Thursday, February 25, 2016

Three Budgeting Tips to Try

Today is Pinterest Day for the Babywise Friendly Blog Network and we're all sharing on the topic of budgeting. Follow us on Pinterest for more great tips, or check out the posts from the other ladies directly on their blogs.


Today I'm sharing three lesser-known tips for managing money. This is not me giving financial advice, but just sharing some best practices that work really well for us - and might work well for you, too! If you're new to budgeting or money management in general, I highly suggest you get started with Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover!

{ use several checking accounts }
This tip was given to me by a friend many years ago. We use three checking accounts:
  1. Spending
  2. Bill Paying
  3. Short Term Savings 
The Spending account is for our budgeted spending within each pay period: gas, groceries, and general life expenses (aka Amazon Prime purchases!). We operate on a fixed budget every month; any extra money from bonuses or pay raises goes into savings.

The Bill Paying account is for all of our bills that need to be paid that pay period.

The Short Term Savings account is where money sits that will need to be used soon, but not right away. Examples would be money saved for: Christmas presents, birthday celebrations, home or auto insurance premiums, vacations, or a large purchase. We keep all of this money separate from our our actual savings account (which houses our emergency fund).
    I like this method because I can easily check the Spending account each morning and have one number to look at to see what is left until the next pay check.

    { "force" paychecks to be twice a month }
    My husband receives his paychecks every other Thursday. Bills don't work that way though; bills occur on set days of the month. To keep things predictable and consistent, we only deposit his paychecks on the 1st and the 15th of each month. By doing this, we end up with two extra paychecks every year (usually one in January and one in July). We put those paychecks in our short term savings account to cover all of our home and auto insurance premiums for the entire year, as well as all of Christmas.

    { save one dollar }
    Seems simple enough, when you have extra money to save right? But what about when you don't have anything extra? Well, you still save $1. Why $1? Because you're still engaged in the practice of saving money. It is common to say "oh I'll start saving again when I'm making more money", but the reality is it's hard to start saving again once you've stopped. If you've been saving all along, however - even if it's only $1 - it is easier to just increase the amount you are saving then to start saving when you haven't been. 

    Tuesday, February 16, 2016

    Mary: 6 months + 7 months

    Mary had her first real cold this past month and it was a real doozy. She lost her voice, didn't want to nurse, and needing help sleeping for every nap and overnight. We took turns sleeping with her and both secretly enjoyed all the snuggles, even if we were dog-tired. I am so glad she's back on the mend now! She back to eating and sleeping well, and she's got her voice back. Just a happy little girl again!

    Mary is sitting up on her own now, and only occasionally tips over forward or backward. The other day she actually pulled herself up to standing using one of the walls of the activity center (the same exact place Drew learned to pull himself up to standing!). She rolls over both ways, but doesn't spend a lot of time on her tummy or back now that she can sit up.

    Her naps have been solid since she got over her cold: two 2-hour naps and one short cat nap each day. Some naps I don't hear from her the entire 2 hours, other naps she needs help with her paci at some point. She's so close to getting it into her mouth on her own! Her overnight sleep is back to how it was before her cold: she sleeps well but needs help with her paci 2-3 times a night.

    She's still nursing 5 times a day, but we've started solids so I'm considering removing a nursing session in the early evening. I made it to my initial goal of 6 months breastfeeding, and I'm not entirely sure where I am going with it from here. I do want to keep going (maybe to 9 months?) but when she was nursing less because of her cold my supply feels like it took a hit and is having trouble recovering. I'm not sure how hard I want to fight to keep my supply up at this point, knowing that I met my initial goal (and have a ton of frozen milk in the freezer!). I also have been getting killer headaches the past few months and am wondering if those will relent once I stop breastfeeding and my hormones adapt to that change.

    Before Mary was born, I was planning on moving Drew into Mary's room for sleeping sometime soon after the holidays. But I'm postponing that plan for now for several reasons: Mary still squawks at night and I don't want Drew waking up from that, Drew is on the verge of potty training and I want to deal with that hurdle before making any other changes to his life, and I just want some down time after the holidays to catch my breath before any more hubbub. So we'll revisit that idea in a few months!


    Mary's sleep has finally gotten better! I dropped her late afternoon cat nap from her schedule and she is now - praise the sweet Lord - sleeping through the night and making it all the way until 7am. The very first night I dropped her nap we let her cry in the middle of the night and she cried off and on for an hour or so before putting herself back to sleep, and we haven't had any problems since. I've tossed 4-5 pacis into her crib and she is getting good about finding one and getting it into her mouth. Other times she sucks on her lovie. We are SO HAPPY to be getting uninterrupted sleep again! 

