Sunday, May 26, 2013

My First Stitch Fix!

On Friday, I couldn't wait to get the mail because my very first Stitch Fix would be arriving!  

So what exactly is Stitch Fix?  Stitch Fix is a personal stylist clothing site.  Over the last few years my wardrobe has really dwindled down and I have very little clothing that I enjoy wearing.  I also have no style! This is where Stitch Fix steps in.  #1, they help me branch out a bit and try new things that I wouldn't necessarily pick off a rack.  They also use the styling profile to help me figure out what will and won't look good with my body type.  

New clothing for myself is not typically something that I put in to our budget and this clothing is more department store pricing when I tend to stick to a very tight budget when I do shop for myself.  This is a fun little splurge for me and not something I will probably be able to do all the time, but from time to time it is a lot of fun to try out!

When I joined Stitch Fix (there is a short waitlist, but they don't make you wait too long) I filled out an extensive style profile so they could get to know me just a little bit.  After I filled out the profile, I scheduled when I wanted my first Fix to arrive! I paid a $20 "Styling Fee" which also acts as a credit if I choose to keep anything they sent me.  At this point, their stylist took over.  She reviewed my profile and picked out 5 items that she thought I may like and shipped them to me. Once I received the box, I then had 3 days to try things on and decide what I did or did not want to keep.  They also send this handy postage paid bag for me to return what I did not like!  If however, you do decide to keep everything in the box you get a 25% discount!

So what did I get?

Mystree Norah Lace Panel Collared Tank:  Sent Back

This was the first piece I pulled out of the box and I was a little nervous about the remaining items after this. It is not my style at all!  Way too country!  The good news is that they ask for my feedback on each item they sent so hopefully we can avoid having anything like this put in the box next time :)

DownEast Hazel Sheer Flutter Sleeve Top:  Keeper!

This one I really liked!  It really fits the style I am going for!  It can be dressed up or casual and it fit perfectly!  Very happy with this piece and bonus it was the cheapest item in the box!

Another feature I really like is that every item includes a styling guide that shows ideas for how to wear each outfit!

LoveMarks Gillian Split Back Top: On the Fence

Now I am on the fence with this one and fortunately still have a day to debate it.  I really like the top and how it feels on.  I also like that it helps camouflage some of my "problem areas". However, with that being said, I am not sure it is very flattering.  My lovely husband said it made me look pregnant - so take that how you want to :)

Steven Floral Print Hi-Lo Dress: On the Fence

This one is more than likely going back.  I actually really do like it and think it overall looks nice on me. However it is the most expensive piece that came and I am not sure I wear dresses enough to justify the cost.  

Marjorie Baer Singular Spear Earrings: Sending Back

I'm not so sure about if I will want to get accessories in the future.  I wear very simple jewelry but I also want to branch out my style a bit. There was nothing particularly wrong with these earrings beyond that they are a bit higher priced than I would typically spend on earrings. So they are out of this one.

My first impression of Stitch Fix was very good. Overall, I feel like they picked out nice things for me and I know that based on my responses to things they will be able to tailor the next Fix even more towards where I want my style to be!

If you might be interested in trying out Stitch Fix yourself, I am eligible for referral credits and would appreciate any help in getting me my next Fix :)  Here is my referral link Amy's Referral Link HERE

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Run Baby Run

Well, in 100 days - this will be us:

If that reality isn't enough to get my behind in gear, well then I don't know what will!

But for real, we are nearing the 1 year mark since we started running and I am pretty darn happy with where we're at!  We even took the whole month of December and April off, and we're still going strong!

I never ever thought I would be able to run. I'm not good at it and since an injury from basketball in high school my knees have never worked the same or had any desire to allow me to run.  We started running when I was about 2 months post partum after my 2nd pregnancy in a very short time frame, the second one with COMPLETE inactivity as I was on bedrest.  I say all of this because, if I can get running - anyone can!

At first, I really really hated it.  I was no good at it and could barely run slowly for 30 seconds.  My knees were in agony and I had to take things very, very slow. I even wondered if I would be able to run but with some conditioning and really dumb looking knee straps I can run pain free now! My husband on the other hand bounced back quickly from inactivity to his quick and steady high school track status.  Running comes naturally and easily for him, and I was completely jealous!  But I pressed on as I had the goal to be able to run a 5K.  Now I know that is not a very lofty goal and many can do that easily with hardly any training. But for me, it has been a challenge.  In September, I ran my first 5K.  I did terrible and it left me really wanting another try.  In March, I conquered my 2nd 5K and was much happier with my performance although I aspire to do better in July!

I had mentally prepared for the 5K in Disneyland and looked forward to being in good shape and finishing in a great time.  But in January I discovered that the 5K was  no more and had been replaced with a 10K.  Again, for most runners that would be no problem - it's not that far. But for me, that is going to be a good challenge.  I never wanted to run that far and yet here I am in the midst of training and challenging myself!

