Spring Break - Puffy Sidewalk Paint

>> Sunday, March 29, 2015

This upcoming week is Spring Break for my girls.  I'm really looking forward to having them home with me!  We don't have much planned....no big vacations, no day trips.....but I do have some fun stuff planned for us here at home -- a mani/pedi day, taking them to get their haircut, taking them to see Cinderella. 

It's also Holy Week -- so I'll be having the girls help me out in the kitchen as I do a lot of preparation for Easter -- baking bread, making stuffed cabbage & more.

One fun thing I did yesterday to kick off Spring Break for Nudgie & her little friend was make some puffy sidewalk paint.  You can pretty much Google it and come up with all kinds of ideas/recipes.  Ours is pretty simple.



*  1/3 cup cornstarch
*  1/3 cup baking soda
*  1/3 cup water
*  coloring of your choice (food colors or washable liquid watercolors)
*  spray bottle with vinegar
*  condiment squeeze bottles

I used liquid water colors because they clean up easily with water and don't stain.  If you choose to use food coloring, just be aware that they may leave staining behind, so I'd recommend trying it first on a part of your sidewalk/driveway before going full out!

Mix all in a bowl and pour into squeezable condiment bottles.  (I picked up mine at The Dollar Tree).  Then I filled a plastic squeeze bottle with some vinegar, took everything outside and let them unleash their inner artists!

 
 
 


As they finished their creations, we'd take the vinegar bottle and lightly spray over it.  I'll admit, at first, I was a little disappointed that there wasn't more of a reaction.  The vinegar just made everything run together (check out the yellow sun in the photo above)  But trust me.....BE PATIENT!  You won't be disappointed!  Once it dries, it puffs up a little more and dries up with a chalky texture.


 

The bonus?  It all washes away with water so you can make more and create again another day!

I'll definitely be adding this to our Summer Bucket List!

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Throwback Thursday - Nani's To Do List

>> Thursday, February 26, 2015

I love the concept of Throwback Thursday.  So instead of posting a picture today, I thought I'd share one of my favorite blog posts.  This one was originally posted in October 2009 when Nani was only 4.  Enjoy!

*****************************************************************

Ok, so my whole family knows that I am a compulsive list maker. I have lists that refer me to lists. I have a list for everything.....groceries, daily tasks, weekly tasks, monthly tasks, craft projects, books to read, blogs to write.....and the list (no pun intended) goes on.

And then I thought.....what if Nani had a to-do list? What would a 4-year old Disney-princess loving, preschool-going, ballet-dancing little girl possibly have on her list? I think, like mommy, she would have a couple of lists....one for mommy and one for daddy......and maybe even one for Nudgie.

But for fun, I think I'll start with Daddy's list.......





Nani's To-Do List for a day with Daddy....


Scam daddy into feeding me chocolate cake for breakfast and then tell mommy that it was Zoja's idea.



Reassure daddy that I really do like to wear matching socks and coordinated clothes.



Teach daddy how to finally do my hair the way mommy does and show him that combing my hair does not involve scissors and the use of words that I'm never supposed to say.



Show daddy the channels for Sproutlets and Disney so that I don't have to watch the Military Channel ever again.



Tell daddy that teaching me the ABCs does not include learning to spell the entire starting lineup for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
(Stupid Russian names....what 4-yr. old knows how to spell Fedotenko & Evgeni??)



Apologize to daddy for calling one of his favorite players Satan, when his real name is pronounced Sha-tan



Tell daddy that when I ask him to play with me & my Legos, that I really don't need to have a full-scale reproduction of a Blackhawk helicopter....a simple little house for my dolls will do just fine.



Show daddy that I finally learned to "Rock On"



Let daddy know where my favorite books are so that I don't get another bedtime story from the Army Times newspaper. (Once upon a time there was a soldier.....)



Apologize to God when Daddy asks me to pray for free happy hour after work.



Give daddy the biggest hug ever and tell him that he's still my favoritest daddy ever!