    Because she has a long stretch of awake time from after her second nap (around 3pm) to bedtime at 7, I feed her after her nap at 3, again at 5, and again at 6:30 right before bed. This cluster feeding seems to keep her happy - and we can always count on a bath to break her out of any bad mood she might be in. She's still nursing once in the morning, but I am officially in the process of weaning her so I don't know how much longer we'll hold on to that feeding. All the rest of her feedings are bottles of breast milk from my freezer stash or of formula. Solids are going well - she doesn't love them but she tolerates them and so we're making progress with trying different foods. 

    She's mastered sitting up, and pulling up to standing. She's even started to cruise just a little. I can tell she's working on crawling next - oh my! That girl never slows down! 

    She is in a phase where she doesn't like to be set down and left alone, and I remember this with Drew and that it does pass. Having Drew does help to distract her, so I find this phase is easier with her than it was with just Drew. I'm also forced to just let her complain sometimes, whereas with Drew I would respond to every whimper. To make up for that, I give her extra long cuddles before her naps - maybe it means nothing to her, but I just adore that sweet girl so much that I'll think of any reason to give her some extra cuddles!

    No teeth yet, but she has started some serious babbling. And screaming. Oh joy! I don't know what is about her but even her crying has a sweetness to it. I can't wait to hear her first words! I remember with Drew that 8 months old is when he really started to show his personality and seemed to "get" things more quickly. That age is nearing with Mary and while I can hardly believe it, I am so excited for the months to come!

    Drew: 2.5 years

    Drew loves: still loves all things that go (anything with wheels or wings!), but his favorite is firetrucks. We taught him that fireman help people, so now every time he hears a firetruck he proclaims "they're going to help somebody!". Drew has also been enjoying art projects lately - especially painting. He requests painting every time we do Table Time, so I've been having some fun coming up with different wants to play with paint so keep it interesting. Drew is into Duplo legos, he likes to build towers and play make believe with the little lego guys.

    Drew hates: being obedient - haha! He doesn't really seem to dislike anything right now; he's too busy testing boundaries and being inquisitive about the way things work.

    Milestones: He has started talking in sentences, recalling past events, and telling us about future events. These are big speech and language developments that are really neat! He's become aware of when he has a dirty diaper and wants it to be changed right away. I attempted potty training but he isn't quite ready yet; although he will often tell me before he needs to go poo and request to use the potty instead of his diaper - so that's a big win! One milestone I think that is really fun to watch is he has started memorizing things: the alphabet and letters, counting 1-10 and numbers, part of his bedtime book song (if you read part of a page, he'll recite the rest), and the monthly memory verse. I just started doing a monthly memory verse; it's a short verse from the Bible that I add hand motions too. I have no idea how well it would go over, but just yesterday at lunch he was mumbling to himself and I glanced over and he was reciting the memory verse and doing the hand motions quietly to himself. Ahhhh - I was so thrilled to hear sweet scripture coming out of his mouth, and he was so proud of himself!

    Right after the new year we took the side off his crib, making his crib into a toddler bed. This was a hard change for me, as I consider the crib one of the final remnants of his babyhood (with potty training being the final step!). He adapted swimmingly, and only fell on to the floor one time the first night. Although we've told him he can get out of his bed once his Okay to Wake light turns green, he still waits in bed for us to come get him - so I don't push the issue. I didn't want getting out of bed to be "fun way" for him to disobey to get our attention, so I've tried to remain nonchalant about the rule of staying in bed until the light turns green. So far, so good!

    His independent play time is going well, sleep is going well, and eating is going well-enough. Our only real struggle with him right now is behavior - he's been testing boundaries and forcing the issue of consequences and discipline daily. It's exhausting, but I know it's worth it to be consistent and it provides him comfort knowing that the same rules are still valid and nothing has changed. He's got to rub up against those boundaries to see if they are still there. At the end of the day he always requests snuggles from mom, and I cherish the opportunity to just scoop him up into my lap and bathe him in love, affirmation, and prayer.

