Finances & Budgeting: A Review + Update

10.15.2017

image via

Recently Jordan and I both needed to get new tires on our cars, along with oil changes, and Jordan's truck needed an alignment. We paid for all of it without going into debt, and I was once again so thankful for our commitment to budgeting and the fact that we can have things like this pop up and not totally stress out about it.

Someone on Facebook recently asked people to rate their level of money awareness, asking how much people know about their current spending, from "I try not to think about it" to "I know where every single dollar goes." Someone commented and said, "Life is too short to do that much math." And while filling out our spreadsheet every month and adding up all the numbers isn't my favorite way to spend an evening, I have to say I disagree with the sentiment that life is too short to spend time on it. I would instead say that life is too short to not do all that math.

I used to write about budgeting on the blog pretty regularly, but I haven't in a while because to be honest, we sort of just have our system and don't do anything different from month to month so there hasn't been much to write about. But seeing as how we are getting close to a new year (crazy!), people are always wanting to revamp or recharge their finances and I thought it might be helpful to recap some of our best budgeting tips and share something new we've added recently. (Related post: 3 Quick-Start Budgeting Tips)

For those who haven't been around for a while, just a quick overview: we paid off our student loans and cars pretty soon after we got married. We saved for four years and were able to put 20% down when we purchased our home in 2015. Currently the only debt we have is our mortgage, which has a 30-year loan. 

We have been budgeting since we got marriage in 2011, and here is why we feel budgeting is important. We keep receipts and write down every single transaction during the entire month. I've tried using an online system like Mint.com, but truthfully our handwritten spreadsheet works the best for us. Although I've heard really good things about Mint!

I won't go into full explanations about any of the following, but I will link to relevant previous posts where applicable. Also, I will talk about some companies below, but none of this is sponsored! I'm just sharing what we personally use and recommend.

Credit Cards
Some people won't agree with this, but we use a credit card for the majority of our purchases. We pay off the balance of our card every month and earn cash back rewards, so our credit card company is essentially paying us to use their card. Over the life of our card, we've earned hundreds of dollars in cash back! Here is a post with more details about our use of credit cards.

We have only ever used a Discover card, which we love and recommend. (My referral link here.) Our favorite feature other than the US-based customer service is that the cash back can be used on Amazon ($1 in cash back = $1 to spend on Amazon), along with other rewards like gift cards or just statement credit. However, last month I signed us up for a second credit card: the Citi double cash card

Our Discover card gives us 1% back on all purchases and 5% back on rotating categories every quarter, but I got to thinking that maybe there was a card we could get that would give us even most rewards. The Citi double cash card gives 2% unlimited cash back: 1% back on your purchase and 1% back when you pay off your statement. So what we're doing now is switching to use our Citi card (which is a MasterCard) for most of our purchases, except the categories where Discover will give us 5% cash back. If we do it right, this should in essence double our cash back earnings! 

Blow Money
Having our own separate blow money is our #1 budgeting tip and the best way to reign in unnecessary spending and cut down on arguments between Jordan and I about how we are spending personal money. Read all about it in this post.

Savings Accounts
We have had a Capital One 360 account (formerly ING) for years. They recently increased their interest rate for their Money Market account from 1% to 1.2%, which is awesome! This is where we keep our emergency fund money and any extra savings. Here is my referral link. (If you do decide to open an account, I'll get a few dollars if you use it!) You can also read more about how we save and budget for different categories like travel in this post.

Mortgage
We don't consider our mortgage a debt necessarily, because most people have a mortgage, and to be honest, $100,000+ just seems like such a big number that it feels a bit like we're talking about fake money. While it would be awesome to be able to get a 15-year-loan or even consider trying to pay off our mortgage years early, realistically for us that isn't going to happen, especially while we are paying for two kids in full-time daycare. 

But one small thing we are doing is something I read on Dave Ramsey's website and it's something I've heard others mention as a smart thing to do if you can: make 1 extra mortgage payment per year, so you are making 13 total payments instead of 12. It's really not that much, but it ends up knocking about 5 years off your loan when you consider interest over the course of 30 years. 

Here's what you do: take the amount of 1 month of your mortgage, divide by 12, and add that amount to your monthly payment on your principal. At the end of the year, you will have made 1 extra payment on your mortgage.

If that sounded confusing, here's an example using numbers: let's say your monthly house payment is $800. 800/12 = 67 So, add $67 to each monthly payment, and in 12 months, you will have made a full month's payment, equaling 13 mortgage payments each year instead of 12 and taking 4-5 years off the end of your loan!

