Crunchy Mamas Giveaway!!

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I’m super excited to introduce you to two wonderful Crunchy Mamas.  

Katie (on the right) is a mama of two, and Ashley (with the fierce hands) is a mama of four (having just added to her family a couple of weeks ago!).  Katie and Ashley are sisters-in-law, and in a round about way are related to ME!!  Well, actually, Ashley and her brother are kinda-sorta-German-Mennonite related to my husband (by way of a small town in Minnesota which is the nexus of the universe).  I’m married to my husband.  Therefore, they are practically my cousins!!!!

That’s my story, anyway.  I’m totally claiming them.

These crazy ladies live in my small town and have worked together to form an awesome business which I LOVE.  They create all-natural, organic, safe skincare products which work extremely well and smell wonderful.  I’m seriously passionate about their products, so when they asked me if I would like to host a giveaway, I said, “Of course!!”  I can’t wait!!!

Here are just a few of their awesome products.  They keep adding more, and I can hardly keep up!

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(My photographer friend Alysun took this pic.  She rocks.)

CM-Giveaway-PicI’ve tried several of the lip balms.  I LOVE the honey lemon and the mint.  I REALLY want to try the grapefruit and sweet orange.  Oh, yum.  My kids and husband are ALL OVER these lip balms.  Everyone loves them, and my 9 year old no longer fights me when he sees me coming at him wielding a Crunchy Mamas lip balm.  Seriously.  I have about 6 of the lips balms tucked in my purse, on my nightstand, in my desk and perched in random spots in my house.  They are awesome.  No joke.

The Vapor Rub is a winter cold must-have!!  I no longer rub chemical laden Vicks on my little boys.  They get all-natural cough relief these days.  I love that the Vapor Rub comes in a stick, so I can easily apply it to chests, under noses and on little feet.  Actually, I rubbed it onto Mitch’s huge feet once, too!  It provides wonderful, soothing relief!  I even use it on my temples to ease minor headaches!

My whole family loves the hand sanitizer!  I have the lavender-lemon in my purse (so fresh!), and I bought the grapefruit for my son’s teacher, although I was tempted to keep it for myself.  I love these scents!  The light, spray-on formula is super easy to use, and I love that they don’t leave my hands feeling sticky or dried out.  Most importantly, they are made with all-natural ingredients that are safe to use on our skin while killer on harmful bacteria.  My boys and my husband have mentioned many times that they love Crunchy Mamas hand sanitizer.  Probably because I spray them often!  😉

I love the convenience of the Scab Stick!  It has replaced Neosporin in our house, and I use it on minor scrapes, cuts and burns.  I posted on Facebook about my ugly blister after a long run, and Katie piped in with the comment, “Scab Stick!”  I used it right away, and my blister healed up quite nicely!  Again, the fact that it comes in stick form makes it SO much more manageable than sticky goo!!

I have saved my FAVORITE product for last:  Smelly Face Serum.  I adore Smelly Face.  I am a total Smelly Face addict.  My face smells on a regular basis.  It all started when I learned that oil cuts oil, therefore I should use oil as my all-natural skin moisturizer like they used to do in the olden days. I actually did a lot of research on this.  Go research it yourself and you may be convinced to try oil on your face, too! I tried several different oils, and they all left my skin a little bit dry and tight.  Ironic, no?  However, when the Crunchy Mamas released their Smelly Face Serum, I remembered an old blog post that Ashley wrote about her green tinted, carrot stinky face oil that left her looking beautiful (maybe a year before Crunchy Mamas was born), and I was anxious to try it.  If it worked for Ashley, I figured it might work for me!  I tried it and was hooked!

cmsmellyI think Smelly Face Serum smells like celery or carrots.  I put it on right out of the shower (just a little squirt), and by the time I’m done brushing my teeth, the oils have penetrated my skin and the smell has gone away.  After a couple of weeks of using it every morning, I looked closely at my skin and noticed that my old acne scars were gone!  Crazy!  My skin feels smoother and younger, and much more evenly colored.  I’m completely convinced.

I do exfoliate my face in the shower at least once a week to slough off old skin cells, and use a mineral powder foundation which is SPF 15, to protect my skin from the sun.  I know some of you were wondering how I protect my skin from the sun after using oil!  By the way, did you know that Coconut Oil (one of the main ingredients in Smelly Face) is naturally SPF 4?  Kinda cool!

