Saving Money the Hard Way: 6 Things That Are Worth the Extra Cash

I’m notoriously cheap. I will save money wherever possible. My family regularly tries to convince me I’m extreme (which could be accurate). My mother has kicked me out of her dressing room before for scoffing at a price tag. I come by it honestly though! My PopPop signed all his cards from “Cheapo J” which was no exaggeration. At his recent memorial service, someone mentioned how he would take the rubber bands from the newspaper and put them on his wrist to save for later. He would save them until they fell apart. (I’m not nearly this bad. I keep my rubber bands in a drawer.)

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My handsome PopPop!

There are times in your life when the cheapest option is the only option. You just deal with it. You stay in the 16 (or 32) bed dorm when you travel. You eat Oodles of Noodles every night and you sleep on the world’s oldest mattress…possibly on the floor. Then there are times when you get to choose. You choose where to spend and where to save. Sometimes you have a lot of choice and sometimes only a little, but still the choice is yours.

For  my life, saving is key. Having a focus on saving is what allows us to create an emergency fund, pay off our credit card and put a few dollars in to HEB’s college fund every month. Despite that, there are things that are typically worth the extra money.  All of this I’ve learned the hard way:

Flights:

Flights can get expensive fast BUT purchasing the cheapest flight can often mean driving to a bigger airport, leaving or arriving obscenely early or having multiple layovers. It’s not always worth it. I’ve slept in airports, arrived in my destination (or home) at all hours of the night and taken flights with 3 layovers. Sometimes I’ve done this to save just a few dollars. If the difference is the only the price of a dinner out or less, just cheapen up somewhere else. It’s not worth it on travel.

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I’ve slept in many dorms and airports with my ultimate travel companion, Anita. 

Clothing:

I am not in favor of purchasing name brand or designer clothes. I don’t see the point, but then again it’s not my thing. It is; however, worth it to buy clothes that will last. Time and time again I’ve skimped on clothes just to have the hem immediately unravel, the cloth start to pill, or a hole develop. I always mend what I can but I will also either continue to wear it way past appropriate or put it away without replacing it. I can’t buy it again! (Also, I rarely return anything but that’s just a personal flaw I’m working on.) Now, I’m trying to focus on buying higher quality clothing during sales or at outlets so I can get more bang for my buck. I have unreasonable expectations on the number of years clothes should last which means I have to invest!

Dining Out:

I love eating but often times when I go out to eat I start to nickel and dime things. $2 extra for shrimp? Nope. $1 more for the wine I want? Nope. This is often the biggest problem when I travel. The airport isn’t a great place to find good eats but you can feel satisfied (most of the time) if you spend an extra few bucks. Since everything is ridiculously priced, this like physically hurts me. Regardless I always regret buying the crappy sandwich instead of a decent salad or whatnot. I end up pissed off and still hungry. Just pay up!

Pet Care:

There are several times we’ve had to reevaluate being cheap on dog costs. The cheap dog food gave her the itchies. The cheap flea collar gave her… fleas! Deciding not to do dog training classes made me want to lose my mind. In the end we bought better dog food, bought new flea medicine and invested in dog training. All good decisions. Never again will we go the cheap route on these (just kidding, I learn these lessons over and over again).

Home & Garden:

Our somewhat trained dog is a digger. She digs holes in various shady areas to take cool, dirt naps. Then sometimes she also digs in nice soft dirt to bathe in the sunlight. You know where there is nice, soft dirt? My garden’s raised beds. Quickly we determined our garden needed a fence. Despite knowing that Clara is really good at getting into everything we put a welded wire fence with rebar “fence posts”. We used bungee-cords to close our garden fence which Clara has gotten through time and time again. I’d like to say I’ve learned my lesson but we still haven’t fixed it.

I also refuse to let Tyler buy a weed whacker so there’s 3-foot grass surrounding my beds. It makes me not want to go into the garden and weed. Will I never learn?

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Before the weeds took over. 

Budgeting Help:

I’ve tried to manage our budget a couple ways. The simplest is using Excel spreadsheets. Tyler and I kept all receipts for several months and once a week I entered them manually. It was hard to keep up with and I ended up dreading money management time. I also used Mint for a while but it wasn’t user friendly. It always read my purchases incorrectly and put them into the wrong categories. I also had trouble figuring out my budget history. Better Than Never blogger Chrissy talked me into trying YNAB, even though it isn’t free, and I’ve been using it for over a year now. I feel like I have more control over my spending and that I know what’s going on without a pocketbook full of paper receipts. It’s worth doing their 34 day free trial. Use my referral link to give us both a free month!

