...because we all have our motley moments!


Thursday, August 5, 2010

We've Moved!

I'm kind of hesitant to even post this, since our posting and reading have gone way down during the summer, but I'm just so excited to be in our new house! It was such a whirlwind - one Sunday we went for a drive and saw a house we thought was pretty cool. Within 3 days we had put down an offer on it, the owners accepted, and we met with a realtor about selling our house. Our house was on the market less than a week when we had an offer. Talk about the hand of God moving! This has truly been God's plan for our family. The house is not bigger, though it is nicer. We lost a little bit of yard space and outdoor storage. But the neighborhood is great. My dad never liked neighborhoods, so growing up I always lived way out in the country, away from anyone else. Our old house is in a neighborhood, but it's not exactly the kind we want our kids growing up in. It's on a busy street, next to a middle school, and it's loud. Kids walking home from school - loud. People driving by with their music thumping - loud. Motorcycles speeding down the road - loud. In our new neighborhood, we are almost in a cul-de-sac. My kids, 2 and 4, can ride their bikes in the street. Our neighbors stop to talk to us, introducing themselves and letting our kids pet their very sweet animals. The teenaged girl next door brought us a giant hunk of homemade cake. It's so quiet you can actually hear nature. Add a cast of wacky characters, and we're living in Stars Hollow! (I'm praying at least one of you is a Gilmore Girls fan.) I guess what's nice out here is that I don't feel like I'm alone in the world. We were so isolated (by choice) in our last neighborhood. I can't wait to raise my kids here!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

DEADBEAT (motley) MOM

Summer is obviously in full swing with all sorts of special memory-making moments for the Motley Moms. Karly's kiss with a curb and Liz's foray into boxing (in more ways than one) just go to prove how dangerous it is to be a mom. Especially a really motley one who has police chasing her all over town or pictures of her injuries going viral on facebook. It's the stuff summer is made of...ahhhh, memories.

While summer happenings have been heating up, our motley writing has definitely taken a "chill pill" as we said in middle school. I don't feel like such a deadbeat anymore, now that I'm in good company! But I do miss clicking over to Motley Moms for my daily peek into the lives of my mom friends. It's my lifeline to the outside world when I'm up here in the middle of the Adirondack mountains with no cell service all summer...the one-liner quips on Facebook just don't do it for me!

It is nice to take a break from it all, though, every now and then. I'm hoping our little summer break will result in lots of great posts when we've all returned to our regularly scheduled programs. For now, maybe I should find the graphic of the color blocks with the accompanying tone to alert the public that we have no Motley programming during the summer break. That would be awesome.

Have fun with your families, but ya'll come back now, y'hear?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Summer with a Two Year Old!

Summer has been great so far! I am loving it! But I am also trying to get in to an easy routine with my 2 year old. We have some weekly events that we go to: Park outing with other moms from church, library visit to get new books, movies and play with their toys and puzzles, and a Pool party at my house (yes we have a pool). These activities are GREAT! We have a fun time doing all of them.

But I am looking for some ideas for activities that we can do around the house that focus on learning. Something we can do in the mornings when we wake up and are still in our PJ's. Right now we just sort of mosey around playing, making a mess, watching movies, going online... nothing really substantial... I would like to do something more constructive. I would like at least 5 ideas so that I can do them once a week.

That is where the Motley Moms come in. What are some of your go-to learning activities for toddlers?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Want to see what will ruin my summer?

Would you like to see it from a different angle?


Yes. That is my ankle. And really, the second picture doesn't do all the pretty colors justice. Last week I blew out my ankle. Would you like to know how? Or, rather, why? Because I am a big ol' klutz. That's it. I'm clumsy, so I will spend my entire summer in a brace and part of the time on crutches because I can't do plyometrics without turning my ankle the direction it was not meant to turn. The good news is: 1. It's not broken (although sometimes a break is better than a sprain, especially when it's sprained as severely as mine is), 2. I don't need surgery, and 3. School is out, which means my MIL and SIL are able to help me quite a bit. And yes, it is overkill to say this ankle sprain (4 torn ligaments! 3 month recovery!) will "ruin" my summer, but here is a list of things that will just not be the same:
1. VBS. I can't work it because I'm not terribly mobile, even with the crutches, but my kids can still attend. So I get 5 half-days to myself. Huh. Wait, that actually turned out pretty well. Okay, scratch that.
New #1. I'm going to get fat. It's inevitable. I can't do anything physical. No circuit training, no weight training, no running, no elliptical, no kickboxing. I was even considering going back to tae kwon do, but I won't be able to do anything strenuous until September, most likely. This lack of physical activity not only makes me flabbier, but it makes me cranky, too.
2. The Keys. Todd and I are going to the Keys in less than 2 weeks, by ourselves. I still won't be able to walk long distances, although I should be off the crutches by then, so there won't be any walking around Key West for shopping or people-watching. We can't go kayaking because of Todd's recent shoulder surgery (it takes a long time to recover from that) and I can't very well bike. I guess we'll be spending all of our time either in the hotel room or lying out by the pool, reading and sipping drinks with little umbrellas in them. Bummer.
3. Busch Gardens. They have a special going this summer where you can get a year's pass for kids 5 and under for free because they've opened up a new Elmo-themed preschool area. I was planning on going there a lot but I don't think I will now. Can you imagine me on one of those motorized carts trying to chase after 2 kids in a theme park?
4. Potty training. Micah really is doing great with using the toilet, especially since I started him almost a full year younger than I started Ethan. I can't remember the last time I bought diapers. But he's taking advantage of me. It's like he says in his head, "Hmmmm. Mommy's laid up on the couch with a hurt foot. I wonder what'll happen if I pee on the books."
5. Sleep. Since I'm lying around all day, I'm not expending much energy, so I'm not tired at night. My brain is probably going to turn to mashed potatoes because I'm watching more TV than usual and wasting even more time on the computer. And that's saying something.
All this has made me realize that I wasn't made for sitting around. But I'm sure, like in all things, God is trying to teach me something. Patience, maybe? Loss of control? Or maybe that my problems are small. My last post was pretty dismal and this one is just whiny. But oil is spilling out of control into the Gulf and people are losing their jobs and many in Haiti still don't have homes. I am blessed because I sit here with a brace and crutches that my insurance company (partly) paid for, insurance that I have because my husband has a good job, and my belly is full and my kids are healthy and my house is air-conditioned. Ugh. I'm tired of learning this lesson. I wish I weren't so.....human.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I got my degree on Facebook!

Sorry to hijack Motley Moms to rant a little, but I actually believe this is a topic worthy of a parenting discussion. While most of us reading this did not grow up surfing the Information Super Highway, our kiddos will only know the ease of Google for finding out what they need to know.

In the past few weeks a controversy has erupted on Facebook. Actually, many controversies have exploded on the social networking site, but this one in particular has caught my attention. Have you seen the icky glob the lady down in Miami found in her Capri Sun pouch?


More pics here.

I think we can all agree that, yuck, that is really icky. I wouldn't want to find one of those in my kid's juice box. When the mom who found the mass contacted Kraft, the maker of the juice, they told her they would test it. They did, and they concluded that the mass is mold, and the mold grew because the pouch had a leak. (This is true, by the way--the family confirmed that the pouch was leaking and that is how they found the object.) Kraft offered to reimburse the family for the cost of the box of juice.

Here's where things have taken an interesting turn, though--apparently the appearance of this ugly mass of yuck has turned many people in the Facebook world into biologists. Did you know it was that simple? People whose only contact with mold is with the stuff that grows on strawberries when they sit in the fridge for too long have decided that this could not be mold--it's too icky--it looks more like an eyeball, skin, (insert random body part here)...

Now, with one Google search I was able to find a picture on a blog of a similar glob found in an apple juice box made by an Australian company. There may be some masked villain touring the world's juice factories and depositing masses of flesh he removed from his victims into our children's favorite summer beverage containers, or maybe...it really is a mold that tends to grow in fruit juice.

I'm not really bothered by boycotts against products as long as they have merit, and I think social networking sites have given consumers unimaginable power when it comes to being treated fairly. What bothers me is that I have heard several people talking about the glob off-line, and they are sure that indeed it is the missing hand of Osama bin Laden. Let people say what they will, but in this age of information, information tends to spread faster than the speed of light, and before you can say, "Don't take that perfume sample from a stranger at a gas station!" we have a new urban legend on our hands, and in some cases it may actually harm products or companies that supply jobs to our economy and have, in fact, done nothing wrong.

