My Best Tip for Traveling with Kids

Our 700 mile trip. Jackson isn't much for photos . . .

Our 700 mile trip.
Jackson isn’t much for photos . . .

“Are we there yet?”

“He hit me!”

“Mom, I’m so bored . . .”

Do you ever hear the utterance of these words whilst on long road trips?  Traveling with a child can be tough, but traveling with more than one child can be torture.  Worse yet is traveling with more than one child when you’re the only adult on the trip.  

That’s like inner-circle-of-hell bad.

My family travels.


We live in Kansas but make frequent trips to visit family in Ohio, Nebraska, Tennessee, and Colorado.  While the average driver puts 12,000 miles on their vehicle every year, we put an average of 22,000 miles on our trusty ol’ minivan yearly.

Driving is certainly much cheaper than flying—especially if you’re able to utilize fuel points—but it can ensure certain agony.  Even though I separate the kids . . . even though we play games . . . even though they watch movies . . . they find a way to drive me crazy and each other crazy.

Most of the time, my husband is with me on our road trips, so one of us can regulate the offspring while the other drives.  However, every once-in-a-while, I have to go solo as the parent.

A few years ago, I drove 700 miles to Ohio with my {then} five-year-old and seven-year-old by myself to surprise my mom for her 60th 39th birthday.

 I would have rather used a baby porcupine as a stress ball than do that again.

It’s a pure miracle we all made it back home alive.  Before our trip back, I thought there had to be a better way.  That’s when I had quite possibly the best idea of my life.



Here’s What I Did:

I went to the bank and got a roll of quarters {equal to $10}. Each child received $5 worth of quarters in a labeled baggie at the beginning of the road trip.  Every time one my children:

  • asked, “Are we there yet?”
  • complained
  • didn’t pick up their trash
  • hit their sibling
  • yelled
  • didn’t share
  • or just plain disobeyed,

that child owed me a quarter.

Whatever money they had left over by the end of the trip was for them to keep and spend on whatever they wanted. Whatever they had to fork over to Mommy was Mommy’s to keep and spend on whatever Mommy wanted.  Each child had an opportunity to earn their quarters back.  If they were good for an hour straight after losing a quarter, I returned a quarter to them.

This summer I made that trip to Ohio again—by myself with my now seven-year-old and nine-year-old.  This time I gave each child $7.50.

The result?

Mommy only ended up with $0.75.


Cherubims, I tell ya.  My children turned into sweet cherubims.  I was kind of looking forward to having enough quarters to buy myself a fancy venti frappuccino or something, but it looks like I’ll only be getting a small black coffee from a gas station. {Can you even get those that cheap these days???}  Seriously, though—I’d rather them act like cherubims for our 12-hour motor marathon than me collecting quarters while pulling my hair out.

For the critics of this tactic, I’m sure you’re wagging your finger at me and exclaiming, “But isn’t that just bribing your children?!”


Yes, it is, and it is lovely.

Trust me, I have many discussions with my kids about the fact that good behavior is expected at all times.  This “bribe” is only for an isolated event—an event in which an exhausted mother needs to do something for her sanity.  Besides, isn’t the real world full of incentives?

Here’s the beauty of it:

  • it practices positive and negative reinforcements
  • it gives the kids a visual to see the consequences of their behavior
  • its consequences are immediate {and the end result is within hours}
  • kids realize they can control their behaviors
  • the effects are gradual—it’s not all or nothing
  • kids realize there is a second chance and can work to earn it back
  • kids can be proud of their good behavior and have fun with their earnings when they reach their destination

Do you have any suggestions for traveling with young children on long road trips?  I’d love to hear about them in the comments section.

Happy traveling!


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Chocolate Chip Squash {or Zuchini} Bread


This is our third summer participating in a CSA {Community Supported Agriculture} and WE. LOVE. IT.

But.  Our first time belonging to the CSA we received one of our weekly shares in August containing some zucchini and squash.  I love the aforementioned vegetables {or are they technically fruit?}, so we threw them in a skillet and gobbled them up.

Nom. Nom. Nom. 

Then.  There was zucchini and squash in the next week’s share {OK, let’s try a casserole} . . . and the next week’s {OK, let’s make a soup} . . . and the next week’s {OK, um . . .} . . . and the next week’s {really??}  . . . and . . .  DEAR GOD, WHY DO SO MANY OF THESE FLIPPING THINGS EXIST!?!?!?!  PLEASE MAKE IT STOP!!!

I started just giving them away at school . . .

Me: “Congratulations to the seven students who earned the highest score on the Macbeth test.  I have a special treat for y’all!  So special, in fact, I bet no one has ever given you anything of the sort as a reward before.”

{Proceeds to throw green and yellow zuks at the children}.

A year went by and after some counseling {I kid} I was now mentally ready to tackle the onslaught of another season full of the cucubita pepo with some new recipes in mind.

One of my favorites is my CHOCOLATE CHIP SQUASH BREAD.  That’s right. You’ve probably heard of zucchini bread before.  Did you know you can change it out for yellow summer squash? They’re basically the same thing and both taste just as yummy as the other.  This weekend, I had a hankerin’ for this bread and opted to make it with yellow summer squash {since it was, of course, in the CSA box this past week}.

P.S. I was salivating while taking the picture above.  I couldn’t wait to dig in.


