Curls and Pearls

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Thursday, May 28, 2015

Budgeting 101: My Secret Weapon


Goodbudget


STOP: If you are reading my blog for the first time you probably want to back-track and read part 1 of this series first! It's linked! ---> Budgeting 101: Getting Started

So what is it?

Goodbudget is an EASY way to create a budget and hold yourself accountable. Want to know my favorite part?! It is FREE! You know I'm cheap so free is pretty much my FAV word in the dictionary!

To get started you will use this link: Goodbudget

Side Note: I get absolutely nothing for referring you to Goodbudget. They do not have a referral program that I am aware of and I am in no way affiliated with their company other than holding an account. I find things I LOVE and that work for us and want to share them with you guys!

How does it work?

Setting up an account with Goodbudget is super simple, and you aren't required to enter your actual bank account information if you don't feel comfortable. We will have been using Goodbudget a year as of June 1st and we have not linked it to our bank account. You create an account just like you would any other website, it requires you to create a username and password. You will need to provide your email  address. Make sure you select the FREE option. They will not spam you with emails.

Here is what is offered with the free version:

FREE

Free Forever
  • 10 Regular Envelopes
  • 10 More Envelopes
  • 1 Account
  • 2 Devices
  • 1 Year of History

There is a more advanced option available that is $5 a month or $45 a year. Personally, we have been making it work with the free version just fine.

You will want to do the initial set-up on your laptop or desktop, it makes the set-up a lot easier. Next you will need to download the Goodbudget app on your smartphone. This allows you to enter your transactions as they occur, kind of like a virtual check register. I love this option for Daddy D. Previously he was shoving receipts in to the center console of his truck and I would have to go dig for them to write them down in our check register, it may be two weeks after the actual transaction took place. Then I would have to try to go back and reconcile to our bank statement. This was time consuming, and really just a pain. Now he can enter his purchases the minute he makes them. He can also pull up the budget app and see what is left in each envelope for the month on real time. This really holds both of us accountable. There are no secrets. He can clearly see where I am spending money, and I can see the same with him.

Keeping secrets about money is pretty much a bad idea. If you are in this boat you might want to jump on over and read this: Marriage, It's a Team Thing

With the free option you can link up to two devices on the account. We actually have more than one bank account, but for the purposes of budgeting we keep an "operating account." All of our monthly expenses come out of this account. When we opened our account with Goodbudget I entered our account balance in to the account tab without actually linking it to the bank. As you enter transactions throughout the month you will pull money from this account. You should be able to pull your bank account information up online at any time and reconcile back to the balance. If you can't someone forgot to enter something, there is something outstanding on your bank account that you aren't taking in to consideration (it was entered on your Goodbudget, but hasn't hit the bank yet), or someone has hacked your account. Let's hope the latter isn't the case!

Helpful Tip: When entering your account balance the first time make sure you have reconciled the account to-date. Be sure you have taken in to consideration all outstanding transactions, income and/or expenses. It's best to start this at the beginning of the month. If you are reading this now you can try to start in June.

At this point you should have your FREE Goodbudget account set-up, your average monthly income figured out, and your expenses summarized. During Part 3 of this series I will talk about creating your budget and sorting your expenses in to envelopes! Much Love, Misti

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Budgeting 101: Getting Started



Budget....the dreaded word. Budgeting can seem SO overwhelming. It creates tension and stress for many, but you know what creates more tension and stress? Too much month and not enough money. Budgeting can free you from quite a bit of stress once you get the hang of it. Getting started is the hardest part.

How do you get started?

Let's start by assuming you aren't paying your bills or monthly expenses on credit cards. The only reason you should be doing this is if you are very disciplined with your money and pay the balance off at the end of every month. If this isn't you, you should not be using a credit card.

Grab your bank statements from the last six months. If you don't have them you can usually print them off online or call your bank for copies.

Side Note: If you don't have online access to your banking information you need to get it, like yesterday. There is so much fraudulent activity going on today, and if you aren't checking your bank account online daily you are putting your money at risk.

Calculate your monthly income per month by adding together all of your deposits. Leave out any special deposits that are a one-time thing. For example, if you got a check last month for $1,000 because you over-payed your escrow on your mortgage you wouldn't want to include that in your calculation because you won't be getting that $1,000 every month and your budget would be overstated if you used it in your calculation.

After you have calculated all of your deposits (income) for each of those six months add them together and divide by six. This will give you an average monthly income. If you would like to be more precise you can use a year instead of six months, this would require you to have your past years bank statements and you would divide by twelve instead of six.

Now you want to determine your expenses, this is a little more complicated. To get a ballpark figure just add all of your expense transactions (debits) on the bank statement together on a month-to-month basis and get totals per month. We will be breaking these expenses down in to categories later.

My hope is that if you look at your calculations at this point you will see that your monthly income is exceeding your monthly expenses. You should at the least be breaking even. If you aren't you really need to get to work on your budget, luckily I'm going to give you a step-by-step guide on how to do just that.

I know we are all at different points in our financial journey. If you have more expenses than you have income it's quite possible you are living above your means. Daddy D and I focus the management of our financials around living below our means, always. Even if this means not getting something we really want.

There is seriously SO much I want to touch on regarding budgeting and financial planning. This series may seem a little scattered at first, but I'm hoping it all comes together for you in the end. Gather up your bank statements and get your totals because we will be budgeting from these amounts next!

