Saturday, December 31, 2011

Thirty by 30--Update for December

Update for end of December:

 Today (October 8, 2011) marks the beginning of the last year of my twenties.  Today, I am 29.  In approximately 365 days, I will be 30.  Gosh, I feel old. 

So, to commemorate the last year of my youth my twenties, I've created a list of 30 things that I want to accomplish by exactly one year from today.  My Thirtieth birthday. . . OMG, that sounds strange.  Real strange.

Here goes. . . .

1. Graduate with my Bachelor's Degree from college--after that's typed out I realize how odd and ill timed it looks.  I'm slow at finishing what I start. . don't you know this by now?
2. Go to Great Wolf Lodge--this is a GREAT water park that's fairly close by and I think Ty would really enjoy it!
3. Visit the 17th Street Farmer's Market
4. Try to wakeboard
5. Build a piece of furniture
6. Refinish a dresser
7. Go to Busch Gardens
8. Go to a baseball game
9. Attend a football game at my University
10. Go apple picking
11. Take a hayride
12. Go camping
13. Eat a deep fried oreo
14. Finish decorating (or redecorating?) my bedroom
15. Have a girls night
16. Visit the James Center at Christmas to see the lights
17. Play in the snow (if we get any!)
18. Take Ty to Starbucks on a Fall morning--one of our favorite past times!
19. Go fishing with Ty
20. Go on a hike
21. Go to a fair
22. Volunteer to read a book to Ty's class
23. Eat lunch with Tyler at school
24. Plant a garden
25. Go to a concert--I'm going to cheat and include a musical into this category.
26. Try a new Richmond restaurant
27. Volunteer @ a community outreach event
28. Go sledding
29. Visit a museum
30. Visit a winery

Some of these are things that I've never done, but would like to do, and some are things that I have done but really enjoy doing and want to do more of. 

I'll try to post an update every couple of months or so to keep track of what kind of progress I've made toward my goal. 

What about you?  Do you have a bucket list of sorts?  Share something from it! 


I hoep you all had a wonderful Christmas with your families and loved ones.  I had a great day with the little dude.  Santa was good to both of us and it's been really nice to have some time off from work, school, and the busy chaotic life that I normally live.  In fact, it's been a little too nice!  Without even realizing it, I had dropped off the face of the blog planet.  Although, I've been hard at work here in the casa trying to get some projects completed before work and school starts up again in a few days.  Unfortunately, some of these projects are coming along alot slower than I had anticipated but be on the lookout for some good stuff to hit the blog waves soon! 

Since this is the last day of the month (WAIT--this is the last day of the YEAR!), I would normally be posting my budget updated.  But, I'm not doing that today.  Nope, I made a decision a couple of weeks ago to totally stick my head in the sand regarding my budget compliance for the month of December.  I know that it's not the right thing to do and that ignoring the problem simply allows it to continue.  But, this is different.  I know that my spending in December was ridiculously off.  I know that the numbers are way (WAAAAAY) out of whack.  So, I'm just making a conscious decision not to rub it in my own face.  It's self preservation, really.  So, I'll be back with another (hopefully prettier, more compliant) budget update for January.  But, for December let's just agree that not posting an update will be better for everyone's sanity.  It's just needs to be this way. 

I'm busy today working on some resolutions for 2012 and will be back tomorrow to post those.  Also, I've got a special treat in store for you in the form of a guest blog post.  Tune in Tuesday for a post from SingleMama on how to find Me Time when you're a busy working single mama. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

My Letter to Santa. . .

I saw this on another blog that I follow, My Adventures in Mommyland and I just HAD to write one myself. 

Being that this year is my first Christmas as a single mom, I felt that it was only right that I be given the opportunity to send Santa a list of my own.  I mean, everybody should have something special under the tree on Christmas morning, right?  My list looks a little something like this:

Dear Santa,

It has been a long and trying year for me.  Lots of things have happened and I've had alot handed to me to try to deal with this year.  Through it all, I've tried to keep my chin up and "grin and bear it" as best I could.  I think you would agree that I've been good and probably made it on your "nice list". So, if it wouldn't be too much trouble, could you please bring me something from my wish list? In no particular order, really I'll be happy with any one (or more, if you're feeling extra generous!) of them. If I wake up Christmas morning and find this under my tree, I will be one happily satisfied girl. 

Bradley Cooper

Patrick Dempsey

Channing Tatum

Ryan Reynolds

Shemar Moore

Kellan Lutz***
 Thanks, Santa! 

Love, Aryn

P.S.  And if it's not too much to ask, could you leave it under the tree wearing nothing but a bow?  I'd certainly appreciate it! 

***Santa, If you feel like I should help shape the mind of a young and impressionable, I wouldn't mind taking this one on as my project.  Just sayin'. . . .

What do you have on your Santa List this year? 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Thrifty Thursday: Fun Christmas Ornament Craft

I love fun, easy, and cheap crafts that I can do with Tyler!  What I love even more, are crafts that we can do together that don't look like they were necessarily done by a six year old and his creativity challenged mother!  Therefore, this craft was P-ER-FECT for us!

Cinnamon Applesauce Christmas Ornaments


3/4 c. cinnamon (yes, that's alot of cinnamon!)
1/2 c. warmed applesauce (maybe a little more, if needed)


Mix cinnamon and applesauce in medium size bowl.  If mixture is too crumbly (i.e. dry), add more applesauce a little bit at a time until mixture forms a nice dough consistency.  Do not add too much applesauce at one time or dough may be too sticky.  Once dough consistency is reached, place dough on large piece of wax paper.  Sprinkle down some cinnamon both on wax paper and on top of dough ball to act as "flour" to keep dough from sticking to wax paper.  Add another sheet of wax paper on top of dough ball and roll to 1/4 inch thickness. 

Sprinkle down more cinnamon as needed to keep dough from sticking.  Once dough is rolled out, use regular cookie cutters to cut out shapes and place on wax paper lined cookie sheet.

Once all shapes have been cut out, use a straw (or similar shaped object) to poke a hole in order to string ribbon through to use as ornament hanger.