Almost a year in and I went from running 30 seconds at a time to now being able to run for an hour! Went from not even being able to run a half a lap on a track to now being able to run 4 miles easily and sometimes even 5!  My goal is to reach 7 miles here really soon and then start working on getting faster. Seriously, I never ever EVER thought I would be able to even THINK about running 7 miles - I was very happy with the idea of 3. But now 3 is a piece of cake and 7 is within site!

It has been a great and challenging journey but well worth it.  Dear I even say that I look forward to running and feel out of sorts if we can't get out there and run.

*A quick little update on Peter, He's doing pretty good. He's working on half marathon training.  He could have easily completed that in the fall but then suffered a knee injury that put him out of commision all of December and he has had to slow down ever since.  He did run a 15K at a good pace in March (to get a qualifying time for his half) but that resulted in a set back to his knee too.  So he has been slowly getting back in the swing of things.  He is still really fast if that knee would let him run!  He's taking it slow and steady but I know he will do great! *

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Pool Removal

Well, it took awhile to get schedules all coordinated but the day finally came where we could get that big 10 ft deep pool taken out of our backyard!

We have had a lot of opinions about what we should do with the pool but for numerous reasons we felt removing the pool was the best choice for our family. I admit, in the moment it was a little sad to see such an expensive pool get demolished but now that it is gone there are no regrets and while the yard is a mess, it will look awesome once we are able to get it finished!  

Here are some pictures of demolition day! 

And for those who want to see it in action (I found it pretty fascinating) and have about 10 minutes to burn, here is some video footage of the process:

(for email subscribers you may need to click on the link HERE)

Friday, May 17, 2013

Mark This Date on the Calendar!

Today we are celebrating at our house!  We have reached another huge milestone in our life, and this one to reach Financial Freedom!

4 1/2 years ago, Peter and I read the book Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey.  We were still young in our marriage and wanted to take steps early on to reach huge financial goals in the end.  We quickly learned that we had already made some mistakes along the way, but we were young and could still correct them and learn from them!  I know without a doubt we would not have been able for me to be a stay at home mother without reading this book!

Today, May 17th 2013 we became DEBT FREE!  Debt is bondage and while we will still have a mortgage for many years to come, every other debt is now GONE!  No car payments and no student loans!  We are debt free and we intend to spend the rest of our lives this way!

So, for those of you who have no idea who Dave Ramsey is or what in the world the Total Money Makeover is.  It can be broken down in to 7 basic "baby steps".

In January of 2009 Peter and I started our journey with baby step #1:

1) Put $1000 into savings -

This step is supposed to help you get a little bit of breathing room and control before really digging in to the program. This one was pretty easy because we already had that stashed away. So we instantly moved on to:

2) Pay off all debts. Starting with the smallest and moving to the largest.  

We quickly moved on to this step and spent all of 2009 there. We even had a slight detour as we had an adoption to pay towards but we spent that first 1 1/2 years attacking our debt! This step helps to release the bondage that debt holds over us.

3) Put 3-6 Months Expenses into savings

This was when we shifted gears a little bit. When we became a one income family having already suffered through Peter being laid off once. We decided it was more important for us to pause the paying off the debt and stash some money away into savings.  It took us about 2 years to get our savings fully funded. All-in-all that really wasn't too bad.  Dave has said that this is the most important step to the wives in the program because it gives us security that when the rainy day comes, we have something to fall back on.  I completely agree with Dave on this one.  This has been a biggy for me!

After reaching that goal in May of 2012, we went back to attack the last debt and here we are today with that baby WIPED OUT!  Pretty stinkin exciting day!  And the best thing is that as much as it stunk to finish step 3 and then have to go BACK and hit #2 again, today we get to skip right on over step #3 and move on to step #4!

So where does the journey lead from here?

4) Invest 15% of household income into Retirement which will allow us build our future!
5) College Funds for the Kids to help build our legacy!
6) Pay off your mortgage to stand completely free of all financial bondage
7) Build Wealth in Rental's and Give Generously!

Obviously, looking ahead we have a long ways to go, but I don't want to forget as far as we have come either!  Accomplishing these first 3 steps is HUGE for setting us on the right path for the future and what a relief we feel today!  I told Peter tonight on our celebration date that I feel we have set ourselves up for some great success in our 30's (even though we still have a few years left in these 20's!)  I had no idea how nice it would feel to be debt free AND to have built our savings.  It feels like a huge relief!

It is onward and upward to build Peter's retirement from here! We've done the calculations and research and as long as we can get hit that full 15% number within the next 3 years we will be on target to reach Peter's ultimate retirement age and I have to say - he wants to retire young so we can have fun and enjoy life which sounds great to me!

Here's the debt free hubby on our hot date with his favorite dessert!  

