Juice Comes From…

Today, Greg is feeling the winter blahs. It’s that not quite sick but not quite well crap that hits in this winter season. After picking Arianna up from school, all he wanted to do was get some rest (but the life of a SAHD doesn’t allow for much of that, contrary to beliefs).

He kindly asked the kids to keep it quiet, let him rest, and only ask questions if it was urgent.

Immediately after, Arianna asks, “Where does juice come from?“.

How he does it…I have no clue.

Thirty Days of Thankful and NaBloPoMo Day 18: Mr. Burgher

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He’s been off enjoying his mancation, but has been missed lots around the ‘lil Burghers house. Greg brings so much to our lives, and I am thankful he found me and fell in love with us. This trip is something he truly deserves because he puts up with dirty diapers, “why, why, why”, and my crazy. Love you!

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This post is part of NaBloPoMo.

NaBloPoMo November 2012

On Being a “Stay at Home Family”: The “This Sucks” Edition

This post is a continuation of our “Stay at Home Family” weekly series. You can find more posts from the series here

Being a “Stay at Home Family” might have perks, but there sure are moments when it flat out is no fun. Here are the times when we start second guessing our situation and consider putting the kids in daycare.

Appointments

We’ve been trying to schedule our dentist appointments about an hour apart. You see, one parent has to sit in the lobby with the kids while the other parent goes to the chair for dental work. This means Becky has to flex at least two hours of work for the process (too bad they don’t have evening hours, huh?) because really, there’s no other way to manage the kids unless we found a sitter. For a while, my parents scheduled their appointments at the same time, so they’d alternate watching the kids while Greg got his work; however, we somehow got off schedule and are now back to alternating between the two of us. Parents who have their kids in daycare don’t have to worry, they can both go in at once OR they can each schedule an appointment that fits their work schedule. We don’t really have that option.

My money, your money, our money.

One parent working means one paycheck. It’s hard enough to balance a house on one salary, but add in the stress of “you spent our money x ways” and it’s a mess. We haven’t got to the point where we have separate accounts to manage the budget yet, but it’s a possibility. The first priority is meeting budget (paying bills, buying groceries). It’s a pain when Greg has to ask “how much can I spend on gas this week” (and honestly, not at all glorious!) because I am the one that budgets. I am sure he sometimes feels like it’s not his money, but he’s working just as hard as I am to make this work. Balancing wants and needs is always tricky, too. I’ve been guilty of accusing Greg of spending household money on “couponing goodies” yet I ignore the fact I went and bought a new pair of running shoes which cost a lot more. It’s not “my money” or “your money”, but it’s “our money”. Not always easy to see it like that, and there has to be a way to make it work without feeling like we are burdening each other (or dare I say “paying an allowance”). It’s really a no-win situation in any household when it comes to money because unless you are bringing home the same paycheck, someone always “has the upper hand” and that’s just no fun.

Vacations

Recently when we went on vacation, Greg still “had to” do his duties like changing diapers. There really is no vacation for a stay at home parent because they are always “on the job”. To make this fair, Greg goes on an annual “mancation”, but he sure doesn’t get out often enough.

Friendships

Adult friendships are always hard to come by. Being a working woman, Becky has the advantage here because when you work with people, you have adult interaction and can build friendships. Most of our friends are people met at work or knew before moving to SC. Greg is with the kids all day and he’s built relationships with neighbors, but by no means friendships. We aren’t part of any play groups or classes for him to reach out to other SAHF, especially SAHDs, so opportunities are further limited.

Responsibilities (Housework vs Kids, priority?)

It’s not easy to keep a house clean, but I’d say parents whose families spend the majority of their day outside the home have it a bit easier. With two ‘lil ones roaming all over the house 24 hours a day, things just get messy. Greg often has to set housework (laundry, dishes, updates, pool) aside because the kids simply need the attention. Balancing things like mowing the lawn and dealing with making sure the kids are occupied are not always fun (or easy).

Also, I feel like a lot of the “responsibility” falls to Greg. If dishes aren’t done and I come home needing to pack my lunch, I easily get frustrated (“what were you doing all day?” mentality), but find it hard to pick up and do the work myself (it’s “his” to do?!?). Honestly, between being sick while pregnant with Arianna, living with my parents, and having Greg to clean the house, I can’t tell you the last time I’ve vaccummed my own home (shocking, huh?).