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Spending Less, Loving More - Spending Fast: Week 1

>> Wednesday, February 25, 2015



 
 
Lent started this week.  I shared on my Spending Less, Loving More FB page that in the past, I've given up a number of things....chocolate, alcohol, Starbucks. But this year, I'll be challenging myself to take it even further and fast from unnecessary spending. While I believe this will be one of the hardest things I've ever done, I believe that it will also challenge me to be more intentional and thoughtful about my spending and budgeting. I've created a wants/needs list which will help me along the way. Some things already cut out -- Starbuck, book stores, craft stores, thrift stores.  I will be doing a weekly blog post updating how I did during the week. 
 
So.....here's Week #1!
 
 
Monday - 2/16:
Both My Marine and my girls were home today for President's Day.  We had some snow move in, so we didn't go anywhere......which worked to our benefit since we were thinking about taking the girls to a movie today.  In the end, we stayed home, got caught up with some DVR'd shows and watched movies with the girls. 

Tuesday - 2/17:
My Marine went back to work today, but the girls were still home because of an in-service day.  I used .99 cents from Amazon gift card to purchase a Lenten devotional on my Kindle.  Did some decluttering of my "unmentionables" drawer.  Nani got into trouble over the weekend for not doing her laundry, so her consequence was trifold....the clothes that were not finished were either 1) given to her sister; 2) given to the homeless shelter or 3) she had to select a few things she wanted to keep and had to earn them back doing extra chores.  This consequence made me both pretty angry and sad.  All that money that I wasted buying clothes for the girls -- stuff they really just didn't take care of and didn't care about.  They had too much.  My fault for indulging them.....with things.

Wednesday - 2/18:
Tomorrow is payday.  Checked my personal bank account and was happy to realize that for two pay periods in a row, I've been in the black.  For me, that's pretty good.  (Sad, I know!)  Checked our household account to make sure bills have cleared and see what's left.  Checked the calendar to see what bills were coming up and if I could make a little extra payments towards our debt.  Made a meal plan for the next two weeks and made my grocery list based on that and what was on the "we need" list.  Went through coupons and resisted adding extras just because I had a coupon.

Thursday - 2/19:
Payday always makes me twitchy.  The unfiltered side of my brain screams, "There's money!  There's money!  Let's go shopping!"  But this morning, instead, I grabbed my homebrewed coffee, my grocery binder with my list and coupons....and ran my errands.  I got all my grocery shopping done without throwing any extras in the cart.  Amazing!  What was even more amazing was how much less my grocery bill was without all those impulse buys!  Another amazing thing.....I had to go into JoAnn Fabric to get supplies for Nani's upcoming sewing class.  This was a planned expense that I knew was coming....BUT....I went into the store and came back out WITH ONLY WHAT I NEEDED!  No browsing, no impulse buys while waiting in the checkout line.  I needed only fabric and thread....and I came out with only fabric and thread!

Friday - 2/20:
Paid off 2 bills and paid monthly bills.  Marked upcoming bills in the checkbook.  I'm finding that if I deduct the upcoming bills already, when I see the end balance, it's less of a temptation to shop.  My Marine's extra military pay went directly into our joint savings account.  Proud of myself for seeing that cushion start to build up again.

Saturday - 2/21
No spending today at all.  Spent the morning running the girls to ballet and gymnastics and then stayed home waiting for the big snowstorm to come.

Sunday - 2/22
Big snowstorm hit overnight.  Had a foot of snow by morning.  No church today.  Nani's sewing class was cancelled -- to be rescheduled at another time.  No spending at all today.  Spent the day enjoying the snow!

Not bad for Week 1!!

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Dear God - You Knew!

>> Tuesday, February 17, 2015

 
 
 
Dear God:
 
For most of my life, I've done it my way.  Believed all the bad things about myself.  And it's gotten me into some big messes -- messes that have come and gone.....and messes that I'm just now trying to dig out of.  Now, I think.....what if?

What if I had more faith in You back then?
What if I found a church to go to?
What if I talked through everything with You?

It didn't turn out that way, did it.  But, even back then.....You KNEW.

 
You KNEW I would come crawling back to You. 
 
You KNEW I would struggle -- try to be perfect so I could face You again. 
 
You KNEW that I desperately wanted to come home to You, but was afraid to -- because I believed I had to do everything "right" before I could even begin to think about You.
 
You KNEW that I was so afraid that You were mad at me, that You would turn me away, You would reject me, and that I just stopped trying.
 


