The Never Ending Internal Debate

It’s time again for me to reconsider our family options in terms of what’s best for us. Do I go back to work? Do I continue to stay home? I feel like talking about this aloud let’s other moms know they are not alone in all of the overwhelming feelings that come with being a mom.

I feel like I should back up to the moment when I knew it was time for me to stay home. My loving husband always wanted to do what I wanted to do. He said as long as I was happy, we would be happy as a family. We had toured a number of day cares and “schools”. After all of these tours, I felt emotionally drained, because I didn’t feel like I could leave my kids at any of these places. The teachers all seemed wonderful and loving. I also had been spoiled and blessed with a Dad who had volunteered to watch our oldest. We got so lucky in that my Dad doted and loved K more than I could ever have expected.  I loved getting text messages with loving pictures of K and my Dad on their many adventures. But when push came to shove, I knew my it was asking too much for my Dad to care for a newborn and a toddler who just turned 1.

Saying goodbye to my paycheck and amazing benefits wasn’t near as hard as I thought it was going to be. I honestly was extremely happy and relieved to be home. We promised every 6 months we would check in to see where we were as a family and financially. Now we are approaching my two year mark of being at home, and it’s time to reconsider what may be best.

K is in preschool, G will be next year. My dad could definitely handle watching them. We have always paid him fairly for what he does. My problem is, am I going to look back and say “what the heck was I thinking?!” But I also know that money is tight, and at times it can be really scary to think about all the unknowns. None of my closest friends from college have kids yet. So I feel like we have had to tread this journey alone. Very alone.

My job paid well, it would mean we could pay for school and child care, and have quite a bit extra money to pay off student loan debt. We only have a bit left on our car to pay off, and that would be wiped clean if I went back to work. We could get far ahead in terms of saving 3-6 months of expenses. We’ve always hoarded money, so we do have a nest egg, but we don’t feel comfortable paying off debt until we have another steady income. I know, Dave Ramsey would be ashamed of that theory. We could finally start putting a lot of money towards their college.

But then I think of all of priceless things being a SAHM gives us. I take care of the majority of errands all week so my husband can focus on work and his MBA. I try and do all the cleaning. laundry, meal planning, etc. when the kids are sleeping. We don’t have to worry about juggling work schedules to take care of a sick kiddo. The kids get to do so many fun things, library days, play dates, museum trips, swimming, etc. Obviously those are still possible, but we are far more limited and on a time crunch if I go back to work.

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Sick kiddos need the extra cuddles

I guess I’ll end by saying that it’s a blessing to be able to have the choice. We made many sacrifices as a couple and individually to make this a reality.

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Potty Training

Oh how I love thee. I honestly didn’t mind the process at all. I was really intimidated at first, because so many people had told me how terrible their experience was. The boys just turned 2 and 3 in July. We use two diapers a day, one each at night time. Full disclosure, I am really lazy, and not willing to tackle night time training yet.

A lot of times I get strange looks from strangers and friends when I ask if they both need to go potty. And then comes the unavoidable question, “WAIT, they are both potty trained already?!” Why do I feel guilty about this? My response is always “yes, at around 21 months we tried it, and if it worked we went with it…” And guess what? We got extremely lucky with both boys, they both loved the process, and figured it out in a few days. Side note here, my husband totally doubted me both times 😉 Also, for once in our Irish Twinning struggle, I seriously feel like the age gap was on our side. G wants to do anything K can do. And this time I felt he was ready. And with both boys, we had decided beforehand that if it didn’t work, it didn’t work, and we would try at a later time.

So, onto my method. Now, I know this may really offend some people, and frankly, I am sorry if this offends you. But I don’t find potty training children and dogs to be all that different. The process obviously, the children and pets are vastly different 🙂

Now, the first time I attempted training pants. Big waste of time in our house. So for 3 days our boys ran around in the nude. We committed to being home. I waited untilI knew we didn’t have plans, didn’t make plans, and kept with that mentality for 3 days. Underwear, training pants, anything of sorts just confused them. For some reason, they felt that they could go in that.

