December 16, 2015

Where are all the Moms?!?

It's that time of year.  Lights, trees, presents, Christmas music, holiday church services, parties and a month of general Scheduling Chaos.  One of my favorite things about the holiday season is Christmas cards.  Anyone that knows me well at all knows that I have a general obsession with the mail.  I love it, I love getting it because you never know what could be inside!  So Christmas is especially fun as I love opening the mailbox and seeing all the ADORABLE cards and the faces of the people in my life that I love so much.  We hang all of our cards on the fridge and I actually started a binder type thing several years ago and we keep every card we get.  I got made fun of the first couple years but I hated throwing them away.  And now, I LOVE having them and so do my kids.  It is so awesome to see families grow and change over the years, I think my heart might actually be smiling right now.

But I am not writing to convince you to love cards like me, to make your own binder, to send me cards or to guilt you for not sending cards.  I am writing because I have noticed lately that many of my cards are missing a very important person, Where's Mom?!?  Now if your family is like mine, you might be the family photographer, which means there aren't as many pictures of you.  Or family photos are expensive so you don't get them.  I get it.  But my concern is that Mom is missing for another reason - insecurity.  And this grieves my heart.

I know these women, I AM this woman, the woman that says something like this:

"What is my hair doing in that one?"
"Why is my head tilted all funny?" (Just me?  I am notorius for this!!!)
"I don't like that outfit I had on."
"Too many wrinkles"
"How many chins can a person have?"
 "I look fat!"

And so, we think it's better to just leave us out.  And THAT'S NOT TRUE!

Dear friends, I love your kids.  I love your husbands.  I love your dogs.  I tolerate your cats.  And I love you!!!  As I get older many of the people I love I don't get to see much anymore.  So seeing them in a Christmas card (or even just seeing your pictures on social media!) brings joy to me and those around you.

I know it can be hard.  I struggle with it too.  I just recently posted some family photos on facebook and got so many wonderful comments about how great they are and how beautiful me and my family are.  You know what I saw when I first looked at them?  This is the honest truth people, here were my thoughts -

"That's cute...too bad you can see all those belly rolls."
"That's cute...why are my thighs so massive!"
"That's cute...wish my gut wasn't sticking out so much."

And then I caught myself.  I was focusing on all the flaws and ignoring the beauty that God has given me and sees in me.  So Women (this isn't just for moms!), stop focusing on the flaws and embrace your inner AND OUTER beauty!!!  Don't hide or run when the camera comes out.  Don't post all of the adorable photos of your family without posting pictures of you too.  Don't always run to the back as to not be seen in the picture.  Have confidence in God's beautiful and wonderful creation - YOU!

After my son was born I was at my heaviest weight ever.  We were taking family pictures and I told our photographer (who is also a great friend) try to only get pictures from the waist up.  She said something along the lines of "We will get some close ups but I am going to take some full body shots too.  You will want them and your kids will want them.  They will want to see pictures of their parents when they grow older."  This hit home and she was right.  I still struggle seeing pictures, new and old.  I struggle to not immediately start pointing out every physical flaw I can find.  But then I remember, God doesn't see the flaws, God rejoices in the beauty he has created and I need to do the same.  And as mothers, our daughter's confidence in herself will reflect our confidence in us.  This one hits home hard for me.  If my daughter see's me avoiding pictures or hears me pointing out all of my flaws, she will pick up those same habits.  Another wise friend once told me that even though she doesn't like wearing swim suits out in public she does and she does it with a positive attitude so that her girls can see that confidence. 

So take a moment and find at least 3 physical things you can have confidence in.  If we want our daughter's to have a healthy body image it has to start with us!

October 20, 2015

Saving $ w/ your Smart phone

As anyone who knows me much at all will tell you, I'm cheap.  I love a good deal and a great bargain and I am always looking in to ways to save some cash.  You've heard me talk about things like Couponing and CVS shopping but I have also been looking in to new ways to save on things like grocery's using different apps.  In the past year I have tried the following 3 coupon saving apps: Checkout51, Snap, and ibotta.  I have decided that ibotta is the only one that's really worth it, but thought I would give you a run down on the ones I have tried. 

All 3 of these are money saving apps, kind of like coupons or rebates.
You earn money when you buy certain items and it puts money in an account.  Some items can only be purchased at a certain store, some can be purchased anywhere.  You buy the item(s), upload your receipt and once approved, they add money to your account.  Once you reach a certain amount you can "cash out" or get paid :)  You can still use coupons on these items and still submit them for double savings!


Generally offer 20-35 offers per week
You can redeem more than 1 item on some offers
You can "cash out" once you have at least $20 and they send you a check.

*My opinion - I signed up and tried this once when they were having a good offer.  I cashed out one time and since then there hasn't really been anything good.

Total Earnings: $28.26 (since about a year ago)

Snap by Groupon

Generally offer 20-35 offers per week
You can redeem more than 1 item on some offers
You can "cash out" once you have at least $20 and they send you a check.
*My opinion - I signed up and tried this once and got a crazy good deal on diapers and wipes.  I cashed out and got about $40.30.  Since then, nothing much.  I have $10 in my account now but rarely find anything on there I need so it will be sitting there a while.

This one is the same idea but a little different.  Here's how it works:

You have to "unlock" items to claim them.  You unlock items by doing little things like learning a fact, taking a poll (1-3 questions, multiple choice), watching a video (short commercial) and some other things.  This might sound intemidating but it's so easy and fast.  I just look through the store I'm about to go to and see what's on the list.  If there's an item I need/want I unlock it.  You can also unlock items after you purchase it.

Once you buy the item(s) you will scan the barcode and upload the receipt.  Some offers are only available on certain kinds, sizes or quantities (just like coupons) so you will want to check that before buying your items.  You can scan them in store if you want to make sure!

