I’m Stitchin’

For those that know me well, you know that I am not a fashionista by any means. I’m the girl in college who had enough hoodies, jeans, and sweatpants to get me through two weeks of classes before having to do laundry. I’m queen of the pony-tail, tee-shirt, and nike ensemble. In the last five years I’ve also added mommy-yoga-pant uniform to my repertoire as well. Shopping is something I love to do, but buying smart items that actually go together with the other pieces of clothing in my closet is something that I SUCK at doing. I have ZERO fashion sense. And I end up blowing tons of money on items that do nothing to complete my wardrobe.

I’ve finally gotten to my post-baby goal weight, I’m feeling great – sleep deprived – but great, and I’m ready to step up my style a notch. I don’t have a huge budget, so don’t expect to see haute couture up in here. We’re talking an Old Navy, Target, and Ann Taylor LOFT outlet kind of budget. However, I am also willing to pay a little more money for quality items that I can wear in a variety of ways. This my lovelies, is why I’m trying out Stitch Fix. Have you heard of it? I’ve been eyeing it for the last year as I sat on the couch hugely pregnant, dreaming of my post-pregnancy bod.

Haven’t heard of it? Let me tell ya about it! Stitch Fix is a personal styling experience. It’s twenty dollars up front for a styling fee, but you get to take that amount off of what you keep. If you keep all of the items then you’ll get 25% off of your purchase. You can also get it on demand, monthly, or every few months. You do NOT have to make a monetary commitment to use it until you actually schedule your Stitch Fix to be delivered.

If you go to the Stitch Fix website and sign up, you will fill out your style profile where they ask about your sizes, style preferences, what you like to flaunt and what you like hide, and how you like your clothing to fit (this part is totally free). You also get two opportunities to tell your stylist about what you are looking for in your fix and to tell them more about yourself. For example, in my latest fix, I asked my stylist, Melissa, for fun printed tops to transition into spring, white jeans, and a longer necklace. I’m including my preview pictures and I am so excited for them to arrive next week! OH! And your stylist stays the same, unless you ask for a different one, so they really get to know you and what you like or dislike.stitchfix2

Stitch Fix will send you five items that your stylist picks for you. (My five for March are right above) Try them on. Style them. Decide what you want to keep and what you want to send back within three days in the prepaid bag. You only pay for what you keep and your $20 styling fee is subtracted from that, or 25% and $20 off if you keep it all.

I didn’t get to take pics of everything that was sent in my first fix, but I ended up keeping two out of the five items. A pair of dark skinny jeans and a coral colored cardigan. I liked all of the items sent, but they just didn’t fit the way I had hoped they would. You can see the style guide insert of what they sent to me and how I could possibly style the pieces – a great tool for the fashion challenged gal that I am!first-fix

If you are looking for a different shopping experience or just don’t have time to get out there and shop because you are a full-time working mom, or you just don’t like shopping, you should give this a try. Click on the Stitch Fix Link below and fill out your style profile and schedule your first fix! I do get a $25 dollar credit for referring you, so thank you a bunch if you do decide to try it out.

Sign up for your first fix by clicking HERE!

If you have questions, feel free to comment and ask away! I don’t have a ton of experience with the service yet, but from what I’ve experienced so far, I’m impressed!

Stay tuned for my post next week about how my March Stitch Fix turns out with actual pictures of me wearing the clothes – whether they look awful or not!

A Swaddling Situation

I swear something happens to children and their sleep at four months that makes you feel like you live in a circus. A circus that performs at night. All night. I think swaddling is to blame, or at least I’m blaming it on the swaddle.

Little Luke has gotten too big for his swaddling apparatus, so he’s become quite the Houdini at night. And it’s seriously crazy how much that swaddle messes with his sleep and mine! He does great for the first four hours of sleep, and then apparently it is escape time. I am PRAYING that Amazon Prime comes through for me and his new arm flailing security sack is on my doorstep when I come home from work.

Here is how last night went – I hope to NEVER repeat it again!

