Stay At Home Mom Life Blurb!

I always feel this way, and I have probably said this in the past, but man, it has been too long since I have written! I know I am so long overdue. I have handled many a curve ball in the last several weeks, and I finally feel like I am back to being myself!

One of my curve balls is I found out I had a vitamin deficiency. It doesn’t sound like a big issue at all, and in some ways it isn’t. When I saw my doctor about my symptoms I was honestly praying for something along the lines of a vitamin or micro-nutrient issue because it would be the easiest thing to fix! However! The symptoms I reported were constant fatigue, poor immune system, random shaking and weakness which were occurring more and more often, every single day. To try to keep this short and sweet, I have these two little lovely girls running and bouncing all around me, needing me. I am needing myself not just to be a standard housewife, but a mom, a teacher (because we are homeschooling this year), and not only a wife, but an army wife whose husband is unfortunately already preparing to leave again less than a year after he got home from his last rotation. I need to be more for myself. I need to be a hell of a lot more for my beautiful daughters, and I need to feel better for my husband, with whom I only have so many days to make lasting memories. This is my life, and while it isn’t easy, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I just was not physically able to keep up with my surroundings. Even though I felt puny and minuscule, seeing my doctor is the best decision I have made in a long time. I finally feel like the fun mom at 25, not the grandma who is only able to sit and watch the children play. & It is truly wonderful!

Aside from that, now that I’m feeling better, it’s almost as if I’m making up for lost time. My 5yo and I are kicking butt with this home school thing, and I am putting together curriculum so that in January when 2yo becomes 3yo right after Christmas break, we can begin some early Pre-k work as well. We already read, oh, about a million and two books per day and she verbally can tell me all her shapes and colors, but she is ready to move on to more fine motor skills like tracing and drawing. We are just adding more hands-on fun for this babe!

Lastly, I am trying to transition from stay at home mom to work at home mom… sort of. & potentially a go to school at home mom, also. We’ll see. I’ve had an Etsy shop up and running for some time now, but I have only ever had a handful of items in there at one time. I crochet and I am addicted to making baby items! Seriously, unless I get a request for something bigger, that’s what I am always working on! I make everything: hats, diaper covers and blankets. I’ve been playing around with patterns trying to find one versatile enough to crochet little stuffed toys because my Etsy shop vision has always been to offer collections. I sell everything individually, but lets say I make a woodland camo blanket (which I am, wink wink) I would also offer a set of hat & booties that match and a little stuffed deer or something as a toy. How freaking cute it that?! However, I don’t use machines or any outside help, it’s just me and my own two hands so I can only crochet so fast. Just about the time I’m wrapping up a project, I get a custom order or life just hits so that my crochet gets set aside. HOWEVER! In the last few weeks, I did get a few hits on some of my items. I sold a blanket and a few of these little pumpkin hats. Aren’t these adorable?!

The shop is now in vacation mode though. A friend of mine commissioned me for a rather large blanket order that will take several weeks to complete (it’s 2 child size throws and 2 twin size bed covers), so I didn’t want to fall behind by still offering custom-mades on Etsy at the same time. THEN! In addition to Etsy, I’ve always dreamed of running my own business. I said it while I was in school for esthetics, I said it while I worked as a salon and beauty retail manager, I’m still saying it now. Not only am I currently looking into picking up college classes so I can earn a degree in business management and marketing, but I may or may not have just started a Facebook boutique selling fashion jewelry and accessories… I’m loving it though! 1) You don’t know if you don’t try. 2) I’ve always dreamed of doing this but there is no way I would ever open a brick and mortar shop while my husband is in the military. We never know when they could tell us to pack up and move! 3) Even if sales are low, which I will admit they are since I have literally been opened for a week now, I need to start slow and take baby steps. I am figuring things out as I go and I know I need to also make time around this for my daughters’ and my education! Regardless, I am gaining experience and earning a little bit of an incoming without taking time away from my daughters. So fingers crossed & prayers said that all works out and I can handle all of this on auto-pilot once my husband leaves again very very soon.

I think that raps it up for now! I sort of treat this blog as a diary. The things I write may be interesting. Or they may not be. That’s okay sometimes. But all things here are real. I am learning and growing as a mom, a wife, a student, a business owner, and overall as a PERSON. I am always striving to be genuine and down to earth and  I hope that shows! I hope this has been at least a little bit interesting to hear this blurb about my life lately. If you want to hear more, following me because there is BOUND to be more. Especially on the mom & small business topics. & if you happen to be on Facebook and would like to check out the boutique, it’s currently in an open group called Just A Small Town Girl’s Boutique. Here’s the link:   https://www.facebook.com/groups/2124159434276446/

((Yep, that is really me. I shouldn’t have because I knew I’d want to keep it, but I tied up one of my boutique scarves and put it over my cami as a cover up and fell in love! And now it’s hanging in my closet instead! ))

If you check it out, leave me a post and let me know you found me from my blog! That would be amazing! & My last note for the day: I hope you have a wonderful week ahead! 💜

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My Actual Frugal Meal Plan, Step-by-Step + Recipes!

