Tag Archives: advice

Reviewing 4 Top Coupon Apps for Android Phones

Two months ago, I began an experiment with couponing apps for my smartphone.  I downloaded IbottaCheckout 51MobiSaveCoupons.com, and Receipt Hog specifically for their offers and pay-outs.  I also have downloaded store-specific apps (like Walmart’s Savings Catcher and Target’s Cartwheel) that I’ll review at a later date. 

Disclaimer: I am not being paid in any way, shape, or form to review or endorse these apps. I mean, I’m getting deals and offers and such from them like any other user, but the companies behind these services haven’t given me anything special to talk about them. The apps are free to download. 

Sadly, Receipt Hog notified me via email that they do not have any spots currently available and their wait list is long.  Therefore, without further ado, I present to you FOUR of the Top Coupon Apps for Androids.

App Name:  Ibotta

Google Play Rating: 4.25 Stars (209k+ ratings)

Earned in First Month:  $12.65

My Thoughts:

The set-up was very simple and similar to other savings apps’ opening procedures.  I recommend looking over what’s offered before going shopping to match the rebates with other coupons and sales.  I just discovered that you can link your store loyalty cards to “unlock” rewards before you shop; my most frequently shopped store with a loyalty card is not on their list of Preferred Partners.

When you’ve done your shopping and maybe selected other rebates, you select the “Verify Purchases” button.  This leads you through two steps:  Scan Product Barcodes and Take a photo of your Store receipt.  On some items, you will not scan a barcode, like certain produce.  But since most items need to be scanned, this isn’t something you can do from the comfort of your bed or even your desk at work.  Depending on how your kitchen and pantry are set up, it may be easier to get this app going while you’re putting your groceries away.  After you’ve scanned your product barcodes, you’ll use the app to take photos of your receipt.  I have super long receipts all the time since I do bulk shopping and use shopper cards and coupons; this has to be my least favorite part of Ibotta, which has nothing to do with Ibotta and everything to do with lining up the edges and where I left off from the previous photo.

The amount you’ve aggregated in rebates goes into My Balance with which you can transfer cash to a linked PayPal or Venmo account or you can buy gift cards to places like Target, Olive Garden, JoAnn Fabrics, and more.  Of all of these options, your balance must be $20.00 minimum.

Ibotta is all about teamwork.  The social media accounts you link will be checked for “friends” that also use Ibotta, and without you lifting an extra finger, your teammates “work” together to save and earn towards Teamwork levels.  You also are rewarded for inviting friends; currently, if a friend joins Ibotta with your referral code, they receive a $10 welcome bonus and you receive $5.

There are more ways to save, like with Bonus Rebates and completing little challenges that differ each month.  These help you move along towards reaching that $20 threshold.  Without the sign-on bonus and these extras, it looks like it would take me a long time to reach that cash out amount.

Screenshot from my Ibotta account

Pros:  Easy to use; can select frequently visited stores to make finding rebates easier

Cons:  Required to scan product barcodes; like most coupons, these rebates are mainly for name brand or new products, both of which I tend to avoid

Verdict:  KEEP USING

 

App Name:  Checkout 51

Google Play Rating:  4 Stars (47k reviews)

Earned in First Month:  $1.00

My Thoughts:

The set-up was very simple and similar to other savings apps’ opening procedures.  I recommend looking over what’s offered before going shopping to match the rebates with other coupons and sales.

There is a very long list of offers each week that can be refined by selecting categories or stores.  There is not, however, a search bar.  This makes scrolling necessary and tedious.  Frequently, I do not find any offers that suit me.  The offers you “star” are listed, you select the option to take the photo(s) of your receipt, then once you click “finish”, you wait while it uploads.  And wait.  Then you get a congratulatory screen telling you how much you’ve saved.

It says, “You can request a check when your account balance reaches $20.”  This could take a very long time, considering most offers are like coupons and for only 10 or 40 cents. Once you claim a starred offer, you most likely won’t be able to claim it again.  You don’t have to scan the individual items. The receipt-photo-taking process is similar to other rebate and savings apps.

Screenshot from my Checkout 51 account

Pros:  Many options; get a real check

Cons:  Rarely are there offers I’ll use; terminal scrolling to view all offers

Verdict:  DELETE

 

App Name:  MobiSave

Google Play Rating:  3 Stars (2,393 reviews)

Earned in First Month:  $1.55

My Thoughts:

I don’t recall how I even heard of this one, but I liked the idea that I received the benefits of selected offers right away, like if I were using a paper coupon at the checkout.  The set-up was quick and simple.  There is a short list of offers.  After photographing your receipt, you’ll “paperclip” which offers actually apply to that receipt.  Once they’re confirmed, the money saved is sent directly to your PayPal account.

I do bulk shopping so the last time I used MobiSave, I had 6 receipts that were all quite long.  The way this app is set up to capture images of your receipts makes it difficult to know where your last picture ended and your next needs to begin.  In the end, there were 4 offers that applied to me.  There were 4 deposits made to PayPal within an hour.  My first payment from MobiSave was only $.40, but I got it right away without waiting and saving up to a $20 threshold.

