Japan Life · Life · Parenting · Shop My Instagram

One Japanese Custom Americans Should Adopt | Why You Should Take Your Shoes Off in Your Home

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If you know me, you know that there are so many things I love about Japan. Just the other day, I was telling Drew that I am beginning to ache for the place, and we still have a little over a year left in the country. I could go on and on about the kindness of the Japanese, the beautiful rural countryside, and all of the customary Japanese things that I love here.
One of the things that I love most about the Japanese people, is that they are very conscious about cleanliness.

I’m telling you, I am going to cry when I return to American gas station bathrooms. There’s nothing like walking into a FamilyMart and using an absolutely spotless bathroom ANYWHERE that you stop on a road trip.

Being in Japan, there are several roles on our base that are filled by the Japanese nationals vs the US military. In particular, most of our housing maintenance department is managed by the Japanese people. This means, when your toilet breaks, they are the kind ones to come fix it.

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Do babes ever chew on anything SAFE for them?

And because toddlers seem to have a life goal of flushing things that shouldn’t be flushed during the fifteen seconds that you decide to look away to load the dishwasher… in a nutshell, we see maintenance a lot in our home.
One of the things that I was most startled by when welcoming the Japanese into our home for the first time, was the fact that they carried two sets of shoes with them. Without asking, they removed the shoes that they were wearing outside our front door, and they immediately stepped into house shoes to wear within our home.

As we have integrated into life in Japan, we have quickly realized that this practice is not just isolated to homes.

You go to the doctor, you will put on slippers.
You go to the hospital for a procedure, you will put on slippers.
You stay at a hotel, you will put on slippers.
You go to the onsen, you will put on slippers.
You go out to eat, you will put on slippers.
Even if you go to the bathroom, sometimes, you will put on slippers.

At first, I just didn’t really get it. To be honest, when we came to Japan, we were not big on the “no shoes in the house” rule. After the first week of culture shock from constantly taking off my shoes and replacing them with house shoes everywhere, I finally decided to do some reading on WHY I was constantly swapping shoes as I entered these various buildings. I was disgusted with my own ignorance, because the reasons are numerous, and they are pretty monumental.


This post is sponsored by Dearfoams, but the content was researched and written 100% by me, and all opinions are 100% my own. I agreed to work with Dearfoams because I genuinely love their company, and I will never speak highly about a brand that I don’t sincerely love.

4 Reasons You Should Remove Your Shoes at the Door | Why Everyone Needs House Shoes


 

“What did you say is on your shoes?!”

1. Outside shoes are GROSS

Did you know that almost ALL shoes that are worn outside of the home for at least one month carry fecal matter on them? Yep. Your outside, everyday shoes are covered in poop. A study from the University of Arizona on this particular topic says that up to 93 percent test positive, in fact.¹ When I first read this little bit of information, I was absolutely horrified.
In homes with children, this is obviously an even bigger deal, too.
Think about it this way: right now, Ellie spends 95% of her day on the floor. She touches it with her hands, then chews on her fingers. She rolls all around, and sometimes even falls asleep with her face smashed against it. Wearing house shoes or slippers that NEVER leave our home insures a clean environment for her to explore, drool, and chew happily (and safely.)

2. It keeps your house clean

I mean, this is kind of a given, right? This is probably the main reason that most people choose to remove their shoes at the door.
We live in the snowiest city in the world presently.  And what happens when snow melts?
MUD.
Our porch is constantly covered in dirt, mud, and water, and during the early spring, everything in sight is covered in pollen from the cherry blossoms. Being able to swap out our muddy/dirty shoes at the door, and put our feet into nice, clean soles, keeps our house so much cleaner. I mean, anything that makes my mopping/vacuuming schedule much easier to handle is a must- do for me.

Heck, you can even wash house shoes in order to help keep your floors that much more clean. Did you know that Dearfoams created the very first washable slipper with comfortable foam padding in it? Even all the way back in 1948, they were committed to creating a product that was safe and easy to keep clean for your family. To this day, most Dearfoams slippers are machine washable, meaning even your house shoes can be cleaned periodically- keeping your home as clean and safe for your little ones as possible.

3. It is so much more comfortable

You might be asking, “why wear shoes at home at all?”
If you are asking this question, I venture to say: you clearly do not have a toddler.

Legos. One word. One scary, painful word.
LEGOS.

But in all seriousness, it is incredibly convenient to own a pair of shoes that are comfortable enough to wear all day inside of your home, yet protective enough to shield you from the plethora of sinister little bottom-of-the-foot hazards that are children’s toys.
Perfect trade off. Your feet remain protected, and you remain comfy.

4. It is polite

This is HUGE in Japan, and I wish it was something that was better practiced in the states. While I don’t think America will necessarily begin carrying a pair of house shoes with them when going to visit friends, I do wish that it would become customary to remove shoes at the door.
It is respectful to the family that is hosting you, it is cleanly, and it is so so easy to do. In our experience in Japan, hosts customarily actually provide YOU with house shoes upon entering their home. Talk about a way to personify “Mi casa es su casa,” right?


 

There are so many huge reasons to begin building the habit of wearing ONLY house shoes in the home. Mum Ana Lucia Komori puts it best in my opinion:

“When we take our shoes off we are free from all the things that happened to us during the day but that don’t belong to our intimacy and spirit at home.”³

I LOVE that concept. As you shed your dirty daytime shoes, and put on your cozy house shoes, you are leaving the heavy parts of your day behind. You are settling into your own home for the night, and allowing your burdens to stay at the door, where you can pick them up to deal with the following day.

So I challenge you, start taking off  your shoes immediately upon entering the home. If you’re like us and like to wear shoes anyway, buy yourself a pair of house shoes. If you haven’t picked up on it yet, Dearfoams are absolutely our favorite.
Cozy up, leave your burdens behind, and keep your floors clean for the tiny hands and feet that are exploring their little world.

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Sources:

  1. https://www.today.com/home/health-reasons-why-you-shouldn-t-wear-shoes-house-t129820
  2. http://alt.npo-glad.org/taking-off-shoes-japan/
  3. http://www.essentialkids.com.au/health/health-wellbeing/should-you-take-your-shoes-off-before-entering-your-home-20180723-h1316l
  4. https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2001.html
DIY · Home · Rental Decorating

Coat Closet Turned Mudroom | Rental Friendly Decorating

Living in base housing can be tricky sometimes in regards to decorating, especially if you hate PLAIN. After all, everything has to be basically pristine by the time that you leave, and with usually only 2-4 years at each house, it can be extremely tempting to just live with the plain white walls and ugly fixtures in the house.

But I believe it’s possible to do a few simple things to easily make a rental (or base housing) feel like home, while still being able to restore all the changes to move-in-ready condition easily.

Today I will be showing you how we took our tiny front coat closet and transitioned it into a workable space! On our particular base in Misawa, we actually don’t even have to replace the doors- housing will do that for us as long as we keep all the hardware.

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So, here is how I turned our TINY, useless coat closet (that was stuffed to the brim with things we couldn’t even reach) into a brand new, cute little mud room! We actually didn’t even use half of the stuff that was in our closet, so it was becoming a catch-all for stuff that just needed to be put away elsewhere.

Halfway through my mess

If you are reading from Misawa, we live in the 3 bedroom townhome style, so this is the closet immediately upon entering your front entryway. Taking the doors off and creating a small bench opens up the space SO much, and makes your entryway look astronomically bigger- for real. I was blown away the second I took those doors off, and I don’t feel incredibly cramped when walking into the house anymore. You can even store guest shoes in the space in front of the bench, which keeps your walkway more clear!

Here’s a couple tips on how we did it:

Take off all hardware, and store it in a plastic baggy

Or, simply leave it attached to the doors! We take all the screws and pieces that don’t remain attached to the doors, and store them in a plastic baggy, then tape it with painter’s tape to the door. This way the tape doesn’t damage the door, but we are able to know for SURE that the hardware stays put with the door. When moving out, we just place the door with the taped hardware beside the closet for our housing inspection. (Or if you are required to replace the doors where you live, all the hardware is right there, and you don’t have to go searching for it!)

