Happy New Year’s!

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We have reached the end, my friends!  Today we close the book on 2013!  At midnight tonight we will welcome the new year!  We will make resolutions and vow to make 2014 the best yet!  I will most likely ring in the new year with some good sleep. I am not one to stay up late, and after being in a car for over 6 hours, I highly doubt I will stay up to see midnight.

My parents and I are in Illinois to visit the newest member of our family!  My brother and his wife welcomed a baby girl yesterday afternoon.  We arrived this evening and got to spend some good time snuggling with the cutie and catching up with my brother and sister-in-law.  What a perfect way to ring in the new year, with a brand new little baby!

I am so excited to get to take photos of the sweet new girl!  I haven’t done a newborn shoot for a while, so I am looking forward to doing this session.  I also love working with my family, as they are awesome!

I do miss my darling little girl, Hubs, and pups.  I told Hubs to make sure to send me lots of pictures today, and this is what he sent:

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They started out cute, and then he decided that since I didn’t specify what I wanted him to send pictures of, he would just take pictures of everything.  What a funny man!

He ended the day by sending me these two cute ones:

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I sure do miss my little family!  It is going to be a long time until I get to see them again on Friday!

I hope you have a great New Year’s Eve!  Get ready to start those resolutions!

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Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

When doing our budget for January, I was stoked.  Hubs had received a bonus in December, I had received retro pay, and we had both received raises for the upcoming year.  I figured we were set!  We would easily be able to reach some savings goals, and possibly even expand our budget and get a few things that we had been wanting.  I still think it is possible, but for some reason things seem to always happen.

ImageEnter Bandit.  This little guy is one expensive dog.  He was a rescue and is a mutt, but we love him dearly.  We have paid so much to the vet because of this guy.  He seems to have chronic ear infections which leave him super itchy and inevitably bloody.  This time, though, it’s not an ear infection we are facing.  

See the little red area on his snout?  That is a tumor, apparently.  It has been growing the past week and a half or so, and it was finally big enough that we figured we needed to get him to the vet.  I took him in today, and the vet said it was a tumor.  He wasn’t able to tell what kind or if it is cancerous or not, but it needs to be removed.  They wrote an estimate of what it would cost to have it removed (and also recommended him have his teeth cleaned).  Their estimate was around $500.  This included about $200 for his teeth to be cleaned.  After discussing it with Hubs, we have decided to move forward with having the growth removed and sent to pathology to find out what it is.  We are not going to get his teeth cleaned though… he is a dog.  We have the option of not having it sent to pathology for testing, but we want to either have peace of mind that it is nothing or have a time line of how things will progress if it is something more.  

We are lucky enough to have the money ready to pay for this, even though our vet does offer payment plans.  It’s a hit to the savings, which is something I would like to not occur again.  I feel as though we get things squared around, and then we are always hit with something that drains our savings.  It is getting really old.  I just want a few months of boring nothing happening.  

Here are some expenses I foresee in 2014 that we need to make sure to think about when we spend and save:

New car for me (Mine is 11, almost 12 years old and is very small)
New computer for me (Mine is about 10 years old and hanging on by a thread.  I need it for my photography business.)
Christmas (We learned this year how expensive it is with a child)
Travelling for Christmas (This includes a hotel room for multiple days)
Birthday party for Miss C
Emergency Fund (We need to get this built up in case something happens to something in the house)
Treadmill (This isn’t a need, but it is something Hubs and I would like to invest in)

I am sure I am forgetting something or there will be things that I don’t foresee (like more vet bills), but this is an expensive list.  Maybe I need to put this list in my wallet, so I can see it each time I try to buy something that is not a need.  At this point we will just continue to live on the same budget even though we both got raises.  The extra money will go into our savings account.  Maybe half way through the year we can reevaluate where that money is put, but for now it needs to be in savings.  Any unexpected money or our tax refund will also be going straight into savings.  I have a feeling 2014 will be a tight year for us.

I guess we will continue to plug along and get used to not being rich. 

