Giving Presence this Holiday Season

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For the first day in months, the highs will not reach the 80s here in Georgia. That can only mean one thing, the holiday season is FINALLY here. Thanksgiving is just a few weeks ago and Christmas will quickly follow. It’s my favorite time of year, but for many I know it can also be a stressful time.

Back in February I joined SunTrust in their OnUp movement and shared tips for how we save money and alleviate financial stress as we raise a family on one income. And these strategies are so important this time of year. One of the things I wrote about was spending more time focusing on the moments that matter with my family and not on financial stress. Along with SunTrust I believe the most meaningful gift you can give your loved ones (and yourself) this holiday season, and any time really, isn’t a present you buy – it’s presence in every meaningful moment. And SunTrust can be your Holiday Hub.

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 Thinking back on the years I have so many wonderful holiday memories. From making a gingerbread house in the pediatric unit of the hospital with my parents after having my tonsils out to wrapping Christmas presents with my grandmother and making the most elaborate bows. The occasional, but oh so magical snowflakes found in the south to making Christmas cookies with my sister and using tweezers to make sure each sprinkle was in just the right spot! So many memories made over the years. And one thing that all these memories have in common is that none of them include presents….but presence.

Memories are made with those around you. So stop worrying about buying the perfect Christmas gift and start thinking about how you will be present with your loved ones and others you meet this holiday season. Being present means spending the evening with your children checking out all of the holiday lights in your neighborhood. Or, volunteering at your local soup kitchen, taking the day off for a fun adventure with grandparents, or providing coffee and donuts at your next team meeting before everyone’s out on vacation. 

If you are looking for more ideas download the SunTrust Holiday Planning Guide. In this holiday planning guide, you’ll find tips for getting organized and making a plan for holiday spending so you can feel confident in your ability to stay on track with your budget. You’ll see how other Americans are shopping, traveling, celebrating and giving in ways that make the holidays cost less, but mean more.

Or, checkout this list of ways to spread the light this holiday season. (pdf here)

The holiday season let’s focus on what really matters – each other! Don’t let the stress of financial matters get in the way. Instead make small changes that make a big difference and don’t forget to be present this holiday season.

At SunTrust Bank their purpose is lighting the way to financial well-being. When you feel confident about your money, you can save for your goals and spend knowingly on what matters most to you.  

The onUp movement was created to guide millions of people one step at a time towards a more financially confident life without ever losing sight of the moments that matter along the way.

Join the growing number of people transforming their stress into positive motivation to move onUp.

Join the movement

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of SunTrust. The opinions and text are all mine.

 

3 Ingredient (+1) Peanut Butter Cookies

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They are that good! Chickadee couldn’t wait to get her hands on one. And they are just as easy. Our family likes routine, so I try to have an activity planned each weekday after naptime. Monday is baking day. And this past Monday we didn’t have much to work with, thank goodness these cookies only have THREE ingredients (+1 if you want add in a special candy!). 

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Seriously, that is it. One cup of peanut butter, one cup of sugar, one egg. Mix well & bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes. If you are feeling crazy, add in some mini chocolate chips or Reese’s Pieces minis. You won’t regret it! Use a fork to make a little criss cross imprint if you like that.

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They will be pretty gooey when they come out, but fight the urge to put them back in. They will firm up as they cool. This might now be my go to cookie (or at least it’s up to par with the best chocolate chip cookies ever)! 

If you don’t normally bake with your kids, I strongly suggest it! First and foremost it’s a lot of fun. However, it also teaching following & reading directions, measurement, fine motor skills with mixing & scooping. And I’m sure there is some science in there too. So bake with your kids, let them pour in the sugar and don’t freak out if they like their fingers before dropping in the Reese’s Pieces. All their germs will cook out anyway, and along the way…so many memories will be made!

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Three Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies
Yields 20
Simple & delicious three ingredient peanut butter cookies
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
8 min
Total Time
15 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
8 min
Total Time
15 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 cup of peanut butter
  2. 1 cup of sugar
  3. 1 egg
Instructions
  1. Mix the peanut butter, sugar, and egg well.
  2. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes.
Notes
  1. Add 1/2 cup of your favorite mini candies to make it extra special!
A Step In The Journey http://astepinthejourney.com/
Enjoy!

Sprout | 18 months

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On October 3rd we reached a milestone around here. Sprout became the exact age Chickadee was when he was born. Crazy how time flies. She didn’t seem near as little as he still does, but even still, he is growing up so fast! 

