10 Ways to Save Money for a Trip

I recently wrote about why it’s so important for me to pay off our trips before we even go on them. It’s the only way I can relax and have fun – and NOT think about how much everything is costing! But I realized I didn’t explain HOW I save enough to actually pay these adventures off! 

Don’t get me wrong, this budgeting thing is not easy. We are not growing a money tree over here, either. We are in the thick of childhood – and only have 3 of the 5 kids in year round sports so far. We pay a mortgage payment (more!) in healthy foods each month – and if you think homeschooling is free, think again. The way we are doing it, it’s as if we are paying for private school! So yes, money is tight. It’s always tight. We have to triple think every purchase before it is made, and always consider savings accounts first. 

But there are a few things that I have learned throughout the last few years. I have found these small things add up to big trips for our large family! 

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10 Ways to Save Money for a Trip

Take extra cash out when grocery shopping and save it. 

Even if it means you put back a few ‘treats.’ Withdraw $20-40 each week to stuff inside of your travel account. This can include all change you are handed back when paying in cash, too.

Automatically transfer money to a vacation fund.

Our paychecks are direct deposited, and I have $100 immediately taken out and transferred to a vacation account. If you set it up to automatically do this, you won’t even realize that money is gone.

Cancel/put on hold any memberships such as the gym or audiobooks.

Most families are paying for things they aren’t using, or things they could do without for a little while. I found that I was paying an annual subscription for several educational apps ($30-50 each for a year!) that my kids maybe toyed with here and there. Those were cancelled immediately, and we put our crazy expensive gym membership on hold whenever we need to save quick. 

Create an actual budget so you know where your money is going.

This is key so that you know where your money is going. It doesn’t just disappear, you (and I) spend it. Create a spread sheet with the last 12 months on it so you can see your trends. You’ll be shocked how much you spend on Starbucks.

Stop spending money on unnecessary things…

Such as fast food, restaurants, expensive (or cheap) coffee, happy hour, lavish date nights, or even just bottled water—- pack food, reuse cups, eat at home, etc.

After you’ve looked at your spending habits and created a realistic budget, you’ll naturally want to cut out this excess spending. Fast food is junk, and it adds up fast! Those coffees, happy hours, and quick errands will put your vacation on hold. 

Second guess yourself before spending money, and hold yourself accountable.

This is where my Target trips come in. I have to ask myself if it is even necessary to walk in those doors? Is it a need or a want? Stop yourself before running out for that ‘one thing’ that always leads to $50 blown. 

Shop consignment stores for kids clothes.

If you look regularly, you’ll get the newest stuff! I would guess that 80% of my kids’ closets are previously owned items.

Meal plan and stick to your list.

Take the time each week to plan our your dinner menu, utilizing similar ingredients to save money and buy in bulk. Cook larger batches to roll over into lunches, too. 

Make money on the side.

Babysit, wait tables, take an extra shift.

If you are really trying to save large funds, consider taking on extra money-making hours. Sleep is still needed, but you can find a way to make a couple hundred dollars by selling items/toys/clothes in your house, picking up a weekend serving job, babysitting, or even taking those cheesy online surveys.

Get your kids on board. 

If the entire family understands why you are saving money, they will be less inclined to asking for additional money. My kids host lemonade and cookie stands, car washes, and ask neighbors to pull weeds to earn a few dollars to contribute.

Watering Your Garden

It’s an interesting thing, a vegetable garden. We plant one every year, at every house, in every city, in every state that we live in. We reinvest our energy, time, and money in creating a solid foundation to grow beautiful plants full of organic, beautiful foods. We have learned that different foods grow better in different areas, and sometimes the soil isn’t right for some. We have used raised beds and in-ground beds… potted gardens and patio gardens. We have adapted to our environment with each move because a garden is important to us. 