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how we decided to go the route of minimalism in our home. We had too much clutter, too many bills, etc. I cleaned house, both literally and figuratively, and got rid of so much! We cut our budget to the max so we can better reach our goals of saving and eliminating debt! The change that affects me personally the most, of course, is how we shop. I am now using the cash envelope system and I LOVE IT! It’s simple enough that it took zero convincing to get my husband to do this with me. I’ll go into more detail on that later though!

So normally I have $250 every two weeks figured in for my ‘grocery’ budget. First things to get bought are always a case of pull-ups, toilet paper, and a large bag of dog food, which together cost about $50. The remaining $200 is grocery money for 2 weeks, so $100/week. This also covers if we need any household cleaning products, soap, shampoo, etc. Everything that isn’t a bill fits into this $100/week regardless of how many ‘extras’ we need. 

I feel like this week happens to be a great week to show you the meal plan I came up with for our family because we had some issues! Imagine that! Out of this 2 weeks of paycheck, we had originally planned to stay one full week with family in MO, then come back and have one full week here in OK. Because of that, I planned to use part of our grocery budget to cover food on the road since we had a 9 hour drive each way, which meant we needed 2 meals plus snacks. We ended up coming back 4 days early though, so now instead of having $100 to cover 7 days of meals, it now needed to cover 11 days. But guess what? I DID IT! Seriously this has to be my most frugal meal plan yet & yes, I’m pretty proud! haha

So of course my first step is taking inventory of what I already have at home. If I already have noodles or rice or sauce at home that’s a meal I don’t have to buy ingredients for! This is what I found in my freezer & pantry: 

Some of the things I took into consideration were that I have ground turkey that I already seasoned and browned & red sauce in my freezer, plus noodles in my pantry so we are having pasta one night that I need to buy 0 ingredients for. We have a bean soup mix that I only have to boil and add chicken & chicken stock to, which I also already have so that’s a second meal that I don’t have to buy for. You get the idea. 

After that, I scoured over my list of recipes to find all my cheapest ones and that’s what we are having. Here are my meals: 

So that is 8 of my meals on my little dry erase planner I spent like $3 on at the Target dollar spot. In the three days before this menu started we had cheddar broccoli rice, Italian season salt chicken & veggies, and breakfast for dinner. We have breakfast for dinner every Sunday because A) breakfast is delicious and we eat a lot of it and B) we normally have either scrambled eggs or omelets and either baked oatmeal or slow cooker French toast casserole. We have the ingredients for all of those on hand all the time except for French bread if we make French toast, which only costs me $1 at most. A big plus is breakfast is super easy to make. It’s a meal we don’t have to think about and it makes for a simple night to wrap up our weekend as we get ready for the upcoming week. 

Once I have my meals planned out I just go down the list one meal at a time and make my shopping list based on what we need vs what we already have. Then, after I have my list of ingredients to buy, I separate it by store so I get the best deal for my money. Most items I know the exact price or at least the approximate price of, so while I separate items by store, I make note of what I’m willing to spend on each item. I always round up. Ex: if I know an item is $1.60 I round up to $2. It helps cover the approximate cost of tax, which I’m too lazy to figure up exactly, and if anything, I round up too much and my groceries may be a few dollars cheaper than expected. 

Here’s my finished list, categorized by store with approximate dollar value out to the left.

Tally marks out to the right of an item means I need enough for more than one meal, however many marks there are. No tallies of course means either I only need enough for one meal, or if it’s a staple item like cheese or butter, one container is enough to last us until next payday. 

Yes I only meal plan dinners. That’s just what works best for us. Honestly right now I probably eat breakfast burritos for lunch at least 4 days a week. (I don’t eat breakfast unless you count coffee, shame on me!) (See, I told you we were breakfast-food people!) We are big snackers too, so usually breakfast and lunch we snack or eat breakfast foods, such as oatmeal, cereal, eggs, fruit, toast. If I make a casserole or pasta for dinner we almost always have leftovers. Our girls love everything made of rice or pasta and cheese or sauce so I always keep leftovers and they always get eaten the next day. We strive really hard not to be wasteful; it’s just a value I was raised with and we are now raising our girls with! Even when we aren’t on a budget, we don’t allow being wasteful of food. Then in situations like now, it comes in very handy. 

BONUS: RECIPES!

The sweet ‘n’ sour meatballs recipe is not mine. I follow Gardner Quad Squad on YouTube and it’s a recipe they made one day, which they posted to their blog! Here’s the link to that recipe on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/pin/331788697530616053/?source_app=android 

Another recipe: 

This one is actually my own! No links! We make this vegetarian style simply because I started making these while my husband was deployed, I was actually on a vegetarian diet, and my girls were being picky and refusing to eat meat (which they still do half the time. That’s why I make everything with so many veggies. I can’t really complain about them skipping their chicken if they’ll eat a double serving of steamed broccoli!) You can easily make this non-vegetarian by replacing one or both types of beans with cooked shredded meat seasoned up however you like.

