Thursday, April 29, 2010

Endless Ramblings on Becoming a SAHM

Grab a cup of coffee or tea before you begin reading this post. It's a long one full of big issues and serious questions. I bet some of you can relate completely, so although seemingly endless, I think this post is worth reading :-)

Remember the other day how I wrote about babies because they were really on my mind? I thought writing that post would get some of my thoughts out in the open, and then I could move on to something else. However, that is not what happened. Instead, it caused me to think constantly about babies and what was keeping me from having them :-P

I decided that the #1 thing keeping Luke and I from having babies is......MONEY.

I know people say things like, "You will never be ready, so don't wait until you are!" Or "Don't put off having a baby just because you are worried about money." But I feel like we are just trying to be responsible and not naive.

I really do believe that if I continued to work at my job and Luke continued at his, combined with the money we make through our apartments, we would be financially ready to have a baby. (Or at least we would be if our car wasn't cursed and we didn't have all the payments from the repairs!) But the big problem with that is that I don't want to keep my job when we have a baby. And without my income, we would really be struggling. Ugh. Stupid money.

I find myself brainstorming really ridiculous ideas of how to find another way to make money, besides working out of the home.

I have seriously considered becoming a medical transcriptionist so I could eventually work from home (not so ridiculous I guess)

I've thought about baby-sitting in my own home, only for people who work 9-5 type jobs. Then I could just watch other people's kids while I watch my own. Maybe my best idea, but I just don't know anybody who needs a baby-sitter like that. However, I've just convinced myself that this may be something to look into.

I've thought about getting my degree in writing and trying to do freelance work. I don't think I'm really that great of a writer aside from writing my own thoughts in this blog. So I probably wouldn't make much money doing that, and I'd have to pay for school, too.

I have thought about things we could give up to make up for the money we would be losing...Netflix, umm...Cable, internet, phone, food...yeah, that would probably do it :-P (obviously not going to work!)

I could start my own Etsy shop! I could sell, ummm, not sure yet. Maybe this isn't my best idea!

We could buy another house and rent it out! Except, where are we going to find money for a down payment? And how are we going to afford another mortgage and still make money from the rent?

We could move out of our apartment (which is a part of the house we own...there are three apartments in our house), and live in some teeny tiny little apartment that we'd barely have to pay any rent on, and then rent out our current apartment which we could probably charge a pretty penny for after all the work we've put into it. But I don't really want to raise a baby in a tiny little apartment, not ever knowing when we'd be able to move out.

We could become Amish. Definitely my most ridiculous idea yet. And I'm not serious just in case any of you were wondering :-P

It's just all very frustrating. Growing up I was always encouraged to go to college! Get a job! Be successful! And I'm not saying that those things are bad things at all. I'm so glad I got a college education, and I'm equally glad that I've gotten the opportunity to have a job out in the real world for the past three years.

When I started college, I wasn't in a serious relationship. I didn't know when/if I'd ever get married. All I could see in front of me was my immediate future: college/becoming a teacher.

Then Luke came into my life right before my second year of college. I knew pretty quickly that I wanted to marry him, but still never questioned my future. I'd be a teacher. That was that.

Around the time we got engaged and I was doing my student teaching, it hit me. Wait, what's going to happen when we have kids? Who is going to baby-sit them? How long will I be allowed to take off for maternity leave? What if I want to stay at home with them forever and never return to work?

I brushed off all of these questions, thinking that kids were still in my distant future. I would just cross that bridge when I came to it.

Luke and I got married, and periodically discussed our timeline and when we wanted to have kids. I started to realize that maybe kids weren't quite as far off as they had seemed when we were engaged. I started thinking about them more and more.

The first time the thought of being a stay-at-home mom crossed my mind, I was almost ashamed. I had been taught by my teachers, family, and society that you went to school, got a job, built a career. And that is just what you are supposed to do. I never questioned it or thought about it.

The more I let myself think about and research being a stay-at-home mom, I realized that it is NOT a bad thing. God made women to be nurturers. We are called to take care of our families and raise them up in His ways. There is no reason to be ashamed of wanting to be a stay-at-home mom! It is a noble thing, and I think it is what God has called us to (maybe not all of us. I don't want to judge anyone who doesn't want to be a SAHM. There is certainly nothing wrong with wanting to provide for your family by working outside the home either!)

I hate, though, how standards have changed so much in our society. Sometimes I wish it was still the 50s! Then it would be normal to be a stay-at-home mom. It wouldn't be such a struggle. Maybe women were slightly oppressed back then, but I think the pendulum has swung way too far in the other direction now. Now we are almost too liberated, and we are not able to stay at home with our families if we want to.

My sister and I have had a certain discussion before, and I'm going to share it here. First of all, you should know that politically, we don't agree on ANYTHING. And we do agree on this one thing. So that should tell you something. Anyway, we were both talking about how, after the feminist movement, women almost HAVE to work outside the home to provide for the standard of living that we all want to have. We are expected and trained, for the most part, to get jobs and have careers. Now think if we all gave up some of the luxuries in life and the women all quit their jobs and went home to solely care for their families. If they wanted to, that is. How many jobs would that open up for men?? There are so many people who need jobs. If you really think about it, since so many of us women have entered the workforce in the past 50 years, so many more jobs are needed for people to fulfill! There are not enough jobs right now for the people who need/want them. If more of us women had stayed home to take care of our families through the years, I wonder if our economy would be where it is today? I hope I'm making sense. And I'm probably making myself sound really ignorant, because I don't really know what I'm talking about. But it made sense to me and my sister.

I guess what I'm saying is, I'm just mad that we went from a society where women couldn't work, at least in certain jobs, to a society where women can't NOT work. I know there are exceptions. But I know sooo many women who have to work a full-time job and would much rather be at home with their kids. Or women like me who desparately want to have babies and be stay-at-home moms, almost more than we want to BREATHE, and it just doesn't seem possible.

