we all grew. Something that is consistent.

To start with, we went on vacation much later than we normally do. Instead of the beginning of July, we were going toward the end, and therefore all of us were more than ready one the time came. Something else important to note about the trip this year is that it was my birthday the day before we left, so while I should have been packing and cleaning, instead, I was out and about with the kids going shopping, dining out, and playing. And rightfully so. Except by the time Andrew came home, he was scrubbing toilets and bathtubs, vacuuming, and making me steak. And if I should feel an ounce of guilt about that, I'll tell you now that I don't. My birthday happens one time a year, and well I was determined to not let it slide by. 

So yes, I was packing at 9pm at night. And proud to say not a single thing was forgotten.

Thankfully I did all my "pre-vacation" shopping two days before after working all night. Four stops with two kids and no complaints was a definite big fat win for me.  Part of the reason for this is because my birthday was the next day. The day before we left for vacation. If that wasn't bad planning on my part, I don't know what is. I spent the day with the kids determined to not do a single piece of "work," but that seemed nearly impossible when I thought of everything that still needed to be done before we left--- i.e. pack everything.

I'll save the birthday details for another day {if that day ever comes}, but let us fast forward to the morning that we left. I snoozed through the initial alarm that was supposed to get me up to shower and have plenty of time to get ready. Surprisingly, I was able to get the kids dressed, myself showered and dressed, and out the door just 5 minutes after anticipated. We were out the door at 3:45.

Things I jotted down while driving:

Graham passed out right away, and barely cried during the trip except for a couple times lasting maybe 5 minutes. He did well with just playing, taking good naps, snacking a good amount, and played on the i-pad once. I consider that a win.

Elliana was a complete trooper and played games with me on the road, read books, snacked, and also played on the i-pad only once.

A total of 3 stops on the way down {14+ hour drive) and a total of only 2 stops on the way back home {12+ hours}.

Our drive was extended by about an hour and a half there simply due to traffic and a minor accident. Everyone was pretty antsy in their pants though. 

One thing I'm going to remember not to do is stuff my children with tons of fruit, because then you find yourself having to unexpectedly stop at a rest area and spend the next 20 minutes listening to your toddlers say "Not done yet, oh there's more, yes still going, here it comes…." You can only imagine the giggles that were heard outside our stall.

Elliana asked for a spoon to use as her "microphone" and jammed out to the music. We got a pretty good {and free} concert out of this. She's really been into singing lately.

We screamed the numbers we would see while we were driving and seeing who would get them first. The excitement out of a 3 year old when she says "59!" before mama is quite interesting {and loud}.

The kids favorite thing to do during the stops was to see their grandma, det, and aunty Dhasha. It was like Christmas, every time.

Elliana, the only potty trained child {so far}, did really great about only going when we stopped {every 4 hours}, however, we had one episode where a couple hours after a stop she started screaming that "Uh oh, I have to go, I have to go mama." Number two. And she had to go now. {see point above}.

I discovered a new love for card games on the way home. Actually, I have always loved card games, but the two that I love the most {Euchre and Spades} require four people, and until I can teach my two little ones how to play, we are pretty limited as to when we can. So when we played it a lot during the vacation, on the way home I decided to download the apps to my phone and go to town. Let me tell you: time went by fast.

Andrew drove the whole time. There and back. So when I say the drives were not that bad.... I'm saying....I got some good naps in.

Aside from the fact that the trip down always takes a little longer time ways, it just seems that the drive home is about half the time. Seems that way at least. I'm sure my husband would say otherwise.

I know this may sound crazy, but I think I love road trips and traveling with my family per car. I know flying would be easier and quicker {sometimes}, but there's something fun about getting a car full of stuff, be completely uncomfortable, and have to use those dirty old gas stations restrooms. I mean... may not be glamorous, but a fun adventure that's for sure.

Up next.... the week where we threw 18 people together and sent them to Hilton Head.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

I've been absent. I've been away. I'm TAN!

As much as I would like to open up this post apologizing for my very long drawn out absence from this space {an entire week of no posting is a record high for me}, I won't.

I won't because I knew prior to going on vacation that I would be taking a break, and I won't because I know that it's really not that big of a deal. As much as I'd like to think that people actually missed coming to this space and reading up on our lives, I have to admit that I know better than that. Which makes me feel just a tad bit better about my sudden disappearance.

Before the real blogging comes back, this post will serve as a little checklist of things of where I've been and what's to come. And because there is no way to share 600+ pictures on this space, in a matter of a week, I will go ahead and squeeze some of my favorite vacation favorites at the end.

Or now.