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Sometimes it takes money to save money!

Some things are just worth the extra money, when and if you can. Good food and good booze are hard to give up so my spending is always high in both of those arenas. WE primarily eat at home which helps balance that out. Location is also key so I’ve always been willing to spend more and/or live with less to live where I want. In Austin my apartments were older but never farther than 5 miles from work. Who needs fancy appliances? For a year I lived within walking distance. This is perfection in my eyes. Forget driving. Screw bike riding. Walking for your commute is by far the most cathartic. Road rage be gone! In Wilmington I maintained the same rule. I wanted to live within bike riding distance from work. Of course, now that we have a baby we don’t ride to work. (Bicycle, I miss you so.)

One day I’ll learn to invest where it’s worth it without wasting money on cheap options ahead of time…

 

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5 Ways to Survive Without Sleep (AKA Being a New Parent)

Oh cruel, elusive sleep. I miss you so. In all my non-parenting years you had so rarely failed me. Sure, the occasional illness or stressful time kept me awake but generally we were faithful friends. I was kind to you, you were kind to me.

I didn’t understand how good I had it. A friend once called pregnancy the empathy gauntlet. You get a little taste at how difficult it can be when you don’t fit in spaces, when your body doesn’t feel like yours, when you suffer from low blood sugar, when you have dietary restrictions and so forth. And then there’s the insomnia. You’re incredibly tired but you can’t get comfortable, can’t stop feeling anxious, can’t sleep.

And then the baby is born. Now you could totally sleep if you were only given the opportunity. Nope!

Haines was sleeping 8 hours at 10 weeks (sometimes) so we thought we were golden. We thought we were rockstar parents. It turns out we were just naive. Since I returned to work he’s slept through the night only a handful of times. Sometimes I think he knows that I’m about to break down and he gives me an extra hour. Sometimes he seems a little less aware. When I was on maternity leave, not sleeping sucked but it was manageable. Tyler always made an effort to give me a break and often got up with Haines when he inevitably woke up at 4 or 5 so I could sleep an extra couple of hours. Now that we both work those days are few and far between.

I realize that babies often don’t sleep through the night. I knew that going into this whole “having a baby” thing but I just didn’t get it. Like childbirth, breastfeeding or pregnancy in general I knew what it meant in theory but not in practice. With Haines’ arrival all of the sudden I realized that new parents (or not so new parents) all over the world were in this situation. They were raising children, going to work, taking care of their home and not sleeping through the night. It blew my mind. That might sound crazy to you but it’s a whole new world when you’re suffering through a day of work after a night in new baby hell and you realize this is just the norm.

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Mornings are hard.

Truly it was a revelation. And then the people on the news are saying all these crazy things like don’t drive if you’re tired. Like they said if you miss an hour you could be in danger. Miss an hour?? What if you have a baby? Then you’re always tired.  You always miss an hour! How am I supposed to go to work? (Side note: obviously there’s a difference between being baby tired and being truly sleepy while driving which is really unsafe.)

The Sunrise Series

Now we’re in the beginning stages of testing “cry it out”. Everyone told me you’ll know when you’re ready to sleep train. The moment I felt less responsive to Haines’ crying at night, I knew I was ready. I was tired enough to listen to him tough it out. We’re on day 2 and we’ve seen some minor improvement. In the meantime I’m trying these survival techniques:

  1. Consume absurd amounts of caffeine: I now prefer to drink black tea several times ado. I’m also being a little more forgiving with my soda consumption. Sometimes you have to do what you have to do.
  2. Limit my alcohol intake: I don’t drink as regularly or as much as I did pre-baby life due to breastfeeding and the lack of sleep but I’m trying to take it down a notch again. It makes me too sleepy and takes away from the quality sleep I am able to get from time to time. It’s not my first choice but I surely it’s only temporary. (PLEASE!)
  3. Make time for exercise: This is significantly easier said than done. I normally work out on my lunch break but lately my lunch break has been spent working. This negatively affects how much energy I have in the afternoon but also my attitude. Being able to be somewhat positive is directly tied into exercise for me.
  4. Lowering the expectations: Sometimes I go to bed at eight. Sometimes I don’t do any dishes. Sometimes I barely remember to brush my hair before work. We all do what we can.
  5. Ask for help: Tap your spouse for a shift. Call a relative. Get a babysitter. At some point it’s about survival. Take a nap. I got to take a couple naps in Florida and my mom and sister took Haines for each night in Oklahoma. It was magical. I was like a whole new person for a couple days.

