No Spend January – DONE

The best picture we could get with both of them in it.

We did it!

For all but 6 out of the past 31 days we didn’t break our “spending rules.” 5 out of those 6 days that spending was on eating either lunch or dinner out. That 1 day was a trip to Sam’s Club when we quite honestly decided to just break the rules.

Regardless, we still consider this experience as a whole a huge success.

It wasn’t all pleasant. In fact, most days it was down right annoying- mostly because I felt like an onion being peeled slowly. And right when I thought I was pearly enough, another layer was removed revealing selfish thoughts and bad habits.

But, it wasn’t all hard either.

When I asked David about his feelings towards the experience last night, he responded very positively. He said his favorite part was that our kids were involved. At the end of each day, if we had followed all of our “spending rules,” one child would get to put a sticker on the chart we had hanging on our refrigerator. If they couldn’t put a sticker on the chart, we had to tell them or remind them why. While we weren’t chipper delivering that news, it did provide a great opportunity each of those 6 nights to talk about spending and saving with them.

I, too, enjoyed doing it together as a family. David and I also both, surprisingly, enjoyed not eating out as much. We felt better, plus we didn’t waste food we already had at home.

Our home was filled with so many unused resources from food stored in the freezer to home decorations in the attic to unused gift cards we’d been given years ago. Not being allowed to spend money on “extras” reminded us to look for those items and use or repurpose them or gift them to someone else.

I don’t know if we’ll do this again this year for an entire month, but we are planning on making No Spend January something we do every year.

But, if we do decide to do it again before then, I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes!

Until next time,

❤ Lindsay

No Spend January – Half Way In

Snagged this chart off Google. I cannot take credit for it!

Am I the only one who thinks you can learn a lot about a person by the magnets they have on their fridge? If I’m correct, this picture tells you more than just how our No Spend month is going. ; )

So, as you can see, we’ve had two days that we didn’t follow our “no spend” rules, and in all transparency, I was the one who caved on both of those days. I didn’t even consult David; I just spent. Both of these spending ventures were on lunch, and on both of these days I didn’t feel well (common cold on the 13th and then a migraine on the 16th).

A lot of you have messaged me and asked what our no-spend guidelines are. For us this month, they’re…

  1. No spending money on anything “extra.”
  2. Only spend money on basic groceries (no fun stuff like gelato) and basic non-groceries (like diapers).
  3. Pay our normal monthly bills, but be a lot more conscientious about turning lights off and not wasting water.
  4. We can eat lunch out once a week, on Saturday, as a family. PLUS, we can eat lunch out after church on Sunday. (But only if we make it to church. If a kid is sick, and we have to stay home, no eating lunch out that day.)
  5. Using a gift card does not count as spending.

Thus far, this experience has been very enlightening and healthily uncomfortable.

It’s forced GREAT conversations with our 3 year old about spending and saving.

It’s also revealed spending habits I didn’t realize I had: e.g. I spend money on convenience more than I thought I did, which has been shocking to me because I’m the girl who peels my own carrots and makes my own sweet potato fries.

It’s created new meal prep habits: I try to make two dinners at a time on Fridays now (or at least a dinner and half), so that way I already have dinner at least mostly ready for Saturday which prevents us from eating out.

It’s de-cluttered our home by forcing resourcefulness. I already try to be as resourceful as I can, but this has taken it to a new level. One example, I ran out of conditioner, so instead of buying more, I dug into my travel bottles and have been using those. In the process, I noticed a bunch of stuff under my sink that really just needed to be thrown away. So to the trash those things went. Win win win.

We’ve been using our gift cards. We love receiving gift cards, but I feel like we’ve been hoarding many of them the last few years. I’m being a bit dramatic using the word, “hoarding,” but we live in a town with very few stores, so unless we’re online shopping, we just don’t venture out to the places where our gift cards are to (mostly referring to restaurants).

