The Best App for Road Trips


I don't know what the general consensus is on the topic, but I personally think that there are road trip people, and there are NO THANK YOU PLEASE DON'T MAKE ME SIT IN A CAR FOR THAT LONG people.

Christopher and I are the former.

I LOVE road trips!  I would sit in a car and explore the country for months on end if it was a viable option for us.  I really, really would.

So naturally, when it came time to plan our honeymoon, a road trip was an idea we put on the table.


To be honest, it wasn't our very first idea, as it's not really a "traditional" honeymoon and I'm a bit of a traditional lady, so at first we were thinking of tropical locations and whatnot.  But then, the more we talked about it, the more we realized that neither of us really care to lounge around in the sun leisurely. We love to adventure.

And so, our honeymoon road trip was born!

We drove from New Hampshire to Florida and back again in 8 days.

Yup.

8 days.

Which meant that some of those days were made up of literally 10-12 hours of driving.

And this, my friends, is where my favorite app of all time came into play...

Roadside America.

Roadside America is a website (and an app, which is what we used on our trip!) that points out weird or hilarious or strange or just random roadside attractions all across the United States.

Like the World's Largest Entertainment McDonalds and a Giant Paint Can and The Big Coffee Pot (all of which did indeed see on our honeymoon, by the way.)


They're not all weird either - we went to the Gettysburg Cyclorama, America's Stonehenge, and the Albacore Submarine because of suggestions from the app, which are all educational/historical locations.

If you are a road trip person you NEED this app in your life immediately.

It is one of the only apps I have on my phone that I paid for and I would do it again, ten times over.

I LOVE THIS THING AND I AM GOING TO TELL YOU WHY.

(For the record, this post is not even a little bit sponsored, I'm just obsessed with the app and it has made so many of our trips a billion times more fun and I want all of you to know about it!)

Here are some of the best things about the Roadside America app...


Search Function

You can search within the app in several ways!  You can search by location, search by category, and you can also use your GPS whereabouts to show you what's nearby!  Before our trip, Christopher and I planned a few places we knew we definitely wanted to stop (Hello, Tiny World - a village of houses made for cats!) that we scheduled along the way, but we also had our fair share of "check the GPS and see where we can go nearby!" moments. (Hello, Dinosaur Land!)  The search functions make the app super easy to use and navigate and it's great for both planned and spontaneous adventures!


"Been There" and "Saved" Categories

See a place you know you want to try to find when you travel to a new city?  Add it to your "Saved" items so it's easy to pull it up again once you get to your destination!

Visit the landmark you were searching for?  BOOM.  Mark it as "Been There" and it'll automatically add it to a personal list of attractions you've visited. (Christopher and I are up to 32, for the record!)


Community Aspect

There are sections that include "tips" from people who have previously visited the locations, which can be SUPER helpful, especially if you're going somewhere that may be slightly hard to find.  When Christopher, Jessica, and I went to find the Tri-State Monument, the tips were VITAL in helping us locate it - it was literally in the back of a cemetery, behind an overpass (I know, very glamourous, right?) and we probably wouldn't have known to go all the way back to find it if the community tips weren't there to help us out!

Obviously not all locations have up-to-date tips, since they are user provided, so it's possible that you might get a tip from 2014 that's outdated now, but that's part of the risk you take when you search for these places!  The tips do have the date listed, so you're able to get a good sense of how long ago it was left, but it is possible that the information could've changed since the comments were sent in. (And the tips are vetted by Roadside America, by the way, so none of them are just straight-up nonsense!)  In my experience, the tips were extremely useful and sometimes super funny, which is just an added bonus!


FUN

Mainly this app is just SUPER FUN, and it's a weird, exciting, frugal way to explore the country on a long trip.  It's also a great way to add adventure to what could normally be a boring drive - spending HOURS of your time cramped up in a car can be a bit much, but knowing that you're about to jump out in a few minutes to go explore The Smallest Church in America or an actual house shaped like a shoe definitely makes the trip more exciting!


We have gone on three separate trips (our honeymoon, our trip to Gettysburg to visit Jess' half-sister Daphne, and Christopher and my #SavageSecondHoneymoon this past summer) where we've heavily used the app and it has added a whole new sense of fun and adventure to our time!  I highly, highly recommend you check it out!


