November 30, 2015

Holiday Bucket List on a Budget

Around the holidays, there are so many fun activities to do with the family. This season, our budget is tighter than before to spend on special events and outings. I know many families are in similar positions as well. To help us all out, I've created a holiday bucket list of 13 activities to do for free or just a few dollars. I'm so looking forward to doing each one with M2 and B so that we can create all kinds of awesome holiday memories together!

For simple tips on how to save on holiday spending, check out this post.

November 23, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

To spend more time with family and friends who are visiting from out of town, I'm taking this week off from the blog. You'll still see me some on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so be sure to follow me there (I'm such a social media addict). Before I go, I want to share a special Thanksgiving post with you.

happy, thanksgiving, happy thanksgiving

Last year on Thanksgiving, I was still pregnant with baby B and my mother was in town to celebrate with us. Measuring 4 weeks ahead, I was huge. Baby B is approaching his first birthday rapidly. I can't believe how fast the time has gone. The year before, we spent the holiday with A's family out of state. Usually, we don't travel for Thanksgiving. I'm glad we did that year. We didn't know at the time, but would be the last time we'd see his mother. She passed away soon after from cancer. Three years ago, I was pregnant with M2. Five years ago, A and I were celebrating our first Thanksgiving as a married couple with his brothers. Over 15 years ago, Thanksgiving would be the last time I saw my aunt before she passed away in December. My parents, sister and I enjoyed turkey and all the fixing with extended family as my aunt was too sick to leave her bed. My grandmother was born around Thanksgiving as well. So many things have happened around Thanksgiving for our family, including those special last memories of loved ones. It's a time of both celebration and remembrance for me. I give thanks for my family, friends and for all those who have touched my life. All leave a footprint on my heart.

This year, so much has changed for my family. I give thanks for having a diagnosis for M2. For getting through despite new financial strain. For all the progress that's been made in getting her help. For baby B growing so big and strong. For 5 years of marriage to A. For our home and all the other many blessings we have.

So much has changed in the world as well. We face uncertain times in our country and across the globe. I am thankful for all the military personnel, many of whom won't be home with their own families for the holiday, who fight to protect us all.

As for you, my dear readers, I wish you all a wonderful holiday with friends and family. I wish you a day of peace and celebration for all which you are grateful. I am thankful for you all.
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November 20, 2015

17 Tips to Avoid Holiday Overspending Regret

Holiday shopping is here again. The wondrous time of year when your wallet takes a big hit and your budget is be blown if you're not careful with holiday spending. For us this year, finances are tighter than ever before so I have to be even more aware of what is being spent. Being a savvy shopper can mean the difference between paying the mortgage and putting food on the table come January or sitting there on New Year's Day saying, "What have I done??" while looking at a mound of credit card bills. Here are 17 easy tips to help you avoid Holiday Overspending Regret Syndrome come the new year. In case you haven't seen it already, check out my Holiday Gift Guide for Kids that is all items $20 and under. It'll help you stay on budget this year, too.

November 16, 2015

Holiday Gift Guide for Kids for $20 and Under

Today's post is co-written by guest-poster Laurie.

It's that time of year again! No, not just groaning at having to let your belt out another notch. What to get the kids in your life without breaking the bank or the budget you set earlier in the year! It seems like there are so many pricey toys and electronics popping up all over commercials. Going to the store doesn't help us get ideas. For Laurie, it makes her more frustrated because her almost 5-year-old daughter still wants that overpriced Minnie Mouse shopping cart that she outgrew 2 years ago. For Melissa, she has a hard time deciding what to get because M2 isn't talking much and doesn't play with toys the same way most kids do. Both of us need to be very careful with spending this year, too, so we can't go crazy on overly expensive gifts.

If any of that sounds like you, here's something to help you out: A holiday gift guide for every age from baby through teens. It's sorted by age and includes a number of suggestions for each age. Even better, all the gifts $20 or under on Amazon. You don't even need to brave the stores, crowds and traffic to shop -- everything is delivered right to your door! Get free two-day shipping with Amazon Prime. Try Prime free for 30 days when you click here (affiliate).

