Staying Home is Expensive

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Before I became a mom, I never dreamed of wanting to stay at home. It just wasn’t me. I’m a worker – a provider. I wouldn’t be able to stay at home and “do nothing.” Hahaha. I had it so wrong as to what a SAHM actually does.

When I had my daughter 6 1/2 years ago, I couldn’t dream of going back to work. However, being a single mom, there aren’t many other options. I had it worked out where I would bartend here and there at little mom and pop places throughout the year, but my main income came from heading back to NJ for the summer and bartending at summer bars. I would work as much as I could for those 3 months, then live frugally for the rest of the year. It would last me until just about tax season, then I’d live off of my refund until summer came again. Sure, my credit went to sh*t, but I was there for every one of my daughter’s firsts. That was more important to me.

When I got pregnant with Little E, I knew that I wanted to stay at home for as long as possible. I picked up extra shifts while pregnant and saved everything that I could, ensuring that I could take off the full 90 days of leave that I was allotted. That’s what I’ve been living off since I had him almost 2 months ago. And I’ve been focusing on how to generate an income from home so that I can continue staying home with him.

The problem is, once you get on your routine with your newborn, you’re able to keep the house clean again and you get pretty bored pretty quickly. At least I have. He sleeps most of the day. So, once my sleep leveled off and I became used to his routine, I started deep cleaning the house. When I finished cleaning, I started redecorating. I’ve redone all the pictures in the living room. Twice. Yesterday, we got a new rug and finally took down the green vertical blinds from T’s bachelor days and put up curtains. I feel like we have a grown up living room now (minus all the kid paraphernalia).

I’ve already purchased shelves and brackets so that I can reorganize Peanut’s room and the playroom downstairs. I just need to get out the handy dandy stud finder and level and actually start that project. Plus, I need to wade through the sea of toys in the playroom in order to organize it. Guess who’s been dreading that project… This girl!

Since I don’t see a lot of my friends from work on a daily or weekly basis anymore, we started meeting for lunch occasionally. Oh, and the Kmart by me is closing, so I’ve been stocking up on Christmas gifts and birthday presents. This also adds up.

The point is, I need a job just to fund my SAHM lifestyle. Or I need to change what my SAHM lifestyle is. You’d think that once I get these rooms done I’ll be done spending money. I would also hope that’s true. Except we’ve already outgrown this home with the arrival of Little E. New home means new decorations. Or more decorations, or different decorations. I’m not sure because we haven’t found the new home yet so I don’t know what I’m going to be decorating.

I now understand why so many women blog about finances. If you’re not 100% on top of what you can spend, it’s really easy to go shopping out of boredom. It’s easy to browse a store’s online catalog while you’re feeding the baby or waiting for him to wake up. It’s easy to go walking through the mall while he naps in his stroller and stop in whatever stores you feel like.

This is all new and weird to me and I don’t like it. I’ve been pretty good about finances up until this point. Since I started working at my current job I’ve had a definite budget, I’ve known what I needed to make each week, and I’ve set savings and debt payoff goals. I brought my credit score up almost 200 points in the past year and a half and saved enough to pay for our wedding with cash. I’ve given myself a set amount that I was able to spend each week, and the rest has been accounted for – either to bills or to savings.

I don’t like SAHM me. She’s reckless and bored. It’s a frightening combination. One that I’d like to destroy as soon as possible. So, I’m going back to my budget. I’m going back to living frugally and simply. I’m happier there. My wallet is happier there. And if I’m ever going to make this SAHM gig a permanent one, I need to get back there.

I’m going to start with making lists again and only buying what I came to the store for. I’m going to start making freezer meals again based upon what meat is on sale that week. And I’m going to stop any and all online shopping for the rest of the summer. That may not seem like much, but it’s a start.

And we’ve all gotta start somewhere.

