How to Ensure that Open Enrollment Works for You

Thank you Dignity Health for sponsoring this post. Enroll in humankindness.

If you’re anything like me, you tend to shy away from thinking about or dealing with insurance and healthcare. It can be confusing and overwhelming! As the main caretaker of my children, it is a necessity that I know what my children’s health provider options are and which plan I should be going with. Terms like open enrollment, premium, and deductible can make your head spin! With a little bit of insight, though, you can see that Open Enrollment is a great time to make your family’s quality of life better.

Over 22% of people said that they spent less than an hour on selecting their healthcare plan and providers! 65% of millennials said that they wish they would have spent more time making their selections. Don’t be in that boat – get informed and make educated decisions.

For the most part, I think that I was pretty prepared to be a mother. I’m the oldest child in my family and the oldest of all of my cousins. I have always loved babies and grew up babysitting to make extra money. I had my CPR certification, First Aid binder, crayons and activities for the kids, and treats for when they were good. I read all of the Dr. Sears and What to Expect books. In my almost 8 years of being a mother, not much has been a surprise when it comes to parenting.

The one thing I didn’t plan for? How much time would be spent at doctor’s offices! I can’t tell you new mothers how many appointments you will have throughout your pregnancy and how many babies have. They have check-ups and vaccinations every few weeks. And that’s when they’re healthy! Plan for their first illnesses, unexpected febrile seizures (so scary), and first tumbles resulting in broken bones to be on your way to the doctor’s office. We’ve been fortunate in that Lola, at 6 years old, was our first broken bone in the family. The joys of being a mother: one child getting a cast and the other throwing a tantrum on the floor! There’s another thing to look for – a doctor’s office with a clean floor :)

All of this to say, it is crucial that you choose a doctor that you love! You will be spending so much time talking with their office on the phone, waiting in the waiting room, and taking your children in for check-ups. Most Californians don’t prioritize their doctors when choosing their insurance plan. Meaning that they choose a plan, and then look for a doctor in that network. I would recommend finding a doctor that you like, and then seeing which insurance plan they work with.

For me, the best way to find a good doctor is to ask other parents who they use. During open enrollment is your time to find the insurance plan and doctors that work best for your entire family. For us personally, we like the Health Savings Plan route. We have a separate debit card that is loaded with our pre-tax dollars to use strictly for medical expenses. I pay our family’s copays at doctor appointments, prescriptions, and chiropractic adjustments with that card. It helps us keep track of medical expenses and I like having it separate from everything else.

I would ask trusted friends for recommendations if you are looking for new medical providers. Then you have a better chance of finding one you like. Sometimes people like different things, and you may end up switching after a few visits. For this reason, I like going to a practice where there are multiple doctors. That way, you can schedule your appointments with the one you get along with best. For us, trial and error has given us the experience to know that we like the Health Savings Plan for our insurance plan. Find what works for you, then make your selections during Open Enrollment to ensure a happy, healthy year for your whole family.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

A Home of Our Own

Hello! It’s been so long since I’ve posted on the blog, and this is why! We bought our first house!!

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It was a crazy whirlwind and we are so happy to be where we are.

It all started when our landlord sent us a letter saying that he was upping our rent by $200/month. We were thinking, “Okay, this is ridiculous for a 3 bedroom house. We could be paying a mortgage on our own home instead of rent with that money!” So I messaged my buddy Pat who is a realtor and told him we were on the hunt for a home. He set up the MLS for us and I checked it like a crazy person on the daily for new listings.

We looked at a handful of houses, but nothing felt right. We looked at one house that was clean and beautiful but as we pulled up, Pat said the selling realtor just texted him saying that they had an accepted offer. On a house that had been put on the market THAT MORNING! Needless to say, the housing market was/is crazy here. While walking out of the house, Pat saw that I had bird poop on my shoulder! I totally got pooped on when I was walking into the house. I said, “Hey! It’s good luck! It means we’ll find a house!” as Matt wiped it out of my hair with a baby wipe :)

Our landlord was not sympathetic at all to our search. We were upfront with him and let him know we were looking, but he wouldn’t let us go on a month-to-month lease. Even though we’d lived there for 2 years and were great tenants. He wanted us to sign a year lease, then if we found a house, he would charge us a fee to break the lease. $$$ We went back and forth and he wouldn’t budge.