I'm going to leave it at that for this evening. And I'm going to go and keep praying that God just somehow plops an opportunity right into our laps one of these days to make everything possible. He can do it!

Sorry for the length of this post. You deserve some kind of award if you made it all the way through that ;-)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Luxury

I'm so glad it's Wednesday evening. To me, that means the week is just about over. Tomorrow we have the 4-6 grade musical to keep us busy all day (i.e. I don't really have to teach. Instead I will be more like babysitting the kids at the auditorium). Not only is it going to be an easy day, it is also supposed to be warm and sunny. A nice change, because it's been freezing and dreary for a few days.

The "cherry on top" of all of this, is....
Starbucks ice cream! You have NO IDEA how happy this makes me. We NEVER buy anything besides vanilla ice cream. Luke eats it like it's going out of style, and likes vanilla because he loves to use it to make Root Beer floats. I am not a huge vanilla ice cream fan, so I usually just don't eat ice cream at home. There are way too many amazing flavors out there to just eat vanilla all the time!

Anyway, the stars have aligned for me tonight, and I have been able to purchase not one, but two pints of Starbucks ice crea! A pint of this stuff is usually between $4 and $5. Which, if you ask me, is just plain highway robbery. This week, however, Walgreens is having a buy one, get one FREE sale on Starbucks and Ben and Jerry's ice cream! I also had a coupon for $1 off when you buy 2. So I was able to purchase both pints for $3.79. That is a little more manageable!

I don't know if you understand how excited I am about this. It is the highlight of my day, hands down. I can't wait to lie down in bed, turn something girly on TV, and eat some of my Java Chip Frappuccino ice cream. And yes, you read that right. I'm TOTALLY eating it IN BED. This is the first time I've specifically bought a flavor of ice cream just for me since we got married! That's almost two years! So I'm going to pull out all the stops and really enjoy this ice cream! Ha! I'm going to eat just a little bit each night and see how long I can make it last. I probably won't splurge like this for another long time!

I bet you can't believe I just wrote an entire three paragraphs about this ice cream. Well, believe it. This girl LOVES ice cream, and it's been a looong time since I've gotten to choose a flavor just for me ;-) (I may be slightly exaggerating about my excitement level! ha!)

I hope you are all having a lovely Wednesday as well. Coming up later this week: Luke's 26th birthday festivities! HOLY COW we are getting old!! (At least I will always be 6 months and 4 days younger than him! ;-))

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

I Haven't Written About Babies Lately...

Sooo, Raise your hand if you're sick of hearing me talk about how I want a baby. Yeah, I thought so. But I just couldn't resist tonight. I promise this will not be a whiny post.

Some of our friends from church had their first little baby girl yesterday. She's so precious! At least she looks it form the Facebook pictures I saw ;-) Those pictures paired with the fact that I dream about either A.) Being pregnant or B.) Having a baby practically every night, are the reasons for this post. (Trust me, I hold back with the amount that I talk about babies. There's a constant daydream going on in the back of my mind about my future pregnancies and babies all. the. time. Constantly. Not kidding).

Today I'm thinking about how awesome it is that God has placed such a deep desire for children in the heart of most women. Not all, I'm sure, but most. (Good thing we do have that deep desire, because who in their right mind would go through so much TORTURE to bring a human being into the world if we didn't have that desire?!)

Case in point: I have been asked by most of the little girls I teach "Do you have kids?" or "When are you going to have kids?" Seeing that I am a woman who looks to be about child-bearing age, that is the first thing they want to know about me. So even little 8-11 year old girls have that curiosity and wonder about babies and little children. I very rarly, if ever, have gotten asked that question by boys.

I have always liked babies. When I was little, my Barbies would rarely get taken out of the "Barbie Drawer" we had. I was too busy playing with my baby dolls. I had so many! Dolls that ate and cried and talked...even baby dolls who made dirty diapers :-P (Eww...) My favorite baby was my "Water Baby." Who else had one? Apparently the fact that she was filled with water made her feel more like a real baby (???) Unfortunately she died when her stomach somehow got ripped in half :-P Water babies may be lifelike (ummm, although this point could probably be aruged!!) But they are easily broken!

(18 years later, she is kind of creepy to me for some reason :-P Found this picture online)

Anyway, I am getting way off track here. Back to women and our desire for babies.

I've always loved babies, but had never thought much about having my own until we got married. It was probably a few weeks after the honeymoon when the deeeep desire for a baby hit. I can literally remember the day. I was watching the first episode of "17 Kids and Counting" and Michelle Duggar was talking about all of her children, and it hit me like a ton of bricks. Hey, I could have a kid now if I really wanted to! And all of a sudden, I WANTED TO. Did it happen for anyone else this way? You got married and then immediately wanted a baby, like, yesterday??

Honestly, I really didn't think I would be this way. I was sooo good about being patient for Luke to propose to me. I never once hounded him or nagged him about it. And I wasn't feeling impatient for it at all. I thought it would be the same way with a baby. I wouldn't want one right away. I would probably wait a few years, and then Luke and I would both start naturally wanting one at the same time.

It did NOT happen like that! I think I have done a pretty good job in the past two years keeping the yearning at bay. I'm sure I've been annoying to Luke about it a few times, but I don't think I've been too overwhelmingly obnoxious. I have blogged about it a lot, but not toooo, too much. Blogging is actually just a nice outlet to let go of some of these feelings and send them out into the great blogosphere where I know sooooo many other women are going through the same thing and having the exact. same. feelings. (Who's with me??)

