Friday, March 27, 2009

One Nap?

Amaya and I are conducting an experiment the next few days with her napping schedule. For the record, she's never been the greatest napper. Her morning nap is anywhere between 30-45 minutes long and her afternoon nap is about 30 minutes-alone, and another 1-2 hours if I rock her or sleep with her. When she was a baby, I'd almost always rock her to sleep and then try to transfer her to the crib or the carseat and she'd wake up within 5 minutes. Talk about LIGHT SLEEPER! So, I'd eventually end up holding her while she slept. As she got older, when she'd wake up in the afternoon, I'd rush into her room and pick her up and either rock her back to sleep or we'd just lay down together and both take a nap. Granted, I don't mind taking naps with her - it provides great snuggle time and rest! The problem is that I get NOTHING done and it isn't a good habit for Amaya to get into.

Amaya generally sleeps well during the night, except for the fact that she's a night-owl. We put her down anywhere from 8:45-9:30pm and she wakes up between 7-8am. We really shouldn't complain, I mean she's sleeping through the night, right? I decided to try eliminating her morning nap yesterday after getting home from Bible Study. I get home around 11:25am and Steve comes home for lunch around noon, so I have a little more than a half and hour window to put her down. Yesterday, for whatever reason, I thought I'd keep her up and see how long she lasted. Around 2pm, she was nearly falling asleep playing with her toys, so I put her down and she was out for 2 hours, woke up, and then I rocked her back to sleep for another 45 minutes. AMAZING! Once again today, I woke her up at 7:30am and put her down at 2pm and she's OUT! (fingers crossed) I'm hoping that we can eventually get her to bed a little earlier too, so that Steve and I can have some time together before we crash. We'll see how it goes ... now maybe I can get some scrapbooking, cross-stitching, books read, puzzles done, recipes organized, etc.!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Oh Where is that Doggie in the Window?

Our next door neighbors have a cute little dog named Comet. Every so often when Amaya hears him bark, her little ears will perk up, her eyes will get really big, and she will say, "Gog? Up!" Translation: "Mommy or Daddy, can I stand on the bay window ledge and watch the doggie?"

Sunday, March 22, 2009


Where have we been? It's been a busy couple of weeks! The weather has been beautiful this week, so Amaya and I have taken advantage of it and have spent quite a bit of time outside. She's really good at finding rocks, sticks, leaves, and PUDDLES! Amaya has changed so much just within this past week. She now prefers to WALK EVERYWHERE. No more crawling for her! She's also picking up a lot more words - just last night she saw a picture of a train and said, "choo, choo." Her most used words are, Da?, ma, da-da, hi, bye, uh-oh, up, ball, baby, yum, and go. If you ask her to repeat any word, she has her own version of it - buttons are ba-ba, dog is gog, etc. We've taught her some sign language - milk, more, please, thank-you, but we may not need to teach her much more if she continues talking at the pace she's going. Amaya also knows quite a few of her body parts - eyes, ears, mouth, tongue, hair, feet, etc. It amazes me how quickly she picks up on things!

In other news, we've added a new niece to our family - Hope Ann Springer. As some of you know, she's had quite the first week of life. Early Wednesday morning, she was taken by helicopter to Omaha because her oxygen levels were too low. After multiple tests the doctors found a minor concern with her airway, weak vocal chords, and a minor heart defect. The doctors believe she should grow out of all of these conditions. She will see the Ear, Nose and Throat doctor again next week for a follow-up checkup, and the cardiologist in 6 months. Thank you so much for praying for Hope. My parents are leaving today to spend a week with them to help them get settled. We plan to visit them for a weekend in mid-April.

Steve and I keep plugging away with work and Steve with school. We're definitely looking foward to the summer. Steve surprised Amaya and me with a trip to the Cities last weekend. We went to the Mall of America to go to the American Girl store - it was awesome! They even had a hair salon for your doll. I'll have to bring my Kirsten doll up there to get her hair done/fixed. Amaya loved watching all the kids her size and enjoyed watching the rides and flashing lights at the theme park. We made a quick stop to IKEA to pick up some frames and went to Babies R Us and bought some baby-locks for our cabinets (much to Amaya's dismay!)