Store the doors under a couch or under the bed

This way kids, pets, or adults don’t damage them in any way, and they are totally out of the way! We store ours underneath our king size bed, so they are totally hidden under there. (Thanks to our sweet friend Sierra, for the idea of storing things under couches or beds. This works so well for us.)

And that’s really it! Super, super easy project, and if you search Pinterest (here is the link to my profile– I have some inspiration under my entryway board) , there are a million ways to build a small bench for whatever size your closet space is. I have absolutely NO power tools, other than a super cheap drill and drill bits, and built this last night in around 2 hours.

And because I’m always asked in my Insta/Facebook DMs where I get my products, here are all the links for the shop-able products shown in these photos!

Mason jar – you can get a mason jar just about anywhere! I pick them up all the time from thrift stores, but I linked one here from Amazon! Almost any thrift store will have jars in their glass section, usually from anywhere from 25 cents to $1.

Peonies  – these originally came from EBay, but I linked similar ones from Amazon!

Books- we the bottom book at a 25 cent book sale/ the top one belongs to a set that was passed down from family! I love to find old books that have pretty colored covers both for reading, and for decor.

Linen basket -the reviews state that this never regains its shape- which I believe is TOTALLY inaccurate. If you fill it with items, it immediately resumes the shape it should be. We use ours to hold Henry’s winter gear!

Wire baskets -these are the small size, and they often go on sale for $11.99-$12.99! Wait for the sale, and wait for a coupon code. I believe I got mine for around $5 each when I had a 40% off coupon.)

Twinkle lights – I had a coupon for these, making them around $5 for each strand. We have these EVERYWHERE in our house, because I adore twinkle lights. If I get another code, I will update it on my deal page, found HERE. (I run an Amazon discount page on Facebook!)

 

Hunter boots – the boots shown are my navy blue pair in glossy! I’ve had them for 2 years and they still look basically new. (Isn’t it funny how these have become a decor piece?)

Wreath -this is my DIY wreath for under $10 from Daiso! You can find the tutorial on my blog by clicking the link.

The white planks and bench are actually all made out of wood that I found on the side of the road. (My friends refer to me as the curb queen occasionally.) So many things that are thrown out on a weekly basis are super super useable, even if it isn’t for their original purpose. My favorite thing to do is to take your trash, refinish it, and post it in my own home. Ha.
I believe the white planks originally came from a small crib, the boards for the bench were from a handmade toy box that was falling apart, and the structure from the bench actually comes from two dresser drawers that were being given away for free. Even the screws came from the destructed toy box, so I have absolutely zero dollars invested in the bench that I crafted, minus an 80 cent bottle of stain from Daiso.

Hope you find some inspiration for your own closets! I am so much happier as I enter my home now, and I love the space that my entryway is after taking off those dang doors!

 

Life · Marriage

How Our Marriage Survived a False STD Diagnosis

Ha, does that title grab your attention enough? I hope so, because this isn’t really a post I can share a million photos in, if you know what I mean. I believe now that the truths I will share with you are SO important to know, though.

If you haven’t read our marriage story, you may not know how utterly surprising this blog’s title is, coming from our relationship.
If you have read the post, you know Drew and I committed early on in dating to wait until our wedding night to sleep together, and we kept that commitment. It is something I have been proud of for years, and something that I have absolutely adored about our relationship.
When that is your truth, and you KNOW that YOU have never been unfaithful- yet a doctor is calling you and telling you that you have undeniably caught chlamydia, which is contracted 99.9% of the time via direct sexual contact- what would your first thought be?

Yep, mine too.

So, how does a marriage survive that?

Let’s start from the beginning.

During pregnancy, most doctors request that mothers receive a routine pap smear sometime during the second trimester if they have not had one recently. I didn’t think twice about their tests, and honestly didn’t even know that they were testing for STDs too. I have never once in my life worried about their tests, because I have only had one partner my entire life, as has my husband. So around two weeks later when I saw my OBGYN’s number ringing on my phone, I wondered if I had simply forgotten to schedule my next appointment with them.

Instead, I was greeted by a solemn request for a confirmation of my last name and birth date, and was asked if it was Emily they were speaking with. I agreed, and thereafter heard the words that blew my mind.
“Ma’am, we have received a positive test result for chlamydia. Because you are pregnant, I will need you to come in immediately to begin treatment. Please come in today and do not wait, as this can be dangerous for your baby. Do you have any questions?”

Um, hell yes I have questions.

Now, I am not a rude person to strangers, like… ever. Everybody has a job to do, and some jobs are worse than others. I imagine delivering test results like these really can’t be fun, especially when test results of this sort can carry so much emotional weight with them. But during this call, I didn’t care at all how I sounded, I just needed answers. Immediately, I interrupted and very firmly told the doctor that they had picked up the wrong chart. I believe I even rudely told them to not make a careless mistake like that. My doctor kindly reconfirmed my credentials, checked the system to make sure no mistakes had been made, and confirmed that this was indeed my certified test result.

At this point, I felt rage immediately begin to bubble up.

If I haven’t slept with anybody but my husband, and I have an STD, where the HELL did I get this from?

To be honest, I have never been well-versed on sexually transmitted diseases. I remembered the mind-burning photos from health class, but I didn’t even know which STD chlamydia was. I mean, we started dating at age 15/16, never slept with anybody before we married in our 20’s, and have obviously never saw anybody else since we married. There was no reason to worry about any sexually transmitted diseases, because there was no chance that one could be contracted between the two of us.

At least, until one apparently was.

The next four hours of that day are a complete blur, to be honest. I have never been filled with so much rage, humiliation, and contempt.
I immediately questioned my doctor if there was any way to contract such an infection outside of sexual intercourse. She confirmed that there was not.
I questioned her on what that meant for where I got it from. I was told that if I did not cheat on my husband, my husband, statistically, had to have cheated on me.

In that moment, my world shattered, but I still wasn’t convinced.
I rudely demanded that I be retested. My doctor agreed kindly, but told me I must still seek out treatment, because results for a retest would take weeks to come back with us being overseas, and to actually have the infection could be dangerous for our Ellie.
She told me that I needed to tell my husband, and that he should be tested too.
The hospital that we see also requires that all STDs be reported to public health, mostly for the safety of the base, and that we be consulted by a public health counselor in regards to safe sex practices.

I hung up the phone, threw it into my closet with force, and immediately burst into tears. Drew thought that I had just received a call from home telling me that a family or friend in the states had passed away, because I was sobbing so hard he couldn’t imagine what else could make me cry like that. A million thoughts were swirling around my head at that point, because I knew one of two things was true:
Either my test results were incorrect, or my husband, who I had promised to wait for almost ten years ago, had been with somebody else.

Let me tell you one thing right now. You need to find yourself a Drew. My husband is the most patient human I have ever met, and he is the most understanding human I have ever met. He’s sarcastic and often isn’t directly empathetic, and he is very direct and to the point, but when it comes to issues like these- the big issues- he is a rock. And that is exactly what I needed for those next two weeks while we waited for more results to come in.

So, I hung up the phone sobbing, and stomped into the living room where he was sitting. Before I ever told Drew that information that I had just received, I decided to approach it from a skeptical wife’s standpoint. I walked up to him, barely able to speak through tears, and asked him if he had cheated on me. I’ll never forget his look of confusion, and I actually heard him laugh at the question. He told me he had not, and asked me what in the world was going on.

I ignored him, and rudely asked him again. “Listen, I am freaking pregnant. I am carrying our daughter! This is a big deal! Have you cheated on me?”
He replied confused again, “No, Em. I haven’t cheated on you. Now what is going on?”

So I told him absolutely everything that was told to me on the phone. Drew ONLY once, later on that day, as we were waiting to receive treatment, “well, you didn’t cheat either right?” When I told him I had absolutely not, he never asked me again. Sometimes I wish I could be more like my husband, who is an incredibly trusting, level-headed, and calm individual. But during that first 6 hours after this diagnosis, I shot every question and accusation I could conjure from any depth of doubt I had stored over the last 10 years.
And in response, I cannot remember a time in our almost 10 years of dating and marriage that I can remember Drew being more patient with me, but man, am I thankful for his response to the chaos. He held me in our living room while Henry stared at me, utterly confused as to why his mom was wailing. Drew even kept laughing at my anger over the weeks, because he knew the entire ordeal was a huge mistake. I of course, tried to feel this way, but was only overwhelmed with dread when it came to the entire subject.