Anyway, it's just really weird how the yearning just came on me like a hunger almost. It's almost like a NEED. Like eating and sleeping and breathing. Okay, I'm being a little melodramatic, but you get the picture :-)

So until the time when I can actually realize this dream, I will just blog about it whenever it is heavily on my mind. I will probably look back on this someday when I have three or four kids running around and think I was crazy. I will probably be wishing that I had enjoyed this phase of life more, and not wished it away! So now that I let this off my chest, I'm pushing these baby thoughts back to that corner of my mind where they constantly reside, and I'm going to enjoy today. I'm going to finish some laundry and dishes, then take a nice long shower, then watch my shows, and then fall into a deeeep sleep which will last about seven hours, uninterrupted. It is kind of nice not to have a little human life depending on me for everything. At least when it comes to long hours of uninterrupted sleep ;-)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Weekend Blessings

Ohio Achievement Assessment week ended
Extra recess = extra planning time for me
Girl time with my friend Sarah all evening!
Pizza and Orange Fanta
The Duggars and "Say Yes to the Dress."
Deep conversation
Early bedtime!

Slept until 9
Organized coupons
Cleaned the house
Finished laundry
Hours of TV time
Got lost in blogs
Watched Ellie try Luke's shorts on

Great church service with cardboard testimonies
Lunch at Hot Dog Shoppe with Luke an JC
Ice cream sandwich-cake at Mom and Dad's
Lounged in the giant bean bag chair all afternoon
Cavs won
Walgreens/Giant Eagle run
Spent $7.70 at Walgreens on $26 worth of stuff
Got $11 back in Register Rewards
May be going out for Blizzards at DQ with Luke later
Ellie was cute. Again.

So I had a pretty relaxing weekend full of not too much activity. The break was a blessing, and my house is clean and ready for the week. On a typical weekend after passing through like a tornado between activities, the house is a wreck. So it is nice to feel so ready for the week with a nice house and full fridge :-)

I hope your weekend was full of blessings as well!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Who am I?

Today has been a very lazy Saturday. I spent the day cleaning the house, doing laundry, and watching TV for hours. Somewhere during all that excitement (ha), I sat down to read this month's issue of "Real Simple." I was reading an article when I came across something that really hit me:

"...then you hit the age of 25 and you realize that your days are numbered, so to speak. You begin to understand that time is no longer infinitely elastic, and that while you spend hours attending to one priority, you are stealing those same hours from another. And why did nobody warn you that you would be spending 30 percent of your time on things that are really tedious or difficult, like trying to find a rental apartment you can afford and a nice boy whom you can marry and stay married to forever? This is a terrible time of life, the mid-20s, because you still don't know what real adulthood looks like. And since you probably don't have children yet, you can devote entire afternoons to questions like, "Who am I?" which rarely lead you down a pretty path..." (by Kristin Van Ogtrop in her article "Can I Call You Back in 15 Years?")

Well, I am 25 years old now. I don't have kids yet, and I do spend a large chunk of my time wondering "Who am I?" I hate to say that the mid-twenties are a "terrible time," but sometimes they are! I'm struggling with this phase of my life today.

I hate that I don't feel super young anymore. I physically can't stay awake past 11 or midnight anymore because I'm just too tired from waking up before 6 and spending seven hours a day with 300 elementary school-aged children. Even though pink is my favorite color, I feel like a weirdo wearing it at 25 :-P I miss watching shows like "The Hills" and feeling like I could relate to them. And I really miss being able to eat whatever I want and not gain a pound :-P I miss being a lot more carefree, ultimately!

While I'm not young anymore, I'm definitely not old yet, either. I don't have children yet, we don't technically have a home of our own yet, I still feel young and stupid with not much experience. It probably doesn't help, either, that although I'm 25, I look 18 (on a good day). People still treat me like I'm young and stupid, too :-P

I guess I'm complaining a lot, but I just feel like I'm at an awkward place in life right now that is scary and uncomfortable. 25 is not as bad as 13, but much worse than 22 or 23. Maybe I'm just having an identity crisis right now. Because I DO spend entire afternoons asking questions like "Who am I?" I am restless. I am not sure where God is leading me in my life, but He sure is testing my patience!

I'll break it down a little bit for you: I have been out of college for three years. I am currently working as a special education aide. While my job is good for me now, it is certainly not something I plan on doing forever. I don't know if I'll ever get an actual teaching job. I don't know if I will go back for my masters in something other than education. I don't know if I'll go back for my masters at all. See? Who am I? What purpose am I supposed to serve here?

Luke and I have been married for almost two years now, so I guess you can say that we are nearing the end of our "newlywed" stage. I can feel us settling into a pattern full of day-to-day routines between us. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE our life, and I LOVE being married to him. But yes, life is becoming a little less spontaneous and a little more routine. Because we are getting old, I guess :-P

Really, if money were not an issue, I know exactly what we would do. We would have babies, and I would stay home to raise them and take care of them and possibly home-school them, too. That is exactly what I want to do, and feel called to do. HOWEVER, money is always an issue. So what in the world am I supposed to do until the point when this dream will happen? Or maybe this dream is never going to happen...maybe God has something completely different planned for me. My mind just starts racing and panic sets in when I try to figure it all out. I guess maybe I'm not supposed to. Maybe I'm just supposed to let life happen, and do my best to follow God's will. I really thought all this identity crisis stuff was finished after my senior year in high school when I finally picked a college and a major. Boy, was I wrong!

Anyway, the mid-twenties have brought lots of anxiety and restlessness. I am not really a newlywed, I am in a temporary job until I figure things out, and I am not ready to have a baby yet and start the next stage of life. Things are bound to settle into a pattern I guess, while I sit here and wait for the next step. Waiting has never been easy for me. Is it ever really easy for anyone?