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But, do you know what happens when you start to get comfortable? You can forget to water your garden. It becomes another chore or task that can be easily forgotten because it is no longer new or exciting. We generally skip this part, though – as we are moved so frequently, but I realized as I was watering our garden today just how easy it would be to completely forget about it alongside of our house. We are comfortable here, now. We are well over the 2 year mark. Life has fallen into routine. We have grown to love our neighborhood and friends. We have grown to handle the temperatures (as well as can be expected), too. But we have learned how to have a very successful garden, and I do not want to take it for granted.

As you can tell, I’m not solely writing about our garden; although, it is worth it’s own post. I’m writing to remind myself -and perhaps you- that after becoming comfortable with where you are in life, it can be very easy to stop watering all the things that need watered. These things may include filling your own cup with self-happiness, appreciating your children for who they are right now, taking time to reconnect with your partner, or continuing to build friendships. Comfort is a beautiful and time-sucking thing, isn’t it?

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“The Simple Life” is a motto well known around these parts, and it is one that I understand and question often, but I have come to appreciate just how much people water their gardens here. You will find grocery store conversations lasting longer than coffee dates, and the dinner table is a place that is always sat at. 

I started running longer distances again. I took a hiatus for awhile there throughout the unexpected baby #5, unexpected cross-country move, mid-western winter, and postpartum depression time of my life. I did, however, find yoga then. And now the two have found a significant balance in my life. Doing these great things keeps my own garden watered. Whether you sew, cook, read, dance, or sing – find some time to do it. 

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Finding a connection that is not the general parental role with your child(ren) can prove challenging. My 10 year old and I just started watching Gilmore Girls from season 1 together. I didn’t realize just how much fun it would be to have this thing that only we share. It can be so simple, so easy to create and strengthen these connections, but also so easy to blow past the opportunity to do so. There are great similarities when comparing my garden to my relationships with each child. My garden produces well-grown, healthy foods when maintained, suffers when neglected. My children are balanced, connected, and happy when I take care of that relationship. Again, I’ve learned how important it is to water my garden.

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The most overlooked area of life always seems to be the marriage or foundational relationship within the family. It is the most comfortable spot – the worn in couch cushion. It’s the strawberry plant that comes back year after year, generally more fruitful each time. But it still needs watered. The love and appreciation is always there, but the watering may not be happening much. The leaves may be wilting, and the harvesting isn’t happening near enough to keep the plant healthy and happy. It doesn’t take more than brushing arms as you pass each other – pulling in for a true kiss, or dancing in the kitchen to an old song. These things will keep the garden growing.

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Between juggling work, kids, marriage, house, food, calendar, and life – how does one even have time to start a garden, you may ask? If it’s time consuming enough to remember to water the fictional hypothetical garden in your life, how can you ever plant a real one? Well, it takes a little bit of time, a lot of love, and the helping hands of those around you, but you can do it. Will it be a huge success? Yes – if only to bring you all closer and remind you to water your life daily. 

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A Mother’s To Do List Before Vacation

T-minus 3 days until we leave for our week in Colorado. It’s about an 8 hour drive each way, and we will break it into two days on the way there. You know this isn’t our first rodeo, and I have packing down to a science. However, this is the first long trip with 5 kids. They all can touch in the van, and there is minimal space for much else. I’m trying to get ahead with my work so I can enjoy this trip, but it makes for a stressful week! Here’s a glimpse into what I’m handling — maybe (just maybe – wink wink) you can relate?

A Mother’s To Do List

Make a massive check list.

Continue to add to the check list, even after crossing items off. 

Take the car in for a check-up (and have the fuse replaced so DVD players might actually work on this trip. FYI – plugging in 4 at a time will blow the fuse.)

Spend 2 days searching for the damn DVD players and cords to make them work (have to purchase new cords because the cords are MIA)

Reschedule all of the things that were supposed to take place during the vacation (speech therapies, cleaners, play dates, appointments).

Organize work and schedule out anything that needs completed. 

Clean out car from the gold fish explosion last week, stickers, sand, dirt, shoes, clothes, toys, and everything else that you don’t want to know about beyond the first row. 

Fill the car with gas – but the night before the trip, no earlier.

Confirm the house sitter.

Get food for the house sitter.