Bake in oven on 200 degrees for roughly an hour (maybe more, maybe less) until ornaments feel mostly dry.  Remove from oven and let air dry overnight or until dry and hard.  String ribbon through, hang on tree, and ENJOY!

Things to note, be careful when handling these ornaments once they are done because they are very brittle.  At least, mine are.  We haven't broken one yet but they just seem fairly delicate.  This project was super fun, easy, and cheap (I think I paid like $5 for cinnamon and only used half of it, already had applesauce, and we got about 12 ornaments out of it) and it made the house smell DELICOUS!!!  The ornaments are all sitting in my living room right now waiting to go on the tree and almost a week after making them, I still get a waft of cinnamon scent every time I walk by them.  Now, if you don't like the smell of cinnamon, I wouldn't recommend making these. . .cuz it's gonna smell like a cinnamon factory in your house!  In my case, I don't mind that (trust me, it's better than sweaty six year old boy, wet dog, and old grumpy cat!) so this was great for us! 

Do you have any fun Christmas crafts that you've done lately?  Share them with us!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

How I Talk to My Son About Money -- Part 2

Welcome back to my series on how I'm teaching my son about money.  If you haven't read Part 1, you should hop on over and do it here.

4. I set up a savings mechanism for him -- Yes, he has his own savings account but that's not what I'm talking about.  I wanted something that would be visual for him.  So, I set up a jar system that is similar to this:

Glass Cylinder Canister Set of 4 - Assorted
image courtesy of

except that our jars are square.  And there are only three of them.  The tallest jar, is his "Savings" jar.  50% of all money that he receives through birthdays, Christmas, or any random little "jobs" he does, goes into this jar.  The next largest jar is is "Share" jar.  25% of everything that he gets goes in this jar.  The money from this jar can be used in any way that Tyler sees fit with only one rule: it has to help someone and that "help" cannot benefit Tyler in any way except for a "feel good" way.  For example, he cannot decide that he wants to use the money from his "Share" jar to buy two identical toys, give one to a disadvantaged kid and then keep one for himself.  The purpose of this jar is to teach Tyler that no matter what we may "want", we should always have the capacity to give to someone else.  So far, he has always decided to use the money toward the Angel that we adopt every year from the Angel Tree at Christmas.  We take the money and go shopping together.  We count it out and I help him determine how much he has and what we can buy for the Angel for that amount of money.  The last jar that he has is the smallest jar, it's his "Spend" jar.  The remaining 25% of all money that he gets goes in this jar.  This is the pool of money that he has to spend on whatever things he wants.  Mostly we use this money at yard sales (which, by the way, are an EXCELLENT way to teach kids about money and bargaining!) but occasionally, Ty will ask to get his "Spend" jar down and count how much is in there if he's got his eye on a particular purchase.  Aside from Birthdays and Christmas, I really don't buy him toys throughout the year.  If he wants something, he's got to earn the money for it.  For the most part, anytime that he gets any money, I make him stick to this particular breakdown.  However, if there's something that he really wants and he's been working really hard toward, it I will sometimes allow him to do some chores (yes, they are six year old appropriate chores. . .I don't have my kid out power washing the house or anything!) to earn some extra money and have 75% go into his spend jar (25% always goes into the share jar--nothing we "want" is ever more important than giving to those less fortunate than us.) so that he can get his money saved up a little faster.  Most of the time, though, he doesn't even complain about money going into his "Save" jar.  He's asked on a couple of occasions what that money is for and I've told him that's the money that we put into his savings account.  Whenever the jar gets full or it's been a year or so, we just dump all the money out and take it into his bank and deposit it.  He doesn't totally understand the concept of banks yet so he still gets a little confused by the fact that we give the teller all his money and he leaves with nothing to show for it.  I'm a little worried that I might be unintentionally creating an irrational fear of banks for the poor kid!  But, I've told him that when he's older, he'll be very very happy that we saved that money for him throughout his life.  Who knows how much it will be, but at least it will be a little something to get him started off in life! 

5. I have him help me clip coupons--I don't force him to do it, but I do incentivize him to help me clip out my Sunday coupons.  I'm trying to teach him about frugality and how to get the best deals on things.  So, I sat him down one Sunday and explained to him what coupons were.  He thought it was pretty interesting that I could, in a sense, use the little slips of paper to pay for part of our groceries.  I wanted to get him involved so I told him that for every coupon that he clips out that I end up using, I'll put a quarter in his "Save" jar.  So, he clips out his little stack of coupons, I go through and put a red mark on every coupon that he clips out and when I end up using it, I tally it up on a slip of paper in my purse.  Once a month, I figure out how much I "owe" him and I put it into his "Save" jar.  It gets him involved and he can see how much work it is to try to save money.  I've been clipping coupons since he was born so he's totally used to seeing Mommy sitting on the floor in the Living Room surrounded by a mess of papers but this way, he can get an idea of how it all works.  Who  knows?  Maybe one day my little baby will be handing the cashier his own stack of coupons to use on his own groceries!

6. I ask his opinion on purchases -- whether it's a pack of cookies at the grocery store, a dress at the mall, or a TV at the electronics store, I ask his input.  Not on all purchases, of course (that would drag out trip!) but on some discretionary purchases, I'll ask him what he thinks.  It depends on how appealing the item is to him on whether or not he thinks it's worth the X dollars or not.  Seems we buy quite a lot of cookies but not many dresses!  However, the kid is actually pretty good at this already. . .he's told me before to "wait until it goes on sale" or asked me "do we have a coupon for it"!!  I feel like I've made some progress in instilling these lessons in him when I know that he'd love to have that box of cake mix but his first question is whether or not we have a coupon or if it's on sale.  On larger purchases (like a TV), we'll go and look at the TV's, write down the prices of different TV's, and then go home and talk about it.  He's helped me before look up reviews online and we've eliminated items based on what we've found.  Sometimes he'll tell me that he doesn't want me to buy something because it's too much money.  Since I don't ever tell him "we can't afford" something, I know he's doing this because he's making a choice that the particular item is more than he chooses to spend on something. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Why We Participate in the Angel Tree Program

The Angel Tree Program is something that is very near and dear to my heart.  This is a program that I have participated in at Christmastime every year since I was in college.  Actually, it kind of started before then. . .