We’re past the half way mark, but we still have over two weeks left to go! I’ve almost thrown the towel in on this whole thing a few times, but I’m glad we’re sticking it out. And again, to be completely transparent, but not to get into a political discussion, the government shut-down has definitely turned a mirror on my selfishness these past couple weeks. Like I told a friend yesterday, there are people rationing out their insulin, and I’m sitting over here really wishing I didn’t have this self-imposed no-spend thing going on so I could go buy a new wreath for my front door.

The revelations that have come these past two weeks haven’t all been pretty. But, that’s exactly why I’m sticking out.

Have you ever done a self-imposed no-spend month? I’d love to hear about your take-aways from that experience. The positive ones and the not so pretty ones!

Until next time,

❤ Lindsay

Kids Christmas Activities, part 3

So we were struck with illness the last couple weeks, and never have I ever been so grateful to be able to do so many festive activities at home with things that we, mostly, already had, which are the features of today’s blog post.

Activity #1 – DIY Pipe Cleaner Ornaments!

My favorite thing about this little project is you can make it as simple or extravagant as you want. Add beads, glitter, sparkly pom-poms, ribbon- whatever floats your boat. Or, just use pipe cleaners like we did. My 2nd favorite thing about this project- the ornaments you end up with are non-breakable! (Cue round of applause!)

One of the kids’ favorite books is “Orange Bear Apple Bear,” so we made one of each for our tree. The kids were completely tickled, and it reminded me of making balloon animals- just with a whole lot less energy expenditure. 

Basically, all you need are pipe cleaners, and, again, any extra embellishments you’d like to add! 

Activity #2 – Christmas Cookies (Baking and Decorating)

Batch #1!

We’ve now made two batches of Christmas cookies because this activity is that much fun. Most likely, you already have everything in your pantry / fridge to make homemade sugar cookies. I like this recipe from Real Simple, but I’ll bet your Southern Living or Joy of Cooking cookbook has one in it too. If you don’t want to make them from scratch, you could always grab a box mix or even do break and bake if you prefer. Although, if you’ve been following me on Insta for any amount of time, you know I love getting my kids involved in food prep. So, the fact that this activity is a two-part activity (baking AND decorating) is a win-win. 

Besides what you need to make the actual cookies, you will need things to decorate with. We used Lenox cookie cutters that one of my grandmas gave us last year, pre-made cookie icing, and red and green sugar sprinkles. I also had a couple things of red and black gel icing in our pantry that we used too. 

Don’t want to be sweeping all of the sprinkles off the floor? Have your kiddos work inside of jelly roll pans and your sprinkles have a better shot at staying more contained on top of the table rather than multiplying all over the floor.

Don’t have cookie cutters and don’t want to buy them? Use cups or circular Tupperware to make round ball ornaments out of! Or, roll your dough into a rope and curve it at the top to make it a candy cane. Cookie cutters are just an extra- not an essential.

The most important thing to remember when baking / decorating Christmas cookies is to keep it fun. It’s going to be messy, the cookies are not going to look like something you’d buy at a bakery, you are going to end up with some broken cookies I’m sure (we did both times), and at some point your toddler will figure out those sprinkles (and dough) are edible and will cease to decorate but commence eating instead. Try to roll with it as best you can and enjoy the giggles. 

I hope this gives you a little inspiration this week for how to spend quality time with your kids AND get into the holiday spirit a bit all within the comforts of your home. This series will wrap up shortly with part 4 coming soon!

Until then,

❤ Lindsay

Kids’ Christmas Activities, part 2

Hey friends! So, if you missed part 1, I shared a little bit about how we approach home church and a couple of the things we did this past Sunday with our kids, as we found ourselves at home Sunday morning unable to attend church. I left you with us heading to the kitchen for our “family activity.” 

This is not a new craft, I know. Surely people have been making these little homemade wreaths for decades. And my guess is that’s because they are so easy to make, you can literally use whatever you have at home, and it works for almost all ages and skillsets (we even assembled these at our church’s ladies’ Christmas event last year)

The supplies I gathered were…

  • red and green card stock (but, you can any kind and color of paper, including Christmas wrapping paper)
  • a pair of scissors (I have 1 pair that makes the decorative cuts, so I used those, but regular scissors are perfect)
  • a cardboard box (the handiest I had was a pull-ups box)
  • glue (I grabbed a glue stick and liquid glue, but you could use double sided tape, staples, or even rubber cement if you wanted)
  • tape
  • some red ribbon (all I had on hand was your standard shiny red ribbon for wrapping presents in, but again, you can use any kind of ribbon at all, or you can even go sans ribbon!)