Screenshot from my MobiSave account

Pros:  Immediate deposit into PayPal; frequently offered “any type, any size” deals

Cons:  Not many offers; can’t see previous pictures in series when photographing long receipts

Verdict:  KEEP USING

 

App Name:  Coupons.com

Google Play Rating:  4 Stars (18,800 reviews)

Earned in First Month:  $0.00, but I may have saved some by loading deals to my Pay-Less card

My Thoughts:

I have used Coupons.com in the past to select deals and print coupons to present at checkout.  This app allows that as well as linking to your store shopper cards for automatic digital coupons.

You *must* visit the app prior to shopping, not after.  They don’t want to capture your receipt if you have a store loyalty card; they want to provide coupons directly to the card.  Part of the set-up for this app is typing in the numbers on your loyalty cards.  If you are like me, you don’t even have these because you provide your phone number to the cashier.  I use my Kroger Plus card and I frequently use their digital coupons option, so I logged into that account to access my card number to copy-and-paste into this app.

For stores you frequent that do not use loyalty cards, you will submit your receipt after shopping.  When you’ve submitted receipts and they’re accepted, you receive cash back via PayPal.

Coupons.com has a whole slew of other money saving options, like printable coupons and online coupon codes for sites like Overstock and Guitar Center.  I’ve used their printable coupons in the past, from their website and not this app, and can attest to the safety of the printing software they need you to use.  If you use the app to select coupons, you have the option to print or email them.  I do not have a WiFi compatible printer but have emailed myself the link to print directly from my computer.  Check your library for wireless printing if you’d like to use this option.

Although I downloaded and accessed this app the same as the other savings apps, I have yet to use anything off of it.  I don’t use the products they have presented in the time I’ve been doing this little experiment (seven weeks at the writing of this review).

Screenshot from my Coupons.com account, showing what I could redeem with either loading to my loyalty cards or submitting receipts.

Screenshot from my Coupons.com account

Pros:  Many ways to save

Cons:  Lots of offers to scroll through only to discover I won’t use any of them

Verdict:  DELETE but keep visiting the website on my laptop for paper coupons

Murphy Momentum: Plans and Thoughts

So much change in so little time…

We are still reeling from the changes of the past year.  Our path has been altered so much, yet we are still able to see how we must and can move forward.

After the deaths of three of the most beloved people in our lives, we became inundated with grief…and their stuff.  We accepted furniture and dishes, we inherited a house and property, we have had to reimagine our dreams and redesign our goals, and we now feel confident about this new path we’ve been set upon.

Forward Thinking

All our hopes and dreams seem within grasp now.  It will not be easy.  The steps we see laid out in front of us, the process we’ve created to handle what comes our way, the plans we have developed to see us from this point to the fruition point are all thoughtfully sought and spiritually guided as we rely on our Maker once again.

We have been through hard times, and we have always been surrounded by bountiful blessings.  Now that we recognize them, we see where we have been blessed, we know how to be thankful and less fearful of the future.

Where We are Now

Yesterday morning was greeted with a lot of excitement and a little trepidation as I phoned my new boss to inform her that I would accept her offer of a position.  I will be the Communications Specialist for the local diocesan office.  My “vast skill set” and “impressive education” have landed me my dream job!

We worked hard to get to this point, but this is merely one step.  Much work will still need to be done.

The BHE will be stepping up around the home as he steps out of the traditional role of breadwinner.  Shortly after I got off the phone, he called his boss to deliver his two-weeks’ notice.  The BHE is now a SAHD!

That’s right, folks:  my bearded, hardworking, dedicated, driven, intelligent husband will be caring for our children day in and day out.

But what about the projects?!  We have so many projects between the three properties we now own that, yes, the BHE is going to need some help.

We discussed at length how we must set aside our control-freak natures and accept the assistance of others.  We must tamp down our pride and stubbornness to get ahead by asking our friends, family, and neighbors for help.

Assistance and Accountability

I’ve been working diligently on 1-year, 2-year, and 5-year plans to show us each step of the way to our goals.  I have been plugging projects into a spreadsheet and constantly jotting down ideas that I toss at the BHE and he tosses back at me.  I am researching ballpark figures for what we want to do, where, and when.  We even had a realtor come out to give us some advice.  Yes, folks, we are moving forward like a steam engine, chugging along but aware we need to slow well before the curves.

The first thing I believe we will ask for is help with the children.  When I enter this 8-5 M-F office job, the BHE is going to need someone to rely on a few days a week to care for our babes.  He can’t get work done with two toddlers!  We figured with the Angel starting PreK in the Fall on MWF, it would be best if he was SAHD those days but a friend or neighbor watched the kids on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Evenings and weekends will see me back in my Mommy role when he can get even more work done.

What is that work, you ask.  Well, that’s where the Accountability comes it.