VEGETARIAN ENCHILADAS!

INGREDIENTS:

12 Tortillas, 6inch diameter (corn or flour)

1 can refried beans

1 can black beans

1 can enchilada sauce OR green chile sauce

Up to 1 cup shredded cheese (also optional if you’re really cutting costs!) 

DIRECTIONS:

1) Preheat oven to 350°F. Drizzle enough enchilada or green chile sauce in a 9×13 baking dish to evenly coat the bottom.

2) For each tortilla, spread 1 rounded tablespoon of refried beans, sprinkle 1 tablespoon of black beans on top, then if you’re using cheese, sprinkle a small amount of cheese on top of the beans, maybe a teaspoon or so. Roll up your tortilla and place in your baking dish, edge side down so it doesn’t unroll. Reapeat for remaining tortillas. Using this amount of beans should evenly use the beans to fill a dozen tortillas. 

3)Once all your tortillas are rolled and in your dish, cover with more enchilada/green chile sauce. You do not want to use the entire can or they will be soup! But you want to make sure all the edges are covered or the tortillas become rocks when they bake. That’s no bueno! 

4) Bake for about 20 minutes. Nothing is raw, so just make sure it’s hot all the way though. Baking time may vary depending on your oven. **If you’re using cheese, spinkle some extra on top in the last 5 minutes or so of baking! Yum!

That’s it! We either have these with rice or steamed veggies. They seemed small to me the first time I made them so I took 3 or 4 and quickly realized how dense they are from all the beans! I think I MIGHT have finished 2! Now with my husband home, I still only make a dozen at a time and we always have a few left over. Of course if you want other things like corn or Rotel you can roll those up with your beans too! Or if you want them super zesty by all means season those babies up however you want! We are simple and enjoy the taste of the beans, cheese and sauce so I just keep it simple. 

If there are any other recipes in my meal plan you’d like to hear about let me know! Some are my recipes, some I’ve gotten from Pinterest or other blogs but I will share what I can! 
(My super yummy bowl of sweet ‘n’ sour meatballs last night!)

Simplifying & Financially Bettering Ourselves

Last week I felt as though I hit rock bottom as a stay at home mom. I mentioned a few days ago that my 2yo struggled with a little bit of separation anxiety when Dad left for training and we travelled for a few weeks. We ended up cutting the trip short by about a week because it was so stressful. While I was looking at my calendar and our budget of travel expenses, I realized we needed to fix some things. 

While I was working my last job, we went from needing to strictly budget and coupon to being able to live a little more luxuriously. When I left that job, we never transitioned back. We were definitely living above our means for having one income. It’s not that we were out shopping and blowing money every day, we simply we’re out of the habit of paying attention to our spending. We assumed we could track everything in our heads when in reality we were nickel-and-diming ourselves into trouble. When I realized this, I was instantly sick to my stomach, I was so worried. We have debt to pay off. We’ve decided to homeschool so I still have curriculum to finish purchasing. We are already paying the minimum on bills and we already have the cheapest phone plan and no cable! What do you do when you need to cut things out of your budget but you don’t have anything to cut?! 

YOU REEVALUATE!

I did, and these are some of the things I came up with:

1) PURGE: Yes, the entire house. We have piles in each of our closets & our laundry room of clothes we’ve outgrown or don’t wear. Those need to be donated. In addition to that, my kids have accumulated more toys than they play with, so we need to cut out about half of those to donate as well! If I haven’t used it in months, it’s not a priority (precious craft supplies included) so it’s all going out! Once our home is cleared of all these things it will make it easier for me to clean and teach our girls to do their chores more efficiently. In the long run, it will make it easier for us to be content staying home and doing activities which don’t cost us anything like crafting parties, family game night, or just inviting friends over for coffee because our space will be more inviting and cozy! 

2) LOOK LONG AND HARD AT YOUR BUDGET: This may or may not apply to you, but it applies to us. We have been married over 6 years and have never had cable! However! We do subscribe to movie streaming services. Over the last few years we expanded our subscriptions from only having Netflix to recently adding Amazon Prime, Hulu, Xbox live for my husband, Kindle Unlimited books for myself. Almost everything ranges between $10-$12 per month. For not having a cable package we were still paying over $50 per month to have this huge selection we don’t use on a regular basis! We opted to keep Netflix and Hulu but decided the other 3 could go. That saved us $30. 

