Wednesday, January 17, 2018

milk money – how we’ve cut corners since baby #2

am i the only one who still remembers having to bring a quarter for an extra milk?!

funny thing is, i don’t even drink milk anymore.  guess i got my fill in elementary.

when we found out we were expecting our second bundle there were certainly moments of sheer joy and others of ‘oh, sh*t’.  we were in the middle of our home build, i was looking at another position and our oldest hadn’t even turned one.  then we started to consider the financials.  yuck!  sure, babies don’t have to be expensive but if you haven’t made the choice {nor desire} to stay home those daycare costs can really add up!

i consider myself frugal, not cheap – there’s a difference – so here are the top areas  we’ve either chose to scale back or be a little more penny-wise without sacrificing quality or quality of life.

Let’s start with the three biggest baby costs:

childcare –  our center offers a discount for multiple kiddos – you better believe we took advantage of that.  it kind of cracks me up!  just like retail, only it’s more like: have more, save more.   we are also utilizing our ‘vacation time’ days to reduce costs on days we are home with the kids anyway (dr. appts., birthdays etc.) – this saves us up to $70 a month + we max our flex spending account each year!  huge pre-tax savings!!  we don’t have much family in the area so if we want to go out we either trade childcare with our close friends who have kiddos the same age or ask our parents for planned nights before hiring a sitter.  in short: we don’t go on many solo dates.

diapers – i’ve tried just about everything and sampled several brands because they were free and because carson has sensitive skin.  i’ve settled on the target up&up brand.  they work really well for my little guys and save us roughly $10-20 a month + we often buy in bulk and get target gift cards on bundled purchases.  whoop!

formula – breastfeeding both my boys (even though i’ve exclusively pumped most of the time) has been a huge cost saver!  it’s a labor of love in my opinion and i, for one, have a love-hate relationship with it.  i will only need to supplement with tatum for a few months before moving to milk so I’ve asked the ped clinic for formula samples of the same brand i used on carson and have LOADS of formula in our pantry.  with any luck we shouldn’t need to buy any more.

then there are the other things:

food – did you know sam’s club offers discount memberships for expecting moms?!  me either.  until we signed up.  we’ve actually saved quite a bit by shopping there on a monthly basis.  we’re selective and i crowd-sourced the best deals before going crazy.   i’m also religious with meal-planning and only buy what we need.  it’s worked great since having carson!  we don’t dine out much and even when we do we prefer sport’s bars or sub shops.

clothes – where do i start?!  i’ve identified a few ways i prefer to save for each of us but there are lots more.  i definitely love dressing our family in current trends but also recognize i spend in this category more than most.  it’s a personal choice.  i’m also more inclined to spend more for something if it’s great quality, timeless and versatile.  so what do i do to save:

for me// bottomline: i spend less – aka #momguilt aka #lackoftime.  i’ve cut back my personal clothing spend by lots.  i’ve instead focused on buying more/earning more ;o) accessories and plain pieces that work well for both work and my momiform.  i layer jackets for work and spend little on items i’ll wear once.  (you guys!  i just scored a formal for an upcoming event for $38!!!  ah-may-zing buy!) i also co-sign.  this year alone i’ve co-signed and earned $300 from things i’ll never wear or carry again now that i’m a mom.  the move into our house was motivation to clean out my closet.  i used that money to invest in things i needed for my new job like a raincoat, blazer and flat booties.

for the boys// i either buy second-hand, with gift cards, or from small shops.  i rarely buy them anything brand new unless it’s for a special occasion and even then it may be second-hand.  i co-sign here too and use my credit to buy things as the need arises – like spare snow pants for daycare or more sleepers for tatum because he’s

for cody// he couldn’t care any less.  he just wants to be dressed appropriately.  i buy him things for special occasions or as needed.  every now and then i drag him to the store to shop – with a coupon.  it’s a delight, lemme tell ya.

target – after several asks at the cash register i finally signed up for the dang card.  it’s linked to my checking account and it saves me 5% each trip, even at the starbucks!  i also get bundles of coupons each quarter that i actually use…..and since we all know my affinity for target it’s also a no-brainer.  i also limit the number of trips i make.  if i don’t go i’m not tempted – and i’m tempted by nearly everything they carry.  lately i’ve only gone twice a month…and still feel like i need an intervention.  haha!

collaborations – not many of you have this as an option but if you do – work it!  the blog has allowed me to collaborate on so many products in exchange for reviews that i would’ve had to buy otherwise.  even when companies reach out i only collaborate on items i actually want or would use frequently.

experiences – living rich in experiences vs. things has been a mind shift.  we are putting money away for a big vacation (hopefully next year) while also planning for a few smaller family and mommy/daddy only getaways in 2018.  we stay home a lot more now and rarely go out so that frees up more to spend on the mini getaways that we have planned so that we enjoy them fully.

