Friday, August 18, 2017

Frugal Friday 206

Happy Frugal Friday!

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

- Saturday morning we visited the Downtown Franklin Farmer's Market for some fresh green beans and peaches. We also stopped by our new Pet Smart store for fish filters and the kids loved watching all of the fish.

- I bought a $10 Starbucks giftcard on Groupon for only $5 OOP. I also went through eBates for 3% cashback.

- Saturday afternoon Mark and I each took turns taking Annabeth out one-on-one. Mark took her to lunch at 'Sun and Moon Mexico' aka the Mexican restaurant closest to our house. She was so excited to have Daddy all to herself. Owen and I enjoyed a quiet lunch at home together. Then in the afternoon, we switched, I took Annabeth grocery shopping and out for Lickity Split snowcones and Mark and Owen played at home. Mark works so much so when we have the chance we really try to split the kids up so we each can have some one-on-one time with them.

So happy to be out with Mama!
She had a Wedding Cake snowball and I had a Birthday Cake one.
We filled our punch-card so our next one will be free!

- Sunday after church we drove up to Trinity and Mark worked and the kids and I attended a fundraiser for one of Mark's scouts. This young man put on a BBQ rib dinner to raise money for his Eagle Project and we are happy to report it is now fully funded and he is ready to move forward! God is good!

- My sister sent the kids and me back-to-school gifts! She sent Annabeth a book signed by the author about interesting creatures, a firetruck book to Owen, and a beautiful "Guide and Inspire" necklace to me. Thank you Lu for making our 5th back-to-school so exciting!

Shop Simply Joyish on Etsy for your own custom necklace! 

- We received a free sample of mouthwash to use and review.

- I received a free magazine subscription and used it to renew the Vogue Magazine subscription that we give my sister.

- We bought laundry soap for the second time this year. We only use Purex and we only buy it when I can get a coupon for each bottle + buy 2, get 1 free at Kroger. We have spent a total of $12 on laundry detergent ALL year!

- I also ordered our dishwasher pods for only the second time this year. I order ours from and each box lasts about 6 months. 

We had a great week, although it felt very lllooonnnggg, because I am SO looking forward to this weekend and for the solar eclipse next week! 

Happy Savings to All! 

Friday, August 11, 2017

Frugal Friday 205

Happy Frugal Friday!

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

- Saturday we took a huge box of paper to a community recycling/shred day. I was glad to get it out of the schoolroom and to have some records securely shredded for free.

- I finished my summer babysitting job this week. This job allowed us to add quite a bit of money to Owen's savings account and paid the deposit for Annabeth's dance for next year. The Black Family gifted us a beautiful family watercolor made by my friend Olivia - thank you to all of you!

- I hosted an Usborne Book Mystery Hostess Party. My Mystery Hostess earned $20 in free books and $25 in 1/2 price books!

- Saturday evening we hosted a pitch-in dinner. We had a great time with some of our closest friends. We at leftovers for two lunches and Monday night dinner.

- Annabeth and I have been doing facials at home. She is so girly and loves things like this! I love spending an extra 5 minutes with just my girl!

Facial Ladies. 

- I placed an order with Click my referral link for $15 off your first order! I have ordered from them a few times through Zulily but this was my first time actually ordering from their site. I signed up as a new customer and got 15% off my order + free shipping! I also earned 2% cashback through Ebates. We also got three freebies with our order - a package of pasta, a granola snack, and (much to Annabeth's delight) Annie's gummies.

- We spent most of the week outside. It has been beautiful, especially for August, so we have taken advantage! We have also been enjoying the park and pool being pretty empty since our local schools went back to class on Wednesday.

- Last night the kids and I enjoyed $2/person admission to the city pool. We had a great time swimming!

We have had such a good week! Everyone in my house is pretty happy when we can just live outdoors!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

How Seeing My Daughter's Allergist Changed MY Life!

Last month I posted about being a Food Allergy Mama.
What I wasn't quite ready to write about was how seeing our daughter's allergist changed MY life.

As a young child, Annabeth has always reacted (with hives) to peanuts and over time her reactions to dogs/cats have worsened (to more severe hives and difficulty breathing). But this summers reactions that sent us to the Emergency Room two times totally changed the way that I viewed her food allergies. They went from something we worked to avoid to something I was losing sleep over.

We had a 7 week wait to see an allergist and so in the meantime we avoided what we thought the trigger foods were and asked family and friends to do the same. Everyone else was so calm, "Okay. We'll be nut free when we see you." And that was that.

