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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!



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 Stages Of A Halloween Hangover

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I love Halloween. I love seeing all the cute little kids dressed up begging for candy. It’s adorable. This year we went trick or treating with a big group again and it was a blast. There were about 22 of us- adults, teens, and kids- cruising the ‘hood for treats. Tyler declined to participate this year, he got home from football practice late and his knee hurt so he went to a friend’s party instead. Spoilsport. But we had a blast with our She-Wolf, Skeleton, and Kitty Witch. We walked approximately 3.4 miles around the neighborhood before coming home and consuming 3 pounds of candy in 12 minutes and proceeding to run, jump, hop, and skip around the house like kangaroos on speed for an hour before collapsing into sugar comas on the living room floor. Thus began the Halloween Hangover. 

Stage 1 (otherwise known as Why did we stay up so late): This stage began immediately when the alarm started blaring at 5:15am the morning after Halloween. It took 4 tries before I managed to turn it off because I could barely see through bleary, tired, eyes. Apparently 3 hours of sleep is not enough when you’re old.

Stage 2 (otherwise known as Who let me eat all these kit kats): Stage 1 flowed immediately into this stage when I rolled over and saw the mound of empty Kit Kat wrappers on the bedside table. Stage 2 is marked by shame. So much shame.

Stage 3 (otherwise known as How many Witches Brew shots did I do): The next stage started as soon as I tried to sit up and both my head and stomach protested violently. Those Witches Brew shots sure are good though. 

Stage 4 (otherwise known as Who is taking these kids to school): This would be the stage where Matt and I stared each other down in the kitchen having an entire argument with our eyes because our heads were pounding too bad to speak out loud. 

Stage 5 (otherwise known as Everyone go back to bed): The stage began when it became clear that neither one of us was going to win the stare down. Tyler caught a ride to school because he couldn’t miss football practice and the rest of us went back to bed for a few hours until we could wake up feeling more like human beings again.

We have successfully survived Halloween 2016. Go us. I don’t want to see another Kit Kat for a year.

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How I Manage Large Family Life

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We have a large family. 6 people live in our house full time, along with 3 dogs, and one kid that lives here part time. It takes a lot to keep this household running smoothly but it can be done. With proper preparation and smart planning, it can be done. 

1. Groceries. We eat a lot of food in this house. A lot of food. And I do not have the time or energy to go to the grocery store multiple times a week. I do one Sams Club trip at the beginning of the month. I do a smaller Walmart pick up order once a week. And I do a trip to Aldi’s every other week.

2. Learn to say no. I no longer feel the need to say yes to everything that is asked of me. I don’t feel even a twinge of guilt for saying no to volunteering at school, birthday parties for kids that my kids don’t even like, or events that we have no interest in attending.

3. Limit the commitments. A few years ago we established the “one activity per season” rule. I cannot do multiple activities for each child. And bonus- the kids don’t burn out.

4. Get up early. I am not a morning person. Not even a little bit, y’all. But I get up at 5:30 every morning because it gives me the extra time I need to get stuff done. I sit with my planner and see what is happening that day.

5. Find your perfect planner. I found one I love this year- the Plum Paper Planner. It’s amazing. I use it for everything in our life. It keeps track of everyone’s activities, practices, events, and games. It keeps track of due dates for important papers and projects. I use it to remind me of phone calls and appointments to make. If I lose it, I will cease to function.

6. Meal planning. I was doing a monthly meal plan but things kept coming up and meals kept getting pushed back. It just wasn’t working anymore. Now I meal plan once a week. I keep a running list of our favorite meals on an app to make it fast and easy to plan. Then I spend Friday afternoon doing our next week’s meal plan along with my Walmart pick up grocery order. It works!

7. Laundry. The bane of my existence, but I have a system now. Instead of the kids having individual laundry baskets in their rooms I put 2 baskets in the linen closet- one for light wash and one for dark wash. It saves me time not having to sort their laundry on wash day.

8. Create a command center. I converted a section of my second pantry into our command center. It holds the family calendar, the daily files, the kids school papers, the printer, and everything else we use on a regular basis.

9. Make a drop zone. I had to make a drop zone in order to stop the front foyer from being the drop zone. We have a whole lot of stuff coming into this house on a daily basis- football gear, book bags, lunch boxes, jackets….it’s just a lot of stuff. Creating a drop area has helped a lot.

10. Have a shared family email account. I don’t know why I didn’t do this sooner. I use the family email for football, basketball, soccer, dance, gymnastics, and school reminders. So every member of the family has access to all the information.

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6 Tips For Successful Family Dinners

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Something that has always been really important to me is regular family dinners. I had that growing up, Matt did too. So we’ve always tried to have family dinners in our house. When the kids were younger it was much much easier because they were home with me and the only persons schedule I was working around was Matt’s work schedule. Now with kids in school, activities, sports….it’s much harder. But I don’t want to give up on this important part of our family traditions. So I’ve made adjustments. Right now we eat late- usually around 7pm- to accommodate football practice so I give the younger kids a protein filled snack when they get home from school to hold them over until dinner. To maintain the kind of family dinners that I want for our kids I’ve set ground rules.

1. No technology at the table. The phones, tablets, and games are not allowed at the table. Period. They must be left in the bedrooms until dinner is over.

2. The television is turned off. There is nothing worse than trying to talk to your kids about their day only to have their eyes glued to a show on the television.

3. We don’t answer the door or the phones. Whatever it is can wait until after dinner is over.

4. Everybody must eat half of their dinner. I’m careful about portion sizes so there’s no reason why my kids can’t eat at least half of what they are served. I will never ever make them clean their plates, I don’t believe in that. But I do want to make sure they are eating enough good food.

5. Nobody leaves the table until dinner is over. Some of our best conversations happen after some of us are done chewing. It’s amazing how much a teenager will talk once they’ve consumed most of their meal. 

6. Everyone has a job. The little kids take turns setting the table, serving plates, clearing the table. Maia and Tyler take turns loading the dishwasher and wiping the table. Matt puts away all the leftovers. I cook so I’m exempt from clean up. 

These basic guidelines have changed our family dinners and that time of day is something I look forward to every single day. It even makes me want to cook dinner, which is a miracle!

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