See Part 2 here: Budgeting 101: My Secret Weapon

Much Love, Misti


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Recipe Alert: Lemon Blueberry Layer Cake


Lemon Blueberry Layer Cake

OMG! I made this cake this weekend for the first time and I must say it was TO DIE FOR! Talk about melt in your mouth yumminess!

This is the perfect dessert for Summer!! It's just the right amount of light and fluffy. Even if you only decide to use the recipe for icing, it's perfect for any cake or cupcake recipe (or box cake, for you slackers, haha)!

I have to say that I've tried making cakes and icing from scratch in the past and Daddy D will tell you I have failed more times than not. Actually, almost every time. Ok ok every time. I shocked myself when this cake came out beautifully. I think I shocked everyone, and the entire cake was gone within 24 hours!

So what do you need:

CAKE

1 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 and 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
Juice of 3 medium lemons
1 and 1/2 cups blueberries, fresh or non-thawed frozen
1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour

CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

8 ounces  full-fat cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
3 and 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 - 2 Tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

Step by Step:

Preheat the oven to 350.
Grease and lightly flour three 9x2 inch cake pans with nonstick spray. Set aside.

Make the Cake: 
Using a handheld or stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on high until creamy - about 1 minute.
Add granulated and brown sugars and beat on medium-high speed until creamed, about 2-3 minutes.
Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.
Add eggs and vanilla.
Beat on medium speed until everything is combined, about 2 full minutes.
Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Set aside.
In a large sized bowl, toss together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients.
Beat on low speed for 5 seconds, then add the milk, and lemon juice.
Remove from the mixer and stir lightly until everything is just combined.
Toss the blueberries in 1 Tablespoon of flour and fold into the batter.
Batter is pretty thick.
Do not over-mix at any point. 
Spoon batter evenly into 3 prepared cake pans.

Bake the three layers for about 21-26 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before frosting.

Make the Frosting:
Using a handheld or stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat cream cheese and butter together on medium speed until no lumps remain, about 3 full minutes.
Add confectioners' sugar, 1 Tablespoon cream, vanilla extract, and salt with the mixer running on low. Increase to high speed and beat for 3 minutes.
Add 1 more Tablespoon of cream to thin out, if desired. I did.

Assemble and Frost!


Helpful Hints:

You can add blueberries and lemon to the top for decoration. Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled. Chilling will give it a more velvety, cheesecake texture.

Use the square cream cheese and not the spread. Store brand is just fine, make sure you are getting full fat though!

Did I say do not over-mix? DO NOT OVER-MIX. This will take away all of the light and fluffiness of the cake!

This cake takes a little more time than a box cake, but is SO impressive and worth the extra effort!

Enjoy! Much Love, Misti

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Mommy Shopping - On The Cheap!



Retail Therapy...I think the only thing better is hiding in your pantry eating Reese's peanut butter Easter eggs all by yourself. Of course these hypothetical chocolates would also be magic calorie free candies! Mmmmmm....

Anyway, how do I make my love for shopping work with my love for saving money? The Duggars (my guilty obsession) have coined one of my VERY favorite sayings, "Buy used and save the difference." I have always gotten a rush from finding awesome clothes, accessories, and even shoes (gasp!) from thrift shopping.

Thrift Shopping: A fancy way of saying you like to hit up the Christian Mission.

Back in the day, before I spent my Saturday mornings doing laundry before everyone wakes up, I would even frequent garage sales! Saving money is nothing to be ashamed of!

Think about it like this...

You are saving money.
You are contributing money to a charitable cause, usually.
You are getting super cute clothes!

I've heard people say that this is unhygienic. Whatevs, these are the same people blowing up Victoria's Secret. You know people try that underwear on before you buy it, and most of the time I bet they don't use those liners. TMI, I know, but just being real. It's called a washing machine people!

After baby I don't have as much time to thrift shop, so I've turned to my new online thrift shopping obsession!

It's called Twice, and this is how it works:

They sell name-brand used clothes at a high discount.
They will also buy your name brand used clothes.
They will pay you in paypal, by check, or you can get your money in store credit and earn 25% more back.
If you are selling you just request a bag, fill it up, and send it in. It's no cost to you.

Personally, I like to send in clothes and get the store credit. Then I turn around and buy clothes from the website. I'm netting out to zero! They don't just have clothes, they've got shoes and purses too. They have also recently starting carrying men's clothes as well!

Here is a link, check it out! Twice <--- Click it

Just by using my link you will get $10 when you shop and $10 when you sell!

PS: Download their app on your phone and get an additional $10 store credit! Like their Facebook page and get a code for 15% off that you can use on top of that!

When I'm not finding good deals on used clothes, I will scour through the bargain racks at some of my favorite outlets. Yes, outlets even have a sale rack. Try googling for coupons before you go shopping if you know there is a particular store you are planning to go to! Most of the time you can find at least 15% off! Sometimes you don't even have to print it, you can just show it to the cashier at check-out on your phone.

AAA member? They also give 10% discounts at many stores! Gap, Old Navy, and Banana Republic are just a few examples! These discounts can usually be stacked on top of your coupons!

Don't spend money you don't have to! Never pay retail! Happy Shopping!

Much Love, Misti

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

How to: Get Credit When You Have None


Where are you in your financial journey?

If you're just getting started you may find that you don't have ANY credit. This may seem like a strange concept, but it is a real struggle some people face, I know we did!

