Author Archives: Meredith Rines

DIY Birthday Party Decorations

Affiliate Disclosure: I am grateful to be of service and bring you content free of charge. In order to do this, please note that when you click links and purchase items, in most (not all) cases I will receive a referral commission. You will not pay more when buying a product through my link. Your support in purchasing through these links enables me to continue to offer you lots of free stuff. Thank you!

DIY birthday party decorations, gone fishing party decorations, first birthday party ideas, gone fishing party theme

For our little man’s party I ended up creating most of his decorations.  I searched on Pinterest (you can check out my board of inspiration) for tons of ideas.  Then I went to start looking at buying the decorations.  Whoa!  Those prices were big, at least in my book.  I knew if I wanted to provide lunch for everyone then I wouldn’t be able to afford all of those fancy decorations.  So I took what I saw on Pinterest and made it myself.  You can make your own party decorations, too.  All you need is a little bit of planning and some creativity.  I swear you can create most of the decorations for a fraction of the retail price.  

I want to have an Honest Abe moment with you…. If I had the extra room in my budget and wasn’t worried about saving money then I would have just purchased everything we needed because it would have been easier.  I didn’t spend but a few hours making everything, but it would have just been easier to buy it all; however, that is not my reality.

Before I go any further I need to say… 

I am not the most crafty person in the world. I lose my patience easily.  I am all about progress not perfection.  Also, after looking at the party pictures I realized that I did not do the best at taking pictures of my decorations.  I was so pressed for time and then when the party came I was enjoying my son and our family and friends.  

Now with that being said let me share with you my DIY birthday party decorations. 

gone fishing birthday, diy smash cake, first birthday party, birthday party on a budget, meredith rines

I created a photo wall using a net I ordered off amazon for less than $6.00.  I took a gamble ordering this decorative net because I couldn’t specify which color I wanted.  But after reading the reviews and seeing the prices of the other nets, I decided to roll the dice.  I was so happy I did!  I ended up with a yellow one, which was perfect.  Honestly any color would have been fine and I would have made it work.  The net was huge and I wound up cutting off a portion I needed.  I didn’t use the rest of it and now I have it tucked away for a future party.  

I used clothespins that I already had on hand to hang the pictures and then used some leftover fishing line from when J went fishing a few weeks ago.  I found these bobbers on amazon for around $4.00 and had my friend help me string them to the net.  

The pictures were part of the package our photographer gave us from our family shoot a few weeks ago.  

I then placed our kitchen table in front for a place to gather the gifts.  This wall cost me about $10.00 to do.  Not too bad.

Then over on the food table I ordered a table cloth from amazon (because everything comes from amazon!).  This striped plastic tablecloth was perfect.  I actually ordered two, but since it was windy we decided not to cover the tables outside.  They were only $2.99 each (the price actually has lowered when I was writing this post!).  Since it was so cheap, I decided to hold on to the one I didn’t use and the one we used was still in perfect condition, so I wiped it off and folded it up.

I made a few food decorations using canva and some construction paper.  I already had the dowels and the papers so after I printed them in color, I cut out the images, glued to the construction paper and taped to the dowels.  I think they turned out perfectly!  I even created them as PDFs so you can download them yourselves.

I purchased a tackle box from walmart for about $8.00 and used those to place the gummy worms, Twizzlers and Swedish fish in.  Now that the party is over J has a new tackle box he can use!  I’m the best wife ever!

gone fishing birthday, diy smash cake, first birthday party, birthday party on a budget, meredith rines

The smash cake was probably the easiest decoration I made.  Two pieces of construction paper, a dowel and tape was all that was needed.   I even shared how I made his smash cake for only $3.00.   After we took our family photos a few weeks ago I learned just how much our little guy doesn’t like cake.  I think the icing is too sweet for him.  So I didn’t want to spend too much on his cake, including decorations.  In the smash cake pictures, the cake topper (the one I spent over an hour creating) was the first thing destroyed and ripped.  I learned my lesson!  For the party I kept it simple.  

