Valentine’s Day’s New Meaning

“Since we’re throwing a party on Valentine’s Day weekend, we don’t need to actually do anything for Valentine’s Days, do we?”

I stared at Jason and blinked. Was he kidding?? I blinked some more and then snarkily retorted, “Just read my blog post from last year!” He seemed taken back.

“What did it say?”

“Just read it….” I huffily ended the conversation, annoyed that he didn’t remember how hard I had worked to make last year’s Valentine’s Day special. After my knee jerk reaction of anger had cooled down a bit, I stopped to consider what Jason was asking me.

I considered where we were a year ago versus now. Last year, we were struggling so hard to make ANY time for each other between Jason’s switch shift job, my busy work schedule, and the schedules of three kids, one of them being a wonderful, yet demanding baby. Everything was a high priority except “us”.

Flashing forward to this Valentine’s Day, our lives had changed. Every day, we have been working to keep our relationship alive with texts saying “I love you” and small romantic gestures. Date nights have become a weekly event with dinners after the kids go down to sleep or sneaking out early for a movie. We’ve grown to understand that the firm foundation of our relationship was important for the happiness of the entire family.

20120214-210828.jpgSuddenly, pressuring my husband to come up with something for Valentine’s Day just didn’t seem as important. After all, it’s not just a holiday for us, but for the entire family.

When Jason sheepishly returned to me with his Valentine’s Day plans, throwing out dinner restaurants, movie ideas, back rubs or anything that would make me feel special, I smiled, grateful for the effort. “Why don’t we have a special dinner with the kids at home?”

Jason jumped with the idea, planning a lovely dinner of fondue for all of us. In between the rush of Mom’s work schedule and running to the gym, Dad’s writing projects and the boys sports schedule, we hadn’t had a nice family dinner in weeks. Finally, we got a chance to slow 20120214-210843.jpgdown and remind each other of all the reasons we love and care about each other. Ethan got to dance in his chair as he proudly cooked his fondue, Anthony talked endlessly about how awesome steak was (and did you know steak is made from beef?) while Keira exclaimed proudly to her family “big girl fork!” and “Look! Flowers for Mama!”

A noisy, bustling, family dinner over fancy food with the four people in the world I love most. What more could I ask for as a Valentine’s Day present?

Resolutions into 2012

I’ve never been a fan of resolutions. With each new year, I was tired of making promises to myself and throwing them to the side before the ground even began to thaw.

However, 2011 gave me a new perspective on resolutions and focusing on what’s important. After facing our finances and post-partum depression head on during the year, I realized that ignoring the important things in life didn’t really make things better. Even if I never fully accomplished our goal for 2011 of getting every single credit card paid off, the successes we accomplished far outweighed the “failure” of not staying on task for the full year.

So, it appears I’m back on the Resolution Train. I’m giving myself the freedom to make my resolutions and get myself back on the right page, knowing that I may not accomplish all that I’ve set myself up for. But if make progress over how I’ve ended 2011, that’s an accomplishment itself.

Here we go! Let’s make some resolutions!

1. Health – My health has been on the backburner since I became a mother. I had been diagnosed with PCOS when I was in college. While I struggled with conceiving Keira for two years, managing this condition was one of the top focuses in order to get pregnant. Unfortunately, as fertility stopped becoming a focus for me and the choas of raising three children while holding a full time job took over, I ignored its management. I ignored the long term consequences of the depression, diabetes, and cardivascular issues that often come along with PCOS when it’s left untreated. 

My kids deserve better than that. They deserve to have a happy mom, free of worry of health complications. So, before anything else in my life, health will have to be a priority. Afterall, if I don’t have my health, there’s really nothing else I can focus on.

2. 30 before 30 – Right along with health is jumping back on tackling that darn baby weight. This October I will be turning the big 3-0. To start my 30s right, I’m promising myself to shed the last of the baby weight. And the newly-wed weight. And the college weight. 272 days to go. Countdown begins today!