After I read that article from my magazine today, I just felt a little bit hopeless and frustrated. I'm tired of waiting. I'm tired of wondering what move I am supposed to make next. I just want to move on. While I was thinking about these things, I remembered a song our pastor played last week during church. It was "While I'm Waiting" by John Waller. I think it's on the fireproof soundtrack. But anyway, I listened to the song again and it helped me see things a little bit clearer. I may not be completely content with where I am in my life right now, but if I serve God while I'm waiting for that next chapter, He will lead me and bless me.

While I'm Waiting ~ John Waller

I'm Waiting, I'm waiting on You, Lord
And I am hopeful, I'm waiting on You, Lord
Though it is painful
But patiently, I will wait.

I will move ahead, bold and confident
Taking every step in obedience

While I'm waiting
I will serve you
While I'm waiting
I will worship
While I'm waiting
I will not faint
I'll be running the race
Even while I wait

I'm waiting, I'm waiting on You, Lord
And I am peaceful, I'm waiting on You, Lord
Thought it's not easy
But faithfully, I will wait

I will move ahead, bold and confident
Taking every step in obedience

While I'm waiting
I will serve You
While I'm waiting
I will worship
While I'm waiting
I will not faint
I'll be running the race
Even while I wait.

I will serve you while I'm waiting,
I will worship while I'm waiting on You , Lord

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Songs that Trigger Memories

I love music. I can get completely lost in a song. I was thinking about this tonight as I was deciding which new songs to put on my Nano. I was also thinking about the fact that the first note of a song can sometimes bring back such vivid memories. Here are some of the songs that trigger memories in my life:

"Achy Breaky Heart" (Billy Ray Cyrus, 1992) - Laugh if you want, but this song brings me right back to second grade. I remember someone would always have their casette player on the bus, and we would listen to that song over and over. I'm sure our bus driver loved us for it :-P

"The Sign" (Ace of Base 1993) - Another song that brings me back to elementary school. More like 4th or 5th grade this time. I think my friends and I made up a dance to it. Because we were awesome like that.

"All My Life" (K-Ci and JoJo 1998) - Aww, this song. This song seriously gave me butterflies back in junior high. I had my first real crush back then. I seriously thought I was in love. It was one of those situations where the boy talked to me once or twice, I fell madly in love, and admired him from afar (I know I'm making myself sound like a creepy stalker). Anyway, I was sure that one day he would really notice me and we'd fall in love. And then this would be our song. HA! It obviously never happened. I didn't exactly have boys fighting over me back then with my glasses, braces, frizzy hair, and acne :-P Either way, that song will always have a soft spot in my heart, and I can't hear it without remembering what it was like to feel that way for the first time :-)

"All I Want for Christmas is You" (Mariah Carey 1994) - This song is a Christmas song from 1994, but it reminds me of my first boyfriend in 2001. He was 18 and I was barely 16. An older man! Haha. I, again, thought I was falling in love. We dated in the fall, and I was really head over heels by about December. I would listen to this song over and over and think of my guy. So everytime I hear it, it makes me think of my first boyfriend, my first dates, and my first kiss. Aww, young love. Such a sweet, innocent time. Buuut, apparently the feeling wasn't mutual. He broke up with me five days before Christmas!'s funny now, but it wasn't then! So the song also brings me back to my first heartbreak :-P

"I Hope You Dance" (Lee Ann Womack 2000) - This song reminds me of all the great friendships I had in high school. I remember my sophomore year being in the musical at school. My friends and I had a lot of "backstage" time to just hang out, and I remember listening to this song with them over and over while we played cards or talked. This was one I would turn on and belt out at the top of my lungs! Our concert choir even sang this at our pops concert my junior year. It just reminds me of the fun times and great friends I had in high school.

"Time of Your Life" (Greenday 1997) - Every time I hear this song I get nostalgic and sometimes a little tear sneaks out. It brings me back to 2003, walking down the aisle in our auditorium at the senior assembly with tears streaming down my face, just days before I graduated. It was our class song, and it reminds me of the end of a big chapter in my life!

"Amazed" (Lonestar 2000) - This song reminds me of my freshman year of college when I had my first serious boyfriend. We thought we were in love and talked about marriage (definitely WEREN'T in love though :-P). And this was our song. Now it leaves sort of a bad taste in my mouth when I hear it, because that relationship was not great. But it's a part of my life and I learned lots of lessons from it. And I can't hear that song without thinking of our relationship.

"Bless the Broken Road" (Rascal Flatts 2004) - This song reminds me of the beginning of my relationship with Luke! I can still remember how I felt back then, almost six years ago. I was giddy all the time, I was constantly thinking about him, I wanted to do nothing but spend time with him. All those times before that I thought I was in love suddenly paled in comparison. THIS was the real thing ;-) And this song reminds of that time and that feeling.

"Surrender" (Barlow Girl 2004) - This song has always touched my heart, and reminds me of graduating from college and having to start my life in the "real world." I was terrified. And I listened to this song to remind me that I needed to surrender it all to God. I still listen to it when I'm stressed out and want to do things my way.

"When God Made You" (Newsong feat. Natalie Grant 2003) - This song brings me back to our wedding day! I first heard the song at a Winter Jam concert a few months after Luke and I started dating. Luke was sitting beside me, and Rachel Lampa and Matthew West actually sang the song that night. I remember feeling so close to Luke as they sang the lyrics, and feeling so special thinking that God had Luke in mind when He created me and vice versa. I knew I wanted to dance to that song at our wedding, because even at that point, I knew we were going to get married. And I was right! A few years later we danced our first dance to that song, and everytime I hear it, I remember that special moment :-)

And I think that's enough for one night! Do you remember these songs?? What songs bring back memories to you?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Project Landscape: Complete!

Luke has been working very hard for the past week finishing landscaping our house! He is currently passed out in the recliner a few feet from me. If it weren't for the fact that he has band practice tonight, I wouldn't be surprised if he didn't just sleep all evening and all through the night, too!