I took a red and white piece of construction paper.  Then using my compass from the 6th grade (yep, I still have my compass that we used in beginning math class with the original pencil!) I drew a circle on each piece.  If you size the circles correctly you should be able to get 2 circles from each color, and I used the second one for the high chair.  I then cut the white piece in half and using a very old glue stick I put it together.  After I was finished I realized I forgot the top part of my bobber, so I used red scraps and made it work.  After it was glued, I took a black marker and wrote “the big one”.  I used regular tape to stick the dowel on and that’s it.

gone fishing birthday, diy smash cake, first birthday party, birthday party on a budget, meredith rines

For his high chair pennant, I took some orange tissue paper I had on hand and cut it into strips.  Then I tied the strips to some blue gift ribbon (I couldn’t find my twine and I was tired of looking so I improvised).  I then cut out a circle using red and white construction paper, glue it together and took a black marker to it.  I think it turned out wonderful!

gone fishing birthday, diy smash cake, first birthday party, birthday party on a budget, meredith rines

Outside we decided to not do any decorations since it was windy.  We had two canopies set up and our little kiddie pool for the kids to play with.  The kiddie pool was a huge hit!  I bought a magnetic fishing set which came with 2 fishing poles, 2 nets, a blow up pool (that we didn’t end up using) and tons of fish, sharks, and food (weird, but they were probably the favorites) pieces.  Now the party is over, little man has lots of new bath toys to play with.  I bought the pool for about $8 from Wal-Mart and the set was about $25 on Amazon.  

That’s it!  That’s the DIY birthday party decorations we created for our little guy’s first birthday.  I was all about keeping it simple, doable and within our budget.  To keep you on track, I talked about how I stayed organized by using this handy checklist.  

DIY Smash Cake for the First Birthday

gone fishing birthday, diy smash cake, first birthday party, birthday party on a budget, meredith rines Please, please don’t try to look up smash cakes on Pinterest.  You will see some of the prettiest cakes ever created and then you will get it in your head that you can be that talented.  It’s a lie!  You can’t.  At least I couldn’t.  A few weeks ago I attempted to create my own smash cake.  I baked the cake, I made homemade buttercream icing and I pipped a design onto my cake.  It was awful.  The icing was drooping, the color was more mint then blue and it looked awful.  I asked J for his honest opinion and he said “maybe you should save your homemade cake for the party and order one for his pictures.”  I knew right then and there my cake was a disaster.  

I ordered a cake from the local bakery for our little guy’s pictures.  The cake was beautiful and so simple.  

I knew it was going to be a big deal if his party cake wasn’t as nice as his picture cake.  I still wanted it to look good and decided to take a different approach.  I went with easy instead of making it hard on myself.  That way if it didn’t turn out I could blame that.  Instead the cake turned out great!  It was a lot better than my first attempt.  Not as pretty as the bakery made cake, but not too shabby either.  

As he O-Fish-Ally turned one last weekend, we celebrated!  I wanted to make sure we saved money where we could and one of the best ways to do that is by baking your own smash cake.  Trust me!  There is no need to go out and buy a made cake that your little one is going to destroy in 2 seconds.  Unless of course you want to and have built in your budget.  I’m all about saving time and money, but I also know that not everyone enjoys baking.  So if it’s not your thing, then please go right ahead.

gone fishing birthday, diy smash cake, first birthday party, birthday party on a budget, meredith rines

Here’s how I made a DIY smash cake on a budget:

I purchased a boxed cake mix that was on sale for $1.00 (gasp! boxed cake mix!… I know, I know).  I also purchased two cans of icing that were on sale for $1.00 each.  I already had the oil, eggs and water.  So my DIY smash cake only cost me $3.00.

I used two round cake pans to bake the cake, after they cooled I then took a bowl to cut out a smaller portion of each layer.

Once I cut out the portion, I popped the cake into the freezer so it would be easier to ice.

I took one can of icing and used it to do the crumb coat and the layer between the cakes.  I then popped it back into the fridge for about 10-15 minutes.