  • PAM cooking spray
  • 2 eggs {beaten}
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup + 3 tablespoons applesauce
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups finely grated squash {or zucchini}
  • 3/4 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips {optional, but why wouldn’t you?}
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Bring together beaten eggs, sugar, and applesauce in a KitchenAid Mixer and mix on medium speed for one minute or until creamy {if you don’t own a mixer, mix by hand with a spatula}
  • Add flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt and mix on medium speed until blended thoroughly
  • Add in the grated squash {or zucchini}, chocolate chips, and vanilla and mix on medium speed until blended thoroughly
  • Using a spatula, scrape blended ingredients into a greased 9×5 bread pan.
  • Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 1 hour.  The middle tends to be pretty moist, so I usually end up baking it for an additional 15 minutes.

Let cool for about 30 minutes.  Then slice it up and enjoy.  YUMS.

What are some of your favorite squash and zucchini recipes?  I may need some more ideas.  {Wink}.


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For other fun recipes, check out

The Unspoken Message from Your Teachers


Dear Student,

It’s the first day of high school, and you’re probably a little nervous.  I have a secret for you: the first day makes me a little nervous, too.  It’s okay.  In fact, it’s natural to feel that way when you meet someone new—especially someone who is going to become a major part of your life.  In my case, I’m meeting approximately 150 new someones.

From this mid-August day until May, we’ll be seeing quite a bit of each other.  In fact, I’ll spend more time with you than I will my own children during the school week.

There will be days you will like me. We’ll play fun review games, I’ll provide treats, and let’s be honest—sometimes I’m pretty hilarious.  

There will be many days you don’t like me.

At all.

You won’t like me because I’m going to push you.  I’m going to make you write and rewrite an essay until it is cohesive and persuasive.  I’m going to hold you accountable for being tardy to my class.  I’m going to make you take notes until your hand cramps up.  I’m going to make you:

➔ read

               ➔ think

                               ➔ present

                                             ➔ synthesize.

I’m going to require you to expand your vocabulary and use intellectual words—so, no. You may not say f*** or sh** in my presence—you are better than that.

After a while, we will build rapport.  You might just begin to feel a newfound freedom to open up—and if we’re both lucky, I’ll be the one you talk to when you’re excited about your first job; when you’re upset with your mom; when you get your first boyfriend; when you’re heart’s been broken; when you’re being bullied; when you unexpectedly become pregnant; when you aced that ridiculous Algebra test; when you’re being abused.  

Sometimes, you will come in before class or during lunch because you have no friends—my classroom will be your safe haven.  Sometimes you’ll be in the musical or a football game—I will be in the audience.  Sometimes you won’t be able to afford the required school supplies—I will buy them for you with my own money.  Sometimes you won’t believe in yourself—but I will.  Sometimes you will struggle with the content—I will tutor you. Sometimes you will have a parent pass away—I will attend the funeral.

You will always view me as the teacher, but the truth is, I will learn just as much from you. You will teach me new slang, what’s fashionable, and how to use the latest technology. You will also teach me about your culture, your religion, your hobbies.  There will be days where you will have the most creative idea that it will completely change my perspective.

We meet today, but in the future I will attend your graduation and your wedding.  I will be the one who writes your college recommendation letters and gives a reference for your future job.  

Teaching is not for the weak. The stress is high—the pay is low.  Schools are understaffed, under-supplied, and most of the time I feel unappreciated.  There are days I will cry and want to quit, but I don’t.

I don’t because of you.  

You are the reason I teach and keep coming back.  

It’s certainly nice to make your acquaintance today.  


Your Teacher

Fresh Salsa Recipe {Mild, Medium, or Hot}

salsa It’s that time of year.  Tomatoes are in full force.  We joined a CSA three years ago and started getting more tomatoes than I knew what to do with.  I made a lot of BLT’s and marinara sauce, but my favorite recipe was fresh salsa. This salsa is seriously the best I’ve ever eaten. Just about every fresh ingredient came in our CSA share this week, so it was obviously a sign I needed to make it.


{For MILD Salsa}:

  • 4 ripe medium-sized tomatoes {cherry tomatoes are fine, too—about 1 cup of uncut cherry tomatoes = 1 medium tomato}
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 cup cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 jalapeno pepper {seeded and finely chopped}
  • 1/2 white onion {finely chopped}
  • 1 green bell pepper {seeded and finely chopped}

{For MEDIUM Heat}:

  • 2 teaspoons of black pepper
  • 3/4 white onion
  • add 1 more jalapeno {seeded and finely chopped}
  • add 1 Serrano pepper {seeded and finely chopped}

{For HOT Salsa}:

  • 2 1/2 teaspoons of black pepper
  • 1 whole white onion
  • add 2 more jalapenos {seeded and finely chopped}
  • add 2-3 Serrano peppers {seeded and finely chopped}


Put tomatoes, garlic, cilantro, cumin, lemon juice, salt, and black pepper in a blender and blend until liquefied.

salsablend Finely chop the jalapeno pepper, onion, and green pepper and put in a large bowl. peppers Pour the ingredients from the blender into the bowl and mix thoroughly with a spatula. salsamix Makes four cups. TIP: If you’d like it chunkier, skip the blender and dice all ingredients {but who has time for that?}. Use in salads, on your tacos, or just dip for tortilla chips. salsaeat Enjoy. Love,

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Check out more fun recipes and craft ideas at

Paying Down Debt – July 2015

You guys,

I’m pretty pumped.  This July was probably the most productive month we’ve had since we’ve gotten intense about paying off our debt.  On average, we typically pay down about $1,000 a month, but this month we killed it.

We paid off $4,561.


You can check out our debt snowball progress here.