I will say that prior to getting married I had NEVER looked at my credit score! NEVER! Why would I?

I was in college.
I didn't have any student loans (thank you scholarships and my parents).
I had never had ANYTHING in my name regardless of whether I was paying for it or not.

I was however working my booty off. I worked two jobs through college while taking maxed out course loads. Daddy D and I both graduated with degrees, and both were in a decent financial position upon graduating (not in the negative). We both got great jobs right out of college. We were very BLESSED.

We saved and saved and saved and saved more. We ALWAYS live (still present tense) below our means.

Soon after getting married we decided we wanted to build a house. You know, American dream and all.

We couldn't. But WHY?!

We had good jobs.
We had a 20% down payment.
We owned our land.
We had no debt.
We thought we were set!
BUT and it is a BIG BUT...we had NO CREDIT.

Apparently having no credit is just as bad as having bad credit! So how do you get credit and get it without going in to debt?

It SO pains me to say this because I despise credit cards, but you are going to need to get a credit card. This sounds easy, but it was actually very difficult for us. We couldn't even get approved for a Lowe's card! FINALLY after many calls we were offered a student version of a credit card. This allowed us to start building credit. We would put a couple of purchases on the card and when the statement came in we would immediately pay the balance off. Please ingrain this in to your brain...you MUST PAY THE BALANCE OFF EVERY MONTH. If you don't the fee's will start piling up and your balance will grow substantially without ever swiping that card. I'm not sure about you but I prefer not to just give my money away. Nor do I want collectors calling my house at all hours of the night.

Tip: Try to get a card that offers a % of cash back based on the purchases you make. Usually you can take these cash back rewards and apply them to your balance! Many times they will let you do this every month, every penny counts!

Another suggestion, make sure all of your bills are in your name. I know in the beginning we had bills in our parents names that we were paying. This is not helping your credit score.

I know when we were starting out this no credit is just as bad as bad credit thing was mind boggling for me. We hadn't done anything wrong and yet I felt like we were being punished. If we had made some small changes in the beginning the process of getting a loan to build our home may not have taken as long on the back-end.

Disclaimer: I am not a financial advisor. I am merely speaking from personal experience. Take my advice for what it's worth. It's working for us.

Much Love, Misti


Friday, May 15, 2015

In God's Image

Our Hemangioma Journey

When we got pregnant with mini-d I can honestly say we were very naive. We never once thought of the possibility that something may be different (not wrong) about our daughter. Every ultrasound was perfect, my pregnancy was decent, we had no reason to believe there may be complications after her birth. If you or your immediate family has never experienced having a child with a medical complication I don't think it's something that ever crosses your mind. Or maybe Daddy D and I are just optimistic people by nature. You know what I've realized since having mini-d? A lot of babies are born with a wide variety of medical complications. A LOT.

When mini-d was born she looked like a perfectly healthy little girl, ten fingers and ten toes. Over the next couple of days she would develop a slight pink pigmentation around her left eye.


We walked in to our 2 day check-up alone as new parents. Our biggest concern was possible germs in the atmosphere from sick children. We met with a pediatrician that came highly recommended to us, but that we had never really met before. He proceeded to tell these first time parents, very bluntly, that our daughter had a Port Wine Stain. That she needed to be seen by some local specialists (LOCAL?!?!) , that she needed quite a few risky procedures and tests done, and that we could be looking at possible mental retardation (his words) as a result of the Port Wine. We just sat there and nodded our heads. I couldn't get out of that room fast enough. I cried and I cried and I cried. What was he talking about? She was perfectly fine? We thought she had an "angel kiss."

Funny Side Note: I thought the entire time he was saying Pork Swine and not Port Wine. And of course that's what I kept calling it until I finally realized my mistake.

The next morning we got a second opinion from the man that would become our Pediatrician. He knew it wasn't Port Wine, but we weren't 100% sure that it wasn't an "angel kiss" either. We decided to take a wait and see approach. Over the next 6 weeks we tried to convince ourselves that it wasn't getting worse. We tried to reason that it was "breaking up" and that it was only getting redder because she was hot (it was summer) or mad (she was a baby and babies do cry, duh).


The weekend before week 8 it took a bad turn, and started growing. Fast. We saw it raise up from the skin. I immediately contacted the expert doctor's at the Vascular Birthmarks Foundation. I was shocked when this world renowned Doctor took the time to respond to me within 24 hours.  Dr. Stuart Nelson would be the first to diagnose her hemangioma. 

Official Name: Segmental Hemangioma of Infancy



We saw our pediatrician on Monday of that week. He personally called a specialist at Children's Hospital while we sat in his office that day. We had an appointment to be seen within 48 hours. Talk about the longest 48 hours of your life. We didn't know if we should expect a laser removal, surgery, medication, or really what our journey would entail. We were mostly concerned with her eyesight. We were prescribed a medication called propranolol, and given a list of possible side effects (none of which we ever experienced). We were also told that she would need to eat every 2 hours, day and night. The next year would revolve around medication, feedings, and doctor's appointments. But boy would it be worth it. We watched our daughter slowly change and get better.

Explanations (in the simplest form):

Hemangioma - A benign tumor of blood vessels that grow spontaneously, usually stopping after the first year of life. 

Propranolol - A beta blocker. 


Opening her eye up all the way at 10 weeks old after only being on the medication for 2 weeks.



By her first birthday you could hardly see it anymore. 
She had no damage to her eyesight because we caught it quickly.