As much as we would like physical help, like people to paint or build or mow or roof or watch the kids or whatever, we also need to be reminded where we are on our path.  It is all well and good if I print up a pretty checklist or create a spreadsheet that we look at from time-to-time, but we need to be reminded to check things off and follow the steps we have laid out.

When I complete my projects list, when I finish those long-term plan sheets, I will post them here for you to see where we are and where we are going.  I keep thinking something cheesy like Friday Facts to share what we’ve completed and learned then Momentum Monday to explain where we hope to go next.

For instance, this week, I’ve built up our inventory on the eBay site and accepted a new job; next week, I will complete my father-in-law’s taxes so we can be (almost) all caught up on the clean-up of his estate and take a day to myself to prepare my body and wardrobe for the return to the workforce.  This week, the BHE made serious progress on finishing the final bedroom upstairs at the big house and made some dough taking a truckload of cans to the recycling center; next week, he will complete that bedroom and order the replacement windows for the little house.

See?  I’ve told you what we are doing.  Now I feel like I’ll be letting you down if we don’t do it.  That’s how this accountability thing works on my end.  On your end, you get to share in our triumphs and pick us up when we falter.  Thank you, dear reader, for agreeing to be part of our village.

That’s What Friends are For

I look forward to not only getting stuff done but getting connected to my village as we complete projects, move forward, and stay on our thoughtfully sought path towards our dream goals.  In return, I will learn more about you so I can find opportunities to assist you where you need it.  Networking is a powerful tool.  Apply it correctly and we all see our goals come to fruition.

Where are you on your path?  Do you need some help getting up and moving forward?  Do you know how you can help others in your village to do so?

The 5 Best Pieces of Parenting Advice I Can Give

My last blog post was a couple months ago and on the negative side.  This will be my first blog post of the New Year; I’m going to write something positive.

In the last post, I listed off the 5 Worst Pieces of Parenting Advice I have ever received.  Now I’m going to share with you the 5 Best Pieces of Parenting Advice that I have received as well as what I’ve discovered along the way.

Take these with a grain of salt.  Or as gospel.  This whole parenting thing is different for all of us.  So here goes…

#1.  There is no such thing as the “right time” when it comes to having kids.

The BHE and I were asked when we were going to start our family before we were even married.  I know, I know: this is an acceptable thing in our society.  But for us it was not part of the plan.  We had a Grand Master Plan.  We had our goals and our priorities and we just knew when the right time would be for us to get pregnant.

Oh, boy.

First off, folks, I can tell you from experience that just because you decided you wanted to get pregnant/have a child by such-n-such a date DOES NOT MEAN your bodies will cooperate.  Seriously.  This is out of your hands.

We tried for a couple years after deciding it was the “right time” and my heart broke month after month.  We have friends who tried for much longer, some without any success, and others with the kind of success that led to great loss.

There isn’t a “perfect” time to have children.  Your house, your career, your finances, your car, your whatever will never be perfectly aligned in reality the way you think you want them to be before you have children.

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Just a few weeks before the Angel was born, here I am working in the empty nursery, painted yet not ready for a baby!

If you know you want kids, take comfort in knowing that no matter when or how they come, you’ll handle it like a champ.  No matter if your car isn’t a brand-new minivan or if the nursery never got a fresh coat of paint or you’re still at that job you hate.  Parenthood is a whole new ballgame; roll with it.

#2.  But it is all about the timing.

No, seriously, watch the clock and the calendar.  Timing is everything.

During pregnancy, you’ll be seeing an OB or midwife monthly then weekly.  You’ll be asked about when you had your last period, when you last peed, when you first felt movement, what frequency you felt movement, and on and on.

During labor, you’ll be timing contractions and counting breaths.  Make sure there is a clock in the room where you deliver your baby.  The wall clock in the delivery room during the birth of my son was broken, so I had no idea what time of day or night it was, no concept of how long I had truly been going at it, no idea until after the fact that I had been laboring for 29 ½ hours with over 3 hours of pushing.  No idea.  None.

TWENTY-NINE AND A HALF HOURS!

During early infancy, you’ll be tracking the times spent feeding, how many ounces or minutes, when was the last bowel movement, and more.

During the early days of solid foods, you will have to count the ounces as well as days since you introduced a new food.  And you’ll be counting more dirty diapers.

During toddlerhood, you will need to watch the clock to keep track of when your tot got out of bed, when was breakfast, how soon is snack, when you need to feed them lunch so you can get them into a timely nap, how long was the nap, how long after the nap until bedtime, how long between dinner and bedtime…

And you think I’m kidding.  I’m not.  Watch the clock.  It is the best way to avoid meltdowns induced by lack of food or sleep.  Because, really, the wee beasties need copious amount of both if you expect them to be angels.

A schedule helps them as well as you.  There’s advice all over the place, from your pediatrician to this lifestyle blog, about how children need a regimen to maintain equilibrium and how parents need their children to have a regimen to maintain sanity.

#3.  When in doubt, present food.

If your child is crying, check for these things:

  • Is he/she hurt?
  • Is the diaper dirty?
  • Is he/she tired?
  • Is he/she hungry?