When I talked to Mark and my family everyone said, "Okay. We'll check the labels again" or "It's okay, we'll figure it out." But I was FREAKING OUT! I think maybe my parents and Mark could sense that and thought I needed them to be calm for me. But I didn't!

Both of Annaebth's reactions happened when I was alone with the kids. I was the one ripping her clothes off, washing her skin, giving medicine, trying to get shoes on everyone and to herd them out the door, watching her choke-vomit-wheeze, and I was the one who had to make the drive to the hospital - keeping her talking to me so I knew she was okay. It was me, alone. And it was terrifying.

We saw the allergist and he was the first person who said the things I needed to hear:
- This is serious.
- This is life changing.
- You will have to change how you grocery shop, go in public, visit other people's houses.
- He gave me a new protocol for how we should eat out or visit places like the Children's Museum
- Avoidance and also carrying two epi-pens are her two best chances at surviving another exposure to her worst allergens
We spent hours in his office as he walked me through all of the things we needed to change. He validated all of the precautions I had been taking and also all of my fears. He was the first person who really listened as I talked. He was the first one to completely agree with all of the changes we had made. He was the first person who seemed to understand how I felt and for that I am so grateful.

The first grocery trip after seeing the allergist, took over an hour and ended with me sobbing in my car. Our allergist said it is now necessary to watch for "may contain..." items in addition to items that do contain the allergens. It completed changed the way I grocery shopped - especially because Owen is gluten free and many gluten free items are made with almond flour which we are not to have in the house anymore. It took twenty minutes just to find a pancake mix that everyone could have.

I have stayed home a lot this summer out of fear. Because we still are not sure of what caused the reaction at the Children's Museum (a reaction that within 20 minutes had her covered in hives and struggling to breathe) every time we go somewhere I worry. I wash things, I wash her hands, we don't eat in public and yet the fear is there. Is it going to happen today? What will cause it?
If you don't have, or your child doesn't have, life threatening allergies you may think this is crazy.
It's not - it's life saving.

I share this because I need the people in my life to know how I feel. I need people to understand that the responsibility I have for her safety is huge and it is mostly mine. I am the one who reads the labels, who gives the medicine, who has to change her clothes/shower her/do her breathing treatment just so we can visit someone who has a pet. It's exhausting and it's not going to change. This is her life, her reality and having the allergist say to me: "You're job just got really hard" was the best, most validating thing that anyone could have said to me. It changed my life to have someone take me seriously.

If you are interested in more information I think this page is quite thorough and helpful.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Frugal Friday 204

Happy Frugal Friday!

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

- I closed out my first Cards for a Cause fundraiser with Usborne. This fundraiser raised $425 for the ladies that did it! Please let me know if you or your organization would be interested as I would love to help you earn money for your group as well!

- I continued my summer babysitting job and had one Usborne party.

- Mark worked one night at his part time job. He also worked National Night Out - an event focused on putting police officers and the public together in a peaceful, positive setting. This event felt very important this year as just last week an officer was killed in a neighboring community.

- I finished a sewing project last week and added it to our wall. I love how it turned out!

 This is the first sewing project I have completed in years!
We do in fact love where we live!
I paired it with this great coordinates Franklin, IN sign 
by Charming Willows and purchased at Vintage Whimsy  

- We did a bit of back-to-school shopping for Annabeth. As we have worked on cleaning out her closet for the fall consignment sale, I quickly realized that very little of what she wore last winter will fit again. We hit a sale at Kohl's + 20% off coupon and got her three long sleeve shirts, two short sleeve shirts, and one pair of leggings. Since she has an October birthday, she usually gets fall/winter items then as well but I wanted her to have the fun of back-to-school shopping too!

- Saturday evening we worked on cleaning out and organizing the garage. We found one item to sell and I got it photographed and listed on Facebook garage sale pages.

- Sunday evening we had a cookout with Mark's parents. We took chips and dips, corn on the cob, and squash casserole. They did the meats, fruits, and dessert. They were very kind and sent home tons of leftovers which we enjoyed for several meals. Thank you all!

- Monday evening Mark went and help a friend put up hay. He brought home 4 ears of corn, 3 onions, and 1 green bell pepper as thanks for his work.

- The kids and I participated in our library's summer reading program and I won the Food and Fun prize! I won a $10 McDonald's card, $10 Speedway Gas Card, and a $10 Starbucks card! Woohoo! Thank you JCPL! 

