Embracing Everything Emma

Enjoying Life One Baby Step at a Time…

Vacation Savings September 28, 2012

Filed under: Embracing Everything Family — erinnlinkous @ 9:14 am

When we began planning for our Florida vacation, we knew we were on a budget. We knew money didn’t grow on trees at the Linkous house and we needed to be wise in where we spent our money and also in where we were willing to spend a little extra. Here are a few steps we used that helped us out in preparing for our most recent vacation.

*Know your budget. It’s hard to look at certain vacations and have to say no, especially when you have kids but this is life. Would you rather go on an expensive vacation or have food when you get home? We knew right off the bat that we couldn’t afford an exotic trip to Bora Bora so we never looked there. We also knew that we didn’t want to pay the price for airfare. We were able to set certain limits right off that determined where we could go and what we could do. For some people, that may mean you can spend a week in New York, for others it may be a few days a couple hours from home. Either way, it’s a vacation. Don’t focus so much on the distance or time you’re going, just the fact that you are. You can find so many things to do anywhere you go and be able to budget it in based on what your budget is.

*Save in advance. We knew pretty much as soon as Emma was born that we wanted to go to Disney at least one day this year. This helped us in narrowing down a location and being able to have an idea of cost. We were able to put back money early enough that it didn’t seem like a big chunk at one time. For example, it’s a lot easier to save $50 a month for a year than having to spend $600 all at once. $600 at once we don’t have, $50 a month we do. We were able to figure out an exact amount that we needed and save towards that goal.

*Bring in other money. We knew that we would be receiving funds for other things (ie: side jobs, my and JR’s birthdays, etc) and put all that money towards our trip. Since a trip to Universal wasn’t in the original budget, we put our “extra” money together to buy tickets for that. There were several things on our trip that weren’t necessarily in the original plan but we were able to afford it by saving up a little extra money to fall back on just in case. This isn’t where you want to pull money for your trip. if it’s not a definite that this money is coming in, you don’t want to rely on it for definite parts of the trip. Universal was an option, not a necessity.

*Plan early. We put together a game plan early on of what we wanted to do and where we wanted to go. We were careful with the days we used and wanted to spend “out”, that way we still had time “in” for the pool or beach. We knew how far a drive some places were and were able to estimate all that, too. We drove this vacation so if you’re driving, don’t forget to add in that cost. We also cooked the majority of our meals at home, so plan to bring certain things from home (spices, baby foods, good deals, etc) and funds to buy other things out (milk, bread, etc). You are also able to get some great deals when you plan early. There are places that offer cheaper rates (airfare, hotels, parks, etc) if you’re willing to book early.

*Be willing to bend a little. We had a few days that we didn’t have specific plans for and we decided we wanted to go out rather than stay in the condo or even at the beach or pool. On our way into town, we passed a zoo and looked up information on it. We were surprised that it was a BIG zoo, not one with chickens and pigs running around being labeled a “zoo”. This one had giraffes, monkeys, crocodiles, and more. The best part of this visit is it was CHEAP. It was $14.50 a person and on Tuesdays, they celebrate with $2 Tuesday. Can you say YES PLEASE?!? We were able to take four adults for only $8, less than the cost of ONE ticket on a regular day. We had originally made plans to go on a Monday but were willing to be flexible to get the best deal.

*Take notes for the next time around. We were certain that we couldn’t afford an entire trip to Disney so we planned to stay off site and only go one day. We had a wonderful time on our vacation and loved it all, but something we noticed very quickly was that we could have stayed at Disney for just a little more than we paid for our vacation. We were unaware that the Disney FREE dining plan was going on while we were there so that would have cut one big cost completely out. We have taken notes on how to do Disney with a kid for next time around and plan on going this route. We visited some places we’d like to go back to and other places we’ll pass on so that way we’ll know.

*Enjoy yourselves! No matter where you go or what you do, enjoy it. Vacation only comes once (sometimes twice) a year and this is your moment to relax. This is your time to let yourself unwind and be ready when you get back home, back to work, or back to wherever “normal life” is for you. We have a policy that we don’t work on vacation. It’s hard to do, but we do it and we hold each other accountable. In fact, I sent an email for work and the employee replied back telling me not to worry about it and get back to vacation. That was encouraging, too, that my co-workers support a no work on vacation policy. One thing that helps out is we don’t bring our computers. This keeps you from working pretty easily. JR did bring his this years due to our need for internet but we held him accountable the whole time and to be honest, JR does this well on his own. When he’s on vacation he’s in the zone. Relaxation time is HERE.