 I remember when I was a kid, my mom "adopted" an entire family one year at Christmas.  By "adopting" this family, that meant that my family went out and bought Christmas gifts for the family so that they would have something to open on Christmas Day.  I can't remember how old I was or even how many kids there were in the family, but if my memory serves me correctly, it was a single mom with at least two kids.  I remember that we bought the mom a watch.  Again, I can't remember exactly how old I was, but I'm pretty sure I was younger than 12.  Despite the minor details of the event, this action had a huge impact on me.  My mom was a single mom and to see her doing something so selfless for another mother who wasn't able to do for her own children what my mother was so blessed to be able to do for us was very powerful for me.  Despite growing up in a household where my mom was a single mom with three kids, I had a great childhood.  I didn't live a luxurious life by any means, but my mother provided for us and did it well.  We didn't always get everything we wanted but I don't know that I can ever recall a time where we didn't have what we needed or when my mom was struggling to a point where we had to put off getting things that we needed.  I recognized somewhere in my older elementary school years that not every single parent household was like this.  I didn't fully understand why some of my friends who only had one parent didn't live the same lifestyle I did.  I mean, we had a nice home, a nice car, we had nice clothes, food in the kitchen, nice stuff in our house, bikes to ride, we participated in activities, took vacations, etc.  Not all of my friends had those same blessings.  Once I recognized, through the actions of my mother adopting this family, that some families don't even get to have a Christmas, I vowed to try to make a difference in the life of at least one child every year. 

So, in college, my roomates and I adopted a child each year that we provided Christmas gifts for.  As an adult, I have adopted an Angel each year and provided at least something for that child each year at Christmastime.  It felt good knowing that I was giving back and making a difference in at least one child's life.  However, it wasn't until I had Tyler that I recognized that my regular participation in this program could make a huge difference in his life.  Every year, Tyler and I adopt an Angel off of the Angel Tree at Christmas.  Not just any Angel though, we try to adopt an Angel like him.  A child who is the same age as Tyler and we try to get an Angel who is an only child.  There are two reasons for this: 1. if the child is an only child, I think Tyler feels that the kid is more like him (because he's an only child) and 2. I fully believe in this program, but I hate the thought of multiple children in one household not all being adopted at Christmas or being adopted by different individuals and then there is a huge discrepency in the return of the gifts that have been donated for one of the children.  To better explain that statement, I'll give you a little personal insight.  I have a friend (who, of course, will remain nameless to protect her identity) who is just one of the best people I've ever met.  She is geniunely a beautiful person with an amazing heart and soul.  But, the financial gods haven't always been so kind to her.  She had to turn to Angel Tree (or a similar program) one year to provide holiday gifts to her children.  She has two.  A boy and a girl who are a couple of years apart in age.  The kids were both "adopted" that year but by what we think were different individuals.  My friend's son got almost every toy that was on his wish list and a few other things that the "adopter" had selected for him.  Her daughter got a handmade crochet blanket.  Now, don't get me wrong, a blanket is a wonderful gift.  Especially if it's handmade.  But, this child was too young to understand the situation.  She was too young to understand why her brother got all these toys and she got. . .a blanket.  My friend was thankful that there were people in our community who are willing and able to help those, like her, who need help to provide a great holiday to their kids, but she was left in a tough position to make sure that her daughter woke up on Christmas morning and had something to unwrap that was going to make her as excited as her brother was going to be about his new toys.  To make a long story short, that's pretty much why I try to ensure that we select an Angel who is an only child.  The older Ty gets, though, the harder it's getting to find an Angel who is an only child, though! 

Anyways, each year, Ty and I go together to search the tree trying to find the right Angel.  I let him choose each year whether he wants it to be a girl or a boy his age.  Three years ago, he chose a girl (why?  I don't know.) but the past two years, he's chosen boys.  We then go and pick out an outfit and a few toys for the Angel.  Every year, it gets better and better because Ty understands more about what it is that we're actually doing and he's starting to understand how much of an impact that we are having on someone else.  I think her really likes the fact that he can pick out the toys that we give to the Angel and he knows how excited he would get about the stuff that he's picking out so he thinks they'll be excited too.  The way I explained it to him is that we are very very blessed to have everything that we have.  Not everyone is as blessed.  Some kids' parents can't afford to get them any presents to put under the tree so we do what we can to help those families have something for their kids.  He gets that.  I have hit a rough patch the last two years though.  Tyler insists that Santa will still visit those kids and bring them presents.  What am I supposed to say to that?  Umm. . .Santa only visits families whose parents can afford to buy presents?  Nope, probably not going to cut the mustard on this one.  So, I just explain to him that Santa brings unwrapped presents (because in our house, Santa doesn't wrap anything) and we have SO much fun unwrapping all of the presents from Mom & Dad, right?  Well, don't those kids deserve the fun of unwrapping some presents too?  So far, that's worked.  Maybe once he finds out the truth behind Santa, he'll realize even more what an impact we're making?  I hope so. 

Since this is our first year just the two of us, things have been REALLY financially tight.  I considered not adopting an Angel this year because I was concerned about overstretching myself financially.  But, after careful consideration, I decided that I still needed to do this.  If anything, I needed to do it more this year than in years past.  My mom made such a huge impact on me by her actions as a single mom, I want Tyler to see that even when things are tough, we can always find a way to give back to someone else.  Always.  So, I rearranged some things in the budget and was able to re-allocate $50 to put toward providing something for the Angel.  Plus, I found a toy that I had bought on clearance a while back that I had intended to give to Tyler for Christmas but once I pulled it out, I realized that Ty's dad had given him the exact same toy this year for his birthday.  Score!  Easy Angel Tree gift!  So, aside from the toy, we also got the Angel an outfit, an MP3 player, some earbuds to with it, and some books.  Admittedly, not much but at least Tyler knows that this kid has something that he will be opening on Christmas morning.  As a mom, I feel great knowing that I've been able to do something to help another parent provide something for their child and I feel great knowing that I'm teaching my son lessons on charity, compassion, and thinking about others.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

And the Award Goes To. . . . .