The night before I cut leaves out of the card stock by folding the pieces of paper in half and cutting half ovals/hearts out of them. 

The next morning I used a box cutter to cut circles out of the cardboard box. I flipped a glass cereal bowl on top of the broken down box and traced it with a sharpie, then I cut along that line. (Don’t worry about making a perfect circle though- you’re going to be pasting leaves on top, so no one is going to see the cardboard.) When I had popped out my circle, I cut another circle out around that circle to make my ring/wreath. 

Now comes the assembly part- aka, where the kids come in- unless you have older kids, in which case, they may be able to cut the leaves out themselves. You know your kids and how well they handle a pair of scissors, so I’ll leave that call to you.   

Show your kids how to use the glue to stick their leaves onto their wreath, and let them go to town! Help them as needed, but try to let them do as much of it as they can, within their abilities of course. That’s what makes it fun! 

You may find you need more leaves. Don’t panic! Cut out some more, and if you don’t have any more of the paper you originally used, that’s ok, grab a different color and let them color a design on that paper in the original leaf colors before you cut the leaves out. So, in the case of our wreaths, I’d grab white paper and red and green crayons or markers. 

We found the glue adheres a lot better to the side of the pull-ups box that isn’t shiny, and you’ll get a fuller-effect from your leaves if you affix them with the leaf opening up toward you inside of towards the cardboard.

When you’re done, have your kid tell you which part of the wreath is the top, and then flip it over. There at the top, affix your ribbon with tape or a stapler, and wa la, homemade wreath! 

Our whole family had a ball with this little project, and their wreaths look adorable hanging up in our dining nook. They have loved looking at them and point to them with big grins on their faces. I plan on doing this every year with our kids and am excited about all of the potential this little project has. It can be THIS SIMPLE, or it can a lot more elaborate depending on the kind of paper and ribbon you choose to use. Make it your own and make it work for your family and the developmental stage your kids are in. 

Stay tuned for more of the Christmas activities we’re doing with our kids this month, and be sure to tag us on Insta or comment below if you give any of these ideas a whirl with your family. We’d love to hear about it!

Until next time,

❤ Lindsay

Kids Christmas Activities, part 1

I grew up in a family that attended church every Sunday morning. Not only did we attend, but we were involved in church. My parents were always serving in some capacity, and we (us three kids) began serving as well as soon as we were old enough. Once in a blue moon, however, we missed church on Sunday. And when those Sundays happened, we had home church. I can remember my dad sitting down with all of us in one of our family rooms with his big black Bible open, and he’d read scripture to us, we’d talk about it, and sometimes we’d even have music. He’d play something on the boom box for us to listen to or sing along with. He set a very important example for us in this way… Sometimes, for whatever reason, you won’t be able to get to go to church, but that doesn’t mean you can’t set a special time aside on Sunday to honor the day by studying God’s word, worshiping Him, and talking about God’s work and word with believers around you.

David and I have been in this season of not getting to go to church most Sundays for the last three years pretty much. Our daughter has a slightly weaker immune system than most kids, so she catches almost any germ that blows by her, and it takes her body a little longer to fight that germ off, which translates to she’s sick a lot. Anatomically, she’s also susceptible to moderately severe secondary upper respiratory infections, so we have to be really careful with how we manage even a simple cold. So, long story short, we end up missing church a lot. 

(Before you start sending me every oil or supplement we could try with her to help her immune system, trust me, we’ve tried most of them, and gratefully we’ve found a regimen that is beginning to make a huge difference for her.)

But, just like how my dad modeled for us, we haven’t let not being able to attend church stop us from setting time aside on Sunday to honor the day as a family. Home church has looked different for us over the last few years as we’ve being raising two children in stages from infancy to three-nager, but currently it looks like this most of the time: Bible lesson, discussion, family activity. (David and I are able to supplement with Bible study together and independently, podcasts, and online church sermons. The kids and I are also able to attend a Bible study during the week when everyone is healthy.)