We learned so many lessons during that year... 
We learned google imaging is not your friend. 
We learned patience. 
We learned to lean on God because ultimately he is the only one that knows our journey. 
We learned to lean on each other. There were so many times in the beginning that I broke down and Daddy D stood strong. I don't know how he was able to keep it together, but I'm glad he could keep it together for the both of us. 
We learned that it really does take a village to raise a child, and we would greatly lean on our parents during this time for reassurance. 
We learned that we were blessed because in the big scheme of things our little hemangioma was nothing compared to what many other parents are faced with. 
Most of all we learned that sleep is unnecessary, just kidding, or not. HA.

Our journey is unique and different, and so is our baby. Happy International Day of Awareness of Vascular Birthmarks, whew that was a mouthful. Much Love, Misti 


Thursday, May 14, 2015

Marriage, It's a Team Thing



I've never been one to play on teams very well. I'm self-admittedly kind of a control freak. If you know me you would probably more than agree with that statement. The first step is admitting there is a problem right?!

The only team I think I've ever played well on is the one that I think matters most, my marriage. Let's hope Daddy D would agree with me. Daddy D and I will be married 5 years in October, together 9 years in December. I have heard so many people talk about how tough marriage is and how much work it takes. While I do think there are certain aspects of marriage that take some extra thought I most definitely wouldn't call it work. Work doesn't sound fun, and I promise you marriage can be fun and should be!

Our marriage is easy, it flows naturally.

Why does it work so well?

We ALWAYS ALWAYS put God first.
We know that we each come next. This is super hard once you have children, just FYI.
We don't argue over the small things.
We communicate.
We don't keep secrets about our finances. Or any secrets for that matter.
1 + 1 = 1, we may be two people but together we are still one.

My Dad always told me that there were two things that cause divorce. Trust and Money. As an adult I can totally see this now.

The Bible teaches us so much about marriage, and really life in general. Actually, it's the handbook to life so you might want to read it. Personally, I prefer to read the instruction booklet before trying to put something together. So Type A typical, I know. With that said we always put God first, or attempt to, we aren't perfect by ANY MEANS. We also try to follow his teachings. Daddy-D is the spiritual leader of our household and I will say that he rocks at it!

I think this second part has become especially hard for both of us since having mini-d. We consider mini-d an extension of each of us. Putting each other before mini-d is extremely difficult. This is one area that I think requires extra attention on both of our parts. Making time for each other, just the two of us, is something that is necessary. Sometimes though we get so caught up in the day-to-day and what's going on with her that we forget. Don't forget, that part is really important.

Pick your battles. Some things just aren't worth wasting your time on. Who cares if Daddy-D decided to leave the back door open and let flies in for the 100th time. Not speaking from experience or anything. Totally not something worth arguing over though. If you ever find yourself getting frustrated about something that in reality is probably really silly just take a minute and think of the kind things your significant other did for you that day or that week. Sounds cheesy, but it will usually calm you down a bit.

Communication is KEY! Daddy D and I talk about EVERYTHING. We are best friends. There is no other one person on this earth that knows more about me than he does. We do not keep secrets. Having your girlfriends is great, but they shouldn't come between you and your hubby.

So spinning off of the not keeping secrets thing. I know so many women that lie to their husbands about things that they buy. I'm sure this isn't just a woman thing though. Finances are such an important issue, and can tear a marriage apart in a minute. We don't have separate bank accounts. Who cares who is making the most money? You both are most likely working your booties off! Even Especially if one of you is a stay at home parent. When you get a divorce the majority of the time your assets are getting split 50/50 anyway. It should have been 50/50 from the start and maybe you wouldn't be in the divorce situation to begin with!

This leads me to my final thought. When you get married you become a unit. There is no "controller" of the marriage. Sure one person may be better at doing something than the other. I'm good with handling our finances and Daddy-D is good at fixing things. Marriage is about learning and understanding each other's strengths and weaknesses. Most importantly it's about loving one another.


Go home and kiss your hubby (or you know, your wife)! Much Love, Misti


Monday, May 11, 2015

Just Be You

Or not...JUST BE YOU!


Growing up I spent a lot more time than I care to admit trying (and failing) to fit in with the so-called popular crowd.

If I only manage to ever teach mini-d one thing I pray that I can teach her to just be herself. JUST BE YOU. God made each and every one of us unique and perfect in our own way. EMBRACE IT! LOVE IT! ROCK IT!

I'm so glad as an adult I have finally just decided to embrace the quirky, awkward, weirdness that is totally me. My only wish is that I could go back and re-claim all of those years I spent laying in bed at night worrying about trying to be someone I wasn't.

Daddy-D and I listened to an excellent speaker the other night at a banquet we attended for my job. I honestly don't know that I have ever heard a better speaker. He was speaking on being a servant leader, but he made so many valid points. No one is going to care who the quarterback of your high school football team was or if you were the homecoming queen. You know who I remember most from high school? The people who were the nicest to me. The people that were the most comfortable in their own skin, you could just tell. Those people were the happiest, they had the most fun. Not the ones out partying in a field on Saturday night because it was the cool thing to do.

That leads me to another thought...don't grow up too fast. The world has young girls and even boys thinking that they should look and act like teenagers by the time they're 10 (or younger) and our teenagers think they are grown adults. Why don't we just let them be little. Have fun, get dirty, who cares. Let them use their imagination. Don't put limits on their dreams. Anything is possible. Anything.

