Thursday, November 29, 2012

Am I The Only One NOT Decorated For Christmas Yet???

I guess I am a little, behind? I mean, it is November 29, my in-laws just left from the Thanksgiving holiday two days ago and we are still catching up on laundry from the long weekend, but I guess I am behind. I hate Pinterest. I hate Facebook. I hate Instagram. Sometimes, I do. Because they make me feel pressured and inadequate. But I will not bow down to the pressure, I say! I will decorate when I am GOOD and READY!
 
Ok. I am good and ready.
 
I got out my boxes of Christmas decorations, which, at our previous smaller house, were pretty adequate. Yeah, it's kind of just a joke in this house how much stuff I will need to make it a Winter Wonderland. But, you can only do so much, right? I will go get some stuff at Hobby Lobby this weekend, in the form of ribbon, garland, and whatever I can find on sale. We are also focusing on lights for the outside this weekend. Let's be honest, that's going to be a a miracle if it looks halfway decent. Lights are pricey and let's just look at the oustide of my house one more time...
 
 
We haven't even measured to see how many strands we will need to cover the front of this house, but I am sure it will be expensive. And I HATE those little, puny lights that are all crooked and ugly. I like big white or red or blue lights, or even multi-colored. Just don't make me use little puny ones!
 
Next weekend, we will put up the tree. I think I am going to try Dina's suggestions for tree decorating..
 
 
I really love the way she decorates her house. She uses different textures, tons of color. I wish I could decorate like she could, but my mind just doesn't "go there" with the out of the box ideas she has. But I do love her trees. They are just full of all kinds of stuff, and not just ornaments! In the link above, she tells you how she decorates them. I am going to try the ribbon idea this year and creative uses of things besides ornaments.
 
I got out my beautiful ornament wreath...
 
 
but since I didn't go through the trouble of hotgluing it down last year, half of the ornaments had fallen off. So, that's going to need to be fixed. It's worth it, though. I liked that ornament, it's so shiny!
 
I thought I would also try my hand at making some burlap wreaths for my front doors. Yep, I need two wreaths for my porch, for every holiday.
 
Something like this would be nice...
 
Simple. That's what I like, since I am incredibly untalented at making wreaths.
 
I had also mentioned my challenge of having a beautiful black lava rock fireplace with no mantle...
 
1901 Westminster Drive Grand Prairie TX 75050 Home for sale - MLS #11751415
 
I am thinking green garland with lots of lights and some big candlesticks on either side, hopefully from a thrift store that I can spray paint.
 
And I will be using these stockings again this year...
 
 
I really hate that we don't have monogrammed stockings. But I always wait until the last minute in December and would rather use money on gifts than having stockings made. Next year, I will have them done throughout the year. We need some beautiful stockings with our names on them. We always had the same stockings for years growing up. There was my name, proudly spelled "Gina." It was mispelled as long as I had it and we just never got another one. We don't use those stockings anymore, but it was pretty funny, anyway.
 
Well, I guess I'd better get on it. I have alot to do!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

How I Keep Up With The "Family Financials"

This was on my mind this week, as I have spent alot of time in the last couple of days getting prepared for the upcoming Christmas season of gift giving, activities and decorations. We also have a few bills do that have popped up that are due in December that are random (i.e. dentist bill, last bill for cable, etc.). At least one of these bills tends to pop up around the holidays, doesn't it?
 
I thought I would share how I keep up with the "Whitehead Family Financials." I do all of the budgets, checkbook balancing, and bill paying in our family. It's just how it's worked out for us over the years. When we both tried to do it, it was just a disaster. When I tried to let Jason do it, I found that he just didn't think ahead enough into the future to plan financially. I actually like to do it, most of the time. Sometimes, I get overwhelmed and make Jason take the reigns, but mostly, I really enjoy toiling over it.
 
I have used the same method of keeping track of my finances for years. It's basically a way I can plan ahead while also keeping track of how much money we currently have. I have always had a system on excel that looks similiar to this:
 
Date Item/Creditor Monthly recurring Debit Savings Monthly Incidental Debit Credit     Balance
          $3,000.00 $3,000.00
            $3,000.00
  Daycare $150.00       $2,850.00
  Electricity $150.00       $2,700.00
  Gas $45.00       $2,655.00
 
This is purely an example, but basically I have a simple formula that keeps track of the running balance. It adds credits, substracts debits, and tells me how much money we have/should have at all times.
 