We also finally got our balance below $50,000 for the first time ever.  If you haven’t read our full debt story yet, $50,000 was Randy’s original student loan amount when we married in 2004.  After denial + accruing interest {that grew an additional $26,000} it took us 11 years to get our debt back down to that original amount.


Isn’t that dumb?

If we would have tackled our debt back then, we wouldn’t be in this situation.  All we can do now is push forward so we don’t have this regret in the future.

So . . . how did we have such success this month?  We made some smart moves and worked our tails off.  Fortunately we are both teachers and have extra time this summer to do so.  I usually catch up on my sleep during the summer.  Not this year.

Here is what we did to put such a huge dent in our debt this month:

  • I taught summer school for a month.
  • My husband put in about 70+ hours a week with his Promise Painting & Contracting business.
  • We both supervised the ACT test on a Saturday morning.
  • We were able to lower our monthly home security bill {money saved applied to debt}.
  • Our kids didn’t have piano lessons for the month {money saved applied to debt}.
  • I changed one of my checking accounts.  This account grew interest, but I had to keep a minimum balance of $500.  With the interest rate now only 0.01%, that means it only grew about one cent/month.  So . . . I had $500 just sitting there to gain $0.12/year? That makes zero sense.  I called the bank and switched to a non-interest earning account and put that $500 toward the debt.
  • Randy fixed a couple of cars for people {he used to be a certified mechanic}.
  • We had a garage sale.
  • I taught several cake pop classes. 
  • I was fortunate to get a lot orders for my Bondbons business—including a large wedding this month.
Pretty monogrammed bondbons for a July wedding

Pretty monogrammed bondbons for a July wedding

Phew.  There were some nights I was up until 2:00 AM dipping bondbons in chocolate with tears in my eyes—wanting to give up.  Then I see results like that and it reminds me that it will all be worth it.

Stay tuned for September 1st for our next update.


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What Happened When I Wore the Same Outfit for Three Weeks

The past has no power over the present

I love clothes.

No.  I mean I really love clothes.

When I started making my own money in high school, I probably could have supported a small army with the amount I spent on clothing.  In fact, in high school, I had three closets stuffed full.

I also cared about what I wore.

A lot.

You guys, I even had a journal where I kept track of what clothes I wore to make sure I didn’t have any repeats within a month.

Vanity much?

In 2012, a dear friend of mine introduced me to the book 7 by Jen Hatmaker.  This book completely changed my life.  You can read Jen Hatmaker’s synopsis of her book here.  In a nutshell, though, she describes 7 as “[a] seven-month experimental mutiny against excess, tackling seven areas of overconsumption in the spirit of a fast; a fast from greed, irresponsibility, apathy, and insatiability. Each area boiled down to just seven choices for a month:








This book had such an impact on me that I wanted to share its message with others.  From January to July of 2013, I led a small group at our church where we read through the book and did our own monthly experiments by fasting and purging the very things that steal our time, money, and health (among other things).  Each month focused solely on one of the categories above.  Our goals were to simplify our lives by eradicating the excess and thus, making more room for God.

Meeting Jen Hatmaker, author of 7.  I love her.

Meeting Jen Hatmaker, author of 7. I love her.

Because of my obsession, I was dreading the clothes month.  During that time I had to come clean to my group.  I encouraged everyone to count all their clothes and shoes.  I discovered that I had:

  • 377 items of clothing {not including any accessories or undergarments}
  • 41 pairs of shoes.

For my fast that month, I:

  • gave away 100 items of clothing from my closet,
  • vowed not to go shopping for new clothes for six months {torture, I tell ya},
  • vowed to give away something old for every new item I bought for my wardrobe {forever}, and
  • only wore ten items of clothing (not counting undergarments) for 30 days.  That included: one pair of grey pants, one pair of khaki pants, one pair of jeans, one black top, one cream sweater, one green turtleneck sweater, one pink sweater, one KU t-shirt, one pair of yoga pants for home, and one fleece sweatshirt.  I did not wear any jewelry except my wedding rings, but I did allow myself to wear unlimited scarves and several pairs of different shoes.
The 100 items I gave away during my 7 Challenge in 2013.

The 100 items I gave away during my 7 Challenge in 2013.

It was so, so hard at first, but ended up being so, so freeing.  In those thirty days, only one of my 150 students said anything to me.  It was a little freshman girl who finally asked, “Mrs. B., do you really like that turtleneck?  You seem to wear it a lot.”  Even my student aide, who knew I was doing this clothing fast, admitted she didn’t even notice while it was going on.

That experiment really intrigued me.  I was so self-conscious about wearing the same ten articles of clothing to work for a month . . . and no one even seemed to notice.  Hmmmm.

Fast Forward to Summer School 2015.

I teach summer school every summer to make extra money.  This past school year, I worked an average of 60-70 hours a week because we’re desperately trying to pay off our debt.  The thought of four more weeks of early mornings and dress clothes seemed particularly daunting this summer.  Plus, to be honest, I’ve gained enough weight that only a couple of my dress pants comfortably fit me at the moment.  Dressing up—something that was practically a hobby of mine—had now become something I loathed.

Seriously though.  I spend SO.MUCH.TIME. just thinking about what I’m going to wear.  I bet on average, I stare at my closet for about five minutes in the morning before picking something out. I have 190 contractual work days during the school year.  If I do that every morning, that means in just one school year I’m wasting 950 minutes contemplating my outfit.  That boils down to almost 16 hours.

I thought to my fatigued self, “I really wish I could only wear those two khaki pants {the ones that actually fit me} for the duration of summer school.”

