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. 

Friday, December 9, 2016

Frugal Friday 172

Happy Frugal Friday!

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

- Mark worked a ton of overtime and one shift at his part time job.

- On Saturday, Annabeth and I enjoyed Gregory Hancock Dance Company's production of The Nutcracker. We were able to get tickets at a special, discounted price for homeschool families. We enjoyed the show with some friends from our homeschool group and saved $30 off regular admission.

- Sunday afternoon, Luke and Cassidy hosted the family for lunch. We had make-your-own tortilla pizzas which they grilled on the grill. We had not made them that way before and we enjoyed them!

- Annabeth and I made roll-out sugar cookies over the weekend. We took some to our neighbor as a thank you for babysitting Owen while we went to The Nutcracker and we took the rest to Luke and Cassidy's. Annabeth made the cookies (almost) all by herself. I double checked measurements and helped roll out the dough. I also put the pans in and out of the oven - I am not quite sure I am ready for her to do that alone! We used up ingredients we had on hand and did not purchase anything to make them.

- At the end of Thanksgiving Weekend, we tried Kroger's ClickList for the first time. This was quite handy as we came back in town from a weekend away. We liked that we could make the list online and edit it. We also liked that it tracked exactly how much we had spent which made it easy to budget. I did our usual grocery shopping trip this week and spent $30 less by shopping in store and this trip included paper goods and diapers! I was able to compare prices across brands better and found some great special markdowns which I would not have gotten shopping online.

- Monday evening we went to the Trafalgar Library and enjoyed the Silly Safari Reindeer Reserve. Annabeth especially enjoyed seeing a live owl and both kids petted the reindeer. I love finding FREE holiday events like this one!

- Tuesday morning the kids made a reindeer craft, using items that we had on hand, as we talked about all of the animals that we had seen at the Reindeer Show.

- The past two weeks have been very stressful as Mark has been working non-stop, like 100+ hours nonstop. I treated myself to Starbucks, thanks to a gift card, on Wednesday. Sometimes, I think it is important to do things for me too.

- I gave myself a haircut this week. I was going to just trim up the ends but ended up chopping off 4-5 inches. Mark said, "Wow! I can't believe you did that yourself." Saved: $50+

The kids and I had a good but busy week at home. Mark had an insanely busy week at work and we ask for your prayers that a big case will soon be solved. Amen.

Happy Savings to All!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Please Do(n't) Ask our Homeschooler...

We are four years into our homeschool journey and loving (most days) of it! :)

Mark was grew up attending private school and I attended Montessori/private/public schools. Mark's brother grew up in private schools and my sister went to public/charter schools. We didn't grow up with any homeschooled friends and very few of our friends are homeschooling their own children. 

I have noticed, maybe because of the above, that people tend to not ask Annabeth about school. As I kid I felt like every family gathering began with my grandparents and aunts asking me "How is school going?" 

So, in case you are wondering how, when, or what to ask our homeschooler here are some suggestions:

Please DO Ask:

- How is school going?
- What are you working on?
- What is your favorite subject?
- Have you done any fun projects lately?
- Do you have any art projects you would like to show me?
- Have you read any good books lately?
- Would you like to read together?
- Did you have a nice fall break? 
- Are you looking forward to Christmas break?

These last two really hit home over the weekend, we had lunch with Mark's family. Four members of his immediate family work in schools and they were all discussing their holiday break schedule. No one asked us ours. They may not have realized that we do keep a set schedule but Annabeth noticed. She said on the drive home, "Mama no one asked me when my Christmas day will be. Kati telled me hers" Her schedule, her breaks, are just as important to her as any other child. Our non-school days are VERY different than our school days and she certainly looks forward to the breaks!

Please DO NOT Ask:

- Do you wish you were in school?
- Don't you want to go school?
- A giant math question or to read a book on the spot. Just like all children, she may or may not want to "perform" in the moment. If you do ask a question like this, please be ready to help her find the answer or help read the book if she needs that. Failing to help her will make her feel like she has failed. 

Annabeth has never been to a brick-and-mortar school for class and thus has never asked to go to school that way. Her school is our schoolroom and to her school is how we do it. 

From the parent/teacher perspective, I wish people would ask me questions too. Like all teachers, I am always accessing how I am teaching and how Annabeth is learning. I read educational journals, homeschool magazines, and love to look at curriculum and science catalogs. I am always on Pinterest or other idea pages looking for new and exciting ideas to use in our classroom. I glean lots of great ideas through discussions with other homeschool parents but also from classroom teachers. I often ask my friend Rose and brother-in-law Luke, who both teach at brick-and-mortar schools for ideas or help when I need it. 