During the month of December, you can guess what we’ll be spending most of our Sundays focusing on- Christmas! It’s easy to share the story of Jesus’ birth with little kids, but activities may be a little harder to pull together. So, this week I’ll be sharing some that we’re doing. The best part is, most of these activities cost NOTHING- you can use things you already have around your home, or you can order them online, which means no having to hunt for stuff with the general public during the most wonderful time of the year. 

Our daughter came down with bronchitis over Thanksgiving, so today was another home church Sunday, and we pulled out one of our absolute favorite family Christmas traditions and made the beginning of our home church lesson. 

For those of you who, for whatever reason, don’t want to go the elf on a shelf route, DaySpring has the sweetest alternative- The Shepherd on the Search. Every day the shepherd moves around the house on his search for baby Jesus, and every morning your kids wake up and search for the shepherd. Christmas morning, when they wake up, the shepherd will have found Him, and he’ll either be sitting in the nativity you set up in your home or in the nativity box that he comes inside of

The set includes a sweet book too that is an excellent conversation starter for young children about the day Jesus was born. 

I loved watching both our daughter’s excitement last year as she’d scurry around the house looking for him and the smile on my husband’s face as he watched her (as he is the one who has taken ownership of moving our shepherd, Sammy, each evening before we go to sleep). I’m excited that our son will be old enough this year to join in on this fun tradition too. 

After we read the book, and re-named our shepherd (because none of us could remember what we named him last year!), we watched The Star together as a family. Oh my goodness, my husband and I haven’t laughed that much at a movie in a long time! We absolutely loved it, and again, it provided excellent opportunities for us to talk about the circumstances surrounding Jesus’ birth during and after watching the movie. I can guarantee we’ll be watching it a couple more times before Christmas gets here. (Also, I have to say, I was super impressed with all of the accurate Biblical references in the movie, so big-thank-you-hug to everyone who played a part in making that so, and to Sony for leaving it that way.)

After we watched The Star, we moved into the kitchen for our NO-COST family activity, which I’ll share with y’all later this week! 

Until then,

❤ Lindsay

P.S. This post does contain affiliate links, but my opinions are always my own. Thank you for clicking through!

Turkey Cupcakes

Raise your hand if you love routine? Now raise your other hand if your kids love routine? I know from first hand experience that the week of Thanksgiving can be a stressful week for families, and while the reasons are numerous, I think one big factor is the abrupt change in pretty much everyone’s routine. This change can be even more extreme for everyone when kids find themselves outside out of their home (e.g. traveling for the holiday) or have guests hanging out in their home.

Because the truth is kids like routine. They’re going to wake up when they’re used to waking up. They’re going to be ready for snacks when they’re always ready for snacks. Sometimes, as much as we try and want to, we can’t keep them on their routine though. We also can’t assume that everyone else we’re celebrating the holiday with is going to jump right into our kids’ routine.

So, it’s really helpful to have a few go-to activities for your kids to do in those hours when their routine isn’t meshing up with how the days’ schedule is unfolding.

They can be simple, like new coloring pages and crayons or a secret stash of legos (we have such a secret stash that we only bust out when we’re on vacation- usually when we’re staying in a hotel room). I made a couple dozen of these Turkey Cupcakes several years ago before we had kids, and stored the idea away as one I knew I’d like to try again with my kids, whenever we had them, and whenever they were old enough.