This next one may make a few jaws drop in this day and age but guess what. Home internet is not a priority, so it went too! We paid $76/month for our WiFi package which is iffy on the quality of service we got for having no add ons. But! Since Verizon started offering unlimited data again, we were able to upgrade to that and actually save money on our bill by not going over on data (we have 5 people in our plan so sharing our previous 18gb / month was hard to do). We have the ability to use the mobile hotspot feature on our phones for work/school uses. Considering everything else, we are also looking to lessen the amount of time we watch TV. We don’t need it on as background noise & we need to get out of the habit of needing to watch things while we eat dinner, do homework, etc. That’s no good! So tv streaming time will strictly be after dinner when the whole family can get together and relax at the end of the day! This should help boost productivity around the house as well since we won’t be glued to a screen! 

The last thing we cut out of our budget: Second vehicle. Why? A) because we’d been having trouble with my husband’s truck anyways and it finally gave out. We can’t drive it at the moment and the replacement part alone is about $200. So rather than keep driving it, since I am not working and my daughter is no longer going to public school, it’s too easy to go back to sharing my car. We’re still paying on the truck so physically we are keeping it, but by having cheaper gas costs by Hubby taking my car to work every day instead, we will save about $100/month in gas in addition to we are saving about $60/month in insurance since we switch from full coverage to storage insurance. (The truck is still in the driveway so in case of some freak accident we didn’t want to competely give insurance up all together.)

3)FIX OUR MEAL PLAN: I’ve always kept the habit of meal planning. Even while I worked and we didn’t have a set grocery budget, it’s nice to know ahead of time what ingredients you have and what meals you can make. It makes it easier to take chicken from the freezer or throw things together in your slow cooker before work when you know ahead of time what you’re making. As I said earlier, for too long we’ve been pretty lax on what we buy, splurging on dinner out just because we don’t feel like cooking or grabbing pre-made desserts or box dinner kits for easy dinners. The thing is, I can cook well from scratch. Even if you can’t, all you have to do to start learning is head to Pinterest and search for any recipe you want with the word ‘easy’ in front of it. Voila! Or look up things like dump dinners or easy freezer cooking. Most recipes will be from scratch. When you have staples at home that can be used in several types of recipes, things like flour, milk, butter, lemons, oats, etc., you don’t need a box mix to make a meal. You can use what you have at home and spend $0 on pre-made fixes. 
I think I’ve managed to go on long enough about how we are starting to simplify our home and start fresh with our finances. Next I will be sure to look closer at our grocery budget specifically and show you how I meal plan for $100/week for our family of 4 and still have CASH left over! So if you want to know more, be sure to subscribe! & If you have any questions or comments, be sure to let me know! 

We Went on a Road-Trip! 

We did it! In my last post I told y’all how while my husband is away I planned on making a trip home with our girls to see family. Everything went as planned for my drive! Heck yeah! 

However, our stay deviated a little from what I had expected. Lil Miss 2yo was feeling a bit of what I believe to be separation anxiety, which I recognize because she reacted exactly the same way 5yo had the last time my husband left for work. Even though he was only gone a few weeks this time and not a deployment, 2yo didn’t know that. Even if I explained to her daddy will be home soon, she has no formal concept of time. She doesn’t understand the number of days until Dad is home until I can say, “He’ll be home tomorrow.” Pair that with the fact that 2 days after he left we went on a road trip, and you get a little chaos, which I always expect to an extent. Maybe not this extent though. 2yo would not let me out of her sight. I couldn’t pee, shower or even walk out of the room without her screaming and running to me. She was glued to me. So I cancelled about half of my plans (which I didn’t have many of anyways) because all I could do is sit and hold her. We shared a bed, not a big deal, but when I got up in the morning, so did she and she was instantly needing to be on my lap before I could get in my first cup of coffee. Normally I wouldn’t completely give in to my children; I’d let them try to sort out their feelings and see if they can come up with a solution but A) I’ve seen the difference between a regular, age appropriate meltdown (because she is 2, after all) and something more. There is a big difference and this was definitely in the ‘something more’ category. B) My mom lives in an apartment. Even if she was just having regular 2yo tantrums, noise-wise I don’t have the option to let her cry it out. So instead I gave in and had a little shadow for 2 weeks. We did cut the trip short by a week, and I have seen a huge difference now that we are back in our own home where she has her own room and everything is familiar again. 

I have 14 year old twin sister who came back with me to visit for a couple of weeks. This experience is both awesome and odd. I love having them here with me. They are amazing company and we don’t get to spend quality time together except about 2 weeks out of the year normally. However it’s suddenly like I’m mom to two teenagers and it’s really scary! Thank the Lord I have another 8 years before I have one of my own! (I say that with love, I swear!) 

I think this blog post is just one of those in which I need to get something off my chest. I know there’s not a ton of relevant information for you and I am sorry about that! However, in my next few posts I’ll be talking more about some financial changes we are making with tips for anyone in the same boat as us, in addition talking about how we have decided to homeschool my 5yo this upcoming school year for kindergarten! Lots on that! I’m slowly starting to feel more like my usual DIY mom-self since I left my last job and I feel like these changes will make a big difference in my life; I hope that by sharing them I may be able to make a difference in someone else’s life as well! 