So, as much as I would like to think that my time spent watching Criminal Minds has prepared me to be an FBI profiler (Hey guys at the Bureau--call me if you need a hand!), I can honestly say that it probably hasn't, and on that same note, being a part of the Facebook community (or any other site) has not qualified me to be a scientist or anything else. It is my responsibility to not believe everything I read and to look into things a little before I start a crusade against them. Most of the time, a quick trip to www.snopes.com does the trick. ;)

What's my point and what does it have to do with parenting? Well, I guess my main goal here is to inspire us all to teach our kids how to find the truth no matter how enticing a legend is. Sure, it's more fun to think that the Capri Sun in question came from Hannibal Lecter's jail cell, but really, don't we want our kids to be able to decipher fact from fiction, danger from safety? There's a Facebook community devoted to some new fad where the kids are drinking alcohol WITH THEIR EYEBALLS. I'm sure they think it's perfectly fine to do so. I want our little guy to be able to say, "No, thank you, you're an idiot," when approached with such ridiculous ideas. In short, I want to train our future member of society to be, well, not a moron. Of course, I may need to get a few more Facebook degrees before I can master that completely. ;)


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Fresh Produce

I love the fresh produce of summer. In Florida, colorful fruits and veggies start pouring into our supermarkets early, and then we get the benefit of the northern growing seasons well into the scorching summer months when our gardens take a break. I am easily drawn to the colors and smells of the produce department and roadside stands, and nothing makes me happier to come home with bags of the good stuff. I can practically feel the health surging through my body just looking at the antioxidant-packed bounty.

And then this happens.

"John, why haven't you guys been eating the pears?" John replies, "We have pears?"

I was mesmerized in the produce department at Publix a few weeks ago, ready to buy a cartload of the good stuff, when it finally dawned on me that we don't always eat everything I buy. Actually, we often weren't eating half of it. We had the beginnings of a very expensive compost pile. I stopped and surveyed the market stand trying to determine why this was happening.

Aren't produce markets beautiful? All of the shiny apples piled high in their bins, arranged so neatly. Who wouldn't want a big, bushy pineapple, especially when it's surrounded by colorful mangoes. The yummy harvest goes into the cute little bags to be weighed, then goes home to...

the black hole that is the refrigerator.

Yes, like a coconut falling from a tree, the realization hit me that the allure of these delicacies of nature is their beauty, and hiding them in the fridge behind the cottage cheese is an insult to them, and much worse, it keeps us from enjoying them. I took action that day when I returned home, and our produce eating has improved tremendously.

1. I did a refrigerator remodel. I ditched the stuff that needed to go, and cleared out the produce bin. I pushed the grains and nuts to the back where they could still be seen but not interfere with more perishable things in the front, and I moved all of the bottle things to the door. I put organizers into the drawer so that I could wash the apples and store them in an open container so that they would be ready to be eaten at any time. Once the apples were corralled, the other fruits and veggies organized themselves neatly around them. No produce bags or boxes, just a bin of fresh stuff ready to be grabbed and eaten at any time.

2. I did a grocery list remodel. I realized that I would habitually buy lots of short-life produce, such as berries, and very little of anything that would last until my next shopping day. We would force-feed ourselves the perishable stuff for two days, and then we were out of fresh food for the week. I examine our grocery list every week now to assure that I have a week's worth of edible goodies, and we eat them accordingly.

3. I stopped buying so much produce in the first place. This is contrary to my earlier grocery shopping posts, but I have decided that certain fresh food can be purchased multiple times a week so that it isn't reduced to compost. I still budget for it, though, and I make sure that the money is in the cash envelope when it's time to replenish the produce bin.

We want to enjoy our food, not just scramble to get it eaten so that it doesn't spoil. Do you have any pointers for making the most of the summer harvest?

Monday, June 14, 2010

A Home Study and a Wedding Dress...

We have been busy the last few weeks. {As I assume everyone else is since not a lot of new posts are showing up here on Motley Moms!} Our business has been mostly about our adoption for kid #2! We finalized our home study last week and we are officially on the waiting list! Hooray!! We are super excited! We are on the waiting list for a girl. The wait time will be much longer than it was with Kid #1 but we are trusting in God's timing.

Our Social Worker (SW) came to our home to update our home study from Kid #1's adoption. It is not a huge deal, but we wanted our house to be clean... I mean this person is going to help decide if we can take on another kid, so I want the illusion that our house is clean. And since she will be touring the WHOLE house, I can not just pick up the main level and leave the child safety gates up at both sets of stairways to block her from seeing the other 2 levels where I stashed all the junk from the main floor, like I usually do with company! (Oh no- now my secret is out!)

I am the WORST when it comes to cleaning! I am A.D.D. and sentimental. I will start to clean an area and I will get distracted or start looking at each item I am supposed to be cleaning and remember all the "good times" we had with it. Cleaning the photo albumn shelf is a 2 + hour job since I look through each one!

So, I was cleaning the storage closet and came across my wedding dress tote. (I stored my dress in a big storage tote with baby blue tissue paper to keep it white).... I start thinking of our wedding day and how beautiful and happy and young we were... and then I start thinking "hmmmmmmm I wonder if it still fits? " I open it up and it looks pretty and white so, I stop cleaning and try on my wedding dress.

And guess what....

IT STILL FITS!!!

After 12 years of marriage, I can still fit into my wedding dress! I go and show my husband who laughs and then tells me that I look beautiful! Good man!

Armed with new self-confidence, I was able to clean my house like never before! {don't worry, I changesd out of my dress to finish cleaning!}

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Only Rose is Left...

Have you ever felt like sitting on the couch all afternoon while watching a "Golden Girls" marathon and drinking yourself into a stupor? I feel like that today. I can't, however, because 1. I don't have any "Golden Girls" DVDs and it doesn't come on TV until 5, 2. I don't want to watch "Golden Girls" in front of my impressionable children, and 3. I don't drink if I'm the only adult available to take care of said children. I have the "Golden Girls" on my mind because I recently re-discovered how hilarious Betty White is and I found out today that Rue McClanahan died. That caps off our recent trio of celebrity deaths - Gary Coleman, Dennis Hopper, and now Miss Rue. The death of Rue makes me sad, although I never really liked her character on the show because she's a major whore. There are a lot of things that are making me sad lately, and mowing on Saturday and Sunday didn't even make me feel better.
You see, I love mowing. It's great exercise, I get some sun (while wearing sunscreen, of course), I get a break from my kids, it's instant gratification because I can see the fruits of my labor almost instantly, and I cut the grass in small sections, which is therapeutic for my ADD brain. The biggest reason why I love mowing, though, is because I am a brooder. When I have things on my mind, I don't particularly like to talk about them (which can make therapy a little interesting, but I digress...). I like to process. Mowing, and any other "hard work," help me to process things, especially if I'm also listening to my iPod at the same time. I sometimes feel like God is speaking to me through my iPod, to comfort me, to cheer me up, to make me sort through my emotions, however negative, and to get my mind off of the stress that is in my life.
I have 3 big things going on right now. One is good - a possible move to another house - but stressful nonetheless. One is a health concern that is most likely nothing, but I've had to wait a long time to find out. Another is the Big Ugly Situation involving my mother and a lawyer. What's funny about these situations being in my life is that these are not what are making me sad today. I am sad about freaking Rue McClanahan and the fact that Betty White probably doesn't have much time left, either. I am sad because my son has ringworm - again. I am sad because it rained all afternoon and now we can't go out to play unless I want my kids to get filthy. I am sad because I'm probably the reason why my kids are afraid to get dirty.
This is probably a normal reaction. I can't really handle the big stuff right now, especially the medical thing and the lawyer thing, so I'm focusing on the little stuff. Mowing didn't help and drinking certainly won't, so I'll just stress eat today and look forward to tomorrow, when I'll at least have an answer on my medical thing. Maybe once that's over I can stop mourning over celebrities and dreaming of drowning myself in vice.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Succeeding As a Mom, Take 1001...

Are you ready for my latest attempt at being an effective parent? Our son has been having trouble listening and following directions lately, and rather than going insane from repeating myself a billion times, I turned to a place where I often go when my life is in need of some order. The clip-art file.

In the aftermath of a knock-down-drag-out over bedtime rituals, I created this little display for our refrigerator:



I needed something to convey good and bad to a child who can't read yet, so I went with emoticons. Next, I searched my memory for the things that I know our son LOVES, and I made picture representations of those. Swimming, treats, tv shows, playing at the park...that kind of thing. I then pulled out my teacher stuff and made the little pictures into magnets. While he slept, I put all of these things on the refrigerator door.

The next morning, the little guy ran to the kitchen as usual, and he stopped abruptly. "What's that?" he asked. I explained that the pictures were the things he likes to do and I reviewed them with him. I then explained that if the pictures were on the happy face then he could do those things. If the pictures moved to the sad face because he didn't listen to Mommy and Daddy and follow instructions, then he couldn't have or do that thing for the rest of the day.