- Wednesday night the kids and I enjoyed a swim at the Franklin Pool. After 5 pm it is just $2/person to swim.

We had a great week and are fully back into our school schedule. It feels so good to be back into a good routine again!

Happy Savings to All!

Friday, July 28, 2017

Frugal Friday 203

Happy Frugal Friday!

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

- I continued my summer babysitting job and had one Usborne Party.

- Mark worked one shift at his part-time job.

- Last Saturday, Annabeth and I worked at our church's garage sale. Annabeth loved playing "store" while helping. She can make anything fun! :)

- We did our grocery shopping in two parts on Saturday. We shopped the Downtown Franklin Farmer's Market for fruits and veggies ($15) and Meijer for the rest ($70). Meijer had some AWESOME mPerks and coupons over the weekend. We saved $4 with paper coupons, $4 mPerks, and another $8 in special mPerks! This is how our grocery bill came out so small this week! Thanks Meijer!

- Saturday evening we headed out to the Campbell's house. We enjoyed a great (HOT!) hike in the woods and dinner with them. Thank you all!

- I took the time to clean out my closet and rid my wardrobe of 24 items!

- We cleaned out Annabeth's hanging clothes this week. She has outgrown ten winter outfits - five went straight to the sale tote and five I photographed and put on Facebook to try to sell.

- Wednesday and Thursday nights Annabeth had a 4 hour dance intensive. Wednesday night Mark, Owen, and I enjoyed Penn Station for dinner. I used a coupon to get one sandwich free and we were all SO happy. It is my favorite sandwich place and we cannot eat there because they cook their fries in peanut oil so we were pumped to have a Mama/Daddy/Owen date while Annabeth was at dance.

- I received our PinchMe box for the month. This month's samples: an all natural shampoo/conditioner, ranch dressing, granola bar bites, all natural bug spray, and zzquil.

- We received two kid snacks and one face mask freebies with our Zulily box this week.

- Our BIG news this week is that we bought a NEW (to us) vehicle! We are so excited to have two family vehicles again, which is becoming more and more necessary as the kids get older and need to be different places at different times.
We had two vehicles until June 2012 when we sold Mark's car because he had switched jobs and was given a take-home-vehicle from work. In October 2015, Mark bought a project truck that has been very fun for him to work on but is not new enough/safe enough to put carseats in so it is the wrong project for this season of life. A co-worker and his family bought a new car and gave us a great deal on their old one. We were able to, Dave Ramsey style, pay cash for our new vehicle. We now have the task of selling the truck.

The kids love "their" new truck! 
We are so thankful that God provided this vehicle to our family. We have been talking about, praying about, and saving for a new family vehicle and this one checked all of the boxes. God is so good!

Happy Savings to All!

Friday, July 21, 2017

Frugal Friday 202

Happy Frugal Friday!

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

- I had two more Usborne Book parties and continued my summer babysitting job.

- Mark worked at the fair so he will have overtime on his next check.

- My dad was in town last weekend to take a woodworking course near us. We were happy to have him here for dinner and dessert Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. By planning ahead we didn't have any eat out costs - which is rare for when we have company! We also had tons of leftovers from the weekend to feed us through the early part of the week.

- Saturday morning the kids and I enjoyed the Downtown Franklin Farmer's Market. We bought some great produce and also enjoyed some snow cones from Lickity Split. We, of course, also bought bows from Emma's Bows for a Cure.

- Annabeth's friend brought over 10 Bob reading books for us! A is headed into 2nd grade and a great reader so she is way beyond these. We are so thankful that she decided to share!! I love having Annabeth read these easy books to help build her confidence.

- A friend has decided not to do the fall sale but had some items that she wanted to get rid of. She brought them over for us to enjoy or to sell in the sale with our own stuff. Annabeth is THRILLED to have a Princess scooter!! Thank you Andrea!

- I received some freebies with my Clinique order that I didn't want. I mailed them to a friend with two little sheriff themed outfits for her new baby boy. We were happy to pass them along to a fellow sheriff family.

- Monday afternoon we took two books to the Little Free Library and traded two of our old books for two new-to-us books. We also enjoyed the Franklin Story Walk.

- Owen finished his summer reading hours and earned a free book. We chose a book of first words for him.

- A friend gave Mark a free (3 lb!) zucchini from his garden. It gave us two meals worth of veggies!

- Last summer we received notification that we were eligible to be part of a class action lawsuit against our old mortgage company. I filled out all of the paperwork and promptly forgot about it. This week received our settlement check! ($17.04) We added it to Owen's savings account.

