This Month's Topic: Focus on Finance

10 Ways to Make the Daddy Crutch Work for You

Usually, I can tackle most things my kids throw at me:

“You want your milk? No problem.”

“You have to go potty? Let’s go.”

“You want me to kiss your boo-boo? Of course.”

But, alas, there are some things I simply cannot tackle:

“Your sister threw your Lego down the vent? That’s tough. We’ll have to see if Daddy can find it when he gets home.”

“You want to build a super-duper high Lego tower? Darn, Daddy is really the best at building super-duper high Lego towers. Shoot. I guess we’ll have to ask him to help you when he gets home.”

“You got a knot in your princess necklace? Ooh, looks like a big one. Better have Daddy look at it when he gets home.”

I’ll admit it: I like to use “Daddy” sometimes as my get-out-of-jail-free card. I feed the line to my kids and they buy it hook, line and sinker. Maybe I should feel guilty about it, but I don’t. I think it’s a necessary survival technique at times, and the fact that the kids don’t question it is the icing on the cake.

Here are 10 examples of how you can make the “daddy crutch” work for you (not at all borrowing from personal experiences, of course):IMG_4702

1) “No, I have no idea where your ridiculously high princess shoes are that are an accident waiting to happen. Maybe Daddy took them. We’ll ask him when he gets home.”

2) “You want to go outside and play in this 30-degree weather? Hmm. Good idea, but I think Daddy really wanted to play outside with you when he gets home. I’d hate to disappoint him, so we’ll just wait until he gets home and you can play outside with him.”

3) “You want a bagel after I just finished making you a dinner you didn’t touch and I just sat on the couch for the first time all day? Sure. Whatever you want, honey. Daddy will be home any minute, and I know he’d love to get it for you.”

4)  “As much as I’d love to read that dinosaur book that we’ve read every day for the past month to you again, I think Daddy’s feeling a little left out. Let’s let him read it to you tonight.”

5) “Yes, playing with worms in puddles outside sounds like SO much fun. But Daddy’s really the best at playing with worms.”

6) “I understand that you want to watch ‘Sofia the First’ and you want to watch ‘Jake and the Never Land Pirates,’ but since we can’t agree, we’ll just have to let Daddy decide which he’d rather watch when he gets home.”

7) “Good question about where babies come from. You know who would be really good at explaining that to you? Daddy.”

8) “You did a really good job of ‘hiding’ that miniature gun Lego in the grass, yes! Very impressive! Oh, you want me to help you find it now? That’s too bad. We have to go inside now so Mommy can make dinner, but I bet Daddy would like to help you look for it later.”

9) “I think going to see a NASCAR race would be ‘the best thing ever,’ too, but Daddy loves NASCAR. We should really let him take you.”

10) “Putting on your Aurora costume for the tenth time today sounds like a great idea, but darn, Daddy will be home any minute, so it will be time to eat dinner. After we eat, why don’t you ask him if you can put it on again?”

Blessedly, I’m not completely screwing over my husband. By the time he gets home, 99 percent of the time, the kids have completely forgotten what we were supposed to talk to Daddy about, so it’s a win-win! Plus, you can make substitutions as necessary, à la, “Nana’s coming over soon, and I know she really wants to read that dinosaur book with you, so let’s wait until she gets here.” You see, you can’t lose!

 

 

 

In Pursuit of the Perfect Picture

I really like taking pictures.

And, being that I’m a mom and I think everything my kids do is probably the cutest thing that has ever happened in the history of the world, I really like to try and capture those moments.

But, alas, my camera and I rarely see eye to eye. And getting that perfect picture is my white whale. (Captain Ahab, anyone?)

Yes, try as I might, I never seem to be able to take the perfect picture: the picture I dream up in my mind of my two kids, holding hands, walking down this beautiful meadow, and, even though the sun is beaming right into their faces, they both manage to look at me and smile the biggest, happiest smile.

Sigh.

A girl can dream.

And yes, it will always be just a dream because my pictures always seem to turn out a little off. There is always one thing that goes wrong – one sad face, one blurred person, one drippy nose – that makes my pictures less than perfect.

For example:

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Yes, cute picture. Until you look closely. Both kids are covered in snot. Lots and lots of snot.

And this one:

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I was going to title this one, “A Day at the Beach,” and I had the whole thing planned out, until Jill decided to make sure the kids were looking by pouring sand out right in front of the camera. Scratch that one.