As some of you may have already known, the lovely Ashley over at Attempts at Domestication ( graciously awarded me the Versatile Blogger award.  In true blogger spirit, it is now my turn to award at least one other very deserving new blogger. 

Like many of the other past winners of this fine award, I follow many blogs.  Most of the blogs that I read on a regular basis have been around for awhile.  Or they're big.  Like my big sisters of blogland.  So, not really. . . .new.  I have thought long and hard about the bloggers that I would like to bestow this honor to and after much careful consideration, I have chosen:

Drum Roll Please. . . . .

Kristin at SingleMamaLife ( -- Kristin's blog is an excellent journal of her life as a single mama to her adorable little prince HJ.  I admire Kristin so much for the grace and honesty that she brings to being a single mom as well as the poise that she exhibits when dealing with her son's father.  Bravo, SingleMama!!


the.mrs at love. ( -- the.mrs has a hilarious spin on everything she writes!  I have thoroughly enjoyed reading her posts about her family, her faith, and her life in general.  Not to mention the fact that she leaves me sweet comments on my own blog that just make me smile.  the.mrs: you're one of my heros! 

Now, I bestow upon these two lovely ladies this fine honor and pass along the torch to them.

Ladies. . . .here is your award:

The rules of the award are as follows:

- Thank and link back to the person who gave the award to you
- Share 7 things about yourself
- Send it along to 15 other (new/newer) bloggers and let them know you have awarded them!

Congrats to all past, present, and future winners!

Friday, December 9, 2011

I am officially FAMOUS!!!!

I'm so excited. . .and I just can't hide it. . .I'm about to lose control and I think I like it. Oh yeah. . . 

I'm between an eighties leg warmer, scrunchie sporting, leotard wearing Flashdance moment and a Carlton from the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air dancing moment.  Or maybe, it's more like the Carlton dance while wearing leg warmers, scrunchie and a leotard?  Either way. . .I'm super duper stooooopid excited right now.  Why, you ask?  Well, because, while I was minding my own little business at work (yes, I do alot of blogging from work.  Shh. . .don't tell anyone!), and I stumbled upon Ashley's blog at Attempts at Domestication ( where she has kindly awarded me with the Versatile Blogger award.  Can you say Yip-to the-eeeeee? 

The rules of the award are as follows:

- Thank and link back to the person who gave the award to you
- Share 7 things about yourself
- Send it along to 15 other (new/newer) bloggers and let them know you have awarded them!

This is my first blogging award so my palms are sweaty and my heart is racing but I'd like to send a great big "Shout it Out from the Rooftops" THANK YOU to Ashley at Attempts at Domestication!  Check out her cute little blog baby at and show her some blog love.  Not only is she a newer blogger but she's a fellow Richmonder so that just makes her automatic cool-ness.  Add in the fact that she gifted me my first blog award and I'd love to just fold her up, stick her in my pocket, and carry her along everywhere with me as my little good luck charm! 

Alright, in sticking with the rules of the award, here are 7 things about myself:

1. I love Mexican food.  Like really love it.  I dream about Mexican food.  I could bathe in a tub filled with that delicious white cheese that they serve.  Is that weird?  Just checking.  And no, there's no picture to go along with this one.  Sorry! 

2. I try very very hard to be organized, but I just can't stay that way.  I mean, look at all the junk that I keep in my purse (if you're interested in reading more, check out the post about it here.  One of my very first posts!)

3.  My son is my best friend.  Yep, I'm twenty nine and my best friend is six years old.  But, I can't help it.  I just love him to pieces.  He's super smart, totally adorable, and the funniest person I know.  He's literally an old wise man trapped in a little boy's body. 

4.  I love to read and I'm pretty sure I'm obsessed with Nicholas Sparks.  Not just his books.  Him.  He's a good ole' North Carolina boy who loves his family to pieces.  Since he's married, I suppose I can stick with being in love with the men he writes about in his books.  What can I say?  I'm a hopeless romantic!

5.  The Footprints poem is my favorite poem.  Has been since I was a little girl.  It still makes me cry to this day. 

BTW: I took this picture!  Those are mine and my little bestie's footprints!

6. I'm terrified about being a single mom.  But, my son makes it kinda easy. 

7.  My favorite place to be right now is at the beach house.  Not just a beach house, but my mom's beach house.  I can feel her when I'm there and it's comforting.  Plus, the whole place smells like her perfume so I can smell her too.

Now, I still need to pass this award along to a few other new-er bloggers. Since I can't just make these decisions willy nilly, I'm going to take a little bit of time to really think about this and make my selections carefully.  Deep thought and consideration needs to go into this process.  I will post soon with my award pass-er on-er winners. 

For now, I'm going to go relish in the fact that I'm a WINNER!!!!!  Winner Winner Chicken Dinner!

Weekend Goals--Weekend of 12/9

Good Morning, My Lovlies!  No real weekend goals post for this weekend since the little dude and I will be taking off to go see my Mommy in DC this weekend.  Momsters is in DC for a conference for work and that's only two hours North of me so there was no way I wasn't going to invade our Nations capital for a little Momma time. 

Hope you all have a great weekend and I'll be back on Monday with some new stuff for ya.  I just don't know what new stuff it will be yet.  I'll work on that this weekend.  Peace out, homeys!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Thrifty Thursday: Frugal Advent Calendar

For this Thrifty Thursday, I have a project that I found to be VERY exciting.  Probably because I thought it up all by my lonesome (thanks to being bored at work!) and also because it's for my little baby bear and I think he's really going to like it!  I have always admired advent calendars but I've never found one that was really just it for me.  I also wanted something that was going to allow me to include activities each day that Ty and I could do together.  So, I made one myself.  And I'm so excited how great it turned out.  I hope you think so too! 