The second can of icing was the one I added some blue food coloring too.  I had about 6-8 drops to get the right color blue.  I then iced the rest of the cake.  

I added my DIY cake topper and that’s it!

gone fishing birthday, diy smash cake, first birthday party, birthday party on a budget, meredith rines

Super simple.  I baked the cake on Friday night so it would be nice and cool on Saturday.  Plus I knew how hot it was going to be on Saturday and I didn’t want to have the oven running in the morning heating up the house.  So I opted to bake on Friday night.

DIY Gone Fishing Birthday Party {free planning checklist}

first bithday checklist, party checklist, gone fishing birthday party, baby's first birthday party

 

Well as you can probably tell from all of the birthday posts lately and over on Instagram, our Baby Boy turned one a few days ago.  I swear Sunday morning I woke up and felt as if I had been hit in the head with a baseball bat.  I was so exhausted by the end of Saturday night and am so grateful our man slept amazing.  But seriously, I was dragging so bad Sunday.  I just wanted to nap and drink all the coffee.  But here I am, fully recovered and the house is back in order.  

I like to be prepared for just about everything, so when it came to planning a party during tax season I had to rely on one of my favorite tactics – the checklist.  I created a to-do list and checklist to help me plan our son’s DIY gone fishing birthday party. I wanted to make it memorable without going broke. So we created a lot of the decorations ourselves and made most of the food for the big day. I even made his smash cake. It probably wasn’t the prettiest cake around, but it served its purpose!

A few months ago I talked about how I was starting to plan for his party. But in reality I started planning the first week of January. I put together a very detailed to do list that encompassed everything from the big stuff (like mail invitations) to the small stuff (like buy ice). I didn’t want to forget anything. I also figured if I had a to-do list then I could rope in a few extra hands to help me put it all together.

Now that the party has come and gone, and we’ve barely survived it. I think it’s time to share my trusty checklist with you. I wanted to put together something that work great for the everyday planner and for the last minute planners.

I also had it broken up by what needed to be bought so we weren’t shelling out a huge chunk of money right before the party. I wanted to space it out so it was around paydays and times of the month where our bills were a bit lighter.

 

Here’s what we wanted from his first birthday party:

We wanted to have it at our house

We wanted it to be on a Saturday afternoon so it would be easier for out of town guests

We wanted activities for kids to play

We wanted family and friends there to celebrate with us

We wanted it on a budget

gone fishing birthday, diy smash cake, first birthday party, birthday party on a budget, meredith rines

I think we more than met our goals!  I started planning weeks ago for this party.  I am such a planner and a list maker that I created a checklist to go off of.  I wanted to share my DIY party checklist with you so you can use it for your next party.  It really helped me stay on track and not get overwhelmed.  Plus, we were able to split up the stuff we needed to buy so it wasn’t one big chunk at one time.

first bithday checklist, party checklist, gone fishing birthday party, baby's first birthday party

I kept the checklist with me at my office until about a week before the party.  Then I stuck it in my purse so I could keep it with me.  I’m sharing how I created my own decorations later this week, so check back.  You can download your DIY birthday party checklist here.
gone fishing birthday, diy smash cake, first birthday party, birthday party on a budget, meredith rines

For the kids’ activities I decided to keep it simple.  We purchased a kiddie pool for $8 at Wal-Mart and filled it with fishing toys.  I found this amazing magnetic fish toy on Amazon that was filled with 50 pieces (I added a picture below).  It came with nets, a basket, two fishing poles and tons of objects for the kids to fish for.  There was even a blow up pool that came with it, but we opted for the kiddie pool.  It was about $25 and it kept all of the kids occupied.  We may have had a few take a dive, but no one was hurt and they had a blast!

For food, we kept it simple.  J grilled hamburgers and hot dogs.  I had my office tax season party for clients the day before so I was gifted pulled pork, cowboy baked beans (the kind with hamburger meat, bacon and peppers in it… yum!) and a veggie tray which saved us some serious money.  The hot dogs, burger and buns cost about $10 thanks to things being on sale.  

