Tuesday, February 28, 2017

family photos

Over the weekend we had a few family photos taken by Danielle Zummo. The primary focus was on Etta (since we did photos of the older kids when they were real little) but the ones of the family/kids together were a total bonus. These are my favorite:

Friday, February 24, 2017

five on friday: budgeting update

{1} It was just over a year ago that I looked at the same chart on Mint and basically every single month was in the red. Today I logged in to see how we're doing and I was so happy to see that budgeting has actually been really good for our financial health!

{2} We got a decent sized tax return this year so the first order of business was to pay off our van! I'm really excited to just be down to one car payment, which is the lease on my car. We are planning on putting the monthly van payment into savings so we can use it as a down payment when we buy out the lease.

{3} 2017 is the year we decided to pay more towards our mortgage. We transfer a little bit more than our annual mortgage each month. I used a mortgage repayment calculator to determine that if we started doing this each month, we would shorten our 30-year mortgage by 5 years and 5 months. I am hoping that as I become more established in my career and earn more (and as Jon goes back to work once the kids are in school) we can pay this down even faster.

{4} Meal planning has helped us save a lot! I try to plan out each meal for the week on the Friday prior so we can get groceries over the weekend. I do most of my cooking on Sunday for my lunches for the week. It also helps that we don't eat very much meat at all. However, I do try to buy meat when it's on sale so I can freeze it and save money that way.

{5} Cashback apps and sites. I started using Ebates in November and I've already earned $40.37 in cashback since just by shopping through their affiliate links. This is money I would have otherwise missed. I literally click a link and it redirects me to the desired site and when I place an order I get a specified percent back. Use this referral link to get $10 on your first purchase using Ebates. I also use Mr. Rebates, which is identical to Ebates but on some sites has a higher percentage cashback. Use this referral link to get $5 on your first verified Mr. Rebates purchase. Finally, I use Ibotta when I shop at the grocery store. I've earned over $40 in cashback through that. Use this referral link to get $10 back on your first verified purchase using Ibotta. 

Linking up with AmyKatieAprilAndreaNarci and Erika!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

elden at 4.5

Elden's half birthday was at the beginning of the month so I figured I'd do a little post to show what life is like with him at 4.5. I've alluded more than once recently that four is full of challenges and I stand by that. Elden often tests his boundaries in his quest for autonomy, but thankfully the boundaries he tests are nothing extreme. However, he has been spending a lot more time in time out recently than he did for a while prior. 

Elden is excelling in preschool. He will be going back to preschool in the fall instead of kindergarten because he misses the birthday cutoff by 3 days (and we also are in no hurry). He talks about three friends in particular and often comes home with drawings for them. Socially speaking, Elden has grown leaps and bounds in preschool and we are so happy with where he's at. He can write his name, recognize letters, and write out most words if you spell them for him (probably with the exception of rarely used letters, such as q, z, etc.).

He is usually either really good to Edith or treats her quite poorly, and often times his behavior towards her can go either way in a flash. Elden is always sweet to Etta (probably because she can't take his toys yet) and talks to her in a high pitched baby voice that cracks us up. 

Night time has been challenging. For instance, he was up 4 times last night (twice to use the bathroom, once because he heard a noise, once because he said his throat hurt) so I think a sleep chart is in our very near future. 

Elden's favorite toys at the moment are Transformers minicons, plastic animals, and Playmobil. He also loves playing outside, bugs, and drawing. He would go through a ream of paper in three days if we allowed it. He usually does quiet time in lieu of naps, but he will occasionally fall asleep on his floor in the process. Elden is getting a bit better about trying new foods, but his favorites are still hot dogs and salami sandwiches. He is still tall for his age and wears mostly size 5 clothes with the occasional size 6 item mixed in. Elden's favorite TV shows are Power Rangers, Cyberchase and as of this week, Daniel Tiger.

Elden still loves to cuddle and isn't afraid to tell me if he needs mommy time. He also adores his aunts, uncle and grandparents. Elden has a really big heart and is very sensitive to the emotions of those around him so that's an area I've had to work on myself so that I don't worry him unnecessarily. Overall, we are so proud of the person he is becoming and look forward to the future as he continues to grow more independent. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

what's up wednesday

Linking up with MelSheaffer, and Shay!


