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We're Taking the #SaferSwimmerPledge!

 This post has been brought to you by Goldfish Swim School- Dayton.

This past week has been sunny, 80's and gorgeous in Ohio and gah- it feels so good. It feels like we have EARNED this summer after the past year! Summer has always been my favorite season and I'm so incredibly excited to spend the next few months creating memories with my boys. Saturday morning walks to our farmers' market, a road trip to Walt Disney World, and too many poolside days to count!

Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial unveiling of just about every American pool and unofficial kickoff to summer. With that in mind, Goldfish Swim School is encouraging parents and kids alike to take the #SaferSwimmerPledge to bring greater awareness to water safety and drowning prevention!

So, what is the #SaferSwimmerPledge?

The Safer Swimmer Pledge

  1. Whether I'm at home, the beach or pool, I will play it cool and follow the rules.
  2. When it comes to swimming, water safety is key, that's why I will always have an adult with me.
  3. When I'm around water or on a boat, I can wear a life jacket to help me float.
  4. No matter how deep the water may be, I'll jump in with my feet.
  5. If I see a swimmer in need, I'll throw them something to float, and then I'll go and get an adult. 
Throughout the month of May, Goldfish-Dayton is encouraging families to take the pledge and have those conversations about water safety. Drowning remains the number one cause of unintentional injury-related death among children ages 1 to 4, and the risks are even steeper due to the pandemic. With children out of swimming lessons, the odds are high- but armed with the right knowledge and precautions, these statistics are preventable! 

If you're a parent of young children, keep in mind these water safety tips as you spend your lazy, hazy days of summer by the ocean, lake, or pool:
  1. Enroll in swim lessons- Swim lessons can dramatically reduce the changes of a drowning incident as muscle memory helps kids know what to do in a water emergency.
  2. Never swim alone- Teach your children the importance of the buddy system.
  3. Wear a U.S. Coast Guard-Approved life jacket- Before purchasing any flotation device, look for the Coast Guard approval and ensure the right fit so there's no risk of your child slipping out. Life jackets are especially important in lakes and oceans where water conditions can be more unpredictable.
  4. Designate a "Water Guardian"- Adults can work in shifts to ensure that there is always a set of eyes on the pool while children are at play. Even if a lifeguard is on duty, having a vigilant, distraction-free adult is imperative.
  5. Play it cool and follow the rules- The same way that we teach our kids not to play near traffic, we need to be having those same conversations and water safety and following the pool rules.

So why should you take the pledge? Not only are you teaching your kiddo(s) the five water safety must-knows and spreading awareness to prevent childhood drowning, but you also have the opportunity to win a YEAR of free swim lessons from Goldfish Swim School! Each pledge will also receive an exclusive Safer Swimmer Promo Code for 25% off your next Speedo purchase and earns a $1 donation to the USA Swimming Foundation, providing access to swim lessons to children across North America!

I know childhood drowning is not something that any parent wants to think about, but it does happen. Are you ready to commit to the #SaferSwimmerPledge? Sign up through the end of May to keep your kiddos safe in the water this summer!


35 BEFORE 35: One-Year Check-In

Last year, having finished off my 32 Before 32 Bucket list, I came up with a new list of goals to accomplish by the time I turn 35. Today just so happens to be my 33rd birthday, so although this blog sits collecting dust, I love doing these recap posts and checking in on my goals. At the time, I came up with my list, we were about 1-month in to pandemic life and had no idea what the next year would look like. My list of goals is a reflection of that unknown, but also optimism that eventually life would return to some semblance of normal. Here's what I managed to do during the Year of COVID:

35 Before 35: One-Year Check-In

1. Take an international trip | Ha.

2. Earn a second professional designation | COMPLETED (4/21) | Oh my goodness, I fit this one in just under the wire! This past Saturday, Chuck took the boys off my hands and I spent all day at home cramming and took the leap and PASSED my final exam on the first try! The test requires a 70% passing score so I was shocked when I got an 81%. Studying at home during the pandemic with two kids at home was sooo difficult, so I feel particularly proud of this one. My 3-year work anniversary is just over a month away and it's absolutely bonkers how much I've learned and achieved in that time. I can't wait to see where the next 3 years take me!

3. Pay off ALL student loans | IN PROGRESS | In 2020, I paid off THREE private student loans thanks in large part to the government stimulus checks. I'm hopeful that we'll have paid off another private student loan by July and though it will definitely be a stretch, it's not outside the realm of possibility that we'll have all of my private loans paid off by the end of the year!

4. Renovate basement half bathroom to a full bathroom | Originally, we planned to tackle this project this year. However, after a year of being cooped up at home, we decided we'd rather spend what we'd put toward tearing up our basement floor to take a family trip to Walt Disney World. Hopefully, we'll get to this in the next year or two.

5. Schedule a monthly family day trip

6. Join a nonprofit board | Not necessarily a non-profit board, but I am serving on a committee at church which is similar, so I'm not sure whether to count this one or not.

7. Install new kitchen and basement flooring

8. Open Roth IRAs for Chuck and me | This won't happen for another few years until we pay all our debt off.

9. Host a foreign exchange student

10. Deliver 35 meals to someone who needs it (1/35) | IN PROGRESS | Unfortunately, I kind of stunk at this in the past year. It was already too much work just trying to feed my own family!

11. Run a half marathon

12. Teach Charlie + Crosby how to swim | IN PROGRESS | We re-enrolled the boys' in weekly swimming lessons at Goldfish Swim School-Dayton and have marveled at their progress!! 

13. Replace our back porch

14. Visit Frankie's grave

15. Attend a cooking class

16. Deliver my Daddy's ashes

17. Take a romantic vacation for our 10th anniversary

18. Get a fourth tattoo

19. Install planter boxes in our front yard

20. Run a 5k with Charlie

21. Purchase a minivan | COMPLETED (12/20) | Almost on a whim, I decided to snag an awesome deal on a 2018 Toyota Sienna I'd been following on CarFax on the last day of 2020. It worked out great and becoming a minivan family has been everything I'd hoped for and more!

22. Run a race in 3 different states (1/3) | IN PROGRESS | I've run a virtual Ohio-based race, but don't anticipate running outside of my home state any time soon.

23. Plan an annual sister weekend

24. Refinance our mortgage

25. Attend a concert with Chuck

26. Replace living room furniture | COMPLETED (9/20) | Although our sectional took nearly FOUR months to arrive due to COVID-related delays, we finally got her in September of 2020 and have treasured it every day since then. We couldn't be happier with our purchase and are so glad we waited it out rather than going with a Plan B couch.

27. Take a Mommy + Me class with Crosby

28. Learn how to can veggies

29. Replace backyard fence and repair driveway

30. Visit my BFNSCF

31. Host an annual ladies' brunch

32. Paint and install new counters and kitchen backsplash

33. Decide whether to grow our family | I'm not sure what and whether to share about this one right now. This past year has been hard and weird, but hopefully I'll be ready to share at some point in the not too distant future.

34. Increase our tithing by 10% each year | IN PROGRESS | So far, so good! I've increased the amount of our monthly tithe by 25% from 2020 to 2021 and we've continued to give to our church every month.

35. Send 35 birthday/thank you/etc. cards (19/35) | IN PROGRESS | An unintended consequence of pandemic life- I live for mailing cards to my loved ones! I've probably sent more than 19, but haven't been super diligent about keeping track.

Considering the last year has taken place during "unprecendented times" (who else is sick of that word?), I'd honestly say that my progress hasn't been completely terrible. It will be interesting to see what the next year holds for me and my family. We can only hope for more travel, more friends, and less worry.


Celebrating 5 Years of Fin-tastic Fun!

This post is brought to you through a partnership with Goldfish Swim School-Dayton.

If you've followed me for any length of time, it wouldn't be a stretch to say my blog has been on life support these last few months. As much as I wish it were different, it's admittedly become harder to keep up with it as my kids have gotten older and my professional responsibilities have taken a front seat. This was all before COVID, of course, which completely sucked out any remaining creative spirit I may have had.