Letting the Little Bird Fly (And Getting Stuff Done)

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Tomorrow my Peanut leaves for Hawaii with my parents for ten days. Must be nice to be 6 and traveling the world. Haha. There are some people that think I’m crazy to let her travel halfway around the world without me. To those people, I’d like to say, Mind your own business. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and she’s going with her grandparents – two people who treat her like she’s their own and love her beyond words. Also, I might add, two people who have raised 7 children into adulthood. If we all survived, I think my daughter will too.

Now, to counter my last post, I’m planning on being as productive as humanly possible with an infant in the house while she’s gone. First spot to tackle? Her playroom.

This is a room that I had such great plans for before we moved in. I have an entire Pinterest board dedicated to it and all my plans. Then the actual move in process happened and my boxes ended up in there as well as a whole bunch of toys she’s outgrown. Some of those will be utilized when Little E gets big enough to play with them. (What kid doesn’t want a toy kitchen? Boys have to eat too!) The plastic makeup vanity, however, we no longer need. Yes, she’s still into makeup. But she’s getting older and I’d like to create a more useful little station for her. She’s also not really into playing dress up anymore. That’s a whole corner of the play room that I can get rid of (I’m keeping the garden gnome costume, though. A) It’s gender neutral, and B) Look at the picture below, courtesy of walmart.com. It’s hilarious.)

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Anyway, the plan is to go through the room, get rid of anything that doesn’t actually get played with anymore (and will likely never be played with again) and organize it in a way that actually looks cute and is functional. Oh, and to get my crap out of that room while I’m at it.

I’d like to put up some shelving for all of the boxed toys (board games, games that have yet to be opened- we have a lot of those-, puzzles, jewelry making kits, etc), maybe decorate the walls a little, and create a reading corner. We’ll see how that all plays out. It also depends upon what I can find on sale. Good thing it’s yard sale season!

Wish me luck!

 

 

Take Us As We Are

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Okay, no, that’s not what my house looks like right now, but I feel like it does. And to be honest, I don’t care. As many of you now know, we have a new baby in the house and I’m recovering from a C-section. This means we also have visitors on an almost daily basis. To those visitors, this is what I have to say:

You are welcome here whenever you’d like. Please feel free to stop by and see the little man. We have plenty of food and drinks, we are almost always home lately, and we would love to see you. Just call first and let us know you’re coming so that you’re not overlapping with other guests.

We are happy to share Little E. We understand that the little man came into this world with a lot of people loving him and we are grateful for it. That’s why we are happy to share him with you. Yes, I expect you to wash your hands before you hold him. Other than that, I’m pretty relaxed on the subject. Most of you have your own kids. I trust you’re not going to drop mine.

Don’t judge my house. Let’s face it. I’m happy to have you over for a visit, but I’m not going to clean for you right now. There are stains on the tablecloth, papers on the counter, and blankets all over the living room. Depending on the time of day, there are also unfinished bottles next to the sink. Oh, and the bathroom hasn’t been cleaned since before I went into labor. Call ahead and let me know you’re coming. Those things aren’t going to change.

Don’t come over if your kids are sick. Use common sense here. If you have kids, you know how the game works. Your kid goes to school, gets sick from some other little walking germ, brings it home, gets your whole house sick, goes to a birthday party on the weekend, gets every kid there sick, and the cycle continues. My little guy has no immune system yet. If your kids are sick, stay home. We intend to keep him. There’s no rush for you to come see him. He’ll be a little older by the time you meet him, but hopefully he won’t be sick then. Because you stayed away. Thank you in advance.

Right now, I am thoroughly enjoying spending time with my family. Peanut had a 3-day weekend, T is off of work for as long as I need him, and I’m off until mid-August. I’m soaking in every moment of this bliss before life kicks back in and we’re all running in different directions. I welcome any of my friends and family over to share in the peaceful chaos that is our life right at this moment. Just don’t judge me based on the condition of my house.

