Important Family Documents Binder – Why and How You Should Make One

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Being in the military you find yourself using a lot of your important personal documents quite often. Before I married Joseph my birth certificate was stashed in a filing cabinet at my Mom’s somewhere and my social security card was kept in the junk drawer at our condo, needless to say I was all over the place but in my defense, I rarely needed any of these documents. Once we began moving around I knew it would be important to have all of our documents in a centralized location where they were not likely to be lost or damaged, especially because the military tends to be a stickler for those things (ya know, national security and all, lol). I created a binder to keep our important documents safe and organized, at first it was just a few documents (passport, birth certificates and social security cards) but as time went on I included more items and separated it into categories (see below). I cannot stress the importance of doing this as a family or even as an individual, and the following is an example of why. About a year ago J’s Mom was in a terrible accident (thankfully she is well now) and while she was incapacitated and unable to verbally communicate with us for quite some time, we were faced with the daunting task of attempting to sort through her personal finances and track down vital information and account numbers which was almost impossible without it being in order or recorded in any way. Granted this was not her fault (who really expects the worst to happen?), most of us know our account numbers and passwords by heart and know exactly where we keep most of our important documents, but God forbid you are incapacitated for any reason, you want it to be easy for someone else to be able to sort through (and make sense) of all of your personal documents.

That being said, even unrelated to cases of emergency, a record of all of your documents will make your own life SO much easier and if a company tells you “you’ll need to bring X, Y and Z when signing up for whatever” you know exactly where everything is! Since J is constantly working and I’ve needed to set up lots of things in his name, this binder has been a life saver and whenever I whip it out to show my power of attorney or birth certificate or what have you, people will always say “WOW, you’re organized!!!” I’ll thank them but be thinking to myself  “dude, you should see my brain.” lol. So here it is, my emergency/important document binder, it will not only help you stay organized but you will  have peace of mind knowing that all of your important documents and information are centralized. Word to the wise, keep this thing locked away as we do, since it contains account numbers and basically all the information that someone would need to COMPLETELY steal your identity (only drawback of this thing, lol), we keep ours in a fireproof box (to which a few select people have the code). I use clear sheet protectors and cheap index divider tabs to separate it into the following categories:

  1. PERSONAL
  • Copies of photo IDs (drivers licenses, work IDs, military IDs etc.)
  • Passports
  • Birth Certificates
  • Social Security Cards
  • Marriage Certificate
  • Health Insurance Cards (or copies of insurance cards)
  • List of Emergency Contacts (optional but we include the numbers of immediate family members, doctor, lawyer etc.)

2. FINANCIAL

  • List of all bank accounts, investments, credit cards and debts including account numbers (or last 4 to be safe).
  • Copy of LES (this is a military document that verifies pay grade and employment on active duty, so it is specific to my situation but you could include some other proof of employment/pay stub)

3. LEGAL

  • Power of Attorney
  • Last Will and Testament
  • Life Insurance Policy (this could also be filed under personal)

4. HOME

  • Deeds
  • Mortgage information (lender name, contact info. and account numbers)
  • Rental Agreements (of current tenants or your own rental agreement if you are the renter, as well as contact info. for tenants/landlord)
  • Home/Renter’s insurance info. (account numbers and policy info./copy of policy)
  • List of Utilities and companies that provide service/account numbers (we have our electric, water, internet and cell phone providers listed)

5. VEHICLE

  • Titles
  • Insurance info. (account numbers and policy info./copy of policy)
  • Lease Agreement (if leased vehicle)
  • Record of Vehicle Repairs/Maintenance (optional)

 

There you have it! Feel free to customize it however you see fit. If you have a lot of children you may consider making a separate “personal” tab for each individual. Some people also like to have a separate binder for each category, but for me this would defeat the purpose of having everything centralized. As you probably know one spouse is usually more in tune to what bills get paid when, what money is where etc. and while J and I feel that we have a pretty good handle on it together, there are still accounts we maintain individually and bills that we pay separately and if anything were to happen to either of us we both agree that the last thing we would want is the other spending his/her time trying to sort out our finances and legal mumbo-jumbo during our time of family crisis. This binder ensures that everything will move along seamlessly in the event of an unfortunate situation and keeps you from wondering “yea, where did I put that passport, I think I remember seeing it in 2009 sometime …” lol. One last quick note, this is also great to do if you live in an area where you have a higher than normal likelihood of having to evacuate your home on short notice (hurricanes, tornadoes etc.).

