Friday, June 23, 2017

Frugal Friday 198

Happy Frugal Friday!

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

- Last weekend was Annabeth's dance recital. We spent Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at the FCHS PAC. I packed snacks, lunches, and dinners each day so we did not pick up fast food. We also only made one purchase from the snack stand while there - Owen and I had to have one of Debbie's amazing cupcakes!

- My parents came up for the weekend and were kind enough to keep Owen for us on Saturday while we went to both recitals. They also bought us groceries while they were here! Thank you!!

- Mama and Dad came to rehearsal on Friday and Dad videoed Annabeth's dance as well as a friend's dance. He edited them and made copies for family and friends while he was here. Thank you so much Dad!

- We celebrated Father's Day with a brunch and Sunday Sundaes with my parents and then we enjoyed Sunday dinner out at Jockamo's with Mark's parents. Mark's parents graciously bought dinner for everyone and sent home leftover pizza. The kids made Mark and both of the grandpas homemade cards that I think were enjoyed by all. We hope our Dad's felt very loved and we are so thankful for the blessing they are in our lives.

- I made and sold 17 gift tags. Made: $20

- I continued my summer babysitting job.

- Annabeth and three of her friends attended a FREE vacation Bible school this week. Our church is hosting one this next week but it goes pretty late into the evening so we took her to Uncle Luke and Auntie Cassidy's church which hosted it from 9-12 each morning this week.

- While Annabeth was at VBS, I did some cleaning out at home. I was able to get rid of half-a-tote of papers and a diaper box + wipe box of items went to Goodwill. Most of those items were little McDonald's toys that no one plays with but when we clean out we "have" to keep. We also took a rough piece of furniture to Goodwill this week after moving around Annabeth's room.

- I ordered Annabeth's "big" birthday gift this week. It is quite early but we have an item that she would like/will need for dance in the years to come that it pretty expensive. I bookmarked it last winter and have been watching closely for sales. This week I was able to get a larger, nicer item for less than the one we had originally looked at. Her birthday is now done from us except for some kind of small gift that we will allow Owen to choose for her.

- I sent a box of bear themed items to a former camper, now friend, who has a baby boy and has the married name of Bear. I hope Jenni and Ezra enjoy the bear items!

- Annabeth and I sorted through her dance wear and pulled out the items that she has outgrown. I listed items for sale on Facebook and was able to sell all of them in the first hour! Made: $25

- This week I took a huge leap of faith, following weeks of prayer, and I have joined Usborne Books & More as an Independent Consultant. I am looking forward to having my first parties in the next few weeks! Please let me know if you would like to earn some FREE books! Also, you will always be able to shop my website anytime: Amy Riley's Usborne Books & More We are hoping that this new venture will be a financial blessing for our family.

Proof that my kids will read any time, anywhere! :) 

We had a great week! Annabeth enjoyed VBS so much and I loved having some special one-on-one time with just Owen! We are looking forward to a fun weekend at the Greenwood Freedom Festival and Relay for Life at the Johnson County Fairgrounds!

Happy Savings to All!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Frugal Friday 197

Happy Frugal Friday!

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

- Annabeth and I enjoyed a great Mother Daughter Weekend at Camp Lakeview. The weekend, including canteen and a camp shirt for Annabeth cost us $135. I saved money from the Spring Consignment Sale to pay for this weekend and it was well worth it! I love finding ways to make extra money so we can have fun doing the extra things we love to do!

Annabeth and me before Saturday Campfire.
Photo Credit: Kanga - who was on staff when I was a camper and 
also there with her daughter this week! That was fun for me to share
how much I had looked up to her as a camper! 

- Mark picked up a shift at his part time job and I continued my summer baby-sitting job.

- I used the end of a gift card ($.64) and a free drink coupon ($1.99) when we picked up dinner after camp.

- We ate all of our other meals at home this week. We finished all of our items in the fridge before trash day and did not have any food waste.

- Mark was really sick this week, he even came home early from work one day which he has never done before. I borrowed two movies from the library so we could have a FREE movie night at home.

- I finished the first 15 hours of summer reading. I earned a free book - I picked a Llama Llama book that we don't have and will give it to Owen for Christmas.

- I printed Owen's Birthday Book on Shutterfly. I used a coupon code to get it for FREE and just paid $5.99 since it was a storytelling style. I also earned 2% cashback through Ebates.

- I found a great sale on dancewear for Annabeth. I found a shirt with matching shorts and a cute pair of dance leggings all for $22! I will save these items and give them to her for her birthday in the fall. I also earned 4% cashback using Ebates.

- Next Tuesday I am hosting an Usbourne Book Party on Facebook. My friend Selena from college is a consultant and asked me to host one. I always try to say "yes" to friends who are working for businesses like that as I know my "yes" creates income for their family. I am hoping to earn some free books, namely the science books I would like to use for school next year. Are you in the market for some books? Shop my party link here: Amy Riley's Usbourne Book Party

- Mark surprised me this week with a new computer! We bought the cheapest one we could find when we moved over four years ago. Since then it has been the family laptop and, unfortunately, dropped by the kids many times. It was missing some keys and the screen would also flash blue so I had to constantly adjust it to be able to see. I have been making due for the past six months or so but when Mark had money left over from a project he bought it for me. Mark is so good to do things like that because I never ask for things and I try to not complain. Thank you!

We have had a busy, busy week as this weekend is dance recital weekend! Annabeth had one rehearsal yesterday, one will be this afternoon, and then two recitals tomorrow! Good thing our girl loves to dance!

Happy Savings to All!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Lakeview Mother Daughter Weekend

Annabeth and I spent last weekend at Camp Lakeview for Mother Daughter Weekend.
It was absolutely one of the best weekends of my life.

As a kid: I grew up at camp, really found my faith and myself at camp, I realized that heaven is for real at camp, I met my best friends, I met Mark, Mark's family and my sister-in-law Cassidy and her family at camp, I fell in love with Mark at camp, I got engaged at camp, the list could go on forever...

I have been waiting since the day that we learned we were expecting to take my Kindergarten graduate to Tiny Tykes or Mother Daughter Weekend. As a staff member, I loved working these weekends and always thought they were so cute and fun. It was SO much better as a parent.

Annabeth and I were given Miami as a cabin (no accident - thanks Tim!) which was my cabin as a camper and for my three summers on staff - only for those years I renamed it MyAmy. Annabeth picked the top bunk which was fine by me because I have always been too afraid to have a top bunk. It was the first, of so many, times that Annabeth surprised me this weekend.

 Checking into our cabin!
I had Mark take this picture when he dropped us off - I couldn't stand not having any pictures! 

We started out the event with singing which she refused to do. She did not sing one song or do one motion all weekend. I got worried. Annabeth isn't necessarily shy but she is often very quiet and timid. She was a nervous mess the whole morning and for the drive down. But as soon as the first part was over we got to go to the lake. She was over-the-moon! We don't swim very often but she was swimming out to where it was over her mouth and was loving it! I was shocked! She has always been so careful in the water.

Our first afternoon activity was zip-lining. She said it was what she wanted to do most. And she did it! She looked so tiny up there but she just marched up there, shaking like a leaf, and went as soon as the staffer said "1-2-3!" For the official record, I was also shaking like a leaf at the top and couldn't get myself to even sit on the platform much less go. My girl is braver than me!