He did all of this with no help from me. My grandpa helped him a little in the beginning, but he did most of it all on his own. I really appreciate that every sunny day in the past week he has spent eight hours working outside at the parks, and then he came home, sometimes without even coming inside the house, and worked for hours on our own house.

So anyway, it's time for some before and after shots!!

Here is the side before...picture taken during our house-painting party fall of '08:-)
And here we are after:

Bushes and plants all the way back to my grandma's apartment
(Luke and his dad also built that ramp for her last summer...I don't know if I've ever showed it before, but they did a great job on it! And now we can advertise that apartment as "wheelchair accessible" when my grandma moves out...thanks, guys!)

And the front (our renter's bike is under the blue tarp in case you were wondering. It kind of ruins the aesthetic, even back when it was ugly :-P)
And after: (I did not pick the best time of day to take these pictures...the lighting is awful)
Close up of the ugly, overgrown bushes before
And here we are with a nice, clean look after:

I love it! And I will be sure to post more pictures when everything is blooming and beautiful...I'm thinking in about a week!
It feels good to have so much accomplished after a year-and-a-half of living here. And most of it was done by Luke and our families. (THANKS!!!) So far, since we moved in the fall of 2008 we have (with the help of TONS of people):

1. painted the entire exterior of our house
2. Re-landscaped (obviously)
3. Basically rebuilt the entire kitchen from top to bottom
4. Renovated the bathroom and installed new flooring and created a laundry room in the bathroom closet
5. removed all the carpet and restored the hardwood floors
6. Painted every single room in the upstairs apartment (where we live).
7. Rebuilt a wall in the attic and then redecorated the whole thing. TWICE.
8. Installed all new lighting in most rooms (it used to be all fluorescent! YUCK!)
9. Mom and Dad renovated the entire back apartment, with a tiny bit of help from us, for my grandma to move in about a year ago.
10. Built a ramp leading up to the back apartment.

And that about does it. After all these changes and upgrades I really feel a sense of ownership like it's finally ours, and it's finally HOME.

Two changes I would like to make are
1. Rebuild the porch. It looks sooo dated.
2. Build a balcony/deck coming out from our kitchen (we live on the upper floors)

Both of these ideas are absolutely ridiculous and impossible :-P But I like to think about them anyway!

We plan for this to be a temporary home, and want to move out before we have child #2 whenever that will be. It could be awhile since child #1 seems lifetimes away :-P Our original plan was to be out in 5 years, but with all the car debt we have now, who knows. We aren't going to sell this house, but we want to keep it and rent out our top apartment, too. It's almost like having a third job between the two of us without really having to do a whole lot of work :-P When the house is completely paid off, it will be a really nice situation! Anyway, we want to eventually rent out the top apartment too, and then buy our own "forever" house where we can live and raise our kids. In the middle of nowhere with a lake and a fireplace or two. That's my dream, anyway!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Second Job

I recently have acquired a second job. And that second job is couponing, doing research, crunching numbers, and ultimately saving money. I have written before about how I started couponing less than two weeks ago. And I even started another blog to track all of my savings and share ideas. Even though I'm blogging over there, I'm so excited about this "second job," that I thought I'd share some tips over on this blog as well :-) In the long run, I hope to save enough money that it will actually be like the earnings from a second job! Did I say "second job" enough times in that paragraph for you? :-P

So here is what I have learned in the past almost-two-weeks:

1. You gotta learn how to work Walgreens sales/coupons/Register Rewards! I have gotten a significant amount of my stockpile (see #2) for pennies or for free. It is seriously my new favorite store. I used to think that Walgreens was incredibly overpriced, and I didn't understand why anyone would shop there. I understand, now! I can get name brand, top-of-the-line stuff for cheaper than the off brands! And when my Register Rewards print out, I feel a little rush every time (Register Rewards are coupons that are as good as cash...for anything at Walgreens, that is. They print off for certain items which are posted in the weekly newspaper ad).
2. Stockpile! I have bought a lot of toothpaste in the past week because it is cheap and I got Register Rewards for buying it. I basically paid $.99 for each tube this week. And now, for the next few months, I won't have to buy any. When our current tube of toothpaste is running low, and toothpaste is selling for over $3 at Giant Eagle or even my beloved Walgreens, I can laugh because I have a ton of it stocked up in my bathroom that I paid much less for! That is the beauty of a stockpile. Buy when it's cheap/free and save it for later. Here is the measly little stockpile I have started. Remember, I began less than two weeks ago:3. Do your research! I've had so much fun the past two Saturday mornings searching through the coupons and ads (Ummm, that makes me a really huge nerd, doesn't it? :-P). I cut out all the coupons I think I'll use for the week, then circle any sale items in the ads that match with the coupons, or any that are just too good to pass up. Then EVERY DAY, and I mean multiple times a day, I check the blogs. There are a few that I check pretty much every time I sit down at my computer: Money Saving Mom, Sisters Shopping on a Shoestring (which is a local one, if you know me in "real life" and live around me), The Krazy Coupon Lady, and Meg's money-saving blog, Saving on the Essentials. Those blogs have been such valuable resources, and have helped me find deals and freebies that I wouldn't have found on my own.

4. Sign up for free samples. 'Nuff said. (The blogs above will often post about these).

5. Swagbucks is like free money. If you're not familiar with the site, it's basically a search engine, online shopping center, and so much more rolled into one. You earn "Swagbucks" for searching, shopping, and doing other random things on their website, and you can redeem them in the "Swag Store" for all kinds of cool stuff. I am saving up my Swagbucks for Amazon gift cards to use at Christmastime! In less than ten days, I have already racked up 182 Swagbucks, just for using their search engine. I think I will make an average of 100 Swagbucks a week, just from searching. There are 36 weeks until Christmas, so that's about 3,600 Swagbucks. Plus I get them everytime I buy anything to any of the stores linked to their site. So I'm guessing it will be a lot more than that, even. A $5 Amazon gift card is about 450 points. If I did my math write, that's $40 in gift cards just for using their search engine by Christmastime. I'm thinking the total will be at least doubled. so I'm predicting having $80 in gift cards by Christmastime. That's enough to buy two or three people their gifts. Not too money, like I said :-) I have rambled on about this way more than I meant to!