What we're eating this week:

Skillet Mexican zucchini.

I made myself buffalo chicken "wings" - I simply seasoned chicken breast with salt and pepper, tossed it in a skillet with some oil, then when it was almost cooked added hot sauce. I had it with celery and ranch and it was everything I ever dreamed of.

Asparagus and Brussels sprouts.

Turkey bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches.

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I also made this creamy chicken quinoa and broccoli casserole for friends who just had a baby and made a vegetarian version for Jon.

What I'm reminiscing about:

About a year ago, Elden started coming into our room in the morning for a cuddle before we began our day. This popped up on my Timehop yesterday and I'm happy to say he still does this little routine. I'm hoping Edith follows suit shortly.

What I'm loving:


This weather! Normally February in northeast Ohio is cold and snowy. We have spent every possible opportunity outside this week.

What we've been up to:

Playing outside. Making piles of things to get rid of.

What I'm dreading:

The inevitable return to winter-like temperatures (and snow, if I don't want to delude myself).

What I'm working on:

Jon and I have been tossing around the idea of redoing our coat closet into a mini-mudroom. I am loosely planning out how we'd best achieve this. Here are some of my inspo images:
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What I'm excited about:

My friend, Amanda, and I are meeting up for Endless Appetizers on Friday once the kids are in bed!

What I'm watching/reading:

We are almost through Drunk History. We are also big fans of Superstore. There's also the usual rotation of The Mindy Project, Modern Family, New Girl and The Goldberg's. You'll notice a comedy trend--it's because life is stressful enough for me; I don't need action, drama, or thrill shows to stress me out further. 

What I'm listening to:


What I'm wearing:


I am proud to report that I now weigh less than I did when I got pregnant with Etta. I have 7 pounds to go to my pipe dream goal weight and 2 pounds until my realistic goal weight, and as such... I fit in my old clothes!

The jacket looks like it is sold out but someone is selling a used size medium here.


My feet are also happily at home in my new Chucks.

What I'm doing:

We are firmly planted in survival mode right now. I am hoping within the next month or two Etta will really figure out that sleep is the best and we will start to find some normalcy in our lives.

In the meantime, I am purging a lot of stuff because all this chaos makes me feel very claustrophobic. We are going to participate in our community yard sale this year and donate anything that is left and I cannot wait until that day comes.

What I'm looking forward to next month:

Jon and I are going to a concert and checking out a very vegetarian-friendly restaurant!

What else is new: 
My sweet friend, Ali, has a precious boy named Ethan who has heterotaxy and complex congenital heart defects. Yesterday he underwent his fourth open heart surgery. Would you please join me in lifting them up in prayer over the coming days and weeks? She posts updates on his Facebook page if you'd like to stay in the loop about his recovery.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

etta (14 weeks old)

Lord, give us the strength to endure. At 14 weeks old, Etta has decided that sleep is for schmucks. The past 2 nights she has woken up every 30-45 minutes all. night. long. So that means she naps great during the day, right? WRONG. No sleep was had by all. All the tired. Etta had her first cold this week but that doesn't seem to be phasing her. She also has spent much time outside due to the unseasonable warmth and loves being outdoors as much as Elden and Edith. She is working on rolling from back to belly. She does not like to be ignored and will command your attention. She is also way chattier now than even a week ago. We love her, but we are oh so tired and would love for her to appreciate the value of slumber.

Monday, February 20, 2017

weekending

Minus an overall lack of sleep and some mild colds on all of our parts, this was an amazing weekend because the highs were in the 60s! Friday afternoon we had pizza from Domino's for dinner then decided to go for a walk.
On Saturday morning, Edith had her first professional haircut. We are getting family photos on Saturday and her bangs were a total hack job thanks to moi so it had to be done.
The stylist recommended I attempt to curl her hair with a flat iron the same way I do mine. That didn't work out so well with her fine hair, but she loved it.
Elden also wanted his picture taken:
After I took Edith to dance and both kids ate lunch it was nap/quiet time for them and I met up with a friend, Sarah, at Starbucks for coffee. We drank our coffee outside and chatted about topics ranging from politics to gardening and it was really fun.

