A member of the family is house hunting. His goal is to find a well priced home with a minimum of five bedrooms and four bathrooms. So far he seems most interested in houses with at least 2500 square feet.
A few of the houses have been more than double the size of mine, which always seemed quite reasonably sized at 1600 square feet.
I wonder if our little family will move one day. The schools in our current district are all poorly ranked, which means we will most likely have to shell out $15,000 to $20,000 for private school if we decide to stay. Do we move to a new neighborhood with better schools and higher home prices or do we stay put knowing that tuition rates for two children will easily cost us more than the price of a new home?
I don’t know. What I do know is that I will not be tied to huge mortgage payments. I would prefer to discard half of our possessions and live in a smaller home than to live in a larger home and spend the next thirty years paying it off.
Right now my husband and I are only four years away from the final mortgage payment on our primary home. Four years from now, with our home paid off, my husband can rethink his career path.
He can continue to run his own business or he can quit his current line of work in search of something more rewarding. I’ve been out of the workforce for three and a half years and will most likely will remain that way for at least five more. When my youngest son marches off to kindergarten I can decide exactly how I want to spend my days.
Do I return to a career in software development or do I look for a more meaningful, but much lower paying position? I don’t know. What I do know is that I cannot make that decision if I move and tie myself to a huge mortgage payment.
When shopping for a home it is easy to lose sight of the all the lifestyle factors that exist outside of the walls you want to live in. A large house with a big mortgage payment might seem like an okay idea now, but what happens fifteen years from now when you are unhappy with your line of work and looking to do something different?
I know that I would happily choose less over more. I would choose a smaller space and fewer possessions for the freedom of future possibilities.
Dear readers, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one…
Here’s the scenario. you receive duplicate gifts at an event, after noticing the duplicate item a family member turns to you and says “is there a gift slip in the bag?” When you answer “no” they say “I bought mine at Target, but I don’t have a receipt, so just take it to Walmart. They take back everything there.”
This reminded me of a story from long ago. Way back in 1997 my boyfriend received a computer game for Christmas that was a duplicate of one he already owned. With the gift slip in hand we drove to the store to return it. When we reached the counter the cashier told us the item could not be returned. Apparently we had only fourteen days to return the game and we were a day or two beyond that period of time.
My boyfriend was disgruntled, but he picked the game off the counter and walked down the mall to another store. That store allowed him to exchange the game for another with no questions asked. The store took his brand new, shrink wrapped game and he walked out with a different one.
At the time I didn’t think much about our decision, but as an adult I view the situation with a little more guilt. Is it wrong to take advantage of a lenient store policy?
In the original scenario detailed above would you try to return the gift to Walmart even if you thought the gift giver didn’t buy it there?
Many families dream of a vacation in the United States, but worry they can’t afford it. Good financial planning and a reasonable daily budget will help your vacation run smoothly and make those hard-earned dollars go much further.
Make a budget
A daily budget to spend on goods and services can help families avoid many financial problems – particularly towards the end of the vacation. A budget also enables the family to set up a ‘slush fund,’ meaning there is additional cash available if something goes wrong.
If your kids have their heart set on the more popular resorts and theme parks such as those located in Orlando, Florida you can save a lot of money by buying tickets in advance; savings of up to 20% on some amusement park bookings are available. Look out for coupons as well, such as ‘one kid free with every paying adult’ type deals.
Remember to buy your vacation essentials at home before you leave. Resorts add hefty mark-ups to items like bug spray and sunscreen.
Try driving rather than flying as this will often save money, and consider destinations that you can reach in a day or two. Additionally, try traveling out of season if possible – you will not only save money, but also time waiting in lines.
Best locations to make your dollars go further
For history buffs, set the GPS for Colonial Williamsburg – with Water Country USA nearby to keep everyone happy – and Washington DC less than a three hour drive away. Many of the museums in the US Capital are free, including the Museum of Natural History. You can save on the cost of accommodations by booking lodging in nearby Arlington, Virginia.
