Family Finances, Personal Finance, Uncategorized

Top Ten Money Saving Ideas

top ten money saving ideas(This post may contain affiliate links.) So you’re on the way to managing your money but maybe you just need some extra cash. Or you’re still kind of struggling a bit and need to pay your rent with money you don’t seem to have.

No judgment here…for those times when you need to wring out some extra money from your budget, here are a few ways to find some extra money. In fact, it’s our top ten money saving ideas!

1. Buy store brand instead of name brand

Some people seem to think store brand stuff is nasty or maybe they’re just loyal to the brands they grew up on. Not this gal…show me a low price and I will show you the way to my grocery cart. And with store brand, there’s often a 10 for $10 deal, buy 1 get 2 free or something similar. (Side note…10 for $10 doesn’t mean you have to buy 10 to get the deal. You can buy 3 for $3.) So yes, as a matter of fact I will buy you, store brand items and all your little friends who qualify to jump in the cart for free!

2. Buy meat from the grocery store in bulk, then portion and package it for the freezer

top ten savingWhile we’re hanging out at the grocery store, let’s head on over to the meat section. Sometimes there’s big piles of meat or fish that’s discounted because it’s almost at it’s freshness date or sell-by date. I’m looking at you, big long piece of sockeye salmon!! Sell by tomorrow? Ha! By this time tomorrow, you’ll be cut up into serving sizes encased in a freezer burn-safe, vacuum sealed bag thanks to my FoodSaver (which you can buy by clicking here…if you do, I’ll get a little payment but don’t worry, your price doesn’t go up!) This works great for hamburger meat, fish, chicken…whatever. Get a deal, cut it up, vacuum seal it and freeze it!

3. Consignment shops for kids clothes (also try selling kids clothes and gear you don’t use anymore!)

save money clothingI can’t say enough about consignment shops…whether they be year-round stores or pop-up spots like at a church, consignment shopping is the way to go. Imagine paying about $2.99 for a shirt instead of $7 for a child who, let’s face it, is going to smear spaghetti down the front of it. Plus, it’s only going to fit for maybe a single season? Yes, consignment shops…YES!!! Plus, your kid won’t look exactly like everyone else because everyone else shops at all the same places. How many times do I see a little girl wearing a pink shirt with a print of a dog wearing smart glasses and that says “Smarty Pants” across the top?

Consignment shops are also a good place to offload the crap your kids don’t fit or use anymore. Strollers? High Chairs? Bouncy things? Clothing (if it doesn’t look like it’s been through a disaster area)? Those adorable shoes you bought but your kid refuses to wear because they don’t have enough blue on them? Sell it!! You’ll get on average 1/4 of the value of similar items but that’s 1/4 more than you had before you sold it. Bonus: you get extra space in your house!!

4. Can I get that at the Dollar Store??

That’s right…the Dollar Store. A mecca of random crap that, if you plan right, can help you shave money off your grocery bill, your birthday party budget, or your organization attempt spending in general. They always have gift wrap, little kids party paper supplies, goodie bag items, decorations, gift boxes, fake flowers, craft supplies…if you can dream a party, Dollar Store can probably (mostly) make it happen for you. Most of my decorations for my daughter’s recent Tea Party birthday party  came from Dollar Store.

You can also get things like Halloween candy and supplies, dish towels, seasonal items, Christmas decorations, kids puzzles, coloring books, school supplies…the list is endless. Don’t forget about Dollar Store when you’re about to buy stuff. Always ask yourself, “Can I get that at the Dollar Store?” Make it your mantra. Save some cash!

5. Eat at home…use a meal plan and stick to it.

save money eat at homeI cannot stress this enough. Write out what you’re gonna eat for every meal for the week. This helps in several ways, actually. First, you’ve got a game plan that keeps you from saying, “I have no idea what to make for dinner. Eh…let’s just go out to eat.” This is a money suck. You know this. If you have a menu planned and you find yourself saying, “I have no idea what to make for dinner. Eh…let’s just go out to eat.”, you’ll be able to say, “Oh wait, let me look at my handy-dandy menu plan and see what’s for dinner.”

Using a meal plan also gives you a list of what to buy at the grocery store. And this keeps you from buying crap you don’t actually need. Like pumpkin spice snack cakes. So you’re saving money by not going out to eat and you’re saving money by having a game plan when you head to the grocery store. Stick to your meal plan, stick to your budget!