    Thursday, February 11, 2016

    Guest Post: Deciding Appropriate Entertainment Choices for Our Family

    It's BFBN Guest Post Day, and I love when Emily from The Journey of Parenthood is sharing her thoughts on my blog! Emily and I have similar life stories and we tend to agree on most theories, schools of thought, best practices, etc. when it comes to all things wife + mom related, so it comes as no surprise that I was nodding along with her entire post below. As Drew is getting older and exposed to more media, my husband and I have been talking about how we will set standards and guidelines for media exposure in our house. I'm a low media kinda gal - I like my books, my blog, and a good country music playlist and that's about it. If I could ever get my husband to ditch the TV in our house, you'd see me personally dragging it out to the sidewalk with a "free" sign tapped to it. Clearly, we still have some compromising to do on that one ;-)  Anyway, Emily is sharing below on how their family handles media exposure for their kids, and I think it's simply wonderful and hope you find it encouraging if you are looking for an example on how model your family in this area.

    And PS: today I'm sharing over at Chronicles of a Babywise Mom about getting out of debt. Expect to hear more from me on that topic in the future!


    Growing up I was exposed to a wide range of entertainment options at a young age. I saw my first rated R movie at the age of 9 (Speed followed by The Body Guard). I listened to the Alanis Morissette Jagged Little Pill album in it's entirety when it was released (in 1995...I was 10). My brother and I would stay up until super late so we'd be able to watch South Park. I'm not saying all of this to put down my parents or their choices in allowing our exposure to such entertainment choices (heck, I still love me some Alanis!) but when it came to raising my own children it is an area that I wanted to handle differently. And I think my personal experiences has a lot to do with why we make the choices we do regarding entertainment in our home for our family.

    I know a lot of people say that we shelter our children or are too "hardcore" about limiting their entertainment choices. I understand that. But the reality is there is no such thing as "living in a bubble" anymore. Even with being mindful on what our children see and hear, they will still be exposed to so much in the world. Our preacher once talked about entertainment and how once we see something visually we can't unsee it. Right now if I said for you to think of a nude scene from a movie (let's say the Jerry McQuire sex scene since that is one that my parents always had me close my eyes for!) you can recall it. You can visualize it. And now if I tell you to forget it or stop seeing can't.

    And my son when he walks with me through the mall he will see the HUGE images plastered all over the windows of Victoria's Secret. He will see those women in their panties. In their sexy poses. And he won't be able to unsee that. And there isn't a whole lot I can do to prevent him from seeing it. Even though we limit what he's exposed to at home, the world is the world. And there is no escaping some of the elements of it!

    I'm not saying our way of handling entertainment choices is the BEST way or anything like's just what we fill is best for OUR family! I realize our methods aren't popular. I'm in no way judging parents who chose other routes for their own family.

    I've been told many times that I'm "sheltering" my children and preventing them from being "cool" among their peers by limiting their knowledge of what's "cool" for their ages. I know that may be important to some people, but it isn't to us. Our goal is to raise our children to live their lives for Jesus. If they are truly striving to be like Him then they won't be "cool" or "popular" they will be set apart (Psalm 4:3). Aliens and strangers (1 Peter 2:11), even persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12)!

    Here is how we personally handle entertainment choices in our home:

    TV: We don't do TV shows for our kids. At all. I know, again, that may sound crazy but we own a LOT of DVDs and prefer the kids watch those over television shows. Even ones that are ok in their content. I know I've heard of many times where children shows incorporate political agendas that we don't want our children exposed to. So we stick to DVDs.

    DVDs are also great b/c we can take them in trips in the car AND take them to other people's homes when we visit. If the kids are staying with their grandparents we know they are watching things we've already approved!

    If they DO watch TV it's sports related stuff. Football games. The occasional golf game (match? round? not sure what they call it haha). Zach pre-records the games and skips ALL the commercials. We have on occasion also allowed our oldest (who is 6) to watch some "building shows" with Daddy on HGTV. Again fast forwarding commercials and avoiding situations that may be inappropriate for him to see.

    When we are in a situation where they can't avoid seeing TV (in public, other people's homes etc). Our kids both know to close their eyes/cover their ears during commercials. And they both know if they EVER see something "inappropriate" (as our oldest calls it!) they can (and should!) come to us and discuss it with us. A bonus of no commercial viewing? Our kids aren't ever asking for toys and such that they've seen on tv ;)

    Movies: As I mentioned, we own a LOT of DVDS. We do Veggie Tales, Mighty Machines, even some TV shows on dvd such as Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and Curious George. We also LOVE Disney and own majority of the Disney and Pixar films.