By the time I had collected my thoughts after the call, I decided to march straight into the medical center and demand retesting. I walked to the lab before checking in anywhere else, and demanded that I be retested BEFORE ever accepting treatment, because I wanted to know if my test results were correct. If they weren’t, I wanted the ability to wipe the whole ordeal from my record. It was suggested that Drew receive treatment as well. He was not even referred for testing before being offered treatment on the precedent that he would undeniably have the infection too, obviously because he is my husband. But he demanded a test from the doctor as well before ever agreeing to take treatment.

We were both counseled by public health on how to not contract STDs, (ironic, in hindsight, right?) were told that a false positive was extremely unlikely, and were made to ingest our treatment in front of our doctors so that they could record that treatment was taken.

I remember sitting in front of a nurse, who looked upon me with pity as I sat crying with my toddler son on my lap, drinking the antibiotic that was to “cure my chlamydia.” She was as kind as she could be, and I can’t blame her for looking at me the way that she did. After all, if my husband had cheated, and I had contracted the STD in this way, it would be an INCREDIBLY emotional moment for a pregnant woman to endure as she sat in an office accepting treatment.
She asked me if there was anything she could do for me, and I tearily replied “no, thanks.”

I remember sitting in every office that day, embarrassed beyond belief, and absolutely filled with rage as doctor after doctor told me that it was incredibly unlikely that I had been misdiagnosed. I was told by doctor after doctor and article after article that there was no chance that chlamydia could be contracted in any way other than sexual intercourse, and that if I truly had not cheated, there was only one explanation for how I had received the diagnosis: and it was not the explanation I was wearily reaching for.
And as infuriating as that is in hindsight, I suppose this is a normalcy today. These are the things that these doctors see on a daily basis, and honestly, to have a married couple come in for an STD diagnosis and treatment, stating that they had both absolutely not slept with anybody else in their entire life and marriage would be a situation what was… well… somewhat laughable.

Nevertheless, I held out hope that my retest would provide me peace and clarity in the situation, while reading every medical journal in the world that undeniably told me that it would not.
We were both sent home after receiving treatment. They told us that the certified retest results for both of us would be back in around 14 days. Unfortunately, being stationed overseas, many tests have to be sent stateside for reading, meaning many tests take a LONG time to return.

This meant that the next two weeks of my life were absolute hell, to be honest.

I’ll never forget the countdown. I had determined exactly how long my first results took to return, so I was pretty positive of the day that I would receive the call with my new retest results. My heart raced the entire day, and I’m guessing my blood pressure was pretty sky-high. Drew, on the other hand, put everything behind him the same day that we accepted treatment. He took my harassment for the following two weeks, he took my random outbursts of anger and tears at the situation, and he took my accusations- even if I said them passive-aggressive-jokingly.

And when I received the call that my retest came back clearly negative for chlamydia, he simply said “Well yeah it did.” And when his retest came back clearly negative he simply said, “Well yeah it did.”

So, yes friends. I never had an STD. Drew never had an STD.
WE WERE DIAGNOSED WITH AN STD, AND WE NEVER HAD AN STD.
To this day I have no idea if my results got mixed up with someone else’s on paper, or if my specimen got swapped with someone who truly did have chlamydia, or if it was simply a skewed test (which can actually happen, albeit somewhat rarely, during pregnancy.)

All I know, is I was told I had an STD, when I have never had an STD.

Do you see the depth of that statement?

Had I decided not to demand a retest; had I taken the advice of every single doctor that day; had I chose not to believe my husband over a diagnosis… said diagnosis could have ended our marriage. I could have accepted the words coming out of the mouths of those with letters behind their names, because they are those that we trust to tell us the truth about our bodies. I could have walked away from my marriage months before birthing our sweet Ellie, believing that I had been wronged by a man who has stood by my side through so much. Don’t get me wrong, I trust in the knowledge and expertise of doctors. I trust that the doctors that oversaw my care were doing all that they could to correctly diagnose and treat me. I trust that the doctors I saw (and still see) are good people, with no intentions to ever hurt us. But unfortunately, doctors are not always correct, and that is one of the hardest parts of living in a fallen world.

All of this mess went down almost a year ago to the date. I have told very few people outside of my close friend group and my immediate family. Honestly, for months now, I have still been morbidly embarrassed by the entire fiasco. I am not proud to admit that I have called medical records and chewed out the attendants when they wouldn’t wipe the entire thing from my record. I have checked my online results time and time again to make sure they they were properly documented with the correct notations of the positive being a “false positive.” I have told every doctor who views my lab results during current appointments that they were INCORRECT, because I have been so mortified by the entire emotional memory. But I am sharing today, because in hindsight, a few truths were SO important during those moments. And I believe it is undeniably important for you to know these truths, too.

1. You are entitled to a second opinion, and you are entitled to retesting.

In anything. In everything. Whether a doctor tells you you have cancer, or that your husband has cheated and you have contracted an STD from it. If something doesn’t add up, you are forever within your right to say “Bye, Felicia.” Ask for a retest. Seek out a new doctor. Go to a completely different medical facility. Do whatever you can to feel that your results are correct, while communicating your concerns with your healthcare team. Because as my mom has told me for years, all doctors are PRACTICING medicine. No doctor is 100% perfect 100% of the time, and no lab is perfect in the slightest. This is just a simple truth of life, and it is nobody’s fault.

2. Test results are often mixed up, labeled incorrectly, lost, or otherwise falsely positive/negative.

Seriously, do the research on it. Not just from WebMD. Read medical journals. Read statistics. Read information from the CDC.
Anyone and everyone you speak to in person will tell you, “Oh, that crap doesn’t happen. Test results are test results. Yep. You have an STD from your scumbag husband.” But statistically, this happens WAY more often than you would expect.

And in addition, watch your lab tests be labeled. Confirm your name, date of birth, and label on everything you provide to a medical facility. If you do your due diligence in making sure your results are labeled as your results, you cut out at least one possibility of getting a false result.

3. A diagnosis should not immediately come before the trust you have built for years with your spouse, especially not before talking things through with them.

In hindsight, I am still ashamed of how much more trust Drew had in me than I had in him. Thankfully, we have built a marriage based on open communication, full trust, and thankfully, he is one of the best men I have ever met, and loved me so well through it all. Go into all aspects of your marriage with this mindset. If you married your best friend, your partner in life, and your biggest cheerleader, remember that during the chaos.

4. It should always be okay to tell your spouse how you feel.

This is something that was fundamentally important to us making it through those weeks. I could sit down, look at Drew, and say, “Babe, I believe in my head that you did not cheat on me, but my heart is absolutely bursting with sorrow that you did.” And he understood that that was a valid way to feel during the fiasco, and he loved me through it.

5. Good people exist & good marriages exist.

The hardest part by far in this entire process, was the fact that I could tell nobody. For those weeks, I cried at home or only to my closest friends. I reached out only to those who personally KNEW my marriage. Because I knew if I reached out to anybody else for advice or encouragement, the immediate response would be one of anger and pity for my side of things, and I would undeniably hear “Wow, Emily, I am so sorry… but your husband cheated while you are pregnant, and you should leave him.”

The world will tell you that there is nothing true left, that commitments do not matter anymore, and that these situations happen daily. While they are not necessarily wrong, and this stuff does happen daily…  they are wrong. Good marriages exist. People who value commitment over everything else exist. Faithful marriages exist. And above all else, in a world where this is very often not always true, marriages can be rebuilt. I still have a statement that I cling to years ago, that I believe is SO crucial to know in today’s world.

No, not “everything happens for a reason.” Rather,

Anything can be redeemed.


I will tell you this: That two weeks of chaos… SUCKED. There has not been a time in our marriage that I felt lower, that I felt more depressed, or that I was more sure that terrifying times were ahead. It was emotional and exhausting and I cried my tear ducts dry so many times over those weeks. But if it taught me anything, it taught me that good men exist. It taught me that my husband is so incredibly kind. It taught me that marriages can make it through anything. And ultimately it taught me that the commitment that we made, means something to each of us.