I am excited to be a teacher and I love being able to teach my children at home! A friend asked me this fall "but what else do you do?" Well, I full time teach and I full time run my home - that is about all I have time for! Homeschooling is my job so please feel free to ask me how work is going! :) 

Overall, my goal is that our family and friends would be as excited about what we do for school as they would be if Annabeth attended a school where they would visit for Grandparent's Day or Donuts with Dad or the Spring Music Concert. While our decision to homeschool is a personal one, I love to share our lives with you! We want everyone we love to be part of our journey as well! 

The Country School by Winslow Homer
This painting hung in my Grandma and Grandpa Chico's living room
and I was thankful to have it after they entered the Life Eternal. It now hangs in our schoolroom.  
Mark and I are so thankful for our parents and grandparents and their role in our education!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Customizable Wreaths: Reviews and Reccomendations

A few weeks ago, I was checking my "to buy for Christmas" list and as always one of the last people I had to shop for was my Momaw. She has everything and I find her so difficult to buy for. Then, my friend Hillary shared a beautiful wreath on her Facebook page. I clicked on the wreath makers page Customizable Wreaths and found the perfect wreath for Momaw's new beach themed porch!

I contacted the wreath maker, tweaked the above design, and in less than 2 weeks I had a perfect wreath in my hands! Monica worked so quickly and contacted me several times during the process to let me know that my order was started and when it would be completed. She also was very accommodating as for as time and place of location to meet so I could pick up the wreath. I was so pleased that she was early to meet me. I was so excited to meet her - she is so sweet!

I am love with so many of her designs and look forward to ordering from Monica again! Please visit her Facebook page to place your order and to support her small business!

Monica has a great selection of team spirit wreaths!
I loved this Notre Dame one since 
we are HUGE Notre Dame fans (thanks to Great Uncle John @ ND)

Look how beautiful this wreath is for the Christmas Season! 

And of course, I have to share, her Thin Blue Line Wreaths! 
Our LEO Family loves these too! 

**Disclaimer: I purchased my wreath with my own money. I was not asked to write nor was I compensated for this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own**

Friday, December 2, 2016

Frugal Friday 171

Happy Frugal Friday!

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

- I did a tiny bit of Black Friday shopping online. I was able to get Annabeth's new black jazz shoes 20% off  + FREE shipping and I did our usual Black Friday deal of 100 photo cards from Sam's Club for $15.

- I completed a Shutterfly photo book that we will give as a Christmas gift. I combined a free book (thank you Pampers Rewards!) and 50% off photo books offer to save more than $50 on this book! Woohoo!

- While in Evansville for Thanksgiving Weekend, we received a bag of hand-me-downs for Annabeth from her friend India. My sister also passed along some items to me. Thank you all!

- I found out Monday that we have a family baby shower this month. I purchased our gift from Babies R Us on Cyber Monday. The gift was 50% off + FREE shipping + 6% cashback through Ebates!

- Tuesday evening we enjoyed an open house for our friend Kirby Cochran hosted by Emmanuel Church in Greenwood and Indiana Donor Network. Kirby is an organ donor recipient and will be in the Rose Parade this New Year's Day. We look forward to watching the parade to celebrate Kirby and his donor Tracey. The kids loved dancing to the music and the cookies.

- After the open house, we drove around looking at Christmas lights. I don't think that Annabeth remembered doing that in past years and Owen was saying "Oooo!!"

- Mark came home for lunch or took his lunch four days this week. The kids and I had all of our meals at home this week. We are working hard to put money back in savings after, unexpectedly, having to buy the new washer last week.

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving Day and were able to celebrate with both sides of my family. We were blessed enough to spend the whole weekend with my family and I am so thankful for all of the precious moments that we have to share.

We celebrated Thanksgiving Dinner at my Aunt Jackie and Uncle Jeff's house.
The kids enjoyed playing on a toy tractor from my Great Grandpa Louie's house! 

Happy Savings to All!

Friday, November 25, 2016

Frugal Friday 170

Happy Frugal Friday! Happy Thanksgiving Weekend!

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

- We had company for lunch on Friday and breakfast on Saturday. I made enough for each meal that we were able to eat the leftovers as our next meal on each day.

- Last Friday afternoon, we had a washer repairman out. He said that the washer had three major problems and that he would have to take it back to the shop to fix it. Total cost for that - around $1000! Whew! No thank you! We had already looked at new washers and knew that they were about half that much. We did not want to invest $1000 into a 7 year old washer. So, Saturday afternoon we went to get a new washer. We shopped at the same store that sent the repairman so we were able to credit his visit ($80) towards a new washer. The washer came Wednesday afternoon and after a week without being able to do laundry at home I was so happy!

- Saturday afternoon, after washer shopping, we stopped by Matt and Jenn's and they kindly let us do 2 loads of laundry to hold us over until the new one was delivered. Thank you!