Get food and treats for the dog (and CBD oil/rescue remedy/anything that will help her not freak out while we are gone).

Create a list for the house sitter — including dog items, garden instructions, house plants, remote control issues – you know, all.the.things. 

Call neighbors to inform them of our plans and have them check up on the garden and make sure teenage house sitter does not throw a massive party. (Only kidding, our sitter is AMAZING.) 

Confirm all reservations to make sure nothing was overlooked for the trip.

Create a grocery list for road trip: snackage, lunches, food to keep in the hotel. Don’t forget to bring wine instead of paying $10 a glass while on vacation. 

Run to Target for travel sizes items. (and 26 other items you didn’t intend to buy – new water bottles are always great.)

Have a house key made for the sitter.

Organize dog items (leash, poop bags, food, treats, etc)

Make packing list: include clothing, entertainment for the drive, plenty of changes of undies for the potty-learning toddler, a travel potty, favorite games/toys, DVDs, batteries for DVD players, iPads/chargers, rafts for the lake, an air pump to blow up said rafts, toiletries, hiking gear, toddler hiking backpack/carrier, ergo carrier, stroller, laptop to make sure work is up-to-date, camera, wine, and the kitchen sink.

Return library books (that are due back during the trip).

Portion snacks into ziplock bags for the car ride. 

Clean out the refrigerator of anything that the house sitter won’t want. 

Water house plants.

Empty all trash bins in the house – before the designated trash day so house sitter won’t have to. 

Actually pack. But wait, not for yourself. You must first pack each of your five children – but into as small of bags as possible. Consider all activities and washing possibilities. (Oh, there are none? Ok, time to over-pack. yes, your spouse will then question your packing abilities, but at this point you can just pour a glass of wine and laugh.)

Continue to do the daily laundry, dishes, food prep, kitchen clean-up, bed making, house organizing, errands, kissing of boo-boos, nursing babies, actual work, and extra curricular activities.

The night before you leave, you may actually have time to pack for yourself. Pack way too much. There may be poop or puke on your clothing at some point, be prepared.

Listen to spouse complain about all the things he has to fit into the car.

Pour more wine because all he did was pack his own damn bag.  

 

(Yes the damn picture is sideways! I’ll fix it in my free time this week.)

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As My Sensory Kid Grows Up

 

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The days have been beautiful here in Omaha, Nebraska. I have very few complaints during the warm months of the year. My entire soul shines bright, especially on the other side of postpartum depression mixed in with seasonal depression – nothing like the first summer after the longest ‘winter’ of your life, right?

So, all is good.

All is spectacular.

But – and you knew the but was coming… but, I am not Super Mom. I feel like I need to stand on the tallest building and scream it loud because so many friends and acquaintances try to slap that (annoying and crappy) label on me.  However, I’d have no voice to do this because I’ve lost it from yelling at home. I wish I were kidding, but alas, I have become the yelling mom I never thought I’d become. (I’m laughing at myself, so you can laugh at me, too.)

I’m a strong believer that my children are mine for a reason. Each one was meant to be mine – and I was meant to be their’s, and they were meant to be each other’s. Many of you know how hard it was when my oldest son was little. He struggled with Sensory Processing Disorder. I was the mother crying on the floor in Target because I was frustrated. I was the mom who had a child who would not physically move from one spot (while screaming) because he simply could not move past something. His mind just wouldn’t let him. 

He wouldn’t get his head wet until after age 4 – but now he’s on the swim team. He wouldn’t let a blanket touch him – now he snuggles tight every night. He wouldn’t wear structured clothing – this is still an issue, but he works through it and can do it fine most days now! He would kick and scream and take an hour to transition from one place to another – now he’s on every sports team, a fantastic athlete, helps me plan our road trips, and attends sleepovers.

However, the sensory issues are still present. It’s true that through diet, our amazing herbalist, chiropractic care, and age, he has grown so much. I look at him and see this handsome boy, loving, giving, brilliant, and happy – most of the time. But he struggles with the “Why ME?” attitude.  He feels as though everything bad happens to him and gets stuck in those moments – sometimes crying for an hour, even throwing himself on the floor. 