And then there was this:

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OK, this one has many things going against it. But look what I’m dealing with here. I have a daughter who can’t keep things out of her mouth and a son who, if looks could kill, I’d be dead.

And then there was this lovely, little photo session from today.

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In the first one, Sophia falls. The second one is blurry. And in the third, it’s Sophia with her hands in her mouth again. And these were my best ones…

And if you’re thinking it’s only kids, it isn’t. This past weekend, my mom, sisters and I went on a shopping trip to Easton together. It was LOVELY! However, here are the two pictures from our trip.

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OK, so they’re not bad, but God love my mom. The only  thing she had to look at was the camera, but she picked something else off to the right and thus, the picture is a no-go. The picture of Colleen and me? Well, to start, Colleen’s hair takes up 75 percent of the picture (Good Lord, woman!) and really, exactly how much wine do we have in front of us? (That’s a flight for two, just in case you didn’t know. We sure didn’t.)

And so, I rely solely on the professionals to get the job done. And by professionals I mean, ANYONE WHO ISN’T ME.

Here are the best three pictures from our trip to JCPenney’s Portrait Studio:

Sophia 2014Together 2014Noah 2014

 

 

And we were there for literally 10 MINUTES!!!

Oh, well.

So I can’t get the perfect picture. I don’t know if I ever will. And until I finally cough up the dough to pay for Photoshop (ahem, Adam?), or pay a professional photographer to follow my kids throughout an entire week (Adam?), my pictures will remain imperfect.

And, let’s be honest. Those pictures are the ones that are real anyways. When I look back at these pictures, I’ll laugh and nod my head, because I’ll remember that Sophia had a runny nose that whole darn winter, and Noah’s annoyed face was pretty brutal. Those pictures are pictures of my family: the good, the bad and the very snotty.

And I know that I’ll be so thankful to have documented it all and not airbrushed any of it out. Not even 25 percent of Colleen’s hair.

Rocking Dates with Anna

IMG_4700Tonight, I closed the door to Anna’s bedroom after turning out the light and crept away, thinking of the next thing I needed to do, the next task to cross off my list. I’d forgotten for the time being that Anna wasn’t down for good, that she and I had a rocking date in just a few minutes’ time.

Sure enough, about 10 minutes later, I heard the telltale cry. She wanted me to rock her. She knew that I would.

I hastily finished the lunch I was packing for Brayden and shoved it in the fridge, annoyed that the next item on my to-do list would have to wait. I went to her room, going over in my mind how I would tell her “no” this time, how it was time to sleep, how we weren’t going to rock tonight, but there she was when I found her, as she always was: standing up next to the side of her crib, bunny lovey in one fist, other arm reaching for me.

That’s where she had me. It’s the same place she’s had me for the past few weeks.

I picked her up, sat in the rocking chair with her and rocked her, gently pressing her head onto my shoulder. I leaned my cheek against hers and rocked. And I savored it. As I have every night for the past few weeks, ever since she started this rocking request.

I’m not sure if it’s the crazy rush of the days whizzing by, the move we have coming up and the knowledge that our time in the nursery, in the rocking chair where I rocked both of my babies to sleep, is numbered, or just the sheer sweetness of her little head pressed into my shoulder and her hot breath on my cheek, but I do savor my rocking dates with Anna. As much as I’ll moan and groan about it tomorrow, I’ll respond to her cry and rock with my baby, if only for a minute or two.

I figure, in a few years, she won’t want to lie on my chest and rock with me. I figure, I don’t know if we’ll even think a rocking chair is necessary in her new room at our new house. I figure, how long will she reach for me, how long will I be the one she wants when she’s tired or hurt or scared or sad? I figure, if she enjoys it and I enjoy it, why not?

And so we rocked, for only a minute or two, until I laid her back down and softly shut the door.

“Cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow. For babies grow up, we’ve learned to our sorrow. So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust, go to sleep. I’m rocking my baby, and babies don’t keep.” – Ruth Hulbert Hamilton

 

 

For My Husband, the Breadwinner

This month’s topic has been a tough one for me to blog about. I’m not good with numbers, I’m not good with budgeting and I’m not good with finance as a whole. Really, as my sisters are constantly asking in wonder, “How do you get by in the world, Colleen?”