These last few months you have been learning sooo quickly! I would say you officially passed the baby to toddler divide. In the last few months you have learned most of your body parts…head, nose, toes, ears, feet, tummy, arms, mouth & eyes. You also like to point out where you have a very fleeting temporary tattoo when we run through what’s what. Like your sister you also know ALL the animal sounds & the lion roar has to be my favorite! Both From Head to Zoo & The Zoo are two books that are your favorite because of all the animals. And speaking of animals, you go nuts whenever we come across a puppy dog. Absolute bliss for you!

 You are talking up a storm! I would list all the words in your vocabulary, but there isn’t time. You can repeat almost any word we say and are also talking in two word phrases. It’s crazy really because at 1 you weren’t saying anything, so I can’t imagine the chatterbox you will be by two!

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You are a pretty good eater. You love sweet potatoes still and are obsessed with drinking a smoothie in the mornings. Snack is probably one of the words we hear the most from your lips and just confirms you are a growing boy! You have started using a fork and spoon are are doing great (although you prefer to use your hands). I would say 75% of the yogurt actually makes it into your mouth, so I can’t complain.

You are sleeping like a champ (7:30 – 7:00 usually) at night and are napping once a day around 1:00 for about 2-2.5 hours. You have made quite a sleep buddy with a little brown bunny you affectionately call, Bubba. You are wearing size 4 diapers, size 18 months clothes (12m pants), and size 5 shoe. I think you weigh about 24lbs and are around 32 inches tall (thanks to a recent growth spurt).  

You loves fiercely and fierce meltdowns as well (normally over food :/). I love watching you react when daddy comes through the door. You are pretty beside yourself with excitement. You are obsessed with balls and dump trucks. Love reading books and going to the duck pond. Sliding at the park & in our backyard is your favorite. 

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Your laugh is infectious sweet boy and we pray that it lights up everyone you encounter. We hope you always let God’s light shine bright sweet boy!

Creating a Bedtime Routine

Do you have a bedtime routine with your children? I hope so. Children of all ages thrive with routine, and as many children head back to school they would so benefit with a routine in place. They love knowing when things will happen and what to expect next. Having a routine for many parts of our day alleviates so many struggles and never is this more true than at bedtime! 

Scholastic and Orajel™ are coming together to encourage parents to make reading out loud to their children and brushing their teeth part of their family’s bedtime routine. And I couldn’t agree more! The Read2Me Tonight campaign gives parents many resources to motivate them to read with their children each night. In addition to these resources, parents can also find a free Scholastic e-book called The Three Bees, the 100 Best Read-Aloud Books, and important articles from the editors of Scholastic Parents.

So what does our routine look like? I created this little chart for Chickadee and Sprout so they know what to expect each night as they wind down for bed. (please right click to download and print)

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Before beginning our bedtime routine, we always give the kids a heads up that it is time for their last “activity” before cleaning up and heading to take a bath. We have found Chickadee especially does well when she knows her playing time is about to come to an end. 

After taking a bath and putting on pajamas both kids brush their teeth.

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Neither of them have even been big fans, but we know the importance of starting this habit early. We have tried several strategies from letting them lay down to brush teeth to bushing their teeth in the dark.

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What works best for Sprout is having him mimic funny faces we make where you have to open your mouth pretty wide. Chickadee is now at the age where we expect her to follow directions and does pretty well with letting us brush her teeth.  

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Finally we snuggle up on the glider or daybed to read a book and the kid’s devotion. Reading is a great way to settle kids down before bedtime. Also research shows that reading aloud to your kids and talking about the story drastically increases their vocabulary and deep thinking skills. (Had to make that plug as a former teacher!). Chickadee is 2.5 and loves reading the pictures to Sprout. Scholastic is offering a free e-book called The Three Bees that stresses the importance of a bedtime routine (a little three B’s word play, brush, book, bed). You should definitely head over and check it out! If you are looking for other great read alouds Scholastic has your covered with their list of the 100 Best Read Aloud Books. 

Having a predictable bedtime routine in place alleviates stress for both children and their parents. With a little work and consistency bedtime can be a smooth process that every looks forward to and family memories are made!

What have you found works best as part of your bedtime routine?

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of ORAJEL. The opinions and text are all mine.