On that note, happy 4th! Enjoy it! 

We’re Going on a Road-Trip!

By we, I mean some of us. By some of us, I mean not my husband. He’s doing some training and work stuff for a while this summer and that gives my girls and I the perfect opportunity to go visit family in MO! We live plum on the other side of OK, so driving from here to there takes a little over 8 hours. Figure in the fact that we always travel with tiny humans and 2 giant fur babies, by the time we stop for potty breaks, food, and stretching it takes anywhere from 9-10 hours to get home. Unless we are just dying to have some utter chaos in our hands we HAVE to have a very strategic game plan to keep Mommy’s sanity here… Err… I mean to keep everyone calm and happy! 

Destination-wise this is still more of a staycation than a vacation. Yes we’re driving far away, but just to go alternate between staying at my mom’s apartment and my husband’s parents’ house. We don’t have any big plans, not even for the 4th of July; my mom’s apartment is smack dab in the middle of city limits, so only small cone fountains and sparklers for us this year, but with a 2yo I doubt we would enjoy a big fireworks show anyways. PLUS we’ll be eating BBQ all day so we will all be happy campers! Other than 4th of July, all I plan to do is nap while the girls get some quality time with their grandparents, aunts & uncle’s they never get to see (because let’s be real, these girls DO NOT sleep when we go home. It’s like they think they’ll miss something so they go with plan B of just blinking really slowly and opening their eyes again as soon as I get my hopes up that I can shut mine). I just like to relax. I revel in the fact that I’m no longer the only mom in the house! I’m very close with both my family and my husband’s, and we all enjoy doing anything that makes us laugh, so I am perfectly happy to just go drink coffee on somebody else’s couch and share stories and catch up. 

However! First we have to survive the drive! We have made so many trips home & back since we’ve lived in OK that I know the drive itself isn’t the problem. The hard part for me is trying not to over pack. We’ll be gone almost a month, but but if I pack like we will be gone that long we won’t all fit in my car! I drive a Dodge Journey, which really is an awesome AND affordable car if roadtrips are your thing! The only downside for us transporting so many people & pets is that you can either have trunk space or a 3rd row of seating, but you can’t have both. I FINALLY came up with a plan to make this as easy as possible and pack lightly, probably for the first time in my life! I’m bringing 5 outfits each for my girls and I, one of which will be the clothes we are wearing in the car! We don’t need a lot and my mom has a handy little hand-crank washer in her apartment so I can just wash our clothes as we wear them so we don’t run out! Because of this, all of our belongings fit into one small duffel bag which will go in the floor board of the third row, still giving the dogs free reign in the back. Aside from that I do have my makeup case, which is a hard case with lots of room. I only want to take it because it has room enough for all of our hair supplies & hygiene items too. My purse actually fits inside our day bag with snacks and diaper change necessities. Other than that the girls get one backpack to fill as they please with toys to keep themselves occupied. This may very well be the first time we have ever made the trip without having to squish bags underseats and under everyone’s​ feet! We have made this round trip more times than I can count on both hands so that’s saying a lot that I have fine-tuned it so much! 

Now on to the road trip tips/hacks! 

1) LEAVE AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE! When we made this trip in the past we have left at 4am. We have also left at 6pm after a full day of work and I can vouch 100% that leaving at or before the butt crack of dawn is so much easier! First, it’s easier to stay awake when you drive during bright & sunny day time hours, especially if you get to see the sunrise! When we leave at 4am we are at least ¼-⅓ of the way done by the time the sun is up! It makes it seem to go faster! Second, the kids still sleep the first part of the ride and with our daily routine they are used to napping shortly after lunch, so we get lots of quiet time, and still get to my mom’s with enough daylight hours that they can expend their energy once we get there. Third, I’ve done this trip several times by myself. The first time I worked half a day and left my house around 1pm. We got home at almost midnight. It felt more exhausting (not really due to my job, I wasn’t working anything crazy, I was at a salon) but just because once the sun is down I’m used to relaxing and I automatically get sleepy! Plus! I just have this fear that if something happens to the car and we are waiting for assistance on the side of the highway, I would MUCH rather be waiting for help during the day rather than in the dark! It just makes me feel a little safer when it’s just my girls and I! (& Just for anyone who wants to call me out on driving instead of flying: flying is NOT an option for many many reasons. This is our best option, also for many many reasons. Thanks for the concern though!)

2) SNACKS! This is kind of a no brainer that when you’re travelling with young kids you need snacks. Duh. What I’m saying is be thoughtful about them. We are leaving early. Luckily my girls are like me and don’t usually eat a large meal until lunch, so I have bottle water for the entire trip since it doesn’t need a cooler. I’m bringing fresh fruit for breakfast, peanut butter crackers (lots!) for a snack and fruit snacks to distract from meltdowns! We will splurge on a nice lunch break out of the car for stretching and sanity purposes and hopefully be home just a couple of hours later feeling good! 