We'll hopefully get a chance to post pictures this week of Amaya's adventures outside and her sitting on her new potty! Until then, we'll leave you in suspense.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


I HAVE A NEW COUSIN which brings me up to 10 COUSINS! My auntie Carol went to the hospital early yesterday morning and at 7:21am, Hope Ann Springer was born! She weighs 7 lbs. 13 oz, and was 19 inches long. Auntie Carol said that she has a lot of dark brown hair and dark eyes. I have to wait for a WHOLE MONTH before I can meet my new little cousin, and I don't know if I can wait that long! There are so many things I want to teach her! My Grandma and Grandpa Gustafson get to meet her in a few days when they go down there to help out. (Maybe Mommy won't miss me and I could hide in their suitcase!) Can't wait to meet you Hope!! - Amaya

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Lydia's Birthday Party

On Sunday, we celebrated our niece Lydia's 6th birthday! She's grown up so fast and is turning into quite the little lady.

Amaya absolutely LOVES Lydia and watches EVERYTHING the kids do. Amaya is going to have a lot of "buddies for life!" I also think she wants to be a big kid too.

Amaya and Miles seem to get along really well too - and they're even learning to share!

Here are a few of my other favorite pictures from the evening. My dad has a gigantic white board with dry erase markers and this is one of the kid's favorite things to play with - even Miles!

Miles already has a special interest in photography...

Lydia's American Girl Doll with a new birthday outfit.

Grandma Gustafson, Annika, and Ben snuggling on the new couch.

Happy Birthday Lydia!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Amaya, On Her Way to Work (and Play)

Last night before bed I was reading in the book What to Expect: The Toddler Years about how the activities that a toddler engages in are "play" in nature, but also "work":

From the What To Expect website:

10 Ways Toddlers Prosper From Play

1. Playtime is your toddler's chance to stretch her imagination. She can fly, be a ballet star, save the planet, or ride a unicorn without a thing standing in her way. (Reality is so overrated, isn't it?)

2. For toddlers, it's all about learning by doing. Kids make countless discoveries about the world around them through playful explorations.

3. Experimenting through play helps kids figure out what they're good at and that, in turn, builds confidence and self-esteem.

4. Play preps children for socializing with others by presenting opportunities to share and take turns.

5. Playtime enables toddlers to work through emotions such as frustration, anger, and sadness.

6. Play boosts language development. Whether your toddler is talking to a friend, her doll, or even herself, she's talking — and that's what matters.

7. Playtime gives kids a sense of empowerment. (Hey, look what I can do!)

8. Creativity bubbles to the surface as kids build forts, paint murals, dress dolls, or bake imaginary cakes. This type of play also builds problem-solving skills. (How can I make this work?)

9. Using blocks, puzzles, clay, and crayons, as well as buttoning and snapping doll clothes develops eye-hand coordination and fine motor skills.

10. Active play is a great foundation for a lifetime of fitness. A game of tag or a round of hopscotch is actually exercise disguised as fun!

Here Amaya is crawling up the stairs, from the dining room on her way to the living room - also known as her "office". :)

Monday, March 9, 2009

Ever Have One of Those Days...

...when all you want is to be surrounded by large, fluffy couch cushions? :)

Friday, March 6, 2009

Amaya Does the Laundry: Well... Kind Of!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Doll Pile!

I'm not sure where she got this idea, but it is one of her favorite things to do: pile all of her dolls on her lap, or Mommy's or Daddy's lap if they'll let her!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

2009's Hottest New Artist!

Her name is Amaya Hope, and her art is widely sought around the world! View the pictures below to see Amaya in her studio, creating the next masterpiece!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Diaper Inspector

Amaya is very concerned about the quality and workmanship of her diapers. She carefully inspects each one, knowing the importance and sensitivity of the area that the diaper covers!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Money Saving Tips

With the economy the way it is, Steve and I have rehashed our budget over and over the past few months. When Steve was laid off from Pemstar in May of 2005, we jumped on the budgeting bandwagon to make the most of our dollars. Since then, we've taken a seminar at our church called Good Sense, read hundreds of money saving articles, clipped coupons, stretched our dollar, and learned to be good stewards of our money. When we discovered that I was pregnant, once again we rehashed our budget so that I could return to work part-time.

Now that Steve is in graduate school and has cut back his hours at work, we've again revamped our budget.

So how much can we really cut back? We've trimmed our budget quite a bit, but we still have more wiggle room and areas that we can improve on. In these past few years, we've been able to pay off my student loans early, paid off both of our cars early, put almost 20% down on our new house, have 2 months of income in savings put away (our next goal is to work that up to 3-6 months), and have started a college fund for Amaya.

I've wanted to write this post for quite some time, because a lot of my co-workers wonder how we do it - both working only part-time. While we're nowhere near close to being the next Dave Ramsey, we've talked about our finances and made a plan that's relatively easy for us to follow.