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Post 5 of 30

In my series devoted to writing posts for my kids, I bring you Part 5:

What are the 5 things that make me most happy right now:

This one is a bit easy and obvious:

1) First and foremost I must be predictable and answer with God :)  God has blessed my life so much and even if he hadn't and things turned south tomorrow, I still have so much to thank him for and I never want to forget all he has done for us. There are so many exciting things happening in our lives and I just know that we could not have accomplished any of this on our own power. Living life in the center of God's will is the only place that true happiness is found.

2) My marriage and life with your daddy!  I am in a happy and solid marriage.  Having a partner who you enjoy being with and sharing life together is a very good and happy place to be.  Being married to your best friend is a wonderful feeling that leaves you with something to look forward to everyday. I get just as excited as you kids get to see Daddy walk in the door at night because I enjoy getting to spend even just a few hours with him everyday.

3) Malachi!  My silly little boy! You bring me happiness.  You are full of more life than I ever thought a person could possess!  You are spunky, hyper, loud and energetic. All things that I am not!  Our differences bring me a lot of joy.  I love how you live life to the fullest!

4) Elias!  You are so much like your father!  And that really is (mostly) a good thing :)  You have a very sweet and kind spirit.  You can melt me in to a million little pieces.  Your cuddles and insistence that "mommy do it" for everything makes me kind of happy! I know you will grow too fast and not need me or want me to do everything or be there for everything. So I am kind of soaking this up!

5)  Sabrina!  My little princess!  Nothing can describe the bond that already exists between mommy and daughter. You have the most beautiful light-up-a-room smile and that brings me so much happiness.  I love your personality and how genuinely happy you are!  I also love that you are a complete mommy's girl. Let's stay like that forever, okay?!

And just in case I was supposed to literally come up with 5 THINGS that bring me happiness. Here they are:

1)  My new house!  I seriously LOVE this new house.  It is big, which leaves us with a lot more room to continue to grow our family. That makes me happy! It has pretty much every feature in a house I could ever want.  Big, open rooms with lots of windows!  An amazing kitchen that has more than enough space for every gadget I own.  A huge master suite!  A big yard in a nice neighborhood!  I could go on and on, but I think I have done that already.  This is the home that finally really feels like "home"!  I never need to move again!

2) Disneyland.  I really enjoy Disneyland

3) Books and chocolate while soaking in my jacuzzi tub.

4) Babies! I really enjoy babies which is becoming a bit of a problem ;)

5) My bed! It is so comfy cozy and I enjoy sleep so much but never seem to get enough of it. So I really look forward to falling in to bed at night!

Monday, May 13, 2013

My Winnings

I could be known as a "couponer" and "deal getter".  I have a routine where I check daily deal sites to see if there are any online deal specials and I can be found stockpiling anything from groceries to buying the kids clothes 2 sizes too big when they are on clearance to get the best deal! 

As I have mentioned on the blog before, I also do a lot of surveys and make a little bit of extra spending money in this way. It is an easy way for me to kill a little bit of time and there is no surprise when Peter walks in the door in the evening and finds random white bottles or boxes with just a few random numbers etched across them. We like to call these "in home trials."  This is when I get paid a bit of an extra sum of money to pretty much be a test dummy. We've tested random things such as cereal, candy bars, crackers, shampoo, baby lotion, diapers - lots of fun things!  

For the most part, my husband puts up with it all, but he has been known to make fun of me for my daily sweepstakes entries.  Yes, I am the crazy person who will enter to win just about anything and there sure are some random things out there to win! Most of the time, it is a waste of my energy, but sometimes I do get lucky and win candy bars or boxes of cereal.  I even won toy package back around Christmas! 

I do have to brag on our most recent date night.  Through my sweepstakes entries I won 2 free movie tickets.  So we took off to see Iron Man 3.  When we got there our Regal Card earned a free small popcorn.  I also printed a $3 off a large drink coupon so my frugalness resulted in a movie date costing us $2!!!  Oh yes dear husband, my silliness does sometimes pay off :)

It is always fun to win, even if it is something small. But I know someday I'm going to win one of those Disney vacations or $10,000. Just wait and see ;)

So far, my biggest winning was a $100 HSN Gift Card

And I thought I would share my post bizarre winner too - a tape dispensing stiletto shoe :) 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Post 4 of 30

To my children:

Today's post is supposed to take me back about 11 years to revisit myself at the age of 16 and tell you 10 things I wish I could tell myself about that age.  The reason I haven't posted this section of my posts to you children is because this post has not come easily to me.  I pretty much could not come up with 10 things (at least that I am willing to share publicly) that I want to tell you. I have every intention as you approach those years of your life to take you out and sit down and share my heart and my life experiences with you.

So, while I will not share with you 10 specific things, I will share some things that I wish I could have shared with my 16 year old self.

