Wednesday, February 29, 2012

It's a Two Way Street

I have to say, I probably married one of the most easy going men. Seriously, Brad will go along with just about anything. He tells me all the time that he just wants to make me happy. And that shows in just about everything he does. He always lets me choose where we're going to eat when we eat out. He lets me pick what show we watch at night. He gives me a foot rub almost every night. He helps with the housework on his days off. The list goes on and on.

And I love all of these things. It's obvious that Brad expresses his love through acts of service. And I am so glad to have a husband who is such a willing servant. However, that's not necessarily how I most feel loved. Brad and I have tried to pinpoint what my "love language" is many times and we both have such a hard time. I'm easy to please, but very picky at the same time. One thing that makes me feel loved is just random acts of thoughtfulness.

In high school and college Brad understood how important it was for me to feel loved. He knew that it was the little things that count: a note stuffed in my locker, a cookie from the cafeteria waiting for me at our table in the morning, a quick phone call before bed just to say goodnight. He was always so good about making everything special. He went all out. One time, he put together a scavenger hunt for us to go on that took us through all of our favorite places to go when we were dating. I remember one day when we were first married I had to work all day and Brad was not going to be home when I got home. He left probably close to 100 notes for me to find scattered throughout the apartment. The notes were hidden everywhere. I loved looking for all of them! When we were paining our front room, I went to bed one night before him. He painted "I love you" on the wall for me to find when I woke up the next morning. It's things like that that really just get me. That make me feel special and loved.

Now that we're married and have a child these things happen less and less frequently. It's not that I think Brad doesn't love me anymore. Or that I'm no longer special to him. It's that they take a lot more planning and effort. Probably my biggest complaint to Brad now is that he doesn't do those "special" things as often anymore. He doesn't surprise me. I'm not trying to harp on him, it's just the nature of where we're at in our relationship. It's truly harder to do those things. But that doesn't mean I desire them any less. So, every now and then I get upset and we talk about it and Brad says he will do better because he always wants to make me feel special.

Well, this week I discovered that it's a two way street. I've been working on cleaning out two rooms this week in order to prepare for moving Micah to his new bedroom. In the process, I've discovered Brad's "Amanda box(es)." You know, the box that has all of the special mementos from our time together: notes, cards, ticket stubs, etc. Let me tell you, he has several boxes! There's one box from when I went to New Zealand for the summer. I was gone for almost 50 days. I made him something to open every day I was gone. There's another box from when I did my student teaching in New Mexico. I made him different cards/notes to open on specific days (i.e. when it's snowing out or on a Sunday, etc.). There's countless letters from when we were apart at college. Cards to celebrate holidays, his birthday, our anniversaries, graduations, etc. Notes from high school. There's a scrapbook I made him for his 21st birthday that had several different "21 things" (i.e. 21 famous couples, 21 reasons he has the best birthday, 21 coupons to use, etc.). There are several picture scrapbooks that I've made him throughout the years. I mean, there's a lot of stuff.

Going through those boxes and letters made me remember how much effort I used to put into our relationship. I thought about him all the time and I wanted him to know it. I told him everything and since so much of our relationship was spent apart it had to be done in a letter (actually, we did talk on the phone every day, but I usually saved the really thoughtful and sappy things for our letters). I hate to say it, but I'm guilty of not putting the same amount of our effort into our relationship anymore either. Sure, I leave him notes in his lunchbox from time to time. Or I'll leave a card on his pillow for him to find when he gets home from work, but it's not nearly as often as it used to be. It's not that I don't love him as much. Or that I don't think about him every minute of the day. Because I do. It's that I have other things occupying my time right now. Another person. And while that is a legitimate excuse, I don't think it's a good one. Don't get me wrong, I'm not coming down on myself here, I'm just saying, I need to make more of an effort. I need to show Brad more often how much I love and appreciate him. I know he knows it, but sometimes you just need to show it.

