a collection of randoms


Last week was a WEEK. 

I mean, I say that, but nothing happened except that Jordan, R, and I all had colds and then poor J caught it over the weekend. Baby coughs are so sad. Four people sickly at once is enough to do me in even if I were getting 8 hours a night of uninterrupted sleep, WHICH I AM NOT. I feel like I am sitting on a middle school lunch tray heading down a slippery slope of grouchy about the fact that my four-month-old eats every three hours almost to the exact minute all day long. This is fine during the day, but give me a break at night why dontcha. Like, how does he know it's been exactly three hours since he last ate? Can't roll over but has magical powers of telling time. 

I really don't want to complain about this, though, because I am truly blessed to have a happy, healthy baby boy to snuggle. Over the past few weeks, Jordan and I have tried different things to try and get J to sleep, but nothing has helped one bit. 

Over the weekend I realized that I needed to let it go. It's great that other people's babies are sleeping 9+ hours (and R was doing that too at this age), but I'm stressing myself out too much and I'm going to just go with it. <--- Remind me I said that when I'm complaining again next week ;)

But, life is sweet, friends. I'm still working full time from home and taking J with me into the office a couple days a week, and it's just been so wonderful. I am trying to soak in every day and focus on being thankful for this time with him instead of thinking about how sad I am going to be in December when he starts daycare. Literally every time I try to talk about it I start crying, so that's a great conversation starter for me right now.

Working from home has given me more time with R also. Even though she's going to daycare during the day, I drop her off later and pick her up earlier than I would usually, and I am loving it. On Friday we were playing with blocks while waiting for J to wake up, and she looked at me and said, "Build tower. R so happy." These are such hard, tiring days, but sometimes I truly realize also how these are the absolute best days.

I finally started listening to the Risen Motherhood podcast a month or so ago, and I have been so encouraged and convicted and I cannot recommend it enough if you want a gospel-centered conversation about motherhood. One thing I've been feeling lately is a strong pull back to personal Bible study, and listening to Risen Motherhood has given me more motivation to get into the Word on a more consistent basis.

I discovered that you can download the workbooks for Jen Wilkin's Bible studies and then download to the audio from her group sessions. I just started her study of Hebrews and I'm really excited about it. One sacrifice I going to be making in order to be intentional about doing my Bible study is that I can't blog as much. I'm not quitting the blog by any means, but just in case you're wondering why I'm not quite as active on here as I have been in the past.

I also started reading this book, which I chose from Blogging for Books, and so far it's been matching up really well with some things I've been learning from Risen Motherhood. (Although I will say the author's liberal use of parenthetical asides is already annoying me. It's a weird pet peeve of mine and YES I understand the irony of talking about this particular pet peeve inside my own parenthetical aside. Leave me alone. I'm tired.) I'll do a full review once I'm finished, which at my current rate of finishing books should be in about 85 years. So really soon.

Something else I discovered recently is this, which I think might be one of the coolest things ever. It's a musical and visual art project using Bible verses from the ESV. They have lock screens and art prints and verses set to original music in order to aid memorization. I've only listened to a few songs so far, but this one is a favorite. You can download the songs right to your computer for free! So awesome go there now you're welcome.

In completely unrelated sports news, it was really exciting in our house for a while because both of our MLB teams made it to just one series away from the World Series. Jordan's Yankees could have played my Cubbies! Sadly, both teams lost, and even though we are both sad, we're also a bit relieved because another couple of weeks of late-night baseball would have not-quite-literally-but-actually-kind-of killed us. (See also: paragraph one.)

I don't have much else to say at the moment except that everyone needs to read this. Maybe I was just in a weird mood on Sunday from all the phlegm and running on a few hours of sleep, but I saw this on Facebook and was laughing so hard I was crying. I showed it to Jordan and he was less impressed, but I was dying. Sometimes the internet is ridiculous and enraging, but sometimes it is amazing and hilarious.

The end.

Finances & Budgeting: A Review + Update


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.

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)


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!]


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
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!
Chocolate Chip Cream Cheese Ball

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

-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


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


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


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!

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.

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.

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!