Did you hear about the doves two children released with Pope Francis on Sunday?
Two white doves were released during a prayer as a symbol of peace.
The doves were released during prayer as a symbol of peace
Almost immediately the doves were attacked by a blackbird and a seagull.
The irony of this is ridiculous
Fairytale likeness aside, this seagull is obviously NOT Scuttle from The Little Mermaid!
How can you see this and not consider its symbolism? Irony is an understatement. I can’t help but to contemplate the dark correlation of this incident and our society today. I almost expected the sky to turn black and Maleficent herself to appear out of thin air to declare war against the good of the world. Seriously it just seems like something out of a fairytale. And for it to happen in the incredibly history and mystery laden Vatican just adds even more fascination to this story.
Fortunately the doves managed to get away. So at least there is a happy ending at the end of this story and good has triumphed over evil….for now.
Even if she wasn’t behind this latest incident, Maleficent is coming…to theaters soon. And on that note, I can’t wait to see it! It looks like it’s going to be fantastic.
Jan 25, 2014 – by Stephanie Rader, The Write Side of Life
With the new year upon us it is a terrific time to sit down, analyze your budget and “trim the fat” wherever you may be overspending. If you have never created a personal budget it is a terrific idea and the beginning of each year is an ideal time to get everything in order.
Recently our household finances changed drastically with the birth of our daughter and my decision to leave my management position in the legal field so I could stay home with her. We quickly realized that, though the job of a domestic engineer has many rewards, the pay…well, it stinks. Adding a new member to our family and reducing our income by one salary would prove to require some pretty major changes to our budget.
If you’ve never sat down to review your finances and create a budget, here’s a good place to start:
Make a List
I am all for lists and in this particular case you’ll find it’s a requirement. Begin by jotting down where you are currently spending all of your money. It may be helpful to have some items handy like your prior 2 or 3 bank statements or your checkbook registrar to make sure you don’t forget any areas. Don’t worry yet about the order of your items or amounts, we’ll get to that. First just make a complete accounting of where your money is going (i.e., Groceries, Gas, Cable, Internet, Cell Phone, Eating Out, Clothing, Entertainment, etc).
Perfect Your List
Armed with your complete list now make a list with two columns made up of your “Needs” and your “Wants”. Begin separating everything on your list into the appropriate category. (Example: Your insurance is a “Need” but your dining out trips are “Wants”). Once you’ve gotten all of your items separated now it’s time to start calculating the damage. Going through your past financial records, calculate what you are spending on each of these items. It’s a good idea to have at least two months of figures so you can determine your average monthly costs in case certain items fluctuate significantly on any certain month. Add up your overall costs in each column and then combine. This is your current living expense. Are you a little shocked at what you’re spending on certain items? When we sat down and reviewed our budget we were quite surprised at how much entertainment and eating out really costed us each month. The good news is that these are very easy areas to cut back on. Read on for more tips to reduce your expenses…
CUTTING BACK & REDUCING YOUR EXPENSES
Take a look at the past 2-3 months statements for each of your bills to get an idea of your average costs and usage. You would be surprised at how much money is wasted each month on unnecessary items. For example, if you’re just paying your minimum balances on any credit cards, chances are the interest just continues to pile on each month and your the balance on your card isn’t decreasing much. But aside from credit cards, there are also other ways to save yourself money and cut back on what you are spending each month for certain items. Some of them may be obvious but you may be surprised by others.
Cable/Internet/Phone – Many companies offer reduced costs if you bundle your services. We had two different carriers for our cable and internet. I was reluctant to switch simply because of having to changing my email address but when we found out we could get our internet for less than $15 per month for switching everything to one carrier, it was a no-brainer. Now we are paying less each month for everything than we were previously paying for just cable. And when you are communicating with your providers keep in mind that they have special employees in place for customer retention. It costs more for them to secure new customers than it does for them to simply keep you as a customer so don’t be afraid to “wheel & deal” with them a bit. They always have wiggle room (or surely they wouldn’t be reporting such high revenues each year). There are also usually many promotional offers that they can provide to you. If they are offering a special reduced price for the first year or two though be sure to ask them about any other additional expenses you can expect and also what your costs will be at the end of the promotional time period. We also eliminated our home phone altogether. When everyone in the house has their own personal cell phone it makes the home phone a little unnecessary. If you live in an area that doesn’t get great cell phone service, however, this may not be a great idea.