Come to think of it, my good friend from college is always asking me that, as well. Probably because, back when we were in college (I swear we were in college!), she once had to remind me how to subtract when I was balancing my checkbook and, another time, had to remind me that, while making easy mac, when it tells you to microwave the cup of noodles and water for 3 3/4 minutes, that does not mean to microwave it for three minutes and 75 seconds. (I always wondered why my easy mac was always exploding all over the microwave.)

So, yes, it’s true that if Kevin handed me paper money one day (did I mention I very rarely go to the ATM?) I probably wouldn’t know the difference.

But, now that this is our last blog on the topic of finance, and because, after the first blog of the month, Kevin said, “You’re writing about finance this month? I’m sure to be featured prominently,” I’ve decided I have been a little harsh on the breadwinner of the family and owe him some kudos. I’m sure it’s not easy living with someone as uninterested in our savings account as I am. And I know he hates it when I’m constantly telling him to just hire someone to do work he can – he assures me – clearly do himself.

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Key West, 2009

Despite Kevin’s frugality, however, I do love that he cares enough about me to take my opinions into consideration, even though my opinions generally involve spending money.

Even though every year he threatens we won’t be able to afford it, we started a tradition when I was pregnant with Anna of going on a four-night vacation, just the two of us. Actually, I guess we could technically say it started when I was pregnant with Brayden.

In fact, I was only eight weeks pregnant with Brayden when we went to Key West. Even though I couldn’t drink, we had a blast, befriended a couple on their honeymoon who were from Virginia but somehow familiar with Kevin’s high school alma mater, Moeller (Kevin was in heaven), and laid in the pool all day.

San Diego, 2011

That was in 2009. I guess we skipped 2010 because that was the year Brayden was born and, as I can hazily recall, a very tough year.

In the spring of 2011, when I was 5 months pregnant with Anna (yes, 2010 was a very tough year but, apparently, we were ready for another one the next year; um, not so much) we went to Los Angeles and San Diego for four nights, leaving Brayden behind with my parents for two nights and Kevin’s parents for the other two. It was heaven. We toured Hollywood, ate lunch with friends on Rodeo Drive, strolled the Santa Monica Pier, visited gorgeous Laguna and Newport beaches, fell in love with artsy La Jolla and took in all the sights at the San Diego Zoo.

As anyone with small children who gets to experience some time without the kids knows, nothing beats it. Except for coming home to your small children, of course.

We brought Brayden souvenirs from the zoo, though, and a toy car, of course. He was grateful. I did feel a little guilty going to a zoo without our child, but we’ll go back. (Right, Kevin?)

Sonoma, 2012

And, in the fall of 2012, when I was finally not pregnant, we went to San Francisco and Sonoma. We drove up the coast to Sonoma and stayed in bed-and-breakfasts while visiting wine country, we ate at trendy, eclectic restaurants and then stopped to get ice cream when I was still hungry afterward from not understanding a word on the menu, we walked the windy, hilly streets of the city by the bay and toured Alcatraz at night. Once again, it was heaven.

This year, we’re planning a trip to the Bahamas in November with another couple. I’m so grateful to our parents for volunteering to watch the kids so we can do fun getaways like this, and I’m so grateful to Kevin, for realizing their importance.

So, thanks Kevin, and I hope you enjoyed the photo trip down memory lane. I can’t wait to add the next picture.

 

 

Grocery Store Ballad

Question: Have you ever gone to the grocery store with the kids? Better question: Will you ever go back to the grocery store with the kids? Here is my poetic interpretation of that feeling:

Grocery Store Ballad

The time has come, the pantry bare.

The fridge is empty and cold.

We venture out, oh yes, we dare.Kroger

I take the kids – so bold.

The three of us to the GROCERY STORE!

We park as close as we can.

We scramble out, the kids and I.

I turn and lock the van.

I’ve packed my purse with lots of treats,

Raisins, crackers, fruit snacks.

Anything that will get us through,

The mid-shopping snack attacks.

Noah sits in the top of the cart,

The middle’s for Sophie’s car seat.

Just where to put the groceries?

Figuring that out is no small feat.

We start at produce, I take my time,

I’m still optimistic yet.

Picking out healthy choices,

I’ll see what I can get.

I spy some strawberries and watermelon,

I bag up some green beans.