3) REST STOPS! Another no brainer here, but again, I’m stressing to be strategic! I know with rest stops included it’ll take us about 9 hours to get home. I’m just rounding here. I like to break it up into even 3 hour chunks of driving time. The first stop puts us are a nice truck stop combo with McDonald’s, Subway, and I think another option or two I just can’t remember. We won’t need to get food that early in the day but it’s a nice stop to get the girls out and walk around; it’s a nice size building and an area I feel safe exploring with them. They also have an area outside where we can get the dogs out. It’s not huge, but it’s enough for a break! The second stop is actually an outdoors rest area. They have a nice restroom and cafe inside, though we’ve never been there when the cafe is open. What I love about this one is it’s later in the day when we’re all a little more stir crazy and this stop has an awesome playground and outdoors area! So we grab food before we get here and spend time eating and playing outside before climbing back in the car! It’s a nice break from the backseat for the girls and the dogs! *Another bit of info about how awesome my car is for roadtrips: you’re probably wondering at this point, how I manage the dogs while the girls and I are out of the car. My car isn’t new, it’s a 2012, but it’s new enough that it has a keyless ignition, meaning I can have the car running with the a.c. on and lock the dogs in while I take my girls to the bathroom. Yes they are left in my car, WITH the air conditioning on and food and water. Parking close to the store entrance ensures that IF anyone were to tamper with my car anyways, it will all be caught on film, but we really try to hurry inside then spend most of our break playing with the pups. I also leave a note in my window specifying that the car has been left on, just in case anyone is tempted to break a window, but usually at truck stops, everyone has a similar travel agenda and people don’t get their panties in a bunch too much. Thank the Lord! 

4) KIDS ACTIVITIES! FINALLY! THE PART YOU’VE PROBABLY BEEN WAITING FOR! As I mentioned earlier, my girls will get one backpack to fill however they want to keep them occupied during the trip.  They’re so tired when we leave they forget about it so I stash it in the front seat until they need it. They’ll sleep for a while then wake up and take in the scenery before they get bored and need the pack. 

•A cheap activity I don’t have now but I’ve made in the past & I’m considering running to Dollar tree to make again is this type of activity board: 


All it is: a small cookie sheet and a set of fridge magnets! Both of which can be found at Dollar Tree so this can cost as little as $2+tax! Pretty self explanatory. You can also use the tray for other things such as a coloring table. The edges prevent​ crayons from rolling off the kiddo’s lap! Here’s the link to the awesome post from which I got this pic: http://pinterest.com/pin/815573813739672104/?source_app=android
•Another cheap activity I have for both girls are these dry erase books!

These also only take a few bucks to make depending on how many you want to make and what you want to fill them with. I actually made these as a homeschool study tool because we are going to be homeschooling this upcoming school year but they make awesome busy work! The books are 97¢ 4×6 photo albums from​ Wal Mart. The flashcards I found for $1/pack at the Dollar tree, as well as the markers; the 4 pack of bright dry erase markers. I have a math book and a reading&writing book for my 5yo, then I have picture cards and color cards in another for my 2yo. You can also print off half page coloring sheets to fill the books. In the past, I’ve done this but with full sheets of paper in plastic sheet protectors in a binder. Same concept. You could tear out pages from coloring books or school work books depending on what you like. These small flash card albums are a lot more manageable in the car though! 

•I also have lacing cards I found at the Dollar Tree in 3 or 4 packs which my 2 year old just discovered she loves! In addition to that, I found 3 packs of mini composition notebooks at Walmart for 88¢ with their office supplies that I may bring along with gel pens, because I know my 2yo will color herself and I think gel pen will be the easiest to wash off with baby wipes on the go! 

Other than those super cheap & easy activities I’m just going to let them pick some stuffed toys for cuddling. I also have a 7 inch tablet with a stand. I don’t have any type of TV or anything in my car, but the tablet is the perfect size that I can stand it up on the arm rest between the front 2 seats, both girls can see it, and I can still play the audio through my car speakers by hooking it up with an auxiliary cord! (You can find cheap aux. cords at Dollar Tree too if you need one!) I have some great learning apps on the tablet but since we currently only have one tablet it may turn into an argument that I don’t necessarily want. However! For watching purposes, thanks to Netflix having a great selection of downloadable movies, I have a full 10 hours of non-annoying kids movies like Trolls and The Bee Movie! 

My main tip for using any activities durimg road trips is don’t let them have all the activities at once! They get bored with them faster! Stash them all up front and let them think they only have one toy; they usually will play with it longer before getting tired of it and tossing it in the floor! Save the big stuff as a last resort or grand finale! They won’t even know I have the tablet until they have decided the other activities just won’t do! I can probably hold off on movie time until the last couple of hours of the trip and the Trolls movie is like magic for us! I’m saving it for emergencies! 