And let me tell you something in hindsight. If you are unmarried, find yourself a spouse who will stand with you through those moments, even if they are crying right beside you. Find somebody who will accept your anger, your tears, and your understandable doubts, and realize that this is the exact things that God does for us.

Find yourself a spouse who values the commitment they made to you over the words a doctor is spewing at them as they accept treatment for what you were supposedly diagnosed with. Find yourself a person who knows what real commitment means.

Because when you are sitting at home for two weeks, staring at a phone, willing with your whole heart for it to ring in order for there to be a “I’ve made a terrible mistake with your results” call… a feeling of infatuation, of romantic love, or of chemical attraction is absolutely NOT what you are clinging to.

But, do believe in your spouse. Honor your commitment. Through better or through worse, give them the benefit of the doubt. Give them forgiveness. Give them the grace that Drew has given me daily since I walked down the aisle to him. Because if there is ever a time that you practice “for better or for worse,” it is during the moments that you are sitting on a cold, paper covered bench, drinking a bitter and pasty mixture to “cure your chlamydia,” as your husband sits 4-5 rooms down, doing the exact same. You will come out of those moments with an appreciation for the person you married, and with the realization that a Christ-honoring commitment will be hard, it will be messy, and it will be so beautiful, and so worth the chaos.

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Ellie

6 Months- Ellie

Weight: …..I forgot to update her 5 month weight… But, uh… I promise I will update this one. Can I just put “thunder thighs” here? (Don’t hate me when you’re older and read this, Ellie. They’re super cute.)
Eye Color: Blue, and I am officially confident they will stay this way. Hooray! We have a brown eyed babe and a blue eyed babe! How cool is that?!
Hair: Very very little hair, but very blonde! Her cradle cap has disappeared (I might have brushed it out…) and her new hair is starting to grow in now!
Size: 9-12 months. She wears size 5 diapers, because her thighs and legs are bigger than her 2.5 year old brother’s…
Baby girl has had an eventful month, to say the least. Following in the footsteps of her brother, who took his first steps at 7 months, she has begun to pull up to standing on our couches.

Girlfriend has shown very little interest in her thumb over the past month, and doesn’t take a paci SUPER often. She still loves her Cutie-Pats, but does not need a paci or her thumb to fall asleep anymore.

Ellie moved to her own room this month, and while she wakes up SLIGHTLY more in her own room, she still only wakes 1-2 times/night. After nursing, she always returns right back to sleep.

Little lady is adventurous, to say the least. Naps are becoming harder and harder to have, because the little squirt is just too interested in everything else. When she wakes up, she is immediately wide awake, immediately happy, and immediately ready to play.

Girlfriend had her first solids this month. We plan to do a mix of purees and baby-led weaning, but you can see her first purees experience here!

Ellie loves her big brother and mama, and she has found a love for my bible study friends, as well as Judah; Erika’s son. Judah won’t leave the house without crying for Ellie to come with him. There might be an arranged marriage in the future, though I believe Judah may already be promised to about 4 other little ladies on base. Haha.

Ellie loves her Rock-A-Roo, which we got for free from a friend on base. (Shout out to you, Vanessa- it has been a lifesaver the past month!)

Henry likes to bring Ellie toys and her paci, and is very good with noticing when she is crying. He still will not DARE let her touch his blanket, and he likes to block her attempts at following him by jumping directly in front of her with a sumo-power-stance while yelling “GOTCHA.” Most of the time he likes to do this in his underwear or when he is not wearing pants. (insert laughing-until-you-cry emoji here.)

Ellie yells “MAMA MAMA MAMA” constantly. I’m still her favorite person in existence.

Girlfriend’s thighs and calves are larger than her 2 year old brother’s, and she wears the same size diaper that he would.

Ellie girl thinks it’s hilarious when Henry is upset and cries. She belly laughs at him.

She is still a stomach dweller, and will still ONLY sleep on her stomach. If she is laid on her back, she will wake up immediately. We are big on safe sleep, but have started putting her to bed on her stomach, as she has very clearly proven that she has the muscles needed to flip if she has to.

Ellie crawls with ease, sits up on her own without hesitation, raises up to her tippy toes, and stands frequently. I am predicting first steps by 7 months.

This little babe’s tooth came COMPLETELY through on the day she turned 6 months old. She now has one (very sharp) tooth. Henry got both of his bottom teeth at once, but it looks like only one is coming in for now for the little lady.

The Japanese still adore her, and ALWAYS open their eyes super wide at her since her eyes are so huge.

And your Henryisms of the month:

As mentioned, Henry likes to “GOTCHA” his sister, and will jump into a power stance in front of her to try and block her. He most often does this after using the potty, meaning he is most often naked.

Henry loves to watch my ER/Fire shows, and yells “OH NO, NEED AM-BOO-WANCE!” when he sees someone in need of help.

He thinks everything that is foggy/smokey means a fire. Every time I run the dryer and he sees the steam outside, he screams at me about there being a fire outside.

He reminds me that Ellie is in the car still if I ever take him out first by shouting, “OH NO! Sissy! Car! Sissy! Car!”

The kid still has a love for chicken fries, and cries if we pass Burger King without stopping. (Which is unfortunate, considering they are closed for renovations for several weeks.)

The two of them are driving me nuts in one way or another on a daily basis, but MAN are they fun. Ellie is developing such a funny personality, and I know I say it every month, but I 100% can’t believe she is already halfway to one.

We love you, sweet Ellie Alice! You are such a pain in the butt to my ability to leave the house without you, but such a ray of sunshine in my every single day.

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Ellie · Parenting

5 Reasons You Should Choose Natural Baby Food | Ellie’s First Solids

This post is sponsored by Beech-Nut® but this post was written 100% by me, and all opinions are 100% my own.


It is unbelievably hard to believe that Ellie is already 6 months old, but she is amazingly already halfway through her first year of life, no matter how much I will her to stay little forever.
We went to the commissary this week and bought our favorite purees, since she has hit the age to start solid foods. I reached out to collaborate with Beech-Nut® Naturals™, because I absolutely love their commitment to only use real ingredients you can actually pronounce; 100% natural ingredients.

We have been moving as a family more towards natural products in our home, and love to use homemade products when possible, but honestly I just don’t have time to puree and make all of my own baby food. On top of that, produce is NOT CHEAP to purchase in Japan. Beech-Nut® Naturals™ is inspired by homemade, so I am more than happy to always purchase their foods and save myself some serious time and money in the process. Nothing better than looking at a jar of baby food and simply reading “sweet potatoes” on the ingredients list.

Ellie was more than happy too, and sincerely enjoyed her orange sweet potato goodness yesterday.

On a side note, because I feel it is important to mention: Ellie girl took her first bites of food today, right at 6 months old.
Did you know that it is actually recommended that infants actually remain exclusively breast-fed until ALL signs of readiness are met, and the same guidelines should be followed if you are formula feeding? This includes sitting upright without assistance, the lack of a tongue-thrust reflex, having a clear interest in foods, and having met 6 months of age (while other recommendations state that as early as 4 months is okay to start solids, our family chose to wait until Ellie hit 6 after reading various studies on the subject.)

So, when my baby is ready, why should I choose natural?

1. There are no artificial colors or preservatives in natural foods.

Are you familiar with the dyes in so many foods that can cause allergic reactions? I was a kid that was allergic to red dye 40, and I used to have to watch EVERY. SINGLE. FOOD. LABEL.
Buying baby food without added preservatives and dyes allows your baby to only get the foods found in nature, not a bunch of added chemicals. Beech-Nut® Naturals™ is inspired by homemade, and their baby foods are vacuum-sealed, meaning many preservatives can actually be left out completely while still keeping the food safe to eat.

2. There is minimal processing, so you don’t have to worry about lots of major allergy risks.

Having a son with a still unconfirmed peanut allergy, and carrying an epi pen around constantly is pretty terrifying, so we are extremely cautious with Ellie now as well. Being able to read an ingredients list that ONLY states that the fruit or veggie is included in the product is a breath of fresh air for an allergy mom. All of the Beech-Nut® purees are free from peanut, tree nut, and soy, though some do contain wheat or dairy. You can use the allergen filter to clearly see which foods could be a concern for your babe, by using the checklist on the sidebar here.