Look at me, I want to shout,

The nutritious cooking queen!

Will we eat all that I buy?

Or will much of it go bad?

All I’ll say is that my intent was good,

Because the truth just makes me sad.

Now, alas, I’ve taken way too long,

Perusing the veggies and fruits.

Noah requires some raisins now.

Sleeping Sophie grunts and toots.

We walk to the deli counter,

And this is make or break.

Will there be a line?

As we approach, I shake.

They try to be helpful, try to be nice,

And talk of the cute kids of mine.

All I think is hurry up!

I’m running out of time!

We streak away and race up rows,

Snack attack bag

grabbing things with both my hands.

I check my list and heave a sigh,

I forgot, like, 20 cans!

And now I wonder, is it worth it?

Going back three rows.

I jiggle Sophie, hand Noah some crackers

And jetting back I go.

My heart is pounding, hands are sweating,

As I reach the frozen food aisle.

I feel as though I’m in a race,

And have reached the last few miles.

Dairy is next and here’s the challenge,

The cart’s running out of space.

I’ve utilized every nook and cranny,

And at  breakneck pace.

I put two milks on each side of Noah,

He starts to whine – they’re cold!

Sophie begins to cry behind him.

We’re almost finished, they’re told.

Other items? Just forget it!

We’ll get toothpaste next week.

It’s time to go to checkout.

Cart wheels spin and squeak.

The looks and stares, they matter not,

As my unhappy crew rolls in.

I unload the cart at record speed,

And my head begins to spin.

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I’ve almost done it. We pay our bill

And run right out the door.

I come to the car, and throw bags in.

The sweat begins to pour.

The wails are getting louder now,

I buckle both kids in.

Park the cart, jump in my seat,

And in the process whack my shin.

I want to join my kids right then.

I want to cry and moan.

But if I don’t move right there and then,

We may never make it home.

On the way, I ask myself

Will I ever make it back?

How do others do it?

Is there a gene that I may lack?

Clearly not a feast from my house, but a girl can dream, right?

I start to ponder ways to make

The trip a little better.

No matter what I do,

It just doesn’t seem to matter.

I guess the best news I can hear

Is simply this one thought:

When the kids go to sleep tonight

I can eat all the food I bought!

More Valuable Than Money

According to the dictionary, “valuable” means “to have considerable monetary worth.” With our focus on finance this month, I’ve been thinking about the word and what it means to me.

I remember in my economics classes in college (Boy, did I struggle with those! Whoever decided to make a journalism major take econ was cruel!), we talked about market value and how a product’s price is determined by how much someone wants it and, consequently, how much someone values the product more than the money they have in their pocket.

So, with that definition in mind and Sarah’s blog yesterday still fresh in my head, here is my list of things I think are more valuable than money (in order):

1) HealthClose-up of a newborn

Especially my kids’ health. When one of them has an ear infection, some strange rash, a fever or whatever, I call and make an appointment with our pediatrician faster than I even think about the possibility that it could be fleeting or just a figment of my (or their) imagination. Nope. When it comes to their health, I’m on top of it. They can charge me co-pays until the cows come home (and they do), but it’s not going to faze me.

2) Dinner with girlfriends and date nights

I had to list dinner with girlfriends first because I’ve been fortunate enough to have a decent amount of those recently and, while we do have date nights every so often, the dinners with girlfriends are more numerous. Either way, I will happily hand over cash to pretty much anyone with a pulse who volunteers to watch my kids so I can go out and have a little adult time. I think it’s good for my sanity and good for the kids to painfully extricate themselves from my heel every once in awhile and, if it takes a hit on our bank account, so be it. It’s definitely worth it.

3) Family vacations

Figuring out where to list this one was a little tough, but I think No. 3 is a good place for it. My sisters and I grew up taking a family vacation every year. It didn’t matter where we went, we just learned to crave the sheer joy of getting away from our house and daily routines and exploring a new place together. It’s a tradition from my childhood that I wanted to carry on when I had kids of my own. Now that I do, Kevin and I are taking the kids to Disney World in three weeks. I’m a little nervous about the trip, but I’m way more excited than nervous. I know our kids are young, but hey, it’s a change of scene, it’s a place that is made for them and it’s in beautiful, balmy Florida. Done and done. Kevin, let’s fork over the cash and call it a wrap.McDonald's

4) McDonald’s on a stressful day

This one had to come with the “stressful day” caveat because otherwise, it would look like we eat McDonald’s every day. Not only that, but that we’d built a shrine to it in our backyard and, as much fun as that might be, it just isn’t true. It had been years since I’d eaten fast food on a regular basis, but, now that my kids are toddler age, we’re once-a-week (that’s what I try to set the limit at, anyways) visitors to the local drive-thru. It’s fast, good, cheap and the kids love it. It’s a special once-a-week trip that is totally worth it.