Shortly after we got married, we spent a weekend going over goals for our marriage. Relational, spiritual, financial etc. goals. Fortunately, Steve and I are - for the most part - savers. If one of us had been a saver and the other a spender, we would have had more difficulty. But, for the most part, Steve and I were on the same page with our financial goals and spending plan.

Here are some of our best money saving tips:

Tithing: Our goal is sacrificial giving. Whatever that ends up being - 5%, 10%, 20%, 90% of our income. Our giving doesn't stop when we've hit 10% of our monthly income. Our giving should never have limits.

Saving: Our goal is to save 3-6 months of income. Many financial experts are leaning more to 6 months of disposable income in case of job lay-offs, health issues, etc.

Retirement: Obviously, a no-brainer here. Our pastor told us once that you can take out a loan for your children's college, but you can't take out a loan for retirement.

College: Amaya has a 529 account already in place. We contribute what we can, when we can. It's not as high of a priority as the aforementioned retirement, but it's still a category in our budget. (and since she's BRILLIANT - she'll of course, get a full ride - ha, ha!)

Mad Money: Steve and I give ourselves a certain amount of money to spend each month, at our own discretion. No questions asked. We've frequently gone over our allotments in this category, so now we're withdrawing the money in cash and once it's gone - it's gone.

Car Maintenance: We set aside money for unexpected maintenance and regular tune-ups, oil changes etc.

Internet: With Steve in school, we've really needed to have internet service. This is also a great way to save money because we can forego the need for a newspaper - all the news we could ever want is on the internet. Also, we can keep in contact with family members easier via e-mail, I do quite a few searches to receive free coupons, etc, and we pay almost all our bills online.

Cell Phones: This is an area where we are going to cut back. We're currently on a family plan and have already received a significant discount through Mayo, but I don't use my cell phone very often - maybe once or twice a MONTH! So, we're looking at changing plans to switch our cell phones to pay by the minute. We'll save about (35 dollars a month, 420 dollars a year).

Clothing: I NEVER buy clothes that aren't on sale. I used to work in retail and the mark up on clothes is ASTRONOMICAL! Unfortunately, I LOVE CLOTHES - especially cute little girlie outfits for Amaya. I've learned to take advantage of coupons and special sales and often times will pay about 50% less than the original price. I also take advantage of garage sales. I bought quite a few clothes for Amaya and when she spits up on them or spills food that stains, I don't stress out about her messing up a 25 cent shirt instead of a $20 shirt. And if I really didn't like the outfit, or it had stains on it, I can always re-sell it or use it as a dust rag. (50 dollars a month, 600 dollars a year.) I also have a very generous sister-in-law and sister who loan me clothes. Just last night, I got a huge bag of clothes that still have plenty of use in them!

Entertainment: Steve and I have ALWAYS gone over budget in this category. We love going out to eat, getting take-out and watching a movie, going to a movie, going up to the cities, etc. This year we've again given ourselves the money in CASH and once it's gone, it's gone. We take advantage of both of our parents for babysitting and will go out to eat where we have coupons and then go to a movie. We discovered the LIBRARY is an amazing resource! Here's an example:

Movie Ticket for 2 - $14
Cheap: Renting a movie from Hollywood Video for 5 days - $5
Cheaper: Red Box - rent a movie for 1 day - $1
Cheapest: Rent a movie from the library - FREE!! (We've saved 20 dollars a month/240 dollars a year!)

All three of us LOVE books. We've used the library quite a bit to pick up new releases, board books for Amaya, and even CDs. My mom and sister are also avid readers, so we exchange books. I feel bad because I really don't contribute anything other than Karen Kingsbury books, but I'm glad that they are willing to share with me. My mom also shares her puzzles, so we're all set - free movies, books, and puzzles - who can be bored?

Baby: I NEVER spend full price on diapers or wipes. I've signed up on enough websites that I receive a steady quantity of coupons for diapers and wipes. (10 dollars in savings per month, 120 dollars in savings per year). Eventually, get Amaya potty-trained - (40 dollars in savings per month, 480 dollars in savings per year!) We also take advantage of the Mayo Classifieds and garage sales when we buy things for Amaya and ourselves.

Mayo Classifieds:
Changing Table $20 (50-150 dollars in savings)
Toy Organizer $20 (20 dollars in savings)
Banister Guard $15 (33 dollars in savings)

Garage Sales:
Exersaucer $20 (40 dollars in savings)
Toys anywhere from 25 cents to 5 dollars (300 hundred dollars in savings)

It also helps to network and ask around. I received a Boppy Pillow, a Bottle Organizer, and a Bumbo seat for FREE from my sister-in-law who received it for FREE from her friend and now my sister is going to be able to use them. (75 dollars in savings)

Gas: When gas was rising to almost 4 bucks a gallon, we had no choice but to adjust. Now, we've slimmed this category down a little, but not by much because of Steve's commute up to the cities once a week. Go to for updates on the lowest gas prices in your area.