These hard moments can come if he gets hurt, doesn’t get something he wanted, plans change, etc. And the spiral is awful and all-consuming. It takes all of the energy from the room. It effects the entire day for the family. It is truly exhausting. 

The major difference between toddler-version and present-almost 8-year-old-version is that I am not the same mother. I have 5 children instead of 2. I do not have the patience to sit on the floor and hold him through these moments anymore. He has the tools to do it. He knows he can do it, but at his age now, I cannot wrestle him or walk him through it every time. 

I am thankful that these moments are not frequent. But it seems that they come in waves. We are in the middle of one right now. His body is fighting something. He has had too much gluten. He hasn’t consumed enough water. He’s not getting enough sleep. Any of these could be a trigger. Maybe his tinctures need adjusting (I already have a call in.) Maybe our camping trip triggered something – it seems that these moments have been happening since then. Who knows, honestly. And I can’t sit and play detective all day. 

As I am writing this — there is a major meltdown happening. It’s lasted 1 hour and 25 minutes. I am beyond frustrated. I have yelled. I have ignored. I have given him space. I have hugged him. But, I will not just give in and give him what he wants. My anxiety is through the roof and it makes me short with the other kids. We have lost the afternoon to this meltdown. 

I’m ready for a glass of wine, but it wouldn’t help the problem. ha. 

And just as suddenly as the moment started, he is back to his normal self. Close to 1 hour and 45 minutes later, of course. His eyes are puffy and swollen – and the baby was woken up from her nap. But we are on the other side, so I’ll take it. 

Sensory kids grow up. My sensory kid is growing up. Just when I think we have gotten through this, a hard day hits. It reminds me to stay true to our diet and lifestyle. 

So, if you are also struggling in hard moments, know that you are not alone. Know that you are strong and capable. You are loving – even when you are losing your mind. You are doing the best you can. This is all I can do right now. And while I am constantly trying to become better, for all of my kids – and myself, I also am ok with being honest. I am not perfect. I am not handling any of this perfectly. I am living these moments as a tired mom – a mom hoping that as my sensory child continues to grow, we will continue to see less and less hard moments. 

Why We Parent With Expectations

We have never treated our kids as anything other than the good humans we expect them to be.

We are far from helicopter parents over here. My oldest three kids (ages 9, 7, and 5) have the freedom to bike the neighborhood without an adult with them. I can let all five kids (the youngest are 3 and 1.5 years old) play outside in the field behind the house together while I pop my head outside every so often to check on them. I can leave my oldest two at home alone while I run errands.

Friends often ask how I can have so much trust in my kids. Strangers comment daily about how respectful, kind, and considerate all of my kids are. I generally laugh it off because the strangers don’t see the regular fighting and messes that also happen here. But the truth is that my kids ARE trustworthy, helpful, and giving. (They also understand boundaries and rules.)

While there is still a lifetime ahead of us in child-raising, looking at our children thus far has me realizing that we are guiding GOOD people.

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I yell. I yell a lot at this stage of motherhood. I’m in the thick of it all, and I know it. I can see the light though – having an almost 10 year old, independent thinking, amazing kid allows me to see that these last few toddler years will pass quickly. But that doesn’t make them any easier, right? Even in these moments, I apologize, regroup and explain how imperfect I am, though.

I’ve been watching and listening to how my husband is living this stage of fatherhood. While the toddler side is exhausting, he is thriving. As a kid comes down the stairs, he always greets them with, “Well hello there, my friend!”

My friend.

Those simple words have made me see that our children are growing and blossoming because of how we have treated them. They never had to earn our respect and we never had to earn theirs. We have never treated them as anything other than the good humans we expect them to be.

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This mindset led us through a mix of attachment parenting and gentle parenting, but it also created a balance containing parenting with expectations. Yes, WITH expectations. Go ahead and blast me with how wrong we are to ‘expect things’ from our children…. but then look at them close and watch them make appropriate choices, treat others with respect, and find the beauty in everyone.