Cell Phone – Speaking of cell phones, have you ever taken a look at your actual plan details? Most of the time when you begin a contract you allot yourself the maximum of everything because it’s cheaper to pay more each month for the highest service plan than it is to pay overage charges. But chances are you probably aren’t using it all. Many cell phone companies advertise unlimited talk and text but they still generally have tiers for the size of data plan you need. When we reviewed our budget we found that we were only actually using half of the data we were allowed each month. So by reducing our data plan allowance we were able to drop our monthly cell phone bill by 15%.
Insurance – Whether it’s health, home or car, insurance costs can be astronomical. But there are plenty of discounts you may qualify for of which perhaps you weren’t aware. For instance, having multiple items on a policy, claim-free history, having other security or protection plans in place, etc. can all help to lower your premiums. Making a call to your insurance agent regularly to review your policies could be a call that saves you quite a bit of money each month. Also, many agents may be able to offer you a reduced price if you can prepay your premium in more than one month installments (i.e., paying half the year’s premiums up front or even the entire year).
Credit Cards – As mentioned above, if you are just paying the minimum balance on your credit card, after the interest gets added on you may find you’re not really paying down your balance by very much. Though paying more doesn’t exactly save you money each month, this is an area that could save you hundreds or even thousands over the length of time. If your card is accruing a high interest charge each month take a look at your overall balance and see if you are able to split it into three months to pay it off. This will eliminate months of interest charges and prevent lots of extra money from being wasted. If you have higher balances then perhaps it will take a bit longer. Pay close attention to your monthly statement. Since the changes in the law involving credit card companies and their practices you should be able to see easily how long it will take you to pay off your balance if you only pay the minimum amount due. Don’t be surprised if you see a date that’s years out from now. Just imagine how much extra interest you are paying them to drag it out that long! When making purchases with a credit card it’s a good idea to live by the rule that if you can’t pay it off within three months you shouldn’t charge it. Of course emergencies may come up where you don’t have the option to decline. But if you live by this rule then you’ll likely find that you’re not using your cards as often and so they will be more readily available to help you in an emergency without “breaking the bank”. Another area you can take advantage of is if your credit card company offers times during the year or purchases that accrue “No Interest” for a certain period of time. Just make sure you have it paid before the specified cut off date.
Energy Efficiency – If you are surprised at how much you are paying for things like water, gas/electric, fuel, etc. then give some thought toward how you can make use of these items more efficiently. Whether it’s turning off extra lights or switching to energy saver bulbs, turning off the water while you’re brushing your teeth or maybe installing a more energy efficient appliance like a toilet, dishwasher, refrigerator, etc. You can also try repurposing things to cut back on waste and avoid the need to something new. We added insulation in our house and have reduced our gas & electric bill by one-third! There are also other perks to making energy efficient improvements in your home. They may get you an extra credit on your taxes too!
Groceries & Dining Out – Cutting back on how frequently you eat out can make a huge difference. If you are routinely grabbing lunch out somewhere that can add up to quite a bit each week. Instead try packing more often and reserve treating yourself to lunch somewhere for maybe just once a week or month. When it comes to cooking at home, review your local ads for that week to see what’s on sale and plan your menu for that week accordingly. Planning your meals in advance alone can help tremendously in eliminating unnecessary and excessive purchases, but when you can do it based on the sale prices at the grocery store the savings just continue to pile up. You can also save quite a bit by joining your local supermarket’s customer discount program. Most of them have one now. This can get you exclusive savings, promotional discounts, and coupons. Speaking of coupons, you know, those those things your mother used to clip out of the paper each week? Well, they’ve evolved too. And you don’t have to be an “extreme couponer” to benefit from coupons. You can now view and print your coupons from the internet but also use apps that store the coupons right on your phone so you don’t even have to print them anymore! Our local grocery offers a digital coupon program where I can review their available coupons each week and save them to my account. Then when I check out I simply enter my phone number on their keypad and it applies all of the coupons I had saved.
DON’T STOP WITH THE BUDGET
If you are finding a little extra in your pockets, consider how you can best utilize that extra money. Maybe paying for your family vacation this year or setting up a savings account or even starting an IRA where you can watch your money continue to grow.
So there you have it: Some key ingredients to the recipe of saving yourself some money this year. Good luck!