Katie and Ashley have graciously allowed me to give some of this stuff away!!  How awesome is that?!  They picked out a few of my favorite products (ones I use on a regular basis and LOVE), including Smelly Face, the Lavender-Lemon hand sanitizer spray, the Honey-Lemon lip balm, and the all-natural Vapor Rub stick!  The giveaway is open to US residents, only.

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The Crunchy Mamas have a Facebook Page.  They have a blog.  They have an online store with flat-rate shipping!  Wahoo!

It’s time to enter the giveaway!!  It’s my first Rafflecopter giveaway, so bear with me if there are issues!  😉  (Crossing fingers!)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

On losing weight, running and favorite fitness apps. Plus, my 2013 goals (finally)!

Hello my faithful blog readers!  I know it has been SOME TIME since I have posted anything here on my poor, neglected blog.  However, I’m feeling a bit of revitalization coming on!  I have so much to share.

I figured that two months in to the new year is probably a good time to share my 2013 goals, right?  Yeah, I thought so, too!

If you follow me on my Facebook Page, then you know that I have been incredibly busy with my Etsy shop.

#1 Goal for 2013:  Pay off that darn HELOC (Home Equity Line of Credit) and be completely debt free except for the house.  That’s where the Etsy shop comes in!  I’ve been working with my single employee (she’s awesome) to keep my Etsy shop stocked so that I can provide you with lots of options when the need to switch to cash and stash it in pretty envelopes strikes you.  I’ll be ready when you are thinking of a gift for a friend!  I’m your gal!

I can’t even tell you how badly I want to be debt free!!  If you feel inclined to share my shop on Pinterest, Facebook, etc., please do!

#2 Goal for 2013: Get down to a healthy weight.  No, no, that’s not right.  I’m already a perfectly reasonable weight for a woman who is pushing 37 and has given birth.  However, I KNOW what I’m capable of.  I want my hot body back.  Sheesh!  No more excuses for me!  I just need to work HARD and make it happen!  I started to clean my act up the week after Christmas, and I have lost about 13 lbs. since then! YAY ME!  I have set 3 weight goals for myself:  #1 goal is about 4 lbs. away.  #2 goal is about 10 lbs. away, and #3 goal is about 20 lbs. away.  I at least want to make the #2 goal by the end of March, and I’m working VERY hard to make that happen.

#3 Goal for 2013:  Which leads me to my super fun, “I already conquered this goal” announcement!  I have FINALLY finished the Couch to 10K program and I’m able to run 6 miles without stopping to walk!!  WHILE talking (most of the time).  No, I don’t actually LIKE to run 6 miles straight, but I am capable of it!  I started back in with Couch to 5k in the fall, and when my running buddy and I hit the end, we just decided to keep on going.  We used the free app called 10K Free or 10K Pink.  If you search the app store, it will be the one with the pink ribbon.  It’s free, and you can play your own music!  Just follow the prompts.  It starts exactly the same way as the Couch to 5K app (search for 5K Free).  Remember when I did the Couch to 5K back a couple of years ago?  Well, I’m at it again!

In fact, I’ve been using the RunKeeper app to track my mileage and keep records of my pace, my elevation, my running routes, etc.  I love that app!  It tells me how many calories I have burned and everything!  In January, I set a goal (in the app) to run a total of 60 miles that month.  I easily hit that mark with a week to spare.  I decided to run 80 miles in February, and I’m almost 1/2 way there.  PLUS, I’ve been running more often.  I went from about 3 runs a week to 5 or more these days.

What will I do with this whole running thing?  I still don’t know.  I should probably run that 10K, although I’m not really big on the PRESSURE that I feel when I run a race.  I need to get over that, though.  I have considered training for a 1/2 marathon, although that seems like SO MUCH WORK!  However, I do need a goal to strive for.  For now, I’m focusing on the weight loss and staying fit so that I can keep running.