If you enjoy the great outdoors Yellowstone and Yosemite national parks are the perfect destinations. Entry fees are more than reasonable, and you can even camp out under the stars to save on hotel bills. Speaking of national parks, the world’s most famous natural wonder – the Grand Canyon – is easily reachable from many of America’s largest cities and costs virtually nothing to visit.
If you want to hit the beach consider the resort community of Myrtle Beach in South Carolina, or Cape Cod in Massachusetts.
Where to stay
Campsites, RV sites and self-catering homes are generally cheaper than hotels when it comes to accommodations. For all-inclusive deals, however, you might consider using Bluegreen to book a great vacation in the US. Bluegreen was established in the 1960s as a way for busy families to slow down, relax and share time together. There are more than 60 family-friendly Bluegreen resorts in over 40 popular destinations in the US and Caribbean, including Las Vegas, Williamsburg, Aspen, Myrtle Beach and Orlando.
I noticed his picture while panning the shelter’s website. I sent a link to my boyfriend. (I wish I still had that email.) It said something like ‘this is the one for us.’
The little kitten was standing tall staring straight at the camera. His ears and paws seemed much too big for his tiny body. He held one paw up the air, a habit he kept for the first half of his life. Always lifting one paw when he greeted me at the door then switching to the other.
Although my boyfriend, (now my husband), picked him up from the shelter I immediately felt as though he were my own. Actually he decided to bring home two cats and while everyone in the family fawned over the quiet, shy cat I took an immediate liking to the frisky one that feared no one.
I didn’t like cats. I still don’t. I only had one friend with a cat growing up and that cat was a crazy one. It flew across the sofa in the middle of the night and jumped up walls.
This cat was different. He wasn’t aggressive or wild in temperament. He had a ridiculously loud purr that you could hear before he even walked into the room.
When we moved out of my boyfriend’s apartment the cat claimed my bedroom as his own. He would curl up on top of my soft blankets and purr throughout the night. He loved a particular white comforter of mine. Every time I pulled it out he would come running up the stairs and hop right onto it. I still don’t know how he knew I was laying it across the bed. I couldn’t hear a sound when I unfolded it.
He may have belonged to my husband but he was 100% my cat. I remember walking into the basement one night after a huge fight. I don’t know what my husband and I were fighting about, but I remember crying hysterically on the floor while our cat nudge his head against my arms, legs and elbows. I dripped tears onto his shiny coat, but he didn’t seem to mind. The more I cried the more he nudged against me.
When I broke my wrist that cat would nestle between the arm of the chair and my good side. He always managed to place his head in the perfect location for petting.
The poor guy produced excess saliva whenever he got excited. As I stroked his fur he’d often gulp loudly almost to the point of gagging. I’d have to stop every once in awhile because I was always afraid he’d get physically sick from the excitement.
In my darkest hours he sat on the recliner next to me and somehow made me feel better. He sensed my sadness and came running every time. How do animals sense emotions like that? He seemed to know the moment I was upset.
He slept on my bed after my surgeries and as I suffered through the pain of drug induced neuropathy. Any time I didn’t feel 100 percent the cat would be at my side.
He was my one and only baby for 11 years. When my son was born he dropped in the ranks, but never acted out as a result of it. In fact, he remained the calm, quiet animal he had always been. My son was extremely gentle with our cat. He would put his hand in front of his whiskers and let our cat sniff his hands before reaching out to pet him. I never worried that my son would injure the cat and I never worried that the cat would lash out at my son. He was too gentle to harm anyone.
When my son was young the cat always wanted to be nearby watching, but for the most part did his best to remain just out of reach. At seven months my son was determined to see that kitty. As the cat sat quietly perched on the cushion of our couch my son used his chubby, little fingers to pull himself to his feet. He tried to hold on to the couch with one hand while reaching out to the cat with the other.
When the cat realized how close he was he quickly jumped to another cushion and within a day or so my son began cruising along the furniture trying to keep up with him.