Okay, so that's all for today. And just to give you an idea of the power of coupons and deals, I have saved $197.47 since April 7! Again, that's less than two weeks, people!! (admittedly, a large chunk of that was from the free stuff I got from hosting a Mary Kay party. It is, however, not including the freebies I have scored - a free movie ticket and a plethora of free hair products :-))

Happy Saving!!

Monday, April 19, 2010


I'm having a hard time deciding whether or not I want to let my hair grow out. I am thinking about growing it out for Locks of Love again, but I don't know if I can do it. After my wedding, I swore I would never grow my hair out again. And yet here I am, about two years later, feeling the urge for long, flowing locks. What a difficult decision!

Here is my hair back in 2008, just months before the wedding:
Curly (natural) and mid-word :-P
And here it is straightened (very washed out/creepy looking picture btw!)
After the, the DAY we got back from the honeymoon, I got it all chopped off for Locks of Love
I actually did NOT like this new haircut at all, because the girl who cut it refused to give me layers because my hair is so thick! I will not be going to her again. Anyway, that's another story.

At Christmastime I got it cut again, kind of in a long bob type of look. This is the cut I'd want again if I did cut my hair:
I kept that look up until around this fall or winter when I decided to let it grow again. Here we are today:Certainly not nearly as long as it was before, but kind of in-between.

I guess I am just posting this for purely selfish reasons. Now I can see all of my hairdo's in one place, compare them, and decide. I'm leaning toward growing it out again. Even though I really liked it in the pictures where I'm wearing the blue shirt.

I think the plan will be to grow it out just long enough to be able to cut 10 inches for Locks of Love, and then cut it again like the pictures with the blue shirt.

Blogging: also good for making "important" decisions :-P

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Girl's Day Out

Today I went out shopping and to a movie with my mom and sister. It was a lot of fun! We shopped for so long that our legs and backs were starting to hurt! But we found lots of great stuff! Specifically at Old Navy. All of their clearance items were 50% off! So I got a few tops for $2 or $3 each. It was great!

We ate lunch at Steak and Shake before the shopping began, and then went back for shakes later before our movie. It was delicious! I LOVE Steak and Shake!

The movie we decided on was "The Bounty Hunter." It was a funny movie with a little bit of action thrown in as well. It was pretty good! Last night I hung out with Mom and Julie too! Luke plays basketball on Friday nights, so I went over to my parents' house. We ordered pizza and then watched "Coraline." It was such a good movie! And visually it was astonishing. Even though it's kind of a kid's movie, I really enjoyed it! It was very cute. I can't believe the weekend is halfway over already! Why do they go so fast and the weekdays seem sooo slow?! Oh well, seven more weeks and school's out for summer! You better believe I am counting down the days. Teacher burn-out has officially set in for the year.

Enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Here are just a few snapshots of the things going on in my neck of the woods lately:

Buying these four bags of candy for my classroom scored me a free movie ticket! If you send in 4 UPCs from bags (10 oz or bigger) of Hershey's Kisses, mini Reeses Cups, miniature candy bars, or York Peppermint Patties, you get a free movie ticket from Fandango worth up to $12! Where I live, that's enough to get you into a 3D movie, so I thought it was a good deal :-) I would have bought the candy for my classroom anyway, so it worked out perfectly :-) Here is the link in case you are interested too. I am so addicted to saving money and receiving free stuff these days!

Ellie probably couln't be any more adorable if she tried. Enough said.

I think spring is about to hit its most beautiful point. The tree in this picture proves that.

Landscaping progress is continuing to be made! The mulch is being added tomorrow! Luke has sure been working hard around here the past few days.

And those are the little snapshots of interest in my life today...if you can call them interesting, I'm not really so sure. But TGIF!!! Tomorrow, anyway :-)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Girl's Night

Tonight was the day of my Mary Kay party. This is my first "product party" that I've ever hosted. And hopefully my last for a while :-P It was a lot of fun, but lots of work, and I felt like I was forcing people to buy things which I felt terrible about! I did, however, get lots of free stuff, so that's a plus! :-P

When it was time to leave for the party, I went to my parents' house to pick up my mom, and SURPRISE! ...I saw Julie's (my sisters) car in the driveway! Apparently a few of her classes were canceled this week, so she came home for a long weekend. It was a nice surprise that she was able to come to my party!

Overall, it was a lot of fun, we all got to give ourselves makeovers with fun products, and we got to chat and laugh with one another. I was given a lot of information about becoming a consultant myself, but NO THANK YOU. That will NOT be happening!

I really do love Mary Kay products. They are a little pricier than what I pay for my normal Cover Girl or Maybelline, but I think it's worth the few extra dollars. It was a real treat to get almost all of this for free for hosting a show!!
I'm excited to have a whole new make-up routine to work with! Maybe I will have to take a before and after picture tomorrow to share :-)

Like I said, I probably wouldn't host another party anytime soon. But I guess every once in a great while it is worth it for all the free goodies ;-)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tuesday TV Night

Tuesday is my TV night. At 9:00, I watch one of my favorite shows: 19 Kids and Counting! I just can't get enough of those Duggars. Luke looked at me like I was crazy the other day as I recited the kids' names at the opening of the show right along with Michelle:

Josh, Jana, John David, Jill, Jessa, Jinger, Joseph, Josiah, Joy-Anna, Jedediah, Jeremiah, Jason, James, Justin, Jackson, Johannah, Jennifer, Jordyn, ("and our latest, tiny, precious addition,") Josie. (Not sure if I spelled them all right, but I'm pretty sure that's all of their names in birth order!)