- A few weeks ago, Mark was in the church nursery with Owen and he noticed that the TV that shows the church service was not working. This means that nursery workers/children were not able to view the service. We have a TV in our bedroom that we have never used so we donated it to the church nursery this past Sunday.

- Sunday afternoon Annabeth attended her friend Madi's bowling birthday party. She enjoyed bowling with her friends. Thank you to the Sherry Family for the fun afternoon!

- I ordered some items for school from Amazon. I redeemed a gift card from eRewards and saved $25.

- I made a quick trip to Target and saved $19 on diapers. I combined a manufacturer's coupon + store coupon + gift card. We got 224 diapers for less than $30!

- We redeemed a FREE pizza from Papa John's!

- I have been cleaning out the schoolroom as I have time. Over the years, I have been given LOTS of school books and papers. Originally I kept them all, not sure exactly where our homeschool journey would lead. Now that we are in the middle of our fourth year, I am quite sure of my teaching style and Annabeth's learning style. As a result, I have been able to part with quite a few books (some traded with friends, others donated) and lots of paper resources. I took a huge tote to recycling this week.

- The kids and I took our Christmas card photos at home this week. The best deal I found on a local photographer was $50 for just 15 minutes. I don't think so! We like our free pictures just fine!

In BIG family news - Owen learned to walk this week! We are SO thankful! We have been really praying for this. The doctor's estimate was 20 months, based on his physical milestones so far, so he was 9 weeks early on this one!

Owen, walking at 17 months, 3 weeks.
Here he was modeling Daddy's shoe and Annabeth's umbrella. 

We had a great week and are looking forward to celebrating Thanksgiving Weekend with (some of) the people that we love.

Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Savings to All!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

My Three Wishes (at age 16)

While cleaning out some old pictures, I found a fun journal that I was given in high school. Each page posed a question. I apparently was not very interested in it as I had only filled out a few pages but one of them really caught my eye!

The page read:
If you had THREE WISHES, what would they be?

At age 16 I wrote:

1. I wish to always be a person that I can be proud of.

2. I wish to be the kind of person that others love and respect.

3. I wish to keep an open mind and to be a person that loves and respects others. 

Wow! I was quite impressed that at 16 these were the wishes I chose to write down! They are just as true at 29 - I hope I am living in a way that would make high school Amy proud of me! :)

Me, at 16, a page from my scrapbook.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Frugal Friday 169

Happy Frugal Friday!

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

- Last Friday, we headed to the Indianapolis Zoo. Our fall has been so busy that we needed a day for just the four of us. By waiting until November, we were able to save nearly $40 off the cost of admission thanks to the zoo's low online prices when you buy early. It was almost 60 degrees so still plenty warm for all of us to enjoy the day. We all especially loved seeing the baby orangutan.

Owen Bear with the bears.

 Annabeth loved that we were able to see some of the Christmas
zoo decorations. We were happy to get a picture with a real smile - not the cheesy one!

- Saturday the kids and I hosted a "We're Not Hunting Party." We had two friends and their combined seven kids over for lunch and play! It was a great way to enjoy some fun time with people that we love while all of the daddies were out hunting.

- Sunday we took dinner to Mark's family. It was the first time we have all been together in almost two months due to busy travel and work schedules. Mark made homemade chili and I made yellow cake cornbread and brownies. We had a great time catching up with everyone.

- We had leftovers from the weekend for Monday's breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This meant that we did not have any food waste this week.

- I cleaned out our playdough station. We spent $3 to get some new colors and got rid of all of the old. I asked a family member to get Annabeth some for Christmas but we needed some to hold us over. We play alot of playdough!

- Mark worked one night at his part time job.

- We cleaned out the living room toys as well as the schoolroom bookshelf. We found many items that needed to be thrown away or recycled. We also weeded out 20 toys that will be either donated now or sold at the next consignment sale.

- I purchased a Christmas gift using a Shutterfly code. Saved: $24.99

- Our washer started acting up on Monday, the kids and I spent 3 hours getting it fixed. I found a paper, zipper pull, three pennies, and lots of lint in the drain. It worked Monday and Tuesday fine. Thursday it started acting up again. I finally, after 4+ hours working on it Thursday, decided to admit defeat and we have a repairman coming today.

We good week and are looking forward to a fun weekend ahead!

Happy Savings to All!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Frugal Friday 168

Happy Frugal Friday! Happy Veteran's Day!

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

- Last Saturday, my best friend and I had a girls' day out. She treated me to lunch (my belated birthday gift from February) and I was supposed to get dessert (her belated birthday gift from April) but we were too full so I treated us to bottled water while we talked for 3 hours at a bookstore! We enjoyed the Downtown Franklin Holiday Open House and each did a bit of shopping. We also headed north to Greenwood and I used up a Toys R Us gift card to finish Annabeth's Christmas gifts from Mark, Owen, and me. We had a great day together!