The first mishap involved stepping on the cat. He likes to play with her with his feet but he doesn't understand how powerful he is compared to the kitten, so we have a rule that he is not allowed to use his feet on the cat. He did it anyway just after we had discussed it, so I marched to the kitchen and moved Scooby Do to the sad face side. No boxes to check, no difficulty remembering the punishment--Scooby Do is on the sad face thus we were a Scooby Do free household that day.

Next, at dinner the little guy would not sit in his chair to eat or use a fork. He's 3 1/2, what can I say? After warning him, I marched to the kitchen and moved the picture of chocolate to the sad face. He wasn't too concerned, so I marched back to the kitchen and grabbed a few Dove squares, tossed a couple to my husband, and we ate them in front of him. I know, I know, Mom and Dad of the Year, that's us. But guess what? He understood.

So now, if his behavior isn't what it needs to be, I say, "Do I need to move a magnet?" He changes his attitude quickly. Also, I've included a variety of things he likes, so I can make a decision when I get to the pictures about the most advantageous magnet move. I try to choose what I know he cares about without shooting myself in the foot, you know? For example, if he's having a sick day, taking away Scooby Do is not the best way to go. I could, however, take away going to the park, and while I know we wouldn't have gone, he doesn't know that. All he knows is that he has lost a privilege due to his behavior.

Will this work forever? No. Already, when I moved Scooby to the dark side, he looked at the happy side and said, "So, I can still watch Max and Ruby?" We like to emphasize problem solving skills in this household, so it's our own fault. We have had some learning moments that have had positive outcomes, though, so for now it is a great success. The best part is that in the morning he is so eager to get started that he moves all of his magnets back to the happy side. Less work for me!

Hopefully this gets the creative juices flowing--do you have any tips for easy but effective discipline? Let us hear them!

Also, Happy Birthday to the queen Motley Mom, Donna! You make 35 look like the new 25 girl! :)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Lazybones

We have a joke in our family. One day our cat was sleeping while the boys and I were petting her and I said, "Cameron is a lazybones!" Ethan got the giggles and now every time he wakes me up in the morning he says, "Mom, get up! You're bein' a lazybones!" It's cute, and he means nothing by it, but it kind of hits a nerve because sometimes I really feel like I'm a lazy person. However, lately I've been paying attention to my average day, and maybe I'm not so lazy. Usually my days go like this:
Todd gets me up (he's already been up with Micah for over an hour) so he can go work out. I eat breakfast, then Ethan gets up and I make him breakfast and prod him to get dressed. I get Micah dressed, make sure to get him to the potty before any accidents occur, then brush both boys' teeth. I also get myself dressed, then we head out the door to drop Ethan off at preschool. After the drop-off, Micah and I go to the Y where I work out. We go home and I "piddle" around the house - dishes, laundry, etc., stopping occasionally to take Micah to the potty and check my email and Facebook. Oh, and get him a snack and have a snack myself, if I remember. If I have time, I take a shower, then we're off to pick Ethan up. Once we get home, it's lunch insanity because I'm usually fixing 3 different meals (Micah is picky and I've encouraged it and I just don't have time today to discuss this issue). Micah then goes to bed and Ethan watches some TV or plays until I put him in front of a movie for his rest time.
This is the point in the day where I get lazy. Sometimes I move laundry along, but most days I catch up on shows on my DVR, play around on the computer, do some crossword puzzles, or fall asleep reading on the couch. There are so many things I could be doing. I could be organizing the thousands of pictures on my computer. I could be transferring old video camera tapes to my computer. I could be organizing the pile of crap that sits on our bookshelf. Sometimes I work out, if I didn't get a chance to that morning, but the truth is, I am quite selfish with this time. I don't want to do any of those things, except work out, but only because that's something I do for me, not for anyone else.
Once Micah's up from his nap, the afternoon is filled with playing, reading, going outside, breaking up fights, and cooking supper. After the boys eat an early supper we usually go to the Y for Youth Super Sports or tae kwon do or t-ball practice or Grandma's. When we get home, it's bedtime rodeo. And then I collapse on the couch again.
I don't know if it's our society or my parents or what that makes me think I have to be busy or doing something "productive" all the time. But I'm not going to feel that way anymore, dangit! I'm exhausted when bedtime comes around, and it's not because I take an hour each afternoon to rest on the couch. Today is Ethan's last day of preschool, which should give me even more time to be lazy, except that we have swimming lessons and VBS and, and, and, and...I don't think there's much time to be lazy if you're even an average mom. I also think it's okay to teach your kids to slow down and rest for a short time every day, even when you're a grown-up.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Financial Fun: Support local agriculture!

My son and I just had the most fun ten minutes we've had in a while, and it only cost us $5.50.

On a whim, I drove us down the road to a building I had seen but never visited, lured only by the gigantic "HONEY" sign on the front. Once I convinced him to get out of the car, we stepped into a little room no larger than a walk-in closet, and we were greeted by a wall of honey containers in several shapes and sizes. In the middle of the room was a large box with a hole in it that read, "Honor System, Since 1937." There were posters on the walls with pictures of bees and honey combs, and lots of information about how honey is made. I picked up a 12 oz. bear-shaped bottle of honey with a price sticker that read $4.00, but my son reached for a larger bear. I inspected the bottle--it was 24 oz. for $5.50. Sometimes my math is a little slow, but the value of the larger bottle was pretty obvious! We counted out dollar bills and coins, put them into the slot on the box, and drove home with my son cradling the bear in his car seat. We conversed the entire way home about the many things we could do with our Florida Orange Blossom honey. As soon as we opened the door to the kitchen, he ran to the refrigerator, pulled out some plain yogurt and started creating his lunch. Now he's waiting for Daddy to get home so he can share with him our new honey and the story of where we found it.

So, for $5.50 my son learned about the honey making process, learned to count money, found excitement in cooking, and will practice his story-telling skills a little later today. Also, that $5.50 went straight to a family that has owned the "HONEY" building for several decades and sets an example of trusting our fellow human beings. And we got a cute bear full of delicious honey as a parting gift. I think that is quite the value for my money!

Friday morning we will go to a local blueberry farm to pick blueberries for a final time this season, and we will make jam with those berries for Father's Day gifts. When we travel this summer, we will spend most of our adventure time finding local farms where we can visit animals and find delicious produce and other farm goods. All of this will be priced considerably lower than other forms of entertainment, and the benefits, well, are just too numerous to mention!

Your challenge for the day--seek out local agriculture, and pay your farmers a visit! If you need help, this website has a comprehensive list of U-Pick farms all over the country. You'll be saving yourself entertainment dollars and possibly grocery dollars, and you'll be helping the local economy. More than that, though, you'll be giving your little ones experiences they will treasure forever!

If you know of a local (to you!) farm that is great to visit, leave it in the comment section!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Make Your Own Water Table

I posted this on my Fireflies and Jellybeans blog , (that is why the water marks on on all the pics) But I thought it would work here too!
I am taking a break from the Love Budget this week because we are having fun playing outside! :)
It is getting HOT here! And that means more time outside playing with water! I would LOVE to have a water table but I do not want to spend the $30-$60 to get one... so I made my own for FREE! I had ALL of this stuff at my house and I bet you do too!

Here is what you will need to make a little water table!
One big storage tote ( This is a sweater tote 41 gallon... but use you what you have!)
Water
Cookie sheet to act as a tray
Various water toys/cups:
Measuring cups
mini-strainer
watering can
foam fish stickers
bath toys

I looked around my kitchen and bathroom for about 5 minutes and found lots of fun things


I placed my big storage tote on two outdoor foot stools (little tables or chairs would work too. Or you could just leave it on the ground!) I filled it up with water and put all the toys in to play. All done! It is all ready to play with!

You can scoop out some fish with the net (mini-strainer)

Or pour water out of the watering can


Or watch your little one have hours of fun with the water!