In the end, it turned out that if he had waited ONE DAY, we wouldn’t have had to pay a fee. But, we felt like we did the right thing by signing a year lease like he wanted. If we had a crystal ball, we wouldn’t have, but I believe in doing the right thing, putting good in, and getting good out of life.

It was so stressful not knowing if we’d have a place to live the next month or have to move out without an accepted offer on a house! Usually, I am the confident and calm one. This was not one of those times! I felt so frustrated by everything happening, it felt like we would never be able to buy our own house and like we’d forever be paying money to greedy landlords. Matt was so sure and just kept saying, “It’s all going to work out. I just have this feeling that we don’t have to worry and we will be okay.” It was one of those times in our marriage where I had to lean on his faith to carry me through!

My grandpa called me one morning and said that his friend down the street had put his house on the market. I got so excited and told Pat right away that we wanted to go see it! We went on the day it was listed and already 4 people had looked at it. The minute we walked in, we knew it was the one. Matt didn’t even go upstairs! He knew, and I knew. So, we put an offer in the next day.

My cousin in San Diego told me about how she wrote a letter with a picture of their family to give the sellers with their offer. It got them the house! So, I did the same. I wrote a letter talking about how I lived on this street for a year as a child and have such fond memories here, how perfect this house would be for us, and put our family picture on it. I sent it to my sister who worked her magic and worded everything perfectly.

Long story short, our offer was accepted!! There was some back and forth with termite damage, repairs, etc. but Pat was awesome and handled all of it. If you are local and in the market, he is your guy! He answered all of our questions and walked us through every part of the very new process of buying a house.

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We spent our summer scraping popcorn off ceilings, retexturing, painting, ripping up carpet, laying self-leveling cement & laminate, and having carpet installed. We are at the point where we are moved in, living day to day life, but still have boxes to unpack. And a long list of things that still need to be done on the house :) We are chipping away little by little as we can on those projects and it’s coming together beautifully! It’s a 5 bedroom which means that Matt has his own home office, and we have room to rearrange bedroom situations down the road if we want to.

We are so grateful. Grateful to be in a home that our daughters will grow up in; a home of our own. Grateful for all of the support and love given to us by family and friends. I called this summer “Nonnie Day Camp” because my girls spent so many days with my mom so that I could work on the house! We had so much help with the renovations, moving in, and getting settled. We are a 3 minute drive to the girls’ school and less than a mile from my mom’s house. We love that our girls can ride their bikes up the street to go see their great-grandparents. Such a blessing!

Simple Advent Calendar Garland to #LIGHTtheWORLD this Christmas!

This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting Kara in the Kitchen! #LIGHTtheWORLD - karainthekitchen.comEvery Christmas season, we always want the focus to be on the birth of Jesus Christ, the Light of the World. So many times, though, we get caught up in the busyness of the season. Running errands, making cookies, wrapping gifts, attending parties, shopping, cleaning, the list goes on and on. Before we know it, it’s Christmas Eve! #LIGHTtheWORLD - karainthekitchen.comThis year, to help my family stay on track and remember who the Christmas season is about, we are joining with people all over the world to #LIGHTtheWORLD! For 25 days in December, we will look on the back of our advent garland and see what the day suggests doing to serve others. To make our super Simple Advent Calendar Garland, I bought this cute garland at Target and printed out the advent calendar here. For Family Home Evening, we cut out the dates and the girls matched them to their corresponding numbers. I taped the twine to the brick with Scotch tape and arranged the numbers with the mini clothespins. I’m all about easy during the holidays!#LIGHTtheWORLD - karainthekitchen.comIt has been awesome to have conversations with our daughters about service. I shared with them that a woman came and asked if she could take my cart after I’d put my groceries and baby in the car. I was doing the awkward, “Should I run and leave my baby alone or leave the cart here?” debate in my mind. She saw my dilemma and helped! Then when I was by myself with all three of the girls at Costco, a woman parked next to us helped load up the trunk while I buckled the baby in her seat. I thanked her profusely and we talked on the drive home about how she saw a need and served us, and now we need to do the same for those around us. I am so excited to focus on serving others this Christmas season as Jesus Christ did. If any of you would like to come to church with me on the 4th for that advent day or on any Sunday, let me know! I’d love to go with you :) #LIGHTtheWORLD - karainthekitchen.com Head over to Mormon.org for more inspiration, videos, ways to serve and #LIGHTtheWORLD this Christmas season!#LIGHTtheWORLD - karainthekitchen.com

