Sunday, December 31, 2017

My 12 Favorite Pictures of 2017

As I look through pictures and I loved reflecting on the year. It never feels "that long" but when I see the changes in the kids from January to December it's amazing just how much can happen in one year!

Here is our 2017 in My 12 Favorite Pictures:

I love this picture of Owen and me dancing in the living room.
O has always loved music and dancing. He is such a joy! 

After a year and a half of saving, we made it to Tybee Island, GA for my 
30th birthday. We spent a beautiful week on the beach. The Crab Shack was our favorite
place to eat - so much so we ate there twice! 

This was Annabeth's very first dance competition.
She was happy to dance, to be with her friends, and most of all
that Mark was able to come for the whole day!

Annabeth and I had a special date and went to Under the Big Top
at the Children's Museum of Indianapolis. It was so fun to have dinner at the museum
after closing and to enjoy a real circus show. Annabeth loved having the whole circus exhibit
closed off to us! 

This was our 8th Wedding Anniversary. We had a great weekend away in Brown
County this weekend before. Mark took the day off work and we ended up home
with two kids with the stomach flu. Dinner out turned into dinner at home with both
kids sick on the couch and a dining room full of ants. I wouldn't want to do life
with anyone else!

Father's Day 2017
Mark and my Dad chose Sunday Sundaes for Father's Day Lunch.
Annabeth approved!

Annabeth and I were headed out to her Company Celebration Dinner for dance. 
She has the most beautiful eyes!

This was the month that Owen began calling Annabeth "Gaga" 
and began needing to be with her all the time. 

Annabeth did a cheer clinic at our local high school and was able
to cheer at a football game. She looked so cute in her bow and Owen was ready too
in his football helmet print shirt and bear hat 
(The high school in our town is the Grizzly Cubs)

Fireman O and Miss Peacock Annabeth had a great Halloween!

We were in Cincinnati for a cousin's wedding. It was Owen's first trip to
Ohio and we had such a fun time celebrating. 

Annabeth and I had another special date day and went to a Princess Ball.
She cried "happy tears" when she met her favorite princess, Princess Tiana. 

I am so thankful for this year. I am thankful that we had it to live and that we had it together.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Top 5 Most Read Posts of 2017

First of all, thank YOU all for reading each week! I am so grateful for all of the readership and support we receive through this blog. This year I have posted more than ever and much of that is thanks to your interest!

Here were our Top 5 Most Read Posts of 2017:

#5 Striving to Create Blank Space in Our Home. This post featured the inspiration for our big overhaul of the way we live as we strive to have less and to enjoy it all more!

#4 6 Years. This was Annabeth's Birthday post this year. I am so thankful for God's provision and for the incredible blessing of our Miracle Girl.

#3 Our Big, Scary Financial Goal for 2018. In an effort to continue being transparent about our Debt Free Journey I shared our big goal for next year. Thank you to everyone who responded with their own goals!

#2 Carseat Poncho Review. Our dear friend Kelly at Heavenbound HCA gave us a carseat poncho to reveiw and enjoy. It's been keeping the kids warm, and stylish, and we are so thankful for such a beautiful gift!

#1 Food Allergy Mama. This post was really more of me journaling, trying to say what I was feeling and you all took it and responded so beautifully! Thank you for everyone who sent prayers, who shared this post, and who supported me as I processed this new stage of life. Our number six most read post was the follow up to this one - How Seeing My Daughter's Allergist Changed My Life.

Again, THANK YOU to all of you who come every week to share Frugal Fridays with us, 
who send messages of encouragement, and who are all part of our little family's life. 
We are so grateful for each of you!

Friday, December 29, 2017

Frugal Friday 225

Happy Last Frugal Friday of 2017!

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

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

- Last week, Annabeth enjoyed her dance company's Christmas party. The studio supplies all of the food and fun we just took a $5 gift to trade. Annabeth chose to give a JoJo Bow as they are very popular right now. We had so much fun watching the talent show and she had fun dancing with her friends. She received her company picture and shirt as Christmas gifts.

- Annabeth had a very bad ear infection and her eardrum ruptured. They asked us not to spend time out in the cold and wind until it had some time to heal. Mark bought her a simple black outdoor headband to cover her ears. I added two flower appliques to make it more fancy for her. I used some from my collection from Grandma Chico. I love to add things from her to my kids' things. It's like having a little piece of her with us always.