11:30 – I hear the sound of a rustling baby on the monitor, so before he can fully wake up I jump out of bed and hurry to his room, quietly open his door and sneak in to settle his flailing arms into his swaddle sack. Plug him back up with his paci and thank the Lord he didn’t wake up too much.

12:38 – He goes from sleeping to wailing. Again, I roll out of bed, walk across the house and re-swaddle and the paci is gone. Nowhere to be found. So, I feed the kid. I replace the MIA pacifier. Get it out of the way now so hopefully after this feeding I can sleep until 4:30am. He eats, we cuddle, life is so sweet and precious with his baby snuggles and sounds. He is happily swaddled by 1:15 and life is good.

2:38 – CRYING out of nowhere. I roll over and listen, surely he’ll just fall back asleep, he doesn’t need the swaddle. He has to learn how to sleep without it, right? No such luck, I go in and this time his swaddle thing is completely off of him. So, I wrangle him back into it and go to find the paci. DANG IT. I forgot it disappeared. So now I’m army crawling around the nursery looking for it. Under the crib, in front, behind, across the room, in the middle of the room, under the dresser. I’m on my hands and knees looking EVERYWHERE. Nope. Nowhere to be found. This means I need to hunt down another one that goes to daycare and is on one of those tether things. I have no contacts or glasses on and it’s pitch black as I attempt to get the paci off the tether and into the room with the screaming baby. I get back and he’s already unswaddled himself, so I give him the paci, and re-swaddle him TIGHT. He is not going anywhere! And I get to bed. SIGH.

5 minutes later – I can’t sleep. I think I swaddled him too tightly. Did I swaddle him so tight he’s going to stop breathing? No. No. He’s fine. But I don’t hear him over the monitor. What if he can’t breathe? UGH! (please tell me I’m not the only mom who worries about this!) Up again to check on the swaddle to make sure he’s not being squeezed to death. He’s fine. The swaddle isn’t too tight, in fact it was almost off of him. He was sleeping soundly. I love when I overreact – at almost 3am!

3:40 – And he’s crying. AGAIN. This time I go in and he’s scooted himself all the way up to the top corner of the crib and ramming his head into the crib because he can’t move up any further. I repeat all the above actions, EXCEPT the paci. This one is gone, too. FOR REAL? What is this kid doing with the pacifiers in this household!?! I’m back to army crawling around the crib to find the dang thing. Luckily he knocked this one just under the crib. But he wanted nothing to do with it. So, human pacifier I became again. But now he’s super snotty and stuffed up and pissed off because he can’t breathe. Nose Frieda here we come. Let’s piss off baby a little more at 3:45 in the morning as I suck the snot out of him. At least he can breathe fine afterwards.

After feeding for the second time. I. Am. Done. No swaddle, in the rock n’ play, in my room. Hopefully I get an hour more of sleep before I need to get up at 5AM.

Thankfully, I did sleep, but 5am came too soon. And Matthew came in at 5:01, right after I told my husband I was going to sleep for just 15 more minutes. Matthew wanted to come “sleep” with me in my bed – which really means can he come in bed and poke me and roll around. Four year olds, seriously.

After last night’s circus, this momma drove to Starbucks for a venti skinny vanilla and headed to work. Made her oatmeal and then spilled it all over herself and the floor. Just great. Thank goodness it is Friday, because I plan to go home and get in my bed, put on Netflix, and NEVER leave…at least until my boys get home and need dinner, my boob, and to play.

Momming. A one woman circus!

Oh, and the paci that disappeared. It was in the book basket right next to his crib. Right under my nose the ENTIRE time.

Run Katie Run

For years I’ve envisioned myself as a superstar runner in a slimming spandex ensemble beautifully running on a wooded path. However, the reality is completely opposite. I have no spandex ensemble and up until just recently I couldn’t even run a mile, let alone gracefully, on a wooded path. I’m not sure that will EVER happen, but it’s okay to dream right?

