Friday, January 13, 2017

Frugal Friday 176

Happy Frugal Friday!

Here is how we saved money/spent money wisely/made extra money this week:

- Mark worked 2 nights at his part-time job.

- The kids and I volunteered to help feel Meal Bags with the Church of God in Franklin. If you are local and interested in donating time or resources to this cause please let me know!

- Saturday night, Mark, Annabeth, and I camped out on the living room floor. Annabeth loved having both of us all to herself. She kept saying, "This is just like when I was an only child!" I know she loves Owen but I also cherish the times when Owen goes to bed early and the three of us can just be together.

- We did a grocery trip and saved $36 on our bill AND used a coupon to earn 2x fuel points! Our best deal was on laundry detergent. I combined: $.50 off online coupon + store sale $1.90 off + they were part of the Buy 5, Save $5 deal + one in the back had a Buy 2, Get One Free Coupon! I bought three of the biggest size bottles and they came out under $3 each. This should last us almost to the summer!

- Annabeth and I enjoyed a Starbucks date. I had a free drink in my rewards and I used a gift card to buy her a cookie. We sat at the counter for about 30 minutes and the baristas were so nice. They answered her questions and showed her neat things on the drive-thru screens. At the end, one of the guys even made his free drink from his shift and gave it to her.

- Sunday evening Annabeth and I cleaned out her spring/summer part of her closet. We found 25 too small items. I listed some for sale on Facebook but none sold. All were entered into the Spring Consignment Sale online. I also put a call-out on Facebook for wire hangers as we must have all hanging items on wire hangers for this sale.

- Monday evening we all worked together to clean-out and sort the living room toys. The kids picked a tote of toys to give away. About half will be donated and the other half I will try to sell at the consignment sale. We allow the kids to pick items but try to encourage them to choose wisely.

- We have been having some crazy weather! Some days are pretty warm (over 50) and then it gets cold again. We have been outside when we can but on super cold days we have been having daily dance parties. This week Owen chose bluegrass music, Annabeth chose Reggie, and I chose 90s boy bands (maybe I was feeling nostalgic for the year 2000)

Annabeth, dancing at home before we headed to her Thursday night tap class. 

Slow dancing to NSYNC with my little guy

Frugal Fails:

- We had to buy make-up for Annabeth's dance competitions this year. I used coupons where I could but unfortunately many items weren't on sale and didn't have coupons. We spent $80! :( I am hoping this lasts all season!

- My Momaw gifted us money for Christmas to buy new lights for the front of our house. We have cheapie, gold fixtures and we wanted something with more character. I had checked to make sure the store still had them the week after Christmas and they were 30% and 40% off! We were so excited but I was in Evansville with the kids and didn't have room in the car to buy them. We ended up buying them this week and one was not on sale at all and the other two were only 15% off each. I was glad they were a bit on sale and shopped through Ebates for 2.5% cashback but was bummed to not get the original awesome deal.

We hope you all had a good week!

Happy Savings to All!

Friday, January 6, 2017

Frugal Friday 175

Happy Frugal Friday!
Happy New Year! Happy 2017!

Here is how we saved money/spent money wisely/made extra money the past two weeks:

- We took the kids to our new Kroger Marketplace for lunch. We purchased their lunch using a Kroger gift card, Mark's Christmas bonus from his part time job, and a Starbucks gift card for dessert.

- Our family and friends gave our children many useful Christmas gifts. We were especially thankful for all of the items that we can use for school - books, craft supplies, pens and pencils, and more. Thank you all!

- I received an e-mail saying that I had credit at ThredUp. I didn't realize I did and it was exciting to do some extra shopping! I was able to order a really nice like-new fleece. Annabeth did not care for it, since it was black in color, so I washed it and put it into Owen's tote. I paid just the shipping ($5.99) out of pocket.

- While in Evansville, I took the kids to an owl program at Wesselman Woods Nature Center. We met our friends Debbie and India there. The girls enjoyed a lesson on owls, making an owl craft, and a nice December hike. It was great to be outdoors! It was just $8 for the kids and I to get in the nature center and for the class.

- My parents treated Annabeth to a Grandmama-Grandpa-Annabeth date and took her to the Fantasy of Lights. They used a coupon from Mama's work so admission was FREE!