Finally got around to making Adri’s 1 year checkup appointment. I’ve procrastinated as long as I could I guess. The shots all make me so damn nervous every time she’s due for them but this appointment in particular has had me worried the most because of the MMR vaccine and all its controversy. I swear this is the only part of parenting I loathe…
The Chew featured one of my favorite groups on their show earlier this week. ‘Outstanding In The Field’ is a group dedicated to reminding us where our food comes from and celebrating the farms and farmers that bring it to us by eating fresh and local….in their case, right out in the field. They literally set up this incredibly long table with a ton of chairs right smack dab in the field.
I love this group not only for their mission but also for the amazing creativity and pictures of their dinners…
Outstanding in the Field
Right in the middle of the field
How beautiful is this?
I told you the table was huge
I mean c’mon! If that doesn’t inspire you to eat fresh and local I don’t know what will!
Not too long ago Adri was turning everything into a car. Toilet paper rolls, lotion bottles, toys, whatever. She would crawl around pushing it along and making driving noises. Now that she’s not crawling much anymore and is walking everywhere she’s decided that everything is a phone – whether it’s really a phone or not. Usually it’s one of her toys but yesterday she spent five minutes pacing around the living room in circles holding a diaper to her ear like the Verizon guy and having a very detailed conversation with someone. Based on my still developing knowledge in baby talk I couldn’t decipher whether she was ordering us some pizza for lunch or discussing her thoughts on existentialism.
Judge Tracie Hunter obviously has a few screws loose if she thinks she is anything like Rosa Parks or Martin Luther King, Jr.
In local news, one of our juvenile court judges has lost her damn mind. Seriously, everything about this woman and this whole story just pisses me off but I have just tried to ignore it so I don’t go off on a rant about it. The other day she actually said this was only an issue because the city “wasn’t ready for a black judge”. But then seeing this on Martin Luther King Jr. Day it was just more than I could take.
Let’s get a few things straight Tracie Hunter:
1) You are NOTHING like Martin Luther King, Jr. or Rosa Parks;
2) It has nothing to do with the city not being ready for a black judge and;
3) It has everything to do with the city not tolerating a thief. Period.
Stories like this just burn my ass. Her crazy ass cracked out looking pictures alone should warn that she’s got a screw loose but now comparing herself to King and Rosa Parks?! This woman deserves cuffs for abusing her position but probably needs a straight jacket more.
So aside from no school, no banks, and no mail or government offices being open there’s a much more deeper meaning to this day. An acknowledgment to a great man with a big dream. I think in many ways his dream has come to fruition but I also think that, like the bible, many interpretations of his dream are leading it astray…
It was a lazy Sunday of sorts. We didn’t leave the house though we kept ourselves pretty busy inside. I didn’t even realize the weather was going to get so nasty last night but we found ourselves at the grocery store just before it got bad out. What happens when you’re snowed in with a stockpile full of fresh goodies? You cook to your heart’s content that’s what. So we spent the weekend holed up, cooking, eating, gaming and playing with the baby. The only thing I didn’t do today was bake something and that’s only because there’s still some pumpkin muffins left from Friday’s little baking extravaganza.
Remember those pumpkin muffins I made a couple months ago? Well I had a pie pumpkin hanging around in the kitchen that I finally decided I better get to fixing. You know, when produce goes bad so quickly pumpkins just don’t get enough credit for hanging tough for seemingly forever. Not only are they packed with good-for-you-stuff but seriously, they will keep for weeks and just sit and look like a pretty little decoration in your kitchen the whole time. And I’ll let you in on a little secret: This was the first time i’ve ever made pumpkin puree from scratch. I love a good pumpkin pie and these scrumptious pumpkin muffins but I’ve always just used the pumpkin from a can. Always seems good to me. Well folks let me tell you, the canned stuff has NOTHING on fresh pumpkin. I used that to make my pumpkin muffins and instead of the cider glaze I made last time I made a spiced cranberry glaze this time. It was phenomenal. The baby can’t get enough of them either. I may start pureeing pumpkin more often. Not only did I get a couple dozen muffins but don’t forget the seeds! They make a great snack or salad go-with too. I love a food that lends itself to multiple meals and gives you more bang for your buck!
So while the snow continued to fall outside, I made a ham last night for dinner with green beans and baked macaroni & cheese. The Hub and I played some Rummy 500 in between entertaining the baby (or vice versa) and we spent the evening listening to music, dancing, singing which, of course, is Adri’s favorite thing to do.
For Sunday breakfast I wanted to try something new. Or at least something different. So we started off the day with something I haven’t had since I was little: Sausage pinwheels. I remember loving these as a kid and I was happy to see Adri likes them too.
