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5 Tips For An Affordable Beach Trip

I’ve shared the pictures from our beach trip this week and I wanted to share how we make our beach vacations affordable. Since we have kids in school now we can’t go in the offseason anymore. The middle of summer is pretty much our only opportunity. But there are definitely ways we make sure we keep our spending in check. 

1. Check Groupon for hotels. We have 2 or 3 favorite hotels and I religiously watch Groupon for room deals on those hotels. This year I found our suite for 60% off the regular prices! I booked way back in early March for a June vacation and saved hundreds of dollars!

2. Buy groceries! It is just way too expensive for us to eat out every meal. We typically eat every breakfast and lunch in the room so I buy stuff for sandwiches, some pre-made salads, and lunchables. I buy all the drinks and we take a cooler to the pool and ocean. The $116 we spent at Walmart saved us hundreds on eating out.

3. Take advantage of early bird dinner deals. The seafood all you can eat buffet that we love and have been going to for over a decade has a great early bird deal. Before 4:30, kids buffet is only $12.95 and adults save $5 each on their buffet. That saved us over $45 off what the cost would have been at 5:00! The other restaurant we always eat at is a great local steakhouse/tavern. If you get there by 4:30 kids eat free! That saved us $36! 

4. Don’t get sucked into outside attractions. We don’t do the water park, the amusement park, the zoo, the mini golf, the aquarium, the arcade, etc. We are there for the beach, ocean, and pools! So that’s where we spend all of our time. It’s cheaper for us to do the other stuff at home because we have memberships to the water park, amusement park, and zoo! 

5. Avoid the souvenir stores. This has been a hard and fast rule for us since the kids were small. This year we made an exception for 3 reasons- the kids are older, they have their own money to spend, and boogie boards were on sale for 2 for $5! But that’s all we paid for. Maia used her own money to buy a hoodie. Mason and Zoey saved their money and bought nothing. 

Those are just the basic ways we choose to save money at the beach. I cannot afford to shell out a thousand dollars on a 4-5 day beach trip. Especially not with a kid going to college soon!



Christmas: Then and Now

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Nothing hits home the fact that I have big kids like the changes in how we celebrate Christmas. Long gone are the days when the kids wanted to take pictures with Santa. I miss those days….

Then: The kids couldn’t wait to decorate the trees the weekend after Thanksgiving.
Now: We haven’t even put up our trees yet because the kids all had plans the weekend after Thanksgiving. We might get them up this weekend. But the kids aren’t bothered. 

Then: The only things on their wish lists were the current year’s hottest toys.
Now: Tyler asked for money. Maia asked for clothes. Mason asked for body pillows (ha! He’s a grandpa at heart.). And Zoey asked for an electric blanket. Who are these kids?

Then: We watched every single animated Christmas special that came on television.
Now: We watch the unedited versions of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Christmas with the Kranks, and the kids favorite is Elf. 

Then: They couldn’t wait to help me bake Christmas cookies and treats.
Now: They only want to eat them. 

Then: Threats that Santa is watching them ensured a very peaceful December.
Now: They just laugh at me. 

Then: I dreaded the mere thought of entertaining kids for the entire Christmas break.
Now: I am counting the days until the kids are out. No packing lunches, no homework, no early morning wake ups, no carpool…14 days. We have 14 days. 

Then: I had presents hidden all over this house in obscure places to keep them away from prying eyes. Then we spent 3 hours in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve trying to quietly sneak them under the tree…after I remembered where they all were hidden.
Now: I have all presents wrapped and under the tree way in advance of Christmas and I know they won’t be touched.

Then: They all had matching, color coordinated Christmas pajamas and I made them all pose in front of the tree for pictures before they opened gifts.
Now: I guarantee at least one, probably 2, of my kids will wander out without pants. One of said children will be Tyler. There will be no posed pictures. If I’m lucky I’ll get one pictures with all of them in it, looking somewhere near the camera, and not making any weird faces. 