If your darling angel isn’t hurt, has a dry diaper, just woke from a nap, and just ate, feed him or her again.  For real.  Present more food or another bottle or your breast.  Feed them.

My son cried way more than my daughter did during his first year.  It feels like he was constantly wailing about something.  He also was the size of a two year old at his 9 month check-up.  He’s a beast.  What I didn’t understand in the first 6 months or so was that he was screaming like he was hungry even when he just ate because he was already hungry again.  He never wanted to stop eating.

 

Now that he’s one, my son wants a snack cup in his hand as soon as he exits his high chair after breakfast.  For real.  Feed him.  And then feed him again.  When all else fails, feed him.

#4.  Have a canned response that you have practiced delivering without emotion to anyone who dispenses unsolicited advice.

I learned this one from a good friend who chose a very non-traditional route for becoming a mother.  We had a lunch date where I asked her the questions I felt she would receive throughout her child’s life; she told me she had a response ready to cover most of them.  For the ones she wasn’t prepared for, she just wouldn’t answer.

Boom.  Done.  Response is ready, no matter the circumstance.

So I thought this should apply to all new parents.  We all know we will hear things in our lives that upset us or irk us or get under our skin and fester.  What better way to save yourself some strife than to have a reply ready!  It doesn’t have to be snarky; in fact, it shouldn’t be.  It should be an unemotional, canned response.

Try this:  That’s interesting.  Thanks for sharing.

Or:  Great!  I bet that works for a lot of people.

Even:  You are very considerate to share that with me.

I highly suggest avoiding anything that is open-ended or could lead to further discussion.  Unless you really, really want to know/be upset/upset the other person.  Just have a one-liner ready to roll out and then walk away or change the subject.

There are a million other topics you can get into an argument about.  Try politics.  Or religion.  Walk away from parenting advice that makes you shudder.

#5:  You need a village.  If you don’t have one, start building one.

I cannot stress enough how important it is to have a network of people you trust and can count on for anything in your parenting adventure.  You will need a shoulder to cry on, someone to watch the kids in an emergency, a person you can count on to come over with wine but without judgement, a mother-figure for you, grandparent figures for your kids, someone whose advice you can count on, other mothers and fathers at the same stage of parenting, other mothers and fathers further along or even further behind… you need people who get you as well as get this whole parenting gig.

I don’t feel like I had a village for most of these first years of my journey as a mother.  Too many people have come and gone, for one.  Also, I live in the middle of nowhere, a good hour from any member of my family, more than a half hour from most of my friends and former coworkers, forty-odd minutes from any major place for groceries or shopping… seriously, if it weren’t for two libraries within twenty minutes of us, my weeks would crawl by.  I have church on Sundays and three story times a week to look forward to.

People need a community in which to thrive.  We cannot go it alone.  Life isn’t designed that way.  We are commune creatures, to a point.  If you want to fight off baby blues or the more sinister postpartum depression, keep your dears very near.

My advice here, to tag onto this most important piece, is to start with the free things and go from there.  Your family and friends, right now, are free.  Call them, invite them over, make plans, whatever:  keep them in the loop and keep them close.  Then look up other free things to make new friends, to meet other parents, to be around those with kids the same ages as yours; try local libraries and parks, your church, a zoo, a mall playground.  Go to places you would normally go, though, instead of forcing yourself into awkward situations that may repel you from great people.  Someday I’ll write a post about being the odd one out at a mommy group full of women who could not believe I had driven almost 3 hours to be present.

Having children will isolate you from people you never expected to lose.  It will also introduce you to people you once never noticed or maybe even looked sideways at.  Be open-minded and recognize that it takes a village not just to raise a child but to support the parents.  We are human; we are not meant to go it alone.

Parenthood is amazing and eye-opening. Your heart will be full to bursting with love and pride.  Parenthood is really freaking hard.  Your body will be drained, your eyes will be burning, you will lose your mind from time to time, and you will need support.  It can be so isolating and exhausting as well as exhilarating and network-building, what with all the story times and preschool functions.

A village gift

You really do need a village.

Won’t you be part of mine?

The 5 Worst Pieces of Parenting Advice I’ve Received

I have read a couple different blog posts recently about good and bad parenting advice.  Coupled with knowing a handful of lovely ladies with newborns or expecting, I decided to share some of the gems I have received over the past couple years.  It is hard to call it well-meaning advice when it sounds mean… or just plain stupid.

#1.

“You shouldn’t cloth diaper because you’ll never know when the diaper is wet.”

cloth-diaper-clare

The Angel, 2 weeks old, rocking a cloth nappy and matching socks

When I asked for an explanation, she said that only disposable diapers have that blue line to let me know when the baby has peed.  She insisted I would be harming my child with cloth diapers because of the higher likelihood of diaper rash.

Don’t worry; I hear the argument that just ran through your head.  Almost every time I use a disposable diaper that doesn’t have a blue line, I shake my head as I replay her words in my mind.