- Yesterday morning we did a huge toy clean-out in the living room and then after dinner we took two hours and cleaned out Annabeth's room. The kids picked a huge box of toys to donate and 8 nicer toys that I will try to sell at the Fall Consignment Sale.

- We started school this week - it was SUPER hot so this was a great week to start since we needed to be inside for the hot parts of the day. Annabeth started 1st grade and Owen began 2-year-old-pre-school.

 Owen's 1st Day of Pre-School
Hit hot-wheels car had to come too
Annabeth's 1st Day of 1st Grade
This rainbow dress has been her absolute favorite this summer. 

We hope everyone is enjoying these last few weeks of school and are also looking forward to heading back to school soon!

Happy Savings to All! 

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Food Allergy Mama

Over a bagel with peanut butter spread, I became a Food Allergy Mama in 2013.

For 3.5 years, we avoided any kind of significant reaction. This summer one bite of one granola bar changed that.

In late May and early June, Annabeth went to the Emergency Room twice due to allergic reactions to new foods. It was terrifying as a parent to make that drive to the ER and it was even scarier for our little girl.

This past week, we finally (we waited 7 weeks for this appointment) saw an allergist and went from just avoiding peanuts to results that show that she has life-threatening allergies to peanuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, coconuts, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios, and walnuts.

Over the years, I have mastered the no-peanuts. I can rattle off a safe or not-safe list to just about anyone who asks. We know what restaurants to avoid. I can shop the grocery without even looking at the boxes anymore.

But the tree nut thing means starting all over. Over the years, avoiding peanuts, means we've generally avoided all nuts just because they are so often processed together. We only buy specialty cookies and pre-made snacks that are made in nut-free factories. But now we have to really look, really read. We have to recheck all of the restaurant websites. We have to educate ourselves about the alternative names for these nuts and where they might be found.

Being a Food Allergy Mama is exhausting. It's mentally taxing.

I feel like I am always on high alert:
Did you call the restaurant before we came?
Did you ask the waitress what those french fries were cooked in?
Did you make that birthday cake at home? Do you have a nut free kitchen?
Is that peanut butter on your kids shirt?!
No, not even a "little bit" is okay (My Momaw is always saying "I just put a little, tiny bit of peanut butter in it so Annabeth can still have it)

It's hard because she has to miss out:
That cake is from Kroger, it's not safe.
Oh, that princess event at Chic-Fil-A looks great but they cook in peanut oil.
The birthday party is at an ice cream bar? Is it nut free? No? Don't even show her the invite.
Everyone else is eating a granola bar and she can't.

I worry that people will think I am crazy for quizzing them before I allow Annabeth to eat at their house or their child's birthday party. I worry that people are insulted when I say that full list (but for the record, I never knew coconuts were a nut! I thought they were a fruit so I just want everyone to be clear on that too)

Most of all, it's scary. It's really, really scary.
Her second ER trip was following a morning at the Children's Museum. We went, we played, we had the same lunch we always have, and on the drive home her entire body swelled, covered with hives, and she asked to go to the hospital while gasping for breath. It was just a normal morning out, no new foods, no bakery, no nuts, and there we were in the ER.
I have been so afraid the rest of this summer. We went to summer camp and I took every single meal. We have played with friends and I have taken her lunch every time. I was an anxious mess trying to eat breakfast at a hotel worried about who had touched what before she did.
I don't want to be afraid or anxious and I certainly don't want to scare her but I also want to always be ready.

On the flip side, being a Food Allergy Mama has allowed me to help those who have come after us. I don't know how many people have messaged me with questions. I am by no means an expert but I always try to offer words of encouragement and support.

I am so incredibly thankful for everyone who has checked in this summer. Thank you for everyone who made Annabeth cards or took the time to call her to check in after she was in the hospital. Thank you to every person who says, "What kind of snack can I bring so Annabeth can enjoy it too?" and to every friend who makes a special dessert at their child's birthday party just for her. Thank you to every friend who sends me food labels before letting their child bring a snack into my home. Thank you to everyone who understands and respects that our home is nut free. All of those "little things" make this big task of keeping her safe so much easier!

If you are a Food Allergy sufferer or mama, I completely recommend Central Indiana Allergy. I am so thankful for their care and concern and for the treatment plan that they have developed to help Annabeth be as normal as possible while living with something completely abnormal.