6. Pack your lunch for work.

save money sandwichThat’s right…pack your lunch. You spend anywhere from $8- $15 a day for lunches plus you’re driving your gas-guzzling sport utility to the restaurant and back. A loaf of bread, a package of sliced cheese and a package of deli meat…$9. $9 for the week. Not $75 plus gas money for the week. Heck, you can even dress that sandwich up with mayo, lettuce and tomato. If you’re tight on time, see if you can get one of your kids to make your sandwich. That’s what I do and the kids are happy to “get to make” Momma’s sandwich. That’s right, I’ve somehow stumbled upon making them actually WANT to make my sandwich for me. I know…it’s only a matter of time but I’ll take the help while I can.

Bonus Tip: Make your “morning ride into work” coffee at home. You can even be all organized and crap by setting your coffee pot the night before to start brewing that liquid energy so it’s just waiting for you to pour it into your adorable, REUSABLE (saving money here, too!) coffee travel mug! Look Ma, no hands! I’m being efficient and frugal!!

7. Coupons! Paper and digital. Strategize on sales and BOGO opportunities to stock your pantry (don’t go nuts, though!)

groceriesOk, let me just say I’m not looking for you to be the next extreme guru. But coupons are important in the grocery money-saving strategy. Firstly, it’s just leaving money on the table to not take advantage of coupons for things you normally buy. Secondly, most grocery stores double coupons up to $.50 so there’s even more incentive to try using coupons. Coordinate your coupon usage with store sales to rake in even more discounts and deals on the products you buy. Consider buying more than you need in an effort to stock your pantry. Now, I don’t mean stock your pantry in such as way that you park your car in the driveway because your garage is now your “pantry”. Moderation is key…but having some extra stock on hand is good.

Also, now that we are in the digital era, don’t forget digital coupons! There are some grocery stores that have apps that include their own store-wide coupons that you can load onto your frequent shopper card. Do that! You don’t even need to mess with a newspaper or scissors. Clip coupons while you’re on the potty if you can’t find other time to do it. It’s saved money! Plus, using digital coupons and a frequent shopper card enables the store to see what you like and what you don’t like. Once you move past the invasiveness of this data transfer, you’ll come to realize that the store is now sending you “best customer” coupons and literally every coupon they send is one you can use!

8. If you go out to eat, only do it with a coupon and order water for your drink.

This one’s an interesting one. We started doing this and it really does make a difference! Only go with a coupon. It may be a free cheese dip at your favorite Mexican restaurant. It may be a free combo when you buy a combo. Whatever, it’s saved money. Sometimes you “have to” go out to eat…like with the in-laws, with church friends who want to “after-glow”…sometimes it’s just necessary. At least save while you spend. Use a coupon!

Also…get water. I’m telling you, the biggest restaurant racket is the drink situation. Soda actually only costs like $.10 but that restaurant is charging you $2.99…at least! What the crap?! Get water. It’s free. Our family of five saves almost $15 by drinking the liquid intended for hydrating our bodies. If you want to be a rebel…bring along a water flavor and use that in your FREE water.

9. Turn off the lights, bump up the thermostat, unplug unused appliances

save money houseI can still hear my dad upon coming home from a long day of work. Coming home to literally every light on in the house. “You got the place lit up like a Christmas tree, for crying out loud! Turn some of the lights off!” I can now hear myself saying The.Same.Thing. to my family.

Turn off the lights!!!!! I understand his irritation.

Especially when I am taking trash to the garbage can, which is conveniently located next to the electric meter for the house. I see that little wand spinning and spinning and pinning…Make it stop!! well, you can’t make it stop but you sure can slow it down. Turn off lights when you’re leaving the room. Bump up the thermostat a few degrees. It’s just a few degrees…you can handle it. Unplug appliances you aren’t using…believe it or not, there’s a little bit of juice flowing and just being wasted on those items. Your coffee pot tells time…that’s great. So does the stove top, so does the microwave, so does the phone in your pocket and the watch on your wrist. Unless you’re using the coffee pot for it’s timed brew feature, unplug it.

10. Look at all your existing subscriptions and ditch the ones you don’t use. Hello Barnes and Noble??

Are you using your gym membership? lol probably not. Ditch it! Barnes and Noble? When was the last time you bought an actual book? Does that membership save you enough money to justify having it? Because otherwise it’s just like flushing $25 a year down the toilet. How’s that Netflix membership? You actually using it? If not, let it go. Do you have a monthly subscription to a premium job finding service to help you find that awesome job that you never find? Time to cancel it. $5  here, $7 there…it starts to add up. Really inventory all the money leaks in your budget and patch them up where you can. Keep what you need, ditch the rest. You won’t miss it, I promise.