I’m sure you all have golden children who starting sleeping through the night at 2 weeks and have never stopped but I’ll be over here lying on the floor trying to convince my baby to take a nap. You’re supposed to model appropriate behaviors right? I’m all over it.

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This is a rare sighting of a baby napping in the wild. Capture the moment- it may never happen again!

 

 

June: A Time for Balance and Reflection

This month has been a total whirlwind. It’s been pretty stressful and incredibly wonderful.

June has brought:

The realization that I can’t do everything.

I ended up having a wee little breakdown at work somewhere around the time my managers realized they’d given me too much to be responsible for. I’m working on delegating things more proactively and prioritizing more appropriately. Some things will just have to wait.

Similarly at home, I’m attempting to be a bit more relaxed about things. Contrary to my family’s beliefs our messy, often dirty home does bother me but by the time the baby goes to sleep it is hard for me to care. To be honest, it’s hard for me to remember. In the evenings I often think, what is it I said I was going to take care of tonight? I can’t remember it until way later. (Dear sleep, please come back.) I’m at the point now where I’m behind on birthday gifts, thank you’s, letters, cleaning, yard work, meal prep. The list goes on. In fact, I don’t think it’ll ever stop so I’m trying not to stress about it.

Adventures with baby

HEB turned 6 months on June 14th and every day it seems he has learned something new. This month he has found his voice and babbles or makes noises nonstop. He’s also found his tongue which is always sticking out now. We’ve started to introduce food and he’s on the verge of crawling. Our house is desperately in need of baby proofing!

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Nectarines should be worn as well as eaten.

Haines also took his first flights this month. We traveled two weekends in a row by plane which was totally stressful and honestly not that bad. He slept at least 50% of the time as it’s hard for him to resist a snooze in any mode of transportation. We were prepared the rest of the time with toys and our best funny voices. I don’t think any passengers hated us.

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We survived the Atlanta airport!

Quality family time

We don’t see any of our family nearly enough. Our closest family member lives only 4 hours away but we haven’t visited in over a year. Our other parents and siblings all reside in other states or countries so our visits definitely aren’t frequent. This month we got in two visits though which made June a pretty awesome month.

Father’s Day weekend Haines and I traveled with my mom, sister and her girls to Oklahoma for a long weekend. The newest member of our family got to meet my aunt and uncle on my mom’s side as well as several of our cousins. We were celebrating the life of my grandfather who passed away in October. It would have been his 99th birthday that weekend! While a sad occasion, I loved hearing the stories about PopPop- some familiar, some new to me. Our family is hardly ever all in one place so it was hard not to feel overjoyed at the chance to be with everyone.

Last weekend all three of us flew to Florida to be with Mum-Mum (Tyler’s mom). Unfortunately our reason for gathering was another sad one as Mum-Mum’s husband passed away a few weeks ago. He was truly a unique soul and I got to learn so much more about him during his celebration of life. We chatted with friends and family and saw so many great photos of Eric through the years! Just as the weekend before, the feeling of being together dominated. We hadn’t seen Tyler’s mom or his brother and girlfriend (BFF extraordinaire Natalie)  in several months and the reunion was much needed!

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 Time for reflection

We spent a significant portion of the month with family celebrating loved ones we can no longer be with. There is an obvious silver lining to this. We were reminded how important those individuals were and are to our lives as well as how grateful we are to have wonderful people in our lives. I have a healthy, growing son, a supportive husband, incredible friends all across the world, and a loving family from my parents to my siblings to the cousins, aunts and uncles I don’t often get to see. We’re a lucky bunch!

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Cloth Diapers: Diaper Service vs. Launder Your Own

Stuff makes me claustrophobic. Moving houses, packing the car for camping, having to carry luggage literally causes a physical reaction in my body. I want to shove everything to the curb regardless of whether or not it’s useful. Who cares if I use it every day? It’s dragging me down!

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So when we found out we were pregnant a definite panic came over me. Babies come with endless stuff. I didn’t want to buy a lot of plastic toys or send garbage bags full of diapers to the landfill. But also, I was worried about money. Daycare costs alone are terrifying but then you thrown in diapers, wipes, clothes, toys and formula if you need it.