I discovered Yoga through DailyBurn.com in January!  I LOVE that site!  I got a free 30 Day trial to see if I would like it, and I’m totally sold!  The Yoga instructor is seriously amazing, and I have improved so much since I started.  In recent days, I have become addicted to 3 mile runs followed by a bit of yoga.  I’m hoping that these deep stretches will help me keep by body strong so that I don’t get injured while running.  (That’s an affiliate link!  If you finish your 30 day free trial, we both get $10 to spend in the Daily Burn store!  Sounds kind of fun!  But, mostly, you will LOVE the workouts.  Promise!)

MyFitnessPal – Free Calorie Counter

I’m also using My Fitness Pal (another free app) to track my food intake, exercise and goals.  I’ve always been the type of person who has said, “I don’t want to go on a diet that makes me count calories or carbs!!”  That’s still true.  However, I do think it is a good idea to know how many calories are in an ounce of cheddar cheese (120) and how big an ounce actually is (a cheese stick).  It makes me think twice about whether I want to crumble 9 tortilla chips (140) on my taco salad (80) – probably not, and add an ounce of low moisture, part skim mozzarella (80) or shredded cheddar (120) to the top.  It’s helping me make better choices about the food I put in my body, that’s for sure.  It took a few days of logging (and buying a food scale) to get used to it, but now it’s second nature to log my meals.

I’m not actually on a diet.

Think of it as keeping a food and exercise diary, which we all know is critical in long-term weight loss.  One other thing that I love about the app is the social aspect of it.  I have “friends” on the app that cheer me on, encourage me and basically hold me accountable.  I love that!  If you want to be my “friend” on the app, I’m kelleighr!  Just tell me how you know me (and tell me your real name!).

#4 Goal for 2013:  Dress better.  I’m a frumpy dresser.  It’s not that I don’t know HOW to dress, I simply don’t have the confidence to look more stylish.  It’s almost like I’m afraid I’ll look like a poser if I try to dress nicer.  I’m trying to get over that, though.  However, this goal kind of hinges on the my other goals:  When I hit my debt free goal, I’ll have more money to buy fashionable clothes, and when I hit my weight loss goal, I’ll look better in those fashionable clothes.  SO I’m hoping to hit this goal by spring or early summer at the latest.  It will mean a few new shirts, to begin with.  And not t-shirts.  We’ll see where it goes from there!

And, I think that’s it!  Yeah, it might seem like all of my goals are pretty self-centered, but I think being healthy and feeling more confident is going to spill into other aspects of my life and touch others.  In fact, I know that it already has!  My family is definitely eating better, and my husband started running again, too!  I have inspired several people to join my DietBets that I’ve been doing (more motivation to get the weight off!) and my running posts on Facebook have inspired others to start (or keep) running.  I think that’s pretty cool!

 Now it’s your turn!  What are your goals for 2013, and how are you doing with them?  I’d love to know!!  Leave a comment!

Mom’s Hostage Box


The other day I was walking around Walmart when I saw a big, pink storage bin.  I just HAD to have it, much to my boys’ chagrin.  I had BIG plans.

I got the idea for Mom’s Hostage Box from this blog post that had been pinned on Pinterest about a year ago.  I downloaded her list of chores and it has been sitting on my desktop forever.  Apparently, I read “Hostage Box” when she wrote Ransom Box.  Whatever.  My title works, too!

SO, I bought the big, pink bin and went to work designing the white vinyl label for the front.  It took me all of 10 minutes, I promise.  I used a Damask cutting file from the Silhouette store (#1849), then I cut the middle out and finished it off by adding lines to give the center some definition.  I used the free Pottery Barn font in two sizes and typed out “Mom’s Hostage Box – pick up your stuff or pick a chore”.  I cut it out of white vinyl with my Silhouette Cameo and applied the design to my pink bin!  Perfecto.

I reworked the list of chores and added a TON more, because I know my kiddos will be doing a ton of chores.  Hee, hee!

My favorite “chore” is the 60 second blitz, which is a spin on something I had to do as a kid growing up.  A “blitz” is cleaning up super fast.  So, when we hear the garage door open (which means Dad is driving down the street on the way home) I yell “blitz!” and the boys are supposed to start cleaning up super fast.  Supposed to.

