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!