I hope these tips have helped in planning a future vacation for you and your family. I know we enjoyed ours and are anticipating our next one. Vacation is a wonderful time. Sit back, relax, and join us next week as we share our most recent vacation with you!

Do you have any advice or tips for planning for a vacation?


Fall in Love…With Fall September 27, 2012

Filed under: Embracing Everything Emma,Embracing Everything Family — erinnlinkous @ 6:00 am

I get frustrated when I hear people complain about fall. It’s too cold…it’s too dead…it’s too blah, blah, blah. I can say this because my mother and my husband are two of the biggest complainers I know when it comes to the season. It’s a battle in our households and on our way home from the beach, my dad and I were anticipating all the wonders of FALL. I’m sure JR and mom were secretly planning our deaths for such nasty talk. I want to offer encouragement to those of you who may not love fall. Or for those of you who do. Fall is here. Whether you want it or not, it’s here. I want to share with you the best ways I have found to embrace it and how to do so with your kids:

Make crafts. Last fall, Emma was in daycare and we made crafts for every fall season for her teachers. We also made crafts for her grandparents and us. It’s a lot of fun to sit down with her and do all the work. Ha! I’m excited that THIS YEAR she will be able to participate in the crafts we make and do for others. It’s also a cheap way to have fun projects. You can get a lot of ideas from pinterest or you can cheat and buy the kits they have in the dollar section of Target. Either way works.If you need an invite to Pinterest, please let me know!

Go to a corn maze. It’s early enough still that it’s not too terribly cold outside so you can go out and enjoy a good corn maze with your family. You can find family friendly corn mazes with fun foods and tractor rides. You can also find scarier ones that offer haunted houses/barns and such. I don’t think that’s up my alley. Or Emmas. We will gladly take our hot chocolate and wagon ride. They are normally pretty affordable and some may include a pumpkin patch where you can buy a pumpkin for your next project…

Carve pumpkins. There’s not much carving going on at the Linkous house but there can be a lot of playing with the innards of the pumpkin. Emma will love it. JR loves to carve pumpkins so we’ll let him do the beauty work. When I was little, my mom was an expert at pumpkins. Instead of carving one year, we painted them so this can be an option, too. She bought a short, fat one and painted it like Ernie from Sesame Street as well as a tall, thin one and painted it like Bert. I loved those pumpkins and still remember them to this day. It was one of the shining moments of my childhood. I doubt anything we make this year Emma will remember, but WE will remember it and make memories.

Cook! It’s never too early to teach your kids to cook and it’s fun to do as a family. Embrace pumpkin flavors and make all kinds of pumpkin things that your kiddos can enjoy- cookies, breads, soups, and more. Embrace cinnamon and nutmeg. Eat lots of easy crockpot soups. They taste good and are usually cheap to do. We’ve already had two this week. You will thank me, I promise. Also, try making some baked pumpkin seeds after you carve your pumpkin. It’s soooo easy! Dry them and sprinkle them with some olive oil and seasoning salt. Yum! Such a cheap and easy snack during those cool, fall evenings.

Watch football. It’s football time in Tennessee, and everywhere else. You can watch football on tv or take your kids to local games all way from midget league to college teams and even NFL teams based on where you live. It can be free on basic cable and even affordable by going to a local game and packing your food. We go to the Emory football game every homecoming and brought Emma last year. She slept through the whole thing but at least she wore her wasp colors. I am an Abingdon High alumni and figured this year we’d go to a few games there. My ten year reunion is this year. Yikes. I’m trying to say that enough that I actually believe it. All in time…

Take day trips. Based on where you live there are numerous options. If you live in the Abingdon or surrounding areas, there are multiple places you can go and experience. Take a ride on the creeper trail. Eat a picnic lunch at Backbone Rock. Watch the leaves change colors in Boone (and grab lunch at Storie Street Grille!). Spend a day relaxing as a family at Dollywood. The possibilities are endless and the prices can go from free to expensive. My favorite part is enjoying the outdoors while it’s not too hot and not too cold. Day trips in the fall are some of our best memories. I always enjoyed going to the Biltmore but have made promises to not make JR go back for another year or so. Something about getting season passes last year was just too much for him.

