Friday, January 19, 2018

punch to the gut

I recently saw a little snippet of this article on Bloglovin, and being the math nerd that I am, my curiosity got the best of me so I clicked over.

When I got to this image, I felt like I got punched in the stomach:
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It's no secret that working mom guilt is real for me. Between the kids begging me not to go to work on a weekly basis and what society tells me I should be doing, sometimes it's exceptionally challenging to drown out my thoughts of insufficiency.

What started as feeling like I'm being a selfish asshole for being the working parent was quickly replaced with rage.
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It is mother-frigging 2018. The mom-shaming is as real as ever and I am sick of it. What is good for one is not always good for another. I'm a better mom when I am home for my kids because I work and get a break from them during the day. There's some serious dad-level shade going on in this too... the majority perpetuated by men (at least based on that 57% statistic). They do realize that they are saying a child cannot thrive as well under the care of their father as their mother, no? Or is that not even an option that crosses their tightly closed minds because obviously a woman belongs in the home, seen but not heard.

I am absolutely jumping to conclusions. I know nothing of their sample sizes or which statistical tests were run. But based on personal experiences both Jon and I have had when others find out he's the primary caregiver and I am the working parent, I know for a fact these statistics aren't egregious. 

Enough. I can be a loving and involved mother and have a career. My husband can be a nurturing stay-at-home dad and still be contributing equally to our household. I can be dedicated to both my job and my family, and in spite of my family always taking priority, it does not mean I am a less valuable employee--because I get my shit done, and done well. 

five on friday

Today I am in full-blown bathroom remodel mode and have been scouring the world wide web for inspo images.
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{1} I love this vanity with barn door! It got mixed reviews but it's also on sale and for the price I'm willing to take a risk on it. I think Jon is on board too so we just need to head to the store to buy it.

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{2} If we do go with that vanity, I think this faucet is a perfect companion.

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{3} I am also totally here for this shower faucet (we'd get rid of the tub faucet).

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{4} In terms of layout, this is pretty similar to our bathroom, except ours is even shallower than this one and not as wide. Storage is my biggest concern - I am thinking of doing a recessed medicine cabinet like this and then a shelf over the toilet like this (that we could hang the hand towel on).

{5} Totally switching gears, but this week was the second moms hip hop dance class and we grew to twice the size. Seriously, ladies. Get on a local FB moms page, ask who would be interested in such a thing, and work with a studio to make it happen. It is super fun, great exercise and a good way to meet other moms in your community!

Linking up with KatieAprilAndreaNarci and Erika!

Thursday, January 18, 2018

elden at (not quite) 5.5

Elden will be five and a half early next month, and I never want to forget him at this stage.

He lost his first tooth. He is now in size 6/7 pants, not because his waist is big, but because he has crazy long legs.

His favorite things right now are taking photos and videos with his camera, LEGO duplos (Santa brought the kids this box for Christmas and they get played with every day), reading (if we aren't there to help him he either uses this reader or he just looks at the pictures), playing on his tablet, and drawing. He can almost always be found with a toy in his hand or pocket:
Elden is totally my hoarder, but he hoards under the guise of "collecting." He has a vast collection of everything - he once asked for my number from the BMV to add to his collection - which makes my goal to minimize our crap this year exceptionally challenging. Elden is a stickler for rules and consequences; he complies relatively painlessly when you tell him what the consequence for noncompliance will be, but that does not mean he never goes in time out or loses a privilege. He is also my most sensitive one and gets really upset if he hurts someone accidentally or sees one of us upset.
Elden really struggles at nighttime because he's scared, so he has slept in Edith's room with her and we leave the door open which seems to help. He is still a finicky eater (for instance, he refused to eat a purple carrot because it was purple, in spite of the fact that it tasted just like an orange carrot and he likes regular carrots) but he is more willing to try new foods now than he was a year ago.

He prefers footed pajamas as daywear and those are hard for us to find for a reasonable price since he is so tall (he's been in size 6/7 for the footed PJs for at least 6 months). Elden is also obsessed with Pip and asks us to put Pip in his bed with him when he first lays down. He is thriving in preschool and will switch to half-day kindergarten in the fall. He's nervous about it (me too!) but I suspect he'll end up loving it.