- Mark worked two nights at his part time job.

- My friend Anna sent me a book about raising boys. I am in the middle of The Power of a Praying Parent and then I look forward to starting in on that one. Thank you Anna!

- The kids and I spent most of the week visiting my family in Evansville. We finished quite a bit of food from the pantry and fridge/freezer before we left. Mark was able to do a very small grocery trip for things just for him.

- While visiting my Momaw, she sent us home with some GREAT Kroger coupons and a box of fun holiday kitchen items. She has been cleaning out and it was our gain.

Playing "Bird Watch Tour" while touring Momaw's Gardens

- While completing a order, I needed a few more dollars to get to my coupon code/free shipping amount. I added two books for our homeschool (The Ten Comandments and The Apostles' Creed). When they came I realized they were sets of 10 books each. They were also Catholic. I put a post on Facebook and shared them with our Catholic friends. Our loss, their gain.

- A family at Mark's work sent home a laundry basket full of hand-me-down clothes and shoes for Owen. Thank you to the Talley Family!

We had a wonderful week visiting my family! Even though it's November, it was so beautiful out! We spent a ton of time outside - Annabeth and my dad even camped out in the backyard.

I hope you all had wonderful weeks as well! Happy Savings to All!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

What I Told Our Children About The Election Results

This morning we woke up to a country with a new President Elect, Donald Trump.

We were at my parents' house so my dad gave the newspaper to Annabeth and pointed her to me to explain. The cover of Evansville's Courier and Press had a giant picture of Donald Trump next to a giant picture of Hilary Clinton. We had this conversation:

Me: "Who did we vote for?"
She pointed.
Me: "Who won?"
She pointed again.
Me: "Who do we serve?"
Her: "Jesus."
Me: "That's right. More than any of this, all that matters is that we serve God."

In my mind, that is all that needs to be said.

Later in the morning, I took the kids' picture in front of the TV. History was made today and I wanted them to know that they were part of it.

Annabeth and Owen, waking up to a country with a new President Elect
November 9, 2016 

I did the same thing almost four years ago while Annabeth and I watched President Obama on his second Inauguration Day.

Annabeth, enjoying the 2nd Inauguration Celebration of President Obama
January 20, 2013

This morning's Facebook feed was filled with people writing "What will I tell my children?" and "How will I explain this to my children?"

I will tell my children the same thing I tell them every day. Our family will continue to love God. We will continue to love His people, all people. We will work to share His light and love with the world. I will show my children that love and respect for all people matters above all else. I can do those things no matter who is president. I have been alive for many presidents and not one of them has made me stop loving God or people. Not one president has made me change my beliefs. I will encourage my children to respect all people, despite their past mistakes or their current shortcomings. I will help my children to see past color, race, religion, and sexual orientation. Most importantly, our family will pray. We will pray for our leaders and we will pray for our country. Amen.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Frugal Friday 167

Happy Frugal Friday!

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

- After we hosted our homeschool fall party, we enjoyed the leftovers for an extra meal. Two families also left us brownies and muffins which we were able to enjoy as snacks. Thank you all!

- All of the children painted pumpkins at our fall party. We used up all of our paint for this event. Now we will be able to start over with new paints instead of storing 15 partially full bottles. I am very excited about that!

- Annabeth had asked for some yogurt smoothies at the grocery. She ended up not liking them. We sent the remaining four home with a friend. They are fairly expensive and I did not want them to go to waste.

- We attended a free Halloween party at our friends' church. The church was a 30 minute drive down south and it was a gorgeous fall evening! The drive was beautiful with all of the fall colors. The kids enjoyed playing Halloween games and the ladies of the church made some incredible, and creepy looking, Halloween treats. This was a fun new Halloween event for us this year.

- I finished Annabeth's birthday book and ordered it on Shutterfly. I used a FREE code from Pampers Rewards and just paid shipping. Saved: $29.99

- We continued to clean out the deep freeze as we prepare for the new hunting season. We took deer meat to some friends in our homeschool group.

- Coworkers/friends sent home a HUGE bag of hand-me-downs for Annabeth. She is between their two girls so she will wear them and then we will pass them back. Thank you Love Family! We cleaned out some of Annabeth's baby/toddler hairbows and sent them to their 18 month old as a thank you.

Modeling her favorite shirt from the hand-me-downs.
She thought it needed a cheetah belt too! :) 

- We filled a box for a little girl to send through Samartan's Purse. We put in some items we had on hand - a new box of markers, notebook, coloring book, and stickers. Then, I took Annabeth to Dollar Tree and she chose a pony and doll for the little girl. We also added school supplies (calculator, pencils, pens) and hygiene items (hairbrush, headbands, ponytails, toothbrush, and toothpaste). We added a nice size water bottle and princess jewelry and tiara to finish out the box.