5) Starbucks’ tall, soy caramel macchiato on a tired day

This one comes with the “on a tired day” caveat because once again, I don’t go to Starbucks every day and did not build a shrine to its tall, soy caramel macchiatos in my backyard. (Hmm, though, a Starbucks fountain that spews endless coffee goodness might not be the worst thing in the world.) But, I do go through the Starbucks drive-thru about twice a week, when I just can’t get going in the morning or when I feel I deserve a treat. The cheery coffee barista says “That’ll be $4.15,” and I happily hand it over.

6) Vacations without the kids

This one deserved a No. 6 placement because, as much as I value it, I value the other five more. However, this one definitely deserves its place on the list! Ever since Brayden was born, Kevin and I have been trying to get away without the kids for four nights a year. Last year, we went to Sonoma, Calif., and visited wineries for four days. It was absolutely amazing. We had a blast, enjoyed having adult conversations on a regular basis for a few days and got to taste some fabulous wine. Not to mention, it totally refueled us and made us remember why we got married in the first place, something that’s hard sometimes when you have two young children running you in circles night and day. This year, we’re going to the Bahamas in November with another couple. I truly cannot wait.

7) Retail therapyretail

OK. I tried to put this one as far down on the list as my conscience would allow, but I just can’t deny that retail therapy isn’t something I find valuable. There are many times when I walk into a store, see a cute top and eagerly reach into my wallet for my credit card, deciding, “Yep, that top is worth more than the money I have in my wallet. Give it to me.” Again, though, it may be a problem, so I’ll just gloss over this one.

8) Books

Before I had kids, this one would’ve been listed way higher on the list, but now that I have kids, I don’t have as much time to read as I would like. To give you an idea of just how much I like to read, though, when I was in school, I would sneak books in front of me all the time and hide them behind the person in front of me. The teachers, I’m sure, absolutely knew what was going on, but they never stopped me. To this day, walking into a Barnes & Noble, for me, is like a kid walking into a candy store. I’m giddy and in awe and absolutely cannot leave the store without another treasure. I know libraries are a free alternative to this but for some reason, I like to own books. Strange, I know, but there you go.

9) Haircuts/makeup

These are par for the course, in my book. Nonnegotiables that, when I need them, I need them, end of story. Same for the kids. I guess clothes for the kids should fall somewhere else, but I’ll just mention here that that is also a given in my book.

cleaning

Because this is exactly what I look like when I clean

10) Cleaning help

I’m sure I’m going to get some eye rolls on this one, but so be it. I understand that I’m home with the kids and should have plenty of time to clean my own house, but as anyone who has stayed at home with their kids full time knows, I just don’t. Sure, I could spend my maybe one hour of naptime cleaning, or clean after the kids go to bed once a week or on the weekends when Kevin is home, but that’s not as valuable to me as paying someone to come and clean it for me, once a month. That doesn’t mean I don’t clean the house in between monthly visits. I keep everything tidy and in order and if something is grossly out of whack, I deal with it. But, I leave the overall cleanliness to a once-a-month visit from two amazing, can’t-live-without-them cleaning women. Otherwise known as my own, personal, heaven-sent saints.

Well, that’s it. That’s my list of things more valuable to me than money. What’s yours?

 

The Hidden Cost of Yard Work

Spring has sprung and it is beautiful. The grass is green, the flowers are blooming and it’s time for the annual family walk around the yard. Adam and I, with Sophie in tow and Noah following with his toy lawnmower, walk around our house and look at our flower beds, bushes and trees, and we wonder: Where in the world do we start?

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Noah and his Bubbie (grandma) last spring

It is extremely overwhelming to be a homeowner. I love having a house, a yard and a neighborhood, of course, but, man, is it a lot of work! The cleaning alone is just exhausting, but throw in the yard work and forget about it!