Enjoy the fashion for you and your child. Fall has some of the best clothes ever. There’s nothing like a pair of riding boots with a light sweater while sipping a pumpkin spice latte. There’s also nothing like matching your child to your attire. Enjoy putting together clothes for your kids and making your money stretch. Fall is a great time to use long sleeve onsies and leggings to make summer outfits carry through to the next season. It saves you money but also lets your expand your child’s wardrobe. I highly recommend taking some time to see what you have before you run out to the store to buy the next best thing. Your wallet will thank me. Your husband will thank me. You’re welcome.

Whether you love summer or winter or embrace everything about fall, I encourage you to take time to enjoy ALL the seasons that God gives us. I admit I’m biased and fall is my favorite so it’s easy to say this time of year, however, we are so incredibly blessed to live in a part of the country where you can experience all four seasons. To me that’s just wild. We will be pulling out our fall wardrobe this weekend and I can’t wait to see all I’ve packed away for Emma. I think I’m more excited about that than I am my boots. I hope you enjoy getting ready for fall, too!

How do you enjoy fall weather?


Swimmy Swim Swim September 26, 2012

Filed under: Embracing Everything Emma,Embracing Everything Fashion — erinnlinkous @ 6:00 am

Emma & Daddy Swimming

At the Linkous house, we have certain standards for Emma. This doesn’t stop when it comes to clothing and in particular, swimwear. Nothing drives me more crazy than going somewhere and seeing someone walking around in nothing short of sexy, skimpy lingerie that’s been given the name of a “bathing suit”. Seriously? I don’t care what you call it- bathing suit, bikini, swimwear- it’s LINGERIE. Lingerie is ok in a certain time and place- with your spouse. That’s it. Well, now that I’m off my soap box, I’ll explain how we do swimwear for Emma including modesty and more…

Emma’s first time at the pool

*We currently do two pieces. I’ve heard arguments that go both ways on this one. To wear or not to wear? That is the question. At this time in Emma’s life we have decided that we are ok with two pieces. The ones that we have picked cover her. They are bands all the way around the top and the bottoms are full, too. No strings involved and no triangle cut tops. Seriously? I was watching the Today Show the other day and saw a string bikini for infants. Who does that? Not these parents. At this time we’ve decided two pieces are ok but we may change. It’s a hard thought of seeing my teenage daughter in a two piece once she’s hit puberty. We will cross that bridge when we get there but for now we say “yay”.

Emma & Farris

*We do the right fit. I can’t stand seeing a bathing suit that is so extremely tight that every bulge is visible, on adults and babies alike. It just looks like it hurts. Who wants their child being pinched and pulled while they’re trying to enjoy some time at the pool? What I also can’t stand to see is a bathing suits falling off.  When it’s adults it’s just disgusting. I came to swim, not see you in the buff. When it’s kids, it falls on the parents. It’s our job to fit our child right. When we went to Splash Country a few weeks ago, I brought a pair of bottoms that were the right size for Emma but they didn’t fit. They slid all over the place. Luckily I brought two bottoms for her. Shew, mommy to the rescue!

*We cover up. Here lately with Emma’s two pieces we have been wearing the bottoms along with a quick dry, UVA protection top. I got both of mine second hand and love them. One was meant for boys but whose gonna know? Well, now you do but you wouldn’t have if I hadn’t told you. The other is definitely girly and she wears it more. I didn’t pay more than $1 for either one and I have my fingers crossed for next year. I also like these because it’s gives the simplicity of a two piece but covers her up like a one piece. I can’t stand ripping an entire one piece off to change a diaper. I’d rather quit swimming that have to put that sucker back on her.

Swimming in Savannah

*We do comfort. We have a swimsuit from Gymboree that I love on Emma. She wore it a lot on our vacation to Savannah this summer. It’s so stinkin’ cute. I got such a great deal on it, too. I knew she had outgrown the size but I brought it on vacation just in case. Well, just in case never happened. I tried it on her and it was so small that she was uncomfortable. I wasn’t about to force that on her. This doesn’t just go for sizes. There are some swim pieces that have decoration or embellishment on them that cause your kid to squirm. This isn’t a fashion contest. If your child is uncomfortable, don’t make them swim in it. It will be bad for them. It will be bad for you. Trust me on this one. This experience is suppose to be fun, not a fight.