It was a great summer activity. My son had SOOOOO MUCH fun! He was soaking wet too, so next time I think I will put him in his swim suit!
The other great thing about this water table is that it is easy to store! Just put all of your stuff back and store some stuff in your tote and you are set!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Dreaded Virus

I live in mortal fear of a stomach virus. I'm sure this has deep-seeded psychological causes; in fact, I know it does, but I won't get into that. I break out in a cold sweat when I learn that someone I or my kids have been in contact with recently has come down with vomiting and/or diarrhea. And if one of my kids starts with tummy trouble, no matter how benign, I get really freaked out. I start rationalizing it, like last summer when Micah puked milk up all over the rug in his bedroom. "Well, he was just hot and had too much milk too fast." That time I was actually right. He slept fine and we went to the beach without incident the next day, just as we had planned. One time I threw up right after supper. I was training for one of my black belt testings, so I thought, "I'm just dehydrated." I threw up again. "Okay, well, maybe I ate something bad." No one else who had eaten anything I had was sick, though. I ended up in the emergency room with an IV after throwing up every 5 minutes for 4 hours and hallucinating. That was probably an ugly virus. At least with me, though, excepting that time Todd had to take me to the hospital, I can pretty much take care of myself and I don't create too much of a mess. Then there's the added bonus of weigh loss (the last virus lost me 6 pounds, which I have managed to keep off - woot!). With my kids, however, it's a much different story. I won't even get started on the mess. I panic because I'm afraid it's going to spread throughout our entire household, so I start manic rationalization. Yesterday Ethan pooped his pants 3 times. The first two times were barely anything, the third time I had to throw away the underwear. He was eating, though, and playing, so I thought, "It must've been something he ate." I took him over to his aunt's house like normal, where he pooped his pants two more times. Still no nausea, though, the only other symptom being a cough he's had for a few days. We recently had to start limiting his apple juice consumption because it's starting to affect his teeth, so I thought, "Well, maybe his body is just adjusting." I know, I know. It sounds stupid to me now, too. Why would lack of apple juice for almost 2 weeks give him diarrhea? He pooped some more before bed, then woke up with a Pull-Up full. He's had 3 more incidents this morning and I've finally resigned myself to it: Ethan is sick. He's home from school, he's off dairy, and he's wearing a Pull-Up so I don't have to toss out anymore undies. Seriously, though, it's not a bad virus, if that's what it is. And what's the big deal about throwing away 3 pairs of underwear and using several Clorox wipes? I don't know why I do this to myself. Part of taking care of kids is cleaning up gross stuff. That's just life. I am trying to start looking at it this way - That's my baby in there getting sick. His need for comfort is a lot more important than my gag reflex. Plus, he's kind of sweet when he's sick - he just crawls into my lap to be rocked. How's that for a "physical touch" love language? :)

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Love Budget- Part 4 - Touch


Physical touch is not about being sexual... it is about hugs, pats on the back and holding hands. My son is all about the physical touch. He is not comfortable in a new place unless he is touching me some how. When he is sick, hurt or sad, he wants to be held. When we are playing he wants to be sitting on my lap or close enough to touch me.

But everyone needs human contact. Every one needs a hug, a pat on the back, or kiss on the cheek. So, how do we "budget" our touches? It about having a goal that is measurable and attainable.

Assess your family's "touchy-ness" . Do you have family members who need a little more cuddles from you to get through the day. In my family my son is the most touchy, I am a very close second, and my hubby is third. So now you know where you need to focus your attention. But, just because some one does not like to be snuggled does not mean they need to be left off the list!

Now make a goal for yourself on how many times you want to hug, kiss, snuggle, pat on the back, hold hands... etc with your family members.

Here is mine: I am going to hug and kiss my hubby at least 3 times a day (When he leaves for work, when he comes home, and when we go to bed). I am going to give my hubby a back rub at least once a week (He may not be cuddly but he loves back rubs!). I am going to cuddle with my son at least 4 times a day (When he wakes up from bed, before and after each nap, and before bedtime) and hug, kiss, hold him when ever it is possible.

Most likely you are doing a lot of snuggling with your family already. It is about being deliberate about it. Enjoy the moment of it and being sure that they know that you love them!

Now we can't NOT talk about sex... I mean the whole time you have been wander if I was going to say something about it! (At least I know Karly was!!!)

Yes, sex is a very important part of marriage that can often get over looked with all the kid ciaos! Make time for Sex. This post from Karly is a great motivator! I am going to leave it up to you on how you want to "budget" you sex life! : )

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Financial Fun: A Healthy Budget

Not too long ago I started having some health issues that made me rethink the way I live-- especially the way I eat. In misguided attempts to save money, I was feeding myself and my family food that was sub-par as far as health goes. It has taken a while, but I have found that it is still possible to provide healthy meals in our household, even though we are on a strict budget. I have a budget of $300 a month ($350 a month when there are five shopping days).

  • I had to sacrifice junk to get the good food we need. We may not have "fun" foods like chips and soda, but we have a produce drawer full of colorful fruits and veggies, and a freezer full of lean meats. Our pantry is full of good stuff, too.
  • I have "magic numbers" when I shop. Teresa taught me this a while ago--she only buys produce when it is $1 a pound or less. This saves money, and most of the time the produce at that price is what is seasonally and locally available, which makes it even better. I will go a few cents over, but that's it. The same goes for meat. I know I can get fresh chicken tenderloins at Sam's Club for $2.17 a pound, and I won't pay more at the grocery store. If necessary, I buy lots at SC and freeze it so that we always have lean meat for meals. This week boneless, skinless chicken breasts are $1.99 a pound at Publix, so that is certainly an acceptable purchase.
  • I stock up on dry goods and other non-perishables only when they are on sale. I can buy whole grain pasta at two boxes for $1.39 about every six weeks. I buy it then and only then, and I buy enough to make it to the next sale.
  • I create a detailed shopping list before I go to the store so that I know exactly how much I'm spending ahead of time. If I'm over budget, I edit the list. I keep a running total on my calculator at the store to be sure I'm not surprised at the check out. I only spend the money budgeted for that trip. Period.
  • I weigh the produce before it goes into the cart. If I don't weigh it, I won't know how much it will cost.
  • I don't meal plan, but I do have a plan for what I buy so that I know it will be eaten. For example, not one person in my household eats carrots or celery regularly. I don't buy them anymore. I used to because they're "healthy," but that only served to enrich the compost pile. If I buy an ingredient we're not accustomed to having, I make a plan for it's use before it comes home.
  • Ready for the paradox? I buy the best. I never want a meal in this house to be a disappointment compared to an unhealthy meal. Spending a few bucks more on good food that will be eaten is much better than spending a few less bucks on food we will avoid until it needs to be thrown away. Like carrots and celery. :)
  • I ensure that what I buy will be eaten. More on budget friendly kitchen organization next week. :)
I'm sure you have some great advice on this subject, and I'm always learning, so let's hear it!

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Love Budget - Part 3- {Time}

Everyday is bank account, and time is our currency. So, no one's rich, no body's poor, we get the same 24 hours each. So, how are you going to spend it? Will you invest or squander. Try to get ahead or help some one whose under? --- Chris Rice - Life Means So Much

Time is ticking away. Tick, tick, ticking away! --- DC Talk.

Men talk of killing time, while time quietly kills them. ~Dion Boucicault




I am going to be the first person to say that I should be the LAST person to write an article about spending your time wisely. (It was hard for me to find time to write it!)

I waste my time doing so many things I should not: TV, Online, sleeping (ok- sleeping is not a waste of time now... but back when I used to sleep in until 11 or 12 noon it was a waste of time!) I don't spend enough time doing the things that I should: Praying, reading the bible, cleaning my house

Mmmmm, maybe I should be writing this post to get my act together!

A while back, my pastor talked about margins. You know, the white space on a piece of paper. He side that the important stuff is in the body of the page, and people like to add stuff to the margins. But if you add too much to the margins it takes away from the body of the work. He said we need to keep the margins of our life clean and uncluttered.


We need to schedule the BIG things. The things that are good for you and your family, and get ride of the little things. We need to learn to say "no." to things that are not good our families. Sometimes good things are not good for your family. It is all about keeping your margins clear.

So, How doe we budget our time? Here is what we (The Hubs and I) came up with:

Sit down and think about how you spend a normal week. Maybe you want to keep a journal one week. Recording all each day's activities.


Now, take a good look at where you are spending your time. Highlight the things that are useful and necessary {sleep, work, eating, etc} in one color, the things that are enjoyable and manageable {reading, dates with the hubby, hobbies etc} in another and the things that are wasting your time or are not a good fit for your family in a third color.


The next step is charting out how you want your week to look for now on. You want to keep your necessary and useful things, make time for your enjoyable things and get rid of the wastes. You can do this on a piece of paper, a calender, poster board, on outlook, or in your head! Try it out for a few weeks, and then take a look at it again to see if it is working or not. Readjust as you see fit.