Adam loves yard work, thank God. He really and truly loves cutting the grass, weeding flower beds, trimming bushes, planting trees and flowers, all of it!  He loves it so much that at our old house, he built a stone wall around our deck and planted beautiful rose bushes around it. He also dug and planted a vegetable garden. It was really sweet, and his green thumb is very impressive. The first summer with that garden was extremely special. We had tomatoes and basil almost every night and, every once in a while, would eat some squash or eggplant, as well.

At our old house, he could spend hours out in the yard, and I was just fine with that. Sometimes I’d go out and join him, to help or talk, and sometimes I’d stay inside and watch some bad TV. It was a fantastic relationship that worked well for the two of us.

IMG_2456Four years and two kids later, things have changed. We moved into a house that was vacant for more than a year. Needless to say, it needed a lot of work, inside and out. The inside was much more important to both of us, and that’s where our main focus has been this past year. But it’s now time to move to the yard.

However, those evenings and weekends that Adam would spend working hard on the yard are long gone. Now, he comes home at 5:45 and he’s with the kids and me. I need him there. I need him to pick Noah up because my back can’t do it again. I need him to hold Sophie while I finish getting dinner ready. I need him after dinner to either entertain the kids or do the dishes. I need him to help with bath and bedtime. And after the kids are in bed, I want to talk to him about everything else that’s on our to-do list. By the time I’m done needing him, it’s dark out.

I think you’re starting to see our problem. You see, the minute we moved into this new house, Adam’s been dreaming of our yard. Since the day we unloaded the boxes out of the moving truck, Adam’s been talking of all the plans he had for certain flower beds.

And, since the very beginning, I’ve thought about calling a landscaper.

One example of the work ahead of us...I completely understand Adam’s side. He loves working on the lawn. He has big dreams for it, and I know what a sense of accomplishment he’d get if he cleaned it up all on his own.

But at what cost?

Sure, it’ll cost some money even if Adam does all the work, but I’m not talking about that cost. I’m talking about all of the time he’ll be missing with the family. In a very selfish way, I’d much rather have him helping me with the kids those weekends and weeknights and put some of our hard-earned money toward a landscaper.

Am I alone in this selfish thinking? I sure hope not. To me, those weekends and weeknights are cherished. Those are the few moments when we are not outnumbered by our kids. It’s the time when we can do some fun things together. It’s also the time when we can run some much-needed family errands. (We’ve been trying to shop for a couch for a very long time now…)

So, which is more valuable? A landscaper will definitely be expensive, there’s no doubt about it, but to me, totally worth it. If that means Adam can spend more time with his family and less time out in the yard, I’ll take it! But should that be the way it goes? Adam loves the yard work, after all. Is his missing out on something he loves to do worth the price?

It’s said that marriage is all about compromise, but there’s no fine print to guide you. So, who makes the sacrifice? Me and the kids? Adam? Or does our yard just look terrible for another year?

Schooling Religion

Ever since I was pregnant with Brayden, Kevin and I have, from time to time, talked about where we’ll send him to school when he’s old enough. Early on, our Public privateconversations all ended – mostly satisfactorily on both sides – with an agreed-upon, “We’ll have to see what we can afford when the time comes.” Now that he’s 3, however, and we’re a little closer to having to pull the trigger on the decision, our conversations on the topic are a little more intense.

We’re not fighting about it, no – trust me, we have far more important things to fight about, such as how we’ve dressed the children (yes, I’m mostly kidding) – but we are serious.

The question is one of religion. Kevin and I were both raised Catholic, both attended Catholic schools until we went to college, and both attended church with our families (even when dragged out of bed by my dad blaring Frank Sinatra downstairs) every Sunday for as long as we can remember.

When we think about it, we’re extremely lucky. We have a choice. Our local school system is exemplary. Its academics are outstanding, its small class size is perfect and its proximity to us (our kids could walk) is ideal. Not to mention the incredibly important fact that sending Brayden and Anna to the public schools where we live would be free.

Sending them to the local parochial school would cost us roughly $4,000 a year. Per kid. And that is, apparently, if we are active parishioners who attend Mass regularly and give to the church, either with our time or our money, presumably. (I’m sure they would prefer both.) And our kids could not walk there.

