Sunday, August 30, 2015

7 Things I Believe About Life, Love, and Parenting

1. I believe that there is no such thing as luck. Thomas Jefferson said, “I find the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have.” I love this quote! Yes, some people do seem to have some good fortune … However, if it is meant to be and you are prepared, work hard and don’t give up, and you can reach your goals.  

Enjoying time as a family
at the Newport Aquarium.
2. I believe that we don’t meet people by accident; we cross paths for a reason. Every individual who comes into your life has a purpose. It may be to help you grow, to teach you, to love you, or even to hurt you – but no matter the reason, each person helps shape you into who you are meant to be.  

3. I believe the children are our future. Oh wait, Whitney already told us that she believed that! It’s true, though. Take the time to teach them well and show them the beauty they possess on the inside! Make it a point to act as a good role model for our children. Lead by example. Teach them kindness and acceptance and find ways to raise a passionate child. Spend time with them, listening to them and talking with them. Don’t just tell them, but show them that they are loved each and every day.

4. I believe that there is not one singular path to or definition of success. What is success to you? Being a partner in a strong and loving marriage? Financial stability? Having happy and healthy children? Working your way to a position at the top of the corporate ladder? Don’t just dream about success – work for it! Remember that comparison is the thief of joy, so ditch that “Keeping up with the Joneses” mentality. The Joneses are lame-o's.

5. I believe that happiness starts from within. You often hear people say, "If only I had money," or "If only I had a spouse," or "If only I had another baby, I’d be happier." However, some of the happiest people are those with the least possessions. Until you are truly happy yourself, I don’t think the best job, the most handsome husband and perfect children can “make” you happy. There are things you can do be to be happy, but no one can make you TRULY happy except yourself. I want my kids to realize that possessions won’t make them happy, and I don't want them to let other people be joy stealers.

6. I believe we should all carpe the heck out of the diem! It’s easy to get running on the rat race of life, the proverbial “hamster wheel,” and not stop and smell the roses. There simply aren’t always enough
Photo credit:
hours in the day to get everything accomplished on your to-do list. I think the ole YOLO phrase is a little overused, but I think we should all live each day to the fullest and quit pushing the things and people who make us happy off to another day. Live in the moment. With that being said …

7. I believe (I know without an ounce of doubt) that these days of motherhood are ones we will miss. As a mom to a 3- and a 4-year-old, sometimes I feel bogged down by the scarcity of alone time and privacy, but I know these days are fleeting. I realize that the days are long but the years are short. These days are ones I will forever remember with a smile (and probably a flood of tears) and I truly do my best to always appreciate even the littlest moments. I know someday I will long for this affection and want to feel as needed and loved as I do right now.

What do you believe?

Lori is a work-at-home mom living in Noblesville, a suburb of Indianapolis. She is mom to two children ages 4 and 3 and enjoys watching them grow. Lori also enjoys taking walks, shopping, reading, decorating, photography, and traveling. Leave her a comment below or email her at

While you are here, you may enjoy the following posts:

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

3 Reasons Why You Should Read Aloud to Your Children

By Lori --

I’ve always liked to read books. From my younger days of hoarding Sweet Valley High Twins and Baby-Sitters Club books through my R.L. Stine stage to my Jodi Picoult obsession, reading is a pastime I’ve loved for as long as I can remember. There’s something about a good book that actually makes you feel like you know the characters. A good book helps you truly visualize each scene and actually escape into the words you’re reading.

My daughter enjoying
one of her favorite books.
A staggering one in four children in America grow up without learning how to read. Needless to say, prior to having my first child, I started collecting books to read to him. We have continued to read to him and my daughter every day since they were born.

Childcare costs make it easy for moms to stay home, so we are always looking for activities that are fun and educational. Visiting the library for story time and Half Price books are some hobbies of ours. The kids enjoy picking out their own books. The Clifford series is our favorite right now. You can bet I scour garage sales for popular books, too! Last year I even found Goodnight, Moon for ten cents.