- My mama and sister took Annabeth to see the movie Sing. She loved getting to go to the movies, a special treat, and Owen and I enjoyed a nice long browsing session at Hobby Lobby while they were there.

- My parents gifted our family a year-long membership to the Children's Museum of Indianapolis. We took the kids on the 2nd so they could see Jolly Days and the Doc McStuffin's exhibits before they close. We are so excited to have this membership! We did make the mistake of not packing lunch and had to buy lunch in the cafeteria - expensive! We won't make that mistake again!

Owen enjoyed the penguins at Jolly Days. 
They were almost as tall as him but he loved carrying them around anyway! 

- We have been enjoying Christmas Break from school, we will start back full force next week. This week I enjoyed making a wreath and reading in my free time. Annabeth enjoyed making an owl craft and together we built a foam dollhouse. It was nice to spend our afternoons together not in formal school.

We had a truly blessed Christmas and New Year's Week. It was difficult to not spend the time as a family as Mark worked Christmas Day, New Year's Eve, and New Year's Day. He also worked many days in between. We are thankful for texting and for Uncle Luke's Facetime so Mark could watch the kids open gifts.

We pray that you all had a wonderful Christmas season as well. As we head into 2017, we look forward to continuing to be good stewards of what the Lord has given us.

Happy Savings to All!

Friday, December 30, 2016

My Favorite 12 Photos of 2016

I LOVE to take pictures! I LOVE to organize pictures. I LOVE to look back on pictures.
This year, in pictures, seems like such a long year because Owen was just shy of 7 months and Annabeth was just a bit over 4 years old when the year began. Now, I have a walking talking nearly 19 month old and a big girl 5 year old.

Here are my 12 Favorite (one from each month) Photos of 2016:

January 2016
This was taken mid-month at Asher's 1st Birthday Party.
I thought Owen looked so sweet with his arm around his sister. 

February 2016
They each had camo overalls that fit so we ran outside on a sunny day to make pictures.
Other than asking them to sit by the tree out back, they posed themselves.
I love that they are snuggling and smiling.  

March 2016
Easter Morning. Mark was called out so I got everyone ready for Easter Services by myself.
I loved their coordinating outfits and that they wanted to hold hands.  

April 2016
Annabeth had gone to bed first but Owen missed her too much. He was putting his little hand
under her bedroom door crying for her. She eventually put her fingers out to hold his hand.  

May 2016 
We were in Evansville, celebrating Uli Dog's 15th Birthday at Sonic.  
I am so thankful that we have had SO many years with her! She is the best dog!

June 2016
The Riley Four at Owen Merit's Bear Birthday Party. 

 July 2016
A sweet picture of my blue-eyed guys. 

August 2016
Creek stomping at Camp Lakeview with my girl. 
We were so excited to introduce our kids to the place where we met, fell in love, and 
got engaged. Lakeview has been a central part of our lives and our faith. 

 September 2016
Hanging out with Mr. O in our UofL gear.
His shirt says "Start 'em young, Raise 'em right!" 
Go Cards! 

 October 2016
This was my favorite picture of the year! 
Owen's angry face, Annabeth working diligently, a normal day at home. 

November 2016
We spent this day with my Mama and my Momaw at her house in Owensboro.
This day, and picture, became even more special after Momaw was hospitalized just a few
weeks later. I was so thankful to have had this day. I am even more thankful for the recovery that Momaw
has made. God is so good!  

December 2016
These two love to be together 99.9% of the time. They are always cuddling and playing.
I really could not ask for siblings who love each other more than they do! 

We are so thankful for the past year of our lives. We are thankful that we had time together, for our health, and most of all for another year living life for the Lord. As we look forward to 2017, we hope to praise, serve, and thank Him in all we do. Amen. 

Friday, December 23, 2016

Frugal Friday 174

Happy Frugal Friday!

Here is how we saved money/spent money wisely/made extra money this week:

- Mark worked one night at his part time job.

- We had some unexpected income due to extra hours at work. All of this was added to our savings and the children's savings. It gave a nice end of year boost to those accounts.