If you are interested in more information I think this page is quite thorough and helpful.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Frugal Friday 201

Happy Frugal Friday!

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

- A friend posted on Facebook that she was needing to borrow a high chair for weekend company. We happily lent her one of ours and when she returned it she sweetly brought our kids some bubbles and temporary tattoos.

- I continued my summer babysitting job and had two more Usborne parties.

- Mark spent the week at summer camp with his boy scout troop. He is so happy to invest in the lives of young men in the same way leaders invested in him during his scout years. We miss him when he's camping with them throughout the year but we believe he is doing such important work.

- Last week and this week, I allowed Annabeth to borrow a launchpad from the library. We have not used these before but I decided to try something new. She played on each of them for about 20 minutes before completely losing interest. I was quite happy that she doesn't need to be entertained that way but hopefully she enjoyed something different too.

- We baked our favorite chocolate chip cookies on Monday as a thank you for our friends who babysat Owen for us this week.

Thank you again to the O'Neals for keeping this guy for us! 
He makes this cute face and says, "Hi mama!" in a little squeal voice and I can't say "no"
to anything he asks for! 

- We took a package of diapers that we no longer need to a friend's little boy.

- I organized some hand-me-downs for a friend who has a little boy and a baby girl on the way. I look forward to visiting with them soon and passing everything along.

Frugal Fail (sort of)
- Last Saturday Annabeth competed at the Applause Talent Nationals. She had to be there and ready at 7:30 am more than an hour from home. We debated back and forth and ultimately got a hotel room for Friday night into Saturday morning. We had not really planned on this expense and we waited until just a few weeks out to book the hotel so it was a bit expensive. It was not financially frugal at all BUT it saved my sanity! I felt so much calmer and I think Annabeth did so much better being able to wake up later and to get ready in a calm fashion with a 10 minute drive vs. a 60+ minute drive.

We had a great week and the highlight was cheering on Annabeth and Style Dance Academy at Applause Nationals! Annabeth and the "Disco Divas" earned a Double Platinum and 2nd place!!

 Congrats on 2nd Place at Nationals!!!!! 

Happy Savings to All!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Our Homeschool Day Schedule

This is our last week of summer as we are "going back" to school next Tuesday!

We ended school about 8 weeks ago and while we have done plenty of summer learning, it's time to get back into the swing of things. This summer, I have met some new, and some potential, homeschool families and one of the number one questions I get asked is: What does a homeschool day look like?

Here is the schedule we have used the past two years (PreK and Kindergarten for Annabeth) and I plan to use this same schedule again this year:

6:30-6:45 Wake-Up
7-7:45 Breakfast, Morning show for the kids, E-mail check for me
7:45-9 My shower, Annabeth's shower, Start laundry, Chores
9-10:45 Appointments or Errands or if we are home for the day free play.
10:45 Lunch
11:15-12:15 Quiet time for Annabeth/Lessons for Owen (he will begin 2 year old preschool next week)
12:30 Owen goes down for nap
12:30-?? Annabeth's School (This varies day to day depending on how long it takes her to get through her lessons. We do art, music, science in the mornings with Owen so the afternoons are mostly for handwriting, math, and reading/phonics)
4-4:45 Free play for kids/chores for me/make dinner
4:45-5:30 Dinner
After dinner we clean up, play outside, the kids spend time with Mark if he is home, or we head to the studio for dance and gymnastics.
7:30-10 Bedtime. Somewhere in there the kids go to bed and around 10 they are both finally asleep.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Frugal Friday 200

Happy 200th Frugal Friday!!

First and foremost, thank you, ALL OF YOU, for reading this series for 200 weeks!
Want to see where we began? Frugal Friday #1
There are weeks when we get really busy or we aren't super frugal or I feel like I am posting the same things over and over again and I wonder "Is this even worth it?" Always within a day or two I hear from someone, out of the blue, who shares that they read these posts.  An aunt or uncle, an acquaintance from college, a high school classmate, a local friend just comments with a "I love reading your posts" or "I enjoyed this post..." and I know that for whatever reason(s) the Lord has me doing this right now.

So, for the 200th time...

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

- Mark worked a Friday night shift at his part time job.

- I continued my summer babysitting job and had another Usborne party. I have been with Usborne 2 weeks and this week I was able to pay an entire medical bill from my commission check! That is huge friends!

