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Life Hacks!

A few weeks ago, I presented a seminar at a women’s retreat entitled Life Hacks.  It wasn’t much. It didn’t quite come together as I hoped it would and really, I felt way out of my league giving the presentation.

My goal was to encourage women to think about the areas of their life that give them the most “problems” and give them ideas on how to solve those problems – even if it’s different than how their mother would do so.  Or their sister.  Or someone on pinterest.  Or a blogger.

What works for you now might not work for you in 5 years.  But try something! And if that something fails, try something else!

Anyway…here are my tips just in case they are useful to anyone other than me!  (Yes, some of them contradict – and that’s okay – different strokes for different folks!)

Life Hack Ideas

Remember:

  • A life hack is anything that makes your life easier!
  • Think about the things that give you a high “ROI” (Return on Investment). It might be things that:
    • Save you money!
    • Save you time!
    • Save you frustration!
  • It may not always be the cheapest thing in the short-term, but in the long run, it should save you in at least one of those areas (money, time, frustration).
  • Pretty is awesome. Practical and do-able are double, triple, quadruple awesome!
  • Don’t dwell (too long!) on what you don’t have – time, money, house plan, skills, etc. It’ll just hold you back from what you do have and what you could have!
  • Know your limitations! You don’t have to do it all yourself!
  • Don’t be afraid of “failing”. If you try something and it doesn’t work, try the next thing.  It may be the perfect solution for you – but in a few years.  In the meantime, something else will be the perfect solution.
  • Life care:
    • Plenty of sleep.
    • Know what’s important and what isn’t.
  • Remember: You don’t have to do this alone! Find friends with gifts in the areas that you’re struggling.

Kitchen

  1. Once-A-Month freezer cooking.
  2. Build 5-8 weekly menus and then rotate through them.
  3. Plan your menu weekly.
  4. Plan your menu bi-monthly.
  5. Plan your menu monthly.
  6. Plan for leftovers.
  7. COST = Cook Once, Serve Twice.
  8. Base your menu based upon what you have on hand.
  9. Base your menu on what’s on sale that week.
  10. Base your next week’s menu on what’s on sale this week.
  11. Simplify side dishes. Make 1 dish to last 2-3 meals.
  12. (Learn to) Love raw veggies! Serve with ranch dressing or dip.  Great, easy, healthy sides.
  13. Spend a couple of hours when you have the time making a few extra meals for the freezer.
  14. When doing freezer meals, keep to a theme for meals that use many of the same ingredients (i.e.: on one afternoon, do a few chicken meals. On a different day, do a few beef meals.)
  15. When you make something freezable, make 2-3 of that item and freeze the rest.
  16. Let kids be responsible for 1 meal/week.
  17. Let husband be responsible for 1 meal/week.
  18. Spend an hour browning hamburger and storing in ½ or 1 or 2 lb servings in the freezer.
  19. Spend an afternoon roasting, then shredding small roasting chickens. Freeze for future meals.
  20. Get a dinner buddy. Offer to make dinner for her family once a week if she’ll do the same for you.
  21. Prepare breakfasts for the week in bulk. Oatmeal packets.  Frozen homemade waffles/pancakes.
  22. Make a week’s worth of sack lunches at one time. Doesn’t matter if you’re going to eat them at home, at work, at school or in the van.
  23. Let your kids be responsible for their own lunches. Make “lunch kits” in the fridge, but they need to grab items and assemble them.
  24. Organize your most used recipes into 1 cookbook.
  25. Put recipes in plastic page protectors in a 3-ring binder.
  26. Create a short list of “In Case of Emergency” meals that take 10 minutes to throw together and work in a pinch. (Sandwiches, frozen pizzas, tacos, etc).
  27. Generate a list of favorite crockpot meals.
  28. Use a drawer to place your most often used spices in. Put label side up for easy grabbing.
  29. Put your serving dishes into storage. As you need an item, get it out.  What you don’t use in a month, consider giving away or keeping in storage for special occasions.
  30. Borrow instead of buying a roaster, punch bowl or fancy serving dishes if you seldom use them.
  31. Keep a set of dishes at kid’s level to allow them to easily unload the dishwasher and set the table.
  32. Have 2 trash cans – one for recyclables and one for everything else.
  33. Standardize your food storage containers so that lids are interchangeable. (ie.: Use all Pyrex or Tupperware or Rubbermaid). Tis okay to be brand loyal sometimes!

Helpful Resources:

Google Docs – A way that might be handy for organizing recipes.