I look at mini-d and I see such a pure and one of a kind little soul. She walks left when everyone else is walking right. It is one of my very favorite qualities about her. I pray she never loses that part of herself. That she never feels inferior to others just because she is different.

Let your individuality shine with disregard to what everyone else thinks. Be you.

Much Love, Misti

Sunday, May 10, 2015

How To: Save Money on Your Monthly Bills



Who doesn't love saving money?! You are probably spending too much money for services that you pay for every single month and you don't even realize it! Did you know that you can negotiate with your monthly service providers? Just call me the bill negotiator. HA!

These are some of the services that you can usually negotiate a better rate on:

Cable/Satellite
Home Alarm Monitoring
Internet/Home Phone (wait do people still have these?!)

Let me just start by saying there is no reason, like ever, you should get in to a contract for any service for any length of time. This will ALWAYS cost you more money in the long run.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Diary of a Working Mommy



She said, "The girl I was with the business degree
Probably wouldn't recognize me
I was gonna run the bank, I was gonna run the map
Now all I wanna run is a bubble bath
Back then you know I had this plan
Before all of this reality set in
Here comes life boy ready or not
Hey I wanted it all and that's what I got"




During the time period that we found out we were pregnant with mini-d I was so sure of my career path. I was being promoted to Senior Auditor at a large public accounting firm, I was traveling, I was being challenged daily, and I was loving it. Getting pregnant didn't change that mentality for me. 

When she arrived my world was rocked. I had never been one to just "click" with babies or children. I couldn't believe that I could have SO MUCH love for this tiny human being. I would give my life in an instant for her.

The 12 weeks I spent on maternity leave were the shortest of my life. I couldn't fathom returning to work. Returning to 60 hour weeks, and overnight stays AWAY FROM MY BABY. I went back to work in October of 2013. I think cried every single day. I was a complete mess. I knew I needed to work, but I also knew I needed a change from the fast paced career path I was currently on. God heard my prayers, and out of the blue I was offered a once in a lifetime career. And just like that in January of 2014 I started working on a regular schedule. I came home every night to my baby. I have not one single time had to bring my work home with me. Heck, I don't even have a laptop! And it's a rare occasion that I work more than 40 hours a week.

BUT just because I'm working a job I love doesn't make it any less difficult to know I'm missing so many moments with my daughter I will never get back. 

She cries every single morning when I drop her off at Daycare. EVERY MORNING. And most mornings I get back in my car and I cry too. I kept thinking it would get better, but it hasn't. What can I say? That girl loves her Mommy and this Mommy loves her girl.

Daddy-D picks her up and they get home between 5:45 and 6:00 every night. By 7:00 we are already cleaning up and getting ready for bath. In the bed by 8:00 pm. She's up in the morning at 6:30 and we are at Daycare by 7:30. Those few hours are the most precious to me. My Mother said something to me once that has always stuck with me... 

It's not about the quantity of time you spend with them, it's about the quality.

That's my mantra every day. It gets me to the weekend. 

I can honestly say that I don't know if I'm doing what is best. I don't know that 100%. But I do know that I'm doing what I think is best. 

I go to work so that I can attempt to guarantee her future.
So that we can have a suitable home to live in.
So that we can one day be able to retire.
So that mini-d doesn't have to take out student loans one day.
So that we can bless her as our parents blessed us.
and this last one is the real kicker...
Because my job gives me a sense of purpose.

It sounds bad doesn't it?! 

I love my job. I was a person before I became Mommy. My job is fulfilling. It makes me a better Mommy. Mommy is one part of who I am, and even though it infiltrates every part of my life I am still Misti. 

Do I think I could be a stay-at-home Mother? Yes, and I know I would LOVE it. I appreciate women that stay-at-home full time. I KNOW it is the absolute hardest job there is. 

I work outside of the home, and it's just what works for our family. It's so difficult to describe the why's. My emotions are always so mixed. But I keep getting up every day and going to work. I tell myself that I know mini-d will be proud of her Mommy and the career that I have established, just as I am proud of my Mother.

Much Love, Misti




Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Cloth Diapers: Getting Started

Save the planet AND THE MONEY!

If you had asked me when I was pregnant with mini-d if I would consider cloth diapers I probably would have laughed at you. Mentally I would have been envisioning a dish cloth and safety pins.

This is SO not the case. Cloth diapers have come a LONG way, society just has to catch up. It amazes me that our generation is so focused on "saving the planet" and yet the majority of those same people won't even consider using or researching cloth diapers. That the majority of Daycares won't even consider using them because it's "too much work." 

It really all boils down to two words:

1) Apathy 
2) Convenience 

Ok and maybe we are brainwashed by Pampers commercials. End rant.

If you've decided that you want to save the planet and save yourself quite a bit of money by using cloth diapers you've probably noticed that getting started can be overwhelming. When we started using cloth on mini-d I was SO LOST! Of course I turned to Pinterest and Youtube. Luckily, I also had a very supportive group of Mommy's to help out!

The very first thing you are going to need to do is gather your supplies. 

What you need:

Diapers! There are SO MANY options when it comes to diapers and the types available are really like a language all in themselves. I'm not going to go over every single one, I'm just going to mention the ones that worked best for us after a lot of trial and error.