3. Natural just tastes better.

Perhaps this is a statement of opinion, but I would venture to say it’s true in almost all cases. I try everything that I give my kiddos, and I finished off the jar of sweet potatoes that Ellie ate last night after she had taken her fill. Normally I won’t touch purees of veggies, but the sweet potatoes were actually excellent. I loved that they weren’t overly sweetened, and actually taste like what a whole cooked sweet potato would.

4. Natural usually means ingredients are processed as little as possible.

Did you know that the more a fruit or veggie is processed, the more the nutrients cook out of it? Choosing a product with less processing and less artificial ingredients means more nutrients are going straight to your baby. Beech-Nut® Naturals™ is simply prepared using indirect heat, meaning as little cooking as possible is used in order to produce safe and nutrient-rich foods for your families.

5. Simple and uncomplicated flavors encourage your babes to love fruits and veggies.

Keeping your baby foods tasting the same as ACTUAL fruits and veggies encourages your baby to love those same fruits and veggies when they transition away from purees. We plan to do a mix of baby-led-weaning and purees for Ellie, and I am confident that using natural baby foods will allow the transition to munching on solid fruits and veggies that much easier.


Furthermore and aside from anything related to their food, I have been so impressed with Beech-Nut® as a brand. Being a small company of around 300 employees located out of New York, they choose to operate out of a green, energy-efficient building, and they choose to LOCALLY source their ingredients whenever possibleincluding all of their apples for the Naturals™ range from a farm near Lake Ontario, just down the road from their facility! I’m all about supporting small and supporting local, so that is AWESOME in my mind.

If you are starting solids with your babe, cheers to this milestone! I encourage you to do your research on baby foods, and to consider choosing natural if possible. Our family will definitely continue choosing natural whenever possible, and this little ham will continue loving every second of it.

 

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DIY

$10 DIY Dollar Store Farmhouse Wreath: Daiso Lamb’s Ear

My sweet friend Shannon told me about Daiso the first week we were in Japan, and my entire house is basically filled with treasures from this golden Japanese dollar store. But it wasn’t until recently that it hit me just HOW MANY things you can make from the treasures at Daiso & Seria.
Between lots of doctor appointments and craziness this week, I have started several styles of wreaths to share with you. Make sure you follow my Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest pages to not miss any of the wreath tutorials I will be posting, because I am making several! (Social buttons are on the side toolbar.) I am also considering doing a Daiso DIY series on the blog with hundreds more projects- mostly farmhouse, rustic, and chic styles. If you’re following along, you won’t miss anything!

Up for today: lamb’s ear farmhouse style wreath. (The stems are labeled as sage at Daiso, though I think they much more resemble lamb’s ear.)
These wreaths sell for anywhere for $30-$70 on Etsy!

 

You will need:

  • (1) wreath ring, they have these at Daiso in various sizes. I chose the 30cm size, making this approximately a 12″ wreath (around 15″ wide once you add leaves.)
  • (5-10) stems of lamb’s ear. Amount is dependent on what size/how full you would like the wreath. I believe I used 8 stems of greenery, plus the floral.
  • (1-4) stems of floral (totally optional, I chose to buy 3 stems of white flowers to add, two of them were individual “roses,” and one was a multi-flower stem.
  • (1) hot glue gun & glue sticks

If you choose absolutely everything that I did, the total cost comes out to around $11 total when you factor in the conversion rate. Take off the floral and just make a plain lamb’s ear wreath, and you’re looking at a cost of about $8 or $9!

The greenery on the far right is for another wreath as are the smaller white flowers (stay tuned for that post.) I used the big, fluffy white roses shown in the top.

These lamb’s ear stems are 100yen each, equating to about 88 cents each. I bought eight to cover the wreath ring that I bought- you can feel out how many you personally need dependent on what size of wreath you’d like to make. I think it is easiest to just lay them out on top of the wreath in the store to give you a good visual. I bought the 30cm willow wreath ring for 200 yen, and laid out all my stems on it to decide how many I would need.

Start off by cutting all the tags off your stems. I began by weaving the stems into the willow ring, adding all my stems all the way around the wreath. You will hot glue parts of the stems down, but the more you can weave them in, the better it will obviously stay. Most of the stems from Daiso have wire within them, allowing you to bend them the way you would like.

As you weave them in, they will look similar to this. Very spread out with lots of leaves upside down, but fairly even coverage across the wreath.

Next, begin to hot glue some of the leaves down, and begin to turn all the leaves face up. I like to take photos throughout the process, because this helps me to see where the empty, uneven spaces are. These particular leaves don’t always love to stick well to the hot glue, so sometimes you have to use a little more than you usually would.

You can see the idea above. The part I am pointing to has the leaves adjusted and glued down, while the rest does not. You won’t need to glue every leaf, just feel out which ones seem like they are too wild to leave freely. These particular stems also allow you to adjust each individual leaf, as mentioned above. If some are facing backwards, you can spin them around to face forward.

Don’t be afraid to take the stems completely apart and glue them to new sections, too. I often destruct at least one or two stems in order to add individual leaves in where I feel it is more bare.

Lastly, lay your flowers out and decide how you like them. Once you find a design you like, hot glue them in as well. They usually stick best if you glue them directly to the willow leaf, not to the stems.

When you’re done, your leaves should be evenly spaced. Glue down any loose pieces that seem like they may fall off, and move various leaves to cover any glue spots seen.

And voila! You have created a $10 wreath that can be utilized in so many ways!

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Happy crafting, friends!

 

Saving Money

How We Saved 10k+ In Our First Year of Marriage

 

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(Content contained in my post is not intended to and does not constitute legal advice or investment advice. I do not claim to be a financial advisor, and any advice I give is for entertainment purposes. Your use of this blog post is at your own risk, and upon clicking my referral links, you release me of responsibility for your financial decisions.)

Drew and I have always been pretty good at saving, and we have always been really good at living within our means. I don’t say that to brag, because honestly we just lucked out and had two really awesome sets of parents that taught us how to handle money well.
Because of it, financial tension has never been an issue in our marriage, and I am SO thankful for that. During the first year that we were married, at ages 20 & 21, we managed to save $10k following the rules that I will outline below. We actually saved quite a bit more than 10k during that first year, because we were both working a TON of overtime. We knew that kind of money wouldn’t be a forever thing, and honestly I would have never wanted it to be, because those were some brutal months. At the peak of our work lives, we likely only saw each other 2-3 hours/day between shifts, if we were both even awake at the same time. Retail jobs are no joke.
But for all intents and purposes, we will set the goal of this post at $10k in one year, meaning that saving approximately $400 into savings per every 2-week paycheck is the ideal amount to hit. This is geared much more to married couples financially, but many of these tips can also work for single-income families. After I chose to not return to work full time after the birth of Henry, we still continued to save with only one paycheck, and the occasional 8-10 hours/week that I picked up.
We by no means have three figure jobs, and we by no means live in a mansion. Actually, we currently drive a van that only starts once out of around 8 times that you crank the engine. But we feel that we are in a good place financially, even after paying $11k out of pocket for Henry’s birth. (Kids are expensive, and our insurance before Drew enlisted used to suck.)

I believe that every marriage deserves to live stress-free in the areas of finance, and I believe that there are ways to do so, no matter how much you make yearly.

So in a nutshell, here are my biggest two rules, followed by the other rules that we have followed for several years.

My two biggest rules for saving:

  1. Live on one income (or live on less than all of your income if you are a single-income family)
  2. When there is extra money in your checking account, move it to savings IMMEDIATELY

1. Live on ONE income

This was the single most important thing that we chose to do as newlyweds. Drew and I had recently both stepped into full time positions at our respective jobs, and we were making far more money than we had ever seen during our college years. During this time, we chose to live on ONE income, and simply store away the other paycheck without a second thought.
So often when I tell people this, they immediately counter with “well that’s not possible.”
Trust me, it is.
We even chose the smaller paycheck of our two, and we always made it work. We were frugal, we rarely ate out, and we didn’t even take a honeymoon until the Fall AFTER our wedding (which was in the Spring.) We lived paycheck to paycheck, stashing the other paycheck away, and it wasn’t necessarily always fun.
During the 8-ish months that we were both working full time before I stepped down from my position after my maternity leave, we stored several thousand dollars in savings simply by following this model. When we unexpectedly became pregnant with Henry, it was a LIFESAVER to have that extra cash readily available.
If you have two incomes, cut expenses so that you can make this work. Seriously. DO IT. This is the best way to save and to save FAST, plus it is a great way to be prepared if one income suddenly disappears due to something outside of your control.