Then I had a better thought, “Uh . . . why don’t you just do it?”

As a semi-joke I threw out this idea on Facebook:

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So many of my friends urged and dared me to do it.  I’m not one to run in the face of awkward situations, and I certainly love social experiments, so of course I made it happen.

My main goal was to see if anyone would notice my wardrobe or not, so I decided to go with a very simple outfit (as seen in the picture above):

  • BLACK TOP {I rotated five different black tops – some short sleeved, some long sleeved, but all solid black}.
  • KHAKI PANTS {I rotated between two different pairs}.
  • SAME SHOES {knock-off Birkenstocks}.
  • SCARVES {I wore different scarves for variety—rotating between about five different ones}.
  • EARRINGS {I also wore different earrings for variety—rotating between about seven different ones},


It’s important for you to know that summer school is atypical compared to a regular school day.

Students meet from 8:30-11:30 AM for a four-week period.  This year, I had 16 students {ranging from 9th-11th graders} in my English class who were with me that entire three-hour block. They independently worked on a virtual course, so my role was more of a facilitator; therefore, I did a lot of monitoring from my computer and worked with students one-on-one.  I was not up in front of the class teaching a curriculum.

Once students finish their virtual course, they may check out of summer school.  I have some students who check out the first week and some who stay until the very last second.


The first week, I wore the same kind of outfit {khakis, white top, different cardigans, and different scarves}.  I decided that wasn’t extreme enough, so I went with the outfit previously described.  I wore just the khakis and black tops for the last three full weeks of summer school.


I already knew many of these students prior to summer school, so I fully expected one who was already comfortable with me to say, “Um . . . didn’t you just wear that yesterday?!?!?”

That never happened.

Some of my friends argued that a student would never say such a thing to a teacher, but you would be shocked what kids utter to their authorities—even about their wardrobe.  See my comment about the clothes fast I did in 2013.

It finally became evident that I would need to be proactive.  I waited to ask students who stayed until the last week {there were seven} if they noticed anything about my outfit.  I only surveyed them since they saw me for the full three weeks in virtually identical outfits.

This is how I approached it.  As kids finished their course, I pulled them aside in the hallway and asked, “Hey, did you happen to notice anything unusual about what I wore each day?”  I asked them individually so the other students couldn’t hear or be influenced by others’ responses.

I also asked the three other summer school teachers, the secretary, and the principal—all of whom saw me pretty much every day.

Out of the twelve people I asked, only two students said they noticed I wore the same outfit and one fellow teacher said she just noticed I wore khaki pants every day.

Everyone else was perplexed by the question.  I got a lot of responses like:

  • “You did???”
  • “No you didn’t.  I would have noticed that!”
  • “Are you serious?”
  • “What?  You wore that for the past three weeks?  No way!”

For the two who did notice, I asked: “When did you notice I was wearing the same thing every day?  Did it bother you?  Did you think it was weird?  Did you think something was wrong with me?  Did you and any other student talk about my outfits?”

Both students’ responses were quite similar.  They each said they noticed around the third week but didn’t really think anything of it. They never discussed it with anyone else.


I’m sure in a more traditional setting at school, my recurring outfit would be more obvious to students and co-workers. But gracious, I am still shocked by the results of these two experiments.

Above all else, the results have taught me this:

No one cares about you more than you.

{I think we all need to read that last line one more time.}

We spend so much time, money, and effort on our appearances and no one really gives a flip.  I care way more about how I look than anyone else ever will.

I am certainly not advocating that you dress inappropriately, like a slob, and for the love, please don’t abandon your good hygiene practices.  But stop caring so much about what others think. Chances are they aren’t thinking about you all that much anyway.  I laugh at my high-school-self who thought someone might actually notice if I wore the same outfit within 30 days.


Consider how much you pay attention to others.  Do you really care about other people’s appearance?  Do you care if someone wears expensive name brand clothing or not?  If they’re trendy or not?  If they wear the same outfit often or not?

If you do care, ask yourself why.  Why does it seriously matter?  In what way does someone else’s wardrobe affect me in any way?

If your friends care and judge you because you aren’t wearing Banana Republic from head to toe and a Coach purse on your shoulder . . . I’d say it’s time to find some new friends and grow up. And ask yourself why you care that they care.


I was surprised to discover how wearing the same outfit every day had positive effects on me that I didn’t anticipate.  I didn’t feel stressed or anxious in the mornings.  I didn’t have to spend time worrying about my outfit. This resulted in me getting to sleep in a little later and thus feeling more refreshed throughout the entire day.  In addition, I was comfortable since I wore clothes that I knew fit well.  Who knew that the daily outfit could have such a major effect on someone?

We as humans sure like to over-complicate life when it really could be so simple. I mean, clothes’ original intention was to cover our privates and keep us warm.  We now overwhelm ourselves with thousands of options.  For what?  To be trendy, attractive, more popular?

I don’t know, friends.  I still love me a cute outfit, but I’m kind of over it.

SO . . .

After telling people about this little journey of mine, turns out, this idea wasn’t so original—wearing the same thing every day is becoming more and more popular and so are capsule wardrobes.

I am seriously considering wearing the same basic outfit every day for this entire upcoming school year—the experience was that fabulous.

I said before that I am all about social, awkward experiences.  Do I have any dares from my readers?  Stay tuned for May 2016 . . . you may just see a similar post from me after a nine-month experiment. {wink}.