Schedules

With no one to “check in with” (minus the days Arianna is at school), Greg’s schedule doesn’t really exist. There are days when sleeping in is just fine, but then there’s the nights of staying up that go along with that. When we try to get things in order, it’s not always easy.

Our Time (vs. Time Alone)

Going along with schedules, it’s tough for Greg and I to get time together. Usually, we’ll stay awake together until the 11:00 news, then I crash in bed. He kisses me goodnight, then he goes down stairs to watch “adult tv” (Have you ever watched endless episodes of Dora? Then you understand the need to catch up with “The Office” after hours.) This isn’t the  easiest thing to deal with in a marriage, but we seem to make it work, with me compromising by staying up super late on weekends.

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What do you think about the disadvantages of being a family like ours? Next week we’ll talk about the pros of being a “Stay at Home Family”. In the meantime, enjoy this picture (an outtake) from our recent session with our parents.

Photo courtesy of April Skipper Photography

On Being a “Stay at Home Family”: The Introduction

Today, Greg and I will begin a weekly blog series about being a “Stay at Home Family”. Greg is a Stay at Home Dad (SAHD) to our two children and two dogs. Becky’s dad had a stint as a SAHD when she was a baby (before he became a pastor) and then her mom was a SAHM until she was a senior in High School. Greg’s family also had some time with stay at home parenting, so this “way of life” is pretty much our norm. We hope you enjoy this special insight into our daily lives.

In October 2008, I became a single mother. My parents stayed with my roommate, Arianna, and I for the first two weeks and oh, were they a blessing! I had four weeks left in maternity leave to find daycare that would accommodate my 10 plus hour days and be somewhere along my car pool route. Two weeks before I was to go back to work, I toured the one and only daycare center that Arianna would ever call hers. Feeling like it was an “ok” place, I enrolled her and set Mallory and Greg up as emergency contacts.

Dropping Arianna off at daycare wasn’t near as bad as I expected. I was a single mom, after all, so it was in a way a welcome “break”. The pain was knowing we would be there before they opened and I was being charged extra to pick her up just before they closed (unless Mallory got a lucky break and beat me home, surprising me with a text that the ‘lil one was safe and sound at home. Essentially, I was working to pay for the house, the car, the daycare, soy formula, and a little bit of food for myself. Times were not easy.

The routine worked for about three weeks, and then I got the call. “Your child is sick and we need you to come get her so that she doesn’t spread her illness to other kids”, I was told. There I was, 53 miles away from daycare and teaching my students at Green Sea. I texted Mallory, and she was able to get Arianna after securing my car from the carpool drop off spot. I fretted, but knew she was in good hands. At recess, I got a text from Mallory saying she was on her way, we needed to get her to a doctor right away and that they were able to see her. I didn’t understand how my kid who was so healthy that morning could be so sick just hours later. When I saw her, I understood. She looked dreadful and kept vomiting all over her car seat. I was in tears, but so glad I had Mallory with me to calm my crazy.

Turns out, she contracted RSV from another baby whose mother refused to come to daycare to pick up her sick son. I kid you not. This is what I was told when I called daycare to say I couldn’t take her back until she was better, I didn’t know what to do, so we took turns at a few unpaid days from work then I sent her back with plans to un-enroll her days later when we flew back to Pittsburgh. My parents would be keeping her for 6 weeks until I could finish up the semester and move my things to PA.

During the time she spent with my parents, it was obvious I wouldn’t be using daycare again. Arianna, my dad, and I quickly fell into a routine as I started my job and he took her to church meetings and office hours. We were officially an at home care family.

When Greg and I decided that he’d move up with us and we’d get married, he took an evening job and stayed home with her. The two had a crazy bond from the beginning, but this strengthened it even more. Nine months later, we bought our first house about 30 minutes away and so he quit his job. The money I was saving on travel made up for his pay, so we decided to officially become a stay at home family. Instead of me being a SAHM, Greg would be a SAHD. When I got pregnant with ‘lil Man, I asked Greg if he wanted to handle two or if we should explore daycare. We remembered the crazy times of dealing with daycare before, and agreed he’d keep his job as SAHD.

