Money Mondays – four ways to increase your budget

(psst….read through to the bottom for a GIVEAWAY!)

By now hopefully you’ve hammered out a budget.  Maybe you even downloaded a free trial of the YNAB software and have really jumped in with both feet into creating a budget.  And maybe, just maybe, you’ve realized that OH!  Once we’ve allotted money for all our bills and such there just isn’t much left over!

week 4 no money

That’s where Michael and I were when we started budgeting back in the fall.  We had enough to cover our bills and basic living expenses, but past that there just wasn’t much wiggle room left over.  As I mentioned before our savings were pretty much depleted so we needed to build that up plus we had some categories that were looking pretty skimpy (things we could live without but would prefer a bit more money, like clothing and “fun stuff”).

If you, like us, find yourself with more “budget” than you have money there are pretty much two things you can do.  Either 1) spend less money or 2) make more money.  Or both.  We did a combination of both.

Here are four things you can do if you find yourself needing some extra money in your budget.

four ways to increase the money in your budget

1.  Cut out.

Take a good look at your budget and where your money is going.  Are there areas that you can do without?  Think about priorities.  Are you spending money in the categories that you consider a high priority or is money going toward things that you don’t even care that much about?

Some ideas:

– Do you pay a monthly or yearly gym membership?  What about dropping that and riding your bikes, running/walking, and doing at home exercise programs instead? (Bikini Body Mommy is a totally FREE, 30 minute or less a day, video exercise program on YouTube you can follow.  I’m sure there are more online too.)

Michael’s job used to pay for a family gym membership but they dropped that program around the time we started our budget, so instead of continuing to pay for the gym (that we weren’t really using anyway), it was one of the first things to go and we now use the above suggestions instead.

– What about cable, Netflix, Hulu Plus, etc?  How much do you really watch tv?  Can you live without it?

– Can you cut your husband’s hair so you don’t have to pay for haircuts?

– What other memberships do you have that might need to go by the wayside for the time being until you get your finances under control?  Zoo, museums, audiobooks, Glam box/Birch box/other monthly surprise boxes?

2.  Cut back.

A lot of your expenses are going to be set monthly expenses.  Of course there are some that aren’t and that’s where you need to try to cut back so that you spend less of your budget (and have more money to work with).

– The biggest area you can save money is with your groceries.  If you coupon and shop sales you can save a significant amount.  I’m doing to do a whole separate post just about how I save on groceries so be on the look out for that.

– Can you renegotiate your cell phone contract and get a lesser contract so you don’t have to pay as much each month?

– What about buying clothes, toys, and household items second hand instead of new?

– Are there ways you can make your home more energy efficient and use less water, heat, air, etc.? (There are some things that require an initial investment but pay for themselves and then save you money after a period of time.  Do your homework to decide if it’s worth the investment or not)

– Can you eat out less?  Eat less meat? (meat is usually a big part of the grocery budget)

– Carpool places?  Combine errands so you’re not using up as much gas?

(Of course all this is assuming that you are doing pretty ok financially, things are just a bit tight and you could use a little bit more money each month.  If you are really in lots of debt and struggling you may need to do some more extreme things like selling your car and buying a cheaper car, or selling your house and downsizing so you can manage the mortgage, etc.)

3.  Sell, sell, sell

This was (surprisingly) a really good way for us to make some money.  We started walking around the house and gathering up items that we didn’t use/need anymore that we thought we could sell.  (Bonus – you’ll declutter your house at the same time!)

Depending on what the item was either Michael listed it on ebay or Craigslist or I listed it on our local sales Facebook pages.  Once we got started we found all kinds of things we could sell – books, electronic gadgets, home decor, purses, shoes, clothes, and more.  Within a month we made over $2,000 just selling junk that was laying around our house and were able to make significant headway on our savings goals.

I was amazed at things that we were able to sell.  Apparently lots of people get on ebay looking for parts so we sold some old GPSs, parts from a flashlight, and other gadget-y things.  My coolest sale was from where I had gotten a free bottle of lotion from Ann Taylor. (I believe I had a $10 off anything coupon and everything in Ann Taylor is very expensive so I bought the only thing that was $10…some lotion.  And so I got it for free.)  I had tried to sell it locally with no takers so I checked on ebay.  Turns out that lotion is discontinued now and people were paying big bucks to get some.  I sold that free bottle of lotion for $50!

Obviously this isn’t a long term monthly income solution, but it’s a great jump start if you’re trying to knock out some debt or, like in our case, get your savings built up a bit.

4. Find an additional stream of income

And then our final option if your current monthly income just isn’t enough to cover living expenses, debt payments, etc. is to earn more money.  Here are some ideas that would work as supplemental income if you currently work a full time job and want something additional or if you stay at home but still want to earn some money.

– Do you have a particular skill you could “sell”?  Something like making crafty things and selling on etsy, tutoring students after school, doing some freelance graphic design, photography, baking bread, etc.?

– How about babysitting?  You could baby sit for kids after school, keep a child or two in your home, or offer to be a sitter on nights and weekends.

– Here is a list (that from what I can tell is legit and not full of scams) of 27 ways for stay-at-home-moms to make money

– What about direct sales/network marketing?  Y’all know that I’m a distributor for Young Living and love it.  Direct sales is probably not going to be a “get rich quick” way to earn money (and if it’s presented to you that way then that company is probably not the best one to join with) but it can definitely become a supplemental income.  I’m going to do a separate blog post about direct sales in a few weeks.

– Waiting tables, delivering pizzas, and working retail are all jobs that are (from what I hear, not personal experience) pretty flexible so you can tailor your schedule around another job, pick up shifts when you need extra money, work just a little bit or a lot.

Do you have anything to add?  Any tips on how to reduce your spending or increase your income?

Your assignment for this week is to try to find ONE thing you can do to reduce/cut spending and ONE thing you can do to increase income (or ONE thing to sell online, locally, etc. to jump start savings/debt reduction).

Also, I reached out to the folks at You Need a Budget after I wrote the review last week and they graciously offered to give one lucky reader the YNAB software for FREE!  Woo hoo!  Check out the Rafflecopter below to enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

giveaways and promos, oh my!

I’ve got a couple of end-of-the-month giveaway and promo opportunities for you.