I’m not sure what this second pregnancy did to me and my threshold for pain, but after having Luke, I decided to run while I was on a walk clearing my head of the chaos that parenting two children has become. I don’t know how far I ran or how fast, but I ran – more like a combination of a walk-jog. All the post-partum gloriousness of leaky boobs and bouncy belly skin sloshing along as I ran, but I did it and I felt free. It’s been awhile since I felt like nothing was weighing me down. When I’ve tried to run in the past, I always quit about a half mile in because I hated the heaviness in my legs and the feel of not being able to breathe in my chest. But my attempts to run after this baby has been different and I’m going to keep going.

My recovery after Luke was awful. My c-section did not go smoothly (which is another story for a different day) and as a result, my recovery was very painful. Even though it was pain like I had never felt before, it made me really understand what physical pain really felt like. Now, when I do a hard workout or run, I have a new frame of reference when I start feeling like I can’t go any further. I’m more capable of pushing through and not giving up when it gets hard – because I now know what HARD is. Pushing my body to be better, healthier, is not hard by any means.

Now that I have multiple children I feel like my mind is that ride at a fair called the scrambler. It pushes and pulls you in every possible direction. My mind never seems to shut off, even when I’ve been up all night nursing my babe, and all my body and soul wants to do is sleep. Exercise in particular has helped this mind scrambling to shut off. On days when I don’t run or exercise, my mind races and races. Running though, it almost feels like meditation to me. I have one goal to accomplish, unlike with a bootcamp/exercise class where I have to focus on the task at hand, and it gives me the time to sort out my thoughts as I trot like donkey through the neighborhood…because nothing about me right now is graceful!

In the past, I “tried” to implement some type of running into my life because in my mind it was a quick way to lose weight. Now that I’m 32 and have attempted to lose weight multiple times, and only doing it successfully once, there is no quick way to lose weight. And running ain’t easy. Needless to say, my attempts at running didn’t last longer than running to the top of my street and walking the rest of the way. I did so much wrong every time I started to run, that I quit before I even got ahead.

This time though, I have a plan. Or will have a plan, because my friend Jen at www.runjen.com is going to coach me through it. She’s like the holy grail of running knowledge and experience, and I am so excited to be working with her to get me on a running routine. I met Jen when Adam and I lived in Greensboro, NC. Our husbands worked together and we became fast friends!

My current running plan has been to lace up my Nike’s, pop in my earbuds, turn on my fitbit and just see what happens. Which is probably setting myself up for failure – like ever other time I ran, except this time I don’t care about losing weight and I can handle the pain of the run. I’m currently able to run two miles. Woop woop! Not far for some, or really far for others. Right now it’s just right for me, because it’s still pretty challenging for me to do. However, I would like to actually know what I’m doing and have a goal. I’m running a 5K at the end of March, so we’ll see what progress the next four weeks of running brings so I don’t completely kill myself when I set out for that run.

As of now, this is what I know. Jen is making me a 12-week plan of awesomeness. I trust her to challenge me and help me through this because I know I’m good at quitting and she won’t let me. I’m not going to quit this time. Why? Because my mommy-sanity needs the time to clear my head of the bat-shit crazy feelings I have balancing all aspects of my life. 

I’m going to keep y’all updated about how this new adventure in fitness goes! I’m sure it’ll be interesting to say the least.

Hope

Four years ago, the doctors told us that getting pregnant wouldn’t happen without IVF. By the grace of God, it did happen for us without fertility, and there is not a day that goes by that I do not count my blessings for our sweet boy. I know that he was a miracle; a true gift.

Over the last three years I’ve been immersed in motherhood and forgotten what it is like to be in the middle of trying to get pregnant. However, I haven’t forgotten the stats the doctors provided us when we tried to get pregnant the first time – the awful “you won’t get pregnant without medical intervention stats.” I kind of forgot what the hollowness and loneliness of infertility felt like.