Annabeth on the zip line! 
She looks terrified but she said she loved it and asked to go again!
Photo Credit: My mama's coworker Laura was also there this
weekend and took this for us. 

She spent the rest of the afternoon out in the deep part of the lake and taking fun challenging ways down the slip-and-slide. She ran her little heart out in TBA and scored her first pig in Steal-the-Bacon. Sunday morning she made fuse beads for the first time and swam some more.

Because I stay-at-home full time and we homeschool, I did kind of wonder if a weekend like this would be special. We are always together. But being away, without distractions, made such a huge difference in how we communicated and how I parented. My phone is only voice and text so I told Mark if he needed me to call the camp office and I left my phone in the cabin all weekend. I also gave in to Annabeth's request to not bring my camera, which broke my heart because I love pictures of everything, but I did it for her. As a result, I was fully engaged, ready to be part of everything and to hear every word. It was a huge blessing to not have any chores or cooking to do and to just be together.

I am so thankful for the Spring Consignment Sale where I made enough money to pay for this weekend, that our doctor okayed the trip to camp even with the health issues that Annabeth has had the past few weeks, and that the Lord provided this safe wonderful getaway! To God be ALL the glory!

Friday, June 9, 2017

Frugal Friday 196

Happy Frugal Friday!

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

- Last Friday was Owen's birthday. I took the kids to the Children's Museum of Indianapolis. My parents gave the kids a year long memership for Christmas and this was our 5th trip this year. It was a great way to have an extra fun day (for free!) to celebrate Owen.

 The kids loved the new Hot Wheels exhibit!
It was the perfect place to take Mr. O to celebrate his birthday!
With my handsome two-year-old!

- Saturday we celebrated Owen's second birthday with a Mickey Party. I had a lot of fun making decorations using items we had on hand. See this post for all of our party details.

- Saturday evening Mark and my dad mowed and trim our neighbor's lawn. Mrs. W was widowed earlier this year and the family member who usually does her yard and has had some health issues and cannot come. Mark and Dad were happy to volunteer their time, without being asked, to help her. I am so thankful for these men who have always shown me what it means to have a servant's heart.

- My sister-in-law is a NICU nurse and while talking about scrapbooking she said that she and her fellow nurses buy all of the craft supplies they use to make scrapbook pages and signs for the NICU babies. I went through my collection and was more than happy to pass along some baby papers, stamps, and stickers for them to use.

- Sunday my parents and sister were still in town after Owen's party. We took the kids to Blue Heron Park but even in the morning it was HOT! We headed back to the house and Mark set up our kiddie pool, water table, and Owen's new beach ball sprinkler from Aunt Lu. The kids enjoyed the whole afternoon playing. We enjoyed leftover party food, cake, and my Mama made some fruit based dairy-free ice cream for everyone to enjoy.

- Our house was built in the late 90s and had plastic covered drawers and cabinets in the kitchen and bathrooms. The plastic has started to chip and come off of the cabinets. We debated saving up to redo all of them but really couldn't think of a design layout we would rather have. We hated to go out and buy all new cabinets to put them in the same arrangement we have now. So...Mark has been taking all of the doors off and priming/painting them. They look great and it was, obviously, much much (like thousands less) than replacing them all.

- Mark worked one night at his part time job.

- I started my summer babysitting job. I will be keeping one of Annabeth's friends two days a week. Annabeth loves having an extra person to play with and we are saving the money to help cover the cost of the kids' activities for next fall.

We started 2017 with a new budget and some big goals for paying down our house payment faster and sooner.
Then... we had a car accident and had to pay to repair our car and to replace one car seat.
Then... we had to replace our washing machine. We debated buying used but we did that last fall and it was a huge mistake. We debated going without but quickly would spend more going to a laundry mat than we would just buying one new.
So...we made a new game plan, we made an extra principal payment and told ourselves that something was better than nothing.
Then...Annabeth went to the ER - twice in one week...and...both of the kids had blood draws in that same week.
So here we are, in the middle of June, having spent/going to spend thousands of dollars that we had not planned on. I remind myself: this is why we have an emergency fund, this is why we save, this is why using coupons is vital, this is why we do so many of the frugal things we do. But it's still hard - we can pay these bills but then we have the monumental task of rebuilding our savings.

We covet your prayers as we rebudget and replan for the rest of 2017. We also covet your prayers as we begin to address health issues with Annabeth and hope for some good, clear answers sooner rather than later. Thank you!

Happy Savings to All!

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Owen's Mickey Mouse Party

This year, Mark chose Mickey Mouse as the theme for Owen's birthday party. It was the perfect theme - Owen LOVES Mickey!

Over the years, I have had so much fun designing invitations and decorations for our kids' parties. I try to use items we have on hand, re-purpose items, or to buy from local crafters or on Etsy.

The Mickey theme was so easy because it's so popular! Pinterest had a ton of great ideas and I tweaked them and I think I came  up with some fun and cute ideas.

While Mark and I were in Nashville (IN) a few weekends ago, I visited my favorite scrapbook store. I picked up some fun Disney paper and Mickey stickers. I spent around $5 on all of it.

Sign for the front door to welcome our guests. 
 This was the sign on the door going out. 
I had fun using quotes from the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse show. 

I used some more Mickey paper and a cute picture of Mr. O and
his giant Mickey toy. The little Mickey cutout is actually part of a clothing
tag from some Disney clothes the kids received as a gift. I kept the tag knowing
I might need a Mickey stencil someday.

At the end of his clubhouse show, Mickey says "Thanks for stopping by"
I used that quote on the door sign above and on
the basket of party favors. 
(I found the Mickey bags at Dollar Tree and added three kinds of Mickey
stickers, Mickey tissues, and some candies all for under $5 since I had a 
giftcard to cover much of the party favors for the 6 children who came)

Owen sporting his Two Mickey Shirt.
Shirt from Kinsey Collection on Etsy

I bought this Mama Mouse shirt last fall when I learned that
Annabeth's dance was to "Disco Mickey"
It worked perfectly for this as well!
Shirt from Lattes N Littles on Etsy

Last week we were at Walmart and Annabeth fell in love with these
Minnie and Mickey kissing shoes. They were under $10 so I decided she could have them
Then I felt like Owen needed some Mickey shoes too. I bought some $6 tan shoes 
and used the Mickey stencil to paint a Mickey Mouse on each shoe.

Owen's Birthday cake was from Piece of Cake in Evansville
They made our wedding cakes and have made many of the
kids' birthday cakes. They have the BEST frosting and cake ever!

 Homemade thank you cards.
I made them in the same fonts as the invitations and I used the Mickey
stencil I mentioned above to make red and yellow Mickey heads on each one.

I have so much fun adding all of these special, little touches to the kids' parties! I wish I could find a way to host more themed events so I could make more crafts for them! 

Friday, June 2, 2017

Owen Merit is 2!

It is hard to believe that today is Owen's second birthday! And because he is 2 on the 2nd it's his Golden Birthday! 

In some ways, it feels like Owen has always been here. I feel like I can barely remember our little family before or without Owen.

Owen is so sweet and such a complete joy. He is happy most of the time and is so easy-going. He is totally happy in his stroller or the baby backpack and is easy to take out as long as we keep him contained. His wild place is the library - he gets out of the stroller and becomes a complete wild man! He loves to crash their toy cars, bang around in the kitchen, and most of all he loves to type on the computers.