Brand: Sunbaby
Type: Pocket, meaning your have to "stuff" the diaper with a separate insert.
Cost: $
- These come by size, meaning they are not a one-size diaper.
- This was my diaper of choice. We double stuffed our diapers with two CBI (Charcoal Bamboo Inserts) and never had any leaking issues.

CBI: You can usually find these for $1 each

Brand: Applecheeks
Type: Pocket
Cost: $$
- These are a higher quality pocket diaper. They do look fancier than Sunbaby, but operate about the same (in my opinion). 
-They come in size one and two.

Applecheeks does have their own brand of inserts. These inserts are pretty expensive ($8 - $10 each), but again the quality and absorbency are excellent. The diapers used along with their inserts are going to make for a less bulky diaper than the Sunbaby. Personally, I enjoyed seeing the cute little fluffy bottom though!


Brand: Bumgenius
Type: Multiple Options / We chose all-in-one
An all-in-one diaper means the insert is already attached. This is better for convenience purposes because you save time "stuffing" the diapers.
Cost: $$, although a little more costly you aren't having to purchase a separate insert so that should be considered.
- This is a one-size diaper so it can be adjusted to be worn throughout your diapering journey.

The multiple snaps allow you to adjust.

There is SO much more out there, but this is what made up our stash. How many make a stash?? This is debatable but I would recommend at least 24 diapers so that you aren't washing every single day. Washing daily can make cloth diapering seem like a burden, when it shouldn't. Basically you would be making your life harder than it had to be, and who wants to do that?

We purchased the majority of our diapers and supplies from Kelly's Closet . The website also has a lot of good information about cloth diapering available for you. I would suggest reading up on it there. 

Next, you will need a wet bag. What the heck is that?! It's a bag you can throw your dirty diapers in until you get ready to wash them, which you will need to do every couple of days. You can zip the bag up, and no it won't stink up your house. Just throw the bag in with your diapers when you wash and it will come out squeaky clean and ready for another round. We kept a large bag next to our changing station and a small bag in the diaper bag.



You are also going to need specific detergent. This really is trial and error, as it depends on the type of water you have. We ended up having luck with the brand Country Save. We purchased it from amazon.



No matter which brand you choose you need to make sure it is cloth diaper friendly. Kelly's Closet has a great reference guide to go by.

If you use diaper cream you will need to be sure it is also cloth diaper friendly. We always used coconut oil or The Honest Company's healing balm.



Some optional things you might need include a spray pail, diaper sprayer, and RLR. If you are exclusively breastfeeding there is no reason to spray your diapers. Just throw them in your wet bag and wash them just as they are. If you have started feeding your baby solids or use formula you will need to spray the solid waste off before putting it in your bag. We made our spray pail out of an old trash bag and some hair clips, redneck style.



The spray pail allows you to spray your diaper off with a diaper sprayer that attaches to your toilet without getting back-splash on yourself or all over your bathroom (spoken from experience). I only say the diaper sprayer is optional because we found it easier to just take all of our diapers outside and spray them off with a water hose at the end of the day. Again with the redneck style. Ha!

About every 3-4 months you need to strip your diapers. The easiest way to do this is by using a product called RLR in your wash routine.



I know this seems like A LOT, but once you get everything you are set. Another thing to keep in mind is that your diapers have a resell value. Yes, you heard that right buying and selling used diapers is totally a thing people do.

The cost up front may seem like a lot, but in the long run it is not even close to what you would have spent in disposables! I know I'm barely scratching the surface here, but this should at least get you started. I will try to get more in-depth for you guys soon!

PS: We do not place judgement on those that choose not to cloth diaper. We actually now use disposables due to our Daycare circumstances! Cloth will always be my FAV though!

Much Love, Misti

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Breastfeeding 101: Weaning



Weaning...such a scary word. Even a bad word in some circles of Mommy's.

I remember joking in the beginning that I would be the one that would have to be weaned, because I loved the bonding experience so much I thought I could do it forever. Little did I know there was a lot of truth to that, just in a different context.

Mini-D breastfed for 9 months from the tap when she decided she wanted nothing more to do with it. I didn't have time to take a "nursing retreat" or whatever you want to call it. I had to go back to work on Monday and she would get a bottle. She still nursed from the breast at night until about 13 months, this time I weaned her. I exclusively pumped for her until she was a year old even after she weaned. I knew I had done my best for her, but I also knew that extended breastfeeding had it's benefits. Luckily, I had three months of stored frozen milk to offer her.

Anyone that has tried to wean themselves from the pump knows it is NO JOKE. Your body is used to producing a set amount of milk on a schedule. Stopping cold turkey is not an option, and can actually be hazardous for your health.

So how did I wean myself from the pump? 

I didn't use compression's or leaves or anything like that. I just slowly cut down my pumping time at each session. After about two weeks I completely cut out one of my pumping sessions altogether. After the third week I would only pump to relieve the pressure. It took me about a month to wean completely from the pump.

What about night weaning? 

By 13 months we were only night nursing. She still wasn't sleeping through the night so we thought weaning may help us all get more sleep. I think we were ready to close this chapter of our journey. In order to wean mini-d at night I would hold her close to me and give her a little bit of breastmilk in the bottle. Because she was so familiar with taking a bottle already she really didn't have any problems. Now weaning her from the bottle, that took another 6 months.

PS: She still isn't sleeping through the night...