When my son became a toddler I would occasionally walk into the room to find him talking to the cat. One day he told me he was teaching our cat the ABCs, another time I stumbled upon him singing songs as the cat sat high in the kitty stand above him.
That cat, our cat, was no ordinary feline. I used to tell people he was more like a dog. He’d follow me around the house wherever I went. He’d pop down off the cat scratcher whenever anyone came to visit. He’d hop onto the couch and rub up against the strangers skin until they stroked his fur and talked to him. He followed vendors around the house, plumbers, painters, electricians, it didn’t matter.
My mom who truly dislikes animals always said “I really like your cat.” A few times when she spent the night at our house the cat slept in bed beside her.
Last night I cried hysterically while thanking my cat for everything he’s done for us. I let him lick the bottom of my ice cream bowl then picked him up and rubbed his head. This morning I said goodbye one last time. I told my son our cat will go somewhere he won’t be in pain any longer. Over the past few days he was unable able to hold down any food and I knew it was time to say goodbye.
I keep telling myself he had a good fifteen year run, but that doesn’t really make it any easier.
My first delivery was much harder than my second. The contractions were stronger, I pushed longer and ultimately spent forty-five minutes after delivery watching the doctor stitch me up. I winced in pain as I felt each stitch tear through my skin. I imagined holding my baby for hours after delivery, not laying spread eagle in pain while my husband held him.
In the big scheme of things both my labor and delivery could have been much harder. I didn’t suffer any major complications and I didn’t end up with an emergency c-section.
Still labor and delivery was much easier this time around. Although I was in labor for twice as long the contractions were easier to handle. I learned to breathe through them and though I wanted to jump out of body during transition I managed to calm down long enough to push my son out.
On the day my second child was born the nurses commended me on a medication free delivery. “Your chart says no epidural. Way to go mama,” they said. They cheered when I told them I breastfed my first child for twenty-one months. When they asked if I needed medication the day after delivery I often said ‘no.’
At some point I turned to my husband and said, “Everyone is acting like I’m superwoman.”
A week after my son was born my husband and I gathered up the boys and took a walk to the playground. Along the way we ran into a few other moms who peeked into our stroller and inquired about our son’s age.
Every time I answered seven days the other mothers jumped back in shock. “You look amazing,” they said. “I couldn’t get out of the house for three months after my son was born,” they told me.
That’s the way I felt after my first delivery too, but this time was different and I’ll be honest their words were a boost to my ego. I began to feel like superwoman.
Not because I didn’t have an epidural. Honestly I avoided that because of my history with neuropathy. Not because I breastfed for twenty-one months. I was lucky to have lactation support and a baby who was patient with me. And not because I was out and about a week after delivery.
The truth is ten years ago today I sat in a hospital bed with a pulmonary embolism unaware of what that meant or what was wrong with me. As months passed and doctors failed to diagnose my condition I felt broken. I cursed my body instead of praising it. I went on long walks and cried at the realization that I could die and that if I lived I surely would never be well enough to give birth to any children. Years later, when I finally felt well enough to get pregnant, I spent months failing to conceive. And in the midst of trying was unexpectedly diagnosed with blood curdling neuropathy. Once again I felt let down by my own body.
When my husband and I drove away from the hospital on the day my second child was born I bawled uncontrollably. I still cannot believe how my body has healed over the last ten years. It is certainly not free of aches and pains, it couldn’t run a marathon or even run a few miles, but the fact is I survived two medical crises and infertility.
My body is stronger than I ever could have imagined and I have two beautiful boys to prove it.
I’m hosting a contest! Hooray! The fine folks at Novica provided me with a $50 gift code to give away.
NOVICA works with National Geographic to give talented artisans around the world a place to express their talents and provide access to the world market. They sell a HUGE range of unique, hand crafted items that you won’t find anywhere else.
Novica recently launched the UNICEF Market. Thanks to this partnership between UNICEF and Novica every marketplace order will directly impact families and children through UNICEF’s global programs.
The U.S. Fund for UNICEF’s mission is to
…save and protect the world’s most vulnerable children.