Currently Owen loves:
- Mickey Mouse
- Books, the only thing he will sit still for is books
- Trains "Choo choo!"
- Toy cars
- Firetrucks, real ones and toys
- Going on walks, and by walks I mean being pushed in the stroller
- Eating fruit
- Drinking water and his sippy cups
- His sunglasses, his eyes are very sensitive to light and he is only happy outside without his shades

With the age difference between our kids (3.5+ years) I had forgotten about many phases and I am amazed with how quickly he picks up on things. He loves to mimic us, repeat words, and to practice his faces in the mirror. He has mastered running and climbing on furniture. He, in the last month, has learned to go up and down stairs.

While sweet, Owen is very stubborn. Just like with sitting (he was over 9 months old before he mastered that) and walking (18+ months!), he only does things when he wants and how he wants to. Our doctor has just decided that Owen has his own little growing pattern and that as long as he is making progress we should be happy. He seems to agree with her plan.

I spend many afternoons with post-nap Owen snuggled in my lap. He loves to comb my hair and to snuggle into me and to whisper. I will always treasure these baby (Mark would remind me to say toddler) snuggles and cuddles.

Happy #2 Owen Merit you are such a light and joy, we cannot wait to see how the Lord uses you for His glory!

Mr. O was up bright and early, ready to celebrate his
Golden Birthday! 

Frugal Friday 195

Happy Frugal Friday!

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

- We spent last weekend in Evansville with my family. Saturday we helped my parents clean out their garage and attic. We brought back from items that we can use and I sent many items from my childhood to a garage sale pile. We enjoyed eating out, visiting our family in Owensboro, a bonfire, fishing at the lake, and lots of time outside. I am so thankful for any time I can spend my with my family.

- I took down some magazines to share with my sister and she gave me some earrings that she does not wear. I love to trade with her!

- We drove back from Evansville on Monday. Our usual way is under construction and we were worried it would be extra backed up due to holiday traffic. We took a different route that added an hour to the trip. Even though the kids were screaming, we resisted the urge to give into their pleas for McDonald's and made dinner when we got home.

- A childhood friend of mine, and blog reader, sent the kids and me each letters. She wrote the most encouraging note in mine, something that I was really needing. She also sent each of the kids a ticket to ride the carousel at Eastland Mall for free. Thank you Scarlett for being my friend since the 3rd grade! Your kindness never fails to amaze me!

- We did our weekly grocery shop at Meijer. We spent right under $60 and I was excited to score buy one, get one 50% off + coupon deal on our body wash, buy 2/get 1 free cheese, and buy 1/get 1 free turkey. I also had a 5% off my grocery order coupon.

- I did a bit of Christmas shopping online. Disney had a 50% off sale so I found a few things to tuck away for the kids for either their next birthdays or Christmas depending on how they grow. Annabeth loves princess nightgowns and I love finding them on a great deal! I was sure to shop through ebates so that I would earn cashback!

These two love each other so much. 
They cannot stand to be apart for very long at all.
They do argue (and he loves to pull her hair) but they are truly best friends. 

We enjoyed a pretty mellow week at home - summer vacation is the best!

Happy Savings to All!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Anchors Aweigh!

Last month, I found the cutest anchor shirt and dress on Zulily and I decided that the kids needed these matching items!

Fast forward to last week when the package arrived and I opened it to find that I had ordered the white shirt for Owen and the grey dress for Annabeth. It doesn't sound like a big deal but Annabeth refuses to wear grey. She wouldn't even try the dress on. Zulily doesn't do returns so I decided that I would just let Owen wear his shirt and I would try to sell her dress.

That afternoon, our friend Kelley posted a new item on her Etsy shop - a patriotic quilt that included an anchor material that matched Owen's shirt almost perfectly. I messaged Kelley to see if she had any fabric left and to see if she could make a dress.

Kelley, of HeavenBound HCA, found the anchor fabric again, and an adorable roll of anchor ribbon, and made Annabeth a custom dress to match her brother's shirt. We gave Kelley and her girls the grey anchor dress as a trade. I am SO excited to have these sweet outfits for the kids to wear all summer. Thank you Kelley for saving the day!

"We have this hope as an anchor for our soul."
Hebrews 6:19
"Thank you for being the anchor in my life,
and for keeping me grounded yet always knowing when to let me float"
"The anchor of the gospel and the rock of the Redeemer
will keep us steady and secure."
President Dieter Uchtdorf

Please visit Kelley at her website HeavenBound HCA or on Etsy for your own adorable, one-of-a-kind homemade items!

*Owen's shirt by Neati Kidi from Zulily. 

Friday, May 26, 2017

Frugal Friday 194

Happy Frugal Friday!

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

- I did an Aldi grocery trip and, as always, was amazed to get a whole cart of produce and gluten free items for $50!

- Mark and I spent the weekend away (for the first time ever since having the kids!) to celebrate our 8th wedding anniversary. We stayed in a little cabin in Monroe County - Mark spent hours fishing and I read two whole books. We spent part of Saturday in Nashville, IN and had lunch at the Artist's Colony Inn (one of Mark's favorite restaurants) and we shopped. I enjoyed looking at clothes and trying them on and we even went into a store full of glass just because we were kid free! A HUGE thank you to Mama and Dad for keeping the kids. It was so wonderful to get away!

 A Southern Indiana Sunset 
Evening view from our get-away cabin. 
I thank God for the beauty of our earth!

- While my parents were in town they made a grocery run for us. Thank you all for the unexpected blessing of groceries!

- Mark worked one night at his part time job.

- Monday I cleaned out the coat closet and some of the kids clothing. My sister-in-law Jenn is having a garage sale next weekend so I wanted to get as many of their hand-me-downs returned as I could. I want her to be able to sell all that she can and it forced me to clean out items our kids have outgrown.

- Our parents sent us anniversary cards and money on Tuesday. We were able to enjoy a sushi dinner and The Big Short on Netflix. It was not at all what we had planned but both kids were really sick and we had a dining room full of ants. At the end of the day, all I could think was "Thank goodness I have Mark to do this life with me" because I wouldn't want to live it with anyone else.

We snuck in an anniversary picture between taking care of sick 
kiddos and cleaning house. Happy #8 Mark! 

- I sent a box of boy and girl hand-me-downs to a friend. The girls items are things I have been saving since Annabeth was a baby for this specific friend and I am so excited that she is finally having a girl!

- I cleaned out our schoolroom cabinet. As I learn about each of the kids' learning styles, I am able to recycle or pass on items that we are finished with or that we will not use.

- I handmade decorations for Owen's birthday party. I found cute paper and stickers at a scrapbook store over the weekend. I made three signs and two collages. The rest of the decorations will be Mickey Mouse items that the kids already have. I spent less than $5 on everything.

This week was one of the longest and hardest weeks we have had in a while. Annabeth was sick, which is so rare for her as she had only ever thrown up twice before this, Owen is getting his 2 year molars and is screaming unless I hold him, and yesterday we had to rush Annabeth to the Emergency Room for an allergic reaction to a new food. We will be doing bloodwork today and then follow-ups over the next few weeks. I am so thankful that Mark is great in emergencies and that we live just minutes from the hospital. She is home now but I am still processing just how scary it all was. We are thankful that God has it all under control because this week proved I am not!

Happy Savings to All! 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

#8: The 8 Days I Have Been Most Happy to be Married to Mark

Today is our 8th Wedding Anniversary!