Let me explain further…

Our kids make mistakes every single day. Stupid mistakes. We expect them to. We also understand that they are capable of learning from these mistakes if we help them learn. We expect them to fail again. and again. and again. Each time, though, they grow and become more capable of controlling their actions and considering their options.

Most parents justify their children’s actions with, “It’s age appropriate! It’s ridiculous, but it’s funny. He/She is just immature still – they’re just being a kid.”

We don’t roll that way over here.

Someone commented recently that our kids probably don’t ever have fun… and that it sounded like a crappy childhood. I don’t need to compare my children to others to know how wrong that is.

I spent that afternoon truly watching my kids enjoy life. They jumped on bikes and tore through the neighborhood, built a fort with friends, read books together, made crazy messes and cleaned them up. They looked pretty damn happy to me – and didn’t have to disrespect anyone’s personal space to do so.

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We believe in natural consequences. We believe in respecting public spaces and places of business. We believe our children are capable of so much more than what is deemed ‘okay’ for this generation.

It’s amazing to watch our kids choose friends, and see how they gravitate to other fun, intelligent, and respectful kids. They stick up for others. They speak up when others are disrespectful. They are confident, happy, and true to themselves. Watching the oldest two solve problems and address their mistakes, as our 5 year old is on the cusp of doing the same grants us such excitement.

We are excited for every future age and stage of life with our kids. There will be crazy hard lessons they learn – and we learn as parents. We are hopeful that we are setting good examples and sharing real life with our kids. We don’t hold much back from them because we always want conversations to be open and available without hesitation.

All of this to say – You can hold your children accountable for their actions without spanking them. You can also parent gently while also laying out expectations. You can fail and teach failure. You can yell and apologize; you can be friends with your children while also guiding them.  You can let go and trust when your children are able to naturally understand expectations.

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When Here Became Home.

We have parted with multiple houses, cities, and states over the last decade. Some places have been harder to leave than others – with many being shorter stops along the map of our lives. We left our hearts in Virginia just over a year ago. I knew that I would move on but couldn’t see passed my love of everything there; not to mention, the amazing road trip situation I had going on throughout the entire coastline.

One year later, I am here to put the words into the world. These words that I knew would come but just couldn’t imagine writing through the first 8-10 months in Omaha.

“We are home.”

Home is wherever we are together, of course. This much you all know about our traveling family.

In the past month, I have made more friends, joined an amazing yoga studio (hello newest friends!), and found peace with our schedule here. We found an incredible therapist for my oldest son’s apraxia speech disorder; my oldest daughter’s swim and girl scout friends have become her ‘total bffs’ (her words, not mine). I am watching my kids blossom here. They are becoming fiercely independent and proving that our attachment parenting paid off. We can trust them with a walkie talkie and bikes throughout the neighborhood, full day trips with friends, and with more responsibilities at home.

Needless to say, the kids are loving life in the Midwest. Are they over the cold? Yes. Are they happy? Hell yes.

I knew my mindset was shifting as I started planning this year’s house projects. It went from being, “best bang for the buck” to “I can’t wait to make this everything I dream.”

Maybe my baby #5 funk is gone. Maybe it’s just that the kids are all healthy and adapting. Maybe it’s that I can look out my window and see a spectacular sunset every night. Maybe it’s the yoga.

Whatever it is, I am finally happy here.

My words of advice for today:

Let time pass. Let life play out. What you feel today is valid today, but what feelings 100 tomorrows may bring you won’t be known unless you let tomorrow become today – mentally, physically, and spiritually.

5 Reasons Yoga and Motherhood Mix

If you are my real life friend, you are probably sick of me talking about my yoga obsession right now, but I’m not done yet – now I’m on a mission to spread the yoga love.

I have a ton of kids. Not a physical ton, although, they may eat an actual ton of food throughout a year. These small humans are all-consuming. If you are a mom, you get this. You don’t have to have an entire gaggle of tiny beings in your personal space, even one is enough to lose yourself.