We’ve gotten incredibly lucky with most things. People have gifted us clothes and we’ve gotten quite a few hand-me-down toys to get Haines started in life. I try to mainly shop at second hand stores. We’ve got a long way to go with breastfeeding but so far I haven’t had to buy formula. All those things are just luck and the kindness of others. Diapers I knew would be another story.

Despite being the one who insisted on cloth diapering, I was really skeptical about our ability to do it. Tyler didn’t protest the idea but he also didn’t jump on board. I think he was hoping I would eventually just change my mind. Between going back to work, breastfeeding, and the plan to make our own baby food I had some doubts about how well this would go over. The idea of making a significant financial investment only to be left with a pile of diapers we weren’t going to use, would be devastating. Still we moved forward.

After getting a few recommendations we added Rumparoos to our Amazon registry. At the end of my pregnancy though we also discovered a diaper service in town that laundered traditional cloth diapers.  We’re currently using the service, Green Baby, at the generosity of my mother and eventually will switch to laundering our own.

Diaper Service:

Pros

  • We’ve been with Green Baby Diaper Service since Haines was about 4 weeks. We started with 6 diaper covers and 2 plastic Snappies which was fine initially. It really couldn’t be easier- after each diaper change you just toss the diaper into the pail with a liner bag.
  • Once a week I place the liner bag full of stinkiness out on the porch and a man comes and collects in the morning.  A bag full of fresh one is always waiting when I come home from work!

Cons

  • Our daycare treats each cover and cloth diaper as one. They take the whole thing off and throw it into a plastic bag. So a cover that we would use over and over again until soiled gets used once and then sits with a dirty diaper all day. Initially this really grossed me out but I got past it. I wipe out the covers each evening and hang them to dry overnight. Every second or third (it’s hard to make it to 3 days) I wash them all.
  • We did have to invest in a lot more covers though so they could do this. 11 has turned out to be our magic number.

We use Thirsties and Best Bottoms covers. Both are great but Best Bottoms definitely seems more durable. Whatever you pick I’m anti-velcro. The velcro deteriorates faster than the snaps (which look perfect) and also sometimes get shifted so it rubs Haines’ belly.

Wash Your Own:

Pros

  • They’re incredibly easy to use. We opted for Rumparoos and like them a lot. Slide in the insert and snap on to that baby bottom. To remove and wash you do need to take out the insert. Can be a wee bit on the gross side, but it’s manageable.

Cons

  • It’s hard to go more than one day without washing. We don’t have many of these so that plays a part but the longer you go between washings the harder it is to face the task. It’s kind of a bite the bullet situation.
  • It’s just more work. No way around it.

Overall:

Several friends have complained about the number of poop blowouts they deal with every day using disposable diapers. While we do encounter them, it’s pretty rare, regardless of the cloth diaper we use. HEB is much more likely to need an outfit change due to excessive spit up rather a diaper leak or explosion. We also always keep a few disposables on hand for babysitters. Most people aren’t familiar with cloth diapers, even our pediatrician.

One thing to keep in mind is cloth diapers make for big booties. HEB is not a big baby but he goes through some sizes more quickly just because of his big ol’ cloth covered bottom.

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Please note enormous booty area.

The expense of cloth diapering is undeniably more up front, although if you’re laundering your own the overall cost is definitely less. Cloth diapers are one size and intended to last until potty training. I don’t know if we’ll make it that long but it brings me some relief to know we won’t be impacting landfills as much as we could be!

Get on the Meal Train Train: Why to Join and What to Bring

When a coworker first offered to set up a meal train for our family when HEB was born, I was hesitant. Sure we had a new baby but I wasn’t incapable of making meals. Tyler wasn’t either. This brand baby honestly didn’t do anything. He just slept, cried, ate constantly, pooped constantly and all the other baby past time faves. Sure, we were changing diapers every hour and each feeding lasted 45 minutes and occurred every 2 hours but I wasn’t exactly busy per se.  I felt like we were taking advantage of people’s generosity and excitement over our new cutie.

