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Jack is 8!

18 Feb

Each year as we near Valentine’s Day, I get a little nostalgic. Because not too long ago I had my most memorable Valentine’s Day ever, at the hospital in early labor with Jack. And each year, I need a bit more hugs and kisses from my little sweetheart, because his birth story plays on repeat through my head. But then… on the day after Valentine’s Day, it’s Jack’s BIRTHDAY!

And this year, my little guy is 8 years old!

Jack’s birthday fell on a Saturday this year, which worked out great. To celebrate, he asked to have three of his favorite friends come over for Pokemon battles, video games, pizza and cake. I mean, what’s not to like?!

In honor of Jack’s 8th birthday, here are 8 things about Jack:

#1: Jack is still quite the mommy lover and has no problems hugging and kissing me in public. I know, I know. This doesn’t last forever… but as long as he’s giving out the snuggles I’m keeping them!

#2: Jack loves comic-book type books! We’ve read everything in the Dog Man series, as well as the Bad Guys series. For his birthday, he asked for the Hilo series (we had borrowed the first few from the library and he really wanted some to keep), so now we have 6 Hilo books waiting to be read!

#3: Jack is also OBSESSED with video games. His Uncle Jason started him on them a few years ago, but this year Jack received Uncle Jason’s old Nintendo Switch for Christmas and it blew his mind! His current favorite games are: Minecraft, Mario Maker, and Mario Party. For his birthday he received Mario Cart and his Mimi ordered him Animal Crossing (which comes out in March).

#4: Jack also still loves LEGOS and will spend hours rebuilding inventions. We’ve made a few visits to Legoland in Philadelphia and they are always a winner for him!

#5: Jacks current favorite foods are cheeseburgers, meatballs, steak, egg sandwiches, cinnamon toast, and ice cream sundae cones. Oh and he still loves Subway, but also really enjoys Mod Pizza with a dessert of FroYo!

#6: At school, Jack is still in the before/after program and has recently found that he loves playing chess. Each day when we pick him up, it’s pretty typical that he will be in the middle of a fierce chess game with either his friend or a counselor.

#7: Jack’s favorite friends right now are Holden, Emmett and Jameson. He invited all three of them to his birthday party and they had an awesome time playing video games and having Pokemon card battles. I think there may have been some illicit Pokemon trading too…

#8: Jack loves having the top of his hair long and when he’s thinking or concentrating he sticks one hand in the front of his hair and twists it around. Of course, then he has some crazy messy hair… but it is pretty darn adorable.

Happiest of birthdays to my super awesome, fun, amazing, hilarious Jack!

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February Fun: Snow Tubing at Liberty Mountain Resort

13 Feb

As I mentioned in my 2020 goals post, I’m planning one weekend of fun for each month throughout the year. In January, we took a trip to Kingsmill in Williamsburg, VA for my mom’s birthday celebration. For February, we decided to do something a little closer to home… snow tubing!

We were initially considering doing an overnight trip, but when we saw that Liberty Mountain Resort offered two-hour snow tubing passes AND they were less than an hour from our house we decided to just go for a day. While I love to ski (but haven’t been in 10+ years), I’ve never been snow tubing before. Neither Travis or Jack has ever tried to ski, so I figured snow tubing would be a fun and easy way to introduce them to the mountain!

Joining us on our trip:

Travis, me, Jaclyn, Jack, Jason, Katie & Craig

The cost to snow tube for a two-hour session on the weekend is $34 per person. This includes your tube and unlimited tubing on the tubing trails. We grabbed our tubes and hopped on the people mover, which took us up to the top of the hill.

Jack is smiling here, but the first three times on the people mover were a little rough. He fell over each time and then insisted on holding my hand until he got to the top. The first time we rode it and jumped off, I was more worried about helping Jack walk off safely than myself… and I immediately slipped on some ice and fell to the ground like a ton of bricks.

Luckily, we all had on our puffy snow pants! Before he went down the first hill, Jack was pretty apprehensive. Especially when people requested to be spun around and the helper would yank their tubes in such a way that they would spiral down the tubing track.

Here’s the ‘regular’ non spinning way to tube, with Jack:

And here is my brother in law, Craig when he went down on his tummy and requested a spin:

We all had a pretty great time and snow tubing did grow on Jack just a little bit. After he mastered the people mover, he got more confidence after each run. He still didn’t want to be spun, but the fact that he was smiling was enough for me!

With that being said, when I asked Jack if he’d like to try snow tubing at another mountain resort, he said that he thinks he’s fine for the year.

Have you tried snow tubing?

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January Fun: A trip to Kingsmill in Williamsburg, VA

23 Jan

I mentioned in my 2020 goals post that I’m planning one weekend of fun for each month. Well, January was easy because my sister’s, brother and I planned a weekend trip for our mom to celebrate her birthday! While I’ve been to Williamsburg, VA many times, I had not yet visited the Kingsmill Resort. My mom had said she loved it though, so we figured out a weekend and everyone booked their rooms.

We ended up traveling to the resort last weekend – driving there on Saturday and then driving back home on Sunday. As part of my mom’s birthday gift, in addition to her water-view room, we scheduled her a massage, pedicure and also had a delicious dinner out as a family.