Because, I just can't help it.


1. This week will be all about vacation. I apologize in advance and if you hate to read about sand, and beaches, and see ridiculous cute pictures of two little ones {and two big adults} and maybe 14 others, then I don't blame you if you don't come back until next week. I'm putting together a video {this will be the third year in a row of me doing so} with combined pictures and video footage from the week. I've always struggled with keeping it under 10 minutes, and after going through what I have so far, I have no idea how I will do so again this year.

2. Oh yes, we were on vacation. I never mention on this space about said vacation until we are actually gone {or come back}, but like I mentioned earlier, I kind of didn't mention anything at all. Mute for a week. However, if you follow me on instagram @frommrstomama, you may have already seen and caught on to our little trip to Hilton Head. It was amazing to say the least. Crazy, and exhausting as well—but what do you expect when you travel with kids. There were a total of 18 of us, and a couple nights were quite interesting.

3. There are no truer words as: you need a vacation after you get back from vacation. Now, I'm sure that wouldn't be the case if we did not travel with children, but I tell you what. Vacationing is something else when little ones are involved. That being said, I am so glad that I had a couple days off after coming home to regroup, unpack, and get things back in order.

4. Detox is also key. I'm on a detox all week. Who knows, maybe even longer. No carbs, no fatty foods, no sweets. Nothing strict or official, but just something I decided when I came home. Literally, I have just been eating eggs, fruit, vegetables, and last night had a turkey burger with no bun. I need this. Not to mention I gained 3 pounds in a week. Even after all that chasing around on the beach.

5. Tans do in fact look better. As much as I do not miss the tanning bed or laying outside for hours on end, I do enjoy having a little sun kissed tan on me. And the kids. Their tan lines are even sweeter than ours.

And at that, I must run. Why? Because we are starting the second season of game of thrones and that show is ADDICTING.

Even more addicting than looking at vacation pictures.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Learning through books.

With many children starting school in the next few weeks, and some who have already had their first day back, it's no surprise that nerves and excitement are at the ultimate highest in every mother's heart. From first day pictures with all of their children's favorites of the year, to chasing the school bus in your car and making sure that they arrive safely. No matter where we, as mothers, stand on the line, we all have something in common: our children growing up. 

Although preschool may not be something that every parent chooses for their child or children, it's something that we practice at home on the daily. Preschool involves play, imagination, and setting the foundation for an successful academic road ahead. Our children learn the basics simply through the environment around them. During the sit down meals, while out playing in the park, and even when discovering new things at the store. Everything around them is new and exciting, and so we figure out quickly how much of a sponge they truly are.

One of the best things that I have learned as a parent that helps my children with their learning is using books to apply what we talk about. Books are powerful as they give them an image to a concept. Multiple colorful, fun, and creative images that help tell a story. I personally have been much more successful in my learning when reading something and talking about it out loud. Knowing this, it's helped me do the same with my children as we open up a new book and skim through the pages talking about what we read, what we see, and what we think will come next. The results are truly amazing.

If you have a preschooler or young child at home that are in those beginning stages of learning, I highly recommend two books by I See Me that are a current daily read for my two little ones. Not only because of the beautiful illustrations, and the fun rhyming words, but also because their names are scattered throughout the book and it makes them feel like they are a part of the story.

Elliana's book, The Very Important Preschooler Elliana V.I.P. , is a book that reminds her what her role is as a preschooler in a classroom: to raise her hand when she wants to speak, to help the teacher, to share with her classmates, and how important she really is in this new stage of her life.

Graham's book, A-B-C What Graham Can Be, goes through the alphabet and lists all the different "professions" that Graham can be when he wakes up. It's funny, it's cute, and it's very engaging. Not to mention, educational. 

We know Graham loves a book when he climbs up the toy box, reaches for it off the book shelf, comes over to you, and shoves it in your chest saying "Read, read!" 

And Elliana just beams from ear to ear when she hears that she's in book, so that's an automatic win for her.

Either way, I love that my children love books. I love that we can sit on the couch and talk about what we read and really dive into what the stories mean. I hope that we continue down this path of education and that the passion stays with them as they grow.

And I have books to thank for that.

 I See Me has launched their Summer Reading Sweepstakes through August 31. A grand prize winner will receive a $250 Visa gift card plus five personalized storybooks from the I See Me line of booksTwenty-five other winners will win a personalized coloring book. The entry form is available at http://services.listrak.com/iseemesweeps/. The entry is as easy as entering your name and email address – that’s it!

No compensation was received for this post. Books were received and reviewed, and all opinions stated are that of my own.

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