If you are on Facebook and you haven’t “liked” the My Chocolate Moments page yet, you should head over and check it out because right now I’m doing a fun giveaway.  You can earn a copy of The Chemical Free Home, a diffuser necklace, and a cinnamint lip balm!

giveaway

And then I’m running a special Mother’s Day promotion for the rest of April.  Anyone who orders a Young Living starter kit through me by the end of April will receive an Essential Oils Pocket Reference book (a wonderful 400+ page book all about how to use your oils) PLUS a diffuser necklace as a “thank you for ordering” gift.  And that’s in addition to the fantabulous things you get in the kit of course!

So….what are you waiting for?

mother's day special

Enter the giveaway here

Order essential oils here

Money Mondays – You Need a Budget (YNAB) app

money monday week 3 - my favorite program for budgeting

Last week we talked about the fact that you need a budget of some sort.  If you’re like us you have tried making a budget before but got overwhelmed because it got so complicated and too much to keep up with.  Fortunately, we found a solution that I want to share with you.  Michael did lots of research and reading and testing to find something that he liked, he shared it with me, we gave it a try, and (spoiler alert!) we both loved it.

YNAB_logo

The budgeting software that we use is called You Need a Budget (or YNAB, for short).  If you are familiar with the Dave Ramsey envelope system it is similar, but an electronic version (no carrying your money around in actual envelopes).  You download the software onto your computer and that’s where you will set everything up.  It syncs across multiple devices so Michael and I each have the app on our phones; either of us can see at any time how much is in each budget category.  And when we make a purchase we enter it into the app and it updates the category on all the devices.

I’m not going to go into how everything works because 1) Michael did all the initial set up so I’m not even sure how it all works, 2) that would take way more time than just one blog post, and 3) the You Need a Budget website has a TON of information to help you get started so you’d be better off going over there to learn about it.  If you are interested, I highly recommend you check it out.  You can download a 34 day free trial to see if you like it, and then if you decide to purchase the software, you can use our referral link and get $6 off the cost.

This is what it looks like on the computer (this is an example shot from the website).  On the left of each month is the budgeted amount you have set for the category, in the middle is how much you have spent from that category so far that month, and on the right is your balance.

Take a look at the water category.  In May $50 was budgeted and there was a $250 balance.  Then in June $50 was budgeted again and there was a $300 balance.  If you do not use all of the money in a category one month is rolls over to the next month.  So if the $50 from May was not spent then that is added to the $250 that was already in that category.

ynab4_budget

Some things that I really like:

– You can set all your own categories.  We have things like Everyday Expenses (groceries, fuel, eating out, clothes, household goods), Giving (like to our church and other organizations we support), Monthly Bills (mortgage, internet, insurance, phone, electric, water), Fun Money (we each have a fun money category where we get a little bit of money to spend on whatever we want), Infrequent Expenses (car repairs, home maintenance, church events), Quarterly, Semi-Annually, and Annual (things that don’t happen every month but that we go ahead and set some money aside for every month so that when they do happen, we already have the money budgeted, like our car insurance, Amazon Prime, my blog hosting fees, car tags and license renewals), Gifts (Christmas, birthday, other random stuff), and Savings (new computer, new car, vacation, rainy day funds).

– You can have more than one budget.  When my Young Living business started to become more of a real business and less of just a hobby, we started a second budget for me to use just for my YL stuff.  It’s still linked to that account so we can see both budgets but that keeps it separate from family funds and will allow for better documentation come tax time.  But all that to say that it’s really nice to be able to have more than one.  That would be really helpful if you were teaching your teenager about budgeting and wanted to give them their own money and budget.

– You can split transactions.  If you buy things from several categories in one transaction (say you go to Walmart and buy some groceries, some gardening stuff, and some clothing items) then when you enter that receipt you can split it and take money from each of those categories.

ynab4_account_split_trans

– It does not matter what method of payment you use.  You could pay for something using cash from your wallet, or your credit card, or you debit card, or a check, or whatever, and the program keeps that all straight so that it adjusts the budget accordingly.  Very convenient!

– Entering a transaction is super simple.  Here are screenshots from an example one I did on my phone using the YNAB app.

When you open the app there is an option to “add transaction”.  You pull that up, choose “expense” or “income”, and enter the amount.  For this example I did expense (buying ice cream).  Expenses will show up in red, income in green.

YNAB example

When you hit “next” it will take you to a screen to fill out info.  Payee is who you paid the money to (in this case I used Kroger), category was groceries, account (method of payment) was my wallet, date, and then there is a spot to write a note so I made a note of what I hypothetically bought (ice cream).

When you hit “save transaction” then it automatically deducts that amount from the grocery budget!  Easy peasy!YNAB example transaction

I love this program!  There is a bit of a learning curve, but once you get it all set up it’s super easy to use.

And Michael loves it even more than me.  He tells people about it all.the.time and is always encouraging people to give it a try.  Although I’m not quite as gung ho as him, I still find myself wanting to be all “Oh man, you SO need to get this program!!” when my friends start talking about money and budgeting.

Ready to give it a whirl?

You can download a 34 day free trial.  That’s more than a month to give it a try and see what you think!  And then if you love it and want to purchase it, you can use my referral link to get $6 off the cost of your program (making it $54 instead of $60).  That is a one time fee (you don’t have to renew annually) and it has more than paid for itself in how much money we have saved by creating and sticking to our budget.

Also, super exciting if you are a college student – you can get your program for FREE!  All you have to do is show proof of being a student.  (read the details here).

If you still aren’t sure about all this budgeting stuff, spend some time reading the YNAB blog.  Lots of great ideas!  There is also a forum that might be helpful as you get started.

What are you waiting for?

Homework for this week:  Download the free trial.  Sit down one evening with a big bowl of ice cream (or comfort food of your choice) and spend some time setting it up.

(This is not a paid review.  We bought the software with our own money and I wanted to share with you because we love it so much.  We do get a small commission if you use our referral link but I would have shared with you about YNAB whether or not we got that.)

Hello Magazine

Did you grow up on Highlights magazine like I did?  Oh how I loved the search and find page…but oh how frustrating it was if someone had already completed it and circled all the objects!  Grrr.

Moving on.

Did you know that Highlights has a “magazine” for babies too?  It’s called Hello.  I had no idea until after Hudson was born and a friend told me how much her kids loved their Hello books.

Hello Books

They sounded great so I put that on Hudson’s Christmas list and a family member gave him a subscription as a Christmas gift.  We get one book each month in the mail, just like a magazine.