No pants also makes it easier to tell if they are starting to piddle a bit. At that point I would immediately pick them up and hustle to the potty, and say ” let’s finish in the potty!” For them it  helped them to associate pee goes in the potty. This is where I need to go if I need to pee. Also, it was far more noticeable for them to be able to SEE the pee coming out, and realize what it physically felt like, and what it physically looks like.

I took them at 15 minute intervals. I always asked if they would tell me if they needed to go potty. I always used the words “pee” and “poop”. Our second son is very verbally ahead of the game, but for our oldest, these one words were easier for him to express than spouting off a long sentence.

And when they went in the potty, it was like they just moved mountains. We danced, we clapped, we hugged, we kissed, etc. We just wanted to make them feel very proud of their accomplishment.

We had potty seats for every floor. I like  the one that inserted into the potty, so I didn’t have to really clean anything. Our youngest was crawling into every thing when our oldest was learning, so that was just too dirty and gross for me to even think about. I loved the insert. It’s the arm and hammer one, and we love it. Eventually on our main floor (we have 3 stories) we did purchase a child seat for our actual toilet. I’m considering buying one for the boys’ bathroom now too. For now, this bad boy is in their bathroom.

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With poop we made sure we always started potty training sitting down so there was no confusion between the two. By day 3 I would say they were going to the potty on their own, even if they didn’t always go. I still made sure to praise for trying, and when they went we made a bigger deal about it! I still made sure to ask them if they would tell us frequently, but not like when we first begin the process.

Now just past two and three years old they go on their own, and I can’t remember the last time we had an accident. I know we are lucky that it was this easy. But I also firmly stand behind our commitment to “guiding” them on how to use the potty. I giggle when I walk by the bathroom and see our two year old using the rest room like a big boy. I am so proud of our boys!

Mommy Wars

Am I possibly the only mom in the world who is absoultely sick of this? I mean come on, there is nothing harder, nor more important job out there than that of parenthood. Parenthood is hard enough, and now we have to worry about being attacked by our fellow parents.

The list is endless these days. You dare take a picture of your child in the car, because someone is going to tell you SOMETHING is wrong with their car seat. You talk about sending them off to preschool, and the next thing you know someone is talking to you about how you’ve ruined them by sending them to school too early, even though you and your pediatrician both agree they are ready. Dare I bring up the pediatrician, because we all know how awful doctors are, or aren’t?!

Let me tell you something, I have been blessed. I have lived the mom life in both camps. I have been a working mom and a SAHM. I have breast fed two children. I also had to move to formula with one child. I have used both cloth and disposable diapers. I have delayed vaccines due to concern, and I have vaccinated them on time with others. I have rear faced both boys as long as possible, and had to turn one forward facing, even though I didn’t feel ready, it was time. I have had to leave my child in someone else’s care other than my own, and I bawled my eyes out like a baby. I have had to leave my child in someone else’s car other than my own, and was happy I was able to have some time to get things done. I have rocked a child to sleep every night for 9 months, because that was the only way I knew how to get him to sleep. I have sleep trained a child when all other methods had failed.

My point in all of this is, we are all just doing the best with what we have at the moment. Please stop using your words to hurt each other. The world needs good parents to raise good children. The world doesn’t need more know it alls who claim to be the perfect parent. What we need is each other.

Saving Money

Before we made the choice for me to become a SAHM we were terrified of taking away my paycheck. I really had a great job, tha paid great, and my benefits were almost unheard of in today’s workplace. Naturally, it was an intimidating situation. But after long talks, and a lot of lost sleep, I knew in my heart this is what I wanted. And my husband fully supported me either way.

After we made the transition I really asked myself how I could work on saving the family money. My husband works really hard to make money, so I felt like it was my job to save money.

1. Stockpile: My first step was completed even before I became a full-time SAHM. We had started talking about the possibility, and I felt like building a stockpile was going to help us while I still had my income. What a GREAT decision that was. In 3 years we have not bought tooth paste, laundry detergent, deoderant, shaving razors, shampoo, conditioner, and some other expenditures as well. All from couponing. I only paid tax on some of the things, and most of the items were discounted up to 75%. Not to mention, I love being able to go down to our stockpile, and grab laundry detergent instead of having to go out to the store.