When mini-d stopped nursing at night I was still producing quite a bit during the night-time hours. If I couldn't sleep because of the pressure pain I would get up and go express milk in to the bathroom sink until I felt enough relief to go back to bed. This again lasted about a month...or two.

I will say that drying up is almost as painful as the beginning of your nursing journey, but again, SO WORTH IT.

Side Note: Don't mistake mastitis for typical drying up pain/pressure. Know the signs of mastitis. If you start running a fever and experiencing flu-like symptoms consult your physician.

Looking back I am so proud of my nursing story. The emotions when I stopped nursing were a little overwhelming, but that may have just been the hormones talking. Research tells us that breastfeeding until at least two is ideal. I'm going to tell you that breastfeeding at all is something to be proud of. Whether you nurse your baby for 6 weeks or you are still nursing your 3 year old, you are a rockstar! Don't feel ashamed if you have to stop for unforeseen circumstances. Like my Daddy always said..."as long as you tried your best and gave 100%, that's all that matters."

Much Love, Misti

Recipe Alert: Crock-Pot Chicken Taco's


It's Cinco de Mayo so I may as well share my FAV recipe for Chicken Taco's! 

What you need?!
2 - 4 boneless chicken breasts
**If they are large you will only need 2**
Taco Kit 
Packet of Ranch Seasoning
Chicken Broth

Optional Ingredients:
Shredded Lettuce
Shredded Cheese
Salsa 
Sour Cream
Tomato 

Ok so I purchase my meat quarterly at Sam's for the cheapest available price, thus I already have it frozen in my freezer when I'm ready to cook this meal. I also already have a taco dinner kit because I would have stocked up when Publix ran them on BOGO. They run the taco dinner kits regularly and I make sure I never run out! Generally I have everything else I need in my fridge! Sometimes I may need to buy the salsa and sour cream. Store brand salsa and sour cream will work! 

Unthaw your frozen chicken the night before in the fridge. If you forget to unthaw it, it's no biggie! You can stick it straight from the freezer to the crock pot. I prefer unthawing it because I believe it helps it soak up the juices a little better on the front-end. I really have no proof of this, but it's just the way my brain works.

That morning before work throw the following ingredients in to the crock pot:

Chicken
2 cups Chicken Broth
Taco Seasoning from Kit
Ranch Seasoning

I personally like to pre-mix my dry ingredients before adding to the crock pot.

Cook on low 6 hours. Pull chicken apart with fork to shred.

When you get home from work the chicken is done, don't forget to shred it! Pull out your optional ingredients and use the tortillas from the kit. We buy the soft taco kits, but this will work with the hard shells too!

This usually feeds the three of us for dinner and we also have leftovers for lunch the next day!

SO EASY and SO YUMMY! Enjoy! 

Monday, May 4, 2015

Why I Wear a One-Piece



Confession time: Growing up I rocked my skimpy two-piece bikini and didn't think a second about it. Even after I got married I never thought twice. I felt good about myself, and my husband thought I was hot.

Now after having a baby, by some miracle of God (breastfeeding and the gym), my body actually looks better than it did before. But this time I'm rocking the one-piece, and no I'm not talking about that fake one-piece with the holes in the side.

But why?

Having a little girl has changed my views on A LOT. I realize that I am the ultimate role model for my daughter. Case in point, I painted my toenails this weekend and guess who immediately has to have her toenails painted?! Yepp! She wants to be JUST LIKE MOMMY. And you know what, this Mommy doesn't want her sweet little innocent baby showing the world her tummy. I want her to grow up to respect her body, and to save those most intimate parts of herself for the man God has chosen for her to spend her life with. Which I hope is in a million billion years. Actually she can just stay with me forever, just kidding, maybe.


Just for fun, mini-d at the beach this past weekend! 
She's living the good life!

How could I expect her to wear a one-piece or a tankini when I was walking around in a bikini? I couldn't. So I traded in my sexy two-piece bikini for a modest, but also still sexy one-piece. Because hey, who says a one-piece can't be sexy?! Even without giant holes in the side! Let's leave something to the imagination ladies! Men like a little mystery!

My husband still thinks I'm sexy. Shocker he actually loves my one-piece. He also loves knowing I am setting a good, Godly example for our daughter.

Would I have a different opinion if we had, had a son?

The answer is no. And this is why...I would want to set an example for my son of what he should expect in a future life partner. That he shouldn't settle for anything less than a classy, intelligent, self-respecting, woman of God.

Look, I'm not shaming anyone for what they choose to wear or how they choose to portray their self image. I'm merely explaining my reasoning on why we do what we do. We may seem a little crazy, but hey, I think we all are a little crazy sometimes! It's the people that don't think they are a little crazy, those are the ones you have to watch out for!

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 - What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost [which is] in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? 

1 Timothy 2:9 - In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel,

Much Love, Misti

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Munchkin Munchin'


One of our biggest struggles on the day to day is getting mini-d to eat! She is just much too busy to be bothered with something like eating. I swear she NEVER gets hungry, don't we all wish we had that problem!

Whether she actually eats it or not she is given a lunch every day. Of course, at Daycare they serve whatever is on the menu that day. At home, we have to come up with quick and easy ways to feed her on the weekends. Bonus points if it's healthy.

So what does her usual lunch consist of?

She LOVES little cutie oranges so we usually have one of those!
Fruit
Ritz Crackers
A veggie pouch
and
Chicken

How is this a quick lunch to throw together?