So, that's my goal. I'm going to make more of an effort. I want to make my husband feel more loved. I want to show him that love in real, tangible ways. I also know that his love language is acts of service so while a note in his lunchbox is nice, I know that I have to make more of an effort to do something for him. I need to be the servant to him that he has been to me. It's not about doing it so that he does it for me. It's about showing my husband how much I love him. And reminding him that I love him even more today that I did four years ago when I left him mushy notes all the time.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Keeping a Budget

I'm not going to lie, I've never been very good at keeping a budget. I don't remember being told how to do it as a child and I never really had a need to until I was married. I started baby sitting when I was in sixth grade and that money was completely disposable. I used most of it to go to the movies or buy clothes. When I was a senior in high school I got my first "real" job working at The Children's Place. I was making a little more money and now had a cell phone bill to pay ($20 a month!). It wasn't until I was a senior in college that I had any other kind of regular bill (a car payment). But I was bringing in quite a bit of money by working at Gymboree, working as a part time nanny, and still doing weekend and evening baby sitting jobs.

It wasn't until Brad and I got married and I finished college that we really started to need to budget. Suddenly, we were hit with several bills: rent, electric,my car payment, cell phones, and student loans. Somehow we just always made it work. About two years ago we really started getting serious about making and sticking with a budget. We also started to get serious about paying down our debt. Both Bradand I had a significant amount of student loan debt as we went to school for more than four years and I went to all private institutions. We read The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey and started with the steps right away.

I have to admit, I don't always like sticking to a budget. I like spending money. I like pretty things, both for me and my boys. But I've come to realize in the past two years or so that it is more gratifying to spend money that I actually have than it is to spend money that should go towards something else. This is where a budget comes in.

Every month, Brad and I sit down together and make a budget. This is especially important to do monthly because Brad is paid hourly plus he gets reimbursed for his mileage to work so his paycheck really varies week to week. Also, a lot of our bills are not fixed so we pay a different amount every month. We start with how much Brad should make that month (we never factor in his reimbursements as we never know for sure when he will get those--that's bonus money!), then we immediately deduct our tithe amount (that's for another post). What's left is what we have to spend for the month. We go down our list of bills and put in how much we owe on everything that month: mortgage, car payment, gas, electric, insurance, student loans, etc. We also factor in how much we spend on groceries a month, gas for the cars, and food for meals out. All month long, I keep a running list of "unusual expenses" coming up for the next month. Things like a birthday gift, MOPS dues, money for a baby sitter, hair cut, etc. Then, I add those to our budget. I also try to set aside some "fun" money for me and Brad. This is money that we will use to do something by ourselves (for me it's usually go shopping or scrapbook, for Brad it might be golf or Starbucks) or that I will use to do something with Micah (i.e. the pool or zoo or lunch at McDonald's). We really try to budget every penny that Brad will make that month.

Doing it this way is so helpful! I should also mention that we've moved to the envelope system where we use cash for all of our purchases minus bills and gas for the cars. This really helps us keep with our budget. For example, if I budget $50 for myself this month and I spend $50 at Archiver's by the 10th I have no money leftover for the rest of the month. It really makes me think about what I'm buying and if it's worth it. Which is really good for me, because I tend to be a spender! If we don't spend all that we budgeted in one area we can move that money to another area or carry it over to the next month.

Like I said before, I'm not very good when it comes to keeping a budget, but this method has really helped me. I know what I have and I don't feel limited, which is something I was afraid of. If I want to get lunch for me and Micah one day, I can, but I know that that means we might not be able to do something else later. Also, since there's always some "fun" money budgeted I don't feel like it's all business and no play. Plus, it is so gratifying to see how our student loan debts keeps going down and down. When I think about how much money that will free up when we're done with those it makes all the sacrifices right now totally worth it.

