The Many Men I Married

In 12 years I’ve been married to three men – sort of.

I mean technically, he’s the same man, but career-wise it is three very different men. I would never have guessed 18 years ago when I met this tall, fast-talking, geology/paleontology studying man child that he would someday be a police officer, but only after a stint as a lawyer. In fairness, I guarantee he didn’t predict that either.

the men I marriedCopyright: konradbak / 123RF Stock Photo

Would I still want to marry him knowing what he would become?

Absolutely!

I surely didn’t date and marry him because of his career choice. However his career choice has influenced our marriage and family life.

Thirty-seven years old.

Today marks the birthday of my favorite man.

It’s hard to believe I’ve known him for nearly 18 of those years.  I still remember the very first time I saw him. He was slowly pedaling away on an old, rickety stationary bike in the activity room of my freshman year residence hall. He, a community advisor, had brought his floor of residents to my hall for a program that my community advisor had organized. I don’t even remember the program, but I took notice of the tall, older looking guy on the bike.

Who knew he was actually – as he reminds everyone- 53 days younger than me?

He has always looked older than me, something that any woman who is older than her significant other will gladly accept.

So I married my college sweetheart, three men in one?!

The man I married – law student.

law student Brian

So he wasn’t a law student when we got married, he was an aspiring law student – he started law school six weeks after we got married.

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Save Money on Your Grocery Budget

Do you want to save money?

Have you cut back on your budget and feel like there is nowhere else you can save?

What if I told you, you could save hundreds of dollars a month?

If you are like most people, the food portion of your budget is probably a place you can still do some work.

shopping deals

It’s no secret that I’m a frugal shopper, I use coupons, and I try to save money wherever we can. However, no matter how hard I tried, I still struggled with cutting down our food budget.

We do not eat out that much and we menu plan. However for some reason, our food budget has always been a struggle.

We tried so many different things, so when I came across Erin Chase’s Grocery Budget Makeover Course I was intrigued, but skeptical.

I desperately wanted to find ways to cut our food spending down, because I knew it was the last area of our budget that I could control month to month and try to save more. I was skeptical because I knew that we were already pretty frugal and I didn’t know how much new information this course would give me.

We are now saving $50-$150 a month on our food spending thanks to lessons I learned in this course.  That’s $600-$1800/year. Every family is different; you could have even larger savings. (more…)

Not Stay at Home Mom Material

kids in messy living room

Motherhood is synonymous with guilt.

Whether you work outside the home full or part-time, you’re a stay at home mom, or you are a work at home mom there is guilt of some kind.

I don’t think men feel quite the same guilt that moms do. I wonder why that is?

If you’re home all the time are you showing your children an example of what women can do?

If you’re at work, who is taking care of your children all day? What if you miss their first steps or aren’t there to kiss their knee when they fall off their bike?

baby crawling

You’re always pulled in a million directions and question if you’re doing it “right.”

I’m here to tell you there is no right.

I have always worked outside the home full-time. It was never even a thought that I would do anything other than work full-time outside the home when I had children.

I’m not sure why it never crossed my mind, but I never wanted to be a stay at home mom either. My mother stayed home with us until we were in school. She did some part-time jobs and then worked full-time. She even went back to school to get a Master’s Degree when I was still at home. Thanks to my mom I saw all the ways I could be a mom.

This summer I had my first experience with being a stay at home mom.

With my new job, I work a 9-month contract, so I am fortunate to be off for the summer when my kids are.

Going into the summer I knew that this could present some great opportunities and some great challenges for me. I thrive on a schedule. I was pretty sure I wasn’t meant to be a full-time stay at home mom.

My experiences from previous maternity leaves taught me that I needed work outside the home for my sanity.

Now that we are coming to the close of my first summer off I can say with 100% certainty I was not made to be a stay at home mom.

kids playing outside

God bless all of you very special women who can do it and do it well.

I am such a better mom because I work outside the home. I am more patient with my children, I appreciate my time more with them, and I am using my God given talents, while the teachers who teach and care for my children are using their talents with my daughters every day.

I do not feel guilty that my children go to school or a day care center. Those are the right choices for our family. I truly believe we are all given different talents and we should use them.