I vowed to myself that when we started to try again I wouldn’t become OBSESSED. I would not print out ovulation charts and track my temperatures every day. I would not spend a fortune on ovulation predictor tests. I would not take multiple tests when I wasn’t even more than a day late in my cycle. And most importantly I would not be upset when the tests weren’t positive, because really, they weren’t going to be – no need to get my hopes up, right?

Now that I’m back on the baby-making train all those vows seem to be forgotten and my mind becomes consumed with fertility windows, ovulation predictor kits, stalking my cycle app to be sure that I really did in fact miss a period or that we really did do the horizontal tango on the correct days, OH and inventing symptoms that may or may not be pregnancy related (I’m really good at being a pregnancy hypochondriac). I am more tired than normal, right? Hell, I’m always tired with a toddler who wakes up at 4 AM, who am I trying to kid?

I don’t want to be in this place where I become completely irrational and my mind becomes consumed with pregnancy and what it takes to become pregnant – I know that frame of mind only brings on stress and depression. But I’m going to be honest here, I don’t know how to NOT become consumed with it. I don’t know how to not think about cycles, and symptoms, and googling false negative pregnancy test statistics. I’m at a loss of how to maintain my sanity while praying, wishing, and trying to have another child.

I don’t know how to let go of HOPE. I’m not sure any woman who deals with infertility does.

I’m staying optimistic for the next few years that God will bless us with another little one – hopefully it doesn’t take that long. I’m going to try my best to stay rational and enjoy the “process” (wink, wink) and focus on my marriage and raising my sweet Mr. Cheeks, but I know it won’t be easy. I know there will be days that I just want to curl up into fetal position and cry my eyes out. I guess it’s all just a part of the process, right?

 

 

 

 

January Budget – KILLED IT!

Budgeting is a lot like losing weight. It takes consistency, planning, mental will power, and accountability. It’s also very similar because once you design the plan and are pumped about that plan, you’ve got to stick to it to be successful.

In all honesty, my first month of living on our budget was an epic failure. Mostly because it was November, and with Christmas coming up and a week-long visit to Ohio, we were hemorrhaging money it seemed. We went over in just about every category.

Month two of this budgeting journey was December. We had the plan in place, but being the holidays, we definitely had quite a bit of extras to deal with that month as well. We didn’t do horribly. We saved some money, but didn’t maximize our saving potential, which is what we need to be doing since we’re building a house.

But January though, hot DAMN did we kill it! The thing about a family budget that is definitely different than losing weight is that you HAVE to be accountable to someone. If I overspend selfishly, it has an impact on my entire family, not just me. If I eat 5 pieces of pizza, that’s all on me and my expanding waist-line.

We still have room to improve. We definitely went over in some of the categories like groceries and miscellaneous expenses, so for February we really need to come up with some better ways to save money at the grocery store and really hone in on our needs vs. wants, because the unnecessary spending falls into the miscellaneous category. We aced eating out this month with $50 bucks left out of $200. GO US!

What I wanted to share with y’all today is some of the tools that I used to get started on my budgeting kick. I had the mental and motivational aspect covered after I realized how my lack of self control with spending was negatively impacting my marriage and family, but I needed to start learning how to budget. I was CLUELESS.

First, I started reading some personal blogs of others who started their own personal budgeting journey. My two favorites are Our Freaking Budget and Money Peach. I like how they write, and they are just like you and me, in debt or doing something that is negatively impacting their finances and they had to change things up.

Educating yourself is key. I also have read Dave Ramsay in the past and really love his philosophy on money. I’m always trying to read about something financial daily. There is just so much to learn! So, I challenge you to read up!