When Grant was a little guy (maybe 3), he would get SO frustrated at the huge mess that I was asking him to clean up that he would just give up.  I started using the 60-second blitz (or 30- or 90- ).  I would count down backwards from 60 and we would clean as much as we could as fast as we could.  Then, we would STOP.  We were done.  I didn’t ask him to do more.  He trusted that I wasn’t going to ask him to do more, so he was willing to do the blitz with me, and actually gave it some effort!

We continued using the 60-second blitz, and it is awesome!

So, of course, I had to add a 60-second blitz to the chore list for each of the rooms in the house, including “60-second blitz in your brother’s room”.  I’m a genius.  And a little evil.

Click here to see my list of Ransom Chores, however you must realize that they truly are individual for your family.  For example, I typed out “clean up the Wii remote drawer – top drawer of the entertainment stand”.  Obviously, you might not have a Wii, and you might not have a drawer.  So, anyway, download the list and change it up to suit your family!

I printed the list out, cut the chores into individual strips and put them in the “Ransom Jar” which I keep in the box.

The deal is, if I’ve asked the boys to pick up their stuff from the public places (family room, living room, etc.) and they don’t do it, their item goes into the box.  They can earn it back by doing a chore, which they choose randomly out of the ransom jar.  My plan is to require that the box be emptied before bed every Sunday.  If it isn’t empty, the items go into a large trash bag to be donated or tossed.  Please pray that I follow through with this!!  I really, really want to enforce these rules, because my kids NEED to learn to pick up their stuff!  It’s driving me crazy!

Okay, so I tried the Hostage Box/Ranson Chores for the first time today, and I must say, it is AWESOME.  I feel like a total genius.

I’m gettin’ real here:

I explained the whole process to the boys. I told them that if they didn’t empty out the box by Sunday, I’m taking their stuff to Goodwill.  My 9 year old FREAKED OUT on me.  Seriously.  It was embarrassing.  I sent him to his room and told him to get it together and then join us on the couch in 5 minutes.  He came out and sat down and we got started with our 6 year old.  I said, “Cole, choose the item you want to earn back.”  He chose a dude (plastic figure from McDonalds).    “Cole, choose a chore.”  He chose “Do 25 jumping jacks while singing This Little Light of Mine.”  Grant (the grump) instantly perked up!  The boys laughed through the first chore, and then it was Grant’s turn to choose his first item out of the box.  Grant chose “Empty the Laundry Room Trash”.  No biggie!  Grant was totally willing.

We kept this up for TWO WHOLE HOURS.  I’m not even kidding you.  It was actually a lot of fun.  Tiny chores + willing kids = clean house & a happy mommy!  This morning they were bickering and driving me nuts.  By the time they were done, they were smiling and happy and hugging one another.  Grant had to tell his brother 3 things that he loves about him.  Cole volunteered to help Grant blitz his room!  My bedroom was vacuumed, my silverware drawer was cleaned, the trash was taken out, the fireplaces dusted, my shoes organized, my head rubbed, dishes put away, refrigerator shelf wiped down, weeds pulled, porch swept and on and on!!  AND, this evening, my family room is already picked up!

I’m telling you:  This is life changing!

I’m really, really hoping we keep this up!

Confession: When I run, you’ll hear about it on Facebook.

Have I mentioned that I ran today?  I did.  Just a sec. I’ll go post about it on Facebook.

Seriously, have you noticed that most people only write about their successes on Facebook?  Does that bother you?

I gotta say that it doesn’t bother me one bit.  I don’t feel sorry for myself because I haven’t accomplished the same things.  I don’t feel inadequate.  I’m not envious.

Frankly, I’m inspired when I see my friend Julie post about her almost daily longer-than-I-have-ever-run runs.  I love it when Sally checks in with her “I burned 793 calories doing Zumba” posts.  I get excited when I see a friend starting the C25K challenge and posting about it on Facebook.

Often, I listen to others complain about Facebook because seeing people post about their beautiful lives, wonderful children, adoring husband, lovely dinners and skinny legs depresses them.  Because their lives do not measure up to all that perfection.

But, honestly, does anyone have a perfect life?

I’ve been “accused” of having a perfect life a few times.  To my face. With a sneer.  With the intent to harm.  And, I’ll admit, it does hurt to have someone try to hurt me.