I have trained for and ran marathons during my motherhood journey. I have worked out regularly at gyms and at home. I have taught workout classes for other moms – hell, I even had my own mommy bootcamp business for several years.

I drink wine. I read books. I plan awesome trips. I thought I was filling my cup, and I was, but I was trying too hard.

Here’s the thing though, my mind is always going. While working out does save my sanity, I am still running through the lists of motherhood as I get sweaty. Not every time, but a lot of the time.

Instead of intentionally filling your cup, you can lead a life that constantly keeps you happy. This means your cup is actually never empty. Choose happiness. Choose a life that you want to be present in.

Insert yoga here.

I have done yoga here and there over the years, but never consistently. I actually laughed at Yogis who said the practice was part of their lifestyle. I take it all back. I have basically moved into my yoga studio. I have attended classes 20 out of the last 24 days – most of the times were at the absurd 5:30am hour.

Why would I willingly roll out of bed at such a ridiculous hour? Simple, I get to be alone.

Everyone is asleep, and John can handle any little ones who wake up. Everyone is take care of for the time I am gone. I get sweaty, centered, and focused – oh, and happy – and then return home to a house that is still *mostly asleep (*minus John walking out of the door for work, and at least one child awake and hungry). I make tea, change the laundry over, open my computer to work, and take a quick shower before sitting down to write. My mind is clear; my patience is renewed.

This is what I want other mothers to know about yoga:

It Makes You a Better Mom

Patience, breathing, and peace are all contagious. Learning to fill your entire lungs and release that breath can reach each point of the body and mind. It is amazing what taking the time to breathe can do for you and your children.

It Grounds You to the Earth

Completing moon salutations and series of flows that connect you to the seasons and life springing around you can open your senses to the earth. You don’t have to be good. It will be your own journey, each day different than the one before, but your practice will bring you closer to the world we live on.

It Keeps You Present

My studio harps on the mantra “Wherever you are, be all there.” I have found myself skipping social media and leaving my phone in another room. I have spent the weekends not opening the computer unless work must be completed. The TV has been off, and we have chosen music and hands-on activities instead.

It Makes You Less Judgmental

Everyone can do yoga. Sharing the energy inside that room reminds you that everyone is on their own journey – just as each parent is on her (or his) own path of parenthood. Finding contentment within your yoga practice – and within your life allows you to be happy for others instead of jealous or spiteful. We need more of this in our society.

It Helps Your Health

Including yoga in your exercise routine alongside of other activities or done daily provides the body with more benefits that I can list here. Learning to listen to your body will easily transition you into a healthier lifestyle all around.

If you can find a yoga studio that offers kid classes, grab your tribe and head over to try it out. My 4, 6, and 8 year olds attend classe and absolutely love it. It’s also fun to watch them utilize the mantras and breath into their daily habits. Even John goes after work.

We are all in love with yoga… and I believe, possibly, that you could fall in love with it too.

What’s there to lose?

(And, in case you were wondering, Goddess Pose is my absolute favorite.)

They Don’t Stay Little

I found her reading to her baby sister, and in a captured moment, I found myself staring at both my baby and my little girl.

I’m here instead of on a much-needed vacation with my husband this week. I was so looking forward to being pampered in the mountains at one of the most gorgeous hotels in the country, but I’m with the kids this week instead – and that’s okay.

I was so touched out last week. I spent an entire Saturday avoiding my family and working upstairs just to have alone time. I was counting the moments to escape.

But here I am. I am home, while the husband is away for his work conference. I was a bit sad at first, but as the fire roars, all the children sleep, and the wine flows, I can look back on the last few days and feel like a mother fucking rockstar.

That’s right, I said it. I have rocked 4 days so far, with 2 days more to go. We have homeschooled, attended any indoor activity acceptable for -20 degree temperatures, bickered, and read by the fire.

That last bit is what brings me to this post.

The days don’t hit a rough patch until that mid-evening-I-need-wine hour, and then, when I realize that there will be no backup, and that I have to single-handedly get FIVE babies to sleep.