They will approve your items and put money in your account.  You can cash out at $10!  You can request a giftcard or get cash sent to your back account using paypal.  I get my money the same day :)  I love being able to cash out more often, it's easier to get money and feel like you're actually saving money!

I have cashed out $72.20 since May (and currently have enough to cash out again).

After having these for months, my conclusion is that checkout51 and snap are just not worth the time or effort.  There aren't enough things I need and it takes so long to cash out and then you have to wait even longer for the check.  It's hard to feel like you're saving anything.

Why ibotta is better AND is worth it!

ibotta has continued to have tons of offers.  Each store has their own offers, some overlap but some don't.  I love CVS, but there aren't a ton of CVS offers that I use much.  There are a lot of Walmart and Target offers though and they are constantly changing.  There are generally over 100 offers per store!  Right now there are 246 offers at Walmart!  That's a lot of ways to save money!

It's easy.  Just check your stores and see what's on there that you're already buying.  They also have "any brand" offers.  Where you can earn money for buying any brand of an item (ex. ketchup) or produce.

You can cash out at $10, that's more money faster, AND they can send it straight to your back account using Paypal.  I generally see my money the very same day I cash out!

They offer tons of bonuses.  Right now, they are having a redeem any 12 offers of $.25 or more get a $5 bonus!  Or things like - redeem the huggies diapers and huggies wipes get an extra $1.  There are so many of these it makes it easy to make money.

And right now they are offering a $10 bonus after you redeem a certain number of items and if you use my referal code HERE you get another $1 after you redeem just one offer.  It's worth a try!

May 25, 2015

Surviving Summer & Making Memories

Being a stay at home mom, I learned quickly that my kids have a special ability to drive me and each other crazy on a daily basis.  So the summer has the potential to send us all to the looney bin by week one,  or I can try and keep the kids entertained and my sanity intact by planning some fun and inexpensive activities.  Here are some ideas of things we will be doing this summer!
I have printed off blank calendars and will fill in things to do.  Some things we will do weekly, some will be special trips.

Stillwater Area Activities (Many of these programs like Library & kids bowl free you can find in your town)
May 21 – June 25
Thursdays 6pm – 10pm
*Water games and a movie

Thursday Mornings @ 10am
*They will show a different movie each week
Summer Reading Program
*Sign up to read this summer and earn free food
Story Time – Days and times vary
*They do stories, songs, short film strip & craft

Carmike shows an older kid movie every Thursday at 10am.
Cost: $4 per person
*Each person gets to watch the movie and everyone gets a kid drink and popcorn!

Open 10am-1pm & 6pm-8pm

Sign up and you can take your kids to bowl 2 games a day all summer!
Days and times vary, check out the link for days & times
FREE games, you will have to pay for shoes ($3.50) or bring your own, 
you can get a pass to bowl 2 games with them for only $28.95 for the whole summer 

Open Play on Friday Mornings and evenings
$7 a person, punch cards are available which can save you a little bit
See link for times and age restrictions

Go check out one of the many Stillwater parks!

Let Kid’s loose on Library Lawn

Go out for Breakfast/lunch/dinner and let kids play at a play place
Cost of food - go for a meal or just grab a snack, the dollar menu's are a great money saver!
There are play places at Chick-fil-a, Burger King & McDonalds 

Cost: $7 a person - they do charge for adults :(
*If you are interested, their family passes for a year are very affordable, and a family of 4 will make up there money in only 6 visits!  Plus you don't feel obligated to stay all day.  We like to go for about an hour or so.  Really great for those super hot days!

Lost Creek Safari
Cost: $5 per person, $5 for a cup of feed if you want to feed the animals
I haven't been to this but heard it is awesome!  
It's reservation only, so this would be fun to get a group together and go :) 

Peach Picking
OSU has an orchard in Perkins, last left before you get to HWY 33
Pick peaches, it's around $25 for a 5 gallon bucket full of DELICIOUS peaches!
Last year they weren't open, I guess it was a bad season, there will be a sign up when they are open

Field Trips (Around Tulsa & OKC Area)
Jenks Splash Pad - FREE!
I don't know exactly where this is and can't find a link, if you know the exact location, let me know so I can update this!  It is in Jenks, OK along the river, there are some great playgrounds and water things to play on and in.  Great for all ages!  There's also a sno cone stand there which is a great treat!  Pack a lunch and make it a day!

See Link for Prices and Hours
See link for Prices and Hours

Woolaroc - Near Bartlesville
Adults $10
Kids 11 & Under - FREE!

The Round Barn & Pops - Arcadia, OK
 Stop by the barn then visit pops and get one of hundreds of sodas for the ride home!

Children's Museum and Adventure Quest

This is pretty pricey in my opinion, and honestly, I would probably prefer the zoo.  But, you get to touch sting rays and they have a cool walk through tunnel where the sharks swim over.

Museum is Free, Train Rides on 1st & 3rd Saturdays (tickets available)

At Home Fun
 Cooking w/ Kids:
Think Popsicles, cookies, pretzels, homemade pizza!  Pinterest would have a world of ideas :)

Art w/ kids: 
Again, think pinterest!
Grab a canvas and let them paint, play-doh fun, macaroni necklaces.

Outside fun: 
Sprinkler or water balloon fights

So here is my plan - 
*we will try to do library once a week. 
*we will try to play in the water (splash pad, pool, etc) at least once a week
*we will try to switch off Cooking and Art every other week
*we will have field trip fridays - some will be in stillwater, some outside of stillwater
*we will bowl when we can, hopefully semi-frequently (I love bowling!!!)

The rest, we will do as we can and as we want to.  But this gives me a list to go to when the kids are driving me nuts! :) 

April 15, 2015

I've Lost the Weight but not the War

Wow, how much weight have you lost?  Don't you feel so much better?