Here are great reasons why you should read to kids daily, starting from birth and continuing past the toddler years:

It’s time spent together.
The days are full of so many activities. Reading provides a time when you are focusing on nothing else, just your children. We read to our kids every night and use this time to point to pictures and ask the children questions about what they see in the pictures. This opens lines for communication.

You can get clues on where your children may need help.
Reading gives you a chance to talk to your kids about a lot of subjects and topics, including things that the school curriculum may not cover. Reading to your children can help you better teach them the meanings to new words and can enhance their vocabularies. Reading also helps your children excel in all school subjects and understand abstract concepts. Reading to our oldest led me to realize he was having some delays and, ultimately, helped push me to make the
Photo credit:
decision to get him into speech therapy.

It may lead to a lifelong love of reading.
If you read like you mean it and truly enjoy the story – this means getting into he story, changing your voice and inflections and having fun with it – your children will probably learn to love reading, too. My 3-year-old daughter not only loves to read to me, but she pretends to read herself. She looks through the books and speaks aloud about what she sees happening on each page. As an adult who loves to read, I am very happy to see that she enjoys books so much. They truly excite her!

Reading is a lot of fun, and it’s great for enhancing your relationship with your child. The decision to regularly read books to your child helps in every way possible when it comes to learning and language comprehension. Reading is one of the most important contributing factors to children's success in school. Take the time to read to your children!

Why do you enjoy reading to your children? How do you make reading fun?

Lori is a work-at-home mom living in Noblesville, a suburb of Indianapolis. She is mom to two children ages 4 and 3 and enjoys watching them grow. Lori also enjoys taking walks, shopping, spending time with her husband, reading, decorating, photography, and traveling. Leave her a comment below or email her at

While you are here, you may enjoy the following posts: 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Joys of Simple Vacations

By Rachael --

Full darkness had set in as my husband and I stuffed wet camping gear into the back of our Subaru. We knew it could be worse. We arrived at the state park with our daughters earlier that afternoon and set up our campsite. Then our site flooded during a brief rainstorm. We returned from dinner to find our tent standing in water. Our fire pit was an island in the middle of a small pond.

We lost track of time in the scramble and now it was nearing 9 p.m. Josh and I were moving all our stuff to another site on drier, higher ground. Into the car went the bedding, the lawn chairs, the tent poles. My arms were damp from carrying our wet tent. Droplets of water left over from the storm slipped from the trees above us and echoed through the woods.

On that late wet night, I briefly thought about how much easier “regular” vacations are, where we could stay in a hotel and visit Disney World or Hawaii or even tourist traps like Wisconsin Dells. Our daughters would love a weekend at the Great Wolf Lodge.

But we live primarily on my husband’s teacher income. One night in a hotel can buy us five nights of camping at a state park. 

Our family vacations each summer consist primarily of two things: 1.) Camping trips at state parks in the Midwest. 2.) Visits to my parents' house in my hometown on the shores of Lake Michigan in Indiana. It does sound glamorous to say we make an annual trip to the beach.

Mumbling Mommy writer Katie also appreciates low-key family vacations. Her family recently “schlepped” across the country in their minivan. They visited relatives and slept on couches and in spare bedrooms, and her kids loved it. She described to me how enjoyable it was to watch her kids play in her parents’ front yard one evening. They were having so much fun, she told her husband she had no problem continuing to do the low-budget vacation routine at least while the kids are young.

Even if we do sometimes get flooded out of our campsite, or we go to the same beach (with cold water!) every year, I like simple and low-cost vacations for several reasons:

Simple vacations leave room in the budget for additional fun things. Instead of pouring all our funds into lodging or going to one expensive destination, we go cheap and have money leftover for other treats. We rent canoes for a float down the creek and eat at the ice cream parlor. We let the kids ride ponies and we go on cave tours. Some of the state parks where we camp have an inn with a restaurant on the property, and we enjoy a rare dinner out, stuffing ourselves with fried chicken and sugar cream pie from the buffet. When we visit my parents’ house, our girls love to eat out with all our relatives who live in the area -- their cousins, uncle, aunts, and great-grandmother. 