2. Dollar Store: Okay, I swear I was hesitant at first, but I love the dollar store. The boys really love to make crafts during when we are at home. Construction paper, pencils, stickers, paper plates, etc. are all there. Hot wheels are a big hit in this house, and we go through a lot of those.  For our longer trips I make sure to get the boys some surprise toys from there and it definitely helps keep them entertained. Also, the kids are wondeful at destroying things, so I figure it’s not that big of a deal if they break them.

3. Thrift Store: I can’t even count the number of times I have gone into a store and found Melissa and Doug toys still in the plastic. Or Little People toys that look like a child has never even played with it. Our 3 year old wants to play baseball, and I found a brand new glove for $1.99 that fits his cute hand perfectly. I am a sucker for designer jeans. I found Rock and Republics in my size, just a bit too long. Nothing I couldn’t handle. Seriously, everyone should learn to shop at second hand stores.

4. Sewing: We are shorter people in this house. I’m totally okay with that. But hubby needs to look nice at work, I don’t hate when our pants are too long and dragging on the ground. So I taught myself how to sew on a Brotherton machine. It’s really simple, seriously, if I can do it, anyone can do it. I have hemmed plenty of pants. What normally would cost us $22 a pair, is now free. Halloween costumers last year were all made by me. I made my oldest sons bedding. You can’t find his navy chevron bedding anywhere. I made him a reversable duvet, and he loves it. It even has buttons on it.

5. DIY: When we bought our second house, I knew I wanted a bigger dining set, one that had 8 dining chairs. And then I found what I absolutely loved. I mean it only cost THOUSANDS of dollars, right?! No! I refuse to spend that kind of money on a dining set, working or not. It just doesn’t feel right with me. So, I did what was second best in my book. At a whopping 9 months pregnant, I built a farmhouse table with my dad. The chairs were bought for $4.99 at goodwill and I sanded, repainted, and reupholstered them myself. So instead of spending thousands. I know have a table and chairs I love for less that $500.

6. Photography: Now I am not even close to an expert, but I have taught myself to take pictures on a DSLR camera, and how to edit them in Adobe Elements. Why? Because pictures of your kids are priceless, but if taken by a professional, they are darn expensive. So over time I have learned more and more about our camera, and on how to edit those adorable little faces in the pictures I take. I also taught myself how to make cards and invitations on there, so that they cost me a $0.09 instead of $1.50.

7. Cutting Hair: It started with me just cutting K’s hair since he was so small and his hair just needed some trimming here and there. But then I got to thinking. With 3 guys in the house and all having thick hair, we would need to have hair cuts every 4-6 weeks. That’s at least $60 a pop, really more, because we used to send hubby to my lovely lady, but between school and work, I just ended up cutting his hair too. I watched tutorials and go slowly. And it’s nice, because we do everyone’s in an evening before bath time.

I know none of these seem like they would save hundreds of dollars, but the cost really does add up. I am so happy I have done all of these. I think these are life lessons that I will carry with me forever. I also love that we are teaching our boys to shop smart, and that some things really can be done on your own!

Below are pictures of some of the projects I mentioned above. Our dining table and chairs. I also painted a chair that I bought for $14. It was a horrid pink, but now it matches our navy themed dining room.

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Command Center

It’s no secret that I am a bit of a type A personality, ask my husband, and he won’t say a bit, he will say all of me is. I thrive off of making things more efficient for myself and my family. I also like doing anything that will save money and time. And really, time is money, right?

Whenever people come over they always ask about our command center. They seem to think I am crazy, but when I start talking them through it, they all of a sudden seem to love it. Here it is in its glory:

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The calendar is obviously for making sure all of our schedule activities are up there, sometimes in the hustle and bustle K and I forget to tell each other about something. I also love to include the boys in our menu planning, and it helps them get excited about upcoming events. In the magazine file we have categories for each area (recepits, bills, school papers, coupons, and papers that need to be brought down to our office to be filed for later). This really helps us keep organized in terms of money.

The calendar has two purposes for our family really. First, as I said it’s our planner. With preschool, one currently working on their MBA, and one of us about to work on finishing up their MBA, we have a lot of stuff between our school and personal lives. It’s a life saver.