I got these 2 questions a lot, and still get them.  It's understandable to want to know the answer to the first question, I mean I have lost more weight than what my 2 kids weigh combined.  But the 2nd always confused me a little.  I assume they are asking if I physically feel better, but the mental game has been a far bigger challenge.

As of today I have lost 68 lbs in just under a year and a half.  I am thinner than I have ever been and thinner than I EVER thought I would be.  I love trying on clothes that I never would have imagined would fit.  I still can't get used to wearing jeans as small as size 4 and wearing shirts that are size small or even still blows my mind.  Every.  Time.  It's fun, exciting, and joyous...most of the time.  But no matter how much you lose, how much you tone, or how many miles you can run, your insecurities will still find you or come up with new ones (usually closely related) - like those lovely stretch marks brought on by thing 1 and thing 2, the jiggly thighs or your second wave (that jiggling skin under your arm when you wave...if you have it you know what I'm talking about).  This can be seen with people addicted to plastic surgery - it starts with one little thing they want to change and next thing you know they've changed more than they've kept. 

Insecurities won't be the same for everyone, but everyone has them.  I have realized that no matter what I weigh, my weight will always be my insecurity.  Some days I look in the mirror or look down at my stomach and I see exactly what I saw 65 lbs ago.  Not always, but at least once a week, sometimes more.   I tell my brain it's crazy, there's no way I could button these pants if I was still that size and the scale says it's not true either, but the eyes and the mind are deceitful and very very powerful.  They can make you believe a lie, or many lies - you're fat, you're ugly, you're dumb, nobody loves you, you're weak, you can't do it, you're not worth it, you deserved it, you don't deserve it, etc.

So what's the point?

You can't find your happiness in things. 

This seems obvious, but how often do we try to make ourselves happy by - losing weight, finding that perfect relationship, buying that new dress that I really don't need, or whatever your insecurity is.  If you're not happy now, you won't be least not for long.

And that's where this question "Don't you feel so much better?" always brings me.

No, I don't feel better.  Don't get me wrong, I am glad I lost the weight, I am glad I am FINALLY at a healthy weight but I am still the same person I was.  I was happy a year and a half ago.  I've been truly happy for almost 16 years now when I realized knowing Christ was the only way to have true joy and happiness.  I have a WONDERFUL husband, 2 beautiful (and crazy, funny, high energy) kids, great family, the best friends a girl could ask for, a nice home, a great church and the list goes on and on and on.  Losing weight didn't change that.  I was happy then and I am happy now.  True happiness comes from Christ alone so I didn't NEED to lose weight to be happy.  And I am so thankful for that!  Because if I did, I would now be chasing something else.

The weight was a battle, but not the war.

The war is finding your joy in Christ and Christ alone; and it's a daily fight.

The war is not getting caught up in the things of this world.

The war is being thankful for what you have and not coveting your neighbor's good fortune.

The war is knowing and using the truth of God and His word to fight those lies in your head.

The war is hard.  The war is long.  But it's a war worth fighting.

Keep fighting daughters of the one true king, and find some strong godly women to fight alongside you.

January 28, 2015

What a difference a year can make, Part 3

I am so excited about all of the positive feedback from the first 2 parts of my "What a difference a year can make" series.  I am so excited to hear about all of the people that have been encouraged and motivated and so I want to give you some more healthy tips that have helped me get this far.

Eating Out
This was probably the HARDEST part of the whole program.  Eating out can be a point killer.  Super sized portions, everything fried, complimentary appetizers (Bread, Chips, etc.) are all waiting to sabotage you, but you can win!  How?

*Eat before you go.  Wait, did you read that right?  You'll spoil your dinner. 
This is a tip I got from my Weight Watchers accountability friend.  Grab an apple, carrots or some other fruit or veggie and eat it before you go or on the way.  This will help you stay in control.  If you're starving when you get there the bottomless bread or chips could have you out of points before you order.  If you are in control and not starving you can decide weather that extra breadstick is worth it or not.

*Plan Ahead (Saving Points & Researching Menus)
When possible, I try to have an idea of what days I will be eating out for the week.  I eat a light breakfast and lunch (or plan to make a light dinner if it's lunch out) and save my weekly points for these occasions.  This can also apply to things like get togethers (like the superbowl coming up).  Planning ahead will allow you to have some extra points to splurge a little, maybe eat an extra breadstick or a few more chips.  I also try to look at the points for different menu items on the weight watchers app.  I usually pick out a few point friendly options and go with what sounds best when I get there. 

*Splurge a little
Some places I go I splurge.  Joe's I have to have cheese fries, a local restaurant has the best chicken and waffles.  It's delicious and the reason I like weight watchers is that if I want it, I can have it.  Remember, you don't have to eat it all, and if you are worried you will, you can always ask them to box half of it up right away.

*Don't be fooled
I'll just get a salad.  Sometimes salads can be a bigger disaster than a hamburger and fries.  If you don't believe me, check out this article, 15 salads worse than a big mac.  There are a lot of restaurants that I thought were good healthy options that I found were really hard to control points at, like McAlister's Deli.  Then there are places that I thought were bad, like chick-fil-a that I can actually do pretty well at.  What I look for and what I avoid when eating out:
Grilled - this is a much better option than fried and I enjoy the flavors so much more.
Anything on a bun I try to avoid, it's extra points that I would rather use on something else.
Fried - I try to avoid this, but sometimes I just want some fries or fried food.  I try to balance it when I do.  If I want a fried food that is the main dish I try to go light on the sides or vice versa.
Mexican - Mexican food can be some of the healthier choices so I love going to mexican restaurants.  Especially if you can pass on the things like guacamole and sour cream...and not eat 3 baskets of chips ;)  Plus, salsa is a GREAT flavor booster that is low in points!