On the first day of school this year I’ll still be sad that my daughters are getting older. I’ll be sad that their worlds are growing more and more independent of mine, but I’ll be happy too. I know understand the bittersweet feeling that so many moms who can have their summers off with their kids feel on the first day of school.

PEACE and SANITY

relaxing in lawn chair

I will once again be able to run errands on my lunch- ALONE.

At dinner when we talk about what we did for the day, it will all be new information because we didn’t share every waking moment together.

At 3:30, I will be excited to hear the ramblings of my three-year-old and the ever important tales from 3rd grade instead of counting the hours until bedtime.

I appreciate our summer off together, but it also makes me appreciate the start of the school year in a new way this year.

I don’t think I’m a perfect mom, but I don’t think I’m a bad mom either.

I make mistakes, but we all do.

At this point in my life being a working mom is the right thing. Let’s be clear, financially speaking, I don’t have the option to be a stay at home mom, so it’s good that I like working outside the home.

So whether you work full-time, part-time, inside or outside the home do what is best for you and your family. Try to ignore the mom guilt. I know probably a losing battle, but keep trying.

You are special, you are talented, and you should never compare yourself to the mom down the street. Remember no one is doing it all- it just looks like they are on social media.

First Day of School Joy or Anxiety?

children on playgroun excited for first day of schoolFor some, the first day of school is met with fear, dread, and anxiety. For others, it is met with excitement and joy.

Both can lead to a sleepless night in anticipation of the first day of school.

As a child I was so excited to return to school every fall. I loved school, I loved school supplies shopping, and I loved homework. Brian was similar to me. In fact, at times throughout our marriage, we have said we could be students forever if somehow we could get paid to do so. I imagine once we retire, you will see us both in a classroom again taking classes for fun just to learn something new.

I guess Cassidy came by her love of everything school related naturally. She too loves school supplies, she usually likes homework, and she loves playing school at home. In fact, she was insistent, we home school over spring break and summer.

I recognize how this love of school eliminates a parenting challenge that many of you might still face.  We don’t have a nightly fight over getting homework done, mostly because she’s a strong student and it doesn’t take her too long to complete it. I respect the challenges that other parents face and appreciate the parenting pass we got in this area – for now.

Our school-loving child’s attitude changed drastically last year.

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First Day of School Memories

children on playground on the first day of schoolHow do you memorialize the first day of school?

Any parent who has ever been on Pinterest has seen the many ways you can memorialize the first day of school. Some are simple; some are elaborate. If you choose to do one of these things, remember why you are doing it.

In our family, we went with the very simple approach. It could have been because the year Cassidy started Kindergarten I was home with four week old Amelia. At that point in life we were lucky I remembered to get a picture, which didn’t even turn out well. I forgot to change the camera settings so only a couple of the pictures turned out anyway.

First day of Kindergarten

On the first day of school I take a picture on our front steps of both girls, then of Cassidy alone from the front and back (always fun to see what backpack they are using). I figure if we ever move it will be neat to see which house we lived in when they went to school that year. It’s also neat to see Amelia getting bigger sitting next to her sister every year, especially since that first year she was just a newborn.

Before school Kindergarten

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What Your Child Really Wants

When given the choice children choose quality time with loved ones over toys.

Seriously!Your child wants time with you

At Christmas time I shared a post about giving experiences versus gifts. Check it out if the concept is new to you. It’s a real thing and it’s taking off.

Let’s take a trip down memory lane. Do you remember what gifts you got for your 10th birthday? How about your 20th birthday? Or even your 30th birthday?

Do you remember that time you made cookies all day with your Grandma? Or when you had a picnic at a rest stop on the way to your aunt’s house. How about that 19th birthday to Chuck E. Cheese with all of your college roommates? (Yep, I did all of those things.)

Sure, I remember some of the gifts I got over the years, but it’s the memories of times I spent together with family and friends that I cherish and remember. (more…)

Debt Snowball Progress – July 2017

We’re back from vacation and I’m happy to report that we came in under budget.

It wasn’t much under budget, but at least we didn’t overspend and we had a blast.

family Disney vacation

Is it just me or does August feel like a fresh start to anyone else?

Even though I’m not a student anymore, the start of a new school year always feels like a chance to start all over.