I know that this is not revolutionary or anything. But it is like Karly's post last week. Sometimes it is the simplest things that help us get back on track!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

This World

I love this world. I know I'm not supposed to. I'm a Christian; therefore, I'm supposed to be set apart and love the people in the world, but not the world. I'm in the world, not of it, etc., etc. I can't help it, though, I love this world. There are just so many great things to love about it.
1. Organized Sports: I've written before about my obsession with Alabama football, but I also love pro baseball, pro football, college basketball playoffs, golf, hockey, MMA, lacrosse, and even soccer sometimes.
2. TV: Lately I've been watching Seasons 1-5 of "Lost" on Netflix instant streaming and I'm completely hooked. It's such a terrific story and I can't wait to see what happens next. I stay confused, but I've hung in there because of the characters and writing. I love great writing.
3. Books: Speaking of writing, I sure do love to read. Right now I'm on a Frederick Forsyth kick. I love to read anything, though. My husband got me hooked on Kipling and I've always been a fan of Dickens. I even read nonfiction, and not just self-help books. I love the Bible the most, as I "should," but some secular stuff moves me almost as much as Scripture does.
4. Music: Music moves me, as well. I love hymns and praise music, but as I'm talking about what I love about the world, I'll tell you that I also love booty music and really loud rock and roll. I love Rimsky-Korsakov and Mozart and some old twangy country.
5. Movies: This is where I could really get in trouble. Well, here and with Ludacris, Jay-Z, and Eminem. Anyway, I love movies, especially raunchy ones like The Hangover and Superbad. I love to laugh. I also love science fiction, so I enjoy Star Wars and Star Trek and pretty much anything with good special effects. I like martial arts, so I also watch Jet Li and Jackie Chan movies.
Hopefully I'm not so wrapped up in the stuff I love about this world to also care about its people and to see the ugliness and evil all around me. Hopefully I can get out of my "Lost" fog and away from football games to show the love of God and really be in the world, but not of it.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

4 Reasons Why a Four-Year-Old Is Like a Teenager

1. He eats all day, every day, and begs for more. Today Ethan ate an oatmeal bar, milk, carrots, pizza, apple juice, snack mix, strawberries, bread and butter (2 pieces, like a butter sandwich), steak, couscous, Sprite, and more milk, and he still got out of bed to say he was hungry. I don't know how I'm going to pay the food bill when he's a teenager playing sports.
2. He is increasingly moody.
3. He is defiant. Today I said, "Put your shoes on, boys, we're going to go to Wal-Mart." Ethan said, "I'm not going to!" so I sent him to time-out. He then proceeded to STICK HIS TONGUE OUT AT ME. So I sent him to his room. When he's 14 he'll probably give me the finger.
4. He cares about his clothes. When we finally were on our way to Wal-Mart to get him new underwear, he said, "Mom, I want cool underwear. Kids at school have cool underwear."
5. He has a great sense of humor. His instructor asked him to tell a joke tonight at tae kwon do. "I don't know what a joke is," Ethan replied. "Well, then, tell me something funny." "Monkeys are funny!"
I guess the good news is that I actually like teenagers. :)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Financial Fun: Any questions? Comments?

Next Tuesday we will talk about eating healthily on a budget, but today I am recovering from a weekend trip and I need to take a little break! Please take today as your day to question and comment on anything financial, and we can all join in the conversation. Thanks for your understanding!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Love Budget - Part 2 {The Categories}


Last week I posted about the idea of a Love Budget (An idea that my Hubby came up with). Here is my Hubby's post on it if you want more information on the idea.

Similar to how a financial budget has different categories, so does our Love Budget. The categories that I am going to talk about are The 5 Love Languages and God's Commands. I am going to start out talking about each Love Language (Time, Words of Affirmation, Physical Touch, Service, and Gifts) separately.

Just like in a financial budget some categories have more weight than others, the same is true in our love budget. But it will be different from person to person and family to family. You have to figure out what Love Language you, your spouse and your children speak to decide which one(s) will be more important.

For example: My Love language is gifts, my Hubby's is Service, and my Son's is Physical Touch. So, those will be the a bigger focus. We will still need to budget for Words of Affirmation and Time but they will have less weight.

So your homework for this week to find out your family's Love Languages. Here are some helpful sites for you.

Love Language Test
Summery of the 5 love Languages
The 5 Love Languages Book on Amazon.
Next week I will talk about Time.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Financial Fun Part 5: Dear MM--Can you help me lower my grocery bills?

This week, let's tackle a question from a reader:

Dear Motley Moms,

My family eats pretty much the same meals every week, and I buy pretty much the same thing at the grocery store every week. I buy what we need whether it is on sale or not, and it seems like we are spending too much money that way. Do you have any suggestions on how to lower our grocery bills? Thank you!

Dear Reader:

I have good news for you--you have a way of shopping that is prime for saving money with a few tweaks to your weekly routine! By doing what is called "stockpiling" (buying ingredients and foods you use often in larger quantities when they are on sale) and remodeling your grocery list a bit you should be able to lower your bills! Here's what I suggest:

1. Make a list of all of the meals and snacks your family eats and the ingredients necessary to make them. If you have more than enough favorites for a week, that's great! You will be able to take advantage of sales!

2. Divide that list into three categories: 1)Extremely perishable (like milk) 2) Somewhat perishable (foods with longer expiration dates--cheese for example) and 3) Storable (pastas, jarred sauces, canned veggies, etc.)

3. BEFORE you go shopping, find the sale circular for the store where you shop. These days, finding those online is the way to go if you'd rather not go into the store. Also, you may receive an ad with your newspaper subscription.

4. This is where your routine changes--rather than deciding what YOU want to eat that week, your ad decides for you. If there is a great deal on chicken that week, you choose to eat your famous chicken dish. If the beef is not on sale, sorry, but no steaks that week. Make your meal plan based on the sales, then add those items to your grocery list.

5. Next, scour the ad for foods you use frequently. For example, I use a ton of cannellini beans. If they are on sale for a very low price, I buy 10+ cans that week. Then, I don't buy them again until they go on sale again. Period.

Shopping this way allows you to eventually spend less on storables. There will be weeks where you only buy fresh perishable foods because you have everything else you need! A word of caution, though--be careful not to overspend the budget on stockpiling, and never buy more than you can store. Trust me on that one. ;)

If you have any advice for this situation, let's hear it! Send me any other grocery questions you may have, too. Next week we'll talk about eating healthily on a budget. This is something I'm dealing with right now, so I look forward to hearing your comments! Have a great week!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Love Budget

Rachel has been posting some AWESOME post about budgeting our money! I thought I would take that theme and put a little twist on it. This idea is really my Husband's. He is an accountant so he is a real numbers kind a guy. He came up with the Love Budget because he wanted a tangible way to think of love. He wanted to answer the questions:

  • How can we be rich toward God?
  • What is heavenly currency?
  • How do we earn it, and how do we spend it?

Luke 12:15 says, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." This verse implies that these riches are separate from our possessions. Luke 12: 33 speaks of "treasure in heaven", which makes me think that these riches cannot be seen, and verse 34 states, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." The word "heart" is often connected with the term of "love". This connection really helped me pull it all together. I remembered that Mark 12:30-31 contains the greatest commandments, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these." The plain and simple truth is that God values love so much more than anything else. Just as a modern day currency could have its value based on gold or silver, heaven's currency is based on love.

There are a lot of ways to earn and spend love. One great book on the subject is The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman (I believe that he has written on for kids as well) is a great book on love. It talks about your "love tank" and how it fills up and empties out. The book talks about 5 ways to show and feel love:

  • Physical Touch
  • Words of Affirmation
  • Service
  • Gifts
  • Time

Jesus also gives us some incite on how to earn and show love to God. "Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him." John 14:20-22

1 Corinthians 13 also sheds some light on the subject:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

What if we were to put together a Love Budget. A tangible measurable way to earn and spend our heavenly currency (love). "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." What would the plan look like?

My Husband and I are pursuing the idea of a Love Budget. Are you interested in hearing more of our thoughts on the idea?
What ideas do you have for a Love Budget, what kinds of things would you include?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Big Boy

Ladies (and gentlemen, for you hubbies out there), I no longer have any babies in my house. I've written before about how I think it's neat when my kids hit milestones and grow up, about how I didn't cry when Ethan started preschool or went from his crib to a big bed or got rid of his pacifier. And I'm here to tell you that when I said that, I was full of crap. I think the reason why none of that stuff was tough for me was because I had a baby at the time, Micah. But Micah ain't no baby no more. Tuesday we started potty training him and yesterday he only had 1 accident all day long. I can't even believe how well this is going. What I've done is pretty much stayed home and let him run around naked with the potty in the TV room. And it works! I remind him a lot, but he also goes over and pees in it all by himself. Yesterday he even pooped in it. First he pooped near it and that really bothered him, so I told him to sit and try to do it in the potty and he did. I think God is repaying me for all the trouble I had potty training Ethan. Or maybe I've just learned what not to do from how it went with Ethan. I'm really tired of doing it wrong with Ethan and getting it right with Micah. But that's a whole other blog topic. While I think it's totally awesome that Micah is peeing in the potty and sleeping in a big bed and got registered for preschool the other day, it's making me sad! His crib is still sitting out in our garage and I don't know what to do with it. What I need to do is advertise it on Craigslist and sell the thing. Or give it to someone who needs a crib but can't afford one. But there it sits in my garage because I'm too sentimental to part with it. He also got a big-boy haircut last night. It's not my sister-in-law's fault because I told her to chop it all off. It needed to be done because he keeps waking up from his nap with his head drenched in sweat. But I was not prepared for how old he would look. Check it out:
Wahhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!! Where did my baby go?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Financial Fun Part 4: Back to Basics--Why bother?