Gifts: We are fortunate to have a large extended family, but sometimes it gets a little overwhelming to buy presents for everyone, especially around the holidays. We budget for Christmas throughout the year, and I buy presents in advance when I can use coupons or special sales. (25 dollars in savings, 300 dollars in savings per year).

Groceries: CLIP COUPONS! It's a lot of work and sometimes not really worth it, but I can usually shave 3-7 dollars off of our grocery bill a week. (156-364 dollars in savings per year). I won't buy something just because I have a coupon for it. I will plan our meals around my coupons and then if there is another brand that is cheaper, I won't use my coupon. Meal planning has been a true money saver. I get frustrated when I have to buy something special just for one recipe, so I really try to use special ingredients for more than one meal. We're also going to be cutting out POP! (I'm down to one can a day! Once our stash is gone - it's gone!) (28 dollars in savings per month, 336 dollars in savings per year). I also try to buy as much of the generic brand as I can. There are some things that I just can't buy generic - (e.g. KLEENEX) so you just have to try it out and see. We can usually shave about (40 dollars in savings per month, 480 dollars in savings per year) buy choosing generic foods without skimping on flavor and nutrients.

Hair: Three years ago, we bought a hair clipper so that I could cut Steve's hair. (I think I do a pretty good job.) I've also been going to Great Clips and use their coupons to get a 6-8 dollar haircut every two months or so. (25 dollars in savings per month, 300 dollars in savings per year).

Home Maintenance: For our birthdays, Christmas etc. we'll frequently ask for things that we can use for the house. For instance, towels, sheets, kitchen gadgets, gift certificates to Home Depot, Menards, etc. Otherwise, we prioritize what needs to be done for our house and set aside money each month. This month we saved 400-600 dollars! We've been wanting to get additional seating in our living room - either a love seat, chair, or couch. Unfortunately, we priced them and didn't quite have the money to buy something. My mom just got a new couch and offered to give us their old one. YAHOO! We bought a slipcover at Wal-Mart for $45 (Of course, on CLEARANCE) and voila - extra seating in our living room for very little cost. Thanks Mom and Dad!

Medical/Dental/Vision: We are very fortunate to have great health insurance and hope to never take this for granted. We still set aside a certain amount of money per month to cover anything unforeseen.

Heating: During the day, we get quite a bit of sunshine and warmth to our living room, so I try to keep the thermostat down and layer extra clothing. Pregnancy was the cheapest thing for our heating bills. We cranked down the heat to 62 at night and I was still plenty warm. :-)

Phone: We no longer have long distance included on our phone bill. We bought a phone card and now use that for long distance, and since I really only call my sister and chat for a few hours a month, we won't use up the card for awhile. We still have voice-mail and caller ID which we could get rid of to save additional money, but I like knowing who's on the phone before I pick up! :) (sorry telemarketers) (20 dollars in savings per month, 240 dollars in savings per year).

Water/Electric: When we moved into our house, we bought an energy efficient washer and dryer. I'm not sure how much we're saving month to month, but we did get a 75 dollar rebate just for going green. I've been wanting to cut back on the length of my showers - it's about 15 minutes, so I'm thinking about setting a timer to save on our water usage. I love taking baths, so I'm not sure I could get rid of those, but again - if need be I could.

Insurance: We can get everything covered: house, cars, and personal items (for what has been averaging lately) around 95 - 100 dollars per month.

Vacation/Trips: We set aside money each month so that we can get away. While our vacations aren't to exotic places, we still have fun. We've discovered how to vacation on a low budget - tent camping has really helped and it's fun! (Although we haven't camped with a baby yet, so we'll find out this summer how fun it really is!) Steve got a camp stove for his birthday several years ago, so we're able to eat relatively cheap too. This year, we're thinking of going to the Black Hills, Wisconsin Dells, or Chicago.

Garbage: We have the smallest garbage container as possible, with only occasional overflow. We try to recycle as much as we can to cut down on the garbage which helps slim our budget and is good for the environment. (10 dollars a month, 120 dollars a year).

There you go... nearly $5000 dollars slimmed down from our budget. We revisit our budget every few months just to make sure we're staying on track and adjust if our priorities change. It continues to be a work in progress, but this is what has worked for us. Hope this helps!