Simple vacations give kids opportunities to make their own fun. When we camp, our kids love running around outdoors and catching bugs and toads. When we visit my parents’ house, they play with toys from my childhood or explore my mom’s garden. They spend hours playing with plastic buckets and shovels on the beach. In my parents' backyard, our daughters and their cousins ate Popsicles, read books, and hunted lightning bugs. Entertainment is low-tech and low-cost but memorable. 

Simple vacations make unique memories. Some of the best stories come from our camping vacations. We focus on people and doing things together. A few years ago when we had a big family reunion at a state park, my octogenarian grandfather, who was staying in the park’s inn, stayed late one night at our camp site because he wanted to see for himself the prowling raccoons we had told him about. His eyes grew big when a raccoon actually did amble out from the woods. When grandpa passed away a year later, we fondly remembered that night. 

One of my favorite memories from this summer was an evening my 7-year-old daughter and I spent with my dad in my hometown. He was feeding fish in a saltwater tank for some church friends who were out of town, so we tagged along to see the anemones, coral, and a starfish. My daughter got to feed shrimp pieces to some small fish. Afterward, we drove a few minutes to Lake Michigan. We arrived at that golden time when the sun was setting. We took pictures and strolled along the pier to the lighthouse. It was my daughter’s first time walking out to the lighthouse.

Going back to that rainy night at the campground this summer, it was sometime after 10 p.m. by the time we set our campsite up for the second time. While Josh and I were sliding tent poles into fabric slots by lantern light, our daughters found a toad preying on the flying insects attracted to the bathhouse lights nearby. They floated small toys in a puddle. They kicked off their flip flops and ran barefoot in the wet grass.

I sometimes dream of luxury vacations in posh hotels. Then I remember hearing my daughters’ laughter that night at the campground, and I realize we don’t need anything more to make us happy. 

Rachael is the managing editor for Mumbling Mommy. She is a former newspaper editor and a graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University. When she’s not busy with her husband and two daughters, you’ll find her gardening, cooking, singing with ladies from church, or reading Charlotte Bronte novels. You can contact her by e-mailing

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While you're here, you may enjoy these posts: 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Family Trip Tuesday: The Muny Theatre in St. Louis

View all the posts in our Family Trip Tuesday series at this link

By Rachael --

If you want a unique live theatre experience, there is nothing like sitting in a huge outdoor theatre with nearly 11,000 other people. At The Muny in St. Louis, the venue itself is as much of a spectacle as the Broadway-quality shows it stages. 

The sprawling, nearly 100-year-old theatre with Renaissance-style columns is built into a hillside, with the stage at the bottom and seats sloping upward. Audiences take in fantastic rotating stage sets and large choral dance numbers punctuated with fireworks, while high above the iridescent wings of nighttime insects shimmer as they pass through the spotlight beams. (I saw no mosquitoes!) 

The Muny has only one flaw: There is not enough elevation between rows of seats, so any large people who sit in front of you can significantly obstruct your view. 

Otherwise, a night at The Muny is pure summertime joy.

Short for The Municipal Theatre Association of St. Louis, The Muny stages several popular musicals every summer, with this year’s run including My Fair Lady, Into the Woods, Hairspray, Holiday Inn, Oklahoma, and The Buddy Holly Story. 

The Muny is in Forest Park, which is also home to The Saint Louis Zoo, Science Center, Missouri History Museum, and St. Louis Art Museum (all great destinations with free admission). Forest Park originally was the location for the 1904 World’s Fair.