Almost three years into this deal, I have to say, he rocks at what he does. The kids love spending time with him, and it’s comforting to know exactly how our kids are being raised. When the youngest goes to kindergarten, this arrangement is over and Greg will be back in the work force. We try not to think about that but know it’s a reality not far down the road.

For now, this is what works for us. Daycare is costly, and there’s no sense in one of us working just to fund daycare. People probably wonder how we do it, but you don’t know how many times we sit back and wonder how families DON’T do this! We’ll be bringing you some of the ups and downs of being a “stay at home family” throughout this weekly series. Hopefully we’ll be able to connect with other families like us and get your thoughts on the society of stay at home parents.

Photo Courtesy of Michelle Hammons

So Much Trouble

Two kids. Two dogs. A 2-story house. One stay at home dad. Even if you can’t do math, you know this equals trouble.

Just recently, ‘lil Man has learned to go down the steps. He’s been going up for months, but hadn’t had the desire to climb down. Life has completely changed.

One kid wants to go upstairs, the other down. Someone always wants something different.

On nice days, there are things to do in the yard, but that opens up a bunch of other variables. The pool is gated, but there are stairs up to the gate. There is a play house, a sandbox, a garden. So many places to watch.

From my perspective, I could never keep my eyes out for the kids like Greg can. It’s clear that his days as a security guard prepared him for the adventures of fatherhood. He makes it look so easy…especially those times when…

* ‘lil Man decides he is going to taste finger paint
* ‘lil Miss A decides to tattoo her feet and ‘lil Man’s face with “cupcake markers”
* The dogs chase after a baby bird
* The garden dirt looks oh so yummy to ‘lil Man
* The kids leave an empty plate, but the dogs still manage to chew it up
* The recycling/trash space becomes a toy box (who doesn’t want to play with empty water bottles?)
* Stickers are plastered to the tv (good thing they know which one to avoid)
* ‘lil Miss A demands that 24-month blue boy pants are hers. At least she put on a matching shirt.

Aren’t those the joys of parenthood? Sure, a new adventure every day! Greg really knows how to stay calm and handle these things. The kids have no idea how lucky they are that we are in a SAHD situation instead of a SAHM. He handles every twist and turn with grace. I wish I could learn more from him!

Why it Works for Us

Mr. Burgher is an incredible Stay at Home Dad, and we are so lucky for that. Take today for example. Work has been a marathon for me, and working on photos, the blog, and ‘lil Miss A’s school folder have really taken a back burner. It was a book fair day, but I figured I’d just order her some books via the book fair’s website; however, the school called Mr. Burgher and asked him if he wanted to run money up to the school. He was able to turn right around and take some cash to her. He then executed getting brakes on the truck and healing his not feeling so well self. What a day.

While I hate that I am missing a lot of the day to day moments with the kids, I am so glad he’s getting to experience this life with them. He does the laundry and will even help me pack my lunch. We’re working on a “savings spreadsheet” to show him just how much his work couponing is doing for us, plus, there’s the fact that we don’t have to shell out about $1200 a month on day care. What’s not to love?

This article from Yahoo speaks perfectly to why having Mr. Burgher as a SAHD works for us. Sure, it might not work for every family, but we’re lucky we can. Mr. Burgher, I can’t say it enough, but thank you!

Mr. Mom

Remember yesterday when I was telling you about how I can’t do hair ? Even though he will get to have “his” day in about a month, today I want to celebrate not only myself, my mom, or my mother-in-law, but I also want to celebrate my husband. What a great guy. He’s dealt with breakdowns, potty training, weird food allergies, doctor appointments, daredevil stunts, and paying bills. I am so lucky to have an awesome man like him in my life, my Stay at Home Dad, Superman Husband, my own personal (and proud to say) Mr. Mom.

Couponing: The Beginning

I have always been skeptical of the little old ladies who stand in front of me at the super market checkout with a fist full of coupons. How much could they possibly be saving that it is worth holding up the line for 15 minutes, I mean how much cat food can you really need anyhow? Upon marrying my wife, I had no clue that she could very well end up being one of those little old ladies, minus the cats of course, but what I DEFINITELY did not see happening is that I too would become that person who keeps you waiting in line while he watches every single coupon being swiped and the dollar signs diminish.