2. Reduce any debt that you have

Drew and I were lucky to graduate from college free of loans. Let me preface that statement with this though: We worked our butts off to do so. Drew worked three part-time jobs at one point in order to make payments in full each semester to the college after his scholarships paid for their part. I paid for 80-90% of my schooling with my scholarships, and the rest we paid in full with the money we made at our part-time gigs. We were lucky to not carry student debt into our marriage, but we also have never accumulated credit card debt. Because of this, at age 24, we still have never had a car payment, and have chosen to always pay for our vehicles in full. Avoiding payments of any sort for any reason is a great way to be able to save more easily. We plan to put at least 20-30% down on a home in the future if we return to the states, and hope to pay off a home loan before the set term.

3. That being said, stop buying the newest thing

Drew and I both drove cars from the late 90’s or early 2000’s until we wore those things OUT (or until we needed a bigger/safer car for our babies.) We had the same two couches that we bought on Craigslist until a year ago when we FINALLY bought a new sectional with the money we had saved specifically for it. Check out thrift stores. Check out Ebay. Check out Poshmark (use code JOYFULCREW when signing up.) Always buy used. Seriously, some of my VERY favorite pieces in our home came from the clearance section or from a thrift store, and I will forever be addicted to thrifting.

4. Do not spend your tax return

Can I scream this from the rooftops? DO NOT SPEND YOUR TAX RETURN. Don’t. Don’t do it. Don’t use it for vacation. Don’t use it for new furniture. Don’t buy a new wardrobe. Save. That. Money. (Or pay off debt!)

Unless you have a legitimate emergency around tax season, I seriously recommend saving it if at all possible. The only time Drew and I have spent our tax return was to avoid debt or avoid a necessary dipping into savings. (I.e. if we were purchasing something large, like a vehicle, that was 100% needed.) If you have debt, pay that off with your return!
Actually, there are even better ways that you can use the tax system to your advantage, dependent on how good you are with handling your extra money- but we still choose to receive a decent tax return by claiming the way we do. I won’t give tax advice, but do look into different ways of withholding online. Some prefer to keep more of the money that is usually taken out of their checks for taxes, and they store that away in savings throughout the year instead of receiving it in a return when they have overpaid.
We choose to overpay, mostly because I am self-employed and like to keep that extra in the tax system throughout the year to cover what I owe from my businesses. But when our return is direct deposited, we choose to have it placed directly into savings, and do not touch it after that. We have spent one return in the 7 or 8 years we have been filing separate from our parents, and that was simply because we bought vehicles in full with the money.

5. Budget for big expenses (& have an emergency fund)

I’ll be honest, Drew and I really have never worked with a strict budget for monthly bills. I get irritated easily with budgets, because gas prices change, electricity is never the same price, and we never use the same amount of water each month. I obsess over having a strict budget if I try, and it frustrates me when the electricity bill is $20 over what it was last month.
Those small fluctuations always made it almost impossible for me to make consistent categories I liked- so I never really did budget for regular monthly expenses. Instead, we used an “allowance” system for things outside of bills, and I always budgeted for big expenses. We considered this “big expenses” savings our emergency fund, which is something that everybody should have. Work on saving a decent sized emergency fund first, then work on your regular savings. For us, it works well to store both together in the same savings account- but some prefer to have separate savings accounts for these.

6. Call companies and ask them to lower your bills

Does that sound strange to you? It is, because so many people don’t do it. If you are buying things such as cable, internet, or cell phone service- especially if you have been with the company for a while, call them! Ask them if there is any way that they could lower your monthly rate, or ask them if they can give you better pricing options/better products for the price that you pay. Often prices are dropped for new customers, but since you were locked in at a higher rate, you are paying more than you need to be. If you see a new offer on TV, call and ask if they will match the rate that you saw.
We did this every 6 months or so with our internet, and ended up with internet that was $40 cheaper and 3x faster by the end of it. The worst thing that a customer service representative can do is tell you no, and if they do, call back to see if you can get another rep, just for kicks. Often what one representative can’t do, another can.
Sometimes customer service employees will throw bill credits at you simply for calling and asking. If they do offer you a credit, keep budgeting like your bills are the exact same, and take that saved money from your checking account straight to your savings! That’s an additional lump sum that you just saved monthly- and an amount that you won’t even miss.

7. Stop eating out

I am all for treating yourself on occasion, and Drew and I still take the kids to eat out a couple times a month. We don’t say no to eating out on trips, and we don’t say no to going out with friends occasionally.
BUT:
It’s no secret that eating out can be EXPENSIVE. Not to mention, it is a fantastic way to put on extra weight with so little healthy options available usually. Let’s put it this way:

I’ll figure this up for a family of only 2. At the VERY least, you will be paying $12/meal if you order even just inexpensive $6 combos each. If you eat out for one meal 5x during a work week, that’s an additional $60/week that you didn’t need to spend- or $240 a month.

We found ourselves spending well over $200 if we regularly went to sit-down restaurants. With children added in, eating out can be EXPENSIVE. Any time we eat at a restaurant now, our meal will be at least $20-$30 including our kids.
Instead, a massive $12 bag of chicken and $3 worth of frozen veggies lasts us a solid week cooked different ways each night- and we have saved so many calories by eating at home. Meal prepping on weekends is wonderful for saving money during the work week, and only takes a couple hours to do.

8. Practice the art of saying “no”

I am so guilty of NOT doing this. I mean, $4 coffee bought at Starbucks just tastes so much better than the coffee you have at home, am I right? (Which isn’t true, but somehow the branding on that cup they hand you REALLY does make it feel that way.)
Giving up that coffee every day for me honestly did save us a solid $60/month. I’m a coffee snob, and MUST have mine every day, so it took a bit to break my habit and make my own at home. Now I actually prefer my vitamin B coffee over the espresso drinks that I used to consume.
If there is something you see yourself purchasing habitually that you KNOW you can make cheaper for yourself- Pinterest search for the recipe, and make that stuff for WAY cheaper.
Saying no to things, or waiting until they are genuinely within your budget is one of the best things that you can do to help you save.

9. Prioritize spending (emergency savings, debt reduction, savings)

Personally, I would recommend this order of saving:
First, create an emergency fund
Second, pay off any debt that you have as fast as you safely can
Third, begin to store money in a savings account regularly

We choose to pay all of our bills up front each month, and then take the excess and store it directly in savings. By cutting our bills as much as possible, we were able to have that “excess” be an entire paycheck.
Some do it differently in regards to how they prioritize the use of money, and many will swear by their method. Find out what best works for your family, but DO always have an emergency fund. That is pretty crucial, because life definitely happens, and your car ONLY breaks when you have no money set aside to fix it. Fact.

10. Take advantage of cash back credit cards (if you are good with credit)

I have a YouTube video on this from a year or so ago. If you are interested, you can watch it by clicking that link.
This is where Dave Ramsey and I definitely disagree. Personally, our family does incredibly well with credit cards, and we make a lot of money off of the credit card companies because of it. In order to make money with cash back credit cards, you have to follow one rule religiously, though:

PAY. THEM. OFF. IN. FULL. EVERY. MONTH.

We treat our cards like debit cards. There is NEVER a balance carried over to another month. If we don’t have the money in our checking account to buy what we are looking at, it will not go on our credit card. Because we pay them off each month, we do not pay a dime in interest, and we reap 1-10% cash back consistently. We place absolutely everything that we purchase on these cards, and I usually pay on them twice a month (paying off the full balance any time that I pay.)
I then take the accumulated cash back and store it directly in savings. We paid for our honeymoon in full from about a year and a half of those cash back savings, and I usually save the cash back for fun things such as vacations.
Listed below are my favorite two cash back cards that I have and use regularly. (If you sign up through my link, you may receive a cash back bonus. Incentives listed are current as of Feb. 2019.)