You KNEW that I thought, "Why bother?" because You had so many other people worthy of Your love.
 
You KNEW that in my darkest moments of fear and worry -- over and over -- I would take those baby steps towards you....but then shy away again.
 
You KNEW that I would feel like an abused puppy -- so hesitant, so tentative -- wanting to trust You, but skittering away again, to hide.  But You remained.  You kept trying.  You slowly coaxed me out with blessings and acts that showed me -- proved to me -- that I could come to You and trust You.  You don't have to prove Yourself to ANYONE....but You KNEW that's what it would take to get me to start to come out from the dark.

You KNEW I needed others.  You began to surround me with believers.  Friends who would patiently listen to me as I poured out my struggles with faith.  Friends who would encourage and reinforce that You DO love me, You DO forgive me, You DO want me back.  Friends that convinced me that it's not about doing it the "right" way.

You surrounded me, enveloped me with music and songs that You KNEW would reach me deep in my soul because You KNEW that music was a way to get Your love and Your message through to me.

You used my daughters to continue to show me Your love - because You KNEW that I love them more than anything in this world and that if I could see their joy and passion for You just beginning in them, then I would soak You up as well.
 
 
 
You KNEW that I would eventually end up right here, right in this moment, writing these words to You.
 


You KNOW what my today holds.  You KNOW what my tomorrow will bring.  But the difference between me "then" and me "now" is that NOW I recognize that I have You with me, beside me, all around me.  Ready to offer grace, love and forgiveness.

Never again will I be that abused, broken puppy hesitating to come to You.  NOW I run to Your open arms, ready to jump in, to receive all that You have to give -- knowing that when I make a mistake, You will still be there.
 
ALWAYS
 
 

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We Don't Celebrate Valentine's Day.......

>> Saturday, February 14, 2015



I should correct that to say that My Marine and I don't celebrate Valentine's Day any more.  We still like to do special things for our girls.  We live vicariously through them -- reliving our own childhood Valentine's Day nightmares memories as we watch them pour over boxes of valentines....ever so picky about getting just the right ones.  Do you get the ones with tattoos?  Do you get the ones with the cute puppy stickers?  Or do you throw caution to the wind and make your own?  And God-forbid you actually take the initiative and  buy the valentines for them without their approval  -  "Mooooo-ooooommmyyyy!  WHY did you buy the valentines with the bubbles?  Bubbles were so last year!" 

But we make it special for the girls -- little baskets filled with goodies, little hearts taped to their door with all the reasons why we love them so much, special Valentine's Day dinner and movie.  Whatever we do, it's all for them.  See....we're not total Valentine's Grinches!

Anyway -- where was I?  Oh yeah....why we don't celebrate Valentine's Day as a couple anymore. 

You may say "Oh, you've lost the magic."  But here's the thing.  We've been together 20+ years.....since we were 17 years old.  We've been through the cutesiness of the early-dating stages of Valentine's Day.  The flowers.  The cute (and now looking back, wildly inappropriate) cards.  The requisite chocolate and stuffed animals.  Then My Marine joined the military and we were hardly ever together for Valentine's Day.  Sure, he'd send me flowers, which I completely appreciated and loved....but Valentine's Day for me slowly turned into "The Day That I Sat At Home Alone With My Dog, Eating Chocolate Ice Cream Straight From The Container While Watching "Sleepless In Seattle""  It lost it's sparkle and meaning.

I don't need one day out of the year where we are encouraged to be extra nice to each other and buy stuff just because it's on the calendar.  I really do that for him any other day.  Like when I pick up nachos and salsa for him because it's his favorite snack.  Or when I'll stop and pick up a couple micro-brews that I think he'll like.  Or when he'll unload and load the dishwasher for me.  Or when he'll go out and pick up ice cream for me -- even if it's 9 o'clock at night.

I don't need an overpriced dinner -- where I have to stand and wait for a table amongst the unwashed masses waiting for my little dinner beeper to start buzzing and flashing.....only to be served by a cranky waiter who got stuck with Valentine's duty because he was low man on the totem pole.

I don't need overpriced flowers -- which usually end up dying within a day or two anyway.

I don't need mushy cards -- when all I need to do is look at him and we start laughing at something together.....because our minds just work that way now.