3. Total Money Makeover – Jason and I have pledged to get back to tackling our debt, energized by the thought of how great it would be without the weight of debt pulling us down. It feels scary and difficult. But if we tackle just as much in 2012 as we did in 2011, our debt will be mostly wiped out. It’s time to be gazelle intense.

Hopefully throwing these resolutions out there will bring people with similar goals out of the woodwork. Hold me accountable. And if you have any resolutions you need help with, leave a comment so I can help hold you accountable as well. Let’s make 2012 a stepping stone to greener pastures.

The Deeds Family Take on the Total Money Makeover

At the end of 2010, Jason and I had come to a place where we were in need of some much needed stability. When we had originally planned out our lives together 8 years ago, we had envisioned me working into management, Jason getting his degree in teaching and then us having kids. By the time babies were in the picture, we expected we’d be in a position for Jason to stay home until all the kids were in school.

However, when two wonderful little boys walked into our lives, this entire plan fell by the wayside. As the adoption process started, our clocks started ticking to have our third child closer in age to Anthony and Ethan. Two years later, Keira was born. While we were grateful to have all three of these wonderful children in our lives, we weren’t financial prepared for what it took to raise 3 kids. We had a large house with large bills, large student loans still sitting out there, and a car loan for a car that would fit the five of us.

In December of 2010, with the Christmas bills fresh on my mind, I sat on a plane to a work trip in Europe, reading the entire Total Money Makeover from cover to cover, making notes as I went along. I finally felt like we could get our plan back on track. When I got home, I shared everything I learned with Jason and we both eagerly agreed that 2011 would be the year we got things under control.

As of December 30, 2011, we may not have completely succeeded. While we were on track for most of the year, we ended up falling into old habits by the end of the year. Budgeting seemed to take up too much time so we threw that to the side. Envelopes were difficult with bank runs, so we threw that to the side.

But this post isn’t about what we didn’t do. This post is about what we were able to accomplish.

In the first five months of the year, we hit it hard. We budgeted every dollar. We had envelopes of cash for each budget line and didn’t overspend. We rolled any extra cash into the first debt, then the second, then the third…. until finally, we had paid off five of our credit cards and taken a huge chunk out of our last one.

We finally got to the point where Jason could stay home with the kids, slashing out childcare expenses and severely cutting the amount of money we spent eating out now that Jason was home to cook. Not to mention the amount of stress that was cut out of our lives worrying over debt.

When my brother announced his engagement in early summer, we were able to purchase plane tickets for all five of us and go to California with cash – something we never could have done before. And when finally in October, a month before our vacation to California, my car broke down (of course, a month after the warranty ran out), we had our emergency savings to save the day without having to put a dollar on a credit card.

It’s easy to feel discouraged at this time of the year, when the Christmas presents were small, the wallet feels completely pinched and our overall plan has been thrown by the wayside. But remembering everything we accomplished in 2011 has me eager to start 2012 with renew vigor to take down the remaining debt on our plates.

It’s time to roll up our sleeves, again. 2012 is going to be a great year.

Wordless Wednesday (Christmas Edition)

My Birthday Story

Obviously, I wasn’t there for the story of my birth. So, these are the events that happened as I remember people telling me. As it is my birthday, I thought I would share.

Around 8pm pacific time on Wednesday December 6th 1978, my sister, who was 4 1/2 at the time, sat down to watch Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer’s special presentation on ABC.

My very pregnant mother zoomed around the house cleaning up after dinner, not realizing she was nesting. I know my father was home, but I’ve never really heard what he was doing before all heck broke loose.

About twenty minutes into my sister’s TV special, my mother felt that she had to use the restroom, as she had drank quite a lot of tea that afternoon. While in there, she had realized that she did not in fact have to use the restroom, but her soon to-be-son’s head had already crowned. She had already started active labor and had no idea. (My mother was blessed with quick labors)

During the annual storytelling of my birth, this is when my father usually added some joke about always knowing I was a turd. *shakes head*

My father quickly called the neighbors, good friends to our family, to come get my sister and take her over to their house while he tried to get my mother to relax and by all means, please, wait for the ambulance.

I just didn’t want to wait. I guess I’ve been impatient from the start. Sorry, Dad. So, at 8:25 pm, my father delivered me into this world. (Insert another joke about being dropped on my head and that explaining my weirdness.) Shortly after that the ambulance arrived, the two medics looked around, relieved and said “Well this is an easy one.” And whisked us all off to the hospital.

To this day, my sister will never forgive me for interrupting Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer’s Christmas Special.

And The Zombie Says “Brrraaaiinnnsss”

The boys have been great big brothers to Keira. When they are with here, she is always laughing, playing, and just having a good time. They work on ABC’s, colors, numbers, and Anthony even has her able to say the first four numbers of pi. (Yes, he is a super nerd who has memorized the first 19 numbers in pi.)

Boys being boys though, they have also taught her a few things not as innocent.

1. The Zombie says…

While the kids and I were driving to the book store the other night, they were sitting in the back entertaining Keira by going over animal sounds. You know the old “What does the cow say” and baby says “MOOOOO!” They worked through the cows, ducks, and cats before Anthony bust out with “What does the Zombie say??” Without pause, Keira says “BRRRAAIIINS.” I tried not to laugh, really! But what’s funnier than zombie babies?

2. Bellies are fun!

We have been working with Keira on body parts. “Keira find your nose” moving on to eyes, ears, head, etc… This leads to Keira finding her belly to which she lifts her shirt and smacks her belly. The boys find this immensely funny. They took it one step further and now ask “Find Daddy’s belly” to which she will come running up to me, lift my shirt and smack my belly. If you are ever at our house and she lifts your shirt to smack your belly, I apologize ahead of time.

3. Peek a boo kicked up a notch

Since day one of living with the boys, I’ve hidden around corners and jumped out and scared them. They have taken on this own trait to scare each other. Now they have a weapon…  You guessed it – they have taught Keira to hide around corners and wait until you are just next to it to jump out and say “Boo!” Leading, of course, to them rolling on the floor with laughter.

I sure hope 3 ½ years from now, when Keira enters kindergarten, that the teachers are ready for this little zombie-loving, belly-smacking, peek-a-boo girl.

Pleasant Surprises

The Monday after Thanksgiving is always a bear. While getting two days off during a week always seems like a wondeful gift, what typically ends up happening is that all that work that should have been done on those vacation days just get pushed into the following week.

And so it was for me yesterday. I tried to focus my energies to get as much work done as possible. But by the end of the day there was still one more spreadsheet to complete, one more call to make, one more email to send out. When I finally felt it was safe to call it a night, I knew I’d be rushing home just to be able to get a chance to kiss the kids goodnight.

The overwhelming Mommy Guilt filled me. Not just for the kids, but for Jason. Mondays after Thanksgiving in Pennslyvania are also the beginning of deer hunting, meaning all the kids are off from school. It would be one very long day for Jason as he managed all three kids on his own after an already long weekend. I could only imagine how exhausted he would be and how ready he would be to hand over the kid duty.

Christmas Tree Hands

As I walked through the door, I came into the kitchen to find my dinner waiting patiently in the crockpot on the counter. The kids were happily fed with the boys playing nicely in the living room before seeing me and rushing up to give me hello hugs. Upstairs, I heard Jason singing the ABCs to Keira during her evening bath. On the dining room table, were art projects that Jason had worked with the kids on to give to relatives for Christmas.

I was awestuck. I went upstairs to help Jason in any way I could. I gave Keira a kiss and helped dry her hair before watching Jason comb her hair back into place. He looked over and smiled. “Why don’t you get all changed? Get comfortable, eat some dinner! I’ve got the kids taken care of.”

I walked back downstairs, pulling a beer out of the fridge and laying out my dinner on my plate before sitting down to my meal. Apparently, I had been worried for no reason at all. My kids were all happy. My husband had it all under control.

I found myself silently smiling as I took a bite of chicken. Stay at home dads FTW!

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