here’s me being incredibly open about our financials…..gulp:

cody and i look at our budget frequently.  i’ve become uniquely (and annoyingly) aware of my spending habits and trends.  we can pay all of the necessary expenses on just 1 income (it would be super-duper tight if we had to, but we could).  we live within our means yet are still able to give a little something to our church.  we put plenty into retirement, have fantastic health insurance, cars that (while they aren’t flashy) are well maintained and a new home.  we are very fortunate but have also worked very hard.  we don’t get lavish gifts and we aren’t getting any assistance.  budgeting stinks but we’re committed to it.  i’m not going to lie and say it’s easy.  i want SO.MANY.THINGS. (especially for the house) it’s dumb.  being a mom has been the best budget incentive.

how are you cutting corners??  i would love to know!

milk bath photography//ls photography


Tuesday, January 9, 2018

two thousand seventeen


what can i say, it was a year.  a year of change.  lots and lots of change.

every year seems to get a little more crazy, a little more busy and with it brings new challenges.  after a somewhat melancholy christmas day holiday that left me feeling anything but merry and bright i’m reminded in this post and through our pictures of what an amazing year and life we created in 2017.  there were so many high highs and some bumps in the road but what’s life without a few ups and downs?!

i can’t say it was our best year ever but it was pretty dang good.


the year started cold – as they usually do in iowa – so we ventured to the library (a first for carson) and made sure to capture a few bump pictures as i entered the second tri.


we found out that our baby was another little boy and i was already day dreaming of a bunked bedroom and years of legos, twinning duds, and toy cars for my little men.  carson also came down with rsv and landed back in the hospital for another week long stay almost one year to the day from the year prior. #preemielungs #scary and that next week i started at isu.


we capitalized on the lingering snow and took some fun maternity pictures in the cold.  then, because of our cabin fever and being stuffed in a small apartment for far too long, we took carson to the circus on the wettest, rainiest spring day.  he loved it!


we were homeless….then we moved!!  finally!  and just in time for easter.  since the move we’ve added a concrete patio, sod, window treatments and cody has partially finished the basement – texture, paint and carpet and we’re done!!!!!  we have been busy!


we spent several weekends waiting on baby.  we visited the zoo (carson’s first trip), took several walks, had carson’s 18 mo. pictures taken and even got the boat out a couple of times.  tatum matthew arrived on the sunday before memorial day at 7:02 AM.  he was absolutely perfect!


despite having just had a baby we were on the move.  we attended a state championship soccer game – a first for us all – to watch cody’s cousin, took in a local minor league baseball game (knowing we wouldn’t make a brave’s game this year), cody got a hole-in-one (first in ames golf league history), got the boat out lots more and had a newborn photoshoot at home.

more water.  that’s just what we do.  we were regulars at the pool and then traveled as a family of four to lake tahoe, ca.  it was an amazingly beautiful place and i cannot wait to go back!


mommy went back to work – with mixed emotions – and we settled back into our new routine.  the boys were dedicated at our church in this year’s celebration sunday and then we lunched after.  it was a gorgeous day that i’ll not soon forget.


i embraced fall so much this year and then watched our weekends slip away with one calendared item after another.  a visit with thomas the train, a wedding, a weekend away for mommy and daddy’s anniversary and a trip to kc were the highlights.


we only got to the pumpkin patch once this year as a family.  it was everything and more.  we also enjoyed the sobotka nationals, celebrated carson’s second birthday and went out for a memorable first halloween trick-or-treating experience.  loved every minute of october!


while daddy worked on the basement mommy took the boys for their 2 year and 6 month pictures on a chilly fall day.  we finished carson’s big boy room and transitioned him to his own bed then traveled for thanksgiving.


daddy went hunting and mommy shopped for the first half of the month.  then it was all christmas, all the time.  the boys met santa and had their pictures snapped so many times carson now has his ‘cheese’ down.  we spent another three weekends on the road and were wiped come NYE.

though not one for resolutions i plan to do more of the following in 2018.

:: sleep ::

:: hold my babies ::

:: continue to challenge myself to love without expectation ::

:: slow down and stay home ::

 happy new year and thanks for following!!!

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

christmas 2017

how is it that christmas has come and gone?!  it was such a blur.  we bounced from house to house for a few days, were overwhelmed with trucks, books and things that ‘go’.  we spent several hours a day in our jams and even fought awful viruses, colds and an ear infection.  aside from all the ‘sick’ that plagued us it was an alright holiday with loads of family time!

after being super sick for days – even getting fluids in the ER – i recovered just in time for sugar cookie baking and to play santa claus friday night.  let me tell you, it might be the coolest job ever!  we celebrated our ‘christmas morning’ on christmas eve’s eve this year and couldn’t wait for carson to wake up and see the train set santa left and his stocking so full!  he’s so into opening packages right now so he happily helped tatum with his too.

the choo-choo jumped the tracks to the new car play mats and the o-ball car was cleaned with a solid stream of slobber all by 7:30 am saturday morning.  i reheated my coffee and daddy picked up all the colored paper then heated the garage.  we ate our french toast bake, found the gator and slowly made our way out the door to my mom’s.

we celebrated there next with all of my brothers and sister, their families and our niece.  my mom is just a bit over the top with christmas gifting and went crazy on the boys – it’s her thing but causes me so much angst.  we played an adult christmas game while the kiddos played and tatum slept.  after that we loaded our sleepy crew into the car for a short trip to cody’s parents where we posted up for the rest of the weekend.  …and because sharing is caring – cody was starting to get sick.

christmas eve morning started extra slow and we were grateful for uncles {+ daddy} to play, sled, tease and fix all the ‘uh oh, it’s broke’ things that really aren’t broke at all but need repaired 546 times.  cody slept in a little and i slowly sipped my coffee and chatted with my mother-in-law.  that afternoon we ventured over to the great grandparents for more presents and good eats.  the plan was to attend church was somewhere in the middle and then go back before heading back to his parent’s for a few christmas stories and bed.