Discover It– 5% categories that rotate quarterly ($50 sign up bonus potential)

Great for a first credit card. This card carries high approval rates for those with little or lower credit, from what I have seen. We both got this card as our first credit card during college.

Chase Freedom Unlimited– 1.5% cash back on all purchases ($150 sign up bonus potential)

This card requires a bit higher credit in order to be approved, but this is the card that we place almost everything on. Chase has awesome customer service.

11. Place your money in a high APY savings account (and find an account SEPARATE from your checking)

We keep our savings account totally separate from our checking, that way it is NOT easy to dip into our savings account. One of my preferred savings accounts is from Discover Bank, currently (as of February 2019) yielding over a 2% APY. (Which is unheard of right now- most banks give far less than 0.5%.)
I get nothing for recommending this savings account to you and it’s not a referral link- I just sincerely think it’s the best savings account out there. No monthly fees, no minimum requirements on balances, great interest, and EASY to access/transfer money to and from.

12. Pay yourself allowance each month

This works so well for Drew and I. Every paycheck, we each get a lump sum that is our “allowance.” This lets us strictly save, but not absolutely hate our lives while doing it. It allows for some “fun” money.
We always get the same amount, and we never question each other on what we choose to spend this on. We may choose to spend that money on whatever we want, or save it over the months for a bigger purchase. We actually have totally separate checking accounts that this money goes into, and our debit cards are each hooked up to those accounts- that way when the money in that account is gone, it is gone, and purchases are denied if we try to overspend.
Drew bought his beer brewing supplies by saving his monthly allowance, and I bought my camera equipment. Even if he wanted to spend his lump sum each month on video games right down to the last penny, I will not question it, because that is HIS allowance. This is one of the best things we did marriage-wise in regards to money, and it has eliminated so many potential fights.

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I hope these tips can help you begin down a road to saving. Above all else, I believe that you have to give it time to figure out what is best for YOU. Not all families will function the same financially, and not all families have the same financial needs. It is absolutely possible to begin evaluating where your money is going, and to carefully begin cutting away expenses and stashing away a savings. It takes time and effort, but it is SO worth it in the long run.

Best of luck, and happy saving!

(Content contained in my post is not intended to and does not constitute legal advice or investment advice. I do not claim to be a financial advisor, and any advice I give is for entertainment purposes. Your use of this blog post is at your own risk, and upon clicking my referral links, you release me of responsibility for your financial decisions.)
Ellie

5 Months- Ellie

Our little love is five months old!

Say whaaaaaaaaat?!


Weight: (Uh, more than 13lbs. I swear I will weigh her tomorrow and go back to fill this in… hahah.)
Eye Color: Blue! Very blue! Getting more hopeful that they stay blue now. One brown eyed baby and one blue eyed baby would be so cool!
Hair: Thin, blonde-red! It’s darker in her mullet. Haha.
Size: 6-9 months. Drew accidentally put her in a size 5 diaper of Henry’s the other day… and it fit. And didn’t leak at all. It actually fit better than the size 1’s I did have her in. Henry potty trained this month, so she has just continued using the box of 5’s that we already had opened. Hahah.

Ellie still LOVES her thumb, and is 100% still a thumb sucker above all else. She even likes to slip her thumb in her mouth in the middle of nursing sometimes.

Baby girl has chunky thighs and pretty eyes, that’s for sure. Her thighs are the same size as her brother’s.

Speaking of her brother… he is Ellie’s BIGGEST love. Little lady really only likes two things consistently- her brother, and myself. And sleep. She’s such a fantastic sleeper, and I will FOREVER praise Jesus for that fact.

Ellie girl is still only a stomach dweller. Like, all the time. Like, you don’t understand. She spends maybe three minutes per day on her back, and that’s it.

Baby girl is officially army crawling rather fast. She rocks back and forth on all fours, and probably only has a few days left before full-blown crawling begins.

Girlfriend can sit up when placed sitting. She is definitely working towards being able to pull herself up.

WE HAVE HAD NO THRUSH THIS MONTH! (Thank you, Dr.Tomlin!)

I’m still thinking we will have a walker by 8 months- possibly 9. Henry crawled a couple weeks before her, but she also pulls up on WAY more things than Henry did at this age.

Looking back on last month’s photos has fully convinced me that the poor little lady is definitely losing hair. It is growing, but is very thin and whispy. (Don’t worry, Ellie girl. Mama’s hair is basically gone too. Again, #postpartumjoys.) Perhaps it is just getting lighter, giving the illusion of being thinner. Also, it is turning red.

No filters on this one, just red hair.

Henry says hello to her every morning, and good night to her last thing at night. He still won’t hold or touch her, but he talks about his “sissy” often, and calls her “I-E-Ass” (Ellie Alice.) Possibly the best thing that has happened all month is his pronunciation of her name (other than him being FULLY potty trained!)

She LOVES when I sing to her. Especially You Are My Sunshine, which I have rephrased to “You are my Ellie, my pretty Ellie.” That can get a smile any time.

“Toofers” are coming SOON. I can see swelling and little bumps, and girlfriend can’t get enough teethers to gnaw on.

The Japanese LOVE her. Since her eyes are giant and still super blue, she gets lots of “kawaii, kawaii” comments while we are off base.

Ellie is MUCH less vocal than her brother was at this age, but she did speak her first word of “mama” this month. Both of my babies said “mama” first.
Ha, suck it, Drew.

And here are some Henryisms for this month, because he is fun too.

The stinker has decided to potty train completely out of nowhere. We had regressed a little bit, but as soon as we stopped diapers, he totally got it. Thank God.

Henry LOVES cars, car parts, and talking about cars. Fire trucks (“pie trucks”), cars, ambulances (“lances.”)

Broski counts to 10, knows how many fingers he is holding up, knows his entire alphabet, and can type in “Blippi” into the search bar of his iPad.

Henry gives thumbs up all the time when he approves of something. It’s my absolute favorite when he does it in response to something a stranger asks.

He brings Ellie her toys all the time. He often likes to drop them on her head while she sleeps. (I’m not rolling my eyes.) 

Man, both of these kids are a hoot. Life is so fun watching them grow.

I forget so often how big Ellie is getting, simply because her big brother seems so much bigger. We are almost halfway through our first year with the little love, and while I love watching her grow, I find myself consistently wishing time would slow the heck down.

Forever thankful for these quiet, cozy, “little” days with these two. Life is good, y’all.

 

 

 

DIY

DIY $10 Rustic Coat Rack

We have been in major cleaning and renovating mode around our house this winter, or at least as much as you can be while living in a rental. I picked up a couple boards just to play around with about a week ago, and then the next day stumbled upon these gorgeous little rustic-farmhouse style hooks at the dollar store here in Japan. Everything in the store is 100¥, equating to around 88-90 cents in USD, depending on the exchange rate. Honestly, this rack only really cost me a total of about $8-$9, but I rounded up because I already had the screws and stain that I needed.

Here’s how I made a super easy 30 minute coat rack with a $3 board, $1 hooks, $1 stain, and a couple screws I already had at home!

Materials

The Shelf

  • (1) board

    Homac has this 1×4 board for around 390¥ if I remember correctly. I chose pine because I’m cheap, and basically every type of wood will warp in the humidity. I also just really like the way pine looks when stained. If you invest in a little thicker or heavier wood, it will probably be less likely to warp.
  • (1) jar of wood stain

    Daiso has the stain that I used for 100¥ (around 90 cents). I chose walnut because I like a more rich brown color vs warm stains. One board won’t even put a dent in the jar, so you’ll have it for future projects. You could probably do 5-6 racks with one jar.
  • (7) hooks

    Seria has these hooks for 100¥ each (just a little over $6 for all 7 that I bought.)
    You can space them out more and use less hooks, or put them closer together and use more.
  • (14) small screws

    Just make sure the screws are shorter than the thickness of the board. I used 3/4″ screws. If you want to keep things uniform, I would recommend using an iron-colored screw. I chose to use regular silver screws, because I already had some iron paint. (Bought that at Homac for a separate project- but it is a little more pricey- somewhere near $10 for a jar.)