See, not everything said to a new parent is good or bad or misleading.  Sometimes, it is downright ridiculous.  This gem is my go-to bit of “advice” when I’m illustrating to other new parents how they’ll be inundated with well-meaning people and ought to come up with a canned response to their so-called wisdom.

#2.

“You carry your baby so much that she won’t learn how to walk.  She is too big for that baby carrier anyway.”

The baby carrier in question was designed for babies weighing between 8 and 25 pounds, and the baby being discussed weighed about 10 pounds at the time.

I love baby carriers.  I have a couple of them.  There are different designs for different activities, for all sizes and shapes, and you can easily find support groups or meet-and-swap groups on Facebook.

Also, I love holding my kids.  I wish I could always carry them always.  I like having them on me, I like hugging them, I like smelling them, I like feeling their weight in my arms, and I wish I could have them with me always.  Ok, not always:  the Angel recently grasped the concept of “privacy” and now revels in the chance to stand outside the bathroom door while I’m using the toilet and tell her little brother to leave me alone.

Our struggles to conceive, the joy I had about these new lives while they were in my womb, and the drastically different ways my children came into the world are all the more reasons why I want to hold them.  After everything, I don’t need someone telling me to put my babies down.

Believe me, they will learn to walk.  The Handsome Boy was walking independently and extensively before 10 months, and the Angel took her first steps the day before her first birthday party.

#3.

“You should hold your infant over the toilet right after she eats, starting around 6 months.  This will potty-train her by 12 months.”

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She figured it out and he will someday, too.

I cannot imagine how on earth a child who cannot walk could be potty-trained that early.  Not to mention Science Says the brain and body aren’t wired that early for that sort of knowledge.  Suspending an infant over that “swirling vortex of terror” just sounds like a terrible idea.

Kids do as they want, really, when it comes to potty training.  My experience says that while you can guide your child, she will figure it out before it actually becomes a priority for her.  Then it will be no big deal.

No matter how early or how quickly your tot learns to use the toilet, you’ll still be wiping butts for some time afterwards.

And just because the Angel proudly uses her potty Every Single Time today, including wiping herself and washing her hands, does not mean that tomorrow she won’t leak a bit in her panties or throw a fit when you outrageously demand she wipe herself.

#4.

“You should take a switch to her.  She’ll mind you then.”

Wow.  Seriously?  You want me to not just physically reprimand my daughter, not give her a quick spank on her bum, but actually whip her….

I think I’m going to be ill.

Granted, the individual who suggested this was a much older man who had never raised children.  Sadly, his generation was whipped (not using a colloquialism here, folks, but was actually whipped with a thin reed of a stick that could leave vicious welts or even split skin).  He was just spouting what he knew, from 7 or 8 decades earlier.

People, don’t ever suggest someone lay a hand on their child.  If a parent so believes that physical punishment is part of disciplining a child, let’s all hope they keep that to themselves.  It has become taboo to discuss spanking.  We talk about it behind closed doors with close friends and family.  Even then, we know we are subject to criticism no matter which way we say is best or worst.

I am not perfect, I do not always adhere to the guidelines of Positive Discipline, and I have lost my shit a time or two.  No matter how you feel about reprimanding, punishing, disciplining, or the like, I think we can all agree that a switch is just out of the question.

#5.

“Because he’s so big,” she says while holding my 9-month-sized 4 month old, “you should tell people he’s a developmentally disabled 9 month old instead of an overweight 6 month old.”

Wait.

What.

You mean to tell me it is better to lie that he is older but behind in cognitive and motor skills development than it is to have a complete stranger possibly judge me for him being fat?

Challenged is better than fat?!? 

That’s what you’re saying?

Dear me, that is what you’re saying.

He isn’t challenged any more than he is fat.  He is a big baby who actually is ahead of all the mile-markers. But that isn’t what upsets me about this.

It is that you would dare not only to THINK this about a child BUT TO SAY IT TO HIS MOTHER!!

chubby-baby

Like, I said, folks:  there are some people who cannot grasp the fact that what they believe is well-meant advice is actually just mean.  Wrong.  Unacceptable.  Or stupid.

If you can’t say something nice (or constructive), don’t say anything at all.  Do not assume you can parent other parents.  I may be new at this, but I really don’t need random advice.  I will come to you if I need some guidance.  Otherwise, everyone, butt out.

Believe me, even after more than 3 years as a stay-at-home mom, I feel there are days where I am still a newbie, still learning the ropes, still bungling through.  I also have the days where I feel like I should have a cape and tights because I’m such a bad-ass mother.

What’s the worst that has been said to you?

5 Workout Hacks for the Busy Mom (or Cat Lady)

Bust A Move!

All over the Internet and in almost every “women’s” magazine you can find articles, tips, posts, and pins for quick cellulite obliterators or five-minute moves or fat-buster workouts.  Let me condense all of that and then make it real.

Read on, fellow Woman with Life-Goals!

Background

Before kids, when I was still gainfully employed in a cubicle, I came up with a series of workouts to help me burn calories, keep toned, and not fall asleep at my desk, drooling on my keyboard.

