Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year's Resolutions 2015 and 2016

Every year I attempt to make New Year's Resolutions. As a list-maker, I really like to have written down goals to achieve.

My 2015 resolution was to pray for and find little ways to bless a family from our church each month. I am thankful for this family and their encouragement in our lives. I hope that they found joy in our (annonymously sent) gifts each month.

My 2016 Resolutions:

- Make 1-to-2 new recipes from Pinterest or cookbooks each week.

- Save enough money for my 30th Birthday Vacation.
We will be going in February 2017 and I would love to have real, stress and worry free vacation to the beach.

- Mark and I would like to revisit our 2014 resolution (which we did succeed 10 months) of having a date night each month. We really found a lot of comfort in having a night out or a purposeful dinner in each month and would both like to do it again.

I am so thankful for the many blessings of 2015 - watching Annabeth grow more and more through our homeschool studies, continued developing relationships with friends and neighbors, the arrival and first six months of Owen's life, and lots of sweet time spent at home with just the four of us.

I am thankful to end this year because we have had a year with some very sad points as well - a very serious illness in my Momaw in late summer (praise the Lord she is doing much better now), the passing of Mark's Grandpa Ed in September and Great-Grandpa Bob in November, as well as some struggles and growing pains in our relationships with our families.

We look forward to seeing what the Lord has in store for us in 2016.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas!

"Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; 
he is the Messiah, the Lord." 
Luke 2:11

Merry Christmas!
The Rileys

A sweet moment from our Christmas at home last Saturday the 19th.
Annabeth's 5th and Owen's 1st Christmas. 
Thank you God for these sweet babies and for the One who came for us all. 

Friday, December 18, 2015

Frugal Friday 122

Happy Frugal Friday!

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

- I did our end of the semester clean out of the school room. I filled a tote of paper for recycling and Annabeth chose to get rid of 12 books she is finished reading. We will donate the books that are still in good shape and recycle any that have been chewed or colored on.

- Saturday night we redeemed a FREE pizza from Papa John's Rewards for Nana and PawPaw to enjoy with Annabeth as a thank you for their babysitting. Mark and I enjoyed a few hours out at his work Christmas party.

- All are still sick we stayed home much of the week and saved a lot of money on gas and outings.

- Mark worked one night at his part time job and most of the day Sunday as overtime. He received his Christmas gift from his part time job - a $10 grocery gift card.

- We gave coffee shop gift cards to Annabeth's dance and gymnastics teachers. We really love her dance school and are so thankful for all that she is taught there. I choose to get gift cards at Christmas as at the recital as a thank you. I think they are probably appreciated by the teachers more than a coffee mug or trinket item.

- We hit a milestone with Pampers Rewards. I chose to get 25 FREE 4x6 photo cards and FREE shipping from Shutterfly. We will use this code to make the kids' Valentines for free!

- Our public library has undergone renovation the past few weeks. It opened again last Friday and we have enjoyed two days of play with all of the new puzzles and toys. Annabeth enjoyed exploring on her own and also playing with friends.

- I cleaned out a tote in the garage and was shocked to find items leftover from a garage sale 2.5 years ago. I put everything in two big boxes and took them to Goodwill.

- In the tote I cleaned out, I found two hand-print keepsake kits. We kept those and Annabeth made a hand-print ornament and Owen made a footprint ornament for our tree.

- Mark has made adjustments to his retirement fund so that starting in January he will be adding more from each paycheck into retirement. As we plan on me being home for quite a few years to come, we are unable to add to my Roth IRA without me working.

- We also came up with a simple game plan to add more money each month to the principal on our mortgage payment. We know that every little bit helps!

- I made homemade salted caramels twice this week. I needed to use up some whipping cream and made them the first time as a test run. They were pretty good so Mark requested I make them for the scout Christmas party as well.

Mr. O loves to watch me run around in the kitchen.
He also loves chewing on absolutely everything. 
*Disclaimer: I did not use this slobber spoon to stir the caramels*

We had another long, sick week at home. Mark is back at 100% and Annabeth and Owen seem to be running at about 90% but we think I had it early last week, got a bit better, and then have it again! I am guessing being up and down all night and nursing is making me slower to recover than usual. Hoping to really feel better by tomorrow morning as we are celebrating Christmas at our house!