So that's a basic overview of our budgeting right now. I've written a lot more about these topics in individual posts. For a list of all of my budgeting posts, go here. Budgeting can seem intimidating and overwhelming, but it's so nice to feel in control of our own money and know exactly what we are spending where.

I'd love to hear any budgeting tips you've implemented to cut down on spending or save more! And feel free to leave any questions for me in the comments or shoot me an email!

*For a list of all my past budgeting posts, click here.

A Trip to Pumpkinville (year 2)

10.13.2017


Happy Friday the 13th! It's even spookier in October ;)

Last year during one of my lunch walks downtown OKC, I happened upon a sign for Pumpkinville at the children's garden during the month of October. I immediately called Jordan and told him we had to go. R was only 14 months old, and we weren't sure if she would care that much, but she loved running around. (You can see pictures from last year's outing plus baby R here.) I've been looking forward to taking her to Pumpkinville this year now that she's a bit older, and I had the chance last weekend!

Truthfully, I might be more obsessed with Pumpkinville than R is. I just think it's so neat. They upped their game from last year and had even more games and fun things for kids to do. There were food trucks, music, face painting, pumpkin carving, and even a train you could take rides on! Plus they have so. many. pumpkins of all shapes, colors, and sizes.

I had a friend and her toddler visiting from Illinois, so I took R and left J at home with Jordan, although I told Jordan that we should try to go as a family before the end of the month.
I know R is a toddler, but man she does not want to pose for pictures pretty much ever, so I have a lot of her from behind or from the top because any time I tried to get her to look at the camera, she instantly got upset. WHY. I try to just roll with it, but honestly. Doesn't she know I'm trying to document life over here? She just raced around from one thing to the next. No time to stop for pictures!

I thought this board was neat. There were sticks attached, and she could bang on the different pots and pans to make different sounds.

One thing I thought was hilarious was there are these big letters that say GROW, and she crawled into the G and propped her feet up and just sat for a few seconds. She kills me.
I loved looking at all the different types of pumpkins and the beautiful flowers they had everywhere! Have I mentioned I love Pumpkinville? This is a different display from the one last year, which was really neat also.
We stayed until the very end, and most people were gone by then, so R had full reign of the haystacks and the slide. She loved it! I really love watching her have fun. At her age, I'm not sure exactly what she will remember about going to things like this, if she remembers anything at all, but I do hope that it's building memories and experiences in her little brain and that she knows she can have fun with her mama.


I already can't wait to go to Pumpkinville again! Check out pictures from last year here. And just for fun, here's a comparison photo... 2017 on the left and 2016 on the right. Back when she was still wearing hairbows and smiling for the camera. RIP.

Football and Tony's Pizza [+ Chocolate Chip Cream Cheese Ball Recipe!]

10.10.2017

I am a member of the Collective Bias® Social Fabric® Community. This post has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine. #WinWithTonysPizza #CollectiveBias
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One thing I figured out pretty quickly when I first moved to Oklahoma was that football is a big deal. But not just any football: college and high school football, which makes sense because we don't have a professional football team here. (Although I still do root for my Chicago Bears! One day they will be good again).

Jordan played football in high school, and his claim to fame is a 5-second clip with a mention of his name on the local news channel after he blocked a punt. His parents have it recorded, and at his 30th birthday party two years ago, we played it for the partygoers and it was a big hit. I'm interested to see if J wants to play football like his dad!
#shopOne dish that always pairs well with football is pizza. I picked up a Tony's® Pizzeria Style Pepperoni Pizza and Tony's® Pizzeria Style MEAT-TRIO® Pizza at our local Homeland store.

You can enter below until October 17 for a chance to win $3,000 in cash for a high school football team and other exciting prizes from Tony's Pizza!
#WinWithTonysPizza #Sweepstakes - AWG (9/19 to 10/17)

Tony's Pizza has been serving authentic pizzeria style pizza for over 50 years. The sauce is made from real tomatoes, and the cheese is 100% real mozzarella cheese. Jordan and I both agree that pepperoni is our favorite topping to have on a pizza, and R loves it too.
#shopOf course, when you have a watch party or have people over for pre-game, you need to have some sides and desserts. My college roommate introduced me to this recipe for a chocolate chip cream cheese ball, and I've been making it for parties ever since! It's always a huge hit and so easy to make. It's the perfect something sweet to go with a savory pizza

You can get $1 off a Tony's Pizza through the Ibotta app!
#shoprecipe
Chocolate Chip Cream Cheese Ball

