Fashion Friday: The Perfect Jersey Robe

Am I really dedicating a Fashion Friday post to a robe? Yes. Yes, I am. Because it deserves it.

Since moving in with the in-laws, I figured it wasn’t all that appropriate to walk around the house in just my underwear. And I didn’t really want to be chasing my two-year-old around wearing my short silky robe, for reasons that I hope are obvious to you.

My mission: to find a lightweight (their house is much warmer than Ben and I ever kept ours), cute and functional robe to wear around people who don’t want to see me in my underwear (which would be everyone except for my husband).

I ordered this robe using a Gap coupon (because why would you ever pay full price at the Gap?), and I love it. It’s not only comfortable and functional, but it also is cute and flattering. In fact, the first time I wore it, Ben wasn’t entirely sure that it wasn’t a dress.

In short, this robe meets all of my criteria!

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Fashion Friday: $4 TOMS

You’re not seeing things. I paid $4 for these TOMS.

$4 TOMS, for real.

$4 TOMS, for real.

And I can’t even take credit for it. This almost unbelievable price is thanks to TOMS, a company that has some of the best customer service I have experienced.

Long story made sort of shorter: I’d ordered a pair of ballet flats as a potential option to wear for my brother’s wedding. They were adorable, but they fell off my feet when I walked. (Seriously, who wears these things? I have no idea how to keep them on. Tape?) I returned them.

I received a very nice reply email from TOMS. End of story. I moved on. So I thought.

Several months later, I received an expected email from TOMS that included a $50 credit.

The gist of the email: We noticed you never bought another pair of shoes. Please try us again. We know you can’t resist a $50 gift certificate.

Well played, TOMS. Well played.

If not for this kind of customer service, I’d probably have never ordered another pair ever again.

But now, I’m even eyeing a darling pair of red sparkly TOMS for my little Eva girl.

Fashion Friday: Stitch Fix Waiting List

For the past 10 years, I’ve worn basically the same boring wardrobe: black or gray trousers with a solid color sweater or cardigan to work and jeans or athletic pants with a hoodie on evenings and weekends. This mama needs an update!

My 10-year collection of solid-color cardigans and zip-up hoodies.

My 10-year collection of solid-color cardigans and zip-up hoodies. (And a few blazers for good measure.)

With the exception of the two years I was pregnant, I’ve been basically the same size, give or take 10 pounds here and there, so many of my clothes have stayed with me. And it’s starting to show.

A company called Stitch Fix caught my attention after reading a couple of Facebook posts by a friend. I did some more research, reading blogs by people who’ve used the company, and I was intrigued.

For a $20 styling fee (which you can use as a credit toward anything you purchase), a stylist will hand pick items just for you and mail them to your house. You mail back the items you don’t want and pay for those that you do.

Say what? I don’t have to figure out how to shop with two little kids in tow? Someone else will choose items for me to try? And if I don’t like anything, I’m only out $20? Heck, I might spend $20 in gas and food on a shopping trip that would result in me buying another solid-color cardigan! Sounds like a great way to break me out of my style rut.

So I signed up, and I’m on the waiting list.

Why I Don’t Clean My Own House

After my son was born in December 2010, I started paying someone else to clean my house. It was the single best non-essential budget item I made room for in our monthly household budget. Here’s why: I wasn’t getting it done.

Since Ben and I got married and moved into our house in 2003, I’ve struggled with keeping the house clean. I’ve never been good at it, it always is the very last thing on my to-do list, and I never get that far down the list. The house I grew up in was always, always clean; even still, I don’t know how my mother managed it. She even assigned chores to my brother and me, and I did them, but I loathed them then, as well. Things haven’t changed.

The very first time my cleaning lady came to my house, she cleaned the place better and more thoroughly than I had ever done in the seven years I’ve lived there! She even moved furniture and cleaned underneath and behind.

Did you know people do that on a regular basis? Oh, you did? Oh. Yeah, me, too.

I have several very frugal friends who think I’m crazy. After all, cleaning is something that I could easily do myself. I could. But I won’t. I’ve proven it time and time again.

For me, the benefits far outweigh the costs for my family. Here’s why I pay someone to do what I know I could do myself:

  • I wasn’t getting it done.
  • My family needs to live in a clean house.
  • Knowing the house is being cleaned lifted a huge mental burden off of me.
  • When I’m not working, I don’t want to be cleaning.
  • I would rather spend my evenings and weekends caring for my children, cooking for my family, (or writing a blog!) or really doing anything besides cleaning.
  • I wasn’t getting it done.

Often, other moms are surprised when they learn that I don’t clean my own house, and often, it comes down to money. They assume that having someone else clean is a luxury they can’t afford. In my opinion, it’s all relative. Some families choose to spend their money on a car payment or a data package or dining out frequently or cable television. We choose to have someone clean our house for us. And the money is totally worth making my life easier. Maybe the cleaning isn’t the bane of your existence. Maybe it’s cooking, or mowing or any other household chore that never ends. Sometimes all it takes is looking a little more closely at your budget and moving some things around to simplify your life and maintain your
sanity!

Teach Your Children to Be Competent

baby in toy box

Little Bundle of Joy in the toy box. He's still learning how to put toys away properly!

“And of course, once that child’s feet reach the floor, he should always be carrying something for you, getting something for you, and generally not being a leech on society.”

This is my favorite line from a blog post that was shared by a friend of mine today. The post, from Like Mother, Like Daughter: What can children do? A Guide, talks about the importance of helping your children to become competent people.

