Mal Smiles

Friday, August 28, 2015

DLW's Sergeant First Class Promotion Ceremony

After 3.5 years as an "Army Wife, " I fulfilled my first official duty yesterday. I pinned DLW at his Sergeant First Class promotion ceremony.
Funny story: I was on my way to the ceremony, feeling cute in my new dress when the strap snapped! Thank goodness my car is littered with stray safety pins from race bibs. DLW had to pin me before I could "pin" him.
DLW was promoted in July but did not have a ceremony until ROTC started again this week. I had never been to a promotion ceremony before (DLW didn't have a ceremony for E6 because, recruiting) so I was totally clueless. The good news is that all the ROTC cadets were clueless too so even if I made a mistake, they didn't know.
The tradition is to toss the previous rank and PC (hat) away to symbolize the promotion. I was nervous about this part because I felt silly but most Army traditions are silly so I just went with it. Collins held Daddy's Sergeant First Class rank and helped me pin it on.
DLW's superiors were kind and helpful and took so many great pictures for us to remember this day. Pinning E7 is a big accomplishment and for DLW to be promoted in less than ten years says a lot about his career and character. He has been an outstanding enlisted solider and will be a valued officer.
We celebrated with a family selfie (of course) and DLW's favorite dinner at home. We are so proud of him and can't believe we will be pinning him as a Second Lieutenant in just nine months.
Collie looks like she's about to punch someone

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Our Debt Free Dream Come True

If you saw my Instagram post on Monday then you already know that we are DEBT FREE.

My sneaky, penny pinching husband has been secretly paying extra on my car to get it paid off. We bought my 2014 Mazda CX-5 less than two years ago and DLW surprised me with the title this weekend.
DLW knew having two paid off cars was my dream and made it come true. I am completely blown away by this because I had no idea. We have been a one income family for almost a year and while I knew we were saving a little here and there, I never thought we would be able to pay my car off early.

DLW used the extra money he earned during his deployment last year to make this happen; money he could have used to buy himself something but instead he used it to improve the financial future of our family. I am so fortunate to have a husband who is smart with our money and makes sure we live within our means while still having fun and living our life. We don't have a budget and we didn't use any debt-free method. We just try to be careful with our spending and I listen to my husband when he tells me to "stop buying bullshit" at Costco (I have a problem).

Now, I say we are "debt free" but I would be lying if I didn't tell you that I do still have student loans. However, we are very fortunate that my parents pay those for me. We would not be able to pay off our debt if it wasn't for their generosity. Thanks, Tim & Kath- we love you. It is my hope that we can help pay some of those loans off in the future now that we are debt free as a family.

Moving forward, our goal is to save. We have a savings account, IRA retirement accounts, and a college fund for Collins to build up. We would also like to sit down and see where our money is going. I don't think we will ever stick to a strict budget but we want to be more mindful of our spending.

I am thrilled to be car payment free and know we are capable of living comfortably with just one income.

  • Are you debt free?
  • Do you follow a monthly budget?

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Puppy Sisters

It's #NationalDogDay and the perfect opportunity to brag about Layla and Sadie, Collins' puppy sisters. You all know that we love the Puppy Princesses like children and that hasn't changed since having Collins. In fact, I think we give them more attention now than ever.

I was nervous to introduce Collins to the dogs after she was born because historically our dogs don't like kids. Like, at all. In fact, they hate them. However, they are good with babies. Not just Collins but the other babies they have met, too. They understand that tiny humans need space and I hope they will grow more tolerant of children as Collins grows up.
Sweet Sadie has been Collins' protector and best buddy since day one.
The day we brought Collins home, before they even "met."
She loves laying in Collins' room and checks on her when she's upset.
She is so tolerant of Collins' touching her fur and tail. She is even understanding when Collins reaches for her Nylabone (we are teaching Collins to leave it alone and give Sadie space but it's a process).
Sadie has surprised us so much this year with her patience and love for her human sister. We are so proud of her.

Being a labrador, we thought Layla would be all about a baby. She has been slower to warm up to her human sister but she's coming around. She will lay down outside Collins' room but doesn't come in. 
She is curious but keeps her distance. Respecting Layla'a personal space is something we are working on now that Collins is crawling.
Collins loves when Layla licks her hands and "Fat Boomy" is happy to clean the floor and high chair after mealtime.
Layla has even let Collins pet her and has given a few kisses.
We love Layla and Sadie the same way we love Collins. They are our first and second babies and Collins' sisters. Collins will grow up telling people that she has two big sisters, not just two dogs. I can already tell she loves doggies and it is my dream that she will want to help dogs in need when she's older. Happy National Dog Day!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

How To Design & Print Your Own Party Invitations

Once I decided on a hot air balloon theme for Collins' first birthday, I was eager to order invitations. I browsed all of the usual online invitation websites but couldn't find an invitation that fit my vision. I didn't want to settle for something I didn't love and decided to design my own.
With the right tools, you can design and print your own party invitations.

1. Create or purchase clip art- do not steal it.
I purchased a hot air balloon clipart file from Masha Studio on Etsy for $4.50. The files downloaded instantly to my computer and I can use them to create the invitations, decorations, and thank you notes, too. Do not use images from Google; they belong to someone else and they will not be high enough quality for printing.
2. Pick a program to design the invitation.
There are plenty of design programs available and some of them are free! I actually used a combination of PicMonkey and Pixelmator but PowerPoint is another great option (really).

3. Design your invitation.
Design your invitation in a 5x7, 5x5, or 6x8 format (5x7 is most common). Make sure to include essential information like date, time, location, and RSVP.

4. Save your invitation as a high-resolution image file.
Save your image as a JPG with the highest image quality available; at least 300 dpi.

5. Upload your invitation image to Shutterfly.
Visit Scroll over "Cards and Stationary" on the top menu bar. Select "Upload Your Own Design" under Greeting Cards. Select a size of "flat stationary card" and upload your resolution invitation image.
6. Personalize your design.
You can keep the standard settings or select a pearl finish or fancy trim for a little extra. You also have the option to add an image or text on the back of the card.

7. Order.
Figure out how many invitations you need to order (I always order a few extra just in case I remember someone I forgot to invite and one to add to the baby book). Sign up for Shutterfly's emails and check their website for awesome promo codes. Upgrade to expedited shipping if you're in a time crunch. The invitations will come with envelopes and all you have to do is address them.

Collins' first birthday invitations are exactly what I envisioned and the inspiration for her whole party. I love that I can use the same clip art images on her invitations, decorations, and thank you notes, too.
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