Here's what it took and how much it set me back:
  • 24 clothespins--FREE (just stole them from my laundry room) for me but you could probably get a whole big pack at the dollar store for only. . .well, one dolla!
  • 3 cans of spray paint (white, red & green)--$3.40 for all three cans @ Wal-Mart
  • Sisal rope (need a higher weight rope to hold up all those clothespins)--$6.48 from Lowes but I have a TON leftover so I'll probably finish that rope jar project that I never got around to making for my mom's beach house (Sorry, Mom!)
  • 24 mini cards and envelopes--$2.00 from Micheals
You could number the envelopes any way you wanted but I found a super cute set of tiny letter stamps at Wal-Mart for only $.97 plus some small Christmas themed stamps (3 to a package!) for .97 so I splurged on those and an extra ink pad for $.97 also. 

Grand total spent: $14.79--not too shabby when you consider that I now have enough sisal rope to either complete another project or hog tie a herd of wild elephants.  Cuz I sometimes find those walking around in my neighborhood.  Just sayin'.

And here's how I made it happen:

Step 1: I laid out all 24 clothespins on some old newspaper in the garage and seperated them into three groups of 8.  One group was spray painted white, one group red, and one group green.

I put two good coats of the red and green on each side but the white took three coats.

Step 2: I took my mini stamps and spelled out the different numbers from One to Twenty Four on the mini envelopes.  I then took my little Christmas stamps and decorated the envelopes.  This step is totally optional.  You could number the envelopes any way you wanted or decorate them any way you wanted. 

Step 3: I took the Sisal rope and strung it between the two light fixtures that Tyler has hanging in his bedroom.  You'll want somewhere fairly sturdy (tied to a banister going up a stairwell, hung from a mantel, etc) because once all of the clothespins and envelopes are on there, it's fairly heavy. 

Step 4:  Once I had everything else done, dried and tied to the wall, I wrote an activity inside of each of the little cards.  Since I wanted activities that were going to allow Ty and I to spend some extra time together, I included things like:
  • Extra snuggles before bed
  • Pick out a movie to watch together
  • Go on a nature walk
  • Breakfast at IHOP
  • Paint a picture together
  • Do something nice for someone else
  • Put together a puzzle together
And other activities that I thought would really help us bond during this crazy stressful time otherwise known was the Holiday season as well as some things that would give Ty an opportunity to learn about the giving that is associated with the Holiday season as opposed to only receiving.

Step 5: After all of the cards were filled and put into their envelopes, I used alternating colors of clothespins to hang the cards on the line.  I started with number Twenty Four and went all the way down to One since the idea is to have a countdown till Xmas.  I'm hoping that by spelling out the numbers, versus just printing the numbers on the envelopes, it will help Tyler with his sight reading skills of numbers.  Always gotta think about the educational spin! 

And there you have it.  An advent calendar that I'm totally in love with!  I put it together last week while Ty was at his dad's house as a suprise for him when he came home to me on Thursday.  He LOVED it!!!  He's gotten so excited about seeing what is inside of each envelope each day.  I've tried to schedule around the fact that he's with his dad 50% of the time so I've included activities on those days that he's with his dad that I thought would be relatively easy for his dad to complete with him.  

What do you think?  Do you have an avent calendar project that you love?  If so, please share!!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

How I Talk to and Teach My Son About Money--Part 1

As a mom to a young boy who long ago reached that age where he would ask for every.little.thing that he saw in a store, book, commercial, or on a billboard that he wanted, I rank the importance of teaching my son about money pretty high up there on the totem pole.  Not only do I want Ty to understand how the world works when it comes to money (i.e. stop asking Mommy to buy you every little darn thing because I'm not made of money!), I want him to be prepared to make smart financial decisions when it comes time for him to make those kinds of decisions that matter.  I don't mean to sound like some old foggey here but it seems that kids these days are so entitled.  I mean, they literally have the world at their fingertips.  It just seems like nowadays (I really gotta stop with the old foggey language, don't I?) kids want and kids get.  Don't get me wrong, I induldge my son.  Probably more than I should.  He has a GIGANTIC (bigger than my Master Bedroom!) playroom to prove it.  But, his father is partially to blame for that.  Yep, I blame his dad because he's still a kid himself.  Anyways, I want my son to understand the true meaning of work and making money and the kind of forethought that should go into spending money.  While I am in NO WAY a financial pro (my monthly budget updates will quickly set that perception straight!) nor am I licensed to give out financial advice, I will share with you the tips that I have implemented in my household to help my son learn about money. 

This post is a two-parter so be sure to visit again for Part 2!

1. I never, EVER, tell my son "We can't afford it"-- Instead, I tell Ty that "I don't choose to spend our money on that (particular item) right now."  I honestly can't remember where I picked this up, but I read somewhere a long time ago that the difference between telling a child "I can't afford it" and "I am making a choice not to buy that right now" is more powerful than we adults realize.  To us, telling our kids "No, we can't buy that because we can't afford it" is sometimes an easy way to get our kids to stop asking for something.  In my son's little mind, I don't ever want him to feel like there is ANYTHING in this world that I can't afford.  I mean, who sets those boundaries on what is affordable and what's not?  My opinion of what I can afford might differ greatly from the person sitting next to me.  After all, I know people who make half the salary I do and they drive cars nicer than mine, live in houses nicer than mine, go out to eat at nicer restaurants, wear nicer clothes, etc.  On the flip side, I know people who make a much larger salary than I do and they live very very frugally.  Again, I ask, who defines what we can and can't afford?  I think it's personal preference.  Therefore, just because I don't feel that something falls within my affordability matrix doesn't give me the right to pass that same judgement call along to my son.  That's part of it.  The main reason that I don't ever tell my son that I can't afford something is because I'm his mother.  He looks to me to be the strongest rock in his little life.  Kids don't fully understand yet how the world works.  I don't want to take the chance that he mistakes the fact that I say that we can't "afford" to swing by McDonalds for dinner tonight and takes it to possibly mean that Mommy can't afford food to put into his little belly.  By telling him that I "choose" not to spend "our" (because despite the fact that I'm the Mom and he's the kid and there's a bit of a power differential there, we're a team!) money on something, it implies that we have a choice.  But we are making the choice not to spend our money on that particular thing.  Now, Tyler will sometimes ask "Why?" when I tell him that we're choosing not to spend our money on something. I typically explain to him that there are alot of things that we have to spend our money on just to keep our house going.  I tell him that I choose to really be picky about what I spend our leftover money on and today, I'm being picky about not wanting to spend our leftover money on a toy, a candy, a trip, etc. 