Passionatepennypincher.com – She has some great, super easy recipes as well as sharing deals at popular stores like Target, CVS and Walgreens.

Pinterest.com – Of course!

TasteOfHome.com – Usually pretty simple recipes with common ingredients.

LynnsKitchenAdventures.com – A Nebraskan who blogs and has great recipes that I find easy and totally do-able!  She also publishes regular menu plans.

MomSavesMoney.net – Omaha-area deals on grocery shopping plus she teaches classes in menu planning, couponing and even budgeting.  I blog here with weekly and monthly menu plans.

SixSistersStuff.com – Just like it says, 6 sisters who share recipes.

365daysofcrockpot.com – Lots of crockpot recipes!


 

Shopping

  1. Look for blogs/websites that list shopping deals that you’d actually take advantage of. Let them do the work for you!
  2. Read blog/websites/books that help you grocery shop or meal plan.
  3. Buy wrapping paper & tissue after Christmas. Solid red, white or green means that you can use it for almost any occasion.
  4. Get a grocery shopping buddy. Split your list up.
  5. Build a grocery stockpile, as big or as little you need. Things typically go at their bottom sales price every 3 months or so.
  6. Price match! Every store has their own policy and some even vary by store.  In Omaha, the following stores price match, to some degree:
    1. Wal Mart
    2. Some Hy-Vees
    3. Bag N Save/No Frills
    4. SuperSaver
  7. Look into alternative sources of items – Amazon pantry, Azure, Bountiful Baskets, etc. May not be the cheapest, but might be the easiest and best use of your money for the time and effort involved.
  8. Submit for rebates.
  9. To YOUR own budget, be true!
  10. Buy things during their “season” of when on sale.

Helpful Resources:

Passionatepennypincher.com – She has some great, super easy recipes as well as sharing deals at popular stores like Target, CVS and Walgreens.

MomSavesMoney.net – Omaha-area deals on grocery shopping plus she teaches classes in menu planning, couponing and even budgeting.

Ebates.com – When buying online, many stores offer “cash back” through here if you start here.  Can be from 1% to even 25%.  3-4% is more common, but it’s free money!

Popular “rebate”/”cash back” sites – ibotta, savingstar, checkout 51, pinpoint, receipt hog, shopmium, shopkick

RetailMeNot.com – Coupon codes.  Can be used with ebates.com too.

TotallyTarget.com – Great deals at Target.  Also see: coupons.target.com, cartwheel.target.com for more ways to save at Target.

Master Bedroom

  1. Each night, pick out the next day’s clothing. Yes, even yours!
  2. Put bed on risers to allow for more storage under the bed.
  3. Store shoes in sweater organizers.
  4. Consider behind-the-closet-door as a storage option for shoes (wire baskets) or other small things.
  5. Use a small peg board or bulletin board to hang necklaces or other jewelry from.
  6. Use craft organizers (like the types for beads) to store small jewelry.

Bathrooms

  1. Install hooks instead of towel racks to help kids hang up towels.
  2. Buy each kid their own toothpaste.
  3. Use a silverware divider to store kids’ toothbrush & toothpaste.
  4. Use a plastic cup to store kids’ toothbrush & toothpaste.
  5. Use a clear plastic shower curtain (even if you have doors) to be able to watch kids when bathing, but still let them splash.
  6. Use a tension rod under the sink to hold up cleaning supplies.
  7. Use small containers to hold small things – like an empty tic tac container for bobby pins.
  8. Have a small make up bag that contains your daily essentials.
  9. Use a shoe organizer behind a door to hold cleaning supplies or other essentials.
  10. Use clear plastic drawers to organize things inside closets or under the sink. Medicines, cleaning supplies, hygiene needs.
  11. Use a metal magazine holder for curling iron or hair dryer. Keeps the cords contained.

Kids’ Rooms

  1. Invest in Bankers Boxes (or other bin storage) that works with your bedroom layout.
  2. Install a lower clothes rod for younger children to be able to hang up their own clothes.
  3. Store kids’ clothing in baskets in closet rather than drawers or hanging them up.
  4. Store kids’ clothing in “sweater” organizers in closet.
  5. Each week, set out 7 outfits for each kid, one for every day of the week.
  6. Label where kids’ items go with pictures in addition to words.

Storage Areas

  1. Invest in Bankers Boxes (or other bin storage) that works with your storage area layout.
  2. Any shelving is better than nothing, but shelving that doesn’t waste a lot of “vertical” space above your totes/bins/baskets/boxes is best.