 

Documenting Baby P’s First Year

From the moment we met our precious Baby P, I couldn’t believe how much he was changing by the day! Luckily, I had already somewhat perfected my chalkboard documentation during my pregnancy and was excited to keep it going through P’s first year. I began by doing a weekly chalkboard for the first month and then one per month after that. Since P is now 6 months old I will share with you the boards I have done up to now and will continue to post the next 6 months worth of boards in individual posts. Hope you enjoy looking at these as much as I enjoy creating them!

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Documenting My Pregnancy with Baby P

From the minute we found out we were expecting our tiny baby I knew I wanted to document the pregnancy in a creative way, other than with maternity photos. Even before I became pregnant I was in LOVE with the chalkboard pregnancy pics on one of my favorite blogs ever, Little Baby Garvin. While the creator of Little Baby Garvin is MUCH more beautiful and talented than I, she was my inspiration for my chalkboard pregnancy documentation. Go check out her blog, it is SUPER cute and she’s got a great Etsy shop with all of her chalkboard designs. In adapting my chalkboard idea from Little Baby Garvin, I took the easier route and used Chalk Pens instead of regular chalk as they are easier to draw with and I used a pre-made chalkboard that I purchased on Amazon (although with my next baby I may use one of my own DIY chalkboards :)). I love looking back and seeing my progress throughout the pregnancy and I EXTRA love that I continued doing these chalkboards to document Baby P’s first year of life (check out that post here) :). Hope you enjoy all the pics!

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DIY Holiday Picture – Easter!

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Nothing makes me happier than my squishy baby P and since I feel like all the little thing has done since birth is grow, grow, grow, I try to take as many pictures of him as I can (and I am succeeding since my phone is currently at storage capacity lol). While I wish that I could get professional pictures taken of him for every holiday, my budget (and most people’s budgets) will not allow for this, so I have to improvise! Since I am big on sending cards for every holiday to friends and family, I love to stick a little picture of P in there to make it extra special (in this case EGGS-tra special lol). Now let me begin by saying, photography is not my forte unless you count being able to max out my phones storage space in under 3 months lol. I take all of my pictures using an iPhone camera and am yet to become proficient in Photoshop, so if this sounds like you, I am about to give you living proof that you can still whip up a cute little holiday photo for a few bucks in no time flat! When I first decided to do my own little baby-photo booth it was after I had seen a professional picture of a newborn on a cute little Valentine’s Day set and I’m no expert but from the looks of it, all it seemed to be was a baby on pillow, in front of a white background with some heart bunting, and I thought “hey, I can totally do this!”. I’ll share my Valentine’s Day and St. Patty’s Day pictures below as well. The best thing about this little DIY holiday picture is that it will probably cost you under $5.00 (or if it’s an Easter pic it will be FREE since you probably already have plastic eggs and a basket for the kiddos right?). So if you have a smart phone, a white sheet and access to a dollar store you’re good to go!

YOU WILL NEED:

  • Smartphone or other camera
  • White sheet or large piece of fabric (it doesn’t have to be white, but I feel like most of us have a white sheet lying around somewhere).
  • A room with a window.
  • Painter’s Tape (or any other kind of strong tape)
  • Props (get creative! I hit up my local Dollar Tree and pick up a few items that I think would work well, for Valentine’s Day I used the heart garland, St. Patty’s Day the little hat and for Easter the bunny ears, basket and eggs).
  • “Phonto” Free Picture editing App (if you want to add text to your picture)

HOW I DID IT: 

