Friday, January 31, 2014

No-Spend Month: February 2014

I’m guessing this title either excites you or makes you want to shudder.  My husband? THRILLED about this.  Me? Not so much.  Can you guess which one of us pays the bills?!  haha

No-Spend Month {February 2014} 012

An eternity ago Two years ago, in January 2012, we did our first-ever no-spend month.  It was a big success for our family, and you can read all the details about it here to see how it went for us.  We have some big financial goals this year {remember my word for the year?}, and we mutually decided to embark on another no-spend month for February. 

Why did we pick February?
- Shortest month of the year, CLEARLY. :)
- January, for us, involved traveling for several days and throwing Olivia’s 1st birthday party, so it wasn’t a good month for us. 
- We have nowhere to go and nothing big to spend our money on, so it felt like the perfect month for us.  Plus, having this month in the beginning of the year helps our year to start out on the right financial “foot.” 

What does this look like for us?
Well, for this month, we are only paying for the essentials.  For our family, that includes:
- Money we give to God {that money goes to our church, missionaries, and two children overseas that we sponsor}
-  Bills {mortgage, utilities, college loans, etc.}

- Gas
- Groceries

No $2 coffee on a rough day {who, me?! lol}, no grabbing dinner at Panera on the weekend {even though that’s still super rare for us}, no {GULP!} money spent thrifting – not even a dollar or two, and not even for the kids. 
Our debit card does not get used AT ALL, and besides the money I take out for groceries {we use cash}, our bank account does not get touched for the month. 

What will keep us sane:
- It’s only 28 days {thank you Jesus! haha}

- We DO plan on going out on February 15th, using a Cheesecake Factory gift card my in-laws gave us for Christmas that we saved for this very purpose

- The $5 I have on my Starbucks card right now, thanks to my Shopkick points, for a day or two I get desperate.  LOL

- Considering that Luke currently looks a little like a chia pet {and so do I, for that matter}, one or both of us might get our hair cut this month.  {This isn’t considered fun money, though, more personal/health care.}
- Olivia is right between shoe sizes and I may have to buy her a pair to get us through this month. 

On the positive side, I’m super excited to see how much money we can save toward our financial goal.  I’m also currently in the process of going through all of Luke’s old clothes from the attic in order to sell them to make money for an upcoming consignment sale in April {in other words, to roll the money I make right into the sale so that I don’t technically “spend” any of our family’s money there.}  My goal is $100. 
I’ll be checking in every week to let you know how it’s going!
Anyone else ever done this?  Would you do it again? Or would you do it RIGHT NOW?! :)

Monday, January 27, 2014

A Letter to Olivia

My darling girl,

YOU ARE ONE. I can hardly believe it. 

Technically you turned one 6 days ago, but I was such a hot mess on your birthday and the day after that I couldn’t compose myself enough to write anything.  By the time you are old enough to read this, I’m sure it won’t be any surprise at all to you because you will already know that I am a total sap and I cry all the time. 

But this was real crying.  I just kept thinking about what the last year has held and then all of the heavy emotions surrounding your birth – the spectacular highs and the crushing lows – came flooding back in a tidal wave of emotion that I wasn’t prepared for. 

But I think I am ready now. :) At least, I will try.  Guarantee you that by the end of this I will be bawling.  But you probably expected that already. ;)




Before you even entered the world, you brought my heart so much peace {just like the meaning of your name!}.  I had such a scary end of pregnancy with Luke and then post-partum depression and I was so, so scared to be pregnant again.  My pregnancy with you went fantastic {well until the shingles at the end, but that wasn’t your fault ;)}.  The c-section with you was so calm – so opposite from the chaotic emergency one with your brother that I will forever feel like my pregnancy with you healed me from my fears that I would have held onto for the rest of my life.  You showed me that pregnancy, and delivery, and the post-partum time doesn’t have to be terrifying.  It can be beautiful and peaceful.  That was your first gift to me.  Thank you, sweetheart.

Your second gift was your birth-day.  I felt so bonded from you from the beginning and I know people say things about mommas and their boys {and of course I adore Luke just as much as I adore you} but honey there was something so magical about you from the beginning.  You had both me and Daddy wrapped around your teeny little pink pinky from the second you were born.  Never ever in my life will I forget the gloriousness of waking up on the second day you were alive and feeling the warm sunshine flooding through the window and me and you and Daddy were there together and I just held you all warm on my chest with your little pink hat and I just felt so COMPLETE.  I had a DAUGHTER and it was magical.  I have never felt so at peace with the world.  You gave me the gift of peace that day, for the second time. Thank you.




