Tag Archives: stay at home moms

Soccer Mom Sommelier: The Seven Deadly Zins 2012 Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel

Soccer Mom Sommelier: The Seven Deadly Zins 2012 Zinfandel

This week I was on a mission to revisit types of grapes that I had at some point in my life decided were not to my taste.  One such wine on my dislike list is Zinfandel.  I’ve only ever had a few, and I can’t even remember which specific brands, but for some reason I’ve avoided Zinfandel for years.  It doesn’t really seem fair to write off an entire selection of wines from a few bad experiences, so that is how I found myself at the grocery store recently trying to decide which lucky bottle was going to redeem the entire Zinfandel name for me.

After about fifteen minutes (hubby, knowing my indecisiveness, usually leaves me alone in the wine aisle and continues shopping) had it narrowed down to two bottles.  One appeared serious and “respectable,” the other boasted a cheesy moniker on a faux-burnt label: The Seven Deadly Zins 2012 Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel.  It was so corny looking that it couldn’t be legit– so of course that’s the bottle I picked.  Priced at $12, it wouldn’t be a huge loss if it turned out to indeed be terrible.

An intense ruby, almost blood red color in the glass, it was actually a very attractive wine.  I took a whiff before I tasted any– it smelled pleasant enough.  First sip– “Oh!”  I think I actually said that out loud.  It was full of deep, complex flavors and I really liked it.  Subsequent sips (or gulps) only solidified my happy surprise.  There’s plenty of smooth, jammy fruit: ripe cherries, blackberries, and plums.  There is a dose of warm vanilla and cinnamon, balanced by a hint of the spicy burn of black pepper.  A little earthy leather rounds out the palate.

It is still a bit difficult for me to look past the kitschy bottle and name, and maybe it’s not what you’d give the boss as a meant-to-impress Christmas present.  However, it is a really tasty wine and I would absolutely buy it again to enjoy in my home or to take to the rare, but much-needed “Girls’ Night.”  And really, for $12 you can call it whatever you want as long as it’s good!

Why I Turned Down a Job to be a Stay at Home Mom

Why I Turned Down a Job Today

The original plan was never for me to be a stay at home mom.  When I quit my job in November, I intended to enjoy the holidays at home with my family and immediately begin looking for new employment after New Years.

Within days of resigning, I had an interview lined up already.  It seemed a very promising opportunity.  After a month-long interview process in which I was all but guaranteed the spot, there was a “miscommunication” and I was told they were going to “pass.”  Definitely a bummer, but perhaps a blessing in disguise– I might have ended up working for another shady company.

“Why don’t you just stay home with the kids?  You don’t need to go back to work– we’re doing fine.  It’s been so good for the girls.”  I couldn’t believe my husband was suggesting such an idea.  Work was all I knew.  It was part of my identity.  I’d been a part of the workforce since I was old enough to legally do so.  (Actually, I started much earlier as a groom at the stable where I took lessons in trade for attending horse shows.)

To be honest, it was such a relief to think my world would no longer revolve around someone else’s schedule (except two little girls!)  I had been so happy for the past month– apparently I had been more miserable than I realized at my last job.  It was as if a fog had been lifted and I was truly enjoying life.  I was reluctant to do anything which might jeopardize this newfound happiness.

So I stayed home and resolved to do all the things that had fell by the wayside while I was working full time.  I caught up with the laundry (for a day…then of course it was piled everywhere again, but hey I did it!)  I thoroughly cleaned and reorganized our exercise studio/game room.  I made sure the kitchen was spotless every night before I went to bed– waking up to an empty sink and sparkling counters is an amazing feeling– even I can hardly believe I just said that, but it’s true!  The girls and I took leisurely walks whenever the weather allowed.  Matt and I ran errands on his days off– just enjoying being together as a family.  I re-dedicated myself to my writing.  Work had sucked my energy to where I was literally just surviving every day.  Now I was actually living.

This went on for a few months and our family settled into a comfortable routine.  Then I got a call from a former work colleague.  She too had left the company I worked for last due to the negative environment.  Now she was asking if I would like to come meet the owner of the new spot she had gone to– they were looking for someone with my experience and she thought I would be a great fit.