But then, I get a grip and realize that the woman who hates to hear about how much I love my husband wishes that she loved her husband more.  She has no idea how hard we work at our marriage and that by posting about how much I love my husband I’m also reminding myself that I love my husband.  We are in it for the long-haul, and we could use all the encouragement we can get.

When I post about the successes of my children, their love for one another, their silly words or their helpfulness around the house, I’m reminding myself of how much joy they bring to me.  I’m recognizing the gift of them.  I just want to celebrate being their mom with my Facebook friends.  Because, honestly, it’s not all unicorns and rainbows in this house of boys, and I don’t really know what I’m doing.  I’ve never been a mom before, so I’m learning as I go, and I could use all the encouragement I can get.

So, when I post about the awesome run I had this morning, just chuckle.  It doesn’t happen every day.  If you saw me in real life, you’d know that I don’t really make running look very glamorous.  Sometimes (ahem, most of the time) I make it look rather uncomfortable.  My thighs jiggle WAY more than they should for someone who considers herself a runner.  My ears stick out of my hat and my hair flips up on one side.  My belly typically finds its way out of my too-tight shirt, which I constantly yank down.  When I watch my shadow running in front of me at the end of my run I get a picture of what I must have looked like during my entire run.  It’s hilarious.  Embarrassing.  But hey, at least I’m doing it.

And, you know what?

I could use all the encouragement I can get.

Confession: I don’t do crafts with my kids

A few weeks ago, I was sitting around a table at MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) where we had just heard a presentation about activities we can do with our children.

As we went around the table sharing ideas, our discussion group leader turned to me and said, “I’m anxious to hear what you do with your kids, Kelleigh!”

I had to confess, “Um. I don’t do crafts with my kids.”

I know that came as a HUGE shocker to the ladies around the table, especially since I have a crafty job and I have a room full of crafty supplies and because I’m a former teacher.  But, seriously, I don’t lie awake in bed dreaming about the next educational art opportunity I can present to my children.

The reality is, my kids are massively imaginative and LOVE to cut and glue and draw and color and write books, despite my lack of prompting.  They just do it.  I can’t take any credit for it. I’m no super mom!

A part of me was a little embarrassed by my lack of motivation to provide stimulating, educational art activities, but then the other part of me said, “Be realistic, Kelleigh. It just isn’t gonna happen.”

And I’m okay with that.  My kids are turning out just fine.

Do you do crafts with your kids?  Tell me I’m not alone here!

Our Micro Accounts: How we save for expected expenses

A LONG time ago, I wrote a post on our cash envelope categories and what works for us.  At that time, I promised to post about our micro accounts!  This is that post. FINALLY, right?

Let’s recap.  I’m writing these posts to demystify the topic, not because I think I know everything or because we are doing it all right.  I’ll be the first to tell you that we made some poor decisions back when we were DINKs (double income, no kids) and we have major regrets that we hope others will learn from.  Perhaps I’ll post about some of those some day (nothing life shattering, but stupid, nonetheless).  Basically, we know that people have a hard time talking about money, which really sucks when you are trying to get a handle on your finances and you have NO idea where to start.  Why does it have to be so secretive?!  I mean, seriously, people?

You could make your life a ton easier and just take a Financial Peace course at a local church like my sister and her hubby did.  I’m so thankful they took that course, because my sister shared her knowledge with me and started us on our debt free journey.  I have not taken that course, but I did read Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover book and it was pretty inspiring. (You can probably pick one up at your church library, public library or Goodwill.)

We don’t follow everything Dave recommends, but we do like a lot of what he says, like the parts about getting rid of credit cards, using cash for all of our everyday expenses and planning for expected expenses.

For example, Mitch has a business credit card that he keeps with him, but our personal credit card (just one) is frozen in a cup of ice in the freezer.  We just don’t need it.  Ever. We have debit cards if we ever need to use one for some reason (car rental, online shopping, airplane tickets, etc), but otherwise, we are off the monthly-credit-card-use-hamster-wheel. FREEDOM. Truly.

That is all due to our use of the cash envelope system, which I’ve written about at length.  Go read about that.  I’ll wait.

We use online bill pay to pay for monthly expenses like mortgage, debt payoff, insurance, utilities, tithe and offerings, etc.

We regularly contribute to our retirement accounts (right off the top of Mitch’s paycheck and at tax time) and have a lot of life insurance (term and whole life).