- I shopped the wholesale site for the first time. I found their prices to be lower than our local stores on dishwasher pods, snacks for Owen, and his baby wipes. I had a coupon for $10 off a $35 order so I added three very affordable books to get me to the $35. The coupon code worked for $10 off AND the site still gave me FREE shipping since my original total was over $35. With the $10 code and free shipping I was very pleased with how little I spent on these items. I was also happy to see that most of them will arrive in just 2 days! I may be using this site again as the coupon code was good for three purchases.

We had a very busy week and enjoyed working on school this week!
We are taking next week of school and we are both excited for our first week long break since July!

Happy Savings to All!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

HeavenBound HCA: Etsy Finds

Last year, while shopping at our local toy store, I noticed some very cute handmade baby items. Owen was past the age of needing most of them but I loved the cute patterns. Fast forward to this year...I met a great homeschool family and found out the Mama runs her own small business hand-making baby items. Those baby items? The cute ones I saw a Toodleydoos!

Kelley runs HeavenBound HCA. She chose HeavenBound as the name because of her family's foundation in Jesus Christ and the promise of a place in Heaven to all those who believe in Jesus Christ. It is her hope that the items she makes can bless and encourage others.

Kelley is a stay-at-home-homeschooling Mama to four girls and uses her business as a great way to encourage them to all be creative. I love that because Kelley is in the process of raising her own family, she is committed to keeping the prices of her products reasonable so that every family, every child can have something special and homemade just for them! 

Check out this beautiful chevron car seat canopy.
Avaliable on her Etsy page for $25 
I wish I had known about hers when we bought ours. I paid $30+ for one made in China :( 

How cute are these?! The cloth wipes wrap up around the little booties and become a cupcake set! You can find this one and more on her Etsy page for $26.

 Hat ($12) and Cacoon ($25) both on her website 

I have purchased her cloth wipes and love their cute designs as well as their durability and softness! 

Please shop from Kelley by visiting her website HeavenBound HCA and/or her Etsy Shop HeavenBound HCA on Etsy.

**I do have a personal relationship with this seller. I have purchased her products and asked to feature her on the blog. I was not given product or financially compensated for this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own**

I Am Thankful I Voted Today

I am thankful I voted today.

I am thankful to vote in a well organized county with many available polling places. We waited behind just two people to vote. I am thankful to vote in a community with the sweetest election workers who always take time to talk to the kids and ask how my day is. I am thankful to vote in a safe community where I do not have to worry about violence as I make my way to vote.

I am thankful to vote in the State of Indiana. I am thankful that Indiana is a state where we had choices on the ballot for people who understand that life has value. I am thankful to have people to vote for who believe that a child's education is a decision the parent, not the state, should make - leaving the decision of charter, homeschool, private, or public up to the parent. I am thankful to have candidates to vote for who understand that as a homeschool parent, I do not want, or need, the states funds or oversight.

I am thankful to live in a place in time in our country where, even as a woman, I can vote. I am thankful for the candidates we have and pray that a Godly leader will be elected into office.

Now I can rest easy, my job is done, I have cast my vote.
I can rest even easier knowing that regardless of next week's election outcome - I know who the King of Kings is. I know whose rules I follow and I know who rules my heart.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Frugal Friday 166

Happy Frugal Friday!

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

- Owen had a cold last week and then was teething this week. He has been a whiny, sleepless mess! I am SO thankful for the baby carrier that our friend Cynthia lent me! It has been a lifesaver this week as I have worn him and still gotten things done!

16 months and still glued to Mama in the Ergo. 
I love this sweet season of life! Don't ever want to let go O!

- Saturday morning, Annabeth and I enjoyed attending our church craft fair with Mark's mom. I found a neat Christmas decoration (handmade for just $4) and purchased a baby shower gift from my friend Kelley. If you are interested in handmade baby goods please visit Kelley at Heaven Bound HCA. We also enjoyed a morning hot chocolate and treat at Panera.

- I won a book from a blog that I follow!!! I am so thankful to Meghan at Lawyer Mom for the book and look forward to reading it soon! Meghan's blog is a great homeschool blog and she is the author of Under Duress.

- Tuesday evening Mark and Annabeth enjoyed attending his Scout Troop's Halloween Party. Annabeth enjoyed playing with her friends and Mark said a great time was had by all. Owen and I stayed home as he was asleep in bed before the party even started.

- Today we are hosting our Homeschool Group's Fall Party! This is our third year hosting and each year I have worked to make it more and more affordable for our family. This year I purchased all the food and supplies (pumpkins to paint) by shopping at three different stores. I took advantage of sales and coupons and we spent less than $20 OOP! We love hosting but I also love it being affordable.

- While shopping at the three stores (Aldi, Kroger, and Target), we also did our grocery shopping for the next two weeks. We are well stocked well into November.