- Saturday we stayed home due to extremely cold weather. We introduced Annabeth to Mexican Train Dominos for the first time. She received the game as a gift from the Eblings and enjoyed playing. We also had an at home movie night and watched White Christmas. I don't remember having ever seen it and both the kids loved dancing along with all of the song and dance numbers.

- Sunday we stayed home again due to the frigid temperatures and icy roadways. By evening we were all going crazy and the roads were clear so we invited Mark's parents out to dinner. We enjoyed visiting with them. The kids and I had the leftovers for lunch on Monday.

- One of my goals, again, this Christmas season was to make more gifts and to buy more gifts locally. I did not do as well as I have in year's past on this. Tuesday, the kids and I headed to Downtown Franklin to finish our shopping. One of our favorite stores was having a 50% off Christmas special and I was excited to find some good deals. The plan was going well until Annabeth found her perfect gifts for Luke/Cassidy and Matt/Jenn. I spent way more than we planned but she was so cute and serious about finding the perfect items for each family. I was not happy to overspend but am thankful that we at least did it locally.

- We generally give giftcards to Annabeth's dance teachers. This year, she decided she wanted to buy them small gifts instead. We shopped a sale at Kohl's + used a 25% off coupon. Saved: $13.60 off retail prices. We also came in $20 what I had budgeted for the giftcards. We will save that $20 to put towards their end of year gifts.

- Wednesday night Annabeth had her first Company Christmas party at her dance school. She was SO excited to make crafts, play games, eat snacks, and to dance. She won a little prize and was over the moon! The dance studio also gave the students their fall pictures and a new Company shirt as Christmas gifts. I am so thankful for all of the amazing staff at Style and for their commitment to the children. Annabeth loves to dance and I credit so much of that to the wonderful training she has had there!

She was so excited about the Christmas party.
We are SO proud of her hard work in the Company this fall!

We will be taking our usual holiday break from "Frugal Fridays." I will see you back here for Frugal Friday on the first Friday of January.

Merry Christmas and Happy Savings to All! 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Why I Do(n't) Love Homeschooling

Today we will finish our 7th semester of homeschooling.

We started this journey, informally homeschooling 2 year old preschool and then each year we've become more serious, added more days, more lessons, more time in the day spent on school. If I had known then what I know now, I would have done it again! I feel so incredibly blessed that God allows us to live this life.

4 years in,  there are some things I love, and some things I don't, about homeschooling. This has been the easiest and hardest post to write, I have debated what to include, how to include it, and what will come of it. In the end, I have prayed on this and leave it here. May His Will be done.

I love...

- Spending my days with my children. I love learning with them and growing with them. I cannot imagine having Annabeth gone to school each day.

One of my favorite pictures of the kids and me.
We are all sporting UofL gear - September 2015

- How close Annabeth and Owen are as a result of being home together. The kids are 3.5 years apart so if Annabeth had gone to preschool, she would have been gone many mornings of Owen's first year and even more this year. I love having the kids together all the time.

- Being able to hand select what we teach. In Indiana*, homeschoolers have very few guidelines which means that we are allowed to incorporate our faith into all subjects and we are allowed to teach sensitive subjects in the way that we feel is best. We are also allowed to decide when it is, or will be, the right time to introduce sensitive subjects. As conservative Christians, this is very important to us.

- We are our children's #1 influences. We hope, we pray, that this means our children are seeing and learning love. We pray that our children will learn from us how to treat others with kindness and respect. We hope this means they will learn to right their wrongs and to apologize when they have failed to be kind or respectful. We also love that we will be providing our children with a view that is centered on Christ and His love.

- We are able to spend time with a variety of people. Our children interact with a variety of people on a daily basis - different ages, cultures, religious beliefs, and sexual orientations. Annabeth can play with and make conversation with almost anyone. We enjoy volunteering at our church and with another church in town. We have the time to accomplish these tasks because our school schedule is fluid.

- I love the flexibility of homeschooling. My family lives nearly three hours away and I like knowing that if we need or want to make a long weekend trip home, we can. I don't have to plan to be back for school on Monday. We can either take school with us or take a few extra days off. It also works well since Mark often has a funky work schedule. If Mark is off on Tuesday but works Saturday, we match his schedule and take the weekday off and do school on the weekend. This gives the kids alot more time with him than if they went to traditional school.