Panic set in.  Things were going so well at home, was it worth it to rock the boat?  Annabelle still had a couple months before we could start weaning– I couldn’t bear the thought of dusting off the dreaded pump.  Would I still have time for my writing?  That was my “me” time– I looked forward to it every day.  Did I even want to go to work outside the home?  Was I lazy or selfish for even having these feelings?

“So don’t do it.”  Hubby said matter-of-factly.  “You don’t have to.”  He sees the world very black and white.  It’s easy for him to make decisions without getting emotional.  If only it were that easy for me! I decided to at least go in for a meeting and see exactly what the position entailed.  I was flattered that my friend had suggested me and felt I owed her that much.  I figured that it would be at least 40 hours plus some nights (as most event jobs are) and that I would simply be unable to meet those demands.  But at least I would have “tried” and given the opportunity a fair listen before politely declining.

Fast forward a few days and I’m sitting in front of one of Houston’s culinary greats.  He is an imposing physical presence, but at the same time very warm and easy to talk to.  “So what schedule would work for you?  Do you need to leave by 2?  Can you be here at 9?  Family is important to me, so I understand your situation.”  Well this was not what I expected.  Here he was asking me what would be my ideal schedule.  He was so willing to work with me that I wanted to take the job for that reason alone.

I had anticipated an easy out– a schedule to which I would be unable to commit.  Instead I had an offer on the table for a part time job with hours that were tailored to me.  The pay wasn’t great, but what part time job would be able to compete financially with the salary and commission I pulled before?  Plus I could probably learn a lot from someone so knowledgable in the industry.

Hubby was less than excited.  “It’s not that much money.  It’s not really worth it.”  At first I was frustrated– he wasn’t even listening to the positive aspects!  “If you really want to do it, we’ll make it work,” he assured me. “But I love having you home.  And what about your writing?  You won’t have as much time.”

He was trying to be supportive, but I could see that he did not want me to accept.  Could I blame him?  Sure, the part-time schedule worked great for me, but what about him?  As a night manager he often doesn’t even get home until 4am.  If I was leaving at 8am every morning, it meant he would get an absurdly little amount of sleep.  No one could function on 3-4 hours of rest every single day.  It really would be asking him to make a huge sacrifice– for what amounted to only a couple hundred extra bucks a week.

I agonized (probably more than I should have) over the decision for two days.  However, when I thought about what was best for our family as a whole, it is for me to be exactly where I am at the moment.  It still didn’t make it any easier for me to write a letter of regret turning down the job.  To accept that for the time being I am not the prime breadwinner.  To let go (at least temporarily) the part of me that sees myself as a working woman and embrace this new identity as a stay at home mom.

That is what I am right now, but that is not ALL that I am.  I am a writer.  I am a counselor to family and friends who come to me for career advice (I was there for over 15 years!)  I am a motivator to those that need a little extra encouragement to make a positive change in their lives or pursue a dream (leaving a fairly lucrative career to stay home and commit to my writing was a risk, but it is my dream).  I am the backbone of our family– keeping home and finances in order.  I am molding two little girls into strong and intelligent little ladies.

Typing it out and owning it is such an empowering feeling.  If writing is not your thing, I encourage you to say it out loud mamas!  Often when we make the choice to stay home, we often lose a little bit of ourselves and our identity as an independent woman.  But it is still there inside– your assets and gifts that you offer the world, whether it be from an office or your house.  Remember your strengths and your passions and know that you are still as important, if not more so now, than you were before!

I do feel truly blessed that I am able to have this time with my family and my girls, though it was not without sacrifice–read about the one lifestyle change that we made which allowed me to be a stay at home mom.

My experiment trying couponing to see if coupons can really save our family money on groceries.

My Couponing Experiment

A couple weeks ago I wrote about the lifestyle change our family made which allowed me to be a stay at home mom: meal planning.  The response was overwhelming– so many fellow moms let me know (through my site, BlogHer profile, Pinterest) that our savings inspired them, or offered tips for saving even more.  Over and over I was told: try couponing! 