- I cleaned out some old cards and letters. I ended up with a full tote to take to recycling. I took about 8 weeks off from getting rid of things but have been trying to get back into the swing of it lately with my closet clean out and then some paper clean out.

We had a nice, easy week at home. We had a GREAT school week and are now more than 70 days into the school year. Annabeth is working diligently and we are so proud of her hard work!

Happy Savings to All!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

My Vote: Election 2016

Election Day is just two weeks away - there is light at the end of the political mail tunnel! I look forward to having real mail in our box again!

A few readers have contacted me asking me to write about this election. 
Who am I voting for?
How did I decide?
What topics are of most importance to me? To our family? 
What political party do we associate with?

The #1 thing for our family this election season is PRAYER! We are praying daily that God would guide voters and that God fearing individuals would be elected on the local, state, and national level.

The most important topic for our family this election season is Homeschool Freedom in Indiana. Indiana is a GREAT state to homeschool in and we enjoy many freedoms. Indiana currently has very few rules in regards to homeschooling and we are not given government funds or oversight. I LOVE that! That being said, the tides of education are changing in Indiana. The brick and mortar schools are to begin phasing out ISTEP and the state is facing a teacher shortages. There are rumblings that changes in brick and mortar schools will in turn create changes, many unwanted, in the homeschool community. We are praying that the State of Indiana will continue to allow parents, not the government, to make educational choices for our children.

As far as other issues - obviously as conservative, Bible based Christians our family is pro-life. We are pro ALL lives! We believe all lives matter - the unborn, black lives, blue lives, whatever other kind of lives you want to come up with. Annabeth and I have been reading and mediating on the book of James this month and have been enjoying discussing James' words on loving all people. I pray that we are raising children who will love all people as we try to do.

As far as being more specific on this election, I am going to chose to not go any further. I know that the sharing of my own personal opinions or sharing candidates backgrounds, beliefs, etc will not change your mind. I know that me saying I am __ or ___ will not make you become _____.

I pray that all eligible will exercise their right to vote.
I pray that a Godly leader will be elected in each race.
I pray that His will be done.
I pray that regardless of the outcome of this election that we remember that this time on earth in fleeting, it's but a blip in time. I know Who the King of Kings is and I know where my real Home is. I pray that our family would not be swept up in politics but rather simply carry on sharing God's light and love with the world. Amen.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Frugal Friday 165

Happy Frugal Friday!

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

- My family visited last weekend to celebrate Annabeth's birthday. The birthday girl chose to take them to the Storywalk, to play at Green Park, and to have dinner at Chilli's. After dinner, we all took a tour of our new Kroger Marketplace (we are small town people, it's the little things). Annabeth was so excited to push her kid size cart and to show everyone around. We finished out the evening by eating ice cream cones in the backyard.

- This year, Annabeth's #1 birthday wish was a dollhouse. As soon as she asked, I talked to my Mama about it. My mama is a dollhouse collector and made Annabeth's wish come true. It was so special to watch her receive her dollhouse and even more special that the house and all the items inside came from Mama. So neat!

- My sister and I both cleaned out our closests and did a clothing swap over the weekend. I think we each came away with five new-to-us items. The rest were bagged up and will be shared with friends this weekend. I am so thankful to have a sister to share with!

- Sunday, my parents and Mark kept the kids and I took Lu out for a birthday lunch and shopping day. Her birthday was in September but this was the first time we were able to make it out alone! We enjoyed lunch and a bit of shopping in Broad Ripple. The rain scared us inside and we ended up at the Keystone Fashion Mall. I loved talking with Lu and shopping without kids!

- Our sweet neighbors Ed and Gloria gave Annabeth a pumpkin. She and Owen REALLY enjoyed getting all of the guts out so we could carve it. We also roasted the seeds for the first time. Yummy!

This kept them happy for an hour!
At first Owen wouldn't put his hands in the gunk but Annabeth helped him be brave!

- Wednesday we took a field trip to The Apple Works. Annabeth loved playing with her cousins and her friend Audrey! They checked out the petting zoo, playground, bamboo maze, and we hiked wwwaaayyyy out on the farm to get our pumpkins. We were extremely thankful for the wagon ride back to our car! We had a great visit for under $9!

My cute little pumpkins.

- Jenn and the kids brought us 4 boxes of hand-me-downs for the kids. I was really happy to see grey and navy leggings for Annabeth as both of those items were on my "to buy" list. I am so thankful that they share so generously!

- Mark worked two nights at his part time job.

- I had a rebate check come from the BMV. Made: $2

- I did a bit of Christmas shopping. I found shiny leotards for my nieces at a store where I got 2% cashback through Ebates and had FREE shipping!