In honor of #8 here are the top 8 times I was glad to be married to Mark:

1. Our Wedding Day.
I was not nervous, at all, on our wedding day. I did not have one butterfly in my stomach. We didn't get married until 4:30 in the afternoon, a time decided by a long running inside joke between us, and I was just excited to see him. I remember getting down the aisle, looking at him, and just thinking "I am so glad he's my forever."

The beginning of forever.
Photo Credit: Michelle Forche

2. Owen's Birth Day
Annabeth's birth has been such a complete mess and I wanted so different with Owen's. I fought and fought to have it all be how I wanted and Mark backed me up with every doctor, every meeting. Then, as we waited for Owen to arrive Mark held me up, he held me together. I remember saying "I don't care how this baby comes, I just want him out" and Mark gave me a look that said "No. You don't mean that and you can do this." So I did. I only made it because of his help and it was perfect, absolute perfection.

Mark with his two children for the first time.
Owen was 18 hours old and Annabeth was the first to meet him

3. Annabeth's Birth Day
It took me months to realize just how much Mark did on Annabeth's birth day. I went into shock at some point and so my memory has always been hazy about different parts. One thing I remember clearly is looking at Mark and seeing the complete and utter fear on his face. I told him "She's fine. I'm fine. We'll be fine." I said that before she started breathing, while I was very nearly bleeding to death and I love him for nodding at me like I was right. That was the best/worst day of my life and I am so grateful that he ran to NICU with her even though before we said he would stay with me. I was so grateful that he made sure they had pictures from NICU for me until I could get down there. I was so glad that he walks with me through the years of emotional recovery from that day.

Mark snuggling Annabeth on one of our first days home
from the hospital. I have about 50 pictures of them together like this.

4. The Day We Moved Into Our First House
We bought our first house in February of 2010, just nine months into marriage. Our first move together had been into an apartment and I had taken three weeks or so to unpack and decorate. I never wanted to move that way again. So when we moved into our first house we moved everything, unpacked, and decorated completely in one day. I am sure he could have cared less about getting everything on the walls but he did it, for me.

The day after we moved into our first house.

5. The Day We Became Debt Free (except for our house payment)
In August 2011, we paid off our last student loan. We had paid off credit cards and two student loans before it. Mark did not enjoy the process at all. He hated most of it and yet he committed to it, with me, for our family.

6. The Day He Agreed To Baby #2
After Annabeth turned 2, I began feeling like someone else should be in our family. By the time she was 2.5, I was certain our family was not complete. Mark was. He felt 100% like we were meant to be a family of three based mostly on a fear of a repeat delivery like Annabeth's. Then one summer evening, he came out back and saw Annabeth staring longingly through the fence at the two sisters who live behind us and he said, "Okay. Let's give her a sibling."

7. Every Day That I Have Not Felt Good Enough
I have always been extremely critical of myself. I have always been far more critical of me than anyone else could ever be. Mark has always been so good about lifting me back up and about being honest about my successes and shortcomings. His honesty, his positivity has made all the difference in the kind of woman, wife, and mother that I am. The past year has been especially rough as many of the close relationships in my life have changed, many of the changes not my choice and they have left me feeling like I am not good enough, and he has pulled me through. He helps me to be stronger.

8. Our Engagement Day
June 30, 2007 Mark asked me to marry him. He asked me in the perfect way, at the perfect place, on the perfect day. I loved that he knew me so well and that he knew exactly how I wanted it to be.

Every day I thank God that He chose Mark for me, that He chose me for Mark. I feel so incredibly blessed to be Mrs. Mark Riley.

Previous Anniversary Posts:
#7 Marriage is Saying "Yes"
#6 Our 6th Anniversary
#5 Our Wedding Verses
#1 ONE
One Month

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Family Print: Etsy Finds

A few years ago, I found a mom-blog that I fell in love with! Olivia has the a writing style that I love, kids that are adorable, and an Instagram feed that I love to check each week. Eventually we became Facebook friends and on and off she has always posted paintings that she is working on. A few months ago, she began posting family pictures that she was making.

Around the same time, my Mama and I found a cute sign online that said "This kitchen is for dancing." My parents have a radio in their kitchen and both of my kids love to turn it on and to dance with my Mama. While Mama liked the senitment of the sign we saw, it wasn't a design that she loved. We discussed making our own. That was my original Mother's Day plan - make a sign that Mama would want to hang in her kitchen.

Then...Olivia posted another family picture and I decided to ask her. The original design in my head had "this kitchen is for dancing" over some shadowy, silhouttes dancing. Olivia tired but said it wasn't coming out in a way that she liked so she asked me to send her some pictures of my mom and kids. I sent her a picture of my Mama and Owen dancing in the kitchen and one from Easter Sunday. Just two days later I had a rough copy of Olivia's new design in my messages. I got teary eyed. It was absolutely perfect. It was better than what I had imagined. Olivia perfectly captured my Mama, Annabeth, and Owen. She noticed little details of my Mama's kitchen, from the one photograph that I sent, that I never would have though to include.

Original artwork and design by Olivia Gunnell
@ Little French Girl Shop on Etsy 

I was SO excited when the print came in the mail and even more excited to give it to my Mama when she was here this weekend.

I am still dreaming up what kind of print I want of our little family of four but I know when I get the idea Olivia is who I will ask to make it!

Please visit her at Little French Girl Shop to request your own custom design!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Frugal Friday 193

Happy Frugal Friday!

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

- I received my check for the Spring Consignment Sale. It has been set aside in two envelopes to pay for two different summer activities - Tiny Tykes for Annabeth and me at Lakview and swimming lessons for the kids.

- Mark worked two nights at his part time job.

- Friday night Mark replaced our garage door opener. He found it on sale online for around $175 shipped. The estimate to have it professionally installed was $475 so we saved $300 by doing it ourselves! (And by ourselves I mean Mark did it and I handed him a few tools and read a few instructions)

- Saturday after Annabeth's dance competition I had lunch from Firehouse Subs for FREE thanks to a giftcard my sister gave Mark for his birthday. We had used it once already for dinner for both of us and then also for this lunch.

- I ordered our first Kiwi Crate. (You can earn $10 off your first crate by following that link) We are excited to try this box of science fun. If Annabeth likes it, we plan to order more throughout the year. I was able to get $10 off + FREE Shipping on my first crate and I also got 7.5% cashback through Ebates.

- Mark's parents hosted the family for Mother's Day. We took homemade cookie cake, chips and dip, and ice to share. Mark made his mom a card and the kids and I put together a book of their artwork and some fun pictures from the last few months. I don't think there are many things cuter than kids and their drawings!

- His parents sent home tons of yummy leftovers! We enjoyed the leftovers of the items that we took over plus bratwurst and blueberries and strawberries. His parents are so generous and gave me a Starbucks giftcard and chocolate covered strawberries to celebrate Mother's Day.

- I bought a coffee from the Starbucks inside Meijer on Monday morning. I used a $1 off venti coupon and used a birthday giftcard so it was totally free. We also did a quick grocery shop while there. I had a $2 off coupon in my mPerks, a $5 off $25 paper coupon, and we took advantage of many fruits and veggies being on their 11 for $10 deal.

- Monday afternoon, I cleaned out our little pool and water table. It was about 85 degrees outside but I didn't think it was warm enough for swim. The kids disagreed so we had our first pool day of the summer.