The content of the books are fine – nothing mindblowingly awesome but cute little stories, a simple search and find, maybe a poem.  What I like the best is the durability and size!  They are made from a plastic-y material that doesn’t tear or crease like paper but isn’t hard and heavy like traditional board books.  It’s flexible and bendy and incredibly light.  They fit easily into my diaper bag and add hardly any extra bulk or weight so I can carry several at a time without sacrificing valuable space.  I slide two or three down in one of the external pockets of my diaper bag and it’s just perfect.

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I LOVE that I can have multiple books on hand for Hudson to flip through while we’re out and about without having to haul around a bunch of heavy books.  And my friends tell me that even their older kids love reading these over and over again so they get a lot of use.

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A Hello subscription is a perfect gift to give the special kiddos in your life.  It costs about $35 for a year subscription (you can order here).  These “magazines” get two thumbs up from me!

(p.s.  I did not get anything to write this review.  Highlights/Hello has no idea who I am.  I don’t get anything if you click through that link to purchase.  We received these as a gift and I just wanted to share with you how much I like them.)

 

Money Mondays – You Need a Budget!

week 2 ynab

You need a budget.  Seriously.  EVERYONE who has expenses and/or earns money needs a budget.  Yours may look different from mine; you might write down and track your expenses generally or you might carefully budget every penny.  But no matter how you do it you need one, especially if you are having money issues.

Why?  Having a budget helps you manage your money, plain and simple.  It keeps you from overspending and helps you to save money.  I can promise you that if you have not previously been tracking your spending that you will be shocked once you start.

Like I mentioned last week, Michael was the one who realized that we were spending more than we were making.  He has always been the one to keep an eye on the money, pay the bills, put some away in savings, etc.  I’m fine with that and am happy to just let him do his thing.  When he came to me and said that we really needed to cut back and work on a budget, I was totally cool with that.  In fact, I had been the one that wanted the budget (that fell through) several years ago so I was excited to finally have one.

He did a bunch of research, chose a budgeting program (that I’ll discuss in detail next week), and went to work trying to get everything set up.

Then we had our first budget meeting.  And I wasn’t so thrilled about budgeting anymore.

In fact, I was really mad.  Once we filled in all of our “half tos” like bills and estimated what we’d need for groceries, gas, etc., there just wasn’t much left over for other fun stuff.

Like…I wanted to just buy something whenever I wanted to!  I didn’t want to have to wait until there was enough in my fun money category to buy a new book or tote bag.  I didn’t want to have to choose between a new outfit for Hudson or a new cloth diaper because there was only enough for one of those in his category of the budget.  I liked spending money whenever or however I pleased!

For the first couple of months I’ll be totally honest, I was very irritated about the budget and the monthly budget meetings we would make me grouchy.  But it DID get better and I am so thankful for our budget now!

Just getting started in general with a budget can be overwhelming.  Here are 5 things you should do to help you create your budget.

5 tips for creating a budget without losing your mind

1.  Grab a piece of paper and do a brain dump.  Just write, write, write.  Don’t try to prioritize or anything, just get it on paper.  Write down everything that you can think of that you spend money on (bills, necessities, fun stuff, gifts, whatever) or think you will want money for in the near future (new car, down payment, vacation, etc.)  Keep general categories (i.e. “restaurants” vs. “large Diet Coke at McDonald’s”) but try to think of as much as you can.

2.  Gather up all your bills and bank statements and credit card statements and begin listing how much each of your standing expenses costs.  And by that I mean the expenses that come around every month and are pretty much the same.  So, your mortgage or rent, car payment, tuition, water, electric, cell phone, amount you give to your church, internet, Netflix, etc.  If you have something that you have to pay every month (but that fluctuates a lot, like your electric) then look back at past statements, find an average amount, and use that.

3.  Prioritize.  What is important to YOU?  This is a big key right here.  What is important to you is where you should put your money.  For example, we try to eat organic and fairly healthy so we allot more money in our budget for groceries than many of my friends do.  However, having new clothes isn’t a big deal for us so we put less in that category (don’t get me wrong, I’d love to have more money to spend on clothes, but working within what we have at this time we choose more expensive food over more expensive clothes).  We also drive fairly old cars but prefer to have a little bit nicer of a house, so we put more money into our house than our cars.

Maybe going on vacation is a priority for your family.  Maybe it’s private school for your kids.  Or super fast internet.  Or the latest gadget.  Whatever it is, try to figure out the thing or things that are important to you and the things that may not matter so much.  That will help you determine where to put your money.

(Don’t worry about this being perfect!  You will most likely have to revise, reprioritize, and make some cuts before this is over.)

4.  From step #2 you should have a total for all your standing expenses.  Subtract that from your income.  Now you have an amount that is left for the not-so-set-in-stone expenses.

Look at your priority list and start assigning amounts.  Estimate how much you think you’ll spend on groceries each month.  How much do you think you need for car repairs?  Clothes?  Gas?  Eating out?  Manicures?  As you assign amount to your categories, subtract that from the amount you have to spend so that you make sure you’re not over-budgeting.

These can be very rough estimates.  Unless you have been tracking your spending already then you probably don’t have the foggiest idea how much you spend on things.  That’s ok!  It took us a couple of months of budgeting and tracking to get a good, consistent number down.

5.  Reprioritize.  At this point you’re probably finding that maybe there isn’t enough money to cover each of the amounts you put in all those categories!  Time to start looking at places to cut back.  I’m going to do at least one (maybe more) separate post about some things you can do if you have more things in your budget than you have money for so stay tuned for that in a few weeks.

Again, I want to stress this – do NOT try to get this perfect on the first go or you’ll quit like we did years ago.  This is just a start.  It WILL get easier.

Assignment for this week:

– Easy-ish: Write down everything, I mean EVERYTHING, that you purchase this week.  Groceries, ice cream at Sonic, gas, shopping, haircut.  Whatever.  This will help you become more aware of what you’re spending and where it’s going.

– Harder: Sit down and do the 5 steps that are listed here!

Come back next week to learn how to put this budget into action and get rocking and rolling!

Money Mondays

week 1 why

Ready for something new?  For the next few weeks I’m going to be doing a series I’m calling “Money Mondays” where we’re going to talk about…well…money.

