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The 10-Minute Company’s Coming Shuffle

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Do y’all get those phone calls? The ones from people who say stuff like “we’re in the neighborhood, mind if we drop by for a few minutes?” The ones that you always respond to with “sure, we’d love to see you. Come on over.” And then you look around your house and panic. We live in the South where drop in visits are the norm. Sometimes people don’t even give the courtesy of a phone call. You just hear a knock at the door and surprise!

 

I hate this.

 

I’m more of a call and we’ll schedule something a couple of weeks out so I have time to de-funk my house kind of a person. But this is the South. And tradition rules. So we paste a big happy smile on our faces, open the door wide, and say “come on in, don’t mind the mess” while dying a little bit inside as our guests have to step over 18 pairs of shoes at the door and a 4 foot tall lego sculpture. If we’re lucky we remembered to start the dishwasher so there are clean cups and if we’re really lucky we have some chilled sweet tea in the fridge, or even lemonade in a pinch. Some days it’s just water in a glass with a few ice cubes and a splash of lemon juice. And whatever cookies my kids haven’t already consumed tossed on a plate and presented with a sheepish smile and a shrug. 

 

Have I mentioned that I hate this? Because I really hate this.

 

I am an introvert by nature. I like being in my house with my family and not having to entertain people and be on my best behavior. See, I have no internal filter. Whatever pops into my mind usually flows out of my mouth. So being around people for an extended amount of time is exhausting for me as I am constantly on guard not to say something inappropriate. What can I say? My brain is a challenge. 

 

Anyway, I’ve lost the point of this post which should surprise nobody. The 10 minute company’s coming shuffle. For those times when our guests give us an advanced warning of the impending arrival I have devised a system for making the house look marginally presentable. It takes all the kids pitching in to make it work but we can have the whole downstairs looking surface clean in 10 minutes.

 

I assigned each kid an area. Zoey is in charge of throwing all the shoes, jackets, bags, sports equipment, and dog toys into the front closet and closing the door. Mase is in charge of taking one of the small laundry baskets I bought for just this occasion and gathering up everything on the floor in the playroom. Maia does the same in the family room, kitchen & nook. Then they take the full baskets upstairs and hide them in one of the bedrooms. Ty is in charge of the kitchen- which means the mail and paper clutter gets swept into the silverware drawer, the dirty dishes get hidden in the oven, and the counters get swiped quickly with the clorox spray. Matt takes the bathroom- straighten the hand towels, close the laundry area curtains, wipe down the sink, and clean the toilet. I walk around and do anything else- including spraying Febreeze in every room and running the vacuum. 

 

It takes 10 minutes to make the downstairs presentable. It’s a team effort. 

 

And for your information, there is no amount of Febreeze that can eliminate the odor of burned plastic that happens later that night when the guests have left and you turn on the oven to cook onion rings without remembering to take out the dirty dishes first. That smell lingers for days.

 

I hate this. 

 

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5 Tips For A Budget Friendly Christmas

Christmas is a big deal in my house. It always has been- starting when I was a kid. My parents went all out for Christmas despite not having a whole lot of discretionary cash. They never went into debt to do Christmas because my mom was the master of stretching a penny into a dollar. I love Christmas- the whole season, not just the day. I love singing Christmas carols, seeing all the houses in our neighborhood decorated with bright lights, drinking hot cocoa in front of a twinkling Christmas tree while we watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation….I just love it all. 

 

But with 5 kids, Christmas gets expensive. Not to mention- 3 siblings, 3 spouses, 3  nephews, 2 sets of parents….that’s not even counting teachers, therapists, coaches. Christmas has the potential to be a budget buster in my house. We adopted a few guidelines to help us be able to have a fantastic Christmas and stay within our budget. I refuse to ever put Christmas on a credit card. I will not go into debt to provide Christmas presents. This means I need to plan and budget all year long, not just starting on December 1st.

 

 

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1. Make your list and check it twice. I start my Christmas list on January 1st. Every time my kids finds something they really want, I add it to the list. As they lose interest in things through out the year, I cross those items off. When it gets down to around mid-October, I narrow the list down even further. I don’t finalize my lists until the hot toy catalogs come out and the kids browse through them with shiny eyes and circle things they might want. By the second week of November my lists are usually done.