Last weekend, BP and I helped take care of our friends’ three boys, ages 6ish, 5ish and 3ish (or something like that — you get the idea). These kids were overall well behaved, respectful and polite (yes, they had their moments — they are boys, after all!). Even the youngest knew how to clean up after himself and put things away — he knew it was expected of him. Their parents have set clear expectations, taught them how to do what they are expected to do and enforced those expectations. It was really nice to see confirmation that consistent parenting really does work in the long run.

Recently, I’ve been struggling with appropriate levels of expectation for my Little Bundle of Joy. He is 14 months old, and some days, I really just want to let him play in the dog’s food and water bowls so that I don’t have to tell him “no” one more time — and then pretend to ignore the tantrum that includes throwing himself on the floor moments later. But, last weekend was a great reminder that if we stay consistent and set expectations early, Little Bundle of Joy eventually will understand what BP and I expect of him.

The Bible, too, tells us this is true: Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old, they will not turn from it. Proverbs 22:6

Like my friend SB told me today, it is only by the grace of God that our children turn out as well as they do!

Lovin’ Ohio (And No, That Isn’t Sarcasm!)

Last weekend, BP and I traveled to Hocking Hills State Park for a mini-vacation with our friends, LK and BK.

I was reminded of what Ohio has to offer in the way of travel, fun and adventure. There wasn’t any need to venture further than my very own state to have a fun weekend out of town with good friends.

Several months ago, I booked a very nice house for us all to stay in. (BP rolled his eyes when I told him we were staying in a cabin – house is probably a more accurate term. And he told me this did not qualify as camping.)

BP and I arrived several hours before our friends, so we went ahead and did some hiking in the Old Man’s Cave area. It was beautiful, and although BP made me nervous jumping all over the rocks and onto cliffs and ledges, it was a good hike. We are from the flatlands of northwest Ohio, and so the mountains (I can hear all of you out-of-staters laughing now, but to me, they are mountains) of southern Ohio were an enjoyable change of pace.

BP on a cliff

BP making me nervous

Old Man's Cave

BP in Old Man's Cave

Saturday morning started with all four of us on an 11-mile canoe trip (which took us three hours – Go, Us!) down the Hocking River. And despite the fact that I requested a 9 a.m. take-off time when I booked the trip online, the livery had us on the river around 10 a.m. I”m still not sure they ever found my reservation. But, we did get to the river and all was well.

BP and me

BP and me, ready for the river

While we were canoeing, we did get to see one of the newest offerings of the area, Canopy Tours, in action. One of their zip lines runs across a portion of the river, and it looked like a lot of fun. That activity is on our List of Things Definitely To Do when we go back. I’d have loved to have done it this year, but since I’m preggers, I decided it wasn’t a great idea.

me and BP

me (with my baby bump) and BP during a hike

Other areas we hiked included Cedar Falls and another park area.

The moral of this story: explore your state! Support your local economy and get to know what your state has to offer you! After all, your tax dollars are helping to pay for it.

Fix Your Health to Fix Health Care

fruit stall in market

Mandated and regulated health care is not the way to fix the health care system.

In our instant-gratification civilization, we’ve been led to believe that we can do whatever we want to our bodies and then turn around and use a medication or surgical procedure to fix them. This is erroneous thinking, and it’s very, very expensive for both individuals and the tax-paying population as a whole. Paying to “fix” our bodies after we’ve chosen to destroy them is not the most cost effective way of going about things.

If any real change in health care is going to happen, we need to address the root cause of health problems in the form of proactive disease prevention and nutrition education. This alone will save all of us more money than any tax-payer supported government plan.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the top leading causes of death in the United States include heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and influenza and pneumonia – many of these are preventable by following a good health and nutrition plan.

Even babies in the womb are at risk for becoming overweight (often the first step toward poor health) – and unfortunately, many mothers seem to either not be aware of those risks or choose not to care.

What used to be common sense for many of our ancestors is now considered an alternative lifestyle. Eating a diet that includes ample amounts of fruits, vegetables and nuts; getting enough sleep so that you don’t rely on caffeine and sugar to stay alert; and being physically active on a daily basis are foundations of good health.

There have been many studies done on the subject of nutrition as it correlates to health, and many people have written about it. I recently became familiar with the research of Dr. Weston A. Price, who studied primitive societies on five continents over the course of six years during the 1930s. The results of his studies were as you would expect: primitive societies maintained excellent health until the foods of modern civilization were introduced to them.

Across the country, people are starting to make good changes – schools are no longer offering soft drinks to students; a tax on soft drinks and other harmful foods is in discussion; and restaurant chains are cooking with healthier oils. But all of these things are done in vain if we do not take responsibility for our own health and the health of our families.

It is not the government’s responsibility to make us healthy (in fact, we’ve given them far too much responsibility as it stands, but that’s an entirely different subject of its own). It is not our employer’s job to make sure we live a healthy lifestyle. It is not the education system’s responsibility to keep our children healthy. A healthy lifestyle – a tried and true method to reducing health care costs – begins with choices at home.

Suggestions for making small changes now:

  • Reduce consumption of soft drinks and other sugary beverages.
  • Eliminate fast food.
  • Pack your lunch – and I’m not talking about sodium-laden, pre-packaged frozen meals from the grocery store.
  • Plan healthy meals and snacks in advance, then grocery shop accordingly to avoid last-minute take-out.
  • Increase your physical activity – take a short walk, clean, play a game.

Here are some recommendations for additional reading/viewing about health and nutrition: