Choose your love, love your choice.

Today in Relief Society we had a lesson on Eternal Marriage.  I love talking about this topic in the church because marriage is something that I think is often misconstrued in the media and the world.  Our marriage relationships are of utmost importance and maintaining them is by far one of the most important things we will do in this life.  I have a lot of thoughts on this topic, and not all of them necessarily connected to the lesson we had today.  This post is actually one that I started back in April but I finally decided to get it posted today.  I had some other thoughts that I’d like to put together on other marriage related topics, but I think for now this will suffice.

In last April General Conference I was listening to the Priesthood session and was struck by President Monson‘s talk.  President Monson said that the saddest part of his week was reviewing the cancellations of temple marriages. His remark was that most of those marriages didn’t have to end that way. He had two thoughts that I thought were particularly poignant “Choose your love, love your choice” and “Committment in marriage is absolutely essential”.

For those of you who know the story of how Eric and I got together, you might be surprised to find out that neither of us believe in “the one”. Meaning, neither of us believe that there is that one and only person out there that you are destined to be with and can’t be happy with anyone else. Now, this might be surprising because the short version of our story is this – Eric asked me on a date on Sunday, we decided to start dating on Thursday, we went on that date on Friday (no I don’t have those two out of order), I met some of his family on Sunday, he met my dad on Friday, he asked me to marry him on Sunday, we were married 6 months later and we’ve been happily married now for 4+ years. So, the question that begs to be answered is how do you decide to marry someone after just 9 days of dating them without feeling like you have an unshakable conviction that they are “the one”? Easy, after 9 days we knew each other well enough to know that we loved each other and we were willing to do whatever it took to make it work.

If you watch Disney movies or any chick flicks you will see lots of examples of people having these “fairy tale” romances, where they find this perfect person and when the movie ends you are left to believe that “they all lived happily ever after.”  While that’s a nice thought, I believe there’s no such thing as “happily ever after”.  What comes in the “after” is lots of work.  Good work, enjoyable times, love, laughter and LOTS of good things, but work.  Marriage is not, nor was it ever meant to be, sunshine and rainbows and romance.  What I’ve come to realize is that the most important element in a marriage is not that fluttery feeling when you look into each others eyes, but it’s the commitment that you made to weather any storm together that you made on your wedding day.  Quite frankly, it doesn’t even matter if you don’t even like your spouse in a particular moment, the important thing is that you committed to one another that you would love them and work together with them no matter what.  Love is an expression of caring for another person above yourself and you can do that even if you don’t like the person at the time.  Of course, it is best if you can like your spouse as well, and a lot of that comes down to attitude.  Obviously, there were lots of things you liked about your spouse when you married them, and it’s important to focus on those things that you do like rather than letting temporary annoyances get in the way.

I want to close this post with an awesome quote from Dallin H. Oaks’ talk from April 2007 conference.  He says simply pretty much what I wanted to say:

“In all of this, we should realize that a good marriage does not require a perfect man or a perfect woman. It only requires a man and a woman committed to strive together toward perfection. President Spencer W. Kimball taught: ‘Two individuals approaching the marriage altar must realize that to attain the happy marriage which they hope for they must know that marriage . . . means sacrifice, sharing, and even a reduction of some personal liberties. It means long, hard economizing. It means children who bring with them financial burdens, service burdens, care and worry burdens; but also it means the deepest and sweetest emotions of all’ (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball [2006], 194).”

 

Quiet Books Anyone?

So I’m thinking of starting a project for a Christmas present for Daniel.  I want to make him a quiet book for church.  I’m thinking though to keep the project a little bit easier I would see if anyone else wanted to do it with me.  If you’re interested here’s how I’m thinking it would work –

Each person will make two pages.  I’ll buy fabric for each person’s pages this week and get it cut to the right dimensions and distributed to whoever is interested.  Then each person duplicates their pages 16 times (assuming there are 16 people who want to participate) and returns their completed pages to me.  I will then redistribute the pages so that each person gets 16 full spread pages, or 32 pages for their quiet book!  Then all you need to do is sew a cover for your book, sew the pages together and sew the pages into it and you’re done!