I know, crazy, right? Not only can I list them, but I can also identify each and every one. LOVE that show, although I do not agree with 100% of what the Duggars believe :-)

Next is GLEE!!!! Yes, I'm a Gleek :-) I love the cheesiness of the show, and it brings me right back to my days in show choir (although our show choir was nothing like the one in the show!) I love that the show is set in Ohio, too! I am absolutely chomping at the bit to see the new episode tonight.

And finally, 16 and Pregnant. I know the show is slightly trashy, but I cannot stop watching. It is so interesting, and even a little depressing. But I really think the show is good at showing the reality of teen pregnancy, and how absolutely unglamorous it can be! Although I admittedly enjoy the spin off show "Teen Mom" even more, 16 and Pregnant is one show each week that I cannot miss.

Well, I am already six minutes into 19 Kids and Counting, so I must sign off. What are your must-see TV shows? (P.S. In addition to these three shows, The Office is also a must-see for me!)

Have a blessed Tuesday!

Monday, April 12, 2010


I've got a few pieces of news to share today. The first is that Project: Landscape is back in full swing! We started landscaping our house last year by getting rid of all the ugly stuff that was surrounding our house. And that's about as far as we got. And by the way, when I say "we," I mean "Luke."

Today my grandpa brought us some things to plant around the house. Here is a preview:Luke and Grandpa worked pretty hard for a few hours tonight! Luke never even had a chance to change out of the socks he has to wear to work :-P I thought this would have been a nice picture, despite the socks ;-)
Anyway, we (they) are making progress, and tomorrow Grandpa is going to bring over some lilies for us to plant! Lilies are my favorite flowers, and we used them in our wedding, so I was excited about that :-) Also, I hope to plant some hydrangeas.

My second piece of news is that I started another blog! Today I went shopping and saved a ton of money again. I felt so excited, I just wanted to share it!! So I decided to start a blog to track my savings and share ideas. That way I don't have to bore all of you on my regular blog with all of my couponing news :-P I decided to call it "Called to SAVE." I thought it was a cute spin on "Called to Serve." However, after I created the blog, made the header, and wrote my first post, I realized it may sound somewhat sacrilegious, since Jesus was called to save the world. This never crossed my mind as I was creating the blog. And I think everyone knows what context I'm talking about...MONEY. Saving MONEY. So I'm just going to leave it, and hope that no one thinks of it the wrong way!

Anyway, check out this new blog if you are interested! I mainly made it for myself and my own purposes, but there might be ideas there that you could use to save money. So check it out if you want to :-)

And the third piece of news is the biggest piece, but it's something that I'm not sure if I'm allowed to share with the world yet. Let's just say it has something to do with possibly traveling over Christmas break next winter. To COLORADO!!! I'm excited, and have never been further West than Chicago (despite maybe Belize, but that doesn't count since it's not in the US :-P) so this will be very new for me and I'm excited! I will share more details when I have them, and when I know that I'm allowed to share :-)

Happy Monday! I must sign off now so I can pay attention to DWTS!! ;-)

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Getting Started

Today was a big day for me: the day I embarked on my couponing adventure! Luke bought a paper today when he got the mail, and I was off and running :-) (Our local paper carries coupons on Saturday instead of Sunday).

I spent about an hour or so this morning reading through the material we received on Wednesday at our coupon class, browsing through, cutting out coupons from the paper, and printing off more from the internet.
Later this afternoon, I went out to Walgreens for my first experience using a coupon! That I can remember, anyway. My cousins and I set off together, because they had been at the class Wednesday evening too. We put our heads together to find the best deals we could, and I think we made out pretty well! And the funniest thing happened right when we were checking out...a girl who had been in our class with us walked in with her giant binder full of coupons! We had a good laugh over that.

Anyway, in case you are curious to see what I purchased today, here it is: Two large boxes of cheerios (I probably wouldn't survive without my Cheerios), an 18 pack of tampons (I feel like my mom is going to be embarrassed by my brazen act of posting a picture of tampons on my blog. Sorry, Mom :-P) and a tube of toothpaste. Now, I normally pay somewhere between $4 and $5 on one box of Cheerios at Giant Eagle once every two weeks or so. So that fact that TWO boxes of Cheerios, plus everything else here only cost me $8.56 was pretty shocking to me! Here's how I spent under $9 on all of this:

Colgate toothpaste: Original price was $2.79. I had a coupon for $.75 off 1. So the final price of the toothpaste was $2.04.

The Cheerios were originally $ 4.59 per box. So that's $9.18. Today, Cheerios were buy one, get one free, plus I had a $1.00 off coupon! So both boxes ended up costing me $3.59 in all!

The tampons were originally $3.49, plus I had a $1.00 coupon from my cousin. So that's 2.49 in all.

Altogether with tax, that is $8.59...I SAVED $8.84!! So I saved more than I spent!

And that's not all. I got a $2.50 register reward that printed out. That's $2.50 I can spend next time on just about anything at Walgreens! I'm so pumped :-)

I also made my own little coupon binder. More on that later...I am leaving for a double date right now! And I didn't have time to proof-read this (I always proof-read my posts!) So I apologize if there were a lot of errors, or if anything didn't make sense!

Have a great Saturday! And if you don't use coupons, you should start!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Coupon Cult

I mentioned yesterday that I went to a coupon class last night. I felt more like I had attended some kind of coupon cult meeting. I think I was completely brainwashed. I had no idea people could save so much money using coupons! It was unbelievable. Two of my friends from church led the class, and they practically get paid to shop at places like Walgreens and Giant Eagle! It inspired me, but was very overwhelming at the same time.