Elden is still trying to find his autonomy and loves to argue with us about almost every decision we make. He is incredibly stubborn, but is also so sweet when he chooses to be. He says Edith is his best friend and that Etta is the cutest baby ever, and I hope he never stops loving his sisters so fiercely.

*affiliate links used

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

apps i'm loving lately (budget and time management)

{1} Moment. This is an iPhone app that tracks your phone usage for free. It tells you how much time you spend on your phone, as well as what you are doing on your phone during that time. I have always struggled with spending too much time mindlessly scrolling through Facebook. Moment is already changing my mentality and it makes me think twice before I pick it up. If you pay for a premium membership you can also set limits for yourself.

{2} Dosh. If you are at all familiar with Ebates, Dosh is like that but great for local purchases (and easier). You literally just have to link a credit card to Dosh and if you make a purchase with it at an eligible restaurant or store you will get a percent back that you can cash out to your bank account or PayPal.

{3} Win It! This is linked to Shop Your Way rewards where you can play for free each day but win points that can be redeemed as cash at stores like KMart and Sears. I play it every day and earn about $10 biweekly that I use to order things we need (mostly things like socks and underwear, but I also snagged some Champion exercise leggings for me) for store pickup. I don't ever pay anything for these items because of the Win It app. Jon actually just texted me this morning that Elden is going to need more pants in the next size up, so that's what I'll be redeeming my rewards for next. Note that the points do expire after a few weeks and you can't check on the app (as far as I know) but you can check it on the SYW website.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

too many balls in the air

I am walking a very fine line between hella productive and dangerously overworked, and while I've been doing okay so far I feel like I have too many balls in the air and it's just a matter of time until some fall.

My current weekdays look like this:

6 am: wake up, get ready/do Swagbucks, make coffee
6:30 am: leave for work
7:05 am - 3:05 pm: work
3:40 pm: get home, help with dinner / cleaning / spend actual time with my family and run errands
7 pm: start the big kids' baths (Etta is already down for the night)
8 pm: get the big kids in bed
8:15 pm: leave for the gym
9:30 pm: get home from the gym / pack a lunch for the next day / clean / shower / Swagbucks
10:15 pm: get into bed / Swagbucks / decompress
11 pm: go to sleep

I'm freaking exhausted. The most logical place to start would be to put my phone away once I get into bed and go the eff to sleep. Except that's really the only time I have to completely zone out and calm my mind down after a long day and I don't want to give it up. Last night I did and I got a good night's sleep compared to the night prior (since I am a total graph nerd, see below).

We finally found a routine that works for us with me leaving to exercise at night / keep our house from being condemned, but I'm worried it isn't going to last. I am trying to be so many things to so many people--including myself--and I'm honestly worn out. But which things to I cut back on?

Saturday, January 13, 2018

easy bread recipe

I've wanted to make homemade bread for a while now, but was both too impatient and too intimidated to try it. I finally settled on a highly recommended recipe but that didn't turn out well.

Since Jon bought me all purpose flour, I decided to try again and settled on this recipe. From start to finish took less than 3 hours and it is so good.
 Ready to rise.
 First rise.
 Baked!
Buttered and delicious.

I used Earth Balance butter on my bowls to make it vegan, but it stuck to the sides so I didn't use enough or I need to try to use oil next time. This will definitely be a staple in our house since it makes two loaves!

Friday, January 12, 2018

five on friday

{1} I still feel like I'm in the twilight zone given our current leadership. This quote by Frederick Buechner is more relevant now than ever. Big thanks to Tara for posting it on Instagram.

{2} We are projected to get a big storm today. It's not so much the snow they are worried about, but ice. The kids in our district have a snow day today which is really weird because when I left for work it was 55 degrees still. It's supposed to get bad around lunch and I plan on scooting out from work around that time and working from home the rest of the day. That's Ohio for you--55 in the morning, ice and 20 degrees a few hours later.

{3} Elden got this kit for Christmas and he is obsessed. He has been really into doing experiments lately and I highly recommend this one. Fair warning--it is pretty disgusting. Great for rainy or snowy days in, though.