Click on the picture below to buy the garland at Target: 

LEGOLAND California in the KIA Sedona

As an Official LEGOLAND Blogger, I received free tickets to the park for this trip. I also received a KIA Sedona to drive in partnership with DriveShop. As always, all opinions are 100% mine. 

We were so excited to go to LEGOLAND for the first time! My girls are the perfect age for it. They especially love Heartlake City, which is where the LEGO® Friends live. They had to get a picture with all of the girls:LEGOLAND - karainthekitchen.comWe had a fancy new KIA Sedona to drive down in! This one had the rear DVD entertainment system for the girls. We loved it! Around Santa Barbara, my mom and I were commenting on what a quiet trip it was since the girls had headphones on. Just then, Lola YELLS from the back, not realizing how loud her voice was! It was hilarious :)KIA Sedona - karainthekitchen.comI caught Matt rocking out with it’s sweet sound system to some Boston :)

We were there for the unveiling of the brand new Freedom Tower in Miniland, USA. It’s their version of One World Trade Center in New York City and is the tallest LEGO® tower in the United States! It is made up of over 250,000 LEGOS!LEGOLAND - karainthekitchen.comThey had a brass band playing the national anthem and Uncle Sam and Lady Liberty walking around on stilts. Lola wasn’t too sure about them, see her grabbing onto Ada’s dress in the picture? ;) LEGOLAND - karainthekitchen.comThey loved the live show in Heartlake City and then talking to the LEGO® Friends girls afterward.LEGOLAND - karainthekitchen.comIt really is incredible what they can create with LEGOS!! LEGOLAND - karainthekitchen.comWe had such a blast, even with new little baby June along. She slept and we tried to keep her cool. The water park was excellent and clean. It’s worth it to buy the reusable cup and fill it up at the Coke machines throughout the day :)

June’s Birth Story

June Deanne arrived Friday, May 13, 2016 at 2:43 AM!

9 lbs. 9 oz.

21 1/2 in. long

15 in. head circumference

June was due on May 12th. Since I was 10 days overdue with Ada and 4 days overdue with Lola, I was sure that I’d be going at least a few days over with June. For most of my pregnancy, I told people that I was due on May 17th, my Bobba’s birthday, so that I could avoid the barrage of, “Is baby here yet?” questions. I made sure that my due date was packed with appointments and things to do so that I could stay busy and keep my mind off being due with no baby.

Thursday the 12th looked like this:

Get girls ready for school

Drop girls off

Joke with teachers about how I’d see them on Monday, still pregnant

Pick girls up from school

Go to 40 week check-up

Take girls to get their hair cut

Go to Orcutt Burger for dinner

Get my nails done

I had a full day! And stay busy I did. Well, at my check-up, when Dr. Rasul checked me, I was 4 cm dilated! I asked her to strip my membranes and she said that I would probably go into labor that night. She wanted to send me right over to labor and delivery, but my doctor (Colton) wanted to send me home. Less intervention = better chance of VBAC. I agreed and wanted to go home too to finish my list of to dos for the day! I was having some mild cramping but nothing unbearable. As I was leaving, she looked me up and down and said, “I don’t think baby will be 9 lbs. You let me know.” I went about the rest of my day and it was when I was getting my manicure that things were getting a little more uncomfortable. It was so funny, I closed the place down so they were mopping the floor while my nails were being finished. They said not to get out of the chair and walk, they would push me in my chair to the front. So I had two guys pushing hugely pregnant me in the rolling chair along with the owner walking behind us saying, “Taxi!” It was hilarious!