I also added a few snack items like chips and dips (which were gifted to J so we didn’t have to buy them), candies that I bought on sale and a fruit tray.  I had the fruit tray made by my local bakery and it cost $40… what?!?!  Let’s just say I learned my lesson of asking about price… 

I should have asked how much it was going to cost because I could have saved over half of it by making it myself.

Lesson learned.  

I also had the bakery make cookies for the party.  I ordered 2 dozen iced cookies and 2 dozen chocolate chip cookies.  Both of them were a huge hit!

I say overall the food cost less than $100 and decorations cost about $50.  The only other item I purchased was matching t-shirts for us to wear.  I got them on Etsy for about $40, but after I ordered them I found a local girl who could have made them a lot cheaper.  I guess I should have done a little more research on Facebook and asked around before ordering.  I really like them though and the quality is great, plus they came in record time.  So it was a win for sure!

The total cost of our party was about $200.  We have more than enough food left for about 3 other meals, which will save us more money.  Plus it was so great to have all of our family and friends (well the ones that were able to make it since it was Easter weekend, it was a bit difficult for everyone) at our home to celebrate our little man reeling in the big ONE!

 

 

How To Recover From Your Kid’s First Birthday Party

gone fishing birthday, diy smash cake, first birthday party, birthday party on a budget, meredith rines

Well we survived.  Baby Boy’s first birthday and party was a huge success.  We went with the Gone Fishing theme and had so much yummy food. Now that it’s over I feel like I need an extra day just to recover.  I spent months planning this party and then just like that it was over.

A great thing that worked out for us was having his party on Saturday.  That way anyone who was traveling from out of town could come for just the day.  The party started in the early afternoon so most of our out-of-town travelers came down that morning and we able to be home by 7 or 8 that same night.  We also wanted our guests to be able to have a day off before going back to work.  I like having parties on Saturdays.  Usually J and I are the ones having to travel to see friends or family and being home late Saturday or early Sunday morning is the best.  Then I feel like I have a full day to get things done around the house.

We also planned a Saturday party so we could have a full day to get the house back to normal and take lots of naps.  Genius!

gone fishing birthday, diy smash cake, first birthday party, birthday party on a budget, meredith rines

Here’s what we did to recover FAST from our Baby Boy’s birthday party:

Cleaned up first thing.  As soon as the party was over we started cleaning.  Threw away trash, put dishes in the dishwasher and put away and left over food.  I didn’t want to procrastinate and then be left with dirty plates and trash laying around.  It may not be a perfect clean up, but try to get the bulk of it before going to bed.

Deep clean the next morning.  I woke up early and finished cleaning the house.  I swept, cleaned the floors and hauled back the tables we borrowed.  If you need extra hands then I would recommend taking your little guy to his grandparents’ for a few hours to give you an opportunity to clean.  

Find a place for all of the new stuff.  I had a feeling that his first birthday was going to be bad (as in a lot of stuff).  But I had no idea.  

TIP:  Hide a few new toys in a closet and then in a couple months when all of their toys have lost their excitement, then pull out a hidden toy.  

Nap time.  Naps are important for your little one and the day after his party might be pretty hard.  So make sure you build an extra nap time in your day. 

I’ll be sharing how I threw his party on a budget and what tricks I used to save money… and what I splurged on later this week. 

Happy First Birthday To Our Little Guy

first birthday, boy birthday, southeast missouri photographer, first birthday photo

When I was younger I would always hear my parents say “this year flew by” or “it’ll be over in a blink of an eye” and honestly, I didn’t get it.  I just couldn’t relate.  Sure the school year seemed to go by fast, but not that fast.  But since the birth of our son I feel like the days are zooming past us.  Days turn into minutes kind of fast.  

I feel like it was just yesterday we were being escorted out of the hospital by the nurse telling us to enjoy every moment because he’ll be turning one before we realize.  I didn’t believe her – I was too excited to think about his first year going by that fast.  But here I am on the eve of his first birthday with tears coming to my eyes.  