I know that is a suuuuper long post & I apologize for going on… Kind of. For someone who roadtrips as much as I do I have some pretty good tips. Hopefully even the smallest tip can help someone out! Even if it doesn’t, my mind is CrAzY right now and writing this all out helped me get my thoughts together so thanks for that! 

Everyone have a wonderful week this week & if you’re interested in my stay at home mom life, stay tuned to hear about my homeschool planning for this upcoming year & to hear about why I quit writing for the last several weeks until now! 

❤️❤️❤️

Sunday… Lazy-day?

Hi there!

I’m really hoping that writing this short little blurb tonight will help clear my head. My 5yo only goes to school Mon-Thurs the rest of the school year, and this weekend was our first 3 day weekend winding down for Summer vacation. It was awesome! And super productive/unproductive at the same time.

 Friday was payday. I made my super frugal meal plan, dropped the girlies off with our trusty babysitter, and in just 2.5 hours, I’d hit up 4 stores and done 99% of our 2 week shopping while only spending a little less than $150! {squeal of delight!!!} Luckily we had a ton of grains in the pantry from the last time I stocked up so I mainly needed produce and perishables like milk & eggs. I visited a new (to me) store, a Green Acres Market, which sells healthy & organic foods. We don’t have a lot of small and/or health-food type grocers in town so I was very happy to stumble upon this place and for the first time in the 3 years we have lived here I found vegan cheese!!! (No I am not vegan nor do I have any true dairy allergies. However, I eliminated most dairy from my diet last year in an effort to be healthier, and I felt soooo much better! In addition to not feeling sluggish and easily exhausted, my skin was also the clearest I have EVER seen it! I struggle with adult acne, and as an esthetician, I definitely believe in the rule of ‘put good in, get good out’; lucky for me, I saw that good nutrition in my health and literally in my skin!)

Okay, anyways! Here in OK, we had an insane forecast for this weekend! They even called for SNOW in parts of the state! Thank goodness none of that started until after Friday. Let it blizzard for all I care, I just bought 2 weeks of home goods! 

Yesterday, all I could bring myself to do was alternate between binge watching old YouTube channels I used to follow before I started working a couple of years ago and cleaning. I did get a lot of deep-cleaning done all over my house, which is awesome since I start job training tomorrow for this new salon job, but today has mostly been a lazy day for us all. My husband came home early from some training for a class he starts tomorrow and it’s the first day he’s been home since Wednesday. We chilled on the couch in our jammies and watched TV and snuggled the girls. It’s been wonderful! I kinda feel like crap though. I don’t know, sometimes I just get in these weird moods where I want to relax but it bothers me to relax because I know there’s stuff to be done. Yet, I have no motivation to get up to do anything and even though I know I should be doing something productive, I can’t figure out what to do or where to start. 

Let’s see: 5yo’s homework is done. Kiddos are about to get a bath and go to bed since its a school night. I need to do laundry and make sure uniforms and nap blankets are washed and backpack is packed. I already cleaned the play room. I need to help 5yo clean her bedroom before bed, assuming she’s still cooperative by that point in the night. Hubby has dinner dishes cleaned nnd hopefully will cover the sweeping. Since I go into work at 5pm tomorrow I’m making crockpot dinner and I need to set an alarm to make sure I put it on in time. Now that I think about it, that may be all I have left to do! It just seems really odd that I’ve done nothing all day and that’s all I have left. It doesn’t help that I didn’t fall asleep until almost 3am last night and I’ve had a headache most of the day. Maybe that’s my issue; I’m just sleep deprived and grumpy. 
I’m going to go now. I’m going to get this crap over with and get into bed! I’ll drink myself a cup of green tea, get my beauty rest and hopefully wake up in the morning to finish this Etsy project I’ve been dying to put together! Wish me luck! & if you stumble upon this and it’s still Sunday, I hope you enjoy what’s left of the weekend! 

Surviving This Monday

**WARNING! There is rambling in this post! It’s Monday, I haven’t posted any mom stuff in like 2 weeks, and I’m not fully caffeinated yet! Don’t say I didn’t warn ya!**

It’s that day of the week again! Fridays I try to deep clean what I can so I can relax over the weekend with my family. Yes I’m home all the time, but my hubby and 5yo are not, so weekends are our days to not focus on much besides family. Saturday is our day to be out and about. Even if we don’t have a day trip planned we usually at least venture out to the farmers market and we’ll take our time and drive the long way and just enjoy being out of the house together. Sundays are split half and half. The first half of the day is spent relaxing. It’s my one day of the week that I don’t set an alarm to wake up for my quiet time while everyone else sleeps, and I catch up on a little extra rest. In the afternoon we double check homework, make sure school clothes and uniforms are clean for the week, and I meal plan (and budget if payday falls during the following week.) 