I’ve never really bothered with couponing– of course I’ve seen the shows with extreme examples of grocery shopping trips that end up being free, but in real life, it seemed like a lot of work for what would likely only amount to a couple bucks savings.  However, hearing that so many of you have had great success with coupons, my curiosity was piqued.  So I decided to do an experiment to find out if couponing really would save us money.

Here are the “rules:”

  1. We would continue to shop at the same stores as before.
  2. We would continue to buy the same products as always.
  3. We would not buy items we do not normally use or need just because they were free or cheap.

Easy enough!

My first step was to go to the website for the grocery store we generally patronize.  I followed a link to the coupon site with whom they are partnered.  The coupons listed were mainly for toiletries, household cleaning items, and packaged foods.  Still, I was able to “clip” quite a few for items we need (or will need before the expiration date next month.)  I divided them into two categories: ones we would use during our next shopping trip, and those that we could use in the near future.  Labeled envelopes will make it easy to keep track:

cutting coupons organizing coupons

Next, I printed the store’s weekly ad.  I went through and circled items we buy frequently that were marked down to a special price.  There were a few that could be combined with coupons I had printed for extra savings.  This particular store offers a lot of buy-one, get-one deals, but most of these are for processed food we don’t eat and therefore won’t be of use.

print weekly ad for grocery savings print weekly ad for grocery savings

The last step will be to go through hubby’s shopping list (which he usually does on Sunday evenings) and note which items have a coupon or are on special in the weekly ad.  Since coupons for next week’s trip will also be ready at hand in the “Now” envelope, hopefully this will be a foolproof system.

Last week’s shopping bill was $200 exactly (plus a few cents), and we didn’t make any unusual purchases.  This will make it easy to see just how much can be saved from doing nothing but buying what we need, to adding coupons to our program.  I’ll stick with the experiment for a month (longer if it is found to be worthwhile!) to be able to note spending and saving patterns.

Stay tuned for next week’s update, and feel free to let me know if you have any suggestions for other places to find coupons or savings– after all, I’m a true couponing rookie!

The one lifestyle change that allowed me to be a stay at home mom

The One Lifestyle Change That Allowed Me to be a Stay at Home Mom

As a member of mommy support groups, I frequently see the question posed: how can I afford to be a stay at home mom?  I’ve been a working mom, so I get it that some of us crave “adult time” and enjoy career accomplishments.  But I also know what a crappy feeling it is to leave your kids in the care of someone else all day.  Ultimately, I made the choice to leave the corporate world, and I wanted to share the one lifestyle change that made it possible.

This past November, I quit my job.  The plan was for me to enjoy the holidays with my family and start the search for a better employer in the new year.  I did that, and things went so wonderfully that hubby and I decided it would be best for our family (and my health) if I stayed home indefinitely.  There was just one problem– we were cutting our income in half.

While I was working, I always stressed about money.  Even with two solid paychecks, it never felt like enough.  How would we be able to make it on just my husband’s income?

Aside from monthly non-negotiables (housing, utilities, insurance), there was one expense that dwarfed them all. Once we seriously reevaluated our spending in this area, it freed up a huge chunk of our budget.  I’ll give you a hint: it wasn’t our cable bill.

It was FOOD.  Hubby has always loved to cook, and did so on a regular basis.  However, we never planned out meals for the week.  As a result, we were forced to pop in to the grocery store on multiple occasions throughout the week for whatever he decided to fix on a whim, or pick up take-out when we were short on time.

It seems hard to believe that food could have such an impact on the budget, so to prove it, I’ll show you what we used to spend:

$240 – We made at least 3 grocery trips every week, spending about $80 each time.  Going to the grocery store without a list means you’re likely to forget items and end up having to return later.  Multiple visits make it easier to succumb to impulse buys, as you are tempted over and over.

$160 – We ordered take-out about four times a week.  Whether for lunch or dinner, with tax and tip it’s about $40 for our family.