2. I explain how much "dollars" it takes for almost everything-- I started this about a year ago with Tyler.  At first, he didn't fully understand because he couldn't even fully grasp numbers that large sometimes.  But, we started small.  When he wanted a piece of candy, I would say something like "Well, that piece of candy is almost one whole dollar.  Do you think it's wise to spend that much money on one piece of candy?"  We'll talk about it.  I'll ask him what his opinion is and sometimes he will ask me what mine is.  I tell him honestly.  If he asks how much "dollars" (because that's how he asks how much everything is!) our house is (my mortgage payment), I tell him.  I still don't think he can grasp how many dollars that is yet but he knows it's alot.  The only question that I haven't answered honestly yet is how much I make at my job.  To that question, I simply respond "Enough to pay for the things that we need to pay with just the teeniest bit of extra fun thrown in every now and again".  He seems happy with that answer, so I'll stick with it a bit longer.  The last thing I need is him deciding he wants to share my salary while we're out in the grocery store or something.  I've also explained to him that asking someone how much money they make at their jobs is like asking a woman (that's not Mommy) how old she is: you just don't do it!  But in alot of things that we do, we'll talk about money. 

3. I let him pay--no, my son does not pay our bills.  He's six.  Do they even have good paying jobs for six year olds?  If so, I might be interested.  Anyways, another way that I teach him about money is to let him pay.  If we're out somewhere and I have to pay cash for something, I'll give it to him and tell him ahead of time how much I think it will be.  That way, it gives him time to try to count out the money and have it ready.  I also sometimes slip Ty a couple of dollars and tell him that it's for a treat while we're out.  Whatever he has left over, he gets to keep.  I explained to him a little while ago that spending money is like a game.  You have to try to keep as much of your money as possible while still getting what you want.  So, when I give him a couple of dollars to spend, he now tries to find a treat that will make him happy while still having some money left over to save for his money jars (keep reading, I'll explain those later).  If he finds something that he wants, we talk about how much it is.  I'll help him figure out how much money (if any) would be left over if he bought it.  I let him make the decision on his own.  If he asks for my opinion, I'll give it but I usually let him decide.  After all, spending your own money comes down to being able to live with the decisions that you make. 

To be continued. . . . . . Be sure to come back again next week for Part 2!!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Weekend Goals Update--Weekend of 12/2

Update on how much I got done over the weekend. . .

Goals for this weekend:
  • Get the outside of my house decorated for Christmas
  • Get everything on the inside decorated except for the main tree.  That one Tyler and I will decorate together next week.
  • Get some blog posts finished and others started--my computer at home is acting really really wonky.  Not good.  WORST time for my computer to start to die on me.  But, I'll die without a computer so. . . something's gotta give.
  • At least start both finals for school and finish the one for Real Estate Law--actually, just finish both of them.  This is asking alot but it will make next week SO much easier.
  • Pay bills--yuck.  Ick.  Blech
  • Drop off Angel Tree stuff
  • Donate blood on Saturday morning--Kind of, they turned me away because my iron tested too low.  :-(
  • Pick up Craigslist dining room table--which will be refinished.  At some point.
  • Go to Costco and:
    • get pictures printed--decided against going through 2000 pictures at the kiosk in Costco (thus totally irritating the other holiday picture seeking shoppers in line behind me) and decided to just do it from the comfort of my own home (if my computer will cooperate) and order them on Costco's site. 
    • pick up Christmas tree
    • get stuff on shopping list
  • Go to Lowes and get stuff for ornaments that Ty and I will make
  • Garden Ridge for Christmas ornaments
  • Old Navy--Didn't really need anything, anyways.
  • Best Buy--I'll do this at a later date.  I just ran out of steam yesterday afternoon. 
  • Home Goods
  • Make cinnamon and applesauce ornaments and Fruit Loop garland for the tree in Tyler's room
Other things I was able to accomplish:
  • got garland for the outside of the house. . .& put it up!
  • Laundry--still need to get that last load out of the dryer and put it away but most of the laundry's done!
  • went to Trader Joes and got some groceries
  • was able to manage to squeeze in a little girl time with one of my besties who is going through a similar situation to mine in regards to relationships and we have found that leaning on each other just makes it a little easier. 
It was a busy weekend for sure.  This week is shaping up to be equally as busy but next weekend will be a mini-vacay in DC with my Mom and sweet sweet little boy.  Can't wait!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

I'm Blank Because. . .

My real life girlfriend, Sarah, over at Downtown Southern posted this activity on her blog.  I loved it so much that I stole it and decided to try it here.  She'll forgive me later for the thievery.  Or, she'll just steal something of mine to get back at me.  Sarah, can I suggest maybe the pile of "to-do" items sitting on my desk at work?  No?  Okay. . .have it your way, then. 

Here goes. . . .