I don't need chocolate.  Wait....who am I kidding?!  OF COURSE I NEED CHOCOLATE!  What woman DOESN'T need chocolate!  And at least I got to go and pick out what I wanted.....instead of getting one of those sampler boxes that you end up taking one bite of and then leaving the rest of it in the box because it was that God-awful gooey filled stuff that you're just not sure what flavor it is.

If I really wanted a Valentine's gift it would be something that I would find useful....like having him put the seat down when he pees.  Or actually putting his dirty underwear and stinky, fuel-soaked flight suits in the hamper instead of on the floor AROUND the hamper.  Or one night, by myself, at the Doubletree Hotel where I can have a snore-free night's sleep.

My point is this -- as a military spouse, we learn to cherish every single day, every single minute.  He could deploy again for another year.  He could be sent on temporary duty (TDY) for who knows how long.  We never know how long we'll be together, so we take each day as it comes and take the opportunity to show our love and affection every single day.

So, in the end, I guess you could say that we DO celebrate Valentine's Day........we just do it every day.

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Spending Less, Loving More - The Cycle

>> Friday, February 13, 2015



In my compulsive spending mind, I think more about how I could spend my money and what I could spend it on, rather than do the responsible thing like, oh....I don't know....pay bills.

It's always the same story.  It's a vicious cycle.

Each pay period I tell myself that I will be responsible. I will track what I spend. I will not do any unnecessary shopping - which means staying out of the craft stores, book stores, clothing stores. Basically anywhere which requires me to pull out cash or my debit card. (I no longer have any credit cards - period.) But the debit card is just as bad. It's like using a credit card, but it's only using the cash you have on hand -- which is usually already earmarked for responsible things -- car payment, insurance, mortgage, etc.

But inevitably, the temptation kicks in and the urge grows so strong that it's literally hard to ignore that deep-seated need. And then the cycle begins. The mad dash to shop -- to buy things that I just don't need - all because I want it. I have to have it, although I don't know why. The euphoria of finding good deals. Of finding something I really like and instead of buying just one - I buy one of every basic color. At craft stores I'll buy supplies, telling myself all the while that it's a project that I'll get to. When in reality I've got LOTS of projects I'll "get to" sitting in my garage, my laundry room, on my living room floor.

But then there's the other side. The downside once the binge is over. The buyer's remorse that sets in. The guilt that eats me up inside. The negative self-talk that I go through over and over and over. And it's always the same.

"You're so stupid. How could you do that again"

"You just have no self-control."

"You're useless and worthless. If you can't control this, then no wonder your life is so screwed up."

"You're such a disappointment to everyone."

And then once I finish that conversation, I just tell myself that I'll "make it right" by taking some stuff back. Completing the cycle. At least until it starts all over again.

So we have -- the urge, the act, the euphoria, the remorse, the guilt, the self-hatred, the return (act of contrition).

In the midst of all this, I would try to hide my spending. Trying to stay one step ahead. Trying to detour my husband from wanting to spend money -- usually on stuff for the house. I'd get angry when he'd want to spend money on a 6-pack or go to Happy Hour. I recognize that as displaced anger. Anger towards him, when I'm internally angry with myself.

In Debtors Anonymous, we are taught to immediately start tracking our spending and to take it one day at a time. In my case, it has to be one hour at a time. We are also encouraged to be held accountable - which is where this blog and FB page comes in.

By writing and sharing, I am holding myself accountable. And just for today, I will take it one hour at a time.

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Square One No Longer Exists!

>> Wednesday, February 11, 2015

I was getting ready to do my usual morning post on my FB fitness page - Mission "Slim-Possible".  I like to post something fun and inspirational and share my continuing journey to getting fit.  This the inspirational post I was going to share today.



This hit me hard.  Reading this made me think.....2 years ago was when I started my journey.  I've had huge successes, huge set-backs, weight losses, weight gains....and I've started over again more times than I can count.

But each time I started over, I wasn't the same person that I started as.......


This person started off at the heaviest I had ever been......a little over 170 pounds.  This person couldn't make it up the stairs in the gym without having to catch her breath at the top.  This person couldn't make it through 30-minutes on the elliptical without having to stop and breathe.  This person's highest level on the elliptical was the lowest setting possible.  This person couldn't handle 5lb free weights, do a plank, do a roundhouse kick, do a crunch of any kind.