Entryway

  1. Install coat hooks for each member of the family for coats and backpacks.
  2. Create a designated place for shoes. I like wire bins that are easily washable.
  3. Create a penalty for anyone whose coat is not where it should be.
  4. Put a basket at the top and the bottom of stairs. Items that need to go up or down should be put in there.

Laundry/Clothing Care

  1. Get rid of clothes that don’t fit or you don’t like anymore. Better to have 5 outfits that you love than 20 that you don’t.
  2. Get a bin for each member of the family. Clean clothes go in there and each person is responsible for putting away their own.
  3. Let a friend simplify your wardrobe.
  4. Organize clothing by season.
  5. Organize clothing by size.
  6. Organize clothing by gender.
  7. Buy kids’ socks with sizes imprinted on them. Or find some way to mark them.
  8. Buy kids’ socks only in white, with few exceptions.
  9. Ask your husband to be responsible for his own work shirts.
  10. Have work shirts professionally cleaned.
  11. Hire a high school girl to iron clothing. Keep a “To Iron” basket nearby.
  12. Keep a separate laundry bin for each color type.
  13. Make kids responsible for their own laundry (if old enough).
  14. Only buy bedding in solid colors.
  15. Use the same bedding colors for all kids’ beds.
  16. Only buy towels and sheets in white – you can bleach them!
  17. Store bed sheets by “type” – flat sheets in 1 basket, fitted sheets in another, pillow cases in a third.
  18. Store bed sheets inside of one of the pillow cases.
  19. Keep an empty basket/bin/box in kids’ room for clothing as they outgrow it.
  20. As kids outgrow clothing, put a safety pin in an obvious place on a kids’ clothing before washing. Then when it comes out of the laundry, you know it’s too small.
  21. Loan other people the clothes your kids have outgrown. Let them store it for you!
  22. Take digital pictures of the clothes you loan or borrow from someone. Makes it easier to get those items back to the rightful owner.
  23. Consign or sell clothing once it’s outgrown.

Baby

  1. Keep a stash of diapers & wipes in every area where you’re likely to change the baby.
  2. Pre-measure bottles of formula or the water that makes bottles.
  3. Borrow things that you’re only likely to use for a short season – bouncers, exersaucers, swings. Even clothes!
  4. Likewise, loan out things that you own, but only use for a short season – bouncers, exersaucers, swings. Even clothes!
  5. Buy gender neutral when you can, especially on big items. Even if it isn’t as fun.
  6. Keep realistic expectations around professional pictures. Sure, you might want 1000 pictures of when they’re born, but are you really going to be able to display that many?

 

Finances/Paperwork

  1. Create a paperwork drop zone.
  2. Look at the incoming paperwork just once a week. Handle it right then and there.
  3. Sign up for level payment plans when possible. Especially at utility companies.
  4. Save a small buffer in your checking account. Save enough so that you can pre-pay the next month’s bill, almost eliminating the chances of a late payment.
  5. Automate bills as much as possible. Even if you have to over-pay (i.e.: if a bill fluctuates a little bit like a cell phone, always pay $5 more than the typical amount so that you’re always covered.)
  6. Sign up for paperless when possible, especially for accounts that are on automatic payments.
  7. At Open Enrollment time, look into HSA/FSA (Health Savings Account/Flexible Spending Accounts) for medical bills.
  8. Bulk buy your stamps or buy online at usps.com
  9. Put a buffer in your checking account – it’s just as easy to “manage from the top” as it is from the bottom, but way less stressful!
  10. Find a budgeting system that works for you.
  11. Go to a cash-basis budgeting system for as many categories as practical. Pay yourself weekly, bi-monthly or monthly.
  12. As soon as you pay this year’s taxes, start your envelope/box for receipts for next year’s taxes.

Helpful Resources:

DaveRamsey.com – A budgeting & finance management author, including classes.

TheSimpleDollar.com – Usually very practical about money, getting out of debt and other financial resources.

YouNeedABudget.com – A budgeting tool.  (I haven’t personally used.)

Mint.com – A way to manage your money and pay bills through them.  (I haven’t personally used.)

Quicken – Software to manage your accounts & payments.  This is mostly what we use, then it gets summarized into Excel for budgets and spending reports (for us).