I have tried different  “workouts”, targeted different “problem areas”, and felt “the burn” in different muscle groups.  I am not a fitness expert by any means.  What I am is a woman in her 30s with two kids and a nice physique, ready and willing to help my readers slough off a few extra calories, maybe a few extra pounds, and certainly a few extra mental and emotional blahs.

So you know, I am 33 with a 3 year old and a 9 month old plus a body that some days feels 23 and some days feels 93.  However, I stand at 5’7” and carry 120-some-pounds that seem to settle around my hips.  You can read more about my weight history here, but I think you should know we chucked out the bathroom scale years ago; I have no idea what my current weight is.

suit

RARE SIGHTING! Bikini photos from mid-summer

What I do know is that I am physically healthy, and I feel mentally and emotionally healthier when I’ve done some exercising.  How do I weigh so little?  How do I find the energy and time to exercise?  How is this possible?

You ask all these things, so I give you three answers:

  1. Genetics play a HUGE factor so please please please don’t beat yourself up (or do 30 extra burpees) thinking you can obtain my figure and weight. Or any other woman’s figure and weight.  Be realistic.  If you can’t be, stop reading “women’s” magazines and start reading self-help books about accepting yourself for who you are.  Moving on…
  2. What you put in greatly effects what you get out of your body. Here’s how we eat.  Here’s why we eat it.  And the recommended daily intake of water?  Yeah, I drink roughly 80 oz of water a day.  That doesn’t include coffee, almond milk, juice, beer, wine, or anything else I might enjoy; I’m talking filtered water right from my fridge.
  3. Engage in these five exercises at least once a day, seven times each. For your body.  For your brain.  For your sanity.  For your family.

The Exercises

These were developed when I had a desk job. I would either do these in the spacious one-seat bathroom that was across the hall from my office or right in front of my computer, behind my desk chair.  You have to keep your blood pumping to your brain and extremities or that office chair might truly be the death of you.

None of these exercises requires anything other than your body and a little bit of space to move.  You don’t need a gym membership or bulky equipment or even a sunny day.  Squeeze in all five of these at least seven times a day to feel results that you will one day see.

Disclaimer:  if you have an injury or a medical condition, please consult your doctor first.  If you feel like you’re in good health and will take the advice of a fit woman who isn’t a professional, keep reading.  Remember that I am not a fitness guru, health expert, or running coach*.  Those professionals are out there so seek them if that’s what you need.

These all happen organically, right where you are, wherever you are.  Just do them!

  1. Vertical Push-Ups
  2. Squats
  3. Lunges
  4. Standing Bicycle
  5. The Toddler

How-To

First, the Vertical Push-Up:

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Found online since I can’t get a good picture of myself.

  • Not to be confused with the hand-stand push-up
  • Sculpts, tones, and strengthens your arms, shoulders, and chest
  • Does a favor to those flabby underarms
  • Keeps you off the floor where littles (or cats) interrupt your efforts
  • Won’t force you to literally face the fact that your floors are filthy

Face a wall, standing a little farther than arm’s length away, feet shoulder-width apart. Lean your body forward and put your palms flat against the wall at shoulder height and shoulder-width apart.  Now bend your elbows and get your nose as close to the wall as you can without touching it.  Slowly push yourself away from the wall, straightening your arms.

Next, the basic Squat:

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Teaching the Angel fractions with laundry-folding techniques

  • Sculpts, tones, and strengthens your thighs, hips, and buttocks
  • Doesn’t require anything more than the space you’re already taking up by standing
  • Helps with developing core strength

With your hips back and feet hip-width apart, bend your knees to lower your torso.  Perform at varying depths without letting your buttocks touch your heels, the floor, or a chair.

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The Modified Squat includes 23 lb weight.

Then, some Lunges:

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A slight twist as I attempt to placate a baby at dinnertime

 

  • Gain flexibility, balance, and strength while toning your backside and legs
  • Entertain your kids (or cats) with this move by using it to walk to the bathroom, where you will inevitably have an audience to the tasks you perform in there

From a standing position, take a step with your right foot.  Lower your body until your right knee is as close to a 90 degree angle as you can get it without hurting yourself or falling over.  Hold it.  Hold it!  HOLD IT!  Now push yourself upwards with your right leg, back into the standing position.  Repeat this process with your left leg.  That’s one.  Do it again seven times (that means seven times for each leg).  Keep your back straight and your shoulders back, mentally focusing on each muscle group. 