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Haines on Christmas Day, 11 days old

Still, I’d never passed up a free meal and this didn’t seem like the time to start. Thank goodness! When it comes down to it here’s the deal:

  • Yes, new parents, you are capable of making meals. BUT even the simplest of meals is easily derailed by baby. For several weeks I really didn’t know what to do with Haines during meal prep. I couldn’t wear him while I cooked at the stove and we didn’t have a swing so I just kept him in his bed or his car seat when I needed my hands. There’s nothing (hopefully) wrong with this but I constantly questioned it. Plus every movement and sound he made was new and unnerving to me. Is he okay? Is he mad? Is his brain developing properly? Will he need therapy one day from how I’m ignoring him to make pasta right now? In the end meals were made. So far he doesn’t seem to resent me for my need to eat. But the burden and stress of getting fed greatly eased by the twice a week delivery of food we received.
  • More importantly, this is a time period that you can never get back. It will never again be you and your partner and this tiny baby, all brand new, figuring this out together. As much as I have struggled during this time I also know that I need to soak up every baby cuddle, every coo and giggle, every new discovery, every pool of drool because this just happens once. You’re only young once and so are your babies.

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Sometimes you end up on the other side of the meal train which means it’s your turn to repay the favor. Last week I was delighted to bring food over to a friend’s brand new baby and this week I’m setting up a meal train for a coworker. I’ve discovered that meal planning for others is stressful! I can’t help but worry if I’m bringing over something they’ll like. At the end of the day, every meal is appreciated but I’ve learned from my own experience the types of meals that were the most helpful.

Nutritional: Many of the meals we received were centered around carbs and cheese. Carbs and cheese represent the best things in life so this is not an issue, but it was really nice when someone also brought over a salad or a dish that centered around vegetables. Since I wasn’t being very active it helped me feel less slob-like.

Wine & Desserts: I gotta admit those kind folks that included a bottle of wine or a box of cookies with my meal were true winners. It was a total novelty to see alcohol and know I was allowed to drink it! I appreciated all those who understood how much I missed it and brought it directly to me.

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If you choose to bring over fancy doughnuts, they will be decimated before a photo can be taken. 

Take-out: Obviously not everyone can do take-out meals from restaurants. It’s certainly not within my meal train budget for others, but it was a huge treat when others did this for us. One person had a pizza delivered to us while two other individuals brought us take-out from some of our favorite restaurants. Since going out to eat is hard to do on a maternity leave budget, we really appreciated this!

Breakfast: The beginning of the day was always the hardest for me. I always had Tyler in the evenings but in the morning I was typically on my own for eating. I’ve heard of people bringing breakfast casseroles, muffins or other options that make for easy eating in the morning. I will definitely be gifting this to someone else down the line!

Snacks: While all the meals we received were wonderful, the best night was when a friend showed up with individually packaged snacks along with dinner. She brought over a bag with Ziplocs of pretzel sticks, snap pea crisps, mini-cookies, and homemade energy balls along with a few protein bars. It was heaven. I’d been struggling with foods that I could easily eat while nursing or holding HEB. The answer had arrived! It was something easy for her to do that was enormously helpful to me.

 

Postpartum Body Struggle

I’ve been working on this post for weeks struggling to describe how pregnancy and childbirth has affected me physically. Where do I even begin? What stereotypical path should I start with? Should I tell you how insecure I’ve always been about my body? Or should I just dive in to a tired old diatribe about the baby weight?

But this isn’t the years I hated my body or about baby weight. It’s not about any of things I expected. It’s about feeling out of place in your own body. The midwives described the baby as a very effective parasite, leeching my body of nutrition. I was impressed rather than put off by this until I realized all the energy it (the baby) was taking, how incapacitated I felt. I felt frail and heavy all at the same time. As I walked down the stairs I always reached for the railing or traced my hand along the wall. Never before had I considered I might fall but I stopped trusting myself. I didn’t know this body.

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The last few weeks of pregnancy, I lost my positive attitude. I beached myself on the couch and wallowed in self-pity. It was pretty much all wallow and waddle. After giving birth, I eagerly waited for my body to return. I thought there were four stages for my body: pre-pregnancy, pregnancy, the days or weeks of recovery and then the return to pre-pregnancy body. Um, no.

The fourth trimester was a strange trip. I was desperate to be active again in the hopes of feeling like myself. After about a week we started venturing outside the house, walking around the school across from my house and then eventually down to the lake and back and so on. It was a month before I walked the 4 mile lake trail I’d typically done every week.  It did not feel good. It is a whole new world when it’s your vagina that says you’re exercising too much.