- Tuesday our sweet, sweet friends the Peters Family treated us to a trip to the Indianapolis Zoo. They have a plus two on their membership and Owen is free until his second birthday. We packed picnic lunches so it was a totally free trip! It was wonderful to spend a day with these friends! Thank you all!

- After our zoo trip, I finished Annabeth's Kindergarten Yearbook. I had a free 8x8 photo book on Shutterfly so I just had to pay for the 4 extra pages I added and for shipping. I earned 2% cashback on the extra pages thanks to Ebates!

- I scored my first garage sale find of the summer and it was a great one! I found a big, sturdy plastic kitchen + pots and pans + play food all for $15!! I had looked into building an outdoor play kitchen but finding this one ready for play worked well with our financial and time budget this spring!

We had a great first week of summer vacation. We are in that adjustment period between school schedule and summer schedule but are enjoying it all for sure! We are looking forward to a fun weekend!

Happy Savings to All!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Annabeth's Last Day of Kindergarten

Dear Annabeth,

Just over 180 school days ago, you started Kindergarten. You loved math and art, hated handwriting, and tolerated reading. You were in love with your phonics books and the rules of English and you couldn't wait to do Bible time.

Today, you still love math and art, you tolerate handwriting, and are coming along in reading. You love your phonics books more than anyone should and you have matured so much in your faith through Bible time.

You enjoyed events with our Homeschool Group - the fall party, 100th day of school party, park play, and lots and lots of days of play with friends.

You went from picking books at the library based on their pictures to finding your favorite authors, series, and reading titles.

You went from loving Bible time to asking for your own full-length Bible as opposed to the children's Bible's we have been using. We finished Ephesians in my Bible and you said, "Mama. Let's just start in Genesis. I don't want to miss anything" and so we have started with "In the beginning..." and gone from there.

Sometime this winter there was a day when you opened your reader and read a whole page to me. No help. No sounding out. You just read. And I cried. I cried tears of joy! You spent so so so many days crying over reading and to see you develop into an emerging reader is thrilling! A few weeks ago, you spent Sunday afternoon reading out loud to our family. This week you spent more than twenty minutes reading to Owen, all on your own without any help from me and without being asked.

I pray that this year you fell more and more in love with learning. I pray that you didn't just learn answers but that you learned how to find answers. I pray that you learned to focus and to work hard. I pray that you learned how rewarding it is to work hard and to have success.

Kindergarten is such a huge year! It is the first "real" year of school and I am amazed by the progress you have made! You have grown and learned so much!

I am so blessed to be your Mama and I am so in love with being your teacher!

I cannot wait to see what you learn this summer and am looking forward to 1st grade in the fall!


 Annabeth on her last day of Kindergarten
May 12, 2017
and just to compare....
Annabeth on her first day of Kindergarten
July 2016

Frugal Friday 192

Happy Frugal Friday!

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

- Mark and I redid our budget and are trying out a new system. Since we had the car accident and new washing machine last month we needed a real re-do to get back on track with everything else. We readjusted just in time as the motor on our garage door went out this week.

- I divided up the leftovers from the consignment sale and split it between three families. I love when our kids get hand-me-downs and I also love to pass along things to others as well.

- Friday morning the kids and I made a run to our new Meijier. I usually find their prices to be higher than Kroger and Walmart (the other two groceries in town) but I had a $5 off $25 coupon. Since we were some of the first people in the store that morning, we each got a goodie bag at the door. We got three of the following: reusable shopping bags with fruit printed on them, blue reuseable shopping bags, cooking spatulas, hand sanitizers, chip clips, water bottles, notepads, cookbooks, $1 off Starbucks order coupon, and $2 off gas station coupon. The kids loved getting to open their goodie bags and you know I love free stuff!

- We made homemade signs to decorate the house for the Kentucky Derby. We usually go to Kentucky and enjoy a big family derby party at Momaw's but this year Annabeth had a dance competition. We enjoyed watching from home, Mark even picked the winning horse, while eating party ham sandwiches but it just wasn't the same.

- Sunday after church Mark did yardwork and the kids and I did a deep clean of the living room. We sorted toys, threw out some things, and I am loving the completely organized look of it all!

- Monday we picked up our car (after two weeks at the repair shop) and it looks brand new! Fletcher in Franklin did such a good job! We were extra blessed when they told Mark that they only charged us a fraction of our deductible and did the rest of the work for the amount our insurance paid. So, more than three weeks after our accident we have our new carseats in our completely fixed car and spent less than $300 OOP (a HUGE blessing since the carseats + the repair + two weeks of car rental would have cost us nearly $3500 without filing a claim!)

- I took advantage of my StitchFix fee being waved. I have not ordered a box since last fall when they waived my fee. I did like some of the items they sent but overall just found everything to be far too expensive to make a purchase.

- It rained every day for almost 2 weeks, so I got out a lot of the Christmas gifts that I had saved back. I usually save some for winter snow days but since we didn't have any of those we used them as rainy day activities instead. That being said, I was SO happy to see some sunshine this week! We have been outside every moment we could be between rains!

- Thursday evening, Annabeth earned her first babysitting money for keeping Owen occupied for an hour while I worked in the kitchen.

This was such a proud moment for me!
Annabeth chose to read (really read not just say what the picture looked like!) 
to Owen for more than twenty minutes. 

We had a great last week of school and I am finding it hard to believe that Annabeth is finished with Kindergarten! We are so proud of our girl!

Happy Savings to All!
Happy Mother's Day!

Monday, May 8, 2017

More Than Just a Piece of Paper

In 2005, I earned my high school diploma. It was my first big on-paper achievement. I graduated with Academic Honors and was selected as a graduation speaker. I remember that night felt HUGE when it happened. It was so exciting and felt like my first big step into the world. 

Three years later, I graduated from the University of Louisville, with honors. I didn't go to graduation. I was 21 and the fact that they were going to charge me a ton of money to rent a cap and gown didn't sit well with me. A few weeks later, a diploma was mailed to my parents house and it felt "official" I was so proud of that piece of paper. I didn't need a cap or gown or long ceremony to know what I had accomplished. 

Since then, I have had jobs, lost jobs, had other jobs, and eventually quit a job.
I have had both of the kids and even though they don't hand out diplomas in labor and delivery I would have loved one!

I have learned, in being a stay-at-home-mama and a homeschooling mama that my years of earning awards, certificates, and raises are over. As I have decided to not go back for my Masters or extra certifications, I felt that my University Diploma hanging over my desk is my last big paper achievement. I now spend my days, helping my children reach their greatest potential.

Last night, I was working in the school room planning out our last week of school and then moving on to summer plans. Mark walked in and grabbed a paper off the printer and handed it to me.

I read it over and over. Mark wrote: "The certificate is present to Amy E Riley in recognition of outstanding contributions to the academic achievement and personal growth of the Kindergarten Students of The Riley School..." signed Principal Mark P Riley. 

This piece of paper was so validating for me. To know that my principal, my husband, my teammate recognizes the hard work of the past four years of teaching is so special to me. Mark is so thoughtful and the fact that he did this all on his own makes it my favorite paper ever! 

I am always thankful to be on this homeschool journey. I am thankful to be raising and training my children at home, for His glory. I am thankful for Mark's constant love and support as their Dad, our principal, our substitute teacher, our science teacher, and as my husband. To God be all the glory! 