I like to snack, and it helps you to not go crazy at meals.  I am sure you have heard the "5 small meals a day are better than 2 or 3 large meals".  Fruits and veggies are obvious good choices but here are a few of my favorite low point snacks:

Popcorn - I feel like I get a lot for the points.
Crackers and Pretzels - Gold fish and Pretzels you also get more for your points
Yogurt - Yoplait light is only 2 pts a container
Dry cereal - I like to get some of those sugary kinds like krave or fruit loops to help when I have a sweet tooth.

This is my biggest weakness.  I love dessert.  I love dessert so much I have been known to use 1/3-1/2 of my daily points on dessert...but I try to not do that too often.  So, I needed to find something to give me that sweet fill without killing my day/week.  Here are my top picks.

Ice Cream - Ice cream is my hands down favorite food.  It's my dessert island food, who cares if I wouldn't last long on an ice cream diet, I would enjoy every meal.  Most ice creams are 4-5pts. for a 1/2 cup.  I was surprised that a 1/2 c. would actually be enough to satisfy but most of the time it is.  I like to put it in the mini cake cones that are 0 pts. which makes it feel like a real treat.  You can lighten it even more by getting low fat ice cream or sorbet. 

Mini Candy Bars - I discovered at halloween that keeping a bag of small fun size candy bars was a good idea.  I could eat a small candy bar for dessert and satisfy a chocolate craving for 2 pts.  And then I didn't feel the need to eat 8pts in a full sized candy bar.

Popsicles - Make your own fruit pops using a little bit of juice for a low point treat.

You don't have to cook something different for your family.  Make substitutions when possible and try to add healthy options.

Bread or Potatoes - I used to do bread and potatoes a lot, and often had them at both meals.  Now I try to do one or the other.

At least one veggie option at each meal - I love veggies, always have, so this wasn't too hard.  I try to make one or two veggie dishes for every meal.  I make a lot so if I am still hungry I have a guilt free option for seconds.

Fruit as a side - I didn't always eat much fruit.  They seemed like so much work to peel and prep that I didn't eat it much.  So now I make sure to prep my fruit (wash it, cut it, etc.) as soon as I buy it so it's always ready.  I also started using fruit as a side at meals.  This is another great way to feel like you are getting dessert too :)

Substitute - Make wise substitutions, go for light or low fat things when possible - butter, sour cream, cream cheese, etc.  If a recipe calls for 1 c. of cheese, consider using less.  Try 1/2 c. or 2/3c.  It may not seem like much but these little changes can add up.  I also use lean meat (try oscar meyer lean beef franks for hot dogs, 3 pts. for 2 hot dogs!  They are my favorite hot dogs even over fatty ones, seriously.)

Use things like spices, onions, herbs and salsa to give meals more flavor instead of things like butter or cream.

I am sure there are a lot more that I have forgot but I will try to add to this as I think of them.  Feel free to add your own tips and tricks for healthy eating!

January 14, 2015

What a difference a year can make, Part 2

Part 1 of my Weight Watchers journey talked mostly about how I got in to the whole thing and the results.  What it didn't include was the things I learned: tips, tricks, lessons and challenges.  This post will include some important tips for those getting started.

As I mentioned in Part 1, when asked how much I wanted to lose, it just seemed so overwhelming.  I was desperate and would have been happy with any loss.  Under 200lbs would be nice, my wedding weight would be good, my high school weight would be even better, 50lbs would be awesome, 75lbs (the top of my "healthy" weight range)...that just seemed crazy, and honestly, REALLY overwhelming.  I didn't know if I could do it.  Would I even be able to stick with it that long...I mean I like food, especially foods with sugar.  So I decided to not set an end goal but instead, I set little goals along the way.

Setting Small Goals/Celebrating Victories
The wonderful thing about Weight Watchers is that they help you celebrate small victories.  If you just have the big picture in sight it might be pretty discouraging when you feel like you will never get there.  Having a small goal helps you see how close you are and is motivation to keep going.  My goals were often 10-15lb increments.  I used the mobile app and you can adjust your goals.  It was fun because I got to pick goal weights to work toward (like my wedding weight, or my high school weight).  It's so exciting to reach a goal and see how much closer you are getting.  I have a dry erase board that I mark my weight on each week.  It's really awesome to see the progress you are making!

Just Keep Tracking!
I can't stress it enough, if you are doing weight watchers you have to track it.  Even if it's a bad day or a bad week, track it all.  It keeps you accountable to yourself.  It is amazing how many calories I can mindlessly eat.  Even things that are low calorie really add up.  You might think it's only 2 points but if you skip tracking you are going to have a hard time staying on track.  But beyond food, it's also important to track other things - weight and measurements.  I weigh myself everyday.  It's probably a little bit of an OCD thing and you don't have to weigh every day, but weigh at least once a week...even if it was a bad week.  Like I said, I have a dry erase board and marked it up there once a week.  I also take measurements but I only do that once a month.  Take initial measurements and then do it as often as you like (I suggest the once a month thing, it helps you see the results better).  There were many months I didn't lose weight but lost inches.

Have Accountability
If you go to meetings, there is built in accountability.  If you are just doing the online version it can be a little tougher (The do have coaches to help, I have never tried this though).  I had a friend that was a Weight Watchers pro.  We still text once a week.  I didn't want to tell her my weight early on so we did a simple "up 1 lb this week" or "down 1.5lbs!".  It was easy and quick.  And since she is still doing it she would text the same to me.  The weeks I was up I wouldn't want to text but I knew she was expecting me to, or she would text me later :)  It was nice to have someone there to encourage and support me, especially someone who had been there.  My husband also started weight watchers shortly after, so that helped too, but honestly, I suggest someone a little more distanced.