{4} I've been in a fierce workweek step competition with my mom, two friends, and one of their moms. When I got my Fitbit I knew it might be a helpful tool for my exercise goals, but I had no idea just how motivating it would be for me. Yesterday I was determined to get ahead of my mom (she's been kicking my butt!) and I had 10,000 steps when I left for the gym and brought it hard to hit another 6,000. I am exhausted, but I am determined! If you were considering getting a Fitbit, I can't recommend it enough. Plus they're on sale on Amazon today! I have this one.

{5} Does anyone have the Ring doorbell? I reallllly want one - I told Jon it was next on my list of automated home purchases (we have the Nest thermostat and it is worth its weight in gold). Well the Ring is on sale for $134.80 and it is taking everything in me not to buy it.

Linking up with KatieAprilAndreaNarci and Erika!

*affiliate links used

Thursday, January 11, 2018

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!}

The first thing I do after I wake up in the morning is fire up Swagbucks and begin my To Do list. This is an easy way to start my day and get me in the mood to be productive.
On this particular morning, Elden and Edith slept in, so I made my coffee and got ready. Before I left for work I woke Elden up because the Tooth Fairy had paid him a visit and I wanted to see how he responded. First he said she didn't come (there was nothing under his pillow; she had replaced his tooth in its little tooth holder with a dollar), then he said he thought she brought him ten (!!) dollars. He was content with his dollar bill.

I drink coffee on my way into work and on the 10th I was still sipping on it when I walked in. Love my trusty mug.
Once I got all settled, it was time to dive in. Lately I've been getting new projects in groups of 3-10 at a time. When I walked into work on this morning I had three new projects assigned to me.
Every hour my Fitbit yells at me to walk. It's kind of nice to be reminded but sometimes it can get really annoying.
I eat lunch at my desk while I work. This day's lunch included a salami sandwich on homemade bread, a cheese stick, an orange, and chili cheese Fritos because #balance.
Since I get in early and work through lunch, I usually leave work by 3:30. On the 10th I headed home, got everyone ready, and we headed to my parents' house for family dinner because my sister is moving to Florida today. Just getting some Elroy and Aunt Jacqui cuddles in:
 
Hurry home and get the kids bathed and in bed.
My personal favorite from the day...I am part of a local mom's Facebook page. Back in December I put out a call to arms for a mom's hip hop dance class. The group delivered and the 10th was our first night! It was SO FUN you guys, not to mention a great way to meet other moms! 10/10, would recommend. 
Finally, head home, pack a lunch, shower and get to bed for the night.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

my baby isn't a baby anymore

Elden has hit a couple huge milestones this week. He's had a loose tooth for a while but it started to turn gray and he was constantly complaining about it. To make sure it was nothing serious we took him to the dentist yesterday morning.

He was very resistant at first but he ultimately complied. Laughing gas + numbing cream + Novocaine and that sucker came right out: 

The other big milestone that you might notice in the photo below is he is now in a booster seat:
I can't believe it. He got his teeth early (his first four cut at 4 months old) so I shouldn't be surprised that he lost a tooth before he hit 5.5, but it's honestly kind of freaking me out a bit. I can only imagine what kindergarten is going to do to me.

linking up for Welcome Wednesday

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

paying for Disney on a budget

I went to Disney World a couple times as a child, and I have several great memories from those trips. Now that we have kids, it is absolutely an experience I want them to have. The only problem? Money. From everything I can tell, Disney for a family of 5 will run somewhere around $5000+. When you are a single income family on a tight budget like us, that's not exactly easy money to come by.

We are planning on going in late 2020, that way Etta will be nearly 4, Edith 6, and Elden 8 - hopefully old enough to skip naps and remember the trip! It also gives us ample time to save up. My goal is to pay for Disney 100% without dipping into our "regular" income. Here is how I hope to do that:

1. Swagbucks! Are you tired of hearing me talk about this yet? The first $25 gift card you cash out at Swagbucks each month costs the equivalent of $22 in SBs. I've been cashing out to Walmart so that I can use it at Sam's Club - which sells discounted Disney gift cards (which you can use to pay for your Disney vacation). In a month I've earned $207.73 by using Swagbucks. At this rate, I could pay for our entire trip in 2 years. That being said, I am not counting on being able to earn this much every single month for the next two years.