- We spent Saturday-Tuesday in Evansville with my family. We were able to see many of my aunts, uncles, and cousins. It was wonderful to celebrate in the house I grew up in. The kids received tons of fun gifts and we loved gifting everyone as well!

My sister and I grew up taking "Santa Pictures" with this Santa poster
and now the kids do the same. I love how much they love each other! 

- My parents sent us home with lots of snacks and breakfast food for the week. That helped our grocery bill! Thank you!

- We did our weekly shopping trip when we got back. We spent $75.49 on groceries for the week (which also included two rolls of wrapping paper for next year, laundry detergent, and 2 Christmas gifts) When we got home, I realized a sale item had not rung up on sale. I had purchased two of them so I went back and was refunded $3.80. The two Christmas gifts we will gift this weekend and with a store sale + coupon I was able to get two for the price of one! :)

- It got really, really cold this week! I was extra thankful that the kids got so many activities for Christmas. Annabeth spent hours building with Legos, Owen played with his police and fire garage and house, and we all played the LOL Doll game about 50 times.

- On the way home from Evansville, I broke my sunglasses. I have been wearing them since 2009! I am super picky about the size, shape, color, jewels, etc on sunglasses and have only ever owned three pairs as a result. So, needless to say I was really upset that they broke. Thank goodness for a clean break and some awesome super glue because I got them back to "new" again. A penny saved is a penny earned.

Seriously, I have had them forever - here Mark and I are 
in Brown County (with the shades on) in November 2009. 

After we got home from Evansville, we spent the week taking down Christmas decorations, putting up our snow decorations, writing Thank Yous, and of course playing with all of the kids' new toys. After all of the new stuff comes in, even though I have done quite a bit of cleaning out already, I always get a bit antsy. I expect next week we will do some big clean outs again.

I am looking forward to 2018 and to achieving our Big, Scary Financial Goal.
What are your $$ plans for 2018?
Happy New Year and Happy Savings to All!

Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

"At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on usgenerously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life." Titus 3:3-7

Friday, December 22, 2017

Frugal Friday 224

Happy Frugal Friday!

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

- Mark worked at his part-time job and worked overtime. His part-time job gave their annual Christmas gift - a $10 grocery card.

- Saturday morning we had "Christmas Morning" at our house. The kids each were happy to get lots of books, pajamas, and their #1 wish toys. We spent the rest of the day reading and playing. Mark did get called out Saturday afternoon but we were happy to have about six hours to celebrate Christmas together.

- On Sunday, Mark's parents brought over pizza for lunch. The kids had a great time showing them their Christmas presents and putting on a dance show.

- Both of the kids, especially poor Owen, were sick from Friday on. Annabeth took a turn for the worse Wednesday evening. We are thankful to live in a place where we have access to healthcare and for the part of prescriptions that our insurance covers.

- A few weeks ago, my friend Ann tagged me in a contest on Lula Roe's website and...WE WON!! Ann, our friend Katelyn, and myself all won 2 pieces for our girls from the new "Elegant" collection. The company even mailed them to us for free!! The two pieces are a $94 value! Thank you Ann and Lula Roe! (If you are in the market for new Lula Roe please visit my friend Jenni Bear :) It will be such a blessing for her little family)

The silver and black piece is a dress and the gold/multi colored piece
is a long jacket. Annabeth loves both of them especially the "Wizard Robe"
They are too big now but she looks forward to wearing them next winter.

- I hosted a Pampered Chef party this month. Thanks to family and friends' orders I was able to get $60 worth of products for $20 shipped! I got two glassware storage containers, an icing spreader, and a spatula for a friend. I was very glad to have hosted this party!

Our week ended up with lots of canceled plans and low-key time at home. We are praying that the kids feel better by Christmas Eve!

Wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas! Happy Savings to All! 

Friday, December 15, 2017

Frugal Friday 223

Happy Frugal Friday!

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

- The part for our dryer came in and Mark was able to fix it over the weekend. We saved hundreds by not having to have a professional service call or having to buy a new dryer.

- Saturday we attended our church's Breakfast With Jesus and Santa. We have treated Mark's parents to this special event every year since Annabeth was born. We all love seeing the live Nativity!

- Annabeth and I went to a friend's house Saturday evening to make gingerbread houses. Sarah gave us some lessons about cake decorating and icing piping and we all enjoyed visiting with making the houses. The Dines provided the gingerbread houses and frosting (all homemade!) and we brought the candy decorations. It was so much fun!