I intend to use this excited, fresh start feeling to motivate us in our debt journey. We are still facing over $32,000 in student loan debt, but our optimistic goal is to be debt-free by December 2018. It is going to take some hard work and sacrifice, but we are motivated.

We successfully made it through the month of July without a visit to urgent care or the doctor. Everyone remained healthy while on vacation and my ankle sprain was handled with minimal cost and no visit to the doctor. Thank you Disney for the free ace bandage, ice packs and motorized scooter rental for the day.

ace bandage and ice packs

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Our Favorite Children’s Toys

July is a big birthday month in our house, so toys are definitely on our mind. While I always recommend the gift of an experience, I also recognize the importance of toys as well.  It seems the perfect time to share some of our favorite children’s toys. For a toy to make my favorites list my kids have to play with it repeatedly, use their imagination and play for long periods of time.

You never get too old for some good ‘ol toys in your life. This year Amelia got mostly toys, and Cassidy got books and clothes. As she informed me afterward, she was very happy with what she received, but sometimes it’s just nice to get some toys to play with.

Magna-Tiles

My children discovered these at the Children’s Museum in Madison, WI. They are little tiles that are magnetic around the perimeter so children of all ages can easily build with them. They are great for young kids because they can easily stay together and they are great for older kids to use their imagination. Technically, very small children should not play with them because if they break and a magnet gets loose, a child could swallow it. I have never had one break or even come close to break, but toys have to have ages and warnings just in case.

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Epidural? Yes, please.

This is the third part in a three-part series. Be sure to check out the other two parts:

Part 1: “Do You Really Need a Birth Plan”

Part 2: “Emergency C-Section is Only the Beginning”

To get an epidural or not?

That seems to be one of the top questions plaguing pregnant women everywhere.

I’m here to tell you, ultimately, it doesn’t matter.

It is a personal decision that only you, your partner and your doctor (but mainly you) can make.

When I was pregnant with my first child the only part of the birth I actually thought about was the epidural. My husband was under strict instructions that I would be receiving an epidural at the earliest possible time and under no circumstances did I intend to birth a child without medication.

In fact, I was curious if there was some sort of pre-epidural I could take leading up to my due date (spoiler alert: there is not).

I know there is lots of research about why not to use drugs during childbirth, but I have a very healthy and active 3-year-old who is proof that my epidural was harmless.

After having had such an eventful and scary first childbirth with Cassidy, I was hoping for a much calmer more “normal” experience with Amelia. Since I had a C-section prior, I could have opted to schedule another one. However, given the reason for my C-section, I was a good candidate for a VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean).

We decided to try for the VBAC, and the doctor was willing to let me go to my due date, but after that date, the risks went up so I would have to schedule a C-section.

9 months pregnant
Big sister Cassidy was not patient. She wanted to meet Amelia so badly.

Due to my emergency C-section with Cassidy, I did not have any contractions or labor of any sort with her.

With Amelia, I thought she was moving around a lot and “partying” in there towards the end. I was getting tired of all of her partying. Later I found out it was Braxton Hicks contractions.

Huh? You would think a mom would know.

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Emergency C-Section is Only the Beginning

If you haven’t read “Do You Really Need a Birth Plan,” you will want to start there. This is the second part in a three-part series.

Once I was diagnosed with severe pre-eclampsia our plans for the night drastically changed.

I have never seen movement that fast.  We went from a calm, quiet labor and delivery room where we watched TV to Grand Central Station. Someone asked Brian if he had a camera. He ran to the car to get our hospital bag, which we didn’t think we’d need. While he ran to the car and called our families, I was signing paperwork and getting an IV put in all at once. Those nurses and doctors move fast when they have to.

We have no pictures in the “cute” hospital gown during labor, no final pictures of us as a family of two. The only picture before Cassidy’s birth is an empty labor and delivery room. The aftermath after they quickly rolled me into surgery.

hosptial room
Brian snapped this picture minutes after I was wheeled out for surgery.

 

It still gives me chills to remember that day and those moments. The fear I had when the doctor said I was so sick, and the baby was coming. I was alone with nurses prepping me, the anesthesiologist talking to me and explaining things, shivering while they did the epidural. Brian was busy getting our stuff and putting on scrubs.

I know how afraid I was, I can only imagine the fear he had for both me and Cassidy at that moment.

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