Ingredients
8 oz cream cheese
1 stick butter
3/4 c. powdered sugar
2 T. brown sugar
1 cup mini chocolate chips
1.5 t vanilla

Directions
-Let cream cheese and butter soften
-Mix cream cheese, butter, and vanilla with a mixer until combined and fluffy.
-Gradually add powdered sugar and brown sugar until creamy. 
-Mix in chocolate chips.
-Shape into a ball and put in the fridge to harden. (Tip: put a piece of plastic wrap in a clean, empty bowl and fill with the cream cheese mixture. Let harden in the fridge, and when you are ready to serve, just pull out the plastic wrap and remove to form a ball!)
-Serve with graham cracker sticks.
sweet chocolate chips recipe

What's your favorite pizza topping?
Have you ever made a chocolate chip cream cheese dip before?

Orange Chicken and a Mom Haircut

10.05.2017


A few weeks ago I started meal planning again, and it's actually been really nice to be able to look on the fridge and see what we have coming up that week. I'm going to be honest with you: leftovers make up at least 3 days of any week's meal plan. I'm not so much sad about my kids getting older because that means time is going quickly as I am sad because it means they are going to have larger appetites and there won't be leftovers. Leftover gives me life, and I feel suspicious about anyone who claims they "don't eat leftovers." Don't be that guy.

Over the weekend, I perused Pioneer Woman's dinnertime cookbook (the red one) and found a recipe for orange chicken under her section of 16-minute meals. I'll spare you the long story and just tell you this: LIES.

Apparently Pioneer Woman is a wizard and can make homemade orange sauce (I grated fresh ginger and everything!) and deep-fry chicken pieces in sixteen minutes. It took ten minutes just to get the oil to heat to 350 degrees, but apparently her oven heats faster than mine. Whatever.

Is it annoying to anyone else that almost all recipes ever take twice as long as they claim? Because if you pay attention, most recipes have ingredients listed that are already prepped like chopped vegetables and cooked chicken. UNHELPFUL. Sorry for yelling.

The bad news is it took an hour to make the orange chicken. An hour. I also cooked Brussels sprouts (like this if you're wondering), which were delicious and actually finished on time so they were cold by the time the chicken was done yay. Meanwhile, R was trying to "help" by threatening to hand me pieces of raw chicken while I demanded she not touch anything, but thankfully Jordan came home from work and helped me out before anyone got salmonella. The good news is that dinner was super yummy and there were leftovers! But the second bad news is, I'm never making it again. Because ain't nobody got time to cook chicken for an hour goodbye.

In other food news, I'm sure you noticed that I did a sponsored post earlier this week, and I'll have you know that Jordan stole all the beef jerky I bought for the post and brought it to work and ate it and said it was delicious. You can see why I need to do sponsored food posts to support his eating habits. I'm not planning on becoming overrun with sponsored content, but I do have another one coming up next week, because sometimes it's fun to make money blogging. And also I'm planning our 2018 family vacation and we need to beef up our travel fund (pun intended).

Other things of note: I cut 11 inches off my hair, which has been amazing and I love it. I keep getting compliments, which I'm not used to since I never got any about my eternal messy bun. Of course, because my hair was always up in the aforementioned messy bun, no one knew how long my hair actually was and of course I forgot to take a "before" picture, but trust me: it was long.
A coworker retired a few weeks ago, and although it may seem strange to say I was friends with someone old enough to retire, she was my friend, and I'm really sad about her leaving. All the ladies of the office (it's a small office, so there were only six of us) went out for lunch on her last day, and I brought R and J with me. They both did great, and everyone loved seeing them. I'm trying to not be sad about the dark office down the hall and instead think positive that maybe a young working mom will get hired and be my friend!
I keep trying to tell myself that I didn't get a "mom cut," but this picture proves otherwise.

I've been keeping up with J's baby book, writing down milestones and day-in-the-life-type of things, but I do kind of miss writing a long monthly recap on the blog, and I've been stalking other blogger's recaps of their babies who are J's age to see what's going on. Spoiler alert: he's not sleeping through the night at all and I'm not bitter about it or anything. He's also not even trying to roll over in any capacity, and I'm not totally worried about it, but I'm also a little worried about it. Should I be worried about it? R set too high a bar by rolling over when she was four days old, so I just don't have any comprehension of a normal rolling timeline.