- Sunday afternoon we went to three birthday parties! Annabeth enjoyed time at the gym and her first time roller skating for two dance friends' birthdays. Mark and Owen went to our dear friends the O'Neals to celebrate their youngest's 2nd birthday. They had a chilli dinner and a cake that Owen talked about for days!

- Sunday evening, after the birthday fun, Mark went over to a friends and was able to fix her dryer for free! She had posted on Facebook that her dryer had quit working. I messaged and told her Mark had just fixed ours, did she want him to look at hers before she called a service company. Mark ran over and was able to get it working again. I am so thankful to have a husband who always says "yes" to serving others. His example of God's love never ceases to amaze me.

- The kids had their Fall Gymnastics Spectacular on Tuesday morning. Our dance studio does such a great job of helping each child showcase their skills.  Miss Kari also had a nice little snack station set up and the kids loved sharing snacks with their friends. Our sweet friend Katelyn also brought everyone donuts and took the time to find GF/Nut Free donuts for the kids and let us bring home the extras! Thank you!

They were both so excited to earn their first medal!
Owen wore his around the house all week!

- We continued cleaning out around the house. I went through two sections of my closet and was able to part with three items. Annabeth, on her own, went through things in her room and is ready to get rid of two stuffed animals. We'll keep cleaning and organizing as I strive for blank space in our home.

- Last night we went to Mark's Dad's work for their Christmas party. The kids loved hanging out with Nana, PawPaw, and their cousins. They made a craft and brought some home to make too. Owen loved that PawPaw's work had cranes!

We are looking forward to "Christmas morning" tomorrow at our house and a weekend with nothing on the calendar! Praise God for quiet time as the four of us!

Happy Savings to All! 

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Striving for Blank Space in our Home

A few months ago, I read an article or blog post about Americans and our fear of white, or blank, spaces. The article was part of a post about decluttering and why so many struggle to let go of things. It discussed how, Americans especially, have this fear of "running out." So, when our fridge begins to show some white spaces, we rush to the store because "we have nothing to eat." When people clean out drawers and closets, they often can't enjoy them unless they are packed full otherwise people are left with a feeling of not having enough.

I found myself thinking about this article more and more. And I think it's true! My gift wrap tote three gift wrap totes is probably my best evidence of this. Who on earth needs three totes of gift wrap?! I justify it with "well, I'll never have to buy gift wrap" and tell myself it's okay because "I didn't buy any of this!" Which is true! It's all from Grandma, Momaw, and gift bags/paper that we have received in the past. I never buy any kind of gift wrapping. But sometimes when I wrap, I get a little anxious about using up some of my stash. It's ridiculous - I have enough gift wrap for the next twenty years but I "just don't want to run out." After coming to terms with this while wrapping some October birthday gifts, I realized that article was 100% true! I don't like the feeling of running out or not having enough or not being prepared.

So...this fall I have given myself the challenge of creating blank and white spaces in our home. It's a long, slow, hard process and with three other people in our house I cannot just get rid of half of everything and call it a day. But I am making small little strides and it feels so good!

For example, I have been working on our kitchen cabinets. Mark and I both are always frustrated with our cluttered cabinets so last week I took a morning and we did a huge clean out. Now they aren't overflowing, and guess what, it's okay! We still have plenty of cups and cookbooks - and, even better, we have SPACE!

 Nothing was in the dishwasher and we still had free space!
Our cookbook cabinet. We finally just have 
the ones that we use. I was able to let go of ones that I was holding
onto because "they were a gift, I can't get rid of them"

Another area where we currently have a lot of white space, is Owen's room. He has a 6 compartment storage unit in his room and currently three of the six are completely empty. No overflow of toys or books there. He is still young enough that I clean out all of his toys by myself and I know from Annabeth, it's much easier to part with things before he has an opinion. 

We have a lot of work to do and plenty of clutter filled spaces - our master bedroom is a crazy storage unit at the moment. But each week I am tackling at least one small space and one larger space. We are hosting a Junk Exchange in January and I gave myself the goal of adding one item a day to the "junk tote" before the event. So far I've been holding to it and it feels good!

What areas are you cleaning out? Do you fear white space? 

Friday, December 8, 2017

Frugal Friday 222

Happy Frugal Friday!