Friday, May 5, 2017

Frugal Friday 191

Happy Frugal Friday!

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

- Last week, our neighbor had a very large tree taken out of her front yard. Miss Shirley came over ahead of time to let me know so I could bring the kids out front to watch. They loved it! Owen watched the entire process - nearly two hours! I had to come in to cook dinner and he watched out the school room window. He did not want to miss a moment of the chainsaws and big trucks!

- Saturday evening we hosted Brian and Luke (Mark's dad and brother) for a pizza dinner and treated everyone to Lickity Slick Snowballs at the Grand Re-Opening for the summer. They did $1 small snowballs for the event and we loved them! To quote Owen, "Yum Yum!"

First Snowballs of the Season!
(We should have taken sunglasses even though it was evening.
All the pictures ended up with squinty eyes.)

- Sunday afternoon, Mark cleaned out his closet. We were able to take a large black trash bag of clothing to The Lord's Cupboard to be donated.

- A few weeks ago, our friend Misty listed a jogging stroller for sale. We bought it from her for $100 under retail price! We got such an awesome deal as her daughter had only used it about a year or so! I had been on the fence about if we should get one this summer or not and her posting sealed the deal. Thank you to Misty and family for the great deal!

- This week, I sold our double stroller. I bought it used right before we had Owen and we have loved it the past two years. I sold it for exactly what I paid for it - an awesome deal as the retail value of the stroller and the extra accessory I had was $195 and I bought/sold it for $50.

- I made out okay at the Spring Consignment Sale. I only had 137 items in this sale so I made far less than I have at the past couple. That being said, between my sale totals and the sale of the stroller I made enough to cover the rest of our Mommy and Me weekend at camp in June and the kids' swimming lessons this summer. That was my goal for the sale alone so I was thankful to have sold the stroller as well.

- We paid our mortgage for the month of May and also made an additional payment on our Principal. This is something we want to do more of but it just doesn't always happen. We have finished paying for dance for the next two months so I am hoping we can add extra to the Principal for the next two months.

- I used up a gift card to buy items to donate to the Meal Bags that we help fill at the Franklin Church of God. Annabeth loves to help fill the bags and I love that she is learning that not everyone is blessed enough to have food at home and that it is our privilege as Christians to feed the hungry.

- Last year, I bought a dress up tote at a garage sale. It was beginning to fall apart and this week the bar fell off completely. It took Mark a few minutes, some screws, and some glue and it's back to working order. I am thankful to be married to someone who likes to repair what we have instead of buying new.

Frugal Fail:
- Mark and I saw two research study opportunities in Tuesday's newspaper. We both applied - neither one of us qualified which was a bummer (it would have been $275 if we had both qualified) but we will keep watching for more.

We have had a rainy, rainy week here! I am ready for some sunshine and to get back outside to play again!

Happy Savings to All!
Happy Derby Weekend!

Friday, April 28, 2017

Frugal Friday 190

Happy Frugal Friday!

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

- Saturday morning the kids and I got up early to go to my favorite kids' sale. Well, I had missed the memo that the sale had been cancelled! I was sad to miss the deals I love but I did save whatever money I would have spent!

- Saturday afternoon I shopped a Banana Box Sale at UTS with a friend. I got approx $125 worth of groceries for $27!

Mr. O, just hanging out, eating a banana 

- I trimmed Annabeth's hair at home. We need to keep it long so it will fit in her bun for dance but the ends were in dire need of some trimming! Saved the cost of a salon haircut.

- Sunday Mark and Annabeth did our grocery shopping for the week and had a little mini date at the Starbucks in our Kroger. Annabeth enjoyed a Parrot Cake Pop thanks to a gift card she won during the Kuhn Family Easter Egg Hunt.

- My sister-in-law Jenn gave us four boxes of gluten free mixes. Owen has a gluten sensitivity and while some foods work fine with his system (tortillas and some pizza crust) many others make him very sick. We try to keep his diet as gluten free as possible and these mixes were very much appreciated.

- Monday I dropped my items off for the Spring Consignment Sale. I actually had a very small load to take over. Neither one of the kids have grown a great deal since last summer so they can both wear many of the same things they wore last year. I also sold many of last summer's items at the end of summer on Facebook.

- Mark worked one night at his part time job.

- Mark's mom brought Owen five new wooden puzzles. We now have a whole preschool puzzle shelf! Mr. O will be ready for 2 year old preschool in the fall! Thank you!

- A few weeks ago, we got a free sample of pull-ups and some pull-up coupons in the mail. Neither one of our kids wear them so we passed them along to a friend who could use them.

- When our new washing machine came, we got some free samples of Tide pods. We cannot use Tide so I offered them on Facebook and a friend said she could use them. I was glad to pass them along.

- Since we had to replace our carseats follow our car accident, I shared them with friends who could use them during Target's carseat trade in this month. They were able to get an additional 20% off their next car seat purchase.

- I shopped the Here We Grow Again - Indy South sale. I found some great clothes for Annabeth, 2 books for Owen, and one outdoor toy for the kids to share. It came out to an average of $4/item. I also got beat to the Boutique rack and lost out on the Matilda Jane outfit I really wanted for Annabeth. I was sad but our budget was happy!

One of my favorite parts of the week was that we finally got our car into the shop on Tuesday to be fixed. Since it was going to be quite a few days (we still don't have it back) our insurance gave us a rental for the week. I have had fun driving a brand-new shiny black SUV. The kids love watching the back-up camera on the dashboard. I am thankful for insurance to cover the cost of the damages, the new carseats, and also the rental of this fun car for the week!

Happy Savings to All!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Banana Box Sale Review

Last Saturday, a friend and I made the drive to downtown Indy to go to Under the Sun's Banana Box Sale. I first heard about this sale on a mom's group Facebook page that I am on and it's the first time they have done the sale since I heard about it.

Each person gets a banana box at the door, then you walk the warehouse filling your box like a live Tetris game, and as long as your top items are even with the top of the box you get everything in it for $30! This sale had an added bonus of completing a short survey for a 10% off coupon so I got my box for just $27!

The store's Facebook page often shows awesome deals on nut free and gluten free snacks and Plum Organics. I was mostly interested in finding these items. I went into the sale with kind of a mental list but I quickly realized that many of the items were well past their expiration dates. I changed my game plan and decided to just grab anything, not expired, that I thought we might eat. Then my plan was to edit at the end to make sure everything fit into my box.

Here is what I got for $27:

6 Bags of Popcorn (Specifically Annabeth's favorite!)
3 Boxes of Glutino Crackers
3 Cans of Fruit
2 Cans of Veggies
2 Cake Mixes
2 Fruit Teas
2 Family Size Boxes of Macaroni and Cheese
2 Boxes of Belvita Breakfast Cookies
2 Butterfinger Bars (One of Mark's favorites)
2 Jars of Pasta Sauce
2 Boxes of Barilla Gluten Free Pasta
2 Big Boxes of Granola Bars
1 Cookie Mix
1 Box of Jello (a rare treat in our house)
1 Box of Annie's Cheddar Shells
1 Box of Gluten AND nut free cookies
1 Box of Gluten Free Bread Crumbs
1 Large Container of Oats
1 2lb bag of Italian Pasta
1 Box of Belvita Breakfast Sandwiches
1 Box of Skinny Cow Chocolates with Caramel
1 Bag of Chocolate Covered Lays (my favorite)
1 Large bag of Milton Gluten Free Crackers

The Experience Overall:
To be honest, it was really overwhelming. We waited in line about 45 minutes before being able to go in to shop and then many more items were out of date than I was expecting. I quickly learned that every company puts their expiration date in a different place on their products and it got to the point where I couldn't remember if we were in the year 2016 or 2017. I tried to be very careful checking dates so I didn't waste space on expired items.