When later that night you had to be moved to the NICU, in the most horrifying hours of my life, I posted on Facebook and within minutes had dozens and dozens of messages and posts and e-mails letting me know you were being prayed for.  One of the gifts of going to Cedarville is having friends now around the country and you were literally being prayed for around the world.  It was one of the most humbling experiences our lives to see the power of God’s people lifting up a little baby to His Name.  This was the first of many, many times over the next few months that Daddy and I would be blown away by how many people were praying for you.  Whole churches, complete strangers, friends of friends stopping me in the store telling me they were praying for Olivia – all praying for YOU.  What a gift to see God’s people in action, banding together! Thank you.




When you went to the NICU, Daddy and I began learning about a part of the world we’d never really thought about before: the “parents of sick kids” world.  NICUs and PICUs have their own little hushed, quiet subculture {except for when it isn’t hushed and quiet, which also happens often}.  I am no longer innocent to all of the pain that is happening, day and night, in hospitals around the country and around the world.  I am aware that at any given time, even at the happiest times, like Christmas, there are sad and lonely mommies and daddies out there, praying over their babies, willing them to make it and to be okay.    It’s good thing to have your eyes opened.  I know how to pray for them now. Thank you.



We started learning about the heart and all the things that weren’t right with yours.  I finally learned how to say Teh-TRAH-loh-gee of Fuh-LOH and got pretty darn good at drawing pictures of the heart and explaining to people {in technical terms and in layperson’s terms} about what was wrong with yours.  Not something I ever wanted to be an expert on, mind you, but hey, it’s kinda cool to know so much about how the human heart works.  So thank you. ;)




When we got home from the hospital, and had the simultaneous joy of “we have a baby girl in our house now!” and the dread of “open heart surgery is coming sometime soon,”  we were carried by meal after meal after meal from church and prayers and phone calls and the most amazing notes and cards.  Again we saw God’s love in action, in very real and practical ways.  We were sent money from two very special angels who saw to it that all of our fees for parking and food would be covered during your hospital stay and were also given a very large gift from some other very special angels to help with our car when it died just a few weeks before your surgery.  LOVE IN ACTION, displayed to us because of what we were going through with you.  Thank you.



The Sunday before your surgery {it was on a Wednesday}, our entire church prayed for you during the service and Pastor anointed you with oils {first time in my life I’d ever experienced that!} and prayed for your healing.  A friend told us he was fasting the whole day of your surgery, and through your Facebook page we knew that hundreds of people were banding together again to pray you through that surgery.  Carried by love, in the name of God, for you.  Thank you. 

And on that terrible morning, May 1st, 2013, when I had to hand you over to the anesthesiologist's arms and watch her walk away with you, not knowing if I’d ever see you again this side of Heaven, in what was literally the single most awful moment of my existence, God carried us.  We sat for hours in the family waiting room, and other families came and went, and each time we chatted with them and told them what you were in for, every.single.person. was shocked at how calm we were {and frankly, so were we}.  It was such an amazing thing to be able to share about how many people were praying for you and how we knew God was in control.  Daddy and I were able to share about the power of prayer to hurting strangers, and pray for their babies too.  What an honor.  Thank you.




When the surgeon came out and told us that your hole had been successfully repaired, but that this wasn’t the end of your surgeries, that was crushing. I wept.  Hard.  Right there in the waiting room, in front of everyone.  My baby wasn’t completely fixed and my nightmare wasn’t over and I HATED IT. But after I composed myself I realized just how grateful I was that we had made it through the hardest surgery.  And so we moved to the PICU with you for several days and walked by sealed doors with parents in protective covering and signs that said “Neurosurgery” and realized that hey, this really isn’t the worst.  Open-heart surgery seems pretty horrific compared to tonsils out but to me and dad, brain surgery takes the ultimate cake.  So we counted our blessings and we saw what a fighter you were and how awesome you were healing and how you soldiered through the horrific pain of recovery and you became our hero and we fell in love with you all over again.  Even though your Facebook page “only” got 730 likes, we noticed that the posts we were uploading each day from the hospital were being seen by upwards of 10,000 people.  Daddy and I were blown away by how many people were getting to hear your story and see God at work.  You got yourself out of the PICU and onto the Peds floor and then got yourself home.  You came home and recovered like a champ and when they told us to watch out, that you might be developmentally delayed from all the necessary time on your back, you blew through those milestones and started crawling and walking, not just on time, but EARLY.  You did NOT sit quietly and succumb to anything.  Thank you, my little fighter!