Miscellaneous/General

  1. Remove 1 item from your home every day.
  2. Commit to removing 1 trash bag of items each week. Donate, give or sell.  Let Goodwill be your storage system.
  3. Do what you can with what you can.
  4. Have someone else clean your house. Pay or trade services with them.
  5. Have a Sunday night meeting with family to sync up calendars for the week.
  6. Let a friend decorate your house.
  7. Use a blog reader (Feedly) to organize blogs. “Must read” vs “might read”.
  8. Create a pinterest board for “Love it, but not gonna happen” items. That allows you to keep your other boards more practical.
  9. Keep notes on what you did for each holiday. Food you made, gifts you gave, places you went. Include tips for next year (aka: Don’t forget to buy grandma her Snickers bars!)
  10. Public libraries – Don’t buy what you can borrow! For Omaha Public Library, you can even reserve & hold books online, making it a quick stop to return & check out.
  11. Public libraries – It might be fun for each kid to have their own library card, but it can be a hassle to keep on top of when things are due. If kids are still young enough to not manage it on their own, just use a family card.
  12. Lots of cords for the computer? For video camera?  Camera?  External Hard drives?  Back up systems?  Label each end with a piece of tape to make it easy to identify which cord is which.  Then you can even store them inside a box, poking a hole outside the box for each cord.
  13. Store a little bit of each paint that you have in a separate container for quick touch ups. Glass baby food jars work great, but so do cheap plastic storage containers.
  14. Keep a list of each paint color you’ve used and where you’ve used it. Especially if you tend to use similar, but not exact colors in different places.
  15. Pay your hair dresser to teach you how to do your hair. Schedule it like you would a hair cut, but instead, ask her to spend her time teaching you.
  16. Have things you don’t want any more? “Sell” them on facebook, even if it’s for free.  Easier than arranging to meet a stranger, via craigslist.

Helpful Resources:

Flylady.com – Cleaning plans and inspiration

Keeperofthehome.org – She has great cleaning recipes that are multi-purpose.  Simple & few ingredients usually equals cheaper and simpler to implement!

Feedly – A way to organize blogs.

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I’m “full term” tomorrow — 37 weeks!

I had a doctor’s appointment scheduled for tomorrow, but since I started to have some swelling (just in my left leg/foot, not anywhere else), we moved it up to today.  I wasn’t able to see my OB (she was in surgery), but I saw one of the midwives in her office.

Great news?  Blood pressure was excellent!

Good news?  Nothing to worry about with the foot swelling.  It’s likely because of the position of the baby since nothing else is really swelling.  They took a urine sample and will test for things, but since I haven’t heard back yet, I’m probably okay.

Not as good news?  Gained 2 pounds since last week – pretty much all this weekend.  I blame the swelling.  It couldn’t possibly be the 3 pieces of my mom’s lasagna that I had on Saturday while celebrating my nephew’s first birthday.  Couldn’t be.

Nothing to do, but to see the doctor again in a week!

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We rarely take the boys out to eat.  Now, one of us might run out and grab fast food and bring it home, but the boys rarely go into restaurants.  It isn’t a money thing; it’s just stressful for me.  You don’t enjoy the food.  It’s hard to enjoy the company you’re with.  (Some might ask how we plan on training the boys to be in restaurants if we never take them there.  But I believe that they will be just fine should they never dine out until they’re 8.  Somehow, they’ll still learn to be still. We have time for them to learn this life lesson.  Later.)

But a couple of weeks ago, my mom invited us out and it was great timing — it was getting late and I didn’t have dinner plans.  The boys had taken long afternoon naps.  It was to a place that I love (Olive Garden.) There would be more adults there than children.  And with a 3rd on the way, I knew it was almost a “now or never” kind of moment. So I gave an enthusiastic yes!

Dinner was great.  The service was slow as the restaurant was really busy, but the boys did really well.  (Of course, my expectations were low.)  As we were getting ready to leave and pay our bill, Finn said “Mama, I got sickies in my tummy.”

So I scooted him over to me and we cuddled while Jeff dealt with the check.  Well, we cuddled as much as you can squeezed into a booth.

Then I stood him up to put his coat on him.  He leaned over into me and puked.  A few times.  He hadn’t eaten too much, but whatever was in there, all came out.  Mostly on me, but some on the bench seat.  Some on the floor.  Some on the table.  Some even flew and hit Jeff’s shoe.

He instantly felt better of course.  At nearly the same time, Stephen started crying cause he was D.O.N.E.  He had had enough and was ready to go.

My mother laughed (kindly, in a “I remember those days” kind of way) and took a picture.  Me, 30-some weeks pregnant in a restaurant booth with a crying 1-year-old and a puking 2-year-old.  It was one of those “I’m just gonna laugh about this because there isn’t much else I can do anyway” kind of moments.