Gardening 3.0

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This year is my third summer in our home and my third attempt at having a garden. While previous years have been successful, I’ve learned a little more each time about gardening dos and don’ts. The first year, I planted way too many vine plants and did not have enough room for everything in our 10’x5′ raised garden bed. The zucchini and cucumbers killed off the pumpkins. I didn’t have a vertical apparatus for the vines to climb up so the leaves developed some kind of grossness I’d rather not think about. I also planted all of the herbs in with the vegetables. Let me just tell you… Spearmint will ruin your life. I’m still finding it in the garden bed 2 years later. I can’t get rid of the stuff.

Last year, I bought separate containers for the herbs, I planted less and spaced everything out more, I put together a PVC pipe contraption with twine strings for the cucumbers to grow up. I had tomato cages and rubber padded wire. I was set. Except, the cucumbers grew out of control and that’s pretty much the only real crop we got. Cucumbers, cucumbers, and more cucumbers. I made about 20 jars of pickles, which came out amazing, but some of which are still in my refrigerator. They need to go. I also had an overabundance of basil. Which was great the first time I made my own pesto. But how much pesto can you use? Especially when your loving daughter won’t eat the stuff because it’s green. Guess what I didn’t have. Dill for all of those pickles I was making. That I had to buy at the grocery store. The great thing was that with all of those cucumbers, not once did I have to worry about the salmonella scare that was sweeping the nation because not once last summer did I purchase a cucumber. Eh, you live and you learn, right?

This year, I bought a $6 pod container. I planted all of my seeds in it so that the transplant process wouldn’t be as traumatic on the roots. I was good to go. Everything was sprouting, the beans were going crazy. Then winter hit. In April. Mother Nature, you SOB. Now the seedlings are outgrowing their pods and things are starting to wilt. But I’m stubborn. I’m going to make it work.

While we’ve been trying to prepare for baby #2, I’ve been making my list of the things that need to be done before he/she gets here. Plant the garden has been on the top of that list because my ability to bend down and get back up is becoming more and more of a feat in itself. Also, I know that my time to plant after the baby arrives is limited and I’d like to preserve as many of this year’s crops as possible so that by the end of the summer when Baby is starting his/her first foods they are foods that I made myself. From my garden. Where I know that no pesticides were used. Problem was, I had to wait until we got to a point where we didn’t have below freezing temperatures at night. That didn’t happen until this weekend.

Yesterday, I spent the afternoon plugging away at the garden. I had tilled and added more soil a few weeks ago, sprinkled Epsom salt  earlier in the week, and then tilled it again before planting anything yesterday. I started planting, trying to remember what I could about companion planting from my first year’s attempt. Also, I tried to give the cucumbers enough space that they wouldn’t invade every other vegetable in the garden. The almost end result is pictured above in my crude little drawing and random photo. I say almost because today I got the bright idea to recheck my companion planting sites. Of course I got some of the info wrong and have to move a couple of things. Broccoli and peppers are apparently not friends, and neither are beans and onions. So, with a gentle swap and a few other minor adjustments, we should be all set. Again. Good thing they’re in those pods, right? Then I just have to keep watering everything and cross my fingers that the pods work.

Planting the garden every year is one of those things that keeps me sane. I feel productive. I feel like I’m contributing something back. I save money on produce. My daughter gets to see where her food comes from and appreciate what it takes to make it go from just a seedling to something edible. This year’s produce will hopefully contribute substantially to our new addition’s diet and the first foods that he/she eats will be preservative free and pesticide free. It also gives me somewhere to go when I need a break from being a wife, a mom, etc. I go in the back of the house, pick the vegetables that are ready, weed the garden, vent my frustrations, and come back a slightly more normal version of myself.

It’s funny because I can’t keep a houseplant alive for anything. We have a withering old aloe plant on a counter in the kitchen that’s been alive since before I moved in with T. The only reason it’s still alive is because it is right next to the laptop where I write this blog.  I sit down to write, see that it’s looking a little dead, and throw some ice cubes in the pot. (This was a trick I learned on how to water orchids. Orchids that died.) Somehow, though, this garden is my own little sanctuary and I put a lot more effort into keeping it going. Maybe because it actually yields something? I mean, flowers and plants are great, but I’ve got a short attention span and these are things the new baby is just going to try and eat at some point in his/her mobile future.