So, there you go. Some ideas to get your cheapskate juices flowing. Look for money that’s not being spent wisely and take it back. You’ll start to notice it in your budget, the more you find. And the more you find, the more you can keep. Save it! Put it in a safe place and watch it start to grow. You’ll love the feeling of success, no matter how small.

Happy saving!

 

Do you have any smart saving ideas to share? Let us know in the comments!

Children, Creative Ideas, Family

Do You Remember Paper Dolls?

Paper dolls 1This past weekend, girl child and I did something so fun! Do you remember paper dolls? Did you ever play with them? I sure did and I had hours of fun making up stories, changing outfits and having fashion shows! Oh, the memories! And the idea just hit me to see if I could show girl child the fun of paper dolls.

Paper dolls 2Now since this was a very last minute idea and paper dolls aren’t readily available on shelves, we had to improvise! So I found a picture of a front-facing Barbie doll online and then hunted for dresses that would fit on the doll. Once we got those all printed, I started girl child on cutting out the dresses. I cut the doll out and then traced her onto a thick piece of cardboard. I cut the outline out and then glued the doll onto the cardboard so she was stable enough to stand upright without bending over!

Girl child was enamored with the dresses we found online. Most were from the seventies, eighties and we even found a few from the roaring twenties! Time just flew by as girl child concentrated on the outlines of each dress. She even made her own tabs on the few dresses we found that didn’t have them.

Paper dolls 4We found a beautiful wedding gown, which instantly got girl child’s attention. It was kind of a complicated dress to cut out because of the bouquet but it was worth the effort. She was pleased as punch that she was able to have a wedding gown doll! And I was pleased that she wanted to keep all of her paper doll stuff safe when she asked for a ziploc bag. In fact, girl child was so happy with these paper dolls. She went back the next day to continue cutting out her dresses and trying them on her Barbie doll figure.

Even though we are in a high-tech, fast-paced world, paper dolls are such a fun and slower way to enjoy time with your little girl.

I will say that cutting out the doll, the cardboard behind the doll and all the clothes might be a bit much. So let me suggest a little purchase instead. Now, if you decide to buy these, I’ll get a little payment but I still think these would be great for some paper doll fun! It’s called Fancy Nancy’s Perfectly Posh Paper Doll Book and it’s only $4.00!

Whichever way you go, be sure to introduce your daughter to paper dolls. It’s a great way to spend an afternoon in an imaginary world!

Children, Family, Uncategorized

8 prayers I pray for my children

8 prayers I pray for my childrenSo often I find myself wondering what kind of world we are leaving our children. It is in these moments that I find myself silently praying for my kids and most often it’s one of these 8 prayers I pray for my children. Mind you, these prayers aren’t lofty nor are they spoken aloud. These are the silent, constant prayers that mothers find themselves praying.

Whether it’s in specific thought, or during those times when sleep evades us…when tragedy strikes another family and we are counting our blessings while grieving with them. A mother’s prayer is constant. It’s a bath of protection and blessing and desires and hopes and faith…a jumbled mess we hand over to the Father. These are 8 prayers I pray for my children.

I pray for my children’s safety

Our world is so dangerous. Some may say it’s always been dangerous, but I see it creeping precariously close to the safety of the home. People are becoming more evil in how they would harm children or how they would harm random people, no matter the age. I pray for my children’s safety. I pray for God to protect them with warrior angels. Warriors. To fight the evil that exists around us at all times. So I pray for my children’s safety. As Girl Child has prayed for, “the strongest bubble that no one can break through!”.

I pray for my children to stay close to each other

This one sits in the back of my mind and I pray on it when it bubbles to the front. I pray my children remain close friends. Hopefully we will be around for a long time but when we are gone, my children will have each other. And I pray that they rely on each other and confide in each other. I pray that they look out for each other and keep up with each other. They can still irritate the mess out of each other because that is sibling right, but at the end of the day I pray that they always love each other. It’s simple but it’s important.

I pray for my children’s future spouses

Yep. And I know many other parents who do the same thing. I pray for my son’s wife and my daughters’ husbands. And I pray for their safety and I pray for God to guard their hearts and minds. That they are immersed in God’s Holy Word and I pray for their health. I pray that God helps them to make good decisions along the way as they are growing. It’s all important…from childhood to adulthood and these future spouses need to be bathed in prayer just as much as my own children are.

I pray for my children’s hearts

I pray that the seeds we plant in their hearts about their Heavenly Father are deep-rooted, healthy and strong. That they will judge everything they encounter with the knowledge they gain each day from studying the Bible and that the world is no match for God’s promises. I pray that they have joy in their hearts that cannot be taken away.