So, I highly recommend you read the book. And make a budget for your own household. But don't just follow ours. Do what works for your family. But do something. It's always shocking to see how much money you're actually spending and on what, but it's even better when you start to see the benefits of budgeting wisely.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Celebrating Valentine's Day

I am a huge fan of all holidays. Even Hallmark holidays. I love any reason for a celebration. My high school youth pastor wrote a great blog entry about hating on Valentine’s Day. You should read it. I agree with him, love should be celebrated. And just because Hallmark is telling me when to celebrate it doesn’t mean I should automatically not celebrate it on that day. For that reason, I like to “make a big deal” out of Valentine’s Day. No, Brad and I don’t do a big, extravagant dinner out and presents, but we do acknowledge the day. And our love for each other.

But this year I was really excited to include Micah on the celebration. He’s still not old enough to understand the day, but he’s old enough to do fun things. And there’s few things I love more than watching him just have fun. So, that’s what I tried to make the day about: celebrating our love as a family and having fun together.

Really, for us, Valentine’s Day started on Monday. I was a little late, but that’s when I finally had time to make some projects with Micah. Brad was home in the morning so before Micah’s bath, we stripped him down to his diaper and decided to do some fingerpainting. I’ve been wanting to fingerpaint with Micah for quite some time, but I’ve been worried about handling the mess by myself. I was really grateful to have Brad there for the first time so I could see how Micah would handle it. Because, in reality, it wasn’t fingerpainting, it was whole body painting. The ulterior motive to fingerpainting was that I wanted to get Micah’s footprints and turn them into hearts. I used them to make cards for the grandparents. Micah loved painting. He had so much fun running his finger along the paper and seeing the colors (much more gratifying than coloring with crayons as he still doesn’t press hard enough to get some real bright colors showing up). He did great with letting us paint his feet, too. And afterwards, he jumped in the shower (his favorite!) with Daddy and got to watch the water change color as he got clean.

After nap, I put Micah in the high chair for another craft. This time, I needed to trace his hand to make a card for Daddy. Micah wasn’t too keen on me tracing his hand so it didn’t turn out super great, but I know that Brad still appreciates the thought. Of course, I had to keep Micah entertained while I finished the card, so he played with stickers. He is all about the stickers right now. When he sees us pull out some stickers, he goes nuts! He starts to shake his hands and get so excited. It’s so adorable!

We ended the day by baking and decorating sugar cookies. Micah’s always such a good helper when it comes to baking. He likes to pull out all my pans and then all of my wooden spoons and beaters. He loves banging them together. When the cookies cooled, I gave him one frosted cookie and a thing of sprinkles to let him “decorate.” Once he realized what the sprinkles were he really wanted to help! But I let him eat his cookie instead. Whew! What a busy day! And just for fun, I let Micah have a bubble bath before bed. He loves playing in the water!

Brad had to work on Valentine’s Day so he took me and Micah out to breakfast. I think Micah’s favorite meal is breakfast so he loved eating out! Then, when we got home, we exchanged gifts. We got Micah a new board book as well as a sticker book. Brad also bought him a little plush Brobee. Brobee is from this ridiculous show that Micah loves, Yo Gabba Gabba. Seriously, stupidest show ever, but Micah loves it. Brad and Micah got me two gift certificates to get my nails done and a box of mint meltaways (one of my favorite candies!). Micah bought Daddy a box of one o his favorite teas. And I made Brad a memory book. It’s called “The ABCs of Us.” For each letter of the alphabet it has a memory from our relationship. I found the idea on

After Brad went to work, I spent the afternoon with Micah. We colored and played with stickers. Then, we snuggled on the couch and watched Cars. I usually don’t let Micah watch a lot of TV but when he’s not feeling well we’ll sit on the couch together. We’ve watched a lot of Cars and Toy Story. He literally went into our DVD drawer and pulled out the Cars case and got super excited. How could I say no to that? All in all, it was a great day!

That actually does not conclude our Valentine’s festivities, but it does conclude this post. I’ll write more later about what we did on Wednesday.