I have liked this system for a couple of reasons. One, I have seperate tabs in a worksheet for the current month and usually two upcoming months. I could really do it as many months in advance as I'd like, but I find that things change and with Jason partly on commission, we usually know an estimate of what his commission check will be two months from now. This system lets me know what my balance will be (should be) on any day of the upcoming month, like January 15th. I've liked this system, up until a couple of days ago. When we were running SO close to the wire financially for a couple of years, this system saved our life. We felt like things didn't sneak up on us as often and we were able to tell creditors when we could pay them, with certainty. I wasn't promising all of our money away to too many people and overextending what we could do. I mean, there is only so much stuff you can pay when you only have so much money, so at times, we couldn't pay the random bills, as I listed above, so things like that would often go unpaid, but we kept both our cars from being repossessed and food on the table using this system.
 
What I've never been able to figure out is how to incorporate spending budgets and good financial planning on this system. This system is often not too disciplined, either, as I can change the numbers or payments dates at any time, and with someone like me who is not incredibly disciplined with money, this has led to not being where we would like to be financially (savings-wise, etc.). This system also doesn't keep track of our spending habits over the months. For example, how much have I really spent on fast food this month? If I don't keep track of those things myself on the spreadsheet, you end up spending more than you'd like on one thing because you aren't accounting for it on your monthly budgets. Like, for example, you really don't know what you'd like to spend on fast food in a month, I never accounted for it in the upcoming budget, and ended up spending $100 on it during the month because "$10 isn't that much!" but it is when you do it ten times!
 
I felt like I needed some assistance in this area because I feel like while I have kept on tops of things, I would like to get to the next level financially in our family. So, I searched around and found a website that had a coordinated app, where Jason and I could both log in and be reminded of things that were going on within the month. I found mint.com. I am getting no money from them to recommend their system, but I have found that I really like it.
 
For starters, you can actually link all of your accounts to your home account. As long as your creditor is on their database, it can actually log in to your account, pull up your monthly payment and due date, and tell you how much you owe. I haven't found a major company not listed yet, but I have all of our student loans, car payments, and credit cards. It will also send reminders that a bill is due. There are times that I have forgotten to put a bill on my spreadsheet (all of my payments are automatic) and it comes out, and I was like, uh-oh, didn't plan for that one! This makes sure I always remember. It also adds together all of your accounts and tells you your total amount of debt, which I think is amazing!! Part of the reason I think people don't pay down debt is because they don't know what that number is (or don't want to know.) It's easy to spend $5 a day on coffee when you don't ever think about how much debt you are in, but just in the last few days, I have really thought about that number I see when I log in, when purchasing things I don't really need or choosing not to eat out for lunch when I have stuff I could bring.
 
They have a "goals" section that allow you to set up goals for yourself. You can set up many different kinds. Right now, the goals I have include savings and paying down debt. It will pull up how much money your goal is so save and when you'd like to have that goal completed. For example, if you say you'd like to have your Dave Ramsey emergency fund of $1,000 by April, it will tell you that you need to save $250 a month. Then, it will track if you do that, based on the transactions on your checking account. I love looking at the goal when I log in. It makes the goal real instead of "just something I intend to do someday."
 
The other thing I really like is that it tracks every transaction of your account and will tell you how much you've spend in a given category in a month. You can also give that category a budget. It has a constant running tally of "budget" vs "spent." I love this feature. It really makes me think before spending money on stuff. Like I said, $15 here and there adds up, but you don't think about that. This also allows me to adjust by budgets based on real numbers, not just estimates. For example, if I am budgeting $45 a week for gas, but it is really costing me $50 a week because a gallon of gas costs more, I can adjust by budget accordingly.
 