 

2. Shop the pre-Black Friday sales. A lot of stores and amazon have some great sales in the weeks leading up to Black Friday. I don’t wait for Black Friday sales, mainly because I don’t do Black Friday. I shop online but I do not venture out into the stores to fight the hoarde of angry masses. Make sure you know which stores will price match and take advantage of that. If your kids are asking for really hot toys, take advantage of the free layaway at Toys R Us or Wal*Mart. 

 

3. Cut your gift list. In our family some years we all buy for the kids but not the adults. At Thanksgiving, the adults will all draw names to see who they will buy for that year. It’s just too expensive to buy for 8 kids plus all the adults. Not to mention it takes off a lot of stress. I just have to find that one perfect gift for one person instead of a perfect gift for each person. This year we are doing it a little differently. We’re buying gifts based on gender. I’m buying for my sister and my 2 sisters-in-law. Matt is buying for his 2 brothers and his brother-in-law. We always buy for our parents so that hasn’t changed. Work out a system with your extended family that works for all of you. 

 

4. Set your budget early and save all year. I have a separate savings account and every month I add a set amount to it. I always plan to have $1,000 by December to pay for Christmas. I rarely use it all and whatever is leftover gets transferred into our vacation account. I have the money transferred into the savings account automatically and since I never see it, I don’t miss it. Doing it this way makes sure the funds are there for Christmas and I don’t have to scramble to come up with the money at the last minute.

 

5. Be realistic about how many gifts your kids need. I have 5 kids. I cannot do 10 gifts per kid. I just can’t do it, and they don’t need that much. It’s just overkill. I want my kids to know the meaning of Christmas and I want them to know it is better to give than to receive. My kids get 4 presents each and then they always get a gift from my parents, my sister, my in-laws, and a joint gift from Matt’s brothers. So they end up with around 8 gifts each and truthfully even that is too much. I try to put a lot of thought into which gifts we get for the kids and make sure to pick things they will truly love.

 

As my kids get older their gift lists get more expensive. I think when the last one learns about Santa we will re-evaluate  how we do gifts and change up the system. This year Ty asked for a Samsung Tablet, an iPhone 5, an xBox One, a pair of Beats headphones, and a dirt bike. Clearly he thinks he was adopted into the Rockefeller family. Ha! Someone needs a dose of reality. 

 

How do you keep your Christmas gift list under budget?

 
Shared with Craft-o-Maniac Monday, Motivate Me Monday, Monday Funday, Made By You Monday, Make the Scene Monday, Give Me The Goods, Project Inspired, Mix It Up Monday, Show Me What Ya Got, Anti-Procrastination Tuesday, From Dream to Reality, One Project At A Time, Tutorials and Tips, Tuesday Treasures, Whatever Goes Wednesday, The Inspiration Exchange, Thursdays Are Your Days, The Party Bunch, Link Party Palooza, Strut Your Stuff Saturday, That DIY Party, Inspire Me Please, Work It Wednesday, Nifty Thrifty Tuesday, Take a Look Tuesday, Live Laugh Linky, The Weekly Creative, Wow Us Wednesday

 
 

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A Super Sweet Hello Kitty Birthday Party Using Free Printables

Zoey turned 3 this past weekend and she desperately wanted a Hello Kitty birthday party. Of course, she didn’t decide on a Hello Kitty party theme until 2 days before her party. Up until then she had been adamant on an ice cream party. I was totally prepared for an ice cream party. A Hello Kitty party? Not so much. So I had to scramble to throw together a Hello Kitty birthday party fit for a 3 year old princess.

I was lucky enough to find the Hello Kitty plates and napkins on clearance at Target. I got the last pack of plates and they were only $1.48! They had no cups left but I did manage to score the Hello Kitty Happy Birthday banner for $2! That was enough for me to work with as far as decorations were concerned.