I make no promises for the future of this space and my public writings, but I will say this- if there is one thing I'm inordinately grateful to have held onto during this season, it's my family's partnership with Goldfish Swim School- Dayton. We've been a part of the Goldfish family since Crosby was in diapers and I can't imagine a more wonderful place for my boys to learn and grow in their swimming skills.

Happy 5th Birthday, Goldfish Dayton!

This month, Goldfish Dayton celebrated FIVE years of serving the little ones of the Dayton area! We've been with them almost since the beginning and it's been such a gift to watch them grow and expand their outreach to young families. Like most small businesses, Goldfish Dayton's General Managers, Amy & Andrew Strozier, were thrown an enormous curveball when COVID hit. Not only did they evolve to continue offering swim lessons in a safe environment that followed COVID-19 protocols, but they've begun to add more class times to accommodate the growing demand for swim lessons! There's a reason why I'm so incredibly passionate about the work Goldfish does- it's all about keeping kids safe and having lots of fun along the way.


National Doctors' Day- March 30, 2021

It felt fitting to honor Goldfish's commitment to water safety and drowning prevention on today, National Doctor's Day. As parents, we depend on our pediatricians to advise us on nutrition, car seat safety, illness and medicine. With drowning being the number one cause of injury-related death among children ages 1 to 4, we need to make sure we're discussing water safety too! The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends swim lessons for all children starting at age 1, but you can teach a baby as young as four months. Swim lessons teach lifesaving skills and can reduce the risk of drowning by 88%!

This is why Goldfish Swim School has launched Goldfish Rx which aims to build relationships with pediatricians across the country by providing educational material needed to promote doctor-patient conversations around drowning prevention, the importance of water safety, and the value of swim lessons at a young age. Drowning accidents can and do happen to anyone and Goldfish Swim School is the leading premier learn-to-swim concept. Classes are offered by specially trained instructors in a safe, child-friendly and fun environment using a research-based philosophy called The Science of SwimPlay® which teaches swim and safety skills through guided play. 

Goldfish Swim School offers year-round swim instruction for children from four months old to 12 years old, with specially designed lessons for infant and toddler swimming. With summer quickly approaching, there's no time like the present to introduce your little ones to safe swim in a fun and inviting environment!


Charlie & Crosby's Progress Report

I grew up taking swim lessons through the YMCA, so it means a lot to me that the boys learn to swim from an early age like I did. With summers spent in beaches and in pools, I want my boys to have foundational swimming skills, but more than that, I want them to have the knowledge of what to do should they ever find themselves in a water-related accident. I have always been deeply convicted about water safety, but knowing that people in my larger circle have experienced near-drowning emergencies with their children has compelled me to become a swim safety advocate to other parents of young children!

In the last few months, I have really seen the fruits of the boys' hard work paying off! Crosby, who has always been more trepedatious in the water, now enthusiastically asks for his goggles during bath time so he can practice holding his breath underwater- it may not sound like a big deal, but I assure you, it is! Charlie is [this close] to swimming independently. Most recently, he has mastered his Front-to-Back-to Front Rollover and Swim skill!

Week-after-week, I continue to be so thrilled with their progress and I can't wait to see them show off their skills this summer at the pool! If you're curious about Goldfish Swim School- Dayton, use this referral link for a FREE, no-strings-attached intro lesson!


January is Bath Safety Month!

 This post is brought to you by Goldfish Swim School-Dayton.

You all know that I could sing the praises of Goldfish Swim School for the rest of my days. I love that my boys improve in their swimming week after week. I love that their confidence grows with each new skill mastered. But most importantly, I love that before Sea Otter Floats, before Superman Glides, and even before Pulling Paddles, my babies were learning the fundamentals of water safety.

January is Bath Safety Month and because water safety is kind of their thing, Goldfish is sharing the things you need to know to keep your littles safe in the water!