And now for the micro accounts:  This is just what works for us, and hopefully it will spark some ideas for you.

Two years ago, we fully funded our little emergency fund account ($1000). We have never had to dip into it (thank you, Lord!) but if there is ever a true emergency, then it is there.  Needing a new microwave because ours broke is NOT an emergency (although it might have felt like it at the time).  An emergency must be serious business.

Last year, we made it a priority to fully fund our Health Savings account.  Our family health deductible is $2000, so we funded it up to $2000.  We do sometimes have to dip into it to pay doctor’s bills, but we immediately work to build it back up again by depositing $50 a month until it is fully funded.  These two steps took a load of stress off.

After that, we started setting aside money for expected expenses.  These are things that we know are coming, but they used to “sneak up” on us, which is pretty ridiculous, but it is what it is.

For example, we pay our entire homeowner’s insurance payment every February.  It’s a chunk of money that used to STRESS me out, but these days I save $100 a month for homeowners insurance.  Our homeowner’s insurance is much less than that, but last year I undersaved, so this year I popped it up to $100 so that we would have cushion. I like security.

We have a Home Maintenance budget category on my micro account spreadsheet that we contribute $50 a month toward.  We don’t live in a fixer-upper, but there are always things breaking and projects needing to be done, so we budget for it.  I want new bark dust this summer, and I just realized that I have the money saved!  Wahoo! {doing the happy dance!}  You know that microwave emergency? The replacement money came out of the Home Maintenance account.

Next is Vehicle Registration, which I totally over-save for.  I can’t remember how much it is, but I save $15 a month so that when registration comes around I’m ready to go.

Our Car Maintenance fund gets a bit of a workout.  We have two 15+ year old vehicles, and they are falling apart.  My Jeep doesn’t have air conditioning and Mitch’s truck doesn’t have heat.  So, we drive the family around in the truck in the summer and in the Jeep in the winter!  LOL!  They still run, thanks to regular oil changes, and if they ever need tires, I’m ready for that expense.  We save $50 a month for this fund.

We love to get our kids gifts, but birthdays and Christmas used to be so stressful.  We were never big credit card users (when it came to extravagant expenses, just life-sustaining expenses), so we didn’t rack up birthday or Christmas debt, but we didn’t buy our kids much, either.  TRUE, Christmas isn’t all about the gifts, but when you love to give, it’s hard to not be able to do that.  These days, we save $50 a month for Gifts.  Discovering Swag Bucks was HUGE for my family, though.  If saving for gifts isn’t gonna happen for you, consider earning $5 Amazon gift cards, just by switching your search engine to Swag Bucks.  One year, I racked up $475 in Amazon Gift cards using Swag Bucks.  I did use about $200 of those for an “emergency” household expense, but that was totally cool with me!  :)

Our final category in our Micro Account is Vacation.  Our family vacations are usually weekend camping trips, a night at the drive-in movies, a day at the aquarium, a trip to visit my brother or sister, etc. Sometimes it’s, “We overspent at Thai food. Ah! Vacation budget!”  Don’t judge.  That’s how we work!!  LOL!  Seriously, though, we just went on a one week vacation at a timeshare in Lake Chelan, WA that was donated to us, and it was AWESOME to pull out $500 for gas, food, entertainment, eating out, etc.  I have never been THAT relaxed about money on a vacation before. I highly recommend saving and paying cash rather than using your credit card.  We save $100 a month for vacation.  I realize that if we’re ever going to be able to take our kids to Disneyland, I’ll need to increase that amount, but I guess I’ll have to reevaluate that, now that I’ve paid off my student loans!!  (Had to plug that. It’s just SO amazing to me! Hee, hee!)

Now, logistically, how do we manage these accounts?  I know I’m old school, but I work with a spreadsheet.  There are online savings accounts and various types of software available for micro accounts, but I’m confident in my spreadsheet, and it works for me.

We get paid once a month on the 15th, so when I deposit our check, I take our cash out for our envelopes, then go home and use online banking to transfer a chunk of money from our checking account to our savings account.  Then, I open up our spreadsheet and enter the amounts in each of the categories.  This is a screenshot of our monthly micro account.  Click to enlarge it. (Oh, the transparency! You guys should really be thanking me for putting this out there!  I feel sheepish. This is awkward.)