It's hard to keep track of the things he's doing when I have R running around like a crazy person. But one thing I will do is take a monthly photo and chair video for J every single month. A few weeks ago when I took J's 3-month picture, R pulled her chair over, plopped down, and smiled the biggest smile. That girl. Would never sit still for her own photo but can't miss out on the action if brother is doing it. Clearly J is super enthused about the whole thing.
She is such hard work and getting into every.thing. But she makes up for it by being so amazingly hilarious. Her latest thing is to stand up in her highchair and then sit back down sideways and say, "I'm stuck, guys." I don't want to condone standing up her highchair, but how can you even keep a straight face at that? Answer: you cannot. At any rate, I really need to get her a booster seat so she can start sitting at the table instead of the highchair.

SO. That's a rundown of the highlights around here. I have one of my best friends coming to visit from Illinois this weekend with her toddler, and I'm so excited! I've already planned out our food for the weekend, which will include Jordan grilling some burgers and us collaborating on homemade pizza, and we'll also make tacos! 

Orange chicken, however, is definitely not on the menu.

On Doubt, Faith, and Prayer

10.02.2017


I was, like all of us, heartbroken to wake up and hear about yet another tragic act of violence and so many lives lost. How can someone do something so terrible? And we ask: Why did God allow this to happen?

At church we are working through a series of sermons on common sins, amazing grace, and a few weeks ago my pastor spoke on doubt. He titled the message Doubting God: When Faith Meets Confusion, and he talked about how we should respond when we believe God is real and yet we wonder why he would allow this to happen. This, of course, can be anything from an act of violence to a personal hardship to a tragic accident.

Confusion itself is not a sin. Even the disciples, who walked with Jesus, questioned and didn't understand all that was going on. But confusion can easily lead to doubt, which can lead to pulling away from God out of anger or fear.

I am the first to admit that I am no biblical scholar, but I did want to share an overview of the notes I took during that sermon a few Sundays ago, because I found the message helpful, and in the wake of what happened in Las Vegas, I thought you might also.

1. Worship God even when you are confused and hurting. 
It is not a lack of faith to feel deeply. It is not a lack of faith to be confused. But it is what we do in response to our hurt and confusion that shows where our faith lies.

2. Remember that you will never know all the details.
If God were small enough to understand, he would never be big enough to worship and put our faith and trust in. I personally find it so comforting to remember that God knows everything and he is never surprised. I know that's not comforting to some because it's easy to ask if God knew what would happen, why didn't he stop it? We have to realize that we will never know all the answers and we have to trust that God does.

3. Speak and pray the truth even when you do not understand.
Let your words of response in hard and difficult times be true, Christ-centered, and always pointing toward grace and the hope of Jesus. It is easier to lower our view of God than it is to raise our faith to a height such as this. It is easier to respond in fear and rage than it is to respond with grace and hope.

Friends, it is not always easy to believe in Jesus. There are things I don't understand, and I wish I could know more answers as to why things happen. I wish these types of things didn't have to happen. But it wasn't supposed to be like this, and soon Jesus will make all things new and it won't be like this anymore.

When things like this happen, messages are sent around the world calling for prayer, and it can feel so futile and, honestly, useless. What good is prayer in the face of such evil?

Last year after the shooting in Orlando, I wrote a post about prayer. I encourage you to go read it. It's summarizing part of a book I read on prayer last year by Philip Yancy, and it was encouraging to me when I went back and read it today and a good reminder about what prayer is and why it's important.

Philip Yancy wrote this in his book: "For most of us, prayer serves as a resource to help in a time of testing or conflict. For Jesus, it was the battle itself." Then, Yancy quotes from another source, saying: Where was it that Jesus sweat great drops of blood? Not in Pilate's Hall, not on his way to Golgotha. It was in the Garden of Gethsemane. There he 'offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the One who could have saved him from death' (Hebrews 5:7). Had I been there and witnessed that struggle, I would have worried about the future. 'If he is so broken up when all he is doing is praying,' I might have said, 'what will he do when he faces a real crisis? Why can't he approach this ordeal with the calm confidence of his three sleeping friends?' Yet, when the test came, Jesus walked to the cross with courage, and his three friends fell apart and fell away."

So yes, let's pray for the situation in Las Vegas and all those affected. But let's also not forget to pray daily for our world, our leaders, our friends, our neighbors, our children, and for our own hearts. That we may be able to take our confusion and doubt to Jesus and let him teach us how to respond with courage and hope.

p.s. I thought this was a great article on prayer and Las Vegas.