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Have any of you tried a capsule wardrobe or something similar?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Chocolate Banana Green Smoothie

smoothieI seriously heart this smoothie.  In fact, I drink one almost every morning on the way to work.  It’s only 300 calories, delicious, and super easy to make.   Oh, and it’s packed with nutrients such as vitamin A, vitamin B-6, vitamin C, vitamin K, iron, dietary fiber, phytochemicals, calcium, and potassium . . . just to name a few.


  • 1 cup Light Silk Almond Milk (60 calories)
  • 1 ripe banana (100 calories)
  • 1 cup (or handful) of rainbow chard (35 calories)
  • 2 tablespoon Ovaltine (40 calories)
  • 1 tablespoon  chia seeds (65 calories)
  • 2-3 ice cubes, optional (0 calories)


Simply dump all the ingredients in a Nutribullet (my preference), Magic Bullet, or blender.   Stick a straw in it and enjoy.


  • You’ll want to make sure you include the stems of the chard as that has more nutrients than the leaves.
  • You could substitute the chard with kale or spinach, but chard is actually more nutritionally dense than either of those.  I also feel that it gives the smoothie a creamier texture and a better taste.
  • Another substitute you can make is two tablespoons of  PB2 instead of Ovaltine if you’d rather have a peanut butter-y taste than chocolate-y.  Or better yet, do one tablespoon of each for a peanut butter-y and chocolate-y taste.
  • You will want to make sure you drink this as soon as you blend it.  Chia seeds tend to gel up once they’re in a liquid.  After about an hour, the texture will become thick and quite gross.
  • If you’d like your smoothie to be more filling, add 1/2 cup of dry oatmeal, but that’s going to add an additional 150 calories.

Do you have a favorite green smoothie?  Tell me about it in the comments.

You can also go to to check out other great recipes. 🙂

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7 Everythings I’ve Learned When I Finally Got What I Wanted

theYou guys.  I’m super excited about my first guest post.  I couldn’t think of a better person to write it than:  

<– Holly. 

Holly is seriously the sweetest person you could ever encounter, and I am lucky to call her one of my best friends. She has also become one of my favorite writers.   You can check her out at Cartwheels Down the Hall.  She’s hilarious, and I’m pretty sure we could create an entire book from out text messages and Facebook posts that would have you rolling.on.the.floor.laughing. {Wait . . . file that under “First Book Idea”}

Holls and I met in college our freshmen year and ended up being inseparable.  We now live nearly 700 miles apart, but make a point to see each other at least every summer. The two of us have a special friendship where we can talk about all the everythings and all the nothings—which usually take place during sporadic phone conversations that last an hour . . . or two.  

Over the past several years, she chose to let me in to a dark period of her life when her heart crumble as she and her husband struggled to get pregnant.  One of the worst feelings in the world is having your BFF cry on your shoulder and there is nothing you can do to fix the problem—just listen.  {Let it be noted though that I did offer to be a surrogate for that baby!}.

Finally the day came when I received a special call—the call where she told me she was “with child.” {I really like that phrase}.  

She got what she wanted after all these years.  And that is exactly what she chose to write about for this segment of “7 Everythings I’ve Learned.”  



 When Courtney approached me about writing a guest post, I was thrilled with the theme. I tossed around all kinds of ideas, but every one pertained to something I felt like I’d already “survived.”  The call to write about a more current “life topic” was strong.
     My husband and I tried for exactly two years to conceive our first child. (As I write this, I’m feeling all kinds of flips and flops in my tummy as I’m currently 29 weeks pregnant.  Yippee)!
     Struggling to conceive was hard, guys.  I need another word for “hard.”  Awful?  Traumatic?  We are fortunate in that we didn’t have to go through any complicated treatments or the expense and heartbreak of failed medical procedures.  One day, the plus sign just showed up.  Hallelujah.  I could write an entire post on that topic, alone (and almost did).
     Maybe you are waiting on a baby, too.  Maybe you are on the hunt for a new house or working towards a new promotion.  The list of new life events we wait for is endless, so here’s a list of things you may find helpful when the wait is finally over.
When you get what you want, remember this…
1. It will not fix “all the everythings.”  (Thank you, Courtney, for that sweet, new catchphrase)!  Your dog will still pee on the floor.  Your husband will still put un-rinsed chocolate milk glasses in the sink.  Ain’t enough lotto-winnings or job promotions in the world to fix all that mess.  Do not be disappointed.
2.  It will fix things you didn’t even know were broken. While we were in the trenches of trying to conceive, I was doing a lot of “crying in the car.”  For me, that is always a red flag.  A sign that something needs to be “fixed.”  In short, I think I was really, really struggling with my emotions.  Depression.  Jealousy.  Blinding rage. You know the drill. I remember crying to my husband and saying, “I don’t want to “just get pregnant”…I want to FIX this.”  And he looked me in the eye and said,
“Baby.  Getting pregnant IS going to fix this.”
And that was a hard truth, but one I needed to hear.
     In some ways, my sweet husband was right.  This pregnancy “fixed” many, many emotional issues.  It has brought about a lot of healing, especially in my marriage. Imagine my relief to find that “getting what I wanted” made all these sweet life experiences that much sweeter and filled holes in my heart I didn’t even know existed.
3. Your “want” will likely bring about change, new obstacles, and also a truckload of chaos.   Perhaps number 3 needs no explanation.  Celebrate, and hold on tight.
4. It might not always “feel” right.  And now, it’s time for my favorite John Steinbeck quote.   “And don’t worry about losing. If it is right, it happens—The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.”  
Don’t panic if, after you’ve reached your goal, you’re still feeling unsettled.  It doesn’t mean your new position in life isn’t “right.”  It just means that Numbers 1 and 3 hold true.  Don’t give up.  
5. People will be really, really good and also really, really weird.  Humans are strange animals.  Chances are, the people you encounter are going to want to talk to you about your outstanding, new accomplishment.
How was graduation? 
When do you close on your house? 
Do you like your new co-workers?
People will come out of the woodwork to love and serve you well.  It’s fantastic.  Really.
And then come the weirdos.  I had two people publicly ask me if my pregnancy was planned. That calls for an enthusiastic “yes”…but why even ask such a personal question in a room full of people?  It was awkward!
Be prepared to have a few odd encounters as you share your news.
How much was your raise?  
Is your boss single?  
Has anyone ever died in your new house?  
Try to approach these situations with as much humility and grace as possible.
6. Don’t get distracted by the question, “Why?”  
Why did it take so long for me to find a spouse?  
Why didn’t we get the first house we made an offer on?  
Why was I overlooked for the promotion the first time?  
You  might find out the answer in the near future…or you might not ever know. Try not to let the mystery that is “the past” distract you from the joy you’re surely experiencing now!
7. I hate to spoil the ending for you, but everything is going to be ok.
If you’re dealing with a nasty case of “Number 4,” again, don’t panic.  Maybe your new boss is being standoffish.  Maybe there’s more traffic in your new neighborhood than you initially realized.  There are a million different reasons to be nervous or disappointed when change comes about.  Stay the course.  
The best advice I ever received came from my sister (via Dr. Phil, haha).  
“Always play the ‘what if’ game until the end.” 
What if…
I’m unhappy at my new job?  Be professional.  Give it a chance, but keep in mind, you can always find another one!  
We didn’t choose the right neighborhood? Live with it for a while.  If you’re still unhappy, move on to greener pastures.   
Are you currently in the waiting season, or have you seen your way out of it?  What did you learn?  We wanna hear all about it!  
I wish you the best of luck in all your new endeavors.   
Love and nothing good gets away, 