My baby is no longer a baby.

We are celebrating his first birthday tomorrow with family and friends, cookies and lots of yummy food.  

His first birthday…

It just doesn’t seem possible.  I have a toddler.  It was hard enough when he was no longer a newborn, but I coped with the fact he was still a baby.  But today, right now I no longer have a baby.  I have a fully walking, energetic toddler who is a force to be reckoned with.  He has a full personality and the deepest belly laugh I’ve ever heard.  He loves being outside, love swimming and has three best friends who follow him everywhere hoping he’ll drop a piece of food.

first birthday, boy birthday, southeast missouri photographer, first birthday photo

A few weeks ago we hired Josh DeFord to shoot some family snaps and some first birthday pictures.  They turned out so, so, so good!  Look at those baby blues, people!  

My Mom said something to me right before my little guy was delivered in a dramatic fashion.  “I know that he’s your baby, but remember you’re my baby.”

You know what, she was right (I hate to admit it though).  Even though he’s no longer this squishy newborn who I cheered the first time he rolled over, he will always be my baby.

 

I’ve been planning his first birthday party for a few weeks now.  I can’t wait to share pictures from tomorrow’s party and exactly how I did it on such a tight budget.  So come back next week for all the details!

Packing for the Beach

Affiliate Disclosure: I am grateful to be of service and bring you content free of charge. In order to do this, please note that when you click links and purchase items, in most (not all) cases I will receive a referral commission. You will not pay more when buying a product through my link. Your support in purchasing through these links enables me to continue to offer you lots of free stuff. Thank you!

packing for the beach on a budget

J and I are planning our next trip to the beach in just a few weeks.  Eek! I’m so excited!  I love the ocean and this year our little guy is walking and so much more active then when we took him last summer.  We’re planning on doing so much while we’re there.  I’m not sure how we’re going to fit it all in!  I’ve let J be the vacation planner this year.  He booked the trip and he’s planning what things we’ll go do.  I know there will be some put-put in the mix somewhere… that’s one of his favorite things to do on vacation.  The only thing I’ve requested is some time relaxing and playing at the beach.  Other than that – it’s up to him!  

We’re not staying to far from Daytona Speedway so we’ll probably make a drive out there so J can see the track.  He’s always wanted to go to the Daytona 500… so visiting the track is pretty much the same thing, right? ha!

I’ve been in full planning mode for a few days now.  While packing for the beach I realized we don’t have any summer clothes that aren’t completely worn out or still fit us. #losingweight  I’ve ordered a few new shirts and shorts for J, but I needed a new swimsuit.  I’m pretty sure I’ve had the same two suits for the past 4 years.  They needed to be retired.  I also wanted to mix things up this year and get a cute tankini.  I found some one Amazon that were super cute and seemed really flattering.  But I needed to stick to a budget. 

 
 
I loved this bralette tankini swimsuit so much that I ordered it.  Plus it was less than $25.  WHAT?!?! I really liked how it has some added coverage with the tank top, but still looks cute.  Plus it totally fit in my budget!  I can’t wait to wear it on the beach!
I also ordered these swim trunks for our little guy to wear. I just thought the octopus was adorable!  I like swimwear that has built in UPF protection for our son.  It gives me a piece of mind knowing he has a little more protection over his body then just sunscreen.  Also, they were less than $10, which was a huge bonus!  I added in this super cute rash guard for some extra protection up top.  Again, this shirt was less than $10. I think he is going to look so cute in it!  Ah! I can’t wait!

Now the only thing left to order is J’s swim trunks.  He’s not the easiest to buy for.  He’s picky than I am when it comes to his clothes.  We’re flying this year instead of driving, so we aren’t packing as much as we did last year.  We’re only staying for part of the week instead of the full 7 days, too.  I wrote a blog post on some awesome beach hacks for baby and I plan on packing a lot off that list so we can make sure to have a stress free vacation.