Notice that along the bottom I have the links to the other savings accounts. We actually have one checking account, and two savings accounts that I can access through online bill pay: one is our emergency fund and the other is this micro account which is a money market account.  We also have our Health Savings Account through State Farm Bank.

You’ll also notice that there is a lot of money in our micro accounts.  A lot for us, anyway.  Most likely, we will not use all of the money in these accounts, so in December I’ll transfer all but the bare minimum over to another category that we’ll call vehicle savings.  This is how we built up our HSA.  It hadn’t been fully funded until we transferred excess from our micro accounts into the HSA last year.

Let me just continue to say that we do not have it all figured out, and we do still have ginormous HELOC debt, but we definitely feel financial freedom because we know where our money is going and we have a plan.  We won’t be overwhelmed by an “unexpected” expense that we didn’t plan for, thanks to our micro accounts.

And, I also feel the need to tell you once again that we are a family of four, and we make a lot of sacrifices to be able to save, spend and give in this way.  Every family is different, and what works for us may not work for you.  You might make significantly more or less than we do.  Our point is to simply show you what is possible and help you to get your thinkers thinking.  We had many years of scraping by (or, not scraping by, but just crying our way through it and trying to breathe in and out), so we can sympathize with those of you who look at our spreadsheet or our cash envelope categories and feel hopeless.  That’s how I felt when my sister shared her spreadsheet with me.  What I learned is that the needs of her family (of eight) were VERY different from my family, and that I could do something to help make up the deficit between what we spent and what my husband brought home in his paycheck by cutting back on our grocery budget and cooking from scratch.  SACRIFICE doesn’t have to be devastating.  It can be empowering.

Yes, it does help that I have been working on building up my businesses (creating new income), and for that I am incredibly grateful to the Lord.  He opened up opportunities for me and gave me ideas that have eventually paid off for our family, allowing me to bring in a wonderful little income that has been instrumental as we continue to pay off debt.  Perhaps another post?  I’ll have to think about that!

Let me know if you have any questions in the comments.  I’ll let you know what works for us!

The Friday 5: Jan 27 – FB blessings, pretty recipe book, Faker the Baker and more!

Five cool things:

ONE – Once again, Facebook has blessed me.  Or, I should say, God used the people using Facebook to bless me!  See, I teach Bible as part of a release time program at my son’s public school.  It’s a pretty cool gig.  I pick the kids up right after lunch, escort them off campus, teach them some Bible, then take them back to class and pick up the next class.  Our organization has “chapels” right next door to all of the public schools in town!  Anyway, the high school teachers came to our recent meeting to tell us about the need to purchase a bunch of new study Bibles for the high school students who have been seeking.  They cost $8 each, and we need to buy them in cases of 24 to get that price.  They had an immediate need for 30 Bibles, so of course they needed 2 boxes.

Well, I hopped onto Facebook the next morning and shared the need.  Right away, my Facebook friends started committing to partner with me to purchase Bibles!!  Two days later, I had checks, cash, and commitments to purchase exactly 30 Bibles!  Then, I shared the need at church and received even more cash and checks!  I can’t even tell you how blessed I was!!  Isn’t God amazing?  {sigh}  I just had to share.

TWO – I organized my recipes.  Yeah. I know.  BIG job.  First, I got rid of ALL of the cookbooks that I never used.  I made a copy of any recipes out of those cookbooks that I did use (um. just one.) and ended up with a HUGE box to take to Goodwill.  Next, I went through the two folders filled to the brim with recipes that I DO use on a regular basis.

It was a total mess.  Most of my recipes have been torn out of magazines or printed off the internet.  I love them.  I hated the mess.  I’ve been putting this off FOR.EV.ER.  Seriously.

My wonderful friend Pamela, who has a super fun Etsy store with awesome printables, had the PERFECT solution for my problem.  Now, my recipes look like this:

Pam’s printable has pretty dividers for each section of my binder.

No, it’s not perfect, but it is ABSOLUTELY perfect for me!  I love my new recipe book!  I feel peace!!  It’s crazy!  I totally recommend it!