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Lunging my way back to the stove

To make this fun for your “audience”, use lunges to move about your house.  Instead of pushing yourself back into the standing position, lift the leg that’s behind you and bring it forward into a Walking Lunge, and walk to the bathroom or kitchen or washer or backdoor…

Now for the Standing Bicycle:

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Bad hair and demon eyes not required for optimum calorie-burning

  • Lovely abdominal exercise… that will help with the muscle but maybe not so much with the loose skin that was generated in the creation of your beautiful children
  • Don’t need to get on that floor you’ve been avoiding since the first exercise
  • Do this in front of the stove or microwave while you’re prepping dinner
  • Again, the kids (and cats) can’t climb on you while you’re standing

With feet together and knees slightly bent, place your hands behind your head and slightly lift your left heel.  Pull your abs in tight, being aware of each part of the muscles, and lift your left knee up as your right shoulder rotates to bring the right elbow to the knee.  If they don’t touch, don’t worry; be normal and pain free.  Repeat this process with your right knee and left shoulder and elbow.  That’s one.  Some would say you should consider doing this twenty times to call it a “rep”; I say if you do both knees to both elbows seven times each, you’re done. 

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Again, an extra 23 pounds does wonders for the physique

 

Finally, the Toddler

  • Again, no need for an expensive gym membership, special mat, or weights and tools; just a toddler (or any child or cat, really)
  • This is more of a mind game than a bodily exercise, but your whole body will get one heck of a workout
  • Whatever toys or laundry or housework you have on hand can be incorporated with minimal effort
  • Like I said, a FULL BODY AND MIND WORKOUT

Mimic.  Whatever they do, you do.  But the adult version.  If the 3-year-old wants to squat, hop, bounce upright, run for 10 steps, drop to her knees, crawl 5 feet, roll onto her back, pick up a ball, then twist her torso as she runs back to the starting point, do that.  If the cat rolls onto its back, stretches, then brings its head to its pelvis with one leg in the air, do that.  If the 9 month old crawls as fast as he can to the next room only to roll around, stand up using a chair, and bounce in place for a solid 30 seconds because the song on the radio compelled him to, do that.

Once, I followed the Angel for a solid 40 MINUTES as she walked “round and round” these doorways in our foyer with a ball in her hands.  She had the best time once she realized I would do whatever she would do, just the adult-sized version.  My calves and abs got a good workout and my brain had to keep up with all of her motions so I could mimic every move.  It was exhausting.  My thighs got more of a workout in that 40 minutes than they do on Laundry Day.**

Add in the folding of a load (or two or twelve) of laundry.  Or while wiping down the kitchen counters.  If you’re in an office with no kids or cats and trying to do this, practice Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks as you move towards the copy machine, coffee maker, break room, bathroom, etc.  It sure is a conversation starter!

Hydrate and Contemplate

Get yourself into the habit of using all your muscles every day, throughout the day.  And drink plenty of water!  Personally, I have an H2O intake of 7-12 pints a day.  That doesn’t include the water in coffee or juice or almond milk or beer.  I have a nifty Murphy’s pint glass that I keep next to the fridge, on the side where the filtered water comes out with the press of a lever; I fill and chug at least 7 times a day, if not more.  Sure, that means lots of trips to the bathroom, but that also means plenty more chances to do my Walking Lunges or practice the Toddler moves.

How are you feeling today?

 

 

*Shameless plug:  Abby over at Back at Square Zero is a nice starting point for those interested in a running coach.

**Picture this:  3600-sq-ft house with bedrooms upstairs, bathroom on main floor, washer in basement, and clothesline on the farthest corner of the ½ acre yard.  Now, do 3-7 loads of laundry.  I once counted and learned that on laundry day, I can climb the stairs 14 times (that’s just climbing, not including going down, the other walking, and how heavy the baskets are that I’m carrying…or if I do it with a baby on my hip).

A Challenge for You

I feel I’ve hit a block.  Runners get to it.  Writers get to it.  Apparently, minimalists get to it.

Am I A Minimalist?

It is hard to define where I am on the path to Less Equals More.  I know what I want.  I can see with my mind’s eye the ideal I am striving for.

But I can see with my real eyes what my house looks like right now.  I wouldn’t say it is a mess.  In fact, the load on my shoulders feels much lighter, knowing what I have accomplished.

However, you wouldn’t be able to tell I have done anything.  There’s a reason I’m not bothering with before-and-after pictures on the blog.  To the casual visitor, my house doesn’t look changed at all.  Only if you’ve seen me (or the BHE) loading the rear of our SUV multiple times a week for drop-offs at the Trinity Mission or the recycling center would you know I’ve been doing anything different.

I want to reduce.  I want to have less Stuff.  I want less weighing on my mind and filling up my to-do list.  I want more time to invest in my children and my other passions, like visiting and hosting friends, writing for my blog and that fiction novel I’ve been talking about for years, going to parks and volunteering at the library.

I know I can DO more if I HAVE less to take up my time.

But I’m at a Standstill

Between the crawling infant and the rambunctious toddler, between being a friend and a wife as well as working on the renovations in our large old house, between the needs of my family and the need for rest, I feel I’ve come to a standstill in my decluttering work.

I know there is much more to do.  I cringe when my eyes land on the attic door, knowing full well what lies behind it.  Every time I leave the house, there is something in the back of the car that needs to be donated or recycled.

So I know I’m still making progress, but it just doesn’t feel like I’m progressing as fast or as steady as I was.

What’s that line from the tortoise?

