Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Out of Control

Mornings like today, I have made all necessary arrangements for kids, filled up my cash envelopes, put on my mascara, and drank an extra cup of coffee.

Today I was taking Oscar to his pediatrician 40 minutes away for his 15 month check-up and, today, of all days, he really needed to go to the doctor.  He has been spiking a fever on and off for a couple of days and last night was in hysterical pain. 

My plans for Lucy after school fell through, the weather was getting bad, and I had a baby who cried most of last night and all of this morning.  I was selfishly feeling sorry for myself.  I was sad that I wouldn't get to Starbucks, get to spend some leisurely time at Costco, and spend my Gap cash before Oscar's appointment.  I wouldn't even get a quiet day at home.  I have a baby who wants to be held, and then put down, and then held again....crying and screaming the entire time.  I felt bad for Oscar, and worse for myself.

I felt selfish and that everything was out of my control.  The past couple of weeks my days have been perfectly planned out, hour by hour, to be especially productive with a perfect mix of work outs, Ruffle Couture, and pick up and drop off arranged.  Between the weather, traveling and perpetual colds, my days have been unraveling and by the end of the day I feel exhausted from putting out fires.  I have to change, rearrange and cancel constantly, and justify my decisions or schedule changes to more and more people every day.  January gets to me and today I was, once again, reminded why.

I tend to start feeling sorry for myself when things don't go my way, and on the inside I feel like my three year old daughter when she throws outward tantrums.  I cry on the inside, "Well now I won't get to work out today!  ...Oscar didn't nap long enough for me to finish this batch of scarves.  ...I just need two more minutes of silence to respond to this bride's email.  ...Of course my prescription isn't ready. ....I am yet again defeated by this laundry."

Typically, I let my emotions spiral out of control, and I let them run the rest of my day and I decide to stay defeated.  I fester my resentment towards my family and sometimes my friends, but usually towards myself.  (Side note -- I am very aware of how small and trivial this all sounds.  Honestly, I do!)  Today, as I started to feel like I had lost all control of my day again (after days turning into weeks of falling victim to this tundra climate causing school delays, sick days, snow days, and weather I can't take my kids out in) a light bulb went on and I was reminded that I don't have any control.  I just need patience and I just need to get through today.  I need to pick my head up and be the best I can be, but I can't do that alone.

I usually shy away from outward "I am a Christian!" social media.  There are many reasons for this.  It makes me very vulnerable and I open myself up to criticism whether it be appearing self righteous, unintelligent or annoying.  That is the honest truth.  And if I'm going to be transparent, I can't avoid or shy away from sharing what I experienced today.  I stopped and prayed, and asked for prayers.  I prayed for wisdom in making the right decisions for every one of my family members and myself today.  I prayed for patience as I try to comfort an unappeasable baby.  I prayed for humility to show me that this life is not all about me and my schedule and my wants and my own comfort. 

This may sound so silly and small to some, but there was nothing silly or small about how much I was lifted up today.  I was lifted up by friends who are helpful enough to watch my girls, generous enough to send me a thoughtful gift of encouragement, and insightful enough to share, well, insight.


 One friend shared this --
 
God is giving you an opportunity to trust him with whatever is causing the impatience. Give your plan up to the plan that God has for you. He will bless you. Praying for the wisdom will show you how to do it. I am praying for you.  He is also making you more like Jesus. That is not always easy, and that takes time.
 
Today I was reminded, again, that His plan is greater than my plan. 
 
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future"
Jeremiah 29:11
 
 
 
 


 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

So Long Sweet Summer

I have never been a fan of Summer.  The heat, the humidity, the frizzy hair, the sweat.... 

And really, last Summer was probably the worst.  I was that 'couch mom' who tried to dictate from the couch, in all of my largeness.  "Girls, can you be more quiet, please?  Clara, don't do that!  Lucy, be nice to your sister!  Girls, do not make me get off this couch!!" 

Does anyone remember how hot last Summer was?  Okay, now pretend you are carrying an 8-10 lb fetus inside your body...get the picture? 


Even after being in a much better state of mind (and about 40-50 lbs less) this past Spring, I was sad to see the school year end.  I knew it meant no structured schedule, the girls no longer nap in the afternoons, no time to work on Ruffle Couture, no time to blog, and I might as well forget about having a picked-up house.  I also knew Summer was just one season closer to Kindergarten.