Do you have any big expenses coming up in 2014?  What are you doing to make sure you are ready for them?

Monday To-Do

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The beautiful sunrise this morning.  One thing I love about being a morning person is being able to see the sunrises.  They are just so beautiful.  (I wish I could see them without all the other houses in the way, but I can only do so much.)

Today is going to be a super busy day!  I feel like I have a million things on my to do list, and I hope I can get through them all.  Some of them are things that I have to do, and some are things that I am doing for enjoyment.  Here is my list:

Shower/get dressed
Take Bandit to the vet
Go to the post office
Pack for trip to Illinois (both personal things and things for the photo shoot)
Have lunch with a dear friend
Take down Christmas decorations
Laundry (so I have enough clean clothes for my trip)
Pick up living room (do this evening after Miss C is in bed)
Make dinner (spaghetti)

It doesn’t look like much, but some of the things I have to do will take a long time… like taking down Christmas decorations and laundry will take all day.  Packing is going to be interesting, considering I am packing everything for a newborn session (which always has more to pack than a regular session) and everything I am going to need for 4 days. I hope we can all still fit in the car once I get all my stuff in there.  🙂

Of course my biggest focus is being by the phone at all times so I know the moment our beautiful niece is born!  I am so excited!

Do you have a busy Monday planned or do you get to take it easy all day?

Sunday Night Chit-Chat

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This is the state of the living room at the end of every evening.  It is very hard to get motivated enough to pick everything up because I know it will look like this tomorrow as soon as little missy is awake.  The clutter makes me crazy though!

Here is my chit-chat for this evening.  If you want to join in, go check out the original post at Carla’s blog, comment here, or post on your blog and leave a link!

What are you…

Reading?  I am still working on the book Let It Go.  I usually read before bed, but I have been going to bed late and am usually too tired to read anything before I go to sleep.

Listening to? Just the tv.  Every once in a while I can hear Miss C’s noise machine.

Watching? We were watching America’s Funniest Home Videos (which I probably laughed at more than an adult should have).  Now we are watching some show that Hubs like.

Cooking/Baking?  Tonight we had tacos for dinner.  Tomorrow is spaghetti.  I also baked some blueberry muffins for the little one.  She loves them!

Happy you accomplished this week? I am happy to have my resolutions down and out there for everyone to help keep me accountable.  I am happy that I have been able to blog regularly and keep up with it.

Looking forward to next week? I am actually headed out of town on Tuesday to go see my brother and his wife and their new baby (who should be arriving tomorrow)!  I am so sad to be leaving Miss C and Hubs for four days, but I am excited to complete my first photo shoot of 2014 (yay for squishy newborns!)  I am just so excited to meet our little niece!

Thankful for today?  Little missy’s giggles.  I just love hearing her laugh and giggle!  She just makes me so happy!

Bonus Question:  What is the best Christmas gift you received this year? I didn’t get many gifts this year (as Hubs and I don’t really exchange them).  I did get 4 books from my in-laws, which I had asked for.  I also got a necklace and a white balance lens cover from my sister.  I had asked for both of them, so I am so excited I got them!  Here is the necklace that I absolutely love!

ImageIt’s not the best photo, but I adore it!

Now it’s your turn!

Simple Sunday

I am sitting here sipping my hot chocolate while Miss C babbles to herself in her crib.  She faked me out this morning.  She went to bed late last night and slept in (for her) until 7:00.  We ate a muffin, played, and then she got cranky and started rubbing her eyes.  I took those signs as her telling me that she needed to go back to sleep.  I put her in her crib, she laid there quietly and still for a while.  Perfect, I thought!  I have this parenting thing figured out.  Yeah right.  Her babbling and yelling “da da da da da” jolted me back to reality.  No matter what I think I know about this girl, she proves me wrong.

I mean, look at this face… Does that not say ornery or what?

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Anyways, our Sunday is going to be very relaxed.  Once I am done blogging here, I need to get dressed out of my sweats, and then we are headed to the grocery store.  I have my menu plan, grocery list, and stack of coupons ready to go.  I have found that if I do not bring a grocery list, then who knows what kind of things I will come home with.