Meet Me at The Muny

Since I moved to St. Louis several years ago, I’ve become familiar with the catchy commercials on local television beckoning, “Meet me at The Muny.” I’ve been wanting to attend a show, and I’ve been waiting until my firstborn daughter was old enough to sit through it and handle the late hours; Muny shows start at 8:15 p.m. to ensure a sufficiently dark theatre.

My daughter, Megan, is now 7 years old and is a fledgling fan of live theatre. She had an ensemble role in a high school production of Beauty and the Beast last spring, and when I noticed The Muny’s 2015 lineup included Beauty and the Beast, I knew this was the year for us to see our first show there. We planned a mom-and-daughter date and left my husband and our 3-year-old at home to watch the Disney DVD of Beauty and the Beast.

First, we had to decide whether we wanted to buy tickets. Muny tickets range from $87 for premium seats to … free! About 1,500 seats in the last few rows are available first-come first-served at no charge. The free seats are far enough from the stage that people recommend binoculars. But hey, they’re free! Be warned: The Muny’s website says lines for the free seats sometimes begin forming as early as 4 p.m.

Because Beauty and the Beast is a popular show, I decided to guarantee our seats by purchasing $14-a-piece tickets in advance for seats in the rows just ahead of the free seats. The cost was around $17.25 each after handling fees. It seemed like a bargain for a show that boasts many cast members with Broadway experience.

What to do Before the Show

We arrived on theatre grounds about two hours before show time so we could eat a picnic dinner under the trees, walk around, and take in the pre-show festivities. It was worth our time. The grounds are beautiful with landscaping, covered walkways, and fountains. Musicians performed at various locations outside the theatre, and one area had children’s activities such as a magician, coloring tables, and a raffle for several Build-A-Bears. They also did a reading of the story of Beauty and the Beast.
On some evenings, a group of local youth talent called The Muny Kids will perform, which I'm told is a treat.

When the theatre gates opened, we were allowed to take in small soft-side coolers as long as they fit under our seats. Megan and I each brought insulated lunch bags filled with water bottles and snacks. (They request that you don’t bring glass bottles or “crunchy” wrappers.)

The Muny also has concession stands selling soft pretzels, nachos, drinks, and ice cream treats at prices that compare to what you’d find at a ball park. If you’re feeling splurgy, you can make reservations to eat before the show at The Muny’s dining pavilion. The spread the night of our show included ribs, crabmeat-topped tilapia, and chilled strawberry soup for $22 per adult, $10.50 per kid.

A Large-Scale Theatre Spectacle

At 8:15 p.m., we stood to sing the National Anthem, and the show got under way. In the fading daylight, I watched with amusement as a helicopter flew not far from the theatre and a duck passed swiftly overhead. It’s all part of the ambiance of an outdoor show. It’s worth peeling your eyes off the stage occasionally to look around the theatre and glance at the night sky.

The show was superb, with high-talent acting, singing, and dancing. Megan was pleased when we read in the program that the actor playing LeFou was one of the lost boys in NBC’s broadcast of Peter Pan Live last December, one of her favorite shows. 

We were impressed by the elaborate sets that moved on a rotating circular platform in the middle of the stage. The stage, by the way, is reportedly the size of half a football field, and a Muny Facebook promotional post noted the Be Our Guest number featured a whopping 85 people dressed as dining utensils. The entire production was a spectacle in large-scale theatre, with the additional fun of fireworks during Be Our Guest and the finale. Get a peek or check out other Muny productions at this link.

Because it is such a huge venue, it was different from other live theatre I’ve experienced. I could not easily make out actors’ facial expressions without looking through binoculars, so I missed some of the nuances of their acting. Seeing a show here means you have to accept that will you see the big picture and not necessarily the details ... unless you pony up for the $87 tickets. Also, while a live orchestra played, I didn’t always feel like I was listening to live instruments because they were so far away and piped through the sound system. I could hear everything loud and clear, though.