{a little blurry but oh so cute! thanks uncle matt for the great picture!}

christmas eve service has always been one of my favorite parts of the entire holiday.  i always look forward to the songs, story and candlelight.  this year we barely left as a family unit and forget about enjoying the service.  the boys completely fell apart – carson didn’t even make it in and tatum lost his mind in about 5 minutes.  cody and i retreated to the play room and desperately tried to soothe our usually happy little guy.  afterward we played with the church bell and carson ran wild.  i literally wanted to crawl in a hole.  cody wasn’t feel well at all by this point and was on edge.  we barely managed to get the boys in their makeshift beds before he crashed and i sulked over a bowl of chili and a cookie his mom brought back.

the next day started any way but merry.  cody was down for the count and i was flying solo on very little sleep and two very whiney, very sleepy babes.  i cried at least twice and then a third time when i changed a super runny diaper thinking the boys were going to get the same bug cody and i were/had been fighting.  we waited for his sister and their kids to arrive so that we could eat and open gifts.  it seemed like an eternity!

 we ate lunch, cody joined us for about 10 minutes then went back to bed, and made a plan for the afternoon.  gifts were postponed until after naptime and i text my mom that i’d be attending our large family christmas that night solo with the boys.  thank goodness for supportive and understanding family.  after naps things really started to turn around!!

this year we decided to do a gift exchange instead of buying gifts for everyone in cody’s family and it made it so much more fun.  we ended up with both nathan and julia – i just love buying for my little nieces!  it was fun to see what everyone gifted then i surprised all of the girls with a home-y gift that my brother-in-law created.  it felt like a marathon day!  and then the boys and i headed out for a couple hours.

i took only one picture at my extended family christmas and it’s one of my all time favs of my uncle with carson – twinning in their glasses!  it was so good to see my family, if even for a short period.  and knowing that it may be the last christmas we make it to for the next several years i made sure to indulge in my aunt’s strawberry dessert and let them care for the boys while i lounged and chatted.

the next day, after lunch, we loaded our crew {+ all the new things} and headed home.  the days that followed were lazy, snowy and cold.  i played with my babes and let cody work on some of his projects.  we hosted a few friends for the new year and napped on new year’s day. it wasn’t the holiday break i had envisioned and it certainly had its share or up and downs but it’s our season of life and i wouldn’t have it any other way.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

christmas-y things

i am SO into christmas this year.   and it’s 110% the boys’ fault!  haha.  i am giddy with excitement for our own family celebration in just a few DAYS!  for our small crew we are down to the single digits.  eeek!

with all of my christmas shopping – well 95% of it anyway– done online i freed up a ton of time this year and have spent it trying to make room for some fun holiday activities now that carson is old enough to enjoy them.  i don’t know if christmas is better as a kid or with kids but it is so so good right now.  and for the next several years i know we are in the sweet spot where the magic of the season is something we’ll get to experience through the world of our littles in ways i can’t even predict and it has me feeling all sorts of happy.

curtesy of my camera roll here are {just} five christmas-y things i’m loving this year.

one.  gifts!  we all know that’s not the reason for the season but i love this time of year for the giving!  while they’re not my love language i absolutely love gifting!  i take a lot of pride in finding the perfect gift and surprising others with something unexpected.  obviously buying for the boys this year was my fav!  this year’s packages started to flood in just after black friday.  needless to say the ups guy and i will be on a first name basis before the month ends.

two.  pancakes + santa.  a neighboring community hosted a pancake breakfast with santa so my girlfriend and i took our babes. somehow we managed a conversation while being completely outnumbered.  cracks me up every time!  gotta love that mom bond!  the kids wrote letters to santa, sat on his lap, made reindeer food and ate their weight in pancakes.  tatum got all kinds of lovins and was not at all intimidated by the big man.

three.  festive coffee.  i am {unintentionally} in the process of curating a rather large collection of holiday mugs for my coffee and am convinced it tastes better coming out of a cheery red and white cup.  ;o)

four.  a gingerbread house.  carson’s first.  definitely more successful than cody or i thought.  it isn’t in a pile and looks like a house so that alone was a huge win.  carson seemed to really enjoy the activity {and cookie} as a break in his busy afternoon of play.

five.  christmas cards.  they might be my favorite bits of mail this time of year.  i’m always anxious to see who sends theirs first and have really enjoyed creating our own and seeing the changes from year to year.  they’re a nice reminder of how richly blessed we are with such great friends and family.  right now their home is on the breakfast bar, next to the gingerbread house.  next year i plan to actually display upright, maybe on the cabinets – what do you do??