 

How We Cut Cable & Still Watch All Our Shows

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If you have been around A Step in the Journey for some time now, you probably have realized I LOVE saving money wherever I can. Thrift, consign, reuse, save, coupon, and DIY are all part of our regular vocabulary around here. Whether it is searching for a coupon code before ordering a new light fixture or finding 85% of my kids wardrobes at consignment sells, we are always up for saving where we can. So it probably comes to no surprise that we cut the cord on cable about 3 years ago! It was pretty scary at first, but now that we “seem” to have it all figured out…I’m not sure we will ever go back!

I wanted to share what we have found works best for us and about what we pay/save! Before we cut the cord we were paying $89.99 for cable and internet (only for the first two years), $7.99 for Netflix, and $8.25 for Amazon Prime each month. That equals out to $106.23 a month to have access to internet and TV. That is not terrible, but we knew it could be done cheaper.

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So, we did our research and then took the plunge. The first thing we did was get an antenna. We live pretty close to Atlanta, Georgia so we only needed about a 15-20 mile antenna. We started with rabbit’s ears, and they worked really well, but were a little unsightly, so we traded up for the 1byone flat antenna a few months ago. It works great! NBC, CBS, FOX, ABC and your local Pubic Television stations are always floating around, just waiting for you to watch through an antenna. and the best part is it’s FREE! 

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The rest of what we watch on TV we stream, using the internet, through our Roku. There are several streaming devices out there, but we have only ever used the Roku so that is all I can speak to. We paid $79.99 for it about 3 years ago, however you can now get a Roku on Amazon for about $60. To stream content with a Roku you have to also have internet. Our current internet is $39.99 a month and gives us speeds up to 60mbps. It was a one year deal, but after 12 months I called to let them know I was going to cancel since my bill was going up and they offered me another 12 months at $39.99! Sweet.

Through the Roku is where we watch the rest of the channels we can’t pick up over the antenna. You have a few options here….

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First, there is SlingTV. On the Sling Roku channel, you can live stream between 25-50 channels (depending on your package). Our favorites are ESPN, ESPN2, SECN, Food Network, HGTV, and the Disney channel. Sling coming around was a lifesaver for cutting cable. We are huge football fans (War Eagle!) and during the fall we need access to the games! Going to a restaurant or friend’s house to watch the game was not always an option because of our kids sleep schedules. SlingTV offering ESPN was a game changer. They have an additional sports package you can add through the fall for $5 more a month. Another beauty of SlingTV is there is no contract, so you can activate and deactivate your account whenever you want. It’s awesome.

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As I mentioned before, through an antenna you can watch all of the broadcast channels live. However, I know sometimes live is not always possible. We have a solution for that too! First up, Hulu Plus. Hulu Plus allows you to watch any of the shows you missed on ABC, NBC, and FOX the next day with a subscription of $7.99 a month. If you are willing to wait a week to watch the latest episodes you can do so on ABC, NBC, & FOX’s Roku channels for free. CBS is a little trickier. They have a Roku channel, but they charge about $6/month to access it. If you choose to do so, you can watch their shows the day after airing.

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Netflix….well, it’s awesome. Netflix allows for binge watching some of your favorite shows from the past as well as some new Netflix original series. Some of our most loved series are Friday Night Lights, 24, White Collar, Parenthood, Gilmore Girls, & our current obsession, West Wing. They also have TONS of children’s content (Mighty Machines, anyone?) and movies for the entire family. Netflix runs anywhere from $7.99 – $11.99 a month depending on how many screens you want access to it on at the same time. 

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The last channel we use regularly is Amazon Video. It is very similar to Netflix. They too have lots of your favorite series from the past as well as their own original series and movies. Amazon Video allows you to watch tons of content “free” (as long as you have a Prime membership), and also allows you to rent newer content through their channel. Chickadee’s favorite, Daniel Tiger is a regular on our Amazon Video channel! 

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So that is about the jist of how we do it. For the options we chose, the breakdown comes to $39.99 for internet $19.99 for Sling ($24.99 during football season due to sports package add on) and $8.99 for Netflix. That is only $73.94!! Yall, I mean come on. Isn’t that amazing…I could factor in 1/12 of Amazon Prime too which would bring the total to $82.19, but I’m not going to because we would have Amazon Prime regardless of what we were doing television wise! That is a savings of $32.29 each month and $387.48 over the course of a year. So for the three years since we cut the cord we’ve saved over $1,000! That is awesome.

If you (or your husband!) have any questions let me know. I would love to help you save as much money as I can!!