- My amazing friend Alysha mailed us beautiful pictures of the kids from Annabeth's birthday party! Mark and I had taken some of the whole group but Alysha, as always, got the most beautiful candid shots of the kids.

- I took advantage of a FREE stylist fee on Stitch Fix. The fee is usually $20 and then is credit towards any purchase you make but if you don't buy anything you lose your $20. I was extra happy that it was free this time since I did not have anything in my box that I wanted to buy. Saved: $20

We had a slower week this week since Owen had a bad cold and had some new teeth come in.
That being said I am really looking forward to the weekend! Tomorrow I am headed to our church craft fair with Mark's mom and we have a bonfire with friends tomorrow evening. What fun!

Happy Savings to All! 

Friday, October 14, 2016

Frugal Friday 164

Happy Frugal Friday!

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

- Last Friday my sister treated the kids and me to a day at the Children's Museum of Indianapolis as part of her birthday gift to Annabeth. Annabeth saw an advertisement for the Doc McStuffins exhibit and has been asking to go for quite a while! She absolutely loved it! Aunt Lu made the trip extra special with a carosel ride! Thank you Lu! :)

- Saturday we took our car up north to get new tires. We have a place in Greenwood that we trust and like so we always try to go there if we can. Mark found a deal to get $70 off on Saturday and we'll get another $80 back with a mail-in-rebate.

- We received two checks from Lowe's from a rebate we mailed Labor Day Weekend. We painted the trim of our house and Annabeth's room last month. With the rebate, one of the cans of paint ended up being completely FREE!

- Mark's mom watched Owen for us on Sunday so we could enjoy the end of Annabeth's dance workshop without wrestling him. We treated her to a pizza dinner as a thank-you!

- I sorted our consignment sale leftovers into three piles. I was able to share things with three different families and was glad to not take really nice items to Goodwill.

- Last weekend, Mark cleaned out his closet. On Monday I did mine. I took everything out and dusted, swept, and mopped. I was able to part with 14 shirts (one was a Notre Dame sweatshirt that went to Owen's closet) and 3 pairs of shoes. I will let my sister and a friend go through everything and anything left will be donated. I do a deep clean of my closet twice a year and it always amazes me how much I can get rid of during each clean-out!

- We did not eat out/order in all week. Mark even came home for lunch. He usually spends a lot of his day out of the office so he just grabs something on the road. It was nice to see him and to save that money.

- The popcorn came in from Annabeth's dance fundraiser. She was able to sell enough to earn $28 towards her dance fees. This past weekend Annabeth also completed a two-day dance workshop. We are SO proud of her hard work and for learning three dances in just two days! Thank you to everyone who supported her dance through the popcorn fundraiser.

Showing off her Dancewerks Certificate!
She danced 13 hours and learned 3 pieces this weekend to earn that certificate!

- One of Mark's coworkers sent home a box of frozen cookie dough for us to enjoy. Mark and Annabeth had fun making some cookies together last night. 

- We shared some venison roasts with friends to empty out the freezer before the new hunting season starts in a few weeks. 

We had a great week and are looking forward to Annabeth's last birthday celebrations this weekend!

Happy Savings to All!

Friday, October 7, 2016

Frugal Friday 163

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.

- I babysat for a friend.

- We celebrated Annabeth's birthday with Mark's family by combining it with Luke's on the first. Luke and Cassidy hosted the cookout and we helped bring sides and a cake for Annabeth. I made a homemade cake, which I haven't done since her first birthday, and enjoyed decorating it with her.

- Sunday we had a friend party for Annabeth. After looking at quite a few options, we decided that her first choice of her dance school was the most affordable. The dance school covers everything but food under one umbrella cost. They provide a one hour dance class, all of the decorations, paper goods, and party favors. It was very affordable. Annabeth and I made homemade cupcakes for this party. We did splurge on Shopkins (her party theme) cake toppers from Etsy.

 Thank you to Nana for the Shopkins shirt.
Shopkins bow by Emma's Bows for a Cure.

 - Annabeth had her followup eye doctor appointment on Tuesday. The good news is that her glasses are really helping! Her eyes are not having to work nearly as hard. We are so glad that we caught her vision problems early as she is SO much happier doing schoolwork! We resisted the urge to stop for lunch on the way home - a big accomplishment since we got home around 11:45 which is way past our usual lunch time and I still had to prepare the food. Both kids were quite grumpy but I was glad to save the extra bit of money.

- We made a quick grocery trip on Tuesday for her birthday foods. (In our house, the birthday person selects the menu for the whole day and I had been waiting on a recipe from a friend so we could do one shopping trip) We stuck to our list, no small feat in our amazing, HUGE, new Kroger!

- Wednesday was Annabeth's 5th birthday! She chose our activities and meals for the day. We enjoyed a Starbucks breakfast, playing at the "snail park," the kids had Happy Meals for lunch with "Auntie Rose" brownies for dessert, and then a restful movie afternoon. We did have our usual Wednesday evening of three hours of gymnastics/dance classes with a quick lunchable dinner in the middle.