I will probably always keep my spreadsheet, just because I don't have a checkbook registry and I like the way it just adds and subtracts numbers for me instead of me having to do it myself. However, I feel like going forward, I will actually get us where we need to be sooner than what I think it will take!
 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Backyard

So, our Thanksgiving was pretty awesome! I am ashamed to say I didn't take too many pictures. Hopefully, my in-laws will post some on Facebook that I can steal. :-)
 
Anyhoo, I thought I would share pictures of the backyard, which I've left off our tours in the past.
 
Our backyard is probably one of the more unique ones I've seen, just because it's VERY designed. They must've had lots of parties at this house because it's all set up for decorating, as is evidenced by how the backyard is set up. For one thing, half of it is a concrete deck.
 

There is this little square, with dirt, that must have been for flowers at one point, but it makes for a perfect place for our firepit!
 

The swingset was a gift from a friend at church, whose grandkids had outgrown it. Ours LOOOVVEEE it. We need to get a big kid swing, though!
 
 
Here is a picture from the swingset to the back part of the house. Alot of the grass has disappeared and it needs some major landscaping, but that's just going to have to wait until spring.
 

A different view...one thing I love and hate about this house are the trees. They look really pretty and have these really pretty red leaves. However, they have these dadgum red leaves. You know what I mean?
 

This is the door way to the sunroom and the little stairway up to the backyard. Both doors of the sunroom have these great, heavy commercial grade swinging doors. They are very safe and keep things very insulated. The man who built it I believe built commercially for a living, so these look to be either parts from another building or just supplies he'd ordered along the way. The tiles on the walkway are the same way. Do you love my very alive, not at ALL dead, brightly colored mums?


 



Another feature that I am not 100% sold on yet is this rod iron fence. It looks really nice and I love that it will probably never blow down during a storm. I don't like that everyone can peek in to the fence. I also don't know if the dogs have figured it out, I am guessing no, but there are areas on the side of the house where the fence gradually slopes down. Since iron can't bend, it just progressively gets lower, leaving major gapes between the fence and the ground that the dogs could easily get out of. Obviously, these are dogs that know they have it pretty darn good and have only gotten out once, when we left the gate open, and escaped all the way into the next door neighbor's front yard. We called for them and they came running, with their heads hung in shame.
 
 
That's our backyard! I don't know how many Christmas lights we are going to need to put up this year. We are afraid we aren't even close to having enough to make it look good. I am the type that would rather have nothing, in terms of Christmas lights, than ones that look puny and pitiful. I guess we shall see!
 

Monday, November 26, 2012

2013: A Jenna Odyssey

As I think of this year winding to a close and starting fresh in a few weeks, I always think of resolutions, what I would change, and how I would live my life a little differently to make me a better version of myself. I've given alot of thought in the last two years (since my daughter has been born) about my appearance. I've written several posts, promising to lose weight (which hasn't happened as of yet). Mostly, I just feel like a mess. I have never really been one of those people who ALWAYS looks madeup and ready to go out, not all the time, anyway. Even as a kid, I just didn't care about it all that much. As adults, when my sisters would take showers on Christmas morning and get dressed, to look good for family and family pictures, I was still in my PJs at 2 pm, probably drinking a glass of wine and watching TV. (And not helping clean up from lunch). I just looked like what I looked like and wore what I wore. I am not saying I never looked nice, because I did. I just didn't look good all the time. You know you have a friend or friends like that, that always somehow look cute, with messy hair that was done that way on purpose yet still somehow looked "put together" and always had great shoes and their face looked beautiful.
 
Well, that's never been me. And while it's never bothered me too much earlier in my life, it has bothered me alot since I've had Avery. First of all, I was always a thin person, even up until I met Jason. Clothes look cuter on a thin person, so even if you aren't wearing the cutest outfit, it still looks better on you. I always tanned so I hardly needed makeup too much. My hair was usually always done on a regular basis, money permitting. I never stuffed my face at parties.
 