My kids are 3 years old and 1 year old, and I knew they were ready to at least attempt decorating these cupcakes. I knew they probably weren’t going to look like something you’d see on Pinterest by the time they were finished, but the entire project, for the most part, would be edible (so I wouldn’t have to worry if they put something in their mouth), easy to clean up, and inexpensive- all I had to buy for it was a box of cake mix and some candy corn. AND, the best part, this is a TWO part activity, so it helps pass the time TWICE. Keep reading and you’ll see what I mean…

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What do you need for this project:

  1. Cake Mix (and whatever the mix calls for … like eggs and oil)
  2. Cupcake pan
  3. Chocolate Icing
  4. Candy corn + assorted candy (we raided their left over halloween candy)

Steps:

  1. Make + bake cupcakes! And LET YOUR KIDS HELP. They may not be ready to crack eggs, but give them the whisk or let them operate the mixer by pulling levers or pushing buttons. They probably can dump the bag of cake mix into the mixing bowl if you cut it open for them and help direct the bag. Even my one year old can place cupcake liners into the cupcake pan, so he and my three year old did that part together. And older kids can, with guidance and oversight of course, ladle batter into the cupcake pan.

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  1. Let cupcakes cool – overnight even! This is what I did. We made the cupcakes in the afternoon, and we decorated them the following morning. See what I mean… TWO PART ACTIVITY.
  2. Decorate cupcakes. This is where you need to put your perfectionist bend to the side. Let them play while they decorate. The purpose of this activity is not to have perfect cupcakes when you’re done. The purpose of this activity is MULTI-purpose: have fun, engage with your kids, spend quality time together, and give them something to do in those windows when they’re feeling the effects of their routine being thrown off.

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Tips for SUCCESS:

  1. Make sure your icing is room temperature and one that easily spreads. I made mine from scratch and wished I’d just picked up a $1 jar of it from the store, because my decadent chocolate, cream cheese icing that I threw together right before we iced the cupcakes didn’t spread so well. And I think it was just too thick and too cold still. ALSO, because I used cream cheese frosting, I had to make room for the cupcakes to stay in the fridge. You’re not going to want to do this when you also have all of the Thanksgiving food in the fridge. So, just use the store-bought stuff that can sit on the counter without worrying about it spoiling.
  2. Change their clothes. We have “eating” clothes which are clothes that are stained-beyond-saving or a little too small that we keep in a bin. When we eat food that I know is going to stain- like red pasta sauce or chocolate ice cream, I have the kids go to the bin and pick out “eating clothes.” They also wear them when we paint or do a messy art project. So, change into clothes like that. Don’t have them decorate cupcakes in the clothes you want to take Thanksgiving pictures in. That’ll just make the whole experience stressful, which is counter-productive.
  3. Use what you have to decorate. The only candy I bought for this project was candy corn. We used skittles, sweet-tarts, and cereal to make eyeballs on our turkeys- all stuff I either pulled from the pantry or our kids’ leftover Halloween candy.

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Do you have a go-to activity for your kids to do when their schedule is thrown off? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Until next time,

❤ Lindsay

P.S. This post does contain affiliate links, but my opinions are always my own. Thanks for clicking through!

Dear Pregnant Mama of a Toddler

I have so many friends who are pregnant right now with their second baby. There is something in the water where we live, so all the rest of us who are done having babies are drinking bottled FIJI water. I kid, of course. But in all seriousness, I’m loving not being pregnant (or nursing) and watching my friends in this special season. I’m also remembering how hard that season is, and I’m wishing I could write a letter to myself when I was in that stage – pregnant with a toddler.

But, since that isn’t possible, I thought I’d write one to those of you who are in that season right now…

Dear pregnant mama of a toddler,

It’s ok to have such mixed emotions right now. You’re excited, but you’re so miserably uncomfortable. You can’t wait to meet this new little baby, but you also can’t imagine how you’re doing to do it with two little ones. How will you have enough love for both of them? Enough arms for both of them? Will this second one be anything like the first? What if they aren’t? What if they are? 

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If you want to know what “pitting edema” is just look at my swollen foot. This picture was just days away from my due date. I originally captioned this photo as, “The only good thing about my legs being this swollen is there’s more room for ‘A’ to sprawl out on.”

Well, they’re going to be different. And you’re going to be different this go around too. You know more now. Do you remember how intimidating it was when you had to figure out how to change the liner in the diaper genie? Or the first time baby #1 had a fever? Or just getting the baby in and out of the car by yourself when you ran your first errand after being cleared to drive a car postpartum?