I could keep going, I love so many parts of what we do, but I also want to share that there are things I do not love. This is the part that scares me. I often hear, "Well, if it doesn't work they can always go to school" or "You chose this." Both of those statements are true but I don't feel like I have to love this journey 100% of the time.

I don't love...

- Misconceptions and rude comments. A mom at dance this fall said, "I don't like homeschooling. You could just sit home, doing nothing all day. I am worried about Annabeth's education." I don't think I would ever dare make a statement like this, even to a family member or close friend, much less a person I really didn't know. Yes, I suppose it is true, I could sit home all day, do nothing, and say I homeschool but I feel that if anyone has spent time with our children, they can see quite a bit of learning has been happening. A father of one of Annabeth's friends said to me, the day we met, "She will be a freak you know. She will be so antisocial. And weird." Well, she is a little weird but aren't we all? Comments like these, both ones directed at me or at homeschoolers in general have been so hurtful and difficult to navigate.

- Being home with my kids all day. Let me be honest, there are days when I would LOVE for my children to go somewhere for three hours. I make the mistake of getting on Facebook during the day and I see other moms crafting or at Target or getting Starbucks with a friend. I cannot do those things, I am running a school and my students never leave. I sometimes envy my friends who work. I miss the luxury of time away from my children and I miss having adult time. I work hard to remind myself that God calls all of us to live different lives and that I need to be happy living mine.

- It is sometimes lonely. In order to get school done, we have to stay home quite a bit of the time. That means I sometimes go days and only see Mark and the children. As for the larger homeschool community, people who homeschool do so for a wide variety of reasons. We belong to a homeschool group and I am not sure any of the families in that group homeschool for the same reasons that we do or in the same way that we do. Even though we all fall under the same umbrella, we are quite different. Homeschooling is emotional and personal for families - people like to feel like they are doing it the best, right way for their family and want you to jump on board. It is a totally different day-to-day life than sending our children to school and it's sometimes difficult to talk to those parents. In the last year, I have noticed a big shift in friendships with some families who have children in school. We have lost touch and have a harder time getting the children together to play. I miss those friendships.

- My job is is not seen as a job and many ask when I will ever return to work. Family members and friends who work talk about their jobs, good parts and bad parts, and while they all work in various fields there is a general understanding of a good or bad day at the office. Teaching homeschool is my job and I rarely feel like other adults are interested in my work. As someone who has always loved working hard for a reward, good grades in school or a better paycheck at work, it is difficult for me to work in a job where there is not a tangible reward and definitely in a job that is not thought highly of by other adults. I think many wonder why I don't just send the children to school so that I can return to work. Mark works a full-time job and a part-time job so that we are able to not only live our daily lives but also make investments in our children's college savings. Me staying home, potentially for another 17 years, is a financial burden however it is one, for the moment, that we are willing to bear as we answer God's call for our family.

I share this post in an effort to be honest and transparent. While I often share the joys of homeschooling, this lifestyle does come with sacrifices which I also felt needed to be shared. Ultimately, God planned for me to be Mark's wife and our children's mother. He has entrusted them to my care and it is my duty to seek His will for their education.

*In Indiana, all parents are legally responsible for their children's schooling. All children in Indiana must attend school 180 days beginning at the very latest at age 7. These are the only guidelines that homeschoolers in Indiana must follow. 

Friday, December 16, 2016

Frugal Friday 173

Happy Frugal Friday!

Here is how we saved money/spent money wisely/made extra money this week:

- Mark worked one night at his part time job.

- Saturday morning we treated Mark's parents to breakfast at our church. It was the sixth time we have enjoyed Breakfast with Jesus and Santa with them. Annabeth is afraid of people in costumes so we ate our pancake breakfast and did not see Jesus or Santa. The kids did love running and up and down the Sunday School wing though!

- Saturday night Mark and I had our first date since May! We had dinner out at The Bonefish Grill. Thank you to Mark's mom for babysitting and to Uncle John for the gift card (from last Christmas - we finally had the chance to use it).

- Sunday afternoon we gave Owen his first haircut. We had planned to take him to a professional but I kept getting teary eyed just thinking about it. In the end, I was glad that we did it at home and that I was able to take pictures and save his sweet baby curls for his baby book.