Playing at Blue Heron Park 
aka "Snail Park" thanks to the orange snail toy there. 

- This fall I have traded out storytime with the kids. Annabeth went from 6 months - the end of PreK in her own, age appropriate storytimes. After Owen was born, I have just been taking him along to Annabeth's. As he has gotten older, it has gotten harder. He does not want to sit still through the longer stories and crafts. I decided this fall, I would switch and Annabeth would tag along to Wonderful Ones with Owen. He is so cute and happy with kids his own age! He loves all the songs and getting to hold him own board books! I am so thankful for our local library and all of their great programming!

We had such a wonderful week! We are loving the warm, sunny days!

Happy Savings to All!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Annabeth's 5th Birthday Shirt: Etsy Finds

Last spring I found Owen the cutest birthday shirt! I fell in love with Kinsey Collection on Etsy and decided to order from her again this summer for a friend's son Henry. When it came time for Annabeth's birthday, I knew I wanted a special 5 shirt and I wanted it to have some gold as well since it is her golden birthday.

I contacted Kinsey to see if she could do a gold lettered shirt. She worked with me to find the perfect pink shirt, the right gold lettering, and even changed my mind from all lowercase to all uppercase letters. I LOVE the final product and I know Annabeh is enjoying having a special birthday shirt again this year.

Working with Kinsey is always a great process. She responds to messages very quickly, completes orders efficiently, and has the cutest ideas!

 Cute Shirt on our Cute Girl
Celebrating 8:55 am the time she arrived! 

Our family was so happy to shop with this Christian, pro-life shop owner! Check out her about page for more information on the good work she is doing with a Women's Shelter to encourage expecting mothers.

*Unless otherwise noted I have purchased "Etsy Finds" items with my own money and do not have a personal relationship with the shop or seller. I also have not been compensated for my review or recommendation*

Golden #5

Today is our Miracle Girl's 5th Birthday, her #5 on the 5th, her golden birthday.

The weeks leading up to today have been so different than her previous birthdays.

In 2011, we had SO much excitement as we counted down the days to her arrival.
Then her birth day came. Our lives were changed forever.
I knew the greatest sadness and the greatest joy in a matter of hours.
I heard her heartbeat on the monitor, I heard it stop, and then was later told it started again.

Sobbing, meeting Annabeth Sage.
She was over two hours old and I was so excited to finally see her! 
Mark had gone to NICU with her and they, thankfully, had taken two little pictures for him to bring me as they sewed me up but I needed to see her, hold her to know she was going to make it.
I knew in that moment that she was a true fighter, so strong, and that God must have some 
HUGE plans for our girl. 

In 2012, I had recovered from two surgeries after her arrival and had just begun preparing for the third.
Her birthday came and I stared at that little one year old girl, not believing that we had all made it.

Birthday lunch at Einstein Bros Bagel
I love the "Birthday" on her shirt and the "Every Day" on the sign behind her! 
Yes, let's celebrate every day!

In 2013, we celebrated her second birthday with a princess theme.
Mark had to have princess as the theme and I think as much as she was his princess that day, she is even more so now. Mark and Annabeth have such a special relationship. I love to watch them together.

Celebrating with her GIANT princess castle cake.
Mark picked out this cake for her: 
if that isn't proof that she is Daddy's girl, I don't know what is!

In 2014, we celebrated with a Hello Kitty party.
She had picked the theme months before and we watched as she planned her whole party - she even included a seating chart. She was only turning three but we were getting a big glimpse into who she really was.

She loves parties and party planning but still gets a bit shy when all of the attention is on her.
She was so cute, being shy, while we all sang "Happy Tutu" as she called it that year. 

Last year, her birthday came after Owen's arrival. I had healed in so many ways, emotionally, after his birth and was able to feel less pain when preparing for her birthday. She chose a Deer Party during her third birthday party and kept that theme until her 4th. She was becoming so sassy and stubborn and, as from the beginning, strong.

Our beautiful girl, in her special Deer Party dress posing with Owen.
She selected his outfit for the day. 
Her love for him is so beautiful!

This year, for the first time, I haven't felt that overwhelming sadness as her birthday approached. I have been able to reflect on her #4 year as she calls it and have looked forward with joy to her "five birthday."

I will live the rest of my life as Annabeth's Mama. I will live my life in awe and in love with her. She is so incredibly kind to her brother. She is so in love with her Daddy. She is growing and learning so much - most of all I love her dedication to praying and studying the Bible with me daily. I feel so incredibly blessed to know her and to love her.

Happy Five Birthday - Golden Birthday to Annabeth Sage, my Nanners, our Miracle Girl