I didn't have any sort of exercise plan at the beginning.  I just didn't have the time.  I had a newborn and a 3 year old, plus I worked part time.  It was hard.  What I did do was try to be active when possible.  We like family walks so when the weather was nice, we tried to take a walk.  Some days they were shorter than others but we tried to be out.  I also tracked things like cleaning the house and laundry.  Believe it or not, it's exercise, and it got me more food :)  I have recently started running.  It's a little more planned and it gets me more points to use for food, which is probably my biggest motivation.  It has also been nice to start it later because when I started I had kind of flat lined on the weight loss and it helped give it a kick back in gear.

Enjoy your points, guilt free!
I couldn't do a diet that I had to cut out all of something (sugar, bread, meat, etc.).  I couldn't stick with that.  I love things like ice cream and butterfingers and I saved points or exercised to have them.  I found that I could still enjoy those things and learned moderation.  But I also found that I had this strange feeling of judgement whenever I did enjoy those things.  Early on I would put a "splurge" on my plate (chocolate, a cookie, etc.) at a public setting and honestly I felt like everyone in the room was starring at me thinking "is she really going to eat that?!"  Guess what, they weren't!  I was especially self conscience around my accountability partner, especially if she passed or only had a healthy plate.  What would she think?  Was she going to come tell me not to eat that?  I had to let that go.  She wasn't thinking that and I had planned for these things, so it was time to relax and ENJOY it!

Sometimes it's better to give in to the craving
I get cravings...a lot.  People talk about pregnancy cravings, but I have had those my entire life regardless of whether I was pregnant.  I remember one time in college I woke up and told my roommate I really wanted a biscuit.  10 minutes later I was out the door headed to McDonald's for a biscuit.  A lot of times in diets they say "resist the craving".  That's good advice sometimes, but it can also end up doing more damage.  Here's how it played out for me.  I found myself really wanting something chocolatey...maybe a brownie or a candy bar.  I try to resist.  It's not going away.  I try and find something to distract me.  Still there.  I eat some pretzels.  Still there.  I eat some more pretzels.  Still there.  I grab something else to eat to try and satisfy it.  Still there.  Next thing you know I am eating the brownie and a candy bar...but I have also had several pretzels and other snacks too and have wasted far more points than if I had just eaten one of the things right off the bat.  I found that halloween candy was perfect for just such cravings :)  I could grab a fun size candy bar that filled the craving and only use 2 points.  All that to say, sometimes beating around the bush can be a lot more costly than you think :)

I think that is enough for now, the final post will include: Eating out, Snacking, Recipes, Menus and Substitutions.

January 9, 2015

What a difference a year can make, Part 1

As most of you know, I am a mother of 2.  My second child, Isaiah, was born in August of 2013.  After he was born I found myself back in a struggle that I have fought my entire life, my weight.  I don't remember myself ever not being overweight, probably because I haven't been a healthy weight since my early elementary school days.  I learned to love the person God created but still longed to be healthy, active and I'll just say it, skinny!  I never dreamed that I would ever be called "skinny" but decided I needed to do something other than just "watch what I eat" if I wanted to lose weight.  Prior to this I had 2 times where i had lost about 20-30lbs but it came with strict calorie counting and rigid exercise plans that I eventually just could not keep up with.

So as I was perusing facebook one day, I saw 2 posts from high school friends about weight loss success.  It got me inspired and motivated to make a change.  But there are so many diets out there where would I begin to choose one?  There are a few things I know I couldn't do: No Carbs, No Sugar, No Meat...well, anything that said something was forbidden.  I just don't have that kind of will power.  So I decided to try weight watchers.  I chose it for a few reasons: 1. I had a friend that has lost almost 100 lbs using it!  That's incredible, and the fact that I got to see the change in her and see her keep it off was a HUGE motivation.  One of the friends that posted was also doing weight watchers, it just seemed to work for lots of people.  2. No forbidden foods.  I could eat what I wanted and focused more on healthy lifestyle choices and portion control. 3. Not a huge time commitment.  I have 2 small kids and was working part time and doing cakes part time...I was busy.  I didn't have time for meetings either but their was an online program I thought I could do.  I also didn't know if I had time or discipline for a strict exercise regimen.

So, I sat down at the computer with a pack of oreos (not a lie, I thought this would be the last time I got to enjoy food for a long time...which wasn't true) and signed up for 3 months of weight watchers online.  I didn't know what was in store for me, I didn't even know if I could do it or if it would work.  I confided in a friend that I was going to do it and she asked me my goal.  I was too scared to set a weight goal in fear of not meeting it.  So I made this goal:
I was going to give Weight Watchers an honest 3 month try.  No cuts, no cheats, follow the plan and see where I was after 3 months and go from there.

3 months later, I had lost 20 lbs.  I felt good and while it was work, it wasn't hard.  It was the easiest diet I had done.  I wasn't really exercising, just tracking what I ate.  Now I have been on weight watchers for a year and 2 months and here's the part everyone wants to know, the results!

Here is a picture from our family photos right BEFORE I started weight watchers:
Here is a Family Photo taken just shy of a year later:

And here are the cold hard facts of where I came from and where I am now:
Total Weight Lost: 65 lbs.
Starting Jean size: 18
Current Jean size: 8!!!!

