Monday, October 31, 2011

A Rainy Halloween...

Well, we didnt have the best weather for trick or treating this evening, but we made the best of it!  This was Abbie's first trick or treating experience, and I didnt want to ruin it for her!

First thing was first... Abbie needed to get her costume on!  It took a while, but I finally got her costume on and I made sure that she would NOT be cold!  She was wearing layers upon layers!  Thick tights, a short sleeve onesie, a long sleeve shirt, her dress, and a sweater... she was probably about to melt!!
After getting her dress on... she started to twirl!  I think she thought she was a ballerina!  I guess she could have been, but when you added the crown and wand... she was a princess!!
We grabbed all of the necessities and headed for the door!  I snapped a few pictures of Abbie before I realized it was raining!!  Then we jumped in the car and headed to Brad & Meredith's house, which is literally around the corner, to trick or treat with Camryn & Lexi!

Abbie had spent the day playing with Camryn & Lexi, but was still VERY eager to go back!  When we got there, it was drizzling... when everyone was ready, and all the picture taking was done, it was RAINING!
I picked Abbie up, hooked her candy bucket on the umbrella handle, and headed to the first house!  Abbie seemed to enjoy the evening!  She didn't fuss (except the one time I hit her in the head with the umbrella) and every time I set her on a porch, she reached for her bucket... and happily received her candy!

 She told everybody that gave her candy "Tan Tou" or in English THANK YOU!  

We went to 7 houses, and by house number 7, every one was soaked... and ready to be finished!  So, we headed back to the house.

After getting back to our house, and taking off Abbie's costume, she sweetly said "night night"!  So, we got ready for bed, and she was asleep almost immediately!  

All in all, I think the evening was successful, especially since Abbie didn't melt down and seemed to be happy!  She had fun with her friends, whom didn't melt down either!!  I would call this a great Halloween, just slightly damp!

  My pretty little princess!

Abbie's candy take from her first trick or treating...

 - Jessica

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Preparing for Brady...

Well, it's official... we have a new nursery!  The reality of having another baby really hit me today.  I think I have said that about 5 times during this pregnancy, but there is no overlooking it now!  You would think my big ole belly, or feeling the baby kick, or finding out the baby was a he & giving him a name would have made it all very real... but nah!  It took furniture!!
When we found out we were moving to Richmond, everything happened VERY fast!  With all of the chaos, Derik and I discussed waiting to have another baby.  We both decided that if God hadn't decided we were ready for another baby at this point, then clearly it wasn't the right time!  So, we stopped trying, and went back to preventing!!  It seems however that we were a few days late on that decision!  We moved on May 1st, and we found out Jun 14 that we were pregnant.  It seems that even though we were preventing in May... we were already pregnant!
I don't know how most people are... but I am the kind of person that had checked out of the "baby" idea once we said we weren't trying anymore!  So, the shock of being pregnant hit me like a truck!  I was excited, but it has taken 24 weeks to create some reality!!
We bought Brady's furniture, and after everything was in his room... my nesting instinct really kicked into high gear!!  I put together his crib, and plugged in the baby monitor camera.  I put all of the newborn diapers in the drawer, and put the size 1 diapers in a box in the dresser.  I put all of his 3-6 month and 6-9 month clothes in the drawers, and found a spot for extra crib sheets.  When I was done and the room was "clean"... I couldn't move!  I just stood in the room, and the reality of it all sunk in!  We still have to paint the room, but it is a nursery now!
I remember how excited I was to get Abbie's room finished!  I would go in several times a day and rock in the glider, and just enjoy all of the work we put into her room!  I think I am going to take a stack of books into Brady's room and find a little rock & read time each day!
We have another ultrasound in a couple of days, and I am very excited!  I am looking forward to seeing our son again, and I know Derik is just as excited!
Abbie, however, is not as excited as we are!  She seemed more than confused about what the purpose of this room is!  No matter how much I explain it, I don't think she understands!  Hopefully that will get a little bit easier as Brady's arrival approaches!
I am looking forward to getting his room completed, but I am trying not to "rush" things like I did with Abbie's room!  Her room was 100% complete when I was 28 weeks pregnant!