This past weekend, however, I just felt like crap! I wasn’t sick, I was just feeling extreme exhaustion for some reason. I did have a busier week than usual, so maybe that was just catching up with me. Who knows? Whatever it was, I didn’t get out of bed much. So today I’m catching up around the house, washing weekend laundry, cleaning the floors I neglected for 2 whole days (gasp!), and since I didn’t do it yesterday I’m meal planning and tallying up our budget. 
Payday falls on a Friday this time, but I actually just got accepted for a part time job at a salon here in town, which I am SUPER excited for. I’m hoping to be able to at least get my onboarding done this week, so I revamped the rest of my meal plan for now through Friday to accommodate for easier dinners, slow cooker ‘dump’ dinners and casseroles that way I’m not tempted to grab dinner out if I get called in to the salon last minute to finish paperwork and all the fun technical stuff! 

Today I decided on taco soup. Taco soup, I think, is a pretty common meal. I don’t think it’s ever really too complex, but my recipe in particular is super easy. Like I said it’s a dump recipe, where literally you just take all ingredients, throw them in your slow cooker, and when it’s hot you stir & eat! When I first started making this recipe I did add chicken every time. If I’m cooking chicken with other veggies/sides, I don’t like to cook it all together because even though I trim what I can off the chicken, there’s always just that little teeny tiny bit of trimmings you can’t get, and when they cook down they stick to my broccoli or noodles, and taste and texture-wise you really can’t tell, but it doesn’t make for a very pretty dish! So I would cook my chicken on the side, then shred it and mix it in. Lately I’m finally back to eating **mostly vegetarian. I love the health benefits that I personally have seen by eliminating meat most of the time, if not all of the time. But let’s be real. I like food. I like flavor and I love hearty recipes. We’re starting to see not spring but summer weather here in Oklahoma, so I’m already in the mood for BBQ. When we travel home to visit family I definitely look forward to my mom’s home cookin’! Luckily, this recipe is so flavorful I can make it vegetarian style and it’s not lacking anything in any way! Since I’ve been omitting chicken lately, I add extra beans and voila! Plenty of protein. When the kids are being picky and take the beans out of every single bite, I make up cheese quesadillas for dipping in the bit of soup they do eat and every body gets their bellies full! So this is what it looks like now.

Not the prettiest YET because I just dumped everything in. I’ll let it sit and heat through until the cream cheese is melty then I’ll give it a good stir and turn it down on warm. Then it’s just a matter of waiting for Dad to roll in from work and we eat! This afternoon when it’s finished I’ll try and get Instagram-y for y’all and get some food pics and type up the recipe for anyone who’s interested. 
Since it’s Monday, half of me wants to be productive while half of me wants to just sip coffee and crochet since my house is so much quieter than it was over the weekend! I’m in dire need of a dry erase board, but I have no clue where I would put one if I got one! So for now my dishwasher is working double duty and is also serving as my to-do list until further notice. 

I’m a visual person. Even just doing things around my house, at the end of the day I like to be able to see that I’ve been productive in some way. With kids and pets running around it gets hard sometimes. I can clean rooms, organize the play room, and scrub the floors at nap time, then a couple hours later once we’ve picked up 5yo from Pre-K, there’s toys everywhere and you can’t tell. I know first hand that it can be frustrating for parents who stay home to be busy all day and have nothing to show for it! So I use my to-do lists Monday – Friday and it just makes me feel a little better. Sometimes I add petty stuff too! Just because I can and it makes me feel better! One time I had made a full list, then woke up feeling like death the next morning, so I took off a chore and added SHOWER AND GET DRESSED in its place and checked that off! Because reality, that’s why! I might only have clean floors and wash laundry on my list. I might not do laundry after all because the dog got into the bathroom and shredded toilet paper! So instead I spent time cleaning that up! So I’ll go write in CLEAN BATHROOM and immediately check it off. It just reminds me, on days that I want to pull my hair out(!!!), that even if I can’t see my progress, even if by the end of the day you can’t see the floor or the bottom of the laundry bin, I am being mom all day. So my house can be messy but that doesn’t mean I am lazy! It just means I’m improvising, which happens a lot! No, my husband doesn’t walk in the door from work expecting a spotless house and dinner on the table, so this isn’t me proving to him, or anyone else for that matter, that I’m not sitting on my ass all day! This just reminds me that even in all the chaos , I’m still momming along here and doing what I can and that is more than okay! I am more than enough! (Also, I am forgetful so the dry erase dishwasher helps with that too! But mainly, it’s a reminder that I’m running a functioning home with a 2yo glued to my side and we’ve managed to not burn the house down yet! And that’s pretty damn good!) 

So all you mom’s out there reading this, remember that regardless of what today brings you, whether it’s blissful or chaotic, you are more than enough, you do more than enough, and you are loved for it!