A friend encouraged me to take measurements before I started (a truly dreadful thing in my opinion but so glad I did!)  I measured once a month and it was so helpful because even if I hadn't lost weight I had often lost inches...bodies are just weird like that.  So here are those details:

Arms: 3.25 inches lost
Waist: 10 inches lost
Hips: 9 inches lost
Legs: 5.5 inches lost

I also started running in October 2014 and can run 3-5 miles now.  I can honestly say that I NEVER imagined I would make it here.  I am thinner that I ever have been.  Do I always feel great about how I look?  No, I think that is something we as women will ALWAYS struggle with unfortunately.  But I know that I am doing good and working hard and I truly believe I have made life long changes in eating habits that will help me keep it off.  This is by no means the end of my journey but a very exciting start to a healthy life!

I couldn't type everything I wanted in this message without it being forever long.  So here is part 1!
Part 2 will be more about the Journey - tips, ideas, struggles & victories...I hope to get this out next week!

In the mean time, if you want to take the leap, here is a link that also helps me get a free month :)

September 29, 2014

The Full Disney Experience, on a budget!

About a year and a half ago, my sister in law brought up the idea of a Disney World vacation.  I had been once, but it was over 20 years ago, I was young and didn't remember much.  I had been to Disneyland a few times in college while I was working out there during college but I wanted the full Disneyworld experience.  I had heard a few tips from what I would call "Disney Experts" (people who go about once a year).  They told me, if you want the full Disney experience, you need to stay multiple days (at least 3, preferable 5 or more), if possible go in the off season and you need to do the dining plan.  I looked in to it a little to figure out a ballpark number we would need to save and started saving.  After lots of cake decorating (our vacation funder) we had a good chunk of cash to start planning with.

The cost Break Down for -

2 Adults
1 Child (3yrs)
1 Infant (1yr)
*1 additional adult (I will add this as a sub point, my mom went with us and paid the difference of our package.  I will add her numbers but she is not included when I list our Total Family Cost)

Disney Vacation Package - $2,156.09 ($2,593 w/ my mom)
 What it included -
  • Room - 2 Double Beds, we stayed at the Pirates of the Caribbean Resort
  • 6 Days of Park Tickets (Isaiah was free since he was under 2)
  • FREE DINING PLAN! (I will talk more about this below)
  • Free refillable mugs for each person (except Isaiah).  Could be filled with Soda at your resort any time all week.
  • Free magic bands (I didn't realize this was an extra but they charge if you want one at the park and you don't have a vacation package)
  • Free transportation to parks or free parking if you choose to drive to the parks :)
*I checked every week in the "Free Dining Plan" window and picked the least expensive week.  The more flexible you can be the more you can save!
Gas - (For a minivan, from Stillwater, OK to Disneyworld!) $393.28

Hotel - (For one night during the travel down to Florida) $88.23

Tolls - (In FL) $9

Gifts/Souvenirs - $153.78

Other - (food, drinks at convenience store, ice, misc.) $150

Tips - (This is for 3 adults and 1 child at 3 meals) $98

Disney Total: $3,048.38 ($3,485.54 w/ an extra adult)
Tax included in above prices

If we bought these separately-
Hotel: $1,400
Tickets: $981.93
Dining Plan Value: (What we would have paid out of Pocket if we got all this food) $1,000+
Magic Bands:  $51.80
Travel Mugs: $71.96
Parking: $102

Total: $3,607.69+tax
For 3 Adults, 1 Child and 1 infant we would have paid $1,000+ if we didn't do a vacation package.

My Thoughts
On Vacation Package:
I absolutely loved doing the vacation package.  I am a penny pincher and always looking to save money but I would do a vacation package every time.  I think that you could get a way cheaper hotel outside of the Disney resort but I think in the long run it won't save you as much as you think and it will cost you a lot of time.  You are closer and there are a lot of perks to staying at a Disney Resort.  They go above and beyond to make you feel special and to make your trip "magical".  Other perks, you get to make your fast pass+ selections 30 days earlier than non resort guests and they send you so many awesome little extras to get you pumped for your Disney vacation!
On Free Dining Plan:
I don't want to go to Disney again and NOT have the dining plan.  We stayed at a moderate resort to get the regular dining plan which included 1 quick service meal, 1 table service meal and 1 snack  each day for each person.  All meals (even quick service) got a dessert and drink.  Would I have gotten this much food on my own?  No Way!  It was soooooo much food!  Sometimes we opted out of desserts or took them home.  We had to spend 15 snack credits the last day because we were always so full, but they made great gifts for people!  You could get all sorts of fancy Disney treats.  Because we had the dining plan we ate at some nice and VERY fancy places I wouldn't have wanted to pay for out of Pocket.  We got to eat at Cinderella's Royal table (Fancy food and you get to meet lots of princesses, free professional pictures with Cinderella, swords for boys, wands for girls) and the nicest steakhouse I have ever been too (we racked up a bill over $250!...and it was the best steak I ever ate.)  These meals cost us 2 table service credits so we had 2 other table service meals while we were there (both at Ohana...It was sooooo good!).  The portions were so big that we often would share some of our quick service meals so we never had to pay any money out of pocket for food the whole 6 days were were there.  I would purchase this plan if it wasn't in the promo window when you are going but the fact that it was FREE, made it that much more AWESOME!!!!  For the table service meals children MUST order off of a kids menu, but the quick service meals weren't required so we would order adult meals and share.  For Isaiah, he didn't get a meal but we had plenty to share at quick service meals and at the table service meals they would bring him 1/2 of a kids version at no cost :)
We did the base tickets only, no park hopper.  With as many days as we stayed we didn't need to hop parks.  We went to each park one day then decided where to return on our extra days.  We spent both extra days at Magic Kingdom.  It is the biggest park and has the most rides, and most of the rides even Isaiah could ride!!!  As far as parks go, if I go again I would skip Animal Kingdom.  Maybe I am just spoiled with our zoos but I would rather go to the OKC or Tulsa zoo.  Only benefit was some of the extra characters you can meet.  Hollywood Studios was fun, and Epcot was REALLY fun, more than I expected (It actually ended up being my 2nd favorite park).  
Disney Resorts:
If you stay at a Disney Resort they are really nice.  Ours had a super cool pool that Maddie would have spent a full day at.  It had 2 cool slides, a play area (it was under construction while we were there) and several sand beaches to hang out on too.  Plus, you are so close to the parks you save time in travel.  You can take buses and get dropped off right at gate doors or drive yourself and park free at the parks (our preference).