Better-for-You Snacks for Busy Days

I am a member of the Collective Bias® Social Fabric® Community. This post has been compensated by Collective Bias, INC. and The Coca-Cola Company. All opinions are mine. #SnackHonestly #CollectiveBias

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As a full-time working mom with two small children, it's hard to find time to exercise. At this stage in my life, mornings just aren't a good time because I never know when R or J are going to wake up; and since I'm still up 2-3 times a night feeding J, getting up at 5 am to get a workout in appeals to me zero percent. I've found that evenings are actually the best time for me to go running or do an at-home workout, once R is in bed. 

For the next few months I am working from home (so thankful), which allows me to keep J home with me during the day, and if I can't do something at night, sometimes I can get in a walk or run during the afternoons with him.

Especially since I'm breastfeeding, I know that keeping my calorie count up is important and making sure I refuel with protein after my workouts. I'm always so hungry, but coming back from a workout is a rush with showering, nursing, and taking care of my two crazy kids, and it's hard to find something to eat that isn't terrible for me (hi, cookies) and doesn't involve a lot of prep.
 

It's always a temptation to dive into the nearest dessert (and I do succumb all too often), but with new Lorissa's Kitchen premium steak strips, I can feel better about my post-workout snack. Lorissa's Kitchen products feature a clean label with many better-for-you benefits, including: 100% grass-fed beef, responsibly raised pork, and no added growth hormones or MSG. Plus, this delicious snack is gluten free!
#shop

You know how they say that you should recognize all the ingredients on the labels of your food? Well Lorissa's Kitchen has 11 ingredients listed, all of which are things I have in my own kitchen, and it's available at your local Walmart. 

With 11 grams of protein per serving, I can refuel quickly without sacrificing time prepping my own snacks or diving headfirst into a pint of ice cream. They offer four flavors: Korean Barbecue Beef, Sweet Chili Pork, Ginger Teriyaki Chicken, and Szechuan Peppercorn Beef.
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Lorissa's Kitchen pairs well with Honest Tea®. What's funny is that I had never had Honest Tea before, but I bought a few bottles a couple of weeks ago before I even started working on this post and have been loving them. It comes in multiple delicious flavors to fit your tastebuds. Of course, I make sure to drink a ton of water throughout the day, but sometimes it's nice to drink something with a bit of taste, and I like how it is "just a tad sweet" but not overly sweet.
#shop

You all have heard me talk about the Ibotta app before, and you can earn $1.00 cash back with the purchase of the following combo, exclusive at Walmart: one 2.25-oz bag of Lorissa's Kitchen™ Premium Protein Snacks--Any variety and Honest Tea® - Any variety - Single bottle only. Both products must appear on the same receipt to get credit for this rebate. Check out the rebate and get more info on the Ibotta app.

Feel better about your snacks on those busy days and stop by Walmart today for Lorissa's Kitchen and Honest Tea!

Crash Day

9.28.2017


Last weekend I took R and J to Texas to visit my parents. Jordan stayed home for a couple different reasons, and I drove by myself three hours with both kids. It went well overall, and both of them slept  most of the way. There was one panic moment when I heard R say, "Mama, I beed," and I looked in the rearview mirror and saw blood dripping from her nose. She has nosebleeds sometimes, but I was in the middle of traffic on the highway and there wasn't any place to pull over. I reached in her backpack, which was in the passenger seat, and grabbed the first thing I could to give her to hold to her nose, which happened to be a pair of her (clean) underwear. (I keep underwear in her backpack now because we're potty training. I can't believe my baby is this big.)

I finally was able to pull over in a picnic area and cleaned her up, and the rest of the drive was uneventful. I always make sure to drive carefully once I get to their town, because I've gotten pulled over twice mere blocks from my parents' house, once for rolling a stop sign and once for going 23 in a 20 school speed zone. Clearly I shouldn't be given keys to motor vehicles with that kind of reckless driving.

We were in Texas Thursday to Sunday, and it was really nice to have some extended time to hang out with my family. They love my kids so much, and it makes me so happy. On Saturday I had what I'm calling a Crash Day. I woke up with the worst headache I've ever had--not quite migraine status but definitely worse than your average headache. I ended up sleeping the majority of the day and basically only woke up to eat, feed J, and I had one outing around lunchtime to visit a friend of mine from Saint Louis who happened to be in Dallas on business. My dad drove me to meet her because my mom didn't think I was fit to drive.