The weekend after we go grocery shopping I usually wash and cut up all of the fruit I think we will need for the week and separate them into containers for the refrigerator. This way I'm not having to try to do that entire routine daily, I'm getting it all done at once.

We use this chicken....


Yepp, you can microwave it.

She usually never touches the chicken anyway. She is so not in to meat at all.

Okay so what if she doesn't eat lunch? We don't force her to eat. We leave the plate out for her to snack on as she pleases. And if she still doesn't eat, we don't freak out. It's totally normal! Some kids eat a lot and some kids don't eat much at all. Every child is different! She drinks her milk and water and is still growing far too quickly for this Mommy's heart. 

What about snacks?

Our favorite snacks are pouches, fruit, marshmallows (aka "mallows"), cheese, and yogurt!

At dinner she usually eats what we eat, except her plate is enriched with additional fruits and veggies if ours is lacking.

Oh and isn't her plate just the coolest thing EVER?! You have seriously got to check this thing out and see how it works, it is AWESOME! We love our Happy Mat! The brand is EZPZ and she is a WAHM.  I've linked you the website!

Much Love, Misti

Friday, May 1, 2015

Breastfeeding 101: Pre-Pump




Okay so it's been brought to my attention that I may have left a section of our breastfeeding journey undocumented, and thus could have possibly caused some confusion. 

In the hopes of setting you up to succeed while working and breastfeeding/pumping we have a little more to cover! 

How do you prepare your body to return to work and pump on a schedule? 

In the weeks leading up to your return to work (as long as baby is at least 6 weeks old), try to nurse around the times you plan on pumping. No I am not saying that you should feed on some regimented schedule, but I am suggesting offering the breast during those specific times. This will get your body used to having a let down at that time. You can 100% train your breasts to let down at specific times! 

Helpful tip: If you happen to have an issue with your let down using the pump try looking at a picture of your baby on your phone, or watching a video of them! This will sometimes trigger your let down.

Also, after you nurse at that time go ahead and pump dry. Baby should be full and happy so you shouldn't have to worry about nursing for a little while, unless you are in a growth spurt, in which case you probably haven't left the couch all day. By pumping after you nurse during this time you will be telling your body you are demanding more milk, thus producing more, and this will help you sustain your milk supply when you go back to work. This is also building your milk stash so you have some in the beginning before you get on a good schedule at work. You will need to freeze this extra milk that you pump. 

By doing this for a few weeks leading up to your return to work you will build your milk supply, and your freezer stash so that you are 100% prepared when the time comes.

Things you can do to keep your milk supply up if you notice a dip when you return to work:

DRINK WATER...this is the absolute most important step in keeping your milk supply up. You pretty much need to be drinking water 24/7, even in the middle of the night. I kept a large cup on my desk and every hour I had to empty it. If it wasn't empty at the end of the hour I would chug it, and then start over again for the next hour.

Eat Oatmeal: The real stuff works best, but when in a hurry instant will do the trick. I ate it EVERY SINGLE morning for breakfast while I was breastfeeding.

Milky Shots: Probably not the most economical choice, but if you get desperate it is worth a try. During mini-d's 4 week growth spurt I was desperate and these WORKED for us! They worked so well that I continued to use them at various times throughout my breastfeeding journey. 


Wait, so what is it? 

Anyone remember these chic's? 



That's right, SISTER SISTER. 

Tia Mowry-Hardict and her twin sister Tamera Mowry-Housley are the co-creators of this AWESOME product:



Born out of necessity this really works, and is worth a try if you are struggling to produce enough milk. The taste isn't my favorite, but if you take it like a shot and chase it with a glass of water you should be able to handle it. Holding your nose helps too!

You can find them online and usually at your local Motherhood store!

Lactation Cookies or Granola Bars: I preferred the lactation granola bars, and found an excellent recipe that was super easy to make! These can be frozen pre-baby and you can pull them out as needed after the baby arrives.



Ingredients
  • ¼ cup coconut oil, butter can be substituted 
  • ½ cup raw honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract 
  • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats 
  • ⅛ cup flax seed, milled or whole 
  • ¼ cup chocolate chips
  • 1-2 TB peanut butter 
Instructions
  1. Heat your stove top to medium heat.
  2. To a saucepan over medium heat, add your coconut oil and honey. Stir to melt and combine.
  3. The oil and honey will start to bubble. When you see this, keep watch as it will soon take on a nice amber color, but do not let it get to dark or you will have made candy.
  4. Once you get a nice rolling bubble, let it go for about 30 seconds to a minute and then turn off your heat and add your vanilla.
  5. Add in the oats, flax seed, and optional peanut butter. Stir together until combined.
  6. Line a 9x9 pan with parchment paper (be sure to have some extra hanging off both sides).
  7. Pour in the oat mixture. Using the back of a spatula press down about ½ inch until mixture is smooth.
  8. Sprinkle chocolate chips, over oat mixture. Place in the fridge for about 30 minutes to cool.
  9. The cutting process: Remove the pan from the fridge. Use the extra parchment hanging off sides as handles to pull your entire granola out of the pan and place on counter. It will be a solid piece. Cut width-wise into one-inch sections. Then one long cut down the center of the pan. This will allow for 12 individual servings all equal size.
  10. Store in an air-tight container in the fridge.

PS: I may or may not still make/eat these even though I'm not nursing anymore. They are also Hubby approved!

Okay so now maybe we have covered everything...probably not. Much Love, Misti