2. Achievement. Achievement is an app that syncs with your Fitbit. For every 10,000 points you earn, you can cash $10 out to Paypal. It's passive earning - it just syncs with your activity tracker each day - so it is a totally easy thing to use to earn. I'm going to ultimately cash out to Paypal and buy Disney gift cards from Target with my Red Card to get 5% off. I can transfer the Paypal balance to checking to pay off the credit card.

3. Shopkick. With this app, you earn "kicks" by walking into stores, scanning barcodes, and uploading receipts that show purchases for specific items. Your kicks add up and you can cash out for a gift card of your choosing. In my case, I am working towards a $50 Disney gift card, which costs 12,500 kicks (I am currently at 1,370). This is a slow earner and you have to remember to open the app when you shop, but I figure if I can get 1 gift card by the time we go on vacation it will be worth it.

4. Ibotta. Ibotta is the equivalent of electronic couponing. I make my grocery list and then cross-check it against Ibotta for the store we are going to. If it has a coupon I add it, then upload my receipt once my purchase is done. I am planning on letting all of my earnings on Ibotta add up until it's time to pay for the trip. Then I will cash out to Paypal and buy Disney gift cards from Target with my Red Card to get 5% off. I currently have $48.25 available in Ibotta; I hope to get this past $100 by the time we go.

5. Southwest Rapid Rewards credit card. We got this credit card when we were preparing to go to Atlanta for Sally's wedding. There is a $69 annual fee, but between the annual fee and the taxes we had to pay for our flights, we bought tickets (even for Etta) to Atlanta for a grand total of about $115 for all five of us. We decided to keep this card open because by the time we need to book our flights for Disney we should have accumulated enough points to cover all five of our tickets again. Between 2 years of the annual fee and the taxes for the trip, I estimate the total round-trip cost for 5 airplane tickets to be right around $200 - totally worth it and a likely savings of $300-$500.

Beyond this, we haven't started planning anything since the prices are subject to change. I am still debating on whether I want to stay on site for the magic of it all (and the free Disney Express shuttle to/from the airport) or save a decent chunk of change and stay off-site. I plan on using a Disney planner when it gets closer, too. What are your Disney tips and money-saving tricks?

*Note: affiliate links used

Monday, January 8, 2018

weekending

Our schools were closed Thursday and Friday due to wind chills, and today they are closed thanks to an ill-timed ice storm. As such, Elden has had a very long weekend. That being said, for the first time in at least a week (if not longer) we are supposed to get above freezing so I am hoping this will all melt quickly!

This weekend was pretty mellow since it was so cold. The kids had dance for the first time this year on Saturday. I made this vegan creamy potato and leek soup (it was good, I'd make it again but put less lemon juice in it and use almond milk instead of coconut milk). 
I also tried my hand at homemade bread for the first time ever using this recipe.
It looks delicious but I didn't like it at all. I don't know if it's because I used whole wheat flour instead of all purpose or if our house was too cold during the rising process, but it was just really dense. I had Jon pick me up all purpose flour at Aldi so I am going to try again with a new recipe - if you have any that don't require a bread maker and are pretty simple I'm all ears!

We also went to my parents' house to celebrate my mom's birthday. We got to meet my new nephew while we were there!
His name is Elroy and he is the sweetest and most gentle dog ever. My sister is preparing to move to Florida and the kids are equally upset that Aunt Jacqui and Elroy will be so far.

We watched Boss Baby yesterday. I thought it would be stupid but it was actually pretty cute. In one scene at the end, the baby is preparing to leave his family because his mission is accomplished. The older brother is visibly sad at this. Then I noticed Edith:
My sweet, empathetic girl.

Elden's loose tooth is really bothering him. He's barely been eating because it hurts when he chews. We let him have fruit for dinner last night and he still barely touched it, so fruit was my dessert.

I also used down time this weekend to earn money on Swagbucks and update my Facebook group. I think I'm going to start a blog series about my goal of paying for Disney via "extras" outside of my regular income. 

Linking up with Biana and Johannah

Friday, January 5, 2018

five on friday

{1} Jon and I are really starting to narrow down our choices for the bathroom. We love everything about this shiplap + vanity.

 {2} I'd argue there are few things in life as delicious as vegetable tempura. We tried a new take-out place by us and these vegetables were so crisp and delicious!

 {3} You can always tell when Jon has done something to upset Elden. I always crack up when I find these pictures in his room.