First thing I want to share, is that being a teenager was not easy for me.  I didn't really enjoy that time of my life very much.  I found it difficult and awkward and was really just ready to get through school and move on with the rest of my life.  As I have hit these mid to late 20's, I feel like I have reached that age that I spend most of my teens and early twenties waiting for!  I finally feel as old as my spirit has always been!

I wish I would have told my self that life would be okay.  That it didn't matter that I wasn't driving yet, or that I struggled with math, or that I didn't have a lot of friends. That I still had a few rough years ahead but then life would take an amazing turn, sooner than I ever imagined possible. I wish I could tell myself that I was not forgotten by God, but loved so much and that He had amazing things planned for my life.

I wish I could have given myself a glimpse of my life today.   That in just 2 short years from the age of 16 I would meet my prince charming and that he really would sweep me off my feet and that at the age of 20 I would walk down the aisle with the love of my life!  There were times I seriously wondered if anyone would or could love me just the way I was.  I wish I could show myself just a moment of what I was waiting for and how loved I am and how amazing true love really is!  And as much as I dreamed that I would grow up and marry that boy I had a crush on at 15 or 16 or even 17, it wouldn't be any of those guys. God had someone so much greater planned for me.  However, I may want to give myself a little bit of a heads up to pay a bit closer attention to that boy that sat behind me on the first day of English class my senior year of high school :)  Although, it all works out in the end.

I wish I could show myself my beautiful African son laying in his bed right now, sound asleep and that even before the age of 16, much closer to 14 God planted a desire in my heart for adoption.  I wish I could give myself a little bit of warning that even though life wouldn't turn out the way I had planned it, it would end up so much better!  That I could warn myself that in about 8 years from that day at 16, there would be a few years filled with worry, heartache, and waiting. But through those hard days, I never needed to doubt or stress because the best days of my life were ahead.  Not only would I get to walk in the doors of an orphanage and pick up that precious little boy that was planted in my heart long ago, but I would also get to experience that blessing and desire to carry a baby within my body not just once, but twice!  I remember at the age of 16, not only did I dream about having 5 children, but I also dreamed that I would have two sons and then a daughter and that very dream would come true.  I would not end up naming my son's Benjamin and Jonathan but I would name my daughter Sabrina Fair,just like I had planned!

I may try and remind myself to keep myself always firmly planted in God.  When my life has been focused on God and staying within His will - things have always worked out perfectly. I may need to send myself a little bit of a reminder that God is always looking out for me and that He has a perfect plan for my life.  Stay on course, read my Bible and always pray.  Even when God felt far away and I felt forgotten. That was never the case. He was always there, working behind the scenes making his beautiful plan for my life come together.

I may have told myself to not stress about making the choice to not go to college.  That I would still land my dream job someday.  Don't stress about the people you met in high school and were "too good" for you, because in 10 years you won't even remember their name.  Just relax a little bit and enjoy life.

Overall, I can't really think of any regrets in my life.  I'm not too sure I would too many things.  There were some bad and really bad days leading up to where I am now, but it has all worked out okay in the end.   I feel like my life has become a dream come true and has exceeded any expectations I could have had for it at the age of 16. I never had grand dreams for my life - I just wanted to grow up and become a wife and mother and well, those dreams have come true!  I have found my happiness with this life and I feel so sooo blessed!  

Saturday, May 4, 2013

A Little Bit of This

Life has kept on trucking over here. We continue to get more and more settled in to our new home. We still have lots of finishing pieces to take care of but hopefully soon I can do a room by room look of the finished product. Who am I kidding, it won't be soon ;)

Today is a very special day for our family.  On May 4th 2010 I learned I had become a mother for the very first time.  I will never forget seeing my phone ring with our agency's phone number. My heart started pounding and sure enough she said "I have a baby boy I want to talk to you about!"  It was such a long anticipated moment in time that it still thrills me to just think of how high I was flying that day!  

This is the very first picture I ever saw of my sweet little boy! He couldn't have been any cuter or more perfect! 

We signed the boys up for summer bowling this year. It allows them to bowl everyday this summer (if we wanted to) for free!  It was alsp a great lesson in patience  (for all of us) as they learned they had to take turns.  It is something we hope to take full advantage of this summer as a family!

We are having an unusually warm May so far!  I really am loving this spring and as soon as we get that pool in our backyard removed we are going to have lots of fun outside in our new big backyard! We had the most amazing sunset on our way home from bowling and I had to snap a few pictures since we just so happened to have our camera and were driving along the countryside!  I really do love so much about Oregon!

And last, but not least. In all the hustle and bustle of birthday's I forgot to share Sabrina's First Year of Life video on the blog.  We have made each of the kids a special video to remember that amazing first year by.

(For those accessing the blog from email, you may need to click on this link to see the video - Sabrina's First Year