I'm weird because:
  • I love the smell of cleaning products
  • I hate dressing up to go out
  • I love to wear pant suits to work
  • I have made a career out of talking to people but get incredibly nervous in crowds.  I also don't like to be approached by strangers.  Stranger Danger.
  • I have entire conversations with my dog
  • I have stage fright in public bathrooms.  It will literally take me a few minutes just to talk myself into doing my "business" if anyone else is in there. 
  • In college, I used to drive to my mom's house (about 5 miles from my dorm) to do #2 (see reason above)
  • I love buying shoes but only for my son. 
  • My friends have to dress me--I have no sense of fashion but my son is always dressed like a little GQ model
  • I dip my french fries in sour cream (yes, Sarah. . .your Wendy's frosty and french fries reminded me of this)
  • I'm currently obsessed with chewing ice but only the ice from the ice machine at work.  It's softer than any ice I've ever had before.  Does that make me an ice connoisseur?
  • When my son is at his dad's house, I can't sleep unless I have his blanket somewhere in my bed.
  • I cannot function properly if there are dirty dishes in my sink yet I HATE emptying the dishwasher
  • I would rather clean a toilet than sweep the floor--I hate to sweep but I love to mop (I think it's because I get to smell the floor cleaner when mopping.)
I'm a bad friend because:
  • I'm horrible about calling my friends regularly and checking in on them
  • I forget birthdays.  Like, really important ones.
  • I sometimes get too wrapped up in my own issues to truly be as present for my friends as I feel I should be
I'm a good friend because:
  • I love my friends intensely and deeply
  • I will give my friends the shirt off my back if I need to.  But only if I have a cami underneath. 
  • I can make my friends laugh when they are sad or angry. 
  • I will spend hours talking to my friends to try to talk them through their problems or help them see something from a different angle. 
I'm sad because:
  • I'm going through a really rough time with my son's father.  He's being very mean and combative with me which isn't making it any easier.  I just wish we could find a way to be friends.  Or at least civil with one another.
  • I don't get to spend as much time with my son as I wish I could.  My ex and I currently split him pretty much 50/50 and seven months after the split, it's still a really hard concept to grasp that I don't have my baby bear with me every single day. 
  • I wish I made more money at my job.
  • I can't seem to find financial security and I continue to struggle month to month to try to get myself out of debt
  • I have friends who are going through a hard time and I'm not sure how to be there for them
  • There are mean people in this world who get a kick out of hurting others
  • I don't get to see my family as much as I would like to since we are all spread out across the country and even the world with my dad living in Germany. 
  • I feel like I'll never truly find happiness and love with a partner.  There seem like there are so many great guys out there but they're all either married or gay.  I know I probably just have a dim view about it on account of what I'm dealing with right now, but I fear being alone for the rest of my life. 
I'm happy because:
  • Christmas is coming.  I love Christmas.  Really love it.
  • My son is happy and healthy.  He's funny and smart.  He's beautiful.  All those things make me very happy
  • I have some really great friends who love and support me even when I'm being a pill
  • So far, I've managed to keep my household together and I feel like I get a little bit stronger each day in terms of being able to stand on my own two feet. 
I'm excited for: 
  • Christmas
  • To graduate in May of 2012
  • A trip over to Europe with my son to see my dad and step-mom
  • Next weekend getting to see my Mommy in DC
  • All of the days off this month that I get to spend with my son
  • The annual party that I'm throwing in January
  • (IF) the day ever arriving that my house is FINALLY in the condition that I feel that I can stop stressing over the DIY projects and just relax.  And breathe.  And revel in the gloriousness of being able to say "it's D-O-N-E!"
If you decide to do this yourself, leave a comment linking to the post in your blog so that I can read it! 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Weekend Goals--Weekend of 12/2

Goals for this weekend:
  • Get the outside of my house decorated for Christmas
  • Get everything on the inside decorated except for the main tree.  That one Tyler and I will decorate together next week.
  • Get some blog posts finished and others started
  • At least start both finals for school and finish the one for Real Estate Law--actually, just finish both of them.  This is asking alot but it will make next week SO much easier.
  • Pay bills--yuck.  Ick.  Blech
  • Drop off Angel Tree stuff
  • Donate blood on Saturday morning
  • Pick up Craigslist dining room table--which will be refinished.  At some point.
  • Go to Costco and:
    • get pictures printed
    • pick up Christmas tree
    • get stuff on shopping list
  • Go to Lowes and get stuff for ornaments that Ty and I will make
  • Garden Ridge for Christmas ornaments
  • Old Navy
  • Best Buy
  • Home Goods
  • Make cinnamon and applesauce ornaments and Fruit Loop garland for the tree in Tyler's room
Wow, I have alot to get done this weekend.  Wish me Luck!

I'll post an update on Monday outlining how successful I was this weekend. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

November Budget Recap--Blech!

Consider it another miserable fail.  Possibly even worse than October's fail.  If that's even possible.  Let's just put it this way: I WAYYYY overspent in November.  Can't really tell you how it happened, I just know it did.  Wow. . .  Anyways, below is the recap.

Miserable FAILS:
  • Grocery Shopping--budget is $200, I spent $355.61
  • Eating out--budget is $50, I spent $235.56
I really have no excuses for it.  I didn't even cook Thanksgiving dinner.  I know that my grocery budget may be a little elevated for December since I'm cooking Christmas dinner.  Granted, it's only three people (so far) but I'm still going all out to have a nice dinner.  So, I kind of expect that bill to be a little higher for December.  November's spending was just out of control.  And the Eating Out. . .we won't even go there.  Nothing I can say will make that any prettier. 

I am learning some lessons here, folks.  I promise!  I'm committed to getting this budget to a prettier place so that these recaps won't be so painful.  Hopefully, December won't be as bad.  Well. . .let's go ahead and push that out to January!

There were some very small (OMG, very small!) successes.
  • For my lunch budget, I have an amount of $20.00.  For the entire month of November, I only spent $20.34.  Yes, I went over budget, but when you compare that to my miserable fail in October in the same category (going OVER budget by $41.28), I think I did a pretty good job in November. 
  • I have $60.00 a month budgeted for any pet related items needed for the dog and cat.  I only spent $29.60 in November and I don't anticipate having to spend a whole lot in December in this category since the dog food and cat litter are pretty well stocked.  If it weren't for my old grumpy cat having to eat wet catfood, I'd venture to say I'd spend $0 in the pet department for December.  But, the cat is old and picky and he must have his wet food that I'm running out of.  That's the only expenditure that I expect to have for pets in December. 
I'm really sad that it ended up being such a rough month again.  I'm going to really, REALLY try in December to keep a more proactive eye on my budget and spending so that I can (hopefully!) avoid this end of the month let-down.  It always comes right before the beginning of the month bill-paying stress and that just sucks. 