I'm leaving the grocery store for a week to give us a chance to examine our motives, but I would like to head back there next week. I can ramble for hours about grocery shopping, so let's tailor the next article to what you want to know! Send me your questions or leave them in the comments at the bottom of today's post, and I or one of my Motley money-saving friends will respond!

Back to High School--Long Term and Short Term Goals
I was always so frustrated when he had to write down our goals in school. Who had time to think about the future? There was too much to do now, right? Well, it turns out that writing goals is actually quite beneficial, especially when it comes to personal finance.

I think I can safely say that we all want to be financially independent, but why? Why bother with all of this budgeting and saving? What does financial independence really mean? What does it look like for you?

For me, I can't wait to be able to give away money without a second thought. Major earthquake? Here's a thousand bucks. No, thank you, I don't want any cookies, but here's a hundred bucks for your troop. Your whole soccer team needs cleats and can't afford to buy them? Send me the team's sizes. Wouldn't that be amazing? Of course, I would also love to be financially set so that if the car stops running we can just write a check for another one, or if the grass in the yard stops growing (which it has, by the way--gotta love that Florida sand), we could just re-sod the whole thing and stop thinking about it.

Those are our long-term goals. Before you get the wrong impression of me, though, you should hear my totally selfish short-term goals. I have been salivating for months over a digital SLR camera--you know, the big ones with the fancy lenses. I had the money in my hand this Christmas that was enough to buy one, but instead we put the money into our savings account to help our emergency fund project. It was so hard to do that. I've always just bought things, which is why I'm paying so much attention to our spending now, by the way, so putting off my camera purchase was agonizing. Once the emergency fund was complete, my DSLR and an iPod went to the top of my "saving for" list.

Get a Visual
And, yes, we do have a list. When we started the emergency fund project, I took a piece of note paper and wrote our goal amount at the top. I taped it to the door of the computer desk under the saving envelope (the place where I put the extra cash I don't spend each month so it can go into our savings account). Each time we made a deposit, I wrote the amount and subtracted it from the total. It was exciting to see that number go down, to be able to see how long it would be before we would finish, and then to see what we could do to accelerate the progress. The day we made the final deposit my husband printed our account summary from the computer and taped it to the tally sheet. It was an awesome day!

Now that we have accomplished that goal, we desperately need another to keep our momentum from waning. I created a list of short and long-term savings projects and added them as a second page to our MASP. Every time we make a deposit I add in the amounts so that we can see where we stand. It's exciting to see those numbers rise and fall! It's good to win those little saving battles, too. Every time we fill an account we are closer to our larger goals.

Live Like No One Else
One of Dave Ramsey's favorite statements is "Live like no one else so that later you can live like no one else." Once those goals are set and the lists are posted, this is the key to success. But, what does it mean? It's different for everyone.

For us it means that we only eat in a restaurant if we have a gift card, and even then only on special occasions. I pack a cooler when we'll be out of the house at mealtime. I no longer go shopping "just to look"--I only enter a store with a list in hand and enough money to cover what's on the list. I only go to the grocery store once a week, and if we run out of something before the next trip, that's too bad. We are actually rationing milk this morning for that very reason. It means that I get to be a ninja money-saver in the grocery store. It means learning how to do things ourselves so that we don't have to pay others to do them. It also means knowing our limits so that we don't have to pay someone to come fix a mess we've made.

I realized a little while ago that indeed, some people were noticing our frugality. I noticed it because they seemed worried about us. It hit me that some people misunderstood our thriftiness--they thought we were broke! We have more cash right now than we have ever had at one time, but it looks like we're scraping every cent we can find! (Actually, I am--I'm obsessed with rolling coins!)

So, I love hearing your comments and anecdotes, but this week I want to hear how you live like no one else. Also, don't forget to send me your questions for the grocery saving Q&A! Have a great week!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

But Sunday is coming!






Sunday is here! Jesus is Risen!

Happy Resurrection day to you!

I love this sermon. What a great reminder to not live our life like it's Friday! We need to live like it's SUNDAY! I find myself feeling like "the world has won." But I know that My Savior lives and He has the victory!

Today to celebrate this fact I am making two special dishes:


These Resurrection rolls: These rolls look like a tomb on the outside and when you bit into them they are empty! To remind us that IT IS SUNDAY and OUR SAVIOR LIVES!



Deviled Eggs: We are going to eat them to show that the devil has lost and Jesus Christ will eat him for dessert and not the other way around !


Happy Easter!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Financial Fun Part 3B: Deal or No Deal?

First of all:

Creeeeeeeeek, thud, click!

That was the sound of the vault closing on our emergency fund! We did it! :) We actually went $1.05 over our goal! It feels so good to know that we have a safety net, and now we can work towards a new financial goal. Yay!

Next, for those of you who have been commenting on these financial articles, I want you to know that I have been getting lots of feedback from our readers, and not only do they appreciate that we're discussing this, but they really appreciate your comments! There isn't a "one size fits all" equation to managing expenses, and your different experiences are giving our readers a wonderful sampler of ideas, so thank you, and keep it up!

Now, back to the grocery store!

Deal or No Deal?
I was flipping through a magazine one day where I found an article about saving money at the grocery store. I'm a bit obsessed with the topic, so I started reading. The advice was pretty typical, but one particular blurb caught my eye. The author compared the unit prices of small containers of yogurt to a 32 oz. tub of yogurt and recommended that customers purchase the larger size to save money per ounce. Sounds reasonable, right?


You are the expert when it comes to your family.
I have bought the large tubs of yogurt. I have also thrown those tubs away, unopened, when they passed their expiration dates. My family just doesn't eat yogurt if they have to scoop it out of a tub. They eat a ton of yogurt, however, if it's in the ready-to-go cups. In our house, I leave room on the grocery list for cups of yogurt and I cut back in other areas to make up for it.

Bigger isn't always better.
Of course, usually the larger the quantity or volume, the less we pay per ounce. That's the lure of the big box stores and warehouse clubs. For things we tend to use lots of, like say, olive oil, it's a great deal to buy it that way. The trouble though, is that if we spend our monthly grocery budget to buy enough toilet paper to last a year, what do we use to buy food?

When my husband and I started cracking down on our food budget when we went to one income, my solution was to only buy what we needed for the week when I went to the store. It drove me crazy to only buy a small box when a month's worth of the same product was so much cheaper per unit, but it was a good exercise for me. We stayed within budget, and we always had what we needed. Unfortunately, I took a wrong turn in my "frugality" which led to some very expensive months.

Couponer gone wild!
When I really became a "power couponer" I started taking advantage of all kinds of deals because they were, well, deals. I would find an amazing price on something that we had never really tried, and I would buy a cartload of it. I would come home with twenty boxes of diet granola bars (they were only a dollar a box!) and very little else to eat. Guess what? We didn't eat the granola bars either. At least the food bank was happy that month. McDonald's was tickled, too.

Pioneer Woman I am not.
My next craze was to buy things like dried beans and the non-boil-in-the-bag rice. They are MUCH cheaper than their easy-to-prepare counterparts. Guess what? It doesn't matter how little they cost if you never cook them, and it especially doesn't matter if they are inedible when you do. It's all wasted money, and then it's worse when the replacement costs of canned beans and Minute Rice figure into the equation.

Return to Center
I'm still a couponer, but now I only "stock up" on foods that 1) my family will eat and 2) are healthy for them to eat. I only buy foods that I know how to prepare because there's no point to storing something for a year and then throwing it away when it expires. (Just a note--I actually have learned how to cook beans and rice from scratch now, and I do it often. I do have Minute Rice and canned beans in the pantry, however, just in case.)

What am I saying?
When I make my grocery list, I do all of the things I mentioned last week, but I do keep in mind our non-negotiables (like yogurt in a cup) and I work around those. I find other areas to cut or to economize (like buying store brand brown rice instead of Uncle Ben's). I budget each month for a trip to Sam's to buy olive oil and nuts, and I keep that money separate from our weekly grocery money. Even then, we only spend 10% of our income on food (the recommended percentage is 5-15%, so I feel pretty good about that).

YOU are the captain of your grocery-buying ship, and you know your family better than anyone else. Don't be swayed by the siren songs of "good deals" and clever packaging! :)

So...this week, I would love to hear about your financial successes--did you lower your bills this week? Spend less at the grocery store? Complete your MASP? Fully fund an emergency fund?;) Let's celebrate together! Also, have you ever bought something ridiculous in the name of a "good deal?" What are your grocery buying rules? Let's talk!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Give SHARE a Try!