If I was working full time, we’d be sending our kids to the Catholic elementary school. We’d pay the high cost, drive our kids to school or put them on the bus, and that would be that. But, of course, working I’m not. So, we go back and forth.

Kevin would prefer sending them to the public school for grade school and then, assuming we could afford it, switching them over to a Catholic high school. He and I both attended single-sex high schools, and that would be where we would send Brayden and Anna ideally, as well.

This is a great plan, except that it’s not. I’m not on board. I’m the holdup. I’m the one who, despite the fact that I’m not bringing any real money to the table, is fighting (and again, I use that term loosely) to send our kids to the Catholic grade school. And yes, while it’s definitely a matter of religion, it’s more a matter of upbringing.

I grew up in plaid uniforms, with nuns as teachers, attending church twice a week (once at school during the week and once on Sundays). I grew up praying in the classroom and taking religion classes and being taught to fear Jesus. For me – and for Kevin, too, obviously – religion, God, Catholicism, whatever you want to call it, was a major, major part of how I was raised.

I didn’t bat an eye when a teacher told us to bow our heads and pray before a test, or when the principal came over the intercom every morning and listed special intentions for the day. I didn’t know anything different.

While I know for a fact there are other ways to raise children, other religions, no religion, etc., my upbringing is so ingrained in me that I can’t fathom raising my own children any differently. And so I’m the holdup.

We have one more year until we need to make the decision about kindergarten, and it’s a year I’ll spend doing some soul-searching, and funds-searching, I’m sure, too. As Jill so annoyingly, albeit correctly, put it the other day, “How much do you value sending your kids to a Catholic school? As much as that jacket you just bought yourself?”

Well played, Jill. Well played.

Fixing the Floor Without Breaking the Bank

Finance is not usually my favorite topic to write about … hence my blogs thus far have yet to mention it. But, after this weekend, I am feeling inspired, as money has become a fairly common topic in our house. Back when I was working, money didn’t seem like that big of a deal; yes, piggy bankthings were expensive, but hey, we were a two-income couple with no kids. We sort of did what we wanted when we wanted. Booyah!

Now, everything seems to need fixing and, apparently, money does not grow on trees. The only way to take on big projects now is to start saving. To help with this, Kyle set up a few different accounts to go along with our general checking and savings. Now we have an account specifically for projects and, when the amount is just right, we are back to “booyah”!

A quick example: When we first moved into our house, I was really excited that the kitchen floor had tile. It looked so nice. Only after a few months of living here, however, did Kyle inform me that the brown between the tiles was not, in fact, grout but dirt. Fantastic. And, a few weeks ago, when the tiles started mysteriously peeling off the floor, I deduced that perhaps it was not real tile. Then, when Kyle got out the glue to glue the “tiles” back to the floor, I had to come to terms with the fact that tile does not glue … I’m pretty sure. So, we set out for HomIMG_0960e Depot to find some tile (the real stuff this time) and went ahead with the quote.

Tile is not cheap. The installation of tile is not cheap. But, you can only glue your floor back on so many times.

So a friend of mine convinced me to try out wooden tile in the kitchen instead, she recommended I use http://bestfloorsandingmelbourne.com.au/ because of their pricing. I already have the installation scheduled for next week.

My one and only tip to all the moms out there dealing with the same thing is this: Don’t feel like you can’t buy anything because depriving yourself completely will only make the saving harder. Just buy the things that really matter, like new rompers for Austin (in fact, buy the same one in all the colors they offer because really, he looks good in red, blue and, who am I kidding, he looks good in every color, but then, I guess I’m partial).

Hey, I said we’re working on saving, not that we have it all figured out yet!

My Vacation Shopping List

This past week, I’ve been away in beautiful Amelia Island, Florida, with Adam’s entire immediate family. It was a great trip, and we had a blast!

The whole Stulberg clan

You may call us crazy, traveling with a 22 month old and a 7 week old, and we just may be. But we weren’t going to miss it for the world. Adam’s dad was awarded an extraordinary honor, and we were so happy to celebrate with him.

Now, with two babies to my name and considering the fact that I was just under seven weeks postpartum, major shopping was necessary, but just how necessary? Well, I’ll tell you. Drumroll, please.