I pray for my children’s sweet dreams

Sweet dreams. Sleep is the place for rest and recuperation from a busy day. I pray for sweet dreams for my children so that their sleep is truly restful. So that their bodies can rejuvenate and be ready for the next day of learning and excitement. Sweet dreams ensure peace whereas nightmares causes anxiousness. So I pray they are able to rest and that their imaginations will deliver wonderful stories to them throughout the night.

I pray for what my children will become when they are grown

I can only imagine now what each child will become or where their interests will take them. So I pray for what they will become because all of that starts now while they are young. What they’re exposed to, what captures their interest, what comes naturally to them…it starts now. I pray that they find something they are truly good at and something that grabs their interest. And I pray they love what they become.

I pray for my children’s happiness

Happiness is a luxury and I pray my children have an abundance of happiness in their young lives. I pray they see the happiness in their world. That they see the joy in the little things all around them. I pray that their happiness is infectious and that they share it with as many people as possible. And I pray that their happiness only grows and that they enjoy being happy.

I pray for my children’s childhood

Their childhood is so very important. So many children no longer get to have a real childhood because they are forced to grow up so quickly. Perhaps it is how fast our world is with technology. I pray my children are able to hold fast to their childhood and that they enjoy their time for as long as possible. I also pray that we are able to protect their childhood and we are able to shield them from whatever seeks to steal our children’s childhood away from them.

So I pray for them all the time. Sometimes with words, sometimes my prayer is simply the thoughts in my mind and on my heart. But I pray for my children. Every day.

Children, Children's Bible Study, Family

Being a Good Friend- Children’s Bible Study

Being a Good FriendWe are so excited to announce our newest children’s Bible study, hot off the press! This Bible study is called ‘Being a Good Friend’ and it’s geared toward younger children so it’s a simple but effective walk through scripture passages each week night over the course of a month. Each day highlights a Bible verse that talks specifically about friendship. Of course the greatest display of friendship was when Jesus laid His own life down for His friends so moving through these scriptures with your children will give them a clear understanding of what a good friend looks like, both being a friend to others and also what a friend should look like to your child.

This is a great time to talk about being a good friend with school starting back up. It’s so easy for children to gravitate toward unhealthy relationships in school and in the neighborhood. But when you plant seeds of scripture in their hearts when they’re young, they will better be able to discern between good and not so good choices. And when they find friends that bring out their very best, your children will grow in healthy and strong relationships that they will come to depend on when things get tough.

As far as Bible study goes, you can never start too early with your children. This simple, quick study gives you the time with your child to study the scriptures together. For you to model what Bible study looks like, and for your child to begin her journey with Christ.

Encourage your child to journal during the process- for him to write down his thoughts. And for her to put into her own words what the scriptures mean to her. Not only will you have a precious keepsake, but your child will be developing Bible study skills along the way.

We sure do hope you like this simplistic children’s Bible study. And we pray that this precious time with your child is a blessing to you. Here’s the link for you to sign up to receive the free Bible study: Bible study

Children, Creative Ideas, Family, Uncategorized

You’re invited to a tea party!

tea party invitationEarlier this year, Girl Child had a birthday party. And it nearly got away from me. She had asked for a tea party…a fancy one. With pretty things. And real tea. And tea cups.

My imagination started running wild with possibilities and ideas. Can you even imagine how adorable a little girl’s tea party would be?? Of course I started with the invitation- you can buy this template from Etsy here.

Tea Party decorations

With some brain-storming and lots of lists, here’s what I came up with. And mind you, saving money was the name of the game here.

So, how do you organize a little girl’s tea party without breaking the bank? Dollar Store, my friend. I was able to get a bunch of things that translated into fancy for very little money here. Things like “silver” plates, paper doilies, pink artificial flowers, pink crinkle paper, glass vases, toy pink bead jewelry, pink feathery boas, pink polka dot paper party plates, party favors…I picked up everything that looked delicate, fancy and formal. And I walked out spending $23. Thank you very much!

Once I had a lot of pink things for the tea party, I had a basic idea of what I wanted to spread to look like. The center-piece of the party, if you will. From there, I started rummaging throughout my house to find anything that looked like it belonged in a tea party. I found my grandmother’s old linens, small tea cups and tea pots, little teddy bears with lacy dresses and high tea hats, jewelry boxes, several unique tea pots, ceramic floral serving plates…all sorts of things.

Tea party spread

The idea here was to make a long table that would have all the food and tea spread out and have it nestled among all the pretty things so it would be a treat for the eyes to find the little treasures that gently say “yes this is a fancy tea party!”