I’ve even already found a bunch of great ideas for quiet book pages so you don’t have to come up with your own ideas, just make some pages! Here are some of the ideas I’ve found –

If I get enough people who are interested by this weekend then I can get the flannel while it’s on sale and it would only cost each person <$5 for the pages themselves plus whatever you spend on buttons, felt pieces etc to finish off your pages.  Ideally I think I’d like to find 16 people who are interested since that makes the fabric buying easy.  Here’s the guidelines I’ve come up with (although I’m open to suggestions depending on what people would like to do):

  • Each person will get page spreads that are 10.5″x16″ to work with, please make your page spread include two separate pages that don’t need to be facing one another (i.e. You will need to split up your spread into two 10.5″x 8″ pages, but those pages might be pages 1 and 32, or 7 and 25 depending on how the pages get sewn together)
  • Leave at least a 1 inch margin in the center of the spread (dividing the pages) to ensure enough space to sew the pages together and onto the cover
  • Leave at least 1/2 inch on the edges of your pages to allow space for binding
  • All pages should be returned to me for assembly no later than December 1st
  • Each page should have some sort of interactive element – i.e. buttons, snaps, velcro, shoelaces etc.
  • Ideally it’d be nice if each page was gospel themed in some way.  It doesn’t have to be real specific, but like there was one page I saw that had roads and a car, if the destination was like from home to church or the temple that’d be nice, or even something simple like adding the words “I’m grateful for seasons” on the top of a seasons page.  I figure these will mostly be used at church so keeping a gospel theme would be nice 🙂
  • Each person will be responsible for making their own cover so feel free to do whatever you’d like!
If you’re interested just leave a comment.  So far there’s at least two people planning on participating (my sister Taylor already said she wanted in).  If you even know what you want to do for your pages then post that too (I want to make sure we don’t end up with duplicate pages!).  Also, if you want a different color flannel for the background of your pages then go to this page and tell me which of those colors you’d like to use, otherwise I’ll just plan on getting something basic like white or cream, or maybe black or brown for the pages (let me know if you have an opinion on that too!)  Any other questions, comments, suggestions – leave them below!

Mint.com

My dad is a CPA, as such he taught me early on the importance of tracking your spending and reconciling all of your credit card statements etc.  He and my mom always used Quicken to track all of their spending.  I remember every month when my mom would get have to go through and make sure they had entered all of their transactions and reconcile their credit card bills.  So, when I got old enough to have my own computer it also came with a copy of Quicken and I started to track my own finances as well.  I think i did pretty well through at least the first few years of college, and then when Eric and I got married I kept meaning to get us all set up with Quicken and never did.

Finally, after we’d been married for about a year I went online to see if I could get an updated version of Quicken.  It seemed like in the 5 years since I’d first installed Quicken there was probably a version that at least ran faster.  I was in for a surprise!  Not only did they have newer versions of Quicken, but they had an online version that could be used for free!  Since I’m a big fan of things that are online and free, and Quicken is a brand that I trust I decided to check it out.  I fell in love.  All I had to do was enter in credentials for our various bank accounts, 401ks, credit cards etc. and all of my transactions were imported instantly.  No more reconciling statements, my statements were imported, and categorized automatically!  I was thrilled.

Within a few months Quicken bought out a company called Mint.com and started having them take over their online financial tracking solution.  What was already awesome got even better, better budget tracking, setting up goals, better algorithms for automatically categorizing transactions etc.  I immediately started telling my family that they needed to get set up with Mint.com.  My brother and sister did so and also loved what they found.  I actually thought that my mom had switched over to Mint from their desktop Quicken solution until a few weeks ago.  I had spouted off to her many many times about how much I loved Mint and how wonderful it was, but apparently she hadn’t entirely believed me.  A couple weeks ago my mom called me up and said “Why didn’t you tell me how easy and useful Mint is?!?”  The answer was… I had 🙂  She had fallen behind on their Quicken tracking and it was time to either start over with Quicken or switch to Mint.  She decided to give Mint a try and was instantly hooked.  She had it all set up in less than an hour and was able to look at their budget in a whole new way!

So why do I love Mint so much?  Here’s a basic overview of what Mint can do:

Spending Trends – Have you ever looked at your bank balances and wondered where all of your money went?  Mint provides easy to read graphs that break down how your money is being spent.  When I first got this set up I was shocked to see that we had spent over $400 one month on eating out.  Granted I was working full time and pregnant and sick with Sam at the time, but I was appalled to see how the nights that I hadn’t felt up to cooking added up.

Budgeting – So, now you know how much you spend, how to fix places where you’re spending too much?  Mint makes it really easy to set up a budget and stick to it.  They even suggest amounts based on your current spending so you don’t have to guess what a reasonable amount is.  You can set up budgets that occur every month, or on any sort of schedule during the year.  You can set up your budgets to roll over each month or not.  They also keep track of whether your budget amounts exceed your monthly income.  Plus you can set up your account to email or text you if you go over budget in any category.