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That is definitely my child going through all the magazines at my OB’s office. I promise we cleaned up everything before we left that day!

You feel kind of guilty for not wanting to do things- like take your toddler with you to your OB appointments, which is totally fine to do, especially if your OB delivered that first baby anyway. 

But you know what mama, once I hit that third trimester, I hired a baby sitter to watch my toddler while I went to those appointments, and not me or my husband even blinked at it. It’s hard running any kind of errand with a toddler, and when you’re pregnant, it’s super hard, and when you have to sit in a waiting room with them while your OB has to run and deliver a baby, and that waiting room, or even exam room, if you’re lucky, doesn’t have toys and TV’s playing Daniel Tiger for them to watch, that’s kind of like torture.

Honestly, I took almost every person up on their offer to help me before my due date. If someone offered to come over and watch my toddler, I said, “Come on!” In fact we have an aunt who would come over a couple afternoons a week and watch our toddler just so I could go to the grocery store by myself or get caught up on house work. So, if someone offers to take your child for a couple hours, take them up on it. (They know exactly what they’re getting themselves into.)

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When you get to get out of the house with someone who is super helpful to you, GO GET OUT OF THE HOUSE WITH THEM! The one and only Kristina Goodwin snapped this pic btw, and she is one of the most helpful people on the planet. Hence why I’m smiling so big. (It could have also had something to do with that faux fur coat I’d just bought from her vintage shop, but I digress.)

You probably have your birth plan figured out- or at least the basics like who you’ll call if the baby comes in the middle of the night. And who you’ll call 2nd if the first person you call can’t come for some reason.

I remember thinking my labor and delivery with baby #2 would go a certain way, just like I had expected baby #1’s to go a certain way. Well, you’d think after baby #1 did not go at all the way I thought she would, I’d have come to the realization sooner that baby #2 wasn’t going to follow my plan either. I do wish I’d been a little more prepared for Plan C- which in my case was a failed epidural and “natural” delivery, albeit induced. I’ve talked to other mama-friends who were in similar boats. They’d wished they’d been mentally prepared for Plan C and Plan D, not just Plan A with fleeting thoughts that entertained Plan B. So, just something to think about…

I also wish I’d thought about how feeding baby #2 could potentially be different than feeding baby #1. I nursed baby #1, and I loved pretty much every minute of it. It was such an incredible experience that I looked into becoming a lactation consultant while I was pregnant with baby #2. I never dreamed that nursing baby #2 would be anything but just-as-amazing, so I didn’t have milk pumped or back up formula in the pantry that first week home from the hospital when I really wanted to go to the emergency room for the kidney stone I was passing (again, without pain medicine!). I wasn’t about to take my newborn to the emergency room, but I had nothing for anyone to feed him with if I left him at home. I also didn’t have anything stock piled to feed him when my milk “dried up” after I went on Zoloft* for postpartum depression. A can of formula in the pantry would have done a lot of good, had I had one…

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Are you taking a lot of pictures right now? I’m so grateful I took a lot of pictures of my firstborn while I was pregnant with baby #2. That season is so fuzzy when I try to remember it. I love looking back at the videos and pictures. They remind me of all the sweetness there was in that season.

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Try to focus on the cute bonding going on here between the siblings and not my cankles.

It reminds me that there is so much sweetness yet to come. Yeah, there are uncomfortable days- days where you just want to fast-forward and get through this season and at the same time you don’t want to miss one minute of the sweetness you have right now with this first little one looking back at you. 

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First time making ginger bread houses. We called them ginger bread forts.

So, dear pregnant mama of a toddler, basically, be encouraged. This season is everything you feel right now, and you are not alone in it, or the season you’re about to step into. 

From this mama who made it,

Until next time,

❤ Lindsay

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*I started Zoloft at about 3 months postpartum. It did not dry up my milk, but I lost the sensation of let-down, so I thought my milk had dried up. Since I wasn’t pumping, when I tried to pump, I didn’t experience the sensation of let-down, nor was I able to express any milk. Regardless, we knew my baby was still getting milk because there was absolutely no change in his wet diaper count. ❤