Other Thoughts:
I kind of wish I had done the memory maker.  It's $149 if you order before you go which is a lot, but if you order their pictures after it's OUTRAGEOUS ($15 to download a single photo)!  They have a lot of cool special effects pictures you can't take on your own, plus you get everyone in the pictures.  Their photo people will take your picture with your camera but it's just a hassle.  Plus, I carried my nice camera 2 times when I wanted special pictures but the rest of the time it was plain iphone pictures.  Fastpass+ is so cool!  Make selections - check out blogs for the best ones to use your fastpass+ reservations on and get your picks in the morning, you can't roll additional ones until you use all 3 original ones.  Also, if you have kid(s) that don't meet height requirement, TAKE ADVANTAGE OF PARENT SWAP!  One waits in line to go and then when they are done the other gets to go in fastpass lane so you don't both have to wait in long lines!  It was awesome!!!
Things I learned:
  1. Disney People are serious about their Disney.  Planning is a MUST.  It takes time and planning to get reservations at the best restaurants and certain fast pass spots (I stayed up until 12am eastern time to get a coveted meet Elsa and Anna fastpass) 
On Driving:
I was scared of doing this, but I would do it again.  It saved us so much money and the kids were AWESOME!  They did better than I could imagine.  We went hard and did most of it in one day but they didn't complain or cry really at all.  I had a bunch of "emergency" toys, snacks and tricks and didn't have to really use any of them.  It was a long trip but we got all of us there for about 1/3rd of the price of we like driving.  Me and my husband are use to road trips and want our kids to be road trippers too :)

There you have it!  Disney World from a 1st timer's point of view!  Feel free to ask any questions you want :)

Special Thanks to all of my Disney experts that helped know where to go and what to do.  Big Thanks to Kenda Lacefield, Susie Sexton, and Taylor Bolton :)


January 17, 2014

Borrow or Buy? A guide for 1st time moms

I’ve been pondering this blog since my first child almost 3 years ago.  I remember going to register and being COMPLETELY over whelmed.  I got all the stuff that people say you “must have” and probably an additional 507 items that are a “necessity”.  I did make sure that all of the big stuff was gender neutral for future kids (which I strongly encourage) but still found myself thinking “what am I going to do with all this stuff!?”  My son was born almost 5 months ago and as I have been dragging out lots of our old stuff this blog came back to mind.  I hope that all of you moms to be out there find this helpful J

Why Borrow?
There a few reasons why I tell you to borrow.  The first is obvious but worth mentioning:
1.      It saves a TON of money!  Baby gear is probably one of the biggest rip offs out there (right up there with wedding crap – sorry if you’re offended by the word crap.)  Of the hundreds of things that you “need” I would say only about 5% of it would actually fit in that category. 
2.      It saves space (which is almost more valuable than the money to me!!!) – The first year of life your baby grows so much and so fast.  There are a lot of things that are really great to have but after using it for only a month or two you look down and think “now what do I do with this?”
a.      What should I buy?  Things that will be used for the majority of their baby days (see specifics below).
b.      What should I borrow?  Things that are temporary useful, something that you will only use for a month or two (see specifics below).
3.      It helps your friends save space!  I always LOVE helping friends with kids out.  It’s a joy to help them and it gets these things out of my house for a while J
4.      You can get more useful things as gifts!  Instead of all of these big ticket items (that generally you don’t get ) you can register for things that you really need and will use, like diapers and wipes!

Why Buy?
1.      It’s something I will use long term – things that will be used 6 months or more I would say are usually worth buying.  You can borrow these if you can find them but a lot of times mom’s are still using these items. (see specifics below)
2.      It’s something that will get ruined – there are some things that are better to buy just because they barely make it through one kid.  Lets face it, babies are disgusting.  Prepare yourself for more poop, pee and spit up than you ever imagined…and maybe all at one time, in the middle of dinner, while they are sitting on your lap.  Welcome to parenthood J (see specifics below)
3.      It’s a great deal! – If you find something that’s just a really good deal, go for it.  You can always lend it out to friends that have babies later down the road J  Consignment sales are a GREAT place to find these deals.  AdorableAffordables is a good one in Stillwater and Just Between Friends (I have only been to Tulsa and OKC…they are HUGE and can be a little overwhelming but you have TONS of options).

Borrow or Buy? – A practical list

Crib – Buy
I would say definitely buy a crib.  I strongly encourage one of the cribs that converts into toddler bed then into twin bed headboard and footboard.  Maddie was in her crib and then we changed it into the toddler bed which she slept in until we used the crib for Isaiah.  We will eventually use the headboard and footboard but it kept us from having to have 3 beds for Maddie.

Changing Table – Buy
This is something that you will use for at least a year and a half.  My suggestion – buy a cabinet or something that isn’t technically a changing table.  Then buy the foam changing pad and cover and put it on top, then when you are done with babies you have a nice piece of furniture you can still use!

Diaper Pail/Trashcan – Avoid!
I say don’t buy this at all.  They stink, you need to take out the diapers WAY before it’s full, the stench soaks in to the plastic and it’s just disgusting.  I’ve heard diaper geenie’s are good, but the bags are expensive.  My thoughts – why waste money when you can just take it to the trash?  We used one for Maddie and I decided not to use one at all with Isaiah and I love it!  It’s not that hard to take diapers to our main trash can (that we take out frequently anyway).  I wrap poopy diapers up in walmart bags and put them in the main trash or we can take them out. 