Goals – We all have financial goals.  Whether it’s paying off credit cards, saving for a house or building up your emergency fund there’s something that you want to do with your money.  Mint makes it super easy to track these goals and help you make a plan to achieve them.  Just decide what kind of goal you have, pick an account to associate it with and then make the plan.  Mint will help you decide how much you need to budget each month to achieve your goal and tell you if you fall off track.

Another reason I use Mint is it helps me detect any fraudulent charges on my accounts.  Back in February I was going through our accounts and noticed a charge from Match.com – which obviously if either Eric or I were signing up for was a bit of a problem.  Someone had gotten a hold of our credit card numbers and was making charges to fake companies.  They weren’t huge charges though so if I hadn’t been paying attention I probably wouldn’t have noticed $30 here and $15 there.  But because I was watching we were able to put a stop to those charges before they escalated.

One of the major questions I had when I first found Mint is how are they making money off of this?  Nothing on the internet is truly free, someone is paying for it somewhere, and before handing my financial information over to someone I wanted to know what the “catch” was.  Mint makes it’s money through targeted advertising.  They’ll notice if you have an old 401k account that’s charging you maintenance fees an make a suggestion for another company that won’t charge you fees.  Or if you’re spending a lot in a particular category they might recommend a credit card that gives you higher rewards for purchases in that category.  And of course, they’ll suggest using TurboTax when tax season comes around.

I could go on and on, I love reading their financial blog, their customer service is pretty darn good and they email me a summary of my accounts every week! But really, for you to understand how awesome it is, you’re just going to have to try it for yourself 🙂

Leftover Awareness Month

So I got this idea when I used to follow the $5 dinner blog.  Every so often I have what I call “Leftover Awareness Month” (she calls it “Pantry Challenge”).  Basically the idea is for a month (although sometimes just a week) I try to eat only what we have in the house and go to the grocery store as little as possible.  I decided to do it again this month for a few reasons:

  1. Next month here in Utah we have lots of case lot sales and I want to have some extra space in my budget and my kitchen to take advantage of those sales to  build up our food storage.
  2. Our freezer and pantry were getting seriously overloaded with random stuff. I sometimes end up buying random things at the grocery store that never get used so this is a good chance to force myself to use them.
  3. I’ve been analyzing our budget and noticing that we were spending more money each month on food than I had expected.  I was trying to figure out where the extra money was going and we noticed that we were throwing away too much food because our leftovers would go bad before getting eaten. So we wanted to focus on making sure we go through all of our leftovers.

So, this month my personal challenge is to make our meals as much as possible from food already in my home.  I’m going to the store for things like milk, bread and produce but the basis of our meals must come from things that we had in our pantry or freezer.  Since I’m finding things in our pantry and freezer that have gone through 6 moves with us I think it was probably time…

Anyone care to join us in cleaning out the pantry?

Amazon Mom

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Last night we had a little baby shower for my niece (yes, somehow I’m old enough to have a niece old enough to be a mom, weird huh?).  While we were there I let her in on the secret of Amazon Mom.  One of my sisters-in-law was so sad that I hadn’t told her about this sooner that I decided it ought to be my first “Smarter not Harder” post.  Here’s the secret – if you go to Amazon.com and go to their Amazon Mom page (or just click on the banner at the top of this post) you can sign up to have diapers auto delivered to your house, at a price cheaper than I’ve seen in any store.  Plus you get Amazon Prime benefits (i.e. Free 2 day shipping) for one year after you start your membership.  It doesn’t cost anything to join, they won’t auto-enroll you in an Amazon Prime membership at the end of your year or anything like that.  You just order the kind of diapers that you want and they deliver them to your home.  For me I’m signed up to get two boxes of Daniel’s diapers (Pampers Swaddlers Diapers Big Pack Size 1 92 Count – $17.14/19 cents per diaper) every month, and 1 box of Sam’s diapers (Pampers Baby Dry Size 4 Diapers Economy Pack Plus 192 Count – $30.73/$0.16 per diaper) every other month.  You get a 15% discount for enrolling in Amazon Mom, and another 15% discount for signing up for their auto-ship program.  If you don’t like it you can even cancel the auto-ship immediately after ordering.  It’s awesome, not only for the savings, but also because I never run out of diapers and I never have to sit at the store wondering if we have enough diapers to make it until our next Costco run 🙂

Anyways, that’s my cool trick of the day. If you have a child in diapers you really ought to be signed up for Amazon Mom. It’s way less hassle than couponing, and from what I’ve seen couponing doesn’t give you nearly the savings that this does.  Oh, and did I mention they deliver the diapers to your house?!  It doesn’t get much better than that!