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!