- Sunday evening we had dinner at home and enjoyed watching the Indiana Bicentennial Celebration on PBS.

- We ordered some Christmas gifts online and did in-store-pick-up at Walmart. This really didn't save any time but we did save $20 with the online prices and earned $1.05 back using Ebates.

- Tuesday we had SNOW! The kids were so excited and we went out a couple of different times to play. Snowy days are some of the days I love homeschooling the most! I remember sitting in school as a kid, watching the snow come down, and being completely unable to focus because all I wanted to do was run outside in the snow. I am so thankful that our kids can spend snowy days outside!

 Posing with our new, little wooden snowman.
Luke and Cassidy made these for everyone this year and I think ours so cute!
 This snow was little ice pellets - Owen wasn't too sure what to think.
This girl loves anything outdoors! I think she would live outdoors if she could!
This was our first trip out that day, it had just started, by the end of the day we ended up with
two to three inches to play in.

- In anticipation of some very cold days, Thursday's high was only 14 degrees, we checked out books and movies from our church library and the public library. 

- We stayed home most of the week. It was SO cold and getting in and out of the car requires so much work when they cannot have coats in the car seat, need coats to walk inside, get hot with the coats inside so they take them off, then need to put them back on to walk to the car, and then back off for the car seat. Yes, staying home sounds just fine! 

We are looking forward to a special Christmas celebration today and some more holiday themed fun this weekend. I am so grateful for our little life and to celebrate each day with my family.

Happy Savings to All! 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

6 Ways to Help a Homeschool Family

Here is the second, of three, homeschool specific posts on the blog this month.

This week I want to introduce six ways to help a homeschool family in your life.

1. Pray.
Please pray for the homeschool family in your life. Pray that they would continue to seek God's wisdom in the training of their children. Pray that the parents are able to meet all of the needs of their children. If your own heart is hardened to homeschooling, please consider praying that God would soften it.

2. Ask Questions, Seek to Understand
Maybe you went to brick-and-mortar schools and also sent your children to them. Maybe you have never known a homeschooler and do not understand part, or all, of homeschooling. Ask questions!

3. Give Educational Gifts
Homeschool families are 100% financially responsible for their children's education. We do not have grants or vouchers* to help cover the cost of schoolbooks, building our own libraries, or for school supplies. We LOVE when our family gifts our children art supplies, books, and puzzles. We have been really blessed as our families have helped supply our schoolroom through creative giving to the kids on their birthdays and Christmas.

4. Give Experiences
A lot of learning, for all children, happens outside of the classroom thus the giving of experiences are great gifts! Mark's parents enjoy taking our children to the zoo and to musicals. My parents love going to museums and parks with our children. We love taking field trips with the kids' cousins. We are so thankful for each of these gifts!

5. Offer to Watch the Children
This would be a huge blessing for any parent but especially for a full-time-stay-at-home-homeschooling parent. While my friends' children attend school for hours each day, my children are home full time with me. I spend at least 84 waking hours with my children each week. That is a lot of hours - the hours of two full time jobs! That means some time off would be a great gift!

6. Share your gifts and talents by teaching
Just as any classroom teacher, or any school for that matter, cannot meet all the needs of their students homeschool families are the same way. For example, Annabeth has been asking to learn to crochet, a skill that I do not know how to do. We will be asking her Nana to help her learn when she is a bit older. In that same way, I enjoy watching Mark teach the children to build things, to use tools, and nature skills. We enjoy watching the grandparents share their stories and knowledge with our children as well. We welcome all teachers in our home!

Annabeth loves to bake and cook! 
She has enjoyed baking with me at home and has also enjoyed baking and cooking with her grandparents. 

We are so thankful for our families who have been so supportive of our homeschooling journey.

*Our state government, as well as it seems the national government, is discussing giving homeschoolers vouchers. The vast majority of homeschoolers, including our family, do not want government funds. Government funds will mean government oversight. One of the many reasons we love to homeschool is that we, in Indiana at least, have the freedom to choose how, what, and when to teach our children all subjects. Our family is so thankful for this freedom. We also understand, that not wanting vouchers, means we will continue to fund our homeschool 100% on our own and we are prepared to do so in order to protect our Homeschool Freedom.