My babies are my heart. I have always had a hard time envisioning them growing up, but somehow, I have blinked and a few of them have. Scarlett is almost 8 ½ years old. She is reading chapter books and designing her dream clothing boutique. She sells girls scout cookies, checks her teeth every night for cavities, daydreams of unicorns, and loves every color in the rainbow. She also clears the dinner table, rocks the baby, and reads to her until she is asleep. Scarlett is not a baby anymore.

John and I joked last week that our work was basically done; that she is as grown as she is going to get as far as the parenting side goes. From this point on, she will take everything that has been engrained in her and use it to better herself – or make mistakes – whatever (I’m realistic). But taking a step back and watching her step up to help me out while her dad is out of town just blows my mind. Scarlett Ann, our baby girl, is not little anymore.

I write this because I know you may be seeing this in your own home. This tiny being that you created is all of a sudden NOT a baby. She isn’t a toddler or even a little kid – she’s a full grown child. She has her own thoughts and opinions. If you look close enough, you can almost see the future.

Hanging out with my first born is starting to take on a new role. We are and will always be mother and daughter, but we are becoming actual friends. We are sharing stories and ideas. We ask questions and give ridiculous answers. The dynamic of the relationship is growing in new ways, as it should. I just didn’t notice it.

Tonight, I came downstairs after putting the littlest boys to bed and I found Scarlett reading books to Baby Veda. Veda was watching her and giggling like crazy. It’s almost as if I was gifted this tiny window of time in which I had both the baby and the child in the same moment to myself. I remember when Scarlett was as tiny as Veda is now, and I almost cried. But I didn’t. I smiled. It’s time to start the next chapter of life with her. She’s ready, and so am I…

They don’t stay little forever – they blossom and grow and turn into real people…. good people… beautiful, world-changing people.

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Make 2018 the year you stop giving THINGS.

I am a giver. I am a buyer. I am the consumer most stores target.

Scratch that; I WAS the buyer and the spender and the shopper. I am still a giver.

I was born into the role of a shopper, and for the past few years I have battled with myself on how to end the cycle so that my children do not fall victim to our consumer-driven society. Having 5 babies makes buying something quite expensive because it is never just one thing that is bought. But if you only have one child, you can still completely relate to over buying.

In 2017, I made a huge decision to cut Christmas down. It was, no joke, HARD. I actually cried several times. I am assuming now that I was going through holiday withdrawals, which is pretty funny because I’m the one who HATES clutter, plastic crap, and has the entire house stripped down and undecorated within days of Christmas ending. I also need everything to have a place in the house or I will donate it. So, I had this internal minimalist vs consumer battle that lasted months… all the way up until the week of Christmas.

We planned a trip with some of our extended family, and we drove about 10 hours to the mountains. Before even arriving, the kids were cheering that it was the greatest holiday ever – in their entire lives. My heart began to swell and I completely relaxed and gave into the trip. We had 3 feet of snow and a complete white out on Christmas. We partook in mountain activities, and John and I even spent a day snowboarding together. There was an afternoon of bitter-cold snow tubing for the kids, snowball fights, and homecooked food. We read books and played games together, and listened to Papa play the guitar at night.

My computer was in the shop, so I was disconnected for the most part – and it was GLORIOUS.

We did have a few Santa gifts, but nothing outrageous or expensive. The kids opened a game for the Xbox, Barbie dolls, hair chalk, puzzles, and a few other small items – WHICH THEY FLIPPED OUT OVER.

In the past, this reaction would have only lasted until the next present was opened, with the previous 30 tossed behind them… at the end, they would say, “Are there any more to open?”  There were meltdowns and lost pieces, trash everywhere, and too much money spent.  But this year? The money was spent in exactly the right places.

My kids are still playing with their few items from us a week after Christmas, and if they are done playing with them in a month or so, I won’t lose my shit because I didn’t overspend on any of it.