{4} Ugh. The schools were closed yesterday and today because the wind chill is hovering around -20. Last winter was insanely mild for northeast Ohio. This winter is out for blood.


{5} I am beyond addicted to Swagbucks. In just under a month I've managed to earn $190. Since I finally figured out the best ways to earn with the least amount of effort, I started a private Facebook group to share my tips (and others share theirs, too). Join us here.

Linking up with KatieAprilAndreaNarci and Erika!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

earning cash on swagbucks for the busy mom

I am a self-proclaimed Swagbucks hater.

Except I've been converted and now I love it.

I started using it actively exactly three weeks ago yesterday. I earned $144 in that time. Now I'm sharing my knowledge with you.

Click here to join my Facebook group to start earning! Just yesterday I earned $5 and only spent about an hour total (mostly during my workout) actively using Swagbucks.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

christmas / new year 2017

Well, that holiday break from work was not quite what I anticipated.

I ended up leaving work about half an hour early my last day of 2017 because Elden had a fever and was complaining of a sore throat. I figured it was strep and took him to the local urgent care. The nurse took one look at him and informed me she would also do a flu test because he looked like death and the flu is apparently going around.

Negative for strep, positive for influenza A. His fever was at 104 at this point. They prescribed Tamiflu and told me if Etta seemed to have caught it I needed to bring her in right away since babies younger than 2 are at a high risk of hospitalization if they catch it.

Sure enough, first thing on the morning of the 23rd she had a low-grade fever and a runny nose. I took her to the same urgent care where she tested negative for the flu, but given her age and exposure (she had gotten her hands on Elden's popsicle stick the night prior) they prescribed Tamiflu for her, too. Jon came down with it later that night. Thankfully, I never caught it (and Edith has had a runny nose, but that's it) so I was able to be there so Jon could rest. Since then, so many people we know have come down with it--including several friends whose kids ended up in the ER and/or admitted. Even though it stunk having sick kids over Christmas, the timing could not have been better with me home from work, and we are grateful no one ended up in the hospital!

On Christmas Eve we were able to go to Jon's parent's house. The kids had a blast and were so spoiled by his family. I didn't get any pictures but it was a great time!

Christmas morning treated our kids pretty well, too.
Etta's favorite toy was the Fingerling Edith got the night prior. (of course).
Elden loved the camera we got him. He has been taking all kinds of pictures on it (including, but not limited to: us, himself, the garbage can, the pickle jar lid, etc.). Edith's first order of business was to take a naked mirror selfie and she's not getting a cell phone until she's 40.

That evening, my family came over for dinner and spoiled the kids rotten. The big kids got these tablets (they call them their iPads) and they have been so excited to play with them. It was another great time celebrating.

The rest of 2017 was pretty much spent at home, playing with new toys and trying to keep any remaining germs in our house (and foreign germs at bay).

All three kids love this ball pit Etta got from Uncle Marc and Aunt Kelly. I love how easy it is to break down to store.
At one point, Elden bit into an apple and it majorly loosened his tooth. His poor gums were black and blue from where it moved. It has since healed and isn't as displaced as in this photo, but I suspect he will lose it well before he ends his last year of preschool. We call it his snaggletooth and it makes me squirm so he loves showing it to me.
Aunt Kelly and I took Elden and Edith to the Pizza Hut buffet one day. Elden ate 4 pieces of pizza and 3 cinnamon sticks. Edith had 1 piece of pizza and some lettuce. I love them so much.
Jon's parents got Elden this t-rex dig kit for Christmas, at his request. He worked on it for several days and finally completed it around day 5. He told me he loved his t-rex and it was "like my bride." This kid.
Edith got dress up clothes. Always.
After Christmas we hit up the 70% off Walmart clearance and got a gingerbread village kit for $2. Jon decorated this house with Elden, who ate his weight in candy during the process.
For New Year's Eve we stayed in, drank sparkling grape juice and had ice cream after dinner. It was low-key and perfect. Jon and I also got a couple date nights in during my time off work--we watched Whiskey Tango Foxtrot on Netflix and ate take-out or we watched New Girl and ate Thai. After all the running around we did the first half of December, I feel like the flu made us sit back and really take in precious time with one another. Definitely could have had a worse way to celebrate!