Next, I started using mint.com. I signed up the accounts we exclusively use for spending which is just our one credit card and our bank account. Once those were loaded, I thought about the categories we needed to put into place to keep ourselves on track. My best recommendation is to keep these categories as simple as can be. What works for us might not work for you, but here are our categories:

  1. Mortgage/Rent: we don’t have a mortgage as of now, but we pay rent and have a storage unit. I lumped those two together.
  2. Auto & Transport: Anything to do with our cars goes here.
  3. Food & Dining: Groceries
  4. Food & Dining: Eating out: I separated these two categories because I know we have an eating out problem, so I wanted to be EXTREMELY aware of how much we were eating outside of the home. This included Starbucks runs as well – which I’ve pretty much cut out of my life. Making coffee at home is just more economical.
  5. Bills and Utilities: all our bills (cable, cell phone, electric, gas, etc.)
  6. Financial: this category is for my student loan payments and supplemental insurance payments (life, cancer, etc.)
  7. Babysitter & Daycare: Two more years of maxing out this payment category (unless God blesses us with another kiddo) and we can free up some money to go elsewhere.
  8. Cash & ATM withdrawals: This was another hole in our budget. We were withdrawing cash and it was just like disappearing money. I don’t log in and account for what I use cash on, so I made it a category. We’ve tightened up here a lot!
  9. Miscellaneous Expenses: dog food, personal purchases, shopping, anything that doesn’t fall into any of the categories above.

My goal when setting up the budget is for us to save between $1,000 to $1,500 a month. I say we KILLED it this month because we ended up saving about $1,700. Much more than I had anticipated.

The thing is my friends, if I can do this budgeting business, you can too. I grew up with little to no financial responsibility. I never had to be accountable to anyone about money until I married Mr. ShuTown; who grew up with a lot of lessons on how to spend and save money. And even after marrying him, I was a financial failure. If I had to survive on my own after college, I am 100% certain that I would’ve dug myself into a debt hole that I could not have found my way out of. So thankful that wasn’t the case.

Start making a budget now, so you can set yourself or your family up for future success. It’s not just about putting money in the bank now either, it’s about getting it together so you can RETIRE. I’ll be doing a retirement post in the future, because that is a whole different ball game that I am still wrapping my head around!

Feel free to share your financial struggles with me. I would love to hear how you are inspired to change, or if you just flat out have no CLUE where to start.

 

 

 

Hands Free

I like to take Mr. Cheeks to the park around the corner from where we live. It’s an awesome park that has LOTS of shade, and if you’ve ever lived in the south in August you’ll know that shade is essential for survival. I forgot to bring my phone with me, so I had more time to be present and observant while at the park. I’m so glad I forgot my phone that day, because as I enjoyed playing with and watching my son play, I also saw how many parents were sitting on benches playing games on their phones. Or parents who were standing and “supervising” while doing something mindless extremely important on their phones. There was even a parent there that was so focused on their phone that they didn’t even see their child leave the playground area and run into the parking lot. Not one parent there, except me at the time, was REALLY in the moment enjoying the beautiful day at the park with their babes. It was so sad. This was a HUGE wakeup call for me, because had I had my phone, I would’ve been sucked into the social media/technology world and only semi-watching my child.

The other day while I was washing dishes a thought popped into my head. I wonder how many marriages would be saved, or how many more people would be more satisfied in their marriages if there was no technology in the house. Back before television, cell phones, tablets, and gaming consoles, what did married couples do to fill their hours after work and on weekends? Most likely they were able to have deep conversation about life, world events, family matters, etc. They had time to go for walks, sip a glass of wine together, cook dinner together, and enjoy one another’s company. And this is a crazy thought y’all, they probably even had more sex! EEEK! I know that Mr. ShuTown and I definitely don’t have as much meaningful conversation as we normally would, and should, if we didn’t have a television and cell phone to keep us occupied, and we aren’t even THAT plugged in. I thought it was a pretty interesting thought to ponder.

Do you ever find yourself stressed out because your calendar is overbooked with playdates, community events, volunteer hours, or appointments?

Do you ever find yourself missing quality time with your family because there is a pile of dishes in your sink, or loads of laundry that need to be folded, or you just HAVE to mop the floor before you sit down?

Do you find yourself hearing the notifications ping on your phone and stopping what you are doing so you can check what they are for, and then find yourself still checking 10 minutes later?