Borrowed Swimsuit

Clearance Swimsuit

*We do cheap. Emma has cute swimwear and I didn’t spend an arm and a leg to get it. We’ve paid for some at stores on clearance. We’ve bought others at second hand stores (Wee Cycle It, Goodwill, etc). We’ve bought or borrowed some from friends. There’s no limit to what we’ve done to get Emma’s swimwear for this past year. Well, we didn’t steal. So I guess we didn’t do ANYTHING and there was a limit. Anyways, I never spent more than a couple bucks on her suits and some I got for $1 or less. Even though I went overboard and bought way too many, I never spent much getting them. I can’t wait to see what stores have on clearance in the weeks to come. Shopping trip this weekend? I think so!

This is how we do  swimwear at the Linkous house. It may change tomorrow. It may change with baby number two. It may never change at all. There are some things we are willing to be flexible on and other things that we are not. Be sure to set your boundaries and know where you stand as well as where you’re willing to bend in all areas. This includes modesty. This includes financially. Also, be sure to always include daddy in these decisions. It’s always so important that mom and dad stay on the same page. Always. Kids can smell division and know exactly how to break you. I know. I was that kid. I am so grateful my parents made decisions together and worked together. Did they have flaws? Sure, all parents do but when it was the stuff that was really important, the stuff that really mattered, they stood their ground and I’m glad they did. They’ve paved the way for us.

What are you doing about swimwear at your house? Any advice on certain standards you follow? Any advice on where you shop and where you get the best deals?


Thinking Outside the Season Box September 25, 2012

Filed under: Embracing Everything Emma,Embracing Everything Fashion — erinnlinkous @ 6:00 am

We are all guilty of falling into the season box. The season box looks like this- “I can’t wear that, it’s not in season!” “How can I put my child in that during the middle of winter?” “Are they CRAZY?!?” Before these thoughts go into our minds, consider things OUTSIDE of the box. In this post, I will be explaining how to take an outfit and make it work in any season. Ready, set, go!

Join me today at Stacy Makes Cents as I have been blessed to write her guest post as she is enjoying life and a short break with Barry, Annie and their newest addition- Andy!


Footloose September 24, 2012

Filed under: Embracing Everything Emma,Embracing Everything Fashion — erinnlinkous @ 6:00 am

You gotta cut loose, footloose, kick off your Sunday shoes! Ok, I want Emma to have shoes that are comfortable and good enough that she doesn’t want to kick them off. At least not now. At Emma’s young age of 13 months it’s so important to find the RIGHT pair of shoes for her. I’ve looked into this thoroughly, believe me! There are several things that I don’t mind going the “cheap” route on but shoes aren’t one of them. Prior to walking, it didn’t really matter what Emma wore because she wasn’t USING her feet for anything other than decoration. Once she became a walker, we had to think on a whole new level. Let me elaborate: Emma is not an independent walker yet- she walks WITH something at all times- a table, a hand, a cart, you name it she uses it. JR props her up against a wall and encourage her to walk to him. One thing about my child that makes her mine is that she is ornery. She isn’t walking until she’s ready, it doesn’t matter what you dangle it front of her. Anyways, here are some things that are important to consider when buying shoes for your walker:

  • A child doesn’t develop an arch until they are three years old so you do not need to find something with arch support.
  • A child’s most critical time period for having the right shoe is when they’re first learning to walk. It helps them balance as well as walk straight versus become pigeon toed. Most of these things can be corrected, but I would rather remove the situation all together.
  • Buy shoes with good soles. It’s just crazy not to! When you buy your brand new walker a pair of shoes that slide everywhere it’s like sticking them in four inch heels and saying, “good luck!”.
  • Take them somewhere you can size them. It seems crazy but when your child is a squirmer it’s hard to tell exactly what size they wear. Having them sized will give you a peace of mind.
  • From one year to two years, you will need to size your child’s foot every 3-4 months. This doesn’t mean it will change every time, but most likely it will.