Next up is the goodie bags. I didn’t want to use plastic bags because plastic bags do not say “fancy”! Instead, I used brown paper lunch bags and I folded a small doily evenly over the top. I then punched two holes in the top and tied the bag with brown twine. A simple and sweet way to deliver magical bubbles, a glow-in-the-dark wand, some bracelets and candies to attendees of the party.

tea party table decorationsEventually, I had to make a trip to Hobby Lobby to get some other items but I really tried to keep my purchase small because Hobby Lobby has the ability to make me see and buy things I didn’t know I needed!

So I bought a pink cupcake holder with sweet pink toile accents, tissue poofs for the wall decorations, floral paper napkins, and little bows to tie around the napkins with pink, plastic forks and spoons. My mother-in-law had small tea cups that were perfect for the girls and each one was beautiful and unique!

tea party spreadThe food: A friend graciously baked the cupcakes for us and they were amazing, of course! We went with ham and cheese tea sandwiches and used princess cookie cutters to cut the sandwiches into little castles, high heel shoes and crowns. My mother-in-law and I made an assembly line to cut up 48 sandwiches! We had strawberries that I dipped in melted white chocolate and then dipped in sprinkles. I served carrots, cookies, apples and grapes along with our main event of hot tea.

I had different flavors of tea available for the attendees to choose from. And we had little sugar cubes, which the girls just loved!

tea party activitiesWe had some crafts, coloring and a game of balance the sugar cube on the spoon relay race, which the girls all loved. And thanks to my sweet mother-in-law, each girl got to take home her tea cup as a special keepsake!

All in all, the tea party was a success and I managed to keep the cost down to just under $125 for everything!

 

 

Children, Family, travel, Uncategorized

Fun things to do with little kids- Washington DC

Fun Things Washington MonumentTraveling to Washington DC is an experience. Try doing it with three little kids! Actually it is possible to have a great time in DC even with little feet. We’ve put together a list of fun things to do with little kids when you’re in Washington DC. We have tried to be budget conscious, which can be challenging in such an expensive city! With some stamina for walking and by looking for a deal, this can be a great experience for the whole family. So come along with us and see what DC has to offer for a family with small children.

Udvar Hazy Air & Space Museum

Fun things Udvar Hazy DiscoveryAdmission is free (awesome!) but parking is $15.

First on the list of fun things for kids is the Udvar Hazy Air & Space Museum is part of the Smithsonian; however, it’s not located near the National Mall like the other museums. This museum is located near Dulles International Airport, close enough that you can see planes on their initial take-off or final decent. IMAX movie (if you choose to see one, though there’s plenty to do without it) is $9.50 adults, $7.50 kids. Plus, if you save your ticket stub, you can see another IMAX at any of the Smithsonian locations for $6 each.

On display at the museum is a Concord jet, an SR-71 Blackbird and the space shuttle orbiter Discovery in all her majesty. The museum beautifully displays hundreds (maybe not “hundreds”, but certainly a lot!) of various planes, gliders, helicopters and flying gadgets throughout the oversized hangar facilities. In addition, there is the Mary Baker Engen Restoration hangar, which was working on Neil Armstrong’s space capsule while we were there! You can walk along a huge glassed-in balcony so you can see most of the hangar and all the projects currently underway.

Another cool feature is the Donald D. Engen Observation Tower. Guests take an elevator up seven stories to a 360 lookout tower similar to an air traffic control tower. From here you can see for miles in all directions as well as watch planes take-off and land at Dulles International Airport.

Thanks to McDonald’s there’s a McCafe for lunch or snack and a gift shop to guilt you into buying toys for the kids before you leave. Special note: no pocket knives or weapons of any kind are allowed in the facility. Plan to stop for bag checks upon entering but the line moves quickly.

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Fun things Natural History MuseumAdmission is free (awesome again!)

Our next item in our fun things for kids list is the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. This place is jam-packed with things to see and our kids had so much fun wandering around the exhibits. They enjoyed seeing animal bones, mummies, a live insect zoo, the ocean hall and a current display of the Hope Diamond along with other gems and crystals. There’s a live butterfly exhibit (tickets required, but they’re free) so you can walk among fluttering, colorful winged creatures.

At lunchtime we found a restaurant (it’s DC, so it was kind of pricey…) called Pavilion Cafe. Kids ate hotdogs and peanut butter & jelly and there are lots of good lunch options like beef brisket, lunchtime gourmet salads, tuna salad sandwiches and the like. Where the lunchtime price got away from us was dessert…but they did not disappoint and all left lunch full and happy!

Smithsonian’s National Zoo

Fun things national zooAdmission is free! (Awesome again, y’all!)