Once the kids woke up we went to Jon's parent's house so Jon and his dad could go for their first outdoor cycling ride of the season. While they were gone I explored their backyard with the big kids.
We did all of their baths there and Etta had her first ever sink bath. She LOVED it.
On Sunday we decided to forego church because we all had runny noses and Jon, Etta and I had a horrible night's sleep. We decided to make a fire in the fire pit to burn some of the hundreds of sticks that had fallen over the winter. The big kids were outside for 3.5+ hours--they even had lunch outside.
Once they came in Jon's parents stopped by for a bit and took Elden and Edith for a walk, then they continued to play outside. We skipped naps and after dinner my parents stopped by for a few hours. They went outside a third time! Suffice to say, both big kids slept through the night and Edith was out cold within a few minutes of lying down. I ran out to the store to get a milkshake. Our garage door always wakes Etta up so I had to switch it to manual to sneak out of the house. Parenthood: just like being a teenager except you sneak out to avoid waking your baby, not your parents, and you're leaving at 8:15 pm for a milkshake instead of 1 am for booze.
Oh, it was perfection. It is supposed to be in the 50s/60s until Saturday and we plan on taking advantage of it as much as possible.

Linking up with Biana.

Friday, February 17, 2017

five on friday

{1} Love notes. Before I left for work yesterday Elden specifically drew me these two pictures and instructed me to "fold this up and put it in your pocket so you aren't blue without me." In our house, four is often defiant, loud, and stubborn. Sometimes, though, four is also so sweet and tender. It is redemptive, to say the least.

{2} It has been a very long week filled with very little sleep. After a particularly rough night I found a rogue hard cider in the fridge from Thanksgiving and decided to #treatyoself. 

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{3} Skillet Mexican zucchini (recipe). I made this for the first time this week and OHMYGOSH. I subbed a can of rinsed black beans for the tomatoes because we were using it as more of a main dish and I was worried it wouldn't be sufficient as is. I also used lemon juice instead of lime but this was so freaking good. We served this over white rice that was seasoned with sofrito that Jon's mom had made. 10/10, would recommend. I can't wait to make this again this summer when we have an abundance of zucchini from our garden!

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{4} My tennis shoes are falling apart. I've wanted Chucks for a very long time so when we went to the mall on Valentine's Day I decided to try some on to determine what size I was. I found this pair on sale bought them. 

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{5} Edith's first (real) haircut! We are taking her to the salon for her first professional haircut tomorrow and I am thinking of asking them to do something like this. I am trying to grow her hair out so we can pull it up more easily, but she also has bangs (that were a total hack job by yours truly) so I think this could work!

Linking up with AmyKatieAprilAndreaNarci and Erika!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

on expectations after several years of marriage

Our first year of marriage was hard. As in, we probably spent more time fighting than we did enjoying one another's company hard. Perhaps I am misremembering, but it was not easy.

One of the biggest issues we had was communication (shocker). We remain not the best at it, but we have markedly improved at nearly 7 years into our marriage. One of the things I've learned is that I need to communicate my expectations for holidays such as Valentine's Day.

When we were dating, Jon would surprise me with flowers.

As we got older and I became the source of primary income, I told him I no longer really liked receiving flowers because in a sense it was like I was paying for them myself and I'd rather that money go to other things (like a date night). I know this comes off as me thinking of the money as 'mine' and not 'ours,' but I swear that's not what it is. My sentiment came from the fact that flowers are often expensive and they die and I'd rather us spend our very limited "fun" budget on something we could actually do together.

Except then last year I realized I still wanted flowers. Poor Jon must have whiplash from all the times I go back and forth on what I want or need. But it all circles back! By communicating my expectations, it prevents me from setting Jon up for failure by making him read my mind (which--to be fair--I don't even know what I want most of the time so why should I expect him to?) and it also results in me not usually being disappointed. Win/win, amirite?

Anyway, I told Jon for Valentine's Day this year I wanted flowers. Nothing fancy, just something to show he put the effort forth. I even pointed out that last time we went to Heinen's they had gorgeous bouquets of flowers for $5/each. Talk about wife of the year, right? Then we had this conversation while I was driving home from work yesterday.