How We Took a Family of 8 on a Disney Vacation for Under $5,000


It’s deemed the happiest place on earth, but an all-out, week-long family trip to Disney can set you back the equivalent amount of a brand new car.  Before my husband and I entered our debt-free journey, we promised our five kids {and one grandchild} a Disney World vacation for a week in 2014.  Obviously, a family of eight was not going to be cheap.  In fact, after doing the math, for all of us to stay on site with a meal plan, it would’ve run anywhere from $12,000-28,000.  {That didn’t even include the traveling expenses!}

Um. No.  

Going into debt for this vacation was not an option.  After three years of planning, researching, and saving, we were able to take our Kansas family of eight to Disney World for five days and the beach for two all for under $5,000 {TOTAL}.

Here’s a breakdown of how we did it:


Yes, I’m a Dave Ramsey fanatic, but unlike him, I do use credit cards for benefits and I’ve never carried a balance on one.  Ever.  Sorry, Dave.

Anyway, back in 2011, I signed up for the Disney Rewards Visa card.  This way I could earn points over the next three years to pay for our tickets.  With this card you receive:

  • 2% back on purchases at gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, and most Disney locations {stores, etc.}, and
  • 1% back on all other purchases.

There are other perks that you can read about here.

You better believe that I used that card for everything.  Everything within our budget, that is–paying it off each month.  In addition to the regular purchases like gas, groceries, and dining out, I used this card to pay our home and car insurance, my daughter’s dance lessons, my son’s baseball fees, our cell phone bills, our internet bills, and our cable. You guys, I even started tithing to our church using the credit card.

After three years, I was able to rack up $1,300.00 to use toward our Disney trip.  Not bad.

I applied those points directly to our ticket cost.  A five-day ticket with a Park Hopper for five adults and two kids {the baby was free} totaled $2,592.88.  After applying my Disney Reward points, I only owed $1,292.88.


About six months before our big vacation, I stopped using the Disney Visa and applied for a Southwest Visa card.  When you sign up you automatically earn 25,000 points.  After that you get one (1) point for every dollar you spend.  I stopped using the Disney card and put everything I listed above on this card.  In just six short months I was able to rack up enough points to cover the cost of two round-trips to Florida.  That left me with one round-trip ticket left to buy, which cost $479.81.


I really wanted for all eight of us to fly together, but that would have cost at least $3,600.00. Plus, one of my adult stepdaughters lives in Nebraska and the other two {+ the baby} are in Colorado, so we had to split up the traveling.  I was able to fly out all three of my stepdaughters {+ the baby} with my Southwest Rapid Rewards points {see above}.

My husband, two little kids, and I bit the bullet and drove the 1,320 miles {one way} ourselves.  The average gas price at the time was $3.51/gallon.  We get about 27 MPG in our minivan.  Add in that we drove about an additional 500 miles to the beach and around town, and our total cost for fuel was $408.20.

Our rental house in Kissimmee.

Our rental house.

Instead of staying at a resort, we rented a huge house in Kissimmee via VRBO.  Check it out. 

This home has four bedrooms, three bathrooms, a private pool, wifi, a fully stocked kitchen, and more.  This was much better than the eight of us being crammed into two hotel rooms.  I don’t care if we did have to drive back and forth to the park {which was only four miles away}, the space and privacy was invaluable.  In fact, my kids preferred swimming at the house over anything else we did that week. This place only ran $179.00/night for eight nights.