What We Learned

Gifts should not include clothes, shoes, toothbrushes, and other things that the kids need. Those should be purchased when the needs arise. Gifts should simply be a few of the items that will make them so incredibly happy. That’s it.

An experience tops the charts when it comes to the magic and spirit of the season. It can be as expensive as you make it, but you can request family gifts be giftcards to be used on the trip. My kids received one from a set of grandparents and had a blast shopping at the mountain gift shop for sweatshirts and hats!

Become a Non-Things Giver

So here is my plea to you. Decide NOW – in January to make a change. It will be a struggle. It will suck when the sale e-mails start coming, but decide now to let go of all of the THINGS. You don’t need to know where you will go or what experience you will give, that can be pondered about for awhile. You may want to invite friends or extended family; you may want to go just with your kids; you may want to host a smaller Christmas at home and then head out for New Year’s on the road (or in the air!). The key is to make sure that the experience or trip is not far away. Kids will not understand that.

I loved having the kids help plan this entire trip. They knew they would only be getting a few things, and we built the trip up for about a month before going. But next year, we may change things up and surprise them with a trip. (Although packing for a family of seven can’t be done secretly… or can it??)

I’d also love to hear how you plan to leave the things behind throughout the year.  We are planning trips for birthdays throughout 2018, vacations in the summer and camping in the fall, and I haven’t been to Target in 6 weeks. (SIX WEEKS) Nor have I ordered anything on Amazon in 4 weeks… but I’d rather order one thing online than be tempted by the entire store and screaming children.

Go ahead and take the plunge. It sure as hell feels good to not have holiday guilt (or spending guilt) hanging over me this January!

Postpartum Blues.

One out of five ain’t bad.

That’s what my husband told me.

And he’s right, statistically speaking.

Our sweet, sweet baby #5 joined us 11 weeks ago.  She is wonderful – as long as mommy is holding, nursing, or wearing her.  She still just smiles and sleeps, so all is good there.

But why do I feel like this?

I’ll tell you that I haven’t written in awhile because I haven’t been able to completely finish a post yet. I figured that I may as well lay this out there… maybe it’ll help me start writing more about ME again.

I definitely have the baby blues. And it is STRANGE. I know that I am me. I know that I am happy. But yet, I also feel this odd way about it all – as if I’m just blah. I’m not having intense postpartum depression. This feeling doesn’t last all day, every day, but it is completely unfamiliar to me.  I am here most of the time, but then I have days where I just feel like I am here but not enjoying anything. I still function as normal – the kids are happy and unaware, but I just feel overwhelmed, tired, and not ME. Again, it’s extremely odd for me to not just be happy all of the time.

I’m finding myself needing more ‘me time.’ Whether that be starbucks and a book on Sundays, running in the basement, or just a bath alone, I’m needing it.

Ya’ll, I am keeping FIVE HUMANS ALIVE. I am feeding them, loving them, educating them, driving them everywhere, keeping them from killing each other, wiping their butts, wiping their tears, and hugging them – ALL.DAY.LONG.  Two of the five are still babies in my eyes. The whole less than a 1.5 year age gap thing is craziness. This also means that I wake up to nurse and change diapers all night too.

So basically, I’m a superhero…

But those baby blues… man, they are intense. My anxiety is higher. I can’t imagine taking all of the kids anywhere that would possibly have a crowd. I hate being at home for more than 2 days in a row, but I also can’t imagine doing more than our exact scripted schedule.

I know that it will all fade away and become easier as time passes. I mentally prepared myself for the first year with baby 5 to be extremely challenging, but actually living it is quite different. But I am doing it.

I’m making friends, pouring myself into my work, and loving on my babies. I’m appreciating everything as it is… but I’m also accepting that this postpartum period is different.

Is it because of the age difference between Ollie Jack and Veda?

Is it because Veda is our last baby?

Is it mid-30’s?

Is it just what it is?

It really doesn’t matter what it is, does it? What matters is that I am aware and talking about it. I just need to continue to fill my own cup, ask for love and support, and understand that it’s okay to not be perfectly happy all of the time.

This is reality. This is my postpartum.