I give you my list of things purchased, borrowed and packed for the trip. I will also tell you how glad I was to buy/borrow these things, or what a huge waste of money the item was. I hope that I can save you some time and money following a few of my recommendations, but also keep in mind that I am a terrible shopper. That said, any and all recommendations from your end would be greatly appreciated…

Item #1: (Purchased) Bathing suit for me. This was my first purchase. I know, selfish, but still. I had an 8 lb., 13 oz. baby a few weeks ago and by God, I needed all the help I could get when it came to bathing suits. I ended up buying a tankini from Athleta, with ruching and bra straps and under-wiring and everything. It is AWESOME and I would not have enjoyed the pool nearly as much if I hadn’t bought a great suit.

Bathing beauty

Item #2: (Purchased) Bathing suits for the kids. OK, this is half and half. Yes, we needed a few trunks and rash guards for Noah, but who the heck was I kidding buying not one, but two suits for Sophia?! We threw her in one, one time, for a 10-minute dip in the pool and promptly back out. So, maybe we needed one for this cute photo op (see pic), but surely not two!

Item #3: (Purchased) Swim diapers. Yes, necessary. But again, the amount that we bought? Ridiculous. We used one, yes, one for Sophia’s 10-minute splash (and I don’t even think her cute little tush hit the water) and about eight or nine for Noah. We now have 40-plus swim diapers to unpack and store. Thank God summer is coming up. I think we’ll be all set.

Item #4: (Packed/Purchased) Swim floaties. Although I don’t agree with the name on the website, Puddle Jumpers, I am a big fan of these floats. My husband discovered them at Noah’s weekly YMCA swim lessons. Now, I am certainly not telling you that they let your child swim on his/her own, but they definitely help make you and your child more comfortable in the water. They also save your shoulders the later aches and pains you feel after your child has climbed all over them in the pool.

Awesome swim floats

Item #5: (Borrowed) A beach tent. My wonderful sister-in-law let us borrow her great tent that provided us shade and privacy on the beach. Not only did Sophia take a little nap under there while the rest of us dug in the sand and jumped waves, but I was also able to nurse her without using the darn Hooter Hider (yes, also necessary, but they can get so hot, especially in Florida).

Item #6: (Rented) A crib. My family discovered this service a little more than a year ago, but there are wonderful  companies out there that rent out baby equipment for families on vacations. We used Baby’s Away, and it was money well spent. We rented a crib for Noah – we used a pack ‘n play for Sophie – and a high chair. Noah slept very well both overnight and during naps, and I think the crib is to thank for that. The high chair was helpful for the few meals we ate in. And the best part, the company comes to your room/condo, sets up the equipment and comes back to break it down and pick it up. Talk about no muss, no fuss.

Item #7: (Purchased) Baby sunscreen. No brainer here. And yes, we did put it on Sophie, even though she was in the shade 95 percent of the time. I checked with the pediatrician on that one and she told me that she’d much rather us use sunscreen than have her be burnt. I will say that my sister-in-law introduced me to this fantastic foaming baby sunscreen. It goes on much more easily than the thick lotion and, as we can all agree, anything to make sunscreen time a little less painful is alright by me.

This pictures makes me smile.

Item #8: (Borrowed/Purchased) Extra large suitcase. Jill and Kyle received a desperate call the night before we left for vacation asking to borrow their large suitcase. Although my husband is the king of packing way too much into something way too small (something he really prides himself on), I begged him that we just pay the extra money and pack what we needed in a more comfortable and less Sarah-you-sit-on-this-side-of-the-suitcase-and-I’ll-shove-that-curling-iron-in-this-teeny-tiny-hole way.

Item #9: (Purchased) A spray tan. Necessary for trip? No. Necessary for my extremely hormonal and insecure state of mind? Definitely. And yes, I was much paler on the way home than I was on the trip there.

Item(s) #10: (Purchased) A Revamped wardrobe. Yes, this is definitely more than one item, but I thought a top 10 list was better than a top 23 list. No, I didn’t get that much, but I did get a few staples. Some tank tops and such, a few dresses for the nice dinners we attended, even a pair of cute shoes (neutral, for every occasion, I assured Adam). Hey, I’m in between the phase where I don’t fit into my regular clothes, and I look pregnant again in my maternity clothes. I needed those things. The shoes? The shoes were just for me.

After creating my list, I realize I didn’t really think anything was a huge waste of time. Everything seemed very necessary. Geez, for someone who hates to shop, I sure can spend money, but I guess that’s a topic for a whole different post.