Roadside America, y'all.  It'll change your road trips forever! :D

Hi, I'm Grady! Welcome to my blog :) A little about me? I'm a smitten newlywed and brand-new stepmom living in New Hampshire. My day job is boring on paper but great in real life (just like Dunder Mifflin!), and when I'm not working I love to spend time with my family, perform in or manage productions at the theatre, and eat ice cream while listening to yet another financial management podcast.  I write about my marriage, step-parenthood, and whatever else is going on.  Be sure to follow me on InstagramFacebookTwitter, and Pinterest, and subscribe to my blog!


Why We Paid Cash for Our Wedding

All photos by the ridiculously amazing Laura Marie Duncan Photography


Over on my facebook page we've been sharing wedding photos and chatting about weddings, and it's made me start thinking about my own wedding again. (Story of my life, honestly. I don't know what the normal time frame is to stop being obsessed with your own wedding, but I haven't gotten there yet, clearly.)

Normally, my "advice" about weddings always come with a disclaimer that you should do whatever is best for you.  Today's thoughts will not, though, because I genuinely believe that doing this will set you up for success in your wedding and, most importantly, your marriage.


Cash-flow your wedding.

PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF EVERYTHING ON EARTH - MOST IMPORTANTLY YOUR SANITY...

CASH. FLOW. YOUR. WEDDING.

Cash-flowing your wedding means saving up and using only money you have immediately accessible to you to pay for your wedding.

This means no credit cards.  No post-wedding payment plans.  No breaking into your 401k or other retirement accounts and paying crazy taxes so that you can have the table runners you want.

Don't do it, you guys.

Use cash for your wedding, trust me.


Christopher and I decided that once we were married we would be working as a couple to get completely out of debt, and we certainly didn't want incur debt FROM our wedding, so we knew when we got engaged that we were going to need to save up lots of dollar dollar bills if we wanted to have the wedding we desired.

We didn't combine finances before we were married, but when we were engaged we did get a joint checking account, where we each added money each month to contribute to the wedding.

We set a wedding (and honeymoon!  Don't forget the honeymoon!) budget ahead of time and figured out how much we would need to save each month in order to have enough to pay for everything we wanted, plus a little extra miscellaneous category because I can promise you that you WILL forget something.


We had a modest wedding, sure, but it was gorgeous and I didn't feel like we had to "settle" for anything - we were able to save enough for all of our priorities, and we also had enough to take our road trip honeymoon no problem!

I know it seems significantly easier to just put things on a credit card and deal with the expenses later, but I can promise you that you will not want to be 10 months into marriage, STILL paying off your bouquets and dinner rolls.


We had the wedding of our dreams, and when it was all said and done, we were not left starting our marriage off in a tricky financial place.

Now I'm not going to sugarcoat it here, you may have to make some choices or cut some things out in order to stick to your budget, and in the moment that feels HARD, but not worrying about your bills for this amazing event that SHOULD be about the love and commitment you're making to your future spouse?  That serenity truly can't be beat.

High-fiving because we didn't use credit cards for our wedding

What about you all?  Did you cash flow your wedding too?  Why or why not?  Do you feel like you made the right choice for your situation?  I'd love to know!

Interested in any of my other wedding posts?  Check 'em out!
Engagement Photos
Bridal Shower
Bachelorette Party
Rehearsal Dinner
My Perfect Dress
The Bridesmaids
The Venue
The First Look
The Video


Hi, I'm Grady! Welcome to my blog :) A little about me? I'm a smitten newlywed and brand-new stepmom living in New Hampshire. My day job is boring on paper but great in real life (just like Dunder Mifflin!), and when I'm not working I love to spend time with my family, perform in or manage productions at the theatre, and eat ice cream while listening to yet another financial management podcast.  I write about my marriage, step-parenthood, and whatever else is going on.  Be sure to follow me on InstagramFacebookTwitter, and Pinterest, and subscribe to my blog!

Stepmotherhood: A Paradox



To have a stepchild is to live in a world full of contradictions:

You should be involved and you should back off.

You should treat them as your own and you should not try to be a mother to them.

They are your child and they aren't your child.

In the world of stepparenting, I consider myself one of the lucky ones - I have an amazing relationship with my husband, who fully supports me in my role as a stepmom, and I have the most wonderful, hilarious, kind, freaking awesome stepdaughter who makes me laugh, shares her life with me, and gives me plenty of much-needed grace.

But despite all of my blessings, I still live within the stepmom paradox.

All stepmoms do.

We live in this world of in-betweens, where any action we take will be considered "the wrong one" by somebody.  Where giving ourselves distance and space will be considered negligent but bonding too much with the stepkids will be considered "trying to be something we're not."

And I'm sick of it.