All in all... I am feeling very blessed today!  I am so grateful for everything that God has provided our family with.  I am looking forward to seeing what he has in store for us in the future!

 - Jessica

 The glider, dresser, and a table I need to paint!  And a lamp that I made for Brady today!

 The changing table, and crib...

 Brady's crib... love it!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Family Pictures at Maymont

It has become a tradition in our family to take pictures just before the weather turns cold!  We love to take our family pictures outside, and with the leaves turning colors, and the weather about to change... it seemed like the right time to schedule them again!
We loved our family photographer so much (PROPS TO AMY HARRISON!!!), but unfortunately, she and her husband moved to Tennessee.  With our move to Richmond, that made for hard planning and added expenses to a photo shoot.  So, sadly we decided that we weren't going to be able to use Amy this time.  We scoured the Richmond area for photographers, and didn't find anyone that we could afford to hire.  Not to mention that we didn't know any of them or any of their work... which is always a "hold your breath" kind of thing!!
After a few depressing days of thinking that we wouldn't have any family pictures for 2011, I thought about asking someone if they wanted to do a photo exchange.  Derik's god sister and her husband live about 5 minutes from us, and I remembered that they had a great camera... so I decided to see if a photo exchange would be something they were interested in doing!  They were in, and boy are we glad they said yes!!
We followed Megan & Steve to Maymont park.  It was our first time visiting Maymont, and it will not be our last!  It was gorgeous, and Abbie enjoyed being outside VERY much!!  Steve led us to the Japenese Gardens which is a ideal location for pictures!  We were far from the only people with this idea!  There were people everywhere with photographers!!
We found several different locations and Steve snapped away!!  Abbie is absolutely in love with Megan, so Megan helped to make Abbie smile in as many pictures as possible!  We all know that the attention span of a 2 year old is close to that of the most ADD person on the planet, but Megan did a great job at keeping Abbie focused and happy!!
After taking the pictures, I found a program on my iPad that I could edit pictures with, and I started working on them!  I am so excited with the final product!!  Steve got some really great shots, and with the light edits... the definitely look professional!
A BIG thank you to Megan & Steve for doing this for us!!  We truly grateful!  Here are some of the pictures from the shoot... I just love them so much!

 - Jessica

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Financial Overhaul

After working so diligently on the Family Binder, I needed a new project!  A large glitch in our bill paying/financial process was brought to my attention, and of course my over organized-crafty self jumped on the challenge of making it better!  Derik and I spent the last 10 days or so really giving our budget and bill system a complete revamp!  After a few stressful days of trying to find a starting point, I found a system that is working well so far for our family.  I have gotten ideas from all over the place, and from many people... and I am sure that I am far from finished on this project!

Starting Point
First of all what I did... was look at all of the standard income we receive every month.  Part of our problem was that when we moved we knew Derik would be getting bonuses each month, and we were basing a budget off of money that wasnt a sure thing.  That is no longer the case!  Knowing what we could count on each month I felt was a STRONG starting point!

After we found a jump off point, I wrote down a list of EVERY bill that we have each month.  A few of the bills are on quarterly pay cycles, but I find it easier to divide them by 3, and move money into our savings for that each month.  After all of the monthly bills were written down (along with amounts, & dates due) we divded the total in half.  Derik gets paid twice each month, and paying bills must be done twice as well.  Since our rent is almost 45% of our income (I know that is too much, and I dont need anyone telling me that it should be 25-30% thank you!!)  we choose to split it and pay half from each pay check.  If we didnt do this, than an entire paycheck would go to rent.  So, we pull half of the rent from the 2nd paycheck in a month and move it to savings.  When the 1st paycheck of the next month arrives, we write a rent check for the full amount, and transfer the money back to our checking account!  Easy enough.  So, our rent is split in 2, therefore we can pay other bills.  We decided which bills were to be paid from each check, making the bill budget every 2 weeks the same amount.  This also allows us to work on a grocery and gas budget!