Baby Bath Tub – Borrow
I bought this really cool foam tub to bathe infants in.  I really like the tub, it’s great, but my kids only fit in it for about 2 weeks – 1 month.  At the beginning they can’t have a bath until their umbilical cord heals, then they don’t fit in the sink much longer.  I had to buy another tub that we can use for a while but once your baby can sit in a regular tub it’s a pain in the rear to store.  Try borrowing one if you can, if not, buy a cheap one.  Most come with little hammock type attachments for infant days.

Bassinet – Borrow
We had some people give us a bassinet and I’ll be honest, I love it.  I know a lot of people use pack and plays these days but they are about twice the size of a bassinet.  However, if you are going to buy a pack n play a bassinet is kind of redundant.  They will outgrow it in just a few months which will leave you either needing a pack n play or putting them in your crib.

Stroller & Carseat – Buy
These are items that are musts.  You can’t leave the hospital without a car seat and if you never use a stroller I don’t know how you did it.  I suggest the combo because then the car seat just clips in.  However, these strollers are big and bulky.  Not great for travel.  We had a combo given to us with Maddie but after a car wreck had to get a new one.  I found a great deal on a Chicco at a consignment sale.  I was also able to buy a much slimmer stroller that is just for the infant carrier (there’s no seat for after they outgrow the carrier).  This was worth having, it’s so much lighter and easier to travel with.  I also highly recommend having 2 car seat bases for your car seat (it comes with one).  This makes it easier to swap baby duty without swapping cars.  This will be especially important if your child will be in daycare and mom and dad will both be picking up the child on different days.

Boppy – Borrow First, possibly Buy
Lots of people love the boppy (or similar items).  I don’t.  I don’t like laying my babies on it, I feel like they are too high.  I prefer putting a pillow under my arm.  If you end up liking it, it’s worth having but I wish I hadn’t got one.

Pack n Play – Borrow or Buy
I can go either way on this one.  If you travel a lot, I would say it’s worth the dough.  If not, it may be better to borrow.  You might run in to trouble finding one around the holidays though.  If you do buy one, go basic.  I bought one that is pack n play with infant insert (so they’re higher up when small), changing table attachment, mobile and sound machine.  This is too much stuff.  I really like the infant insert thing but the music maker, mobile and changing table just take up space in our closet. 

High ChairBuy
High chairs are really hard to keep clean.  Kids are in them for the soul purpose of trying to destroy them…and then they might eat a bite here and there.  Not only do they get pretty dirty, we used ours for a loooong time.  Maddie probably used it from 5 months until just after 2.  I loved being able to roll it in our room so she could eat breakfast while I got ready.  I would say go for comfort here too.  I think these are much better than the wood ones.  We occasionally put Isaiah in it already (he’s almost 5 months).  It’s a great place for him to play during our dinner time or while I cook.

Command Center a.k.a. Exersaucer – Borrow
This is another thing that I think is one of the greatest things.  Kids love it when they are too young to even crawl but are ready to do some turning and standing.  However, they are very inconvenient to store.  This was given to us and I am so thankful for it, but it’s also the item that I enjoy lending out the most J

Play Mat – Buy for cheap or borrow
We use the play mat a lot.  I prefer the one with the foam bars over it that have toys hanging off.  This is great for the early days and my babies really enjoy it.  It’s not too hard to store either.  However, they can cost a pretty penny…and I am not sure why.  I didn’t get one at first because they seemed really overpriced.  I eventually found one for cheap and it was a great purchase.  If it doesn’t have the stuff over it, it’s not worth it at all in my opinion. 

Jumper – Borrow
I didn’t have one with Maddie and decided to see if I could borrow one for Isaiah.  I found one and he’s really enjoying it but I know a lot of babies don’t.  It’s also a little bulky so will be a hassle to store after he uses it for only a few months.

Bouncer and/or Swing –
Ok, so I am leaving this one up to you but here is my opinion.  I think the bouncer is incredible and worth every penny.  It’s really useful for 0-6 months.  It breaks down but it’s still a little bit of a hassle to store.  This was something we used a lot, I loved being able to put the kids in it while I showered, cooked, cleaned, did laundry, take Maddie outside to play.  It’s fantastic.  They aren’t that expensive usually and they are pretty easy to transport.  This is also a really good item to find at a consignment sale.  If you can find one to borrow, more power to ya!  Swings – I know lots of people that say they couldn’t live without their swing.  I am not that person.  I rarely used the swing on either kid.  I bought a small one that is supposed to fold up easy but for me, it’s still just a hassle.  I would much rather use the bouncer or one of the other items above (probably because swings tend to put kids to sleep too and I didn’t want my kids sleeping in swings).

Potty Seat – Buy
Think about it, do you really want a used one?  I don’t.

Bumbo – Borrow or don’t bother
I didn’t love the bumbo.  It’s good for maybe a month but I felt so bad for the kids.  They just looked all hunched over and uncomfortable and they can’t reach toys…it’s just sad to me.  I would much rather use the high chair or command center.

Breast Pump – Buy
If you are going to breast feed, I highly recommend buying a pump.  If you borrow you will still have to buy your own tubes and attachments for sanitary reasons.  It’s kind of on the same page as the potty seat, it’s just kind of eeeewwww.  You can rent one from Cimarron Medical Supply in Stillwater (you still have to buy all the tubes and attachments too).  I did this because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to pump but decided I really prefer it.  I was also told to only buy medela from several sources so I will pass that along.

Well, this is all I can think of for the moment.  If you have additional questions or if you’d like to borrow something, let me know!  Hope this takes a little bit of the stress out of baby shopping J