Lately I have been playing around with the idea of starting a price tracking book.  I always go to the same store and seem to buy the same things over and over.  Maybe if I can track prices, I will figure out when they have the lowest prices available and stock up on things we use all the time.  Now that we have a pantry (and an entire basement to store surplus items) I think it is a possibility.  I think it would be an easy way to save some money.

Well, someone’s “da da das” have turned to whimpering and whining.  I had better get going!

Any big plans for your Sunday?

2013 in Review

If you have been a reader for a while, you know that each year starts with lofty goals and resolutions.  By the beginning of February, I have lost focus and end up setting new goals each month.  It is a vicious cycle, and each year, as with this one, I am going to promise myself that this will be the year I really stick to my resolutions!

Yesterday I posted my resolutions, and I can’t believe I got over 90 views on my blog!  That may not seem like much to some bloggers who receive thousands of views, but I usually average around 40-50 views.  I don’t know where all of the traffic came from, but if you are new around here, stop by any time, and feel free to let me know how you found me!

A new year is not just about looking forward at what is coming, but also reflecting on where we have been.  2013 was my first full year as a mommy.  I became a mommy in October of 2012, but this past year proved that I could survive mommyhood for a full 12 months in a row.  2013 has had its ups and downs.  We have celebrated with friends and family, as well as grieved with friends and family.  So sit back with a cup of joe (or hot chocolate in my case) and enjoy some reminiscing.

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Here is a recap of how the year ended up…

In January, we started with the loss of Hubs’ grandpa.  We were lucky enough to have spent his last Christmas with him, and I was excited that I was able to capture some truly timeless moments while we were there.  We traveled out to Illinois for his funeral, and although a very somber time, we were able to celebrate the full life of a man, who I was sad I did not get to know better.  We also faced a bit of a budget bump while we were away at the funeral.

February was a pretty  low-key month.  We had some issues with our dogs being very naughty and eating the trash while we were away.  We had quite a bit of snow last February, which resulted in a few snow days at school. (I am hoping for more in the next couple months.)  I also went to a consignment sale and bought some fun stuff for the little missy. They are a great way to gets a lot of clothes and toys for not much money!

In March we had troubles with our ding dong dog eating more things he shouldn’t, like the baby’s pacifier.  And we had more snow.  I had a very busy spring break, with 3 photos shoots in one week.  And at the very end of the month, I made the decision to get contacts to help my photography business.  (I hate them and only wear them for photo sessions.  Usually I am just in my glasses.)  Financially we accomplished a goal we had set and opened a 529 college fund for the little missy.

Apparently April was very busy because I only blogged once.  It was a Sunday Night Chit-Chat.  I had a couple photo shoots during the month, and we made a trip out to Columbia Missouri to celebrate our niece’s birthday!  Always a good time when you get to see family!  Besides that, little missy turned 6 months old!

Although I did not blog at all in May, the most important thing to know is that school ended for the summer!  I had three photo sessions, and we had our family photos taken as well.  I guess I was just too busy to blog or tell you anything about what happened in May. 🙂

June was a busy month.  There is almost no free space on my planner for the month of June.  We were working on buying a short sale house, which was a long process.  We had to show our apartment a number of times, even though we weren’t sure when we were going to move out or if we were going to have to move in with my parents for a while.  I had five photo shoots and was able to see and catch up with a number of friends.  Not surprisingly I used the middle of the year as a perfect time to set some new goals.  Hubs and I also celebrated our 4 year anniversary.  And when I say celebrated, we may have gone to dinner and told each other “Happy Anniversary.”  That’s about as much celebrating as we do around here.