Through fundraising, advocacy and education in the United States, the U.S. Fund for UNICEF supports UNICEF’s work, and other efforts in support of the world’s children.
UNICEF has helped save more children’s lives than any other humanitarian organization.
If you aren’t familiar with UNICEF you can learn more about them here. They were founded in 1946 to help children suffering in the aftermath of World War II and currently provide support in the form of clean water, sanitation, nutrition, food security, immunization, education, schools and disaster relief all over the world.
I tend to spend the most time browsing the jewelry collections. Here are a few of my favorites:
One winner will be randomly selected on Monday, April 27th. Good luck!
The three horses Jack, Max, Lax and their friend Donkey are back!
In Horse Valley, it’s a perfect day to go kite flying. Jack, Max, Lax, and Donkey decide to get creative by putting together their own homemade kites. However, Donkey‘s kite doesn’t work. No matter how hard he tries to get it to fly, it just keeps tumbling to the ground. How will poor Donkey get his kite to fly? A friendly goose named Gusty is delighted to help him out.
In this Horse Valley Adventure, Donkey learns not to give up when all seems hopeless. The friends all learn a lesson about helping others and true friendship.
There are a number of valuable lessons in this book including teaching children the importance of being kind to others and taking the time to help those in need.
None of Donkey’s friends seem to notice that he built a kite that can’t fly. Donkey asks for assistance, but Jack is too busy coloring his kite, Lax is too busy bragging to his friends and Max is too busy eating to help. When Donkey feels discouraged there is no one around to help and just when you think his day can’t possibly get any worse he wanders off sadly and encounters a goose that ruthlessly teases him.
Luckily a magnificent and beautiful bird named Gusty comes to his rescue. Gusty puts the nasty goose back in his place and offers to help with Donkey’s kite. There is an important lesson in the exchange between Gusty and Donkey. Gusty recognizes Donkey’s distress and is eager to take the time to help Donkey feel better about himself.
I like that this book teaches children the importance of looking out for others. Despite being busy any one of Donkey’s friends could have offered to help him or at the very least offered to help him after they were finished working on their own kites. Unfortunately, they were all so busy they didn’t realize how sad their friend had become.
This book focuses on the importance of empathy. Even very young children can learn to recognize the thoughts and feelings of their friends and family members. When Donkey’s friends eventually realize just how sad their friend has become they all pitch in to help him build a truly magnificent kite.
This book is a follow up to the story The Three Little Horses and the Big Bully Donkey. In the original story the Donkey is actually the bully. Although the bullying section of this book is quite small, (just a few pages compared to the original), I like how the author turned the tables on the characters and made the Donkey realize just how painful it is to be picked on. Despite the fact that Donkey no longer picks on others it is an important reminder to choose kindness over cruelty.
We all know childhood can be an extremely emotional and difficult time. This book will help children realize just how hurtful their words and actions can be on those around them.
While it is certainly important to be aware of the thoughts and feelings of others it is equally important to answer their calls for help. I think both books would make a great introduction to bullying and the importance of being kind.
Disclosure of Material: I received this book for free, but the opinions I have expressed are my own.
Aoleon and Gilbert have become the Luminon’s top priority in stopping the Martian resistance movement, and after being chased by the Royal Paladin Guard, they are forced to flee the Martian Megalopolis. Aoléon, Gilbert and Zoot escape with the help of Bizwat and his newly found friend, Helios, a first generation soldierbot.
After battling the forces of nature, starvation, a Klyklon dust storm, (and not to mention a giant slor that almost swallows them alive), they finally make it to their destination. However, after Kyrios gives Gilbert some basic training to develop his budding psionic power, they learn that their journey is far from over.
Will Aoléon, Glbert, Bizwat, Helios, and Zoot be able to rescue Aoleon’s parents and stop the Martian invasion of Earth in time?
Part Four of the Aoléon Martian Girl contained much fewer action scenes than the previous segments. While parts one, two and three were packed with adventure part four focused much less on action and much more on character development.