Do you find that your children want to spend more time watching tv, or playing on a tablet than coloring, playing with their toys, or playing outside? And you let them because you’re just too damn exhausted to care at this point?

Do you ever find yourself feeling anxious about all there is that you need to get done in the day and that there is just no possible way that you can make lunches, finish that pinterest project, keep your house clean, and even make sure that you’ve showered as well?

I find myself feeling all of the above and more!

One of the reasons I began this blog is to document how I’m making steps to bring more overall happiness into my life and the life of those in my family. And maybe some of what I’m doing will inspire you to make some changes, too. Happiness is a bit vague I realize, so my goal is to feel more daily joy, not to miss out on those moments in life that I’ll look back on when I’m dying and be proud of.

My number one goal is to invest my time, focus, energy and love in TODAY.

Perfection is not what I’m striving for. In fact, I’m striving for the complete opposite. Life is messy and full of imperfections, and I want to spend more of my time being caught up in the HOT MESS of ShuTown. The laundry that is still in the dryer (since Sunday, and will probably stay there until the weekend) because I’ve chosen to spend my time bundled up in the cold playing paw patrol in the yard, or putting minion stickers on construction paper – that’s the kind of messy I’m talking about. I’m talking about my time being spent doing activities that add value to me, to my son, and to my husband.

Just from what I shared at the beginning of this blog, I can see how being always plugged in, or being focused on all of the to-do lists, chores, and commitments is having a negative impact on our lives. I never want to feel like I’ve put more focus on the technology world than my own real-life world, or to have my son say that he remembers going to the playground a lot, but mommy spent more time on her phone instead of going down the slide with him. Or hear him say that he wishes I would’ve spent more quality time with him. I also don’t want to miss daily conversation with my husband, because that is what initially made me fall in love with him – our ability to talk to one another about anything for hours upon hours.

For the next week or longer (hopefully much longer), I’m trying something CRAZY. I’m going to drastically cut back from being PLUGGED in to my cell phone, and television, so I can be more present in the TODAY of my life. I’m going HANDS FREE. I’m not cutting it out altogether, because that is pretty unrealistic, but I’m cutting it out in ways that will allow me to focus on more quality time with my family and more personal time reading books, walking our pup, exercising, and hey, maybe I’ll even take up some form of crafting! So here is my plan:

  • No Facebook or Instagram from the time I get home until after Mr. Cheeks goes to bed. Currently, I find myself sitting on the couch snuggling with my little guy, but craning my neck around him to scroll through news feeds. No more of that! This will allow me to really be tuned in to conversation with my son. Even if he is watching a show, we could be talking about what is happening in the show together. More than likely though, I’ll be on the floor playing hot wheels, or being a human bridge for the hot wheels to drive over.
  • After the babe is in bed, no more than 15 minutes catching up on those social media news feeds. After bedtime duty has expired, I usually veg out on the couch scrolling through news feeds, while Mr. ShuTown mindlessly flips through television channels. Obviously we are REAL exciting in our down time. Or, if we’re watching a television show, I’ll be semi-tuned in to the show AND plugged in to my technology. No more of that! In fact, I’d love for less television to happen as well, but if I’m paying for the damn stuff, I’m going to use it. (This is an expense in our budget that I’d be more than happy to kick to the curb!) Making this change will enable the hubs and I to really listen to one another as we talk, and might actually make us feel more rested in the morning since we’ll probably go to bed earlier!
  • No cell phone plugged in next to my bed. I don’t use my phone as an alarm clock, and I keep it on silent all night. I plug it in and proceed to news feed scroll (UGH this is awful how much time I am wasting!) before I go to bed, and end up being up later than necessary, because I MUST read before I go to bed. So, making this change will give me the chance to read more, and not mess up my sleep by having cell phone light blasting into my eyes – lots of studies report that the light from cell phones can really have a negative impact on your sleep.