And so we settled into this post-surgery {but really pre-surgery someday in the distant future} life.  I feel like life with you this year was divided into two parts: super sad early months, dreading what was to come and waking up every day realizing that it wasn’t really a nightmare and yes we DID have to go through open-heart surgery with you, and then the post-surgery months, just relishing in the fact that you are HERE and you are currently HEALTHY and what a complete and utter joy you are. 

Like we had to hold our breath for about 14 weeks in the beginning and now it’s just been one big exhale…one big smile. 


Day in the Life 001


I mean we still had challenges – you had dead serious reflux that had you eating small amounts, meaning there were nights you were up and eating 4 times {until about 10 months old you were up anywhere from 1-7 times a night}.  So it took us a lot longer to “recover” from babyhood than a normal family because we were so dang tired.  lol  But now, most nights, you sleep about 12 hours, give or a take a random diaper change here and there at 12:30am.  No biggie.  We feel like humans again! So…THANK YOU. ;)




I can’t tell you how many times you get complimented at the store every time we are out.  People just LOVE you.  You smile your big cheeky smile and people just melt.  You stare right at them and share your joy and it is fantastic.  I am so, so proud to be your mom!  And I know Daddy feels the same way.  You just seriously exude joy and happiness, honey!  It’s hard for me to describe in words.  You are such a treasure and have so much personality.  Thank you for bringing so many smiles to our days!




As of right now, you are:

- 21 pounds, 4 ounces and 29 inches long {50th percentile for both}

-You wear 9-12 or 12 month clothes and a size 3 shoe and size 3 diapers {size 4 for overnights}

- You have almost 6 teeth

- You can take steps {you've taken 10 steps for us} and just in the last two days you're starting to walk all by yourself, just out in the open {as opposed to walking “to” one of us}.  You are getting braver and we love it.

- You absolutely adore Luke and hearing you two giggling and chasing each other is the most magnificent sound my ears have ever heard. 

- You love, love, love books and enjoy “big kid” and baby books.  You have pretty amazing fine motor skills and can open real and chunky pages with your fingers.  You’ve had the pincer grasp down pat for months now. 

- You absolutely love to eat and “cheer” for me when I get your tray out by waving your arms up and down and going “ah-ah-ah-ah” in a happy voice.  When you want more, you bang the tray. lol 

- You can currently say mama, dada, ba-ba {bottle}, mo {more}, yeah, and sometimes we swear you’ve said brother! You wave hello and goodbye {when you want to, lol} and absolutely love putting things over your head and playing peekaboo with us {aka cutest thing EVER}. 

- You are already so into your girly toys and choose them over all others.  You love your dollies and your makeup vanity from your birthday!




Not a day goes by that Daddy and I aren’t so grateful for your life. 

You are an absolute joy to us, and we cherish every minute with you.  Every day that goes by we cherish you more and fall more in love with how beautiful, joyful, and adorable you are. 

Thank you for staying with us and giving me the gift each day of waking up and getting to be your mom!  {Yup, I’m crying now!}

You are my sunshine! Can’t wait to watch you GROW!

Love forever,

Wednesday, January 15, 2014


Edit: This giveaway is over and the winner is……..

Powerocks pick

#5, Rayray Cartucci!  Congratulations Rayray!

Contact me at blessedlifeblog{at}gmail{dot}com with your contact info so I can ship this out to you asap! :)


You guys, this product is pretty awesome…and somebody gets to win one this week!

Yup, one of YOU will win a Super Magicstick Portable Charger - valued at $49.99!

I am very new to the whole smartphone world {I’ve had mine for less than 2 months} but I was contacted by this awesome company and was pretty thrilled to learn about what this product can do!

POWEROCKS Giveaway - This Blessed Life 001


To quote the back of the box:

“Powerocks will charge your electronic devices safely and quickly when life takes you away from an electrical outlet. Its…battery capacity gives you enough power to fully charge most smartphones up to two times.”


Isn't that awesome?!  :)


POWEROCKS Giveaway - This Blessed Life 003


Basically, you charge the charger, then you can take it with you to have remote/cordless charging of your electronic device wherever you are. 