I created a Bill Binder, mainly to give everything a centralized location!

Envelopes, mailing labels, and stamps are all kept in the binder as well... which makes mailing out bills that have to be paid by check all the easier.

At the front of the binder I put the bill pay/paycheck schedule, so it CANT be missed!

I gave each bill its own tab in alphabetical order.
The first tab is for statements that have been received, but still need to be paid...
We file them with the confirmations behind its tab, after payment has been sent.

I used a spreadsheet that I found HERE, to create a running tab and payment information for EACH bill.

Now, either of us can sit down and pay bills, and know what the other has paid!  We simply check off the calendar when a bill has been paid and mark the date and confirmation info down on the info sheet at the front of each bill tab!  We file the statement and any confirmations behind each tab as well, just so that everything is all together!  Why didnt we do this sooner?!?!

I start each week by writing a meal plan.  I have tried to do it for a month, but I dont have the patience or that many meal ideas, so one week at a time is what I do!!  I use my handy dandy Eat Sheet that I found HERE to make my list!
 I write a grocery list, and go to the grocery store.  
This list is one I created based on my grocery store layout, and I laminated it, so I could use a Wet Erase pen and reuse it every week!
Generally speaking I try to buy things that will make more than one meal.  An example would be grilled cheese sandwiches.  A loaf of bread, and a pack of cheese will make several grilled cheese sandwiches, so I have lunch for a few days this week, and next!  So, I guess I am really making a meal plan 2 weeks at a time.  I only go to the grocery store once every other week.  I just make sure I get enough to make the meal multiple times.  Shopping from a grocery list makes a HUGE difference in what I buy, and how much the total is!  I also make a VERY big effort to only shop for groceries when I am on a grocery trip.  If I need toilet paper, paper towels, ziplocs, and aluminum foil... I make a seperate trip to Target to get the household goodies.  This keeps me from browsing what picture frames are on clearance, and the new Christmas display that they are setting up!!  ALWAYS STICK TO YOUR LIST!!!

Balancing the Checkbook
This was by far the weak spot for me and my husband.  Until we were married neither of us kept a check registry!  We made our money and we knew what we spent.  After the wedding, we still didnt keep a real registry.  I knew not to spend more than what I made, and Derik paid the bills!  I bought the things he wanted and needed, and he paid the bill stuff with his income.  Simple enough!  But, when I started staying home... we had no choice!  We had to keep a registry, so we could see what was being spent.  However, the problem with starting to do something after not doing it for 24 or 28 years is that it takes a little work!!  We never really found a system that worked for us!  We were both spending money and I didnt write down what he was spending.  He didnt write down what I was spending, and we never combined the books.  It was a MESS!!  This week... overhaul!  I was turned onto this awesome website this morning, which allows me to track EVERYTHING!  It is totally secure, and my husband can log in when he gets home... add his receipts, and it will do the work for us!  The best part is... if he is in California for a week, he can do this from there!  We dont have to worry about getting behind in anything.  Its really pretty genius.  The website is called PearBudget.  The first 30 days are free, and it is only about $30/year after that.  It is worth it for my budget and registry to be tracked and done for me!! 

In summary - this week was rough, and hard, and stressful!  But... worth it!  I am so glad that we now have a system that we both understand and we both can use.  I think this is not only beneficial for getting things set for our future, but for our marriage!  Another comforting part of doing this is knowing that if something happened to one of us tomorrow, the other wouldn't be lost as to what to do or how to pay the bills.  I have feared that for a long time... and now I have some peace of mind.
While this system may not be what your family needs, it has certainly made life easier in our house.  We will sit down once every 2 weeks and pay what needs to be paid, get on the same page, and look the budget over again.  If things get to a point of mass confusion again, then we will also implement the envelope system.  We both really hate carrying cash on our person though, so for now... we are sticking to our cards!