I learned a lot, but decided to take it one baby step at a time. My first baby step is going to be to check Walgreens' or Giant Eagle's coupons this week (or next week), and just cut out a few. I want to start a file system and see if I can save at least a few dollars this/next week. I am definitely not quite ready to do all of the strategizing and create the intense game plans that my friends who led the class do. Still, I figure if I start somewhere, maybe I'll be up to that level in a couple of years if I keep at it!

They recommend beginning with a little miniature expanding file folder like this:
And then working your way up to something like this (they both have giant coupon binders like this filled with baseball card inserts. I'm telling you, they are hardcore! :-P)
I learned so much new information! It felt like I was about to have a brain-overload. For example, I had no idea that those little coupons that print out with a purchase at the grocery store are called "catalinas." I had no idea that you could use both a store coupon AND a manufacturer's coupon on the same item. I didn't know that my favorite grocery store, Giant Eagle, doubles coupons. And I definitely didn't know that you could basically get paid to shop at stores like Walgreens if you work the system right. If you have not looked into this, as I had not, there is really a whole new world out there! It takes a lot of planning and thought, but you can really save probably hundreds of dollars every month. Or at least every couple of months. It is like a game, and you have to have a strategy, which is why I think some people find it so utterly addicting!

My only concern about this whole thing is that I'm afraid I'll be tempted to buy lots of things that I don't really need because of the fact that I LOVE finding deals. I am going to try to only use coupons on things that I need, and would have bought anyway. Unless it is completely free, or I get paid to buy it!

If you are like me, and have never used a coupon in your life, here are a couple of great blogs that the girls mentioned over and over last night: Money Saving Mom and Sisters Shopping on a Shoestring. There is a lot of information on coupon collecting there, and they also list lots of sales that are paired up with coupons for some unbelievable deals. Be careful, though. I can already feel myself getting sucked in. I think it's going to be addicting once I get going and hit my first great deal and feel that high!

I will try to keep updating about my couponing adventures. I can't wait until Saturday to get the paper with all the coupons!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

I'm Back!

My blogging break has officially come to an end! I have missed it and all of you, but a little break was nice, too! I cannot wait to catch up on all of your blogs in the next few days...I feel so completely out-of-the-loop!

So anyway, here is what I was doing during my week-long break:

- I watched insane amounts of the 17/18/19 Kids and Counting reruns that have been hangin out in my DVR for a long time now. My interest in the Duggars has almost become an obsession. I'm creepy, I guess.

- Ate a giant Bob Evans breakfast with Luke on Good Friday morning. This is becoming a yearly tradition
- Experienced temperatures in the 80s for most of the long weekend!!

- Took a walk in the park, all by myself on Friday because I was in town and the weather was just beautiful. I tried to take some nice pictures of the lake, but the muddy water pretty much ruined any chance of them turning out looking pretty.
- Spent a busy day Saturday shopping with my mom and sister, and then going out to dinner with Luke's family.

- Lost our internet access for about 48 hours. I'm so glad this happened during my blogging break so that I did not have a nervous breakdown or anything like that :-P

- Read the Nicholas Sparks book "The Last Song." Bawled my eyes out.

- Worshiped at church on Sunday morning...He is risen!

- Ate until I couldn't move on Easter Sunday. We had lunch at my grandparents' house, and dinner at Luke's parents' house.

- Got to wear my new pink (coral?) dress on Easter, and posed for a picture with this good-lookin' guy ;-) Realized this dress may just look better on me when I'm pregnant. It looks like a maternity dress :-P

- Played a new board game called "Ticket to Ride." My s.i.l brought it over on Sunday night to play after our Easter dinner. It was completely addicting, and I played it twice. Have you played it? It's a lot of fun!!

- Went out with my mom and our friend Cookie on Monday, my last day of break. We ate breakfast at Denny's, because apparently I needed ever MORE food after The Great Feast(s) of Easter Sunday 2010.

- After Denny's, went to see "The Last Song" with Mom and Cookie. Bawled my eyes out. Again. The movie was good, and the book was better!

- Mom bought me a "Phantom of the Opera" music book for my violin. I played the music for 2 hours on Monday. Tuesday, my instructor said he noticed I was playing better! I guess I just needed some more interesting music to get me inspired. "Three Blind Mice" and "All Around the Mulberry Bush" just weren't doing anything for me, I guess :-P

- GOT OUR CAR BACK!!!! I haven't written about it here, but our car has been BACK in the shop since January or February. Last fall it was in the shop from October - December having the engine rebuilt, and after that, the turbo charger went bad, so it was back in the shop for most of the winter and half of the spring. Yes, it has been a trying year for us because of this, and with all the money we have spent on repairs, we could have bought another car, more expensive than the first. I haven't written about this next set of repairs because I like to keep this blog somewhat upbeat. But praise God that it's back! If something else goes wrong, I told Luke I'm becoming Amish so I don't have to drive a car. So if I abruptly quit writing in this blog, you'll know why...since I will no longer be using electricity :-P

- Watched the earth transform from it's winter-self into it's spring-self. Seriously, it pretty much happened in the last 7 days
- Went back to work yesterday since our wonderful school district gives us a whole four days off for spring break. That includes 2 weekend days.

- Attended a coupon class tonight and have been introduced to a whole new world. I feel like I have just attended a cult meeting and have been completely brainwashed :-P Be looking for a post devoted to the coupon-cutting world in the near future :-)

Aaaand, I think that's pretty much it! The past seven days in a nutshell. A rather large nutshell, I admit. We all know I tend to be pretty wordy!

I am so glad to be back! Although, like I said, the break was great, too. I got so much done, and am completely re-inspired for new blog posts! Be looking for comments from me going back through the past week...I don't want to miss anything!