Now, I just feel like I have completely and totally "let myself go." I wait too long to buy new clothes, to the point that I have to purchase everything at once, instead of buying a new thing or two with every paycheck. My hair looks pretty bad by the time I go get it done. I eat constantly, I am jiggly, but more so than anything, I am just lazy when it comes to activity. My hair is never fixed and it looks the same, every single day. I wear makeup 2 out of the five days a week, I bet? I guess my point is, it's very rare these days that I feel really good, that I feel like I look really pretty, when I step outside of my house. Even in my house, in my lounging around clothes, which are usually Jason's pj bottoms and one of his old t-shirts. Can I not even spend money on a good set of comfortable clothes?
 
I feel like alot of this has to do with two things. 1) I am cheap when it comes to spending money on myself. While this is good, it's also bad. You shouldn't be so cheap with the things you wear that it makes you look like a vagabond. 2) I am lazy. I could tan and workout and look good, if I actually put time and effort into it.
 
I just think I've reached my breaking point of being the one around my friends who looks like she is too lazy to ever put herself together. I am starting to care more if I am actually wearing stuff that is "trendy." I want to be thin again and be someone who thinks eating right and exercise are the "cool things to do." I just don't want to look like a "mom" just yet. Do you remember this SNL skit?
 
 
Yeah, that's how I feel.
 
I am going to start paying more attention to myself this year. I am going to put more effort into making myself look halfway decent when leaving the house. Do you feel this way sometimes too?
 

Happy 2nd Birthday Avery!

My baby is 2. My big girl, I mean. I can't believe how old she is getting!
 
We had a Minnie Mouse party this year. I try to do themes that she loves, instead of just ones I think are cute...
 

My mom made her this ADORABLE outfit to match the theme. It was sooo cute!!!
 
 

 
We are so happy that Scotty, Faith and the boys got to come spend the afternoon with us...this house is perfect for lots of kids!
 
 







Everyone got to come and I mean, everyone in her entire family, her babysitter Jenn, and friends. I can't tell you how awesome this was to me, especially, to have everyone we love under the same roof for an afternoon.

I made the cake and I have to admit, I was pretty proud of myself.



Cute little Minnie balloons





The three girls...



I look over and Avery and Jax (who is 3) are just playing air hockey together. It was pretty cute.



Here the men are, guarding the food (or so it looked like)



I made the Pops and the Poppy play a game. Since Minnie owns a "bowtique," they had to put bows in their hair and we played a Minnie and Mickey trivia game. Neither of them were very happy with me, as evidenced by this picture. Thank you, though, for being good sports about it!



When we sang happy birthday, it was so loud! She loved it. She has been walking around all week singing "Happy birthday to Avery."



Yumm, cake.



Shari and Robert got us an early Christmas present...



Jason thought the sunroom would make a good game room and since we had all that room, we needed a pingpong table. I had visions of beautiful furniture in it, but how much more seating do we need in my house, really? After seeing how much action that table has received in the last few days, I am thinking it was a pretty good idea!

It was such a great day!
 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

What I AmThankful For

Happy Thanksgiving!
 
Everyone on my Facebook feed seems to be doing the "30 days of thankfulness." I have a hard time remembering to do that every day, so I didn't start. But I did want to make sure I wrote about Thanksgiving here.
 
I used to have a mindset, more often than not, of "why not me? Why can't I have this? Why can't I have that? Why is this happening to me?" Pretty much constantly. I was always upset about one thing or another. Holidays were hard for me because I spent so many of my adult years single, while everyone else seemed to be in relationships. I felt slighted; I felt forgotten. I was unable to look at my life and be thankful for what I had; I was too busy being upset with what I didn't have.
 
I still have a tendency towards that, from time to time, but mostly, I think I am thankful everyday for my life. I try to be, anyway. So, here's my list of what I am thankful for.
 
I am incredibly thankful for my husband. He is my rock in every single way. He holds my life together, he makes me sane. He makes my life worth living, each and every day. He cares for me, makes me happy as much as he can, he loves me every single day. He supports me, no matter what. He keeps me living in God's plan. He prays for me, all the time. I love him so much and couldn't imagine my life without him in it.
 
I am thankful for my kids. Jordan and Sophia made me a parent, and I am thankful for all of the lessons they've taught me, and still teach me, about patience, acceptance, and understanding. I am thankful for Avery, all the time. God didn't have to give me her after the life I lived, and He did anyway. She is the most beautiful thing to ever grace this world, she is smart and kind and funny and wonderful and I am so thankful to be her mommy.
 