July was a bit calmer than June.  I did shoot my second ever wedding and loved every minute of it!  The bride and the groom were so much fun and so easy to work with!  Definitely makes my job so much easier!  My parents, Miss C, and I made the trek out west to celebrate my grandma’s 85th birthday!  What a special occasion!  At the end of the month, after many months of headaches and heartaches, we closed on our house!  (The last hurdle we had to deal with was the closing being cancelled the day we were supposed to close.  Luckily the paperwork went through, and we were able to close later that day.)

August was another busy month, as I did not blog at all.  During this month we moved into our new house and I started a new school year.  I had two photo shoots, and we celebrated Hubs’ 30th birthday!  (Again celebrations around here are quite low-key, thanks to trying to keep our budget in check.)

In September I got back to blogging.  Although it still wasn’t a whole lot, I did blog more than I had.  We had a bit of a snafu with the utilities company.  I was lucky enough to buy a new camera, thanks to a photog friend who was getting rid of her backup camera.  I did an ABC photography challenge so I could learn more about how to use the new camera.  I continued on my quest to keep our budget in check, although it proved tough at time.  Overall September was another busy and somewhat stressful month.

Our little nugget turned the big 1 in October! It was a very busy month for my photography business also.  I had five sessions. (Remember, that my photography business really only takes place on the weekends, as I have a full-time job.)  Each weekend was busy with a session.  I set some new goals and then I did update them, which as we can see from the update were not going very well.  I opened up and showed you the real me.  Most importantly, Miss C dressed up like a bumble bee for Halloween.

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November was another busy month, as was evidenced by only one blog post.  I had four photo shoots, which kept me busy on the weekends.  At the end of the month we travelled to Illinois to celebrate Thanksgiving with Hubs’ family.  It was a great time!  Our lives changed, as Miss C became a bona-fide walker!

And that brings us to December. This month has been very low-key.  We have decorated for Christmas, done some splurging on Christmas gifts, and enjoyed a very simple holiday with my family.  Now that we are wrapping up this year, I am focusing on what is to come.  I have agreed to participate in a no/low spending challenge and have my resolutions written and ready to go!

Overall I have to say that 2013 has been a great year!  I have enjoyed seeing my little girl grow from a infant to a toddler.  I have enjoyed setting goals and actually achieving some of them.  I have enjoyed blogging here in my corner of the internet.  I am excited to see what 2014 has in store for us.  I think it will be wonderful year full of surprises and smiles.  There will be hard time and heartaches, but as I noticed with this past year, it seems as though the wonderful times of the year stick out in my mind more than the sad times.  I hope that 2014 proves the same.

How was your 2013?  Do you have big plans for 2014?

2014 Resolutions

It’s the moment you all have been waiting for!  Time for me to reveal my resolutions.  A couple days ago I explained how my resolutions were going to work this year.  If you missed that post, you can check it out here.  Basically I have picked seven areas in my life which I would like to change or improve.  I am going to focus on one goal or resolution in each area each month.  Then as the months continue, I will add a new goal or expand on the one I already had in place.  Here they are all written down in my planner.

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Without further ado, here they are (so you can read them)…

Finances
Complete no/low spending challenge
This includes putting $450 into savings, 10 no spend days, and track all spending.

Marriage
Plan and carry out 1 date night for Hubs and me.
This will include figuring out child-care, planning the date, finding the money for the date, and going on the date.

Family
Take Cadence to see her close-by cousins as least once during January.
I am not very close to my cousins (mainly due to distance), and I want Miss C to be close to her cousins.  I need to start this relationship while she is still young.

Health (Separated into 2 Categories)
Physical Activity
Exercise 5 days this month– This does not seem like much, but I need to start somewhere.
Food/Drink
No pop for the month– When I was in high school, I quit drinking pop completely.  I keep thinking this goal should be easy, but it really is not.  This is the month I do it!

Career
Teaching
Plan ahead.  I need to get this one started ASAP, so I am ready for when we head back to school.  I would like to be planned a week ahead of time, with copies made and everything.  I think I can do it!
Photography
Update website.  I made my website at this time last year, and I haven’t changed it at all.  I need to update it with photos from this past year.