It will all happen as it is meant to, through our brain and brawn.  We will keep working towards our ideal.  It may not be a big project that shows amazing results within hours or days.  It may be lots of little projects that will never be seen by the casual eye.

But it will get done.  My shoulders can relax as I know I am making progress each day.

Each day, I look to my List of Sevens to do another little something to move us forward.  Each day, I paw through at least one box from the attic.  Each day, I fill a trash bag or recycling bin with Things we don’t need or are truly trash.  Each day, I remember that getting rid of Stuff will not take as long as it did to acquire it all, now that I’ve seen and felt the goodness that comes with becoming unstuffed.  Each day, I am grateful for God’s grace, life’s blessings, and how I am physically and mentally able to remove the Stuff to make room for more grace and blessings of a less tangible kind.

Maybe I Need to Spice It Up

Join me.  Check out this challenge and think on the reality of it:  are you ready to get rid of the excess?  Are you emotionally and mentally ready to shed the extra Stuff weighing you down?

If so, send me a message or comment below.  We’ll go at it together.  We’ll share photos of our successes.  We’ll virtually back-pat as more gets taken out of our homes.  We’ll give encouragement and challenge each other to take one more step, remove one more Thing, and make one more change that leads us down a cleaner, greener, healthier, happier path through life.

We will WIN this challenge together!

Are you ready to take that step?

 

 

A Thought on Sevens

From a previous post:

The number 7 wasn’t arbitrarily chosen, either.  It is a number that is quite significant in the Bible.  I’ve been trying to incorporate it more into our lifestyle and these changes.

I feel that saying “five more minutes” or “ten Things” or “30 until dinner is ready” has reduced certain numbers to meaninglessness.  You can say something  will take you five minutes, like that’s how long you have until you walk out the door, but that time allotment has lost some meaning from overuse and could be a span from three minutes to 15.

Seven takes some thought.

Seven seems just so exact.  You obviously aren’t rounding or suggesting a number in the ballpark of…but you mean precisely seven.  Or a multiple of seven.

I decided to place this thought elsewhere on our path.  I decided to make a list of projects around the house that could be done in 7 minutes, or in a multiple of 7, for those times where you know you could be productive but don’t know where to start.

So Many Starting Points

We live in a 115-year-old+ house.  When we bought it, it was in definite need of major work.  We worked on it for 6 months before we moved into it.  That was 6 years ago and this little dream of ours has a ways to go before it is “ready.”

However, having two little ones plus the BHE working 55+ hours a week during two seasons a year, it is hard to find large blocks of time to get work done.  We have to break things down into bite-sized pieces if we want to make any progress.

That’s where I came up with the List of Sevens:  a large piece of craft paper, tacked to the wall, with different tasks listed under 7 Minutes, 14 Minutes, 21 Minutes, and 28 Minutes.  (Any project that takes more than a half hour needs to be better prepared for.)

Do It

This list is meant to be a quick reference during those times where we know we can do SOMETHING before dinner, naptime, baths, or whatever is coming our way in our routine.  If it is 5 o’clock and I know I need to start making dinner around 5:30 but I don’t have any other pressing thing to be working on, I can peek at the list where it is posted in our pantry to see what I can do.

Sure, we all know there’s a load of laundry ready to be started or a dishwasher that could be emptied.  But those are daily chores that will get done.  I’m talking about the things we don’t necessarily think of until we are struggling to fall asleep and that little annoying lightbulb comes on in our heads to say, “DING!  YOU COULD HAVE DONE THIS INSTEAD!”

Clean a ceiling fan. Mop the bathroom.  Wipe out the fridge.

Organize the supplies to start painting the upstairs hallway.

Put away laundry.  Scrub the cabinet doors.  Pick 7 DVDs to donate.

Gather all the trash and recycling, and load the bags into the truck.

Write a ‘thank you’ card.  Clean out a file in the cabinet.  Throw away last month’s receipts.

Take inventory of the basement and make a list of what tools we need to buy for the next big project.

One Bite at a Time

What I’ve learned in our approach to a minimalist lifestyle is to break down everything into bites that we can chew in the time we have.

For the bigger tasks and projects, when we do find ourselves with a whole day or even a whole weekend to get some work done, we need to be ready to roll into those projects rather than wasting precious time gathering the tools, discovering we don’t have all the supplies, and making an extra trip to town to go to the store.

What I have also learned is that the more Stuff we remove, the less clutter we deal with in the physical sense, means we have fewer Things in our way on our thoughtfully sought path to creating a cleaner and happier home.  Without stumbling over boxes in the attic or having to move furniture we don’t need just to work on the house we love, we can get more work done and are that much closer to our goals.

Our long-term goals will not be achieved when we are inundated with unwanted work.

Our tasks that lead to completed projects will be finished more efficiently and with ease with fewer Things in our way.

Our to-do list is much more manageable when it is broken down into pieces.  Little pieces.  Seven pieces.

How do you break it down?

Why don’t you try creating a List of Sevens and let me know how that works out for you?