This is something that has been percolating in my head for several months now as a topic I wanted to tackle but I just hadn’t found the right time to get it down on paper…err…the computer.  But after a recent conversation with a friend and then a discussion that happened in one of my mommy Facebook groups I realized it was time.

So why now?  Why this topic?

Well here’s my dirty secret…I have never had a budget.

Let that sink in.  This math teacher, who is married to an engineer, who taught budgeting to her high school students DID NOT HAVE A BUDGET.

Ummm…hypocritical much?

When Michael and I first got married we tried budgeting.  In theory, it’s easy.  You take how much money you make and write down all the things you need/want to pay for and make sure you make enough money to cover those things.

But in practice it’s not so easy.  Because how do you account for the things that are quarterly or yearly?  What about random expenses that pop up?  What about Christmas money that isn’t really income?

Michael tried making an Excel spreadsheet for us but it got so complicated that we pretty much gave up.

We both had jobs that paid well and neither of us are big spenders and so we basically just bought what we wanted and didn’t really worry about it and fortunately we didn’t get into any debt.

Fast forward to 2014.  Hudson was born and I quit my job to stay home with him so we went to one income….except we continued spending like we were earning two incomes.

Just a month or two before Hudson was born we had purchased my minivan.  We paid for it in cash from our savings, which was wonderful, but it drained our savings.  Between that and then spending like we used to, it didn’t take long before we (aka Michael) realized that we were living outside our means and if we continued on this path then we’d be getting into some debt.

Am I an expert at this money stuff?  No.  Am I going to give you earth shattering advice?  Probably not.

Basically I’m just going to share our experiences and what we’ve learned about saving and managing money, and hope that it helps you out too.  The reality is that so many people out there are struggling financially.  Many in my generation have never been taught how to manage their finances and so we’re gathering tons and tons of debt (heck, not just my generation…I mean, take a look at our government).

This is not going to be one of those amazing “I’m debt free” stories!  We (fortunately) got this under control before there was any debt.  See, we are in the very small minority of people who graduate college debt-free.  We both got scholarships that paid for most of our schooling and then our parents helped out with the rest.  All of our cars (the ones we got in high school that we still drive and the van we bought last year) were paid for up front.  We had no credit card debt.  Like I said, we weren’t extravagant spenders.  The only debt we have ever had is our house.

So thankfully we were not digging ourselves out of a huge debt pit, we just were trying to put the brakes on before that happened.  If you ARE in a huge pile of debt, take heart!  It can be done.  I’ve heard some amazing stories (one of my favorite bloggers has one).  Just know that what I have to say may not be what you’re looking for since our story isn’t one that is so extreme.

But if you’re like me, not in debt but not really managing your money as you should, then I hope this will be helpful.  And even if you are in way more debt, hopefully some of the things I’ve learned can help you as well.

Will you join me next Monday to talk about budgeting?  Maybe not the most riveting topic, but certainly important!

For those who are ready and willing, I have an assignment for you:  Before next Monday I want you to take a good, hard look at your finances.  Ask yourself some questions.  

Am I satisfied with my money situation?  Do I have enough in savings to live on if there were an emergency?  Do I have any savings at all?  Am I in debt?  A little or a lot?

Then come back here Monday and we’ll get rocking and rolling on the next step!

confessions of a co-sleeper

confessions of a cosleeper

We did not plan to be co-sleepers.

Isn’t that how so many of our stories start out though?

In fact, I did not want to co-sleep.  It wasn’t that I thought it was bad or dangerous; it was fine for other people to do but it wasn’t what *we* wanted. I didn’t have the desire to co-sleep from day one like some people.  We bought a bassinet and a crib so that Hudson could sleep in our room for a while and then move to his own room.  I did NOT want a baby in my bed.

Ha.

Then life happened.

At first Hudson was a terrible sleeper and had to be held all the time.  But my mom was staying with us and so she would take early morning shifts and hold him so we could sleep.  Then he got a lot better about sleeping on his own and slept in his little bed in our room basically all night.  If he woke up too early in the morning then I’d put him in bed with me for another hour or two, no big deal.

I hated that.  My body would be so stiff and sore from just that one or two hours of him sleeping next to me.  I remember asking my other co-sleeping friends “How on earth do you do this all.night.long?!”

But then our period of good sleep stopped and we entered several months of sleep torture.  This first time he woke up after we went to sleep I’d put him in our bed.  He started waking earlier and earlier and then started waking up and screaming the second we tried to lay him in his bed for the first time each night.  The ONLY way he would sleep was to be in the bed next to one of us.

So gradually, over time, we became a full time, co-sleeping family.

And guess what? I don’t hate it.

Ok, sometimes I do.  Like when he pushes us out of bed or he rakes me with his razor nails in the middle of the night or he spits up all over my spot.

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But overall, I actually like it.  *gasp*  I know

We got a bedrail and that made a world of difference.  One of the main things I hated about co-sleeping was the fact that I slept so awkwardly positioned around Hudson to ensure that he wouldn’t fall out of the bed.  Once we finally admitted to ourselves that we were indeed a co-sleeping family, we bought a toddler bedrail and attached it to my side of the bed.  Now Hudson can sleep between the rail and me in his own space (not that we have a lot of that) and I don’t have to hold on to him.  It’s lovely.

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It is cramped.  We have a queen bed and the way the rail is fashioned it takes up several inches of valuable sleeping real estate, but it works for us.  Michael has only gotten pushed out of the bed and had to sleep on the floor once…

the cosleepers theme song

But laying down to sleep between my two favorite people is the best.  Waking up to the sweetest baby face ever is heart melting.  Cuddling in the morning is the best part of the day.  And really, who can blame him?  I mean, would you rather sleep on a cold, hard surface all by yourself, or snuggled up all nice and warm to the person you love the best?

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In a more practical sense, Hudson wakes up crying pretty frequently.  If he were in his own bed upstairs then I’d have to wake up, run upstairs, put his paci in, and comfort him.  Instead, I just pop his paci in and we go right back to sleep.  When he was still breastfeeding at night I just latched him on and dozed through the feeding.  When he was done we both fell right back to sleep.

It’s kind of taboo, you know?  I mean, some people are hard core co-sleepers who think it’s best and are open about that.  Others are very adamantly anti-co-sleeping.  But I’ll tell you, there are a lot, a LOT, of my friends who co-sleep who aren’t really the natural, crunchy, attachment parenting-type.  It’s convenient.  And it’s what works.