$50 – While working, I spent about $10 per day on lunch.

$50 – Hubby also would order out food at work.

Add that up and you get $500 in one week!  That’s $2000 every month — insane!  This doesn’t even take into account any occasions where we would go out to eat in a restaurant.  It was money we spent without even thinking– we had to eat, right?

It was actually hubby’s idea to start weekly meal planning.  Amazingly, a commitment to this one concept was the key to a budget that worked.

On Sunday evenings, hubby and I sit down and talk about what we’d like to eat for dinner each night.  To make it easier, we’ve designated days such as “Salmon Mondays,” so all we have to decide is sauce and sides.  Other days, hubby might have a new recipe he wants to sample.  When the week’s menu is determined, we make the grocery list so we know exactly what needs to be bought.

Having everything figured out in advance allows us to only have to grocery shop one time.  We go in with a plan and don’t end up buying things that aren’t on our list.  Impulse buys are a thing of the past.  Since we’ve got a meal for each night of the week, we don’t need to order take-out.  Hubby cooks for an army, so there are always plenty of leftovers for lunch as well.

Here’s a look at our weekly food budget now:

$150-200: One grocery shopping trip for the ingredients needed for dinner every night of the week.

That’s it.  We’ve gone from spending $2000 a month on food to no more than $800.  It’s an incredible change and all it took was setting aside 30 minutes on Sunday night to create a meal plan.  If you think about all the time saved by consolidating grocery trips, it might actually be less time to meal plan than to try to go through the week without one.

Of course, we’ve made other adjustments to our lifestyle since I left my job, but none as significant as the meal plan.  Maybe it sounds overwhelming to cook every single night, but just look at how much money you can save (for us it was $1200 a month!)  An added bonus is that when you cook your own dinners, you know exactly what you’re getting– it’s healthier!

Even if you don’t aspire to be a stay at home mom, you could put an extra thousand dollars in the bank every month.  That’s a weekend vacation!  If you take a realistic look at what you’re spending on food, you might find that you don’t want to “eat up” a large portion your income any more.

you know you're a mom when

You KNOW You’re a MOM When…

The end table is just out of reach, and the closest best place to set your coffee when writing is the “Cheerio holder” on the baby’s bouncy chair.

It’s as if it was made for this purpose…

Why I Am Proud to Say I Wear Mom Jeans

While browsing Pinterest a couple days ago, I came across a pin that blared “Gap and Old Navy Make MOM Jeans!!”  Intrigued, I clicked through to the original blog post.  The writer had apparently done lots of “research,” trying on numerous pairs of jeans from Gap and Old Navy, photographing herself wearing them, and comparing the results to those of her backside in various luxury denim labels.

Do your jeans qualify as "mom jeans?"

As I read the entire story, I found myself irritated, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on why.  It was a very popular pin.  Scores of women had commented about how funny it was.  The author professed that she was trying to free others “from the noose” of mom jeans.  No red-blooded young woman wants to be caught dead in the tapered monstrosities that our moms rocked in the 90s.  But is this a fair comparison?

At first I decided to simply let it go.  Who cares what some random chick in cyberspace thinks about fashion.  But I couldn’t stop thinking about that article.  I wear Gap jeans.  And I was damn proud to finally purchase a pair of “normal” jeans five months after the birth of my first baby.

I assumed that since I was slim before my pregnancy that I would have no trouble getting back into shape.  I heard breastfeeding just melted away the pounds.  Not for me.  An unplanned c-section meant I could hardly walk, let alone exercise for the first eight weeks postpartum.  Consequently, the weight clung to my midsection.  It was a very discouraging experience.

When I was finally cleared for physical activity, I hit it hard.  I worked out six days a week, graduating from walking and light yoga to more intense cardio and weight training.  One day my husband told me it was time to put away the maternity clothes– they were hanging off my butt.  We went to a store that I thought might have something to fit my more mature shape at an affordable price.  I still had some inches to lose, so I figured that I would get a few pairs of pants until I needed to buy smaller ones again a few months down the road.