J: I ruined your Valentine's present.
D: What do you mean?
J: You'll see when you get home.
D: Well did you get me flowers?
J: No.
D: (silence)
J: Are you upset?
D: I mean, I don't know how much more clearly I could have communicated that I wanted flowers...
J: I'm sorry.

Suffice to say, I was pretty bummed out when I got home. But then Jon gave me my gift and while it's not flowers, I think I'll keep him:
hand drawn and painted by the man himself
He remembered that I had made a comment about a week ago that it felt like he was painting things for everyone but me (did I mention watercolor is his newest hobby?) and decided to change that. It isn't flowers, but he definitely put forth the effort. I love it and I can't wait to hang it up. // As for the rest of Valentine's Day, we made the kids heart-shaped pink pancakes on Valentine's eve and I had purchased Edith this book and Elden this one. Elden had a party at school and shared his treats with Edith (swoon). For dinner I cooked this pasta with a side of Brussels sprouts. We went to Mitchell's for ice cream. It ended up being a pretty great day with the people I love the most. I am so grateful that Jon is so patient with me and understanding that I am a wee bit crazy.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

slow cooker buffalo chicken soup

I had stumbled upon this recipe and decided it sounded delicious. That being said, I am quite lazy and didn't feel like cooking anything on the stove. I decided to revise it a bit so I could do it in the slow cooker.
Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken Soup

Ingredients
1 box chicken broth
1 small onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, diced
1 carrot, julienned
1 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 cups fat free half and half (can use any form of dairy, though)
1 tablespoon hot sauce (more or less depending on how spicy you like it)
2 chicken breasts, raw
1 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 1/2 cups other cheese of choice (I don't like blue cheese and I had parmesan on hand so I used parmesan)

Directions
Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker. Cook on low 6-8 hours or high 3-4 hours (or until chicken is tender and can be shredded easily). Shred chicken and serve.

Notes: the cream will separate from the broth but it is still good. Also, I ended up adding a lot more hot sauce to my soup once it was finished cooking.

Monday, February 13, 2017

etta (13 weeks old)

At 3 months old, Etta has had some decent nights this week. She has been particularly cheerful and has even started to give the beginnings of little giggles. Etta is very responsive to voices and immediately starts searching for you if she hears you talking. Elden and Edith are able to get her to smile the fastest and Edith seems to be adjusting better to having a little sister now. Etta wears primarily 3-6 and 6M clothes. She is still happiest in her bath. Etta averages about 4.5-5 ounces per bottle of milk. She still demands to be held at almost all times. We recently introduced her to her jungle gym mat and she seems to enjoy it greatly. She has been a bright spot in a dreary winter!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

ten on ten

10 pictures on the 10th day of the month!
{Document a snapshot of your life & find beauty among the ordinary things in your day!}
ten on ten button 

The tenth was on a Friday this month and the big kids had a dentist appointment so I took the day off to help with that. We decided to start the day with some Dunkin:
 After doughnuts we headed over to get gas at Costco. It was particularly cold so I was grateful Jon was the person pumping the gas ;)
 After filling the van up we headed home so I could nurse Etta and we could get ready to go. We got her this toy for less than $7 and she really loves it.
 Then we headed out to the dentist. We take them to a pediatric dentist and there are all sorts of fun things in the waiting room to keep them occupied. Thank goodness, too, because one of the dentists was out sick and it took way longer than usual to be seen.
 First up, Elden! His teeth looked great. He had an x-ray of the back teeth and we found out one of his front bottom teeth is loose. Hold me. I'm not ready.
 Then it was Edith's turn. She did great, too!
 Once we got home we got the big kids down for a nap and Jon told me to go nap while he took care of Etta! Praise the Lord!
 After naps I made Brussels sprouts. Edith LOVES the "chips" I make out of them. When I cut them in half a lot of times the outer leaves will fall off. I bake these with the rest of the sprouts and she devours them.
 Then we had dinner with my sister and our friend, Rebecca, who is visiting from Australia! After that it was time for Etta's bath and for me to nurse her.
 Once the kids were in bed I was able to spend more time with Jacqui and Rebecca before I had to take Rebecca home.
It was a really good Friday and I'm so glad we got to spend time with our favorite Aussie!