I was a little worried I wouldn't be able to make it home, but thankfully after taking about 6 naps on Saturday, I woke up on Sunday feeling almost back to normal. It was the strangest thing, and I couldn't figure out what was wrong with me, but my mom just said she thought I needed to rest. "For the past month," she said, "you have added a full-time job to your schedule and taken away nothing at all. And,"--then there was a dramatic pause--"you've stopped taking naps." I told her I don't have time to take naps anymore, and she just stared at me. "You're exhausted. I want you to start taking naps again."

I've been thinking a lot this week about my schedule and our routine. I've gotten a few comments about how well I seem to be doing adjusting to two kids, and while I do feel like going from 1 kid to 2 has been so much easier than going from 0 to 1, my crash day has given me a lot to consider about how well I'm actually doing. The truth is, I'm still adjusting. I forget sometimes that I just had a baby three months ago, and that's a lifetime when you're awake yet again at 3am, but really it's nothing.

I'm not happy with the skin flab on my stomach, and although I can fit into most of my pre-pregnancy pants, I'm self-conscious about how most shirts fall on my stomach and end up rotating the same two shirts that I feel don't look terrible. I'm frustrated that I want to go running but I literally don't have the time right now unless I want to workout at an absurd hour like 4am, which I really just don't. I don't like that I haven't read a book in about five months. And I really, really don't like that I haven't been diligent about committing to a daily quiet time to pray and read my Bible.

I am a firm believer that people do have time to do a lot of the things they say they don't have time for. But sometimes it feels like I honestly, truly don't have to time to do all the things I want do to if I also want to sleep at least a few hours at night.

People talk a lot about giving themselves grace, but if I'm honest, I'm really bad at it. I am a bit of a perfectionist, and I can be pretty hard on myself. I try not to compare, I really do. But I see other moms with babies the same age as mine getting workouts in before their kids are awake or moms with more kids than me getting the family up and to church on time, and I just feel a bit defeated. Which sounds so silly and dumb. I KNOW.

I think being back at work has been harder and more tiring for me than I realized until I slept 90% of Saturday while my parents watched my kids. And Jordan helps. He's an awesome dad and husband. I don't want to act like I'm a single parent over here. But guys, I am terrible at delegating. I'm terrible at letting people help me. That's something I'm constantly working on.

Anyway. What is the point of this post? 

I have no idea. Except to say that I promised my mom I'd start taking naps again, and I have taken an afternoon nap every day this week so far, and it has felt amazing. Also, I took both my kids on a road trip to Texas for the weekend and survived (barely).

I'm trying to nail down some specific goals moving forward that will allow me to feel like I'm able to keep more things in my life without wearing myself thin. Here are a few I've got so far: I want to join a gym and go 2 nights a week, I'm thinking Tuesdays so I can watch This Is Us while I run on the treadmill. I want to be in bed by 10:00 at the latest every night (my mom is going to call me and say that's too late, but again, that's at the latest. Ideally 9:00). I want to be intentional about carving out time for more naps. I want to establish chores that Jordan and I each have.

And I really do want to give myself grace, so I'll have to work on that too.

So, um.... I intended to share some pictures from what we've been up to lately, and this mess came out. I don't even know.

Hope you all have a great weekend! Try to take a nap. My mom said so.

To the Full-Time Moms

9.20.2017

daycare, working mom, full-time mom
It's hard for me to believe, but this January it will be two years since R started full-time daycare. If you've been around The Lady Okie blog for any length of time, you know that going back to work after having R was one of the hardest if not the hardest things I've ever done. Although I never saw myself as a stay-at-home mom, once I had a child, I was surprised to discover that it was something I really wanted.

Over the past two years, I've used this blog as part catharsis for my own emotions and a way to process my thoughts about being a working mom. I've also tried to use my (small) platform as an encouragement both to other working moms who have a hard time like I do and also to shine a light on some of the negative stereotypes I see surrounding working motherhood and traditional daycare.

What I have discovered in my journey is something I knew but had to see firsthand to really understand: this is an incredibly sensitive topic. SAHMs want to feel validated in their choice to be home with their children as an important job even as they sometimes feel less than a contributor to their household income and society at large. (I say this based on other blog posts I've read from SAHMs and conversations with friends of mine who are SAHMs.)

I do completely understand how a mom who stays at home can get frustrated and defensive when someone implies that staying at home means they "don't do anything." Kids are a lot of work, and anyone who wonders what a SAHM does all day just doesn't even know what they are talking about. Raising children is very important and vital work and should be celebrated and supported.