As my chiropractor put it “You do what’s best for your nest”.

Fo sho, yo.

Rule of parenting Numero Uno: never say never.

So what’s our plan from here?  Well, at this point I have no immediate plans to move him out of our bed.  What we’ve discussed is that we’re just going to put him straight into a “big boy” bed.  He HATES his crib so I don’t think we will ever get him in there and he’s used to an actual bed now, so once he is able to safely climb down from a big bed we’re going to just put him in the full sized bed that we have in our guest room, probably with rails so he won’t roll out.

But really, he won’t be in our bed forever, so I’m not too concerned about rushing him out of our room into his own.  He won’t always want to snuggle so I’m enjoying it while it lasts.  He’s happy here.  We all sleep fine.  We all SLEEP, which is the key thing right now, No sense in rocking the boat!

Will we co-sleep with other children?  Maybe.  I don’t know.  I can’t say that now I think the first night home from the hospital we will automatically put any future children in our bed.  Obviously we’ll cross that bridge when it gets here but I *think* we’ll probably try the bassinet and crib again.

However, I will be much quicker to put them in bed with us if that seems to work better.  We lost SO much sleep because we were resistant to the idea of co-sleeping and if I’d just put Hudson in there with us I think we all would have rested better.  Also, we slept with him in the recliner because we didn’t want to co-sleep, which I later found out is actually more dangerous than having him in our bed.  Now I know better.  We’ll have the bed rail from the get go and I am hoping we will be able to purchase a king-sized bed by that point, too.

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A couple of things (I always feel like I have to make disclaimers)

– Co-sleeping is not for everyone.  I think some babies prefer sleeping with mom more than others, just like how some adults are cuddlers and others really want their own space.  Some people want to co-sleep and then find that they can’t sleep at all that way.  I’m not saying my way is best, just that it’s what works for our family and this one particular child.

– Co-sleeping is safe if done correctly.  Please make sure you are safely co-sleeping if that is what you choose to do.  I’m not going to go into a long debate about it, but my opinion is that it is biologically normal, it’s what people have done for years in many cultures, it can be done safely, and the warnings that you hear about it are usually (not always, there are exceptions) due to people who were co-sleeping in an unsafe manner (on a couch, having used alcohol, etc.).

P.S. Technically, co-sleeping is when your baby sleeps in the same room as you, so you have probably all co-slept.  Bed sharing is when baby actually sleeps in your bed.  However, most people use the term “co-sleeping” to mean baby is in the bed so for this post, that’s how I’m using it too.

Are you a bed-sharer?  Why or why not?  If so, did you plan to do that from the start or did it just happen?

my 2015 planner solution {plus a giveaway!}

my perfect planner from thepolkadotposie

Y’all, it took me almost TWO MONTHS into 2015 to decide on a planner for the year.  How pathetic is that?!  I’m picky but I finally found what I was looking for and of course now I have to share that with you!

If you’re a long time reader then you’ve read my past posts about my Erin Condren planners.  And while I still think those are great planners, it just wasn’t working for me this year.  Now that I’m a stay at home mom, obviously our budget has been reduced a bit and spending $50+ on a planner is not a high priority for me.  Plus, the EC planner is just really big and bulky and not at all practical for sticking in a diaper bag to take with me.

So I spent a really, really long time searching for another one.  I have all these different “wants” in mind for my planner and unfortunately a great majority of “generic” planners you can buy at Walmart, Staples, etc. do not have what I want.  I briefly considered designing my own (like I did with my teacher lesson plan book) but I don’t have the graphic design skills to make it pretty so it would be very boring and utilitarian.  And then, and I know this sounds so silly, there were others that were fine but the overall vibe of the graphics just weren’t me.  I know, I know…beggars can’t be choosers, but if I’m going to be looking at this multiple times a day, every day, I kind of want it to be pretty, you know?

Anyway…to make a very long story short, I finally came across ThePolkaDotPosie planners.  The planners have everything I loved from my Erin Condren planner but at a fraction of the price!

thepolkadotposie planner cover

They have an Etsy shop where you purchase the digital downloads for the planner you want and then print it yourself.  I was a bit hesitant about the printing and assembling part but they have great instructions on how to do that (and I recruited Michael for the task of printing it for me ;) )

I chose the small size (5.5″ x 8.5″) with seasonal designs (each month has a different color scheme).  There are also larger ones (8.5″ x 11″) and smaller ones (like the size of a pocket calender), academic year (August – August), teacher planners, homeschool planners, planners for direct sales businesses, event planners, budgets, and more.

thepolkadotposie seasonal plannerthepolkadotposie teacher plannerthepolkadotposie direct sales planner

Each month of the seasonal planner has a page for goals, to-dos, and projects

thepolkadotposie planner monthly goals

Then there is a monthly calendarthepolkadotposie planner calendar page

And then a layout for each week of the month.  You can choose to get a weekly spread without the dinner pots (if you’d rather not write your meals down and use that section for something else).thepolkadotposie planner weekly pages

On their blog, they also have lots of free printable downloads (how cute are these Tooth Fairy receipts??).  I printed off the Christmas organizer and put it at the end of my planner to use at Christmastime and the small planner test pages (that have to do lists, goals, contact information, important dates, etc.) to put at the front of my planner.

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I used 24 lb weight paper (a little heavier than what we usually print on) and was SO impressed with the quality of the planner pages!  They looked and felt so professional!

I originally thought I was going to put my planner in a small 3-ring binder so I punched holes in them but then realized I didn’t like that (it was too hard for me to write on the left side because of the rings, it was bulky, and I couldn’t flip it back on itself).  I then took my stack of papers to Staples and had them bind it into a spiral notebook.  I like that much better!

And here’s how I use it.  On the monthly calendar pages I put appointments and events.  On the weekly/daily pages I use the 3 boxes for my daily to-dos.  In the first box I put the things that happen every day that need to get done (like my chore of the day, laundry, my Bible study, etc.).  In the second box I put other random to-do things that need to get done that are household-related.  And in the third box I put any Young Living things that need to get done that day.

how i use thepolkadotposie plannerI love the notes sections so I can jot down notes to myself and then on the right (cut out of the picture) I can put my to-do list of things that I want to get done sometime that week.

I am so thrilled with my planner!  Total cost was less than $15 so I was super excited about that!