My only real complaint was how difficult it was to see over the heads and shoulders of people in the rows immediately ahead of us. At 5’6” I am not short, but the seating layout does not leave much "margin" to see over patrons' heads. I read a few comments on TripAdvisor and Yelp warning of this. We experienced it firsthand when two large-ish-but-not-giant men sat in the two rows directly ahead of us. You know it’s bad when someone sitting two rows ahead of you causes a problem.

Megan and I had to continually move our heads and shift in our seats to look between people’s heads and shoulders. I sat there thinking, “I paid nearly $40 between the two of us for this?” At intermission, a kind couple next to us offered to switch seats so Megan could see better, and our view was greatly improved. I thanked that couple profusely. 

When the show ended just before 11 p.m., we lingered for a few minutes and watched the stagehands put away set pieces while the crowd made its way out. I was prepared to take our time getting out because 11,000 people don’t go anywhere fast. (With this crowd, be prepared for long lines for the bathrooms during intermission, too.) 

It took about 20 minutes to get out of the parking lot once we got to our car, and it took another 10 minutes to get out of Forest Park and onto the interstate. It’s late and you want to get the kids to bed, but accept that leaving is going to be a slow process. As we sat in the parking lot, we watched one family play with glow sticks in a grassy area near their car while they waited for traffic to clear. It looked like a great idea.  

"Muny Hangover"

I was tired the following day. I'm not used to staying up past midnight, and I told my husband I had a "Muny hangover," but the experience was worth the late night. If they ever remodel the theatre so a good view from the seats is a more sure thing, I’d be a fan forever. Judging from how packed the theatre always seems to be, this issue apparently doesn’t bother people enough to keep them from buying tickets. The quality talent and unique outdoor experience are enough to hook people, including perhaps myself.

For now, we’ll await the announcement of next summer’s show lineup and plan to return to snag some of those free seats, or maybe we'll ask the in-laws for tickets as a Christmas gift. It’s a good, budget-friendly way to introduce my kids to musical theatre. We’ll just be sure to buy a few more pairs of binoculars. 

Rachael is the managing editor for Mumbling Mommy. She is a former newspaper editor and a graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University. When she’s not busy with her husband and two daughters, you’ll find her gardening, cooking, singing with ladies from church, or reading Charlotte Bronte novels. You can contact her by e-mailing

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Sunday, August 16, 2015

Back to the Future: Six Flags with Different Eyes

By Joshua --

When I was an adolescent, my parents got us season passes to Six Flags in St. Louis, Missouri. In those days we went early and often; during one unusual summer I personally made fourteen different trips with various family members and friends. My siblings and I knew that park so well we could have walked through it blindfolded.

This year, because of various circumstances, my mom decided to gift four season passes (including a bonus season parking pass) to my own family: myself, my wife, and my two daughters. Except for a single day trip to the park’s water area -- Hurricane Harbor -- in 2001, it was the first time I’d been to Six Flags in over two decades. It was also my first time at Six Flags as a husband and parent.

As a teacher married to a stay-at-home mom, we tend to make a lot of small, inexpensive day trips during the summer, such as to our local zoo or other free area attractions. Because of the season passes, my wife and I decided to clear those things out this summer, focusing on trying to maximize the value of our Six Flags passes. 

Along the way, I discovered that the park was noticeably different than my childhood memories, both because of changes made during the interim and because of my different vantage point from that of a kid.

Changes to the Park

Coming back to the main part of an amusement park after twenty-plus years is something like that sensation of visiting a hometown you haven’t been to in a long time: some things are very familiar and some are very much not. 

The park’s walkways were (almost) exactly like I remembered, and for the most part the mental map in my head didn’t let me down. Old rides were exactly where I remembered them, right next to other buildings that were mostly familiar; a right turn at the entrance, for example, took me straight to the Ninja, a short but spectacular steel coaster that was, in its heyday, called the black belt of roller coasters.