On the other side of the coin, as a working mother, I struggle to feel that my work as a mother is validated even though I may not be with my children all day. There are three phrases in particular that I see and hear often in regards to being a SAHM that I passionately disagree with. I just saw one of these the other day on an "about me" page I read of a blogger who recently redesigned her site. I assume that the people who say these things don't intend to be hurtful to working moms, but they are very problematic.

"I quit my job to be a mom."
"I left my job and got promoted to a job with zero vacation or sick days, but it's the best job in the world: mom."
"I am a full-time mom."

Let me explain.

If you have a child, you are a mother. 

Having or not having a job outside (or inside) the home does not make you more or less of a mother than you already were. You also do not get "promoted" to the job of mom upon leaving your job at the office. If you have a child, you are never off duty. There are no part-time moms. I have a full-time job in an office outside of my house, and I am also a full-time mom. 

This is not to say that a mom who stays at home with her children is less than a mom who works. Both are hard in different ways, and both come with struggles and successes of their own. Both types of moms should be encouraged, supported, and celebrated. 

All types of moms are needed in our society as examples of all the different things moms can do.

We need stay-at-home moms and moms who work in the corporate world and moms who work in the nonprofit world. We need moms who work from inside their home and moms who run their own businesses. We need moms who work part time and moms who teach and moms who keep other moms' kids. Moms are awesome, and we need moms everywhere because everyone has different strengths and weaknesses they bring to all kinds of different situations.

What so frustrates me about the above phrases is the implication that to have the title "mom," you have to be home with your children, and that only after quitting your job are you truly a mom.

As a mom, I have made the best decision for our family at this time by continuing to work and contribute to our family income to help my husband in providing food, clothes, health insurance, and a home for my children. I have (with Jordan) researched, toured, and chosen a daycare provider I trust where R (and soon J) has fun, learns, and is safe. She is not being "raised" at daycare, despite what the internet likes to say about it, and I have never once considered myself "off duty" from motherhood just because I've dropped her off at daycare to head to the office. I am a mom always, wherever I am, and so are you.

What I would like to do is help people understand how their words might be implying something about working mothers that just isn't true. And not only that, but it's hurtful. 

Even though it has been so, so hard, I am so grateful for the past two years and for how much I have grown as a result of working and taking R to daycare. I've had to learn to trust my child with someone else. I've had to learn to give up some of my ideas about schedules and food and learn that it's okay if it doesn't always go exactly how I would have wanted it. (Still learning it, by the way.) I've learned to juggle sick kids and sick days and working at home and being efficient with the time I have because I want to be a good employee but also intentional with the limited time I have with my children.

I've needed to have open hands and have also learned to have a more sensitive and empathetic heart, especially for my fellow working moms. I know this is cliche to say, but honestly and truly--if through sharing my story over the past two years I have encouraged even one other working mom to know she isn't alone, it is worth it. If I have opened the eyes of even one person to the struggles and insecurities of working motherhood, it is worth it.

I am so grateful for each person who has reached out to me over the past two years with comments of support and encouragement for me as I walked this road. Working motherhood is where God has placed me in this season, and I want to be faithful in it even when it's hard. (Still learning this one too.)

So, cheers to two years. And to all the full-time moms out there (that's all of us, by the way): your work is important. It matters. You're a great, fantastic, and wonderful. 

Cheers to you.

For a list of all the posts I've written about working motherhood, go here.

at least one thing will be in the same place i left it

9.17.2017



It's been a while since I just shared an old-fashioned post with pictures and updates of what we've been doing lately! So that's what this post is.

With Jordan and I both working full time, our days are busy, but our evenings and weekends have been pretty full too lately, and our family of four has been having lots of fun being out and about. It surprisingly doesn't feel much more complicated to get out of the house with two kids than it was with just one. We are already used to making sure we have a bag for R, so what's one more, really?
But I will tell you that so far we haven't managed to be earlier to church than twenty minutes late, so that's something we need to get better at. At least we all look cute! And squinty. The ladies in the nursery love J so much. They always tell me how sweet he is, and I'm all, duh obviously. He's the best.


Two weekends ago, my parents drove up from Texas, and we went to a chuck wagon cookoff. (Note: this original post said "last weekend" because that's when I started writing this, but it took so long to actually finish the post that last weekend has become two weekends ago. help.) There were I think six different wagons where they were cooking chicken fried steak, potatoes, biscuits and rolls, beans, and peach cobbler out of covered wagons and cast-iron skillets and it. was. so. good. I did not go around to each wagon getting more peach cobbler and rolls. Okay, actually I did have self-control and threw my bowl away after four helpings because not having a bowl was literally the only thing that was going to stop me from continuing to eat.