Love these sausage pinwheels
I’m not much of a syrup and sausage kinda person but The Hub is so I served his up with some maple syrup and he said they were great with a drizzle of that on them too.
For lunch I made up some of my chicken salad on croissants and buffalo chicken dip to snack on during the championship games this afternoon and prepped some coleslaw with a spicy dressing while The Hub had dinner going outside – a brisket that he smoked all day…which the baby also gobbled up.
And speaking of football, there’s just something about Peyton Manning – whether Colts or Broncos -and Tom Brady with the Patriots that seem like such a perfect way salute the nearing end of the football season. They also make me want to watch my favorite NFL video over and over again…I swear it never gets old.
So all in all for a lazy Sunday and a weekend snowed-in we stayed pretty busy. I may have spent lots of time prepping food and washing dishes this weekend but it was totally worth it. I love days like these. Family dinner is such an important part of our day but days like these where we actually get to enjoy every meal together are such a treat.
I hope you all had a great weekend and a good week ahead.
Do you ever have those moments where it’s not that you don’t have anything to blog about but just the opposite? When there’s just so much you could say that you just don’t know where to start? That’s how my past couple weeks have been. Between the news and other things I just know if I started I could go on forever. And frankly, not only do I just not want to give some of it that type of attention, I just don’t have that kind of time. My little tulip is running all over the place now and keeping me quite busy – Which I have to say is a good way to help pass the winter days since we can’t spend a lot of time outside.
One thing I realized with all this indoor time is that the news and I just don’t mix. The other day I pondered why I even bother watching it at all. Between the weathermen who get off on snow storms/bad weather with spray painted hair and the anchorwoman who recently had some type of plastic surgery done that hasn’t quite healed yet – leaving her looking totally strung out (and dammit, I still can’t put my finger on what she had done) and then the stories themselves (like a week’s worth of coverage of a 7 year old mansion that burned down recently in an upscale neighborhood and barely a 30 second mention of another house fire in a poorer area) it’s all just one big aggravation and bad news most of the time. But, when you have to keep track of whether or not your water is safe to consume and when it’s 30 below outside you just gotta take the bad with the good and endure it all. I’ll be so glad when spring gets here!
We had a teaser of spring last weekend – It reached 50 degrees outside. It was just like the trip home from the hospital after having Adriana. The middle of January and it was like 60 degrees outside. I’ll never forget it. My little tulip, reminding me that spring is coming soon.
Last weekend was her first birthday party. She had so much fun. Even with several people not making it, our little house was still quite full. It is a great feeling to know that she is loved by so many. Though, I must say, she is kinda hard NOT to love. 🙂
Oh and let me tell you about her cake! It turned out absolutely perfect…
My aunt did an amazing job!
The birthday party was also the first time I’ve had my mother and grandmother together since Adri’s been here so I made sure to get some 4 generations pictures of all of us…
I have one from when I was a baby with my mother, Oma and “Little Oma” (great grandma) complete with the goofy 80’s style clothing. I didn’t think I’d be able to have a picture like this with my little girl but I am so glad that it came to be. My grandmother’s mother’s maiden name was De Leeuw which translates into “The Lion” and we’ve said for years how apropos that name was. But one thing is for sure: The women of our family are definitely strong and stubborn but, when it comes to us, love trumps all. I’m so glad that tulip will have this picture too.
Speaking of tulips – I made good on one of my resolutions and booked our trip for the Tulip Time Festival year! I am so excited and looking forward to our first of what I hope will become an annual family tradition for us.
And wouldn’t you know, today is also Tulip Day.
Happy Tulip Day!
With the tulip season beginning it’s a little reminder that spring is right around the corner and the winter, though it has been beautiful, is coming to a close. Soon the days will be longer; The grass greener; The new buds will start to emerge from the ground…And I’m so looking forward to it!
In one year I went from managing an office and dreading turning 30 – to a very inflated pregnant 30 year old – to a new full time mom sans the full time job. In just under a year you can grow an entire human being. And as if that’s not insanely amazing on its own, then in her first year you can watch that tiny little baby grow and develop her own personality and witness as she learns everything. That first time she found her hand and was blown away; The first time she crawled; When she first walked alongside the coffee table holding on for dear life; That first time she ventured away from the table and took a few steps on her own; or hearing her say the words “mama” or “dada” for the first time. In a year you can experience every holiday as a first – and commemorate them with hand and footprints. In a year you can take in so many great milestones. And all you can do after every milestone is hold back your tears and marvel at how in just a single year your child has already grown so much…and so quickly. It seems nearly impossible that one purely amazing and completely full year could go by so fast.