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Also, I plan out our menu in one or two week spurts. Originally I tried to do this for an entire month but I find that our fridge just simply cannot hold enough food for a month. Two weeks is stretching it with the amount of produce and almond milk we buy. And heck, our boys are only 2 and 3. The teenage years are making me contemplate buying a second fridge, kidding… maybe.

After I make our menu plan, I sit down and make out our grocery list for every item we need for our week, or two. I make my list by how I shop the store, that way I’m not running all over with two kids and a huge cart. After my list is complete, I make sure to check the fridge. If anything is there then I cross it off the list. Then I go to our pantry and do the same. For me this just makes the most sense. And saves me the most time.

Between the 4 of us, we try and shop for around $100 a week. It is really hard, considering we do like to indulge in some adult beverages. I am pretty happy with that number considering we eat a lot of produce and drink a ton of almond milk. We do typically save one meal a week for going out to eat with the kids.

I love finding more ways to save our family money!!!

Crafts

In the morning if the weather is still too brisk, or rainy, I like to plan a fun activity inside for the boys. A lot of times it is craft centered, but sometimes I do ones that can help with fine motor skills, or something else…K loves Halloween like I do. Probably due to my influence, so I am loving that he loves all things pumpkins and spooky ghosts. I saw a pin that  was to make an apple, so I figured I could do something simliar and make pumpkins out of them.

I always buy my craft supplies from the dollar store. It saves me a ton of money, and I don’t panick if somenthing gets broken, or winds up lost.

Here is what I did for the craft: I took two pages of orange construction paper, folded them in half (hamburger style) and cut them in strips. Then I cut the strips into squares. That way it took me half the time.  It went quick. Then I took one green paper and cut out two stems. After that I took two paper plates, one for each child, and put glue all over the plate ( I didn’t do the border, because I knew they would want to grab the plate, and I figured the glue would gross them out).

I let them get to work!

Here they are gluing their squares on:

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While they were gluing on their squares, I cut out eyes for them to glue on. I let them choose what type of mouth they wanted (silly or scary). Naturally, K chose scary, and G always wants to do what big brother does.

Here is the finished product. It was a lot of fun, and I got some cute pictures of them holding their finished product!

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Sleep Schedule

I feel like I get asked a lot of questions  about the boys sleep schedule and how I went about it, so I thought I would post what worked for our family. I am in no way saying what works for us has to work for anyone else. I just know that after a lot of reading, tears, trial and error, we have two good sleepers who up until 2 weeks ago, never protested sleep. K is currently trying to get out of his nap time, but once he falls asleep, will sleep for two hours, so I know he is not ready to give it up.

At 7 we wake up. Very rarely do I let them sleep much longer, unless of course they are sick, or stayed up way past bed time the night before. Sure a few minutes isn’t a big deal, but having a reliable schedule is important for kids and adults. Most people I know wake up around the same time every day, why should they be any different. If they wake up before, they happily lay in their bed. I do not go in there unless they are sick. I learned with both of them, that if we went in there before, they would continue to wake earlier and earlier.

We go about our day, depending on what I have planned. I always try to make sure we have a good breakfast, lots of physical play, stories, snacks, and lunch. Lunch is usually around 12. This gives them time to eat, and then time to unwind from their day. Nap time is at 1. It takes a special reason to be out and about around this time. The rule is they are to stay in their room and sleep. Typically they sleep anywhere for 1.5-2.5 hours.

After that we spend some time playing while we wait for Daddy to get home. We have a snack, and then dinner is around 5 PM. That way bath time isn’t rushed, and we still have time to spend as a family. G goes up at 7 to read two stories. K goes up at 7:15 to read two stories. And it’s lights out after that. Hubs and I rotate who puts who to bed, so that both kids are able to have their special night routine with us.

And from 7:30 to whenever it’s our time to spend it how we please. Most nights we tackle some stuff together and enjoy our time as a couple. People don’t believe us when we tell them how early our kids go to bed, but they are 2 and 3. Sleep is important. I know how bad I feel if I don’t feel well rested.