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


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


Do You Really Need a Birth Plan?

At the risk of alienating some of my readers I will say it…..why bother with a birth plan?

This is a three part series. I’ll talk about birth plans, epidurals and the stories of my children’s entrance into this world.

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

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

Part 3: “Epidural? Yes, Please”

In July I have a lot of opportunities to reflect with my birthday, my wedding anniversary and both my daughters’ birthdays.

Every year on Cassidy’s birthday I get a little emotional as I reflect on how exactly she entered this world and how I was very scared.

Luckily, with Amelia, I wasn’t scared, and I reflect on her birthday as a joyful and relaxed experience. Funny now if I had to describe my children as they are at this moment Cassidy would be the calm, relaxed one and Amelia would be the hyper, strong-willed one. Their births could not have been more different, and today their personalities could not be more different.

Why I’m glad I didn’t have a birth plan.

My doctor never suggested we have one.

Pinterest didn’t exist (coming on the scene months after she was born) which meant I didn’t yet realize that a child could not be born without one.

Quite honestly I was living in denial about how exactly that wonderful kicking little being was going to depart my body and enter the world.


How We Celebrate Birthdays

how we celebrate birthdays title

Happy Birthday to you!

In our house, birthdays are a big deal.

It’s that one day of the year where everything gets to be about you.

I’m thinking I make it a bigger deal because having grown up as one of five children, I appreciate the attention of an entire day all about me.

Your birthday is your special day, and you don’t have to share it with anyone else. Luckily no one shares a birthday in our house, or this wouldn’t work. For the most part, the birthday girl (or boy) gets to decide everything we do for the day – within reason.

Fortunately, for the girls, they have summer birthdays, so they don’t have to worry about school. I was able to manage the last four years to take Cassidy and Amelia’s birthdays off of work to spend with them. Due to events at my previous job I was never able to take mine off until now. With my new job I get my birthday off – well okay I get the whole summer off.

Cassidy started deciding what to do on her special day when she turned three. That day consisted of donuts, a bike ride to the park, hot dogs and Cheetos for lunch and ice cream. Three-year-old dreams aren’t too exotic.

cassidy wall climbing for 3rd birthday

Cassidy 3rd birthday

Many times we can offer suggestions to the birthday girl, and sometimes we have to reign her in a bit.

Cassidy 6th birthday

Even a six-year-old can dream up a very expensive day.

This past year Amelia turned two, and she was a bit young to tell us what she wanted to do, so we helped her out a bit. That ended up working out well because Brian was home sick and we had to take him to the doctor as part of her special day. We did manage to coordinate some time at the splash pad near his doctor’s office and the park – swinging is her favorite thing to do. Then we went home and worked on decorating cakes because their joint birthday party was the next day.

Amelia 2nd birthday at splash padAmelia 2nd birthday swinging

Then on Cassidy’s birthday two days later we went to the local pool, we ate at her favorite restaurant- McDonald’s, and she and I went to the movies while the other two napped.

Cassidy 7th birthday at pool

Cassidy 7th birthday playing legos

Neither day was extravagant, but each was all about the birthday girl and her favorite things. I am confident that as my children get older, they will remember their special days and how it made them feel. They have been fortunate to get to spend a birthday or two in Disney World as well. I think those might go down as the most memorable birthdays. Regardless, even the simpler birthdays have been treasured by all because we spent time together honoring the birthday person. Further proof that experiences are far more important than things.

The special days aren’t just for the kids either. Both Brian and I get to decide what we want to do on our birthdays as well. Last year I went on a run, we went out for ice cream to my favorite place, we went out for dinner and visited Blackberry Farm. It was a very relaxed and fun birthday.

Brian's birthday donut

For Brian’s birthday we have gone golfing, he has had game days with his friends, and we’ve gone out to dinner, or I’ve made him his favorite meals.

Birthdays are the perfect time to focus on that one person and what their favorite things to do are.

What do you do for your birthday or your children’s birthday to make them special?



Check out these other posts about birthdays: “Birthday Letters of Love”  and “Secret Agent Birthday Party”

Coupon Clipping for the Ordinary Mom

simple couponingYou’re a busy woman with a lot on your plate, but you want to save money, right?!

One of the oldest ways that people saved money on the home front was through the use of coupons.

There were years that coupon clipping wasn’t “cool,” but then TLC introduced people to the world of Extreme Couponing in 2010.

On that show, cameras followed extreme couponers to see how many groceries and products they could get for little to no money. It was an interesting show to watch, but most people aren’t going to, nor do they need to coupon to that level.

I do not need a stockpile of hundreds of boxes of Hamburger Helper in my garage. In fact, I haven’t even eaten Hamburger Helper since I had kids.

There are a lot of great coupons that you can use to get products for free or deeply discounted; however, if you don’t have a good way of organizing your coupons you will never use them.

As a busy mom, it is even more important that my coupons are organized SIMPLY and can be found easily.

Time is a hot commodity in my life, and I need to make sure that the money saving methods that I use are a good return on my investment. Remember I’m the one who doesn’t even recommend having a garage sale to everyone.


A Few of My Favorite Things

favorite things title

In honor of my birthday, I wanted to share with all my readers five of my favorite things right now. I plan to make this a more regular edition to the blog because I am always finding new things that I love.

And when I love something I want to share it with all of my friends.

In the past, I have just assumed that everyone else knew about the products that I love because I’m usually the last to know things. I am definitely not a trend setter.

Over time, I have realized that is not the case, and it would not be fair for me to keep my favorite things a secret.

This month I have five things that immediately came to mind that I knew I had to share. Here they are in no particular order.

Body Glide

If you have never heard of Body Glide and you live or travel anywhere that it ever gets hot, then you are seriously missing out. This product was introduced to me by my husband years ago when we were preparing for one of our trips to Disney World. Body Glide looks just like deodorant, but it is not. It is the perfect anti-chafing solution. I don’t care if you are big or not – if you have any part of your body that rubs together when you move – you need this.  I am “privileged” enough to have inner thighs that rub together. It is super awesome in the summer when it’s hot and muggy out when you’re wearing shorts or even a skirt. To prevent the uncomfortable rubbing together and chafing I simply rub on the body glide in the morning, and I’m good to go.