There seemed to be deeper lessons in these chapters. For example, when Bizwat, Aoléon and Gilbert are lost in the dessert Aoléon says “just follow the yellow-brick road. Wouldn’t that not be nice… to have a golden path all laid out before us to follow. If only life were that way,” but Bizwat quickly replies “Life would be pretty boring if it were laid out in advance. It would lose all of its sense of adventure.”
I like the way this sentiment is expressed to the middle-school children who are the intended audience of this story. As kids we often want to take the easy path in life. We want to know exactly what will happen today, tomorrow and into the future. I like Bizwat’s clear-cut approach to the unknown; excitement comes from NOT knowing what’s around every corner. There are so many adventures and events we experience in our lives that we never could have predicted as children.
I also enjoyed reading Bizwat’s thoughts on what it means to be a soldier. He says, “Being a soldier is not about blindly following orders, it is following orders in the service of a higher cause. When that cause is betrayed we are no longer soldiers, just mindless drones dying for the wrong reasons. That faith has clearly been betrayed.” There are many books, movies and video games that depict military sequences and soldiers, but I’m not sure how often children think about the missions or lessons of those games. I like how Bizwat clarifies his desire to follow a higher cause. To do the right thing so that when he dies, he dies without regret. Bizwat makes mention of a higher purpose and talks ever so briefly about having faith.
There seemed to be a lot more in-depth conversations between characters in part four of the series and I enjoyed learning more about the characters and their motivations. This book is not just about aliens and space battles it is also about human connection. When Gilbert talks about divorce, Aoléon says, “being telepathic forces us to embrace our vulnerabilities. It is what makes us real and bonds us together.” It’s certainly an interesting idea. After all, if you cannot hide your emotions, thoughts and feelings then it’s easy to see how stronger one-on-one connections would exist.
I enjoyed part four of this series on a deeper level than the previous three and I can’t wait to find out what happens next.
Disclosure of Material: I received this book for free, but the opinions I have expressed are my own.
A few odds and ends since I can’t seem to find the time to post anything longer:
- I am completely hooked on Bark Thins. A good friend delivered a bag of these shortly after my son was born and I have methodically eaten a tiny piece every day for the last three weeks. Who knew the combination of dark chocolate, pumpkin seeds and sea salt would be so enticing?
- I’ve always been a huge fan of Target, but yesterday I fell in love a little bit more. A cashier at our local store allowed me to return a pair of pants for my one month old that were much too small. The pants clearly hadn’t been worn, but the tag was missing. (I pulled it off before realizing the sizing error and somehow misplaced it.) The cashier took my receipt and provided a prompt refund with no questions asked. Of course, I spent that money before leaving the store.
- I tried to fight my inclination to browse the Easter clearance aisle at Target. I kept reminding myself that I don’t want to own anything that is only used once a year. I caved only slightly. I purchased a bag of glow-in-the-dark Easter eggs that unfortunately don’t appear to glow-in-the-dark. Bummer. The next question: Is it worth returning them?
- I sold some unwanted formula on eBay. I received a box of free samples in the mail. I searched for nearby shelters that might except donations, but couldn’t find any within a reasonable driving distance. Since I’m exclusively breastfeeding I figured I’d get them out of the house and make a little money in the process. As usual I was disappointed with the results of that work and effort. Between shipping costs and fees I netted less than ten dollars. (When will I learn my lesson?)
- My mom came to stay with me for a few days. I loved having her here to play and watch over my boys. I didn’t realize how much work is involved with two kids until my mom was able to take one of them off of my hands for a couple of minutes.
- I spent the last few days worrying about the health of my newborn Thankfully everything appears okay at this point as the primary test results were normal, but this was a strong reminder that all the money in the world can’t necessarily bring good health.
Before my first son was born I read just about every must-have baby checklist out there. I bought the required number of crib sheets and made certain I had swaddling blankets and burp cloths on hand from day one.
Along the way I discovered that a lot of items were completely unnecessary while others seemed vital in those first few months.