I won't lie.  I cry about my baby going to Kindergarten about....every day.  Some weeks have been better than others.  Some mornings I stare at her and start tearing up.  Some days all three of my kids look at me like I am legitimately crazy because little things will set me off.  Like when Lucy says, "Mommy, what are you going to do without your big helper all day?" with a big smile, after she picks something up off the floor for her baby brother. 

Am I excited for her?  Absolutely.  Ultimately, I know Lucy is going to kick Kindergarten's ass.  She is ready to sing, color and read her little heart out.  I am just selfish and want her all to myself. 

 
Little Miss Clara is headed off to her first day of preschool. She is going to make friends beyond her sister, and have to speak for herself.  She is going to be asked questions, and get to answer them herself.  Fearless, giggly, spirited Clara is going to be in a classroom.  Mind = blown.

 
And much to my dismay, they start school on the same day.    This is Clara's first time being away from me, really, so September 3rd is what I like to call The Perfect Storm.  (I swear if that is the day Oscar starts walking, I might just cry all day)



So this Summer.  Somehow we made it until August and only one time did I hear the phrase, "Mommy, I'm bored".  Somehow I stayed in a cabin...twice.  Somehow I found two ticks on my body and didn't spontaneously combust.  Somehow, Oscar started crawling, even after I tried to pick him up every time he would start to move on his own.  Somehow, Clara melted my heart with a trophy she made me out of Legos for "being the best mommy" even after I gave a long, drawn out lecture about how "EVERYTHING HAS A HOME, YOU GUYS!  WHY IS THIS ON THE FLOOR?!  MOMMY IS NOT YOUR MAID!!!".  Somehow, on the 4th of July, while watching fireworks on a pontoon, Lucy cried tears of joy for the first time in her life, and thanked everyone around for the "best day ever". 


 

Even as much as it stressed me out, I took all three kids to the pool and the fair more than once.  I bought sidewalk chalk and even used it.  I didn't hide all of the bubbles from the girls.  I, Anna, mowed the lawn for the first time in my life! Okay, so it was only half the lawn, and just the one time.  It was still progress.  This hater-of-the-heat has enjoyed this season to the fullest. 

 
This Summer has been pretty much (dare I say it?)  awesome.  I am sad to see it go. 


Good thing I love the Fall.

Monday, July 8, 2013

...and the winner is...

Dianne!  Thank you for entering the giveaway!
Check your inbox for an email from me so I can ship you your new earrings.
 
Thank you to all who entered.  Use your Dot Dollars now to receive $25 off your $50 orders!  You can still shop my party here!



Sunday, June 30, 2013

Stella & Dot Giveaway





The first Stella & Dot trunk show I attended was five years ago, when Lu was a baby.  I've been hooked ever since.

While they have a wonderful selection of dainty, understated pieces, I have always been a huge fan of the big, colorful chunky statement pieces.  Really, are you even surprised?  Loud jewelry for this lady's loud personality...

There are no stylists that live here where I do, but I have seen more and more friends who are starting with this booming business.  It's awesome.  What could be better than setting up jewelry and chatting over coffee (or even better, wine...)?  I think the best part is that there is no official presentation.  Guests can come and go as they please, and women just get to touch away at the merchandise.  I put on a lot of jewelry yesterday when I hosted a show at my house.  It was simply the best.  To shop, you should be able to click on any text or photos on this blog post. 

AND THE BAGS!!!  Oh the bags....


 

I loved the bags from what I had seen on the website and in the catalog, but once you look through one of these bags and feel the fabrics, you really can't beat it.  Order one.  Now.  Do it.  (No really, have you ordered one yet?)

I really can't write about Stella and Dot without mentioning the little girl jewelry.  It is awesome.  Lucy and Clara received some as a gift over two years ago from my bestie, Alison, and they still wear and love them.  I think our favorite is the pearl bracelet with the pink flower.  So cute with everything.  I think my chickadees are going to be getting some charm necklaces for Christmas this year.  Good thing they can't read Mama's blog...yet....

 
 


So, again, in an effort  to support other women in their home-based business as a WAHM myself, I wanted to open my party to the blogosphere and buy something to give away to a reader.  Today I am giving away a pair of these adorable swallow stud earrings.