With all these facts in mind, I began my search for the perfect shoes for Emma. I searched here and there and everywhere. When we went on our vacation to Savannah earlier this summer, we stopped by a Stride Rite and checked out the options they had there. I loved the shoes and the service, but did NOT love the prices. There wasn’t a sale or anything like that going on so I decided I would wait. During that time I researched shoes and asked people, too. Do you want to know the resounding answer I got from pretty much everyone? Buy Stride Rite. I figured with that many people, we couldn’t go wrong! While we were on vacation last week, I decided to make the plunge. I looked for Stride Rite’s at Wee Cycle It this fall and couldn’t find any that weren’t overly used and overly priced, too. I figured if I was going to drop that kind of cash it would be on NEW shoes. Can I get an amen?

New Kicks!

Halfway through our vacation, JR and my dad made a trip to Universal Studios for the day while mom, Emma and I hung out. We spent the majority of our day at the condo but decided to go out for the afternoon/early evening and shop for Emma’s shoes, and a little for us on the side. Our first stop was Stride Rite, of course! They were having a 40% off sale and I was bound and determined to get my shoes. When we walked in, we were greeted right away and asked if they could measure Emma’s foot. Imagine my surprise when they told me she was a 2 ½. I still thought she was barely in a two! This is why you get someone else to measure your child’s foot, NOT you. Once we had her sized, we began checking out all that was available. I was interested in getting the best deal, so I checked the boy’s shoes, too. In case you’re wondering, at this age there is no difference in the sizes and they fit the same. Trust me, I asked. After finding no price difference, I finally settled on a pair of shoes for Emma. We let her try them on and walk around the store. I wish I had video to share and show the excitement that was all over her face. She was on cloud nine and stomping all over the store. I started to take them off and guess what? She got to keep them on instead! I brought the box up front and they used those to check us out. The whole time I was doing this, Emma was making laps around the store with Mimi. It’s almost as if my child found a whole new sense of pride in her new kicks. I was very pleased with our purchase and the comfort in knowing that in one area of our lives, I had actually splurged a little. For Emma, it was worth it.

Walking with Mimi

Emma has been wearing her shoes everyday. She doesn’t take them off like she did her old shoes. She actually enjoys these and keeps them on all day long. I’ve noticed her balancing better than before and although they don’t match every outfit, she definitely is more confident in them so that will do. Watching her have the courage and desire to walk more puts my heart at ease. Stride Rite was DEFINITELY the way to go for the Linkous family!

One more thing- if you’re on a tight budget and don’t want to drop an armload of money, here are some suggestions:

  • If you’re set on buying a certain brand, check out when they’re on sale most often. For example, Stride Rite has buy one, get one half price sales two times a year (once near Labor Day and once around St Patrick’s Day). I plan on buying new shoes at the sale around March and getting another pair then that’s the next size up. This should last us until the next sale in August/September.
  • You don’t have to buy the top brand. I’m sure there are brands that are wonderful and more expensive than Stride Rite. I’m sure there are brands that won’t kill your child that are cheaper than Stride Rite. I would set a budget and then try to find the best shoe for the best deal at that price. You can find a lot of good shoe prices if you take the time to look.
  • Buy used. I hear all different things about buying shoes used but you know what? You have to make the decision that’s best for you and your family. I personally don’t have a problem with used. After all, 90% of Emma’s stuff is used! You can check out sales like Wee Cycle It, or if you can’t wait, check with friends as well as local thrift stores. We did some thrift shopping on vacation and I got a pair of Guess jeans for Emma for $1 and a Ralph Lauren Polo button up shirt for me for $2. That was a good day!

Enjoying Ice Cream

Most important, be smart and take your child on a day that they’re feeling up to the challenge. Shoe shopping can be tiring and exhausting for a little one. Shopping in general can be this way. Allow your child a good nap before hand so they’re up for the task and then make a special memory out of it. Mom and I took Emma to Moe’s to eat one of her favorite meals- BEANS- and then shared some ice cream with her afterwards at the Cold Stone Creamery. What a treat! It’s not every day Emma eats out like that but it’s also not every day we buy her first pair of big girl shoes. Welcome to toddlerhood Emma! And enjoy walking through it!

What advice do you have for shoe shopping with your little ones?