Packing for the beach is so much fun!  I know as our trip gets closer I’m going to be buying sunscreen and aloe (just in case) and loading in all of our new clothes.  I’m so excited for our first family vacation as a family of three.  This is the start to something great – I know it!

 

DIY Nursery Decor

DIY nursery wall art, DIY nursery decor, DIY boy nursery
My little guy is almost a year old and I realized I never shared the DIY nursery art I created.  I’ve been asked how we decorated his nursery and to be honest, I’ve kept things super simple.  Not a lot on the walls because I knew as he grew I would be changing a lot to meet his tastes.  I kept it basic with a few DIY art pieces I created on the computer and then had printed.  Here’s how I made those DIY pieces for his nursery. 

I wanted cute artwork for our little boy’s nursery.  However, I wasn’t a fan of the prices I kept seeing everywhere or I couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for.  I wanted something colorful, that fit in with our color-theme, but I didn’t want it to be too overwhelming or something that would break the bank.  I just kept thinking there would be a time he would no longer want these pieces on his wall and I’m not one to splurge on something that can be easily replaced.

I already have some minor skills with Photoshop and I use canva.com for most of my blog pieces, so I figured I would just create some artwork myself.  I found quotes or ideas that I liked, but then played around with the colors and layout to make it work for me.

You can use canva to recreated these images or create your own.  Open canva and click on A4 as your size, or use a custom size to create a piece for a picture frame you already have.

Then get to work.  It may take you awhile to find the perfect combination of colors and fonts, but you’ll get there.  I think 30-45 minutes spent creating my own was well worth it compared to the price of similar (but not the right colors) options I found at Hobby Lobby and online.  

Once I had a few created, I just saved them to a thumb drive and had my local print shop print them out on good quality paper.  Then I headed to Hobby Lobby to find some frames.  I had a gift card from my birthday that I hadn’t used yet so I purchased the picture frames with that. All of the pieces only cost $1.50, which was for the prints.  Not too bad for a cute little nursery wall.  

DIY nursery wall art, DIY nursery decor, DIY boy nursery

DIY nursery wall art, DIY nursery decor, DIY boy nursery

DIY nursery wall art, DIY nursery decor, DIY boy nursery

DIY nursery decor was made!  So easy and so inexpensive.  

I created a nice little gallery wall with really no expense added to it.  I think these pieces really add something to the room and I know when the time comes and he has outgrown them then I won’t be too heartbroken to replace them.

DIY nursery wall art, DIY nursery decor, DIY boy nursery

I’m all about saving money where I can.  I know diapers, wipes, clothes and everything else is going to be insanely expensive over time.  So I wanted to make sure I saved as much money as possible on everything else.  We received so many pieces from family and friends, clothes were all given to us and the furniture was either a hand-me-down or given to us.  So the last thing I wanted to do in this budget nursery was go crazy on artwork.  It was very sensible and it pained me to think about it. 

DIY nursery art, decor for nursery, boy nursery

Plus, he’s the cutest and he deserved to have the cutest nursery to match!

I really think these DIY nursery decor pieces make the whole room.  A nursery tour is coming soon!

Thoughts on Essential Oils

essential oils, how to use essential oils, how to get essentail oils for cheap

Back in January we ordered our first set of essential oils and diffuser. I know, I know, what took us so long?

First – I’m frugal.

Second – it can be overwhelming to know what brands, which oils and how to use them.

We waited until it was just too good to pass up. You see, J used to have a program through his work that he could earn points for. Those points could be spent on products. We ordered his Oakley sunglasses, my Ray-Ban sunglasses, stuff for our son, gifts for family and a golf club through this site. So when the company decided to phase out the program – we decided it was time to use the rest of his points.

He didn’t have a ton so a lot of the items were off limits. But I stumbled upon a diffuser and decided it was time to give it a shot. Our little guy had just gotten over RSV, I was still coughing from a weeks-old cold and we needed help.