Here are a few of my favorite newborn and infant related products. These were the first things I pulled out of storage the second time around.
The co-sleeper. My first son slept in our bedroom until he was six months old. The first few months we attached the co-sleeper to the side of our bed where he was within arms reach next to me, but not actually laying on the mattress beside me. This was the best thing for nighttime feedings. I’d lean over, grab him, pull him into bed with me, swaddle him when he was finished eating and lay him back in the co-sleeper. This is larger than the typical bassinet so your baby can typically sleep in it until he really needs a full sized crib. It has wheels on two sides so you can also roll it out of the way in the morning.
There are a ton of different swaddling blankets on the market, but most simply aren’t large enough to provide a tight swaddle. I make tall children and most blankets don’t seem to fit their 21 inch bodies. Their feet tend to poke out the bottom or they manage to wiggle their hands free. Aden + Anais blankets are wide, long and lightweight enough to swaddle a baby comfortably. They are more expensive then other brands but worth their weight in gold. My babies prefer a tight swaddle and if the blanket doesn’t fit properly I guarantee they’ll find a way to slip out of it. In my experience an unswaddled baby is typically an unhappy one.
In the middle of the night when I am utterly exhausted and half asleep I do not want to fumble around in the dark with buttons and zippers. Sleeping gowns are the best trick for quick changes. You simply lift the bottom of the nightgown, pull off the dirty diaper, wipe, place a new diaper on and pull the gown back down. I don’t know of any other item on the market that requires less work.
If you plan to breastfeed invest in a few pairs of reusable nursing pads. I prefer Bamboobies, which come in two varieties; a thin version for daytime and an ultra-thick version for nighttime wear. These are so much softer than disposable pads and they can be thrown directly into the washing machine and reused over and over again. I cannot say enough good things about these. They are my number one baby shower gift for breastfeeding moms!
Another breastfeeding favorite of mine are pull-down nursing tops. A lot of tank tops have snaps at the top that can be unsnapped during feeding and snapped back up when finished. I’ve never found these to be particularly comfortable. I like the soft cotton shirts that can simply be stretched down past the breast and then pulled back up. I bought six pull-down nursing shirts and wear them exclusively. I throw a button down shirt or sweatshirt over top of them and simply pull them down whenever the need to nurse arises. The cotton is incredibly soft and comfortable.
I registered for this high chair before my son was born, but I had no idea how much I would love using it. Unlike most high chairs that can only be used when your baby begins to sit up, this one can be used very early on. You can recline the seat for very young babies who cannot hold their heads up. Your baby can sit at the table at meal time even though he or she isn’t actually eating yet. When my son was little we’d put him in the high chair so he could see us and watch us converse at dinner time. It freed our hands to eat dinner, but made us feel like our little guy was already becoming a part of the meal time routine. I like that he sat eye-to-eye with us, rather than putting him in a swing or other contraption, which typically sits low to the floor. Of course, this also grows with your child. My son sat in this chair until he turned eighteen months.
If you plan to run a lot of errands with your child a baby carrier is definitely worth the money. It’s easier to strap a baby to your chest and walk through the grocery store then it is to drag that awful car seat wherever you go. Car seats are heavy and awkward, not to mention I could never fit groceries in the cart once I placed the seat in there. With two kids the carrier has become a vital piece of baby gear. I strap the baby onto my chest and my arms are still free to help my three year old.
I don’t use baby equipment on an every day basis. I’m not a huge fan of placing babies in swings or other contraptions for long periods of time, but both of my children love the Fisher Price bouncy seat. The seat is soft and although it is reclined the baby is sitting quite upright. From this angle they can look around the room and watch the activity of everyone in the household. This also helps in those early months when rumbling bellies and gas may be an issue. The upright position seems to make digestion easier for our little tikes.
It’s funny how many things I thought I needed in the first six months and how few things I actually ended up using. Did you have any go-to products that made your life as a parent easier in those first few months? Is there anything you bought that turned out to be a complete waste of money?