THREE – I’ve been using Avocado Oil on my face instead of lotion lately.  I know, it’s a total granola mama thing to do.  Whatever.  SO, I tried it, and I LOVE the way it feels for the first couple of hours!  Only problem is that it dries my face out!  Can you believe that??  Maybe I’m in the newbie phase of using avocado oil on my face and this tightness will go away??  Anyone have any ideas?

FOUR – LEGO sent my son a letter! Grant gets the free LEGO magazine and he just pours over it whenever it comes.  He often builds something and then asks me to take a picture and send it in to the magazine.  I finally did it!  Imagine our surprise when we received a letter in the mail thanking him for his submission!  Another reason to love LEGO!

FIVE – I’m a total faker.  I was asked to donate some baked goods to a fundraiser cake walk. I told the gal, “I’m not much of a baker.” Lie.  Truth is that I don’t bake cookies or cakes because I’m the one who eats them.  I only bake breads (and biscotti), but she wanted cakes, etc.  I tried to say no, but the gal’s super sweet smile wouldn’t let me. I agreed to do it for a good cause. However, the baked goods were due today and I was way too pooped to bake anything last night. Solution?  Safeway. They had pudding rings on sale for $2.99.  Aw, yeah. SO, in true faker fashion, I popped over to the Dollar Store, grabbed some silver plates, curly ribbon and cellophane basket bags.  I took the cakes out of the store packaging and faked that I baked it. Know what? I’m totally okay with that.  That is where we get the phrase “faker the baker”, just in case you were wondering . . . (And, yes, I do use that phrase on a fairly regular basis.)

There ya go! The Friday Five!

A Mother of Three

Today I’m feeling like a mother of three.  

I’m picturing in my head the day we dressed Grant in a t-shirt that I made for him that said “Big Brother” and we took Mitch’s parents out to lunch.  We pulled Grant’s sweatshirt off of him to reveal our big news.  It was fun and cute and exciting.


I’m remembering Mother’s Day 2005, just weeks after our announcement.  Both of our families were at our house celebrating and pampering the moms and sitting around talking.  The subject of our new baby came up and I just froze up and choked up and teared up.  I had to tell everyone that I thought I might be having a miscarriage.  I experienced fresh grief in the midst of my profound joy at BEING a mom and looking at my sweet little boy who meant the world to me.

In the doctor’s office the next day, the kind physician’s assistant told us her stories of miscarriage and assured us that these things just happened, and we don’t know why, but God had a plan.  And I KNEW that, and I CLUNG to that as my only real lifeline.

God had a plan.

My precious Cole was his plan, and I will forever be grateful for God’s PERFECT plan.  His PERFECT timing.  I have marveled at that over and over and over as I have raised my boys.

And yet, today I feel like a mother of three.  I think about our little baby and what he or she might have been like.  I confess, I always think of our little baby as a boy.  What would he have looked like?  What would his personality have been like?

I look at my two precious boys and delight in their very different personalities.  I can’t believe that  they are so incredibly gorgeous. I’m surprised at how Grant looks exactly like Mitch and Cole looks so much like his uncle and neither one looks like me!  :)  Would our third child have looked like me?

I feel a loss today.  For me, it feels like the loss of a dream.  I didn’t know our baby.  I didn’t have much of a chance to fall in love with him the way I feel such profound love for my boys.  And yet, he’s missing.  There is a hole in there, right between the boys.

Most of the time, I can approach our miscarriage with matter of fact directness.  I ate lunch with Grant a couple of weeks ago and he mentioned to his friends at the table that he had another brother that died in my tummy.  I didn’t feel a lurch in my heart.  It was just a fact, and I explained the facts to the boys who were curious.  I didn’t feel dread or pain or longing.

But today, I hurt.

I kind of hate hurting, because if we had not lost that baby, logistically we would not have Cole.  And, I would never ever in a million years give up Cole.  God’s plan is perfect.

And so, today my head is in the clouds and I hurt and I don’t want to hurt because I don’t want to diminish the joy of being my boys’ mom.  I want to go hug my boys and feel JOY at being their mama.  I want to look into Cole’s sweet little face and KNOW that he is my blessing, my gift, my Delight, and my “I love you” from God.

Today, instead of hurting, I’m going to choose to focus on God’s PERFECT plan.  I’m going to choose to find my joy.