They only had one brand to sell and since we could use points instead of money we went with it. I purchased both oils they had – the blended oils and regular oils.  I liked the blended ones so I didn’t have to come up with recipes and combinations by myself.

essential oils, how to use essential oils, how to get essentail oils for cheap

It was a little overwhelming at first to know which oils and  how to use them.  I found a great site from doTerra to help use get started. I know the oils we bought weren’t doTerra brand, but they have some great resources out there.  I also have been following Michelle Cannon on Instagram for awhile.  And I just think she’s great!  She shares different blends and tips every day.  

I think the essential oils have really helped our family.  It puts moisture in the air, but more importantly I feel that it helps detox the air.  With three dogs, a baby, J and I we will take all of the help we can get!

essential oils, how to use essential oils, how to get essentail oils for cheap

Once these run out then I plan on investing in some good essential oils, like doTerra.  I have a feeling these will last me awhile, but who knows I may get tempted to change it up after awhile.  

Do you use essential oils? What are your favorite combinations?  I’m trying to learn all I can!

How To Do It All As A Mom

how to do it all as a mom

Ever since I was a little girl I would always fill my plate too full (figuratively, of course – unless we’re talking about cake!). I would take on too much, not sleep, get grumpy and end up sick. This was a pretty regular circle I would put myself through. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten better about what I take on. I try not to do too much or over-commitment myself. These days I don’t have time to get sick. I no longer just have to worry about myself. I have a family who needs me. Mommy doesn’t have time to lay in bed for a day to sleep.

I’ve shared how I stay on top of everything before using a handy notebook. My process is still pretty similar, but I have made a few tweaks and my productivity has skyrocketed. Even with being a wife, mom, running a household, working full time and going to school. I get so much done in a day – it’s crazy! My 20 year old self would be jealous.

how to do it all as a mom

Here’s what I do in my notebook:

MASTER TO-DO LIST

I create a master to-do list. Usually it’s just a brain dump. I keep 2-3 (or more) pages blank for my master list. I write down everything – no matter how small or how big, or how expensive it’s going to be. As new projects come into my brain, I write them down. This helps a lot when trying to focus my attention to something specific.

For example, I was trying to study for my Certified Financial Planner exam that is coming up. This always seems to be the time my brain starts thinking of thousands of things to do. I keep my notebook near turned to my master list page and jot down what pops into my mind. I get it out of my brain and then I can stay focused on my task at hand – studying.

RUNNING GROCERY LIST

I have a running grocery list in my notebook. This way if I’m doing my makeup and run out of makeup remover, then I can write it down. Or if I’m out and J texts me he’s going to need more lunch meat for next week – I write it down. I tend to keep my notebook with me wherever I am. If I’m in the kitchen, it’s on the counter. If I’m running errands, it’s in my purse. If I’m at work, it’s on my desk.

I tend to go grocery shopping every two weeks. So I pull out my notebook to see what random items need then I prepare my meal plan and create the big grocery list. I also am a little compulsive and make my grocery list in order of the store, but this is so I can save money and not get distracted.

DAILY TO-DO LIST

The biggest change I’ve made in using a notebook is taking my master-list and breaking it down to a daily list. Having something for each individual day has really helped me get more done. I highly recommend to everyone I talk with to use a daily to-do list. It will help keep you focused and on the right path to reach your big goals.

Each morning once I get to work, the first thing I do is grab my notebook. I add my number one goal to the first line. For me, it’s to workout. I have been trying hard to bump up my workouts and to make it a habit. So that’s what goes down first. Then I look at my work calendar to see what meetings or client tasks I need to get done. Those are listed next. Finally, I look at my master to-do list to see what tasks I can break down.

For example, on my master to-do list I have to create a blog post three times a week for the rest of the month. After all of my work tasks are written I will add one or two personal tasks to my list. My goal of creating new content for the blog is easy to break down. I work on creating the post one day, edit and create images the next, then post. So in two days I can create a new post. Some days it may take more or less time to finish one blog post, but you get the idea.