Anyway, today those few veggies will get transplanted to their permanent summer homes and hopefully in the next couple of months we will have something worth eating. I will keep you updated. Please let me know your garden stories if you have any. I love being able to discuss what works and what doesn’t.

Nesting and Prepping

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Well, folks, I can officially say that I’ve entered into the nesting phase of this pregnancy. Maybe it’s the fact that my due date is less than 4 weeks away. Maybe it has something to do with trying to get my Spring cleaning done (even though we’ve had more days with snow this “spring” than we did through all of winter). Maybe it has to do with the fact that I went to the doctor last week and I’m already dilated 3cm. But time is definitely running out and I still have a long To Do list before I’m ready for this baby.

My seeds have all sprouted and are ready for the garden. Mother Nature, however, has other plans. Hopefully the weather breaks soon and I can plant them. Especially since it’s looking like I’ll be out of commission sooner rather than later. I planted a lot of different types of seeds this year because I wasn’t sure how the pod planter that I bought would work out, but so far it seems to be a very good investment for this year’s produce. There are carrots, Brussels sprouts, lemon balm, dill, parsley, chives, spearmint, basil, oregano, 3 types of tomatoes, radishes, cucumbers, cauliflower, etc. If the garden yields anything like what it did the past couple of summers we will be all set this year. I’m looking forward to making homemade baby food this fall. If only it would stop snowing at night so I could actually plant everything. Which reminds me, I also have to build a vertical apparatus for the cucumbers this year to save space in the garden. More on that in a future post.

I’ve set up the bassinet and washed the gender neutral, hand me down baby clothes that I have. There’s a tiny little sock monkey baby outfit that I think will be perfect for the hospital pictures. I’m still hunting for the right dresser/changing table, though. I don’t know about you, but I get a picture in my head of how something should look and I cannot be stopped until I find that exact thing. I’m willing to compromise a little, but not nearly as much as I should. The hospital bag is packed and ready to go. I’m going to research hospital bag checklists, however, so I can make sure I’ve really packed everything we’ll need. I know there has to be something that I’m forgetting.

Friday night I was on a mission to clean up the clutter counter we have in our kitchen. That got done, I replenished the cabinets from the downstairs stock shelves, and I wrote out my list of what I’ll need to buy to replenish the backup stock. I also need to plan out some more freezer meals so that we’re ready to go for the next month or so. I’ve been focusing mostly on dinners, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea to look up some good breakfast recipes as well so we’re not living off of cereal. Yesterday was a day of very little sleep and lots of running around, so I didn’t get anything done around the house, but T started on the laundry so that was a big help. Today, I attacked the bathroom with full force. Didn’t get to the tub, but I organized the closet in there, took inventory of what bathroom essentials I need to stock up on, and scrubbed everything else. Like, Clorox wiped the baseboards and scrubbed the tile walls and floors kind of cleaned. No one else will notice, but I’m happy with the end results and that’s all that matters right now.

Tomorrow, we have an ultrasound at 7:30am (yuck- at the time and the fact that T can’t make it. I’m excited to see how much the baby has grown, though) and then I plan on heading to the store for all the items on my list. I hope to replenish all of that so we are prepared for another 30 Day No Spend Challenge in May. With me being out of work it would help to save as much as possible and will make up for some of what I couldn’t save for my maternity leave. I’m also going to pick up the necessities to start my freezer meals, order the 1/4 cow that we’ve been waiting for, drop off some clothes and other items for donation, and tackle another room in the house. I should probably go with our bedroom since we’re going to be adding a roommate shortly.

I figure if I go room by room I will be set by the time the little one arrives. Maybe. Probably not. But here’s to wishful thinking!