The National Zoo opens at 8:00am, though no one told the animals! The buildings inside open at 9:00am and the concessions opens at 10:00am during the summer. We took Uber since it was too far for little feet to walk (and since we’d be walking once inside the zoo). Parking is a mess…not very many spaces to park and for the few spaces available, the cost is $22 so be warned.

We went during the summer so it is hot! The layout of the zoo is not so much a circle, but a main wandering path with side shoots of things to see. So there’s a lot of walking and it’s best to think through your route so you don’t get stuck hot and tired at the opposite end of the zoo.

National Monuments

fun things Lincoln memorialFree, free, free and free!

Of course, a day of wandering around on foot to see the monuments and landmarks around the national mall is a fun, free option. You’ll see the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, the World War II Memorial, the Vietnam Memorial, the White House, the Capitol and many others. And with little feet may come big complaints of being tired after a bit of walking so plan accordingly. You may split up the sight-seeing into smaller segments. Take advantage of the Metro or Uber to get you to your next destination or back to your hotel for a little rest.

Other Items of Interest

Our visit to Washington DC was only four days long so we quickly ran out of time. But there is lots more to see and do in the city for young children. These are definitely on our list for our next visit:

Don’t forget to wander around the neighborhood a bit to see the local sights and sounds. The area is mostly walking friendly and the drivers are accustomed to walkers. So you don’t get the feeling you’re about to be run over when you choose to walk. The foot paths are nice and the bridges are old and full of character. The Potomac River runs through Washington DC. So there are parks and areas where you can rent paddle boats in the National Harbor.

In the summer time, you’ll find the Georgetown Waterfront Park featuring a splash area for kids to cool off. Also, don’t forget to visit the hotel pool for a break in sight-seeing. If you’re lucky, you might score a rooftop pool like we did and get a panoramic view of the city.

We found low cost, unique burger joints, pizza places and the best ice cream sandwich shop near George Washington University called Captain Cookie and the Milk Man. How cute is that?! And they did not disappoint! We found tons of great little spots like this and they’re all nestled among the hotel neighborhoods.

Transportation

Fun things MetroThe Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, also known as Metro, provides train and bus service throughout the area. To use the train, riders must purchase a SmarTrip card and put funds on the cards. Children 5 and under ride free. Fares fluctuate during the course of the day based on the ebb and flow of rider traffic. You can buy the cards and reload funds easily at any terminal. And there are Metro stations littered all over the DC area.

Don’t forget you can most likely walk to your destination. With little kids, that can be tough. Our kids are quite accustomed to walking about 3 miles in a day (4, 7 & 8 year olds…not bad, eh?) so they fared well, but keep an eye on weariness because that’ll suck the fun out of any sight-seeing and I know I’m not telling you brand new information! Just know you have options with transit and Uber if you get caught with kids who’ve just had enough.

You can use Uber for wherever the Metro rail doesn’t quite make it (like the National Zoo). Schedule a pick up online (and add a tip now, too!) and they’ll zip you right to your requested destination. You have a 15 minute pick-up window and a friendly driver will meet you where you are.

So go enjoy the nation’s capital and don’t be afraid to walk around the city. It’s very bustling and in our experience, a very family-friendly area. There’s a good police presence and generally, we found that the drivers in the area were patient with walkers. There’s lots of sidewalks and the crossing lights are very generous. If you ever get tired, there are Uber drivers wandering around just waiting to take you to your next destination.

Happy traveling!

 

 

Children

Just like that she was 8

And then she was 8I remember the day she was born like it was yesterday. She was a complete miracle. And just like that she was 8. People say “blink and you’ll miss it” and you never really understand how true that is until it happens.

We had struggled with infertility for over ten years before we were blessed with the birth of girl child. And do you know, after all that struggle we almost lost her. Actually “they” almost lost me, too. I had a placenta abruption before the emergency C-section that the doctor ordered because something didn’t look right to him. Little did he know I was hemorrhaging internally and Girl Child lost her supply of oxygen as a result of the abruption. We were both very bad off when she was born.

Fortunately, a flood of specialists swarmed the surgical suite, much to my husband’s concern and yet relief that so many came to help our baby. And thank God for my doctor and his skill in repairing me as well. Girl Child rebounded quickly and was whisked off to the NICU for a brief observation while I was sent to ICU to monitor my need for a transfusion since I had lost so much blood.

Once we finally met, I looked down at this warm, wiggly little being and tried to imagine what she would look like as a young girl.

And then she was eightAnd just like that she was 8.

Where did the time go? I remember being there for all of it. And it takes forever to get through a week, but here we are…8 years later.