USE IT EVERY DAY

I get out my notebook every single day. Even on the weekends. This helps keep me focused on my bigger projects. For instance, we’re wanting to replace the baseboards and repaint our entire home. It’s going to be expensive and a big undertaking. But by breaking it down into smaller steps then it’s no so overwhelming.

I don’t plan on painting every room the same color, so one day I may decide which rooms to start in. Then I will pick out the colors and measure the room to determine how much of investment new paint will be.

The next weekend may be pulling off the old baseboards and prepping for paint.

Then we paint the rooms and buy new baseboards.

Next weekend will be painting the baseboards.

The final weekend will be cutting and installing the baseboards.

See how I took a big project and broke it into smaller steps? Seems super simple, but a lot of people get stuck on the big goal and it paralyzes them. They may see paint and install new baseboards and get very overwhelmed. Then it just sits on their to-do list for months. By breaking it down your cost is lowered and the commitment each weekend isn’t too time consuming. It may take 5 weekends to do it all, but that’s okay if it relieves the stress.

My notebook has really helped me get more done without making myself sick or crazy. If I don’t have time to get it all done, no big deal. I turn to the next day’s page and jot down what’s left. I’ve given myself permission to not be perfect, to not get it all done in one day. And that feeling has been amazing and a total game changer.

It’s Okay To Not Have It All Together

it's okay to not have it all together

Oh Instagram how you fool me… Every. Single. Day. With your picture-perfect images of well-behaved children, perfectly dressed moms and women who actually have time to make it to the gym. But that’s just an illusion. Because I can craft a well-lit, no mess picture with the best of them. However, I’m not afraid to show it how it truly is.

A kid up most of the night crying because his teeth hurt. Dogs that bark every time there is a noise in the house that then wakes everyone up. A kitchen that’s clean for about 5 minutes a week. A family room with toys everywhere. Two parents chasing a boy around so he doesn’t try to pick up the never ending tumbleweeds of dog hair or put his hands in their water bowl.

Because no matter how often I sweep, vacuum and steam clean there is still going to be dog hair everywhere. It’s just how our life is. I roll with it.

I wish more people were real online. It would be great to know I’m not only one out there with less than perfect moments. Like not that long ago when Baby Boy was sick. I kept him home for 4 days one week since he was so sick. He was having tummy issues because of the antibiotics he was on, so you can just imagine the lovely messes I was having to deal with.  One afternoon he gave me a doozy, when I finally got him changed into a new diaper and clean clothes, I gently placed him in his crib so I could turn my attention to the disgusting changing pad. I had barely stripped off the cover when Baby Boy started coughing. I turn just in time to see him projectile vomit over everything. Like everything. He got the crib, the wall, himself, the sheets, his toy.

Gross. Of course I was home alone so no calling out for help on this one. I took a towel patted him dry then had to quickly finish cleaning the changing area. Then it was time for a new sleeper (luckily there was one clean one left in the drawer because I was desperately needing to do laundry). Placed him in the floor, stripped the bed (thank God for waterproof mattress covers, am I right?!), and put new sheets on. Then had to completely wipe down his crib and the wall.  Ugh.

It was a workout. I was sweating by the time it was all done.

sleep training your baby, getting your baby to sleep through the night

But of course I didn’t post that… I mean, I probably would have if there wasn’t poop on my phone from the earlier incident. But I did get this cute shot of him earlier that day while he was fighting his naptime. I mean look at this face. Who knew that in just a few short hours he was going to destroy his bedroom so quickly!

I know I’m not the only Mom who faces these struggles. Days where you feel like you’re running in circles. Days where you just can’t seem to get ahead. I can’t be the only one. Please tell me I’m not!

mom life

mom life

I’m not afraid to show it how it is on Instagram.  I’ve been known to show a cute month photo, but then turn around and show how the room actually looked.  It’s usually not very pretty.  Or share my desk at the office and how baby wearing is the only way I can get anything done.

I wish there were more Moms keeping it real online. Blogging and Instagram shouldn’t just be the pretty moments, but all moments. That’s what makes us so relatable, right?