Getting personal.

November 24, 2014

Fortunately, having a boy is pretty easy when it comes to his wardrobe: t-shirts and shorts for days. Because it's so easy, it can get boring. Therefore, I try and intentionally find cute, unique pieces to add to his closet so it doesn't become too mundane. (I mean, he will probably get it dirty anyway, but it's the thought that counts.)

One of my favorite new personalized finds is the clothing collection at Bright Star Kids. I recently went crazy and added three cute, personalized shirts to my shopping cart. Insert a cute, personable kid, and we've got ourselves a photo-worthy moment.

I bought this one with my bike-loving husband in mind who hopes his son will ride alongside him one day.


And this one made me think of Liam being all-boy, toddling around the playground at school.


And I can't wait for him to wear this one on Christmas Eve because how could he not?


Instead of just his name like on the bicycle shirt, there was enough room to add cute phrases like "Liam's Transport Co." and "Liam's Tree Service." I love how they are personalized without being so obviously personalized. It's the perfect touch! There are over 100 options, so trying to narrow it down to just three was hard.

I've got lots of friends (lots and lots) expecting babies in the near future, so I'm looking forward to seeing what names they pick out so I can start getting personal with gifts, too. 

As you're getting into the gift-giving spirit of the holidays, make sure to take a peek at Bright Star Kids to see if there is a special gift you can put under a special someone's tree this year. 


This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Bright Star Kids. The opinions and text are all mine.

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Trick-or-Treat

November 03, 2014

On Friday, Liam had his first trick-or-treating experience. Since he was only 7 months old last year at this time, we had plopped him into a pumpkin onesie, put him to bed, turned off our porch lights, and called it a night.

When I was back home earlier in October, my mom sent me back with the costume I wore when I was about four years old. The classic Crayola crayon box.


I needed something easy for Liam to wear that I knew he would actually keep on. This handmade costume just slips right over the shoulders, except when I tried it on him last week, the fragile, 25-year-old ties snapped right off. I had no shame in bringing the costume to work on the morning of Halloween and hot-gluing new ribbons on. I call it work-life balance. (Bonus points for me for having green ribbon on hand.)


On Friday afternoon, I hurried from work to Carter's to Target to find two matching, solid pieces of clothing for him to wear underneath his costume. They both came to the rescue with $5 pants and a $3.99 shirt. We dressed up Mia and Liam in their coordinating costumes and called it a win.




We went over to a friend's house to trick-or-treat and I was beyond impressed at Liam's natural skills. He walked (actually, he ran) up to each door, grabbed a piece of candy, put it in his bucket, and then ran to the next house. He had to learn not to actually go into the houses, and to not be so greedy as to take four handfuls of candy, but overall, he was so much fun to watch. We even stayed back at the end of the driveway while he ran up to houses with his new friends. He had it down.


When we got back to the house, he was a little upset that we took his bucket of candy and put it away. He didn't really understand the fact that it was candy, but he did understand that he just sweated his tail off to get those goods, so we let him snack on fruit snacks and popcorn for all of his hard work.


When we got home, the little guy crashed and we inspected his goods, just to be safe.



This costume lived up to its cuteness circa 1989, 1991, 1992 and now, 2014.



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How We Shaved Our Budget

October 30, 2014

This is a new and somewhat unfamiliar season of life for us, to be honest. It's a season of saving pennies and stretching dollars - something we didn't have to do quite as carefully our first three years of marriage. In an effort to be mindful of our resources and not be too overwhelmed, we shaved the money off of specific areas in our budget.




1. We cut cable.

We were DVR addicts. I recorded so many seasons of reality shows just because I could. And then I would binge-watch those shows or become overwhelmed that there was not enough time to ever catch up on those shows. And when Chris and I would be home together at night, we would find ourselves watching TV just because it was right in front of us. 

Since cutting cable, we shaved $100 off our budget. Instead, we kept wi-fi and purchased an Apple TV for $99 (a one-time cost that we were already spending on one month of cable anyway). 

We are also able to pick up a few local channels without having paid cable. Now, with those local channels and the Apple TV, we are able to watch the shows we like and be more intentional with our downtime.

Cost savings: $100 a month


2. We got down to one car.

We recently became a one-car family. Besides the automatic savings of close to $500 a month, it has continued to make our time together more intentional and has allowed us a lot more time together, whether it's in the car or out running errands. We now rely on specific schedules, our synced iCalendar, and the light rail/bus system. I completely understand that getting down to one car doesn't fit everyone's schedule and commute, but it's working for us at the moment, so we're going with it.

Cost savings: $500 a month


3. We use coupons and search for great savings.

I've been using coupons for a few years now, both for groceries and activities. I save around $20-30 per grocery trip with just the coupons alone (not including additional store savings or sales). We get a lot of our toiletry items for free this way - toothpaste, toothbrushes, soaps, shaving creams. I cringe just thinking about paying full price for those items. In fact, my husband also joined the Dollar Shave club where he receives high quality razors every month for just $6 flat. We were spending that same amount on razors almost every two weeks - even with coupons!

I also make sure to clip any coupons for restaurants. You know the ads that come in the mail that we typically just toss? There are so many buy-one-get-one-free coupons in there, which make our date nights a lot more reasonable.

Cost savings: At least $25 a week


4. We meal plan.

By planning out our meals for the week and creating a grocery list, I am able to stick to our grocery budget. Instead of wandering into the store grabbing anything that looks good or reasonable, I stick to the list and come home with food I know will be put to good use. I attribute a savings of at least $25 a week to meal planning, because we are not running out to grab food last-minute or throwing tempting items in the basket.