    We recently watched all 7 Star Wars movies with our son (age 6). Star Wars was the first "super hero" type thing he's seen. He's never watched any super hero related movies or shows and that includes Ninja Turtles etc. It makes it tricky at his age to actually find merchandise for him as SO MUCH of it is geared towards popular heroes. Luckily the Star Wars stuff is easy to find ;)

    When we watch a movie with our children for the first time...WE watch it WITH them. We are there to point out poor choices, answer questions they may have, and discuss things they may need discussing. A lot of Disney movies aren't wholesome. We know this. They know this. The advantage of owning the DVD is that we are able to watch it together as a family and know that when our children view it in the future that they have an understanding of the elements to the movie that may not be up to God's standards.

    When it comes to seeing a movie for the first time I'm hardcore about my researching the movie in advance! My favorite sites are Common Scense Media and Plugged In. Both give GREAT insight into what the movie entails and things I may need to prepare the kids for in advance as well as if the movie is even something we should see. Many times, I'm appalled by the stuff that is in these KIDS movies! Our town has a deal on movies in the summer for kids and we were only able to go see ONE of them last summer bc the movies they were showing I simply didn't feel comfortable with allowing my children to see!

    Music: I wish so, so much that I enjoyed Christian music. I think that's the single biggest disadvantage on being raised with less wholesome entertainment as a kid. It's a STRUGGLE for me to find wholesome entertainment...entertaining. I don't want my children to have that same struggle so I have been incorporating a lot of Christian music in with our Disney songs in the car and it's helping the kids and I both to really enjoy them more! (I do want to say my favorite song is Gold by Britt Nicole...isn't it an AWESOME anthem especially for young girls?!?)

    I have a playlist on my iPod for the kids filled with songs that are appropriate for them to listen to. 90% of them are Disney songs. The rest are a mix of the Christian music as well as songs that Zach and I enjoy. Growing up my dad always played HIS music in HIS car and I really liked that b/c when I hear songs form the 50s now I instantly think of my dad and I think by listening to his music I got to know him in a different light. I want our children to know US as US not just as Mommy and Daddy and part of that is hearing songs that Zach and I enjoy. There are a LOT of great songs that ARE appropriate for the kids to hear that we also like (our family favorite is Home by Phillip Phillips!). And we are able to find clean versions of most songs that may have a few inappropriate words.

    It's amazing to me how much our children truly do pay attention. I downloaded several Kidz Bop songs as they were recommended to me by a fellow Christian parent. One of the songs was Taylor Swift "Shake it Off" and even in the Kidz Bop version she says the phrase "Oh My God." This really, really bothered my 4 year old (who was 3 at the time). She kept saying it and said it was b/c of that song and that SHE didn't think we should keep listening to it anymore. Yes, my THREE year old asked ME to remove a very catchy song from our playlist b/c SHE felt it was inappropriate and not pleasing to God for her to be hearing! Proud mama moment for sure!

    Books: When kids are little it's easy to be mindful of what they are reading. We read together as a family so Zach and I know everything they are exposed to. Now that our son, Kye, is in public school he's checking out books from the library which can be a tad trickier. He reads on his own and therefore I'm not able to always know exactly what he's reading. So far it's mostly Clifford and Arthur books but even in the Arthur book I heard him reading about the characters playing spin the bottle! I have been told that Common Sense Media also covers books which is great in helping me know what Kye is being exposed to in the books he chooses from the library.

    At this point Kye has been raised to know right from wrong. He knows to talk to me about anything that may come up in what he reads. I ask him nightly if there is anything on his heart to discuss and I do my best to be mindful about what he's reading. But I also know there is only so much I can monitor and I do feel like reading words/ideas that may not be aligned with our value system is less damaging than hearing or seeing them acted out. I also know our school library is very conservative in the books they select for the children. The benefit in living in a South Georgia town is that even the public schools aren't shy about talking about Jesus and making sure their standards align, for the most part, with his teachings.

    Kye does read above his grade level which is worrisome for the future. I also read above grade level and I remember reading Mary Higgins Clark books in 6th grade which simply wasn't appropriate for me to be reading! As he grows up and gets into more difficult (adult maturity level) books then we will have to explore the best path to take to best protect his heart and mind.

    Apps: I'm adding this simply because I know a lot of people use apps with their kids. We don't use apps at all. None. At least until they are school age!

    Our son had some sight words to learn in kindergarten and I did put an app on my iPad at that time and it was the FIRST time he was ever allowed to touch a tablet. He still isn't allowed to ever play with my phone (or touch it beyond bringing it to me or talking to someone on it). Now that he's in 1st grade and in public school we have been asked to download certain school related apps for him to practice on at home and, of course, we allow him to do this!