Even if a particular item on the list doesn't sound like the perfect fit it's my hope it sparks the image of the perfect present to pop into your head.

Be sure to check out Melissa's tips on how to avoid Holiday Overspending Regret. Now, without further ado, here's The Stay-At-Home Life's 2015 Holiday Gift Guide for Kids. Happy gifting!

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November 12, 2015

Dear Self: You're Good Enough

Since M2's diagnosis, we've had so much going on around here. Life has recently taken another turn that's had us getting used to a new normal. At the advice of her current therapists, I started the process to get her an EDCD Medicaid waiver in order to get an in-home aide to help out with her. I struggled with the decision to get the waiver and an aide. I struggled with whether or not I was a good enough mom because I needed help with her.

November 8, 2015

Wading Through Motherhood Remembered

Earlier this week when I was visiting one of my mommy  blogger Facebook groups I came across a post I wasn't expecting to see. One of my fellow mommy bloggers, Melissa Matters from Wading Through Motherhood, passed away suddenly. She leaves behind a husband and two young children. Just a few days before, she had been blogging and posting on her Facebook page. In a matter of hours, she went from sharing cute pictures of her children to her children not having a mother any longer. Her kids didn't know that day that it was the last hug they'd get from mommy. Her husband didn't know it was the last time he'd hear her voice. Her death was completely unexpected and surprising. She wasn't old. She wasn't sick. There were no warning signs.

In remembrance of Melissa, in the Broadway tradition of dimming the lights, I'll be going dark here on the blog until Thursday. First, I want to honor her memory with a blog post.

November 5, 2015

Non-Messy Painting Crafts for Kids

Painting projects are a great way to make gifts for the holidays and to do fun every-day art. M2 has been using hers to make Christmas presents for her grandparents. She picked out a few wood frames at the craft store which she's painting herself. Once she's done, all I need to do is put in a picture of her and baby B to finish it off. The grandparents get an awesome personalized gift she made herself that they will love, she enjoyed making and that doesn't break the gift budget for me. For a fun fall craft, I let M2 paint a mini pumpkin and a wood cut out of a ghost as well.

M2 loves making these crafts and it helps her to learn colors and fine motor skills. But with a young kid paint can be a nightmare. It ends up all over the floor, clothes, the painter and sometimes even the walls. Basically, nothing in a 5-foot radius is safe when a young kid wields a paintbrush. With regular paint, I have to be right with her and watch every second or there is mess everywhere. Regular paints also lead to a long production of having to find brushes, plates to put the paint on, covering the table, covering M2, then cleaning the table, M2, brushes, and anything else the paint coats (most often the chair she sits in). She usually ends up staining her clothes as well. With the mini pumpkin, I'd been wanting to let her do it but dreaded having paint dripping off the pumpkin and all over everything. Kwik Stix has been an awesome solution to all these problems.

November 2, 2015

Marriage: The Changes 5 Years Bring

A and I are celebrating five years of marriage this month. Looking back, I am amazed at how much our lives have changed in that relatively short time. We've been through pretty much every life-changing event at least once since we got married.

We started out the life changes with our wedding at an old inn up in the mountains of Virginia. The autumn colors are beautiful there. The ceremony was outdoors overlooking water and all the gorgeous colors. Originally, we were thinking of getting married in May. That changed once we both realized that time of year is already hot and we both aren't fans of the heat. The only thing that had been keeping us from getting married in the fall was that we thought it would be too soon. We had also yet to find a wedding location that had all the charm, history, uniqueness and beauty we wanted.

I stumbled upon the venue while searching online and found that they would do most of the work for us. All we'd need to do is tell them what we like, help make some choices, test out cakes, pick a caterer, figure out special touches, and they'd take it from there. There was even an entire bed and breakfast for us, our officiant and our parents (on another floor!) to stay at for the weekend. How could we pass that up?! I've always adored historic locations and wanted an outdoor wedding with the reception indoors, so it was perfect!