But slowly, I gained strength, stamina and confidence.

I got stronger......I hit milestones.....I lost the weight and got in shape.


But then My Marine came home from deployment and real life kicked in.....and with that came the cycle of "taking a break" and "starting over".  The weight would creep back on, then off, then on again.  But I NEVER hit that highest weight again.

I realized though, that when I started over, I was never in that beginning stage.  I may have lost a little in my strength and stamina, but I recovered quickly.  It didn't take me as long to get into that groove again.  And no matter how many times I begin again, I noticed that:

The stairs are still easy.
I can hold the planks are longer.
I now can get through a 45-55 minute workout, slowing down just for water breaks.
Those songs on my elliptical playlist used to be my "hard" workout are now my cool-down.
I'm now lifting 4-5x more than my original start.

My point is this......no matter how many "breaks" you take, when you start back up again, you are never "back to the beginning".  You are so much further along than you are when you started.  You ARE stronger.  You ARE fitter.  You KNOW what you're capable of.

Start again as many times as you need.  But keep starting and know that no matter how many times you begin again, you're not beginning for the first time.

And if that's not progress, then I don't know what is!

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Spending Less, Loving More - In The Beginning

>> Monday, February 9, 2015

 

In the beginning.....

I'm not quite sure I can pinpoint exactly when my issues with money started. It's been with me for that long.

I suppose it could have started when I was a kid -- middle school even. My dad worked for U.S. Steel - a great job pre-"closing-all-the-steel-mill" days. My mom worked part time for the rental office in the complex where we lived. Looking back now, I never really wanted for anything. There was always a home-cooked meal, gifts for birthdays and Christmas, clothes to wear. We never really took a family vacation until I was in 4th grade. We didn't need to -- there were big public pools that we would go to every summer with my mom, aunt and cousin. There was an amusement park 10 minutes from my house. There was so much to do. It was a simple lifestyle that I long for now.

When the steel mills started closing my dad got laid off. I remember him telling me about it one day when I came home from school - and I just remember hugging him. I remember going with him to get his unemployment checks and going to sign up for classes. I'd go with him to the Community College on Saturday mornings and watch while he'd do homework in the computer lab - or else I'd just wander the halls reading all the campus fliers dreaming about college opportunities for me. But there were subtle changes in our home. Even though the gifts were fewer at time, I still continued dance lessons and other music lessons. If my parents felt the financial strain - I never knew it.

The big change for me came when the clothes started coming. Trash bags full of hand-me-down clothes from cousins and friends who were 5+ years older than me. Clothes that were incredibly dated. But instead of being grateful, I was bitter. I remember one day going to school when it was so cold out. I was wearing a hand-me-down coat -- God awful wool plaid. I vividly remember some of the "mean girls" saying things like "nice coat, where can I get one?" and being so horribly embarrassed that I never wore that coat again. I would take it off the minute I rounded the corner from my house and walk in the cold all so I didn't have to face the ridicule.

Then daddy got another job.  Through his new training, he was hired by a downtown department store -- Kaufmann's (which is now Macy's). He'd be repairing cash registers and other equipment. At the time, Kaufmann's was a high-end department store - one that I longed to shop at. And along with daddy's new job came the coveted employee discount. That year for my birthday, I was allowed to shop downtown and pick anything I wanted. I was in heaven! I remember picking a very soft, Christmas white sweater dress and grey suede boots. I cherished those items and wore them until they both fell apart.

When I graduated college, I started working downtown too. Daddy and I would commute together - stopping for coffee and donuts before getting to work. We'd listen to the local morning show and laugh at all the skits. It was then that I found out how much my daddy hated that job -- but he kept going and kept working -- for us.

It was probably my first real lesson -- and I just didn't see it at the time. Because at the time, I was basking in making my own money and using all those credit cards that I had opened over the past year or so.

Little did I know at the time that it was just the beginning of my downfall.

(To Be Continued.......)

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What I'm Reading Now

Might As Well Laugh About It Now
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Plum Spooky
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Through the Grinder
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