Then: The first kid woke up around 3:3oam and tried to incite a riot of stampeding children down the stairs. We spent 3 hours shuffling kids back to bed before giving up around 6:30am. 
Now: Matt and I are the first ones awake. We enjoy a cup of coffee while we wait for our offspring to emerge from their caves, usually around 9:30am. 

 

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10 Truths About Turning 40

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Yesterday was my birthday. I turned 40. 4-0. Forty. FORTY. Y’all. I am 40. And you know what? Forty rocks. You couldn’t pay me to go back a decade. My twenties and early thirties were spent raising babies and toddlers. My late thirties were spent recovering from raising babies and toddlers. But 40? 40 is the gravy. I’m happy, I’m secure in who I am, and I’ve learned a lot of lessons along the way. 

1. Numbers on the scale mean nothing. I’ll probably always carry these extra 10 pounds. Ok fine, 15 extra pounds. But life is too short to not eat cake. 

2. Quality matters more than quantity when it comes to true friends. A lesson learned the hard way, unfortunately. I have a lot of friendly acquaintances. But I have only a few true close friends with whom I can share anything and everything. And that’s just fine!

3. Keeping up with the Joneses is overrated. Seriously. It’s overrated. I have learned to be content. 

4. Beauty truly does come from within. Wrinkles happen but the very best wrinkles are laugh lines because they radiate joy. I’m a firm believer that a person’s inner joy shows on their face. I hope mine does. 

5. Happiness is a choice. Just like being angry and bitter is a choice, happiness is a choice you make. So choose happy. 

6. Life is too short for fear. This is my mantra anytime I have to do something out of my comfort zone. Life is short. Embrace every moment! Fear means you’re alive!

7. Gossip makes you ugly. Truth. Gossip is a useless time suck that only serves one purpose- to hurt others. Rise above. 

8. The only opinion that matters is yours. You can’t find peace or happiness from living up to others opinions or expectations. The only opinion that you need to listen to is your own. 

9. Create a life you don’t need a vacation from. Another lesson learned the hard way. I don’t want to spend 358 days of the year counting down until my 7 days of vacation. I want to spend 365 days of the year enjoying my life. 

10. It’s okay to not be liked by everyone. I used to be a people pleaser. Now I’m a reformed people pleaser. You cannot make everyone happy. So I don’t waste my time trying. If someone doesn’t like me, that’s ok. I like me and that’s what matters. 

It’s taken me 40 long years to learn these lessons. But now that I have? Life changing. I had the best weekend celebrating my birthday. Matt and my sister planned a surprise family cook out for me and my parents came with Camden to celebrate with us. It was awesome and exactly how a birthday should be spent. 

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Cheers to 40, friends. I’m ready to rock this year!

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5 Tips For A Successful Summer With Older Kids

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Now that my kids are older summer break has taken on a completely different dimension. It used to be something I dreaded. 12 weeks of little kids who require total supervision every single hour of the day and woke up at dark o’thirty every morning? That’s a nightmare. But now that my kids are older it’s so much better. That being said there are still things you can do to make sure your summer break is successful.

1. Keep the food fully stocked. We have 2 pantries and 3 fridge/freezers. I keep them fully stocked at all times in the summer. I buy most of our snacks at either Sam’s Club or Aldi to cut costs and I always keep a ton of fruit on hand. My kids expend a lot of energy at the pool and they eat a lot. I keep the freezer stocked with things they can microwave easily by themselves- hot pockets, taco wraps, quesadillas, mini pizzas, chicken melts, etc. 

2. Let them sleep. Remember those days when the kids woke you up before the sun? Well those days are long gone in my house. My kids don’t wake up before 10am unless we physically wake them up. And I only wake them if we have somewhere to be. Otherwise I let them sleep as long as they want. Poor Tyler has to be at football by 8am four days a week so he’s leaving the house at 7:15am. I remember my mom always waking me up by 8am during the summer and it was awful. So I don’t do it. They sleep late, sometimes they take afternoon naps after swimming, and they stay up late. That’s exactly what summer should be. 