And I’m also excited that one of YOU will be able to win a planner from ThePolkaDotPosie as well!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

(I was not compensated for this review and purchased all planner materials and downloads myself; ThePolkaDotPosie did not ask me to write this review…I was going to write one anyway and then reached out to them to see if they’d like to do a giveaway in conjunction with my review – so these opinions are totally mine and not swayed by free stuff!)

whole30 weeks 4 and 5 – wrap up, results, and what next?

#whole30 weeks 4 and 5

I did it!  I survived Whole30!  Here’s how the last 9 days went and then read to the end for my results.

Day 22 (Sunday)

breakfast – Two fried eggs with ??? (I’ve already forgotten)

lunch – Avocado tuna with radishes and grapes

#whole30 avocado tuna, radishes, grapes

dinner – Leftover vegetable soup with ??? (I’ve forgotten this too…that’s what happens when I don’t write it down each night)

#whole30 vegetable soup

Day 23 (Monday)

breakfast – Two fried eggs and a smoothie

lunch – Avocado tuna with radishes and grapes

dinner – Grilled chicken seasoned with a homemade taco seasoning recipe, roasted green beans, and crash potatoes.

thoughts – Another good day!  I am just so glad to be out of my funk from last week.  Being back home and on my routine has helped a lot.  Getting a variety of veggies is helping too with the boredom.

It’s no longer an “I think”…now I know for sure that my ring is looser!  I’m not sure if it’s loose enough that I’ll be able to get my real wedding rings on yet but it’s a start!

Day 24 (Tuesday)

breakfast – Two fried eggs, leftover grilled chicken, leftover green beans

lunch – Avocado tuna with radishes and grapes

dinnerSpicy cinnamon orange shrimp, crash potatoes, and roasted broccoli with homemade mayo

#whole30 spicy cinnamon orange shrimp, crash potatoes, and broccoli

thoughts – HOW have I gone 24 days of Whole30 without making my own mayonnaise?  Oh my!  Tonight I added some parsley, paprika, and onion powder to make a pseudo-ranch dressing and dipped my potatoes and broccoli in it.

#whole30 mayo

Day 25 (Wednesday)

breakfast – Two fried eggs, leftover grilled chicken, leftover green beans

lunch – Avocado tuna with radishes, grapes, and leftover broccoli

dinner – Chicken in the crockpot and baked sweet potatoes with lemony-dill mayo

thoughts – Mayo.  Seriously.  That’s good stuff.

Day 26 (Thursday)

breakfast – Two fried eggs, leftover grilled chicken

lunch – Avocado tuna with radishes, grapes, and leftover crash potatoes

dinner – Chicken stir fry (chicken, bell peppers, and broccoli with some cajun seasoning) dipped in homemade mayo (mixed with some garlic powder and chipotle seasoning) and leftover sweet potato

thoughts – I’m just so thrilled that I’m having an easier week.  I’m not going to say that the second Whole30 is over I won’t dive into a brownie ;) but the intense cravings I was battling last week have subsided.

I keep twirling my ring around and reveling in the fact that it is lose.  I have not tried on my real wedding rings yet…I’m holding off until Whole30 is over (it’s hard but I can make it just a few more days!).

Day 27 (Friday)

breakfast – Two fried eggs, leftover grilled chicken

lunch – Avocado tuna with radishes and grapes

dinner – Steak, yellow squash, and asparagus

thoughts – Ok I lied…I didn’t want to wait until whole30 was over so I tried on my rings.  Sad news…they still don’t fit.  I’m so bummed!

Day 28 (Saturday)

breakfast – Two fried eggs with sweet potato hash.

lunch – Avocado tuna with radishes and tangerines

dinner – Leftover crockpot chicken with roasted broccoli and roasted potatoes dipped in homemade chipotle mayo.

thoughts – I already love roasted broccoli but dipped in mayo…oh man.  So good.  And Michael sliced the potatoes really thin so they crisped up like chips – yum yum!

Day 29 (Sunday)

breakfast – Two fried eggs with sweet potato hash

lunch – Avocado tuna with radishes and grapes

dinner – Spicy tuna cakes with roasted green beans

Day 30 (Monday)

breakfast – Two fried eggs, leftover green beans, leftover squash

lunch – Avocado tuna with radishes and grapes

dinner – Grilled chicken, roasted potatoes, and spicy cauliflower with chipotle mayo.

#whole30 grilled chicken, potatoes, and cauliflower

thoughts – I survived!  I did it!

My snacks were basically the same every day this week: tangerines, apples with almond butter, and/or smoothie (banana, blueberries, almond butter, avocado, and coconut milk)

Also, sorry for the boring breakfasts and lunch…that’s usually how I operate (even non-whole30) – I’ll eat the same thing for breakfast, lunch, and snack everyday for many days without getting bored as long as I get some variety at supper.  I started off Whole30 trying to keep it exciting and varied to keep me from getting burnt out but by the end was back in my comfort zone of repetition.

Results

I know, probably the whole reason you’re reading this post…to find out if it worked ;).

Drumroll please…

I lost a smidge over 10 pounds! (10.4 to be exact)  I would have loved to lose more than that (I mean, who wouldn’t?), but 10 pounds in 30 days is really great, especially since I’ve struggled so much since Hudson was born to lose anything at all, so I’m very pleased.

I also lost an inch around my waist (I did not do all over measurements, like arms, thighs, calves, etc. so my waist is the only area I have data on).

Now to keep going and work on the other 50-60 pounds I need to lose….

Thoughts about my whole Whole30 experience (see what I did there?)

Well.

Whole30 was by far the hardest “diet” I’ve ever done.  It took a lot of time and effort and money.  Oh my, our grocery bill this month has been astronomical.  And it was much more restrictive than anything I’ve done before.

Honestly, I can’t say I’m all that impressed.  I feel no different now than I did 30 days ago.  I don’t feel any better or worse (not that I felt bad to begin with) nor has my sleep changed (I was already sleeping fine but Hudson was not and I was hoping this would help him but it didn’t seem to make a difference).  I didn’t start randomly waking up at 6am ready to tackle the day like some people reported.  I didn’t miraculously lose 25 pounds and 2 pants sizes like others.  I didn’t arrive at some amazing state of mind where I no longer am tempted by sweets.