I am thankful for my parents in so many ways. My parents have truly taught me how to be a parent myself. They've taught me how to love unconditionally, how to pick my battles as a mom, how to create memories, and how to be there for someone when no one else is. I am thankful that Avery has such wonderful grandparents, who love her more than life itself, who make her the center of their world, and who spoil her as much as they can.
 
I am thankful for my sisters. My sisters are the two people who know me the best, and love me anyway. I am thankful that they love my daughter and that Avery has aunts who'll tell her stories about me that I would never share. I am thankful that as adults, we are still good friends, and that we make time for each other.
 
I am thankful for my in-laws. I truly got great ones, ones who are Godly people who are kind to me and accepting of me. In laws who love me like one of their own, who are happy to see me when I visit, and who love my kids. There are many who don't get that from their in-laws, but I am so thankful that I am one of the ones who do.
 
I am thankful for my dogs. I am thankful that there are creatures in this world who love me, all the time, who are excited to see me when I walk through the door, as if they haven't seen me in 50 years. I am thankful my dogs are great with kids and are well behaved, who are soft and loving and wonderful pets for our family.
 
I am thankful for God's provisions. I have a car to drive, a job to go to, a beautiful new house to live in, a bed to sleep in, food to eat, movies to watch, clothes to wear, money to spend (sometimes), a free country to live in, a church to go to, people to spend my life with, dreams to fulfill, a brain to think, an able body, and a Bible to read. I think I am more blessed than so many and never a day goes by I don't think about that.
 
Happy Thanksgiving everyone, spend it with those you love!
 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

What I See On My Walk To Work

My new job is in downtown Fort Worth. I actually take the train everyday, which I must admit, is really cool. I get 30 minutes both ways to sit and chill, every single day. I am currently reading The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells, as it was a free download on my brand new Playbook app. If they put a gym on the train, I would lose 20 pounds by Christmas. Maybe I should suggest that.
 
I love Fort Worth. I love it way more than Dallas, sorry those of you who might not agree. Fort Worth is just a really neat town. The downtown area is really awesome. If I squint, it makes me feel like I am in Manhattan again.
 
 
I thought commuting in would be a pain, but I really like it. Except for this morning, when a train was stalled on the track and we had to make a detour on a bus. Ah, public transportation. The bus driver was a woman and she drove like a maniac! But she got us in fast, so that was nice!
 
 
My new job is pretty cool, but last week was hard. I really missed my friends. But I am talking to them via email, so at least I still know what is going on over there! I am waiting for their building to fall down any minute without me. Hasn't happened yet, but I am just sure it will. :-)
 
As much as I like my new job, I must admit I am pretty ready for the upcoming holiday and four whole days off!!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

R.I.P.

It's a sad day.
 
Kevin Clash, the puppeteer for Elmo, has resigned amid sexual allegations from men, claiming he had sexual relationships with them when they were minors.
 
I really don't know why I am especially sad with this story. I guess maybe because Avery has loved Elmo so much. Or maybe it's because Elmo stands for such innocence. I watched Kevin's documentary on Netflix and was pretty amazed by his story. I really liked him.
 
I don't know if he indeed did anything wrong or if it's just the pitfalls of stardom and the fact that someone, somewhere, will try to take advantage of you and exploit fame and money to get some of yours for their own. I don't know if he just should have lived as a hermit to try and avoid anything seemingly controversial. I don't know. But the whole thing makes me sad.
 
It just goes to show that when you put faith in people, even people like celebrities (Lance Armstrong, John Travolta) or generals of the army, or president's of countries or ministers of churches, you will always be disapointed. People are fallible; they make mistakes. They sin. Yet, for some reason, it always disappoints me when I see people make really bad choices, especially ones who are in front of children all the time, and especially ones of a sexual nature.
 
I don't know what this means for Elmo's future or how this will end. I guess one day, they had to know that Elmo's voice would have to come from someone else. But for it to be for this, it's especially heartbreaking, I would imagine.
 
It's been quite a difficult year for Sesame Street, publicity wise, hasn't it??
 