She’s defining who she is to herself, who she is to her friends, who she is to her parents and who she is to her Lord and Savior. And as much as I want to just continue to keep her in the contained box of childhood, I know I have to open the lid and let her climb out to see what else the world has for her.

So we talk. And I let her do. By herself. Then I show her. I reenforce what she already knows.

When she finds them, I fill in the gaps. I ask and then I listen. I redirect and then I back up a step.

Back up a step…this is the hardest thing. But if she’s got wings to fly, I have to get out of the way so she can start using them.

Family

Top 10 things I’m usually worrying about right now

I’m a worrier. Big surprise to my family (no, it’s not). I find things to worry about if my worry plate isn’t currently full. I worry. A lot. About all kinds of things, the odds of which happening are probably slim to none. And yet, there I am…worrying about it. I’m really hoping there are other parents out there who feel at least some of these.

Ok, so here goes. Don’t laugh at me…I worry:

 

 

That most people don’t really like me. Oi-vey. Starting out with a doozy. My tough exterior says “who gives a crap if you don’t like me” but the inside says “but why? I haven’t done anything bad to you…what’s wrong with me?” and I hate, hate, hate that. I hate that I feel this way, but alas…there it is.

That I’ll die way earlier than I should and leave my family to fend for themselves. I know, this is just silly to invite this kind of worrying. See? I have an objective, logical side. But what if this happens?? Who will balance the checkbook?

That I’ll lose my job and won’t be able to provide for my family? ugh…I can’t even piece this one together. I spend a lot of time worrying and game-planning a worst-case scenario for this one.

That I don’t pay good enough attention to my kids. I don’t. I know I don’t. There’s just not enough time in the day to give them what they want and deserve from me. And the real kicker is that I give work my best and my kids get the crap left over. How backwards is that?! And I know they’re only young for so long, so time’s ticking on this worry.

That I don’t pay good enough attention to my husband. Again…I know I don’t. Fortunately for me, he’s very, very understanding and patient. He’s such a good friend to me. I know he deserves better and I think “soon I’ll have more time” but you know what? That doesn’t ever happen. Stink! I have to figure out a way to fix this. Append this worry to have a subcategory: 5a) I worry that I’ll never free up enough time to give to my sweet husband.

That I keep having to throw away perfectly good meat I bought at the store because I was too tired/ lazy to cook dinner during the week. Ugh…this drives me nuts and makes me feel like I’m throwing away money. Because I am!! Dangit. This worry is simply a confirmation of the lack of time, giving the best of me to the wrong places worry set I’ve mentioned earlier. I hate when this happens. I plan, I budget, I find good deals. And then I throw it all away because I’m just tired. So tired.

That someone might break into our house. Ah, yes…my go-to worry when everything else in the day went right somehow. Yes…this worry pops up when I have just entered drowsiness in my comfy bed. In the dark, coolness of my bedroom I hear something. What was that? The house settling? But it sounded a little different…maybe someone is downstairs. Nonsense. But…what if?? I should go check the kids. Of course, it’s nothing. But now I’m really awake and my senses hyper-focus on Every. Little. Sound.

That our house will burn down. ugh…this one drives me nuts because it usually invites itself on vacation with us. Although at least I can temper this worry with the fact that our house alarm will go off and we will receive a phone call from the alarm company advising us of a fire alarm at the house. So…I wait for the call.

That our refrigerator will break at the same time as the dishwasher and oven. I know, this seems like really inviting worry, but each of these appliances have been giving us little hints about their future plans. And with my luck, they’re at home this very minute in the planning stages of a coordinated attack on our budget.

That I will never reach my goal. I am worrying about it a bit…but I keep plugging away at it.

 

So there you have it. And while I’m by no means a master of my worrying, I do keep this handy and it calms me when my worry starts to pounce on my sanity:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

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Children, Family

She’s kidding right? I’m sure she’s kidding…

Each one of our kids have wild imaginations. And wildly different imaginations. Girl child is all over creativity and storylines, fairytales and fashion. Boy child is an engineer at heart…he’s methodical and precise. He designs and invents things, and his attention to detail on his drawings is something to behold. And then there’s baby girl. Now she has a great imagination as well…she lines up her stuffed animals for class, she prepares dinners in her kitchen to serve at her restaurant and she’s the only child to have an imaginary friend.

Baby girl’s friend’s name is Sweetie and she’s a puppy dog. Now this puppy dog shouldn’t be confused with her stuffed animals who are dogs: Belle, Puppy, Frankie, Spots, etc. Sweetie is a dog we have never met. And she doesn’t live with us. She lives at baby girl’s “other house”. We’ve heard about Sweetie for awhile and baby girl has big plans for her playdates withSweetie when she comes over. We’ve heard about Sweetie’s likes and dislikes. We’ve heard about the time Sweetie was sick, when she was injured and when she ran away.