Biggest Disappointment:
I was most disappointed with how quickly the stock was moving. I had seen some brands in early morning shoppers Facebook posts that I really wanted and they weren't out when I was there. I was also disappointed that in order to have all in-date items I ended up with three cans of fruit, two cans of veggies, two jars of pasta sauce, and one box of jello. These are all items that will get eaten, probably within the next month, but they are also items I can always get for less than $1 at the grocery. I had really hoped to find more high dollar items like the kids' allergen free snacks. I definitely would have felt like I got more for my money if I had found more of those.

What I will do next time:
- I will not go in with any kind of list. There were far too many items being taken off the shelves by shoppers and added by stockers to go in with the hope of finding specific products.
- I will go later in the day again. I think we arrived around 11:30 or 11:45 and the line wasn't terribly long at that point.
- I will wear my reading glasses. My eyes were twitching and my head hurt from reading the tiny numbers!
- My friend Andrea suggested grabbing anything I might think we want and then sort later. That was great advice and I actually still had room in my box after my first go around! I made a second pass around and found the popcorn that Annabeth loves! I was glad to have reorganized my box and made room for as many bags as I could.

Overall, I calculated that my $27 box would have cost me around $125 at our local Kroger! That made the trip well worth it!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Stamp

Four years ago today, my Grandma Chico was called Home.

We had known that she was sick for just a short amount of time before her passing. Mark, Annabeth, and I were in the midst of listing our old house for sell, buying our current house, my best friend had her first child the day before, and the evening before Matt and Jenn announced they were leaving Indiana and moving 20 hours away to South Dakota. Our spring had been busy and I had been home as often as I could to see Grandma. I, thankfully, was able to have some good conversations with her and shared sweet moments with Annabeth and her. Even so, I was in no way prepared.

Annabeth and Grandma - June 2012 - Grand Rapids, MI

We had modified our holiday schedule and gone home for Easter a few weeks before. I had taken some time after that visit to write Grandma a letter but in the busyness of life it didn't get mail. The night Dad called to say she had passed, I saw the letter on my dresser.

We went home for the funeral and it was one of the loneliest and worst experiences of my life. I did not receive a single call, text, or note from a family member or friend. I remember, after the funeral, sitting at my grandparents kitchen table and going through the list of donations and flowers and realizing that I was the only family member who did not have a "thank you" to write.

I did receive two Facebook messages - both came from high school classmates that I had not spoken to since high school and neither one were girls that I had been particularly close to. Just two people.

When we got home from Evansville a week later, I saw the letter on my dresser. I took it out and read it. I realized that I had said everything in the letter to Grandma before and I prayed that she knew how much I loved her. I shredded the letter but kept the stamp.

I have kept this stamp for four years and it is my daily reminder to check in with people. To send the message, to make the time to send a birthday card, to write the sympathy card, to always write thank you notes. I keep the stamp to remind me to never let anyone else feel so alone.

Grandma Chico taught me so much - to love to read and learn, about baseball, about movies, about the pleasure in making things, about the joy in crafting, and about love. So much about love.

I share this today, on the anniversary of Grandma's death, because she always sent cards - birthdays, Christmas, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and even St. Patrick's Day. Grandma was a dedicated pen-pal and I was fortunate enough to get her stationary and card sets when we cleaned the house out. They are my gifts to give away to others now - to share the love she shared so freely with everyone. I am so thankful for the example that she was in my life and pray that I am carrying on her legacy in a way that is pleasing to her and to the Lord.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Frugal Friday 189

Happy Frugal Friday!

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

- Friday, while in Evansville, I ordered Owen's birthday cake. We used a Deaconess Spirit of Women card and saved 10%.

- Friday afternoon, my family and I took the kids to play at Willard Library. Annabeth really enjoyed looking at different books and seeing what kinds of puzzles they had. Owen loved running in the big yard out front. I loved seeing one of my best friends from high school who works there!

- My parents treated us to dinner at Mission BBQ - a restaurant that supports and thanks hometown heroes. Mark enjoyed his dessert, on the house, as a thanks for his service.

- Last Saturday we drove to Owensboro to visit my Momaw. She had Easter baskets ready for the kids and Annabeth loved hunting for eggs. We spent much of the day outside helping Momaw get her flowerbeds ready to be mulched this week. Momaw was very sick and in the hospital over Thanksgiving and it just reminded me to really treasure each and every moment we have together.

Celebrating Easter at Momaw's House

- Sunday, Easter, we enjoyed breakfast at Old North UMC as well as Easter services there. Then we headed back to my parents for an Easter egg hunt and lunch. Mama made all of our favorite foods and was kind enough to send many of the leftovers home with us. Dad made Easter baskets for each of us and the kids played with their new little toys on the way home. I am so thankful for my family!

The Riley Four
We took this in front of the chapel where we were married nearly 8 years ago.  

Grandpa, Annabeth, Grandmama-Mimi, and Owen Merit

- I shopped Zulily and found Annabeth a rainbow stripe dress to replace the one she has outgrown from last summer and also found Mark a new pair of New Balance tennis shoes for half the price of anywhere else! I shopped through Ebates and earned 1% cashback on my purchase!

- My friend Ann told me that the Stride Rite Outlet near us is closing. I went two days and found 7 pairs of shoes for under $90 OOP! The first day I took a $10 reward and bought Annabeth tennis shoes in the next size, Merrell water shoes in her current size, and tennis shoes in the next two sizes for Owen. The second day, I had another $10 reward in my e-mail so we went back and found Owen a pair of sandals as well as rainboots for Annabeth - both items had been on my list and we didn't find them the first day. That day I also found Annabeth tennis shoes in 2 sizes up from now. Overall I saved $20 with Stride Rite Rewards and I saved another $215 off retail prices!

- I ordered FREE prints from Shutterfly using their Easter code to get up to 101 free prints. I just had to pay shipping. Saved: $9.90

- Wednesday our washing machine broke down mid-load, our amazing friends the O'Neals let us come over to rewash that load. I am SO thankful for their kindness!

And because people often ask "Are you always frugal?" No...this week we had some MAJOR Frugal Fails:

- We were involved in a hit-and-run accident while out of town. We were uninjured but the car did suffer some damage and, of course, we needed to replace car seats after the accident. We did file a claim with our insurance and will have to pay our deductible. We also had some out of pocket costs on the car seats since our policy only covered $200 in personal items in the vehicle.

- Monday I noticed our washing machine was acting funny, I was able to do some trouble shooting and was able to get it to limp along Monday and Tuesday but by Wednesday it was totally broken. Our old washing machine went out in November which we found out during an $80 service call. The repair company applied that $80 towards the cost of our next machine if we bought from them. They came highly recommended and have great reviews so we went to their store. Their store only had refurbished machines in stock and after some debate and research we decided to go ahead and to buy one that way. The machine came with a 60 day warranty so for the first 60 days I ran every load I could think of - big, small, bulky, delicate, shoes, comforters, uniforms, etc and we did not have any issues. Then this Wednesday, the repairman came and told me that the machine was completely shot - it would be more to fix then we paid for it. He called the shop owner who would not give us any kind of break on the repair even though we just bought the machine from them. He did agree to give an unspecified discount on our next purchase from them. We decided to cut our losses and to not apply Wednesday's $70 charge towards a machine with them and to just go buy a new one. In the end, we paid hundreds and hundreds of dollars on service calls and a machine that we only used for 6 months. Lesson Learned.