Basically I ate healthier and as a result I lost some weight.  Which is great and I’m not knocking it.  And in fact, if I hadn’t done something so restrictive where cheating wasn’t an option I probably would have kept back sliding and eating junk.  So I think this was a great jump start and it showed me that I *can* lose even while breastfeeding and I’m hopeful that now that I’ve gotten used to eating so healthy again I will continue doing so and continue to lose weight.

So did it help me on my quest to get healthier and lose weight?  Yes.  Was is the magical, miracle diet I had read about?  No.  But that’s ok.  I’ve learned over the years that there is no magical shake or pill or diet…hard work, self control, eating healthy, and exercising is what it takes.

What now?

You are supposed to basically continue eating whole30 and begin gradually adding some of those “trigger” foods back in to your diet.  Add legumes, wait a few days to see how your body reacts, then add dairy, wait a few days, then grains without gluten, and so on.  However we will be traveling Saturday and having our family Easter dinner Sunday so I will likely eat some non-whole30 foods before I have finished the gradual adding in process.  I’m playing it by ear and starting today just by adding in legumes (peanut butter with my apple and black beans with our supper).

So nothing exciting.  As much as I’d love to eat a ton of Reese’s eggs I’m trying to stick to reintroducing some healthy foods first.

Long term, I will now go back to our “real food” way of eating.  Like I said when I started whole30, I believe in most foods in moderation so I’m not on board with whole30, whole9, paleo, vegetarianism, etc. as a long term way of eating (unless there are health issues that require that to be how I eat).  I much prefer to eat a little bit of everything that is real, whole food (not tons of processed junk…although I have a bit of that too from time to time).  I’m excited to add back in butter, whole milk, sour cream, wheat bread, corn, peas, and beans!

Thank you for following along with my journey.  I appreciate the comments I’ve gotten here on my blog, on my Facebook page, via text, and in person.  It can be scary to admit that you need to lose weight, or even that you just want to try to be healthier, and tell the world that you are dieting but I am thankful that (most) everyone was supportive and encouraging.

Hudson’s 14 month update

My iphone is so full that I can’t even record videos so today I spent a long time going through pictures and videos trying to delete a bunch and clear up some space.  It is amazing to me to see how much Hudson has changed, even just as recently as Christmas, not to mention since he was first born!  My baby is certainly not a baby anymore (in many ways) and is a full blown toddler.  Month 14 has brought about a lot of changes and new skills!

growth

Based on our home measurements, Hudson is 29 inches tall (yay, I can feel normal saying tall now instead of long since we measure him standing instead of laying) and weighs 23 pounds.

His hair is so curly in the back that he hasn’t needed a haircut but when it’s wet you can see he has a bit of a rat tail – ha!

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food

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This child eats like a horse!  He can no longer eat off of our plates, he needs his own meal.  Sometimes I’m just amazed at how much food fits in that little body (and then other days he won’t eat much at all…baffling).  He ate nearly a whole steak one night – he ate more of his than I did of mine!  The white semi circle there is all the steak he ate (plus green beans).

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If you’re a regular reader here you know that I’ve been following the Whole30 diet and since Hudson eats what I eat he has too (mostly).  Whole30 is an elimination diet (eliminates several foods that cause problems for many people, you see how you feel without them, then add them back and see how you feel while eating them…helps you determine if there are things you should avoid like dairy or gluten).  I don’t think that either of us have food sensitivities but I decided it didn’t hurt to check, especially since we’ve had so many sleep issues since he was born (and better sleep is a common “side effect” of Whole30).

I haven’t really noticed a difference compared to what we were eating before, but I am very thrilled that doing Whole30 has caused us to eat healthier in general and I know that’s so good for Hudson.  We’ve tried lots of new veggies and increased our fruits and healthy fats too.

Obviously he has enjoyed it ;)

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He is now down to nursing only three times a day.  We have dropped his “lunchtime” feeding so now he only nurses when he wakes up, in the afternoon, and before bed.  He is definitely not interested in weaning fully yet.  As I’ve been doing Whole30 I could tell that my milk had dropped and I thought it might encourage him to wean so I wasn’t too concerned.  Instead he just walked around crying and signing “milk” all the time so obviously he did not like that idea!  I’ve done some stuff to get my milk back up and all is well now but it was definitely pitiful for a few days!

He also is drinking from his sippy cup much more than he used to.  I fill it with water every morning and put it on the floor so he is able to drink from it throughout the day as much as he wants.  However, a lot of the time he just likes to get the water in his mouth and then let it dribble out everywhere so then I have to take it away.

sleep

Finally good news on the sleep front.  It’s not perfect, but things are SO much better than they used to be!

He went through a phase for maybe two weeks where he did not fall asleep while nursing at night and then I couldn’t get him to sleep by rocking.  We found that if Michael laid with him in our bed Hudson would flop around for a while (sometimes a really long while) and eventually fall asleep.  It only works with Michael though; he tries to crawl all over me and thinks it’s a big party if I try to lay with him and get him to sleep.

This was a nice break because I’ve had to do bedtime duty for, well, basically his whole life.  So I really enjoyed getting some things done around the house (not that washing dishes and folding laundry are that enjoyable…but it’s nice to be productive) while Michael put him to bed.

That phase is over and now he (usually) falls asleep while nursing and I’m able to lay him down asleep.  Much easier on everyone and then we can both get some stuff done.

He sleeps through the night, although we fairly frequently (1 – 3 nights a week) have nights where he wakes up crying.  He settles almost immediately when I put his paci back in but he’s just restless.  So those nights we have some broken sleep but at least we aren’t up for long stretches of time.

He has dropped his afternoon nap and now only takes one nap a day (I think that is what helped with bedtime…now he’s plenty tired by bedtime so he doesn’t fight it for hours).  So many of my friends have kids who dropped their morning nap and only took an afternoon nap so when Hudson was obviously very tired two or three hours after waking up I felt like he needed a morning nap still but then we’d also do an afternoon one.  Then my mom mentioned that all of us kids dropped our afternoon naps and only took morning ones and I realized that maybe that was the case with Hudson.  I mean, duh.  I should know better to listen to my child, I just caught up in what seemed to be “the norm”.  Lesson learned.

So anyway, he takes one nap around 10 or 11, depending on when he wakes up (which is usually anywhere between 7 and 8:30).  I still hold him for his nap but I am (thankfully) no longer resentful of that fact.  I enjoy getting to snuggle and since it’s once a day for just an hour or two it doesn’t seem so “inconvenient” as it used to.  I know he won’t do this forever and it gives me a chance to blog or read or something so I enjoy it.