1.Test the Water

Always run the water on your own forearm first, whether filling the tub or rinsing your little one's body and hair. Your fingers are a little less sensitive to the water temperature than your wrist is, so it's important to make sure you're testing water there to ensure it won't be too hot for a baby's sensitive skin.

2. Don't Overfill the Tub

For little ones who are just learning to sit up and are still getting used to their own coordination, there's no need to fill the tub with water up to their necks. Put enough water in to be about belly button level or so. This way, should a reach for a bath toy turn into a slight tumble, there's less worry about being submerged, and getting back upright is quicker and easier.

3. Enroll in Swim Lessons

Goldfish Swim School teaches babies as young as 4 months old how to swim. While this doesn't entail doing laps up and down an Olympic-sized pool just yet (you'll see extraordinary results with time!), our instructors use integrity, compassion and trust to teach babies how to be safer in and around water, while learning the building blocks of swimming -- like breath control, how to go underwater, and not panicking when water gets in their face (whether intentionally or not). In turn, this knowledge makes bath time safer.

4. Use a Stool…and Towel

For yourself! Park it next to the tub during the entire bath time and remain within arm’s reach. Not only will you be right there for baby, but you won't have to stretch too far and run the risk of slipping yourself. Accidents can happen in a split second -- even when you're confident all is going well. Have a towel handy on the floor so you don't slip on any water that finds its way outside of the tub from an overzealous splash or two.

5. Use a Cup to Rinse

Bring a plastic cup or bowl with you when you're filling up the bath water so you have it on hand when it's time to rinse shampoo out of your little one's hair -- saving yourself the struggle of trying to lean his or her head underneath the tub faucet, and eliminating the risk of accidentally knocking their noggin on the faucet. If you're so inclined, you can even buy a special rinsing cup that bends around a child's forehead to prevent a face full of water…in theory.

6. Know that Babies are Slippery!

They can wiggle out of pretty much anything while they're dry, and babies get even more difficult to keep a grip on during bath time. You can use a baby tub, a special baby bath seat, or have your baby sit on his or her own in the tub. Thinking of holding your baby and jumping in for a quick shower? Opt for the bath instead.

7. Use Anti-Slip Grips

Make bath time more fun -- and safe -- by adhering colorful rubber non-slip grip adhesives to your tub (maybe some goldfish ones, perhaps?). Even if the colorful ones don't quite coordinate with your d├ęcor, you can purchase simple adhesives in neutral colors and shapes to help minimize slips. Consider installing a non-permanent grab bar for your little one to hold onto as he or she grows.

You can find out even more bath safety tips at the Goldfish Swim School blog! If you've been delaying enrolling your babies or toddlers in swim lessons, don't wait! You can sign your little ones up using the new Goldfish Swim School mobile app- lessons begin at as early as four months old. Try your first lesson absolutely FREE with this code, just for followers of (Bee)autiful Blessings.


FINANCIAL PEACE: 2020 Debt Paid & 2021 Goals

Oh, boy. Where to start? 2020 was a year. I'll spare you the platitudes that include phrases such as "pandemic," "unprecendented," and "dumpster fire." You've heard them. We all collectively experienced 2020 and I imagine we all collectively did not meet the goals we planned for ourselves.

That being said, if 2020 had a silver lining at all for my family, it was that not doing anything or going anywhere lent itself well to our debt-free journey. Before I share what we accomplished in the last year, I thought I'd recap the goals I shared eons ago in January 2020:

Recap of my 2020 financial goals

In January, we celebrated paying a total of $37,250 toward debt in 2019 (a 22% increase from the year before). This total included wiping out medical debt, as well as our credit card debt. We were elated with the progress we made and ready to maintain our financial discipline and set our sights on new hurdles:

GOAL #1: Payoff my auto loan- COMPLETE! | In February, we knocked out the auto loan on my 2012 Kia Forte. We then got to enjoy the remainder of the year with just one car payment which felt pretty amazing.