When I tried on that first pair of size 27 (keep in mind I’m only 5’3″) Gap boot cut jeans and they *gasp* FIT, it was such a rewarding feeling– my hard work and dedication had paid off.  So what if they weren’t the most trendy jeans on the planet–they had a solid waistband and an actual button and to me that was a huge accomplishment.

So when I see some girl’s diatribe against jeans that millions of us moms wear happily, it ticks me off.  Has this girl had a baby?  Has she struggled to lose those stubborn pounds that made it impossible to wear ANY jeans without an elastic waistband? Doubtful, as she likely would have mentioned that in her post.

She recommends that we moms instead shop premium denim brands which offer more flattering cuts and details.  For two hundred dollars a pair they damn sure better make your butt look incredible!  But when I’m simply looking for a couple items to hold me over while I work on the last ten pounds, I’m not going to sink a car payment into each pair of jeans.

I’m not ashamed to shop at Gap, and if that means that I’m now officially dressed in “mom jeans,” so be it.  To wrap things up, I thought I would include some photographic evidence of my own:

momjeans

Guess what — it’s the same pair of jeans.  Gap Jeans.  Amazing what different camera angles and poses will do!  Like the old saying goes: it’s not about what you wear, it’s how you wear it.  “Mom jeans” doesn’t have to mean something bad.  My “mom jeans” are a badge of honor–I know what I went through to get into these jeans.  Many of us sacrificed so much to become a mother, and equally as much to reclaim our womanly figures.

This is the kind of message we should be sharing– one of positivity and support for our fellow ladies and mothers.  Sure, if you have the money and want to buy your True Religion or Seven for All Mankind Jeans there’s nothing wrong with that.  But there’s also nothing wrong with buying what you can afford and what you feel comfortable in.  Fashion is fun, but I vote that we try to care more about the people behind the clothes.

Uggs moccasins

Soccer Mom Style. The Look: Moccasins

Now that I’m just about back to pre-baby size, it’s a little more fun to get dressed.  I’ll admit that most days I’m guilty of the SAHM yoga pants uniform, but when I DO get to venture out into civilization, I try to make myself presentable.  So I thought I would occasionally share some of my must-haves or good pieces I come across.  You can trust me– I was “Best Dressed” of St. Albans High School Class of 2003, after all.

My first installment of Soccer Mom Style features something I didn’t even know I NEEDED until I opened one of my Christmas gifts from hubby: moccasins.  Specifically, these Uggs moccasins.  I LOVE Uggs.  I don’t care if they are “Uggly” (get it? haha…)  To further reassure you in my credibility, I did NOT succumb to the misguided trend of wearing Uggs boots with miniskirts– even though this was popular around the time of my reign as fashion queen of small town West Virginia.

If you’ve never had the pleasure of wearing Uggs, I will tell you they feel like putting your feet in clouds.  They are so soft and offer surprising support.  They are expensive, yes.  However, they are extremely durable, water-resistant, and I find that I more than get my money’s worth.  I bought my first pair of Ugg boots five years ago and they have made it through working behind a bar, multiple ski trips, and anything else you could probably imagine that would destroy normal shoes.

In addition to the benefits of Uggs in general, these specific moccasins are great because they are so versatile.  They can of course be worn as house shoes, but the pop of color makes them too much fun to keep at home.  I love how I can wear them with any cut of jeans.  The ones pictured are from Gap– grey skinny with a subtle floral print.  I was amazed to find these on sale for $11, normally $70.  I’m telling you, Gap has crazy sales– I’m always scouring the clearance rack shamelessly.

You don’t have to splurge on Uggs to have fun with moccasins.  I have seen tons of cute pairs that cost a fraction of the price.  I actually had another pair of $20 mocs I bought a few years ago, but they’re in no condition to photograph these days!

As a woman, obviously nothing makes you feel more attractive than a killer pair of heels, but as a mom it’s just not practical on a daily basis!  I’m all about comfort, but I haven’t totally given up yet, so I still try to find ways to have fun with fashion– even if it’s just for my Starbucks run.