Why do we not live outside in wagons anymore? I think we need to forget overalls and focus on bringing back spurs and outhouses. Who's with me?
Last month, we drove to small-town Oklahoma for Jordan's grandma's 80th birthday. All the cousins and grandkids and great-grandkids (of which R and J are 2 of the 3) surprised her, and she was shocked. I like the drive out to western Oklahoma, because when I start freaking out about buildings everywhere and trees getting cut down and giant landfills, it calms me to look for miles in all directions and see flat nothing except for the occasional windmills and "mountains" that are really just medium-sized hills. 

Don't be sad for us. We like it here.
I'm happy to say that my obsession with buying R expensive hair bows died with her desire to wear them, and I haven't picked up any more harmful shopping habits for J or R. One thing I've always found wasteful to buy are shoes because they grow out of them in 8.2 seconds, which is why R wore the same $8 pair from Walmart (Garanimals brand!) forever. 

But. BUT. My sister-in-law bought R a pair of Vans for her birthday and now she is too darn cool for school. This is what aunts are for, amiright? Buying their nieces and nephews fun things like shoes I would never have picked out for her in a million years.
R loves art, and my MIL bought her some watercolors for her birthday, which is nice, and I try to be cool about it, but really inside I'm all omg keep those at your house please because it stresses me out and I'm sweating everywhere and DON'T TOUCH ANYTHING WITH THOSE BRUSHES. I really wanted to be a fun mom who was fine with her kid making messes everywhere, but actually every time I let her "help" me cook and she spills flour all over the floor, I die a little inside.

However, painting is kind of nice because it keeps her in her chair and contained for a good five minutes so I can go to the bathroom by myself or unload the dishwasher without her attempting to help by grabbing all the knives. The waterproof capabilities are questionable seeing as how she has blue fingers for the rest of the day, but it's a small price to pay. We keep the Gathre mat underneath the chair to catch spills, which I still maintain is the single most useful thing I've bought in the last 2+ years of motherhood. (Not sponsored; I just love it.)
Last but not least, I decorated our mantel for fall! Since the rest of our house looks like a disaster area all the time no matter how much time I spend picking things up, this mantel is a calming presence in my life. R has started carrying her bathroom stool all over the house, and I am not exaggerating when I say that no drawer, cabinet, or shelf is safe now that she has higher reaching capabilities. But I can look at this mantel and know that R can't get up there, and everything is going to always be in the same place it was when I left it. 

Small mercies, my friends.

p.s. If you haven't entered to win a personalized tooth fairy pillow, go here and do it before I choose a winner on Wednesday! There is also a discount code for 20% off Milo & Molly Etsy Shop.

Milo & Molly Personalized Tooth Fairy Pillow Giveaway

9.13.2017


This post is for everyone who loves to shop small! I'm so excited to partner with Kristen, who runs the Etsy shop Milo and Molly, to share with you about her products, specifically her adorable Tooth Fairy Pillows

Losing a tooth is a big deal, and it's such a fun idea to have something like this where a child can keep their tooth until bedtime... to be magically replaced with money overnight! I shared a week or so ago about our transition to a toddler bed and the pillow we bought for R. I know a visit from the tooth fairy to leave something under that pillow is not as far away as it seems!

Kristen designed these pillows for her son before he lost his first tooth based on one she had as a childEach pillow is handmade from a beautiful wool-blend felt, and the pocket can be personalized with the initial of your choice and over 80 different colors.

The pocket fits a tooth (obviously), and then either a folded bill or a few coins. I was showing  my mom these pillows when she was visiting last weekend, and she said the going rate for a tooth where they live is five dollars per tooth. Everything's bigger in Texas, right? INSANITY. I think 50 cents will be good enough, maaaaaybe a dollar if things get crazy. We'd go broke buying back teeth!

Kristen has kindly offered to give away two pillows personalized with the color and letter of your choice to one winner. 


Enter using the giveaway tool below. You can either leave a comment on this blog post or inside the Rafflecopter. One winner will be chosen and contacted via email one week from today. Entries will be verified. Don't cheat! That's not nice.

*US residents only on this one. Sorry, international friends.

You can also shop her Etsy and use the code THELADYOKIE to get 20% off until the end of October! Or, you can click this link right here to have the 20% automatically applied.

She always has new things she's working on, including these fabric button bookmarks and these headbands. Last year I bought a pair of super cute mittens from her shop, and she occasionally hosts flash sales on scarves and other handmade items from her Instagram, so I recommend giving her a follow to stay updated!

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