When I got home from the nail place around 8:30 PM, I told Matt and the girls that we needed to get packed up so the girls could spend the night at my mom’s that night. After a false alarm the week before (which really was my body doing some work and progressing), I already had everyone’s bags ready. So it was just the toiletries and electronics that needed to be added to the bags. As I was packing the bathroom stuff, painful contractions started. I was timing them on my phone and they were 3-4 minutes apart. I’d texted my mom after my doctor’s appointment so she had dropped off sub plans at her classroom just in case it was the real deal! We dropped the girls off at my mom’s and I stayed in the car it was so painful. Matt comes back out to the car and asks, “So, home or hospital? Maybe we can watch one more episode of Walking Dead?” I just looked at him and said, “Hospital. Now!” He dropped me at the ER door since it was after hours (11 PM) and went to park the car. I waddled in and said, “Hi, I’m in labor.” They got me in a wheelchair and took me up to L&D. Matt came up and joined me in the little triage area where they made sure I was actually in active labor. Baby girl was definitely coming tonight!June's Birth - karainthekitchen.comContractions at this point were getting closer and getting up on the little bed with metal bars on the side was not comfortable or fun. My nurse was awesome and stayed with me the whole time I labored! She rubbed my back and talked me through contractions. She said I started squatting while holding onto Matt and she knew we had to get into a delivery room. I had no idea I was doing that, it’s amazing what your body instinctively does to get through pain.

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June Deanne’s Newborn Photo Shoot

At 8 days old, Matt and I put Junie on our bed and took pictures of her sweet newborn-ness. She only peed on the blankets twice :)June Newborn - karainthekitchen.comJune Newborn - karainthekitchen.com June Newborn - karainthekitchen.com June Newborn - karainthekitchen.com June Newborn - karainthekitchen.com June Newborn - karainthekitchen.com June Newborn - karainthekitchen.com

She is such a good baby! Super vocal and grunts a ton, and makes happy little content noises after nursing. Eats like a teenage boy, sleeps like an angel. She’s been giving us 6 hour stretches at night and I love her for it! Her hair is lighter than Ada & Lola’s was and her eyes are looking like they are going to be blue. Labor story coming soon :)

A Little News!

We are adding another little pumpkin to the bunch this Spring! Miller-5I’m 14 weeks along and due on May 12th, 2016! With my track record of being overdue – I’m saying May 17th instead. It’s my Bobba’s birthday and would be a great day to have a baby :) Miller-6We are so excited! Ada & Lola can’t wait to be big sisters to baby. Lola kisses my belly and says, “Goodnight, little one.” So far everything looks great! Growth is right on track and baby’s heart rate was 140-142 at my last appointment.Miller-4I am sorry if I’ve avoided you or been short in past months, I’ve been sick. So very tired, too. Thank goodness for Zofran! It took the edge off and helped me keep food down. Wish I would’ve had it with my girls.

Photos by the talented Kirsi of LK Photoshoots! She is so good with my girls and has such a great eye for locations and ideas. Book your spring photo shoot with her here!

Knott’s Merry Farm!

This post was written in collaboration with GigaSavvy. All opinions are 100% mine!

I am SO excited to go to Knott’s Berry Farm at the end of this month! I haven’t been since I was a teenager, and Matt & the girls have never been. From November 21st-January 3rd, Knott’s Berry Farm becomes Knott’s Merry Farm! Snoopy & the Peanuts gang put on a show on ice,

Merry-Farm-2015-Homepage-Rotator-SnoopyOnIce Santa is there,

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and snow falls in Calico ghost town as music plays and lights twinkle! 2015-Merry-Farm-Snow-Homepage-Rotator

Not to mention the rides, train, and festive treats! It sounds completely magical and I can’t wait to go.

Season Passes to Knott’s are a perfect Christmas gift! Check out the info here: 2015 Season Passes

Neutrogena Sun Care for Sensitive Skin

I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for Neutrogena. I received samples to facilitate my review and a promotional item to thank me for my participation.