    He also asked if we could download some game they play at school where you make a slide for an animal to reach a destination. I downloaded it and played it with him and now allow him to set a timer for 10-15 min a day (only on days when he asks to play it, it's not a daily thing) to play!

    I know I've had people tell me that by me not allowing my kids to use technology that they will be behind in school. This hasn't been the case at all. Kye started using the iPad, smart board and computers in his classroom this year (1st grade) and he picked them all up with ease.

    Video Games: We have a Wii (which used to be SO COOL haha) and my husband NEVER plays video games. However, we started allowing Kye to play Mario Kart several years ago. It was a lesson for us in what was appropriate. We had to "re-parent" which isn't something I ever want to have to do! You can read more about our lessons learned through that experience here. We stopped the video game playing for quite awhile and then slowly started allowing it again when Kye was better able to handle it. He's allowed to play Mario Karts once a week WITH Daddy (and sometimes Mommy) for about 30-45 min. We have never let him play solo, nor do we plan to. He has on occasion played other games (Wii sports or NCAA football on the playstation) but, again, it's always only once a week during that designated time and it's with his dad. I don't foresee us allowing many more video games than what we currently have, but I know this may be something we have to address as he gets older!

    I know our approach to entertainment is NOT the most common way. I have had many people tell me we are too strict in what we allow our children to view. However, our goal as parents is to guard and protect the hearts and the minds of our children. Zach and I see in our own lives many ways in which Satan has been able to use our entertainment choices to push his agenda on us and tempt us in different sinful ways. It's SUCH an easy way that Satan can get us and can push us away from the Lord! We discuss these things with our children. They understand the "why" behind our decisions and they also understand that Mommy and Daddy don't always have all the answers. I'm not writing this saying that I have it all figured out or that because our kids aren't exposed to certain things that they will choose a more righteous path than the kids that are. All we can do is what we personally feel is best for our children and pray that we are making decisions that are pleasing to God and will help our children follow His path!

    Tuesday, February 9, 2016

    Breastfeeding on a Schedule

    Today I'm sharing part of my breastfeeding story over at Mama's Organized Chaos. Katrina is running stories all week about breastfeeding while doing Babywise, so you can follow along to get encouragement from other moms who have done breastfeeding on a schedule (and yes, these moms ALL feed their babies when they are hungry!). Enjoy!

    Thursday, February 4, 2016

    2015 Christmas

    I thought Christmas was fun last year with Drew, but this year was even better! So many "ohhhs" and "oh wow!"as he was opening each gift. It was really hysterical for us to watch, and I loved how much he enjoyed Christmas (not that we ever doubted he would enjoy it - haha!). We started with the advent calendar in December and for a while I think he thought "Christmas" was just about that fun new calendar in the hallway. Throughout the month I did Christmas related activities with him during our Table Time, and also tried to ever-so-lightly cover the basics of Christmas. In our house, those basics are: Christmas is when we celebrate Jesus' birthday by giving and receiving gifts, and Santa Clause is a pretend Christmas grandpa (although I don't think he understands what pretend means). Next year we'll add on to those concepts, but that was about all he needed to know this year. 

    We celebrated our family Christmas the weekend before Christmas this year because I wanted to spread out the gifts for Drew. We give each child three gifts on Christmas (in honor of Jesus receiving three gifts in the manager). Sometimes I cheat and combine a few gifts into one package because I can't resist :)  We celebrated Christmas Eve at Kyle's grandma Eva's house, Christmas morning at our house with my family, and Christmas Day up and Warm Beach with my dad's family. We celebrated Christmas with Kyle's family a few weekends after Christmas and sadly I forgot to take any photos but it was a wonderful time as usual!

    { Our family Christmas the weekend before Christmas }

    Kyle and Drew talking about how Christmas is Jesus' birthday!
    Toddler Jenga. I really love the toys from Lakeshore Leanring!
    Eating her books...classic Mary!
    Kyle got me this personalized "D" and "M" charm necklace from this Etsy shop

    Love this kids' eyebrows!

    Every year I get Kyle a pound of exotic meat. This year was frog legs!
    Happy kids!

    { Christmas Eve at Kyle's Grandma Eva's house }

    Christmas Eve we always spend with Kyle's family at his Grandma Eva's house. I believe the headcount was 31 people this year! It's a lot of people in a small space, but so much fun all squished in. My favorite part is the carol singing; I wish we did that part longer (although the kids get antsy because they want to open gifts - can't blame them!).

    { Christmas morning with my family at our house }



    { Christmas day at Warm Beach with the Watsons }

    Gramps finally got his war vet hat! Looks great!
    Best we could do :)