Lots of exciting stories surrounding Sweetie.

But a few months ago, Baby girl said something to us that kind of caught us off guard.

“Tomorrow I’m leaving to go to my home with Sweetie.”

Um…excuse me, what?

“Yes, I’m leaving. But I’ll come back and visit you.”

Now, most of me thinks this is part of her elaborate imagination at work so I leave it. But then she mentioned it again later. And again even later.

“Tomorrow I’m leaving to go to my home with Sweetie.”

So I ask her where her home is. “It’s about ten minutes away.” Of course it is…she can’t tell time. I ask her what her home looks like. “It’s all brown with big windows and a door and there are no stairs.” (For the record, not at all what our house looks like) I ask what Sweetie looks like. “All black with a few white spots on her front.” So I ask her why she’s leaving her family. “Because Sweetie needs me.”

This is interesting and just a teeny bit concerning. I ask why Sweetie can’t live with us. “Because Sweetie likes it at my other house.”

So I try to call her bluff. I mean, how in the world can she say she’s leaving us for a fake dog!

“Ok, well, I’ll help you pack in the morning. I hate to see you go and I’ve really enjoyed having you live with us. We’ll be so sad when you go, but I guess since Sweetie needs you, you have to go.”

I see the thought work its way through baby girl’s brain. She’s starting to realize what leaving to go to her other home will mean. I see these wheels spinning so I drive it home.

“I guess we’ll give your bed and toys to another little child who can use these things since we won’t need them anymore.”

And then I see the crocodile tears welling up in baby girl’s eyes. uh-oh…too far. Reel it back in. Quickly.

“Of course…if you would like to stay with us, that would make us so happy because we don’t want you to go. How about you stay with us and Sweetie can come stay with you. She can even sleep in your bed with you so she won’t be scared. how does that sound?”

Suddenly a huge grin appears on baby girl’s face and she is relieved. “Yes, yes, yes!!! Sweetie will love to live here!” I tell her that her other home will be great when she’s grown up because she’ll have a place to live that’ll still be close to Momma and Daddy. This is the best idea in the whole world and baby girl is once again happy and off to something else.

So, yeah, baby girl’s imagination? We need to watch out for the colossal stories coming out of that brain or I’ll end up with a hole in my roof to fit the imaginary dragon she befriends!

 

Children, Family, Family Finances

Fun Doesn’t Have To Cost Much!

Kids toys are expensive. And on top of being expensive, my favorite part of kid toys is that the kids usually get bored of them relatively quickly considering the price. So, what you end up having is a bunch of toys the kids ignore until you go through with the donate bag, at which point those toys become a most prized possession.

What I think we sometimes forget is how important the imagination is and I’m guilty as well. There’s so much available and for some reason we’ve put this thing on us to have to entertain our kids every waking moment. Again, guilty. The times I see my kids “miserable” with boredom, my first instinct is to create magic for them. But the times I held strong and said “go figure it out” to my kids when they present me with their boredom? Magic happens.

Case in point: sweet husband had a character building class with younger boys that he taught at our church. One of the group games he had them play was a cup stacking game- which team could create the highest tower of cups without it falling over. So, he bought cups at the dollar store. A ton of cups! And at the end of the program, we were then the proud owners of these cups. We had them in a milk carton box and put them in the kitchen when we returned home from church. No sooner had we put the box down, the kids had grabbed the box and had begun to play with the cups.

They played and played and played. They played the next day. They built forts. They stacked them. They knocked them over. They were in fits of giggles and laughter. They played bowling with the cups.

The only down side was the reluctancy the kids had in cleaning up…that part is a work in progress, I guess. But this generally got me thinking about what makes a great toy for kids.

Empty boxes, paper towel rolls, empty milk containers, plastic (or paper) cups, small wooden blocks, jump ropes, blankets, clothes pins…I know some of these sound like the kitchen trash, but these objects open up so many possibilities to let kids figure out on their own what to do with the objects. What to make from them. How to use them together. Inventing things with them. Designing things with them.

I know this isn’t brand new information and I know it’s not cutting edge advice, but I’ve seen more success in playtime and boredom busters with these type of objects over complicated gadgety toys. Granted the mess is big so be forewarned about that. But I will say I can deal with this kind of mess over lots of little pieces of toy crap laying all over the place.

Give it try if you don’t already…give your kids some generic objects and see what they do with them.

PS…You’ll be a long-time hero if you have a refrigerator box!