Recreation (Things I like to do)
Blog at least twice a week.
I would like to blog daily but between a full-time job, photography business, and being a full-time mommy, I know that there will be days that it will be impossible to blog.  That is why I kept it at twice a week.

Home
Pick up kitchen and living room each evening.
I have been doing pretty well keeping the kitchen clean this past week, but I am really bad about picking up C’s toys at the end of the day.  I think if I can pick up each evening, it will help my stress level and keep me from feeling completely overwhelmed with cleaning.

There ya have it!  My resolutions for January.  Some of them I think will be easy, but others will be a bit more difficult (I better enjoy all the pop I can in these last few days).  

What are your resolutions?  How are you going to keep yourself accountable?

Christmas Recap

We had a great day yesterday spending time with family.  Our Christmas started just at home with the three of us.  Santa came and visited Miss C.  He brought a Little People farm as her main gift, and in her stocking he left a book and some slippers (which have troubles staying on her feet.)

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Here is the munchkin enjoying her gifts from Santa.

We spent most of the morning just hanging out at home.  Little missy went down for her morning nap, and while she was napping, I made some pretzel/Rolo yummies for Christmas dinner.  Once C woke up from her nap, we loaded her up and headed to my sister’s house for dinner with my sister’s family, parents, and my sister’s sister- and brother-in-law (whom  we consider family).  We had a great time together and ended the evening playing Apples to Apples, which was a blast!

Today has been a very low-key day.  We all slept in (which means we slept until after 7:00) and have just hung around all day.  I cleaned up the kitchen (I am trying to stay on top of keeping it clean so it doesn’t get really bad again), and Hubs worked on getting our speakers connected to our TV.  Miss C has enjoyed playing with all of her new toys.

This evening we will enjoy a nice stir fry dinner here at home, and just hang out as a family.  With Hubs’ and my  work schedule, we don’t get a lot of family time just the three of us, so we are soaking it up today and tomorrow.  I do need to head to the post office tomorrow to get some stamps and mail out some Christmas gifts (procrastinate much?) to parents and grandparents.

Here are some more pictures from our Christmas:

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I hope to put up my January resolutions tomorrow.  I think I finally have them figured out.  I need to also work on how they will progress throughout the year.

Did you enjoy your holidays?  Do you usually take part in after-holiday shopping?

Finished!

My to-do list is officially complete!  That is a statement I rarely get to make!  I did adjust a few things… I did not vacuum the entire upstairs, but I did vacuum the living room, which really was the room that needed it the most.  The bedding is currently in the dryer, so I am considering that chore finished.

Here is the clean kitchen:

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I am so happy that now I get to just relax and enjoy my Christmas.

How are your chores going?  Have you been busy on this Christmas Eve Day or just taking it easy?

Today To-Do

Today my plan is to get this house picked up and the kitchen clean.  I would like to have a nice, clean house for Christmas… even though no one else will see it (besides Santa), I would like it to be clean.

Here is my to do list:

Empty dishwasher/fill with dirty dishes
Clean paper basket (We have a basket where I put bills and miscellaneous papers.  It is a mess)
Find my kitchen counters
Pot roast in the crock pot for dinner
Put away clean laundry (90% is folded, it is just sitting on the dryer)
Pay mortgage
Vacuum/mop kitchen floors
Vacuum upstairs
Wash bedding
Clean off table
File papers from paper basket

I think that is it!  Wish me luck.  Those things all sound easy enough, but things get tricky when you have a toddler hanging out with you and trying to undo all your hard work. 🙂

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Here is the stinker trying to get into her presents early.  They have been under the tree for at least a week, and she didn’t pay any attention to them.  This morning though, she was ready to rip into this one.  We have one for her to open this evening that has a cute pair of flannel Christmas jammies and a movie to watch.  🙂  I was always jealous of my friends who got to open a gift on Christmas Eve, so I knew it was a tradition I wanted to start with my children.  It will always be a pair of jammies and either a Christmas book or movie.

Do you have a lot to do today, or are you taking it easy before the craziness of Christmas?