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

- I had an Usborne party and Mark worked at both of his part time jobs.

- Mperks at Meijer had a FREE Hot Wheels car in our online coupons. We were very excited as this is Owen's current favorite thing!

- My sister came to visit from last Thursday to Sunday. We enjoyed taking her to lots of our favorite local places - the library, the Johnson County Museum of History, downtown Franklin to some of our favorite shops and for the holiday lighting, and even to Kroger to enjoy lunch there (one of our kids favorite activities!) We enjoyed local meals at Greek's Pizza and Tom's Pancake House. Our favorite thing was the Live Nativity downtown - we didn't even know it was there! Everyone loved seeing the live animals and especially the very loud camel!

Owen loved petting this little baby goat
 In the auditorium at the Johnson County Museum of History,
local organizations have decorated trees that the public can vote on.
The winner will receive a grant.
Annabeth chose the Magic Schoolbus tree by the Friends of JCPL. 

- Mark and I attended the Johnson County Republican Women's Christmas Dinner. Thank you to Kirby Cochran for Sheriff for our tickets. We had a lovely dinner and enjoyed seeing the installation of the new officers for the next two years.

We are proud to support local Republicans and are thankful
for their conservative leadership. 

- Our friend Kelley brought over some great homeschool supplies for Annabeth. They are for 2nd-4th(ish) grades so I enjoyed looking through them and plan to store them to use in the years to come. She also brought some fun activity books - I kept some and we added some to the collection we have going for The Cheer Guild at Riley Children's Hospital.

- Last month, I created the event page for our annual junk exchange. I started it about 60 days out to give people time to clean out their items before coming. I set a goal for me to put at least one item in the "Junk Tote" every day before the party.

- Last night the kids and I went to a Storytime with Mrs. Claus at the library. Annabeth enjoyed hearing her library lady friend Miss Heather read lots of stories and Owen enjoyed running around the lobby. We drove through the Masonic Home's Light Show on the way home.

- Mark stayed home from the library because our dryer broke yesterday. Annabeth and I cleaned out the lint trap and hose yesterday afternoon but that was not the issue. Mark took it apart and found the problem. I am so thankful for a problem solving man! We are very thankful for a $100ish dollar fix vs a new dryer.

We have 6 events this weekend and I am excited to celebrate the Christmas season and three special friend's birthdays!

Happy Savings to All!

Friday, December 1, 2017

Frugal Friday 221

Happy Frugal Friday!

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

- We avoided Black Friday shopping.

- Annabeth earned her first Book-It award last month. Our local Pizza Hut had poor reviews from friends and online so we waited until we were visiting my family to go. We redeemed her free personal pan pizza on an outing with my parents, sister, and Momaw.

 Thankful that Pizza Hut still offers book-it!
I loved getting my free little pizzas as a kid.
Annabeth ended up not actually liking the pizza but she did like
the salad bar!
It still amazes me that she is in 1st grade!
Where is my Nanners Baby?

- My sister and I had a night out together! We had dinner at Manna, shopped at Barnes and Noble (I combined a gift card, store sale, and my educator's discount) and spent just $13 on three books for the kids.

- Mark stayed back from Evansville and worked a couple of shifts over the holiday weekend. He also spent time building and installing storage shelves in our garage. He has been wanting to do this project for years and we finally saved the time and money to get it done. We spent this week organizing everything and condensing, throwing away, or giving away tons of stuff in our garage. It feels so good to have this huge project tackeled!

- I watched a deal on two items for Annabeth over the holiday weekend. I came out way ahead on Monday with each item more than 60% off plus free shipping! Success! Saved: $44

- Annabeth needs new/gusseted garmet bags for dance this year since her costumes are longer and fluffier than in the past. I found a great deal on Cyber Monday and got free shipping. Saved: $15.99

- I forgot to click my Ebates button when I bought Annabeth's dance things. I was not happy with myself since the store had 8% cashback for Cyber Monday. I messaged Ebates, hoping maybe they would still give me the cashback, and **shockingly** they did! Made: $2.88

- Annabeth received a bag of hand-me-downs from her friend Gwen. We sent on a bag of hand-me-downs to our friend Aubree. We love giving and receiving clothes this way!

We had a great week and spent tons of time outside enjoying this unusually warm late fall weather! We are looking forward to a fun weekend with my sister in town and even a bit of a date night on Sunday!

Happy Savings to All!