I may not have a choice about the world I live in, but I do have a choice about how I live in the world.

I am a grown adult.  I have a kind, understanding spouse who loves his child more than anything.  Together, we get to decide how we shape our family.

I'm sorry, but no one else gets to be in on that choice.

We will do our best and we will figure it out and, you know what? Sometimes we will be wrong.  But the world doesn't get to choose for us.

I am so grateful for the women in my life who share their stories of stepmotherhood with me.  This is so important.  We need to be there for each other and the world needs to see that we are here and we are making our own way, thank you very much.

We have nothing to apologize for and we have every right to shape our families into what we feel will be right for everyone involved.

I get it.  I'm here for you.  I support you.

Keep on keepin' on, my friends.  The world will be better for it.



Hi, I'm Grady! Welcome to my blog :) A little about me? I'm a smitten newlywed and brand-new stepmom living in New Hampshire. My day job is boring on paper but great in real life (just like Dunder Mifflin!), and when I'm not working I love to spend time with my family, perform in or manage productions at the theatre, and eat ice cream while listening to yet another financial management podcast.  I write about my marriage, step-parenthood, and whatever else is going on.  Be sure to follow me on InstagramFacebookTwitter, and Pinterest, and subscribe to my blog!

The Stepmom Club Series: Sam!


Hello!

I'm so excited to be bringing you the next installment of The Stepmom Club Series!  If this isn't your first time around here, you may have noticed that our project got a name change.  Well, my friends, it turns out when I created this series I didn't realize that my fellow stepmom blogger, Jamie Scrimgeour, had a series of her own called The Kick-@$$ Stepmom Project!  Obviously, neither of us want our projects to be confused for the other, so I'm switching the name up over here!  (Sidenote: All of my fellow stepmoms should totally check out Jamie's website - she has a ton of great blog posts, videos, and resources that I think you will really enjoy!)

So now I'm excited to have Sam, from Picture Almost Perfect, with us on the blog today to share her stepmothering story!  I've gotten to know Sam via Instagram and her blog and I'm really excited to have her here on MY blog today, sharing the story of her big, beautiful family!

(Would you like to be part of the project, too?  Fill out this Google form and I'll get back to you with more information within 48 hours!)

I'm so stoked for you all to read Sam's stepmom story, so without further ado...



-What is your name and general location?
Samantha (Sam) K. from Minneapolis, MN



-How many stepchildren do you have? (And what age and gender, if you’re comfortable sharing) If you have biological children, feel free to let us know about them here, too!
I have 2 stepchildren. Carson is 11 and Ava is 10. I also have one of my own Jack who is 9 on the 11th! And together we have little Harvey who is 18 months. It's our own version of “yours, mine, and ours”.



-Can you tell me a little bit of background about your stepparenting story?
I met Caleb 4 ½ years ago while he was volunteering in Jack’s preschool classroom, which was his kid’s old preschool. I knew Caleb had 2 kids from a previous marriage before we ever talked beyond a “Hi!” in the hallway. I was 24 when we started dating and met the kids about 1-2 months later (I don't remember exactly but I know it was early! Ha! - we broke lots of those “rules”). As a teacher, a mom myself, and fully aware of his kids it was an easy transition to love 2 more little kids. Plus it helped all our kids were so close in age and family dates were enjoyed by all!


We bought a house together that October (about 8 months after we met - yep, another rule broken, haha!). Carson and Ava are with us Monday-Thursday or Monday-Friday - it's joint custody with Mom having 51% and us having 49%. Jack and Harvey are with us 100% of the time. We have rotating holidays.



-What does your stepchild call you?  If you also have biological children, how does the role of titles (ie mom and dad) work in your family?
Carson and Ava call me Sam. Always have, always will. I'm totally good with it. Occasionally they slip up and call me mom and the fear on their face breaks my heart. They're just trying to love everyone. Harvey and Jack call me Mom or Mommy. Sometimes Jack calls me Sam to push my buttons haha. When talking to Harvey though, Carson and Ava always call me ‘Mom’ so Harvey knows who they’re talking about. It's sweet and thoughtful and they did it all on their own. They definitely look at me as a mom and respect me the same way. In fact, if you ask Caleb he is pretty sure I get more respect (and the good conversations!).