What about you. . .any budget successes or failures this month? 

Thrifty Thursday: Mending Your Health on the Cheap

Tis the season that the weather starts changing, people stop spending so much time outdoors and start shutting themselves up indoors, kids starts sharing their school-y germs with their families, and people just start getting sick.  It happens to me almost every year.  I get sick because the weather's drastic changes don't agree so well with my body and I think that in general, people just become more giving of their germs around this time of year. 

As I sit here writing this post and trying to keep the snot monster at bay (is that too much?  Too graphic?  Sorry.), I started thinking about how much medicine costs and if there was any way to minimize the money that I spend on medicine while still making sure that I get effective stuff to knock out the yucky.  A trip to my neighborhood WalMart was in order.  I know that Wally World is a controversial place and is bound to spurn many a family argument over the big box giant, but I was just doing a little price comparison here, folks! 

Below, I have provided examples of commonly used medications where I have priced out the brand name drug and then Walmart's store brand (Equate).  I have carefully examined EVERY. SINGLE. package to ensure that I was truly only comparing apples to apples in terms of the active ingredients in the medication.  According to the powers that be (Google), it's the active ingredients that make a difference, not the inactive ingredients UNLESS you are allergic to some strange off kilter thing like "orange coloring no. 81".  If you have any random allergies like that, you'll want to read the inactive ingredients list before purchasing any medication.  Anyways, I have checked and double checked that the active ingredients on each package were the exact same between the brand name and generic brand medications.  The price difference on some of these was staggering! 

Pepto Bismol, 8 fl oz bottle = $3.84 (.48/oz)
Equate Brand Bismuth Subsalicylate, 8 fl oz bottle = $1.96 (.25/oz)
Price difference = Equate brand is 49% cheaper than brand name

Pepcid AC Max, 50 tablets = $15.47 (.31/tablet)
Equate Brand Famotidine, 60 tablets = $4.00 (.07/tablet)
Price difference = Equate brand is 74% cheaper than brand name

Aleve, 100ct = $8.38 (.08/tablet)
Equate Brand Naproxin Sodium, 100 ct = $4.12 (.04/tablet)
Price difference = Equate brand is 51% cheaper than brand name

Tylenol Xtra Strength, 24 ct = $3.68 (.15/tablet)
Equate Brand Acetominophen, 24 ct = $.98 (.04/tablet)
Price difference = Equate brand is 73% cheaper than brand name

Tylenol for Kids, 3.38 fl. oz. bottle = $4.97 ($1.47/oz)
Equate Brand Acetaminophen, 4 fl. oz. bottle = $2.62 (.66/oz)
Price difference = Equate brand is 55% cheaper than brand name

Claratin for Kids Allergy, 4 fl. oz. bottle = $9.82 ($2.46/oz)
Equate Brand Loratadine for Kids, 4 fl. oz. bottle = $5.83 ($1.46/oz)
Price difference = Equate brand is 40% cheaper than brand name

Dimetapp Kids Cold & Cough, 4 fl. oz. bottle = $4.98 ($1.25/oz)
Equate Brand Kids' Pseudoephedrine, 8 fl. oz. bottle = $3.42 (.43/oz) 
Price difference = Equate brand is 66% cheaper than brand name

Claratin D 24 Hour Allergy, 15 ct = $20.74 ($1.38/tablet)
Equate Brand loratadine and pseudoephedrine Allergy Meds, 10 ct = $9.34 (.93/tablet)
Price difference = Equate brand is 33% cheaper than brand name

Vicks Dayquil/Nyquil caplets, 48 ct = $12.46 (.26/caplet)
Equate Brand Acetaminophen/Dextromethorphan/Pseudoephedrine caplets, 40 ct = $5.97 (.15/caplet)
Price difference = Equate brand is 42% cheaper than brand name

Again, active ingredients in each of these medicines was the exact same ingredient in dosage and everything.  The only difference (aside from price, of course) was that some of the sizes of the bottles were different or there were different numbers of tablets or caplets in the packages.  So, I broke it down into price per ounce or price per caplet and did my price comparisons that way.  I was shocked at how much money I've been throwing away by buying brand name medicines.  SHOCKED!

Why do we do this?  That's a question that I'm now really kicking myself for not asking before.  I guess it's because I feel like the brand name meds might work better?  I mean, when I'm sick, I don't care how much I spend, I just want to feel better.  That goes a step further when you look at the kids medicines.  Most of the brand name children's medicine boxes show children who are smiling and happy or they show loving and attentive mothers tending to their sick babies with such care.  The generic boxes are plain white with lettering.  That's it.  Of course, I want to be the mother to the happy smiling child or I want to be the Mommy who is caring for her little one with such love in her eyes.  So, I dump the much more expensive medicine in my cart and rush home to my sick baby.  How much of a sucker am I??

The more I think about this, the more I put it into terms that I can better understand.  If I were to walk into a store and the associate presented me with two sweaters:  one has a GAP label on it and one has no label.  The sales associate tells me that they are the EXACT same sweater, but the one without the label is being sold for 54% cheaper (that's the average from all of the savings above, in case you were wondering!) than the one with the label, I'd jump all over the cheaper one.  I mean, it's the exact same sweater, right?  I might hesitate if the label was in a noticeable place like a pair of UGGS or something--let's be real, we buy UGGs because we want everyone to know we own a pair, right?--but the labels are hidden.  No one will ever know that I have on the label-less sweater over the GAP label.  Just like no one will ever know that my son's cough medicine says Equate on the bottle and lacks pictures of happy smiling healthy children like the other name brands.  See my point, here?

So, go forth, buy generic, save some money, and get healthy!

**Disclaimer:  I am NOT a doctor.  I am NOT a nurse.  I have no medical training whatsoever.  I just used the two decent eyes that God gave me and the reading skills that I aquired thanks to our public schooling system to do a little bit of research.  I am not qualified in any way, shape or form to give medical advice.  Should a medical professional advise that you use one medicine over another (perhaps a generic?) then it is most wise for you to listen to that professional.**