 

Winterproofing

Before we moved into T’s house, we did some remodeling. The big ticket items on our list were painting and decorating Peanut’s bedroom, finishing the room downstairs so that she had a playroom, and creating a garden space for me outside. The bedroom was easy because all it needed was a little primer and some paint. I took care of that over the course of a couple days. The garden area seemed to take forever and T didn’t understand why it was such a priority for me. Finally, I broke down in tears one day and explained that he had his garage and computer desk, Peanut had her bedroom and playroom. There was not one, single place in the house that I could call mine. No where for me to escape to when I needed to. That’s why I wanted the garden. That would be my space. The next day he sent me a picture of a garden box he had built for me. He’s pretty great like that.

The laundry room downstairs had a big, open space connected to it. Our plan was to make that space into Peanut’s play area so that her toys were (mostly) kept in a central area. T worked very hard to frame out the space, build a false wall to protect her from the furnace and water heater, put up drywall, and painted the entire space by himself. I was definitely proud of how hard he worked to make us feel at home and to complete the space by the time we moved in. I still am. We completed everything in less than 3 months and moved in July 1st. I was so excited to take this step with him.

Over the past couple years, we’ve made a few other changes to the house, but the playroom is still the most drastic change of all. The only problem is that while the playroom portion is insulated, framed out and drywalled, the rest of the room is still only cinder blocks. This makes it uncomfortably cold down there in the winter. Peanut wants to play down there, but has to bundle up to do so. She wants company while she’s down there, but I can’t take how cold it gets and I’m forced back upstairs after no time at all to warm up again.

I’ve been looking online for a kid-friendly space heater to warm up the room without having to worry about her knocking it over or getting burned on it. Hell, if the room was warm enough I’d have no problem being down there with her while we play. I also bought those draft guards for under the doors downstairs, so I’m hoping once they come in they’ll help the matter. I’m really at a loss for what else to do, though. This is the first floor of our home, even though it’s not really livable space. It’s not like it’s a basement where the cinder block is surrounded by cold earth. Any of the articles I’ve read have been more about drafty basements and how it’s not economical to heat them. This is slightly different, but I’m not exactly sure how off.

Anyway, any suggestions from you readers out there would be welcome. I’d like to make the space something that can be used year-round – especially so I can have my living room back. Also, I’d like all those tiny 6-7 year old toys to stay on a different level of the house than our mobile 7-10 month old (which he/she will be by next winter). If we can test out different warming methods this winter and find a solution next winter will be much easier on everyone involved.

Write a comment below or write suggestions on our Facebook page. Any ideas short of building a bonfire in the middle of the room are appreciated! 🙂

Until next time!

-C

Meal Prep

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In this crazy, hectic world of ours, I enjoy the little things like sitting down together for dinner as a family. This doesn’t get to happen every night because T’s schedule is ever changing, but I enjoy it when it can happen. I think it’s good for the little one too. It’s the one time when phones get put away, we talk about our days, we discuss dinner, we make up silly names. Tonight, she gave me grief for us having tacos because “it’s not Taco Tuesday!!” So, my solution? Tonight was dubbed Thaco Thursday. Say it out loud. It’s hilarious. She looked at me like I was crazy until she slipped and said it. Then she was laughing too and it stuck.

Like any other person, I have lazy days where I just don’t feel like cooking. Some days T will pick up the slack and cook instead. Other days, I want us all to sit together for dinner, but I either have no idea what I want for dinner or I have no desire to cook it. These are the times where it’s handy to have some pre-planned meal prep ideas.

Like I’ve said in earlier posts, I have my little prepper stockpile downstairs. We also have a freezer full of meat and vegetables (each February/March we buy either a 1/4 or 1/2 cow from one of the local farmers and it usually lasts until the following winter) and I try to make what I can ahead of time when I have the motivation to do it. Today I made a batch of meatballs to freeze before I made “thacos.” This way, when I have the lazy ‘Let’s just have spaghetti’ day, I can throw in some homemade meatballs and make a meal out of it. I’ve tried a few make ahead freezable crock pot meals in the past. While the concept behind them is amazing, our house wasn’t a big fan of those recipes, so I will have to figure out something new on that front.