For B, she has always had a love of shopping, which in the past has gotten her, and now us, into a bit of financial disarray. For me, I was always happy to get free stuff. Coupled with my addictive personality, I didn’t stand a chance. As we creep closer to climbing out of that hole, we find ourselves searching for ways to combat both her shopping addiction and my need to have a hobby and collect things. Couponing it is!

B started to coupon before we got together, however, with the addition of 2 children and 1 hungry husband, I think it’s safe to say it has intensified. Once we bought our house and were closer to all the key coupon spots, it was game on. Every Sunday, B would buy 3-4 papers and start clipping. She’d search online sites and blogs for the current deals and printable coupons, then find the corresponding coupons in the paper to get the maximum savings. After she had all her coupons together, she would hit the stores. At first, I stayed home with the kids, as coupon fever had not yet struck me and I still did not understand her system. She would come home with her loot and I would help her put it all away, amazed but not quite sold.

Part of my hesitation had to do with the fact that I did not see my role in the process, as B seemed to have it all in hand. Then one day, the TV network TLC debuted a show called “Extreme Couponing”. This show features the savants who have turned a simple money saving venture into an artform! I was intrigued at how a person could take a $1000 purchase and reduce it to a few bucks and in some cases, make money! Being a stay-at-home parent, I am always struggling with the fact that I do not bring in a paycheck and therefore the brunt of the financial burden falls on B’s shoulders. But again, how could I become a cog in B’s coupon system?

As I continued to watch the show, I noticed how these people seemed to have an endless supply of coupons, some from inserts, printed, or even ordered from a clipper service. I also noticed that they seemed to be pretty well organized in binders and began thinking about how much time B spends sorting and cutting her coupons. While there is a procedure of calculating the deals that my brain is not quite suited for, the sorting, clipping and organizing aspect was right up my alley. Then I thought about my baseball card collections I had as a kid and how the card pages made it so easy to organize and sort my cards, which happened to be the same size as some coupons. But did we really need that much space for only a few newspapers worth of coupons? Or was the issue that we needed more coupons? With more coupons, we could take advantage of better deals, but where would we come up with extra coupons that wouldn’t involve buying them? A woman on the show had the answer, however it did seem a bit unorthodox and taboo.

And the story continues – Couponing: The Hunt

Daddy’s Home!

Why hello there, Mr. Lil Burgher aka G!

As many of you may know, I am a stay-at-home father to two beautiful, amazing children. What you may not know is that this really is my dream job and in a way, a source of healing for my past.

Growing up, my father worked a lot and suffered from clinical depression so he wasn’t very involved throughout most of my childhood. I ended up resenting him for his absence (we have since reconciled), and vowed to never put my kids through that pain and be as involved in their lives as possible.

Every day I get to wake up to, “Daddy…MOOOORRRRNIIIIING!!!” A is ready to get dressed, eat breakfast and watch “shows”. While she eats, E gets a bottle and Daddy checks FB, gets a snack and lets face it, watches kids shows with A.

Now it’s not all snuggling and watching cartoons, there is still a house to be kept and work to be done. That is where our magical Moby Wrap comes in handy, especially when E doesn’t want to be put down. I wear our little man tightly to me as I sweep and vacuum floors, dust, wash dishes and do laundry.

Of course, all work and no play makes daddy, well, lame. We make sure to spend plenty of time out in the yard and in the pool (except in crappy Pittsburgh winter), painting, coloring, sliding (weee), playing make believe and all other forms of tomfoolery.

I have truly been blessed to have such an amazing wife who supports my choice to be our children’s caregiver and we are so lucky that her job affords me the option to do so. To anyone who doesn’t agree with or understand a man taking on a role that has traditionally been the mother’s, I say, it’s the 21st Century, any guy can throw money at a kid, it’s called child support, but a real father goes out of his way to get to know his children and be there for moments large and small. This is not to make light or take anything away from all the fathers who bust their butts every day to put food on the table, just saying, there doesn’t have to be a double standard.

At the end of the day, I have a job, and it just happens to be one of the best things in my world. My children have given me a purpose, a drive and a confidence that makes everything okay and anything possible. I’ve been good at many things but being a father is the first thing I can honestly say I am great at, and you can’t put a price on that.