I picked up the pink tablecloth for $0.97 at Wal*Mart as well as the pink and white streamers and pink balloons, all for $0.97 each. I can handle $4 for the bulk of my decorations! To add a little extra princess flair, I made a couple of pink and white glitter tissue paper pom-pom puffs. They literally took 5 minutes to make and hang up. The tissue paper was $0.97 for each color so another $2 spent on decoration. When I say budget friendly, I mean budget FRIENDLY!

I scoured the internet and found some amazing free printables by some super talented ladies. I found fabulous cupcake toppers, a printable banner (that I forgot to hang up), and so much more.

How adorable are those cupcake toppers? I found them HERE. I printed them out on cardstock, cut them out, and just taped them to toothpicks. Easy, fast, and free! I didn’t send invitations because it mostly a family party but in addition to the cupcake toppers I also found free invitations, cupcake wrappers, a printable favor box and so much more at that same site! I found an adorable free printable banner HERE but I totally forgot to hang it up.

Zoey had a great party. Both sets of grandparents were able to make it as well as my sister and her family. Good food, lots of family, tons of laughter, and a very happy little 3 year old princess. I’d say our day was a success- just check out the fun party pictures.

I can’t believe my baby is 3!

Shared with Craft-o-Maniac Monday, Motivate Me Monday, Monday Funday, Made By You Monday, Make the Scene Monday, Give Me The Goods, Project Inspired, Mix It Up Monday, Show Me What Ya Got, Anti-Procrastination Tuesday, From Dream to Reality, One Project At A Time, Tutorials and Tips, Tuesday Treasures, Whatever Goes Wednesday, The Inspiration Exchange, Thursdays Are Your Days, Transformation Thursday, The 36th Party, Pity Party, Link Party Palooza, Strut Your Stuff Saturday, That DIY Party, Inspire Me Please, Terrific Tuesdays, Work It Wednesday, Nifty Thrifty Tuesday, Take a Look Tuesday, Live Laugh Linky, The Weekly Creative, Wow Us Wednesday, Life Inspired



Back-To-School Shopping Re-Vamped {Online & Via Apps}

It gets harder and harder to stick to my back-to-school shopping budget every year. The older the kids get the more opinions they have and the more expensive the clothes they choose. I find myself relying more and more on online sales to do the bulk of my back-to-school shopping. There are always coupon codes available to use and most stores now offer free shipping if you meet a certain total. I find myself doing a whole lot of shopping on my iPhone while I’m waiting at kid’s practices or activities. Multi-tasking, y’all- it’s called multi-tasking. I wanted to share a few of my favorite places to find great deals online and via apps on my iPhone.

Zulily– I do all my Zulily shopping via the app. I find so many great deals- recently I got each kid a pair of Toms when they were on super sale! I also bought adorable boots for the girls for $8.99 each! I find a lot of stuff for myself too.

H&M– Did you know H&M now offers online shopping? It just started and I might have shed a tear or two when I found out. The closest store to me is 2 hours away until next year when they plan to open one in my city. I used to make 2-4 trips a year to stock up. Now I use the app for shopping- it’s really easy to navigate and they have the same selection as online. I love to buy H&M for the kids- the clothes last forever and wash so well. Plus they are super cute and stylish. I just got each kid a pair of Converse-style sneakers for $9.99 each. Can’t beat that!
Children’s Place– This is another staple in our house. I buy a ton of basics from Children’s Place- jeans, leggings, shirts, etc. They almost always have a coupon code you can use either online or via the app. I recently bought 3 pairs of big girl jeans, 2 big girl tops, 3 big boy jeans, 4 big boy tops, 3 little girl jeans, and 2 little girl tops for under $100. Now that’s a deal!
Old Navy– I mainly shop the sales at Old Navy. I buy jeans for myself and Ty when they go on sale and I like a lot of their tops for myself.
Kohl’s– Oh how I love Kohl’s. I save so much money when I shop there. Matt insists my logic is flawed because I’m not saving money if I’m spending money. Clearly he does not get it. I have a Kohl’s card so I get a lot of 30% off coupons that I stack with free shipping and I stock up. I buy a lot of stuff for myself and Zoey. 
Crazy8– I find so many cute pieces here for the kids. I shop the sales and wait for clearance. I recently bought 12 shirts for next summer for the kids for a total of $40.