To be eligible, you need to "comment" with the following info;

1. Your favorite Stella and Dot piece that you already own and/or the one thing that you cannot live without from their line.

2.  Your email address so I can contact you if when you win :)

The contest will close on Wednesday, July 3rd at 11:59 PM CST.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

"Freedommmmm"

For those of you who are Dave Ramsey fans, you will know what it means when I say that tonight Tony and I have completed baby step #2.

That's right.  With the exception of our mortgage, we are debt free.

The girls overheard me on the phone this afternoon telling someone that Tony and I are making our last payment tonight, so for a good chunk of the afternoon, they were running around the house screaming "WE'RE DEBT FREE!", a scream they have been rehearsing for months.

You have to understand that for over the past year of their lives these girls have heard countless "when we're debt free" responses to requests at the store, as well as "debt free screams" from Financial Peace Plaza via The Dave Ramsey Show podcasts.  So when my little L and C heard these words today, they were in shock and disbelief.  Lucy asked me about fifty times if I was serious and "Mommy, we are really going to be debt free today?!".  We are truly changing our family tree tonight.  The girls have gotten so used to being told "no" at the store that they have really matured by learning the hard lesson of delayed gratification...and so have Tony and I.
(I have to admit I am a little nervous that now they are going to think we can buy anything they want now that we don't have that debt excuse...)

We could have taken care of it a couple of days ago, but I insisted that Tony wait until our Sunday night budget meeting to click that little payment button on the computer. I hope I am not setting myself up for an anticlimactic two seconds.

In the beginning, when we started, Tony and I were so on fire that we were for sure going to be one of those couples that drives down to Nashville to announce our newly found financial freedom over the radio, but have decided against it now.  Since I have listened to enough Dave Ramsey Show to predict his response to all of the callers, I am going to go ahead and save us all the hassle, time and, last but not least, money, and share with you what my conversation with Dave Ramsey would look like.  I debated sharing this at all, as I didn't want to look like I am boasting, but decided that this isn't some fortune we stumbled upon or luck we had struck.  This is something we worked hard at and were made fun of several times for. 

So here's my conversation with my old pal, Dave.

(Naturally I would dominate the entire conversation, inviting Tony to join in only at the very end for the actual scream.)

"We have here Anna and Tony from Rochester, Minnesota.  Hey, guys, WHAT'S UP?!"

"Hi, Dave!  Wow, I am so glad to be talking to you.  We are here to do our debt free scream."

"My goodness, you guys drove all the way here from Minnesota? How far is that?"

"Oh, Dave, it's really far.  Our kids are exhausted from the drive and we dropped the transmission on my Acura MDX because it has so many gosh darn miles, dontchaknow.  But that's okay, because we paid it off last year.  Mwahahahaha"

Dave chuckles along...obviously....he is so proud of and charmed by me...

"So how much have y'all paid off?"

"From the very beginning, Dave, just over $36,000 between my car, credit cards and student loans."

"Good work!  Making what kind of money at that time?"

"Well, Dave, I would rather not say as I am sharing this on my blog a lot of people we know listen to your show, but we are making more than when we started this whole thing between a couple of promotions for my kick-ass husband over here and my little but growing business that I work on while I stay home with our babies."

"Are you telling me you guys got a raise in the middle of a recession?!  How weird are you?!  You know no one is supposed to get a raise in a recession!  How in the world did you manage that?
(I would like to add here, what Dave calls the "sarcasm font")

Insert another chummy laugh shared by all three of us.

"Well, we worked hard and it paid off."

"Well done.  So how long did it take you guys to do this?"

"It has been just over a year since we have gotten serious, but we paid mostly just our credit cards off about two years ago before falling off the bandwagon and having to start over again."

"And what caused you guys to get pissed off enough last year to pay off all your debt?"

"We were having a lot of money fights at the time and it just didn't seem right.  We were like everyone else, buying what we wanted when we wanted, feeling like we had nothing to show for it and we just didn't want to be like everyone else anymore.  We didn't want to be handing out all of our money before we even got it in our hands.  We have always said that the last thing we want to do is look up in a couple of years and still just be average.  We also talk often about wanting to give more to many different causes from overseas to friends close by who need help and we knew we couldn't do that until we had our shit act together."