-How/When did you first meet your now stepchild(ren)?  Did you run into any difficulties bonding with them? (right away or just in general)
We first met completely unintentionally and unplanned. I was coaching middle school girls softball and Jack liked to come with and watch, play, and snack with the girls on the bench. During one game, a rain storm came fast and furious and my 4 year old decided it was no longer fun so I asked Caleb for help. He came with Carson and Ava, switched car seats from my car to his, picked up Jack, got him dry and warm, and let the kids play at his house till I was done. Instead of going back to the house, we decided to all meet for pizza. Carson and Jack had been playing happily and were thrilled to eat pizza with me. Carson wanted to sit next to me and chatted with me all evening. Ava was pretty shy and stayed close to Caleb, as far away as possible. I was worried at first,  but eventually I learned that is just who she is (well was! She's wild and chatty now!). After the first few times, there was and still is no issue. We've been really blessed.



-How do you and your partner handle discipline/rules within your family? (Is it 50/50?)  How do you and your partner make sure you are both respected by the children?
It's pretty 50/50. To be honest our kids are pretty good and don't need much currently, ha!  Again we're lucky but yes because we have such a blended family we both tag team as needed. It's not always simple though and Caleb and I both worry about damaging the many newish relationships involved. Since Harvey has come it's been more clear that both Caleb and I have equal authority. We've also made it very apparent since day 1 that Caleb and I are a team. Carson used to and Ava has been getting more into the game of playing Dad and Mom against one another in the two homes so we knew that we had to be a united front in our home.





-Do you participate in communication/relationship with your stepchild’s other biological parent? (Not your partner)  If so, how much and how do you maintain that relationship?
Nope, none. She doesn't want to and to be honest I'm not sure I want to either. I avoid the door when she picks up the kids each week. It's at dinner time so I usually just busy myself with cleaning the kitchen. I say goodbyes, I love yous, and what not upstairs and then give them their space. I'm cordial and polite and say hi when at joint events, but otherwise Caleb does it all. It works for us. I have no idea what another arrangement would feel or look like though. Something different could be better, but it could also be worse.



-How do you decide what things to do when you don’t have the children (when the children are with their other parent) and what things you want to wait to do until you have the children with you?
Ugh. This one is SO hard for me, and us. Seriously, it’s my least favorite thing about being a blended family. No matter how hard Caleb or I try, someone is missing out on something and man, it hurts! Their Mom isn’t always the most reliable when it comes to bringing them to sports and activities (she’s getting better), so we have always made sure they are on our days so the kids don’t miss out. Holidays are hard, but Caleb and my family’s are super awesome about celebrating holidays on off days if need be. Like this year, we celebrated Christmas on the 28th, but it was when we could all be together, so it worked. Other little things like fun day outings are hard. Jack, Harvey and I do those things on the weekends, because we have school during the week with everyone. So Carson and Ava miss out when they are at their Mom’s. Caleb always misses out, too, because of his weekend shift at work. But, during the summer it’s easy - we do them when everyone is together. It’s hard, it’s a work in progress, and we just always try to be mindful of their feelings. If we can do it on our days then we do, which occasionally leads to overbooked school nights but also happy kids. Give and take, right!?  




-Hardest/Most Difficult stepmothering memory?
Court. I won’t get into it any more than that, I don’t want to focus on the bad. Court is just really not fun & even though I’ve never attended, I see the stress and sadness it puts on Caleb and it breaks my heart. Plus when you lose something you really want or think is best for the kids, that’s hard too. And you're just along for the ride through it all with no legal say. Caleb respects my opinions and views on the kids and their well being, but no one else does.


Oh wait! Just kidding, I take it back, I have a story! Earlier this fall, Ava’s teacher didn’t dismiss the kids on time so Ava missed the bus. Ava was perfect and did the right thing, by going to the office and asking to call Caleb to come get her. Needless to say he went and picked her up, while I waited for Carson to get off the bus. I was so livid though. Yes mistakes happen, but I still to this day think the teacher should’ve called the 6 families whose students missed the bus, not the students, and an apology would’ve been great. As a teacher (and friends with lots of teachers!), we all agree that an apology or something should’ve happened. Anyway, I wanted to contact the teacher directly and discuss this, but there’s a line and sometimes I feel as a stepmom that I don’t always know where I’m allowed to go in that regard. So I hesitated and didn’t contact the teacher. And we heard nothing. UGH! It’s been months and it’s still eating at me. I should’ve stepped up, no matter where my role is in Ava’s life, and talked about it. What would’ve happened if Ava didn’t call? Or if Caleb and I weren’t home? So many things that bug me about it all.