I will be taking a break as next week's Friday is Christmas Day.
I will see you all back for more Frugal Friday Fun on New Year's Day! :)

Until then, Happy Savings to All!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

First Post-Owen's-Arrival Date

Last night was our first date out after Owen.

Yes, Owen is over 6 months old and we are just doing this.

It has been FAR too long!

Our last date was our anniversary (May 23) and we have been looking forward to making time for a date again. Mark's work Christmas party was last night and thus date night.

For the first time in more than six months we were out. Alone. Empty Carseats. Quiet backseat. Not Daddy and Mama but Mark and Amy.

We had an actual conversation. We held hands. We finished sentences. We talked to real grown-ups. We ate an uninterrupted meal. And then we went home to our babies.

We stayed up most of the night taking care of sick babies. Me with a coughing Owen and Mark with a coughing and hive covered Annabeth. Back to being Daddy and Mama.

But our two hours out was enough to remind me of some very important things.

Since we have not been out alone, I have been seeing Mark 99% as "Daddy" too. I think of him as someone to help and support in raising our children. I love cleaning up dinner together. I love watching him hold Owen and play with Annabeth. I love going to breakfast as a family. I love visiting the kids' grandparents together. I love all going to the grocery store or the library. But last night reminded me that I also love Mark, my husband Mark.

Mark is so good and kind. He is polite to everyone. He greets everyone like they are his friend. He gives me confidence in a room full of people. He always does the right thing. Last night, a drink was spilled across the floor at the party. The man who spilled it wiped it up some, three or four tables of people watched him, but there was drink left on the floor. Mark went and got towels and cleaned up the rest. It wasn't his mess and yet he did it. He did it quietly and confidently. He didn't ask anyone to notice, he didn't embarrass the man who spilled it, and he didn't make a scene. He just did the right thing.

I love, that I love a man who is so good. I love that he is Daddy to our kids and husband to me.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Frugal Friday 121

Happy Frugal Friday!

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

- We enjoyed treating Mark's parents to Breakfast with Jesus and Santa at our church. We love sharing this special tradition with them each year.

- Due to sick kids, we stayed home most days. If we don't go out, we don't spend money.

- Mark did the weekly shopping trip and spent just $30 for the week. We also got back $.11 with Walmart Savings Catcher.

- Annabeth is a student of the month at dance school and received a $15 gift certificate. We will use it to help pay for her costumes in January.

- We finished wrapping for Christmas. All paper and bags were reused from years past.

- In order to get the Christmas giftwrap tote back in my closet, I needed to do some cleaning out. I parted way with three skirts, a shirt, and a pair of shoes from my bottom-of-the-closet-I-might-wear-this-someday pile. They will be donated.

- We shipped a box of 12 months clothes to a friend's baby. Mr. O is just outgrowing them and her son is just growing into them. We love hand-me-downs!

Frugal Fails:
(Unfortunately we had quite a few of these this week)

- Last Friday, we drove to do Christmas with my best friend. After the 90 minute drive, Annabeth got out of the car and got sick all over her and me. Poor girl - carsickness can still get the best of her even with medicine. I did not have any extra clothes for us girls and ran to the store to buy new, clean ones. Annabeth was very happy to have a new My Little Pony shirt but I was not happy to have to make this unplanned purchase. Spent: $30

- Monday morning Owen woke up really hot and screaming. He had been fussy all weekend and we know a tooth is coming up but the big change in his personality told me it was probably an ear infection. I called our doctors office who didn't have openings until Wednesday so the kids and I ended up at Immediate Care. After a three hour wait, it was a confirmed ear infection. A sick visit at our doctor's is roughly $100 but Immediate Care usually runs more like $125. Obviously, I knew he needed to see a doctor so we could get medicine but I hated to not see our own doctor and to spend the extra money.

We had a long, sick week here. Annabeth is just five lessons away from the end of the semester and we are all looking forward to Christmas week!

Happy Second Week of Advent and Happy Savings to All!

Friday, December 4, 2015

Frugal Friday 120

Happy Frugal Friday!

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

- I ordered our Christmas card pictures through Sams Club Photo. They are always on sale on Thanksgiving Weekend 100 for $15. I also cashed out our Walmart Savings Catcher dollars making the cards less than $.10 a piece!

- I also ordered Owen's crib mattress on Black Friday. I was able to save $20 off the retail price AND get FREE shipping! We had saved $75 in gift cards so I used those as well. I shopped through Ebates first for 6% cash back as well! I really felt like this was the best combined deal for his mattress. Now I wonder if I will really be able to let my baby sleep in his own room...