Those are my go to stores when I’m looking for deals without sacrificing quality. I never pay for shipping and I almost always have a coupon code. I get a ton of coupon codes via email and if I don’t have one I can usually find one by searching online. The convenience of being able to shop via the app just can’t be beat for me right now when it seems like half my life is spent in the car waiting for my kids!

Where do you find the best deals for back-to-school clothes?

**Don’t forget to enter for a chance to win a $100 SpaFinder gift card HERE.



How To Have A Successful Trip To The Pool

We are lucky that our pool is within walking distance from our house. But that also means I can’t take along a bunch of stuff- only what we can carry. I used to take a wagon but it just got to be too much to drag a wagon and keep track of 3 kids while walking to the pool. We spend a lot of time at the pool during the summer- 4 to 5 afternoons and sometimes even twice a day when we go swimming again after dinner. I’ve discovered what works for me so I can make sure we all have a good time and stay safe while swimming.

Tips For a Successful Trip to the Pool

1. Pack more than one pool bag. It’s too difficult to find stuff when you cram everything into one huge bag. I take 3 bags. The main pool bag holds all the towels, the extra swim diapers, the sunscreen, my cellphone, and the pool pass. The second bag holds all the pool toys. It’s nylon mesh so all the water just drips right out and lets the toys dry so they don’t get moldy. The third bag is actually an insulated cooler bag. I use it for all the drinks and snacks. It’s easy to find what I need quickly because I know exactly where it is and which bag it’s inside. On the way to the pool I carry the main bag and the cooler bag, Mase carries the pool toys, and Maia carries the floats. Everyone has a job.

2. Buy quality floats and vests. Especially if you have a couple of non-swimmers or not-so-strong swimmers. I don’t worry about Maia, she tends to stay where she can stand up even though she can swim. But Mase wears a life vest- a real, Coast Guard Approved Life Vest. He can move all over the pool and I don’t have to worry. He likes to jump in and do cannonballs and I never have to worry that he will get in trouble. Zoey is at the stage where she likes to sit on the stairs and splash around so I need to be able to sit with her. Mase wearing a life vest means I don’t have to split my attention the whole time. I’m going to get Zoey a Puddle Jumper this weekend and see if I can coax her into the pool.

3. Use the spray sunscreen. I used to spend what seemed like 10 minutes per child spreading on thick sunscreen. Have you ever tried to rub in that thick kids sunscreen on a squirming toddler? It’s like dressing a wet and slippery octopus. So I switched to the spray sunscreen. I also buy the one that is made for wet skin so I don’t have to wait for them to dry at the pool before reapplying it.

4. Time your breaks. Our pool has adult swim for the last 10 minutes of every hour. I take advantage of this 10 minute break. Everyone goes to the potty, everyone gets a drink and a snack, everyone gets sunscreen reapplied. Then we are good for another hour and I don’t have to worry about leaving a kid unsupervised in the pool when one has to potty. Our pool has lifeguards but there are a lot of kids and I like to have eyes on my kids while they swim.

5. Label your pool toys. Or else you’ll be buying new ones every few weeks. I learned this lesson years ago. Every pool toy and float has our initials on it. I also keep a count of how many/what type of pool toys we have in our bag. It makes it easier to keep track of what is ours.

6. Know the pool schedule. Our pool opens at 10am and closes at 9pm. You might think that the pool is less busy right at opening but not at our pool. There are a lot of moms with young kids that go to the pool right at opening, which means they are packed on to the stairs like sardines and the kiddie pool looks like a daycare center. But by noon, they have all gone home to have lunch and take naps. So we eat an early lunch and head to the pool around 12ish. It’s usually pretty empty- only 4 or 5 families are there. We spend 2-3 hours swimming and then head home before the afternoon rush shows up. Some nights we also go back to the pool  with Matt around 6 after dinner. It’s typically pretty empty until around 7:30 when the teens show up.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you’re taking kids to the pool but it can be really fun for everyone if done right. It just takes planning and organization. Plus, kids who play in the pool for a few hours sleep really well! Consider that a perk.