-Best/Funniest stepmothering memory?
I was working on learning photo editing tips (very minimal!) in a course I took a year or so ago. The photo that I submitted was of Ava and I played with the filters and brightness, nothing else. Every single classmate commented on how beautiful she was AND how she is my twin. I still laugh to this day, because obviously she has zero of my genes, but she is beautiful, so I’ll take it! I guess I stock her closet, that counts for something. I think.



-Any particular resources (books, magazines, blogs, podcasts, etc) that have helped you along in your stepmothering journey?
Um - Caleb. Does he count? I didn’t honestly read much until lately. The first few years were hard and everything that I found was sooo negative, so I just avoided it. Caleb used to read a lot about the dynamic of their Mom and raising children through divorce etc. so I’ve always valued his thoughts and advice. We did read a book together that I thought was valuable -  it was Christian based stepfamilies. (The actual title escapes me). I’m not good at this one. Sorry!  
Lately, though, Grady helps, the other stepmamas on instagram, and sometimes just sharing my thoughts on my own blog is therapeutic.


























-Do you ever get jealous that you aren’t the child’s biological parent?
Never. I don’t think like that. I know they have a Mom and I respect that. Doesn’t change that I love them or Caleb dearly. I will admit in the early days, I was very very jealous of Ava at times. Her and Caleb were so close, I never felt like I’d be able to have that same relationship with Caleb or with Ava. I was wrong. But I didn’t know it then. It was big insecurity that popped up when I’ve never really been an insecure person. It was hard to work through for me.



-What do you say when people ask if you have kids?
I say I have 4 and leave it at that. I love all of them, take care all of them and provide for all of them. Blood or not I claim them :)



-What do you say when a stranger (waitress or something like that) refers to you and your spouse as mom and dad? (ie “Ask your mom and dad”).
This happens all the time, we just smile and ignore it. The first time it happened though, Ava was really uncomfortable (and worried she'd hurt her Mom) and we just talked to her and said I know I’m not your Mom but sometimes it’s harder to explain to someone the situation, especially in such a short passing.


When I meet someone for the first time and I know they’ll be around lots (like a teacher or coach) I make it clear, I am Stepmom. It puts Ava at ease and is easier to explain when Mom does come around.



-How are you preparing for when the child might someday say “you aren’t my real parent” or if others say that to you?
Eeks! I have nothing on this. Praying it doesn't happen!



-Was your now partner having a child or children a pro or a con when deciding whether to date and ultimately marry them?
I never thought about it like that. It was just a fact and something that was a part of him. I will tell you though, his divorce and previous marriage taught him lots about how to be married and a committed husband. I really trusted and valued all that he has brought to our marriage, plus he is this amazing Dad which was really great to see.



-Knowing what you know now, would you still choose to get into this relationship?
Without a doubt. It’s hard some days I wouldn’t tell someone otherwise, but I love Caleb, Carson, and Ava with my whole heart and I wouldn’t give them up for anything.





Tell us three interesting facts about you that DON’T have to do with stepmothering.  Also, please leave any blog or contact links below if you’d like that information to be featured here.


  1. I would love to open a bakery one day, making homemade candies and cupcakes. I love baking and would be in Heaven if it’s all I did all day! And even more thrilled if someone cleaned up after me!
  2. I talk in emojis. I have a serious problem with it. My top three most used are the cry laughing face, the blowing kisses face, and of course the rolling eyes face.
  3. I’m an online teacher, middle & high school math teacher to be exact. Everyone I meet happens to think I have the worst job in the world, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything! I love math and teenagers! Yes, you heard right.


Find more of our crazy chaos at:


Thank you SO MUCH for sharing your story, Sam!  I'm so grateful that you took the time to tell us about your beautiful, complicated, wonderful family!  THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!

Did you like reading Sam's story?  Want to read more in this series?  Check them all out here!

(Don't forget that if you're interested in sharing your stepmotherhood story just out this Google form and I'll get back to you with more information within 48 hours!)




One Second Every Day 2016



Waaaaaaay back in January of last year I wrote a blog post about this new app I was using called 1 Second Every Day.  The post was just explaining the gist of the app - which records one second of video footage for each day you choose to use it - and saying that I was going to try to take one second of footage for every day of 2016!

Well, my friends...I did it!!  And I'm sharing the video with you below!  (If you'd rather watch it on youtube, you can find it here)



I'm so in love with how cool it turned out (how CRAZY is it to watch that little nugget nephew of mine grow before your eyes?!) and I'm definitely continuing it into 2017!  

Have you ever made a video like this?  Or have you considered making one?  Let me know below!