3. Keep the plans to a minimum. I used to have a schedule and plans for nearly every day of summer break. Vacation Bible Schools, splash parks, play dates, dollar movies, camps…we did it all. If every minute wasn’t scheduled the kids were fighting, bored, and annoying each other. Now that they’re older they do not want to have all those plans. They want to chill. Which works well because I also want to just chill. 

4. Spend as much time at the pool as possible. We’re lucky to have a great neighborhood pool right down the street from our house and a hot tub right on our own back deck. We spend as much time in them as possible. It keeps the kids active, keeps them busy, and limits the fighting. They’re too tired to whine and all their friends are swimming with them instead of messing up my house. It’s perfect. 

5. Relax the rules. During summer I am flexible with the rules we maintain during the school year. The kids are allowed to drink select sodas during the summer when I never ever buy it during the school year. We make Coke Floats and Root Beer slushes. I don’t enforce bedtimes. They are expected to be in their bedrooms by 9:30 unless it’s family night but they can play, read, or watch a movie for as long as they want. I also don’t enforce any limits on screens or electronics. The kids spend a lot of time outside and in the pool so unless I see them spending days upon days glued to a screen I just let it go. Their friends are welcome to come over and play anytime during the hours we’ve established- 11am to 8pm. They just come and go all day and it’s great. My backyard is always full of laughing kids. 

Cheers to a great summer!

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Observations From A Snow Day

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We started hearing news reports about the impending winter storm heading for our city last week. As the days went on the reports got more intense and the projected snow totals started to rise. By Friday afternoon they were calling for 6-8″ of snow in my area, the grocery store shelves were bare, and all activities were canceled for the weekend. This is the South. We shelter in place at the mere hint of a snow storm heading towards us. All my people were home safe by 4:30pm on Friday with no intentions of leaving for days. I think back now to snow days from a few years ago when the kids were younger and snow days were the things nightmares were made of. It’s as if I’m living a totally different life these days. 

1. Nobody really wanted to go outside and play. Tyler and Maia are way over the stage of wanting to go outside and play in it. Zoey likes snow in theory. She likes to look at it from the window. But the first bit of snow that found its way inside her glove and she was over it. Mason went out with her in the snow for a little bit. They dressed themselves, undressed themselves, and required nothing from me. They threw snowballs at the dogs, Chase tried to eat their gloves right off their hands, and that was the end. They lasted about 10 minutes and then wanted to play Xbox for the rest of the day.  

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2. Snow cream is delicious when you add vanilla vodka and half and half. Really delicious. Also- don’t mix up which batch has vanilla vodka and which batch is alcohol free. 

3. I should have been a meteorologist. We were supposed to get the 6-8″ of snow. That’s it. Instead we got 7 hours of sleet followed by 2 inches of snow. Clearly not the same thing. Meteorologist is the only career where you can be wrong 90% of the time and still have a job. Just blame it on Mother Nature and shrug your shoulders. 

4. The dogs enjoyed the snow more than any of the people in the house. They ran, chased each other, rolled around, ate snow, and acted like little kids. They were hysterical to watch. 

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5. The only time I left my house was to pour hot water over the heater to defrost it. Yes we still do that. If you’re a long time reader then you probably remember the time we almost got arrested while defrosting our heater. If you haven’t read the story you should. It’s a classic. The neighbors still talk about it. 

6. The new neighbor came over to borrow some milk. She’s from the North and this is her first winter down here in the South. She did not heed the warnings to stock up on bread and milk as though preparing for a zombie apocalypse. Everything shuts down in the South when it snows. 

7. The neighbor took one look at me decked out head to toe in fleece and asked if I was taking my kids out to play in the snow. Nope, that’s how I dress every day from November until March. In fleece. Meanwhile she wore flip flops with toe-less socks. Clearly we are not the same species. 

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So the snow day was a fun break from reality. We made Crockpot Taco Chicken Chili, watched the football wild card games, and enjoyed snow cream in front of the fireplace. 

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