Since we drove, we also had to stay in a hotel for two nights on the way to Florida from Kansas.  I was able to get some good deals on Priceline for only $48.99/night, so our grand total for housing was $1,529.98.

  1. FOOD

    Dinner at Planet Hollywood

    Dinner at Planet Hollywood

I know you can go to Disney during the “off season” and get free dining, but that was not an option for two teachers; we really didn’t have a choice other than going in the summer.  So, instead of eating at the park or dining out each meal, we went grocery shopping.

  • For breakfast we ate cereal at the house before heading to the park.
  • For lunch we packed sandwiches, fruit, chips, and bottled water and ate at the park each day.
  • Most evenings, we came back to the house and enjoyed a home-cooked dinner.

We did set aside some money to get a few snacks at Disney and dined out three times.

The last night we splurged by going to Planet Hollywood—which, by the way, accepts Disney reward points.  After purchasing our tickets, we still had $35.00 worth of reward money to spend, which we applied to our bill.

We ended up spending $722.00 on all food expenses for the entire eight days we were there.

Clearwater Beach

Clearwater Beach

Since Kansas is quite possibly the farthest state from the ocean, we weren’t going to pass up the opportunity to go to the beach when it was only 95 miles away.  We did Disney for five days, but also spent two days at Clearwater Beach.  Besides gas {already factored in to #3}, going to the beach was FREE. {Yes, we packed food for this too}.


Our minivan holds seven, but we had eight in our party; therefore, we rented a small car so we could all safely split up during the week if needed and travel to the beach.  I found a deal on Priceline and was able to get a rental for only $14.99/day after taxes.  That totaled $119.98.


Parking at Disney will set you back $18.00/day.  The first day, we were good stewards and drove the van and the rental car to the park.  But if we did that all five days, that was going to total $180.00.

That’s just silly.

So we did what any sensible family would do.  We strapped our six-year-old son to the top of the van.

OK, just kidding.  We broke the law in a different way.

{Wink . . . please don’t tell my mom, btw  . . . }. Since Disney was only four miles from our rental house, the eight of us piled into van {meaning someone had to sit on the floor} and we only had to pay parking for one vehicle.  Parking cost us $108.00 over five days.


There are all sorts of souvenir stores in Kissimmee, and you can get gifts for the fraction of the price you’d pay at an actual Disney store.  I bought a few things from the stores outside the Park during our stay and only ended up paying $28.00.


I knew we would need pool toys, beach toys, parkas, sunscreen and more.  Before our big trip, I bought most of this stuff at the dollar store, local grocery stores, garage sales, and even borrowed some stuff from friends.  The cost for all the extras was only about $42.00.


I didn’t even know Disney Trading Pins were even a “thing” until my good friend Kara told me about it two weeks before our trip and insisted we participate.  These pins run anywhere from $8.99-$34.99 each {yikes!}.  Instead I went to eBay and bought a lot of 25 for only $12.99 + FREE SHIPPING.

All 8 of us at the Magic Kingdom

All 8 of us at the Magic Kingdom

The grand total of our vacation:

$4,743.84 {give or take a few bucks}

Not bad for a family of eight. Some parts may not have been ideal, but nothing compares to a debt-free vacation.  We still made many memories and had an awesome time being together.

Watch the video below to see for yourself. 🙂

Do you have some tips for saving money at Disney?  Please share in the comments.


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Our Debt-Free Journey

Money disputes is one of the leading causes for divorce.  My husband and I have definitely had our fair share of arguments in this category.  I have always been a penny-pincher, while Randy is more of a free spirit.

When we married in 2004, we each contributed student loan debt.  I brought along $15,000 and Randy had about $50,000.  Randy was previously married with three daughters {you can read our family background here}. Factor in an enormous amount of child support with two measly teacher salaries = we were barely making it.   I was good with money, but I had never done a true budget.  Plus, there wasn’t much to budget anyway. I remember one instance when we only had $0.10 in our bank account and the next paycheck wasn’t coming for three more days.

The $65,000 student loan debt seemed overwhelming.  So, we did what any overwhelmed person does.  We slept in a “comfortable” bed of denial.  It was something we tried not to think about . . . it would be paid off someday . . . Plus, we even saw a financial adviser who encouraged us not to worry about our student loans and mortgage because those were “good debts” to have.  This seemed to give us permission to stay in denial.

Fast forward a couple years.  Randy and I each went back to school to earn a master’s degree. We decided to defer his loans so we could pay for his graduate school in cash. I continued paying the minimum payment on my loans, which was only $100/month.  That seemed doable.

Fast forward a few more years.  Randy finished graduate school {yay!}, which meant the time had come to start paying on the old student loans {ew!}.  I honestly had not looked up the balance one single time since the deferment.  There are no words to describe the pit in my stomach when I opened up that statement.


$26,000 more than the original balance. That’s what happens when interest accrues daily at 5.25%.  The $26,000 wasn’t from buying a car or a lavish vacation.  It was just stupid interest building while we didn’t pay a dime on the loans.

Fast forward another year.  We were still fairly in denial about the debt.  We faithfully paid the minimum payment {which was $399.06/month!}, but again, I never checked the balance.  After twelve months, we finally got a statement in the mail.  A year’s worth of payments was $4,788.72, so I figured I’d see a decent reduction to the balance.


New balance = $75,202 after one year.

Seriously!?!?!  Where was all our money going?