What I Wish I’d Known September 21, 2012

Filed under: Embracing Everything Mommy — erinnlinkous @ 6:00 am

There are several things I wish I’d known when I had Emma. Things that you just don’t know until you have kids. I’m sure there are some things I still won’t know the second time around but there are also some things I will have a better handle on and will know. I’m so excited! It’s great not to have to learn some things twice. There’s too much already that I have to learn over and over again.

Enjoy her MORE. When Emma was first born, I struggled a lot with all of my discomfort. I really don’t think I ever had bad postpartum- just really sore breasts. During my six week maternity leave I cried. A lot. I would call JR around 10 in the morning already asking him to come home from work. I don’t know how he put up with me. There was one day I dropped some milk and spilt about an ounce. You would have thought I had set the house on fire and lost everything inside. I was so ready for my leave to be over because I stayed so tired that I didn’t realize how much I was missing. During my final week, I was finally ready to be home and be a momma and it was too late (at least for the maternity leave part). Take my advice- enjoy the leave. Embrace it. If you can afford to take more time off, do it. I’m not sure six weeks or even eight is ever the right amount for a woman to adjust to everything that comes with being a mom. I wish looking back that we had taken more time off but I didn’t realize how important it was. Next time I will know.

Six weeks IS the magic number. I remember people telling me it will all get better at six weeks. Seriously? What in the world are these people talking about? I wasn’t sure it would ever get better. How awful is that? I just couldn’t imagine the sleepless nights ending, being less sore, or understanding how to comfort my crying child. The truth is that it DOES get better and easier. I’m not sure your child is necessarily in better shape, but you are. I remember that realization that Emma would be ok if she cried. That I would eventually sleep again. You also begin to get some balance in your life and are out of the phase of being in a constant daze. Emma was about five weeks old when I came to this realization. Thank goodness. I don’t know what I would have done if it had been five months, or even years. I think it’s just a naturally instilled thing as a parent. It WILL get easier.

Babies don’t cost a fortune. I think one thing we really worried about was money and how much we would be spending with Emma. We knew our budget was limited and we couldn’t afford everything under the sun and still pay bills, save, and more. I’ve come to find out a lot of the stuff people say is nonsense. You don’t HAVE to spend an arm and a leg on your child (minus certain medical needs they may have). God definitely provides and takes care of you and remember that this child is HIS child. He wouldn’t have given him or her to you if he didn’t have it all planned out anyways. Emma has never cost us more than we could afford. And guess what? We’ve also been on vacation with Emma, too. I can’t tell you how many people told us we’d never go on vacation again. Seriously. You choose to make the changes that happen in your life. We just chose bring Emma along with us.

Listen to my momma. There are a lot of things growing up and even now that I dismiss when my mom says them. I struggle with being a know it all. There, I admitted it. My mom would tell me things and I would shrug it off and think, “sure…” and come to find out she was right. I hate admitted someone else is right. That’s part of the illness of being a know it all. What I realized is that if I’d listened to my mom just a little bit more I could have saved myself a lot of grief. Oh well. You live you learn. And then you listen to momma.

Stress never makes anything better. I stress out a lot and that was an understatement when we first had Emma. Due to my exclusively pumping, I didn’t ever create an abundance of milk. It was just enough for her to get by. Imagine my concern when my supply in the fridge would drop. Then I would panic. Anytime this stress hit, it NEVER helped my supply. No matter how much water I drank or how much I ate, my supply would continue to drop until I calmed down and realized that everything was going to be ok. Stress isn’t good for the body, or your milk supply. I think it also carries over to your child. Emma always seemed more tense when I was more stressed. So try to cut back on the stress.

These are things I wish I’d known but I hope I’ve learned from and will do differently from this point on and the next time around. I’m glad there’s room for mistakes and lessons learned, I have sure had plenty of them.

What things do you wish you had known prior to having your child?


Four Years! September 20, 2012

Filed under: Embracing Everything Family — erinnlinkous @ 6:00 am

Four years ago today, I married the love of my life. It was definitely the most special day in our relationship, along with the birth of our daughter. I wanted to take today and give a special shout out to the love of my life and my amazing husband, J.R. As for my blog? I will taking the day off to spend time with this special man and focus on how absolutely wonderful he is and the gift that God has given me in being his wife.

Join me tomorrow as I discuss the things I wish I’d known as a new mom at https://embracingeverything.wordpress.com/2012/09/21/what-i-wish-id-known

See you then!