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This is the first time I wore regular jeans. I busted out of them about 4 minutes later.

Everyone had told me that breastfeeding would cause the weight to drop quickly. Obviously I have nothing to compare it with but for me it was true. The first 25+ pounds were gone in 5 weeks. My enormous belly first became soft, then drooped, then starting to fade away. Only a couple weeks after childbirth I could find my belly button easily. A tiny dip reappeared where it was once flat. But it doesn’t take much to go up a size or two and I still can’t fit into most of my clothes. I’ve started to exercise regularly again but I can see these last pounds will be a long process. To be honest at this point my belly feels like a souvenir or a badge of honor. A light tan line still marks me down the middle proudly announcing “new mama”! I’d embrace it all if I could just wear my dang old pants and shorts like I want to.

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NEWSFLASH- You may think it’s a waste to buy maternity clothes since you’re only going to wear them for nine months but chances are that’s not true!

What I truly didn’t anticipate was the boobs. Sure the Internet said all kinds of silly things about needing bigger bras when your milk comes in but who can understand what that means?! Well, it means that your T-shirts are too short, your button-ups are too tight and your cleavage is full on out there. There’s a reason nursing shirts are a thing.

Exercise, hormones, my hair, eating habits, sleep schedule, sex, who I saw in the mirror – nothing escaped the experience of childbirth. Nothing felt recognizable in the weeks and months that came after.  Haines is getting ready to hit 6 months in a week’s time which is absolutely wild. Last night he tried avocado. He’s on the verge of crawling. He watches everything and becomes less of a baby and more of his own person every day. But I still struggle to appreciate all that my body has done and continues to do- carried a baby, gave birth, provides milk. I struggle to give myself time to recover and figure things out. But here’s goes nothing.

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Irrefutable Proof that May is the Best Month Ever

I think everyone is inclined to like the month they were born in but if you’re born in an extra good month, all the better. May has all the best things.

May means being outside:

I was born in May. Growing up in Piedmont Triad in North Carolina it’s a no-brainer that May is a great month. It starts out with everything in bloom. Azaleas are finishing up. Tulips are popping. Dogwoods are in their prime. By the end of the month you’re at Memorial Day weekend. It’s getting hot but the nights still cool off. The pool is open and you leap into summer. In Wilmington the temperature tends to be a little hotter and a little more humid but it still falls under the range of feels good to be outside.

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It’s hard to work in the garden with a bambino but I’m trying to figure it out!

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May is my birthday month:

I have to admit I’m one of those people who loves their birthday. I’m not looking for gifts or being princess for a day or whatever.  I just love birthdays. I love other people’s too! People send you really kind cards and messages online. It’s the one day of the year where you don’t take your friend or family for granted. You remind them that you love them. I love reminding people and I love being reminded.

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Birthday party goodness stolen from Better than Never blogger’s instagram.

May is for Mother’s Day:

This year May was extra special. I also had my first Mother’s Day. I know I talk more often here about struggling with motherhood than about the joys but there are also so many joys. Writing this, thinking about HEB, my chest tightens. I can feel a physical space where our connection lies. It’s not in my heart or my now empty womb. It’s in my lungs. He is so much of every breath I take. I cannot think about loving him without tears.

My first Mother’s Day is exactly what I might have hoped. I got to sleep in (although not through the night) and woke to an enormous breakfast. We were in Virginia visiting Tyler’s dad so we went on a boat ride before heading home. No one threw up on the car ride home and we finished the night with cheese and crackers. It was all the best things in life.

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Best Mother’s day gift!

May is for baby milestones:

Baby milestones can be difficult and wonderful. We’ve stopped swaddling Haines which has been difficult. He’s started rolling over regularly which is wonderful. He can’t roll back over from his stomach easily (particularly in the middle of the night when apparently that’s important to him) which is difficult. He’s paying attention to everything which is wonderful. He’s getting more mobile which means we need to baby proof our house. This is wonderful and difficult. He babbles nonstop. This is adorable.

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Almost there!

May is for family and friends:

As I anxiously await a friend’s arrival from California for the weekend, I’m reminded that I saw so many wonderful people in May. There was the impromptu visit of my Austin bud, LaDonna, as well as our first trip to see “Poppa” in Virginia. Plus my mother came, which is pretty much all I want/need in life.

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“Poppa” Earl, Haines Earl and Tyler Earl. That’s a whole lotta Earl.