Just thought I'd do a quick post about the SHARE program, since it is one of the main things that is helping us cut our grocery bills in half. When we pick up our food boxes once a month, we go ahead and order our food for the following month. One trip and we have enough meat for a month and enough produce for a couple of weeks. I spend around $50 on SHARE boxes and SHARE select items each month, plus about $300 a month at the grocery store.

Who can participate in SHARE? "Everyone and anyone is welcome to participate in SHARE. There are no income requirements, just a desire to make a positive difference in the world." (from the SHARE homepage)

Our March food box is chock full of good stuff. I'm so excited about planning meals and not having to grocery shop for them! Check out the menu:

March Basic Package $18.00

March Distribution Day is Saturday, 3/27/10

1 lb. Lightly Dusted Chicken Breast Strips
1 lb. Bone in Ham Steaks
10 oz. Deli Sliced Black Forest Ham
1 lb. Ground Beef 85/15
1.35 lbs. Split Chicken Breasts

Plus a Produce Pack!
1- 2.5 lb. Bag Potatoes

1 Head Romaine Lettuce
1 Bag Carrots
1 Stalk Celery
4 Sweet Potatoes
1 Bag Radishes
5 Oranges
4 Apples

We ordered 2 basic packages, which come with the produce packs, plus an additional produce pack. It's a LOT of food!

Here is a preview of April's menu, available now to order through our local SHARE host site. I'm especially excited about getting frozen blueberries for $1.70/lb from the Select menu in April. I see blueberry smoothies in our future menus!

When you go to sign up and put in your order, be sure to bring cash. It is the only accepted form of payment.

I would highly recommend you give the SHARE program a try if you're interested in cutting your grocery bill and willing to design your menus around the basic frozen meats and fresh produce in the box!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Financial Fun Part 3: Grocery Shopping--How low can you go?

When my husband and I married, we both worked and we spent lots of money on food. We went to the grocery store and spent $100 easily each trip and we still went to restaurants several nights a week. We threw away produce like crazy because we didn't eat it, and our donations to the food bank were pretty amazing. When we decided to go to one salary, I was charged with finding ways to cut the budget so I went to coupons to save money. I wasted tons of money. I didn't know how to use them effectively, and I bought random "stuff" in the name of "a good deal."

I eventually became a "couponer"--sort of like one of those people you see on TV--but before that I learned how to take on the grocery store and leave with money in my pocket, and that is the conversation I would like to start today. How do we save money on food without clipping coupons?

Time for a little introspection
Ask yourself a few questions:
1. Do you throw away large amounts of produce, meat, or dairy each week because you aren't able to consume what you have?

2. Do you have expired food in your pantry that you never got around to eating?

3. Do you dread seeing how much the "damage" is when you get to the cash register at the store?

Getting ready--do a little math
How much do you actually spend on food? Write down your best estimate. According to many financial experts, the food budget (including grocery shopping and restaurants) should be 5-15% of your total income. Take a minute to calculate how much of your income that would be. How do those numbers compare to what you actually spend? You may want to set a goal of lowering your grocery receipts to put you into the correct percentage range, and if you already spend in that range you may want to try to go even lower still.

How low can you go?
Lowering your food bills is like doing the Limbo. We don't start out two inches from the floor and expect success. Start where you are, then gradually lower your budget until you are spending what you want while still comfortably feeding your family.

Time to shop! Well, in a minute.
Now that we have a goal, it's time to plan to save. Here's what I suggest:

1. Pick a store, and shop there. Choose "your" grocery store based on where you believe you get the best deals overall, how practical it is to shop there, how much you like the staff there, etc. At one time I store "hopped" to get all of the good deals, and I tired of that pretty quickly. My bills are actually much lower now that I only shop at one store, Publix. Only shopping at this one store (one location, too) has allowed me to develop a friendly relationship with the staff as well, which means they are more likely to help me if I need assistance.

2. It's been said a hundred times already, but do not go into that store without a list. Also, estimate how much what is on the list will cost you. Would we buy a house without knowing how much it was going to cost until closing? A car? A car should only cost 10-15% of our income, roughly the same amount as food. If the cash register total is a constant surprise, that's like going to a car dealership, picking out the car we think we want, then going to the front desk and saying, "I'll take it! How much do you want for it?" If it's your first time estimating on your shopping list, estimate high so that the only surprise will be a pleasant one. As you continue to do this your estimates will be more specific and the process will be easier.

2b. I won't go into much detail, but treat your list with care. It's good to have a plan for everything you will buy, and be realistic about what you plan to purchase. Will your family actually eat it? Do you know how to cook it? Do you have time this week to actually cook it and eat it? Can it be frozen if necessary? Is your freezer big enough to hold it? (There is an awesome deal on frozen pizza this week at Publix, but I'm going to restrain myself because my freezer is just too small to hold them.)

3. Take the following to the store: Your list, a writing utensil (I've used a crayon before because it was the only thing in my purse!), a calculator, and your method of payment. As you shop, cross off the list what you buy, make note of any prices you may have mis-estimated, and keep a running total of how much you are spending. Be aware of how much money you have with you if you are paying in cash. Only buy what is on your list. (I do make an exception for milk, bread, and eggs. I am always forgetting to put them on the list, and they are necessary.) If you see something you would like to try, put it on the list for the next trip and include the price. Now you have something to look forward to! ;)

4. Wanna go hard core? Only take the amount you plan to spend in cash, and take no other forms of payment. It takes attention and calculation on your part, but those chocolate bars are nowhere near as tempting when you think you may be short at the cash register if you buy them. When I do this, I actually end up taking things off my list that I don't really need just so that I can stay under budget. It's a challenge, but it's kind of fun, too.

Afraid of getting strange looks from other customers? According to Thomas J. Stanley in his book The Millionaire Next Door, the majority of millionaires in this country are self-made, first generation millionaires who got that way by living well below their means. Seizing control of grocery bills is propelling your family toward unprecedented wealth. The next time someone gives you a funny look at the grocery store because you are actually paying attention to what you're buying, look at that person's overflowing cart of "stuff," smile sympathetically, and think to yourself, "You poor thing. You probably paid WAY too much for your car, too."

Next week let's stay in the grocery store. We'll play Deal or No Deal and tackle a few money-saving myths. Until then, let's hear your tips for how you have lowered your grocery bills!

Monday, March 22, 2010

So Long, Farewell

Auf Wiedersehen, Goodbye

I hate quiting almost anything except diets, of course. In fact, I had to quit my high school job at Claire's twice. The first time, my boss talked me out of it.

Sadly, my time at Motley Moms has come to an end. I would really like to sugar-coat this by saying, this is just a break; but the truth is, it is time for me to move on. My wonderful little boy keeps me busy in ways that are quite different than what most typical families face. I hope to find a place to share my stories with other special needs families.

I wish you all the best of luck, and please keep in touch on Facebook or via email! I am so glad our paths have crossed.

Love, Pam

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Siblings

I am excited to announce that My Hubby and I handed in our paperwork for our reapplication for adoption! We have had the paperwork since November and FINALLY finished it! It is A LOT harder to work on paperwork when you have a 2 year old running around! : )

Now we have to wait for our background checks to get back to the agency and we will be matched up with a social worker(SW). We just have to meet with the SW once to update our homestudy and we will be on the waiting list!

I have a cute story about the process so far:

I had some of the paperwork sitting on the table while our Little King was eating lunch. "What's that?" he says pointing to the paperwork.

"Oh that is paper to help us get you a sibling." I tell him

"Ohhhhhhhh.... sibbing!" He says.

"Do you want a sister?" I ask

"Ohhhhh Sister!" he says

"Or do you want a Brother?" I ask

"No, no... no brother!" He tells me.

Hmmmmmmmm do I take the advice of my two year old and go on the girl list?!?

We get to choose if we want a boy or a girl, which sounds great except that it is a REALLY hard decision! I mean I am choosing if my son has a brother or a sister and that means I am choosing if my son does NOT have a brother or a sister. It is a hard choice. I loved having a sister to share a room with, but I also loved have brothers too!

Later I asked him the same questions about a brother or a sister and his reply was: "No brother, no sister!" (which I think is the more honest answer!)

I hope all you Motley Moms in Florida are having fun with Karly this week... I am not going to lie to you...I am jealous!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Financial Fun Part 2: Cash on the Barrel and the Saving Game

Since we were married, my husband and I have tried different methods of spending for our household. For a while, we put all of our purchases on our Discover Card and then we paid our bill at the end of each month. In theory, it's a fine idea, but we have a little problem--we don't mind spending money if we can't see it disappearing. Our credit card bills climbed each month as we threw lunches with the office and cupcake sprinkles onto our plastic, and we finally decided that we just couldn't go on that way and expect to achieve our financial goals.