Since we were there, I also booked a massage for Travis and a massage for me to enjoy. And OHMYGOSH did we enjoy them! Holy moly. My masseuse, Leah, was absolutely amazing and did a combination of a regular Swedish massage, hot stone massage, and even did a bit of cupping. I’d never experienced cupping before, but it basically felt like she put some sort of suction thing on my back and then dragged it down a bit before un-suctioning it. It didn’t hurt, but it felt a little tingly. It’s been a few days and there aren’t any bruises or anything (which is literally all I knew about cupping, that it gives you big circle bruises).

For dinner, the whole family went out to a restaurant called Food for Thought (you can find it here). About half of our people got the ribs special and they were so, so, so delicious (Travis gave me one of his, because he’s awesome). I ordered bacon wrapped scallops, which were also super good. Jack stuck with the chicken fingers and French fries… I let the waiter know that it was my mom’s birthday weekend, so they were nice enough to bring her out a dessert with a candle in it. There was no obnoxious song, so we stuck with ‘Happy Birthday’.

This would have been a great time to insert a photo of the entire family at dinner, but I literally didn’t get my phone out at all until the next day.

After dinner, we all met up in my sibling’s rooms because they got a shared suite with a common room. It worked out great because we could light a fire for warmth/ambiance and we also played a rousing game of charades. My family gets super competitive – so we played original Harmans (me and my siblings) vs significant others (all our spouses). It was pretty hilarious and I’m still pretty darn proud that I got Mona Lisa from whatever the hell my brother was doing.

I finally did take a photo when we were about to leave, here is me and Jack on our hotel balcony:

Every time we go to Williamsburg, one of my favorite places is the Astronomical Pancake House. So, even though the rest of the family decided to get up early and go to breakfast at 9, I knew Jack was going to want to sleep in (he was up past 10pm with our shenanigans). Sure enough, he rolled out of bed at 9:30 with plenty of time for us to pack up our room, check out and drive on over for pancakes. Actually, I should say waffles… because THIS:

I get the same meal every time we go because it is THAT delicious!

The first fun weekend of the year was a success! I loved hanging out with the family, the resort and massages were amazing, and my mom had a great birthday weekend. Now I can’t wait until our February fun…

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Financial Goals: Tips I’ll be Following This Year

9 Jan

Did you know that almost 65% of American’s make New Year’s Resolutions? (source) Yup. And the top five categories for New Year’s Resolutions are: Health (39.2%), Self Improvement (31.64%), Money (29.81%), Love (16.51%), and Career (13.69%).

I’m still working on my 2020 goals, but one of them is absolutely going to be to improve my finances.

I came across a really interesting article in US News & World Report called “Make the 2020s Your Best Financial Decade” and pulled out some of my favorite tips for you (you can find the full article here):

Set Clear Financial Goals

The article suggests that you decide on a key goal or two for the next decade and then break the goal down into steps. For our family, one of my big financial goals is to save more for retirement (which is also one of their suggested goals). When Travis left his last job and started his own business, we rolled over his 401k but then didn’t add to it since we were waiting to see how the business was doing. For our joint retirement account, we have a small amount automatically come out of our checking account on a monthly basis.

Well, for 2020 we decided to bump it up! I already had a meeting with our financial planner and we decided to increase our monthly savings. We started an automatic payment into Travis’ retirement account and we also doubled our automatic payment into our joint retirement account. As for my retirement account, I qualify for a 401k at my new company in June and I will absolutely start adding money there as soon as I am able to. While unfortunately we are not able to top out our annual retirement savings accounts, by adding a little more when we can it will certainly help!

Minimize the Costs of Unimportant Items

The article states that you should try to minimize any expenses that don’t really matter to you and gives the example of buying the store-brand in household supplies. For us, I’ve noticed a huge change when we shop at Aldi rather than our other grocery store. Sure, there are some things that Aldi doesn’t carry, making it necessary to also do a Martin’s run, but for the majority of the items we can save big. I’m making it a goal for us to do the absolute majority of our grocery shopping at Aldi throughout the year.

Learn How to Cook at Home

Everyone knows that eating food you make at home is much less expensive than going out all the time. And we do eat dinner at home the majority of the time on weekdays, only going out on weekends. One thing that really helps me is getting our Home Chef subscription. We had been doing Home Chef about once a month to mix things up. It’s like a compromise between making our own food and going out to eat, because the menus are so diverse and its fun for me to try making new recipes. I’m going to start using Home Chef more in 2020.

Another area for improvement for me is to pack my lunches more often. My big temptation is going out for lunch since I work right in Baltimore and there are so many yummy food options near my office. One of my goals for 2020 is to pack my lunch 4x a week. If a lunch averages $10 – 15, this could take me from spending $50 – 75 per week to just $10 – 15 per week. Based on an average savings of $50 a week, that is an annual savings of $2,600!

Question Every Subscription

The article points out that you might not need a Netflix subscription if you already have Amazon prime. Or you may not need a gym membership if you typically exercise outside. While I won’t be getting rid of our Netflix, Amazon, or gym subscriptions, there are other annual payments that need a closer look.

I recently got rid of my FabFitFun quarterly subscription, and Jack’s Highlights High Five magazine because we realized we could easily cut them. I’m also considering whether I need my Amazon Kindle Unlimited subscription, our Amazon Free Time subscription for Jack’s Kindle, or my magazine subscription to Magnolia magazine. By being more choosy with our subscriptions we currently have, it also helps me to decide if it’s really necessary to add additional subscriptions to our monthly bills.

Are you planning to make any small financial changes this year/decade?

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