Let’s do the math:

  • The 5.25% interest rate on a $76,000 loan is $3,990/year.
  • That’s $332.50/month.
  • Our minimum payment was $399.06/month.
  • That means we were only throwing $66.56/month to the principle while the other $332.50 was going to the flipping interest.

After a year of paying $4,788.72, we only paid down $798.72.

We felt completely hopeless.  At this rate, it was going to take us over 30 years to pay off this debt {not exaggerating}.  Not to mention I still had over $7,000 left on my student loans—making our total debt over $82,000 {NOT including our home}.  It seemed like we were just going to be stuck paying $400/month forever.  Do you know how much money that will equal after 30 years?

$144,000—almost three times the amount of the original loan of $50,000.

Um. No thanks.

Once again, we went back into denial mode.  It was better not to think of it—if I did, I would start to cry . . . or start licking Nutella straight out of the jar.  {I’m an ugly crier and Nutella is delicious, so . . . I usually opt for the latter.}

During the summer of 2013, Randy and I had a mature disagreement about finances {read: knock-down-drag-out screaming match}. At the end of the “discussion,” he suggested we take the Financial Peace University class by Dave Ramsey {aka FPU}.  I had heard about this, but knew very little.  At this point, it seemed like the class was our last hope. When looking for a class in the area, to our surprise we found out our own church was offering it.  Coincidence? We signed up and started that September.

Y’all.  Financial Peace University changed our lives and our marriage.

During the first session, Dave Ramsey explained the 7 Baby Steps.  The concept honestly sounded scary at first because it meant changing our “comfortable” habits, no more debt-denial, and completely reallocating our money {in some radical ways}.  After crunching the numbers, doing it “Dave’s way” meant we could pay off our $82,000 in student loans in just FIVE YEARS.

Not 30.


Regarding money, for the first time in our marriage we were in agreement and had hope. There was a glimmer of light at the end of that long, dark tunnel.

In just five months we paid off all my student loans.  At the previous rate we were going, that would have taken us six years!

We were able to do this by simply reallocating our money.


  • pulled out money from our savings account to pay it down
  • stopped saving for our kids’ college
  • reduced our retirement contributions
  • got cheaper car insurance
  • started paying cash for groceries
  • rarely dined out or shopped for new clothes
  • started making my own laundry detergent and other cleaners.
  • You guys, we even cut the cable {I thought my sports-loving husband would willingly have himself castrated before ever giving up ESPN—so you know he meant business}

After paying off my loans, we started throwing all that extra money toward Randy’s.  Even though the debt snowball helped us gain major momentum, we still felt a heavy burden. There is a reason the Bible says, “The borrower is slave to the lender” (Proverbs 22:7). Our financial adviser was wrong.  There is NO such thing as “good debt.”  I don’t care if we get a tax exemption or not.

We needed to get this paid off ASAP.  The only way this was possible was to start making more money and get even more intense.  In addition to teaching, I started supervising more detentions and ACT tests on Saturday mornings; Randy gave plasma and worked on friends’ cars.  Then in January of 2014, I launched my teeny tiny cake pop business called Bondbons, and Randy started Promise Painting & Contracting, LLC in February of 2015. Just about every bit of our net income from our businesses goes to the student loans.

To everyone who has ever purchased a bondbon or hired my husband to paint—you are helping us chip away at these chains that have us in financial bondage—for that, we are eternally grateful.

By the end of 2014, we got the debt down to $60,000 {$22,000 in just 16 months}.  I looked at Randy and said, “I want that to be $30,000 by the end of 2015 and $0 by the end of 2016,” and he said, “Okay.  I will work even harder.”

Mathematically, it’s not possible at our current rate, but I have faith we will meet this goal.

When we first started this journey, I had an inner battle.  Before FPU I had been convicted about giving.  I’ve tithed since I was a little girl {and we still faithfully tithe now}, but I wanted to do more in terms of both time and money.  Something I struggled with is the fact that I am putting forth so much time, energy, and money toward this debt—it’s depleting me of my resources.

Debt is paralyzing.  It keeps you from investing in a better life for you and your family.  It hinders you from being generous—outrageously generous.  I want to volunteer more at my church, serve the homeless, and go on missions trips. My ultimate goal is to live on half my income someday and give the other half away.

Debt takes all that away from me.  Sure, I could do a little of those here and there, but if I got over this debt-hurdle in just a few short years, just think of all the freedom I would gain for the rest of my life!  I would have my time, energy, and money back to give above and beyond in the name of Jesus.

Let’s do a little math again.

Above I explained that if we paid just the minimum payment of $400/month toward the student loan debt, it would take us 30 years and we’d end up paying $144,000.  

What if we could take that $400/month and invest it instead?  Over the course of 30 years, $400/month in a growth stock mutual fund at 8% compound interest would turn into $547,784—almost four times in the opposite direction.

Getting out of debt and following Dave Ramsey’s 7 Baby Steps isn’t about becoming wealthy and living a life of leisure.  Being debt-free means my kids can go to college and we can retire.  Being debt-free means we can explore God’s creation {travel} and work less.  Most importantly, being debt-free means we can give generously.  We can feed and clothe the homeless, build wells, and care for orphans above and beyond what we could ever do now.

That is why Randy and I each put in 70-80 hour work weeks and still drive old cars.  That is why I roll cake balls until my hands feel like they are stricken with arthritis and why I get up early on Saturday mornings.  That is why I run on five hours of sleep a night, wear old clothes, and eat Ramen noodles like a poor college student.  That is why I blog and share not only this story but all the everythings with you.

This intense debt-free journey, too, shall pass.

Click here to see our current progress.


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