Mounting

There are a number of ways you can mount a coat rack safely on the wall. Because our particular home in Japan has studs that cannot be drilled into, I consistently hang heavy things with drywall anchors and screws. Pay attention to the type of anchors you use- each anchor is rated for a certain weight bearing load.

  • (2) large & long screws
  • (2) washers
  • (2) drywall anchors

Step-by-step

1. Stain your board

This is with one layer of stain vs the unstained wood. I added one more for a slightly darker look. It’s definitely personal preference for me, but I like to stain using paper towels. I feel that paint brushes or sponges leave uneven coverage with stain, and I hate ruining rags with stain.

2. Line up your hooks

I chose to space my hooks around 3.5″ apart, with a little over a couple inches left on each end of the board. Line up your hooks in a manner that looks good to you, then measure to make sure everything is lined up evenly.
Each hook is about 3/4″ above the bottom of the board.

3.Drill pilot holes

If you need a small drill bit, I bought this one at Daiso for 100¥. I use it for any project that I need a super small pilot hole for.
This will keep your wood from splitting and make sure your screws are going in the right direction. The pilot holes do not need to be deep at all- just enough to guide a screw to where it needs to go.

4. Screw your hooks on

Shown are my silver screws here. I then just took a small piece of paper towel, dipped it in my iron paint, and brushed over the top of them.

Voila! You have created a $10 coat rack that will seriously clean up your entryway. Check out my before and after below, too!

Soooo much better, right?!

For mounting, I chose to drill two pilot holes- one at each end of the board, and fasten the rack to the wall with a washer, screw, and drywall anchor in the wall on each side. After hanging it, I could probably use one more solid mounting point in the middle of the board too- but I’ll save that for another day, and will keep the load on it light until then.

I love finding ways to make something for a fraction of the cost that you could purchase it new for. Plus, you can say that you created it all by yourself.

Happy creating!

I’ve got a couple messages about products shown in the photos, so here are the links if you are interested!

Buffalo Plaid Rug
Use code “7P6RZTTR” to make it $7.99!

Thin Throw Blanket
Duck Boots
My boots originally came from Kohl’s, but they are sold out. I linked some that look almost identical from Amazon with good reviews, and they’re like $40 cheaper than I paid!
Hunter Boots
Galvanized Bucket

About Me

10 Streaming Shows You Should ACTUALLY Watch

So, let me explain my reasoning for the title of this post a bit.

As most of you know, I work from home, and basically 95% of my life is spent in my home, in front of some sort of screen. When I am editing, blogging, or messaging, I almost always have Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Hulu playing in the background. Does that mean I sincerely watch all the shows I am playing?
Nope. Not at all.
In fact, I often have to ask Drew what is going on in a show if I am actively trying to edit while watching. He really, really loves that quality about me.
That being said, these are the shows that you HAVE to sit down and actually watch. Watch them twice. Three times. These are my absolute favorites.

These are in no particular order, but if you want to know my top three, they are definitely: The Handmaid’s Tale, Parenthood, and Jane the Virgin. You comes in a VERY close fourth.

Most of these have an amazing storyline that demands your attention, and most have really great casting. I will say that I am an absolute sucker for a great, dramatic storyline that actually keeps you watching- so if you are looking for humor or a show about purging, this list probably isn’t for you. (Although I was motivated out the wazoo by Marie Kondo.)

1. Parenthood (Netflix)

I’ll be real, there aren’t many shows I will re-watch. Parenthood I have seen five times all the way through. That alone should speak for itself. Any time I am looking for a show to watch, I will return happily to this one to watch again.
Funny, serious, and so so gut wrenching. Honestly after watching This is Us, I will still claim that Parenthood is better. Don’t worry, This is Us is on my list too.

2. Jane the Virgin (Netflix)

Ditto to the last description. I’ve seen this series three times all the way through, and it’s not even over yet. I re-watch all the seasons each time a new one is released.

But seriously- this is the only show that I put on my calendar for the release of a new season. I have never watched a series that had me switching between characters being my favorite and least favorite SO often, but this show has such a way of making you love all the love interests, and still hate all the love interests. The series is said to come to a close with the release of Season 5 this March. I can tell you what I will be doing March 27, and it will not involve leaving the house until I have watched the final season.

3. You (Netflix)

I JUST finished the first season tonight, and MAN. It’s incredibly well done. I love a series that is good without completely nude sex scenes or utterly explicit violence. You kept me watching the entire time, and I am very easily distracted normally.
Normally I am somewhat pissed when a show decides to continue on with a second season after a perfect first season that could have ended where it did. But I am definitely hoping for a second season of this one.

4. Black Mirror (Netflix)

This. Show. Will. Mess. You. Up.
Seriously, watch with caution, and I don’t recommend watching more than a couple episodes a day, especially if you don’t process creepy things well. Not quite a horror movie, but definitely super unsettling. We binged Black Mirror in like two days, and it is BRUTAL to your brain.

4.5 (ha). Black Mirror Bandersnatch (Netflix)

This is the newest spin off of Black Mirror, and it is interactive. Without spilling any spoilers, I will say not to JUST watch this once. When you make different choices, you will find different story lines. I watched the second time with friends, and it was so startling to talk about what each of us saw. (You can also let it play all the way through and it will auto-select choices for you, if you’re not feeling interact-ey.)

5. The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu)

Maaaaaan this one is not for the faint of heart. This one is unbelievably dark, very rarely happy, and SO SO good. Deals with some pretty triggering issues, and definitely does not censor anything, so if you struggle with emotional topics and being especially weighed down by heavy issues like rape- you might read an outline of the show before watching this so you can be prepared. I can handle about 2-3 episodes at a time, and that’s it.

But seriously. Best show I’ve ever watched. If these were in order, The Handmaid’s Tale would probably be #1. DYING for the next season.

6. This is Us (Hulu)

I do think this one was hyped up a BIT more than it should have been, but I definitely did not stop sobbing through basically every episode. The further you get in, the deeper the story line goes, the more invested you become, and the more you sob…. like… a lot.

7. The Ranch (Netflix)

Here is the 10% that Drew agrees with. Ha.
If you loved That 70’s Show, you’ll be so excited to see the cast of this one. I love a show that can be rather hilarious, but still carry such an awesome storyline, and this one definitely does.

8. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon Prime)

So funny, and such a good story line. To be honest, I likely won’t watch this series more than twice, and this is probably #10 on my actual ranking list of these, but I do look forward to each new season being released. So worth a watch, and you will be hooked by the first two episodes.

9. Sex Education (Netflix)

Fair warning: the first episode of this is pretty raunchy, and the WOW-factor card is definitely played to get your attention pretty often during the show. Of course, being a series that totally focuses on sex, it definitely is an adult-only show, but does get less raunchy and revealing after the first episode. But the storyline is great, it’s really pretty funny, and I am absolutely watching for the next season to be added to Netflix.

10. 7 Seconds (Netflix)

This one is so good. I love a good standalone single season show that I can sit down and watch in one day. This one deals with a lot of issues plaguing America in the past few years, and it’s definitely one that I wasn’t able to look away from while watching.

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Annnnd here is my list of classics that you should have already watched because I feel like it may be some sort of sin to not include these. No long explanations needed, you have to make sure all of these are on your “watched” list, or unfortunately we can’t be friends. Lots of oldies, but goodies.

The Office (Netflix)

Because if you haven’t seen it at least three times all the way through, I’m not sure I can associate with you.

How I Met Your Mother (Netflix)

I have seen this probably 6 times since high school. Never gets old. Forever better than Friends. (Like 4 of my closest friends will probably unfollow me for saying this haha.)

New Girl (Netflix)

Not a huge fan of Zooey Deschanel in New Girl, especially in the later episodes, but the rest of the cast by far makes the show worth it. If you like a good rom-com, this it’s for you.

Gossip Girl (Netflix)

Just a classic all around. I’ve seen this one 3 times all the way through. XOXO

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Okay, y’all. Here is a solid two weeks of watching (or like 6 months if you don’t watch as much streaming TV as me. Ha.) Go forth, be lazy, and binge away.