GOAL #2: Purchase a new car- INCOMPLETE! | Technically, this is an "incomplete," but for a very good reason- I didn't purchase a new vehicle, because I didn't need to! Starting the new year, we assumed we'd have to replace my little Kia that's been with me since before we were married. What we weren't anticipating was the fact that my weekly mileage would go from 400+ miles per week to probably less than 20 miles per week when I began working remotely from home due to the pandemic. The only thing I used my car for in the last 9 months was school drop-off and pick-up. And did I mention how much I loved not having a car payment?

GOAL #3: Payoff a student loan- COMPLETED! | I am so excited to share that not only did I payoff a student loan...I paid off THREE! That being said, in the interest of full disclosure, the CARES Act stimulus check and forbearance of Federal loans allowed me to put a lot more money toward my high-interest private loans than I would have been able to in a "typical" year.

GOAL #4: Payoff personal debt- COMPLETED! | We had a couple small miscellaneous debts that we carried over from 2019 and were able to knock out by February. However, we did add debt to this category when I financed my Peloton in August. It's 0% APR so I think of it less as a debt than a payment plan, but still keep track of my payments along with my other debts.

GOAL #5: Cash flow our family trip- COMPLETED! | One of my best friends was supposed to get married in May and we were going to tack on a family trip to Washington DC. Obviously, that was cancelled and she postponed her wedding until September. Since the school year had started by that point, our family trip became a solo weekend. My trip expenses were significantly less traveling by myself, but I'm still proud to have saved up and had plenty on hand to pay for unexpected expenses that popped up.

So, how'd we do in 2020?

Last year, we paid a total of $43,308.17 (a 16% increase from 2019) toward debt! Here's how it broke down:

It's hard for me to believe that we were able to put so much toward my student loan debt this year. The last few years, our focus has been on our "Debt Snowball" and getting rid of all of our smaller debts so that we'd have more income freed up to apply toward our biggest debt- student loans! We began 2020 with SIX FIGURES worth of student loan debt- it was literally more than our mortgage because of the egregiously high interest rates. This was the year we made actual progress in reducing the principal amount rather than just paying interest in the form of minimum payments. 

2020 was the year that we shifted tactics from debt snowballing to debt "avalanching." One of the three student loans that we paid in full had an 11.25% interest rate (which had actually decreased from over 13% in 2019). It felt so good to kick that one to the curb!

In looking forward to the year ahead, 2020 has taught me to keep my expectations low. I know that we're nowhere near the end of this pandemic and anything can happen. However, I also know that in the midst of life's uncertainties focusing my energy on goal-setting genuinely brings me joy when the world feels entirely out of my control. 

I have reason to believe that we won't exceed our 2020 debt payoff total in 2021 for a few reasons: 1) Presumably, I will be returning to the office (and my 45+ minute commute) at some point and will actually need a new vehicle, 2) Due to the way health insurance is structured through my employer my income has exceeded a certain tier and my healthcare costs will triple next year (not excited), 3) I don't expect any more COVID-related supplemental income, but it will be interesting to see if President-elect Biden and/or Congress make any movement toward student loan relief.

So, with those variables in mind and with the mentality that all of these could wind up being irrelevant and/or replaced with other priorities, here are my financial goals for 2021:

5 Financial Goals for 2021

GOAL #1: Payoff my next highest-interest (10.25%) student loan. 

GOAL #2: Finally purchase my minivan. 

GOAL #3: Save and cash flow our family trip to Walt Disney World!

GOAL #4: Increase my monthly tithe by 25%.

GOAL #5: Increase our Emergency Fund savings to $10,000.

Ideally, I would love to pay off all my remaining private student loans, but between the car purchase and the family trip we have some bigger expenses to save for so I think our priorities are going to shift in that regard. And yes, one could argue that student loan repayment should come before Disney World- but my children are only going to be this age once and honestly, I want us to enjoy a little reward for the hard work we've put in to dramatically reduce our debt. We are not entitled to a family vacation, but for the first time in our 8-year marriage we are in a position to do so. The trade-off feels more than worth it. 

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What are your financial goals for the next year?!