This is awesome for:

-camping/hiking trips
-power outages
-anytime when access to an outlet or computer is uncertain
-times when you’re out at the store and have forgotten to charge your phone and its suddenly dead when you need it {or is that just me?! lol}


It couldn’t be easier to use – just plug it into your phone, using your phone’s cord:

POWEROCKS Giveaway - This Blessed Life 006

And a convenient light on the bottom indicates the level of battery life left on the Magicstick.  When it needs to be recharged, just plug into any USB port, using the cord supplied by Powerocks



I’ll be honest: you guys know I’m about as frugal as they come, out of necessity.  This does retail for nearly $50, and I understand that’s not pocket change.  BUT I’ve also learned that quality electronic devices for phones are worth the expense. 

And seriously…pin this now for the times throughout the year {hello, Father’s Day?!} when you need a gift for that person who has everything.  It’s not just available in pink and black…check out the other colors:



So, how do you win?? 

Simply leave a comment on this post saying what you would use the charger for {Are you an avid camper, out in the woods for days at a time?  Do you travel a lot or take day trips where something like this would be convenient to throw in your purse?}

OR if you would like to win it for someone else, just leave a comment stating who in your life you’d like to give it to, and why. 

For an extra chance to win, repost this on Facebook {either linking from the web or sharing my Facebook page status about Powerocks} and just come back here and leave an additional comment telling me you did so.

The winner will be announced on Saturday morning!  :)

{Winner will receive the Black Super Magicstick shown in the first picture.  I received the Magicstick free of charge, but all opinions are 100% my own.  This is tried and approved by me!}

Sunday, January 12, 2014

My Word for 2014…And What I’m Planning to Do About It.

Yes, I AM aware that it’s 12 days into the new year and I’m just now sharing my word for the year! :) We spent the first 5 days of the year in Pennsylvania and then I got food poisoning and was down for the count for a day or two….last week was all about getting life back together and now here I am, feeling ready to officially start my year.  So that’s my explanation. :)

Picking a word for the year works so well for my brain because it becomes almost like my mantra for that year.  It helps me make wise decisions through the course of the 12 months and guides my actions.  Last year, knowing Olivia was coming at the end of January, my words were survive and thrive” and “embrace the unexpected.”  HA!  Little did I know how much I would need those simple words…especially after her diagnosis. 

Now that she is turning 1 next week {NEXT WEEK?!!!} I can say that with God’s grace and a WHOLE lotta help from our friends and family, we did survive last year…and I do feel like we are finally thriving in our new place as a family of four.  Life with kids is ever-changing, but now that Olivia finally sleeps through the night consistently {hallelujah, thank you Jesus}, our life is fairly orderly and organized…ish.  haha

So anyway, on to this year!  This word just kept popping in my head last fall…over and over and over again.  I’m not one to claim that God is actually speaking to me, but all I know is that I couldn’t ignore it. 

My word for this year is:


{Thanks to my friend Kathy for the great idea of writing out the word!}



And I have some very specific ways I’m hoping to put my word into action:

1.  Run my very first 5k {eeek!}
2.  Get back down to my pre-baby weight before Luke
3.  Blog at least once a week, with the goal being 2 blog posts a week
4.  {Along with Chris} Pay off some debt by May 1st, helped by budgeting, our tax return, and implementing a no-spend month in February.


1.  I HATE running.  Like haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaate it.  Would literally rather do almost anything on earth.  But that’s precisely the reason I feel like I should do it.  Olivia made me realize how grateful I am for this body of mine that runs nearly perfectly – and pushing my body to do hard things is biblical {1 Corinthians 9:27}.  The race I’m going to do is in October and a friend said she will run it with me…even if I am slow.  I plan on using the Couch to 5k program once I start training. 

2.  I was about 5 pounds heavier when I got pregnant with Olivia than I was with Luke.  I want to get back down to that weight.  It’s a good weight for my body and will let me fit in nearly anything I want to wear.  Depending on the scale on a given day, that means I need to lose about 8 pounds.  It’s a very reasonable goal and I want to do it. 

3.  Blogging provides a {verrry} small but real source of income for my family.  I need to blog so that keeps happening. :) It’s never a matter of coming up with things to write – I always have blog ideas in my head – it’s just a matter of being disciplined and sitting down and getting it all out. 

4.  Back in January 2012 we did a no-spend month.  It was super successful at helping us pay down a small-business loan we had.  We’re implementing another one for the month of February.  More details to come but I’d love to have you join me! :)

Okay, so those are my goals for the year.  Praying for the strength to take on physical challenges, help my family financially, and be disciplined with blogging. 

I’m so excited!

P.S. Anyone else pick a word?  Share! :)