At the same time, there were new buildings interspersed among the old, giving certain places a feeling of nostalgia on top of discovery. One of the most surprising of those discoveries was the installation of a few chain restaurants on the park property: Panda Express and Cold Stone Creamery were notable examples. 

The march of change was most evident at the edges of the park, where new rides had been built since my last trip. A massive new wooden roller coaster (appropriately called The Boss) now dominated the back left of the park; a collection of new rides now loomed on the back right. Even the middle of the park was not unchanged; one jarring development was the wholesale relocation of the young children’s rides from the left corner of the park to the back center, and a new wooden roller coaster in the old space.

One thing that pulled on my nostalgia was the apparent disparity in crowds between the older and newer rides. The Boomerang, a metal roller coaster that goes in two directions, almost always drew long lines, as did a brand-new 3D indoor arcade ride themed around the DC Comics universe. By contrast, the Ninja drew almost no lines during our many visits this summer; it is a once-proud coaster now seemingly neglected in favor of newer fare. The Screaming Eagle, a venerable wooden coaster known for its straightline runs, was a shorter wait than the The Boss with its towering drops.

Changes in my Perspective

One of the biggest revelations for me, as an adult, is the way amusement parks sell in ways beyond the price of the ticket. Six Flags has, in my view, mastered the art of the soft sell. Unlike some businesses that subject customers to high-pressure sales tactics, Six Flags is largely content to let the sights and smells do the talking. This preserves the low-pressure nature of the park (which I personally appreciate) while providing advertising about the park’s upsell options everywhere. As a kid, I never realized just how clever Six Flags was to carefully space the enticing aromas of restaurants all around the park property.

It’s all part of the park’s larger business model; Six Flags sells season passes at pretty reasonable prices, calculating that repeat visitors will eventually pay more for the park’s extra perks. And I saw ample evidence during our trips that it worked, and not just from other families; on our third trip we broke down and bought a pair of superhero capes for the daughters and one funnel cake with ice cream, whipped cream, and strawberries. (Yes, it was as amazing as it sounds.) For the most part, though, we joined the subculture of people who brought their own food and pulled coolers over to the shaded medians in the Six Flags parking lot.

There were many more things we saw among the crowds that we didn’t buy. The Preferred Parking (an extra $10 a day over a regular parking pass) was usually full. Refillable drink cups ($20 for a full season of free refills) were everywhere. Many visitors stood in line to requisition food from the park’s deluxe dining plan ($85 per person for a full season of meals and snacks). Over in the water park, Hurricane Harbor, premium yellow rental tubes ($30 for the season) were all over the place, and the lockers (starting at $13 a day) saw a constant flow of traffic. In a few of the roller coasters, I watched people hop to the front of the lines using the park’s Flash Pass (starting at about $37 a day). 

I have no beef with any of this, since it was all perfectly optional to the park experience, but I nevertheless marveled at how effectively Six Flags had marketed them. In my youth, it all would have gone over my head. 

Aside from the salesmanship, the adult me also had appreciation for all of the little things the park did to make the experience memorable. Some of it was relatively trivial -- the sublime engineering of a specific roller coaster, the intuitive layout of the park walkways -- but I also appreciated the general atmosphere of the park, from the upbeat workers to the ambient music. (I also loved being able to fly through a shorter entrance line using my Discover Card.) I have been to Disney World and have seen its gold standard of atmosphere, but I thought Six Flags (this one, at least), paid some attention to those things, too.

As for the Kids ...

As much as this summer was obviously an adventure for me, it was an absolutely mind-bending experience for my daughters. My 3-year-old practically camped out at the children’s area, frolicking in the large playground and taking her turn on the pint-sized rides. My 7-year-old, just barely over the all-important 48” threshold, dragged me onto every roller coaster she could, sometimes multiple times. The girls came home exhausted every time (to say nothing of us parents), but each time they asked to go back, and each time we found plenty for them to do, whether it was on the coasters, in the shows, or in the water park. We also managed to keep the costs very reasonable, most of the time only paying for the price of gas.

With summer winding down, our window of visits is fast closing. At the time of this post, I’d been to the park four times and my wife and daughters five times. On our most recent trip home, my wife said, with a tired look in her eyes, that she felt like we’d done it quite a lot this summer.

That might not stop us from squeezing in a trip to Six Flags Fright Fest in the fall.

Joshua is husband to Mumbling Mommy’s managing editor, Rachael. He works as a St. Louis-area high school social studies teacher and is a former senior editor and current contributing writer for the video game web site, His debut science fiction novel is due out next spring. Visit his author page at

First time here? Like Mumbling Mommy on Facebook to continue the conversation! 

While you're here, you may enjoy these other posts:

Child Safety: Understated and Overstated Dangers

Family Trip Tuesday: Six Flags St. Louis

What Fall is Like When You're a Football Fan

School Choice: The Virtues of Public Schools

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Milestones: When the "Baby" of the Family Starts Kindergarten

By Elizabeth --

My youngest son starts Kindergarten in a few days. I've been a "mostly stay-at-home mom" since my eldest was born almost 8 years ago; for the first time in nearly a decade, I will have whole weekdays to myself. To say my feelings about this are mixed is a gross understatement.

When I was a child, I reached each new milestone with excitement and pride: starting school, learning to read, entering adolescence, learning to drive. I remember my mother being happy for me but also expressing sadness as I moved from childhood to adolescence to adulthood. I never understood that, because as a child, my focus was on the future, not the past.

Image courtesy of
Each milestone for my children is a step away from the safe cocoon of home life and a step into a wider, scarier, and more exciting world. Each milestone takes them further on the road to adulthood and independence. A friend of mine once said, "The less they need you physically, the more they need you emotionally." Parenting is not monotonous; it's a journey through an ever-shifting landscape of a child's needs, desires, joys, and sorrows. As my friend Rachael observed when her eldest started school, every time our children change, we change, too.

Part of me is looking forward to the "new me" I can see emerging. I will have more time to devote to working, writing, and being creative. I can go out to eat with friends without picking a restaurant with a play area. I'm also considering going back to grad school, which was unthinkable before.

But I'm an extrovert, and I will miss having my little guy around to enjoy our favorite activities together, whether it's baking cookies or watching movies or going to the zoo. I'll especially miss him when it's time to run errands. He loves going to the store and makes each trip a fun adventure.

First day of preschool, two years ago. 
The other day I ran to the store after my husband got home from work, and both of the kids stayed home with him. I cried a little on the way there, thinking about how most of my errands will be done solo from now on. For the last 8 years, running errands alone has sometimes been a break from caring for young kids; now it will be my norm. It's a small difference, but one that shows just how much being a "mostly stay-at-home" mom has impacted my daily life and routine.

My whole identity as a mother is about to change, as much as it changed when I went from being a mother of one to a mother of two. I remember the strongly mixed feelings of excitement, joy, bewilderment, and worry over the changes in my life when my second son was born. I'm experiencing those feelings all over again now, and I'm sure I will experience them again with both of my sons' future milestones: going into middle and high school; leaving home; getting married.

A fellow blogger I know wrote a lovely post about her feelings when her baby started Kindergarten. She expressed fears that she'd missed out on her time with them by constantly looking ahead to the next milestone and not enjoying where they were. That post helped me adapt when my first son started Kindergarten that same year.

I can't say I've relished every single moment of parenting because no one does. But I do know that I've tried to live in the moment as much as possible and not rush through their childhoods. As grandparents love to tell you, it all goes by so fast. In a few days, my parenting will mainly take place before school, after school, and on the weekends. I look forward to finishing work and housework during the day so that I can be fully present with them during those times. I'm grateful that I can still work part time so I can be home with them during school breaks or sick days.