- Mark worked one night at his part time job as well as overtime.

- I cashed out some store credit at ThredUP and got myself a new sweater for the winter for FREE! Shipping was also free and I went through Ebates for cashback.

- Last month, Annabeth took a make-up dance class because we missed our usual classes that week. It was with her teacher from last year and was a 4-6 year old class. She LOVED it and has been talking about it/showing us what she learned for weeks. We have agreed to let her take that class as well this year. She will now take two dance and one gymnastics class a week. Our studio does a buy two, get one free class per student so this extra class will be FREE for us ($450 value!)

- I ordered the last of our photo gifts for Christmas from Shutterfly. I redeemed a FREE item code from Pampers Rewards, saved an extra 30% with a Shutterfly code, AND got FREE shipping thanks to a Similac Moms code (I have no idea how I got this code as neither kid has been formula fed but I love free things so thank you to Similac!) Saved: $46.40

We have had a busy week as Owen is getting closer and closer to crawling and he is sitting mostly on his own. He is much more curious and gets bored/grumpy much more quickly. Thankfully, this week Annabeth decided that she wanted to be a babysitter and so they have been playing together for the first time! She entertained him for about an hour each day!

Annabeth decided to make a fort in the pack-and-play. 
This kept both of them busy for more than an hour each day!
I got SO many things done!! 

We hope that you all have had a wonderful week as well.

Happy First Week of Advent and Happy Savings to All!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Why You Won't See Santa at Our House

We are all decorated for Christmas.

Nativity Cross.

Advent Calendar.

Hope Sign and Nativity.

Needlework by my Great-Grandma and special boxes from my parents and Momaw.

 Nativity as the centerpiece of our mantle and thus the living room.

A tree filled with beautiful ornaments: angels, crosses, nativity scenes.

Not one Santa.

What?! No Santa?!

"You have children!"
"Santa is part of the fun!"
"Santa is magical!"
"You are no fun!"
"Let them be children, let them believe!"
(Just some of the comments I hear from family and friends)

So, why no Santa?

Christmas is about Christ. 
The weeks leading up to Christmas are not about shopping or wrapping or Black Friday sales. They are the weeks of Advent. They are about waiting with anticipation the celebration of the birth of our Savior.

"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." - Isaiah 9:6

Does Annabeth know about Santa? Of course. While we have never directly told her about him nor do we read secular Christmas books, she has seen his picture, she has visited him at our church's "breakfast with Jesus and Santa," others have said "what do you want Santa to bring you?" For the first time this year she is starting to mention him. I have heard her say, "I wonder what Santa will bring us?" or "I wonder if Mrs. Claus will ride in the sleigh?" I direct all Santa questions to Mark or if he is not home I simply ignore them.

I honestly do not remember believing in Santa as a child and then not believing. I think this means my parents handled it well. I remember putting out cookies on Christmas Eve but as long as I can remember I knew that Dad ate them in the night. I don't have a memory of realizing that he is just a fun story and for that I am thankful. I love that my parents kept the focus on the spirit of giving and the birth of our Savior. I do remember church nativity plays, caroling, baking cookies with my Mama and Lu, taking gifts to friends, making Christmas cards, playing Christmas songs on the piano, going to church, singing as a family, etc. Those memories are so precious and so sweet. 

In our world, I think it would be nearly impossible to shield our children completely from Santa and the commercialization of Christmas. It's everywhere. Everywhere but in my home. At home, we will decorate with reminders of Christ and his birth. At home, we will read Christ and family centered Christmas books. We will enjoy wrapping simple gifts for family and friends. We will enjoy making Christmas cards and addressing them as a family. We will bake cookies and sing Christmas songs together. We will stop to spend hours playing Christmas tree ornament games invented by our four-year-old. We have selected some small gifts to give each other within our family and I know the kids will love their new things. But I hope that they will really love giving more than receiving.

This season is about Jesus and the incredible gift He was to the world. 

This is a season of being quiet, of waiting, of seeking the peace that comes only from Him. 


As we head into Christmas, do you know Jesus? Do you know that He died for you? What does His birth, His life, His death, and ultimately His resurrection mean to you? If this season of anticipation leaves you wanting to know more or wanting to know Him more - please don't hesitate to leave a comment or message us for more information. We would love to share His light and love with you!