So, our solution is a cash budget for our monthly spending. We were, as always, inspired by Dave Ramsey's envelope system, but over time we have personalized it to fit our family. The following document shows the categories of our envelopes, and they are taken directly from our MASP:

Our Envelope System

This is what I did:

1. I created the system using a coupon organizer, envelopes from the bank, and some paper clips. Each envelope is labeled with an item from the MASP.

2. I arrange the envelopes into sections that make sense to me, and that is not always how they are organized on the MASP. For example, in my organizer I put our Sunday School offering and church dinner money into the same section because they are both paid at church.

3. Each month after I have set the monthly spending plan I total the amount of cash I need (Excel does this for me nicely) and write myself a check for the exact amount.

4. (This is where I may lose some of you, but I promise this is not hard at all.) I make a list of the bills I need. For a category that needs $35, I write down 1-$20, 1-$10, 1-$5. I do this for each category and then tally the amount of each bill at the end. I give this list to the teller when I cash my check. (I have cashed my check both inside the bank and out, and they have NEVER said a word about my list, by the way. When I asked them, they said lots of people do it.) All in all, if you can count money, this step will take about five minutes.

4b. I actually organize each folder by bills. Our grocery budget is $50 per week (not a typo, by the way) and I include $100 for "stocking up" on good deals along the way. I have one $50 bill for each week, and I keep the "stocking up" money paper-clipped together in the same envelope so that it doesn't get confused.

5. Each envelope is sacred and used ONLY for it's intended purpose. If I run out of gardening money, too bad. I will have to budget more wisely next month. Also, once the money is gone it is gone for the month. We do not allow extra purchases to be charged.

**Just a note, we don't use the cash system to pay for gas. It's too hard with a little one in the car, so we pay at the pump with our debit card.

Now, these are the little games I play to save more money:

1. I don't spend change. If I receive coins as change after a purchase I keep them separate from the envelopes and put them in a jar when I get home. Each month we roll our coins and deposit them into savings.

2. I taped an envelope to the door on our computer desk and labeled it "Extra Savings." Until January each month I paid for a cardio kickboxing class. Because of childcare issues I can no longer go to this class, but because we were doing fine spending the money I decided to keep it in the budget. When I fill my envelopes each month I just put that money into the savings envelope in order to entice me to save even more.

3. Each week, if I don't spend the entire amount allotted for groceries I put the leftover bills in the savings envelope. I do this for everything except the clothing category because I consider that to be more of a savings envelope for those purchases. This practice unleashes the competitive spirit in me, and by the end of the month I have managed to save about $100-$200 above our initial savings deposit.

Many financial experts agree that the best way to build wealth is to spend less than you make. Even though I don't bring a formal salary into our household, I can still see our emergency fund filling each month thanks, in part, to my vigilance over the cash budget. It's exciting!

What works for you? Any questions, comments? Let's keep the financial conversation going so we can all win!

Next week, let's save money at the grocery store without clipping coupons!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

L-Dub

I think I've posted before about how when I graduated from college I wanted nothing more than to get out of Lake Wales. I did, too, for a month, before I was offered a job here I couldn't pass up. I was never able to "get out," and then I met my soon-to-be husband and the rest, as they say, is history. Now, though, I love Lake Wales, and I thought this week I'd share with you some of the things I like about this small town in central Florida.
1. Orange blossoms - Yes, they make me sneeze, but they smell heavenly. I especially love driving around in 75-degree sunny weather in February and March with the windows down, smelling these gorgeous flowers.
2. Sandhill cranes - I regularly see them feeding in my yard, which delights my boys to no end.
3. Oranges on the road - I love to try to run them over. They make a fabulous "squish."
4. Plant City strawberries
5. the Lake Wales Art Show
6. Fat Boy's Barbecue - no ambiance, iffy service, but the food is cheap and the sweet tea can't be beat!
7. Circle of Friends - A ministry in our town for mentally handicapped citizens. I am amazed that this organization exists and thrives in such a small town.
8. The Care Center
9. MOPS - We have a very accepting group here, which, I have learned, isn't true everywhere.
10. Bok Tower Gardens
Any more I've forgotten?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

You Know You're a Motley Mom When...

My aunt recently emailed me some news that would make most grocery shoppers' blood run cold. Not to make light of someone else's tragedy, but this is my actual, rather motley stream-of-thought email response to her note that "last night's murder/suicide was at MY Publix!"...

Donna: Oh my gosh! I hadn't heard anything about it here. That's scary. I wish our Publix filled online orders for pickup. That would be awesome. I'd never have to drag our two kids through the grocery store again...my own grocery nightmares actually never involve murderers. Just really whiny kids who think popping the air out of the bag of frozen peas and watching how far they scatter is what grocery shopping is all about. Aaaargh! Actually, B was trying, unsuccessfully, to be a good helper by getting the peas out of the freezer section for me. But he spent too long doodling on the inside of the foggy freezer door and when I snapped at him to "hurry up and get the peas!" he grabbed them a little too hard and, "POP!" Then he realized he could "ice skate" down the aisle on the frozen peas. Yep, we are awesome everywhere we go.

Just thought I'd share that little exchange, since you have probably had plenty of your own "Grocery Nightmares" over the years. Don'tcha just love shopping with the kids?!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Financial Fun Part 1: The MASP

Today I am going to start a series of posts about managing home finance. I am a devoted fan of Dave Ramsey, so most of what I tell you is what I have learned from him and others like him such as Larry Burkett and Thomas J. Stanley. I'm just going to tell you what is working for us, and I invite you to share your own successes. Hopefully through a friendly and helpful discussion we can help everyone reach the financial goals that are specific to each of us.

Our current financial goal is to put 3-6 months of expenses into an Emergency Fund Savings Account, so we are focusing on saving money. Creating a cash flow plan (AKA a "budget") has truly helped us use our money more wisely and we have been able to find extra money every month to put towards our goal. We call it our Monthly Allocated Spending Plan, and for the sake of typing I will refer to it as our MASP from this point onward.

Google Doc of Our MASP

We started our financial renovation with a MASP from the appendix of The Total Money Makeover. It was a great start, but over the months we have been able to modify that document and now we are saving more than ever, we have money for what we need, and we rarely feel like we have to pass by something we really want. (You should know that we have modified our approach to purchasing also, but I will discuss that in a later post!)

The main thing that has helped me manage our MASP is including the recommended percentages for each spending category. I put the recommended percentage next to the category, and because I use Excel for our MASP I created a formula for each category to calculate the percentage of the amount we are actually spending. This has truly helped me to see if we have any overweight categories--for example, our utility expenses are usually high due to a couple factors, one of which is the amount we spend on TV, Internet, and Phone. Since it's so obvious that these are issues when I see the percentages, this is something we will definitely tackle when our contracts are up this summer.

This is my monthly strategy:
1. Determine as accurate a picture of our income as possible, including salary, travel reimbursement, etc.

2. In our family, we do choose to tithe, so before anything else is paid we deduct the tithe amount.

3. We put at least 10% of our net income each month into savings, so I start with that figure. As I calculate down the list I add as much to that as I find.

4. Next is housing and utilities. The mortgage does not change, but utility bills can change drastically in our area due to the crazy weather, so my plan of attack there is to always budget for the highest utility bill we have ever received (that is the second reason our percentage is high in that category). Again, our goal is to save, so not only are we prepared for the worst case scenario of energy bills, but when our bill is not as high (which is most of the time) we are able to deposit the difference into savings. I think you'll see that I use the tricking-myself-into-saving approach quite a bit!

5. Next, I check my calendar. My calendar is my all-time necessary tool for giving our money names. I look for meetings, appointments, fees that are due, the number of grocery shopping days in the month, the number of Wednesday night church dinners, the number of Sundays for our son's offering...all of those expenses are recorded at the beginning of the month so that on that last Tuesday of a five-Tuesday month we aren't struggling to find grocery money.

6. Last month I realized that I was spending money every month on certain things, but I wasn't specifically allocating money for them. I added Gardening and Newspapers to my list, and now I'm not digging through the change jar to buy fertilizer and papers!

7. For what is left of the month, I consider the other categories like entertainment and clothing. This month is Spring Break, so I have added more to our entertainment budget than usual. At the beginning of the school year I will need more money for clothing. Again, I keep all of these allotments within the suggested percentages.

8. Finally I identify any expenses that can be paid in cash, and I highlight those in yellow. I write myself a check for these, and I put the money into our envelope system to be used as needed throughout the month. I will go into detail next week on managing and really working the cash envelope system.

Budgeting is just giving money a purpose and a name, and it has truly helped us to put our funds where they need to go. I hope this helps!