Summer is here! Hooray!! We got a little pool for the back yard and the girls love it. They spend hours swimming around and making up new games to play! Both of my girls have sensitive skin and have struggled with eczema. When I heard that Neutrogena’s sunscreen had received the Seal of Acceptance from the National Eczema Association, I perked up! Ada broke out in a rash after I had put a sports sunscreen on her for a pool day at school. It was too heavy and greasy for her sensitive skin. Since I stopped using that and started using Neutrogena, she hasn’t had any breakouts. It goes on light and provides all-day coverage for the pool and beach!Neutrogena Sun Care - karainthekitchen.comNeutrogena Sun Care - karainthekitchen.com-2The sensitive skin (left) is what I’ve been putting on my girls. It lasts hours in the sun and water and is light enough for their sensitive skin. The pure & free liquid (center) is perfect for your face. I wore it to the beach on Friday under my makeup with no issues or buildup. The pure & free baby (right) is applied like a deodorant stick and good to have for reapplications throughout the day. Neutrogena Sun Care - karainthekitchen.com-3The girls helping each other out with reapplications :) My advice is to get everyone covered in sunscreen before you get outside. I lather my girls up before we get to the beach so that I don’t have to compete with the exciting surroundings and worry about coverage. It takes 15 minutes to gain that protection, so better to have kids all ready to go play than wrestling with sand and water. Neutrogena Sun Care - karainthekitchen.com-4I hope everyone has a safe, SPF covered summer! I need to take my advice and cover my skin better. I completely burned my neck and chest because I didn’t reapply! : /Neutrogena Sun Care - karainthekitchen.com

Santa Barbara Wine Country Half 2015 Recap

I was SO excited to run the Santa Barbara Wine Country Half Marathon for the second time this year! Find my first recap here, and 6 reasons you should run it here.

The best part was that it was Matt’s very first half marathon! It was so fun to run it with him. I told him he would be hooked after running it and he is. He said, “We have to run this every year!”

The only problem was that I hurt my back. We moved on May 1st and all of the packing, bending, lifting, and cleaning, led to me throwing out my lower back when I picked up Lola on Tuesday. Went to my chiropractor and told him, “So, I’m running a half marathon this Saturday…” and he’s like, “You mean you hope you’re running! As long as you don’t lift a box or a daughter the wrong way again!” So needless to say, I was in pain the whole race but still ran it. Much slower than I’d hoped to (2:50), but we finished together!

Packet pickup was in Solvang at the Expo on Friday. We saw the finish line all set up and couldn’t wait to cross it the next morning!

I tried on the most comfortable shoes: Newtons. They were so bouncy and maybe when my current shoes wear out I’ll get a pair of them :)

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Alaska Airlines was a sponsor and did free name engraving on luggage tags for everyone. We also entered to win a trip…still crossing my fingers!

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I LOVE the shirts this year! Super soft and light. And how cute is the race bib? They took one of my grapes in exchange for my shirt. The timing chip was built into the back of it; read: no clunky chip to tie to your shoe! Technology is awesome.

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Race morning! Kandie drove us (THANK YOU!!) and we were there bright and early, ready to run! Check out Destination Races’ sweet new start structure:

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The overcast weather could not have been more perfect for running! Matt was mad that he even bothered bringing his sunglasses. Mine were so light that I didn’t mind them on my head the whole time.

The course did not disappoint! The gorgeous vineyards, lavender fields, beautiful homes, rolling hills…

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Then ending with the finish line in Solvang. Look at the windmill in our finish pic that Kandie took!

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At the finish line where my mom met us with the girls! They were happy to wear our medals until they got too heavy…a good problem to have ;)

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We got to the VIP area after being measured for our SOLS (more on those later!), and the food tasted incredible! The sun came out just as we finished the race, it was perfect.

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Bottom line: I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Hopefully on a weekend where I haven’t moved the week before :) Thank you, Destination Races, for putting on such a great event right in my back yard!

I was provided with two discounted race entries. As always, all opinions are 100% mine!