Cost savings: $25 a week


5. We just say no.

A big part of saving money is learning how to say no to things that are just not doable at the time. We have had to say no to trips, vacations, eating out, big purchases, not-so-big purchases, and outings. Some things we have said no to is because by the time we add up the gas, hotel cost, and food cost, it's just not within our means. It makes you think twice about what really goes into the night out or the weekend away.

Cost savings: Priceless

What are areas you have had to shave to save money?


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Three Places, Two People, One Car

October 16, 2014


Since becoming a one-car family, we've had to get really, really good at scheduling and planning and balancing our busy schedules so that we can all successfully get to the many places we have to be. 

Usually, we're on it. "I have to leave for work at 7:30, and you don't finish work until 7:30, so why don't you take the bus to Starbucks and I will meet you there to hand off the car so you can go to your appointment? But just make sure to pick me up at 4 and then we can run home and get dinner before we need to take you to work again at 6:30 because I'll need the car in the morning to be at work by 8. Oh, and while you're there, can you drop off the car to get the oil changed?"

It's like our daily Sudoku puzzle with all the thrill when you figure out the solution.

One recent morning, Chris had class and left on the bus by 6:45 a.m. Liam and I got ready for the day (which is a feat in itself including diapers and milk and changes of clothes and lots of don't-touch-thats), and then we came downstairs around 7:15 to throw our bags together and catch a few minutes of downtime before we were out the door by 7:30. As I sat on the couch, I had one of those striking realizations where your stomach drops and your eyes get big and your brain freezes.

The car keys were in the diaper bag which was in the car and Chris had the other set on his body which was now residing one hour away via bus and light rail.

(You know when you're gone in the evening and you're so tired and you want to be home that you just say, "Oh, I'll just grab that bag tomorrow." Yeah, don't.)

In other words, I had no physical way of getting to work aside from walking. And I wasn't really up for that option since it was still nearing 100 degrees outside despite it being October.

I sat there frozen on the couch while frantically texting Chris, hoping some solution would pop up even though there really was no realistic way of him getting keys to me. He actually suggested I go check and see if the car was even locked, even though I obsessively make sure it's locked every night, but in my desperation, I checked anyway. Shocker: it was locked.

Liam's daycare is just down the street from us, and it threw in another factor: getting him to daycare safely, securely and legally.

I decided to call on a co-worker that I knew had a car seat in her car for her grandkids. Unfortunately, she was going in late that day, so that option was null and void pretty quick. I then called another co-worker whom I knew would be passing my house on her commute. She quickly agreed to come pick us up and I quickly put my wheels in motion about Liam's ride.

At the very top of Liam's room is a storage area where we have kept his infant car seat for the last 9 months. After climbing on top of the crib, and carefully grabbing the car seat down while balancing on a two-inch rail, I had a safe (and heavy) option in hand. 

When my co-worker arrived, we installed the infant car seat in her car and I placed my large toddler in the back. He was extremely confused about why he was back in that car seat, what car we were in, and who we were in the car with, but he just sat super still in his reclined, confused state of mind.

Sweating, I hopped in her car and she drove us to the daycare where I checked Liam in. We then drove to work where I walked in proud that we accomplished a major setback.

That is, until I realized my purse was also locked in my car.

You win some, you lose some, right?

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On Becoming a One-Car Family

October 15, 2014

About four months ago, we sold one of our two vehicles. 

When my husband changed career paths at the end of last year, ultimately deciding to go back to school, we realized that our expenses were a bit more than our day-to-day jobs could provide for. We sat down and took a close look at our budget. Which expenses were necessary? Or could be negotiated? Or even cut out completely? 

After determining we for sure needed to keep a house and groceries on our must-have list, we realized that the cable bill and second car expenses added up to what we needed to recoup. Once we saw it on paper, it made the decision a lot easier.

First, cable was cut. We called the cable company and after a back and forth conversation of, "No, we really do want to cut it," and "No, we don't want an upgrade," and "No, we really do just want internet," and "No, we're not crazy," it was cut, saving us at least $100 a month. (We had a similar conversation when DirectTV knocked on our door one evening trying to sell us a package. They didn't know how to respond when we said we actually chose not to have cable.)

Second, we listed the car. What we realized when looking at our budget was that a car is much more than just the car payments; it's the car payment, car insurance, maintenance and gas, all rolled into one. By cutting out the one car, we were saving at least $500 more a month. And once we saw that number, it seemed completely necessary to let it go.

Once the car sold, it was kind of surreal to only have the one option. I work full-time five days a week, and Chris works three night shifts a week with class two days a week. Trying to juggle who has the car when was (and still is) the trickiest part of it all. 

But you know what surprised us the most?

Having one car has been incredibly beneficial for our family life.

We go places together now - like, all the time. Because we HAVE to. And if you choose not to, then you're stuck at home alone. Liam and I take Chris to work on the nights he is scheduled, and he takes me to work on the days he has off. On the weekend, when there are errands to run, we all jump in the car and get out together. (Because, like I said, you're stuck if you don't.) 

Chris has even become friends with the Metro system, taking full advantage of the bus and light rail on the mornings he has class and I have to head to work. And I have even tied up my tennis shoes and walked down to the park with Liam on the weekends Chris is working, braving heat and mosquitoes. (Seriously, y'all. What is up with the mosquitoes?)

It's our new normal. And it's a much more simple normal than either of us ever expected.
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