IMG_0540

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In this latest edition of “Things I want to Remember”…

Stephen had his 15-month check up at the pediatrician’s office last week.  Went great.  They didn’t write down his numbers for me (I thought they would, so I didn’t bother writing them down), but if memory serves, he’s:

  • 90th percentile for height
  • 20th percentile for weight (which surprised me a little bit cause that boy can eat!  And he’s got a little baby belly on him.  But I guess that’s why it’s called a baby belly — babies have them!)
  • 70th percentile for head size

None of those are radically off from where he’s been in the past, so he’s growing!  He isn’t saying as many words as they’d like.  He pretty much only says Dada and Daddy.  (Yes, no mama yet).  But he does ‘talk’ all the time.  We’ll just keep watching it.

Finn recently took the “child lock” off his bedroom door.  For about a year since Finn’s been tall enough to open bedroom doors himself, we’ve “locked him” in his room at night with one of those child safety locks.  I just had visions of him escaping at night, running down to the kitchen and practicing a knife throwing routine for the circus.  Last night, I was working in my room and he came in twice and handed me the lock. He hadn’t figured out how to open the door with the lock, but rather to take the lock off!  Oh well…we had been thinking that it was time to do so anyway since we’ll eventually want to night potty train him and we’ll want him to be able to leave his room to go to the bathroom. This is as good a time as any before he and Stephen share a room soon.

We’re eating through our freezer!  I don’t think I’ve mentioned it on here, but I blog occasionally for Mom Saves Money and I’ve been posting how my deep freeze has gotten out of control.  So, we’ve been intentionally eating from the freezer this month instead of adding to it.  Lessons learned: we don’t really eat frozen pizza, but we do eat cheese!  This week’s goal is to organize, organize, organize!  Week One, Week Two, Week Three, Week Four.

Home improvements – but not the fun kind.  Our house has a toy room.  I mean, I’m sure it was intended to be a family room, but for us, it’s a toy room.  But man, it gets cold!  We suspect the fireplace is leaking and maybe the door to the back deck, so we had a home inspector come in who has an infrared camera.  Diagnosis: the fireplace is leaking, the door is fine, but your attic doesn’t have adequate insulation and your furnace is old.  Really old.  Like 28 years old.  Like “How are you all not dead yet?” kind of old.  And same with the water heater.  So, last week, we got a new water heater.  And a new furnace.  Next week is more attic insulation.  I need to price out getting the fireplace converted to gas.  It’s wood burning, but it’s been stuffed full of styrofoam from the previous owners and I’m afraid to look in it!

And man, my kids are cute!

January2015

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With a new baby coming, I started to think about Finn & Stephen sharing a bedroom.  At first, I was just going to set up Stephen’s bed in Finn’s room and move him in there when the time was right.  But I realized that the best room for 2 kids was actually Stephen’s room.  Simply because of where the closet was in the room, it gave more walls for more beds & dresser.  So that meant:

  • Making the nursery into a “big boy” room.
  • Moving Finn into that “big boy” room now.
  • Making the current “big boy” room into a “nursery”.
  • Moving Stephen into that “nursery”.
  • Move Stephen into the “big boy” room when Baby #3 comes.
  • Baby #3 sleeps in the “nursery.”

Since I was never really thrilled about the color of the nursery, I wanted to repaint.  I didn’t have to – it was a perfectly fine color; just not one that I wanted anymore.  And it’s easier to repaint it when you’re moving furniture around anyway AND before 2 boys sleep there instead of 1.  So I repainted it white.  Stark white.  Never had a white room before.

BUT…I also did a big stripe near the bottom (but not at the bottom) of the wall.  AND I painted the trim!  I didn’t do the door trim yet — not brave enough for that, but I did the trim next to the floor!  I LOVE the way it looks, so that’s further confirmation that it’s the path that I want to go.

I don’t have any BEFORE pictures, but here’s the AFTER pictures.  (BTW…one of my goals for 2015 is to photograph my house – as it is, in all it’s imperfections.  It’ll be fun for memory lane sakes.)

It isn’t done, of course.

  • I ordered curtains in navy for the room.  Didn’t like them.  Will keep looking.
  • We’ll set up a Toddler bed in there for Stephen in a couple of months.  It’ll go across from Finn’s next to the window.
  • The boys have coordinating bedspreads (which they didn’t get for Christmas).  Eventually, they’ll get those.  Finn already has a comforter, but with potty training, it’s easier to use blankets because when accidents happen, I can wash everything in 1 load.
  • I want to add more 8×11 pictures to the wall, which I’ll do over time.  When Baby #3 is born, we’ll take family pictures again, so that might provide a nice opportunity for more photos.