  1. Start by setting up your backdrop. Use a wall that is facing a window, this is a tip I got from a photography savvy friend, that way you’ll have lots of natural light for your photo. Take the sheet and tape it along the wall (I usually use painter’s tape so as not to damage the paint, but this time I didn’t have any on  hand so I just used shipping tape and the paint still survived haha) so that half of the sheet is against the wall and half is spread out along the floor below.
  2. Set up your props, then using your camera take a test picture to be sure that you like the way the photo looks and that you are able to capture your subject (child) and all of the props in the photo frame. These were my test pictures for Valentine’s Day and Easter (the Easter shot looks a little dark but I adjusted this using the enhance tool on my phone lol).                                                                                                                           east2 vday
  3. Set up your little cutie and snap your photos! FYI this works best with a happy child lol I shot for right after nap time.
  4. After you’re happy with your photos, use the “Phonto” App to add text if you wish. Next I will use the free Walgreen’s app to upload and print my photos for store pick up. Make sure you Google Walgreen’s coupons! For my Easter pics I was able to print 15 photos for $1.71 using a 40% off coupon!!!

TIPS: 

  • If you’re in need of a cute outfit for your babe, Walmart always has holiday themed outfits for between $3.00-4.00. The St. Patty’s Day onsie P is wearing below was $3.25.
  • This is a great idea for a kids holiday party or a play date! Just set it up and let your friends take pics!
  • If you want to add a little extra something pic up a half of a yard of holiday fabric, it’s always cheap and available at your local fabric store. I think the heart fabric I used in the Valentine’s Day pic cost about $1.00.

 

 

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The wooden crate I already had but was purchased at Walmart for $7.00 (it was good for this pic because P wasn’t sitting up yet). The chalkboard also had but was purchased on Amazon.

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This one I whipped up quick by simply draping the white sheet over a chair.

Our Gender Reveal


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In February of 2013 we found out we were expecting our first little baby. Overcome with excitement, we knew from the very beginning that we wanted to know the gender. I, for one, can’t stand surprises (every year I try to get our family to open all of their gifts Christmas Eve lol) and couldn’t wait to plan out every detail of the nursery and the cute little outfits that baby Schulze would wear. Even though my hubby loves surprises, he was eager to know the gender as well, since in his opinion it would add to the excitement if he knew that he would be having a catch with his son one day or watching his daughter’s dance recitals. I hadn’t considered doing a gender reveal (and didn’t even know it was a thing) until good ‘ol Pinterest enlightened me. Not only did I think it was the cutest idea ever, but what better way to capture one of the best moments of your life? I sought out Sherry of Cool Breeze Photography of NC (check out her portfolio and her blog here, she is amazing!) for a mini-session to take place on June 1st (a whole 10 days after the anatomy ultrasound was to take place, people thought I was nuts for waiting but I’m glad, it was so worth it!). As planned, on May 22nd we went for our anatomy ultrasound and got to see our sweet, healthy baby sucking on it’s thumb (so cute, even cuter is that P still sucks his thumb) and the technician wrote the gender on a little piece of paper and sealed it in an envelope. Into my purse it went and there it would sit until the day of the reveal! Come June 1st we took our giant box to our local party store and had them fill it with pink or blue balloons while we waited in the car (I was TERRIFIED that somehow they were going to ruin the surprise for us but they came through big time!). After finishing at the party store we headed down to a cute little horse farm in Hampstead where our session was to take place, I remember us thinking how crazy it was that sitting in the back of the car was the answer to a question we had been asking for 21 weeks! There is no way to describe the feeling right before we opened that box, it was that kind of nervous excitement that makes you feel like you’re having an out of body experience, like right before you walk down the aisle at your wedding or when the roller coaster makes its ascent just before the crazy ride is about to begin. Call it mother’s intuition but I knew we were having a boy right from the start, I don’t know why, I just did. J swore that we were having a girl but says that right when we place the box in front of us to open it, he just knew it was a boy as well.

I am SO, SO glad we have these pictures as a memento of one of the most exciting days of our lives. If you’re planning on finding out the gender of your child anyway and aren’t super private people, I highly recommend doing a gender reveal of some sort (if you’ve been on Pinterest for even one millisecond I’m sure you’ve seen plenty of gender reveal ideas, lol). Also if you’d like to save money (which you should be since the journey of parenthood is an expensive one, haha) have a friend take the pictures or better yet, videotape it. Hope you enjoy these pictures as much as we did 🙂