I may find some more ways to unplug, and if I do, I’ll share. But, I challenge you to find some ways to spend more time being PRESENT in your life, with your children, with your spouses or significant others. Watch more sunsets, build more snowmen with your kids this winter, have a glass of wine and conversation on the couch with your husband, wife or close friend without televisions on or cell phones nearby to distract you from those special moments.

I’m going to close this post with a Hands Free Pledge that I read in a book called Hands Free Mama that has inspired me to make some of these changes.

The Hands Free Pledge

I’m becoming Hands Free.

I want to make memories, not to-do lists.

I want to feel the squeeze of my child’s arms, not the pressure of over-commitment

I want to get lost in conversation with the people I love, not consumed by a sea of

unimportant emails.

I want to be overwhelmed by sunsets that give me hope, not by overloaded

agendas that steal my joy.

I want the noise of my life to be a mixture of laughter and gratitude, not the

intrusive buzz of cell phones and text messages.

I’m letting go of distraction, disconnection, and perfection to live a life that simply,

so very simply, consists of what really matters.

I’m becoming Hands Free.

– Hands Free Mama, Rachel Macy Stafford.

 

 

Why go broke for Christmas?

It’s January. Our wallets are empty from Christmas and we’re desperately trying to maintain whatever new year resolution(s) we’ve set it place so we can make 2016 the best year yet. Have you stuck to your goals or already fallen off the wagon?

But let’s go back to those wallets that need to be replenished and talk about why we feel the need to go broke during December and over spend on presents.

As Mr. ShuTown and I wrapped our son’s presents this year we looked at them and then at each other and questioned whether we bought him enough. Looking at the minimal presents that were going to be under the tree made us feel as though we were cheating him out of gifts. He’s three! Of course we bought him enough! He is just beginning to understand what Christmas and his birthday (which falls 8 days before Christmas) is all about. He doesn’t know how much is a lot! We spent MORE than enough money on him, and he’s already forgotten about half of the presents he opened.

My question throughout the holiday season was what will bring our family more happiness in the long run, the stress of going into debt for the sake of opening presents, or creating memories and traditions and spending quality time together? I feel like anyone would answer that one with memories and traditions, yet we still break the bank to flood our living rooms with presents.

Christmas happened after I had my money makeover and I had to remind my husband and myself of what this season was all about and what we wanted to teach our son about the holiday season. We desire to have Mr. Cheeks appreciate the gifts he’s been given, (while we don’t go into debt over it) to remember the traditions we’ve created, and to celebrate the reason for the season – the birth of Jesus Christ.

We don’t want to teach him that we wake up on Christmas Day to find an excess of THINGS we don’t really need. We want to teach him that Christmas time is a time to celebrate Jesus, but is also a time where Santa will bring us a few special things just because and to be thankful for those special gifts.

Growing up, my family was never big on presents. My mother did a phenomenal job of getting us the few presents we REALLY desired, and then filled the rest of her budget with items we needed or that she thoughtfully picked out for us. I remember comparing my Christmas load to my other friends and feeling let down because Santa brought them so many great things, while I just got one or two exciting presents.

What I failed to realize then is that it wasn’t all about the presents; it was about the memories made and the people those memories were made with.

Now as an adult who lives far away from family, I look back and long for the big family get-together on Christmas Eve where time was spent catching up with Aunts and Uncles from far away, and visiting with close family friends that felt like family. I don’t remember the gifts I opened, I remember the happiness I felt being surrounded by those that I love the most.

As Mr. Cheeks grows up and becomes increasingly aware of presents, toys, and possessions, Mr. ShuTown and I plan to keep our giving to what is in our budget, and to fill our son’s holiday memories with exciting traditions and experiences. His memories will last him a lifetime, while the latest Paw Patrol or Blaze the Monster Machine toy will be thrown in a storage tub before the end of the year with all the forgotten toys of years past. That’s the beauty of memories, they last forever and get passed down to future generations.

How does Christmas go for you? Do you break the bank and go all out with presents galore, or do you focus on the special moments and traditions? Will you be changing anything for next year?