Sometimes I can’t remember what life was before her. Yeah sure, the stretch marks are an obvious reminder of the fact that she was’t always here…but then they’re also a reminder of my amazing pregnancy with her. (There was actually a time while I was pregnant that I wished I could just be pregnant forever). There wasn’t a day that I didn’t stop to marvel at the fact that inside me another human was growing. Every flutter and hiccup captured my complete attention and everything else faded into the background. From the moment that little blue line appeared nothing else mattered. Everything I would ever do from that moment forward would be for her. From the first time I heard that tiny heart beat, to her first cry in the delivery room, to her first words she has been the music of my heart. She is my song.
The pain I endured delivering her was nothing compared to the warmth my heart felt when I held her that first time. I would do it a million times over. No questions – No hesitations. The extra weight and stretch marks just symbolize our amazing journey to get her here. The months of physical therapy (after spending the first whole month of her life sleeping on the recliner with her on my chest) were and are still worth it. I remember the heartburn I suffered through during my last trimester and laugh about it every time I brush my fingers through her amazingly long hair. I made this. We made this. This is us. The very best of both of us. The greatest thing we will ever create. She represents our deepest love for one another and every fiber of goodness from our souls.
In one year I went from feeling insecure about my body to marveling at how amazing it truly is for having created, delivered and nurtured such a perfect little human being. My snacker who only liked to nurse for 10 minutes at a time every 2 hours. The one who convinced me pretty quickly to stop reading the breastfeeding books that insisted she needed to nurse longer and on both sides and just go with it, trusting her and my body to know what she needed. My healthy eater who started solid foods with avocados and absolutely loves salmon. And how ironic it is that I despise loud chewers so much but adore the sound of my baby smacking her lips with each bite. My little stinker who tries to butter you up to get her way by giving kisses hoping you’ll forget you told her no. Or how every day she points at everything and asks “Is it?”. So eager to learn.
In one year I have watched this miracle bloom into a smart, sweet, funny, dancing, laughing, singing, kind and strong little girl. I have watched her features develop and change and grow and resemble everyone in our family at some point. She is my stubborn determination and her father’s fearlessness. We have watched her take steps but still refuse to walk because she was too determined to get there quicker by crawling to all of a sudden walking and then practically running across the room. We’ve watched her learn new words and take her place as ‘Pup Commander’, the leader of the pack to our two fur babies. She makes us laugh every day with her quirky personality and expressions – and especially when she starts dancing as soon as she hears music. Or because I apparently played the Twlight Saga soundtracks so much while I was pregnant that to this day as soon as I play it she falls almost instantly to sleep. And in that regard it’s soothing to know that she finds as much comfort and security in remembering her time in the womb as I do remembering the joy of being pregnant with her.
A lot can happen in a year and there are really no words to describe that first year with your first child. In this first year I have never learned so much than watching this new little person learn everything. I have never been so awed, so reminded of my faith, so humbled and so alive. I have never felt so much love or protection or connectedness. I may be grayer than before or less perky in certain areas and my body has its own, self-made (and less attractive) tattoos to commemorate my pregnancy. Yet even still there is so little that is more precious than carrying your child…except, of course, holding them. And in those first years hold them as much as you can because even though a lot can happen in a year, a year goes by so quickly.
I won’t lie. I cried when I pulled this out of her dresser this morning. This is the last one. Twelve months…It’s pretty bittersweet.
My baby is a year old. It’s hard to believe it’s come so fast yet I’m so excited to see all she does next – Forever her number one fan. No matter how fast these years may fly by I’ll always be there, in the front row, cheering her on (and undoubtedly holding back tears). And no matter how big she gets she’ll always be my sweet little tulip.
Adri, you are my biggest blessing. You are more than I ever could have wished for in this world. You breathe so much life and love into this heart of mine and bring me more joy than I can put into words. You are the sweetest song. And even though it’s your birthday, you are still and will always be my greatest gift.
Adri, you are my biggest blessing. You are more than I ever could have wished for in this world. You breathe so much life and love into this heart of mine and bring me more joy than I can put into words. You are the sweetest song. And even though it’s your birthday, you are still my greatest gift.