- Saturday morning we drove to Camp Cedarbrook, the newest part of Lakeview Ministries, for its dedication. We enjoyed the dedication church service, a delicious meal, exploring the area, and Annabeth loved going down the blow-up water slide. We were so impressed with all of the hard work that has been put into the facility and we cannot wait to see how the Lord uses it for His glory!

- Sunday after church we had Mark's parents and his brother, Luke, over for a taco bar and then Sunday Sundaes. We spent the afternoon visiting. Kristi brought Annabeth four new sundresses and brought both of the kids bubbles! They were very excited - thank you!

- On Monday, Mark and Annabeth went to the movies and lunch together. We love being frugal in other areas so we can give our children special experiences when the opportunity comes around. Annabeth has talked about little else this week. She loves spending special, one-on-one time with her Daddy.

- Tuesday we celebrated the 4th by visiting with our neighbors on their porch, playing at the park, an (indoor) picnic lunch, and Mark and Annabeth walked in a parade. We are so thankful for our freedom!

Owen and Annabeth
4th of July, 2017

I cannot help buying 4th of July outfits each year -
they always look so sweet and just scream SUMMER!
Left 2017, Top Right 2016, and Bottom Right 2015

- We continued to meal plan and grocery shop carefully. We actually ended up with more leftovers than I had left room for so we are ending the week with two extra meals for next week's menu!

- Annabeth finished the library's summer reading program. She earned a book and chose a Piggie and Gerald book to add to her collection.

- I enjoyed a free Starbucks thanks to a Starbucks Reward in my e-mail.

- As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I was able to get Annabeth's "big" birthday gift on sale. I have found a few other little things, all on sale as well, and just needed to find something from Owen. Yesterday we were at Meijer and I saw Annabeth's #1 birthday wish toy on sale + they had a one day Christmas in July promo going so it was an extra 50% off the sale price! I went out after dinner and was able to get her two of the toys she really wants for $10 (normal retail would have been nearly $40!). She has been asking Owen for a few months now to please get this toy for her and I am excited to have him be the birthday hero this year!

We had a great week and are looking forward to Applause Nationals this weekend!
Dance your hearts out Disco Divas and Style Dance Academy! :)

Happy Savings to All!

Friday, June 30, 2017

Frugal Friday 199

Happy Frugal Friday!

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

- Saturday morning, Mark and Owen walked in the Greenwood Freedom Fest Parade for our pick for Sheriff, Kirby Cochran.

- Saturday afternoon, we all headed over to the fairgrounds for Annabeth to dance at the Relay for Life. It was heartbreaking to see so many "In Memory..." shirts for young children. It was also encouraging to see so many children in "Survivor" shirts. Our county has an alarmingly high rate of childhood cancer.
The kids were not happy with the loud music at the fairgrounds.
Neither one of our kids like loud noises or groups of people,
this is pretty much how they look out in public. 

- Saturday night we got a book of Usborne Books in the mail. Thank you Mama and Dad for Annabeth's science and history books for next school year! What a blessing!

- Mark worked a 12 hour shift at his part time job.

- I continued my summer babysitting job and ran my first Usborne Party. I am enjoying my Usborne journey so far and cannot wait to see what kind of financial freedom it can bring our family! If you are looking for books for your classroom, homeschool, or just as a gift to give check out my Usborne page!

- Monday afternoon I saw a friend's FB post saying that her two youngest were selling lemonade. We drove over and Annabeth enjoyed paying, and tipping, her friend for lemonade. Miss Madi said she is planning on saving all of the money she made! Very wise! :)

- The kids had swimming lessons this week. It was Annabeth's third summer taking lessons with Miss Abby. Abby is so sweet and SO affordable! I pay just $10/half hour private lesson! This is a huge savings as the city pool is double for private lessons for the week! I was really thankful for Abby's good prices as Owen only swam about 3 minutes each day.

- I meal-planned and then shopped for the week. We did not have any food waste again this week. I have been meal-planning, only shopping my list, and sticking to the meal-plan. This is often easier said than done.

- I cut both of the kids' hair at home. My mama and I are the only ones that have ever cut the kids hair saving us hundreds of dollars on haircuts!

- Tuesday evening the kids did not pick up their toys when I asked. I set the timer and when the timer went off all toys that were not picked up were taken to be donated. We were able to donate half a trash bag of toys. They quickly picked up their toys the rest of the week.

We are looking forward to a great holiday weekend celebrating our freedom as Americans!

Today we celebrate that 10 years ago tonight, Mark asked me to marry him! Happy Engagement-versary Mark! :)

Happy Savings to All!

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!