R.I.P. Voice of Elmo.
 

The Lights on the Prairie (OK, Prairie Lights)

We went and saw Prairie Lights last night...we got the VIP treatment and it was awesome! And like the good mother I am, I took lots of pictures. OK, my camera was dead and I forgot to charge it. But we did get this...
 

If you can't tell, Gexa Energy is the sponsor.
 
Avery finally has come to the age where she knows what she is looking at. She LLLLOOOOVVVEEEDDDD the lights. She did NOT like Santa. We kept trying to get her to go talk to him, but when we got close, she just cried. It's OK, maybe next year. She did look at him and wave at him from afar, so it's a start in the right direction.
 
Colbi did really well! She just slept and hung out. I love that she is starting to be a baby and not a newborn, she is so alert! She smiles at you and she has found her feet and is so close to rolling over! My sister has pictures that I know she is just waiting to post, so hurry on up with those, Brookie!!
 
As I've said before, Christmas is going to be funnnn this year.
 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Silver and Gold Tablescape

At my mom's tea, I set a silver and gold table. It's the only time of year my beautiful wedding china comes out to play. I decided to set my dining table this year. We actually do eat at this table, but I could sacrifice it for a few days...
 

 
 

 
 
It's nice to have a pretty table for the holidays!

Pics from the Playroom

We are finally at a stopping point with our playroom. We told ourselves we were going on a purchasing hiatus for the house for the holidays, but after seeing this jewel at a garage sale for $15 bucks, we just couldn't say no. Especially since playing in the playroom is actually something that is done alot lately. We got the Playstation and they just sit on the floor and stare at the TV. So, we were going to purchase some chairs from Walmart at some point, but $15 was much cheaper than our plan.
 
 
 

It's not perfect, but it works for a kids' playroom. I think there is leather conditioner that will make the leather look good as new, but right now, I am just glad there is something in there to sit on.
 
We traded in our non-working Wii, straight up, for a new Playstation. We will probably end up getting the new Wii at some point, but we are good without the Wii for now. The only reason we were using it, mostly, was to watch Netflix. Now, we have Roku (and it's awesome). Since Playstations play DVDs too, it was best to get it instead. We thought since we have movies that the kids could watch, that the Playstation was a good investment.
 

 
Per the usual, the schooldesk was a garage sale find. I painted it white and it looks pretty cool. Although, my dad said it was a politically incorrect desk, since it's right-handed. I think it's pretty cool and so does Pooh.
 
 
 
I find myself looking around areas like these cabinets, that are pretty much filled by the way, and wonder how any of our stuff EVER fit into a 1200 square foot apartment. These cabinets, I bet, will be painted some cool shade at some point in the far ahead future. They look so bare.
 
 
Another thing I am amazed by is how well our curtains have fit into this house. This door leads out to the sunroom.
 
 
I am so glad this room is pretty well done. The house really didn't feel that big to me and I realized it's because when you only go in two rooms, cause you don't have places to sit in others, of course it feels smaller. But now, as we get everything put together, it's just starting to really feel as big as it is. I love this house!
 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Some Pics of the Kids (and my new favorite thing...)

I finally took alot of pictures today. We watched some videos of the kids and it made me realize I don't take enough videos of the kids...so I did.
 
I love Instagram. It's my new favorite thing!! How have I just discovered this?
 
All three kids VOLUNTARILY went outside and played today. Avery loves being outside, but it's not as fun playing out there without her borther and sister. Sophia likes being outside but sometimes it's hard to get her out there. Jordan has been given a time limit on his video games per day, so once he reached that limit, he went outside to play Sniper. Then, all kids helped pick up some leaves.
 
Watching the kids play...
 
 
 
 
 
Tell me this child isn't his father's mini me.
 
 
 
Wherever Sophia goes, Avery goes.
 
 
Sophia is seriously the baby whisperer. She is surrounded by babies and she is GREAT with them. Avery has always loved Sophia, but it seems as though all babies do. She held Colbi at my mom's tea yesterday and Colbi just watched her...
 
 
Avery and her Aunt Leslie
 
 
Gigi and her girls at the Tea yesterday