He hates his crib.  One day I put him in it for a few minutes so I could do some ironing without him underfoot.  It was naptime and he was tired so I turned out the lights, put on some soothing music, and stood in the doorway where he could see me to see if maybe, just maybe, he might fall asleep.  That did not end well and he cried and cried.  I felt terrible and when I got him out of his crib he was shaking from tears.  It was awful.  I know crying it out works for some people but not for us.

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One evening neither of us were having any luck getting him to bed.  I was trying to do my Bible study and nothing was working so I finally put him on my back and bounced on the exercise ball while I read.  It didn’t work…I couldn’t see what I was reading and he didn’t fall asleep.  Interesting method to try though!

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mobility

Hudson is walking great now!  He has really taken off and walks everywhere.  It’s unusual to see him crawling anymore.

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I’ve caught him climbing a few times but it hasn’t become a consistent habit yet.

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communication

He still really only says one word (“bye”), although he doesn’t say that nearly as much as he used to.  He’ll also occasionally say “hi” or “yeah” (or at least, that’s what it sounds like) and he babbles constantly…you just can’t tell what he’s saying.

He knows quite a bit of sign language and uses that as his main means of communication.  He can sign “milk”, “more”, “eat”, “change” (diaper), “bath”, and “all done”.  He uses most of these in context and correctly although occasionally needs some prompting (like if he starts shouting when he finishes the food on his tray and we say “Hudson do you want more?” then he’ll sign “more”).

There were several times that for whatever reason (he knows the sign for milk, no idea why he didn’t use it), he would go grab the Boppy by the tag and try to drag it to me to indicate he wanted to be held/fed.  It was so funny and cute and pitiful.  The only thing I can figure is that he associates the sign for “milk” with nourishment and maybe he just wanted comfort so for some reason he thought bringing me the Boppy indicated that.  I don’t know…just making stuff up!  Ha!

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firsts

He has started giving “fives” to people and blowing kisses.  He gives “woolen” (what some people call raspberries or zerberts…where you put your mouth on skin and blow to make a noise) and thinks it’s so funny to that on our arms, legs, or stomach.  He also can stack his blocks or the stacking rings instead of just knocking them down after we stack them.

He slipped in his footie pajamas and fell and smacked his head on the floor.  It swelled up instantly and looked horrible but within 24 hours was just a faint yellow bruise.

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He just recently started reaching for door knobs.  He can barely reach but I’m sure it won’t be long before he’s trying to open doors!

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We got some Sesame Street shows for him to watch when we travel longer distances (aka longer than a Daniel Tiger episode) so when we went to ladies retreat I played one on the way there and on the way back and he fell asleep both times.  That is unheard of for him!  Sesame Street must be really soothing or boring to him (I think it’s super annoying).

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We have discovered toilet paper!  We keep the bathroom doors closed but I was cleaning the bathroom one day and stepped out to grab another rag and Hudson went to town on the toilet paper while I was gone.  And like a good blogger I grabbed my phone and took a few pictures while he pulled off more ;).

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adventures

Michael had to go to Philadelphia for work so Hudson and I went and stayed with my mom while he was gone.  I enjoyed a bit of a “vacation” from laundry and housework and of course Hudson adored being doted on by his Mamie and uncle and playing with all of our old toys.

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other stuff

We had a little bath tub photoshoot one day :)

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This picture cracks me up!

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Hudson loves to use our broom and Swiffer at home so my mom got him his own little set of cleaning tools – broom, dustpan, mop, etc.  He loves them and plays with them constantly!

IMG_8182_2IMG_8289_2We tried to nap in the bed one afternoon instead of me holding him in the chair and it didn’t go as I planned.  He was very restless and kept scooting himself under the covers.  Don’t worry, I was right there next to him to make sure he could breathe.

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I adore this picture!  We’ve been going through some separation stuff recently when I leave him in the church nursery – he clings to me and cries when I first put him in his seat.  He loves this little laptop they have in there though so one Sunday I put in front of him when I put him in his seat and it did the trick to calm him down so I could leave.  I had to snap a picture though…he looks so serious and grown up!

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Of course we had to rock our Albert Einstein diaper on pi day!

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Mr. Hudson definitely has a bit of temper.  He gets quite unhappy if you set him down when he wants to be held, you tell him “no”, he doesn’t get food the instant he wants it, etc.  I think that’s called being a toddler but it can certainly be frustrating.  This particular day he kept taking my books off the shelf over and over and was crying because I told him no.

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Trying to get things done around the house can be very challenging because Hudson is either a) crying and hanging on to my leg because he wants to be held, b) getting right up into what I’m doing and scattering my swept up piles, unfolding laundry, or trying to play in the toilet while I clean, or c) off getting into something else he shouldn’t be doing while I’m distracted.

Soooo I’m thankful for babywearing because for many of my chores I can stick him up on my back and wear him while I do them (the ones that can’t be done while I wear him get done in the afternoon when Michael can distract him).  Sometimes he even falls asleep and takes a little nap while I work.  Looks comfy, huh?
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I love this outfit – he looks so grown up though!

IMG_8033_2We went out to eat one evening and he loved playing with the straws.  We had a fantastic waitress and she gave him several to keep him occupied.
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He thinks it is so funny to put his stacking rings on his arms.  And this picture cracks me up – he looks like a sumo wrestler!

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This old silver cup of Michael’s is Hudson’s favorite thing to play with in his bedroom.  We don’t spend much time in his room or upstairs in general since it’s not quite as baby proof as downstairs, but when we are in his room he makes a beeline for this one cup and carries it around pretending to drink from it.

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My boy is such a joy!  He is so entertaining and sweet and funny and I love it.  I just look at him and marvel.  Sure, he is challenging and strong willed and often drives me batty, but I can’t (and don’t want to!) imagine life without him; I love him so incredibly much!  His sweaty curls after a good nap, the way he rubs his ear when he’s tired, the big slobbery kisses he loves to give, the funny face he makes when he’s pooping – I love it all!

These monthly updates feel so superficial…I can use my words to tell you the facts about Hudson but I can’t figure out how to express our love for him.  IMG_0398IMG_0408Slow down, sweet boy!  I love to see you grow and change but it’s happening so fast!  Weren’t you just born yesterday?