Both A and I have the same favorite colors, purple and blue, so our color scheme was deep blue and purple to match up with fall. Hearts completed our theme. A water fountain provided added backdrop for the ceremony. Roaring fireplaces warded off the chill during the reception. Tons of music was incorporated for the whole day. If there was an opportunity to work in a song, I took it. And the cake was amazing! Our day was small and intimate with about 30 guests. Neither of us wanted something huge.

The next morning, we had a delicious breakfast back at the venue with family and close friends. After, we took off to finally have some time alone to relax after all the craziness that is a wedding. We honeymooned in a log cabin with a hot tub out in the middle of nature, toured wineries, spent a few more days at an old bed and breakfast buried in the woods, toured historic places, sat together by the fire, and just enjoyed our time together.

Two years later, after a long time of trying, M2 joined us. Life change number two! Her eventual autism spectrum disorder is another life change we're still coming to grips with. After she was born, we decided that we needed to make big changes in our lives. Where we were living no longer made us happy. The major metro area was sucking the life out of us with the cost of living, crowds, stress, jobs whose commute gave us little choice of where to live because they were so far apart, crazy traffic and stressful lifestyle. With all those combined, I realized I'd have little time to spend with M2 or even A as our work schedules didn't match up. M2 would rarely have her whole family together. We'd also be spending almost all my salary on daycare and living in a townhouse we hated. For us, it wasn't worth it.

Moving across the state and moving farther north were both considered. In the end, we came to the conclusion that the way to go was moving across the state to be out in the country where life was slower, the skies were open, views were majestic, traffic was less insane, crowds weren't boxing us in, we'd be able to own a home, M2 would have a yard to play in and we'd have plenty of family time.

The move led to the next major life change -- my career. I went from an office job as a writer and editor with a health care company to working for myself. Having the flexibility to set my own schedule and work around my life, rather than having my life around work, has been amazing. It's meant I get to see my children grow up and don't feel like I'm missing out on what's important in life.

That takes us to another life change -- Baby 2 joined our family almost a year ago. Seeing him grow has been amazing. He is so different from M2. Growing up, I had a sister and no brothers so my experience with boys is limited. I'm learning fast with this guy and loving every minute of it! He is an amazing little guy.

All of these changes have been stressful for us and for our marriage. Life changes have a habit of being like that. Not all the changes were happy ones, though. Almost a year before Baby B was born, we lost A's mom on Christmas. She was diagnosed with cancer just before Thanksgiving. Neither of us expected to lose her so quickly. Baby B is named in her honor. M2 likely won't remember her, but at least we have pictures of her with A's mom that she'll be able to see when she's older. This year, A's job changed unexpectedly which has created stress and uncertainty in other ways.

What all these changes have shown me the past five years of marriage is that you never truly know where life will take you. My life isn't the same as I'd imagined it'd be five years ago when I first took my wedding vows. Life and marriage won't always be easy. It won't always be fun. Both will give you great memories and experiences, if you allow it to happen. As any couple does, especially with so many major life events happening in a few years, we've had our ups and downs. No person or marriage is perfect. We've stuck together though, worked through the downs and enjoyed the ups. Marriage isn't about a fairy tale wedding. Heck, it's not a fairy tale at all. It's the day-to-day, year-to-year, everyday life and commitment to each other that makes a marriage what it is. I'm glad that A and I started this life together up in the mountains as the crisp fall air was around us and the trees showered down red, gold and brown leaves onto the lake glistening in front of us.

Through everything, I've learned how important it is to have someone you can count on taking this ride with you. Having someone else by your side makes all those ups and down easier and more enjoyable. It makes life richer. The future brighter and more exciting. I'm looking forward to many more years together, memories to create and anniversaries to celebrate.

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