"Ah, yes, so you decided to live like no one else so later you can give like no one else."

"That's right, Dave, and now thanks to you we are through the hardest part and excited to start saving up our emergency fund so we can tackle paying off our house in a couple years and really start to enjoy all of this work we have been doing."

"That's awesome.  You guys are great.  Wow.  Good work.  Alright.  Well done.  Well, let's count it down.  Tony and Anna with their three beautiful children all the way from Minnesota for their debt free scream, let's hear it guys!"

"3....2.....1.....WE'RE DEBT FREEEEEEE!!" says my entire family in unison
 (yes, even Oscar knows what to say after hearing this a million times from the womb)

Insert applause, music, and the Braveheart "FREEEEDOMMMMMMM" clip interrupted by Dave's "HA! HA! HA!  Well done!  Well done!  Great job you guys!  That's awesome!"



Thank you for taking the time to humor me and help me feel like this is a little more exciting than it may feel without actually speaking to Dave Ramsey myself ;)

So there it is.  Several friends have pointed out that if I can do it, anyone can do it.  This girl who had debt collectors calling before I graduated from high school has come a long way.  Then again, I hadn't heard of Dave Ramsey....or more importantly, my amazing husband Tony.

Thanks for sticking with me, Tony, and letting me complain about not being able to buy new shoes or get my nails done or go out as often as I wanted without vocalizing how annoying I was, but instead listening and nodding, like you always do, followed by your wise responses and gentle reminders that we are in for bigger and better things in the long haul.  You are the best.  I even thought so when I would roll my eyes at you for quoting my bestie, Dave, saying things like "Anna, you have to live like no one else, so later you can live like no one else".

I know I have said it before, but I will say it again.  I always thought Tony and I were meant to be together and complimented each other so well, blah, blah, blah, mushy, mushy, mush, but I never know how much better we could be.  Okay, I will stop with my moving overly emotional, dramatic testimonial and gushing over my husband.  He is probably super embarrassed now.  Sorry, honey!



Anyway...

We're debt free.

:)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Scentsy Party and Giveaway Winner

The winner of my giveaway, chosen at random, is my friend's mom, Laura!  (I like to think Laura is also my friend, not just my friend's Mom).



Her comment was also the best.  If you know her husband, Tom, you might have laughed as hard as I did when I read this :)


One of these little cuties will be on its way to you very soon, just in time for the holidays!!





Thank you for everyone who participated in the giveaway.  Please feel free to shop online by clicking here.  The party is only open for about another week so make sure to order in time for Christmas!

I should also let you know that your order ships when you submit it, and you do not have to wait for the party to close!  Thank you, Scentsy!!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Financial Peace

From some of the things I shared about in my last post, I had a friend contact me today asking about Total Money Makeover.  She was probably just asking for the name of the book or a small synopsis, but I ended up writing to her just short of a novel.  I get so excited about sharing on the subject that I don't even know where to start...or where to end.

Money has (until recently) been the biggest contention between Tony and I. We both grew up very differently, and it's no secret that I have never been a saver. I have always been absolutely horrible with money and Tony is very very frugal...to a fault.

So we read this book. It's called "The Total Money Makeover".   It has seriously changed our lives. I found out that Dave Ramsey, who wrote the book, has several other books, a huge following, and a daily radio show which I personally listen to as podcasts every single day.

The basic premise of the book is to build wealth with your biggest wealth building tool, which is your income.  To save money or invest it, you need to first get rid of all debt (ALL of it. even the house eventually) and to never go into debt again. If you read the book it is very persuasive when it shows you how much money you save when you never borrow. (For example, with today's average car payment invested in a good growth stock mutual fund would be worth over 5 million dollars in 30 years!!) It also has seven baby steps to building wealth with budgeting forms.

Before this, Tony and I attempted to make a budget only once and it was before Lucy was born just to try to decide if Tony's job offer was enough to buy our house. We had no idea what we were doing.  I think we budgeted around $20/month for diapers.  How cute and naive of us.  Needless to say, I wish we would have read this book a long time ago, especially before getting married.  They say money problems are the number one cause of divorce.  I believe it.