NewBoysRoom

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Keeping Christmas Organized

A few years ago (probably when I married Jeff and doubled the size of my family and the people that I was shopping for), I started keeping a little file of Christmas things.  Mostly the gifts that I was planning to buy and the status of them – Had I bought the gifts yet?  Have I wrapped the gifts yet?  It’s super nice when I’m in the mode of “did I get this figured out yet or not?” brainstorming sessions.  Then I don’t end up buying 2 gifts for 1 person and no gifts for someone else.  And it makes it harder to forget someone — I just start with last year’s list and make changes.

I also include things that I made for different dinners…like green bean casserole when we got together with friends or Chex Mix when we went to Jeff’s parents place.  That way, I could remember if things were hits or misses.  Like last year, when we had 8 dessert choices for 12 family members.  This year, I brought something different!

It’s nice because I have a record of the gifts I bought people, so I can make sure I’m not the aunt “who always gives me a doll”.  Unless, that niece always wants a doll.

Anyway, it’s helped my sanity.  Maybe it’d help yours too.

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I want to remember these things, but I’m sure time will steal them from my mind to make room for other things.  I’m not good at taking pictures, I guess – too busy living in front of the camera instead of behind it (which is good in a way, not so good in others).  But here are the good and not-so-good things that I want to remember about Christmas 2014.

  • This was our year to travel to Jeff’s family’s town to celebrate Christmas Day.  Which meant the boys slept a strange-to-them place.  Tip for the future: They do better when they’re in separate rooms.  Once we separated them, instant sleep!
  • Putting toothpaste in your 2-year-old (Finn)’s stocking means that he’ll get into it when you aren’t looking and spread some on the table in the toy room.  And in his hair.  And 2 days later, you’ll discover more of it on his play fort and the carpet.  Smells yummy though.
  • Cheesy potatoes still rock!
  • Christmas ham is way better than Thanksgiving turkey!  (Even good turkey.)
  • 1 is such a fun age because everything is fun and they aren’t yet tall enough to get into too much trouble.
  • 1 year olds taken off milk & formula due to suspected dairy allergies eat all.the.time.  ALL.THE.TIME!
  • 2 1/2 is a fun age because they haven’t yet realized that Christmas means presents and they just think it’s so cool that they got anything.
  • In fact this year, Finn seems to think that Christmas = tree.  No matter how many times we explained that it was Jesus’s birthday or a holiday or a set day, it didn’t matter.  Anytime he saw a Christmas tree anywhere it was “Christmas!”.
  • Just because I think it’s a good idea to “surprise” your husband with a Christmas gift, don’t do it.  Even if you don’t really think it’s a Christmas gift, but something he would buy anyway and you didn’t wrap it, but just put it in his stocking, don’t do it.  It smells of violating agreements.
  • Spending nearly 2 days without facebook, personal email or work email is glorious.  Confirmed that while I want a smartphone, I don’t really want a smartphone.
  • 2 year olds that get really cranky and tired need trips to towns 40 minutes away “just because”.  It makes them fall asleep.  Even if it is 8:00 am on Christmas morning.  Even if all you do is see the town’s airport and turn right back around.
  • All the boys got from us (their parents) were a new toothbrush, toothpaste and socks.  No, we weren’t trying a new minimalist trend.  Or trying to prevent a feeling of entitlement.  We bought them more than that.  We wrapped more than that.  We got them books, puzzles, bedspreads, but they’d already gotten so many Christmas presents from other people that it’d be overwhelming at this point to give them more.  Should I save them for their birthdays?  I just don’t know what to do there.
  • I never even took Stephen’s Christmas outfit off the hanger.  Jeff’s family typically doesn’t dress up for Christmas, so while I took it with us to his hometown, he never wore it.  I guess I’ll take it back!
  • Highlights of the gifts for Jeff & I: an updated navigation DVD for our mini-van, money for a new desk chair for Jeff, gift certificates to Nebraska Furniture Mart, Ascension expansion pack and an additional crockpot!
  • Highlights of the gifts for Finn: Scooter from Jeff’s parents, Big Wheel from my mom.  Guess there’s gonna be a lot of speed in our future!  He also loves the take-a-part plane from Aunt T.
  • Highlights of the gifts for Stephen: a picnic table set, lots of books, and a toy ladybug set that shoots out balls.

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