Happy Savings to All!

Friday, April 14, 2017

Frugal Friday 188

Happy Frugal Friday!

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

- Last Friday, we met my sister in Bloomington for the day. We enjoyed lunch at Trojan Horse, walked Kirkwood St, and Aunt Lu spoiled the kids by buying each of them a special new book. Annabeth chose the complete George and Martha book and Owen chose a book with pictures of real babies - his favorite thing. Lu also brought me a bag of hand-me-downs - Thank you!

- I ordered Annabeth's 1st grade math and reading/phonics books from AOP. They always have everything 20% off in April so we buy during this month each year. I also added a friend's book to our order since our total qualified for free shipping and hers would not have. I saved $36 by shopping during April.

- Saturday morning Mark and Annabeth colored Easter eggs. We took the eggs to the Riley Easter celebration and also enjoyed boiled eggs at home this week.

- Saturday night Annabeth and I enjoyed a Premier Family Event at The Children's Museum of Indianapolis. We saved $10 on ticket prices because we are members but this event was still a bit pricey. That being said, it was well worth every penny! We were in a group of around 75 people and enjoyed a catered dinner, face painting, jugglers, circus games, a 40 minute show from the Peru (IN) Amateur Circus, and we had the whole The Circus Starring You exhibit and Chocolate Slide to ourselves. I will be checking the museum website for more special events as this was a great way to spend an evening with my Nanners Girl.

"Her life was a circus, so she decided to join the ride." - Queenisms

- I handmade invitations for an upcoming event. I printed the invites at home and then used a stencil we had to color a design on them. I always put a sticker on the back of all of the mail I send out and we happened to have perfectly themed stickers on hand so I used those. We had gotten them free in the mail. I LOVE making cards, invitations, and stationary - I wish we had an event every month so I could dream up things to create!

- I designed and ordered Owen's birthday shirt from one of my favorite Etsy shops - Kinsey Collection. I ordered three shirts (both kids' birthday shirts as well as a first birthday gift from a friend) from this shop last year and she kindly gave me a 10% discount on Owen's shirt this year!

- Mark worked a shift at his part-time job and some extra hours at his regular job.

- I received my latest PinchMe box. I had three free samples this month: green tea, after shave cream for Mark, and a toothpaste sample. Are you interested in free samples as well? Join me at PinchMe!

- PinchMe's new sample day was Tuesday. My profile did not match any samples so they offered me a free one year subscription to a magazine. I already get InStyle magazine for free so I added People's Stylewatch.

- Our sweet friend Cindy Campbell gave Annabeth a bag of crafts a few weeks ago. She spent part of Tuesday afternoon making cross magnets and chose to give to our neighbors as Easter gifts. I was so excited when she chose to make the crosses and to include the memory verse John 3:16 with them. Thank you Cindy for the fun project - it was a real blessing to our sweet neighbors!

- Wednesday morning I picked up coffee (for me) and cake pops (for the kids) for free thanks to a gift card from Christmas.

- We did not grocery shop this week. Our grocery budget has gone out the window the past few months and we have been spending WAY too much at the store! I used to always go 2x/month and would use up nearly everything that we had on hand before going again. We have gotten away from that and have been going even when we have plenty of food on hand. By not going this week, we used up a lot of items that needed to be eaten.

Happy Savings to All!
Even more importantly, Happy Easter to All! He is Risen!

Friday, April 7, 2017

Frugal Friday 187

Happy Frugal Friday!

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

- Last Friday, we had movie night at our neighbors. Andrea and I both brought out left-overs from the week and we all enjoyed a mish-mash dinner while watching Moana. 

- Saturday morning Mark ran out and got donuts. We also bought a dozen for our friends and neighbors and left them as a surprise on their porch.

Owen eating his first donut.
He ate about half of it! 

- Saturday I hosted a LuLaRoe Party. I earned one FREE item and one item 50% off. I was able to get two new shirts for under $20! Thank you to everyone who came and shopped!

- Saturday afternoon, Annabeth and I had a bit of a Girls' Day! We shopped a 50% Day at a consignment store and scored 5 items for $5.35 - one leotard, one fleece sweatshirt, one sparkly tank, a Wonder Woman t-shirt, and a Note Dame shirt. Retail it would have been nearly $100 to buy them all new! We had a HUGE savings!

- Marked worked at his part time job.

- I cleaned out my closet and was able to share clothes with four different friends. I am working really hard to only keep the things that I love to wear.

- I mailed an envelope of Box Tops for Education to the Indiana Association of Home Educators. We have been able to donate $10 this year just through Box Tops. Thank you to my parents who save theirs for IAHE as well. If you collect box tops and would like to support homeschooling in Indiana, I would be happy to mail them for you or you can mail them to: IAHE, PO Box 217, Stilesville, IN 46180.

- Tuesday we cleaned out the schoolroom bookshelf and Annabeth selected two books to trade at the Free Little Library. Wednesday morning we traded books at the FLL and walked the Story Walk in Franklin. The kids love reading the books and running along the paths. It began to thunder during our first round so we drove down the street to the library to play and check out books. I love our library system!

- The kids have grown quite a bit in the past month or so. I was able to pack up a big box of hand-me-downs to return to their cousins. Jenn always gives us her kids' hand-me-downs and then I return them to her when we are done. She then either passes them on again or sells them. I think it is so fun to have my kids wearing outfits that their cousins wore too! :)

We had a good week this week and are so thankful for the beautiful weather! Spring has sprung!

Happy Savings to All!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Annabeth's First Bible

Over the years, Annabeth has been given quite a few "Baby's First" and "Toddler" Bibles. We have enjoyed reading through all of them many times. In the past year, we have read her Children's Bible cover to cover over and over. This year during school, we have been reading (and memorizing parts of) complete books of the Bible. Last Friday Annabeth said, "Mama I would like my own Bible. Then I can make my own highlights and underlines like you do in yours."

Today, we presented Annabeth with her very first complete Bible.
Today, her Bible is brand new - no bent pages, no markings, no bookmarks but I pray that it does not stay this way for long. I pray it quickly becomes worn and marked up by a little girl who is learning to love to read and obey God's Word. 

On the inside cover, I wrote her a note. I copied a note that I read weekly. My Grandpa Chico wrote the note in the front of a New Testament, which he gave to my Dad over thirty years ago. Sometime along the line, my Dad gave the copy to me. I cherish the sweet words, in Grandpa's handwriting. They are so special because I know that he truly believed them, that he lived by them. I pray that my desire to live by them is making Grandpa, Dad, and most of all the Lord so proud. I pray that Annabeth will run her fingers over those same words and take them to heart as well. "...a humble book containing all you need to know to become a success..."

I am positive there will be many moments of pride in my children. I am sure there will be many moments that I remember and treasure for a lifetime. But these moments, the moment my child asked for a Bible, the moment I gave her one, will be forever some of my most cherished. May all the glory and honor be His as He works in her heart and through her for His Good.