I look forward to seeing who my sons become as they grow up. I look forward to seeing who I become, too. Whatever changes time brings, I know our family will love each other for who we are -- past, present, and future.

Elizabeth is a full-time stay-at-home mom, part-time minister, occasional professor, and enjoys traveling and cooking with her family. Contact her by e-mailing her at 

Sunday, August 9, 2015

8 Ways to Save Cash this Fall

Sliced apples with peanut butter are a tasty and
healthy snack that's affordable during the fall months!

By Lori --

Back-to-school time can be expensive, especially with the fun-but-costly Christmas season piggybacking that hectic time of the year. If you are hoping to cut some expenses and stick to a budget, you are in the right place. Check out these 8 original ways to manage your money this fall:

Cook meals (and serve snacks) that take advantage of seasonal fruits and vegetables. 
During the fall, squash and apples are usually plentiful, which means making roasted vegetables and pies is more affordable. Pick your own at a local farm or stock up at the grocery store and you will save cash. Serve apples as snacks to the kids and send them in their lunch boxes. Serve with peanut butter for a treat packed with protein.

Load up during fall sales.
Fall months tend to boast good deals, even though Black Friday sales steal the spotlight. Some often-overlooked prime shopping days include Halloween and Small Business Saturday (the day after Black Friday), when you can find steep discounts at participating stores.

Prepare for the holidays.
Holiday shopping can wreak havoc on the budget whether you're from a dual-working-parent family or getting by on one income. Plan your shopping list a couple months in advance to stay within your budget. Consider writing down the names of everyone you plan to buy presents for, write gift ideas for each person, and then make your purchases. This organization can help you stick to a budget.

Protect your cash.
Increased shopping around the holiday season means scammers aren’t messing around, so be on high alert. Act skeptically if you receive emails from your bank, a retailer, or anyone asking for personal information from you. Don’t give out information over the phone. Ask for a return phone number and call the person back to confirm he or she is who they claim to be. Scam artists often pose as a legitimate business to steal your personal info.

Enjoy football season without dropping a lot of money.
The start of football season can mean spending some money; football can be an expensive hobby. Instead of buying costly jerseys and throwing tailgating parties, buy team apparel during the off-season and host a potluck party. You’ll save money on attire and make hosting a party much more affordable (and less stressful for the host)! Plus, guests will love the array of snacks to eat.

Get your home ready for cooler temperatures.
Making necessary roof repairs, checking your insulation, and cleaning or changing your furnace filter are part of a frugal plan to prepare your home for the colder months. Have some drafty windows? Insulate them for the winter. Tackle these tasks yourself to save some money.

Review your monthly spending.
Our growing pile of items to
sell in the upcoming
consignment sale.
Our budgets often experience a total shock around the holidays. Prepare for the expensive season by reviewing or auditing your normal spending. Find places to cut back if you can. Eat fewer meals in restaurants, ditch seeing movies in the theatre and instead rent them at the library or at Red Box, or cut some cable channels to lower your monthly bill. You may not know how to make a budget, but it's a good way to get in control of your finances.

Participate in a consignment sale.
This year, I am consigning a lot of my children’s items. I have friends who have had great luck with consigning compared to selling at garage sales or selling items via Facebook sites. Take some time to go through your children’s closets, bins of outgrown clothes, toys, and other baby or toddler items you no longer use. Sell the items for cash. While you are selling, check out the items for sale and save some money on gently used clothes and toys, too.

With fall just around the corner and the costs of the holidays quickly following, it’s always a good idea to save some money. I hope these tips gave you some new ideas to set some cash aside this fall.

How do you save money? Do you have a strategy to prepare for the expensive holiday season?

Lori is a work-at-home mom living in Noblesville, a suburb of Indianapolis. She is mom to two children ages 4 and 3 and enjoys watching them grow. Lori also enjoys taking walks, shopping, spending time with her husband, reading, decorating, photography, and traveling. Leave her a comment below or email her at

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