Without sharing too much about our income, I will say our household income has always been well above the average Americans, but we had no idea where it was going and it never seemed to be enough. I became convinced to finally commit to the "plan" when Tony presented some math to me.  He said with some work and a written budget, on his salary alone, never making a dollar more, never getting a raise or a promotion,  (whch he has done both -- what a stud!) we could be millionaires long before retirement.   That got my attention.

Wanting to be worth millions is different than actually working towards it.  As I have mentioned before, we I failed miserably the first time we attempted this.  Tony was on board and I had one foot in and one foot out. I hated the idea of sitting down and writing out a budget.  That sounded like an exhausting fight, considering the very subject of money started an argument ending in resentment toward each other.  We took bits and pieces of Dave's wisdom and chose the parts we wanted to do and did away with the rest.  Basically we tried to "outsmart" the system. 

Tony took all of our credit cards (including my precious Target REDcard) and froze them.  Literally.  They were in a plastic cup full of water in our freezer right next to the ice cream.  Because of our lack of communication and budget, a year ago we decided that until our lump sum bonus came in at the holidays, I would put all of our Christmas expenses on our credit card.  So I thawed it out and the thing was hardly dried off before I single handedly racked up $4,000 in credit card debt.  Somehow that whole time I thought I was being "frugal" too.

I was so sure Tony was going to divorce me when that bill came in the mail.  I opened it before he got home and tried to think of how I could justify this.  I couldn't even justify it to myself.  After all, there was no hiding it this time like I had done with so many previous purchases.  He was the only one who knew our online log ins and when and how to pay our bills.  I was clueless how much our bills even were each month.  I just spent until Tony told me to slow down each month.  We were still not communicating when it came to our finances.

It became clear our way wasn't working.  I finally admitted that I am not smarter than this Dave Ramsey character who has clearly has it together.  I wanted financial peace, everything at Target and a happy husband.  So far I have two out of three.  Talk to me in a few years ;)

The first time we sat down and wrote out a budget together I cried. It sucked. I won't lie. But to be honest, I quickly felt like I had gotten a raise because we had a very specific amount of money set for everything.  I no longer had to justify anything I bought.  Each dollar was spent on paper at the beginning of the month so I didn't need to feel any guilt about my lattes because there was a set amount for that, or buying shoes because there was a set amount for that...

It may be hard to believe, but our Sunday night "budget meetings" are something I now look forward to.  Tony and I have gotten much better at communicating in general because of it.  We sit down, just the two of us, and spend every dollar on paper.  I never thought sticking to a budget would be something I enjoy.  It all boils down to being intentional with our money and we are finally telling our money to go instead of wondering where it went. 

I will say that again --  We are finally telling our money where to go instead of wondering where it went.

As of today, we are still in the sucky "baby step 2" of the program but feel closer than ever. It's amazing to me how we have been cutting our budget and so focused on clearing all of our debts, which is the hardest part, and we are both here and smiling as we do it.  I always thought Tony and I were great together, but I had no idea how better our relationship could be.  We are on the same team and unified. When we feel sorry for ourselves having to say "no" to purchases, we just start dreaming again.  We talk about the causes we will eventually give to, the vacations we will take our family on and laugh about how many maids we are going to hire when we are millionaires (Tony says two, I am pushing for three).

Anyway, we have never gone through Financial Peace University, but it's a 9-week long class that is once a week and offered all over.  People rave about it, but the book was convincing enough for us.   There is an accountability I think people get from the class that is very valuable.  I would recommend the class to anyone whose spouse will not take the time to read the book (note: I was that spouse).  Some day I think we would like to be coordinators and host the class here in our town. 

I share this story, not because Dave Ramsey endorses or pays me to (but really, maybe he should...) but because of the transformation it has made in my life, in my marriage, and for our family.  Also, so you, my friends, can stop judging me when I have to say "no" to things or my not-yet-fixed dent in my Acura ;).  (That pole came out of nowhere, I swear!!)  On that note, the Total Money Makeover book is on sale right now online for only $10.  I think at Target, it costs over $22 (look at that -- saving money already!).

Our current goal is to be debt free by this coming Spring, but it looks like we may be able to do it later this Winter!  At one point we told Lucy that when this is all done maybe we can go to see Dave Ramsey and yell at his radio studio that "WE'RE DEBT FREE!", and she asks about it almost daily....so it looks like a trip to Nashville may be in our near future :)