Another thing I like to do to ensure that homemade meals are being enjoyed is to intentionally make a little too much. There are only 3 of us in the house, but I will defrost 4-5 chicken breasts or pork chops and cook everything. This way T has a homemade meal to take for lunch that he just has to throw in the microwave at work. (By the way, a trick I learned from my stepdad, when I buy chicken or pork from the grocery store, I open the packaging and place each piece of meat into its own sandwich bag before freezing them. This allows me to defrost exactly what I need and the meat defrosts quicker because it isn’t all together.)

For Christmas last year we asked my mother in law for a pressure cooker. She bought us the 8-in-1 type that works as a pressure cooker, rice cooker, soup maker, slow cooker, and I’m not even entirely sure what else. I just know the thing is amazing. I can put frozen chicken in there with whatever type of sauce I’d like to pair it with and in 12-15 minutes, it’s done, tender, and falling apart with a fork. This has saved me on multiple occasions when I was either too lazy to defrost something ahead of time or too busy during the day. I’ve also made roasts in the slow cooker. That you need to plan ahead for, though.

My plan is to make some freeze ahead meals for after I have the baby. A tray of baked ziti, some slow cooker recipes that we actually like, plenty of meatballs, etc. This way our way of life isn’t completely disrupted by the new little one in the house. It’s going to be a big enough adjustment for all of us. I’d like to keep as much normalcy as possible for my peanut.

What do you do to ensure your family is eating a home cooked meal? What ways do you prep ahead of time? Also, if anyone would like to share any freeze ahead recipes, they would be much appreciated.

Have a great night and thank you for reading!!!

-C

Beating the Clutter Monster

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One of my goals this year, much to the delight of my husband, is to get all of the clutter out of our house. We are planning to buy a bigger home within the next year and a half or so, and getting all of that out now will make the moving process that much easier when it happens. Besides, my poor husband is a minimalist and having a counter full of papers drives him absolutely mad.

Now, I keep a pretty clean house. Especially considering we have kids and animals. Most of the time, if someone stops by unannounced, I have no reason to be embarrassed by the condition of our home. Every once in a while, however, life catches up with us, and there are dishes in the sink and piles of laundry waiting to be done (or at least folded). My husband is a good sport about these moments, but I know it drives him crazy. There are certain areas of the house, however, that are never completely cleared. The counter behind the kitchen table which is always covered in random school papers and mail is one, the plastic bin in our bedroom that always has clothes I don’t want to hang up is another. The little one’s playroom, which is still littered with unpacked boxes from when we moved in and my desk are other points of contention, but they are in the equivalent of our basement and are not seen all day every day like the other spots.

My goal over the next few months is to declutter these areas. Once I do that, I need to work on how to keep these areas clean. I’m sure T (my husband) will be grateful (he doesn’t know that this is the plan yet). I’m going to be honest with you and myself and say that the clothes will probably never be hung up on a regular basis. You know how there’s that one chore that you absolutely despise doing? The one thing that is SO easy but you avoid at all costs? Hanging up clothes is mine. I will wash, dry, fold, and put away clothes without a problem. The ones that need to be hung up are treated like they have the plague. I don’t know why, but I’m pretty sure it’s not going to change in the near future.

Now for the big dilemma… How the heck am I supposed to do this?

 

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Well , I bought these hanging mailboxes for in the kitchen. There are three of them so that we each have a place for our own mail and papers. Ideally, that will keep the papers to a minimum and everything off the counter. Ideally…

The goal for the downstairs spaces is simple. One box a week until they’re all gone, and one (or two) kid free weekend(s) where I attack the desk and throw out everything from 2009 and before. LOL. I wish I was joking. I moved into a new apartment right before I had my peanut. I was only in the new place a year before I had her and decided to pick up and move to PA. Things that never had any business being packed in the first place were hurriedly thrown in boxes and have now been packed for over 6 years, taking up space in my home rather than at the landfill or recycling center where they belong. It’s time they moved on to their forever home, somewhere far, far away.

What spaces in your home need to be decluttered? Or what tactics do you use to keep your home clutter free? Inquiring minds want to know…

Have a great night! Talk to you again tomorrow!

-C